Saturday, October 01, 2005


Weekend Comic Book Blogging

I'm in Annapolis this weekend attending my College reunion. Can't believe it's been, uh, XX years!! Where did all the time go? Anyway, blogging will be light, if not non-existent (though I am working on mega-post for Monday).

To tide you over (and to at least pay lip service to the end-of-week comic book entries that I thought would become a staple of this site), I decided to share a rather peculiar site. Since, RAGGEDTHOTS strives to be family-oriented, I can't exactly give the name of this site I'm otherwise recommending. Let's just say that a certain
Man of Steel isn't the good guy everyone has presumed him to be all these years!!

This is a nicely put-together site, with lots of funny captions for the various comic book covers.


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Thursday, September 29, 2005


The ABC's of Bennett

My previous post on Bennett was dismissive -- not giving the comments any credence. I've decided a slightly more comprehensive response might be needed.

First, Bennett might have been wise to follow the advice that I attempted to pass along to Rush Limbaugh two years ago (sub. req'd) when he asserted that Donovan McNabb was getting a free pass from a media that wanted to see a black quarterback succeed: "[H]ardly anything annoys conservatives more than when liberals introduce race into an issue when it has no place. And that's exactly what Limbaugh did." Add Bennett to that.

He could have made his point about how dangerous it was to make broad sociological "what ifs" when it comes to abortion -- without defaulting to race. Indeed, Freakonomics analyzes it from the standpoint of class.

Secondly, how does he " know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime...your crime rate would go down"? By his own previous statement, "there is just so much that you don't know." If his implication is that black people are responsible for the crime rate, well, if they're gone, what are the demographics of the group that is now "at the bottom" of the social ladder? In short, he doesn't "know," because by definition you can't know a counter-factual argument.

Finally, Bennett -- and, frankly, any other conservative finding themselves discussing racial issues -- should consider stepping into the shoes of the group under discussion. Stereotypes attach themselves to all sorts of groups. Bennett chose to default to a preferred negative stereotypical characterization of blacks -- crime. It's a stereotype, of course, that the broader media was happy to sell -- as seen in the now-discredited Katrina crime-wave reporting.

How wonderful it would have been if Bennett had stopped to consider the preferred negative stereotypical characterization of conservatives and Republicans -- racist, intolerant and insensitive. In considering that, he might well have chosen a better example for the point he wanted to make. In defaulting to the black stereotype, he helped provide confirmation of the conservative one. Perfect. Add one more to the honor roll. Oh, Howard Dean must think he's died and gone to heaven this week.

(The author of RAGGED THOTS will appear on Friday's "Good Morning America," discussing Bill Bennett's interesting ideas. Don't know the time as yet, so just Tivo/tape the entire darn thing!!!)

UPDATE: ABC's transcript can be found here. All my really cool comments ended up on the cutting room floor -- but the gist of them are right above!

UPDATE II: The White House weighs in. The ubiquitous Mr. Stephen J. Kelso has a must-read over on HIS blog (for a change )

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Revolution "DeLayed" -- and Done?

My colleague, John Podhoretz, is exactly right. Regardless of the legal outcome of Tom DeLay's troubles (though I do not share John's confidence on the case's underlying weakness), this puts the GOP on the defense for quite some time.

What may be even sadder from a broader political perspective is that, well, irony can be a bitch.

For some odd reason, on Tuesday, the Republican National Committee decided to
recognize the 11th anniversary of Republican candidates signing the Contract With America (11th!!!?!? Who the heck makes a big deal about an 11th anniversary!!?!):

Happy Anniversary: Contract With America Delivering A More Efficient, Effective Government reads the press release: "Republicans have maintained our majority because we’ve remained true to the Contract’s goals."

In fairness, as the press release notes, a number of Contract items are now the law of the land -- and have produced some tangible results. Alas, two weeks before that press release, Tom DeLay made the unfortunate
pronouncement that, "After 11 years of Republican majority we've pared (the budget) down pretty good."

Compare that statement with the aims of the
Contract's first item: "The Fiscal Responsibility Act":

A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto to restore fiscal responsibility to an out- of-control Congress, requiring them to live under the same budget constraints as families and businesses.
So much for that.

But DeLay's quote was merely in variance with one specific item of the Contract. His indictment is a shiv to the Contract's heart and spirit -- the culture of reform that outlined in the preamble:

This year's election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.

Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act "with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.

On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
What followed was a list of action items that incoming Congress would pass to produce greater transparency and accountability to an institution that had produced, as Podhoretz notes, an indicted Ways and Means Chairman named Dan Rostenkowski.

The Contract gave the new GOP majority a sense of unity, purpose and focus that allowed it to hit the ground running in January 1995. It signaled a new era of reform and transformation.

Sure, on a basic level it began to stumble with the government shutdown. But, the GOP majority was returned in '96 and on to this day, surving previos changes in the roster of the top Republicans.

However, the DeLay indictment brings things full circle in a way that Newt Gingrich's stepping down, Dennis Hastert's ascension and Dick Armey and J.C. Watts' retirements did not. The revolutionary spirit aimed at overthrowing institutional arrogance is dead. Now the majority runs to defend an indicted colleague and toss around rhetoric of prosecutorial abuse.

For the record, I am not dismissing the fact that Ronnie Earle may indeed have bitten off more than he can chew or that he may be doing this for partisan reasons. In certain ways, I hope that might be the case. But, there is no guarantee. The fact that this indictment came down on the last day of the grand jury empanelment could mean that Earle got someone to rat out DeLay. In short, no one knows.

All we do know is that the sitting Majority Leader of the House of Representatives was indicted. That's a headline that can't be expunged. It's a reality that 180 degrees away from the hopes and promises offered by Republican candidates eleven years ago.

It's the reality that buries what was once called the Republican Revolution.

UPDATE: The Washington Post raises the legitimate skeptical questions on the appropriateness of a criminal indictment. Meanwhile, Kevin Drum explores the question of who -- if anyone -- is the person Earle "flipped" on DeLay.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005


"What Were They Thinking?"


Looks like Bill Bennett is trying to get his
Freakonomics on in the worst way possible:

Examining the issue of abortion in the context of other trends, he made this rather unfortunate sociological assertion:
"[Y]ou could abort every black baby and your crime rate would go down."


It should be noted that Bennett says in the next immediate sentence, "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

OK, kids, what are some possible corollaries? "You could abort every white baby, and your
corporate scandals would collapse."

"You could abort every white chubby baby likely to grow into a moralizing, one-armed bandit abusing
hypocrite -- but Las Vegas' GDP would plunge 50 percent."

Consider your own and discuss!!

(hat tip: Jon and Cathy)

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Why Am I (Still) Not A Democrat?

Last week, I asked, "Why Am I (Still) A Republican?"

I shared the frustrations that I, as a black GOPer, felt over various Republican statements during the Katrina aftermath. That turned out to be the most widely-read post in the brief history of RAGGED THOTS and elicited over a 100 comments spread between that and a follow-up post that constituted an extended response to a number of comments (especially from the always-prolific Steven J. Kelso of Ohio).

Well, a few readers noted that I never fully answered the original question. The simple reason for that -- it is a complex query, mixing intellectual views, upbringing and temperament.

However, what is easier to answer is: Why don't I just pack it in and cross the aisle (metaphorically speaking) and join the Democrats (understanding that they won't exactly reflect my generally libertarian beliefs)?

The reason for that? Well, it is because it has been made only too clear what Democrats have to offer me -- or anyone who might share some of my rather idiosyncratic views. After listing the comments of Dennis Hastert, Barbara Bush and Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.) in the earlier entry and the obstacles that they presented to those interested in trying to reach out to just about any non-traditional Republican audience, I thought it appropriate to now turn the tables and see how the rank-and-file black Democrat feels about their GOP counterparts.

Consider then the testimony of Mr. Steve Gilliard in his response,
"Why Are You A Republican, Bob?"

At the outset, let me apologize to Mr. Gilliard for misspelling his name in my original item. Considering I chastised him for doing the same with my friend Deroy Murdock, I should have been more careful.

That said, here is Steve's almost exhaustive descriptive catalogue for those black folks that dare line up under the Republican banner: "s-l-a-v-e", "slave", "pathetic clowns," "token...negro," "house negro." How many real, live, actual white racists feel so comfortable in their racism to use these words in public? Steve is obviously not so shy.

Note, too, the use of the diminutive familiar of my name, "Bob." That, too, has a history in the American drama of race. In Jim Crow, the white man didn't show any respect to the "negro," so he never had to call him by any name that would connote any equality.

And, forget, of course, the need to actually know anything about one's supposed inferior.

Steve charges, "You never confront your racist party members, you never challenge their racist words and plans, and you wonder why most black people hold you in contempt?" Oh right, I never confront my party or critique it on race matters -- or anything else. It must have been someone else -- maybe that guy from Princeton -- who wrote this. And this. And this. And this. And, for that matter, this.

In fact, just looking at the comments from last week, and it can be seen that more than a few people read it in the spirit that it was meant -- a direct challenge to my fellow Republicans, reminding them of the impact of their words. Those words, though, were not explicitly racial. At worst, they betrayed a class blindness that has no place in politics. Does their class-ism betray an inner racism? I don't know. They certainly don't go so far as "nigger," which Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) used in a televised interview not too long ago. The one-time Klansman says that his use of the word doesn't mean that he still harbors racist thoughts. If we take him at his word, perhaps the same should be done with the GOP trio. Perhaps they should be given a pass.

I chose not to, because I thought that keeping these viewpoints hidden serves no purpose.

However, none of the words uttered by these GOpers are laced with the overt historically demeaning and racist venom that seeps throughout Steve Gilliard's post. One response is that, "Black people can use these words; we can take them back, just like rappers have taken the N-to-the-I-to-the-Double-G-A slur." Well, on the latter one, there is much debate: Hip-hop has managed re-introduce into everyday language a hateful word that all but the most blatant racist refrained from everr using in public.

Too early to say whether Steve will be successful in sparking some revival in massa-slave linguistics. Perhaps they will only be used in this most narrow of circumstances -- as rhetorical bullwhips to be used on the treacherous black conservatives who need to be made into examples. Responding to a commenter, Steve adds, "[Ohio Secretary of State] Ken Blackwell, [Maryland Lt. Gov.] Michael Steele and the rest of the Uncle Toms will wind up like Alan Keyes, despised by blacks and unelected by whites."

Wow. It takes a pretty drastic "they-all-look-alike" sensibility to lump Blackwell and Steele into the same basket as Alan Keyes. But there you have it.

Anyway, since this rhetorical whipping in the fields wasn't enough, Steve elevates a commenter,
Lower Manhattanite to get in additional licks. LM introduces a high-minded critique of my televised "froggy, little visage," goes after us newbies who must be "racism and self-hate damaged Black folks" eager to replace "dinosaur Toms." To the Lower Manhattanite, I am "'Boy' George" (now, there's an original one) and my colleagues are a "buck-dancing band."

Lower Manhattanite, of course, demonstrates a certain tortured logic in this attack:
(How small is the Black Republican wave? Let Bobby say it himself: Two lifelong African American Republicans the same age in D.C. who've never met? As sparse as Black GOP'ers are in D.C. and these guys have never crossed paths? Case rested, baby.)
One could actually infer exactly the opposite -- there are actually so many black Republicans that it isn't completely out of the ordinary that we actually all haven't met one another -- have all you black Democrats met? Oh, and I never said that both men have lived in D.C. all their lives. Just that they both happen to be there now. Please pay attention.

Following Steve's lead, LM dubs me, "Bobby" and continues with the racial barrage: "shifty", "lawn jockeys" and concludes by referring to me as "the kid" (ah, calling a 40-year old man a "kid" -- Jim Crow white overseers couldn't have done any better).

Former Rep. Floyd Flake, a minister and president of an historically black college, is an "Uncle Tom." Why? Because he dared actually work with Republicans to bring resources to his district and his church -- oh, yeah, and believed that creating options to the disastrous public school status quo might actually be in the best interests of black people.

And so, the answer on why I'm still a Republican lingers, but Steve Gilliard and his friend help clarify why I'm not a Democrat: A party with members that seem to feel the need to brandish racist imagery as a disciplinary bullwhip, without even attempting to engage an opponent intellectually, has a great deal of problems. Indeed, Gilliard and Company are good representatives of a party that appears to do little to woo supporters beyond "Republicans are Evil/Racist" platitudes.

As for me, I'm Robert -- not "Bob", "Bobby", or some "poor kid." I am a black man living in America in the 21st century. At various times, I may be frustrated, reflective, angry, disappointed -- and more -- over my political choices and allies. However, if the alternative is the world view that Steve Gilliard and Lower Manhattanite offer, well, I'll stay over on this side of the fence for the time being, thank you very much.

(For an example of a black man who seems actually interested in opening give-and-take space on issues of party and identity, check the blog of one of the newer visitors to these parts,
Alton Darwin. Welcome, Mr. Darwin.)

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


GOP, Stand Up!

This column by Deroy is great on the substance -- slapping the congressional GOP for its rapacious spending! However, you gotta love a conservative who begins his piece quoting a conversation between Terrence Howard and the rapper Ludacris from the movie Crash.

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Should she be doing this...

...even as she recovers from her latest

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Re-Inventing -- or Just Expanding -- Government?

President Bush announced Sunday his continued push to have the military take a greater role in domestic natural disasters. Josh Marshall is right to observe, "[Y]ou don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power."

But an equally important concern to raise is: Given that just about everyone admits that the military is overstretched as it is -- constitutional questions aside -- why on earth would it be a good idea to add domestic disaster relief to the military's already-full international platter?

It is indeed curious that the military is the only government service that the administration seems to have such confidence in that it immediately adopts the mantra "expand, expand, expand" (well, not counting entitlements like Medicare and farm aid). The problem is that even though it is almost impossible to say "no" to the Pentagon in terms of funding, manpower remains an indefinite finite problem.

Meanwhile, as the LA Times reports, the administration appears not to want to use tried-and-tested in-place government policies to assist the displaced of New Orleans -- in favor of ad hoc ideas that stretch the concept of the term "conservative."

My former boss notes:

"The idea that — in a community where we could place people in the private housing market to reintegrate them into society — we would put them in [trailer] ghettos with no jobs, no community, no future, strikes me as extraordinarily bad public policy, and violates every conservative principle that I'm aware of," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican.

"If they do it," Gingrich said of administration officials, "they will look back on it six months from now as the greatest disaster of this administration."
Newt's right: Turning poverty "mobile" is not the same thing as turning it transient.

The question this raises -- as does the overall response to Katrina and 9/11: Why do government mistakes have to result in, not just more government, but greater and more imposing government?

The government screws up, Osama bin Laden's minions take advantage of that and perpetrate an attack on the United States. Result: Pass the PATRIOT ACT.

Now, during the post-Katrina period, to address the failures of state, local and federal officials and agencies, the president wants to consider:

...whether the Defense Department should take the lead in a natural disaster "of a certain size" as it would after any terrorist attack. "That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about," he said.
So, again, the U.S. has never had to deal with a natural disaster before? It's essential that government options be "re-invented" on the spot.

The U.S. has never had to deal with a disaster that wiped out people's homes, right? So, we have to figure out how the government should help them.

Except we have a fine example of that eventuality. As the LAT article notes, following the Northridge earthquake, victims were given vouchers to cover their new homes. Yet, now the feds want to reinvent the wheel -- by creating a trailer park "community" of entrenched poverty.

Government is never worse than when it decides to adopt insta-legislation for "emergency" purposes. Either the policy sticks around forever (check New York's rent control laws that were passed during World War II) -- or the policy is adopted quickly for immediate purposes without any long-term consideration. Again, refer to the PATRIOT Act.

So, we now have one the idea that "only the military can respond to natural disaster" -- so, let's scrap a century-old federal law.

And another idea: Federal "Projects-On-Wheels."


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Monday, September 26, 2005


What Happened To Pat Tillman?

Friendly fire fatalities are a sad fact of war. But there's something odd about the military's treatment of former NFL star Pat Tillman's death.

Were witnesses allowed to change their testimony on key details, as alleged by one investigator? Why did internal documents on the case, such as the initial casualty report, include false information? When did top Pentagon officials know that Tillman’s death was caused by friendly fire, and why did they delay for five weeks before informing his family?
And add to that this nugget:

According to testimony, the first investigation was initiated less than 24 hours after Tillman’s death by an officer in the same Ranger battalion. His report, delivered May 4, 2004, determined that soldiers involved in the incident had committed “gross negligence” and should be appropriately disciplined. The officer became a key witness in the subsequent investigation. For reasons that are not clear, the officer’s investigation was taken over by a higher ranking commander. That officer’s findings, delivered the next month, called for less severe discipline.
The inference is that the Army "needed" a tragic hero like Tillman at a time when bad news was coming (Abu Ghraib would burst into the headlines in the following week).

I'm not willing to go that far yet, but the actions of the Pentagon are strange enough that it shouldn't come as a surprise that questions are being asked.

At the very least, Tillman's family deserves the unvarnished truth. And so does the nation.

Cunning Realist agrees -- and more.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005


The Closeted Cloister

What could be the possible fallout of the Vatican's proposed ban on gay priests?

If Steve Clemons is
implying what he seems to be, things could get very ugly.

This line,

When I asked whether homosexuals would be better served under Pope Benedict XVI than under John Paul II, he responded, "Don't think that we will be any better served under a gay pope than a straight one."
seems pretty, ahem, "straightforward."

Steve is calling for an overt outing campaign which I think is unfair. However, I can certainly understand why gays currently in the priesthood and remaining true to their vows would feel differently. Besides, the connection between being gay and having a propensity toward pedophilia is hardly exact. And -- even if it were -- what would stop closeted gays from entering the priesthood and lying about their orientation? So, we have a variation of "don't ask, don't tell" in the priesthood?

Meanwhile, along the lines Steve is discussing, could
this unusual breach of the conclave's traditional secrecy be seen as something of a shot across Pope Benedict's bow?

The implication is clear -- while Ratzinger led in the voting throughout -- his ascension was not secure until Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wavered in his desire for the papacy. Of course, another reading of this is that Ratzinger's allies became nervous and spread the story to convince Bergoglio's allies that he didn't have the fortitude for the position.

Either way, it doesn't exactly reflect well on Benedict -- particularly in contrast to his predecessor John Paul II. This type of leak doesn't occur by accident.

So, does the fact that it exists suggest that the new Pope had best beware of "Benedict Arnolds" that are ready to play hardball if he continues with his plan to root out gay priests? Particularly if Steve's unidentified source is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Meanwhile, this
cartoon is as funny as it is on-point...

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