Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Instant Confucianism

Confucianism is a way of life taught by Confucius in the 6th–5th century BC. Sometimes viewed as a philosophy, sometimes as a religion, Confucianism is perhaps best understood as an all-encompassing humanism that neither denies nor slights Heaven.

Confucianism has been followed by the Chinese for more than two millennia. It has deeply influenced spiritual and political life in China; its influence has also extended to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. East Asians may profess themselves to be Shintoists, Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, or Christians - but seldom do they cease to be Confucians.

Fast Facts
Date founded: 6th-5th century BC
Place founded: China
Founder: Confucius (551-479 BC)
Adherents: 5-6 million

Confucius, the common name of Confucianism's founder, is a Latinized form of the Chinese K'ung-fu-tzu, "Master K'ung."

The terms "Confucianism" and "Confucian," derived from the Latinized Confucius, are not meaningful terms in Chinese. They are western terms, coined in Europe as recently as the 18th century.

Life of Confucius

Confucius was born in 551 BC in the small feudal state of Lu in what is now Shantung Province. Confucius' ancestors were probably members of the aristocracy who had become virtual poverty-stricken commoners by the time of his birth. His father died when Confucius was only three years old. Instructed first by his mother, Confucius then distinguished himself as a passionate learner in his teens.

Confucius had served in minor government posts managing stables and keeping books for granaries before he married a woman of similar background when he was 19. It is not known who Confucius' teachers were, but his mastery of the six arts—ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and arithmetic—and his familiarity with the classical traditions, notably poetry and history, enabled him to start a brilliant teaching career in his 30s.

Confucius developed concepts about education, society and government that he hoped to put into practice in a political career. But his loyalty to the king alienated him from the power holders of the time, the large Chi families, and his moral rectitude did not sit well with the king's inner circle, who enraptured the king with sensuous delights. At 56, when he realized that his superiors were uninterested in his policies, Confucius left the country in an attempt to find another feudal state to which he could render his service. Despite his political frustration he was accompanied by an expanding circle of students during this self-imposed exile of almost 12 years. His reputation as a man of vision and mission spread.

At the age of 67 Confucius returned home to teach and to preserve his cherished classical traditions by writing and editing. He died in 479 BC, at the age of 73. In the Analects (2:4), Confucius is recorded as summarizing his life this way:

At 15 I set my heart on learning; at 30 I firmly took my stand; at 40 I had no delusions; at 50 I knew the Mandate of Heaven; at 60 my ear was attuned; at 70 I followed my heart's desire without overstepping the boundaries of right.

Also in the Analects, Confucius assists a student who was having difficulty describing him:
Why did you not simply say something to this effect: he is the sort of man who forgets to eat when he engages himself in vigorous pursuit of learning, who is so full of joy that he forgets his worries, and who does not notice that old age is coming on? (7:18)


The story of Confucianism does not really begin with Confucius, nor was Confucius the founder of Confucianism in the same way that Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. Rather, Confucius considered himself a transmitter who consciously tried to retrieve the meaning of the past by breathing vitality into seemingly outmoded rituals. Confucius' love of antiquity was motivated by his strong desire to understand why certain rituals, such as the ancestral cult, reverence for Heaven, and mourning ceremonies, had survived for centuries. He had faith in the cumulative power of culture. Confucius' sense of history was so strong that he saw himself as a conservationist responsible for the continuity of the cultural values and the social norms that had worked so well for the civilization of the Chou dynasty.

Mencius, Xunzi, and others sustained Confucianism after Confucius, but it was not influential until Dong Zhongshu emerged in the 2nd century BC. Confucianism was then recognized as the Han state cult (introducing religious elements and sacrifices to Confucius), and the Five Classics (see Texts, below) became the core of education.

In spite of the strong influence of Daoism and Buddhism, Confucian ethics have had the strongest influence on the moral fabric of Chinese society. A revival of Confucian thought in the 11th century produced Neo-Confucianism, a major influence in Korea during the Choson dynasty and in Japan during the Tokugawa period.
In 1530 AD, a Ming emperor reformed the Confucian cult to focus more on Confucius' teachings than the sage himself (e.g. images of Confucius were replaced with inscribed tablets). The cult of Confucius declined after the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912, but the influence of Confucianism continues.


The main principle of Confucianism is ren ("humaneness" or "benevolence"), signifying excellent character in accord with li (ritual norms), zhong (loyalty to one's true nature), shu (reciprocity), and xiao (filial piety). Together these constitute de (virtue).

Confucianism is characterized by a highly optmistic view of human nature. The faith in the possibility of ordinary human beings to become awe-inspiring sages and worthies is deeply rooted in the Confucian heritage (Confucius himself lived a rather ordinary life), and the insistence that human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour is typically Confucian.

Confucius regarded Heaven (T'ien) as a positive and personal force in the universe; he was not, as some have supposed, an agnostic or a skeptic.


Aside from its important ethical principles, Confucianism does not prescribe any specific rituals or practices. These are filled by the practices of Chinese religion, Taoism, Buddhism, or other religion which Confucians follow.


The Lun-yĆ¼ (Analects) are the most revered sacred scripture in the Confucian tradition. It was probably compiled by the second generation of Confucius' disciples. Based primarily on the Master's sayings, preserved in both oral and written transmissions, it captures the Confucian spirit in the same way that the Platonic dialogues embody Socratic teachings.

The Confucian Canon achieved its present form in the Sung dynasty under the direction of Chu Hsi (1130-1200). It consists of the Five Classics and the Four Books.

The Five Classics are:

Shu Ching (Classic of History) - collection of documents and speeches dating from the Later Han Dynasty (23-220 CE)
Shih Ching (Classic of Odes) - collection of 300 poems and songs from the early Chou Dynasty (1027-402 BC)
I Ching (Classic of Changes) - collection of texts on divination based on a set of 64 hexagrams that reflect the relationship between Yin and Yang in nature and society
Ch'un Ching (Spring and Autumn Annals) - extracts from the history of the state of Lu 722-484, said to be compiled by Confucius
Li Ching (Classic of Rites) - consists of three books on the Li (Rites of Propriety)

The Four Books are:

Lun Yu (Analects) of Confucius
Chung Yung (Doctrine of the Mean)
Ta Hsueh (Great Learning)
Meng Tzu (Mencius)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paul Robeson by Phillip Hayes Dean

Review by Steven Morris

In terms of international stature and influence, Paul Robeson, who died in 1976, was the most direct antecedent — politically, philosophically and even in the way he conducted his personal life — to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Both men linked the tenets of their Christianity to progressive causes; the politics of both stemmed from the treatment of blacks in the American South, and how that treatment crashed into constitutional principles; both were champions of the American labor movement (King was assassinated while speaking on behalf of garbage workers in Memphis); both achieved international fame; and both stepped out on their wives.

Maya Angelou was one of about 50 prominent African-American complainants (also including James Baldwin, Coretta Scott King and Detroit Mayor Coleman Young) who took out a two-page ad in Variety in the late 1970s against Paul Robeson, Phillip Hayes Dean's one-man play (performed with a piano accompanist) about the singer and crusader. It was being performed at Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre in 1977. before heading to Broadway in 1978. The ad described the play as a “pernicious perversion of the essence of Paul Robeson.”

Dean was in L.A, earlier this year directing Keith David in the title role of his most famous play in a marvelous staging for Ebony Rep at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. (Byron J. Smith accompanies him on piano and joins him in song, beautifully.) That production closes on April 27. Dean died unexpectedly from the complications of a heart condition on April 14.
David cuts a persuasive figure of Robeson, rolling through the character's life, marriage and international intrigues with some jocularity, so that the mostly first-person narrative comes sprinkled with self-effacing charm. The play has the guts to show Robeson condemning the British aristocracy (in whose parlors Robeson sang) for their alliance with the Nazis when fascism was sweeping across Europe. (The Brits advised him to keep his mouth shut.) Dean's play comes peppered with references to Homer and Shakespeare, so that Robeson's life is filtered through a poetical lens. There are no video backdrops to the bare stage containing a few padded chairs and a Steinway. It's all in the words, and the songs.

Dean claimed he never understood what exactly caused the outrage among black intellectuals against his play in the '70s. He was at the time defended in an open letter signed by Edward Albee, Paddy Chayefsky, Lillian Heilman, Betty Comden and Garson Kanin, among others, and his critics could do little to prevent the play from being revived on Broadway twice (in 1988 and 1995), by which time the protests against it had dissipated.

Perhaps it was the candor with which the play portrayed Robeson's dissembling and reversals before the House Un-American Activities Committee when refusing to condemn what was becoming an increasingly tyrannical Soviet Union. By 1995, the Soviet Union was history, as was the Red Scare on these shores.

Will anyone join me in taking out a two-page ad in Variety condemning the “pernicious perversion of the essence of Paul Robeson” in writer-performer's Daniel Beaty's new play The Tallest Tree in the Forest, a one-man show starring Beaty as Paul Robeson, directed by Moises Kaufman to accent the obvious, also with songs and musical accompaniment? My ad would be entirely on artistic grounds.

Beaty's play covers much the same terrain as Dean’s, but with considerably less poeticism, nuance and insight. It skips the part about the British aristocrats being pro-Hitler, stemming from their mutual contempt for Communism. It's a child's- eye view of Robeson's world, in which Beaty portrays the giant man as well as all the characters he interacts with. When, returning to Robeson, he bellows out one of the play-closing lines, “My voice will be heard!” I couldn't help but think how much more dignified the closing to Dean's play is, with Robeson at age 75 quietly thanking the people who had been part of his life. Beaty's play emphasizes Robeson's infidelity to his wife, making that an issue via repeated references to it; Dean's play raises the subject once, then dismisses it as a non-issue. When referring to people with the capacity to change the world for the better, I'll take the latter approach.

Beaty is a fine actor and has a great voice, though nothing that resembles Robeson's. David, as the other Robeson, has the weaker singing instrument of the two, but he's closer in soulfulness and voice to Robeson.

Beaty's play is a world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum, presented simultane­ously by Center Theatre Group, La Jolla Playhouse, Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Tectonic Theater Project. How many institutional theaters does it take to fuck up a play, and the memory of the great man it purports to represent?

One example sums up the difference in the quality of the storytelling. Both plays depict a scene where Robeson meets with Harry Truman regarding the lynchings of black soldiers in the South, upon their return from World War II. Beaty's play uses the shortcut that Truman dismissed the appeal. Dean's play artfully sets up the confrontation with a description of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's funeral, and all the dreams of the left that were being buried with him. There was a little man from Missouri walking in the procession, Harry Truman. In Dean's play, Truman orders a committee review of the allegations, and then, finally, does nothing with the results.

The difference may seem minor at first glance, but after more than two hours in the theater, such differences in tone and detail accrue.

PAUL ROBESON | Written and directed by Phillip Hayes Dean | Ebony Repertory Theatre at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 Washington Blvd., Los Angeles |

THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST | Written by Daniel Beaty | Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. |
LA Weekly, April 25, 2014

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Friday - July 18th in Washington, DC

I’ve been asked by my Brothers attending the PBS 100 Centennial to give a formal 1hr workshop on Non-Profit Strategies for PBS Chapter leaders.  I will explain how to:
  • ·         Successfully apply for 501c3 status
  • ·         Grant proposal writing
  • ·         Plan and manage successful fund-raising events

If there is sufficient interest, I will do this workshop.  I will share everything I know and empower everyone who attends with specific, concrete, useful material to move your idea of a non-profit into reality – all for free, no charge, no strings.  Just agree to not waste my time or sell what I will share with you.

If you are interested, two things: you must subscribe to my blog (so I can update you with new info and feedback) and send me your email address (so I can tell you where we will meet on July 18th).


Alvin Blackshear
 mobile: 718-810-1400
 fax: 866-672-2543
Visit my blog

Monday, May 12, 2014

Under The Gun - Shooting Negroes

In the eyes of the law, Black and dangerous mean the same thing

By Jabari Asim • Illustrations by Brian Stauffer
When Black people first set foot in the territory now known as the United States, they stepped onto contested ground. Before there was a legal term for what they were, before the law carefully circumscribed their hearts and loins, each of their footfalls was subject to contention. How many strides until the end of their world? How far could their limbs take them? To the edge of the plantation? To the back door of the big house? Centuries before Trayvon Martin took his last steps in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., his ancestors confronted similar boundaries. Gated neighborhoods? Try gated states. By the 1860s, several of them, including Illinois, lndiana, Iowa and Oregon, prohibited Black people from traveling anywhere without proof of permission.

Your name?

What's going on there, George?
I'm with the neighborhood watch. We've had some burglaries and vandalisms lately.

This gentleman was walking in the neighborhood I've seen before on. trash days, going around picking up trash. I don't know what his deal is.
Is he White, Black or Hispanic?

Wherever such laws or customs prevailed, bands of dutiful Americans took on the task of enforcing them. Slave patrols, the forerunners of police cruisers and neighborhood watch squads, first emerged in South Carolina around 1704.

The patrols were based on earlier efforts in Barbados, where the "Act for the Better ordering and governing of Negroes" empowered all whites with the right to stop and investigate Black people who, left to their own devices, were considered likely to steal or run away. .
In the view of patrollers, all Negroes were as dishonorable as thieves. Consequently, they were to be apprehended and punished for moving or walking about without permission. In modem terms, patrollers were expected to be on the lookout for Black people who were "up to no good."

In his book An Imperfect God, historian Henry Wiencek writes of enslaved men and women who risked the wrath of such patrols by slipping away after sundown to visit loved ones on neighboring plantations. This habit was called "night walking".
"Romance accounted for some night walking," Wiencek notes, "but there were more serious purposes as well." These included visits to take care of sick children and elderly relatives. One overseer observed, "The separation of families seems like death to them."

Nineteenth-century Black people wrestled with a dilemma in which "everything they clid was wrong," according to W.E.B. DuBois. "If they cowered on the plantation, they loved slavery," he observed. "If they ran away, they were loafers." When everything they did was wrong, even something as innocuous as breathing could be cause for harassment or death. As Trayvon Martin discovered, 21st-century racial maladies often pose the same trap.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about," George Zimmerman reported during his 911 call on February 26, 2012, moments before he gunned Martin down in cold blood. Zimmerman's easeful assumption of authority is both significant and historically resonant, but no more so than the notion that a Black man simply walking - in his own neighborhood, no less - is automatically suspect.

Zimmerman's eagerness to take matters into his own hands reflects an implicit mandate that White citizens are as responsible for their safety as police officers are. Inheritors of a Patroller Complex deriving from those early acts for the better ordering of Negroes, they are, in effect, deputized to investigate anyone (read "Black people") who seem out of place. When law enforcement officials speak to civilian groups, they seldom hesitate to reinforce this understanding. Following a highly publicized murder in Washington D.C., in July 2006, Andy Solberg, then-acting commander of the city's Second District, instructed a group of Georgetown residents to report anything suspicious - such as, say, the presence of African-Americans. "This is not a racial thing to say that Black people are unusual in Georgetown," he said. "This is a fact of life."
Solberg's language was only slightly more diplomatic than that of Sheriff Harry Lee, a notorious lawman who conducted an intrusive surveillance campaign against young Black people in Jefferson Parish, La., in the 1980s. "If there are some young Blacks driving a car late at night in a predominantly White neighborhood, they will be stopped," Lee promised . "There's a pretty good chance they're up to no good."

Pipeline + Prison = Cheap Labor
At least Lee's mythical troublemakers were driving a car; Solberg's scenario suggests that Black people needn't do much more to deserve scrutiny than be seen standing on a corner or, to borrow Zimmerman's phrase, walking around and looking about. The idea that African Americans can commit a crime simply by existing is more than just a deeply entrenched racist misconception; it is also an idea rooted in capitalism's need for a cheap, exploitable labor force. These two cancerous strands came together in the philosophy of prosperous landowners such as George Washington, who cast his practice of working slaves to death as a humanitarian gesture. Without constant work, he argued, they would be "ruined by idleness." Those strands can be tracked, as easily as a trail of spilled Skittles, to a modern prison industrial complex that runs on equal parts racism and greed.

In the seventeenth-century, forced labor was still something of an equal-opportunity injustice. States such as Connecticut and Florida arranged their prosecution and parole dockets according to planting schedules so that Whites incarcerated in debtors' prisons could be conscripted to help with the harvest. They found themselves paying off their debt to society by toiling like slaves. The industry became less diverse after the Southern Rebellion, when Emancipation proved highly inconvenient for ambitious Confederate planters eager to shake off the dust of their inglorious defeat. Black Codes emerged, making criminal offenses of vagrancy, loitering and public drunkenness.
There are two suspicious characters at the gate of my neighborhood and I've never seen them before. I have no idea what they're doing: They're just hanging out, loitering.

Okay, Mr. Zimmennan, Can you describe the two individuals?
Two African American males. They look uh, I know one is in a white Impala.

How old do they look to you?
Hmm, mid- to late twenties, early thirties.

With the help of cooperative judges, Black men and women unfortunate enough to be caught moving around, looking about or even standing still in the wrong place at the wrong time were hauled back to the same fields where they previously sweated. (To get an idea of the durability of these underhanded practices, compare Black Code offenses with grounds for suspicion established during New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk reign of error. They included "furtive movements," "fits a relevant description" and wearing "clothes commonly used in a crime.") Southern law officers, taking full advantage of the Thirteenth Amendment's timely loophole allowing compulsory labor "as a punishment for crime," set out to tum as many newly freed Black people into criminals as they could. States and counties filled their depleted coffers by convicting those they swept from the streets and leasing them to farmers and businessmen. Prison populations swelled, foreshadowing the incarceration disparities we see today - and a generation of "convicts" was sentenced to hard labor planting and harvesting crops, doing the most dangerous factory tasks, digging in mines, logging timber and building railroads - ultimately laying the groundwork for the South's resurgent infrastructure.
Douglas Blackmon described the process in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery By Another Name: "It was a form of bondage distinctly different from that of the antebellum South in that for most men, and the relatively few women drawn in, this slavery did not last a lifetime and did not automatically extend from one generation to the next. But it was nonetheless slavery - a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of White masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion."

Pipeline + Prison = Profit
Convict leasing, begun soon after the Southern Rebellion was crushed, officially ended in 1928 when Alabama terminated its program. Unofficially, states continued it under different guises. For example, in the state where Trayvon Martin breathed his last, prison officials added license plate, laundry and shirt factories after it ended convict leasing. The practice continues today as a mainstay of private prisons, whose owners reap huge financial profits by using their inmates as low-wage and unpaid laborers. Companies such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group owe their success to the American Legislative Exchange: Council (ALEC), which they in turn sponsor through financial contributions. ALEC's work includes creating the template for the Prison Industries Act, state legislation enabling the employment of inmate labor across the country. Just as southern legislatures created Black Codes to establish a captive labor force, ALEC has abetted modern lawmakers' attempts to push through "three strikes" laws, mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, "truth-in-sentencing'' laws, and anti-immigration measures designed to keep African Americans and Latinos off the streets and behind bars where, presumably, they'll be most useful. New agreements between state governments and private prisons can also include guaranteed minimum occupancy rates (see CCA’s purchase of Ohio's Lake Erie Correctional Institution in January 2012, for example), making "tough on crime" laws even more critical for profiteers of captive labor.

The Sunshine State
Few states have followed ALEC's guidebooks more zealously than Florida, home of 48 slate prisons, 7 private prisons and 41 prison work programs. Black people make up 32 percent of the state's prison population, according to the Florida Dept. of Corrections, while making up around 16 percent of the state's entire population. In addition, at least one out of every five Black people in Florida is disenfranchised resulting from a felony conviction.

Unsurprisingly, Florida is the birthplace of Stand Your Ground (SYG), a law that most people weren't aware of until it was invoked - repeatedly - following Martin's violent death. With the help of National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Zimmer, Florida launched the law in 2005, empowering residents to use force to defend themselves against a perceived threat. Critics of such measures condemn them as Black Codes given a fresh coat of paint but their complaints have mostly gone unheeded. Since 2005, ALEC and the NRA have helped more than 20 states add versions of the law to their own statutes. With SYG in mind on that rainy February night, the police permitted Zimmerman to do what law and custom made sure Martin could not: they Jet him walk.
Does he live in the neighborhood or is he just out walking?

I don't know. It's the first time I've ever seen him.
"A conversation about brutality and identity goes right to the body," the author and legal scholar David Dante Troutt has observed. The body, he goes on to argue, becomes "the currency of control." Consequently any discussion of Black bodies, at least regarding their sojourn in America, must also include the idea of ownership. For Black people to claim possession of their bodies, they must also declare themselves persons, capable of agency, language and independent thought. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that humanizing impulse remains partly indigestible in a nation whose economic foundation depended on the idea that Black people were not humans to be respected but property to be maintained. Property cannot be maintained if it dares to move about freely and - even worse - resists being apprehended.

Body Snatchers
Solomon Northup's encounter with this dehumanizing process provides a useful example. His 1853 memoir, Twelve Years A Slave, relates his first moments after body snatchers captured him in Washington, D.C. and subsequently sold him into slavery. Awaking in darkness and in chains, he reached into his pockets "as far as the fetters would allow" and made another troubling discovery. "I had not only been robbed of liberty," he later recalled, but "my money and free papers were gone!"

Edward P. Jones portrays an ordeal no less horrifying for being fictional. In his novel The Known World, Augustus Townsend, a free Black man, must sit helplessly in his mule-drawn wagon while a hostile White man takes Augustus' dearly purchased free papers and stuffs them into his own mouth. Augustus' wife is waiting for him at home, not far away. She might as well be in Africa as Augustus watches a White man devour his freedom.
As if speaking for all Black people similarly abused, Solomon Northup bemoans his fate as a free American "who had wronged no man, nor violated any law" only to be "dealt with thus inhumanly."

Northup's experience and Jones's novel illustrate how even nominally free Black people were nonetheless captives, vulnerable to the caprice and power of men of questionable integrity whom authorities endowed with the power to determine life and death. The state's peculiar permissiveness deputized half-wits to wreck lives with the kindly approval of the state. George Zimmerman's power to fire his Licensed handgun at an unarmed teen and strike him dead with impunity lengthens a tradition of dubious deputizing that began in the slavery era and continued after Emancipation.
As Sally Hadden points out in Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas, during Reconstruction lawmen and Klansmen adopted enforcement methods initially designed to monitor the enslaved. Together they turned patrolling into "a highly effective but still legal means of racial oppression."

Three factors combined to create a deadly environment for the newly emancipated: 1) battle-hardened White men with military training, 2) widespread fear of imaginary rampaging Blacks hell bent for revenge and White women, and 3) a marrow- deep belief that blackness and freedom are irreconcilable. From this strange brew the posse tradition emerged, extending the might of the Jaw lo volunteers who operated both with and without official sanction, depending on the circumstances and popular sentiment.

Bullies With Badges

"Posses, which were cheap, quick and ruthlessly effective, provided welcome assistance to law officers," William Fitzhugh Brundage observed in his history of lynching in the New South. "Hence, posses and the violence they initiated endured in much of the South until at least the 1920s." And beyond. More than 4,700 Black people were lynched between 1882 and 1968, usually at the hands of posses. Perhaps the most haunting demonstration of posse violence took place on March 7, 1965, a day now remembered as Bloody Sunday. Long before Sheriff Joe Arpaio and self-anointed "militiamen" began to troll Arizona's dusty perimeter for elusive Latinos, Sheriff Jim Clark conducted a similar campaign of terror against the Black people of Dallas County, Ala. Under his boisterously racist command, a posse of mounted Alabama state troopers and "volunteer officers" brutalized a group of peaceful protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. While the protesters were unarmed, the posse was prepared for war. Their weapons included clubs as big as baseball bats, guns, bull whips and at least one rubber hose wrapped with barbed wire.
Tear gas, too. Mustn' t forget that: C-4, a particularly toxic form of the gas, designed to induce crippling nausea.

John Lewis and Hosea Williams led the marchers. Fifty feet from the bottom of the bridge, a police major ordered them to stop and reverse direction. He gave them two minutes to comply.
"We couldn't go forward. We couldn't go back," Lewis remembered. "There was only one option left that I could see."

The men chose to kneel and pray. They passed the word but had hardly moved when the major issued his fateful order:
"Troopers! Advance!"

The mob of armed lawmen surged forward in an awesome wave of malevolence, clubs and whips in motion. They descended on their defenseless opponents and, in a tradition as old as the country itself, commenced to dispensing justice American-style, cracking skulls, crunching bones and flaying the vulnerable flesh of men, women and children.
"Something about that day in Selma touched a nerve deeper than anything that had come before," Lewis contends. "The sight of them rolling over us like human tanks was something that had never been seen before."

In many such Civil Rights Movement skirmishes, posses rolled over marchers in full view of the federal government. Recalling another showdown in Selma, this one in 1963, activist historian Howard Zinn witnessed federal officials refusing to intervene on behalf of more than 300 Black people waiting to register outside the county courthouse. Surrounded by blue-helmeted troopers brandishing guns and. cattle prods, some of the prospective voters had been standing in line for five hours or more.
Zinn writes, "I spoke to the senior Justice Department attorney: 'Is there any reason why a representative of the Justice Department can't go over and talk to the state troopers and say these people are entitled to food and water?' He was perturbed by the question. There was a long pause. Then he said, 'I won' t do it.' He paused again. 'I believe they do have the right to receive food and water. But I won't do it.'"

John Conyers, a young attorney from Detroit who later became a congressman, was also on the scene. "Those cops could have massacred all those three hundred Negroes on line," he said to Zinn, "and still nothing would have been done."
Deputy Dawg

Nearly 50 years after Selma, Conyers' charge still resounds. The Southern fried behavior of government, via Stand Your Ground laws and juries that wink at wayward vigilantes, suggests that violence against unarmed Black Americans continues to take place with the consent of the state - and by extension, the governed.
My name is George and I live at the Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision. I'm part of the neighborhood watch.

The American vigilante is an offshoot of the posse, a stalwart guardian of community virtue so moved by threats to his home and hearth that he must take matters into his own hands. Impatient with the pace of cosmic justice and his neighbors' heartwarming faith in holy reckoning, he knows his quarry is quick on his feet, too swift and evasive for plodding squad cars and donut-swollen patrolmen. It takes a real man to do a man's job and who is more up to it than him? Deputy Dawg straps up and.hits the streets.
Name: Kel-Tec 9mm PF-9
Caliber: 9 mm
Length: 6 inches
Height: 4.3 inches
Width: 0.9 inches
Barrel length: 3 inches
Price: $330-390
Weight, fully loaded: 18 ounces
Trigger pull: 5 pounds
Effective range: 7 yards

Hard chrome and hollow points, baby, he's ready to roll. This is the Wild West and he needs no stinking badge to prove he's a natural-born bad ass.
OK, and this guy is he White, Black, or Hispanic?

He looks Black.
There have been far too many break-ins lately, broken windows and "a-holes" trespassing on his peace. On one of his moonstruck patrols, someone will die, sprawled on a lawn, torn up from a bullet designed to expand and disrupt the body's soft insides. A few bleeding hearts might object, but security is seldom achieved without a price. Flyers distributed to residents advise them to call him, not the police, to report suspicious activity. "We must send a message that we will not tolerate this in our community," the flyers declare. Not here. Not on his watch.

Are you following him?

Okay, we don't need you to do that.
Before Trayvon Benjamin Martin was evicted from his body, before the open-eyed husk of him cooled and stiffened on a grassy lot in Sanford, Fla., he was a child. The son of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, he was clearly loved and is sorely missed. He had no criminal record. Like Solomon Northup, he had wronged no man, nor violated any law.

If not for his parents' persistence, he'd be like so many others, buried without inquiry and presumed to have died while up to no good. By the approach of Zimmerman' s trial, the response in Black communities across the country suggested that Martin was poised to become a martyr and a catalyst, joining historical figures such as Sam Hose and Emmett Till.
Death and Dishonor

Sam Hose, a Black Georgia laborer whose confrontation with a White man ended in the White man's death, was tortured to death by a lynch mob in 1899. After the mob ritually dismembered Hose's body (W.E.B. DuBois later described the murder as a crucifixion), they arrayed his knuckles and toes in a butcher shop window to intimidate Black people and titillate thrill-seeking Whites. For DuBois, learning about the displayed body parts amounted to "a red ray which could not be ignored." He turned from a life of quiet scholarship to a long and extraordinary career as a public activist and intellectual, shaping the emergence of the NAACP and organizing Black people throughout tht! African diaspora. Whereas Hose's horrific death is mostly remembered for its impact on DuBois' trajectory, Emmett Till's killing resonated via a photo circulated in Jet magazine, for many years the nation's most popular magazine among African American readers. Till, a Black teenager, was murdered in Mississippi in 1955. His executioners shot him multiple times, bashed his head in and tied a cotton gin fan to his neck with barbed wire before tossing his body in the Tallahassee River. Jet's publication of the photo in which Till' s face has been brutalized with such frenzy that it is barely recognizable as a face, added critical momentum to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Rosa Parks pointed to Till' s murder as an incentive behind her refusal to give up her seat on a public bus, an act of defiance that launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott. "I thought of Emmett Till, and when the bus driver ordered me to move to the back, I just couldn't move," she said.
For many newly politicized Americans of color, Trayvon' s killing became a galvanizing force in much the same way that the image of Till' s battered corpse helped stir Parks and thousands of others to action. News reports by Black journalists Trymaine Lee, Charles Blow and others received vital distribution on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. Social media campaigns followed immediately afterward, spawning marches on statehouses where SYG is in effect, along with online petitions calling for charges against Zimmerman.

Like many of the most effective protest campaigns of bygone eras, organized Black outrage, channeled through groups such as the NAACP, and Dream Defenders, received critical assistance from equally motivated allies outside African American communities. YouTube videos and blog posts from White, Latino and Asian Americans professing their support lifted spirits and influenced citizens who might otherwise have turned a blind eye.
But even as Martin moved toward an unforeseen prominence as a symbol of hls nation's enduring inequities, he was also becoming something of a national joke. His parents, appearing before their countrymen as paragons of dignified suffering, had to watch as their child, who had been merely a junior in high school, was sacrificed on the altar of American psychosis. The ind ignities he suffered for the sins of his nation have been widely circulated on the Internet, the modern equivalent of the shop window that proved so pivotal to DuBois' repurposing. Like the knuckles of Sam Hose, Facebook and Tumblr photos of young White males posing as dead Trayvon, sprawled amid Skittles and cans of iced tea, both demonstrated the depravities of the vanishing majority and raised the ire of otherwise complacent observers. Assaults on Martin's reputation flourished amid sick jokes on Twitter, including a nauseating flurry from Todd Kincannon, former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party:

"Will karma find me as quick as it did Trayvon? Oh wait I made it past my 18th birthday. So I guess the answer is no.
"Hey what's the difference between Trayvon Martin and a dead baby? They're both dead, but Pepsi doesn't taste like Trayvon."

In addition to the caricatures and demonizing, an aggressive disinformation campaign substituted the image of Trayvon with that of another Black boy, shirtless and aggressively posturing. Another deception followed in the form of a viral screed that inserted in Martin's place a picture of Jayceon Terrell Taylor, a muscular thirty-something rap star who performs as The Game. Said one earnest citizen who posted the photo of The Game on his FB page, "I am not trying to say this was a good shooting. 1 am not trying to say this kid deserved to die. I am saying the media in the USA is controlled by liberals who twist and distort what you see and hear in order for you to see things their way."
The motives of Greg Cimeno, 22, and William Filene, 25, are less clear.

The Floridians celebrated Halloween by dressing as Zimmerman and Martin, respectively. Cimeno wore a "Neighborhood Watch T-shirt, and Filene, wearing a blackface mask and a blood-spattered hoodie, proudly showed off their costumes via social media. On a widely circulated photo, Cimeno pretends to shoot Filene in the head.
Other Americans wore similar get-ups, evidence of the quasi-erotic thrill that blackface and the ritual reenactment of violent Black death apparently provides. Whereas White Georgians - men, women and children - gathered by the thousands to bear joyous witness to the butchering of Sam Hose, countless voyeurs can endlessly revel in the virtual killing of Trayvon Martin, secure in the anonymous glow of their cellphones and computer screens. Seeking to profit from the controversy, an Orlando-based entrepreneur created a shooting target complete with a hooded figure, a package of Skittles and a can of ice tea. He told reporters he sold out his inventory in two days, further proof of the durable link between capital and commoditized blackness.

Following Florida's half-hearted prosecution of Zimmerman, Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the possibility of a civil rights lawsuit at the federal level, an unlikely scenario that, even if it happened, would leave SYG untouched. Months after Zimmerman walked away a free man, the opponents of SYG have yet to achieve a significant reversal
Still Confederates After All These Years

In late October, 2013, the Senate held hearings to review SYG laws. With Sybrina Fulton looking on, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert echoed the Confederate obstinacy of centuries past. "The idea that states are less intelligent or less able to discern their citizens' needs is a mistake of federal proportions," Gohmert said. His argument reduces the occasional loss of Black lives to a regrettable but acceptable inconvenience, a small price to pay for public safety and the sustenance of state's rights. SYG is the Patroller Complex written into law, Confederate in spirit and always invoked with Black people - the ultimate phantom menace - in mind. Elected officials like Gohmert are confidently representative of a consensus among their constituencies, an ethos perhaps most memorably articulated by the bard of the Sunflower state, William Faulkner. "If it came to fighting," he said, "I'd fight for Mississippi against the United States even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negroes." Zimmerman, on the prowl for night-walking Black people, stalked the Retreat at Twin Lakes according to a similar creed. Oearly Faulkner's defense of armed vigilantism remains fatally relevant today.
And what he said about the past not being past? That, too.

The CRISIS, Spring 2014

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Warren Brief - Reading Elizabeth Warren

by Jill Lepore
In her new book, Elizabeth Warren tells the story of her life in order to make an argument about America (the middle class is trapped in a vise of debt), which is the sort of thing politicians do when they’re running for office. Warren, who spent most of her career as a law school professor, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012; she's not up for reelection until 2018. "I am not running for President," she insisted at a press conference in Boston in December, pledging that she will finish her term. But the publication, this month, of her autobiography, "A Fighting Chance" (Metropolitan), ahead of a memoir by Hillary Clinton that is due out this summer, only adds to the speculation that Warren is considering challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016. And, even if Warren doesn't run, this book is part of that race.
Warren's book was originally called "Rigged," a reference to her contention that the American political system places power in the hands of plutocrats and bankers at the expense of ordinary, middle- class Americans. "Big corporations hire armies of lobbyists to get billion dollar loopholes into the tax system and persuade their friends in Congress to support laws that keep the playing field tilted in their favor," Warren writes. "Meanwhile, hardworking families are told that they'll just have to live with smaller dreams for their children."

"A Fighting Chance" is in many ways heir to a book published a century ago. "Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It," by Louis Brandeis, appeared in the spring of 1914. Brandeis believed that the country was being run by plutocrats and, especially, by investment bankers, who, by combining, consolidating, and aggregating the functions of banks, trusts, and corporations, controlled both the nation's credit and the majority of its resources-including the railroads-and yet had not the least accountability to the public or any sense that the functions they had adopted were essentially those of a public utility. 'The power and the growth of power of our :financial oligarchs comes from wielding the savings and quick capital of others," Brandeis wrote. 'The fetters which bind the people are forged from the people's own gold."
Brandeis was concerned with Gilded Age plutocrats' use of people's bank savings to build giant, monopolistic conglomerates answerable not to the people but to shareholders. "Other People's Money", which originally appeared as a series of essays in Harper's, is a polemic, but it’s also a huge compilation of facts and figures. Brandeis pointed out, for instance, that J. P. Morgan and the First National and the National City Bank together held "341 directorships in 112 corporations having aggregate resources or capitalization of $22,245,000,000," a sum that is "nearly three times the assessed value of all the real estate in the City of New York" and "more than the assessed value of all the property in the twenty-two states, north and south, lying west of the Mississippi River." (Brandeis's ability to enlist data in the service of a legal argument, a statement known as a "Brandeis brief," is among his many legacies.) In 1933, Brandeis arranged to have "Other People's Money" republished - in an edition that cost only fifteen cents - so that it could exert the same influence on F.D.R.'s Administration that it had exerted on Woodrow Wilson's. In the first decades of the twentieth century, arguments made by writers like Brandeis led to a series of antitrust reforms and financial-industry regulations that, in the middle decades of the century, made possible the growth of the middle class.

Warren is concerned not with saving but with borrowing, not with monopoly but with debt. Since the nineteen-eighties, many Progressive-era and New Deal reforms have been repealed, including a cap on interest rates and a wall, erected in 1933, separating commercial and savings banking from investment banking. In the second gilded age, the fetters that bind the people were forged first .from the people's own credit cards and then from their mortgages. Credit-card companies lured borrowers in with "teaser rates." Rates of consumer bankruptcy skyrocketed. Eying the profits made by credit-card companies, mortgage companies began selling an entirely new inventory of "mortgage products," with low down payments, ballooning rates, and prepayment penalties. Home prices shot up, and then they collapsed. "When the housing market sank," Warren writes, "so did America's middle class."
Warren speaks Brandeis's language. "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," Warren said at a campaign stop in 2011, in remarks that defined her candidacy. "Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate." You used other people's money. "You built a factory, and it turned into something terrific or a great idea-God bless! Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along." It's the Brandeis in Warren that got her elected. What she does next will have to do with the many ways in which 2014 is not 1914.

"A Fighting Chance" begins this way: I'm Elizabeth Warren. I'm a wife, a mother, and a grandmother." Nowhere in "Other People's Money" did Brandeis mention his life or his family; no doubt, these matters did not strike him as relevant to his discussion of financial oligarchy. Also, Brandeis wasn't running for office. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1916, but, even if he had run for office, and had been required to write the necessary campaign autobiography, its first words would not have been "I'm Louis Brandeis. I'm a husband and a father."
Warren, like Brandeis, is a lawyer and a scholar. She was born in Oklahoma in 1949, the youngest of four children. When she was twelve years old, her father, a salesman for Montgomery Ward, had a heart attack and lost his job. The family lost a car and might have lost their house if Warren's mother hadn't managed to get a job at Sears. Warren went to college on a debating-society scholarship but dropped out when she was nineteen to marry an old high-school boyfriend, Jim Warren. She later finished college and moved with her husband to New Jersey; he'd been transferred there by his employer, I.B.M. Warren started work as a schoolteacher; by the end of her first year teaching, when she was twenty-one, she was pregnant. "Somewhere in between diapers and breast-feeding, I hatched the idea of going to school," she writes. Her husband didn't want her to work full time, but agreed that it would be okay if she took classes. She decided on law school, because she liked the lawyers on TV. Every day, she brought her daughter, Amelia, to a woman who took care of half a dozen kids, and went to class at Rutgers Law School. By the end of her third year, she was pregnant again; she had a boy named Alex. Much of Warren's book is about her children and grandchildren. She writes about a moment in 1978: "It was early evening, the cranky time of day. I was jostling Alex on my hip and frying pork chops. Amelia was on the floor with crayons scattered all around. I kept an eye on the clock, knowing Jim would come through the door in about twenty minutes." The phone rang. It was a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, asking her about a job inquiry she'd sent because her husband might be transferred to Houston. Warren writes, "I tried to sound smooth and relaxed, even as I jiggled Alex furiously in the hope that he wouldn't start crying. And I kept looking at those damn pork chops."

Warren got a teaching position at the law school (where she was routinely mistaken for a secretary), and the family moved to Houston. One day in 1979 when she picked up Alex from a daycare center in a strip mall, he held on to her and cried and cried and cried. She took him out of the day-care center. "I was so rued that my bones hurt," Warren writes. She was about to quit. Then her aunt Bee volunteered to move to Houston from Oklahoma, to help take care of the children. "Nearly eighty years old and so needed," Bee said. Not long afterward, when Warren's marriage fell apart, her parents moved to Houston to help out, too. In 1980, Warren remarried.
Warren's interest in debt, she says, is partly personal. "My daddy and I were both afraid of being poor, really poor. His response was never to talk about money or what might happen if it ran out-never ever ever. My response was to study contracts, finance, and, most of all, economic failure, to learn everything I could." Her research led her to conclude that the bankruptcy rate is a canary in the economy's coal mine and that, sometime during the Reagan Administration, the canary died.

The argument Warren offers in "A Fighting Chance" is one that she began to make in "As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America," a monograph written with Teresa A. Sullivan and Jay Lawrence Westbrook and published by Oxford in 1989. Sullivan, a sociologist, is now president of the University of Virginia; Westbrook teaches bankruptcy law al the University of Texas School of Law, where Warren taught from 1981 to 1987. (In 1986, Warren and Westbrook wrote a textbook, "The Law of Debtors and Creditors," currently in its seventh edition.) In "As We Forgive Our Debtors," Sullivan, Warren, and Westbrook reported the results of a study they made of seventy-four hundred bankruptcy petitions filed in 1981. Bankruptcy rates had risen because of the 1978 Bankruptcy Reform Act, which made filing for bankruptcy easier, but also because, by the nineteen-seventies, consumer spending had become the engine of the American economy. Sullivan, Warren, and Westbrook found that most filers weren't cheats or frauds and they also weren't poor; they were members of the middle class, undone by the volatility of the economy and by a six-hundred-billion dollar consumer-credit industry. More than half were homeowners, and many were women rearing children.
In 1987, Warren began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1995, she moved to Harvard. In "The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt," published by Yale in 2000, Sullivan, Warren, and Westbrook reported the results of a follow up study of another twenty-four hundred bankruptcy filings, these from 1991. Even more Americans were drowning in debt. Between 1979 and 1997, the number of personal-bankruptcy filings rose by four hundred per cent.

In an age of debt, an unexpected loss can drive almost anyone to ruin. "Divorce, an unhappy second marriage, a serious illness, no job," Warren writes. "A turn here, a turn there, and my life might have been very different, too."
Louis Brandeis had a knack for making himself an expert on just about anything, but the original "Brandeis brief" was a hundred-and-thirteen-page document char be submitted to the Supreme Court in 1908, in Muller v. Oregon, a case concerning a law limiting the workday for women in laundries and factories to ten hours. "'The decision in this case will, in effect, determine the constitutionality of nearly all the statutes in force in the United States, limiting the hours of labor of adult women," Brandeis explained in his brief. He proceeded to cite and summarize the findings of hundreds of reports and studies by physicians, municipal health boards, public-health departments, medical societies, factory inspectors, and bureaus of labor, demonstrating the harm done to women who worked long hours, an argument that relied on ideas about women's weakness relative to men. The Oregon law was upheld.

The efforts of a generation of Progressive reformers, including Brandeis, lies behind the abolition of child labor and the establishment of maximum-hour and minimum-wage laws for both men and women. A century later, Warren's brief, too, has to do with the long hours that women work. She's interested in the unintended economic consequences that arise when women rearing children enter the paid labor force. Warren's counterintuitive argument is that, for all the public and private good that has come from gains made by women in education and employment, earning money has made women who are mothers more economically vulnerable, not less.
Warren believes that the two-income family has contributed to the bankruptcy rate. "For middle-class families, the most important part of the safety net for generations has been the stay-at-home mother," Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, wrote in "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke" (2003), a book aimed at a wider audience than Warren's earlier, academic work ("Mom, you are boring," Tyagi told Warren. "Collaborating with my daughter is not for sissies," Warren says.) It used to be that when a middle-class family was faced with a financial crisis the woman in the house could get a job, to tide things over, which is what happened when Warren's father had a heart attack and her mother got a job at Sears.

This cushion doesn't exist in the two income family, which, in its short history-it has its origins, as a middle-class phenomenon, in the nineteen-seventies-has also taken on a great deal more housing debt. The 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act required lenders to count a wife's income when evaluating borrowers; the deregulation of the mortgage lending industry began in 1980. With two wage earners and low down payments, middle-class families took on bigger mortgages and contributed to an increase in the cost of housing, especially when families with children paid a premium for property in school districts with high test scores. Financial crisis, for a two-income family, usually means having to live, quite suddenly, on one income. In these straits, families with children tend to totter on the edge of ruin. "Having a child is now the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse," Warren and Tyagi reported. Between 1981 and 2001, the number of women filing for bankruptcy rose more than six hundred per cent.
Warren entered the world of policymaking when, in 1995, she was appointed to serve on the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, during the Clinton Administration. She found the work thrilling and the results maddening. She describes a report, sponsored by the banking industry, alleging that bankruptcy protection amounted to a five hundred-and-fifty-dollar "hidden tax" levied on every hardworking American family: "I'd spent nearly twenty years sweating over every detail in a string of serious academic studies, agonizing over sample sizes and statistical significance to make certain that whatever I reported was exactly right. Now the banks just wrote a check, commissioned a friendly study, and purchased their own facts." Warren's frustration was part of what led her to seek a broader audience for her research by writing "The Two-Income Trap," which led to appearances on the "Today" show and "Dr. Phil," where she spoke with a family struggling with debt. "Year in and year out, I'd been fighting as hard as I could," Warren writes. "But by spending a few minutes talking to that family on Dr. Phil's show - and to about six million other people who were looking on - I might have done more good than in an entire year as a professor."

Nevertheless, the solutions that Warren has proposed often fail to convince. To counter both the crisis in public education and the high cost of housing, Warren and Tyagi recommend a universal public-school voucher system in which parents could send their kids co any public school. "An all-voucher system would be a shock to the educational system, but the shakeout might be just what the system needs." Yes, that would be a shock. It would also be reckless.
In 2008, Warren joined a five-person congressional-oversight panel whose creation was mandated by the seven hundred- billion-dollar bailout. She found that thrilling and maddening, too. In the spring of 2009, after the panel issued its third report, critical of the bailout, Larry Summers took Warren out to dinner in Washington and, she recalls, told her that she had one choice to make. She could be an insider or an outsider, but if she was going to be an insider she needed to understand one unbreakable rule about insiders: "They don't criticize other insiders." That's about when Warren went on the Jon Stewart show, and you get the sense that, over that dinner, she decided to run for office.

Elizabeth Warren has a case to make about what bankers do with other people's money; she's been making it for twenty-five years. It's hardly uncontested, but it rests on collaborative, peer-reviewed, empirical research. Getting that argument across to voters in 2012 required a great deal of compression and simplification, even more than was required to write "The Two-Income Trap," but Warren's expertise - her authority as an intellectual - also helped get her elected. Running against Scott Brown, she had to tell a srump-size story about her life, a story that includes this fact: for a time, she was a single mother. That story helped get her elected.
My life explains my fight has been the agreement of every American political biography for a long time. When you're grafting a life story onto a political argument, there will always be places where the grain runs in different directions. (An argument that the system is rigged tends to be somewhat undermined, for instance, by the success of the person pointing that out.) And, particularly for women with children, campaign biography can be a snare. When Wendy Davis decided to run for governor of Texas, her consultants advised her to tell the story of how she started out as a single mother before becoming a lawyer, conservatives accused her of having abandoned her children. This snare exists because political biography as a genre follows conventions whose origins lie with Andrew Jackson, in the early nineteenth century, long before women gained the right to vote or to hold office. Discrimination is the afterlife of discredited ideas. By the standards applied to Davis, who left her two young daughters with their father so that she could go to law school, most candidates elected to office in the United States in the past two centuries abandoned their children.

But there's another snare here: the danger of adopting, in place of the conventions of the Andrew Jackson's-bootstraps political biography, the newer conventions of diaper-pin Girl Jacksonianism. Political consultants appear to be eager to advise their female candidates to include, when telling the story of their lives, gauzy intimacies, silly-little-me confessions of domestic ineptitude, sragy performances of maternal devotion, and the shameless trotting out of twinkle-eyed tots. In "A Fighting Chance," Warren argues that the federal government has allowed an unregulated financial industry to prey on the middle class; she also writes no small amount about peach cobbler and burned frying pans. Still, she is not adorable; instead, she's fierce in her affections. "Sometimes, late at night, when the house was quiet, l'd scoop Lavinia out of her crib and hold her," she writes, referring to one of her grandchildren. "Not because she needed it but because I did."
Warren is also smart enough to use the conventions of political biography, old and new, to insist on the existence of a relationship between caring for other people and cuing about politics. Her brief is really about the abandonment of children, not by women who go to school or to work but by legislatures and courts that have allowed the nation's social and economic policies to be made by corporation  and bankers. Writing about her children and grandchildren-rocking that baby is more than the place where Warren leaves Brandeis behind It's an argument about where our real debts lie.

The New Yorker, April 21, 2014, p96

Friday, May 02, 2014

The legacy of Allen Iverson & Latrell Sprewell

Allen Iverson – who earned over $154 million in salary plus a $50 million lifetime endorsement contract from Reebok – filed for bankruptcy in 2012 reportedly in $3.6 million debt.

“As much as I admired Iverson as a player and guiltily enjoyed his inimitable, incorrigible bad boy charm, it is still tragic that someone, anyone, in his expansive network of takers, enablers, handlers, and sycophants did not at some point pull the 11-time All-Star aside and be a genuine financial friend. And I don’t mean the lecture that all rookies receive that 60% of NBA players are broke within five years of leaving the game. That lecture is obviously not working. A genuine financial friend would have spoken ongoing, unvarnished, personal truth: lose the lottery mindset, dump the hangers-on, drop the traveling hair stylist, and, instead, start saving and investing wisely. A bona fide financial friend would have done the difficult thing and gotten the league or the players union to hold Iverson’s paychecks in escrow.”

“Moreover, an NBA that cared more about its personnel and brand would have required that Iverson, as well as all players, pass a yearly financial planning and retirement course before they were allowed on the hardwood (including how to read a financial statement, why to run from promises of a “guaranteed” return, and how a rock-solid prenup, living will and family planning can prevent you from getting soaked by a gold-digging ex).”

And what of former NBA All-Star Latrell Sprewell?  “Sprewell, whose NBA career spanned 13 years, made headlines in 2005 after he turned down a three-year, $21 million contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves. He reportedly demanded more money, saying that the amount offered would not be enough to support his family.  Sprewell owed the state of Wisconsin "unpaid income taxes in 2011 to the tune of $3.5 million." His house was also reportedly foreclosed in 2008.”