ULTIMUS CURRUS MAGNI OPERIS (the caboose) aka SIF (stuff I forgot)

MO follow up. This adds in some items pulled from the Magnum Opus, from reading, and from columns and articles. I thought they would be good to just add on to the M.O. but then realized they might whet the appetite of those who have not read the M.O. itself (a summer project, I would suspect). So start with this and then see how it all unfolds in the M.O.

ULTIMUS CURRUS MAGNI OPERIS (the caboose) aka SIF (stuff I forgot)

“Priebus’ error has been in treating his party like the worst kind of soulless political consultant — taking all comers so long as they win and indifferent to the character of the candidate and the content of his views. This is fundamentally wrong and amoral. The GOP has a mission that is greater than being on the winning side in elections. It is the vehicle for conservative principles; a defense of the GOP must be a defense of it as an agent and enabler of conservative values.”

These words were written today, April 26, by Jenifer Rubin, a very Conservative columnist. Note the capital C. I confer that on her reluctantly because so much of what she writes falls into the general conservative approach: hostility toward Obama, ridicule of liberal values, harping on so-called scandals, but you do have to say she represents sensible Conservative values both in her columns and her appearances on MSNBC. (I’m going to watch more Fox to see if they have anyone of comparable stature on, like E.J. Dionne, on the liberal side).If the GOP were to represent Conservative values, I would argue with them but not despise them. I despise the GOP now.

Jim, you seem to have read Dog Whistle politics. Yet you write in response to my citing the Diane Rehm’s show panel on how the development of transportation means in the U.S. was racially charged:

“I will read the article as soon as I can get to it. I have one question in advance. Does the author show how having a father resident in the home does ot contribute significantly to family income and wellbeing as well as being a valuable positive role model for male children and a reinforcement on control of all the children so the grow up in a way that optimizes their future well being? Does she also show that the studies showing that not dropping out of school, not having children  early and before marriage and not becoming involved in criminal or other anti-social behavior are the best predictors of the future for children from poor families are erroneous?”

This confirms for me the purpose of your one-note response to any citation of racial discrimination: you throw the onus back on African-Americans, just as Moynihan did. You must have read the following in Dog Whistle Politics, quoted from Moynihan:

“…. the mother is forced to work (as the Negro mother so often is), when the father is incapable of contributing support (as the Negro father so often is), when fathers and mothers refuse to accept responsibility for and resent their children, as Negro parents, overwhelmed by difficulties, so often do, and when the family situation, instead of being clear-cut and with defined roles and responsibility, is left vague and ambiguous (as it so often is in Negro families).

And “a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder…that is not only to be expected, but they are very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.”

To top it all off: “At this point… the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world.” pp. 95-6. This is the jujitsu of race: admit to past wrongs, then say bygones and tell Blacks “It’s in your court now.” And that makes a kind of sense and I think Blacks should take note: Whites have washed their hands of race. They now see themselves as the innocent victims of racial politics. This certainly is an unmistakable go-ahead signal to Blacks to take a “by any means necessary” tack. Blacks have never done to Whites what Whites have done and continue to do to them. It’s like the young White boy I quoted: Whites fear Blacks will do to them what they have done to Blacks. Yet history does not bear this out. That is why Whites hold up as signals of Black intention the few strident voices like Farrakhan, as if to say, “See! See! They hate us and will harm us. WE are the ones at risk.”

More pointedly in reference to the Magnum Opus:

“But avoiding race cannot be a long-term solution. Refusing to address race, either in the death penalty or in politics, insulates racial discrimination further, thus contributing to the sense that it is indeed a “natural” feature of American life. We have to discuss race – and when we do, we have to provide much more than numbers, or the equivalent, bald statements that politicians racially pander all the time. We have to dig deep to explain fundamental dynamics.” p. 37.

And not to put too fine a point on it,

“In the context of colonial North America – one instance in a larger pattern of colonialism that produced the racial ideologies of the modern world – European migrants began to invent ideas about “racial differences” in order to justify their treatment of the indigenous populations on the Eastern seaboard as well as those from western Africa. …. At the beginning of the 1600s, before European settlement began in earnest and before the first Africans were brought to North America, the white, red, and black races did not exist. Within a century, though, these races were firmly established in cultural knowledge and social practice – with white supremacy providing a divine right to rule, and with red and black savagery justifying the expropriation of Native American land and the enslavement of African labor.” p. 47 This speaks directly to my Past Is Present segment.

For some, the statement “the white, red, and black races did not exist. “ may need considerable background on the construction and reification of race. I touched on that in the Past Is Present segment of the Magnum Opus.

Several centuries later, the special pleading by Whites went like this:

“Whites believed in structural remedies when they saw the poor as people like themselves, folks sometimes trapped by larger forces or bad breaks. They shifted to a belief in personal failings when they began to see the poor as non-whites fundamentally unlike themselves.” p. 97.

This paid off big-time for the GOP: “Yet when these politicians [Romney and Ryan] talked about makers and takers to broad swaths of the white population, many of them in financial distress and in desperate need of government assistance, they received rousing applause. Dog whistle racism has helped convince many whites. arguably even a majority, that the greatest danger they face comes from a liberal government in hock to minorities, rather than from concentrated wealth and its plutocratic agenda.” p. 167. And how did those Whites come to stand in need of no government assistance? The new Deal, unions and a strong federal presence, all the things C/conservatives oppose.

How did this hostility to government come about? When Whites faced integrating neighborhoods they either fled or………… “Poorer whites who lacked the financial resources to resist the pressures of integration slowly lost exclusive control of their neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces….. homes that held most of their wealth; neighborhoods that supplied a sense of community; jobs that delivered decent pay and maybe someday had a place for one’s child; schools that seemed like escalators to take the next generation higher. This was about more than status. This was about access to union jobs, government mortgages, decent schools, effective public services, and government-funded amenities like nice public parks and swimming pools – all of which had been reserved for whites, often formally and in any event by social sanction.” My wife still mutters, when we drive by East Lake Park pool, “They wouldn’t let us swim there.” These things burn and to accuse people who were so damaged of “not letting go of the past”, and not “letting it go, getting over it, and moving on” is to simply comfort one’s self in the face of grief, hurt, pain, and harm.

For many, including a lot of younger Blacks and Hispanics, “The social world through which we move reflects centuries [back to my point] of racism that extends right up to the present. But this is hard to grasp in its particulars. Instead, we see clearly only the results, and with the underlying causes hidden, we tend to accept the extant world as a testament to the implacable truth of racial stereotypes.” p. 185.

Powerfully, Lopez sums up: “For instance, the dominance of colorblindness today surely ties back to motives, not on the fully conscious level, but in many whites being drawn to conceptions of race that affirm their sense of being moral persons neither responsible for nor benefited  by racial inequality. [Like you said in one post, Jim, how can I be held responsible for that?] Colorblindness offers whites racial expiation: they cannot be racist if they lack malice: nor can they be responsible for inequality, since this reflects differences in group mores.” p. 187. Thus Moynihan’s formulation of Black pathology.

And Obama summed it up in his The Audacity of Hope: “To say that we are one people is not to suggest that race no longer matters – that the fight for equality has been won, or that the problems that minorities face in this country today are largely self-inflicted.” I note that last comment, which goes to the heart of the family structure argument.

Can one group see through another group’s eyes? Recall the quote from Proust that opened the Magnum Opus: “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. “

I was so impressed with the White teacher at ACTFL who told this story on herself: she had worked so hard to get outstanding African-American students into her Spanish AP class and they just resisted. She did not understand it. Then, on account of her efforts on behalf of Black students, a local Black organization was going to give her an award. She was excited and received instructions as to the procedure. As she read them, it hit her: she’d be the only White person there. She panicked. And then it dawned on her: that was exactly what her Black students felt, going into an otherwise all-White class. On top of that, some students might feel and even communicate that the Black student did not belong there. That insight and honesty impressed me greatly.

My trouble has been in understanding why you deny everything. You certainly seem willing to read and listen to other pov’s but then you dismiss any example of racist practices, no matter how couched they are in expressions absolving the practitioners of personal moral fault, as an isolated case or in the irrelevant past. Equally, you dismiss broad studies, massive statistical evidence and deep experience as seeing everything through a racial prism. Over and over we in the grouplet have tied these broader, public statements to our individual experiences, showing how it works out in the lives of ordinary people who have a connection with African-Americans, and that very connection is thrown back at us as evidence we see everything in Black and White. If we would just stop seeing things that way, then all those instances of discrimination would be…….. what? When I cited the sales clerk who snatched a return item from my wife’s hands and said roughly, “You can’t bring that in here” and then treated the next, non-Black customer, with great courtesy, or the manager in the restaurant who snatched a drink from my daughter’s hand, telling her she hadn’t paid for it when their own policy is to have the customer pay after their order has been completed…. these are all glossed over by you as having nothing to do with color – the great conservative colorblindness so well articulated in Dog Whistle Politics.

So I searched for analogous situations and thought of the ranch owner from Mexico I talked with and how he described the workers on his land as drunken lazy louts he had to take care of, and the similar character in the movie Chavez played by Malkovich who was able also to turn a blind eye to the plight of his workers. And many other similar people who just do not “see” the other person’s experiences as valid. But all of them have had something to gain by pretending everything was just fine, usually something economic, similar to the slave owners profiled in the books I’ve quoted from who did not “hear” the screams of tortured slaves and desperate mothers. But what is your motive? Why do you blind yourself to the fact that in the Ferguson case the prosecutor deliberately chose one or two witnesses out of many whose testimony he could use to excuse Officer Wilson’s behavior. I gave you the example of the officer filmed in action with a Black kid who gave reason to get shot but where the officer acted professionally. Ignored by you. Fox and other conservative outlets focus on the fact that Michael Brown was a jerk. And here is the conclusion I reach, one that infuriates conservatives: the reason Michael Brown could be shot down like a mad dog was not because he was a jerk – White jerks don’t get shot down for being jerks – he got shot down because of two things: the officer knew he could get away with it in that venue because the prosecutor would protect him and he himself was a repository of racial animus. I cannot offer proof of what was in the officer’s mind except to contrast his behavior with most other officers’ and hope that Wilson writes a book detailing the truth of what he was thinking when he shot Brown to death.

Did you by any chance see the news commentator on, I believe, CNN, the Black women sitting between two White men as they discussed the case and new testimony from a couple of White people had come out, testimony calling into question the officer’s version? The woman had been as skeptical as the men about the case against Wilson, but then these two White men said, in reference to the new testimony from White people, “Well, now I guess we need to take a second look”?

She exploded. “NOW!!?? What?? Now that WHITE people have said the same thing as the Black witnesses?”

You see, Jim, these are the moments that you dismiss from your mind. You state you missed all those dog whistles Lopez writes about, all these years of American politics swirling around race, and you missed them all. And you’ve never heard a conservative or libertarian say anything disparaging about poor people.


Rand Paul: Income Inequality Comes From ‘Some People Working Harder’ Than Others”We all end up working for people who are more successful than us,” the presidential hopeful said. Is this a misquote, a misinterpretation? The harder you work the more you make? That the principal I worked for was more successful than me? I am not asking you to say whether or not you agree with Paul but just to admit people DO say these things. David Gergen, the Conservative Republican commentator erupted during the 2008 campaign when his fellow panelists demurred on calling out the racist dog whistles being heard: “I’m a White Southerner and I know exactly what those words mean!”

You have very selective hearing. A propos of the long dead past, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned anywhere going over help-wanted ads with my wife as she looked for work to pay her way through college and seeing “White Only” “White Only” White Only” – that brought home to me the devastation of prejudice and I don’t expect every White person to have had that experience. But I do expect you to realize the devastation wrought on the Black family during the time Moynihan was complaining about Black people and their pathological family structure. I’m going to try to help you see what sort of feelings such treatment might engender – and I don’t mean the discrimination, I mean the denial. Time after time, we have heard abused persons say, “I don’t want money, I want an apology, I want the s.o.b. to admit he did it, to acknowledge the harm he has done.” That anger is what I am talking about.

So let’s say that after WW I the anti-German sentiment had persisted and grown and your family and other families of German stock were routinely deprived of legal rights, voting rights, jobs, government assistance available to others and even health care. In addition, roving gangs of youth could strike out of nowhere and beat or even kill a German on the road or even attack a family in its home. There was no security anywhere. Can you imagine yourself being born in 1933 under those circumstances, with the Depression moving into full force? Add to that instead of the 15 years or so of maltreatment a previous 200 years of even worse treatment, much worse, with families torn apart with no succor, no relief, no one to care (slave escapes were rare and rebellions practically no-existent).

But some people might look at the way you sweep all that away, Jim, and call that racist on your part. You have said you seem not to be racist in the least because you failed to hear the dog whistles Lopez speaks of. If we look at my definition of racism, the theory that behavior in Black people can be attributed to inherited characteristics that are unchangeable, then you certainly are not a racist. In a moral sense, you are not a racist. In fact, you always distinguish between the behavior of poor Blacks, inner-city Blacks, and the behavior of other Blacks, plus you call for remedies which will correct what you see as pathologies in the Black community. So you do not fit my definition of a racist.

But how about institutional and structural racism? I have always thought C/conservatives would welcome such formulations since they take the onus of outright racism off individuals and puts it on the structures we find ourselves saddled with as a result of past practices. I have even gone out of my way to quote passages saying slave holders did not see themselves as bad people – those other people and their services and obedience was just what they were entitled to, like a Medieval lord and his serfs. But C/conservatives don’t like structural or institutional racism as a concept either. So we are left with the simple fact that we both would like to see the problem of poverty among Blacks go away, but we frame it entirely differently and therefore frame the solutions differently.

It is always the Right that is outraged, angry, miffed, whatever. What about us, the Liberals? In E.J. Dionne’s new book, Why the Right Went Wrong, I noted a couple of places where he says Liberals or Democrats were infuriated. I still can’t believe the oh-so-patriotic Republicans went along with the Swift Boating of John Kerry, but then they loved it when Trump dismissed McCain’s bravery. Sometimes conservatives have good impulses: self-improvement through self-discipline – who doesn’t subscribe to that? But conservatives frame it differently: they seemed to think you could solve any social problem by throwing a church at it. They spoke so much about personal pathologies that needed healing they made it easy to forget that most poor people had perfectly good values and worked very hard for very little. Even the most organized, most churched, and most moral communities can’t make it with little income and with shrinking tax bases. (p. 164) The elderly and White retired in my son-in-laws school district refuse to pass bond proposals so those kids, already distressed by poverty and its attendant evils, now are on a four-day school week. Let’s hope they have a hell of a lot of grit.

Lots of columnists, pundits, and commentators are now taking the “chickens come home to roost” approach I do: “Many Republican voters trudged along with those earlier nominees, but never became truly animated until Mr. Trump offered them his brand of angry populism: a blend of protectionism at home and a smaller American footprint abroad. And he was able to exploit their resentments and frustrations because those same Republican leaders had been nurturing those feelings for years with attacks on Mr. Obama, Democrats, illegal immigrants and others.” – NYT Patrick Healy & Jonathan Martin

Just what is a low-information voter and what is the effect on them of being short in that area? One example: the subject or discipline Americans are entirely deficient in is geography, the most basic science for understanding our world. Therefore, when a demagogue tells the low-information voter that when more than one language is commonly spoken in a country, that country will not long survive, it makes sense to them, common sense. It is like Lopez’ common sense racism: it just makes sense. Except it is entirely false. Many countries have and have had more than one official and widely spoken language without difficulties; the languages are taught in the schools and many citizens are bi-and trilingual. No big deal. But to someone who never even took a foreign language in school and doesn’t know anyone who knows another language, the very idea of speaking another language is a bit off-putting. “Why can’t they speak English?” is their cry.

Sadly, I have even heard or read otherwise smart people voice this crazy notion, seemingly more out of pique than any ideology of national unity – perhaps they got tired of pressing One for English. When it is pointed out that nations like Switzerland and Belgium have been bilingual (even quadrilingual) for some centuries without more than normal regional friction over which language should dominate in particular spheres, the people who are convinced that only one language should define a nation just mutter, well, I still think people ought to learn English. Which thought leads to my favorite subject, the great results language teachers get. How many people with 2, 3, 4 years of Spanish can speak it at all? Yet someone who is working two minimum wage jobs is supposed to find time to learn English somehow.

Jim, you keep divorcing anything in the past as irrelevant despite the way you tell us Liberal policies of the past did not work. Then when I ask for an explanation of what would have happened without those Liberal policies, if the poverty, poor education, racial segregation, and so on would have continued, you say I am bringing up the irrelevant past. So then I ask you what the difference is between now and then, the pre-60s period, that so many Blacks – to focus on African-Americans and put aside all the other groups like women, Hispanics, gays, the disabled and so on who benefited from those Liberal policies, too – have appeared at higher levels in society. Is it that Blacks suddenly decided to take “personal responsibility”? No. They always had personal responsibility just like everyone else despite issues of poverty, lack of education, etc. and plenty of Whites were in the same boat. What happened was that the federal – not the state, unless it was outside the slave states – government stepped in and told companies, states, churches, schools, etc. that if they wanted federal money, they could not discriminate. That is what changed America, not anyone’s heart or taking personal responsibility; that’s why we have to excise notions of good and bad or evil out of the equation – to reiterate: people who participate in social structures are not individually evil, good, irresponsible or responsible, they just act within the confines of their social roles and expectations. Of course, some individuals rise above that in one way or the other and we celebrate them but that doesn’t change a lot in society as a whole. This is why we talk of institutional racism rather than individual morality.

But now the fabric is rent. The conservative coalition is fraying. There was always an implicit bargain within that coalition, one that said that even if various kinds of conservatives had different priorities, they would sign on to each other’s agendas. The supply-siders would say that unfettered gun rights are deeply important, even if most of them don’t actually own guns. The antiabortion crusaders would say that military spending should always be increased. The neoconservatives would praise tax cuts for the wealthy. It’s a circle of interdependence and common cause, and to a great degree, they all came to believe in each other’s positions, even if they didn’t agree on what the top priority for the party should be. quoting an unknown source….. sorry.

I’ll end here and wait for the next Trump eruption. Best gift for Christmas if he is elected? A passport.



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