“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Will the Real Barack Obama Please Stand Up?

Shelby Steele offers some insight into Mr. Obama.

People do well because they are loved and because much is asked of them--not because they are black or white. Their own sense of responsibility is always their greatest asset. Whatever consolations blackness may offer, it is not an agent. It does nothing. And there is indeed a "fresh" politics to be made from these simple truths. Who better to do this than Barack Obama? Here, within his own actual experience, is his chance to deliver the "freshness" that so many Americans look for in him.

Caught in the Middle

But Obama is not likely to take this path. He is a man bound by forces outside himself and by a practice that is central to the minority experience in America: masking. As the word itself makes clear, the mask is not an authentic representation of one's true self; rather it is a presentation of the self that angles for advantage. Today we blacks have two great masks that we wear for advantage in the American mainstream: bargaining and challenging.

Bargainers make a deal with white Americans that gives whites the benefit of the doubt: I will not rub America's history of racism in your face, if you will not hold my race against me. Especially in our era of political correctness, whites are inevitably grateful for this bargain that spares them the shame of America's racist past. They respond to bargainers with gratitude, warmth, and even affection. This "gratitude factor" can bring the black bargainer great popularity. Oprah Winfrey is the most visible bargainer in America today.

Challengers never give whites the benefit of the doubt. They assume whites are racist until they prove otherwise. And whites are never taken off the hook until they (institutions more than individuals) give some form of racial preference to the challenger. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are today's best known challengers. Of course, most blacks can and do go both ways, but generally we tend to lean one way or another.

Barack Obama is a plausible presidential candidate today because he is a natural born bargainer. Obama--like Oprah--is an opportunity for whites to think well of themselves, to give themselves one of the most self-flattering feelings a modern white can have: that they are not racist. He is the first to apply the bargainer's charms to presidential politics. Sharpton and Jackson were implausible presidential candidates because they suffered the charmlessness of challengers. Even given white guilt, no one wants to elect a scold.

But the great problem for Obama is that today's black identity is grounded in challenging. This is the circumstance that makes him a bound man. If he tries to win the black vote by taking on a posture of challenging, he risks losing the vote of whites who like him precisely because he does not challenge. And if his natural bargaining wins white votes, he risks losing black votes to Hillary Clinton. Why? Because Hillary Clinton always identifies with black challengers like Al Sharpton. This makes her "blacker" than Barack Obama.

There is only one way out of this bind for this still young politician. He has to drop all masks, all obsessions with identity, all his fears of being called a sell-out, and very carefully come to reveal what he truly believes as an individual. This is what America really expects from Barack Obama.


  1. That storyline is plausible, at a Christmas party the other night there were a couple of black ladies and one of their husbands.

    One lady thought the world of Oprah and hoped Obama would do well because of it, the other black lady thought Obama was a Muslim as a child and would vote against him, because of that.

    I find it hard to believe that any Black voter would see Ms Clinton as "blacker" than Mr Obama.

    But a lot of Oprah fans, whom are majority white folk, and natural liberals will vote for him, to prove they are not racist, at least to themselves.

    The General Election, though, has a much larger cross section of US particpating.

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  3. DR: Inflation is increasing faster than the target, soon perscription drugs and clothing will be factored out of the "core", they now becoming "volitale", too.

    That's a neat trick. Carter should have tried that in the third quarter of 1980 when inflation hit 18% and threw the election to Ronnie. But long bond rates are driven by supply and demand, not the whims of someone tossing out items from being counted as core inflation. That means rates will inexorably rise as they find it harder and harder to get suckers to believe their "core inflation" scam and buy more American debt.

  4. A Newsweak article pines for Al Gore to ride to the rescue of the Democrats.

  5. Ed Rollins joins Team Huckabee, as Campaign Chairman.

    Echoes of Reagan

  6. DR: But a lot of Oprah fans, whom are majority white folk, and natural liberals will vote for him, to prove they are not racist, at least to themselves.

    I still believe that straw polls notwithstanding, anyone with a pair of ovaries is going to go into that voting booth and want to help Hillary make history, even if they can't get that evil cackle out of their head. Then they'll celebrate by going to KFC and ordering a Presidential Special:

    Two small breasts, two large thighs, and two left wings.

  7. If you want a glimpse of at least part of the real Obama, check out his church's website,

  8. The Trinity United Church seems apropo for the son of a Kenyan.

    We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

    Was Obama ever a Muslim?

    Does Mormon dogma really hold that Jesus and Satan are brothers?
    I've heard the question asked and rehashed, but never heard the answer.

    Objective reporting, I'm sure.

  9. What do we know about Obama now?

    So far he is a novice, socialist, dope snorting oreo who wants to chat up people that want to kill us. Oprah likes him and that's enough right there for me to despise him.

    But the entire second-rate field of candidates for President in this race shows just how screwed up the republic is in 2007.

    Maybe America is ready for a doper mutt that leads Oprah's shallow America. The perfect metrosexual to guide America into the twilight that the global elites have in mind for us.

  10. INTERNATIONAL is their first name

    BOSTON (Associated Press) -- IBM Corp.'s expansion in developing countries shows no sign of relenting. The technology company revealed Friday that it now has 73,000 employees in India, almost a 40 percent leap from last year.

    IBM did not provide updated figures for its work force in the U.S., which has held steady around 125,000 people in recent years.

  11. Lugh Lamphfota: So far he is a novice, socialist, dope snorting oreo who wants to chat up people that want to kill us.

    Your buddy Huck ain't any better. Google his foreign policy positions, the pickings are pretty thin, but you'll find that he cribbed his Iran policy from Obama. He springs serial rapists from jail and murderers from death row if they scream "Praise JEEEEZUS! I've seen the LIGHT!". His tax policies in Arkansas were confiscatory, if not outright redistributionist.

  12. Desert Rat: Does Mormon dogma really hold that Jesus and Satan are brothers?

    12th Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball:

    "Long before you were born a program was developed by your creators ... The principal personalities in this great drama were a Father Elohim, perfect in wisdom, judgment, and person, and two sons, Lucifer and Jehovah." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 32-33).

  13. My buddy Huck? Um...right. Just what America needs...another former governor from Arkansas.

  14. His tax policies in Arkansas were confiscatory, if not outright redistributionist.

    That's a falsehood.
    Pure and simple.

    There were elections where the people approved tax hikes, to improve the road network in Arkansas which was at third world standards, after the Clinton era.

    As for:
    Personal income tax
    Arkansas collects income taxes from its residents at the following rates:
    -- 1.0% on the first $3,599 of taxable income
    -- 2.5% on taxable income between $3,600 and $7,199
    -- 3.5% on taxable income between $7,200 and $10,799
    -- 4.5% on taxable income between $10,800 and $17,999
    -- 6.0% on taxable income between $18,000 and $30,099
    -- 7.0% on all taxable income over $30,100.

    In 2003 the state enacted a 3 percent individual income tax surcharge on all Arkansas taxpayers, including those living or working in Texarkana. Previously these residents paid no Arkansas tax by claiming the state's Border City Exemption.

    Sales tax
    Arkansas's gross receipts (sales) tax and compensating (use) tax rate was increased March 1, 2004, to 6 percent (from the previous 5.125 percent).
    Effective July 1, 2004, the state also mandated that various services be subject to sales tax collection. They include wrecker and towing services; dry cleaning and laundry; body piercing, tattooing and electrolysis; pest control; security and alarm monitoring; self-storage facilities; boat storage and docking; and pet grooming and kennel services.

    In New York ...
    Personal income tax
    New York collects state income taxes using a progressive, five-bracket system.

    For single taxpayers:
    -- 4% on the first $8,000 of taxable income
    -- 4.5% on taxable income between $8,001 and $11,000
    -- 5.25% on taxable income between $11,001 and $13,000
    -- 5.9% on taxable income between $13,001 and $20,000
    -- 6.85% on taxable income of $20,001 and above.

    Plus the NYCity taxes for residents, there.
    Around 4%, a little less, but with a base and then an added %.

  15. I called EDS for software support at work yesterday and spoke with Ravindra Goolapoolsa and later Ahmet Mohammed. I only understood one of every ten words but eight hours later they had one line of code fixed and the factory running again.

    Ain't this global economy grand?

  16. Then the Sales Tax in New york needs a 44 page book to explain who and how to pay on these items and services:

    subject to tax
    Unless specifically exempted or excluded, sales tax is imposed on:
    • retail sales of tangible personal property;
    • sales of specifically enumerated services;
    • sales of gas, electricity, refrigeration and steam;
    • sales of gas, electric, refrigeration and steam service;
    • sales of telephony and telegraphy;
    • sales of telephone and telegraph service (including telephone answering services, facsimile transmission services, and cellular telephone services);
    • sales of food and drink for on premises consumption, for example, when sold by restaurants and taverns;
    • sales of food and drink when sold by caterers;
    • sales of heated food and sandwiches;
    • rent for occupancy of hotel or motel rooms (including bed and breakfasts, boarding houses, guest houses, etc);
    • admission charges to places of amusement, other than live dramatic or musical arts performances, motion picture theaters, participatory sporting events, live circus performances, or charges which are taxed under any other law of this State for admissions to race tracks, boxing, sparring or wrestling matches or exhibitions;
    • dues, including initiation fees, paid to social or athletic clubs when the dues are more than $10 per year; and
    • charges of a roof garden, cabaret, or other similar place.

    For sales tax purposes, the term sale includes a lease, rental, exchange, or barter, and license to use or consume. For computer software, the term sale also includes the right to reproduce the software.
    Sales of tangible personal property
    The term tangible personal property means physical personal property, of any nature, that has a material existence and is perceptible to the human senses. Tangible personal property includes a variety of goods. Examples of taxable sales of tangible personal property include, but are not limited to, sales of:
    • furniture, appliances, and lighting fixtures;
    • clothing and footwear*;
    • machinery and equipment, parts, tools, and supplies;
    • computers and prewritten (canned/off-theshelf/standard) computer software;
    • motor vehicles;
    • boats and yachts;
    • fuels (for example, motor fuel, diesel motor fuel, and kero-jet fuel);
    • candy and confections;
    • bottled water, soda, and beer;
    • cigarettes and tobacco products;
    • cosmetics and toiletries;
    • jewelry;
    • artistic items such as sketches, paintings, and photographs;
    • animals, trees, shrubs, plants, and seeds;
    • coins and other monetary items, when purchased for purposes other than for use as a medium of exchange;
    • building materials; and
    • prepaid telephone calling cards.
    *If you sell clothing or footwear, contact the Tax Department for the most up-to-date information concerning the applicable tax rates to charge your customers. You can obtain this information by visiting the Department Web site at or by contacting our Business Tax Information Center at 1 800-972-1233.
    Specifically enumerated services
    Services subject to tax, which are generally referred to as specifically enumerated services, include, but are not limited to:
    • providing certain information services;
    • processing, assembling, fabricating, printing or imprinting tangible personal property furnished by a customer who did not purchase the tangible personal property for resale (for example, when an individual purchases lumber and has a cabinetmaker construct a bookcase for him or her);
    • installing, maintaining, servicing, or repairing tangible personal property that is not held for sale by the purchaser of the service in the regular course of business (for example, servicing automobiles, installing appliances, and repairing radio and television sets);
    • storing tangible personal property that is not being held for sale (for example, storing a customer’s furs or providing storage for a customer’s household goods);
    • renting safe deposit boxes, vaults, and similar storage facilities;
    • maintaining, servicing, or repairing real property both inside and outside buildings (for example, cleaning, painting, gardening, snow plowing, trash removal, and general repairs);
    • providing parking, garaging, or storing services for motor vehicles;

  17. BBC NEWS
    Iraqi oil exceeds pre-war output
    Iraqi oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

    The IEA said Iraqi crude production is now running at 2.3 million barrels per day, compared with 1.9 million barrels at the start of this year.

    It puts the rise down to the improving security situation in Iraq, especially in the north of the country.

  18. BBC NEWS
    US marine guilty of Iraq killing
    By Peter Bowes
    BBC News, California

    A US marine has been found guilty of killing an Iraqi soldier while they were on night-time patrol in Falluja.

    Lance Corporal Delano Holmes was convicted of negligent homicide, but was found not guilty of a more serious charge of unpremeditated murder.

    Holmes told a military court in San Diego he stabbed the Iraqi private in a fight after suspecting he might be signalling to an insurgent sniper.

    He now faces up to eight years in prison and a dishonourable discharge.


    Holmes told the court he had had fought with Private Munther Jasem Muhammed Hassin while they had been on night-time sentry duty in Falluja.

    He said he suspected that the Iraqi was signalling to insurgents with a lit cigarette and a mobile phone.

    He told investigators that during the fight Pte Hassin reached for his AK-47 after refusing to put down the cigarette and phone.

    Prosecutors accused Holmes of repeatedly stabbing the Iraqi solder with his bayonet. They said Pte Hassin was an ally of the United States, and there was no evidence he was anything but "a peaceful guy".

    Holmes's defence lawyer told jurors the actions of the marine were "a perfectly reasonable application and escalation of force".

    A post-mortem examination found that Pte Hassin had 17 stab wounds, 26 cuts and a gash that nearly severed his nose.

    Holmes was also found guilty of lying to his superiors about the incident.

    The five-day trial focused on the politically sensitive issue of how US marines interact with the Iraqi security forces.

  19. The "north" being Kurdistan and Kirkurk, where the Kurds have moved forward with foreign contracts despite the Iraqi Central Government saying those contracts are null & void.

  20. Glad Jr is out of the Marines, they do not support their own.

    The Haditha episode proof enough for me.

  21. Arkansas taxes less than New York, higher and lower than AZ

    Personal income tax
    Arizona collects income taxes from its residents at the following rates.

    For single and married filing separately taxpayers:
    -- 2.73% on the first $10,000 of taxable income
    -- 3.04% on taxable income between $10,001 and $25,000
    -- 3.55% on taxable income between $25,001 and $50,000
    -- 4.48% on taxable income between $50,001 and $150,000
    -- 4.79% on all taxable income over $150,000.

    For married persons filing joint returns and heads of households, the rates remain the same but the income brackets are doubled.

  22. For Bobal:
    California's budget: $145 billion
    California's population: 36,457,549

    $3977 per man, woman and child.

  23. Cal-e-fornia Taxes

    Personal income tax
    California collects income tax from its residents at the following rates.

    For single and married filing separately taxpayers:
    -- 1% on the first $6,622 of taxable income
    -- 2% on taxable income between $6,623 and $15,698
    -- 4% on taxable income between $15,699 and $24,776
    -- 6% on taxable income between $24,777 and $34,394
    -- 8% on taxable income between $34,395 and $43,467
    -- 9.3% on taxable income of $43,468 and above.

    A 1 percent surcharge is collected on taxable incomes of $1 million or more, making California's highest marginal rate 10.3 percent.

  24. Florida:
    State Budget
    $64.7 Billion (2005-2006)
    population: 18,089,888
    State Sales Tax - 6%
    Corporate Tax - 5.5%
    State Income Tax - None
    Local option sales tax can be up to 2%

    The average total millage (tax) rate in Florida is 21.88 mills--meaning $21.88 per $1000 of a property's taxable value.

  25. Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused Friday to give Congress details of the government's investigation into interrogations of terror suspects that were videotaped and destroyed by the CIA. He said doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry is vulnerable to political pressure.

    In letters to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees that oversee the Justice Department, Mukasey also said there is no need right now to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation. The preliminary inquiry currently is being handled by the Justice Department and the CIA's inspector general.

    "I am aware of no facts at present to suggest that department attorneys cannot conduct this inquiry in an impartial manner," Mukasey wrote to Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat and Republican, respectively, on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "If I become aware of information that leads me to a different conclusion, I will act on it."

    Meantime, Senate Republicans blocked a bill Friday that would restrict the CIA's interrogation methods. Already passed by the House, the bill would require the CIA to adhere to the Army's field manual on interrogation, which bans waterboarding, mock executions and other harsh methods.

  26. That's $3,595 per Floridian, aye?

    Almost the Cal-e-fornia number

    Arizona State Budget - Fiscal Year 2006

    Issue Overview: May 5, both the House and Senate passed a compromise budget plan at $8.2 billion.
    6,166,318 people
    $1,344 budgeted per head.

    Arkansas = 2,810,872 people
    $3.526 billion. $1,259 per capita

  27. So they're redistributing income, bigtime, in Arkansas?

  28. Okay Rat you called me on my bullshit and you win the kitty.

  29. Idaho is at about $1,037 per head if I did the math right.

    We can compete with anybody:)

  30. on Obama,

    I wrote, seemingly ages ago, that Obama was worth watching, had a reasonable chance at carrying the dem side. I was greeted with disdainful guffaws here. Watch out, Obama may very well be the next POTUS.

    teresita wrote:

    " But long bond rates are driven by supply and demand, not the whims of someone tossing out items from being counted as core inflation. That means rates will inexorably rise "

    weeelll, whom needs to borrow a load and who floats the treasured 'safest' long bond. With such a voracious appetite for debt what does that do to the 'supply curve'? While we are seeing a tightening the the private equity markets where all are tapped out and in search of solid debotors there is a government with voracious appetite and a willing fed pumping liquidity into the system at bargain basement rates. Are you up for a jumbo mortgage? Are you flush with cash in search of safey and a US 30 yr. treasury? It sure is a mixed bag full of uncharted territory and I wouldn't be too confident calling the immediate future to confidently.