Bill Buckley, Gore Vidal, and the flourishing of American partisanship

William Buckley debating Gore Vidal, 1968 in public domain

In a year that Donald Trump could well become president of the United States, it is arguable that the country’s cable news networks appear, by comparison, oddly sober.

As such it is intriguing to find the roots of America’s love affair with polarised punditry dissected in The Best of Enemies, a documentary on William Buckley and Gore Vidal.

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Podcast Ep. 32: Google’s Taxes, Iowa Primary, Cameron’s diversity pledge

RD E32 Google tax, Iowa caucus, Cameron diversity

Google’s tax deal, the American presidential primaries and a diversity pledge from David Cameron provide the table talk for this week as Jazza and Jimmy are joined by Nick Mazzei, an ex-army Conservative member and sometime Huffington Post blogger.

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Is the United States already a socialist country?

Bernie Sanders, Arizona, July 2015 by Gage Skidmore

Bernie Sanders, the insurgent Democratic presidential candidate who has eaten into support for Hillary Clinton, is noted for embracing the term “socialist”, a word long tainted by America’s ideological battle with Russian communism during the Cold War.

His adoption of the word was something that Bill Maher, the American comedian turned chat show host, sought to confront directly in an interview with Sanders last week.

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Straight Outta Compton to Charleston: the stale face of racial tensions in the US

Easy-E mural, March 2010 by Christiaan Triebert

Nothing about Straight Outta Compton – the origins of N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude), the story of Eazy-E, the depiction of a young and wreckless Dr. Dre – hit me as hard as the familiar picture of white cops beating young black men.

In one scene, Ice Cube tells a disgruntled media “our art is a reflection of our reality”. I’ve grown up as part of a generation where Kiss FM unapologetically plays explicit music – Straight Outta Compton reminded me of the struggles that made it possible to hear about living with racist police and gun crime on your street.

Despite the barriers broken down by N.W.A. and its members, black people continue to be the victims of racially motivated violence in the US, with no real sign of progress.

Recurring examples of this are statistics on police killings in America. The data from source to source varies, but all of them show that blacks are more likely to die at the hands of police officers than whites.

According to the US’s Bureau of Justice Statistics on “arrest-related deaths” between 2003 to 2009, 41.7 percent of victims were white and 31.7 percent were black. This is inarguably disproportionate as black people only make up about 13 percent of the US population.

Despite what conservative Americans would have you believe, it’s important to note that white people are arrested more than twice as often as black people in the US and that anti-black hate crimes occur three times more than next largest bias.

Though only 13% of America’s population is black, the same minority accounts for a disproportionate 28% of arrests. Last year an analysis of statistics found at least 70 police departments that arrested black people at a rate 10 times higher than non-blacks – in Dearborn, Michigan, the arrest rate was 26 times higher.

In light of these numbers and persistent evidence of anti-black police brutality, it’s hard to believe that racial targeting isn’t at least partially responsible for the population-arrest ratio disparity. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was famously gunned down by a white officer in Missouri last year, leading to riots. More recently a store camera in New York caught the moment Thomas Jennings put his hands up peacefully, only to be brutalized.

As such it’s easy to see why, 30 years latter, N.W.A.’s “Fuck tha Police” is still a relevant protest anthem.

But the stale racial attitudes depicted in the film extended beyond just the police – there have been several recent examples of racially motivated murders, such as the shootings in Charleston, where a gunman opened fire on a black congregation in a bid to start a race war.

Charleston, Thomas Jennings and Michael Brown are sadly just symptoms of the pervasive racist disease N.W.A. spoke out about nearly 30 years ago.

Despite Barack Obama becoming the first black president; despite the meteoric rise of black pop culture in hip-hop and R&B music; despite Compton’s own Dr. Dre going on to become one of the richest artists in America, the same racial attitudes seen in Straight Outta Compton are still alive and thriving today.

Perhaps comedian Dave Chappelle said it best: “A kid gets killed by the police and I buy a t-shirt. And before I can wear that one, there’s another kid [killed] and I’m running out of closet space.”

Image Credit – Easy-E mural, March 2010 by Christiaan Triebert

Podcast (Ep.9): #GOPdebate, Kids Company and Nagasaki Anniversary

Donald Trump Sr. at Citizens United Freedom Summit in Greenville South Carolina May 2015 by Michael Vadon

Another week, another Right Dishonourable podcast, in which Jimmy and Jazza scrub up on the week’s news and attempt to embarrass themselves as little as possible over the course of an hour.

This time round we have the return of our favourite American politician, outlandish and questionably-coiffed reality TV star and occasional businessman Donald Trump, as he attempted to derail the Republican Party debates on Fox News. Did he succeed? Will his antics ensure Hillary Clinton makes it to the White House? And just what is his attitude to women?

Next up we cover the collapse of Kids Company, a charity dedicated towards vulnerable children that closed its doors last week after running out of money. We discuss the role of chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh, allegations of mismanagement and what it means for prime minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” vision.

Lastly, on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki we discuss the role of nuclear weapons in modern geopolitics. Along the way we cover Japan’s seeming departure from post-World War Two pacifism, as well as tensions in the South and East China Seas.

Header Image – Donald Trump Sr. at Citizens United Freedom Summit, May 2015 by Michael Vadon