2008 - %3, February

Blogging While Brown

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 11:43 AM EST

Someone forwarded me a link to a blog called Electronic Village which is tabulating rankings for black blogs. Somehow I qualify, even though it's the MoJo Blog (a 'problematic' they address). I offer this not because I'm on it but because it's a convenient way to figure out where to go looking for black blogs/topics of interest (there's a looong list of black blog links).

I can't vouch for quality (see below for mention of anti-Toni Morrison misogyny), or the quality of the organization itself, but their top 10 rankings for February 2008 are as follows:

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U.S. National Guard and Reserves Face "Appalling" Shortfalls, Study Finds

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 11:36 AM EST

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The war in Afghanistan was the subject of three independent reports, all released yesterday. Buried by the resulting coverage, a fourth report by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, also published Thursday, warns that our non-professional soldiers—the ones shouldering much of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan—are stretched to the breaking point.

Until Iraq, the Guard and Reserves were long considered a "backup" force, a sort of safety valve that could be pulled in the event of an emergency. But the occupation of Iraq (not to mention the hot-cold Afghan conflict), have fundamentally challenged the nature of what is expected from America's citizen soldiers. It's no longer the one weekend a month sort of deal it used to be. Rather, Guard and Reserve units have quickly evolved into crucial operational components of how the U.S. military projects power around the world. Trouble is, investment of personnel and resources remains stuck in an earlier time, and it's a disconnect that threatens the viability of the current U.S. force structure.

What to Read This Winter

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 11:18 AM EST

A la yesterday's post on the literature of campaign endorsements, today Slate is running a wonderfully enticing compendium of books recommended for our winter reading pleasure. They cover all genres, but, being a non-fiction nerd, this one caught my eye:

Texas Death Row by Bill Crawford, ed. When I cracked open Texas Death Row, I thought, oooh, I see, it's a catalog of all the folks who've been put to death there, not the kind of book you sit down and read cover-to-cover. Then, I sat down and read it cover-to-cover. Not only because I knew a few of the unfortunates who wound up "riding the needle" from my long-ago stint covering Texas prisons, but because it's impossible to turn away from this inch-by-inch indictment of a culture that would feed a man with a 7th-grade education enough food to kill him right before actually doing so, and call that justice. (And how could anyone choke down a last meal of "fifteen enchiladas, onion rings or fries, eight pieces of fried chicken, eight pieces of barbecue chicken, eight whole peppers, ten hard-shell tacos with plenty of meat, cheese, onions and sauce, four double-meat, double-cheese, double-bacon burgers, T-bone steak with A-1 sauce, and a pan of peach cobbler?" No idea, but nobody dies hungry in Huntsville.)
Bill Crawford's book contains no commentary, just basic biographical information about the 391 men and women executed in Texas in the last 25 years. On page after page you see person after person who never made it past the seventh or eighth grade, and crime after crime connected with drugs—so tell me again why you still hear Texans boo-hoo about that awful Ann Richards, making them fund schools and treatment programs? This should be required reading for anyone even thinking about uttering the words fair or deterrent or closure in connection with the death penalty. As this compilation of loss makes clear, most of these people weren't thinking much of anything when they threw their own and others' lives away.
As if we readers didn't already have too many titles we're trying to get to. The same strategy that works with crackheads works all too well with us; we know we shouldn't read all those reviews but, dammit, we're just too addicted. Need more temptation?

Dem Debate: A Cordial Twosome in Hollywood

| Fri Feb. 1, 2008 12:05 AM EST

obama-clinton-happy250.jpg Tonight in Hollywood, with celebrities packing the seats of the historic Kodak Theater, anyone expecting a blockbuster debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was sorely disappointed. Neither made a bold play for the other's supporters. Neither took any chances. In general, both were civil, composed, and very impressive. One could argue that Obama won as a result, because he showed a national audience of newly attentive February 5 voters that he could match Hillary Clinton point for point. One could also argue that the calmness of the debate favored Clinton, who, as the frontrunner, avoided any incidents that could jeopardize her supremacy.

One could also argue the campaigns decided that, because the delegate count will be relatively close after February 5, they had no reason to go for broke and were content to leave the night as a wash.

There were moments, however, that rewarded close attention. Early in the debate, the candidates were asked a question about whether illegal immigrants take African American jobs. Obama, responding first, argued that there are systemic problems in the American economy that steal opportunities from minorities and the poor. To point to illegal immigrants is to make them a scapegoat. Clinton responded by pandering to downscale voters.