Wait, what?

Taylor Swift, glamorizing colonialism, with lion.
Taylor Swift, glamorizing colonialism, with lion.


In the category of Controversies I Never Thought Could Exist, I give you Taylor Swift as glamorizer and apologist for White European colonialism in Africa. Or, as the Guardian’s headline put it:

Taylor Swift accused of racism in ‘African colonial fantasy’ video

The fuss centers on the video for Swift’s new single, “Wildest Dreams,” in which the singer plays an actress falling for her hunky co-star

Critics are shocked that,

Taylor Swift, her record label and her video production group would think it was OK to film a video that presents a glamorous version of the white colonial fantasy of Africa.

Here are some facts for Swift and her team: Colonialism was neither romantic nor beautiful. It was exploitative and brutal. The legacy of colonialism still lives quite loudly to this day.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of that is true. But wow, that’s a lot of indignation to heap on something as inconsequential as a Taylor Swift video. At least in my book. So I watched the thing (the sacrifices I make for you, dear reader), and while it pains me to say so, I have to agree with the director, Joseph Khan, who told NPR in a statement:

This is not a video about colonialism but a love story on the set of a period film crew in Africa, 1950.

But then he ruins it with the equivalent of “I have lots of black friends …”:

The reality is not only were there people of color in the video, but the key creatives who worked on this video are people of color. I am Asian American, the producer Jil Hardin is an African American woman, and the editor Chancler Haynes is an African American man.

I chalk this one up to our current fascination with the Outrage of the Day. And I totally didn’t write this just so I could post a clickbait photo of Taylor Swift and her leg …

Oh yeah, here’s the video.

It’s official, the deal will stand

iran deal

This morning Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) announced that she will support the agreement reached with Iran curtailing it’s development of nuclear weapons technology.  With 34 votes in hand, Pres. Obama now has enough support to veto any bill coming out of Congress that would reject the deal.

This is being hailed as a major foreign policy win for Obama. At Politico the headline reads: “Obama prevails on Iran deal.” At Slate, the headline is: “The Iran Deal Will Survive. Now It’s Just Politics.” The New York Times has, “Obama Clinches Vote to Secure Iran Nuclear Deal,” while The Atlantic headlines the story with “Obama Seals the Iran Deal.”

By now, if you are one of the two or three people (shout-outs to my wife and my dad) that read my blog with any regularity, you know that I’ve written before about my support for the agreement with Iran first here and more recently here.  I don’t want to rehash any of that now, but I do want to say a few words related to the cartoon above.

It’s pretty simple: If you want an agreement to stick, if you want the parties to abide by the commitments they’ve made, it is far better for them to walk away from the table thinking they have won than for one or the other to believe that they’ve been taken to the cleaners.

Parties that walk away from the table thinking they’ve won do so with the implicit understanding that the deal satisfies their interests. And a deal that satisfies your interests is a deal that you will hold to. This is a deal you won’t try to subvert or undermine.  As I tell my students when I teach negotiation and bargaining, the win-win outcome is the holy grail of settlements.  These are the agreements that persist and deliver on their promise.

If we’re lucky, that’s the kind of deal that’s been made with Iran.

Enemy combatants, fifth columns, and coups



William Bradford, the West Point law professor who resigned Monday after publishing a law review article in which he described American legal scholars as “enemy combatants” and called for military strikes against a “fifth column” of academics, law schools, and the media outlets that spread their ideas, apparently has also written a piece in which he makes the case for a military coup in the United States.

Titled “Alea Iacta Est: The U.S. Coup of 2017,” Matt Ford writes at The Atlantic that,

The abstract is strewn with thinly-veiled references to President Obama, asking, for example, “What conditions precedent would be required before the American military would be justified in using or threatening force to oust a U.S. president attempting to ‘fundamentally transform the United States of America’?” Although describing it simply as a “heuristic test of a proferred theory,” it also wonders aloud, “Is such a duty incumbent upon the U.S. armed forces at present?”

The Latin phrase “Alea iacta est” is translated as “the die is cast,” and according to the Roman historian Suetonius were the words spoken by Julius Caesar as he led his army across the River Rubicon in defiance of the Senate, beginning the civil war  which would place the victorious general on the throne of empire, replacing a flawed democracy with military dictatorship.

Below is the full abstract (emphasis added by me), taken from Bradford’s LinkedIn page. I refuse to link to it, so look him up yourself if you must. And remember, this guy was helping to educate the next generation of American military leaders.

Does the Constitution place any limits on civilian government? What if the American people were to elect a president who “want[s] to destroy this nation” and works to “create division among the people, encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality and the principles that made and sustained the country, undermine the financial stability of the nation, and weaken and destroy the military[?]” What remedies, if any, did the Framers commend to us in the event a tyrant should ever assume the presidency? Do the people have the right to resist a tyrant, and does that remedy hold any prospect of success without the support of the military? Does the Constitution and its principle of civilian control require complete subordination of the military to civilian government and to such a commander-in-chief under these circumstances? Does the U.S. military have the right or even the duty to intervene in the domestic politics of the United States as Constitutional and popular savior when the times require it, and who makes such a determination? If so, how do we know when this right or duty is triggered, and what are the implications of such a right or duty for the Constitutional obligations of military and civilian leaders? Is such a duty incumbent upon the U.S. armed forces at present? What conditions precedent would be required before the American military would be justified in using or threatening force to oust a U.S. president attempting to “fundamentally transform the United States of America”? If complete subordination of the military to civilian government is preferable to military intervention in the U.S., what constraints and limitations on government must civilian governors accept as the price of military abstention, and how else but by military intervention are those constraints and limitations to enforced? This Article describes why, how, and to what end an American coup might occur as a heuristic test of a proffered theory.

Pulled over for being “uppity”

Dayton Police, combating direct eye contact since 1796.

In Dayton, Ohio, last week a black motorist was pulled over by a white police officer because, as the cop is heard saying on video,

You made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you.

Where I grew up, in a small, rural town in central Florida, there was a word that got applied to blacks who didn’t know their place. That word was “uppity,” and was usually followed by another word, starting with the letter “N”.

Now you may argue that uppity is just a word meaning snobbish. But no, uppity, in this context, is racist. Don’t take my word for it. The second-most popular definition at Urban Dictionary lays it out.

Word used by racist old white Southerners to refer to any black person who looks them in the eye. Usually followed by [N-word]. “That uppity [N-word] is not working in the cotton field like he should be.”