Media

Understanding My Muggers – White Guilt and “White Privilege”

Conservative web sites (and I gather Rush Limbaugh) sent people scurrying to an absurd article on The Hoya, the oldest student newspaper at Georgetown University, entitled “I was Mugged, and I Understand Why.” This is a fairly predictable Leftist student’s reflection of White guilt and excusing two Black muggers who took his cell phone and money at gunpoint.

The author, Oliver Friedfeld, bills himself as a senior in the School of Foreign Service. As scary as his saying things like “we should get comfortable with sporadic muggings and break-ins” because we have given these poor fellows no options in life, I find it more unnerving to believe that soon he could be working in Secretary Kerry’s State Department. This could well be his application essay. If only he had described the officer who took his statement as having an attitude “reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”

So we have a future State Department employee saying we should get used to criminals attacking us, and that he does not begrudge them his cell phone and cash. I don’t see any possible parallels with terrorism, beheadings, etc. None at all.

The comments have run 95% negative, driven in large part by the promotion among conservative media no doubt. The few defenders have raised the meme of “White privilege,” that perennial go-to by the Left to replace reasoned argument and deflect debate. Like “scientific consensus” and “the science is settled” in global cooling global warming climate change, “White privilege” is an invisible, impossible to disprove (in Leftist minds) explanatory theory that is wonderful because it is a conversation stopper.

The nifty thing about “White privilege” is that it is not, as Leftists believe, impossible to discredit. I have a theory on the genesis of “White privilege.” I may be wrong, but since no one reads these posts, no one will correct me.

Before we had “White privilege” we had “institutional racism.” I believe that “White privilege” remains a Leftist meme because “institutional racism” failed to gain traction. Both are the kind of theories the Left loves – invisible, impossible to prove explanations that divert attention from real causal relationships and put the blame on the fallback bad guys, White males (for the most part).

“Institutional racism” was short-lived because it was overtaken by history. In my lifetime I have seen the argument go from Blacks (and we have generally always been talking about Blacks rather than other minorities) fighting for the right to freely vote to the number of Black senators to a Black president. We went from Blacks being allowed to go to public schools to Blacks being allowed to go to prestigious law schools to Blacks being on the Supreme Court. So-called Black leaders want to ignore the enormous progress made in the last 50 years; their limousines and five-star hotels and $5000 suits and Rolex watches depend upon portraying Blacks as having no upward path to prosperity.

Unfortunately for the concept of “institutional racism” also was the success rate of Black immigrants from Africa and Haiti, among other foreign countries, which closely paralleled White when controlled for education after a couple of years in the U.S. Their skin color didn’t seem to be a problem, so institutional racism didn’t seem to hold them back.

So “White privilege” was adopted, another invisible but “it’s not the Democrats’ fault” explanation of the increase in Black illegitimacy, crime, drug addiction, incarceration, unemployment, etc., but more importantly for the discrepancy in outcomes between Whites and Blacks.  Whenever someone raises the issue of how “White privilege” does not seem to impact Asians, the Leftist response is generally either, “You are a racist!” or “Look, a squirrel!”

The problem Leftists have with “White privilege” is a lack of intellectual rigor. They still depend on and refer to the “seminal” work of Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women in 1988, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, part of ““White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies.

I want to be charitable here and posit that those Leftists who still refer people to Ms. McIntosh’s work have not re-read it since it was published in 1988.  They can’t possibly have read it since the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.  Please God, tell me they are not still sending people to this document having re-read it since 2008.

Ms. McIntosh’s piece, which is uncritically accepted by true believers, is set up like a Jeff Foxworthy routine. She seeks to set out statements which, if you can answer them in the affirmative, indicate that you have White privilege (and are probably also a redneck.)

Yet anyone reading these and applying a modicum of common sense and historical perspective would realize that only if they are viewed through the lens of bias and a distorted view of America as unchanged since the 1950s (where Democrats like Bull Connor ordered fire hoses and George Wallace stood in the school house doors) do they apply.

Here are the first six of the 50 statements that Ms. McIntosh (and Leftists who believe they prove White Privilege exists today) say are still answered yes today. Each and every one are evidently untrue to any open-minded (and historically-grounded) person.  The remaining 44 are equally absurd in today’s world, but I am not young enough to debunk them all before my nap time.

“1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”

She appears to be saying that only White people can count on being with other people of their race at work or at school, where most of us spend our time (or in the home, if we stay at home during the day; I assume that would count childen).  How many people think this is a reasonable conclusion?  Show of hands?

Here’s the thing – in Wellesley, MA where Ms. McIntosh lived when writing this piece, there were fewer than 500 Blacks among a population of over 20,000 (I couldn’t find demographic stats before 2000).  She appears to have been generalizing from her own experience.

I suggest that it would be a very rare Black person today who works in a situation where there are not other Blacks in the workplace.  The same is true for Hispanics.  Thus they could answer this in the affirmative.

Perhaps others could not (Samoans?).  Does that mean there is a Black privilege?  A Hispanic privilege?  That disadvantages Samoans?

Depending on your race you may not always be able to be in the company of some people of your race unless you work with family or friends. But people make choices for work and pleasure based upon what is important to them.  If being with people of your race is important to you, one of the wonderful things about America is that you have the freedom of association to do just that.  You have choices.  Make them.

“2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.”

This one betrays Ms. McIntosh’s racism, and problems with her parents.  She was trained to mistrust people?

I wasn’t trained to mistrust anyone.  OK, I was trained to mistrust carnies.  And door-to-door vacuum salespeople.  But mistrust people of other races?  No.  If I had even suggested that as a kid I would have gotten a hair brush or belt to the bottom.  Of course, that would have gotten my parents in trouble today.  Back then it meant my parents raised a kid who was polite, never got into trouble, and got good grades.  Now I would be abused.  They’re both gone now or I would sue.

And notice the double standard – she (and thus “Whites”) was “trained” to distrust Blacks (or other minorities), but they “learned” to distrust her (Whites).

How in today’s culture can one avoid spending time with people of other races?  Only if you are a shut-in.  If you go to the store, if you go to the movies, if you go on public transportation, if you walk down a street, if you go to a sporting event, if you go to work, if you go to school – if you live, you will be with people of other races in America.

It was that way in 1988, even at Wellesley.  It is even more so today in 2014.

Of course, progressive Wellesley, Massachusetts is pretty lily White.  Only 2% Black.  In her ivory (White) tower perhaps she believes that the rest of America looks like the town she chose to live in, but her anecdotal experience is an outlier.

Thus it appears that an entire theory of “White privilege” is founded in part on a myopic academic’s personal experience in a limited community that has kept “those people” out (or maybe “those people” have the good sense not to want to live among people who look down on them so).

It’s always amazing how “progressive” communities of affluent White Leftists who are so sympathetic to the plight of minorities only let them into their communities during the day for service work.

“3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.”

This is not a nuanced argument that might leave some room for discussion, regarding possible factors in some markets with some lenders (and loan officers) relating to qualifications for loans and red lining and such. Most studies I am aware of in the area of housing show that when factors such as employment, collateral, job history, credit score, etc. are balanced, race and ethnicity are not a factor in qualification or purchasing. Ms. McIntosh appears to assume these factors are not in play (I suspect this level of analysis is beyond her).

No, what she says is that if you have the money (cash or qualified loan) you must be White privileged if you can rent or buy anywhere you can afford.

Let’s look at the converse – you cannot be certain you can buy or rent anywhere you want unless you are White.

Georgetown is pretty lily White. A little over 85% White. How did those 14%+ non-Whites sneak in? My theory is that they had the money and bought/rented homes and apartments. No one told them they couldn’t in one of the most exclusive places to live in America.

Beverly Hills, CA. About 89% White. Somehow about 11% of non-Whites were allowed to buy or rent homes there without “White privilege.” Mill Valley, CA, where I practice, pretty White place, 89% White, but 11% non-Whites are still able to rent or buy if they can afford it.

Aha! The small numbers prove that not everyone who wants to can move there because of skin color, right? Sorry, I’m playin’ witcha.

Maybe minorities don’t want to live in such snooty neighborhoods.  Maybe not as many minorities can afford to live there (a different issue, an outcome issue). Notice anything? These are all progressive bastions. Maybe these progressives are somehow keeping minorities from moving into their communities; that’s as good an answer as any other, absent evidence to the contrary.

Go up the road from Mill Valley, CA to Vacaville one county up and Whites drop to 66%. A lot fewer liberals in Vacaville, a lot less money. A lot more minorities. Interesting.  Maybe it is simply a matter of money, what people can afford.  If it is an economic issue, then this question is meaningless.

The real point is that people with common sense know that a Black orthodontist with good credit and money in the bank can buy any house she or he can afford anywhere they want today. They won’t have any flaming lower-case t’s in their yard (for you South Park fans). It is not White privilege, it is money privilege. It used to be called “the American Dream.” Now it’s called elusive for most everyone.

“4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.”

Anyone these days can only count on neutral, unfortunately.  Where I live in Flagstaff part-time it is different, and some of my neighbors in CA are friendly, but gone are the days when neighbors dropped by for a cup of sugar.  At most you expect a nod or a wave.

You’re much more likely to get animosity if you park in the wrong spot, play loud music, or leave your trash barrels out on the street.  Heaven forbid if you violate homeowners’ association rules.  Then you will face hostility.

But a minority moving into a non-minority neighborhood?  Not a big deal except in the minds of Leftists.  Hasn’t been for years.  Except in “progressive” neighborhoods who have managed to keep minorities out somehow.

How do they do that?

One final secret that nobody likes to talk about. White people – progressive, conservative, libertarian, whatever – still don’t want to be called racist. And they’re not, at least not 98% of us. So they tend to go out of their way to show that they are not. It’s one reason Barack Obama got elected twice – folks wanted to show that they were not prejudiced – see how far we’ve come? So when Blacks move into their neighborhood, they go out of their way to welcome them, even more than if they were White. Come on, folks. You know that is true. Same way when a new minority is hired at the office and you are a little nicer to them right off the bat than if they were just another White guy. It’s the way White folk have been conditioned since the 1960s, in part because we truly want to show that we have overcome the prejudices of the past, but in part because we do not want to be accused of racism.

I don’t make these things up. I just observe and report. Don’t blame me for being beautiful.

“5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.”

The key here is “most of the time.”

There are shopkeepers, in high-crime or low-income areas, who monitor shoppers closely.  They do this because of experience, because they lose a lot of money to theft.  In the language of point 2 above, the have “learned to mistrust.”

The shop owners are mostly minorities themselves (like the shop owners who were burned out in Fergusson), so this is not a “White privilege” thang.  If the shop owners lost money to White shoplifters they would follow White shoppers around.

Nothing to do with privilege, except in a Leftist’s mind seeking signs of discrimination and shutting off critical thinking. Outside these few shops, not a problem.

So most of the time, in most of the stores, anyone can shop without being followed or harassed.  Unless they act suspiciously and catch the eye of store security or staff.  Then the staff may monitor them as their job requires, regardless of their race.  That’s just common sense and good business.  It also protects the consumer by reducing theft and keeping prices down.

It’s not a plot against the minorities, it’s a plot against shoplifters.

“6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.”

For anyone who has paid attention for the last decade or three, the answer to this is that whether you are Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or whatever flavor of the wondrous variety of humanity, you can find yourself in the media.

For grins I just flipped through the first fifty or so channels of the TV. Counting voices on cartoons (with three kids and three grandkids I know cartoon voice actors, so don’t play the voice prejudice card on me!), discounting animal documentaries (“behold the majestic penguin”), and animated soap bubbles, 35 out of 45 had non-white actors in the five seconds I allowed myself to view each channel. See how I sacrifice for you?

Again, it defies common sense to claim that only Whites get to see their race widely represented in the media. OK, the hosts of MSNBC are predominantly White males, I get that. But in those fifty channels I surfed, three were in Spanish, one was BET, and two had black comedies with predominantly Black casts (not on BET). That’s at a random moment I got up and turned the TV on.

Hardly scientific, but enough to make my point.  And it’s a point we all should intuitively and experientially agree on.  Name your favorite show. Does it have minority actors in the regular cast?

Advertisers and casting directors want to use people of color. One of my former clients is from Iran. He has two beautiful granddaughters he told me were sought after by advertisers because their almond skin and exotic features could be taken for a number of races. He understood and delighted in this; it was money in the bank for their college funds.

I dare say that if you pick up any clothing ad you will find a veritable Colors of Benetton potpourri of races and many of those unidentifiable “What race is she?” models who could be any race – handy!

For years now each movie or TV group of friends had to have a Black, a Hispanic and a White kid (as did gangs). Bosses had to be Black; judges usually were Black and a woman. In the 1970s, movies and TV shows often used a Black as an authority figure but kept the role as a minor one, in effect saying, “Look, the Captain is Black, see how progressive we are, now let’s focus on the two white cops.”

Now we expect that roles are given with a understanding of racial diversity as an integral and non-cynical part of the plot structure (in Psych, the racial diversity gave plot twists that would not have been there if both leads had been black or white).

We see an interesting social evolutionary comparison in the re-imagining of the intentional (and unusual, for its day) racial casting of Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek series with the new movies; it no longer is a bold statement (such as Uhura’s kissing Kirk, the first scripted interracial kiss on TV), but simply an organic and natural thing, something we live with and experience in our lives. It’s hard for us today to imagine how daring this was back in 1966.  We live in a different (and better) world.

This is why Ms. McIntosh’s point is so illegitimate today. Of course people of different races can see their races in print and TV. Maybe Samoans cannot see Samoans in the papers or on TV often, but do they really expect that? They represent .056% of our population. I suppose every time they see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson they are getting their percentage worth.

***

Unfortunately, whenever you try to discuss issues like racism and “White privilege” with Leftists (or actually anything substantive, for that matter) they do not wish to engage. Simply because you do not accept what they consider to be gospel, there is no point in even discussing it with you and they generally turn away. There is no open mind, no room for you to ask them to consider facts to change their mind.

An ideologue is impervious to reason, because it is a matter of faith, not logic.

They then go back to their Leftist friends and say, “Lester was trying to tell me White privilege doesn’t exist.” The friends shake their heads and laugh.   “He is so White!” “Those guys cannot see what is right before their noses!” “And Lester sure has a big one” Chuckles. “It just proves how much White privilege he has!” I’ve actually listened in on such conversations at parties. Yes, I used to go to parties. A long time ago. Before they stopped inviting me. Because I listened in on private conversations. About me.

For Leftists, White privilege just is; it is an article of faith. The fact that you refuse to accept its existence proves that it exists and that you have it (if you are White). If you are a minority and refuse to accept its existence, you are a self-hating White wannabe (try saying that to my wife; but wait until I’m there to watch. Please).

One of the special super-secret, I’m smirking at you because you don’t get it things about “White privilege” believers is that it is so invidious and invisible and pervasive that you as a White person cannot see it or feel it or understand it. Only the White people who know it is there and point it out to you and lecture you about it can see it.

It’s like the people with wisdom and vison in the Emperor’s New Clothes. If you argue against it, it is because you are too stupid to see it.

But look, the boy says. There is no science, no empirical data. There is no common sense, because you cannot apply common sense to these statements. They simply do not apply in today’s world.

Silly boy.

Advertisements

Geraldo Sophist: Illegal Aliens Not Illegal Because They Have Not Been Convicted

I am a sometimes viewer of Outnumbered on Fox News Channel (noon East Coast, 9 AM here in AZ where we bitterly cling).  Not nearly as good as The Five, but occasionally entertaining.

Geraldo Rivera, who hit his peak during the OJ Simpson trial and has declined since, is a staunch defender of open borders and amnesty.  Yesterday on the show (which features four lovely ladies and one outnumbered man, hence the title), he was blathering about the current border brouhaha.   In one of his usual nonsensical immigration rants he claimed, pulling on his “lawyer” hat (I do not believe he ever practiced, although I believe he did pass some state’s bar exam, too lazy to look up), “Don’t call them illegal, that requires a judicial determination.  (I’m quoting from memory here.)

Sorry, Geraldo.  That’s about as accurate a statement as “There’s amazing loot in Al Capone’s vault!”

A person violates a statute when they violate the statute.  They have committed the violation; they have done something illegal (think “You made an illegal right turn”).  Commission of the crime is different than being convicted of the crime, which happens before a judge or magistrate.  A bank robber is still a bank robber even if they are never caught, tried and convicted.  A person is not illegally in the country just because they have not been caught, appeared before a judge, and been convicted of, for example, 8 U.S.C. § 1325.  They are illegally in the country because they have avoided examination or inspection and entered the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.  They are illegal aliens, illegal immigrants.  They are not undocumented immigrants, concerned parents from depressed countries, wretched refuse yearning to breathe free, or whatever.  Emma Lazarus was writing about legal immigrants, who passed inspection, waited in line, filled out paperwork, and many of whom were actually sent back to where they came from and never set foot on U.S. soil past Ellis Island.

So wrong. Geraldo.  Yet again.  But said with such conviction!

When You Take the Gun, Take the Ammo: or, Jack Bauer’s Curse Revisited

One thing that drove my dad crazy was when the good guy escaped from the bad guy in a movie or TV show and didn’t take the bad guy’s gun after knocking him out.

I realize it was a plot device (can’t have the good guy armed, to make it more exciting), but it really is an example of lazy writing. You can keep the danger level artificially high by making the hero artificially vulnerable. In my mind it just makes the hero artificially stupid. Colonel John Casey would never do that.

My son and I are watching the 24 series in sequence (we are just about to start season seven). Jack Bauer, the Kiefer Sutherland character, is as hard-boiled and efficient as trained agents come. He generally picks up weapons as he goes along (as any kid who has ever played a shooter game knows to do these days), but he rarely searches the body for extra ammo clips. When you are fighting your way through a mob of well-armed bad guys that is more than foolish, and I cannot believe a well-trained agent would not pause the few extra seconds to strip the body of everything useful (clips, cell phone, radio, etc.). The only time the writers have this done is if they have an immediate need for something on the body.

Yet 24 is supposed to be the ultimate in realism. It is supposed to take place in real time. Even the commercial breaks happen in real time – when you come back from commercials, 3 to 5 minutes have ticked away on the clock. We joke that some day when we come back we will hear someone say, “Sorry, Jack, LA is gone! You missed it!”

So Jack should do everything by the book, and take stuff that he doesn’t need for the plot twists. Just like a real agent would do, never knowing what would come in handy.

Perhaps one reason Jack doesn’t act like a trained agent or military vet in the circumstances is that, unlike many series, 24 does not appear to have a dedicated armorer from the credits (just prop masters who, certainly, have to know their way around guns). They also do not credit military or intelligence technical advisors (other than a Navy advisor presumably for water scenes). While civilians may well understand gun safety and proper handling of weapons, squibs, etc., they are not conditioned to think about ammo loadout for combat teams or how quickly weapons burn through rounds in a firefight. Guns run out of rounds when writers find it convenient.  Quite possibly the closest the writers and costume designers have come to real combat gear is Arnold suiting up in Commando

My son gets angry with me for yelling at the TV, “Grab the mags, grab the mags!”  “He can’t hear you,” he calmly says.  “Maybe he can,” I mutter.

Now, the rest of this post takes a different turn, but still ranting on 24 (which we do enjoy, even if it makes the military tend to look like warmongering fools with no sense of consequences). If you Google (I prefer Bing, because they are a little less obsequious to China) “curse of Jack Bauer” you generally get a reference to a little speech by Defense Secretary James Heller (William Devane) in season six. Jack used to work for Heller, and fell in love with Heller’s daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver). Heller is telling Jack to never see Audrey again.

What follows is a major spoiler for the series so far, so if you don’t want major events spoiled, read no further. You have been warned! Dun dun dun dunnnnn.

My son and I enlarged upon this conversation a bit.  We both checked the web to see if we could find anything like it but couldn’t, so here’s our contribution.

Jack: “What do you mean I’m cursed?”

Heller: “Well, let’s see. There was your wife, Teri? Remember her? You brought her here, to CTU, safest place in Los Angeles. She was murdered in the basement, just below us here. That was after she had been kidnapped and raped that day.”

Jack: “Uh, yeah.”

Heller: “And your daughter, Kim. She was kidnapped. Twice, or maybe three times, I believe. Arrested. Had to kill one… no, two men. One she shot in the back. The other one she wounded, but you told her over the phone to just keep shooting until he was dead. Remember that?”

Jack clears his throat: “Yes.”

Heller: “Lovely girl. How is Kim? ”

Jack: “She hasn’t spoken to me in years.”

Heller: “Ah. And Nina. Your lover. That’s right, she’s the one who killed your wife, Teri. Just downstairs here in CTU. Turned out to be a double agent. And then you murdered her, too. Just downstairs here in CTU, safest place in LA.”

Jack: silence

Heller: “You were originally at odds with George Mason from Division, but then became friends with him. I forget. What happened to him?”

Jack: Mumble mumble.

Heller: “What was that?”

Jack: “He was dying of radiation poisoning so he blew himself up in a nuclear explosion in the Mojave Desert.”

Heller: “Yes. That was it.”

Heller: “I remember a nice chubby intelligence analyst at CTU who was always secretly helping you against orders. Edgar Stiles, I think his name was. Brilliant chap, but a bit socially challenged. But always there for you. How’s he doing?”

Jack: “He got caught in a nerve gas attack on CTU. I watched him die. I couldn’t do anything to help.”

Heller: “Died? Here in CTU, safest place in LA? Sorry. And your good friends Tony Almeida and Michelle Dessler. Weren’t they a lovely couple? And they went through so much to be together! Married, separated, then reunited and out of this ugly business to carry on their lives together after risking their careers and lives for you and each other many times! Let’s see…. She was blown up by a car bomb to try to frame you and Tony was killed by Christopher Henderson, the man who recruited you into CTU and trained you, correct? Wasn’t Tony killed right here in CTU, safest place in LA?”

Jack: “I get your point about CTU.”

Heller: “And what happened to Henderson, who was more than a father to you than your father was?”

Jack: “I executed him.”

Heller: “Speaking of your family, how is your brother? Wait, I know. Didn’t you have him tortured? And didn’t you find out he had ordered the assignation of President Palmer and framed you for it, and plotted your murder? And didn’t your father kill him? So how’s your father? No, no, I have this one, too. After your nephew, who is all of fifteen and following the family tradition, shot him, you left your father to die in an air strike on an oil rig in the Pacific. Good times, good times.”

Heller: “President David Palmer. Your good friend. You saved his life, he saved your life. You helped him out of several major crises, and he was your staunch supporter. His assassination was a terrible thing. And they tried to blame it on you. Your brother was behind that, and your father. Always that Bauer connection.”

Heller: “Finally, Bill Buchanan. Another Division suit who came to CTU, took you a while to warm up to him, then you were great friends and allies. Worked together well, had each other’s backs. He was in and out of CTU, and you worked together even when he was officially off the books and under investigation. Now he has been forced to retire along with his wife by the Vice President himself, neither of them ever to work again. All because of Jack Bauer.”

Heller: “Which leads me to my daughter, Audrey. Jack, every person who has loved you or tried to help you or befriended you has turned up dead, retired, or not speaking to you. My daughter is now in a vegetative state. If you come back into her life she will probably end up dead. Do her a favor. Stay away.”

My guess is he won’t. And my guess (not having seen past season six) is she will die when he comes back into her life. But who am I to see the future?

And Jack – take the extra few seconds to pick up any extra clips and the bad guy’s cell phone after you kill them.  You never know when they will come in handy.

My Tax Return Sleeps with Lois Lerner’s Emails – Once Again Government Impresses Me with Its Efficiency

I just got a letter from the IRS (something which always warms the cockles of my heart), thanking me for my check but puzzled because I hadn’t filed my return. Problem is, that check they received was stapled to my return.

Perhaps that return is in the same place that Lois Lerner’s emails are.

So I will probably have a long battle, and face stiff fines for failure to timely file. My tax attorney has a copy of the return and dated, stamped envelope, but it certainly doesn’t give me more confidence in our government.

It reminds me of an experience I had years ago. I got a parking ticket in Berkeley, CA. They gave you an envelope, printed in blue or green ink (the artists among you can probably explain to me which color) with the address of the parking violations bureau. I placed it on my dashboard for a few days (weeks?) then mailed it in with a check like a good citizen and thought nothing of it.

Weeks later I got a letter from the U.S. Postal Service. In it was my ticket envelope, check, and a letter saying it had been held in the dead letter office as undeliverable for no address and no return address. They stated they had to hold it for a certain time before opening it (why? No one could possibly know they have it, so why wait?) I had indeed not put my return address on the envelope (my bad) but the address, although faint, was legible. There it was – Berkeley Parking Violations, Whatever Address, Berkeley, CA. The printing was now yellow (here’s where you artists come in – what color bleaches in sun to yellow?), but I could read it.

My ticket had matured like a War Bond, and was no longer worth $13 or whatever (it was a few year ago…) but cost me several hundred dollars or at least $30. I was a poor grad student.

So I went to the Post Office and asked why it was undeliverable. Here is where it got bizarre.

The postal clerk told me, looking at the envelope, “There is no address on this envelope.

I looked at him incredulously. “Of course there is. It says, “Berkeley Parking Violations, whatever address it said, Berkeley, CA.”

He shook his head. “There is no address on this envelope.”

I said, “Call the Postmaster. This is absurd.”

The Postmaster came over and looked at the envelope.

“There is no address on this envelope.”

Here’s the thing. If they had said, “This address is too faint to read. It does not meet our minimum standards for legibility and is thus undeliverable,” I would have accepted that. If they had said, “We machine process 8 gazillion letters a day, and this letter was rejected because the printing is so faint that it could not be sorted properly and went into an undeliverable bin,” I could have understood that.

But to stand there and lie, and deny reality, when they both knew that there was faint printing on the envelope, speaks of a culture where facts are not relevant and results do not matter because no one is held accountable. Solidarity with a union member (affiliated with the AFL-CIO) trumps service to customers.

The only other possible explanation is that, like in Men in Black II, these postal employees truly were aliens from other worlds whose visual spectrums did not allow them to see in the 570 to 590 nm wavelength.

Thomas the Racist Misogynist Classist Sexist Homophobic Neo-Colonial Tank Engine

When Twitter (my new taskmaster – dare I say my new Sir Topham Hatt?) sent me to The Guardian and a piece by Tracy van Slyke titled “Thomas the Tank Engine had to shut the hell up to save children everywhere: Classism, sexism, anti-environmentalism bordering on racism: any parent who discovered these hidden lessons will be glad the show’s star just quit” (whew!) I knew I had to comment. Then, after commenting, I realized I needed to do more. Who would ever read what I wrote on some Brit site called “The Guardian”? If I really wanted to get my point across I needed to post it here for my reader. And for Amurica.

For those of you who have not had contact with a child in the last 69 years, Thomas the Tank Engine originated as a series of stories told to a child with the measles (Christopher Awdry) by his father, the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, who published the first book of stories (which did not feature Thomas; he came in book two) in 1945. Thomas is a small steam engine who does small jobs around the Island of Sodor, somewhere off the coast of England. That’s somewhere east of the U.S. He’s a “tank” engine because he carries his own fuel and water for his own steam generation and power in his engine rather than in a separate tender. (“And now you know.”) He is a Very Useful Engine.

The first successful TV series began in 1984 with model trains and stop action photography, and today grosses $17 gazillion from hapless parents and grandparents like me who buy DVDs, trains, tracks, backpacks, pencils, sleeping bags, t-shirts, and piñatas. They come out with a new engine every 1.7 seconds. There are close generic trains sold, but if you buy them, you receive the Stare of Death from your child or grandchild shortly before they slip into a coma.

Ms. Van Slyke uses the resignation of the voice actor who has done the American voice of Thomas for the last 5 years (actually, since I have watched, so I am unfamiliar with his work) to explore the dark underbelly of this children’s show. She appears to believe that this spells the end of the Thomas franchise. She should speak to both Messrs. Alec Baldwin and George Carlin about that.

She illuminated the deep archetypes and hidden meanings that the writers of Thomas had woven into the series to prey on the plastic minds of unsuspecting children while parents went on with their chores without a clue. She pointed out what appears obvious upon reflection – that the distinctions of dark smoke (bad engines) and white smoke (good engines) are clearly racial allegories, the lack of positive female role models, and, perhaps most striking, the invidious “Tickled Pink” episode mocking gays and sexual stereotypes (“girls like pink!).

Sadly, Ms. Van Slyke only scratches the surface of the deceptive depths of Thomas the Tank engine and its evil (eeeeeevvvvviiiiiillllll!!!!) and invidious conditioning of our children.

I will attempt to enlarge upon her critique.

Thomas, the main sympathetic character, is obviously an archetype for spreading of the Christian teachings of Thomas Aquinas and his papist Summa Theologica. The “Tank” not so subtly ties this in with the military industrial complex which runs the Western world.

Thomas’ color being blue is a subliminal invitation to children to view pornography; pornography has in the past been called “blue movies.” Are there no depths to which these people will not go?

Percy represents Percival of Arthurian legend, melding together both the Christian myth of everlasting life (Holy Grail) and subtly defaming homosexuality (the diminutive “Percy” being used historically as a name to mock gay men).

Percy is colored green, the color of conservation, yet he rides upon rails made of steel, a non-renewable product. The mockery could not be more evident.

I believe even the location where the series is set has dark meaning – the Island of Sodor can only be a redaction of SODom and gomORrah.

The absence of female engines is noted, but the misogyny goes much further than this. Annie and Clarabelle are two passenger cars, and among the few female vehicles.

Clarabelle is clearly named after Clarabelle the Clown, Howdy Doody’s silent red-haired companion. This reveals several informative layers, beginning with the antagonistic androgynous aspect of man/woman conflict. Next you have the fact that Clarabelle never spoke – thus the only good woman is one who does not speak. Finally, the red hair clearly is a reference to communism, and the “Red menace” our children are being indoctrinated against.

Annie is not so straight forward. Standard linguistic theory as propounded by Noam Chomsky might dictate that we analyze her in terms of Little Orphan Annie, a woman-child who never grew up, who was the target of a wealthy older man who was probably a sexual predator, and whose only true companion was a dog. But I suspect that who the Thomas creators really patterned her after was Annie Liebovitz, noted photographer, whose gritty portraits of the famous catch them in a light rarely seen, saying to our children “Beware! Women will betray you and show you as you really are!”

Thomas the Tank engine is, for anyone who cares to truly think while watching it, a deep, somber, brooding and malevolent show filled with undercurrents and subtexts designed to warp the psyches of our children. I know it sucked hundreds of dollars out of my pocket for toys, hours of time from my life as I spent watching it with kids and grandkids on my lap and building elaborate track sets around the bedroom and living room (and then there was the horror of the talcum powder snow incident…). I am so glad someone had the courage to finally expose this evil propaganda series worthy of Leni Riefenstahl for what it truly is.

Critiquing the Critics of Dinesh D’Souza’s America: Imagine the World Without Her

I’m not a film critic (although I ate one when stranded on a desert island once). I’m not sophisticated in all the techniques and stuff you are supposed to know to be a real critic. I know I rarely agree with critics when they blast an action film on some esoteric grounds (OK, everyone was correct about Hudson Hawk at every level; it was really that bad). But I can spot dishonesty and bias when it masquerades as film criticism.

When I looked at one of my favorite iPhone apps, Flixster, to get times for the movie, I saw that the professional critics had rated it at 10% while the viewers had rated it at 90%. I hadn’t seen such a spread even for an Expendables movie!

Before I took my youngest son, who is 16, to see America I had seen clips and interviews with Dinesh D’Souza. From the title, and the clips, the greatest critique of the film (and one which many critics have rightfully mentioned) emerges – the film sets up, and then never follows through on, the premise of the subtitle “Imagine the world without her.”

Possible Spoiler alert – you may want to skip the next paragraph; I don’t want Roger Ebert’s ghost ripping into me for spoiling this like he did Gene Siskel on The Crying Game. Wait, Ebert’s ghost writer Peter Sobczynski already spoiled this in his review. But maybe you want some untold secrets from the movie so skip the next paragraph anyway.

In the beginning of the film, as in the previews, we see national landmarks – Mt. Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Mt. Suribachi Monument – all dissolving away as if they never existed. Effective theater – maybe the best in the movie. We have a Revolutionary War re-enactment where General George Washington is killed by a sniper – and with the British routing the American army, ending the Revolution. Unsaid, ending America as we know it today.

This is the main criticism I have of the film – when the very subtitle of the movie is “Imagine a World Without Her [America]” you need to explicitly describe what the world would be like without America, and why it would be that way. Duh! You need to posit why a British and French and Spanish and Native American North America would not have developed along similar lines, why the Model A would not have been built in a Canadian Dearborn or Detroit, or an iPhone not have been invented in el Valle del Silicio, etc. This would have been a strenuous mental exercise of alternative history, and was probably far too ambitious a project for a single movie (entire series of books have dealt with the subject), and the criticism could have easily been avoided by simply not posing the question (and admittedly skipping the cool graphics). By not even addressing what a world would be like without America at any later point in the movie you are, frankly, leaving too much to the imagination, and placing too much of an intellectual burden on the audience.

Perhaps D’Souza did have this in the film but edited it out. If so, it was the greatest error in editing since the footage of Butch and Sundance after their run from the cabin in Bolivia and saying, “Whew! We made it!” got left on the cutting room floor.

What D’Souza really was asking in his movie was what he posed in an earlier book, What’s So Great About America. The Leftists that he allows to make their case at some length – their indictments against America – ask in essence “What’s so uniquely great about America?” D’Souza responds with his answer as a declaration followed by a list: “What’s so uniquely great about America is as follows…” At this level the movie works.

Had the film reviewers stuck to criticisms that he fails to live up to his alternative history premise and downgraded the movie, I would have no problem with them. If they had criticized it on technical grounds that I am not qualified to judge, I would not comment. But reviewer after reviewer based their negative reviews on political bias or simple snark or worst of all, false claims about what the movie portrayed.

Peter Sobczynski, writing on RogerEbert.com, one of our best-known film critic sites, begins his review as follows:

“In 2012, political commentator, author, disgraced former university president and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza released “2016: Obama’s America,” a documentary that purported to investigate our president’s past in order to uncover his hidden agenda that, left unchecked, could very well lead our country to the brink of destruction.”

It is, of course, important for a film critic to instruct his readers about the history and character of the director of a film before critiquing it. For example, just a few weeks before, another Roger Ebert clone, Matt Zoller Seitz, had cautioned his readers about convicted felon Roman Polanski, “You’d be hard pressed to imagine a more seemingly perfect match of director and material than Roman Polanski and “Venus in Fur.””

Well, OK, so Seitz didn’t think it necessary to say that Polanski was convicted of sexually molesting a 13-year-old girl and fled the country to avoid prison.  Probably an oversight.

But Sobczynski was right to point out that D’Souza was “disgraced,” because that was probably something that even Hollywood would rise up in shock and horror against, yes?  And indeed this “disgrace” turns out to be that he… ah…  was caught in a hotel with a woman who wasn’t his wife.  How very… un-Hollywood.  And something I’m sure Sobczynski has pointed out with every other director who has ever been unfaithful to his wife in reviews of their movies.  Remember how Ebert excoriated Rupert Sanders, director of Snow White and the Huntsman for his marriage-ending affair with Kristen Stewart in his review of that movie?  Neither do I.

So maybe Sobczynski prejudices his readers just a bit from the get-go against the movie because of his political bias.

Sobczynski says he will stick to discussing the cinematic failing of the movie, rather than the content issues, except to “wonder why he left the recounting of the Texas-Mexico conflict to Canadian-born Ted Cruz.”  That would be Texas Senator Ted Cruz whose father is Cuban (naturalized U.S. citizen) and mother born in the U.S.  Perhaps a Texas Senator might be expected to have an informed perspective on his state’s history?

But enough about Sobczynski.  Let’s turn to a few other reviews.

A common theme is that of the internet scholars who support the meme that the Civil War was not about slavery.  Ironically, this is the very position taken by those southerners who protest that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of slavery but is a legitimate symbol of states’ rights and history and should be flown proudly and kept within states’ flags, since the Civil War was over states’ rights and federalism, not slavery.  Odd to see liberals on the side of those folks.  Or not so odd, as the Confederacy was a Democrat operation, as was the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and opposition to civil rights laws.

James Rocchi of “The Wrap”, writes:

“[D’Souza says,] “For the first time in history, a war was fought to end slavery.” This is, of course, a grotesque lie (see Lincoln’s letter to Horace Greeley of August 22, 1862) and just one of the multiple failings of fact and argument in “America.””

The facts are that Lincoln personally found slavery morally repugnant, but he was faced with a very tough political and social environment after the start of the Civil War. While the strong abolitionist movement and firebrand Republicans (Democrats did not jerk away the mantle of civil rights until the early 1970s when they took over academia and re-wrote history) wanted him to free the slaves immediately, cooler heads cautioned that the citizenry were not behind the war whole heartedly.

Lincoln was counseled by his cabinet to delay any announcement freeing slaves until after a significant Union victory, as the war was not going well in late 1861 and early 1862. On August 19, 1862, even as a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation lay in Lincoln’s desk, Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, wrote an editorial chastising Lincoln for a perceived weakening of his stated goal of ending slavery, a plank of his presidential campaign. Lincoln’s letter was by way of a political response, a response which Greeley later reflected was very slippery and non-committal.

Lincoln was (gasp!) a politician.  He wrote a public letter to an editor during war time in response to an editorial that internet pundits today are citing as historically definitive, ignoring all of the context and history leading up to it.

At Antietam on September 17-18, 1862 General Lee lost over 10,000 men and the Union’s McClellan lost over 12,000 men, but since Lee withdrew Lincoln used this “victory” to pronounce the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. Lincoln seized the politically ripe moment to ride the wave and bring the population along with him. Had he freed the slaves prior to this he might have fragmented the Union and destroyed his hopes not only of freeing the slaves but of preserving the Union.

To claim that the Civil War was not fought to end slavery is false; it betrays an ignorance of the politics of the election of 1860 and the maneuverings of the prior decades. Seven southern states seceded over the issue of slavery prior to Lincoln’s inauguration; secession had only been temporarily averted by the Compromise of 1850. While issues like state’s rights, federalism and tariffs were all involved, the central issue (which the others were bound with) was slavery. Had Lincoln and the Northern and Western states been willing to allow the new states like California to be admitted as slave states, or had the northern states been willing to abide by the Fugitive Slave law imposed by the Compromise of 1850, there might not have been a Civil War.  The expansion of slavery and the prosecution of escaped slaves across state lines was a huge issue leading up to secession and the war.

So, yes, the Civil War was fought over slaves in spite of what a public letter to the editor said. There were other factors, but the 800-lb gorilla was slavery.

Rocchi’s “grotesque lie” happens to be the history we are all familiar with.

One of the silliest reviews is by Gabe Toro.  He apparently didn’t see the same movie I did.  He says D’Souza mentions one black slave owner; D’Souza has a running counter which tallies over 5,700 black slave owners.  Toro writes, “The metaphors and doubletalk end just about when D’Souza flat-out compares Alinsky to Lucifer.”  Sorry, Gabe, what D’Souza accurately points out is that Saul Alinsky dedicated his book Rules for Radicals to Lucifer.  Alinsky may have done so tongue-in-cheek, but it’s there.  Toro’s further claim that D’Souza is saying the White House is under the control of the devil is, frankly, nonexistent and not even implied in any way except in Toro’s fevered mind.   (My wife might say that, but D’Souza did not.)

Toro continues to raise such straw-man arguments, such as the claim that D’Souza says that discussions of slavery weaken our country and our resolve; what D’Souza asks for is that we have a balanced discussion, acknowledging the negative but also acknowledging the positive.

Indeed, this could be the subtitle of the movie – you’ve got to accentuate the positive.  Progress is never made by dwelling on the negative, as the Leftists interviewed in America have made a career of doing.  They do not move us forward, because they dwell in the past and demand that we ignore the progress made to simply condemn; in their mind, nothing can possibly make up for transgressions hundreds of years in the past.  Putting that in a religious perspective, that would mean that Christians should continue to hate Jews, and Muslims should hate… well, maybe enough said there.

Progress is made by those who acknowledge the past but recognize that that whatever negativity existed there was also positive that allowed us to move forward, and that on balance the positive outweighed the negative.  Sometimes it takes a great and bloody civil war to move forward.  What has made America great is that we have built upon philosophical, religious and economic foundations that allowed us to overcome the negative and the benefits have far exceeded the costs.  We have exported those benefits to much of the world, as the Indian (?) economist (?)pointed out in the movie as far as how capitalism has benefitted the world.

America is also a movie that misses many opportunities.  When Noam Chomsky talks of America killing 2 million Vietnamese, D’Souza missed the opportunity to tell the story of what happened when the U.S. abandoned the South Vietnamese, creating what the U.N. called one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history.  Millions of ethnic Chinese were killed or forced from their homes to return to China in North Viet Nam, 2.5 million South Vietnamese were forced into re-education camps, between 400,000 and 2.5 million people were killed by the Communists after the U.S withdrew in 1975, etc.  Here is actually an example of the subtitle – imagine Viet Nam without America.  It wasn’t pretty.

Was America a great movie?  No.  I left vaguely dissatisfied (my son loved it), although I liked the musical credits so left feeling upbeat.  Production values (does that make me sound like a professional critic?) could have been better.  Abe Lincoln was too short.  D’Souza is not all that convincing as a narrator, and ego should have been trumped by better casting.  Kelsey Grammar would have been great in the role of narrator; if you saw the movie, picture him in the D’Souza role.  From what I hear nosed around (I do not travel in rarified conservative circles but I do sniff some things out) D’Souza has burned a lot of bridges in the conservative intellectual community, so he may not be able to call on some of the major conservative historians still around, who could have burnished his work.

Perhaps the work was overambitious; that appears a fault of D’Souza, and he appears headed for jail come September in part because of that.  He has some good instincts, and certainly a love for his adopted country, and I wish him the best.  He has done some superb work in the past, in my humble opinion, and I hope he can do more in the future if he can become grounded again and do more annotated work and less populous, hyperbolic work  He just needs someone to help him focus and reign in his ambitions for the next project.