BOOK REVIEW: Sasha Abramsky’s ‘Jumping At Shadows’ is important but covers little new ground

Reggie Watts’ 2012 TED Talk had many unique observations, but one has always stuck with me as particularly insightful.

“As we face fear in these times—and fear is all around us—we also have anti-fear. The background radiation is simply too static to be able to be seen under the normal spectral analysis.”

That line of satirical pseudo-babble was part of an improvised comedy/musical performance but has achieved a surprising resonance in years since, and it’s as concise a summary of journalist Sasha Abramsky’s latest book Jumping At Shadows as the one it gives itself. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Sasha Abramsky’s ‘Jumping At Shadows’ is important but covers little new ground”

People go to college to have lots of sex

The other day, I was arguing with a friend about education and whether college specifically was any use. “It’s really just the next bubble,” I said, repeating an argument a mutual friend had made to me before.

“First the Internet bubble, then the housing bubble, now the college degree bubble. We’ve been told for years it’s an automatic way to make more money, but it’s getting more expensive to buy in now and there’s less of a reward. At some point, people won’t be able to pay off their college debt anymore. That’s when the bubble bursts.”

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Racism toward President Obama

Several years ago, at the height of the first wave of gasoline-price hysteria, an older white man came into the convenience store I worked at complaining about a lot of stuff. Real salt-of-the-earth type fellow, had a twang and maybe even cowboy boots on, although I may just be adding stuff I wish were true to my memory upon recall.

The only reason I remember this grumbler, as opposed to the dozens of others that came through each day, was that he suggested, apparently quite seriously, that George W. Bush be strung up and hung ’til death.

The man may be racist, and considering his age I wouldn’t be surprised, but there was nothing racist about him suggesting a lynching of a U.S. president. If he felt the same way about Barack Obama, of course, most people and establishments would consider it totally unacceptable.

The New York Post incident with the cartoon chimp getting shot was the same sort of thing where for eight years George W. Bush was outright drawn as a chimp caricature, called stupid and uneducated — every Texan/Southern stereotype you could think of. We know it would not be acceptable to do the same thing with black stereotypes and Barack Obama (except to call him “cool” and “stylin'”).

You may say, “Well, Barack Obama was never part of the stereotypically black culture, so it would be absurd to mock him in that way.” George Bush is not in any way a cowboy and only marginally a Texan, but it was safe to put a hat on him and set him on a horse for an editorial cartoon.

I’m not saying geographic discrimination is anything like racial discrimination historically, or that a white Southerner is less likely to get a job than a minority solely based on that. But as many racists are there are who hate “that —— spending our money,” publicly I can almost guarantee that Obama will receive less personal criticism than Bush, because it was safe to call Bush an imbecile, fascist, and child molester in ways it probably will never be to criticize Obama, unless you’re Rush Limbaugh or have his fanbase.

There are worse things than being the world’s biggest celebrity

During last autumn’s presidential campaign, John McCain ran ads calling Barack Obama the “biggest celebrity in the world” and meant it as an insult – which coming from a senator who’d hosted “Saturday Night Live” and from a ticket that eventually included Sarah Palin, was a bit hypocritical.

But largely accurate. Already Obama seems to have appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” more than Bush 43 ever did; we care about the present Obama’s wife bought and the outfits his daughters wore, even how his daughter reacted when she met other celebrities. We didn’t know FDR was crippled, but we know Obama drives to the left to get to the basket.

Secret Service agents with orders to shoot-to-kill are the only thing keeping paparazzi away.

Continue reading “There are worse things than being the world’s biggest celebrity”