The Eclectic Quill

July 30, 2009

He’s not a Banana Eating Jungle Monkey, He Just Acts Like One

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 9:52 am

Did you hear the one about the guy who said he wasn’t a racist, he just calls people who are mad that they are getting arrested in their own home “banana eating jungle monkeys” because they are black? It almost sounds like there should be a punch line here, but it’s reality and it offers us a poignant view of t modern face of racism. Racism isn’t always overt, always obvious, it lurks insidiously, and then every once in a while it pokes out its head in an incredibly ugly turn of phrase and leaves the speaker declaring, “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black.” The problem with today’s racism isn’t what you think of the black people you know it’s what you think of the black people you don’t know.

Boston Police Officor Justin Bartlett is doing precisely that. In an email he authored he referred to Gates as “acting like a banana eating jungle monkey.” In defending his actions he said that he didn’t say Gates was one, but that he was just acting like one. Of course my question for him would be had he ever said an angry white person was acting like a “banana eating jungle monkey?” My personal query might also be, precisely how does a banana eating jungle monkey behave? It seems to me that a monkey with a banana would be quite happy, but that’s really sort of a moot point. It is unbelievable to me that anyone would make that comment (four times no less, and about two different black men) and then say that it had nothing to do with race.

This incident, the reaction to Obama’s reaction to it, the Sotamayor nomination and the “birther” conspiracy all point to a veiled racism, this notion that somehow whites are now the victims here. Sotamayor’s comment, when reviewed in context, is the exact opposite of racist (unless of course you would like to defend the Dred Scott decision). The leaping all over the President’s comments as a “rush to judgment” turns out to have been the rush to judgment after all, as it is apparent that Crowley lied in the police report on at least one detail (calling the rest into suspicion). The willingness to accept the word of the white police officer over the black professor is telling, station in life, character and success are all irrelevant here, all that matters to them is they believed the white guy over the black guy. Even the whole “birther” conspiracy and the willingness to believe that he’s not really American (in spite of the overwhelming evidence that he is) is again, an inherent willingness to believe something is wrong with the black guy.

It’s not just by inference either. Glenn Beck stated on Fox News that Obama hates white people. Rush Limbaugh has said that white police officers and firefighters are under attack from the “East Wing of the White House.” His logic seems to be that if you aren’t protecting white privilege then you are racist. Of course all of these white men are quick to quip they aren’t racist, heck some of their best friends are black. I’m not saying they are banana-eating-racists, I’m just saying they act like one.


July 24, 2009

Rush and the Media Rush to Judge Obama on Rush to Judgment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:26 am

The rush to judge Obama on his calling out the Cambridge Police department is both wrongheaded and hypocritical. It’s wrong in its projection of what Obama meant when he said “I don’t have all the facts,” it’s wrong in how it is portraying the police department as doing its job and it’s wrong in what all of this actually has to do with race relations. All of this can be summed up in one rhetorical question: Does anyone really believe that Gates would have been arrested if he were white?

Let’s face facts. If he were white and the police had arrested him, there wouldn’t have been any kind of confrontation when he showed his ID, there would have been an apology, a have an nice day and that would be the end of the story. So let’s take a look at what facts are apparent. Firstly, we know that Gates and his limo driver broke into his house because he’d forgotten the key. Second, we know that the arresting officer was aware of this when he made the arrest because he was arrested for creating a public disturbance, not for breaking and entering. Thirdly, and most importantly, we know that the charges were dropped. It’s not hard to draw a line from charges that are dropped to charges that had never been made. In other words, for Obama to draw a reasonable conclusion that it was stupid to arrest someone for breaking into their own house, when in fact they have proven that it was their own house is, to say the least, reasonable. Also, Obama didn’t actually call the officer stupid, he called his action stupid. While some will say this is parsing words, it isn’t, it’s understanding English. All people do stupid things from time to time, but not all people are stupid.

One has to be aware of the smoke and mirrors surrounding this issue. Some argue there were break-ins in the area and the officer was just doing his job. That’s fine. Doing his job ended when he confirmed that Gates was the legal resident of the house he was in. Some argue that Obama shouldn’t be attacking police officers and men in uniform. He isn’t. He’s saying that in a specific situation, in which men in uniform acted stupidly, that they acted stupidly. That’s not attacking men in uniform, it’s criticizing specific men who happen to wear uniforms. There’s a mountain of difference between these two things, but it’s often a conflation that the Republicans are often guilty of. Some say that Gates, perhaps, acted angrily and for this reason he was arrested. First, in all of their casting of dispersions at Obama’s feet for “rushing to judgment” on the police, aren’t they in turn rushing to judgment on Gates? Particularly when you pause to consider that the charges were dropped almost immediately it seems that perhaps the officer in question, not Obama acted to hastily. Furthermore, when you consider that Gates is one of the top legal minds in the country and a professor at the best university, it should cause one to pause one to consider if that station really befits a man who is so hot-headed that he’s going to fly off the handle to the point that it requires detention. Finally some are pointing out that the officer taught about racial profiling. That’s fine, this isn’t a case of racial profiling, so it’s a red-herring.

It’s not unreasonable to draw a conclusion that the officer had at least his own part in causing the situation to escalate—and it’s in fact his job to try and do the opposite. Additionally consider that Obama has a personal relationship with Gates, and has himself shown a sometimes almost irritating habit of gathering all the facts before he makes statements on it. Remember “I like to know what I’m talking about before I say anything?” So what makes this situation different for Obama, who literally talked about it without gathering all the facts first? His personal knowledge about the person and character of Gates is the distinction. While he doesn’t know “the facts” he does know Gates and he apparently knows him as someone who isn’t going to fly off the handle screaming “It’s because I’m a black man isn’t it?!” when the police came. To me it’s apparent there was something beyond the police doing their job and making a reasonable inspection of the people breaking into the house that provoked the incident. Again I ask, does anyone really believe that the situation would have arrived at the same destination were Gates a white man?

Consider the two possible scenarios. First, Gates starts screaming and bellowing for no reason whatsoever, and in order to maintain the peace the officer has to put Gates in custody. The other is that Gates says something that offends the offends the officer and then a power play ensues consummating with the officer placing Gates under arrest. If we don’t’ know either of the players then it’s not really fair to speculate, but if you do know one of the players, it’s not unfair to draw a conclusion. Obama knows one of the players. Logic suggests that there was, at the very least, a level of civility and respect that was not afforded Gates that should have been afforded. It’s not a matter of whether someone is being racially profiled or not. It’s a matter of whether police exercise the same disposition in how they treat all citizens. We have a long history in our country that suggests they don’t, and the media, in rushing to their own judgment, have blithely ignored this fact most of all. We often excuse such treatment by saying “he brought it on himself.” Clearly this was not the case here. Clearly race was involved, and clearly race is involved in much of the way the right wing media is responding, and effecting the response of the mainstream media. Furthermore, if a white President had made the comment, then there wouldn’t be the same kind of reaction to it. In all of this hoopla about how this isn’t about race it’s being proven just how much it is

July 10, 2009

It’s Official the Michael Jackson Reporting Has Gotten Out of Control

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 4:24 pm

When I saw this headline on the CNN feed I knew, the Michael Jackson story had gotten out of control.

Psychics see magic in Michael Jackson’s life

So I’m wondering, is this supposed to be actual news? Are things so desperate that we are actually interviewing psychics and numerologists to try and get more insight into the whole thing? What’s really pathetic is the way they report it as though there’s something credible here. Is this what the MSM has been reduced to? What comes next, a medium interviewing Michael Jackson about his death and what to do with his kids? Note the idiotic bullet that elucidates that in 20 years he will be reincarnated.

The Congress is battling over health care reform. The troops are pulling out of Iraq. CIA is lying to Congress. The Republican party is in shambles and the so called “C House” is emerging as one of the most bizarre and influential groups in the country The CNN feed has nothing about that. Who has time for such trivial things when they can interview Psychics about “Magic being in Michael Jackson’s life”

Can we put the “News” back in the Cable “News” Network? Or maybe they figure if a comedy channel can do comedy as news a news channel can do news as comedy.


July 7, 2009

Palin, Quitting and Intellectual Honesty

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 12:06 pm

There are two kinds of blogs. The first is blogging to an event which happened. It’s isolated and about that one thing. The other is more of a commentary, and sometimes these brew for a very long time until a certain confluence of events causes it to rise to the surface and spill itself out into an entry. There’s been a blog brewing in me since I started blogging and that has to do with the whole notion of “balance” in political reporting, how this is different from intellectual honesty, and how much and how desperately we need much less of the former, and much more of the latter.

The way that political reporting is done now is that there are two talking heads that come on, one representing the “Republican” side and the other representing the “Democratic” side of things. Ergo everything that happens is seen in this prism. Objectivity then becomes defined as what lies in the middle, what is in between those two sentiments. Truth is not the goal, the center is. If we are searching for intellectual honesty though, truth matters, not the middle because truth and the middle might not always be the same. Much concerning the events of Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin in recent days demonstrate the difference here.

With Sarah Palin the “balanced” story that is beginning to take shape is that she was harangued by a host of meritless ethics charges that forced her to spend so much money on defending herself that she simply had to step down as governor in order to go on speaking engagements that would allow her to make the money to pay her legal bills. This has the semblance of neutrality in appearance, diminishing her fault in quitting. It also amplifies the effect of some of the more frivolous ethics charges. Additionally it lets slide a certain suggestion that the ethics charges and investigations are all the fault of the Democrats. Finally, by extension it provides that all of the “attacks” on Palin are unfair. Palin is being rendered a victim who is being forced into doing the only thing that she can.

As to the ethics charges the fact is that the laws are the reason that she has had so many of them filed against her. Certainly the majority of them are frivolous—and cheap to defend. I don’t know exactly how she’s spending her money on her legal team, but I don’t think that wearing the Arctic Cat logo is what cost her half a million dollars. The major allegation for which she has been investigated and not cleared of is the Troopergate scandal, where she was found guilty of breaking the law to unduly use her position to get a man fired for personal reasons. She launched her own investigation of herself and surprise, found herself innocent but she didn’t need to spend money to defend herself against her own investigation. So here’s the bottom line on this and the line that you aren’t getting from the mainstream media, the ethics violation she spent the majority of that money defending herself against was true! There’s no “balance” there, no middle ground, only truth. The truth is she acted unethically, got investigated for it and convicted for it, and now she has to pay for it. That’s the intellectually honest position here. It might be “biased” in the sense that it paints her in a bad light, but truth and bias can go together.

Furthermore the “unbiased” version has the media “unfairly attacking” her. Precisely which “attack” is “unfair” is hard to say. Often Katie Couric’s “hard-hitting” interview is cited as an example. Again though, we have to distinguish between truth and intellectual honesty here. One of the favorite tactics of the right is to question, “What if Obama….” Well, let me poise this question then, “What if Obama weren’t able to cite a single Supreme Court case other than Roe vs. Wade?” Would the Republican talking heads be all over that? (Being fair to Katie Couric, her question wasn’t “Can you name another Supreme Court case, it was “What other (than Roe v. Wade) Supreme Cases do you disagree with?” It never occurred to her that Palin wouldn’t be able to name any. She asked the same question to Biden, who answered it). It’s incredible to me that from the conservative crowd Couric took more heat for asking Palin the question than Palin took for not being able to answer it. It wasn’t a “Gotcha!” question, it was a legitimate question, and the outrage over again demonstrates that there is a difference between balanced and honest. Incredibly, the right wing spin machine is encompassing this, and other valid questions regarding her qualifications which arose during the campaign in with the unfair ethics violations. In essence what has become the middle ground is that any and all criticism of Sarah Palin is unfair. The truth is that the vast majority of the criticism of her is valid, but since that validity paints her in a bad light, it’s perceived as bias, and in order to remove the bias the msm has to remove the accusations.

Lest I get carried away with this train of thought though, my point here isn’t that Palin is an unqualified candidate, that she’s unlawfully used her position, or that she has all the curiosity of a 100 year old cat, it’s that there’s a different way of thinking that conservatives and liberals have, and we can see it in the Palin scenario. The conservatives begin with what they believe, then based on their belief, they form a thought process. Finally in order to support that thought process they utilize certain facts. For instance Palin quits. The right wing faithful “believe” that she is right. Therefore they need a thought process to vindicate her quitting. That thought process is that she was being unfairly attacked and she would do a better job of serving if she didn’t have to defend herself against these unfair attacks. Then, in order to qualify their thought process they point to some unfair attacks on Palin, and since some attacks are unfair, they all must be unfair. In their mind the only way to be fair is to be free of bias, even if that bias is steeped in fact.

Liberals on the other hand begin by establishing the fact, then based on the facts they form a thought process, and then based on that they form a belief. So here for instance, they begin with determining things about Sarah Palin. She isn’t able to answer basic questions about civics, she has been found guilty of using her position to get someone fired, and she quit her job Governor of Alaska in the middle of her first term. Putting those facts together (and they are facts) we form a thought process that suggests her interest is not in somehow bettering her state or the nation (as evidenced by a rudimentary knowledge or curiosity in civics) but rather in utilizing her position for gain (as evidenced by her history of doing so). Then based on all of this we form a belief or bias that her quitting is not due to her inability to adequately help her people out and pursue some higher calling as she suggests; rather it is base gain, again as her history suggests. This may be bias, but it is fair bias.

Taken from another perspective look at Obama’s recent trip to New York, and the cost it entailed. The Conservatives began with the belief that it was wrong, then they calculated the cost, and then they determined that Obama wasted that much tax payer money by going to New York. They don’t question their belief structure on this at all to determine whether their questions are fair or not. They don’t ask whether they (or for that matter the Democrats or anyone else) ever questioned Bush for doing similar things, when he took trips to Crawford ranch, or to Maine, or to anywhere else for that matter. They don’t question whether or not a sitting President should take a public airplane to get to New York, without any sort of security detail if he is on personal business, and they don’t question whether a sitting President should ever be allowed to go outside of DC for personal reasons. A new, bizarre and thoughtless standard is raised around a “belief” and only the facts that fit that belief are allowed to be considered.

Recently I was talking with an online friend about Palin quitting and in response he said that Obama had already spent more money than Bush. While this is so blatantly and completely untrue on so many different levels that it’s literally mind boggling that someone could believe it, people believe it. I Googled the argument just to see what would come up and sure enough, there’s all these “projections” of how much money Obama is going to spend verses Bush. How exactly these projections are targeted is beyond me, but somehow I don’t believe they are unbiased. What’s striking though is that these “projections” have turned into “already spent”. Now there’s one detail that is omitted in all of these things. Relatively speaking Obama hasn’t spent that much money, even considering the wars, the auto bailout and the stimulus package. The reason for this is that Obama has yet to pass a budget. The current fiscal budget was passed by Bush, so when I see these charts showing how much money Obama has spent, I note that it’s categorized as money spent “under” Obama. Yes, Obama is President, but that’s not his money he’s spending. Secondly, the higher the deficit goes, the greater the amount of money to pay off the interest on the debt goes. Ergo, Obama has less money to play with than Bush, but that’s on Bush, not Obama. Thirdly, more than 80 percent of the entire debt has come under Reagan or the Bushes. Now the Republicans want to make it out that they are these budget hawks, though they never were while Republicans were President. Again, their belief comes first, and the facts that don’t support their beliefs are not considered.

So then all of this ends up back to this whole middle ground argument, where the less curious voters say, “well you have you your talking points and they have their taking points.” The conclusion then is that since both have talking points, both sides must also have valid points. However, talking points are only valid if they are 1) true and 2) intellectually honest. Very often on the conservative side they are not—not because conservatives are stupid—but because they begin with belief. The ones making the points can either be deliberately deceptive (which I think is the case with the likes of Cheney and Rove) or ignorantly deceptive, such as with Bush and Palin. Either way though it is deceptive. Meanwhile, those like Obama, who go out of their way to be fair, to speak both sides, are portrayed as the other extreme. So the average, moderately informed voter sees that there is even truth and even deception in both sides, although one side is trying to deceive (or has been deceived and is honestly being deceptive) and the other side is trying to be honest. If you take the middle of that then you end up with something is unfair, and though it is midway, it is also biased in the sense that it paints the truth different than what it is, and this in turn has a more favorable representation to the deceiving party than the honest one.

The extreme right is dragging us down a path cloaked in fallacy and dishonesty and the MSM in hopes of catching lightning in a bottle seems eager to appease. Recalling the type of rhetoric that was used in Palin’s speeches, I hope that this gets curbed very soon. There’s only so much half truth the country can take. The media, not the blogosphere needs to be the place that checks the truth and reports it. They need to do so fairly, and without bias, and the best way to do that is to get away from talking heads and interpretations of the news, but to simply just get back to saying what the facts are. The truth may not be “balanced” but it is unbiased.



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