The Weekly Tendown December 19 --December 25 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dear Internet:


Here's Tendown 57.

1. Defining Deviancy Down

About 30 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase "defining deviancy down" to refer to the normalization of crime; that what would be seen as shocking had become commonplace, and what was seen as tragic but not unexpected had become something that barely registered.  As a society, the argument went, we had become sufficiently immune to violent crime that triggering outrage required increasingly horrific acts.

I thought of that phrase this week when Haley Barbour said that Mississippi wasn't so bad for blacks in the 1960s because of the good integration work done by the fine men in the Citizens Councils.  And we yawned and moved on with our holiday.  Er, I'm sorry, our Christmas which is best understood as tribute to the one true Lord and Savior, the Baby Jesus.  Didn't mean to attack the Christians like that.  I know it's hard to be a persecuted minority, subject to the disapproval of society during your holy time.  I hear there's a war on you.  Must be superhard to go through.

That's a Mississippi road sign from 1964, exactly the time Barbour was talking about this week.  Documentation like this - real easy to find.  But I have google chrome, so maybe that hasn't made its way to the Governor yet.

Let's be clear - just as the Klan was organized in response to the Reconstruction Amendments "you're gonna give blacks the right to vote - we'll see if they can vote when they're hanging from a tree" - the Citizens Councils were in response to Brown v. Board of Education "you're gonna declare Jim Crow unconstitutional - we're gonna punish any blacks who attempt to assert their rights:

On August 5, 1955 the local NAACP chapter submitted a petition bearing fifty-three signatures to the school board asking for immediate desegregation of all schools.  Stunned that the supposedly well-treated, contented black citizenry of Yazoo City would make such a move, the local Citizens’ Council move swiftly.  The first step was to run a large advertisement in the Yazoo City Herald listing the names of the petitioners, who had already been identified in the paper's account of the petition being filed.  Most of the petitioners were black professionals, businessmen, and tradesmen who seemed to have achieved a measure of economic independence that promised to insulate them from white pressure and coercion.  It soon became obvious, however, that NAACP leaders had underestimated the amount of economic influence the local whites still enjoyed over members of the black middle class in Mississippi.  One by one, those who signed the petition lost their jobs or whatever "business" or "trade" they had with whites.  Some blacks move quickly to remove their names from the list. Others held out but eventually followed suit.  Many of those who removed their names found it impossible to get their old jobs back, nor could they find new employment.  Many left town altogether.  Only those who were totally dependent on the black community for their incomes managed to survive economically.  By the end of the year only two names remained on the petition; both belong to people who had already left town.  And NAACP officials admitted that the local chapter had lost members as a result of the petition drive.  "We expected pressure," said another, "but not this much. We just weren't prepared for it."

It's an opportunity for insight.  The right wing hates being labeled as racist - the Civil War happened a long time ago, get over it.  Haley Barbour isn't a college student, he's fully formed and has pursued policies for decades based on his understanding of the world - and when he thinks about discrimination, he thinks about the Klan.  He knows that was wrong and knows groups like the Klan have been marginalized.  He doesn't take meetings with white supremacists in hoods.  Nosirree.

But who replaced the Klan were these Citizens Councils - white businessmen without hoods on.  No ropes, no lynching - but that kind of intimidation that worked for decades to suppress black participation in the political process.  When the public schools were integrated - they formed private schools.  When, a decade after Brown businesses became subject to federal discrimination laws - they formed private clubs.  The shorthand story of race in this country is this - slavery was protected in the Constitution by the founding fathers, the economic dependence on slavery increased in the south around the turn of the 19th century with the invention of the cotton gin, every piece of land the United States bought or stole in the first half of the 19th century - every new state and territory incorporated - was viewed at the time through the prism of slavery, with pro-slavery forces arguing vociferously that (in places where they knew they'd get the right outcome) the white men in those new states should get to decide if slavery would be legal or not; or (if they thought the vote might turn out differently) that new states needed to be "slave" states in the same percentage that slave states currently existed in the US.  Southern states, despite the modern desire to frame it otherwise - explicitly seceded based on the desire to maintain their system of slave labor - following the Civil War, which killed 600,000 Americans - 600,000 Americans dead over the issue of slavery - the south instituted a system of apartheid, in place for nearly a full century in which blacks were designated as second class citizens - it took decades of struggle, thousands of lives lost to unravel that system.  At every stage - it was fought by the full mechanism of business and government in the south; the southern soil is fertilized with the blood of those who died for racial equality.  And when the legal protections for segregation were taken away - that racism took the form of those business organizations like the Citizens Councils - and took electoral form in the "southern strategy" by the Republican Party, to stoke the fires of white resentment to the gains made by blacks and turn that resentment - those feelings that white people were the real victims, that reverse discrimination was the real problem - those "why isn't there a white history month" - "where's the National Association for the Advancement of White People" - "why is it okay to say Black Pride but not White Pride - where's the marches for white people" little snatches of conversation that one hears over a lifetime of discussing these matters - turn that resentment into political gain.  The zenith of that gain - the 2010 midterm elections.

We used to punish the Haley Barbours.  If it's Strom Thurmond or Trent Lott or Al Campanis - we used to have a floor below which one could not drill in failing to understand the reality of American racism.

But that was before Obama.  After Obama - Sarah Palin can be the Vice-Presidential nominee and question if Obama's really an American, really a Christian.  After Obama - Newt Gingrich can offer agreement with the thesis that Obama's Kenyan heritage makes him not really an American; Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh can call Obama a racist - with the sole weight of their evidence being that Obama is black.  The full weight of the pent up frustration of a healthy chunk of white America, that chunk that went into a fury about the OJ Simpson verdict - has been unleashed on Obama.  Health care reform = reparations.  The collapse of the economy = black people not paying their mortgages.  At exactly the same time when the gap between those who have and the rest of us is at unprecedented level - that chunk of white America turns its anger not upward - but downward.  Times are bad - who can I step on?

Barbour's comments are harmless; they don't cost anyone a job, don't take anyone's home - but what they reflect is a mindset that anything short of lynching is racial harmony; they misrepresent our past in the way the right has done with increasing regularity this year - turning the Constitution into a Christian document, turning the Progressive Era into an assault on freedom - and they misunderstand the American condition in 2010.  But just as Rand Paul questioned the merits of the Civil Rights Act and then was elected to the US Senate, just as Glenn Beck called Obama a racist with a deep seated hatred for white people and finished the year on the short list for Time's Man of the Year - in 2010, Barbour's comments slide right through, disappearing into the stream of crazy that passes for right wing thought.

2. Wrong About Everything.
Because, as Krugman noted, the right is wrong, and proven wrong, about everything.  30 years of failed policy leads us to the collapse of the American empire.  Our collective decision in 2010 - we need more!

When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever.

And here's Robert Reich.

Since Ronald Reagan was president, median hourly wages have barely budged, and America’s vast working and middle classes have taken home a steadily smaller share of the nation’s income (adjusted for inflation). The typical male worker today is earning less than the typical male worker thirty years ago.
Yet the richest 1 percent of Americans is now taking home a larger percentage of the nation’s income than at any time since 1928. And we recall what happened in 1929.

But Obama's a socialist right?  Really anti-capitalist?  Right?

Corporate profits hit a record $1.67 trillion in the third quarter of 2010 -- up an eye-popping 28 percent from a year ago. Often, that would correspond with an increase in hiring, as companies use those profits to expand. But that's not happening. As we all know, unemployment inched up to 9.8 percent in November -- and by one measure, post-recession unemployment is at its worst since World War Two.

So you don't like liberal economists.  I understand.  How about CNN Money?  How will that do you?

The gap between the rich and the middle class is larger than it has ever been due to the bursting of the housing bubble.
The richest 1% of U.S. households had a net worth 225 times greater than that of the average American household in 2009

3. And Climate Change
2010 - the hottest year on record.

4. And who to blame?

You could start with Fox News.  As watching it makes you dumber.

The study found that daily Fox News viewers, regardless of political party, were "significantly" more likely than non-viewers to erroneously believe that:
  • Most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses (12 points more likely)
  • Most economists have estimated the health care law will worsen the deficit (31 points)
  • The economy is getting worse (26 points)
  • Most scientists do not agree that climate change is occurring (30 points)
  • The stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts (14 points)
  • Their own income taxes have gone up (14 points)
  • The auto bailout only occurred under Obama (13 points)
  • When TARP came up for a vote most Republicans opposed it (12 points)
  • And that it is not clear that Obama was born in the United States (31 points)
And - here's Fox on climate change.

5. Don't We Need to Cut the Budget?
Next time you wonder where the money that doesn't go to fixing our infrastructure goes - why the potholes never get fixed and the public library's open 3 days a week - why the electricity goes off when it's windy or there are 50 kids in a public school classroom - next time you wonder why public colleges have hiring freezes or municipalities are defaulting on pension obligations.

Your money's gone to a military contractor.

• The United States spends nearly as much on military power as every other country in the world combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It says that we spend more than six times as much as the country with the next highest budget, China.

• The U.S. will spend more on the war in Afghanistan this year, adjusting for inflation, than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War combined.

6. War on Christmas.
If you think that Christians are the religious group persecuted in the United States, then you're an asshole.

If you want Christmas to maintain its position as the focus of all of American culture; then you probably have to think of it as holiday for everyone.  Which means that for many of us - its more cultural than religious.  You can have your ancient stories, I just want presents.

If you'd like to take it back from secularization - to put the Christ back in Christmas - that's cool too; it's your religion, do whatever the hell you want.  Christmas can be a time for you to focus on your savior.  Just fine.  And the rest of us can talk about the solstice or Kwanzaa or Festivus or however it is the culture will adapt.

If there's a War on Christmas, there has to be someone fighting besides Christians; 'cause, me, speaking on behalf of all secular progressives in that way that I do - we do not care.  Me, sometimes I say "Have a good Christmas" - sometimes "Have a good holiday" (apparently it's the word Merry that makes me queasy, much in the same way I'd never order a "Biggie" fries, it's a word for third graders).  I give neither statement much thought; either as religious affirmation or the converse.  It is as content-less for me as signing a classmate's yearbook, "have a good summer; keep it rockin'"

(I did sign more than one yearbook "Keep it rockin'."  I think it was ironic, but I can't specifically recall.

To those of my mindset - Christmas is just a word, more associated with Santa than Jesus - words are funny that way, once you have people who aren't true believers say them, then everyone sort of gets a cultural vote on their meaning.  Even if this state senator in Florida were to inexplicably get his way and "Merry Christmas" would become the official state method of referring to the holiday season, it wouldn't magically make your god any less imaginary to the rest of us.  The entirety of the anger is on one end - there are no bumper stickers saying "Take the Christ out of Christmas" - there is no equivalent to the experience I had Friday:

Me: You have a good holiday
Random Person at a place that repaired my eyeglasses: And you have a good Christmas.

Thinking Christians get screwed in the United States is like thinking white people get the short end.

Which many of them believe.  So there you go.

7. Creationist Theme Park
Meanwhile - tax dollars go here.  To a Kentucky theme park that will flat lie about the development of man.

8.  Hey, My Christmas was good.  Thanks for asking.

I got this

I got this

I got this.

I got this

Perhaps you see a theme developing.

What I didn't do was watch Donald Duck cartoons.  Like they do in Sweden.

Or get a puppy.  Like these kids did.

9. It Got Dark This Week

Super dark.

10. Your World Champion San Francisco Giants

We won 11 postseason games.  'Cause that's how many it takes.  Here was the first.  NLDS Game One.

The only run - Posey led off our 4th with a single off Lowe, then stole (wink, wink) second; two strikeouts and an intentional walk to Sandoval that I'm betting Bobby Cox regrets later came Cody Ross pushing a single into left to score Posey.  Lincecum went the whole way throwing a two hitter with 14 strikeouts and 1 walk.

10 wins away from a World Championship.

That's all for this time.  I'll be back next time, if there is a next time...

Your pal,


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