Friday, February 29, 2008

Being Obama

If Barack Obama does win the Democratic nomination, we are undoubtedly going to be treated to a tiresome parade of complaints about imagined racial slights. Here's one: Saturday Night Live had Fred Armisen (who?) play Barack Obama in a recent skit. Ann Althouse links to this Washington Post piece about the ensuing outrage.

Why the outrage? According to the WaPo article, Armison is of white and Asian heritage. Oh gosh, can't have that, can we? Well, the sort of people likely to take umbrage at this sort of thng have taken umbrage:

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune put the question bluntly: "Call me crazy, but shouldn't 'Saturday Night Live's' fictional Sen. Barack Obama be played by an African-American?" Ryan went on to conclude: "I find 'SNL's' choice inexplicable. Obama's candidacy gives us solid proof of the progress that African-Americans have made in this country. I guess 'SNL' still has further to go on that front."

You're crazy Maureen. But you aren't the only one. My favorite comment comes from Todd Boyd, a "Professor of Critical Studies" at USC:

Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, says viewers might have a different reaction if the roles were reversed. What if, he says, "SNL" had cast a black woman to portray Hillary Clinton? "Do you think there's ever going to be a day when we start casting Queen Latifah to portray Princess Diana?" he asks. "We just don't have the same representations going in other direction.

You know, if I were a professor in a politically-driven pseudo-discipline, I would avoid being quoted in the newspaper, if only to avoid having people ask what a "Professor of Critical Studies" actually you know, studies. I suppose, though, that if you're going to pretend that being a community organizer is a real job, you might as well pretend that a Professor of Critical Studies is a real Professor. (Unlike Barack Obama, who is not, contrary to some claims, a Professor of Constitutional Law.)

But I digress. This gripe is so stupid on so many levels that it's hard to know where to start.

Well, start with the obvious: as the WaPo and Professor Althouse both observe, SNL has a long history of having blacks play whites, and vice versa. Eddie Murphy played white characters, and Billy Crystal played Sammy Davis, Jr. Heck, SNL did some skits where men impesonated women: Dan Akroyd as Julia Child, and Will Ferrell as Janet Reno.

As Professor Althouse says, the question for Saturday Night Live isn't whether a particular actor is the same race or gender as the person he or she is impersonating -- the question is whether the impersonation is funny. And you know, by the standards of modern-day SNL, I think that Armison's impersonation really is kind of funny. Not Dan-Akroyd-as-Julia-Child funny, but SNL hasn't been that funny in a long time.

But in Obama's case it is particularly dumb. As Paddy O, one of Professor Althouse's commenters put it: "How is Obama any more black than white? Is there some kind of one drop rule in effect?" Sure, Obama may choose to identify himself as "black," and he may have joined an Afrocentric church, but none of this alters the fact that his mom was white. In terms of pure ethnic background, it's no more inappropriate to have a white guy impersonate him than to have a "pure" black Obama imitator. If you are insisting on racial verisimilitude, why not go all the way and demand he be impersonated by a man of mixed race whose dad was Kenyan and mom was a white chick from the midwest? Fred Armisen is of mixed race, if not quite the same mix as Obama. In that sense, he is more appropriate than either an all-black or all-white actor.

Look, if somebody of importance actually says something racist about Obama, I'll jump on them with both feet. But this crap is just nonsense.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Patriotism Gap

Megan McArdle thinks this anti-Berkeley ad is weird:

She thinks it's stupid to run the ad on Fox News in D.C., because the Berkeley City Council is unlikely to be affected by the actions of Washingtonians. Well, sure.

But that isn't the point. It's a culture war thing. The whole point is to make people riled up about the fact that there are still "blame America First" leftists out there.

And if you want to tie it to the election, well, it's pretty obvious that the sort of people who boo National Guard ads in movie theaters are, in general, the sort of people who vote for Democrats. And of course Mrs. Obama played right into that when she made her unfortunate but revealing remarks about being proud of her country for the first time. Personally, I don't give a shit whether Barack Obama wears a flag in his lapel bin. But the Patriotism Gap is a serious problem for the Democrats. And stuff like the antics of the City Council of Berkeley only make it worse.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dhimmi Watch: Harvard Edition

Via Instapundit, this article about an effort to make Muslim Harvard students more "comfortable" in the gym. By instituting women-only gym hours. They're being instituted at the insistence of -- you guessed it -- the Harvard Islamic Society:

Harvard Islamic Society's Islamic Knowledge Committee officer Ola Aljawhary, a junior, said the women-only hours are being tested on a trial basis. The special gym hours will be analyzed over Spring Break to determine if they will continue, she said.

Aljawhary said that she does not believe that the women-only gym hours discriminate against men.

"These hours are necessary because there is a segment of the Harvard female population that is not found in gyms not because they don't want to work out, but because for them working out in a co-ed gym is uncomfortable, awkward or problematic in some way," she said.

Will we never stop giving in to Muslim demands? Gender integration in places like the gym is a part of Western Civilization's acceptence of gender equality. It's a good thing, damnit, something that makes us better than the Muslim world where they keep women wrapped up in "modest" attire, lest men be driven into a sexual frenzy at the sight of an exposed ankle. Our culture is better than theirs -- that's why we make the airplanes that they have to hijack. And it's worth fighting for, inch by inch if we must.

Maybe working out in a co-ed gym is "uncomfortable, awkward, or problematic" for some Harvard students. But that can be a useful part of getting an education, or adopting a new culture. If these women are so "modest" that they can't don a pair of sweatpants (no rules says that have to wear leotards) and work out, well maybe they ought to move to Saudi Arabia.

Where they will be more "comfortable."

Paging Doctor Mengele

Megan McArdle links to this article by Graeme Wood arguing in favor of harvesting the organs of executed convicts. But wait! It turns out that most methods of execution ruin the organs. How do you get around that? Wood argues in favor of the "Mayan Protocal" -- executing people by removing their organs:

But by using what the bioethicist Arthur Caplan calls “the Mayan Protocol”—a term derived from the ancient Mayan practice of vivisecting their human sacrifices—the removal of organs would itself be the method of execution. If this sounds inhumane, compare it to current practices: botched hangings, painfully long gassings, and messy electrocutions. Removal of the heart, lungs, and kidneys (under anesthesia, of course) would kill every time, without an instant of pain.

I suppose you might find doctors willing to go along and ignore that "First Do No Harm" thing. And if you did, well, think of the lives you could save!

Given the overlap between libertarians and science ficiton fans, it's hardly surprising that "Lou," Megan's first commenter, brought up the Larry Niven short story, "The Jigsaw Man." To give away the punch line: in that futuristic society, they required that death row inmates have their organs harvested. As a result, legislatures expanded the death penalty to include more and more offenses, until the defendant in the story faces the death penalty for being a recidivist traffic offender.

I don't think that it would go that far -- but there are ample reasons why the citizenry ought not receive collateral benefits from criminal punishments. (Following this theory, David Friedman has trumpted the virtues of inefficient punishments.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Disaffected Convservatives

Andrew Sullivan points to this article by Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg's point? Well, as Sully succintly puts it, "McCain = Bush." As Goldberg points out, "most of the criticisms aimed at McCain can be directed at President Bush himself. " Bush signed McCain-Feingold, after all, and backed amnesty for illegal immigration, both supposedly reasons conservatives have a problem with McCain. If you wanted to add to the list, you could observe that Bush expanded the federal role in education through No Child Left Behind and not only supported by actively pushed for the creation of a new entitlement program.

Goldberg thinks that a lot of the animosity toward McCain is really anti-Bush animosity:

According to many pundits, McCain won the Republican Party's "anti-Bush" wing, made up of moderates and independents. But this is largely a media-driven narrative imposed on a somewhat different reality. There is, in fact, a much broader anti-Bush sentiment in the party. The "right wing" of the GOP is suffering from a deep buyer's remorse of its own.

All I can say is: about goddamn time. Seriously, I understand why many conservatives thought that Bush was a real conservative back in 2000 -- I thought the "compassionate conservative" crap was election-year hooey. Well, I was wrong, much to my regret. Jonah is wrong when he implies that conservatives haven't jumped ship -- in fact, quite a few conservatives have turned on Bush. (As a libertarian, I don't really count, but I've certainly turned on him.) By any objective measure, George W. Bush is not a conservative, and his presidency has erased nearly all the gains of the conservative movement for the last thirty or so years. Democrats are going to be running against George W. Bush for the rest of my lifetime. Conservative should be attacking George W. Bush at every opportunity, not backing the guy up.

So why haven't conservatives jumped ship in greater numbers? Well, I think that there are a number of overlapping reasons.

First, many conservatives remained honestly convinced that the Iraq war, while possibly mishandled, was a necessary step in the War on Terror. Now, I think, in retrospect, that the war was a huge mistake which has cost both lives and treasure, and which has been tactically counterproductive. Now, if you believe that the war wasn't a mistake, you are far more likely to see Bush as a source of steadfast leadership.

Second, there is the issue of judges. While the Harriet Miers nomination garnered a lot of conservative pushback, most conservatives are pretty happy with Roberts and Allito, as well as the bulk of the lower court judges. This is important to conservatives, because they fear -- with some validity -- that lunatic far left judges will attempt to advance the leftist agenda through the courts if allowed to do so.

Third, Bush has the right enemies. Goldberg discuses this particular point in contrasting Bush and McCain. As he puts it:

In terms of body language, the contrast with McCain couldn't be more stark. Bush has always been the sort of politician who relishes being loathed by The New York Times. McCain simply loves being loved by the Times and the national media generally. It's his base.

Add to that the folks over at DailyKos,, the 9/11 Truthers, the people from that town in Vermont who want Bush arrested. Whatever his other faults, Bush pisses off the right people. I think many conservative have a feeling that since the left hates Bush with such passion, he cannot possibly be all bad.

Fourth point -- related to the third -- is that support for Bush is part of being on "our team." Conservatives have historically found themselves at home in the Republican Party. They've come to identify with the Republican Team, they way some folks like the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees. Democrats, of course, have similar propensities: they identify with members of the Democratic Team, regardless of policy. If Bush had done all the same things but been a Democrat, lots of "convservatives" would hate his guts. Likewise, if Bill Clinton had been a Republican, many conservatives would love him.

Finally, I will add a factor I wouldn't have even considered before this primary season. Bush is an Evangelical Christian. I think the success of Huckabee shows that quite a few Evangelicals aren't "conservatives" in the William F. Buckley sense of the term -- they're not principled adherents to conservative ideology. They're cultural conservatives on things like the Ten Commandments, gays, porn, abortion, and other hot button cultural issues. But, they're not so big on limited government and free markets. For that kind of "conservative," well, Bush is great. He's an apostate on the stuff they don't care about, but he stands firm on the culture war issues. Evangelical Christians care a about a candidate's overt and stated faith. Because Bush claims to pray all the time and imbues his speeches with God Talk, they think he's doing the right thing. He's got faith, after all! He could do the opposite of what he's done on most issues, and if he talked about God enough, that would be enough for the Evangelicals. They support Huckabee for the same reason: he's one of them. He has faith.

McCain as the nominee will get the support of many conservatives, despite his apostasy on some issues, for some of the same reasons Bush has. Certainly many conservatives will back him on War-On-Terror issues, and he will probably appoint pretty good judges (from a conservative viewpoint). And as the election nears, the whole "our team" thing will kick in. Paradoxically, if his love affair with the media ends before the election rolls around, many conservatives will probably like him better, because he will have at least some of the right enemies.

What he will never get, though, are the solid core of Evangelicals who still support Bush and who now support Huckabee. They are identity politics voters, and McCain just isn't one of them.

Obama's Che Flag

A bit of a back-and-forth between John Cole over at Balloon Juice and Captain Ed. Captain Ed slammed Obama because -- get this -- his campaign office in Houston features a Cuban flag with a picture of Che superimposed on it hanging on the wall. Cole calls Ed a "loyal party hack" and talks about our Cuba policy. Which of course is quite beside the point -- a Cuban flag with a picture of Che on it isn't a critique of America's inane boycott of Cuba; it's an endorsement of a brutal communist despotism and a murdering thug.

In a later update, Cole clarifies that it was Obama volunteers, not staffers, who put up the flag. Well, call me unmoved. If any Republican candidate had volunteers who put up a Nazi or Fascist emblem, or even a Confederate Flag, this would be seen as emblematic of Republican racism and fascism. Surely it says something about Obama -- and the left wing of the Democratic Party -- that his volunteers think a communist emblem is just dandy.

But this shouldn't be a surprise -- it's all part of the double standard. Communism was every bit as evil as fascism -- more evil, by pure body count. And yet Che is chic. Disgusting.

Sorry About the Hiatus

Faithful readers, if you are still with me, I apologize for the long blog-break. Combination of travel and illness. However, I'm back, and I will try to update with more regularity these days.