The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for The Atlantic:

“But while the people advocating reparations have changed over time, the response from the country has remained virtually the same. “They have been taught to labor,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1891. “They have been taught Christian civilization, and to speak the noble English language instead of some African gibberish. The account is square with the ex‑slaves.”

Not exactly. Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, “Never again.” But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us.”

An absolute must-read.

"Imaginary Boogeymen"

This Salon piece about Obamacare was written back in mid-October, but it's a topic that's on my mind a lot these days because my wife and I are currently shopping around on the insurance exchange.

The backstory: journalist Eric Stern personally followed up with a group of people who had been guests on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, in order to fact-check them on their complaints regarding Obamacare. What he discovered shouldn't be surprising to anyone:

“I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster; but none of them had even visited the insurance exchange. And some of them appear to have taken actions...based on a general pessimistic belief about Obamacare.”

Very revealing. Aside from what a bunch of Fox News talking heads have to say, why are people taking such a knee-jerk stance against something they haven't even researched?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't think Obamacare is perfect, or even close to the ideal solution, but it's a certainly a step in the right direction. What I'd really like to see the US implement during my lifetime is a single-payer system (or something similar).

Maciej Cegłowski's XOXO 2013 Talk

Maciej Cegłowski (MAH-tchay Seh-GLOW-ski), creator and developer of awesome bookmarking service Pinboard, gave a great talk at this year's XOXO Fest (of which there's also a transcript with slides, if watching videos isn't your thing).

As one might expect if they follow the @pinboard Twitter account, Maciej is a very funny and intelligent man, and his talk reflected both sides of his personality. I highly recommend watching it, along with all the other videos being put out by the XOXO Fest people.

Another thing many people seem not to know about Maciej is that he's also a very gifted writer and has run a personal blog called Idle Words for a long time, filled with wonderful stories about travel, food, and technology. I'd start by reading Argentina on Two Steaks a Day and A Morning in Iceland.

The Guardian's Awesome Response to the Daily Mail

After the Daily Mail accused The Guardian of being “the paper that helps Britain's enemies,” the Guardian responded in kind by showing that article to news editors around the world and collecting their responses.

I can't choose a single one to quote because they're all so amazing. This is the most eloquent “fuck you” I've ever seen produced in a newspaper. Kudos to The Guardian1.

  1. Yes, I know what I said earlier today, but this was so worth sharing that it couldn't be helped. 

"A Confusing Mess"

I tend to keep political discussion away from this site, but I agree with this opinion piece, written in response to the GOP's anti-ObamaCare tactics of late.

“This approach never had a snowball’s chance in Texas of succeeding, since two-thirds of the government — the Senate and the presidency — are controlled by people who are totally invested in instituting ObamaCare. But this salient fact did not appear to be in the script these Republicans were acting out.”

'George W. Bush is Smarter Than You'

Keith Hennessey, former advisor on economic policy to George W. Bush, explains to his Stanford students that GWB is actually quite an intelligent man despite the public caricature of him.

“President Bush is extremely smart by any traditional standard. He’s highly analytical and was incredibly quick to be able to discern the core question he needed to answer. It was occasionally a little embarrassing when he would jump ahead of one of his Cabinet secretaries in a policy discussion and the advisor would struggle to catch up. He would sometimes force us to accelerate through policy presentations because he so quickly grasped what we were presenting.

I use words like briefing and presentation to describe our policy meetings with him, but those are inaccurate. Every meeting was a dialogue, and you had to be ready at all times to be grilled by him and to defend both your analysis and your recommendation. That was scary.”

I'll be honest, my opinion of Bush's intelligence was likely shaped early on by the combination of his gaffes and his political choices, along with an assumption that he only got into office thanks to his father.

Then again, I was in 10th grade when 9/11 happened, and like other teenagers, I was much quicker to judge somebody's character based on little information back then. My opinion of Bush was formed rather prematurely and calcified that way throughout his presidency, especially as the Iraq War continued unabated. In my mind, he never really had a chance at redemption.

Reading this article was eye-opening though. I still vehemently disagree with much of Bush's politics, but perhaps a reassessment of his intelligence is in order. If anybody reading this knows about any good sources on the subject, I'm all ears.

'The Good, Racist People'

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in an NYT op-ed:

“I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.”

It's disheartening to know that racism is still this prevalent in our society. As a white male and lifelong Oklahoman, I've never been the direct target of racism but I've been a witness to more of it than I care to remember.

I grew up around the kinds of rednecks who proudly displayed the Confederate flag on their trucks, or went into the military so they could exact revenge on "towel-heads" after the events of 9/11. There are still parts of town white people won't venture into at night, assuming they'll be instantly mugged at gunpoint.

A friend of our family, who happens to live in an upper-class area, once had the misfortune of attending a neighborhood meeting where people were upset about the black family that had just moved in. Apparently they thought the family was bringing down the property value of the area.

My own grandfather—who was a great man in other respects—was always extremely prejudiced towards black people. The best compliment I ever heard him give to a black person went something like, "At least he ain't lazy like other [n-word]s." When he found out that I had a crush on a black girl in high school, he told me matter-of-factly that I wouldn't be allowed to bring her over to visit. I never asked her out.

The realist in me understands that these kinds of racial prejudices will be around for many more generations, but the idealist in me yearns to see the day where they are a thing of the past.