Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Saturday, April 12, 2003  

The spy they loved

My brilliant blogfather, Atrios, has comprehensive coverage of the made for TV spy scandal starring Katrina Leung.

Leung was charged Wednesday with illegal copying of national defense documents to distribute them to officials of the People's Republic of China with the intent to harm the United States.

According to court documents unsealed Wednesday, Leung, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was recruited as an informant about 20 years ago by now-retired FBI agent James J. Smith, 59, of Westlake Village. During the time, the two also engaged in a sexual relationship, according to the court documents.

With an assist from my blog brother, Roger Ailes, he has kept the issue out front, where it belongs. Left up to the Right, the scandal would be shoved under the already bulging rug. In the interest of keeping it in the blog family, I will add my thoughts. Let's cut to the chase.

The question has now been raised whether this accused double-agent, who was involved with both the head of Lawrence Livermore Labs and a key FBI player in the fundraising investigations, tainted all of these things.

If Leung's influence on the players was as strong as it appears to have been, the allegations of improper fundraising by Democrats may have been a cover to mask her extraction of material from Smith, one of two FBI agents she is known to have had sexual liasons with. Throughout these events, Leung was an active fundraiser and campaign worker for the GOP. Meanwhile, also using her conservative cover, no telling what she learned from the chief of Livermore Labs, a key nuclear weapons research facility.

Though this revelation is interesting enough as a cloak-and-camisole affair, as is wont to happen, the focus has shifted to race. Roger observes the Unification Church owned Washington Times headline for the story is a study in both racism and inaccuracy, as is the article itself.

Moonie Times hed:

Chinese Mata Hari ensnares ex-FBI men

In a mere six words, the Times manages not only to be racist and sexist but also to get three important facts wrong. Leung is a naturalized American citizen of Chinese descent, not "Chinese." (Identifying Leung as Chinese is as accurate as identifying Reverend Moon as "an American criminal" just because he served time in a U.S. prison.) And the gentlemen in question were not "ex-FBI men" at the time of their alleged sexual involvement with Leung. And, of course, there is no evidence or allegations that Leung "ensnared" either man into anything.

Both the Times and its Moonie-owned brother, UPI, have becomes bastions for racists. Most notorious is editor Robert Stacy McCain, a leading torch lighter in the neo-Confederate movement. Longterm 'scientific' racist Steve Sailer is also employed by the Moonies and busy infusing his crude racist views into the material he writes for them.

The issue in this scandal is not Leung's ethnic origin. If a spy not of Chinese descent had performed the same alleged acts, the damage to U.S. interests would be just as severe. However people who see everything as based on race, as many of the people staffing Right Wing media do, miss that point in their rush to fit Leung into a stereotype. To them she is the devious, wildly sexed and ruthless Asian woman of their nightmares. Mata Hari. The Vietnamese women who infiltrated American areas with bombs. North Koreans who stole the identities of foreign women for nefarious purposes. Meanwhile, the white men they believe she seduced are relieved of responsibility for their actions. In reality, it appears the men involved with Leung were quite willing.

The focus should be on what information Leung gave to the Chinese government and whether her role tainted previous FBI investigations.

Top FBI officials have told members of Congress that every Chinese counterintelligence case investigated by the FBI since at least 1991 may have been compromised by a suspected agent of the Chinese government arrested in Los Angeles this week.

Among the investigations that require review, they [congressional leaders] said, are the nuclear secrets case involving former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee; the alleged transfer of neutron warhead secrets to China from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and the purported efforts by the Chinese government to illegally contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns in this country during the 1996 election.

That is a lot of work the appropriate government agencies need to get cracking on. The role of the real media, if not its Right Wing shadows, should be to scrutinize those investigations to make sure they are conducted competently, completely and without political bias.

posted by J. | 6:33 PM

Friday, April 11, 2003  

Cross burning case is complex, challenging

Nathan Newman is good. Great analytical skills. A fine sense of news. Knowledgeable in several different fields. A writer. Nathan cooks with gas while most people are shaking a skillet over a campfire. But, when he is really hot, he cooks with propane.

Monday, the Supreme Court handled down its ruling in Virginia v. Black, a case about cross-burning to symbolize white supremacy. The 7-2 opinion found the statute at issue unconstitutional. However, the decision leaves ample space for cross-burning to be scrutinized closely if it might be intended as a direct threat.

The vote was 6 to 3 to interpret the First Amendment as permitting the government to single out cross burning as "a particularly virulent form of intimidation," as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor phrased it in her opinion for the court. To this extent, a majority agreed that given its notorious history, cross burning could be treated differently than burning, say, a circle or a square.

. . . Seven justices found that the Virginia law was unconstitutional. Those were Justice O'Connor and her three allies, along with the three who regard all cross burning laws as unconstitutional: Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Anthony M. Kennedy.

Nathan was the first blogger to fisk Virginia v. Black, which some reporters flubbed. He began by doing what is most important, getting the facts and the issue right.

At stake in the case were really two examples of cross-burning. In the first, a cross was burned on the lawn of a black family. In the second, a cross was burned ritually at a KKK rally on private property with no singular target other than black people in general. The question was whether both were inherently burned with "the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons", a practice banned under Virginia law.

It is important to distinguish between the two scenarios. In one the threat is direct. In the other, though the cross-burning is not a welcoming shout-out to people of color, it occurs mainly for the benefit of the 'race realists' at the Klan gathering. However, the Virginia statute does not make a distinction between the two situations. Nathan says:

While the Supreme Court upheld the right to single out cross-burning, it struck down a provision in the Virginia law that said cross-burning unto itself demonstrated intent to intimidate. While it's pretty obvious that burning a cross on a black person's lawn is meant to intimidate, the ritual cross-burning in the field in the case is more problematic. While it could reasonably mean that an imminent threat was being made to blacks or others in the community, it could be just an affirmation of racist views by people who are nasty but clearly have no immediate violent intent.

In the form of a group masturbatory ritual for racists, cross-burning is different than it is when used to directly intimidate people of color, immigrants, Muslims or other folks bigots might target. It is similar to a group of racists participating in a group blog. The purposes of the effort are mainly to celebrate their fraternal relationship and recruit other people to their cause.

Nathan agrees with Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist, Stevens and Breyer in regard to the overbroadness of the Virginia statue. (Remember the vote was 6 to 3 to interpret the First Amendment as permitting the government to single out cross burning as "a particularly virulent form of intimidation," but 7 to 2 in regard to overturning the statute.)

The main plurality took a position that "instead of prohibiting all intimidating messages, Virginia may choose to regulate this subset of intimidating messages in light of cross burning's long and pernicious history as a signal of impending violence." The state need not penalize all possibly intimidating speech to reach a form of symbolic speech that is tied to such a uniquely corrosive history in the US.

I mentioned previously that I used to be a free speech absolutist. If I still am, I should agree with Justices Souter, Kennedy and Ginsburg in regard to Virginia v. Black:

. . .Three other justices found the law unconstitutional for the broader reason that, in their view, the First Amendment simply does not permit singling out cross-burning and making it a crime.

Perhaps my attitude has hardened over the last few years. Maybe not. As a law student I worked on a case defending the Ku Klux Klan. However, I had no problem with the Kluxers being arrested for weapons violations as soon as we left court. I wasn't agreeing with anything other than their right to express their opinions if they were not directly threatening other people. I now believe cross burning can be a form of direct intimidation that SCOTUS is correct in ruling can be regulated.

States may draft statues banning cross-burning as a form of intimidation that pass scrutiny. According to New York Times legal correspondent Linda Greenhouse, Virginia has already has. Evenso, the facts of a cross-burning would have to be very explicitly threatening for a conviction under such a law to be upheld.

posted by J. | 2:04 PM

Thursday, April 10, 2003  

The friends of 'scientific' racism

Matthew Yglesias, that youthful fount of untried opinion, has initiated a discussion about the intersection of politics and homosexuality. A related issue is the intersection of race and politics. As the unimpeachable Atrios points out, questions of nature and nurture have become inextricably interwoven with racism in American discourse.

Yglesias and Drum are off on another round of "liberals don't think anything (except homosexuality) is an inherited trait." Huh? People keep saying this, but I know lots of liberals and I've never heard any of them express something like this. If it ever sounds that way it's because most popular discussions of the role of inherited characteristics revolve around obsessions with Murray-esque group (racial) characteristics rather than individual ones, and they are largely unrelated issues.

That trend, as discussed in several previous entries, is apparent on the Internet and is invading the blogosphere. One of the reasons eugenics, 'scientific' racism, or 'racial realism' -- take your pick, racism by any name. . . -- has been aggressively promoted during the last decade is because of funding from several far Right foundations. The most prominent is the Pioneer Institute, though the Bradley Foundation and the Olin Foundations aren't far behind. Well-known racist sites such as VDare and American Renaiisance have long been beneficiaries.

Drinkers from the tainted trough probably include Steve Sailer and Sam Francis, who have been spreading their racist views since the days of online bulletin boards. Both contribute to VDare, AR and wherever racist 'wisdom' is sought. (Sailer's use of people of color to promote his views is an innovation. In previous incarnations, he didn't seem to associate with non-whites. Though association that is actually exploitation could explain his change of . . . something.)

The favored beneficiaries of funds to promote white supremacy are college professors. The foundations believe the mantle of academia can lend their views respectability.

Although anyone browsing the Internet can find dozens of sites espousing these beliefs, it is especially dangerous when those thoughts come from respected professionals, said Heidi Beirich, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center who tracks the academic movement.

"One thing these academics can do is they provide justification to people for their racist beliefs," she said. "If you have a Ph.D. after your name, you have a lot more clout than Joe Schmo who's talking about how evil the Jews are."

Fortunately, most of the academics trotted out by monied racists are easily dismissable. In fact, they are often laughable. Consider J. Phillipe Rushton, "a professor of psychology at the University of Western Ontario, [who] is one of the researchers at the top of the watch list at the Southern Poverty Law Center."

Long a fixture wherever racism is held dear, Rushton has been shoved to the very fringes of mainstream academia. Among his more notorious practices is stopping minority men in shopping malls and quizzing them about the size of their penises and how far they can ejaculate.

"The ironic thing is, most of these people are not geneticists," [Heidi] Beirich said. "Rushton literally spends a lot of his time measuring penis size and head size."

Though embracing 'scientific' racism may be the path to grants from Pioneer, Bradley and Olin, it is not a way to be taken seriously as a scientist. Those who choose the route are usually second-rate or worse. Except for their relatively small circle of fellow racists, they are sidelined.

People have resorted to more than name-calling. The researchers who study these areas and come to these types of conclusions have almost all been discredited at their universities or in their communities. Most stay at their universities over the protest of other professors and community members only because they have tenure.

Whether the same people who are funding the resurgence of 'scientific' racism in academia and on the Internet in general will also play a role in the blogosphere is uncertain. I am aware of at least three blogs that may be funded by foundations that support eugenics, Gene Expression, Kevin L. Martin's and David Yeagley's. All three are very obscure, with the last two barely known at all.

In addition, at least one blogger from academia has been promoting 'racial realism' here, Charles Murtaugh, who considers Gene Expression one of his favorite blogs. He has carefully masked himself as mainstream while being a very active participant in Gene Expression and presenting its views on his own blog. More significantly, 'racial realism' infuses some of the material he presents as objective.

To our advantage, critics and monitors of hate groups, including 'scientific' racists, are also online. I do what I can to help them and hope you will do the same.

posted by J. | 6:31 PM

Wednesday, April 09, 2003  

Blog hopping

My blog brother Roger Ailes (not the rich, but filthy one) reminded me the Supreme Court has ruled in Virginia v. Black. I will post my thoughts on the ruling after mulling it over a bit more. Meanwhile, read David Tell at The Weekly Standard. He has both a good interpretation of the decision and an excellent explanation of why generalists misinterpret the terminology of judicial rulings. And, keep an eye out for analysis of it at TalkLeft. There's been a bumper crop of legal news lately, but I'm sure Jeralyn will have something to say about this case. Okay, I can't resist saying a little about the topic. In law school I was a First Amendment absolutist in the tradition of SCOTUS Justice Hugo Black. Have I changed? Wait and see.

My blog father, the spirited and excrutiatingly popular Atrios, has an ironic observation about a spy case that kind of mimics M. Butterfly. By the way, Atrios is a wonderful role model. Though I'm blogging on my own now, he still takes time to listen to my ideas and answer my questions. In fact, I've been fortunate in having help from some of the best bloggers. Four of the top ten on Bear's list played direct roles in getting me started in blogging.

Fellow Oregon blogger Cowboy Kahill of the ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose has discovered a military wife who defies stereotypes.

Read on.

posted by J. | 10:10 PM

An interlude for my attitude

My blog buddies, Laura of Interesting Monstah, and Julia, of Sisyphus Shrugged, use music to remind them of the good in people during these interesting times. With that in mind, and also trying to get back into a non-war watching routine, I've been blogging to music today. During intensive writing Wynton Masalis was on the iPod. While just knocking around the Web later, I switched to Rickie Lee Jones, who I hadn't heard in a while. This was a good day to sing along to something as guileless as "Boogie, boogie in my socks. Oh, please don't make the little girl stop!" I'm finishing out the evening with Marc Cohn on the box. "Walking in Memphis" is one of my favorite songs."

I also watched some non-war television. "The Practice'" was extraordinary during its first seasons. The writing came as close to the reality of life in a small law firm as anything I've seen. I dropped out when the plots became more contrived. I watched two back-to-back episodes Monday night. The first was entertaining, but over the top. The second, about a lawyer tempted to violate the Code of Professional Responsibllity because he is infatuated with a client, was pretty predictable. I did like a secondary theme. An unscrupulous lawyer encouraged a young woman to file a frivolous lawsuit claiming gender discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It was an excellent demonstration of how bad people can misuse good laws.

I finished the William Rotsler novel without ever throwing it across the room! I deserve a medal. Why is at that some men cannot keep their embarassing inadequacies to themselves? Instead, they must publish them to novels for other people to read or set up blogs they would be ashamed of if they were sane.

posted by J. | 9:36 PM

Tuesday, April 08, 2003  

Orchids and onions

Dominion, a blog buddy, has this to say about the perverse reasons that sometimes bring readers to a blog:

. . .You might note that I never write about the type of search engine hits that bring people here. I just don't see why anyone would be interested in what people are looking for that might stumble onto this blog. However, the people that are coming here because they are looking for Pictures of Pfc Lynch Raped, you are a bunch of sick mother fuckers. And that is the kindest thing I can say about you. Run, don't walk, to the nearest life and fall into it. You need one desperately!

Having become a kind of point person for coverage of the sociological aspects of the war at my various blogging gigs, I have seen similar search inquiries on blogs I participate in. I only began tracking Silver Rights three days ago (this is a baby blog) but have already been turned off by such strange minutiae.

On the other hand, checking blog statistics and data can lead to finds like this one.

“Talk About Spunk”

Coming soon to a theatre near you

The big story from Iraq this week has been that a 19-year-old female soldier from West Virginia, who had been Missing in Action since 23 March, was rescued by American special forces in a raid on a hospital in Nasiriya. This is obviously very good news for Private First Class Jessica Lynch and her family. But this story raises three interesting issues: the way women are portrayed in the media; the use of unsubstantiated rumour in war reporting, and the way heroes and myths are constructed out of a kernel of truth.

Martin Stabe is one of several bloggers to follow up on an entries here about women and minorities in the military and the war. Soul Pages articulately, if not convincingly, disagreed with my claim Pfc. Lori Piestewa and Spec. Shoshana Johnson received little interest from the media compared to Pfc. Jessica Lynch. But, most have been simpatico and, more importantly, added their insights to the discussion. The overall effect has been one of my favorite things: a sort of blogger round robin.

I urge you to read as many of these entries as you have time to. Just follow the links within the links which lead to even more links. However, if you have limited time, I recommend reading the blogosphere's queen of insight and analysis, Jeanne d'arc of Body and Soul. She has sliced and diced, and probably spiced, this topic, giving various perspectives their due. Her "Repeating patterns of Jessicas" is a must read.

Embedded in the Stabe's piece (the permalink is currently bloggered) is this gem:

This is what wartime journalism has descended to. The best skewering of this myth-in-the-making comes from novelist Will Self, in his Evening Standard column:

The story has it all: a telegenic 19-year-old blonde, who fought with great bravery to avoid capture and was wounded in battle; high-tech wizardry used to find her; and a daring raid to drag her back from the very belly of the beastly Iraqis. This perfect fusion between the massive military might of America and its sentimental view of the individual is summed up by the statement given out by US Central Command: “America does not leave its heroes behind; it never has and it never will."

You will not find better thinking and writing on the Web. Read these people!

posted by J. | 1:44 PM

Monday, April 07, 2003  

Reading. . . and reality

I am finally returning to reading things not related to the war. I will try to finish "The Hairstons: An American Family," the history book I left with just the final chapter unread tomorrow or Wednesday. I dropped reading it just as the war started, though it is a fine book. I intend to actually crack the MacWorld Magazine that arrived in the mail today, too. The previous one is still sealed. There is also the final chapter of William Rotsler's sci-fi relic "Patron of the Arts." (Another reason I 've had trouble finishing that short novel is it reeks of the sexual fantasizing common to so many geeky little male science fiction writers.) Discussion of getting back to my normal reading regimen arose because I actually read the Portland Tribune today. I focused on stories about four members of the school board throwing in the towel and the scourge of methamphetamine abuse.

Meth. That is the segue between this item and the previous one. The Trib's piece describes a file of hundreds of meth addicts, cooks and dealers kept by a Portland police officer.

. . .He's recorded every arrest, every knock on a door, every police pursuit of a suspect.

The files are arranged in alphabetical order and divided by gender and race. Ninety-five percent are men; few women make the files. About 95 five percent of the people in the file are white.

I found myself asking how a bigot would perceive the same information. (The same information, altered slightly, that is.) "About 95 five percent of the people in the file are black." Or Hispanic. Or Indian. What if a there was a Gene Expression member who called herself Zeta Female. Zeta would say: "That proves crime prone black people are ruining the quality of life in Portland. More of them should be sent to prison. Their defective genes--" Only to be interrupted by Razib, "Well you know black people's low IQs prevent them from doing anything other than cooking meth and watching football on TV. Dr. Rushton says. . ."(And continue on for several more breathless paragraphs because he mistakes yammering for having something to say.)

This is, of course, what we saw previously with our specimen, Alpha Male. Bigots take a behavior of an individual and claim it is a trait of some group the individual belongs to. Chin, the Afro-Asian billionaire must be a succesful businessman because of his Asian ancestry and a good athlete because of his African ancestry, according to the Gene Expressors. In reality, there are likely aspects to Chin's personality that explain why he is a succesful businessman and likes athletics. There are also aspects of the meth perps' personalities that explain why they are who they are. Not that just personality determines outcomes. Luck. Economics. Social conditions. Health. There are lots of reasons why people do the things they do and become who they are. But, there is not sufficient evidence to explain those outcomes on the basis of genetics at this point. That is why 'scientific racism,' or if you prefer, 'racial realism,' is rubbish.

Oh. One more thing. The thousands of methamphetamine addicts in Portland and the millions in the United States are mainly white. However, white people are not scrutinized the same way as people of color. The remarks made by the sample Gene Expression member above would not be made about white people. Neither would her real life models attribute inferiority to the 'race' they are enthralled by. To make my point it was necessary to replace whites with a group bigots are eager to find fault with.

posted by J. | 9:00 PM