Redskins as Pejorative

Washington RedskinsSpeaking of football, Jonathan Bernstein has long been making the argument that the Washington Redskins should change their name simply based on the issue of etiquette. This isn’t to say that there aren’t a whole lot of other issues, but you don’t even need to go there. The Native American community finds the name offensive. It’s as simple as that. So change the name.

Well, today I made the mistake of reading the comments of his most recent iteration of this argument, About That Washington Football Team. Well, apparently he has a troll that has nothing better to do than spout his ignorant opinions hour after hour. He goes by “Elesis” (a female name, but I don’t buy it) and I wouldn’t have even noticed him except that he kept making the same argument again and again and again.

And what an argument it is! Basically, “Sure ‘redskins’ can be a pejorative, but it isn’t a pejorative when the Washington football team uses it!” This is kind of like someone calling you “stupid.” When you complain, they say, “Hey, I know ‘stupid’ is generally a bad thing, but I don’t mean it that way when I refer to you that way!” In fact, here is an actual quote:

The team picked it because it wanted to be associated with Indian Warriors as can be seen by the accompanying motifs on their uniforms. Rather than denigrating Indians, the Redskins are in fact honoring them.

This made me think of a line from the film Pulp Fiction. What if Daniel Snyder decided that he wanted to name his team the “Washington Hard Pipe-Hittin’ Niggers”? I mean, in the movie, Marsellus doesn’t say that as a pejorative. He means he’s gonna bring in some hardcore guys who are going to “go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.” I can hardly think of a better name for a football team that is going to open up a can of whoopass every time they hit the field!

By Elesis’ logic, that would be a perfectly fine name for a football team, “Rather than denegrating [!] African Americans, the Hard Pipe-Hittin’ N…..s (or just the N…..s for short) are in fact honoring them.” Why would African Americans have any reason to complain?

The only reason that occurs to me is that it is a totally racist name regardless of what Snyder and Elesis claim. And that’s be just as true of the Redskins as the Pipe-Hitters. So I think we can get rid of the whole idea that “Redskins” is an honorific moniker. I’m still with Bernstein: it’s just a question of etiquette. But obviously, for people like Snyder and Elesis, etiquette doesn’t matter. I think I’ve dispensed with the pejorative and racist arguments. I wonder what they’ll come up with next?!

You Don’t Care about World Football

America's Future Enemy: Ghana!Every day for the past week or so, Google has had a new Doodle about the World Cup. And that’s fine, because Google serves the world and the world is crazy for what they rightly call football and we call soccer because what we call football should really be renamed, “The boring homoerotic game where men bend over to display their genitals to their betters.” The fact that “world football” is only slightly less boring than “American football” really doesn’t matter. People find many boring things interesting just because everyone else finds them interesting because the one thing that really makes humans unique is just how ununique we are. That doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me is how my fellow Americans get interested in world football whenever “our” team does well. Remember the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup? This was an especially big deal because Americans cared about soccer and a sport played by women not dressed in bikinis. And this year, I see a lot of interest among people who otherwise have no interest in anything that happens outside the world unless it is one of our “shock and awe” wars, who are interested in the World Cup. In particular, they are excited that we beat the team from Ghana.

Did you know that the population of Ghana is less than 8% of the population of the United States? Did you know that Ghana’s economy is one-quarter of one percent the size of the United States’? Did you know that the average person from Ghana makes 3% what the average American makes? So the United States beat Ghana in the last 5 minutes of a 90 minute game by a single goal. And you, my fellow Americans are excited? This victory is like if Goliath had beat David, except that not only did David not have his sling, he had been born without arms and legs, and yet Goliath still managed to lose a considerable about of blood because of numerous bite attacks from David. That’s what the United States’ victory over Ghana is.

I have a special admiration for Jonathan Bernstein. He’s a political scientist and a good writer with great insights into the political process. But that’s not the reason for my special admiration. You see, he is a baseball fan. But he doesn’t start talking about baseball just when his team is doing well or during the playoffs. Every Friday, he writes about baseball. The man loves baseball! I respect that.

What I hate every March is that all these nerdy political writers who I read suddenly start gushing about NCAA basketball. Is it the case that they just love the sport all year long but just can’t contain it in March? I don’t think so. They are just like the fools who are all excited that we beat a tiny African country in a world football match. They’re just following the herd. Meanwhile, Bernstein has been silent on the issue of the World Cup. But last Friday, he did write, The Best, and Worst, Places to See a Game. That’s a baseball fan. Because he actually goes to see them. It isn’t like where Americans see their world football games: during the sports section of the evening news.

Timothy Geithner Lies With Graphs Too

Tim GeithnerI noticed something interesting in Dean Baker’s vicious but fair review, Stress Test: The Indictment of Timothy Geithner. It is a long and detailed review going point by point over how Geithner is nothing more than a hired gun for the banks who didn’t didn’t give two bits for actual homeowners or the real economy except in the sense that they might hurt his banker friends. Go read his article, or my discussion, Tim Geithner: Grifter of the Power Elite. But here I am interested in one very small thing.

I’m used to politicians cherry picking whatever data is useful to them. But Geithner is supposed to be an economist—sort of a scientist. I understand that in his book, he would want to present himself in the best possible light. But to be actively deceptive? That goes way beyond what is acceptable. He really is an evil little man.

Dean BakerGeithner provided a graph of housing prices up to 2010 and claimed that it was his policies that caused the rapid drop in prices to stop in 2009 and then start rising. But this was actually a bad thing. The reason the prices of houses stopped falling was because the administration provided an $8,000 new home buyer’s credit. I have friends who used this to be able to buy their first home, and that’s great. But what the policy did on the macro-scale is to create another mini-housing bubble. The truth is that home prices had not yet reached their correct prices.

But you would never know that because Geithner decided to end his graph at 2010. He left out the part of the graph that I’ve shaded in grey when prices when down by about 6.5%. And this is just the overall price of houses. As Bake pointed out, Minneapolis saw a fall of almost 29% and Atlanta saw a fall of almost 52%. So a lot of homeowners got really screwed and Geithner is being extremely deceptive about it:

House Price Index

Now to be fair, after 2012, house prices did finally start to increase. But that doesn’t change the fact that many people paid more for their houses than they should have. And it doesn’t change the fact that Geithner is a liar who will say anything and present data in a totally dishonest way just to make himself look good. But lest we forget: Geithner is part of the power elite. Incompetence and outright villainy are rewarded in the power elite because the power elite are always rewarded no matter what they do. See, for example, Paul Wolfowitz.

Why Angel Heart Is an Important Film

Angel HeartAlan Parker is one of my favorite film directors. Unlike most film directors who are often great in their own ways, Parker is an artist. I don’t think it is any surprise that he directed two of the best filmed musicals ever: Pink Floyd—The Wall and Evita. And that’s not even counting Fame and The Commitments, which are kind of musicals. He has a stunning visual style that somehow manages not to call attention to itself like Martin Scorsese’s (with all due respect to that great artist).

Despite the fact that he has made so many wonderful films (eg Midnight Express), my favorite Parker film is Angel Heart. And I feel that I need to defend it. Parker is well know to me as providing director commentaries during which he says almost nothing. He often gets involved in watching the film and says nothing. And he’s aware of this because he even mentions it from time to time. On one of his commentaries, he even concludes that it is okay that he isn’t saying anything. For the record: no it isn’t.

But on the commentary track for Angel Heart, he mentioned that he had shown the film to his mentor. I don’t currently own the DVD, so I can’t say who it was. But the mentor did not like the film. He claimed that being able to make a film was such a great opportunity that one should only use it to make important films. I don’t know if this is what caused Parker to go on to make Mississippi Burning or the artistically catastrophic The Life of David Gale or other later films of varying quality. But his mentor was wrong—profoundly wrong. Angel Heart is probably the most serious and important film that Parker ever made.

This is my opinion, of course. It is the result of my interest in ontological questions. But before I get to them, I must warn you: if you haven’t seen the film (or read William Hjortsberg’s excellent novel Falling Angel) you should stop reading. In general, I don’t believe in spoilers. But Angel Heart is a great mystery story and you owe it to yourself to watch it cold. So the rest of my article is “below the fold.”

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Paul McCartney Is 8 Years Past 64

Paul McCartneyI hate to say it, but Paul McCartney is 72 today. There is something about him as a human being that I just don’t like. He strikes me as arrogant in a way that annoys me. But he has reason to be. He is an excellent pop singer. But above all, he is one of the greatest pop songwriters ever. This really can’t be overstated. If he had just been a songwriter, we would place him with the very best—people like Cole Porter.

Most of my friends are much bigger fans of John Lennon. And I understand this. Lennon was the cool one. Lennon was the searcher. Lennon was the one who struggled with understanding the world. And Lennon wrote a few great songs—most notably “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the verses of “A Day in the Life,” and the bizarre “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” But he was nowhere near the talent that Paul McCartney was.

Let’s start with “Yesterday,” which is one of the best pop songs of the 20th century:

Of course, lyrically this song is right on the edge of being as awful as McCartney often was in songs like “The Fool on the Hill”—although musically that one (like pretty much everything he ever did) was fine. But it is wrong to say that McCartney wasn’t a good lyric writer. He was simply lazy at times. His lyrics were often excellent as they were in his straight blues tune “Get Back”:

And let’s just finish the Beatles period with what is probably my favorite McCartney tune, “Penny Lane”:

As a solo artist, McCartney continued to produce great work. Yes, some of it is terrible. But as a solo artist, he didn’t put out nearly as much dreck as the other three former Beatles. And some of it holds up as well as anything he did with the Beatles. Finally, I hate to continue year after year pointing this out, but his tribute song to John Lennon was far better than anyone else’s. It also happens to be a great song in its own right. It’s a great example of how a piece of art can be deeply personal and yet universal.

Happy birthday Paul McCartney!