Archive for March, 2008

Unless you are completely oblivious during March (and without cable or having seen an entire March Madness game we nearly qualify), you have heard the name Stephen Curry, the diminutive superstar who is smashing records, has elevated virtually unheard of Davidson to the Elite Eight, and stands poised in the next hour to once again play David to Goliath Kansas. However, the used allusions of Cinderella, David, and the very word “upset” are starting to seem inappropriate given the talent which features at the forefront, Curry, son of former NBA star, Dell Curry. But the most attractive thing about Curry the Younger isn’t that he has averaged over 30 points a game in March, that his moves seem unreal as if the nation’s best defenders are moving in slow motion to his quick time, or that he looks as if he is 13 years old while LeBron James shakes his head at a reverse layup against Wisconsin I’m still trying to figure out. Plus, there have been a couple of times this season that Curry, who is averaging 34.3 ppg in the tourney, has outscored another team in a half of play. And yet the coolest thing about Curry is his character.

Take note. Every season we hear of the superstar who is facing assault charges at a bar, who took the Toyotas in exchange for signing, who smoked something or other, you get the idea. The thousands of student-athletes who work hard, study well, and display good character often fade from making headlines. But in Curry, consider the following:

  1. Who he points to. When he makes a shot, there is an infectious excitement and joy on his face, but I have yet to see him point to himself, to rip his shirt off after a game and hold it above his head. In fact, Curry does what I’m sure is going to become very en vogue soon–points to Mom and Dad? That’s right. Thank you, Stephen, for showing a television audience that behind you there were countless shoes to be bought, encouragements after middle school losses and being told that 5’7″ and 120 lbs. weren’t big enough for college ball, and prayers.
  2. What his shoes say. I read in a newspaper lead that on Curry’s shoes were written, “I can do all things,” and besides being brazened confidence, having seen the highlight films, I haven’t doubted it. But then I read on later in the article that Curry said, “Oh, that,” Curry said. “It’s Philippians 4:13. ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’ It’s always been one of my favorite Bible verses. … I realize that what I do on the floor isn’t a measure of my own strength. Having that there keeps me focused on the game, a constant reminder of who I’m playing for.” How often do you hear an athlete say that the game, his teammates, or his talent is not about himself?
  3. How he compares himself to his teammates. “It’s nothing special that I do,” remarked a shrugging Curry on Saturday, a practice day before the Wildcats’ Elite Eight matchup with Kansas. “I just get screens from Andrew [Lovedale] and Thomas [Sander] and other big guys down low. … When I’m open, I get the ball, and I have a lot of confidence to shoot it. Nothing special that I’m doing.”
  4. The advice that he would give to kids. “Don’t play for anybody other than your family, or God, or whatever you believe in,” Curry said when asked if he had any advice to offer. “It’s easy to get caught up in playing for the crowd, trying to play a game you’re not capable of. I found myself doing that a little bit in high school and early in my college career. I try harder not to do things that are over my head, not do anything too special. I’m more of a blue-collar guy.”
  5. How he faces adversity. In high school, Curry was scouted by Davidson’s coach who witnessed him turn the ball over ten times but not try to make up for it. In the game against Georgetown, Curry went 1-12 before shooting the lights out. So many of us, not just athletes, seem intent on self-pity, explaining with excuses, or venting in anger at others. Curry shoots on.

Thank you, Stephen.


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About this business of Hillary coming under intense sniping, I have some sympathy. The Clintons got away with this sort of thing for so long that you can’t blame them for wondering how they missed the memo advising that henceforth the old rules no longer apply. Bill, being warier, was usually canny enough to set his fantasies just far enough back in time that live cable footage was unlikely to be available — his vivid memories of entirely mythical black church burnings in his childhood, etc. But Hillary liked to live a little more dangerously. The defining fiction arose back in the mid-Nineties when she visited New Zealand and met Sir Edmund Hillary, the conqueror of Everest, and for some reason decided to tell him he was the guy her parents had named her after.

Hmm. Edmund Hillary reached the top of Everest in 1953. Hillary Rodham was born in 1947, when Sir Edmund was an obscure New Zealand beekeeper and a somewhat unlikely inspiration for two young parents in the Chicago suburbs. If any of the bigshot U.S. newspaper correspondents on the trip noticed this inconsistency, they kept it to themselves. I mentioned it in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph at the time, but like so many other improbabilities in the Clinton record it sailed on indestructibly for years. By 2004 it was preserved for the ages in Bill Clinton’s autobiography, on page (gulp) 870: “Sir Edmund Hillary, who had explored the South Pole in the 1950s, was the first man to reach the top of Mount Everest and, most important, was the man Chelsea’s mother had been named for.”

Eventually, when it was noticed that Hillary was born six years before the ascent of Everest, Clinton aides tried assuring skeptics that her parents had seen a press interview with Sir Edmund in his beekeeping days, Mr. and Mrs. Rodham apparently being the only Illinois subscribers to The New Zealand Apiarist. Read on…

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“Satan doesn’t intend to be uprooted by an upstart from Chicago” –Louis Farrakhan

I am posting this because I think that it is informative and noteworthy. Obviously, Obama has said that he has rejected “Minister Farrakhan’s” remarks. The following was posted on Youtube, and I find Farrakhan to be masterful at playing the secret knowledge card where there is a power behind the power so that America’s Bush, England’s Blair, and Germany’s Merkl are being controlled by–you guessed it–transnational, and even supernatural forces.

The solution? Well, Farrakhan could be the “Change you can call measurable change” guy. Farrakhan contends, “Our government needs to change, and if it will not change, then we need to get rid of it…”Like Marx and other revolutionaries who presuppose a complete destruction of forces before their visions rise phoenix-like from the ashes, Farrakhan rejects that Obama can cause true change although “he likes him very much because he’s fresh.” Farrakhan’s incredulous example of powers that grow corrupted (passing by examples of historical incidents that might prove the thesis) is that Jimmy Carter promised as governor that if he were elected, there would be a full-scale investigation into UFO’s.

Ultimately, Farrakhan states that the power of Satan becomes the reason that we need “regime change.” Barack Obama cannot be this change because of his naivety of the real wickedness. The glimmer of hope in the entire interview initially comes when Farrakhan says that it’s madness that Muslim is bombing Muslim and that such an action is “totally unIslamic” until he lays the ultimate blame at the foot of others’ actions in twisted justification: “…we’ve become insane because of injustice” and one realizes that the sin is in Muslim bombing Muslim.

Now after watching the interview, after Obama’s eloquent siren-like speech, after all the commentators, and after (in honesty) my own desire to spot him this one, I still cannot get my mind and heart around a good man and Harvard-educated lawyer not bolting from the church after he had to have known that his preacher had conveyed the Lifetime Achievement Award to such a hate-filled man.

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Although the American consciousness has a need for a Barack Obama, a post-racial, African-American politician of unsurpassed eloquence that promises unity, charity, and progress, I believe there is a better explanation: Obama is the marvel that critics get when viewing an abstract painting, a Freudian critic who sees sexual overtones in every bit of dialogue, and each literary critic claiming Shakespeare’s writings reveal that he shares the critic’s philosophical bent (e.g. Shakespeare was a closet Catholic, gay, a deconstructionist, a Marxist, etc.)

In other words, Barack Obama is as much the creation of our collective desire for a president who waxes eloquent yet seems down-to-earth, who proves that America is the land of opportunity, and who reaches out to all segments of the political aisle (even though nothing in Obama’s record proves that such rhetoric is reality.) If one wants to be even more abstract, one votes present time and again.

No matter how hard I’ve tried, I still cannot stomach to come to the conclusion that Obama’s deep friendship and loyalty to Jeremiah Wright is excusable. People run to point to George Bush speaking at Bob Jones University one time or to Jerry Falwell’s ludicrous comments, but can anyone imagine Bush, McCain, or a Romney trying to justifying a close adviser-advisee relationship with Falwell or even Pat Robertson in a position of being under the pastor’s authority?

That said, I will give kudos to Mark Goldblatt’s insightful piece which, while I ultimately disagree, sheds light on some of the cultural revelations that have come about concerning Black America:

Conservative commentators, with a few exceptions, have spent the last few days picking apart Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech on the problem of race in American history, politics, and culture. The consensus seems to be that even though the speech was well-crafted and included several memorable turns of phrase, Obama came up short on substance.

Their criticism tends to focus on two points: 1) Obama did not once and for all disassociate himself from Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years and spiritual mentor, whose incendiary, grotesquely paranoid statements about America necessitated the speech; and 2) The remedies favored by Obama to bind up the nation’s racial wounds and address lingering disparities amounted to a laundry list of big government same-old-same-olds. Read on…

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Barack Obama’s revelations are instructive. As a conservative, I had once deep aspirations that you would have come in the style of a Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King, Jr. as a writer and thinker who truly meant what he said–we are Americans, one, past the need for being a “race essentialist,” to quote Jonah Goldberg. However disappointed I am, you have helped to prove that the American Left is perhaps the most vitriolic and racist movement that can actually affect change in the last 50 years in America, and the most revealing thing? The Left no longer feels they have to hide it.

So for just a moment, let’s imagine that the shoe were on the other foot so that we can deal with the seriousness of the issue because I heard a little joke today. It went like this: Barack Obama may be truly done. According to reports, his dentist supposedly said something disparaging about the Chicago Cubs. So, let’s see what this might look like if this had happened to Senator John McCain…

Sen. John McCain’s closest adviser and friend for nearly twenty years, Reginald Duke, has spent a lifetime trying to advance educational ideas as president of Townstand University. However, recent revelations have caused a firestorm as Duke’s videotape lectures reveal that he has tried to “advance white culture, white politics, white businesses, white Christianity, and European or Aryan Liberation Theology,” according to brochures describing the lecture series.

In a 1978 lecture, Duke reportedly said in a lecture that the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy were what happens when “the chickens come home to roost” and one tries to change a tried and true segregated America. Although Sen. McCain repeatedly said that he wasn’t on hand during those particular lectures, McCain has received weekly counsel from Duke since 1988 according to a campaign spokesperson and has insisted on his children attending such lectures from an early age.

According to finance disclosure reports, McCain claimed a tax deduction last year when he donated $22,500 to Duke’s organization. Although he has repudiated Duke’s statements, McCain said that his grandfather, a navy man, had an African-American servant woman who was known to use the word “cracker” in private conversations in order to pejoratively describe Caucasians and admitted privately to McCain that she felt fear around white people whom she did not know.

Last night on radio, McCain explained that he wasn’t trying to lessen his grandfather’s servant woman, whom he affectionately called Mammy but was instead explaining what he called “typical black people.” McCain further sought to explain that just as Duke was out-of-line in his statements, even a good Christian woman like “Mammy” sometimes makes mistakes. Not having Duke as a confidante and counselor would be like severing one of his own family, whom McCain said would be akin to turning his back on the white community.

Earlier this week, even McCain’s wife, often reticent and media-shy, weighed in on the situation by saying that misunderstanding McCain on this issue is further proof of America being a mean country. Last month, she had said that she was proud of America for the first time in her life but has since resorted to the shame every American ought to feel.

Among the more controversial statements that Duke had made were that the American government invented the Asian bird flu to sell American-made vaccines, that African-Americans had grown so powerful that USA should be replaced with UNA which he explained as the United Negro America and that no one else could ever be president because they don’t the shame of figuratively being spit on and called a baby killer, a reference to his sense of injustice that Vietnam vets like McCain were often the subject of job discrimination and not welcomed back from the war front despite having served their country.

A spokesperson for Sen. McCain shook his head in disbelief at the attention that McCain and Duke’s friendship was getting. “Really, people, when John McCain’s dentist revealed that he was a Los Angeles Dodgers fans, a few in the media went wild. My question is this: Isn’t this just another case of a reckless notion that one is guilty by association?”

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The beauty of a speech is that you don’t just give the answers, you provide your own questions. “Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes.” So said Barack Obama, in his Philadelphia speech about his pastor, friend, mentor, and spiritual adviser of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright.

An interesting, if belated, admission. But the more important question is: which “controversial” remarks?

Wright’s assertion from the pulpit that the U.S. government invented the HIV virus “as a means of genocide against people of color”? Wright’s claim that America was morally responsible for 9/11 — “chickens coming home to roost” — because of, among other crimes, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Obama says he missed church that day. Had he never heard about it?)

What about the charge that the U.S. government (of Franklin Roosevelt, mind you) knew about Pearl Harbor, but lied about it? Or that the government gives drugs to black people, presumably to enslave and imprison them?

Obama condemns such statements as wrong and divisive, then frames the next question: “There will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church?”

But that is not the question. The question is why didn’t he leave that church? Why didn’t he leave — why doesn’t he leave even today — a pastor who thundered not once but three times from the pulpit (on a DVD the church proudly sells) “God damn America”? Obama’s 5,000-word speech, fawned over as a great meditation on race, is little more than an elegantly crafted, brilliantly sophistic justification of that scandalous dereliction.

His defense rests on two central propositions: (a) moral equivalence, and (b) white guilt.

(a) Moral equivalence. Sure, says Obama, there’s Wright, but at the other “end of the spectrum” there’s Geraldine Ferraro, opponents of affirmative action, and his own white grandmother, “who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” But did she shout them in a crowded theater to incite, enrage, and poison others?

“I can no more disown (Wright) than I can my white grandmother.” What exactly was grandma’s offense? Jesse Jackson himself once admitted to the fear he feels from the footsteps of black men on the street. And Harry Truman was known to use epithets for blacks and Jews in private, yet is revered for desegregating the armed forces and recognizing the first Jewish state since Jesus’ time. He never spread racial hatred. Nor did grandma.

Yet Obama compares her to Wright. Does he not see the moral difference between the occasional private expression of the prejudices of one’s time and the use of a public stage to spread racial lies and race hatred?

(b) White guilt. Obama’s purpose in the speech was to put Wright’s outrages in context. By context, Obama means history. And by history, he means the history of white racism. Obama says, “We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country,” and then proceeds to do precisely that. And what lies at the end of his recital of the long train of white racial assaults from slavery to employment discrimination? Jeremiah Wright, of course.

This contextual analysis of Wright’s venom, this extenuation of black hate speech as a product of white racism, is not new. It’s the Jesse Jackson politics of racial grievance, expressed in Ivy League diction and Harvard Law nuance. That’s why the speech made so many liberal commentators swoon: It bathed them in racial guilt, while flattering their intellectual pretensions. An unbeatable combination.

But Obama was supposed to be new. He flatters himself as a man of the future transcending the anger of the past as represented by his beloved pastor. Obama then waxes rhapsodic about the hope brought by the new consciousness of the young people in his campaign.

Then answer this, Senator: If Wright is a man of the past, why would you expose your children to his vitriolic divisiveness? This is a man who curses America and who proclaimed moral satisfaction in the deaths of 3,000 innocents at a time when their bodies were still being sought at Ground Zero. It is not just the older congregants who stand and cheer and roar in wild approval of Wright’s rants, but young people as well. Why did you give $22,500 just two years ago to a church run by a man of the past who infects the younger generation with precisely the racial attitudes and animus you say you have come unto us to transcend?

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Shelby Steele is a thought-provoking writer whose works on race go miles beyond the infinitesimal, normal explanations of race relations in this country. Steele delves into “white guilt” and “white innocence,” and uses the shades of gray, subtlety, and nuance as he plumbs the depths of the human psyche. His last piece on Barack Obama, which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal are pertinent, pithy, and deeply meaningful:

Geraldine Ferraro may have had sinister motives when she said that Barack Obama would not be “in his position” as a frontrunner but for his race. Possibly she was acting as Hillary Clinton’s surrogate. Or maybe she was simply befuddled by this new reality — in which blackness could constitute a political advantage. Read on

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