West Side Story

So, the city next door to me has a half-assed thing going on where they want their police department to enforce immigration law. This is a terrible idea. It means more work for the cops, more risk to them from freaked-out illegals, and near total loss of any leads they might otherwise get from people with bad immigration status and good information. Plus, any illegal pulled over for a minor traffic violation is going to floor it and run now. And so on. This is right on the heels of the city closing the job center for day labor, as though by removing the official and clean and regulated place for workers to find work they can make the “problem” go away. Have they been to the parking lot of the Home Depot lately? Now, as they voted in the new rule for local policing, they had a demonstration and disruption at the council meeting.

Costa Mesa is a divided city. The east side is wealthy and mostly white, and the west side is poorer and mostly brown. It’s not as poor as Santa Ana, but it’s not an episode of “The O.C.” either. To put it in street terms, you can buy pot and coke in Costa Mesa but you need to go to Santa Ana for heroin. White Costa Mesa mostly dislikes the Hispanic immigrants on racial grounds and tries to hold them down and away. Brown Costa Mesa mostly just tries to hold down a job and get the kids through school.

The po’folks I know from West Costa Mesa are mostly upwardly mobile, hard-working, conservative family people. They’re in Costa Mesa because it’s the best ghetto in the county and their kids go to better schools and have less risk than in Santa Ana or points north. The only reason they’re shat on by the city government is race. In every other way they’re what that city has always been: lower middle class workers, small businesses, and middle-of-the-road Babbitt conservatism.

I noticed that the protester who was arrested calls himself “Coyoti Tezcatlipoca”. Nice. One problem I’ve noticed with the hardcore Mexican-American protest crowd is their in-your-face Mexican patriotism. When there were demonstrations near my job in L.A. about the Belmont school issue, for example, the marchers had a huge Mexican flag and waved little ones, and the Mexican national colors were everywhere. One small problem: the neighborhood was almost entirely Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan. The locals didn’t appreciate the Mexican invasion, and there were some minor dustups and a few ripped-up flags. It’s strange to see the activists making the same mistake that those in power do and equating “spanish-speaking immigrant” with “Mexican”. The best part was the (local) Salvadoran activist council walking carrying the huge Mexican flag banner. A coworker of mine at the time who was a Mexican citizen told me that story and spat in the wastebasket next to her each time she said “Salvadoran”. No love lost there.

We can’t all get along. Sorry, Rodney.

Jelly Roll was a gentlemen

From the CD set I’m listening to, Jelly Roll talks about a colleague from back in the day. Keep in mind this is an older gentleman talking in 1938.

Tony happened to be one of these gentlemens that a lot of people called a lady or a sissy or something like that, but he was very good and very much admired.

Q: Was he a fairy?

I guess he was either a ferry or a steamboat, one or the other. What you pay a nickel for, I guess. Tony was a great favorite in Chicago, also. He was no doubt the outstanding favorite in the city of Chicago.


I won a contest over Tony Jackson that threw me in first line. I never believed that the contest was given to the right party even though I was the winner. I always though Tony Jackson should have had the emblem as the winner.

Interesting discussion of drugs after this bit, too.

Tony Jackson Was The Favorite/Dope, Crown, And Opium (MP3, 3.1M)


The opinions traded about Tookie Williams and his education were, mostly, two. Some people felt that the death penalty was just, Tookie was a bad man who had committed serious crimes, and that he should be executed. Others felt that the death penalty was unjust or immoral, that Tookie had redeemed himself, and that he should be celebrated for his more recent life.

I abhor the death penalty, so that part is taken care of.

But I don’t celebrate Tookie, and I think he belongs in jail and should shut up, and not be celebrated. It’s great news that he has become less of a jerk and that he is trying to do good in his own way in prison. But as an alpha gangster he has done so much damage to others that he deserves incarceration for life rather than adulation. Reading the “save Tookie” people I got the feeling that most of them were well-educated privileged people and that almost none of them had lived in gang territory, much less been challenged or attacked by one of L.A.’s street gangs. I have, both, and I can testify that the constant watching for colors, the stark fear of confrontation, and the head injury were all no fun.

And by no means did I have the worst of it. As an ethnic outsider, I might be ripped off or kicked around, but I would never be given the choice to join or die. Nor would I be at risk for drive-by retaliation just because of my race and my neighborhood. I think about my former coworker M. (I’ve written about him before) running like hell from a drive by because he was black and male and lived in a black neighborhood. And I think about his nephew and friend. At 19, community college students and dorks, they were spending a Saturday afternoon playing Nintendo. They went to McDonalds to get some fries between games, and while they were sitting a couple of gangbangers wandered in.

“Sup?” said one of the bangers.

“Sup,” said the kids.

Ten minutes later the bangers came back in and shot them both multiple times. They’d been given a territorial challenge they didn’t recognized, and their reward was hospitalization and rehab for bullet wounds.

So remember Tookie’s good deeds, sure. But remember too that hundreds of thousands of people you’ve never met live in fear every day of their local Tookies as much as they live in fear of racist and corrupt police. Below the cut is an editorial from the LA Times by someone who knows that story in the first person.

A pootbutt’s scary life in outer space L.A.
By Jervey Tervalon
co-editor of the Cocaine Chronicles, is finishing “The Pootbutt Survives, a Memoir of Growing up in the Hood.”

December 4, 2005

I ALWAYS THOUGHT Stanley Tookie Williams wanted to kill me. I thought he wanted to kill all of us pootbutts who didn’t gangbang, and that fear informed how I lived my life as a boy.

Thirty years later, I don’t believe in the death penalty, and I don’t want the state to execute Tookie. But I do want the people who grew up in better neighborhoods and now want to lionize the gangster to understand just how hellish he made many people’s lives.

I’m about the same age as Tookie, and I grew up in the ’70s, in the neighborhoods lorded over by the Crips he reputedly created. I never wanted a leather coat, because then Tookie couldn’t shoot me over it. I wouldn’t wear a gold chain or sport anything valuable that could possibly get me killed by Tookie or the boys who did his bullying. Tookie is why I didn’t walk south or east, didn’t go to house parties, didn’t and still don’t care for people who talk loud or argue too much.

This was the psychology of a pootbutt who wanted to survive Tookie and the world he ruled. I never shot a gun in a drive-by or kicked somebody to death then spray-painted his corpse — things that happened in my Jefferson Park neighborhood. But human nature being what it is, I would sometimes walk to the comic book store where Crips hung out and have this burning impulse to shout “Brim here!” (Brims being the Bloods of their day — the red-wearing rivals of most Crips.) Courting death held no attraction for me, but this desire to shout a rival gang name occurred so often that I came to think of it as my Tourette’s syndrome, a barely suppressed tic that was unacceptable if I wanted to live.

Wanting to live seemed almost an unreasonable expectation if you were a young black boy who, as boys do, wanted to run the streets. We were alone with Tookie because his folks couldn’t do anything with him, and neither could his teachers or the police.

I was in a summer science program at USC when the Crips, in a squabble with the Bloods, shot up the community center with a machine gun. A police officer showed up and explained the LAPD’s plan of action if the Crips returned: “We’ll take our time getting here,” he said. “We’re not prepared to handle machine guns.”

I was 15 when I heard that, sitting in a broad recreation room filled with folding chairs and anxious kids who just wanted to finish their summer jobs and go back to school. Later that day the Crips did return, and I saw the leader standing in the doorway — Tookie or someone from the quickly growing ranks of even more lunatic Tookie clones — looking for somebody to shoot. I can still see the muzzle of his gun casting a shadow on the freshly mopped linoleum floor. But I was a pootbutt, not a Blood, and so not worth shooting. He left.

Nobody reported these things in the vacuum of outer-space black Los Angeles. So we were left alone with Tookie and company, and we had to make our accommodations. We could get strapped and exchange lead with them, or we could hunker down as I did and pretend the world wasn’t so terrifying, or we could, as many black folks got around to doing, get out of Dodge to anywhere that seemed slightly less dangerous than black Los Angeles’ Tookie-filled streets.

The city may never recover from that fear and that mass retreat. .

Tragicomedy gold: How to Date White Women

Courtesy Anna Pirhana, here’s an Amazon listing for How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men, a very important book for “Asian” men, which I assume refers to United States residents of East Asian descent and not to Sri Lankans, Uighurs, or Kashmiris. Amazon’s “Better Together” suggestion is surprisingly apropos: they recommend The Complete Asshole’s Guide to Handling Chicks as an ideal companion volume.

The best review of this book is by Crazy Ed from Cupertino, who says:

I personally found the book lacking, in what I like to call “chutzpah”. I gave this book to a friend who needed some help and the “step-by-step guide” provided in this tome is anything but. In many cases he found the steps to be nebulous, ambagious, and even geared towards the derelict reader. The book, as a whole, was definitely not multifarious. I would not extol this literary work.

Thanks for the tip there, Ed. I like my racist sex advice books to be multifarious and loaded with “chutzpah”, and I wouldn’t buy anything you didn’t extol.

People who considered this book were apparently also interested in How to Date Young Women: For Men over 35 vol II (Advanced Skills), which begs the question of what the first volume left out, and what kind of “advanced skills” might be necessary for us over-35 guys to get us some young tender flesh. Maybe the advanced volume tells us how to get two young girlfriends, or how to get away with dating high school girls and not end up in jail or dead, or how to date your own children. I’m sure I should stick to Volume I as a first step, though. You have to learn slowly from the Master.

Let the blogging begin!

It’s “Murray Week” here at the substitute Building. Next up is Charles. You remember, the Bell Curve guy? He’s back with an editorial in the WSJ. He doesn’t say much more than “I was too right” with a lot of excess verbiage.

The veneer of “science” over political polemic is pretty thin here. In the original ruckus neither the Bell Curve boys nor their outraged opponents did anything I’d call science. The “scientific debate” was about the political significance of race in the United States, and more particularly about the policy of affirmative action. The book and much of its associated research was paid for by political organizations, and the opposition to the book and its ideas was rooted in political ideas as well. There was no such thing as a disinterested third party evaluation of The Bell Curve‘s claims.

Once you step out of the little historical box of late 20th century U.S. race politics, the whole thing looks like a Laputan debate out of Gulliver’s Travels. People were assigning the word “science” to discussions of concepts like race and intelligence that couldn’t even be defined properly. IQ was treated as a fact like the speed of life, race was assumed to be innate and obvious and eternal, and asses were made of many.

It should be clear to anyone capable of critical thought that we don’t understand the brain well at all. Concepts like IQ or g are almost medieval compared to our understanding of body processes like vision or digestion. Personally I think it will be a decade or more before we have a clear idea of the brain’s real structure and function instead of just a list of what goes wrong when you whack certain parts of it. So forget about defining “intelligence” for now.

And the idea of defining race brings to mind a Spanish official trying to figure out if someone is a mestizo or an octaroon, or the South African government’s detailed tests for negritude (hair kinkiness, skin albedo, etc.). Trying to describe “races” without making people laugh openly requires a tremendous amount of obfuscation.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make all along. The social sciences just aren’t. I just can’t swallow this shit, and I never have. I look at “political scientists” like Murray or any number of other racist, Marxist, fascist, religious, or other -ist social theoreticians and I can detect little more than layers of unnecessary verbiage over prejudice. Some of these people I agree with, some I don’t, and some I can’t even penetrate, but it sure as hell isn’t science. That’s a method, not a form of magic invoked by excesses of vocabulary.

Dogma from me: The social sciences are a failed attempt to legitimize sociopolitical warfare with jargon.