Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hold That Tiger

First there was Rosemary Woods, the Nixon secretary reputedly responsible for erasing some of the boss's tape recordings at the height of the Watergate scandal. Now we have Tiger Woods-gate, in which the well-known philandering golfer played a round with well-known perfect husband and father Barack Obama in Florida over the weekend, and the courtiers of the media were barred, shunned, dissed, maligned and peeved.

Dylan Byers of Politico (which Charles Pierce hilariously calls Tiger Beat on the Potomac) writes that Obama did try to make amends with the stenographers afterwards. But it was off-the-record. Did he beat Tiger? He wouldn't say.

Why did the suddenly transparency-conscious trolls of the White House press corps not get their precious photo-ops? I suspect it is because Obama could not do what he usually does when posing for pics with African-American athletes: hold them up as role models of black fatherhood for other black men.

He couldn't dog-whistle to the white PTBs that he is totally down with their conventional racist attitude that as a group, black guys leave something to be desired when it comes to their parenting skills.

The president does this consistently whenever he greets star athletes at the White House. Most recently, as he hosted the Miami Heat basketball champions, he gratuitously pointed to three of them (LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade) as rare examples of responsible (and moneyed) black fatherhood:
And let me just say one last thing about these guys, and I mentioned this as we were coming in.  There’s a lot of focus on what happens on the court, but what’s also important is what happens off the court.  And I don't know all these guys, but I do know LeBron and Dwayne and Chris.  And one of the things I’m proudest of is that they take their roles as fathers seriously.  And for all the young men out there who are looking up to them all the time, for them to see somebody who cares about their kids and is there for them day in and day out, that's a good message to send.  It’s a positive message to send, and we’re very proud of them for that.  (Applause.)
 
Demeaning much? "We" (the ruling class) are very proud of black men whenever they bravely and surprisingly overcome our shameless, all-American continuing institutionalized system of Jim Crow by getting rich, staying monogamous, not abandoning their families, paying child support or staying out of jail for relatively minor drug offenses. Obama is peddling a lot of trickle-down morality here. He gets away with what no white politician could ever get away with -- pandering to white people at the expense of black people, at the same time signalling to white America that he, himself, is "safe."

Much of his constant need to refer to responsible black fathers as exceptions to the rule probably stems from the fact that his own philandering father left the household when he was just a toddler. Tiger Woods fits very uncomfortably into that same category, his own son just a baby when the bimbo scandal erupted. Barack and Tiger appearing to be buddy-buddy on the golf course in the course of a luxurious stag weekend? It had the potential of staining the president's carefully-crafted image as family man.

Obama has long been criticized for "talking tough" to black people, black fathers in particular. His annual Fathers Day sermons, for example, invariably chide African-American males to start acting like men. Other examples can be found here, here and in one particularly cogent analysis of his visit back to Chicago last week to tout gun control before a largely minority audience, here: Writes Zettler Clay  of Obama's blaming absentee black fathers for much of the gun violence:
It's one thing to promote fatherhood and community in the context of overcoming and pushing for riddance of systemic ills. It’s another to sell the merits of dads as panacea. That’s irresponsible.
Black and white fathers abandon their children, yet I’d be hard-pressed to imagine a speech like this given to children living in Newtown, Conn. Statistics are often reported to justify this strategy, but one side doesn’t have a monopoly on favorable statistics.
In 2007, a study conducted by Boston University reported that black fathers who don’t reside in the home are more likely to sustain regular contact with their children than fathers of any other group. This isn’t to exonerate black men who neglect their duties, but to emphasize how collective the issue is.
Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report is also a longtime critic of Obama's treatment of the black community. Writing about the then-candidate's Father's Day 2008 speech in Chicago, Ford pointed out that the presidential contender was primarily pandering to an uncomfortable white audience:
Thus it was no surprise that Barack Obama used the occasion of Father's Day to give Black males the back of his hand, no doubt to the delight of millions of potential white supporters. Black males have "abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men," said Obama, citing statistics on female-headed households. "You and I know how true this is in the African-American community."
Even the New York Times could see through Obama's transparent bid for white approval at Black people's expense. Reporter Julie Bosman noted that Obama "laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make" - terms (such as boy?) that "his campaign hopes [will] resonate among white social conservatives in a race where these voters may be up for grabs."
Fast-forward to the Obama-Woods golfing twosome of 2013. A photo of the paternalistic scold-in-chief with a black athlete who does not adhere to the ideal of responsible, affluent African-American fatherhood?  Barack Obama might have been outed as a  hypocrite. If he couldn't use the special occasion for presenting his usual moralistic spiel in an opportunistic photo op, then there would be no photo-op.

Case closed, end of story. Now, if only the Washington press corps would be more strident in urging transparancy on, and investigating, Obama's Organizing for Action slush fund, his kill list, and his failure to prosecute Wall Street banksters, I might have a little more sympathy for them. As it is, they too have once more outed themselves as hypocrites more interested in access than in accountability.

32 comments:

Kat said...

Good lord! Did he really make that speech when the Heat visited?
Well, I'm sure he has similar words for Stanley Cup champions.

Suzan said...

But what did he want to be President for if not to schmooze up close with his heroes?

It certainly wasn't to benefit any of the lower-class black (or half black) folk, or to cause any real progressive change in national policies (like health care, etc.). (Yeah, and I'm not ignoring the fact that all those newly-endowed-with-sexytime-rights folk get to serve in our growing military presence everywhere! Yay!)

And it certainly won't hurt his retirement income as he joins the ongoing rich-guy/gal speech circuit.

meh.

You're the best reporter around, K.

Thanks.

S

Pearl said...

There is another side to Obama's need to bond with famous people. Even if Tiger Woods was an exemplary father figure, Obama's need to be in close communication with 'famous' as in rich and well known people, speaks loud and clear about his personal values. His public fascination with Beyonce and her husband is an example, especially after her recent book revealed a self centered and overly ambitious woman and equally ambitious and wealthy husband moving in celebrity circles. As I mentioned in a previous comment, and Karen brings up, he is feathering his nest for the future which includes becoming a solid member of the one percenters.

It is also troubling for him to scold black men who are less than solid father role models, not taking into account the extra high rates of joblessness and lack of opportunities for his black brothers which affects their domestic arrangements. His very poor abilities as president, which most people are not willing to acknowledge, added to his need for self importance and financial security does not represent an admirable human being leading the country.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, you nailed it Karen. It's in keeping with his other behaviors. The guy is a sleaze. Reminds me a lot of Clinton, different style, but his moral level is about the same. As Kat said, can't believe he said that. Oh yes I can! Hate diminishing hope that was a slender reed to begin with.

Will said...

What's the REAL reason Barry doesn't want any media coverage of his golf game?

"He sucks."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9m3GyDh6M8

P.S. OK, I'm not a the biggest fan of meanie conservative humor, but I dare you not to laugh at this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN2IA4reJLM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1MH_UEpVjQ

Wu Hu said...

I accidently caught part of Obama's SOTU speech on the radio while puttering around one day and I didn't even realize it was him because of the higher pitch of his voice. At first I wondered who was speaking, then when I found out it was him I thought "Wow, he'd better be checked for Low T!"

If he comes back from this stag vacation with a deeper voice, we'll know he definitely got more than a few swings in.

Zee said...

@Will--

Hysterical!!

And really pretty mild compared to much of what passes for "humor" these days from both the right and the left.

Kat said...

God, that whole speech to the Heat is still pissing me off. Implicit in his message is the belief that absent fatherhood is a pathology specific to black males-- I mean, I'm thinking why would Dwayne Wade and LeBron be absent from their kids lives? But I guess Obama is thinking that's just what we expect from black men and totally discounting other reasons for being absent.
@Pearl-- here is the rapper Lupe Fiasco who rejected an offer to sign to Jay-Z's label. He is not as impressed as our chief.
Every rapper does not want to be Jay-Z. Every rapper don't wanna be Kanye West. Everybody don't wanna be Lil Wayne. They wanna be who they are. ... You're a fool trying to chase that success down and manage it like that. I always look at my success as further than a dollar sign, further than record sales. ... Everybody thinks because you're black and you're from the 'hood, you wanna be Jay-Z. There's kids who wanna be astrophysicists and don't care about rap. That should be OK. You should be OK just being you, working your regular job and being happy. That's why I made that statement. I felt it need to be said."
a shout out to those who reject the endless striving.

Denis Neville said...

Obama in 1990 said, “I’m not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me. And I’m not interested in isolating myself. I feel good when I’m engaged in what I think are the core issues of the society, and those core issues to me are what is happening to poor folks in this society. ”

He's always talking about "folks."

He is all hat and no cattle, all show and no depth.

The Obamas personify politicians who arrive in Washington as men and women of modest means and who will leave as millionaires. But making money is not enough for the Obamas. They seem to feel entitled to living in luxury. Although they have their own private resort at Camp David, it hasn’t been good enough. They take regular vacations to expensive resorts - Martha’s Vineyard and Hawaii - where they hobnob with the rich and shameless. There is a term for people like the Obamas - nouveau riche. Obama gives off the air of an aloof affluent professional, nouveau riche-type.

It must be terrific to be nouveau riche. In spite of impending economic chaos and continued high unemployment, Obama is at that swank Florida resort for golfing with Tiger, while Michelle and the kids are at Aspen for skiing with the nouveau riche.

Not to mention our middle class warrior’s $900 Valentine’s Day dinner!

The Villagers are thrilled with the nouveau riche Obamas and their elitist tastes. They just don’t care that many Americans have lost their homes and jobs and can’t pay their bills, much less go out to dinner.

Obama is like the nouveaux riche only with other peoples’ money.

“They were new money, without a doubt: so new it shrieked. Their clothes looked as it they'd covered themselves in glue, then rolled around in hundred-dollar bills.” - Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin

James F Traynor said...

We'll never get over the black thing, brown thing, or the yellow peril. I myself would trade my complexion, an unpleasant pink of varying shades and subject to basal and squamous cell carcinoma, for a pleasant reddish brown.

As for religion, it gives me the emotional hives. The people of the book (Mohamed's phrase for Christians and Jews) include, for me, the muslims themselves. And a more unpleasant bunch they are. As for the Mormons? Well consider Orrin Hatch and that looney and con man Smith. Not that the rest of the world comes off much better. The Aztecs were really way out there. I haven't decided on what to worship yet. Sunflowers are really nice.

Pearl said...

Denis: In mentioning Obama's nouveau riche style of living, with expensive vacations for his family, etc. it occurs to me that he actually is NOT a good father. He is teaching his children how to feel entitled with all the extra perks he helps himself to and exposes them to a style of living that will also become a part of their future lives as well as being a part of special elitist schooling that the average child does not have access to.

Although his daughters do not recognize his failures as a president, especially with all the support and hoopla surrounding him, they are also protected from the realities of the average American's struggle to survive.
This is what happens among people of wealth whose children never have an opportunity to learn how the other more than half has to live and instead are taught to have contempt for those who threaten their lifestyle.

In a way I think that this is his biggest failure of all, by not being an inspiring example in his personal life to others, as well as his children.

Along these lines of parenting, the examples of the well paid athletes whose fathering Obama praised, may also not be teaching their children the realities of life and making them to feel entitled to the perks and idolization of their celebrity status. And how do these athletes feel about the financial shenanigans rampant in the sports world which rewards them so exhorbitantly?

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Somewhat off-topic, but of interest if we still wonder how mercenarily low the institutions of this nation will descend:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/sports/ncaafootball/a-company-that-runs-prisons-will-have-its-name-on-a-stadium.html

Now, it's not enough that private companies derive profit from imprisonment --- they will shamelessly promote their "brand", and find willing partners for that promotion in "higher" education.

If colleges are now willing to partner with prison corporations, can retired Democratic presidents be far behind?

Zee said...

@Denis, @Pearl and @Kat--

Obama has indeed “jumped” with trans-light speed from humble, Chicago community organizer to “nouveaux riche.” In fact, he has really joined the ranks of the “mega-riche” rather than the mere “nouveaux riche” as he daily rubs elbows with the likes of Tiger Woods and his celebrity ilk.

Yes, he may maintain a residence in Chicago in the future, but how much will Chicago really see of him after he has left the White House? He will be off further enriching himself on the speech- and book-writing circuits, and probably spending such time as he is not on the road in some super-secure enclave on Maui, or maybe in Palm Beach, where Tiger can help him with his golf swing and offer marital advice. And there, of course, LeBron can help him with his jump shot, too.

@Pearl, you hit the nail squarely on the head when you said:

“This is what happens among people of wealth whose children never have an opportunity to learn how the other more than half has to live and instead are taught to have contempt for those who threaten their lifestyle.

In a way I think that this is his biggest failure of all, by not being an inspiring example in his personal life to others, as well as his children.”


Obama's children will likely become permanent parodies of American reality, just as Chelsea Clinton (and Jenna Bush, lest we leave her out), by virtue of her parentage and wealth and imagined connections, has become a faux journalist, or, failing that, whatever else she may try to pretend to be in the future.

http://daily-download.com/chelsea-clinton-nbcs-pretend-journalist/

Obama will hang around for four more years to secure his “legacy”—mostly by trying not to screw up—and that's the last the 99% will ever see of him and his family, I'll venture.

PS: I'll apologize in due time if either of the Obama children goes on to become an astrophysicist.

Zee said...

Following @Fred, I'd like to go somewhat off-topic, myself. (Hardly new for me, I know.)

Today, I came across an interesting article that touches on two topics near and dear to my heart: Civil rights—and how the government wants to “ration” them out—and reasons that gun owners mistrust the left when talk of “reasonable gun control” arises.

http://seattletimes.com/html/
localnews/2020373291_westneat17xml.html

The author of the article for which I have provided the link is a liberal proponent of “common-sense regulation of gun sales.” (I like to think that I fall in that category, too, though I disagree with the scope of the Washington State bill insofar as I understand it at this time.)

The author, Danny Westneat, points out that this time Washington State legislators/gun-control advocates have gone too far even for many liberals, probably shooting their own legislation in the foot, so to speak. Quoting from the article,

'Responding to the Newtown school massacre, the bill would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons that use detachable ammunition magazines. Clips that contain more than 10 rounds would be illegal.

But then, with respect to the thousands of weapons like that already owned by Washington residents, the bill says this:

“In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall ... safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection.

In other words, come into homes without a warrant to poke around. Failure to comply could get you up to a year in jail.

“I’m a liberal Democrat — I’ve voted for only one Republican in my life,” Palmer [a Seattle lawyer who called this to Westneat's attention] told me. “But now I understand why my right-wing opponents worry about having to fight a government takeover.”

He added: “It’s exactly this sort of thing that drives people into the arms of the NRA.” '


(Zee's bold emphasis.)

The so-called “sponsors” of this bill claim that inclusion of these warrantless searches was a “mistake,” which tells you how closely they read their own legislation. (Or maybe they were merely trying to sneak this provision past equally clueless legislators.)

Kinda like legislation that would enable the local sheriff to enter the homes of licensed automobile drivers once a year to examine drivers' liquor and medicine cabinets, to make sure that drivers are informed of the dangers of drinking and driving, and are also properly informed as to the effects that the drugs they are taking have on their cognitive and motor skills. And, of course, making sure that drivers are neither drinkin' nor druggin' too much. In the public interest, of course.

Westneat goes on to say:

'The prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, also condemned the search provision in his own bill, after I asked him about it. He said Palmer is right that it’s probably unconstitutional.

“I have to admit that shouldn’t be in there,” Murray said.

He said he came to realize that an assault-weapons ban has little chance of passing this year anyway. So he put in this bill more as “a general statement, as a guiding light of where we need to go.” Without sweating all the details.

Later, a Senate Democratic spokesman blamed unnamed staff and said a new bill will be introduced.'
– (Zee's bold emphasis again.)

A “guiding light of where we need to go?” Warrantless annual searches of law-abiding gun-owners' homes? (And, maybe, yours next?)

And you ask why I seem paranoid?

Zee said...

@Fred--

Why am I not surprised that Florida Atlantic University should "partner" with a private-sector prison operator?

This is the first time I ever heard of FAU, and it was not in a particularly favorable light:

http://wlrn.org/post/fau-prof-controversial-newtown-theories-says-he-was-misunderstood

So, I rather suspect that FAU is not exactly a "first-tier" university, and is hurting for funds.

Still, I shouldn't be condescending to FAU.

My own alma mater, UC Davis, and, indeed, the entire University of California system, is now populated largely by by comparably strange people, or so I read from the magazines that they insist on sending me 33 years after I completed my Ph.D.

Spouting liberal boilerplate on the one hand, and callously pepper-spraying peacable protestors on the other hand, and, yet, holding out both hands in vain to me to receive my alumnus contributions.

Pretty soon, they'll be sucking up to private prison corporations for funding, too.

After all, somebody has to pay all those fat salaries for the hordes of administrators that we didn't have in my day.

Kat said...

Obama in 1990 said, “I’m not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me. And I’m not interested in isolating myself. I feel good when I’m engaged in what I think are the core issues of the society, and those core issues to me are what is happening to poor folks in this society.
Woo hoo-- a real William Jennings Bryan there. Hey 'Bama, the addition of the word "folks" does not prevent your message from sounding like it's straight from the mouth of a McKinsey consultant.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Continuing on the theme of executives --- be they the Chief Executive of the nation, or high-level college administrators --- hobnobbing with the elite and divorced from reality, consider this recent gem from the University of Arizona:

http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2013/02/president-hart-to-eat-breakfast-with-ua-students

http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/blog/go-enjoy/2013/02/u-of-a-breakfast-club-helps-students-connect-with-president-hart

A big deal is being made of the university president taking time out from her "very demanding schedule" to meet with the commoners, er, I mean students!

From the first article: "The breakfast, which [university President] Hart and Associated Students of the University of Arizona members have been planning since the summer, will provide an open forum for 25 students interested in conversing with the president."

It's now February. "... Planning since the summer" for a breakfast? Since the summer?! Want to have breakfast with some students, Ms. Hart? Walk into the food court of the student union, and sit yourself down at a randomly-chosen populated table. And do it at least once a week. While you're at it, also regularly take the time to meet with some of the plebian faculty and staff. Oh, but that would require even more "planning".

From the second article: "At the breakfast, held in the Ventana room, Hart stopped at each table in order to speak with all of the students in attendance, according to Katy Murray, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona."

I don't know how long the entire event took. An hour? An hour and a half? I doubt much more than that (if even that). How many of the student attendees (other than the brown-nosing student body president) got to speak TO Ms. Hart for more than a couple of minutes, if even that? (And the structure of the event probably guaranteed that most students' comments weren't heard by the entire group. Mustn't permit much contagion of dissatisfaction, it best be kept compartmentalized!)

The take-home message, whether in Washington, D.C. or the provinces: Those with power and/or money choose to spend the bulk of their time with each other, isolated from the real world, and any interaction with the masses is a carefully-planned show.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Fred’s description of the fake folksiness of University President Hart prompts me to saddle up an old hobbyhorse of mine: the everlasting tension between Front Line and Rear Area mentalities. As Fred pointed out, if Hart wants to know the student mind, all she has to do is pop into the cafeteria for a meal and a chat once in a while without her entourage.

When I was in the service I recall a Division Commander pressing the idea on young officers that it was crucial that they themselves regularly visit point men out on the furthest outposts, preferably in the middle of the night, not just to check that they were awake but to tell them how important their job was and, if circumstances allowed, to linger long enough to get the frank views of that point man about, well, about anything on the grunt’s mind. Sergeants and lieutenants are no different from front-line supervisors of any civilian enterprise: their performance can make or break the whole operation.

In another line of business I can recall our clueless CEO always needing a guide to squire her around the building to wish everyone a happy holiday. After she breezed through we were left chewing our gums, not with holiday cheer, but with resentment. The distance between the front line and the rear area only increases after charades of listening and camaraderie.

The middle managers who did the squiring around were no better. They clung to their desks and managed from there. Front liners would challenge them – in a generous way – to suit up and spend a tour at our elbow at least once a month. Then they would understand. No middle manager ever accepted such an invitation, and the unit turnover increased – at great cost to the institution.

Most of you may be too young to remember Eric Sevareid from Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News (and other programs) decades ago. He had been a print journalist before he got into TV. In his book, Not So Wild a Dream (1976), where he covered WWII as a war correspondent, he spoke knowingly about the gulf that arises between the front line soldier and the rear area types. Two different universes forever at war.

There are ways for top dogs to stay in touch with reality without sacrificing efficiency or security. So many bosses don’t try – or don’t even care – to bridge the gap. Obama or your congressperson – on a regular basis, or even once in a lifetime – will never spend a whole day at the elbow of a child in a rotten school, a senior struggling on social security, an experienced professional unemployed for more than a year, a sick person unable to afford private insurance, a soldier back in the States and dealing with PTSD. Never!

Obama, however, can take a whole day on the links doing something much more presidential, like getting the little ball into the little hole under the guidance of a bulked-up rich man.

Zee said...

@Jay and @Fred--

Jay, you have expressed beautifully what it takes to lead, whether in the military, in business, or when trying to point an entire nation in the right direction.

The best that I can muster in response to Fred's remarks about U of A's President Hart is that I'm ROTFLMAO! that it would take six months to arrange a breakfast with 25 cherry-picked students.

I wonder how many of these "tame" students asked her why the cost of their educations are skyrocketing? I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when all of these conversations took place.

Oh, well, at least Hart hasn't sanctioned the pepper-spraying of the students about which she purportedly cares so much...yet.

James F Traynor said...

@Jay,

If those young officers made a habit of doing that their chances of getting to be older officers would diminish considerably. One of the problems Montgomery used to bitch about was the fact that he could seldom find field grade officers at the front of the American units he had under his command. Second looies wandering around in the dark out beyond the edge better have an experienced non-com with them.

Jay - Ottawa said...

People in command, be they CEOs, front-line supervisors or second lieutenants can and should learn when and how to get around without wandering, without forever leaning on a sergeant or a handler.

Lieutenants who won't or can't, on their schedule, for their own reasons, and by their own wits find their own way around the platoon or company position don't deserve to make field grade where they would only become a liability to greater numbers of people on the front lines.

Some of our great leaders in politics never really visit the front. Will they ever understand, even after it's too late for millions of the rest of us?

Like one of the French generals is supposed to have said when he finally went to the world of mud that was Verdun: "My God, did we keep telling them to attack through THIS?"

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Part 1:

Great comments, everyone. The original post by Karen has certainly led to a wide diversity of sociopolitical critiques.

Two final areas to be addressed by me on this thread:

First of all, one more link:

http://azstarnet.com/business/local/raytheon-reaches-out-to-inspire-young-generation-of-potential-engineers/article_146a4b95-3bc0-594f-997e-46a83fed9d55.html

I was tempted to present it without comment, but I guess I'll add a few words after all. (Given his background, I expect @Zee will also have something to say, which I'll look forward to reading). Certainly I'll agree that this nation could use an increase in the understanding (if not mastery) of mathematics, science, and engineering, but is proselytizing for these fields via a field trip to a military contractor, with its implied blessing of weaponry applications, the best we can do to interest students? As I've pointed out before, I'm not a pacifist, but I take serious issue with how public fears encouraged by the self-interests of politicians and the military-industrial complex have come to dominate our national political consciousness and given a pseudo-legitimacy to military spending and actions that, in a more honest environment, would be labeled as paranoia, unbridled arrogance, and imperialism. I consider the involvement of military contractors in public education as well over the line of what should be permitted.

Fred Drumlevitch said...

Part 2:

Secondly: @Zee, I do appreciate the points you have repeatedly made here at Sardonicky regarding overreach by proponents of gun control. I largely agree with your points, and wish that more people on the left and more so-called liberals understood the dangers inherent in the "gun control" that they advocate. (And I say that despite not "packing heat"). If nothing else, the past eleven and a half years since 9/11 should have taught any self-respecting leftist just how tenuous our supposedly-guaranteed freedoms are. We have witnessed presidents, executive branch officials, legislators, judges, law enforcement, the military, indeed, just about anyone with any political power, run roughshod over supposedly Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and their traditional expressions. Often, it has taken no more than the stroke of a pen (i.e. via a presidential "finding" or judicial order) to decimate fundamental liberties; at other times, the legislative branch arranges ex-post-facto approval. One can legitimately question how effective an armed populace would be against a truly tyrannical government; perhaps not very. But even if that should be true, I believe as the founders of this nation did, that a case can be made for a well-armed populace being the ultimate deterrent to the establishment of tyranny.

My background may be considerably different from most other commenters on this forum. As I pointed out in a lengthy comment last year at Sardonicky, someone I knew long ago, unable to defend herself (no guns allowed on most university campuses), was murdered by an infamous serial killer. And many distant relatives perished in the Holocaust. Historically, the danger from governments "gone bad" far surpasses that from terrorism, criminals, or the insane. Yes, it is true that some members of our society shouldn't be trusted with firearms, and that problem should be remedied. But I am prepared to trust most people with them, just as every day I trust that the person approaching in a motor vehicle from a smaller side street will stop before striking me as I drive down a major artery. Occasionally that trust is violated. Decades ago, I was broadsided at an intersection by a driver who failed to honor the requirements of a red light. But I've never called for the prohibition of motor vehicle ownership and operation by most people --- because they serve an important purpose. Leftists should consider that widespread private ownership of firearms may serve an even more vital purpose. Those who disagree might consult the people of Libya and Syria --- or the dead of the USSR, China, and Nazi Germany.

A final note: Two recent photographic and written arguments for banning the possession BY "LAW ENFORCEMENT" of high-capacity magazines:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-torrance-shooting-20130209,0,7478164,full.story

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-torrance-shooting-20130210,0,3955268.story?track=rss

Kat said...

Fred,
Thanks for sharing the absurdity of the breakfast w/royalty.
Guns, guns, guns. I really don't wade into this debate too much. I think both sides have good points, and both sides have their excesses. I feel this exchange captures how I feel best. I hope people will read it:
http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2007/12/i-dont-understa.html

Denis Neville said...

@ Jay, Fred, James, Zee, et al – interesting discussion on what it takes to lead

The role of folly, foolish leadership producing disaster, is an unlearned lesson for many today.

The power, i.e. arrogance of power, to lead or command frequently causes a failure to think, and hubris gets many of our so-called leaders into trouble. And we the people, in our customary position at the bottom of the many hills, bear the brunt of all the shit that rolls downhill.

“Government remains the paramount area of folly because it is there that men seek power over others - only to lose it over themselves.” - Barbara W. Tuchman - The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

“Rejection of reason,” writes Tuchman, “is the prime characteristic of folly. More often than not reason is overpowered by non-rational human frailties – ambition, anxiety, status-seeking, face-saving, illusions, self-delusions, fixed prejudices.”

Tom Ricks, “The Generals,” says our military adopted the corporate America model in the 1950s, eroding General Marshall’s WWII performance standards, thereby laying the groundwork for the costly errors of Vietnam and Iraq. Ricks likens attaining flag rank to “winning a tenured professorship, liable to be removed not for professional failure but for embarrassing one’s institution with moral lapses.”

All too often today, the goal of “leaders” is "avoid all decisions." If one doesn't do anything, he/she can't get into trouble. The current mentality of many “leaders” is one of survival at all costs. They are all hat and no cattle, management without command ability, but wearing the uniform. They can't lead because they're too damn afraid of offending some thin-skinned asshole above them in their chain-of-command. The system is designed to weed out the real leaders. He/she who stands for nothing will fall for anything.

During WWII, Admiral Halsey's was often quoted, "When in command, command!" That is what is missing today. Marshall, Eisenhower, and Halsey were aware that they were appointed to their office to make the right call even if no one was watching. Trust and confidence in their leadership was paramount to the successful conclusion of World War II.

During the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, a helicopter pilot landed his helicopter between the villagers and the soldiers to stop the killing. Asked later why he did that, he replied, “because I was raised to stop bullies, and it looked to me like it was bullying.”

Which reminds me of Robert Sutton’s “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't.”

I have witnessed the carnage done by “leaders,” who were demeaning bullies and bitches and bastards, to the detriment of mental and physical health of their employees, over a lifetime.

The “No Asshole Rule” is needed because too many organizations allow such behavior to persist.

Two tests that Sutton uses for spotting whether a person is acting like an asshole:

Test One: After talking to the alleged asshole, does the "target" feel oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled by the person? In particular, does the target feel worse about him or herself?

Test Two: Does the alleged asshole aim his or her venom at people who are less powerful rather than at those people who are more powerful?"

Life is just too short to work with assholes if you can control the circumstances.

Denis Neville said...

@ Kat – Thanks for the link to Joe Bageant’s “I don't understand your position on guns.”

Those are my feelings also. Yes, “Conditioning is everything.”

Working at hospitals where trauma surgeons bound for Iraq and Afghanistan were trained, was for me a kind of ground zero experience of our gun violence national crisis.

Joe Bageant was indeed a potent antidote to what he dubbed “the American hologram”—the corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life:

“To even begin to dissolve this dangerous hologram we would have to examine the biggest lie of all - that technology is neutral and that people determine its ultimate effects. What divine horseshit!

“Thanks to the hologram, American culture, as such, is nearly over. It is not sustainable. It is not reformable. Not only are TV and all digital media unreformable, but they are sure to accelerate our demise more rapidly because of the technological capitalist paradigm of growth at all cost. We cannot eliminate the generators of the hologram, television and electronic media. They are the glue of the hologram, the mediators of our human experience. We will all die without them, now that they have replaced all other previous forms of knowledge, the ancient forms, and have colonized our inner lives like a virus. The natural world is not only boring but does not even exist, as we sit mesmerized, while the hologram sells our very feelings back to us. Are we adequate? How are we supposed to act? Did you phone someone you love today? What and whom are we to fear? You are rendered numb by a hypnotic medium, react to your own feelings which have been stolen and doled back out to you, and pay money to do so. Brilliant! The commodification of human consciousness is probably the most astounding, if ghoulish, accomplishment of American Capitalist culture.” – Joe Bageant, “The Simulacran Republic,” http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/12/the_simulacran_.html

As Bageant once wrote, “Humping the Big Lie,”

“Loathe as Americans are to believe it, the Mexican people and the American people are in the same situation of being mugged. However, they are robbed at a different rate and from different positions in the global pecking order. We rob the Mexicans and global capitalism robs us. Fortunately we can still afford to buy our national food staple from Dominoes. Which makes us a superior people.” – Joe Bageant, “Round Midnight: Tortillas and the Corporate State,” http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2010/02/round-midnight.html

Zee said...

@Fred--

Thanks for the link to the article about Raytheon involving itself in encouraging public high school students to pursue careers in engineering, science and mathematics. And your attendant remarks regarding the morality of involvement of defense contractors in public education presaged similar thoughts that were later expressed in the article by Joe Bageant, for which @Kat provided the link.

“There are too many larger forces profiting from our national violence: the burgeoning privatized prison corporations, the rapidly growing police and security industry, and of course the gun manufacturers. There is money in fear, especially if one lives in a country where any justification for fear makes the news 24/7.” --Joe Bageant

I generally agree with your point, despite having worked in the national defense industry for almost 30 years myself. It would be far better for students to be presented with more “positive” applications for an education in science, engineering and mathematics than developing better ways to blow people and things up from a distance.

The question that I have to ask, though, is: What other scientific and engineering outfits are in the Southern Arizona region that are willing to take the time and expend both the effort and money to do what Raytheon did, which was to put together an engrossing, hands-on, day of exposure to engineering “in action” for prospective students?

Without other willing participants, the field is left wide open for defense contractors to fill in the void.







Jay - Ottawa said...

@Zee & Fred

Peace on the gun thing. We shouldn’t make you two work so hard here on Sardonicky. Go ahead and hunt. The rest of us aren't doing much better by staying inside slouched before a TV screen.

Facts can lead one deep into the counterintuitive. Did the rest of you know – Zee & Fred probably know already – that after centuries of deforestation, the US has been going through a major phase of reforestation over the past half century? Suburban developments have more trees, shrubs and undergrowth than the farmland they replaced. What of the cities? “Nationally … tree canopy covers about 27% of the urban landscape.” As a side effect of the re-greening of America, animals of the forest are counter-sprawling into “our” space (urban, suburban and exurban) at a troubling rate.

Did you know that (because of our aggressive forest-clearing hunting and fishing habits up to around 1900) the white-tail dear count was down to about 500,000 in the lower Forty-Eight? The count has since exploded to between 25 to 40 million? Deer are now regarded as a menace and a plague. Did you know that deer and motor vehicles crash into each other at a rate of 3,000 to 4,000 per day? Did I stress “per day”? Furthermore, the deer explosion turns out to be “a mass transit system for ticks carrying Lyme disease.”

Deer aren’t the only critters invading “our” space. There are many others, some introducing rabies or killing house pets. Wild boar make tough boots, but they are a menace to other wildlife in the Smoky Mountains. Millions of feral cats are clearing our skies of songbirds. (I wonder whether we could coax them into hunting drones?) More on this can be found in Russell Baker’s review of a new book by Jim Sterba called “Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds.”
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/21/visitors/

Walt Disney was wrong to make us so sentimental. Zealous animal support lobbies should cease with their threats against wildlife control agents. We should look more kindly on hunters. In fact, common sense tells us to encourage hunters.

I’m not entirely convinced that a heavily armed population under the Second Amendment can defend our civil liberties under all the other amendments. We’ll see how that works out. In the meantime – and I’m not being ironic here – don your orange caps and get Bambi.

Zee said...

@Kat--

I read the article by Joe Bageant at the link that you provided, but was still not entirely certain where he stood on the subjects of gun ownership and gun control. I gather that he was rather more sympathetic to responsible gun owners than are many Progressives, though, and I will try to find his book, Deer Hunting With Jesus at the library. I also gather that he was far less inclined to blame the sheer number of guns in America for gun violence than he was to blame those people who actually “pull the trigger.”

“Googling” Bageant to learn more in the interim, however, I came across this comment in reply to an article in a conservative magazine:

“I suppose I fit the liberal stereotype on this issue: have always been squeamish at the thought of guns, despise the NRA, etc. etc. (Though I’ve never been against responsible hunting.) But the late Joe Bageant’s terrific book, “Deer Hunting With Jesus,” really helped me to relax about it all. I’ll never be happy about our country being awash in guns, and I want sensible regulations, but Bageant’s terrific account of what gun ownership means to millions of Americans, and of why liberal angst about guns will never, ever make sense or get traction among people like Bageant’s family and friends, helped me to feel better about letting it go. It increased my respect for responsible gun owners and helped me to recognize how much bigger that set of responsible owners is than I may have believed before.

I still pretty much hate the NRA. There’s no excuse for their extremism and exploitation of the issue for money.”
--Maxine, December 1, 2012

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/a-liberal-favors-more-guns/

If Bageant's book has had a similar impact on your perspective, Kat, then I'm content with that, as it allows much room for both reasoned discussion and reasonable action.

Kat said...

Zee,
It's been a while since I read Deer Hunting and another collection of his essays, but he grew up with guns and he is sympathetic to gun owners. Guns were part of his upbringing. He wrote something along the lines of certain gun control advocates not quite getting what it might mean to get off a bus at 2 a.m. in a rough part of town.
Denis,
Brilliant! The commodification of human consciousness is probably the most astounding, if ghoulish, accomplishment of American Capitalist culture.
His writings on this topic have really struck a nerve with me. It seems to be so hard to just experience things without having this quality of being a spectator to your experience. That probably makes no sense, but I'll just say there is no going back.

Zee said...

@Fred--

Once again, thank you for your thoughtful perspective on responsible gun ownership in America.

@Jay--

I agree: “Peace on the gun thing,” and thanks for the thoughtful remarks on the present need for more hunting, not less.

In fact, hunting has grown over the past five years, and hunters also inject a lot of money into the U.S. economy:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1214429

(I can't seem to find the link to the original report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which states that in 2011, “hunters spent $34B on trips, equipment, licenses and other items...an average of $2,484 per hunter.”)

Like both you and Fred, I have my doubts “that a heavily armed population under the Second Amendment can defend our civil liberties under all the other amendments.”

Hopefully, we will never have to find out.

Still, like Fred—if I correctly I interpret his earlier remarks—I believe that a convincing case can be made that this was what the Founders intended when they wrote the Second Amendment, whether or not it could be effectively implemented today.

Enough on guns for this thread.

Zee said...

On a totally different topic, here's a link to an article in which an avowed "defense hawk" thinks that the sequestration cuts to the Pentagon's budget would be a good thing

http://www.nypost.com/p/
news/opinion/opedcolumnists/
asking_for_defense_cuts_
JMVPBqujQudb1Jc68tKeVP?utm_medium=rss&utm_content=Oped%20Columnists

From the article:

"The looming budget sequestration imposes almost $50 billion in cuts on the Defense budget this year. It’s a terrible idea — and I’m for it.

This hatchet job trims not just fat, but muscle and bone, too. It’s going to be ugly. But as I’ve watched the Defense Department pull shameful stunts and listened to congressional blather attempting to block sequestration, this defense hawk has become one irate taxpayer.

...

The true problem is that Congress has been giving the defense industry an endless supply of blank checks, with no real accountability — while CEOs wrap themselves in the flag on Capitol Hill. Patriots? In our recent wars, not one defense-industry CEO volunteered to be a dollar-a-year man as captains of industry did in World War II.

Sequestration will do serious harm. But our corrupt system has already done far worse. It’s time for a reckoning."
--Ralph Peters