Adam Serwer

Fallout

Between individual choice and cultural destiny. Martin Luther King Jr., advice columnist . The fruits of elite immunity . Anti-immigration zealots and their faulty logic. Thank you to everyone who joined me on this blog over the past two years, and to The American Prospect for hosting it. It was my privilege to be here, at such a wonderful magazine, and I only hope that I contributed to your understanding of politics and public policy in doing so. I'll see you at Mother Jones .

MLK, Pariah

Dave Weigel makes a point no one should ever forget: Why was King so unpopular in 1966? You could read Taylor Branch or Rick Perlstein, and it is Friday, so you might have the time. The short version: In 1965 and 1966, King started working on housing in northern states, starting in Chicago. The 1966 Gallup poll here was taken around the time of the disastrous Marquette Park march, which King credited for the ugliest crowd of counter-protesters he'd ever seen. (We can read some hyperbole into that if we like.) He was starting in on his anti-war activism. He had moved on from the causes of Southern integration and voting rights to the far more volcanic issues of housing and red-lining and economic redistribution -- he became, fully, a man of the left. King's subsequent political sainthood has very little to do with his post-Nobel Prize activism. It's left for guys like Cornel West to dig that up; to everyone else, King's "dream" was some easily-appropriated stuff about color-blindness...

The Married Superhero

For some silly, masochistic reason, I've spent the last few weeks wading through the mid-1990s Spider-Man clone saga. The basic premise is that the Peter Parker we know and love as Spider-Man is not actually Spider-Man. Instead, following a fight with his clone, the real Peter Parker walked away believing he was the clone, while the clone went on to continue his career as Spider-Man. The clone, now known as Ben Reilly (an amalgam of Peter's slain Uncle Ben and his Aunt May's maiden name) returns and the truth is discovered. Peter then goes off to Portland to live happily ever after with wife Mary Jane and raise a family, while Reilly reclaims his role as Spider-Man. The whole thing took two years, and when it was over Marvel just said psych and undid the whole thing. Peter returns as Spider-Man. So it was pretty lame. In fact, it was the reason I stopped reading Marvel for many years. And it doesn't hold up particularly well over time either. But it's interesting that Marvel never...

GOP Candidates Pledge To Abolish Marriage Equality In D.C.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has joined the other two top-tier Republican presidential candidates, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, in signing the National Organization for Marriage's Pledge to "appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters," support an anti-marriage-equality amendment to the Constitution, and overturn same-sex marriage in the District so it can be put to a citywide referendum in defiance of local human-rights laws. The "investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters" plank comes from the difficulty NOM has had keeping its donors secret. See, NOM believes, like Sarah Palin, that the First Amendment gives them the freedom to say what they want without criticism. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against NOM's efforts to keep their donors anonymous, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing that "there are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short...

Alleged Oregon Arsonist On "Secret Muslims" And "Christian Warriors"

The indictment of Cody Crawford, who allegedly attempted to burn down a mosque in Oregon, is notable for a few reasons beyond the fact of the alleged crime itself. Crawford is alleged to have targeted the mosque in part because he recognized Mohamud Osman Mohamud, who was caught and charged in an FBI sting plot to bomb a Portland Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony, as one of the congregants. Crawford seems to be the second instance we've seen of an alleged act of anti-Muslim terrorism being perpetrated on ideological grounds. As noted yesterday, Crawford told an officer while being arrested that "you look like Obama. You are a Muslim like him. Jihad goes both ways. Christians can jihad too." But the indictment offers more details: Crawford also made statements about Officer Macartney being Muslim and not a Christian like him (Crawford) and therefore, Crawford said that Officer Macartney was "going to burn in Hell like other Muslims." Crawford stated that Officer Macartney could never be...

Unpossible: Racism Against Latinos In Arizona

That's the basic conclusion of a challenge to the Voting Rights Act by the state of Arizona, which is seeking to overturn the law as unconstitutional. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act mandates that certain jurisdictions with a history of racial problems have their election changes subject to "preclearance" by the Justice Department. The lawsuit may be unique in its frank use of Tenth Amendment language to argue implicitly that the VRA was unconstitutional even when it was first passed by Congress, when it was meant to ensure that black people were able to excercize their right to vote. The lawsuit declares that "such heavy handed intrusion on state sovereignty exceeds Congress’s authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments." So even when black people were being murdered in the South for trying to exercise their right to vote, the Voting Rights Act was an unconstitutional infringement on "states' rights." The last challenge to Section 5 didn't go so far -- it merely argued...

You Can't Believe Your Eyes

Eyewitness misidentification is a leading factor in wrongful convictions -- according to the Innocence Project, more than 75 percent of DNA exonerations involved cases of eyewitness misidentification. In what the Innocence Project called a landmark ruling earlier this week, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart J. Rabner wrote a long opinion holding that the legal standards for admissibility of eyewitness evidence should be modified. The ruling itself is an incredibly compelling recap of the relevant science on memory and the problems with eyewitness testimony over the past 30 years. Until now, admissibility has generally hinged on a two-prong test: If the court decides that the identification took place under "suggestive" circumstances, it must then decide, based on five factors, whether the evidence is reliable. 1) the “opportunity of the witness to view the criminal at the time of the crime”; (2) “the witness’s degree of attention”; (3) “the accuracy of his prior...

Fallout

Ghadafi loves Condi. Five years later, the Jena Six move on . Nomination oversights may be Obama's biggest sin. Feminists against fun?

Wrenching Experiences

A few days ago National Review published a silly piece by Tevi Troy criticizing President Obama's vacation reading list because it was light on Jonah Goldberg books. He seemed to think this argument from Mickey Kaus, that Obama's reading list was "heavy on the wrenching stories of immigrant experiences, something the President already knows quite a bit about," was clever enough to be worth quoting. You have to admire the pseudo-birtherism of Kaus' formulation--you can practically see little Barack clutching his Kenyan birth certificate as he steps off the plane. Only one of the books on Obama's list counts as a story about "immigrants," namely Abraham Verghese's novel on Ethiopian immigration to the U.S. The other is not a novel, but a history book by Isabel Wilkerson about the great migration of black Americans out of the South during the 20th Century. What they have to do with one another is entirely unknown, except perhaps that they're both about black people, and Obama, being...

MPDG, Ctd

Alyssa Rosenberg has some further thoughts on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl character archetype: He and I were talking about this a little bit a couple of days ago, and while I think it’s pretty clear why MPDGs are a fantasy for men, I also think the archetype has some utility for women. After decades of makeover scenes and unrealistic physical and behavioral expectations, there’s something kind of appealing about being told that the fantasy isn’t the Herve Leger bandage dress and the body that goes with it, it’s the quirky cardigan; that it’s not about having to fix yourself, it’s about someone else has to do the transformative work and all you have to do is help. I don’t necessarily think it’s a good trade, and I don’t actually think it makes for fully fleshed-out characters or exceptionally interesting movies, but I understand why it might feel worth it. I think this is one of the key differences between the Magic Negro and the MPDG. No one consciously wants to be the Magic Negro. But...

A Dance With Dragons And The Return To Fantasy

So this is going to be a massively spoiler-heavy post, so those of you who haven't read A Dance With Dragons yet or are fans of the TV series Game of Thrones and don't want some major things to be revealed should stop. Reading. Now.

Oregon Man Charged With Setting Fire To A Mosque

The Civil Rights Division has announced that it's charging an Oregon man with allegedly setting a mosque in Corvallis on fire. The larger context here is that the mosque was attended by Mohamud Osman Mohamud, the 19-year old who was arrested in a plot to bomb a Portland Christmas tree that was in actuality a sting set up by the FBI. In response to a fake terror plot that was never going to take place, someone decided it was time to execute a real one. UPDATE: The suspect, Cody Crawford, reportedly said this: "You look like Obama. You are a Muslim like him. Jihad goes both ways. Christians can jihad too," a court document quotes Crawford as telling a McMinnville officer after his Dec. 14 arrest on a charge unrelated to the firebombing." So not just a mere hate crime, but possibly another anti-Muslim ideologue who, like alleged Oslo terrorist Anders Breivik, embraces the concept of holy war between Christians and Muslims. Just from the "Christian" side.

West On Black Intellectuals And Liberal Magazines

My profile of Cornel West and Tavis Smiley's Poverty Tour will be in the print edition of next month's print edition Prospect , but I was having a conversation with Jamelle yesterday that reminded me of a portion of the interview with West I thought was interesting but didn't make it into the final piece. Prominently white, liberal and progressive magazines, like your magazine, I love brother Paul Starr and Kuttner, very close. But predominatly white magazines, the relation to black intellectuals has always been one of trying to get more, embrace more and so forth, but not always successful. The Nation magazine with sister Katrina, same way. And you end up sometimes recruiting certain black intellectuals who themselves are much less focused the things that Kuttner's concerned about, and more concerned with their careers in the white context that allows them to be more visible. So they come at highly visible black folk who have already paid their dues, who have already gone through...

No Victory Laps On Libya Plz

Just saying : What comes after Gaddafi’s fall is much more important, and much more uncertain. Now it should be said that Obama’s strategy means that one of the key factors in the emergence of suicide terrorism — a foreign occupying military, typically of a different religious background than the occupied — isn’t present in Libya. But because Gaddafi essentially built Libyan society around himself, the rebels will have to start almost from scratch in constructing a new Libya. And it’s far from a safe bet that the one that will emerge will be the kind of democratic, pluralistic state that would be ideal. The rebels were united by a desire to oust Gaddafi, they’re less united in their vision for what Libyan society should be. Whatever ultimately happens, it’s far too early to declare the intervention in Libya “successful.” What we can say is that months after the president initiated a war without Congress’ approval, one he said would last “weeks, not months,” the most straightforward...

The Problem With "Post-Blackness"

I'm sympathetic to the emotional roots of Touré's conception of "post-blackness" and I find the concept kind of ridiculous. Not just because whiteness, rather than blackness , has historically been the more exclusive ethnic identity but because even Touré writes stuff like this: All of that is why, to me, Vick seems to have a deeply African-American approach to the game. I'm not saying that a black QB who stands in the pocket ain't playing black. I'm saying Vick's style is so badass, so artistic, so fluid, so flamboyant, so relentless -- so representative of black athletic style -- that if there were a stat for swagger points, Vick would be the No. 1 quarterback in the league by far. Touré wants to "to banish from the collective mind the bankrupt, fraudulent concept of 'authentic' Blackness," but he nevertheless believes that your "swagger points" somehow define whether or not you have a "deeply African-American approach to the game." You can't really have it both ways--a blackness...

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