The following is a post I wrote at Corrente which continues an ongoing bit of flamewar whose context may be a bit mysterious to my usual readership. Corrente's owner decided it was too flamewar-y for the front page his blog, but I meant to say what I meant to say, because it illustrated the point I wanted to make. I believe those with Corrente accounts can still read it, but I intended to put it on the open Internet and here it is. I mean, it has a high snark level, and I can understand why someone may not want to encourage that level on their site.
The overall context is that while I think that Obama was a somewhat bigger campaign risk than Hillary Clinton, I do believe she lost due to a small number of misapprehensions about why the Obama campaign took off the way it did. And that some of these misapprehensions are reflected in the PUMA movement---which I believe to be real, and reflecting a consequential reality---in a different way.
The specific context is a series of posts about the mortgage meltdown which reveals the kinds of poor ideological and political judgement that mars the PUMA movement. However, the owners of the Confluence blog decided to compound the error with a very interesting set of circumlocutions, which I proceed to take down.
Well! You may recall my recent scathing critique of a Confluence post on the mortgage meltdown that I thought was at best buying into tedious old right-wing saws about anti-discriminatory measures. I am flattered to report that, despite her disagreement with me over the admittedly trolly bit at the end, Anglachel has seen fit to cite my post approvingly in one of her own.
Well, this finally provoked the "Conflucian"* response. And it has appeared as a pair of posts by riverdaughter and by dakinikat (who wrote the post I originally objected to). Needless to say, these are awesome circumlocutions from start to finish. For example:
However, it is the case that sometimes reality is reality and people in the news of all races, class, status, color, gender, you name it, do things that make them look bad. This is an unavoidable fact of like. It is also the case that sometimes programs and federal funds that are created for very good purposes are exploited by people who happen to be of all races, class, color, gender, you name it, who *are*, after all, imperfect humans. Greed and bad behavior is not restricted to Republicans. We have seen that some Democrats are quite capable of it.
Amazing. So, astonishingly, all kinds of people are bad. This is what we have discovered. And thus we are invited to ignore the context of what dakinikat actually said in her post. Bad person is bad.
The comments, oh the comments. They could fill and entire blog's worth of deconstruction. Like the blog posts that precede them, they studiously avoid discussing how exactly we got here. For starters.
And as for dakinikat, it is so tempting to quote the "my black friend" she pulls near the end---it would be like shooting a tuna balanced on a wet thimble. Or the appeal to "peer-review" authority, as though peer reviewed journals do not continuously contradict each other even in real science**. But that's not the important bit. The important bit is right at the beginning, where she reasserts the very article that's at issue, the Liebowitz article that buries a very charged set of ideological claims under an ultimately quite irrelevant discussion and analysis of mortgage typology. And she does so not merely apparently oblivious to the objection, but also forgetting why the objection was raised: an claim about the Congressional Black Caucus.
So, as I recall, commenter Valhalla admonished me in the last post that I did not attempt to engage with them. While I felt I had good reason to critique them from Corrente rather than from their comments, I attempted to correct this by posting the following brief but substantive response to dakinikat:
Dakinikat insists on repeating the Liebowitz business, which I made the very focus of my own post to which Anglachel links. Its entire purpose is to do one of three things, and probably all:
* Discredit the idea that mortgage approval discrimination exists against minorities (while ignoring subsequent evidence and argument to the contrary).
* Blame the foolishness of mortgage lenders on *gasp* an anti-racist policy, when it's been amply shown that this is not the case.
* Blame the allegedly impending economic collapse on mortgage qualification liberalisation, deflecting it from the actual cause, which was allowing these segments of the credit apparatus to be overleveraged.
These three things are interconnected by ideology, and they bear a number of ideological fruits. One of these begins with "r". Oh no!
Yes, it is sharp and critical, and yes, it is somewhat snarky. But, unlike nearly anything else on either Confluence response posts or their comments, it addresses the point being made directly. What Liebowitz is saying is basic and well-known glibertarian cant (which is sometimes popular with economist-types). But it is an ideological claim no matter which way his data actually falls out. Because economics doesn't really tell us half us much as it claims to do, about the facts, but it sometimes gives us a language to talk about ideology.
And I happen to believe that the predictable result of this type of glibertarianism is a racist result. I'm sorry if this hurts anyone's feelings.
However, I am known there as a "crazed Obama-loon", and my substantive response was quite predictably deleted, and quickly. And the moderator decided to respond with:
fuck off mandos.
Oh, woe is me. But: at least Valhalla should now know why I didn't try the first time.
So, the point is not that PUMAs are burning crosses on their front lawns, or aren't perfectly nice people who wouldn't go out of their way to give a brown guy a break, or don't have dark pigmentation themselves. It doesn't even mean they have no legitimate complaint, or that their complaints are entirely motivated by nefarious intent. Far from it. It is merely that the PUMA movement, at least as represented by quite a proportion of Confluence regulars, has allowed defensiveness and anger over Obama campaign strategy to severely blunt their political judgement, even so far as misunderstanding the actual tactic the Obama campaign used. And, for that reason, we should hope beyond hope that this poor judgement is not loudly echoed in the wider political sphere.
*They apparently have a web radio show called "Conflucians Say". Uhm. I really couldn't resist, sorry.
**Economics is dressed-up moral argument at best, well before it is science, and the Liebowitz paper at issue is no exception.
What follows is a comment thread that I think is also interesting in itself, but I'm still working out what/how to refer to things for which I've written a response comment.
skdadl at pogge reminds us that certain parties regularly get away with spinning their regular wrongitude into a larger, more noble narrative of rightness. And that those who were right never get the credit for it.
Look: the point is that Iggy and company may have been wrong in the observable, normal universe---what you or I might call "reality"---but they were wrong in a noble, beautiful way. The kind of wrongness to which they fell victim is the kind of wrongness that allows one to cover ones eyes with the back of one's hand, stretch out the other hand, and sigh, "Ah, me!"
On the other hand, those who were right are, as Krugman points out, DFHs. They may have been right in the observable universe, but they weren't right in an ennobling way. They were right in a childish, "I told you so" way, which only highlights their fundamental unseriousness. It was easy for them to be right. When DFHs are right, they are right in a dirty $@#$ing way.
You see, the real distinction between being right and being wrong is not one of verifiability. It is one of aesthetics. Was it difficult for you to come to your conclusion? Did you suffer for it? Was it dramatic? Did you sit leaning forward, chin on fist, in pensive repose like that cliché thinker sculpture, only with more clothes? It's the inner turmoil, and the hard decisions about other people's lives (whether they will live or not) that makes you a Serious Person.
But if the answer was obvious to you, plain as day, well, that's a pretty ugly way to come to the right conclusion. No drama, no suffering, no inner turmoil. You didn't even have an interesting pose. There was nothing tragic about it. You may as well have been at the grocery store or driving home or doing whatever it is that unserious, unimportant people do.
If you come to conclusions based on evidence, and if you see what obviously is unfolding before your eyes, and you do not have a Deep, Difficult Choice to make to sacrifice the lives of thousands, you are unserious and Serious People should ignore you. Actually, the choice to sacrifice thousands of lives would prove that you were a Serious Person, because you certainly felt inner turmoil as you did so.
But this contest is completely over. Yes indeedy, the Doom of Mandos has decended. Fear my wrath.
My goodies, of course, arrived first, first of all the goodies in the bake-off. Were it not for the Númenorean stubborness and rejection of inevitability by the competition, that should have been that. I would not only be the Vala of Doom, I would also be Cookie King for a year.
Let us examine! Emerging great and terrible from a smithy I borrowed from Aulë is but the merest beginning of the total pwnage. Behold! The brownies of the Noldor, in their natural splendor:
And then, made from the remaining sap of Telperion, is the secret family egg dish of the Valar. Here is its humble but amazing batter beginning:
It prepares to enter the furnace of Aulë:
And here it emerges, to be placed among the stars (and served to the judges)!
Last, there is the sacred spicy nut brittle of the Vanyar, eaten only every 157 years, at the special feast of the Movement of the Foot of the Lark. It is cooling.
Arrogant mortals will always regret going up against the forces of the Valar.
And looks like it is ready to ship to the cookie judges, including the great Cookie Queen and her co-judges themselves via the Eagles of Manwë.
Yes, yes, a nothing post and then a post about haberdashery.
So, every six months or less, I must buy a new pair of shoes. Walking is my main mode of transport, so my shoes wear out very quickly. Buying shoes is a difficult task for me, because I have big feet, and worse, one foot is a bit larger (wider) than the other.
In my own weird way, I also have stylistic concerns. You'd think that for someone who walks a lot, I'd buy a lot of comfortable runners. Not so; I have my own peculiar image to maintain, not to mention the fact that I simply am too mentally lazy to juggle which shoes to wear for what. What I want is nice black shoes that are comfortable for miles of walking with good grips and high durability that don't hurt my peculiar feet.
Yes, that is a tall order. And it takes a correspondingly long time to fill it. Grrr. Why do so many shoes have no grip? Who wants to slip and slide across, say, tile floors? Well, I found something. But it is not perfect.
In the same vein, I am also looking for a new wallet. I bought my old wallet in Karachi, Pakistan last winter. At a big gift shop warehouse festooned with reassuring anti-child-labour posters, a sure sign that children had indeed been harmed in the making of my wallet. (As they probably have with yours, which I do not say in my defence...) I need to carry a large number of cards around with my at once. I imagine that nowadays, most people do. I've got change, receipts, and on rare occasions, even cash. It's a big bulgy wallet that I keep in my trouser pocket.
But why is it next to impossible to find a wallet that can store any reasonable fraction of that now? What's this with ridiculously thin wallets? What, so people are afraid of a little pocket bulge? Seriously. I can't find a decent wallet anywhere. Not a one of them even has a change pouch.
Finally, while at the mall, I noticed a major department store's "Big and Tall" men's clothing collection catalogue. Lots of tall, but no big.
I went on a trip to DC, and today a new era in world history has begun. I have met Chuckles in person! This momentous event sent a cataclysmic of mystical energies through the ether, the magnitude and significance of which you may never comprehend---but they will affect you! And it did involve eating delicious Ethiopian food. Awaze tibbs, mmm mmm.
(My Canadian readers wouldn't know who I'm talking about or his significance to human history, so they might want to read the Coles Notes version here.)
I was in Ottawa for a few days, and now I am in a snow-buried small town in Southwestern Ontario. However, while I was in Ottawa, I decided that I would give you a small glimpse of the Real Mandos. I decided against saving this for a Musical Friday post, because I thought it was an important and urgent commentary on the True Nature of YouTube.
I recently bought a package of dried pitted dates to replenish my stock for this second week of Ramadan. For those who don't know, it's traditional---though by no means obligatory---to break a Ramadan fast in the evening with a date. I actually like the taste of dates, so I tend to eat more than one a day, and my stock diminishes quite quickly.
Anyway, these dates are from, God help me, the Dole company. And they aren't that great, as dates go. A little stale-tasting and mushy, but passable. Dates should be a bit chewy, really, and a little more sweet. More heartening, however, is that mark that this package of dates bears.
The sign it bears: the familiar and welcome mark of the Orthodox Union, one of the Jewish kosherifying bodies in the USA. Prior to the OU providing kosher examination services to date distributors, you see, there used to be an unfortunate practice in the date industry called "date-porking". You see, it was discovered a long time ago that they best way to keep dates fresh tasting---not stale like these Dole dates---was to wrap the date bunches in large slices of ham for transport, and then "dust" the dates off afterwards by lovingly rubbing the ham slices over them individually. Kosher approval of dates has put an end to this unfortunate practice, and I, for one, am grateful to the OU for this service.