Friday, January 6, 2012

Racist Undertones

Columnist Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times offers what seems like a parody of how liberals think about race and racism but which is evidently a serious column. Rosenthal writes:
Talking about race in American politics is uncomfortable and awkward. But it has to be said: There has been a racist undertone to many of the Republican attacks leveled against President Obama for the last three years, and in this dawning presidential campaign.
Rosenthal is apparently one of those folks who sees racists behind every tree. I like when he says "it has to be said." This is what people often say by way of patting themselves on the back for their courage and resolve when they're about to say something that no one in their circle would object to.
You can detect this undertone in the level of disrespect for this president that would be unthinkable were he not an African-American.
Surely he's not serious. Does he think no Republican would disrespect, say, Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi, or even Bill Clinton the way President Obama has been disrespected? Is it really "unthinkable"? Rosenthal offers us examples:
Some earlier examples include: Rep. Joe Wilson shouting “you lie” at one of Mr. Obama’s first appearances before Congress, and House Speaker John Boehner rejecting Mr. Obama’s request to speak to a joint session of Congress—the first such denial in the history of our republic.
We pause to gasp at the indignity of it. This is what passes for evidence of racism in the minds of people like Rosenthal? Newt Gingrich just called Mitt Romney a liar and nobody thought that was racism, but perhaps that's because they're both white. Then again, lots of black commentators accused George Bush of lying about WMD in Iraq, but that's different, too. It's only racism, we're supposed to believe, when whites do it to blacks, not when blacks do it to whites. If you don't understand that then you must be a political Neanderthal.
More recently, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, in a conversation overheard at Reagan National Airport in Washington, said of Michelle Obama: “She lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.” He offered a lame apology, but as Mary C. Curtis put it on the Washington Post’s new blog She the People: “Can you imagine how the incident would play out if an African American congressman made a crude remark about First Lady Laura Bush’s body? It certainly would have taken more than an insincere apology to wash that sin away.”
Someone in private conversation is overheard to comment unfavorably on the dimensions of Mrs. Obama's gluteous and we're to think this reveals latent racism lurking in his heart? Is Rosenthal serious? Any crude remark about a black person's butt is ipso facto a racial affront. Would it be racism, a "sin," if a black man were to joke about Hillary's hair style or the shape of her legs?

By the way, I'm curious as to what criticism anyone could utter about Laura Bush's body?
This ugly strain was crudely evident in the “birthers” and their ridiculous demands that Mr. Obama produce his birth certificate to prove that he was American, and not secretly an African Muslim.
For Mr. Rosenthal it's a reliable indicator of racism if anyone should want a black candidate to meet the same constitutional eligibility requirements as anyone else who aspires to serve as president. It would be okay, presumably, to question the citizenship of a white candidate were that in doubt, but any misgivings about a black candidate are simply beyond the pale (no pun intended).

Blacks, Mr. Rosenthal implicitly argues, should not be held to the same standards as whites. Who among us would even hesitate if asked to show their birth certificate to insure there was no question about one's identity, and why is it "ridiculous" to be suspicious of someone who does refuse to show it? Mr. Rosenthal doesn't tell us.
Just the other day here in Iowa, Mitt Romney’s son, Matt, said his father might release his tax returns “as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate and sort of a long list of things.” The younger Mr. Romney later backtracked, either because he was sincerely chagrined, or, perhaps more likely, because he recognized that it could hurt his father.
Again, why, exactly, is it racist to ask to see a black man's college grades? Didn't the liberal media make a big deal about George Bush's mediocre academic record at Yale (until they discovered that John Kerry's was worse)? Why is it okay to scrutinze a white candidate's record but not that of a black candidate? Does Mr. Rosenthal assume that Barack Obama's grades would be embarrassing? If so, why would he make that assumption?
Sometimes the racism is more oblique.
More oblique? More oblique than what Rosenthal has already given us?
Newt Gingrich was prattling on the other day about giving “poor children” in “housing projects” jobs cleaning toilets in public schools to teach them there is an alternative to becoming a pimp or a drug dealer. These children, he said, have no work ethic. If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t get that poor kids in housing projects is code for minorities, he or she hasn’t been paying attention to American politics for the last 50 years. Mr. Gingrich is also fond of calling Mr. Obama “the greatest food stamp President in American history.”
So it's racist for Mr. Gingrich to think that poverty, joblessness, and the need to develop work skills is especially acute among minorities? Does Rosenthal deny that minorities are in special need of such skills? Does he really think that black kids are generally on par with white kids in terms of what they see as their future employment opportunities? If not, why does he even bring this up?
Is Mr. Romney playing the same chords when he talks about how Mr. Obama wants to create an “entitlement society”? The president has said nothing of the sort, and the accusation seems of a piece with the old Republican saw that blacks collect the greatest share of welfare dollars.
Reading Rosenthal induces cognitive vertigo. He says above that Romney criticizes entitlements and insists that this is beyond any doubt a racist remark because Republicans associate entitlements with blacks, and since Romney doesn't want an entitlement society, he obviously doesn't like blacks, even though it's not true that entitlements only go to blacks, but Romney probably thinks they do, so there's proof that he's a racist. QED.
Mr. Obama’s election in 2008 was a triumph of American democracy and tolerance. He overcame incredible odds to become the first president of mixed race, the first brown-skinned president. It’s pathetic that some Republicans are choosing to toss that milestone into the garbage in their blind drive to destroy Mr. Obama’s presidency.
What's pathetic is the logical deficiencies in Mr. Rosenthal's thinking. It seems that he cannot imagine that people would really object to Mr. Obama's desire to spend this nation into bankruptcy and to crush us with taxes. For him such objections are inconceivable. They're a smokescreen hiding more nefarious motives. Mr. Obama's opponents don't really see him as a threat to the well-being of the nation nor do they care about the national debt, the unemployment numbers, the growing size of government and the erosion of freedom. What they really care about, Rosenthal assures us, is that the president's skin is brown.

Mr. Rosenthal is still living in the twentieth century, but let's turn this around. It seems evident that it's people like him who don't care about the debt, unemployment, bloated government and freedom. If they did care about these things, why on earth would they support Mr. Obama? Could it be that he's their hero just because his skin is brown?

Isn't that racist?

The New Old-Time Religion

Chunkdz at Telic Thoughts provides the transcript of a podcast by the BBC reporter Michael Buerk who was covering the Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa. I think he sums up pretty well what a lot of people think about Anthropogenic (man-caused) Global Warming (AGW). Here's what he said:
The latest so-called Climate Summit, that’s been taking place in Durban, hasn’t made many waves. It could be because global warming seems less daunting if you can no longer afford heating bills. It could also be that we’re getting fed up with the bogus certainties and quasi-religious tone of the great climate change non-debate.

Now, I don’t know for certain that man’s activities are causing the planet to heat up. Nobody does. We simply cannot construct a theoretical model that can cope with all the variables.

For what it’s worth, I think anthropogenic warming is taking place, and, anyway, it would be a good thing to stop chucking so much bad stuff into the atmosphere.

What gets up my nose is being infantilized by governments, by the BBC, by the Guardian that there is no argument, that all scientists who aren’t cranks and charlatans are agreed on all this, that the consequences are uniformly negative, the issues beyond doubt and the steps to be taken beyond dispute.

You’re not necessarily a crank to point out that global temperatures change a great deal anyway. A thousand years ago we had a Mediterranean climate in this country; 200 years ago we were skating every winter on the Thames.

And actually there has been no significant rise in global temperatures for more than a decade now.

We hear a lot about how the Arctic is shrinking, but scarcely anything about how the Antarctic is spreading, and the South Pole is getting colder.

Droughts aren’t increasing. There are fewer of them, and less severe, than a hundred years ago. The number of hurricanes hasn’t changed, the number of cyclones and typhoons has actually fallen over the last 30 years.

And so on.

There may be answers, I think there probably are – to all these quibbles – I would like to hear them.

I don’t want the media to make up my mind up for me.

I don’t need to be told things by officialdom in all its forms, that are not true, or not the whole truth, for my own good.

I resent the implication that the exercise of my reason is “inappropriate”, an act of generational selfishness, a heresy.

I want a genuine debate about the assumptions behind the more apocalyptic forecasts.

As recently as 2005, for instance, the UN said there would be 50 million climate refugees by 2010. That was last year.

OK – so where are they?

I would like to hear a clash of informed opinion about what would actually be better if it got warmer as well as worse.

Where do you see reported the extraordinary greening of the Sahel, and shrinking of the Sahara that’s been going on for 30 years now – the regeneration of vegetation across a huge, formerly arid swathe of dirt poor Africa. More warming means more rainfall. More CO2 means plants grow bigger, stronger, faster.

I would like a real argument over climate change policy, if only to rid myself of the nagging feeling that sometimes it’s a really good excuse for banging up taxes and public-sector job creation.

It’s not happening. It’s a secular issue but skepticism is heresy.

They talk the language of science, but it is really a post-God religion that rejects relativist materialism. Its imperative is moral.

It looks to a society where some choices are obviously, and universally held to be, better than others. A life where having what we want is not a right and nature puts constraints on the free play of desires.

To reinvent, in short, a life where there is good and bad, right and wrong.

As with all religions, whether the underlying narrative is true, has become beside the point.”
No matter how hard people try to rid their lives of religious faith it keeps coming back in forms they don't even recognize.