Fiction and Fact: The Culture of the Con

Fiction and Fact: The Culture of the Con


Howard Adelman

Foster, Peter (2014) “Goodbrokers: Wolf of Wall Street an inferior Scorcese remake,” National Post, 8 January, FP11.

Fulford, Robert (2014) “The American Scheme: How the con man managed to turn himself into a folk hero,” National Post, 7 January, B1.

Rakoff, Jed S. (2014) “”The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?” NYRB, LXI:1, 9 January.

Surowiecki, James (2014) “Do the Hustle,” The New Yorker, 13 January, 21.

Following my reviews of the two films, The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle, I will be using the above four essays or articles as well as the widespread very recent reports on the huge fines levelled against JP Morgan Chase Bank. This comment was instigated by a response to my blog with an attachment, an “Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself” by Christina McDowell ( Christina is the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a partner of Jordan Belfort whom Leonardo DiCaprio played in the film. Belfort pleaded guilty to money laundering and securities fraud and was a prosecution witness against his former colleague, Tom Prousalis.

Christina wrote that the testimony was blocked lest it reveal a spate of other corrupt stock offerings: “that would have been a disaster. It would have just been too many liars, and too many schemes for the jurors, attorneys or the judge to follow.” Further, Christina wrote that Belfort and her father conspired together not just in one scheme, as the film portrayed, but in a series of fraudulent stock offerings such as MVSI Inc. of Vienna, e-Net Inc. of Germantown, Md., Octagon Corp. of Arlington, Va., and Czech Industries Inc. of Washington, D.C., and so on. Christina confronted the makers of the film for glorifying Belfort and receiving kudos and awards while both the victims of these fraudsters suffered enormously. Her mother, her two sisters and she herself also suffered and continue to suffer. The suffering began immediately after the fact by learning that they themselves were burdened with enormous credit card and other debts rooted in identity theft. Prousalis’ wife and his three daughters’ lives were just wrecked. Remember how Bernie Madoff’s son committed suicide!

Why? Because these con artists trick the members of their own families. But in the films they are turned into folk heroes. Christina wrote: “You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.” At the end of the film, the story suggests that Jordan Belfort went along to a second career as a motivational speaker to become once again wealthy while many of his victims largely remain destitute and received little if any restitution.

Christina concludes that after she was sucked into the con, and the drug behaviour and pleasure seeking that went along with it, “then I unravelled the truth. The truth about my father and his behavior: that behind all of it was really just insidious soul-sucking shame masked by addiction, which we love to call ambition, which is really just greed. Greed and the desire for fame (exactly what you’ve successfully given self-appointed motivational speaker/financial guru Jordan Belfort, whose business opportunities will surely multiply thanks to this film).”

Peter Foster complemented that criticism by claiming the film exploited the same values as the con artist – lies and exaggerated behaviour. As Foster wrote, Belfort graduated from a meat salesman to a stock salesman and was named by himself as the Wolf, not by Forbes Magazine. Further, the critics are complicit in cheering the film claiming it was as good or even superior to Goodfellas when it is, as both I and Foster claimed, tedious and totally self-indulgent however great the acting and production values. The biggest lie is that the makers and promoters of the film, including Leonardo DiCaprio, call it a cautionary tale, when in artistic intent and consequences, it is precisely the opposite. As my son, Gabriel, who loves the film, says, Scorcese’s great skill is to portray villain’s from a very neutral perspective and not take a stand. Screenwriter Terence Winter claimed the lesson from the film is that, “We don’t learn anything. Nothing changes.” Further, Gabriel himself is anguished between his love for the brilliance in film making and the consequences among young people of his age who take the very opposite message from the film and glory in the excessive wealth and self-indulgence of the crooked stockbrokers.

Robert Fulford, while acknowledging that The Wolf of Wall Street is florid and hysterical and that the acting is sensationally good, claims that the message of the film is not only that, “We don’t learn anything. Nothing changes,” but that eternal recurrence of the con theme is a reverberating theme of American culture. The lesson is not that crooks get it and their lives are ruined, but that they are reborn again in new versions of the same thing as Christina declares about her father. “He recreates himself every time he imagines a new scheme for enriching himself at the hands of the innocent.” George Parker (1870-1930) who sold the Brooklyn Bridge many times over was “an outrageous model for all fictional con men.” Con men tell lies and make claims that are too good to be true.  Fulford opines that, “Characters like him are a gift to storytellers and moviemakers …moral cripples…riding on a smile and a shoeshine.” The best con movie of all time, The Sting, memorializes the type, but in a movie where the marks are the real crooks. The movie works by conning the audience, but traditionally making the con clear by a twist at the ending. The Wolf of Wall Street is a fraud that cons but never owns up to it.

The question arises: why do these con artists get away with it? James Surowiecki asks why Americans have a soft spot for these greedy hucksters who sell dreams that never come true and why do audiences get conned by movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle? Surowiecki’s answer is the same as that of the screenwriter of The Wolf of Wall Street, “It has ever been thus.” As the University of Pennsylvania historian Walter McDougall wrote, “far from despising flimflam artists as parasites or worse, American popular culture habitually celebrates rascals as comedic figures.” Surowiecki continues: “It seems that con artists, for all their vices, represent many of the virtues that Americans aspire to. Con artists are independent and typically self-made…They succeed or fail based on their wits. They exemplify, in short, the complicated nature of American capitalism, which, as McDougall argues, has depended on people being hustlers in both the positive and the negative sense. The American economy wasn’t built just on good ideas and hard work. It was also built on hope and hype.”

As Surowiecki wrote, the line between crooks and businessmen is fuzzy. (As we will see, thus may still be true in the twenty-first century.) In the nineteenth century, Jay Gould who promoted railway stock was one of the biggest con artists the country had ever seen. Wall Street Entrepreneurs and con men have similar skills. “Successful entrepreneurship involves hucksterism, the ability to convince investors and employees that they should risk their money, their time, and their effort on you.” They peddle optimism. The philosophy of the sting is to sell hope. Steve Jobs was the greatest con man, entrepreneur and director of the twenty-first century, scripting and rehearsing his presentations to the greatest detail. He believed that you both had to have but also sell absolute conviction. As Weinberg said, “Before you sell a deal you have to live the deal. You have to believe in it, because, if you don’t believe in it, you can’t sell it.”  The one and only difference between the con artist and the entrepreneur is not the set of qualities, but that the entrepreneur can deliver and make the fantasies come true. Con men cannot.

Jed Rakoff in his article asks why there have been no prosecutions of high level executives from the latest financial scandal of the huge mortgage scams. Everything may not be the same. There were high level prosecutions in the past – Michael Milken in the 1970s junk bond bubble, Charles Keating and others in the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis, Jeffrey Skilling and Bernie Ebbers in the 1990s Enron scam. But there have been no prosecutions of executives from the 2008 sub-prime mortgage collapse. The 2 billion dollar fine of JP Morgan, the biggest US bank with $2.3 trillion in assets and revenues of over a $100 billion, was levied for failing to inform US authorities of the Madoff Ponzi fraud. The announcement was made five years after Madoff was arrested. The bank ignored its own information that Madoff was up to something very questionable. To avoid indictment, the bank had to admit criminal wrongdoings and pay the fine. This recent $2 billion was in addition to a previous series of fines $13 billion, $4.5 billion, $920 million, $470 million, $410 million and an anticipated another $2.3 or so billion more European fines, fines which in total only amounted to 12% of its net income over four years.

Why have the executives not been prosecuted for the collusion of these huge businesses with fraudsters like Madoff or Weinberg or Belfort, for the latter could not succeed in their theft, whether selling worthless stocks in the seventies and eighties or selling toxic mortgage-backed securities in the twenty-first century without the collusion of large banks? There are several possibilities. First, perhaps the banks were themselves conned. But they did not lose money; they made money – huge amounts. Further, the real question is why they shut their eyes to both what they knew and what they did not want to know. But why did SEC not catch on? Why did the rating agencies mislead everyone? There are reasons offered – the difficulty of proving intent, even though intent need not be proven, only wilful blindness, not nearly as difficult to prove. Further, since these firms also participated in the purchase of these weekly-backed mortgage securities and were sophisticated investors, how could they be declared as either victims or as complicit? Given the speed of electronic trading and the reliance on algorithms, how could responsibility ever be traced to individuals?

Another reason is offered. Unlike previous financial crises, in this crisis the whole western economy was at risk. There were more important priorities. Another reason Rakoff offers is the built-in incentives of prosecuting attorneys to make names for themselves, but to do so in a timely fashion as distinct from the large number of years it would take to prosecute banks for complicity. In the films, manic FBI agents take their place because they are mirrors of the con artists in the two films I discussed. Further, Rakoff suggested that the government itself was complicit since it proposed the shotgun marriages of the Bank of America with Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan with Bear Stearns with mistakes made and liabilities unrevealed. Prosecuting attorneys can make a name much easier than prosecuting individual executives by making deferred or non-prosecution agreements as was done with JP Morgan and settle for huge fines. They can then envision themselves as the modern Robin Hoods.

I want to suggest another reason not included in Rakoff’s long list of potential explanations. We have gone from making con artists folk heroes to making them superheroes just when films increasingly portray the dark side of traditional superheroes – Batman, Superman, Spiderman. Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde from the dark side, and Daniel Boone and David Crocket from the light side, Joe Hill and Che Guevera from the left side, and Rob Roy and Joseph Trumeldor from the right side, have all been folk heroes. Canada has its own Two Gun Moshe Cohen. The biography of any one of them will show that they were themselves shape-shifters who helped in the effort to imprint their names, personalities and ostensible deeds into popular memory usually exaggerated to mythic proportions. The folk hero is an individual who performs acts that allows a sympathetic group to project onto them heroic status for that heroic status confers status and position on the group who identifies with the supposed hero. This is true of the Ford Nation in relationship to a serial liar and serial apologist like Rob Ford selling the fraud that he is the taxpayer’s best friend. Typically, trickster heroes in all cultures (Brer Rabbit, the coyote in aboriginal stories) have both good and bad sides, usually breaking taboos but upholding everyman values.

The con men tricksters of The Wolf of Wall Street and of American Hustle are the new contemporary folk heroes being mythologized by Hollywood now as superheroes. Though fictions about con artist folk heroes – whether Huckleberry Finn  or Tom Sawyer – used to serve as a counter-balance to restore social order, in the contemporary mould they are used to uphold the virtues of greed for its own sake. The difference now is that the films through mindblindness, not deliberate intention, but wilful mindblindness nevertheless, serves the same roles as the banks in their complicity with the original crimes in the sub-prime mortgage scandal in raising the status of the crooks in an afterlife of iconic status by developing stories as myths favouring con artists using megalomaniacal hype themselves with no relationship to social needs or social purposes and only incidental relatiobs to the facts. The films are as guilty of promoting vicarious hedonistic thrills as the con artist fraudster entrepreneurs were. The new blended superhero/folk heroes are not Robin Hood figures but icons of the age of greed and the new dreams of hedonistic glory and the pursuit of sensual pleasure in our society. When aesthetics trumps both truth and ethics in the glorification of appetite with the enormous investment that a first class con requires, Hollywood becomes the vehicle for creating the new myths without any fear they will be prosecuted for their “artistic license” as the film-makers both profit from the hype and the dreams they spin and as they propagate new imitators.


Cleaning House

On Cleaning House                                                                               11 June, 2013.


Howard Adelman

Why is the expression “cleaning house” so equivocal? On the one hand it means tidying up or, more extensively, scrubbing down your home to get rid of dirt and dust. At the extreme, a premise is made that space pure and free of adulterated matter or pollutants is highly desirable. But cleaning house can have an aesthetic dimension – getting rid of all the chachkas and paraphenalia that clutters your home. More radically, it suggests a goal of streamlining your furniture and belongings in obeisance to the aesthetic dictates of modernism. Cleaning house can be an economic or, at the very least, accounting expression – make sure all your bills are paid or all your receipts are properly filed. It certainly has an ethical dimension when one declares one’s intention of getting rid of all the “bad apples” in the Senate and restoring principles of integrity and frugality in the dispensation of government funds. “Cleaning house” also has a military dimension; a newspaper depicted Assad’s counter strikes against the rebel forces as “cleaning house”, meaning that the Assad forces are currently purging the route to Lebanon of all rebel militias (as well as many innocent civilians) as he takes back one stronghold after another. The expression can have a religious dimension as when Jesus cleaned the Temple of Jerusalem and drove the merchants out. “Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12-14)

In all of the above uses, the emphasis is on three things: what is yours; what of yours you want to dispose of; and the final remaining purified state. But if one is a gambler and cleans house, the expression means the very opposite – taking what is theirs – the money of the other players. It means adding not detracting from what is yours. Finally, and possibly most importantly, it means, not working like hell to make your home spick and span or becoming obsessively focussed on getting rid of all crime and corruption, but, rather, to take everyone else’s money as fast as one can, including the casino’s, without any seeming effort. Contrary to the normal use of the phrase that esteems the Protestant work ethic, this use of the phrase idealizes ease and leisure and deprecates hard work. The expression is used derivatively to combine both senses when a cop in a movie observes a den of thieves leaving their abode and running off with their loot. “The rats are cleaning house.” It means they are taking only the proceeds of their crime and abandoning everything else.

I have been cleaning house for the last two weeks, but especially during the past four days. In part, I have been cleaning house in one of the various meanings of the first sense and eliminating and discarding what we no longer want to own. I put those items in the garage sale as part of our Casa Loma community this past weekend. But calling the 25 of my 40 file drawers that I put in the blue recycling bins what was undesirable does not seem quite correct except in comparison to what was kept. I just wanted to make space and get rid of things in spite of my desire to hold onto them. Some of those items included undergraduate essays that I wrote almost sixty years ago.

But I also got rid of 2000 books, perhaps 15-20% of my library. Eight large boxes went as donations to the libraries of three research centre at York University. Some were sold in the garage sale. Others went for resale in a used bookstore on Bloor Street. I gave away many. The largest by far – two dozen boxes – went to the University of Toronto library, the vast bulk of them for the UofT book sale that helps the library buy more books. Getting rid of old files may be a humanitarian act to save some poor shlob when I am even older the problem of going through my files and selecting anything worthwhile. Or perhaps that is too arrogant. What I am really doing is simply saving the files I still can or may reference as well as trying to reduce the risk that I will not be dispensed to a recycler altogether.

In any case, cleaning house when you are disposing of your intellectual property and production seems so much harder a task than simply disposing of goods you no longer value. You both hold them in high value, but no longer enough to keep around in your old age. The greatest pain does not come from the physical exertion expended. In my case, it was far harder to dispose of the books than the files.

I have several other observations. One can get donation receipts for giving away books and these can be even more financially valuable than actually selling them directly or through a used book store. Secondly, and I noticed this most acutely at the garage sale, whereas when I sold off a lot of books at a garage sale ten years ago, I was swarmed. The numbers who came were very large. There were very few relatively who came this time and, surprisingly, not that many who appeared when the books were widely advertised as being free. In the electronic age, having a print library seems no longer a valuable; given the costs of real estate, space is valued more highly.

All this is to say that I have been very busy and have neglected my comments on Jeremy’s biography of Albert Hirschman. I have neglected them for a second reason – the little feedback that I have been getting. I wanted the reading of the book to be a conversation. However, very few have participated. In talking to two of you, it has been suggested that my long winded comments, however interesting they are, are intimidating. Those who want to offer a few brief impressions feel out of place.

So I will try a few chapters using a different response – by asking a few questions rather than writing a small essay.

What do you think?

Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13

This is the culmination of my Obama series. It is an easy, shorter and hopefully enjoyable read. You can read it to your kids. I`d love your feedback. Howard

Obama 24: Obama in Black and White 10.03.13


Howard Adelman

Morgan Freeman famously said that, “America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. Obama’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president.” People "just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white – very white, American, Kansas, middle of America. There was no argument about who he is or what he is." (Quoted by Kristen A. Lee, New York Daily News, 11 July 2012) Somatically, Freeman is perfectly correct. However, in terms of character, Obama may not be black at all or he may be black and white in a very different sense than Freeman meant it.

Recall that it was widely held that Bill Clinton was America’s first black president. Not somatically, of course. Nor even in the way that Toni Morrison meant it when she famously wrote her 1998 (October) New Yorker essay, "Clinton as the first black president". For, as she later clarified, "I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him. I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp." (Quoted in Justin Dews, "Toni Morrison On Calling Bill Clinton The First Black President And Endorsing Obama," (05/16/08)

Clinton was America’s first black president in far more than the way he was treated. "White skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear ‘No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.’" (Toni Morrison)

This view of Clinton as America’s first black president was initially regarded as clever but condescending and almost insulting, certainly of those who treated Clinton so shabbily. However, the truth of the assertion came to be recognized at a much deeper level. First, Blacks responded to Bill Clinton as if he were Black, Second, Clinton’s treatment of and relationship to Blacks was unprecedented in American history that went well beyond his being born as a member of a poor family in Arkansas (see Suzy Hansen, "Why blacks love Bill Clinton," Salon, 20 February 2012):

· Quoting Toni Morrison, "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas"

· Though FDR and LBJ passed the most important legislation that benefitted African Americans, Clinton appointed far more Blacks to senior policy positions than any previous president – this went well beyond appointments such as Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce to include his most intimate staff: his budget director, his director of public outreach, his deputy chief of staff, his liaison between the White House and Congress

· Clinton, unlike Obama, grew up hanging out with black kids when he grew up in Hope, Arkansas

· Clinton identified with black music and black culture

· Most important, he connected personally and up close with African Americans and even as President would drive across town to a Black restaurant to eat soul food, chitlins and hang out with Blacks with whom he felt totally at home

· Alexis Herman who headed the Women’s Bureau in the Labor Department tells the story of her visiting Little Rock with Ernie Green who was an assistant secretary of labor when Bill Clinton was Governor on the occasion of Clinton`s honouring the Little Rock Nine who led the integration of Little Rock High School; afterwards Clinton invited them both to hang out in the Governor’s mansion, ordered ribs from a black take-out, picked up some six packs and they all talked well into the night about music, growing up, family and friends (cf. DeWayne Wickham (ed.) Bill Clinton and Black America)

· In Passage to India, E. M. Forster wrote "only connect" and Bill Clinton connected on a personal and intimate level with African Americans

· With the exception of Black academics, social and political activists, the vast majority of Black Americans supported his efforts at welfare reform and attempts to cut out fraud

· The most important issue to Blacks is probably education, and Bill Clinton as Governor of Arkansas oversaw the total reform of the educational system in that state so that it went from one of the worst to the very best system

· Blacks even recognized his sexual peccadilloes as Black and radically other than the high level white collar crimes of corrupt defence contractors, of bilking banks of billions in quasi-fraudulent mortgage lending and even in overseas wars that kill hundreds of thousands but make fortunes for those in what Eisenhower dubbed the military-industrial complex

· When he left the presidency, the Clintons settled in Harlem

Let me expand on the second last point. Whitewater just showed African Americans that Blacks, including the Clintons, could not compete with Whites in their realm of high-level trickery. Clinton`s deceit was Black. Toni Morrison noted that the root of the word, adulterare, means "to defile," and, at its core, in the white dominant culture it is indentified with treachery, something cloaked in deception and secrecy, that is more than a sin. When Bill Clinton was trapped by his evasions and misrepresentations over his sexual peccadilloes, he was not viewed by African Americans as a traitor guilty of an act equivalent to treason. Rather, he was viewed as a rascally trickster beloved in Black folklore going back to the Bantus in Africa. Clinton was the mischievous Br`er Rabbit, relatively small and vulnerable with only his cunning intelligence to escape a life and death situation when trapped by the enormous white power of the establishment.

If Bill Clinton is the Black American equivalent to Bre`r rabbit in high level American politics, Barack Hussein Obama is a trickster of a very different kind — Anansi, the trickster spider of West Africa even though his father was a Kenyan where tales of tricky hares are more prevalent. The American fringe right regard Obama as a deceiver of the first order in stories about his birth, in his pretence at being a Christian. The American right regard him as dissembler who pretends he is sympathetic to Israel and Zionism but is committed to dismantling Israel as a Jewish state. Obama says he supports free enterprise but the political right regard him as the leading socialist in America. In this respect, they impose their own sense of dissembling, a white sense of hypocrisy and misrepresentation. But Obama tells it as it is. He says what he means and means what he says.

That does not mean he is not a trickster. Like Clinton, he is a Black trickster, but he is no Bre`r Rabbit. He cannot cry out to Bre`r Fox after he escaped one more time: I was born and bred in the Briar Patch. Born and bred! For Obama was born in Hawaii. If Obama is indeed a trickster, why is he not identified with Maui, the Hawaian trickster fathered by a stranger? Because, although Obama`s father was a stranger, there is no version of the Obama story that presents him as a heavenly stranger. Obama`s mother never denied he had a father. In contrast, when Maui asked who was his father, Hina denied that he had a father and insisted that the loincloth (malo) of Kalana was his father. Nor is Obama a Promethean figure who steals fire from the gods (or the hens in this case) and can slow the sun`s rotation down. Obama is neither the downtrodden escapist trickster of Bre`r Rabbit nor the powerful godlike magician like Maui. Obama is an Anansi, or Aunt Nancy as colloquially known in the south.

Anansi is synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech. "No one goes to the house of the spider Ananse to teach him wisdom." Bre`r Rabbit is clever. Anansi the spider is wise. Rhetorically, he is brilliant. Like all trickster figures in literature, Anansi emerges from the fringes, from the sidelines, and uses his intelligence to defend the oppressed and gain the upper-hand over those with military and economic power. Though trapped within an existing power structure, Anansi beats the establishment at their own game though he does not usually transform the game itself. Unlike Bre`r Rabbit who has his own unique bag of tricks, Anansi uses the rules of the system against itself just as a clever judo expert uses the strength of the other to defeat his opponent. Anansi goes further for he inspires long term strategies of resistance that enable those who are deprived to transform their situation and to assert their identity within the system that has entrapped them.

Anansi works by trapping others of much superior strength. Four sample tales will give you the idea. These are drawn from the story of how Anansi was able to get Nyame (God) to release his store of tales to the world. Nyame demanded a tribute in return for the stories – a python, leopard, hornets and a dwarf. Anansi captured Onini, the Python, by allowing the Python to overhear him in an argument being sceptical about the python`s reputed great length. Onini wriggled forth and said he could prove his length and would allow Anansi to measure him. Since Onini had trouble lying straight, he agreed to let Anansi tie him up at either end to take his measure at his most extended. Once tied up, Anansi was able to deliver Onini to Nyame.

Anansi trapped Osebo, the leopard, by digging a hole, covering it up and luring the leopard over it so the leopard fell in. Anansi offered to help Osebo get out of the hole. He said he would wrap Osebo in his webs and pull him out. Anansi did wrap him in his web and pull him out but only to deliver Osebo all wrapped up to Nyame. Anansi trapped the Mmoboro Hornets by pretending it was raining into their nest and inviting the hornets to take shelter in an empty calabash which, when they did, Anansi closed up to deliver the calabash to Nyame. Anansi caught the dwarf in the same way that Bre`r Fox caught Bre`r Rabbit by making the equivalent of a tar baby, but this time it was a doll covered with sticky gum and set under the Tree Of Life with a bowl of yams in front. Mmoatia, the dwarf, came to eat the yams and then thanked the doll for the meal. The doll just sat there and din` say nothin`. The dwarf became incensed at the doll`s rudeness for not acknowledging the thanks. Still the doll sat there and din` say nothin`. Finally, incensed at such rudeness, the dwarf struck the doll and his arm got stuck. `Let go o`me or I`ll hit you with my other hand.` Of course the doll sat there and don` say nothin`. The dwarf struck with the other hand and that hand became stuck. Then he lashed out with each foot in turn and then finally butted with his head until he was entirely stuck and Anansi delivered the entrapped dwarf to Nyame. Nyame kept his side of the bargain and released his store of tales to the world.

In the story of "Opondo’s Children" released by Nyame, the wife of Opondo kept giving birth to monitor lizards instead of regular human babies. The parents, repulsed by their hideous children, destroyed each in turn just after childbirth. Finally, desperate to have a child of their own, they decided not to destroy the child that looked like a monitor lizard and raise the child as if he were a normal human baby even though he was rejected by the children of all their friends and neighbours. When the child was an adolescent, a neighbour followed the child to his secret river where the neighbour watched the child swim. The neighbour immediately went to tell the parents who then accompanied the neighbour to hide among the reeds beside the river and watch their child go the river to swim the next day. To their surprise, they watched their child take off his monitor skin and plunge into the river as a normal human being. They destroyed his skin and the child had to return looking like everyone else but, as compensation, he was accepted and loved by the entire community.

Obama was raised as a white child and allowed to grow up wearing his darker skin. In Harvard, but especially in Chicago, he learned that it could be of great advantage to him to acquire and wear another coat of an African woven out of the fine silk spider threads of Anansi. Thus, Obama became the oreo cookie of American politics wearing a black skin to cover his white ass while he used the rhetorical skills and practiced the wisdom of Anansi, his newly acquired black coat of words and wisdom.

Obama24.Obama in Black and White.10.03.13.doc