You can pick your friends, but…..

Meet Hillary and Barack’s cousins. Read here for an explanation. I wonder what fascinating relations would be turned up if somebody here spent the hours researching the ancestries of our political leaders. Any ideas out there?

  • RepublicanStones

    Peter Robinson’s Mum seduced young college graduates over in the states. Ken and Marty are 2nd cousins, Gerry is Uncle Festers son, Nigel is Ken Dodds lovechild which expalins that horrible grin. Paisley finds out he is related to Liam Neeson. Gregory Campbells real name is Gregory Ratzinger, and Mark Durkan is so boring nobody will admit to be related to him.

  • Meet Barack’s preacher, Jaramiah Wright, who’s been making the news:

    and meet the wife: “If you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House”.

  • PaddyReilly

    Well if we’re going to go as far as 9th cousins (as with the above story) we may reasonably assume that just about anybody in Ireland is related to anybody.

  • RepublicanStones

    im defintely not related to Mr Burns….sorry, i mean Reg Empey.

  • McGrath

    Im afraid I dont want to know. Besides, I dont even like some of my first cousins. 9th cousin twice removed indeed.

  • joeCanuck

    Indeed, Paddy. Statistically Confucius has to be there in my background; 100 times removed of course.
    Statistically too, every time one of us takes a breath, we’re taking in a few molecules of the air in Julius Caesar’s last gasps.

    Some of our leaders are descended from a common ancestor of us and the apes, but they won’t admit to it. Not with the earth being so young. I’m not sure who the others are descended from. Can’t be snakes in the grass since glorious St.Patrick chased them all away.

  • Harry Flashman

    It would appear that Barack Obama has nevr heard of the expression ‘you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relatives’ if we are to judge by his speech in which he disgracefully traduced the reputation of his blameless and completely unracist grandmother in an attempt to make her the moral equivalent of the vile preacher he chose to be a friend and mentor to him and his family for two decades.

    Any respect I may have had for Obama went down the toilet at that point. I suspect I am not alone, the speech played well for his base; the liberal left media and the looney fringe of the Black American community but for mainstream American voters it went down like a lead balloon.

    I say it again Senator Barack Obama will never be president of the United States.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Harry Flashman: “Any respect I may have had for Obama went down the toilet at that point. I suspect I am not alone, the speech played well for his base; the liberal left media and the looney fringe of the Black American community but for mainstream American voters it went down like a lead balloon.”

    The support for both of the Democratic candidates is getting a little weird and wired… some polls suggest that about 20% of either candidate’s supporters will vote for McCain/third=party or stay home if the other one gets the nod.

    Obama likely won’t carry the so-called “Reagan Democrats” — conservative blue-collar mid-westerners. That said, the longer and uglier this mess goes, the harder it will be for the Dems to heal the inevitable rift — they are several weeks past the “sell-by” date on the so-called “Dream Ticket” of Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama.

  • Harry Flashman

    I hadn’t seen Hillary’s hilarious gaffe about landing in Bosnia “under sniper fire” at the time of writing the above, the meltdown of the two Democrat candidates at this point is truly hilarious, to quote Oscar you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.

    McCain must be sitting back with his feet up, watching this with a bucketful of popcorn, he’ll not have to run any campaign ads in the election he’ll merely have to rerun the stuff put out by the defeated Democrat contender.

  • Dewi

    Nice to hear from you Harry – did you know Obama’s nan?

  • revisionistrevised

    Yes; you would uncover the paradox, that a significant proportion of those that led the provisionals upto 1994 had relatives who fought in the British Army, either during the first or second world wars. Sadly, as I am bound by the oath of Omerta I cannot name names 😉

  • Harry Flashman

    *Nice to hear from you Harry – did you know Obama’s nan?*

    No, but I have read enough that Obama has written himself about her to understand that a white woman who lived in Texas and fought bitterly against the racist attitudes of her neighbours and who loved, supported and helped raise her black grandson could not possibly have been a racist.

    Why do you ask?

  • Gum

    Don’t get too carried away Harry. Have another look at the speech. Obama claerly loved his granny. He is not saying that she was racist. You are missing the whole point of the speech (one of the most honest, subtle and nuanced speeches by a politician I have heard). He was saying that good people are still products of their environments and can therefore make comments that are wrong (eg – Wright) or hold fears that are unfounded (eg – his granny).

    I liked him before this speech – I am really impressed with him after hearing it.

  • Harry Flashman

    On the contrary Gum, Obama openly implied that his grandmother was a racist, not only that he alleged that her racist attitudes were “typical” of white people.

    His grandmother by his own previous accounts was quite clearly [b]not[/b] a product of her environment but rather actively fought against her environment (the only thing she is alleged to have done is speak of an incident when she was fearful of one particular black man on a bus, Jesse Jackson said something similar).

    For him to then repay that decent woman’s love and support for him by comparing her to the shyster, race baiting, foul mouthed bigot Wright was an absolutely disgusting thing to do, shame on him.

    He has proved himself to be a man who is beneath contempt, the only people who support him now are the liberal whites who enjoy the self indulgent frisson of their race guilt and the kooky loons of the conspiracy theory brigade.

    Enjoy your strange company.

  • Jamie Gargoyle
  • Gum

    [i]He has proved himself to be a man who is beneath contempt, the only people who support him now are the liberal whites who enjoy the self indulgent frisson of their race guilt and the kooky loons of the conspiracy theory brigade.

    Enjoy your strange company.[/i]

    Wow… seriously Harry, calm! It wasn’t [i]your[/i] granny he was talking about 😉

  • I believe the First Minister is closely related to the Grand Old Duke of York.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    G40- “Wow… seriously Harry, calm! It wasn’t your granny he was talking about ;-)”

    Wow… seriously, Gum, reality… there is something repulsive about a political opportunist who would throw his own grandmother under the bus to redeem his racist rabble-rouser of a mentor.

    The speech was pretty, but it won’t play in Peoria.

  • darth rumsfeld

    I wonder how closely related Ian Junior and Seymour Sweeney are….

    I’ll get me sash

  • Gum

    Dread, did you read or see the speech? I can’t see where you or Harry feel he ‘throws his own grandmother under the bus’.

    I think the speech is playing well – reaction across the board (even commentators on FOX, shock, horror) has been very positive, some calling it the most important political speech of the last 40 years. It’ll not persuade those who already had cold feet about voting for a black man but it has already won back many who were concerned at video clips of Rev. Wright.

  • Gum

    Harry –

    [i]McCain must be sitting back with his feet up, watching this with a bucketful of popcorn, he’ll not have to run any campaign ads in the election he’ll merely have to rerun the stuff put out by the defeated Democrat contender.[/i]

    Unfortunately McCain is providing the Dems with plenty of election material too. What the media in America has started calling ‘senior moments’ are simple enough mistakes but they are building up now. (Some are starting to undermine his hitherto legitimate claim to be the candidate with the best grasp of foreign affairs too).

    These gaffs, combined with the image of the frail 71yr old, 5ft7 McCain beside the 44yr old, 6ft2 Obama will prevent any cake-walk for McCain.

  • Darth, Seymour Henry Sweeney’s family tree might be difficult to trace. I understand his mother married a Belgian who, as a boy, had been adopted by the Sweeney family in Portballintrae and took their surname.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “His grandmother by his own previous accounts was quite clearly not a product of her environment but rather actively fought against her environment (the only thing she is alleged to have done is speak of an incident when she was fearful of one particular black man on a bus).”

    Actually this is incorrect. He also said that he had heard her make racist statements “that made me cringe”. However, I have to ask, did you actually see or listen to Obama’s speech, in its entirety?

    (Or did you just read Charles Krauthammer’s polemic against it? To be fair, CK earned his fee there – he had to work really, really hard to find something to be offended by.)

    If you did, you will have noticed the painstaking care taken in its composition, the sensitive exploration of context and the mature reflection of very difficult nuances. You might also have been impressed by the courage and character demonstrated by Obama in not simply distancing himself from the troublesome priest, as would have been the simplest course.

    You will also have noticed that Obama’s point regarding his grandmother was that sometimes even exceptionally good people can say exceptionally bad things, and can even believe things that are bad or crazy. I’m sure that’s a reality most people in NI can recognise. (For example, I can think of members of my own family whom I would not regard for a moment as bigoted but who have, at particular moments, made the most appallingly sectarian statements. If I wanted to, I could condemn them as bigots and close my mind thereafter, but I know the truth to be more complex than that. I know of many instances of those same people demonstrating courage and generosity and kindness and whatever the polar opposite of sectarianism is.

    Similarly, how does the caricature of Wright as a sort of American Abu Hamza, square with the reality that he is also a decorated US Marine? That he has been welcomed to the White House by two US presidents – including LBJ, whom he treated while serving as part of the US navy medical corps?

    The issue of race in America is one deserving of mature and reflective debate, and as such, Obama’s speech must be seen as having been of a calibre not seen since Martin Luther King’s day.

    Your response to Obama’s speech and your descent into what can only be described as a rant against “liberal media”, “loony left” and all those other chimeras that so exercise the Foxnews demographic, is disappointing. You fixate and work yourself into high dudgeon over an invented offence, rather than welcome the opportunity for a serious debate about a serious issue – one that mainstream politicians have largely sidestepped since the 1960s, leaving discussions of race to the cultural sphere and to artists.

    What is particularly disappointing is that I don’t even believe your outrage is genuine.

    “the speech played well for his base; the liberal left media and the looney fringe of the Black American community but for mainstream American voters it went down like a lead balloon.”

    You’re a Taig from Derry, aren’t you? What credentials have you to make declarations about “mainstream American voters”?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Gum: “Dread, did you read or see the speech? I can’t see where you or Harry feel he ‘throws his own grandmother under the bus’. ”

    In real time, Gum. Obama denounced his own grandmother — still alive — and likened her private fears to the public hate-mongering of his preacher.

    Hint: Were I to characterize Obama’s father as a “typical black man” for abandoning his family, would that not be racist? If so, why is it fitting for him to refer to his gran’ as “typical white person” for having the same sort of fears as Jesse Jackson?

    Now, I may also be tainted with the burden of having watched this mess unfold, complete with Obama’s lies that he never knew “Wright said such things” spin, despite his close two decade relationship with Wright.

    Gum: “I think the speech is playing well – reaction across the board (even commentators on FOX, shock, horror) has been very positive, some calling it the most important political speech of the last 40 years.”

    Gum, the talking heads are the talking heads. While they may vote, their numbers are thin.

    Regardless of how pretty the speech was, it didn’t do what it was intended to do, which is shuffle Rev. Wright and the issue of race off the stage. If anything, it has elevated the issue, meaning we’re due for a future of Rev. Wright and other ‘Bama-backing bozo eruptions.

    Gum: “It’ll not persuade those who already had cold feet about voting for a black man but it has already won back many who were concerned at video clips of Rev. Wright. ”

    Some, but not all and maybe not many. At best, it might pull things back to the status quo prior to the Wright eruption, where he was losing the war of attrition over experience and looking as some pretty dismal probabilities in Pennsylvania.

    Per Rasmussen this morning, the number of folks who think Obama should drop out of the race is roughly equal to the number of people who think that Hillary should.

  • Gum

    Dread –

    [i]Hint: Were I to characterize Obama’s father as a “typical black man” for abandoning his family, would that not be racist? If so, why is it fitting for him to refer to his gran’ as “typical white person” for having the same sort of fears as Jesse Jackson? [/i]

    What? You’ll need to explain this one I’m afraid.

    [i]Gum, the talking heads are the talking heads. While they may vote, their numbers are thin. [/i]

    My point about the reception to the speech is that it has been almost universally received as a speech worthy of MLK (as Billy Pilgrim suggests too). Not even pundits often accused of being in Bush’s pocket are claiming that it opportunism (the polar opposite in fact), let alone your own slightly hysterical accusation of the vicious betrayal of his grandmother.

    [i]At best, it might pull things back to the status quo prior to the Wright eruption[/i]

    Yeah, thats what I was suggesting, and thats the way its looking. PA wont go for him but the rest will.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Gum: “What? You’ll need to explain this one I’m afraid.”

    Jesse Jackson famously said “I hate to admit it, but I have reached a stage in my life that if I am walking down a dark street late at night and I see that the person behind me is white, I subconsciously feel relieved.”

    Now, if Jesse Jackson can admit that the urban non-white male is something to considered with at least a modicum of trepidation, why does Obama’s grandmother saying the same thing make her a “typical white person.”

    Obama tried to create a moral-equivalence between Wright’s incendiary racist diatribe and his grand-mothers fear of being mugged. If you can’t see the mismatch, I can’t help you.

  • Harry Flashman

    As I say Billy and Gum, Obama’s speech appealed to the guilt complexes of white liberals (I defy you to name a conservative analyst who has written in anything other than contemptuous terms about the speech).

    That is why people like you gush and swoon at his finely “nuanced” speech, but here’s a thing, “nuance” is a word invariably attached to politicians with a tin ear, if your message is so obtuse that it takes three readings and a jesuitical parsing of the hidden meaning then you’ve lost your audience.

    I did read the speech and you can spin it any which way you like but the man compared his utterly blameless and loving grandmother with a foul mouthed racist bigot who he himself chose, he chose remember, to be a friend and mentor.

    Every Sunday he brought his wife and kids to listen to this racist clown, and for twenty years he never considered it appropriate to take his wife and children and quietly leave the church while this man spouted his demented hate filled vitriol. That tells any ordinary voter all they need to know about Barack Obama’s character.

    No amount of finely honed rhetoric designed to win the already won over hearts of the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards will change that fact, ordinary voters have seen and heard enough of Obama to make their judgment and it ain’t gonna be pretty come election time.

    As to Billy’s offensive remark that I’m a Derry “taig” well he can apologise and retract that at any time, my knowledge of what ordinary American voters are thinking comes from exactly the same source as everyone else’s; the media, tv, newspapers, the internet, blogs and opinion polls, if I’m wrong about what they’re thinking then I will look like a fool in November.

    I don’t think I’m wrong.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “As I say Billy and Gum, Obama’s speech appealed to the guilt complexes of white liberals.”

    Yes, you say that, but you don’t argue it. It’s bald assertion, nothing more.

    I don’t feel any white guilt. I found Obama’s speech insightful and profound. Most of all I was impressed by the sight of a politician not talking to the electorate as if they were children. I won’t make any claims to know how this has gone down in main street USA, but I certainly hope it has gained Obama the bounce he deserves.

    “That is why people like you gush and swoon at his finely “nuanced” speech…”

    People like me? What kind of person am I? Do tell me. It’d save me an awful lot of time.

    “…but here’s a thing, “nuance” is a word invariably attached to politicians with a tin ear, if your message is so obtuse that it takes three readings and a jesuitical parsing of the hidden meaning then you’ve lost your audience.”

    I don’t think Obama’s message was remotely obtuse. Of the handful of meaningful criticisms I’ve heard of it, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that they didn’t know what Obama was on about. Those screeching hysterically about how shocked and appalled they are were not, I would suggest, people that Obama “lost” over Wrightgate.

    “I did read the speech and you can spin it any which way you like but the man compared his utterly blameless and loving grandmother with a foul mouthed racist bigot who he himself chose, he chose remember, to be a friend and mentor.”

    Frankly, I prefer to keep the analogy in the context in which Obama presented it in his speech, rather than in your shrill paraphrase. Funny how of all the millions of people who heard his speech, it’s only yourself and Charles Krauthammer who seem to have picked up on this – given that, in your paraphrasing, it sounds like he said something truly awful.

    Also, to call Wright a “foul mouthed racist bigot” is misleading and wrong, and Obama’s thoughtful meditation on race provides a compelling argument as to why it’s misleading and wrong.

    Has Wright made statements that were foul mouthed? There’s no evidence that he has. (The strongest language he has used has been “damn”.) Racist? Yes, though there is an important distinction to be drawn between the racism of the oppressor and the racism of the oppressed. But that’s another issue – one courageously touched upon by Obama. Is he a bigot? No, though it is possible to point to instances in which his language has been that of bigotry. But again, there is a complexity to this issue, and sometimes people say things which do not give a true reflection of what they are and where they stand.

    In this blog, your own language has been highly intemperate. One could certainly accuse you of anti-liberal bigotry, based on the evidence here presented. But I have no doubt that you are of a a more complex make-up than presented here, and I’m sure you’d agree it would be unfair to judge you based on one or two posts, taken out of context. Right?

    “As to Billy’s offensive remark that I’m a Derry “taig” well he can apologise and retract that at any time…”

    Oh ffs, from one taig to another, I say lighten up. (I see your appetite for the taking of offence is not limited to Obama!)

    “…my knowledge of what ordinary American voters are thinking comes from exactly the same source as everyone else’s; the media, tv, newspapers, the internet, blogs and opinion polls, if I’m wrong about what they’re thinking then I will look like a fool in November.”

    You may or may not be correct in your judgement of what US voters will decide, but my argument is that whether or not Obama wins the nomination or the presidency, and whether or not his speech turns out to have been the wisest course in relation to his electoral prospects, his speech showed courage and intellect and wisdom and maturity and character. That fact will not be diminished in any of these terms whether or not he is rewarded electorally.

    But I guess you and I have the same resources, in terms of trying to make judgements on where the American electorate is at. The difference is that I would never presume to make bald statements on behalf of the American electorate, as you did. Just wanted to pull you up on it.

    Whether you turn out to be right in November is irrelevant. You look like a fool now for trying to pass yourself off as the authentic voice of America.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    He didn’t just offer a single example. He also spoke about her making statements “that made me cringe”?

    I think most adults can get their head around the idea that issues of race are complex, that people don’t just fit neatly into boxes labelled “racist” and “not racist”.

    Furthermore, Obama’s reference to his grandmother being a “typical white person” was not predicated on her race-related fears or statements she made. He made the argument that she was and is the kind of woman that any American would recognise as an archetypal citizen. And he argued that if these fears were present in her, it was fair to believe that her fears were typical of white society at large. He is undoubtedly correct in this belief. Those fears are not attributable solely to racism, far from it.

    But what Obama was NOT doing was suggesting that a) her fears were pure racism, and b) that this pure racism marked her out as a “typical white person”.

    Again, you are imposing a simplistic take on a complex argument, and predictably, your conclusions are just flat wrong. But that’s what happens when you try to fix a wrist watch using a hammer and chisel.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    Incidentally:

    “I defy you to name a conservative analyst who has written in anything other than contemptuous terms about the speech.”

    Mike Huckabee – arguably the most conservative, and certainly the most evangelical and southern of the republican candidates – said this:

    “Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could, and I agree, it’s a very historic speech. He made the point and I think it’s a valid one. That you can’t hold the candidate responsible for everything that people around him may say or do. You just can’t. Whether it’s me, whether it’s Obama, anybody else. But he did distance himself from the very vitriolic statements. I grew up in a very segregated South. And I think that you have to cut some slack. I’m probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you. We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie; you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant and you can’t sit out there with everyone else; there’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office; here’s where you sit on the bus. And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment and you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Billy Pilgrim: “Has Wright made statements that were foul mouthed? There’s no evidence that he has.”

    His discourse was coarse — for a theological scholar, I’m kind of curious which part of the Bible used the phrase “ridin’ dirty…”

    Billy Pilgrim: “Furthermore, Obama’s reference to his grandmother being a “typical white person” was not predicated on her race-related fears or statements she made. He made the argument that she was and is the kind of woman that any American would recognise as an archetypal citizen.”

    Same question as to Gum, then — were I to refer to Obama’s father’s abandonment of his family as the behavior of a “typical black man,” would that be racist? When one stereotypes an entire ethnic group, that is racism, pretty much definitionally.

    Billy Pilgrim: “But what Obama was NOT doing was suggesting that a) her fears were pure racism, and b) that this pure racism marked her out as a “typical white person”. ”

    Obama attempted to create a moral equivalency between his racist mentor and his grandmother, using the existence of one to forgive the retention of the other.

    Billy Pilgrim: “Again, you are imposing a simplistic take on a complex argument, and predictably, your conclusions are just flat wrong. But that’s what happens when you try to fix a wrist watch using a hammer and chisel. ”

    No, your imposing your preferred meaning on his narrative, meaning your conclusions are primarily self-indulgent pablum… but that’s what happens when you shellack a turd.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Incidentally, if you look at his policies, Huckabee isn’t that much of a conservative, outside of the realm of religion. He essentially tried to re-package liberal policies and pass them off as “heroic christianity.”

  • Harry Flashman

    *You look like a fool now for trying to pass yourself off as the authentic voice of America.*

    You know Billy for a man who can twist himself into a pretzel nuancing the complexities of how a foul mouthed bigot who says racist things isn’t really a foul mouthed racist bigot you seem to have a remarkable inability to understand my rather simpler English syntax.

    I never attempted to pass myself off as the”authentic voice of America” I gave my opinion about a political matter, it’s not unheard of in political websites, try to keep up.

    Just for the record there has been no oppression of black people on account of their race in the US in almost half a century, there may be white racists who do and say bad things but that is not the same as oppression; the healthiest, wealthiest and best educated black people on planet Earth live in the United States of America.

    As well you know Mike Huckabee is a Christian pastor who holds somewhat liberal economic and political viewpoints if he is your best shot at proving conservatives were impressed by Obama’s speech then you know very little indeed about the state of conservative opinion in the US.

    You seem somewhat obsessed by Charles Krauthammer but he’s not alone. Google Jonah Goldberg, Victor David Hanson, Mark Steyn, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity among many others if you want to see how well received Obama’s “profound” speech went down with grassroots conservatives. You really need to try reading more than the Irish Times Billy if you want to truly understand what’s going on in US politics.

    By the way you say that even Fox News was wowed by the Obama speech? Can you provide any evidence of this or do you just make stuff up?

  • Gum

    Harry : [i]I defy you to name a conservative analyst who has written in anything other than contemptuous terms about the speech[/i]

    Where to start… Well, Bob ‘the Prince of Darkness’ Novak has praised it in the Post, but here’s what that uber-liberal Charles Murray wrote in that famous leftie publication the National Review:

    [i]”I read the various posts here on “The Corner,” mostly pretty ho-hum or critical about Obama’s speech. Then I figured I’d better read the text (I tried to find a video of it, but couldn’t). I’ve just finished. Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I’m concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we’re used to from our pols…. But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie.”[/i]

    …and again…

    [i]I can’t vote for him. He is an honest-to-God lefty. He apparently has learned nothing from the 1960s. His Supreme Court nominees would be disasters. And maybe he is too green and has lived too much of his adult life in a politically correct bubble. But the other day he talked about race in ways that no other major politician has tried to do, with a level of honesty that no other major politician has dared, and with more insight than any other major politician possesses. Not bad.[/i]

    There you go Harry.

  • Harry Flashman

    Not bad Gum old chap, well researched, by the way I may have attributed your Fox News wonderment to Billy P, if so I apologise to him.

    Given your excellent source hunting can you come up with some background on the Fox claim?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    “Same question as to Gum, then—were I to refer to Obama’s father’s abandonment of his family as the behavior of a “typical black man,” would that be racist?”

    Actually, Obama did touch on that issue, and on the disintegration of many black families. He did talk about it as a widespread phenomenon. He did link it to wider issues of race relations and historical injustices, but was certainly not uncritical of the black community on this issue. In the context of the speech, his point was not remotely racist – nor was his reference to his grandmother – but I can see how if one wanted to lift it out of context and shine a light on it, it could be spun that way. But why be so dishonest?

    “When one stereotypes an entire ethnic group, that is racism, pretty much definitionally.”

    As in most things, context is everything. In the context of this speech, Obama’s points were not remotely racist. They represented a frank and quite remarkably honest meditation on an issue in which there are no good guys, and in truth, very few truly bad guys either. Just lots of muddled human beings.

    “your (sic) imposing your preferred meaning on his narrative,”

    Can you honestly say with a straight face that that isn’t what you’re doing here?

    Harry

    “I never attempted to pass myself off as the”authentic voice of America” I gave my opinion about a political matter,”

    You made a number of bald assertions about how Obama’s speech was going down in America. I really don’t want to dwell on this, you are of course entitled to your opinion. But I did want to establish that you are no more qualified to make assertions about the feeling on main street USA than I am. (But you DID make such assertions.)

    “Just for the record there has been no oppression of black people on account of their race in the US in almost half a century,”

    Again you assert this as a bald fact. Surely you would agree that there are millions of black Americans who would disagree with you? Regardless of whether you think they’re right, surely you at least acknowledge that this isn’t something that can simply be asserted?

    “…there may be white racists who do and say bad things but that is not the same as oppression;”

    Even if, say for example, they wear police uniforms? Or if they wear judge’s robes? Or if they occupy high office? Because of course we know there have been some very powerful racists in America over the last fifty years?

    “…the healthiest, wealthiest and best educated black people on planet Earth live in the United States of America.”

    Yes, but that’s hardly the point, is it? One might have argued that slaves on southern plantations were materially better off than those in the tribal societies of western Africa, from whom they were kidnapped. But such an argument is totally wrong-headed.

    I remember hearing Muhammad Ali talking about his time in Zaire, and he said that although people there were poor, what struck him most was the dignity with which they conducted themselves – a dignity which he said African Americans, though materially better off, had lost. I don’t know if Ali was right, but it’s an argument I can understand. In the quotation above, it’s clear that Mike Huckabee gets it. That need of dignity and the need to not be humiliated in any way, is something quite separate from material well-being. (Which itself is no small thing, but it’s essentially separate.)

    Point is, you can take a guy who’s a billionaire. Has all the power in the world, and the notion that he’s “oppressed” is utterly ridiculous. But say his grandfather arrived as a poor immigrant, and someone spat in his face or slammed the door on him, because he was lower than dirt – that affront to dignity, that humiliation, never goes away.

    “By the way you say that even Fox News was wowed by the Obama speech? Can you provide any evidence of this or do you just make stuff up?”

    Actually I didn’t say that. Gum did. He has already answered your question.

    I think this thread has highlighted a difference, not between left and right, per se, but simply between those who are intellectually curious, and who recognise the sheer complexity of a debate on race, and those who prefer simple narratives of good guys and bad guys.

    Now, I love a good western as much as anybody, but lads, come on!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    No need to apologise old man, we’re all friends here!

  • Gum

    Harry –

    the praise for the Obama speech I heard on Fox news was made by Chris Wallace on ‘Fox and Friends’ the Friday morning after the speech. (I try not to make a habit of watching Fox news but it is more entertaining that its rivals!)

  • Harry Flashman

    *I think this thread has highlighted a difference, not between left and right, per se, but simply between those who are intellectually curious, and who recognise the sheer complexity of a debate on race, and those who prefer simple narratives of good guys and bad guys.*

    Well we can go around and around the houses debating the issue of what Obama said or didn’t say, to you it was an impressive speech, to me it was a very unimpressive speech, you say ‘tom-ah-to’ I say ‘tom-ay-to’ (and no I’m not putting myself forward as the authentic voice of America here Billy ;-)), neither of us will change the other’s opinion, I respect yours but disagree and we may as well leave it at that.

    However if you have the time and the inclination I’m very interested in pursuing what you say in the quote above.

    I most certainly do not prefer simplistic characterisations of political opposites as “good guys” versus “bad guys”, quite the opposite, as I hope would have come across in my posts in the past.

    However it has been an increasingly irritating bug bear of mine that many on the “Left/liberal” spectrum (you may choose your own preferred term, I merely use that as a short hand being as how I consider few people more liberal than myself) automatically characterise their opponents as “bad”.

    I do not for one moment believe that most people who disagree with my opinion are bad people; misguided yes, foolish occasionally, willfully blind very often, but bad? No, not for the most part. But I think you will agree that conservatives are routinely cast in the role of being “bad” people, they are mean, spiteful, always trampling over the rights of others. The only time they will get a good press is when it is considered that maybe a bit of toughness is required, but it is never conceded by the Left that those who do not share their views on the Right actually DO care about their fellow men, actually DO want a better future for the world and hold their views (mistaken though those on the Left may consider them) from an altruistic stance and that the betterment of mankind is in fact what is sought by conservatives also.

    Furthermore the argument is often framed, in your own terms, as Right wing/conservative – stupid, intellectually incurious; Left wing/liberal – open minded seeking enlightenment. As someone who has debated Left wingers for nigh on three exasperating decades this to me is simply nonsense, for sheer bloody minded refusal to examine rational facts and logical argument you could never beat a dyed in the wool Leftie!

    I don’t want to appear whingey here, I congratulate the ability of those on the Left to get hold of the agenda and manipulate the argument through their prism but I’m afraid I get a little bit exasperated when I hear you say that it is we on the Right who reduce arguments to bad guys versus good guys.

    I’d be interested in your comments.

  • Harry Flashman

    Another good catch Gum, I concede the point that several conservative commentators were impressed by Obama’s speech.

    I remain with the majority of conservative analysts who were left cold but agree that there was not universal hostility to it. You clearly watch more Fox News than I do and that’s a scary thought for you.

  • Gum

    Harry – I agree that conservatives get unfairly labeled, and I try to avoid falling into that trap myself. I feel they get tarred by association – for example I do feel Dick Cheney for example is a ‘bad’ man for his support of torture and seeming indifference to civilian casualties in Afghanistan a few years back. On the other hand, the most inspirational speaker on the rights of the human that I have heard was a Tory candidate in the 2005 election.

    Those to the ‘left’ have to put up with labels such as ‘dyed in the wool lefties’ thanks to idiots like George Galloway so I know how it feels. 😉

  • Metacom

    The fact that O’Bama remained in this congregation for 20 years while the Reverend spewed this nonsense hurts him with uncommitted voters. However McCain sucking up to that nutcase Hagee certainly limits his ability to make hay on this.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “However if you have the time and the inclination I’m very interested in pursuing what you say in the quote above.”

    I do have the inclination but alas, not the time. However if you check back tomorrow afternoon, I hope to have found a spare few mins by then.

    Really good post, by the way.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Billy Pilgrim: “Can you honestly say with a straight face that that isn’t what you’re doing here?”

    Yes, but you’re free not to believe me.

    Listen, if he had made this speech in some other context other than trying to vaporize the dead weight that the Wright issue, I might be more generous. If I hadn’t been looking at the whole context of this speech — that it comes after his lame denials that “he didn’t know” that Wright indulged in coarse and racist rants and came only after Obama’s “cover” had been blown,” I might be more forgiving.

    But in the CONTEXT in which was written and presented — to a black audience in a black city, with the sole purpose of making the issue of his black pastor go away, I am not particularly inclined to be either forgiving or generous. He would like to use his race and background as a shield against hard questions and is willing to use any tool handy, including the white side of his family, for political advantage.

    Billy Pilgrim: “Actually, Obama did touch on that issue, and on the disintegration of many black families. He did talk about it as a widespread phenomenon. He did link it to wider issues of race relations and historical injustices, but was certainly not uncritical of the black community on this issue.”

    Utterly non-responsive, Billy.

    As for “whose fault,” the greater portion of the damage is primarily the result of political, not racial, policies — look at illegitimacy rates and unemployment rates pre- and post- “the War of Poverty.”

    Billy Pilgrim: “but simply between those who are intellectually curious, and who recognise the sheer complexity of a debate on race, and those who prefer simple narratives of good guys and bad guys.”

    In other words, those of us who don’t agree with you just aren’t that sophisticated? Keep patting yourself on the back like that, William, and you could sprain your shoulder.

    Obama’s not a bad guy. He is, however, just another politician, despite your seeming belief to the contrary. He pushes earmarks for his wife’s employer who, coincidentally, I’m sure, just happened to more than double her salary shortly afterwards. He gives good speech and lacks substance. He thinks the answer to at least most of America’s problems is expansion of the power and influence of the Federal gov’t, based on his speeches, such as today’s economic ramble. He tries to cultivate “authentic” blackness with his association with he likes of Wright, feathers his nest with his association with Rezko and cribs off of another charismatic do-nothing with his association with Deval Patrick. Oh, and he strikes me as something of a wimp, what with his whining about having to pay off his student loans, like every other responsible borrower.

    He’s pretty much just another empty suit. And no matter how many pretty speeches or sheep-like followers bleating “yes, yes we can” he gathers, it is not going to fundamentally change the above.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    Right, well, I think we can agree to disagree on Obama’s speech. The issue you open up about the relative moral standing of left and right is much more interesting anyway.

    I certainly don’t characterize the left as good or the right as bad – I’ll take Eisenhower over Stalin any day. I do believe there is such a thing as economic injustice and I do believe we should try and do something about it – classically lefty. But I also believe the family is the single most important institution in society, and just about everything government does should reflect that – rather a conservative conviction. I think that anyone who is all progressive or all conservative is an idiot. Of course there are times to move forward and there are times to hold back. “Should I stay or should I go now?” as the Clash put it. We can call these competing instincts progressivism and conservativism, right and left, whatever. The labels only have as much significance as one is prepared to ascribe to them, and I ascribe none.

    “I think you will agree that conservatives are routinely cast in the role of being “bad” people, they are mean, spiteful, always trampling over the rights of others.”

    Depends who’s doing the casting? If you look at the American media, I don’t think your point sticks. I also think that the present US administration makes it very easy for people to characterize the right as mean, spiteful, boorish, anti-intellectual, cynical, vindictive and incurably violent – because the present US administration is mean, spiteful, boorish, anti-intellectual, cynical, vindictive and incurably violent.

    Then there’s the media. Before we even get to policy, the rightwing media in the US is conspicuous for the universal obnoxiousness of its talking heads. Anne Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly etc might be good people off air, but their on-air personas are absolutely repulsive. They are rude and nasty and dishonest. They do not interview, they cross-examine (or worse, interrogate). This does not facilitate debate, it merely infantilizes discourse. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people, but I wouldn’t want to know them. However, this is more a media trend than a genuine reflection of the right. Take some of the old school, like William F Buckley or Bill Kristol – those are guys I would want to know. And disagree with.

    “it is never conceded by the Left that those who do not share their views on the Right actually DO care about their fellow men…”

    The left has the great moral advantage (and the fatal political disadvantage) of projecting upwards when looking for the causes of socio-economic problems. When the left attacks, it is the powerful and privileged that it targets. (This is relative, of course. A white middle class family in Mississippi mightn’t feel powerful or privileged, any more than working class Protestant families here felt powerful or privileged under the Stormont junta. But they are relatively powerful and privileged compared to neighbours who are disenfranchised and oppressed and humiliated.) Conversely, when the right attacks, it projects downwards, towards the weakest members of that society. Who is responsible for unemployment or poverty? Those whose lives are being destroyed by unemployment or poverty. Who is responsible for social breakdown? The single mother who’s working three jobs so her kids can eat. Who’s responsible for a million deaths and two to four million displacements in Iraq? The former president/present government/people of Iraq.
    It’s very hard to argue that these positions are based in compassion or altruism. It’s not hard to argue that someone holding these views is not a very nice person. Meanwhile the Foxnews approach only reinforces the perception of the right as the ideology of the school bully.

    “the argument is often framed, in your own terms, as Right wing/conservative – stupid, intellectually incurious; Left wing/liberal – open minded seeking enlightenment.”

    Actually I said the opposite – that this ISN’T about a division between right and left. There are plenty of conservatives who are both interested and interesting, just as there are plenty of lefties who are rigid idiots. I certainly wouldn’t categorize intellectual curiosity as the defining distinction between left and right. (Though the current incumbent of the White House must make you cringe?) If there IS a meaningful distinction between those highly questionable labels, I think it might something to do with attitudes to power and to powerlessness, but I’ll have to think more about that. I think personality is the thing that decides whether you’re left or right, not ideology.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    “But in the CONTEXT in which was written and presented—to a black audience in a black city, with the sole purpose of making the issue of his black pastor go away, I am not particularly inclined to be either forgiving or generous. He would like to use his race and background as a shield against hard questions and is willing to use any tool handy, including the white side of his family, for political advantage.”

    His audience was America and the world, via the world’s media. The city was Philadelphia, birthplace of American democracy. (How you can dismiss it as a “black city” I honestly don’t know.) If his sole purpose had been to “make the issue of his black pastor go away” he would have made a brief statement distancing himself and denouncing Rev Wright. It would not have been difficult to do, indeed it was what everyone expected him to do. Instead he gave a forty minute meditation on race, the like of which America has not seen in forty years. I suspect he may prove to have been foolhardy, but if, as you allege, he had simply wanted to make the issue go away, what he did was the exact opposite of what he needed to do.

    As for using his race to shield himself against hard questions: on the contrary, I think he seized the opportunity to ask America some hard questions of his own. In relation to the hard questions he faced, he gave an answer that was difficult and honest and brave. He did not disown his background in order to wriggle out of a little political difficulty. He held his position and took the fire. In doing so he demonstrated great character.

    As for using his family for political cover – what politician doesn’t do this?

    “Utterly non-responsive.”

    You asked whether it’d be racist if he said a man leaving his family was a “typical black man” and I pointed out that, though not using that exact phrase, he had pretty much done so. And that no, it wasn’t a racist comment. Nor was the one about his granny. I don’t see how I could give a more focused response.

    “As for “whose fault,” the greater portion of the damage is primarily the result of political, not racial, policies—look at illegitimacy rates and unemployment rates pre- and post- “the War of Poverty.”

    The “war on poverty”? I’m not trying to be funny here, but I’ve never heard of that.

    “In other words, those of us who don’t agree with you just aren’t that sophisticated?”

    Not at all. I just think that the criticisms of Obama’s speech that I’ve heard have been lame. I’ve heard and read plenty of smart, sophisticated commentators playing funny buggers. Their method is to reduce the debate to simple, binary choices. It’s anti-intellectual and anti-enlightenment. It’s cheap and nasty, and is totally unworthy of one of the great speeches of our time.

    “Obama’s not a bad guy. He is, however, just another politician, despite your seeming belief to the contrary… He gives good speech and lacks substance.”

    You’re making assumptions again!

    I have to say that prior to his Philadelphia speech I thought Obama was an empty suit too. Maybe he is, on most issues. But I like to think of myself as open-minded, and though I didn’t support Obama before, and though I’m still not sure I’d vote for him if I had a vote, I do still give credit for what was a remarkable and important speech. It was a moment worthy of an MLK or, perhaps a better comparison, a Bobby Kennedy. Is he worthy of comparison with such figures? Let’s just say he still has an awful lot to prove before we make that kind of judgement. But in that speech, for those few moments, he touched greatness.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Billy Pilgrim: “The city was Philadelphia, birthplace of American democracy. (How you can dismiss it as a “black city” I honestly don’t know.) ”

    Could be the dominant population group, the 10% swing in favor of Mayor Street when it was discovered that members of his administration were under Federal investigation and the no-bid contract and utter silence following it when Street gave his older brother the airport concessions. Philadelphia is not what it once was, with a surging murder rate and a “stop snitching” campaign amongst the African American population.

    Perhaps if you knew anything of the city since the American revolution, you’d realize that it is “a chocolate city,” as the Mayor of New Orleans would be wont to phrase it. I’d hazard a guess you know little of the state of modern Philadelphia?

    Billy Pilgrim: “he would have made a brief statement distancing himself and denouncing Rev Wright. It would not have been difficult to do, indeed it was what everyone expected him to do. Instead he gave a forty minute meditation on race, the like of which America has not seen in forty years. I suspect he may prove to have been foolhardy, but if, as you allege, he had simply wanted to make the issue go away, what he did was the exact opposite of what he needed to do.”

    Now who is reducing things to a simple binary choice, William? Obama *could* have made the simple statement you theorize, but he would have hamstrung himself in the African American community, losing much of his “authenticity.”

    His speech was a calculated act, one designed to allow him to have his cake and eat it, too. He mollifies the white mainstream while not sacrificing his “cred” in the black community, which he could not have done if he had thrown the Reverend Wright under the bus.

    Billy Pilgrim: “The “war on poverty”? I’m not trying to be funny here, but I’ve never heard of that.”

    The War of Poverty was the second “stage” in the American welfare state, the first being FDR’s “New Deal,” arriving during the Johnson administration as part of his “Great Society.” Among its unintended consequences was a surge in the illegitimacy rate and the destruction of the black nuclear family as a societal norm. To quote Thomas Sowell: “The black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

    Billy Pilgrim: “You’re making assumptions again!”

    No, I am giving you my opinion, one backed by facts, including his earmarks and consequent pay raise for his wife, his poor voting record as a state senator in Illinois, his lack of substance, his plethora of style and his unwillingness to handle questions, particularly hard questions.

  • Harry Flashman

    Well Billy, I have to thank you for your considered reply.

    I’m not in complete agreement about some of your points, for instance the right wing talking heads you quote can appear to be obnoxious merely because they have to fight against the otherwise overwhelming ‘left/liberal’ (again I must say I hate that definition, I wish there was a more accurate one but it will do for now) media consensus. In just the same way as it must have appeared shocking when, for example “That Was the Week That Was”, Private Eye and similar groundbreaking media broke on the conservative, pro-establishment media in the 1960’s. Hannity and Limbaugh and O’Reilly only appear shocking if you’ve never had your pre-conceptions challenged before.

    Equally I reject that conservatives “attack” single mothers, they attack the belief that single-motherhood is just as good as bringing up children in a context where both parents are married. I know of no-one who believes that single mothers should be carted off to homes for wayward women but they wish the government would at least make an attempt at encouraging the parents of children to get married and not skew the benefits/tax system against marriage. The argument is not with single mothers but the elites who appear to promote the concept, surely two very different concepts which the left has successfully blurred in the debate about societal reform.

    Be that as it may I have to say that there is probably very little about which we fundamentally disagree (well, ok, I admit I don’t subscribe to the smug trope about GW Bush being some sort of retard but we’ll let that pass).

    I actually like Obama, he’s not hard to like personally, his politics are flat wrong in my opinion but that’s beside the point. I do however intensely dislike the canonisation of him in the media, he’s not the second coming of Christ, he’s not even on a par with Martin Luther King, he is perhaps another JFK: a young, likable machine politician who has got a unique selling point but who isn’t averse to some dodgy dealing when the need arises, for purely personal reasons which I won’t disclose here I’d get a big kick out of seeing him doing well but from a realistic political viewpoint I wish the media would lay off the messianic rhetoric about the guy, it would actually serve him a lot better.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    “Could be the dominant population group…”

    Actually, according to Wikipedia: As of the 2004 Census estimations, there were 1,463,281 people, 658,799 housing units, and the racial makeup of the city was 45.0% White, 43.2% African American, 5.5% Asian, 0.3% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 5.8% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.5% of the population. The top 5 largest ancestries include Irish (13.6%), Italian (9.2%), German (8.1%), Polish (4.3%), and English (2.9%).

    However, even if Philly was more than 50% black, it’d still be rubbish to call it a “black city”. What does that even mean anyway?

    “Philadelphia is not what it once was, with a surging murder rate and a “stop snitching” campaign amongst the African American population.”

    Is this perhaps what you mean by a “black city”? Barbaric and lawless.

    Based on the arguments you have put here, it’d be the easiest thing in the world for me to accuse you of racism, thereby putting you on the back foot. I’m not going to do that. It would be disingenuous, and I am genuinely interested in listening to other points of view. I’m not just looking for ammunition or waiting to pounce on a badly-chosen phrase. I’m happy to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Which is more than you’re willing to do for Obama.

    So let’s forget the “black city” stuff. In this multimedia age, the venue doesn’t matter anyway.

    “Obama *could* have made the simple statement you theorize, but he would have hamstrung himself in the African American community, losing much of his “authenticity.””

    I don’t think he would have lost any black votes. Where would they have gone? Hillary? After this campaign? I think it more likely that the only people who would really have been motivated by Obama rejecting Wright would have been more militant black voters – who would have been enraged by seeing the white establishment making Obama say uncle, and even more keen to put a brother in the White House.

    “The War of Poverty was the second “stage” in the American welfare state, the first being FDR’s “New Deal,” arriving during the Johnson administration as part of his “Great Society.”

    Ah I see. You’re editorializing quite a bit here, no? The “war on poverty” you refer to isn’t actually a generally agreed historical event, but rather a bit of conservative rhetoric. You don’t think that perhaps the so-called “war on drugs” might also be something to do with it? (The “war on drugs” actually does exist, has been trumpeted by numerous presidents and has seen the number of black men in prison multiply by a factor of ten since 1970 – one suspects that in the post civil rights era, this was always one of its primary functions, and it certainly seems likely that a father going to jail will break up a family a lot quicker than a welfare cheque will.)

    “No, I am giving you my opinion, one backed by facts.”

    No, I mean you’re making assumptions about where I stand. And you’re making the wrong ones!

    (* Incidentally, I referred to Bill Kristol earlier, but I meant Bill Safire. I hate Bill Kristol!)

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Billy Pilgrim: “However, even if Philly was more than 50% black, it’d still be rubbish to call it a “black city”. What does that even mean anyway?”

    Ask Ray Nagin — And I do apologize — the term was “chocolate city.”

    “Mayor Ray Nagin on Tuesday apologized for urging residents to rebuild a “chocolate New Orleans” and saying, “You can’t have New Orleans no other way.””

    Billy Pilgrim: “I don’t think he would have lost any black votes. Where would they have gone? Hillary?”

    They would have sat this one out, billy, convinced that Obama was “selling out.”

    Again, you assume a zero-sum — that all possible participants *have* to go somewhere in the calculation, not acknowledging the possibility that they would opt out.

    Billy Pilgrim: “The “war on poverty” you refer to isn’t actually a generally agreed historical event, but rather a bit of conservative rhetoric.”

    There you go assuming again, William, and displaying your lack of knowledge of US political history.

    From the Wikipedia: “The War on Poverty is the name for legislation first introduced by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson during his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964. This legislation was proposed by Johnson in response to the difficult economic conditions associated with a national poverty rate of around nineteen percent. The War on Poverty speech led the United States Congress to pass the Economic Opportunity Act, a law that established the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administrate the local application of federal funds targeted against poverty.

    As a part of the Great Society, Johnson’s view of a federally directed application of resources to expand the government’s role in social welfare programs from education to healthcare was a continuation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Four Freedoms speech from the 1930s and 1940s.”

    Billy Pilgrim: “No, I mean you’re making assumptions about where I stand. And you’re making the wrong ones!”

    No, William, I am not. To refresh your memory, in #19 above, I said that Obama was just another empty suit of a politician. You responded to that, and I quote: “You’re making assumptions again!”

    Now, not to point out you’re not the center of the universe, but you and your opinions don’t even enter into the equation of my opinion of Barak Obama, William.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “In just the same way as it must have appeared shocking when, for example “That Was the Week That Was”, Private Eye and similar groundbreaking media broke on the conservative, pro-establishment media in the 1960’s. Hannity and Limbaugh and O’Reilly only appear shocking if you’ve never had your pre-conceptions challenged before.”

    The only preconceptions they challenge are my preconceptions about basic manners and constructive discourse. I have heard rightwing arguments before, and put much more compellingly by much more serious commentators. TWTWTW, Private Eye etc had the alleviating balm of humour – people can say anything as long as they’re funny. I reckon, for example, that South Park is a pretty right wing show, but first and foremost, it’s a hilarious one. Whereas you’ll find more humour at a “Marxism: Where Now?” conference than on Foxnews.

    Also, to suggest that there’s an “overwhelming ‘left/liberal’ media consensus” in America is crazy. When rightwingers say there’s a “liberal media consensus”, what they actually mean is that the media isn’t rightwing enough for their tastes. If it’s any consolation to you, I find the mainstream US media to be staunchly conservative. Anyone who followed the buildup to the Iraq war knows that even the so-called “liberal media” can be relied on by rightwing warmongers in the White House when push comes to shove. Even the more “liberal” organs such as the NY Times are in fact nothing of the sort. Far from being genuinely liberal, or genuinely sceptical of power, they are the leftmost gatekeepers of acceptable discourse, beyond which one dare not go. I mean, this is a country with the freest media in the world, in which a poll found that more than half the population thought Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, and a later poll found that almost two thirds believed WMD had been found in Iraq, in which journalists call the president “sir”, in which the military budget accounts for half of GDP yet no serious debate about military expenditure seems possible.

    “Equally I reject that conservatives “attack” single mothers, they attack the belief that single-motherhood is just as good as bringing up children in a context where both parents are married.”

    I completely support the nuclear family, I completely reject the notion that the absence of a father doesn’t really matter. I believe that the benefits/tax system should reward married couples. (Including same sex married couples.) But the right has never come remotely close to figuring out a way to do this without punishing single parents – few of whom, we must assume, would have chosen to be single parents. When faced with the reality that their proposals would hurt people who are already highly vulnerable, the right tends to respond either with a shrug of the shoulders (as in, “you can’t make an ommelette…”) or in more extreme cases, wild-eyed glee (as in, “the sluts deserve it”.)

    I agree that the world would be a much better place if every child had two parents (show me an unstable child and I’ll show you an unstable family) but if you want to implement policies that will devastate single-parent families, then you’re declaring war on people in my life that I love very much, and though we might have theoretical common ground, I’ll defend my loved ones from you and your zeal with everything I’ve got.

    “(well, ok, I admit I don’t subscribe to the smug trope about GW Bush being some sort of retard…)

    Actually, I don’t think Bush is a retard. I have a friend who’s a psychiatrist, and pretty conservative in her politics, who says – neither facetiously nor flippantly but totally seriously – that Bush displays several characteristics of a psychopathic personality.

    And I don’t think Obama is some sort of a messiah either, but his speech was remarkable, and raised him up considerably in my estimation.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    This was the line, to which I replied that you were making assumptions:

    “…despite your seeming belief to the contrary…”

    Clearly you misunderstood what I was referring to. Happy to clarify.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dread

    I concede the point that Johnson talked about a “war on poverty”. I’m familiar with the argument that the Great Society played a role in social problems, though I don’t accept it. But that’s another debate.

    I would point out though, that it was you, not Ray Nagin, who called Philadelphia a “black city”. I’m not sure what Ray Nagin or New Orleans has to do with it, to be honest.

    Of course you’re right that voters of any colour have the option of staying home. However I would suggest the historic nature of Obama’s candidacy all but guarantees he would take nearly a hundred percent of a high-turnout black vote in November, even if his running mate was David Duke. But who knows?

    Either way, I don’t think Obama’s speech was all about shoring up the black vote – he’ll be keenly aware that it’s white voters who’ll put him on the ticket and perhaps into the White House.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Billy Pilgrim: “Clearly you misunderstood what I was referring to. Happy to clarify.”

    To acknowledge a seeming is to not make assumptions, William, but to state the appearance whilst reserving final judgment. Glad to clarify the point as well.

    Billy Pilgrim: “I concede the point that Johnson talked about a “war on poverty”. I’m familiar with the argument that the Great Society played a role in social problems, though I don’t accept it. But that’s another debate.”

    He also proposed and got passed the legislation to fight his ill-conceived war, Billy, to tragic economic consequences.

    Billy Pilgrim: “I would point out though, that it was you, not Ray Nagin, who called Philadelphia a “black city”. I’m not sure what Ray Nagin or New Orleans has to do with it, to be honest.”

    A couple bits of orientation, Billy.

    1) Whites, in the United States, do not vote as blocs, Blacks do. As such, being the second largest population group, by that slim margin, makes them the politically dominant group. When a Republican presidential candidate approaches 8-9% of the black vote in the US, this is considered remarkable.

    2) I was noting that the term in vogue was “chocolate” and not “black.” I do find it odd that it is permitted for African Americans to lay claim to political domination of a city, yet somehow wrong for me to acknowledge the same.

    Billy Pilgrim: “Of course you’re right that voters of any colour have the option of staying home. However I would suggest the historic nature of Obama’s candidacy all but guarantees he would take nearly a hundred percent of a high-turnout black vote in November, even if his running mate was David Duke. But who knows?”

    Let him get branded an “Uncle Tom” and see what happens.

    He would have the overwhelming black vote that turns out on the basis of being the Democrat in any event, so no major victory there.

    Billy Pilgrim: “Either way, I don’t think Obama’s speech was all about shoring up the black vote – he’ll be keenly aware that it’s white voters who’ll put him on the ticket and perhaps into the White House.”

    And that’s not what I said it was about, William. I said it was about mollifying the white vote without alienating the black vote. Hardly the same as “shoring up the black vote.”