Juan Williams Takes The Buckwheat Seat At FOX

Maybe it was a good thing that I was headed out of town the day Juan Williams got whacked by the NPR head honchos. Because it probably wouldn’t have taken more than two or three hours before I would have had to write "take your handkerchief head wearing ass somewhere and sit the hell down." 


By the time I got back from the great state of Kentucky earlier this week, where people in wheelchairs and on walkers come a dime a dozen and sorely neglected teeth are de rigueur, but the populace still hates the thought of getting any help from the federal government even though government money is the only thing propping their state up these days, all I could do was watch as Magic Bishop Don Juan Williams took his pimp game to FOX News for a full-time gig.

So why do the commentators at FOX like Juan Williams so damn much?  In an excerpt from one of my own short stories, The Black Folks Guide To Survival, the main character explains why “Our Gang”, the vintage show that had a black boy in a sea of white faces, loved their black friend so much:

The only two reasons Buckwheat was in "The Little Rascals" was because he didn't challenge Spanky and the gang could laugh at him all they wanted. Is that what you want--to be a modern day Buckwheat?"

Is that what you want, Juan Williams? To be a modern day Buckwheat?

How you feel about Juan Williams often depends on how you were introduced to him and his work. If it was through his early books and documentaries there tends to be a degree of admiration for the philosophy major who became a leading political journalist.

If you discovered him after he joined the FOX News Network as a regular analyst and expressed what could be perceived as conservative views on the state of black families, you may see him as some sort of Racially-charged Judas, playing the Liberal pantomime on FOX News Sunday.

The Black Snob

The irony of the whole Williams situation, especially with him being a long time critic of black identity politics, is that he is being paid millions to put forth his views on a cable news channel whose political commentators are heavily invested in promoting white identity politics.

For years, conservatives condemned "identity politics" on the left, the idea that our racial, ethnic, or sexual identities should determine what we found important and how we organized ourselves in the political world. Today, white identity politics is taking over the right.

The Fox News Tribe     The American Prospect

You guys have heard enough from me—I could go on all day about people like Juan Williams, who might as well be working at a strip club since he is willing to shake his ass for anybody who throws a few dollars at him. But it seems that the same sentiments are running through the comment sections of a lot of the black blogs I frequent that have a political slant. Some samples of what I've come across this week are below:

“Juan seems like a "safe" Negro, the kind that Whites feel most comfortable with. He won't burden them with stories about his people's oppression, nor will he "make excuses" for them.”

 

“I'm laughing at all the hypocritical blubbering over Juan's firing at NPR. Soo much sadness over a black man being persecuted..[sniff]..SOOOO much indignant anger over this oppressed male of color who has built his entire career on attacking OTHER black males who were nothing more than an embarrassment and objects of hate for Juan.”

 

“Juan Williams is a fence sitter always has been, he jumps from side to side depending on which side serves him better. Like many others of his ilk they proclaim to be black when it convenient.”

 

“You can't say anything that goes against the people who SIGN.YOUR.PAYCHECK. unless they're breaking the law. Juan knew that NPR doesn't necessarily co-sign the propaganda network's views, and he went too far about Muslims, so they should have exercised their right to fire his ass.”

 

“Juan has gone from writing "Eyes on the Prize" and the Thurgood Marshall biography, to being a black voice for a partisan racist news network.”

The most frequent comment I saw on these blogs? Some variation of “when Juan Williams outlives his usefulness at FOX they will throw him under the bus.”

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
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  • A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
  • The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
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After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.
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Yale scientists restore brain function to 32 clinically dead pigs

Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.

Still from John Stephenson's 1999 rendition of Animal Farm.
Surprising Science
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
  • They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
  • The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.

The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?

But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.

What's dead may never die, it seems

The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.

BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.

The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.

As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.

The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.

"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.

An ethical gray matter

Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.

The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.

Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.

Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?

"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."

One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.

The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.

"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.

It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.

Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?

The dilemma is unprecedented.

Setting new boundaries

Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."

She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.