Work and Days

The Wright Bell Curve

Let Me Get This Straight

A Rev. Wright gives a speech to the NAACP, an organization that has often fought a gallant battle against racists. But inter alia he insists that we are genetically different, and that our DNA is distinct by race, and to such a degree it explains cognitive differences and learning aptitudes.

Then he assures the audience that blacks have right-brains and whites left-brains (Asians something in between apparently). This genetic difference elucidates, Wright assures the audience, why blacks rap and sing and are so spiritual, and why whites are sooooo analytical and tediously rational.

Then, after spewing this pseudo-sophisticated race claptrap, Wright is given an ovation by the very organization that would have rightly crucified any white nut that had stooped to offer such a condescending racist diatribe. And you and I, in turn, are utter racists to question Wright, much less to suggest he and what he says have a bearing on the election.

All the while, Wright was gushed over by witless CNN commentators, who were apparently relieved (or disappointed?) that he didn’t go off on AIDs viruses and special Israeli bombs that target blacks and Arabs.

Then in his encore the next morning, Wright insults the liberal Washington press corps (always a dumb thing to do) for reporting his serial nonsense ‘out of context’. They sort of take his tongue-lashing even as larger excerpts from his rants prove that the longer one listens to him, the nuttier he becomes.

How odd that he claims his prior slurs were snippets, then at the Press Club expounds on them to assure the nation that they were not.

And our next would-be President has called all this “not particularly controversial?”

The wild enthusiasm that greeted Wright’s racist speech at the NAACP, and the packed sympathetic audience at the National Press Club that similarly applauded when he confirmed that his past offensive “loops” were in fact perfectly representative of what he feels, raise a disturbing thought: For 20 years various studies programs have insisted that victims cannot be victimizers, and the result seems to be that a great many African-American elites, who have met with success and live lives that millions of Americans could only envy, have become deaf to what is classically racist hate speech.

When Wright apparently referenced his hateful partial white ancestry (or at least I think that was what he was doing this morning), or genetic racial differences in brain chemistry, or caricatured Italians, or lumped together all whites as “rich white folks” and received ovations for that bombast from his audiences, the message was unmistakably clear and will have terrible ramifications for the nation at large.

Without sounding overly dramatic, I think Wright’s performance yesterday and today have cost Barack Obama the election. He cannot give yet another incomplete sermon on race (“Racial Relations Take 2?”), and will soon discover that his Hispanic, Asian, and white supporters suspect that he is either a racial chauvanist or tone deaf to those who are—and then will silently flee his candidacy, sort of like quietly getting up and leaving the theater half-way through a bad movie.

So Try a Thought Experiment …

If you wish to learn how morally confused the Obama campaign has become, how embarrassing Obama’s associates are, and how much harm his waffling has done to race relations, try this:

Example 1: John McCain’s pastor of twenty years and spiritual advisor addresses a large white convention and declares that whites have different brains than blacks, and then begins to mimic the supposedly different ways blacks speak.

Example 2. Hillary Clinton visits a white Midwestern donor base, and is caught on tape lamenting to her constituents that she can’t reach inner-city Chicago blacks because they are bitter and cling to their church and guns, don’t like those who don’t look like them, and scapegoat immigrants.

Example 3. While explaining his embarrassing pastor’s remarks, John McCain sighs that critics don’t understand white churches, don’t understand all the good that his church does, have taken remarks (“greedy black folks”) out of context, and is now being slurred by political hacks and opportunists.

Example 4. In explaining her comments, Hillary evokes her aged grandmother’s biases, who to be fair also said that “white people” scared her too. Meanwhile, Mark Penn pontificates that the black vote usually goes to liberal candidates anyway and so is not that important to the Clinton campaign. Then to rationalize what she has said, Hillary offers that a black friend of hers—in the manner of a “typical black person”—also has stereotyped white people.

Example 5: Meanwhile Cindy McCain says on two occasions that she never really had pride in America—since it was a “mean” country—until her husband staged his political comeback.

The ghosts of Howard Cossell and Jimmy the Greek, Don Imus, and Michael Richards apparently have now all been absolved by Barack Obama. Thanks to the bar he has lowered in reacting to racism, no one will ever be disowned for their racist remarks, but always contextualized and excused. Watch what follows as a consequence of what Obama has wrought.

Moral compasses

As I age, I have adopted a certain compass: the more I hear a Bill Ayers slam the United States, or a Rev. Wright slander America, the more I am convinced that what they hate was pretty good. And just as I find them odious, so too I find attractive the lost world that they now find odious. That said, I don’t think either Ayers or Wright are serious people. Ayers grew up a wealthy kid from the suburbs, went to prep school, and was the son of a multimillionaire CEO. He could have turned his angst at capitalism against his own family, or rejected his inheritance, rather than bored the rest of us with puerile rants, and occasionally criminal behavior. We used to call someone like that a simple “punk.”

Rev. Wright, grew up solidly middle class, went to white schools, was the son of a high school administrator and minister, won subsidies and scholarships from universities and foundations, and then in Machiavellian fashion, honed a message of anger and resentment from borrowed black liberation theology that turned a tiny church into a mega-money machine—which finally won him a multimillion-dollar 10,000 sq. ft mansion in a gated white estate. He is about as authentic a representation of the black underclass as is Barack Obama ($4 million in income last year, similar mansion, etc.), or as true a victim of the other America as is multimillionaire trial lawyer and chronic litigator John Edwards.

Wright’s genius was to figure out how to turn Christianity and a religion of personal responsibility and brotherly love into a Sunday morning gripe session that offered psychological venting for angry African-Americans who could blame “them” for their own personal angst.

Ayers’s brilliance was to act contrite, turn himself in ahead of the posse, bite his lip and beat a terrorism rap on a technicality—and then to turn around and brag, exaggerate, and magnify his terrorist thuggish credentials in the hothouse of academia where he rose as a sort of suburban pet bad boy from the old days. Had we not suffered September 11, we would still be hearing about his terrorist exploits glorifying attacks on policemen and others of the working class he championed from the faculty lounge.

Thoughts on the so-called food crisis

To the extent that there is a food crisis, it has been brought about by (1) panic speculation predicated on the fact that a quarter of the nation’s corn supply is now devoted to ethanol production; (2) a falling dollar that has meant foreign demand for U.S. foodstuffs; (3) millions of new middle-class consumers in India and China now have dollars to buy grains, beef, fish, and vegetables on the world market, and wish to eat as we do; (4) depressed food prices for a half-century that has led to idle acreage or land diverted from foot production.

When I began farming in 1980 the price of raisins was $1200 a ton, labor was $6 an hour, and diesel fuel was about $1 a gallon. Today raisins are about $1200 a ton, labor runs over $10, diesel fuel $4 a gallon, and most chemicals are 5-6 six-times their cost in 1980. There are no more small or medium-sized family farmers in my vicinity, in which they once predominated as late as the early 1970s. Most acreage is rented out to corporations, or, like mine, to a few farmers who have cobbled together large acreages by renting from former small farmers.

Only lately have cotton, grains, fruits and vegetables seen any spike in prices. In 1980 we received about $10 per 23 lb box for fresh grapes, and when we quit producing them in the late 1990s the price was about $7. I sold Santa Rosa plums in the early 1980s for $5-6 per 28 lb. box and when my brother retired in 2004, he was getting $5-6. I note there were no farm subsidies for growers of fresh fruits and vegetables, and I believe that there should not be any for any other commodities as well.

In some sense, the current prices are long overdue and might allow enough profit to remedy years of neglected investment in machinery, infrastructure—and farmer compensation. I know farmers complain, but they have much to complain about. That said, grain-based ethanols are insane: they are not energy efficient; drive up prices for food; and are not nearly as ecologically sound as a comparable barrel pumped from Anwar or off the California coast.

The good news is that there is no country in the world that has more competent farmers, better farmland, and more agricultural knowledge and research than has the United States, which can readjust its policies rather quickly without long-term damage. So far we have only seen one side of the oil/energy equation: the enormous infusion of wealth into the nonproductive but oil-rich Middle East. But these countries have shot themselves in both feet: oil’s high prices are spurring a mad race to conserve energy and find replacements; and the oil-panic has set off similar stampedes in minerals, food, and finished consumer products—none of which the Middle East has in any great abundance, but dearly prizes.

Final Note on the Movies

I apologize to readers for glaring omissions: Tommy Lee Jones is a rare talent, and surely a throwback to a better age. John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a work of genius, and one of my favorites.

I think most of us agree that something has been lost. The movies are a keyhole by which we look back through at an entire world that has been thrown away—and by which we are the worst for it. I think that yearning explains why a Robert Duvall or Tommy Lee Jones resonates with so many of us (cf. the reaction to Lonesome Dove). We simply want more of them to be around in our daily lives.