Why Not a "Dazzling Offense"?

It has been a while since I've published anything in an actual newspaper. I'll call the Chicago Defender to see if I can get a copy of my rant about Michael Eric Dyson's book. Maybe next I'll be in the Detroit Upside Your Head paper. The article has also been linked by BlackAmericaToday and Politopics.

Here's the version published in Black America Today on Christmas Day, 2005, and reposted now because of an Internet discussion.

By Casey Lartigue
December 25, 2005

Known for his outspoken tough love, Bill Cosby once publicly admonished a young black student from the University of the District of Columbia.  The young man hoped for a promotion at his Drug Enforcement Administration job after he got his degree, but he was worried.  He told Cosby, "It just gets scary sometimes.  But if I'm put on a pedestal... I'm afraid I'll fail.  It's scary."

"What is so scary is that you aren't trying," Cosby shot back.  "This is a time for you to grasp what you can. Go up, man... Don't just stay where you are."

This didn't happen at last year's 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, where Cosby caused a frenzy by criticizing the parenting skills of low-income blacks.  This exchange happened back in 1983 when he was speaking at a two-day conference in Washington called "A National Assessment Conference on Education and the Future of Black Americans: 1983 and Beyond."  Cosby, however, gave the conference its unofficial theme: black youngsters needed to start taking advantage of available opportunities.

If such a conference were held in 2005, it would likely be denounced as a mean-spirited affair where the black elite simply heaped blame on poor black kids.  The person most likely to denounce it would be Michael Eric Dyson, the fast-talking author and hip-hop professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dyson was among the first - and loudest - to condemn Cosby's tough-love comments, and he's put his thoughts together in the book Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?

For all of the bluster and anger about Cosby's comments and tone, Dyson's written a book that's utterly useless to the very people he claims to defend.  The book's dust jacket promises a "dazzling defense" of black life.  After reading the book, one can't help but wonder: Why not also offer a "dazzling offense"?

Is Bill Cosby Right? is the equivalent of a 288-page love note to a low-income black family in the process of getting evicted from their home.  It furthermore offers no practical advice. Dyson has a few good ideas, but he boxes himself in with too many categories and labels such as "Afristocracy" (professional and upper bourgeois blacks) and "ghettocracy" (those at the bottom).

On page after page, Dyson condemns the black elite for being ashamed of the black masses.

Although he could have ended his book with realistic and common sense advice, for whatever reason, Dyson doesn't.  His own life has reportedly been tumultuous, going from a middle-class childhood and boarding school education to becoming a teenage father and welfare recipient in his 20s to his current job as a tenured university professor. He would certainly seem qualified to advise people on how to overcome barriers to success, but all he does is scoff at Cosby without offering anything beyond a defense.

In contrast to Cosby's criticism of black criminality, Dyson seeks to "understand" the criminal. For instance, when Dyson was robbed at gunpoint in Detroit back in 1977, he said he and his would-be robber allegedly got into a conversation about why the young man was trying to rob him. The dark forces of institutional racism explain why they were there, as robber and victim.  It is then understandable that Dyson literally swoons when discussing Cosby's 1976 dissertation bashing institutional racism.

Another problem with Is Bill Cosby Right? is Dyson's tendency to romanticize the ghetto. Vices are denied or turned into virtues.  That may be a clever debating point on his university campus, but what is a parent struggling with a 14-year-old reading at the third grade level supposed to do with this sophistry?

Over his four-decade career, Bill Cosby has made it known that he believes racial barriers exist. But, after giving his own money and time for years in an effort to help blacks, Cosby may be telling people to stand up because he is tired of stepping over them.

Casey Lartigue is a member of the black leadership network Project 21 and the host of the blog "What Would You Say If You Weren't Afraid?" (located on-line at http://www.caseylartigue.blogspot.com). Comments may be sent to caseylartigue@yahoo.com.



Deliver directly to undertaker!
According to
AP: "Worshippers at black churches in 20 states will be urged this weekend to consider organ donation. The program, Linkages to Life, is aimed at raising awareness about organ donation among blacks, who suffer higher rates of diseases that damage the liver and kidneys."

This is not going to work. And it isn't because the religious leaders and others aren't trying or don't care.

1) Altruism motivates some people, but not enough to donate their vital organs. Thankfully we don't rely on altruism to motivate people to get up every day to go to work, to sell food to us, to play pro basketball or football, or for medical breakthroughs. We know that altruism doesn't work in most endeavors in life, but for some reason we believe (or foolishly hope) that it will work when it comes to people agreeing to have their bodies cut up after death or loved ones having to make that decision shortly after that loved one has expired. No wonder that there has been an organ shortage for as long as humans have known how to transplant organs. When important stuff is free, then everyone wants some.

2) The extra factor with blacks is fear of racism. At the end of the AP article, deacon Richard Adams, an organ transplant recipient, is quoted as saying, "Coming from a black environment, we don't like to give up our organs." Mr. Adams should have finished that sentence with the words, "for free!" AP didn't dig, but I'll speculate that there is one main reason that blacks don't like to give up their organs: fear that white doctors would kill or let blacks die prematurely so that they could get their organs.

I'm sure there are many whites and middle-class blacks who won't believe that. And if you think I'm making that up, just remember that magic word that conspiracy theorists haul out to shut down critics: Tuskegee. And you can now add a new word: Katrina.

You say that doctors wouldn't start stealing black body parts, and you'll hear about the syphilis experiment on blacks. Or about the
interferon medical breakthroughs of the 1980s, in which some charged that black babies were being killed in the late 1970s because they had a special medicine in their genitals that could cure cancer (James Baldwin and Dick Gregory supposedly were spreading that rumor).

It wouldn't take long for "
presumed consent" to lead to some cases of black people having their organs or body parts taken--James Baldwin might come back to life to team up with Dick Gregory to help spread the idea that the Klan was paying white doctors to kill off black patients. There are some doctors who have argued that they should be able to TAKE organs of people who didn't make it clear that they didn't want that to happen. And we see this from time to time when doctors get caught harvesting heads, hearts, other vital parts. Incredible. It supposedly is unethical for people to sell their own organs or body parts, but we've even got American doctors debating whether it is ethical for doctors to confiscate organs and body parts.

3) Right now, with just a few exceptions, it is only the medical people making money off transplanted organs. And the
proposals for paying people for organs pay them so little that it isn't a real incentive. $300? Forgetaboutit! Keeping the stipend low supposedly is to prevent from poor people from lining up to sell their organs. Okay, fine. With altruism, we end up with a long line of people waiting for organs. With a free market, we would probably end up with a line of people agreeing to sell their organs upon death, and others taking a chance that they can get by without an organ when a celebrity offers them $100,000 or more for something like a kidney.

Of course, there would be nothing to prevent altruistic people from donating their organs. If nothing else, donating their organs in an open market could help keep the cost of other organs on the market low.

4) For the first time in my life I've thought about getting a tattoo or even a series of tattoos. I'm debating the following:

"Do not remove parts upon death."
"Presumed Consent DENIED!"
"Not to be Donated or Dismembered!"
"Keep Intact!"
"Deliver Directly to Undertaker!"


Linked by Booker Rising, Black Electorate


Scam? Yo Momma!

Note: This was originally posted shortly after Jesse Lee Peterson's book was published, reposted in 2005, and now because of a fight between black customers and a Korean merchant in Dallas, Texas.

Scam? Yo Momma!

During the summer of 2002 I was an observer to a dispute between the Asian owners of a Chinese takeout and some of their black customers in Washington, D.C. The month-long boycott began when a local activist accused a cook at a Chinese takeout of attempting to cook a piece of chicken he had allegedly dropped on the floor.

Despite the best efforts of human rights activist Dick Gregory, popular talk-show host Joe Madison, and Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the protestors were unable to coax any media to report on the protest. On some days there were, by my unofficial count, as many as 100 people chanting songs and marching. But one key person was missing: Rev. Jesse Jackson.

It was important to the foot soldiers at the boycott that someone from the media report on the incident. It was clear that they wanted someone outside of the neighborhood to hear their complaint. The first few days I was asked by protestors if I was a reporter from Fox News or USA-9. I talked to everyone who approached me and did start acting like a reporter, taking notes until I got threatened a few days later by one of the angrier folks there. One woman, disappointed I was not with the media, began to complain about the media. Her main point: NBC and the Washington Post would be there if Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton showed up.

A couple of days into the protest there was chatter that the leaders of the boycott had been in contact with Jesse Jackson, but that Jackson was headed to a different event (I believe it was the beating of a young black man in Los Angeles). One of the protestors told me: "See! Jesse ain't out for nobody but Jesse."

It was the type of scene that black conservatives have denounced on many occasions. Instead of focusing their energy on the local troubled schools or other pressing community issues, the boycotters were heaping their scorn on a small Chinese takeout. How likely is it that many of the people out protesting have since shown up to a PTA meeting or gotten involved with their local schools in other ways? After observing one of the protests, I did some research about the local schools. There are five of them in that particular ward. The one with the highest average SAT score? 736. That is almost 300 points below the national average.

It is also the type of scene that ends up a footnote in Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson's book Scam: How the Black Leadership Exploits Black America. Peterson is often referred to as "the other Jesse" or the "anti-Jesse Jackson." He has gained those nicknames as a result of his many media appearances denouncing Jackson and other civil rights leaders for allegedly turning their backs on the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. That legacy, Peterson says, has been abandoned by hustlers and problem profiteers who keep racial problems in the news so they make their careers off the backs of blacks.

To further dramatize the issue, Peterson holds an annual National Repudiation Day of Jesse Jackson. Peterson says that he will hold the event until Jesse Jackson "repents of his wrongs." I suspect that Peterson will be waiting a long time, assuming that he outlives Jackson. The day of Repudiation sounds like it would be great fun for anyone looking to denounce Jackson. But Peterson takes it all too seriously.

There is probably a lot of truth to what Peterson writes, especially about opportunistic black leaders. But in reading Peterson's long rant about civil rights leaders, I am reminded of Frederic Bastiat's statement that "the worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended."

Instead of putting forth a serious case of what is wrong with Jesse Jackson and other blacks often called leaders, Peterson goes for the easy shots. His style has made it easy for opponents to mock him. It did not have to be that way, considering Peterson's background. He was born into a "broken family in the tiny town of Comer Hill, Alabama." He was raised by his grandmother after his own mother abandoned him. He did not meet his father until he was 13 years old. He began to use drugs as a teen and got on welfare when he moved from Alabama to Los Angeles. As an adult he has worked in urban areas helping youth and others to turn around their lives.

It is, however, his career as a civil rights leader critic that has gotten Peterson denounced as a sellout and Uncle Tom. The good reverend fights fire with fire, writing an unnecessarily negative book with cartoonish name-calling. He denounces the name calling, then engages in it for most of the book. Occasional name-calling is fine, but not a substitute for an argument. The cover of the book captures its essence.

Al Sharpton is looking slightly befuddled. Louis Farrakhan looks strange. Jesse Jackson has his mouth wide-open. And Maxine Waters, who isn't particularly significant, is pictured although it is tough to call her much of a leader. So she's in the background. But the main point is that it is a personal diatribe in which personalities are more important than ideas.

Peterson writes that black leaders are "corrupt," "problem profiteers," "skillful manipulators," "true enemies of black America," and "racial hucksters" who use their "racist minions" to shakedown corporations and cower whites into submission. Black pastors and preachers simply "parrot" Rev. Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, "spreading racial hatred through their sermons." At times Rev. Peterson seems to be playing a game trying to squeeze many negative adjectives into sentences about the people he does not like. On one page Rev. Louis Farrakhan is a "racist and anti-American hatemonger." On others, Farrakhan is "one of the most dangerous men in the nation" who is a "world-class racist." On top of that, he denounces Farrakhan as an "American Hitler."

Peterson's hyperbole leads him to dismiss Nelson Mandela as a "communist-socialist pig." Search my blog and you'll see that I have had critical things to say about Mandela and the other leaders Peterson rails against. But his off-handed dismissal of Mandela is a perfect example of what's wrong with the book. There are many things to disagree with Mandela about. But considering his 4 or 5 decade career fighting for various causes, it isn't intellecutally honest to just dismiss him as "communist-socialist pig" without even an explanation.

Mandela is dismissed with the same wave of the hand that dismisses rapper Jay-Z as "nothing more than a "street hoodlum" and rap music as encouraging a lifestyle that is "depraved." Dr. Leonard Jeffries, who hasn't been drawing controversy to himself since the early 1990s, is an Afrocentrist professor and professional racist." Maxine Waters, who is pictured on the cover but doesn't get her own chapter in the book, is a "professional agitator." Diane Watson, a member of the Oakland School Board that approved the use of Ebonics in 1997, is accused by Peterson of being in the same league as other black leaders trying to "control black people" for "their personal gain." Even movie director Spike Lee gets added to the mix, denounced as a "famous black racist" who, like Farrakhan, is a "black racist leader" who spreads falsehoods. Since when has movie director Spike Lee been recognized as a leader? Admittedly, I haven't paid for a Spike Lee movie ever since I heard him say that he doesn't care what people say about him, as long as they pay to see his movies. But I doubt that he has somehow become a leader because of his movies.

In a way, Peterson does what he accuses the media and whites of doing--turning anyone black and liberal who speaks into a microphone or on a street corner into a leader. What is it that Spike Lee has done that would make anyone think that he is a leader?

Peterson is probably at his best in the titles of the chapters. "Why Black Women Are So Mean" will make a lot of not-so-mean black women quite angry. "Instead of Reparations, How About a Ticket Back to Africa" might get some folks to purchase tickets to wherever Peterson is so they can punch him out. "Boycotting the NAACP" and "Al Sharpton, Riot King," are quite good. And then of course there is, "Louis Farrakhan, American Hitler." As bad as Farrakhan may be, can he really be called a Hitler?

Once you've denounced someone as Hitler or a devil, what's the worst thing you can call them when they do something else even worse?

Recall back a few months ago Rush Limbaugh when announced that he was addicted to pain-killers. He has been demonized by his critics over the years. When the drug addiction was revealed, his critics tried so hard to use it to kill his career. But they had shot their wad. There isn't much more new they can say about him. Limbaugh The Devil had become Limbaugh The Devil . . . With a Pill Addiction. I guess that the devil can somehow become worse because of that. The same with Bush-haters denouncing George W. Bush as Hitler. If he's already Hitler before the campaign has begun, what do you call him when he does something you don't like? And why would Hitler agree to help out immigrants who are currently illegal? Hitler wouldn't want to make a buck off them, he'd want them dead.

The same with Peterson's attack on Farrakhan, who, as far as I know, hasn't killed anyone Jewish. What do we call Farrakhan if he really does wipe out a few millions Jews, considering that the Hitler card has already been played when Jews were still healthy in his presence? The hyperbole from Peterson makes it hard to takes his arguments seriously even when he is correct. All authors probably want to be thought-provoking. But instead of nodding my head in agreement with Peterson when I do actually agree with him, I find myself checking my premises. How in the world can I agree with someone so bad at making his case?

Even if everything Rev. Peterson says about black leaders is true, what about the responsibility of blacks to ignore their siren song? Peterson says that blacks have been lied to, but only a fool can keeping getting fooled. Instead of looking seriously at that, black Americans are included among Rev. Peterson's sweeping generalizations.

I bet that black leaders WISH they had the kind of control that Peterson believes that they have. I recall a joke I heard years ago. Two Jewish men are reading their favorite newspapers. The first guy is reading a Jewish paper called The Forward. His friend is reading a Nazi paper. The guy reading The Forward begins to criticize his friend for reading anti-Semitic trash put out by the Nazis. But the guy says that he reads the Nazi paper to feel better about Jews. After all, he says, he can read that Jews control the media, Hollywood, the banking industry, the United Nations, etc.

The same is true with Peterson's book. Black leaders who complain about the lack of unity among blacks only need to read Peterson's book. In it they possess magical powers to have blacks do whatever it is they want. They can lead blacks around like sheep, telling them what to say, do, and think.

According to Peterson, Rev. Jackson and others are "brainwashing" blacks. Blacks are being "led around like sheep." He even asserts: "These current leaders tell blacks how to think, whom to vote for, and how to live their lives." Rev. Jackson and others have "put blacks into a trance-like state." Blacks "obey blindly" the wishes and desires of Rev. Jackson. In addition to paranoia, "blacks see racism everywhere."

His name-calling and sweeping generalizations call into question Rev. Peterson's other analysis, including those with blacks he has personally worked with. His work with troubled boys has taught him that "many black males are both lazy and irresponsible." On other another page, he writes that the "typical black male I work with has no work ethic, has little sense of direction in his life, is hostile towards whites and women, has an attitude of entitlement, and has an amoral outlook on his life." That analysis isn't that far of a jump from the rest of what he has written. And that analysis could be correct--after all, Rev. Peterson is discussing his work with troubled boys. But that's what his overblown rhetoric does--I find myself questioning even Peterson's observations about people he has worked with.

The sweeping generalizations do pretty much what Rev. Peterson charges Rev. Jackson and others with doing: taking away personal responsibility from blacks. Even if Rev. Peterson is correct about everything he says, certainly adult black Americans share some responsibility for allowing themselves to be led around by civil rights leaders.

Peterson writes that it is "time someone stood up to Jesse Jackson" and the others who are "fleecing the flock instead of leading them to spiritual and physical freedom" and that blacks must "throw off the oppression of their civil rights leaders and learn to stand on their own." But based on his analysis, there are two problems. One, if blacks are so easily led, why should anyone expect them to stand up to their leaders? Two, instead of standing up to Rev. Jackson, why not offer an alternative vision? Rev. Jackson has been attacked by enough people that it should be clear by now that he has a Teflon-shield. If blacks are ready to stand up to their crooked leaders, then Peterson should be ready to offer a clear vision. As philosophy Eric Hoffer wrote, "It is not actual suffering but a taste of better things which excites people to revolt." That's to say: Instead of beating up on others, or trying to convince blacks that their leaders are lousy, why not offer something better?

Rev. Peterson has the background that would have allowed him to offer an alternative vision. But his name-calling and attacks in the first half of his book make it unlikely that people will actually read through to the second half of the book, when Rev. Peterson does begin to lay out his mostly religious view of how black America needs to improve. After so many exaggerated attacks, including on the very people he wants to save, it is tough to take him seriously. He does eventually get around, in the final chapter, to saying what he believes needs to be done. The topics of the chapter: 1) Restore God's Order; 2) Commit to Prayer; 3) Forgive; 4) Commit to Marriage; 5) Judge by Character, Not Color; 6) Become Independent of Leaders; 7) Repudiate "Black Culture" 8) Embrace Work and Entrepreneurship 9) Commit to Education; 10) Commit to True Racial Reconciliation.

Rev. Peterson's frustration level at the amount of respect that Farrakhan and Jackson continue to receive from blacks is evident in the pages of his book, so much so that I'm surprised that Peterson hasn't dropped the "e" in his first name, so he would be called Jess instead of Jesse. Blacks supposedly are getting hoodwinked by their own leaders. I would suggest that there are some other reasons that the mass of civil rights leaders cited by Peterson are still respected by blacks.

The first one is very simple: civil rights leaders love them. I realize in some cases that the civil rights leaders may love themselves more than they love blacks. But the point is that blacks know that Farrakhan, Jackson, or lesser known leaders will be there when they are needed. At least, that was how I explained it when I was in South Korea in 1995 as the Million Man March was taking place. I seriously thought about flying from South Korea to participate in the March. (By the way, Peterson dismisses the March, saying that he "watched as hundreds of thousands of weak black men" attended it.)

Asked by an editor in South Korea to write about the March, I wrote a piece called "The Wrath of Farrakhan" trying to explain why Farrakhan remained so popular among blacks despite the controversies surrounding him. After all, after three decades of "Great Society" programs, civil rights laws, forced busing, affirmative action, and endless discussions about race, it had come to an all-black Million Man March being led by someone accused of being bigoted, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, and racial separatist? I speculated that there were two main reasons, and the first one was very simple: he loves them.

When a group is looking to solve serious problems, I wrote, I suspect that the members will turn to people who love them first and foremost. This may explain why Malcolm X, Farrakhan's predecessor at the Nation of Islam, has in many ways eclipsed Martin Luther King. Whereas Dr. King urged blacks to love all people, Malcolm X told blacks that they needed to love themselves first. At a time most blacks feared defying whites, Malcolm X boldly responded to stereotypes of blacks by calling whites "blue-eyed devils." Instead of turning the other cheek, as Dr. King counseled, Malcolm X said that blacks needed to seize their rights "by any means necessary." One of Malcolm's favorite jokes was: "What do you call a Negro with a Ph.D.?" Answer: Nigger. In other words, you're always black in white eyes, and I'm always with you. Or, as I heard in South Korea: Who can spit in the eye of a man who is smiling at you?

On many occasions, I see brotherly love expressed among black men that might seem strange. The embrace that comes with the handshake. If you listen to black talk radio, you'll hear something very strange: black adults, especially men, telling each other, "I love you," as the caller or guest hangs up the phone. I can sense that they really feel that they are in a struggle and they are coming together, even when they are just yakking on the radio. I sense that black leaders have tapped into that. But they don't have to worry because their critics don't listen to them. They don't hear Jesse Jackson calling into black radio shows, the big time celebrity chatting away with callers who may not be able to pay their bills. And Jackson's critics don't hear him telling the callers and the hosts, "luv ya."

I suspect it is that love of black people that even explains why the Nation of Islam has shown willingness to embrace Michael Jackson.

A second reason many blacks continue to defend leaders like Rev. Jackson and Farrakhan is their message of self-help. In many cases, I know, it is just a message of self-help, without any real follow-up action. But in many cases, the self-help is a chance to poke whitey in the eye. The Million Man March was a resounding repudiation of big government. "We're not coming to beg Washington," Farrakhan said before the march. "Our day of begging white folk to do for us what we could do for ourselves is over." Whereas Dr. King asked blacks to find the good even in their oppressors, Farrakhan tells blacks to observe the devastating results of the "Great Society." The percentage of black families with two-parent households decreased from 78 percent in the 1960s to 40 percent by 1990. Black illegitimacy, which officially stood at 17 percent, is well above 70 percent. Black neighborhoods, relatively safe until the 1960s, are now rife with violence and crime.

That may even be a reason that Farrakhan had started to eclipse Jackson. Whereas Jackson is still holding his hand out, asking for more welfare and programs, Farrakhan has given that same system the finger. To be clear, I do believe that Rev. Jackson and some of the other leaders that Peterson mentions spend too much time trying to shake down government. If the government weren't there with promises of handouts, it is possible that someone like Al Sharpton would conclude that he could best help blacks by opening a rib joint in Harlem instead of running for president.

A third reason that I would say black leaders continue to enjoy respect from blacks, even when they don't agree with them, has to do with the protest I was attending: Jesse brings cameras. The other leaders of the protest, try as they might, couldn't get cameras. Joe Madison even talked about the boycott on his radio show several times. I don't say that as a fan of his. He, his callers and his guests have denounced me on several occasions, and after the boycott, we had an on-air knock-down, drag-'em out fight, and then after his producer hung up on me, he, his guest, and his callers talked about me for much of the next hour.

But think about it this way: You feel that you've been wronged; in most cases, you are not going to get cameras to highlight your problem; in many cases, you may not even know to whom you should turn. And in walks Jesse, with cameras in close pursuit. Your problem may become a national issue. Not only do you have media people asking you about the issue, but you may even end up a footnote in a book written by a conservative!

Instead of having magical powers to get blacks to do what they want, I suspect that the black leaders denounced in Peterson's book have the smarts to get in front of a protest. Instead of guiding the crowd, they figure out which crowd is most likely to hang with them. The same may be true of their relationship with the media. I agree with those who say that black leaders often have the wrong focus. Instead of dealing with tough issues, they'll rush to cases with cameras. The demand for dramatic confrontations may just result in such scenes being supplied. And one thing I wonder about people who say that black leaders have the wrong focus: do you really want Jesse Jackson or Maxine Waters focusing more of their energies on trying to fix education in the country? Perhaps education is better off with them rushing off to pointless protests.

There are some complexities in the relationship between black leaders and blacks that make it silly to just dismiss it all as "fleecing the flock." Peterson and others can say that blacks have been lied to, but there are others offering alternative visions as well as telling "the truth." Black adults can't be blameless. We can't just say that Jesse is telling lies and pointing to the white man like a crooked card dealer trying to distract us as she shuffles the cards. If blacks had been locked away in rooms without TVs, radio, newspapers, or books, then perhaps it could make sense to say black leaders are controlling them and telling them what to do and say, as Peterson says.

I even see the push for unity among many black Republicans I know. Just last night I attended a gathering of black Republicans in northern Virginia. I told them that I'm not a Republican, but they invited me anyway, I guess because they were looking for honest feedback. Or it may be that they are desperate enough that they must recruit me.

During the meeting, as we talked about which direction the organization they are talking about should take if formed, one member kept saying, "We've got to build ourselves." He kept repeating the phrase. Finally, as he was talking, I took out a sheet of paper and wrote, "Build Ourselves" in large letters, and then held it up everytime he started to say it. I got a laugh out of it, including from him, but the point was clear: blacks have got to do some things on their own.

That message isn't that far removed from what Farrakhan, Jackson, Waters, and Sharpton say, at least in theory. Of course their actions may be different, with Jackson, Waters and Sharpton then demanding that Congress set up a commission, whereas the black Republicans head out to raise money. Jackson, Farrakhan and others no doubt engage in the same overblown rhetoric that Peterson does, with the result that all of their good works are easily ignored. And that is exactly what is happening with Peterson, who is making more of a career off his civil rights bashing than with his work helping troubled boys.

Complexities aren't addressed in Peterson's book. Instead, he goes for the predictable points and gags. Instead of calling his book "Scam," Peterson should have called it, "Yo Momma!" That's about as complex as he gets.





Link to this post

This not exactly the Drudge Report, I know. But here's another example of a non--journalist having to do the work of reporters, fact-checkers, and others in journalism.

Back when I was a cub reporter on the Harvard Crimson, I was taught the journalist creed: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." That is, always be suspicious of what you hear.

Unfortunately, it is readers who must "check out" so much of what is reported.

There's a story in the news about a South Korean man who alleged died while he was playing video games. The story looks a lot like a story from 2002 also about a South Korean man passing away while playing video games.

Here's a version of the 2002 story:

Game over - 86 nonstop hours later

October 09 2002 at 10:53AM
Seoul, South Korea - A 24-year-old South Korean man died after playing computer games nonstop for 86 hours, said police on Wednesday.The jobless man, identified by police only by his last name Kim, was found dead on Tuesday at an Internet cafe in Kwangju, 260km south-west of Seoul, they said.Quoting witnesses, police detective Oh Myong-sik in Kwangju said the man had been virtually glued to the computer since late on Friday and had no decent sleep and meals.The man collapsed in front of the counter desk but soon regained his consciousness. He then went to the toilet where he was found dead, said the police officer.

* * *

Here's a version of the 2005 story:
South Korean Man Dies Playing Video Games
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- For some people, playing video games can be addictive and police in South Korea say that may have cost a man his life.

Police say a 28-year-old man collapsed at an Internet cafe and died after playing the battle simulation game Starcraft non-stop for 49 hours. They say he'd barely eaten anything while he was glued to the keyboard.

Doctors think the man might have had a heart attack.

Police say he was fired from his job last month because he kept missing work to play computer games.

* * *

A number of
leading publications have run the article.

The stories are just too similar. An unemployed South Korean man dies while playing video games for an extended period of time. There are very few details, just that he passed away while playing.

I guess that I shouldn't laugh at media for falling for the story. After all, the epidemic of dying from video games has already spread, like the Asian Flu, from South Korea to Taiwan.

Man dies after playing video game for 32 hours
October 20 2002
A 27-year-old Taiwanese man died yesterday after playing video games in a cyber cafe for 32 hours continuously.

Lien Wen-cheng arrived at the cyber cafe in Fengyuan in central Taiwan at 10.30pm on Thursday and played video games non-stop, pausing only to go to the toilet, police said.

At 7am on Saturday, a staff member found Lien foaming at the mouth and bleeding from the nose on the floor of the cafe's toilet.

"They rushed him to hospital but he was already dead," local police said.

Police suspect Lien died from exhaustion, having sat in the same position for too long.

Less than 10 days ago, a 24-year-old South Korean man died at an Internet cafe in Kwangju, 260km outside Seoul, after playing computer games nonstop for 86 hours.

* * *

What is really precious about the story about the man in Taiwan is that it cites the case of the Korean man who had alleged died just 10 days before while playing video games!

I hit on a few of the stories. The worst one has to be from the
BBC. Not only has the BBC fallen for the story, but it then went on to write a full article, discussing the amount of gaming going on in South Korea and quoting some quack psychologist about addictions.

I'll just take it for granted that the psychologist is a real person and not part of the urban legend like the famed South Korea police detective
Oh Myong Shik.

I guess that it is just a coincidence that I have lived in both South Korea and Taiwan. And, to add to the concern for my health, I also play video games a lot. As I recall, you can spend anywhere between 5 to 10 dollars an hour while playing video games. Let's say that the guy who played for 86 consecutive hours used one hour to go to the bathroom, purchase new tokens, talk to other players, etc. That means that if he played for the other 85 hours that he had already spent anywhere between $425 to $850! He could have bought PlayStation and many games for that amount of money.

Anyway, long-time readers of my blog know that I play video games a lot. Like a lot of other addicts, I bought the Madden NFL 2006 game on Tuesday, August 9. I had circled the date months in advance. I was up until 3 a.m. playing it last night. If I go at least a month without blogging here, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that I've moved back to South Korea or Taiwan and died there while playing video games.

As Drudge would say: Developing...


NOTE #1: The prolific La Shawn Barber has taken this story and run with it. Most of the hits have apparently been coming via La Shawn's site. The story has also been linked by LiveJournal, Ranting Right Wing Howler, Tamarin2087, Brainster's Blog, View from the Bushes, Public Enemy, Game Arena, Olde English, RPG Forums, Mach Five, Dyers, Fakhrurrazi.

NOTE #2: The main Urban Legends site that I check doesn't have anything about the epidemic of VGD (Video Game Death).

NOTE #3: I've searched some Korean publications and only come across one story. If it turns out that this story is really bogus, then Doctor Lee Ho of the National Institute of Scientific Investigation should have whatever scientific licenses he has shredded. That is, assuming that Lee Ho exists. If I'm wrong, then I won't play Madden Football for a week.




June 9, 1999
by Casey J. Lartigue Jr.

Casey J. Lartigue, Jr. is a staff writer at the Cato Institute.

Could there be a better means than altruism for organ donation? A recent proposal from Pennsylvania plans to pay the relatives of organ donors $300 toward funeral expenses. Such a plan acknowledges, finally, that altruism isn't enough.

Hearing about that plan brought back memories of a college friend who was from Pennsylvania. Terri Mullin, a self-described "country girl from Pennsylvania," was a fantastic reporter at my college newspaper. But as good as she was, she never had a legitimate shot at an executive position on the paper. She had cystic fibrosis. The senior editors were worried because she was often in bad health, missing days at a time.

Because she acted as if she didn't have the disease, I wasn't surprised when she asked me if I could teach her how to play softball. Softball was the sport that everyone on the paper could play. Everyone, that is, except for Terri.

I really regretted that Terri and I never found a time for softball. The following autumn, she checked into the hospital for an extended stay.

Worried that she might be dying, several of us made the trip to the hospital to see her. Between coughs, she assured us that she would be back, soon. She later told me that she was happy to see me because I enjoyed her rants about animal rights groups who opposed medical testing on animals. She blamed those groups for the deaths of many of the "invisible victims" of diseases. A former poster child for cystic fibrosis, Terri had memorized the names of diseases that had been cured as a result of animal testing.

There she was, sick in the hospital, and she wanted to ... play softball! She asked me if I would still teach her how to play. I reluctantly agreed to do so after she got healthy.

She did return a few weeks later, upset because she knew that her long stay in the hospital had ruined her chances for a top spot on the paper. She was even more upset because I was hesitant to play softball with her.

Spring came and it was softball season. Terri seemed to be much healthier. One day, she just showed up at one of the games, without even a day of practice. There she was, trying to figure out how to hold the bat.

Before the game started, she came to me, nervous: "Coach, quick, teach me how to play." She took a couple of weak practice swings behind the batting cage. Suddenly, she was up next. She was frantic.

"What should I do?"


She was livid. "That's it? Swing? That's what you call coaching?"

She walked up to the plate. The pitcher tossed the world's slowest pitch right down the middle. Terri did swing; late, badly. Strike one. Another pitch, a swing, and contact! If it had been a movie, she would have hit a home run or a triple. Instead, she hit a weak dribbler that dropped right in front of home plate.

I had forgotten to teach her one other thing:


Glaring at me and holding the bat the whole way, she lumbered down to first base. She was halfway there when the ball arrived.

She played in several other games, even getting a "hit" in an intrasquad game. She had managed to actually hit the ball past the pitcher and directly to me at shortstop. Although I could have outrun her to first base, I ended up tossing the ball at least 10 yards over the first baseman's head. I will never forget the big grin on Terri's face later as she awkwardly leaned off second, taunting me for making the error: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, play shortstop."

That is my best memory of my three years of working with her. About two years later, I happened to see her picture as I was thumbing through the Boston Globe. It was in the obituary section. Shortly after she had started working at the Boston Globe, she had taken a leave of absence. She had died in England, apparently waiting for a transplant that never came. I can't help thinking that Terri might be alive today if we didn't rely solely on voluntary organ donations.

There are numerous appeals to get more people to sign up to become organ donors. Sporting events are held to raise donor awareness. Celebrities, including Michael Jordan, have acted as spokespeople for the cause. The U.S. Post Office has issued an "organ donation" stamp to raise awareness. But the reality is that during Donor Awareness Week, observed in late April, at least 80 people will die while waiting for an organ. On National Donor Day, observed on February 13, another dozen people will die while waiting. Those efforts will continue to fail as long as we continue to rely on altruism as the sole motivation for organ donations.

The National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 explicitly prohibits the purchase or sale of internal organs. It is time to repeal that law. The free market isn't a utopia: The rich may still get the "best" organs, but an increased supply of organs would benefit everyone.