Organization Kids…

David Brooks has a great column today that nails why I and so many others don’t like Elena Kagan:

About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.

If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.

If you listen to people talk about Elena Kagan, it is striking how closely their descriptions hew to this personality type.

And he sums it up:

What we have is a person whose career has dovetailed with the incentives presented by the confirmation system, a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out.

There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court. I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.

Yet another gorgeous piece of writing

from Ta-nehisi of course:

As the hood heats up so does the ignorance factor. In the past week, I’ve seen at least three people loudly cursing each other out and/or physically threatening each other. The other day I saw two 6’5″ identical, skinny as a rail, twins, both dressed alike, cursing out the train conductor at 135th. When the train pulled off they had the nerve to give each other dap, on some “We just let motherfuckers know” shit.

When you’re conscious and  live in a neighborhood with higher than normal poverty, you learn to  cope with certain things–a lack of decent produce, a dearth of good schools, an abundance of crime. But you generally find ways to work around these. If you’re in Harlem, you Fresh Direct, or you go to the 96th street Whole Fields and pay the eight bucks for delivery. You may not find the school with the greatest test scores, but you find one where the principal and teachers are heavily invested. When your kids decides to show his ass they call you right away, because they know you don’t play.
You learn that much of the violent crime that happens isn’t random–the innocent bystander isn’t so much a myth, as a rarity. Criminals like to shoot at other criminals. For the rest, you learn what streets and corners are hot, and which ones have the kind of block association that will call 311 over busted streetlight. That’s all fine for me. I love living in cities and I love being around black folks (White people, you’re growing on me. Or at least your music is.) That means, there’s a good chance I’ll be living in a hood. I’ve basically lived like that all my life.
What I’m finding harder to contend with is the kind of ignorance that you get in summer–a dude on Lenox, old enough to be my uncle, yelling at some girl a block away, “You fat ugly bitch.” The ignorance is really starting to wear on me. People talk a lot about kids and how wild kids are in the ghetto. But the kids don’t much bother me. Maybe it’s because I see myself as a kid in them. I don’t know. But watching people who are older than me act like they’re kids kills me.

Gospel…

But here’s a little secret between you and me, and the rest of the mall: buying shit isn’t enough. What we wish for in our secret hearts is self-expression, the chance to reveal ourselves and be loved for this revelation, devoured by love. And thus, most of go about our duties of commerce and leisure in a state of perpetual longing, with nocturnal excursions into the province of despair.

This book is for those of us who have converted such unrequited desires into noble obsessions. It happen to be about music (as opposed to ice cream or Picasso or the Dallas Cowboys) because music came before anything else, before language and large-scale war and liquid soap, and because music is the one giant thing America has done right, amid all that it has done wrong. Music, that ancient incorruptible bitch.

From Steve Almond’s fantastic new book Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life.

Alex Pareene

I like the new guy at Salon:

A U.S. citizen was arrested in New York for committing a crime in New York. Long-established Supreme Court precedent — a.k.a. the law the land — establishes that any statements he makes will be inadmissible as evidence in a trial against him for committing this crime unless he is informed of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to non-self-incrimination, an attorney, and due process.

According to a United States Senator and recent major party presidential candidate, if the established law of the land was actually followed by the law enforcement agency that made this arrest, our national security is now at risk.

Yes, John McCain says a “serious mistake” was made if the Time Square bombing suspect was informed of his Miranda rights. Which, again, the nation’s highest court says the FBI is required by the Constitution to give to everyone they arrest. Why does John McCain hate the Constitution so very much?

We don’t know if the FBI Mirandized Faisal Shahzad. But don’t worry, that was also among the first questions asked by our Washington press corps! Because if a political party is going to demagogue against our entire established legal system, the media will make sure to help.

Good timing…

An article at Salon on the Tea Party and “racial resentment”.

Young’s second point, that Tea Partiers view blacks as less hardworking, and hold more “racial resentment,” because of conservatism, not racism, is an interesting one. It is certainly true that the perception that blacks lack a strong work ethic, and look for “special favors” from the government, is consistent with conservative values and conservative politics; not an unreasonable assertion. But to stop here, and reduce racial resentment to conservatism, is at best premature; at worst, it’s irresponsible. In at least three other articles on this topic, I’m on the record saying that one shouldn’t conflate the apparent racism in the Tea Party movement with conservatism.

Apparently, Young doesn’t appreciate the capacity of social scientists to take the analysis further. If she did, I doubt she would’ve claimed that support for the Tea Party was simply a proxy for conservatism. Suppose that most Tea Party supporters are what some call “principled conservatives.” That is, they’re simply about a small federal government, fiscal discipline and free markets. In fact, our data show that when you account for/control for conservatism, and partisanship to boot, there’s still a strong statistical connection between support for the Tea Party — rather than conservative politics generally — and racial resentment. Indeed, ideology does matter: If one is conservative, he or she is 23 percent more likely than a liberal to hold racially resentful attitudes. Even so, we found that Tea Party supporters are even more likely than conservatives who don’t support the movement to believe that blacks simply need to work harder, and that the legacy of slavery and discrimination has no effect on blacks’ current condition in America society.

Heck yes…

Okay, this is quite a debacle. A Harvard Law student sent around an email that was, well, first stupid as hell, and second, racist as hell. Then, in the ensuing kerfuffle, apologists abound. And then PostBourgie BEAUTIFULLY makes this point:

We’ve gotten to the point in our racial discourse where indisputably racist shit can no longer be called racist because it may offend or have other negative repercussions for some person in a position of privilege. You won’t hear any of Stephanie Grace’s army of defenders — many of whom, of course, share her privilege and are invested in perpetuating it — calling out actual racism. They will, however, stomp and moan if someone suggests that they might have done something racist or that they’re apologizing for racism.

This also isn’t how it works. Not being racist is not some default starting position. You don’t simply get to say you’re not a racist; not being racist — or a sexist or a homophobe — is a constant, arduous process of unlearning, of being uncomfortable, of eating crow and being humbled and re-evaluating. It’s probably hard to start that process if you’ve been told that every thought you have is golden and should be given voice, and that people who are offended by what you say are hypersensitive, irrational simpletons.

Thank Christ someone finally made this point. All of this demonizing the person who calls out racists as racists or sexists as sexists has got to stop. And I love the point of view like, wow in this day and age an enlightened white girl at Harvard Law couldn’t possibly be racist so even when she says racist stupid things we make apologies for her. Guh.