News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Friday, April 18, 2003
School board member accused of bigotry
An African-American Illinois school board member is being lambasted for referring to schoolchildren as "mutts."
Initially, he said, ""In this country, we basically are all mutts anyway."
In a later gathering, he expanded on his previous remarks:
I am skeptical about the complaints because some of them come from apparent members of the multiracial movement, which is very Right Wing.
The movement, whose de facto leader is Ward Connerly, often attacks black leaders. The issue of a multiracial category on forms is so important to them because they want to distance their mixed-race offspring from African-Americans. My position is that most African-Americans, Indian Americans and Hispanic Americans are already racially mixed, so there is no need for a new category.
Furthermore, Powell used the adjective "mutts" in relation to everyone, not just the children of interracial marriages. Wallace's claim his children were singled out is not true.
If the complaint was that children should not be compared to dogs, I might be more sympathetic. I believe Powell unwittingly used a phrase some people would find offensive, but with no intent to offend anyone.
In addition to the criticism from some parents, Powell was discussed at a human relations council meeting he was not informed about. That seems very irregular.
It appears the brouhaha may end without additional trouble for Powell, a successful businessman. I believe that is the best resolution.
Note: I have a partial entry about the multiracial movement around here somewhere. I will attempt to complete and publish it next week.posted by J. | 11:43 PM
Thursday, April 17, 2003
The rules of attraction redux
Charles has posted an excellent reply to my entry about the differences between normal heterosexual and homosexual attraction and having a fetish, such as a preference for amputees. My main points were:
•Normally, a person is attracted to an individual as a whole, not just some visible aspect;
•The obsessiveness with which the fetishist pursues the object of his interest much exceeds normal attraction behavior.
Charles responds that the fetishistic objects among what I consider normal heterosexuals are the male and female genitalia themselves. He believes some people, mainly men, are just as obsessed with female genitalia, usually breasts, as devotees are with stumps.
Read all about it at Alas, a Blog.
A revealing IQ test
Succinct sociologist Kieran Healy has discovered a worthwhile IQ test. It quizzes folks on how much they know about the economic realities of life in the First World. Take the Inequality Quiz developed by the Center for the Study of Inequality after you read Kieran's blog entry.
Kevin Drum discovers lead
CalPundit Kevin Drum has discovered that lead poisoning is considered a reason for lower IQs in poor children.
The problem arises because young children often eat paint chips or inhale them. The children of the poor are more likely to live in older, often substandard, housing. Such housing is apt to have been painted with paint containing lead.
The issue has been around for a while. However, it has received less attention as the housing stock in the United States, including tenements, became newer. Lead has not been a component of house paint since the 1970s. As a result, many cities have reduced the amount of funding for their lead abatement programs.
The article Kevin cites suggests the acceptability standard for lead in children's blood was set too high. Just about any lead may be too much.
A refocus on lead poisoining would mean a reversal of policy for both local and federal governments. Currently, the Deparment of Housing and Urban Development's main program is informational. Landlords and sellers of homes built before 1978 must disclose the possible presence of paint containing lead in the structures. Lessees and buyers then sign waivers acknowledging the disclosure. Considering the limited housing available to the poor, the program likely has little impact on whether children are exposed to lead in their homes.
Supporters of increased spending for lead abatement will have to fight an uphill battle.
Mad at Michael Moore
Some denizens of the blogosphere are calling for the Academy to revoke director Michael Moore's Oscar. He won it for his documentary, Bowling for Columbine. The (non-movie) critics seem to believe Moore 'hates America.'posted by J. | 9:53 PM
Odds and ends
You get to decide which for each item.
My 'resigned to the war' return to normalcy is coming along. I watched two back-to-back hours of "The Practice" Monday night. Had intended to take in only one, so I could blog some more. But, the two-parter featured the marvelous Alfre Woodard. She was a paranoid schizophrenic about to be executed. The connundrum addressed was insane people can't be executed while in the throes of irrationality. They must be medicated into rationality and then executed.
By the way, Woodard is one of David E.'s favorite actresses.
Steve writes to add some insight in regard to intersexuality.
My blog bro, Roger Ailes, has almost recovered the web log that was nearly decimated by the GBM (great Blogger meltdown). He is on a tear with items about domestic difficulties in the Bush family, Bill O'Reilly's slur against children of color and continuing exposure of the really strange Janet Rehnquist. Read Roger.
Also in the mailbag was an email from a disgruntled reader we will call Bad Apple. He informs me his site is not funded by the eugenicist Pioneer Institute. I will take his word for that, having been influenced by "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" while a defenseless child, though he offers no proof. However, considering the reactionary content of his site, I suspect it is funded by some other far Right benefactor.
Whenever I mention some of the people who helped me get started as a blogger, I want to mention more. The list includes the Archpundit, CalPundit Kevin Drum, Chris of Flyover Country, DailyKos, Nathan Newman and Mark Kleiman. Mainly, they inspired me. John Cole and Jay Caruso irritated me enough to lead me to seek a remedy. That is a form of inspiration, too.posted by J. | 1:39 AM
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
When is sexual attraction a fetish?
Charles is the Alas, A Blog participant who believes that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are fetishes. If I understand him accurately, he thinks people are born with an inherent desire for sexual gratification, but who or what that desire attaches itself to is arbitrary.
Charles says being attracted to men or women is like being attracted to feet. He offers the sexualization of women's feet during much of Chinese history as an example.
I can't find a way to get Charles' understanding of 'fetish' to cohere with the accepted definition:
To frame the problems, I'm going to explain how a couple of fetishes I am familiar with function. I first learned about acrotomophilia and apotomenophilia while working on a mass torts case involving dismemberments. Part of the damages in any tort case is the harm caused to a person's quality of life, which includes affectional and sexual relationships. To put it bluntly, there are people who are sexually attracted to amputees because they are amputees. Other people want to be amputees, with some accomplishing that goal. The groups sometimes overlap. Dr. John Money, introduced when we were discussing intersexuality, named and defined these fetishes.
Let's use the terms common in the culture that thrives on obsession with limblessness, devotees and wannabes. Devotees have developed a culture, particularly online, that includes introduction services, trade in photographs and videos and sites devoted to discussing acrotomophilia. Devotees are believed to often enter professions in which they can meet amputees, such as physical therapy and designing or manufacturing artificial limbs. They can be a serious problem for amputees because they sometimes follow or harass them, in efforts to gain access.
Not all amputees are created equal in the eyes of devotees. Some prefer multiple amputations. Leg amputations are more popular than arm amputations. Rarely, devotees like less intrusive amputations, such as fingers.
The majority of devotees are male. The idealized amputee is female, with an above-the-knee amputation, preferably not wearing an artificial limb. Because of relatively good medical care in First World countries, they are pretty hard to come by. That fuels the trade in substitute stimuli described above.
Canadian amputee activist Ian Gregson has written about the topic. Though acrotomophiles often angrily deny they are abnormal, he disagrees.
Therein lies part of the problem I have with Charles' use of the word 'fetish.' In most heterosexual and homosexual relationships, I believe the attraction to the person precedes the attraction to minor aspects of being human, such as race, ethnicity or height or weight. With fetishes, the basic rule of attraction changes. But for the amputation, the devotee would not be attracted to the person.
Apotomenophiles are sexually stimulated or gratified by the pretending to be or becoming amputees. There have been demands for amputation of healthy limbs so that wannabes can 'feel normal' .
Again, there is a significant difference between Charles' use of 'fetish' and how a real fetish functions. The excessiveness and obsession common to fetishizers is absent from normal heterosexual and homosexual relationships in my opinion.
Acrotomophilia and apotomenophilia have not become accepted as normal in the psychiatric community as homosexuality has. The consensus of opinion is they are disorders arising in the mind. Persons with the conditions deny that, saying being attracted to amputees or 'needing' to lose a limb is as normal to them as being attracted to tall women or coloring one's hair is in the general population. Again, the nature v. nurture issue arises. It is most troubling in regard to wannabes: If there is a biological reason for their desire to lose a limb, should society, in the form of physicians and hospitals, fulfill that desire? (A couple physicians in Scotland did, until societal disapproval made them stop.) Notice this is the same claim -- natural behavior should be accepted -- the homosexuality as a result of nature argument relies on, to a degree.
In recent years, discussion of devotees and wannabes has emerged from the closet. A quite mainstream article about the latter, "A New Way to Be Mad," appeared in the very respectable Atlantic Magazine in 2000. Therapist Greg M. Furth's almost lifelong obsession with wanting a leg amputated has been chronicled in print media and on television. He has written a book about apotomenophilia. His colleague, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, wrote the introduction.posted by J. | 11:52 AM
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Three for the road
Jeralyn Merritt of Talkleft reports Katrina Leung, the naturalized American of Chinese birth who is accused of being a spy, will not get bail.
He seemed to believe Leung represents a threat to the national security, but that her native-born alleged accomplice does not.
MB of Wampum Blog recently found a priceless photo she had misplaced. It depicts her mother in Native American dress.
Another round of 'Will you just look at John Lott, is he wack or what?' is taking place among at least a dozen bloggers. The Rightwing's premier gun nut has now apparently cited himself as an anonymous source in his latest brain droppings.
Atrios reminds us that in addition to being completely unscrupulous (and really bad-looking, says I), Lott may be a racist in a link to this entry from weeks past:
There is ample evidence supporting the claim Lott is benighted in regard to race, including a glowing review of his book, "More Guns, Less Crime," at the white supremacist site, American Renaiisance.posted by J. | 10:32 PM
Lynch legend does not match facts
We've heard all kinds of things about Pfc. Jessica Lynch and that Iraqi hospital. (Military headquarters, according to some on the Right.) That she was being held in a torture chamber. Armed Darth Vader-like Feyadeen supposedly guarded her. A car battery was said to be next to her bed, supposedly to to be used in torture sessions. Then, there was the Loyal Iraqi story in which she was rescued by an Iraqi lawyer who loves the United States. And, the one about how Pfc. Lynch fought until her ammunition was exhausted, being shot several times herself. Each of those claims has turned out to be untrue, or exaggerated at best. Today's Washington Post further debunks of the Legend of Little Jessie Lynch.
The evidence suggests the evaporation of the Iraqi forces in Nasiriyah and other cities was pre-planned. The Iraqi leadership seems to have decided to put up a defense, but not to endanger their own lives. According to medical personnel at the hospital, the Ba'athists changed into civilian attire and walked away, blending into the general population. That process may have been repeated hundreds of times.
As for Lynch, the claim 'Mohammed' saw her being tortured and went to great lengths to save her appears apocryphal. At most, a tipster may have been involved. Her injuries seem to have occurred in in an automobile accident.
That does not mean there hasn't been a great deal of suffering in Nasiriyah.
Many injured civilians are nearly helpless in a city in which basic services such as water, lights and sanitation have been interrupted or destroyed. Medical supplies are also in short supply.
Note: I in no way intend to denigrate the pain Pfc. Lynch has doubtlessly endured. Anyone who has had even one broken bone knows how unpleasant the experience is. My interest in examining the legend that is arising around Pfc. Lynch is to probe how race, gender and credulous reporters can create a legend that have no basis in reality.posted by J. | 6:42 PM
Monday, April 14, 2003
People of a third sex
Barry is out of town. His housemates and friend are guest blogging for him. So, we can expect a more mainstream Ampersand, right? No way! If anything, Bean, Charles and Kip are farther out than the B-Man himself. Last week, a round robin discussion about politics and views of homosexuality, and later, race and homosexuality, began among liberal and progressive bloggers. At its most extreme, the conversation reached the issues of intersexuality (usually called hermaphroditism), and, whether heterosexuality and homosexuality are fetishes. Alas, A Blog, Barry's place, led the way.
I'm going to talk about the fetishism issue eventually. But, for now, let's focus on variant sexuality, a topic I've researched pretty extensively. A commenter at Alas put that ball in play.
The commenter identifies himself (to avoid awkward phrasing, I will say 'he') as "Frank except when I'm Samantha :)."
Variant sexuality interests me because it goes to the core of the nature and nurture issue and the intersection of the psychological with the physical. We know very little about how genetics impact most areas of being human. We know somewhat more when it comes to hermaphroditism.
The treatment for infants born with some of both sets of genitalia is, traditionally, gender assignment surgery. Doctors decide whether the child has sufficient features and enough moldable tissues to form a penis. If not, the child is assigned a female gender, and its genitalia molded to fit that identity, regardless of what the chromosome test says. Both gender assignments receive hormone treatments appropriate to the assigned identity. It is feared a person reared between genders will suffer longterm psychological damage.
Within the last decade, some adult hermaphrodites have rebelled against the surgery for infants, saying it robbed them of what would have been their natural sexuality. However, I suspect the opponents of the surgery (for other people, mind you) are the more radical intersexed people. The average 'fixed' person probably accepts his gender assignment despite its limitations, such as not being able to have children if insufficiently female or requiring continuing surgeries to construct and maintain a penis if male.
What we can learn from this situation in regard to nature (biology) and nurture (environment) is that nature provides a framework and nurture determines the rest. There is no biological solution to intersexuality. At most, surgeons can try to achieve a physical result that will allow the person to pass as one gender. Upbringing, including psychological treatment, determines whether the intersexed person emerges as functional and able to accept his or her lot in life.
The intersection of the psychological with the physical may also determine how intersexed people actually manifest their sexuality. Frank provides some insight.
A note of caution must be offered in regard to the literature about hermaphroditism. The main authority on the topic was Dr. John Money, formerly chief of the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was discredited and his reputation has been in free fall for a while. He lied about the results of his main study of intersexuality, which was of a male baby accidentally castrated. Dr. Money claimed the child, an identical twin, was reared female successfully. Actually, the boy rebelled against an imposed female identity and chose to live as a male. Some people would latch onto this one case to claim biology is dominant. But, I believe they would be making the same mistake Dr. Money did, in the opposite direction. Besides, the child, now grown up and a husband and stepfather, was not a true hermaphrodite.
Note: I have changed the title on this entry because having a certain noun so close to another noun may have led to this site being filtered.posted by J. | 3:41 PM
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Good neighbors . . . and bad
You may have noticed this blog has a lovely purple (Internet Explorer) or blue (Netscape) banner at the top of it instead of an ad for hemmorhoid remedies. That is because of the generosity of one of my neighbors in Bloggersville, George Kelly of All About George. The first week Silver Rights went public, he ransomed that space from Blogger. As I said in earlier entries, other bloggers have also been generous toward me, accepting me as a commenter and commentator. They include Roger Ailes, Natasha of the watch, Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged, James of a Skeptical Blog and Zizka of Vanity Site.
Having begun my association with blogs hanging out at DailyKos and Atrios' Eschaton, a couple of the most popular web logs, I try to spend time reading small blogs every week. I've happened across several bloggers I added to my blogroll that way and others I began corresponding with. However, there was a fellow whose response after I sent him two emails, extended silence, was rather rude. In the emails, I asked him why he included Fred Reed, a confirmed racist and hack with the Washington Times, that gathering place for the decency challenged, on his blogroll. It matters more than usual because the blogroll's owner sells memberships to other bloggers.
The person, Terry Oglesby of the PossumBlog, could have at least answered the question. That would just be having manners, you know? I became even more curious after learning Oglesby believes the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism and his idea of a reliable African-American source is longterm reactionary Walter Williams. And, then, there was the post in which he ordered Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, who is from Ghana, to fetch him a drink. (After a shoeshine, maybe?)
But, mainly, Oglesby seems to be an unartful dodger. His reply to an article discussing segregation de jure is to say it was no different from segregation de facto.
Trying to shift the focus from the awful and incomparable racial sins of the South to elsewhere is like trying to strain water. One just gets wet all over. The dodge is Oglesby's stock response to slavery, segregation and the continuing inequities. And, people wonder why states like his, Alabama, remain at the bottom of all indicia of societal well-being. With middle-class people who are unable to even confront the issues, I don't believe it is a mystery.
I was recently informed Terry Oglesby is a participant in the 'race realist' (the latest term for 'scientific' racist) blog, Gene Expression. So, though I never received a return email from the PossumBlog, my question about why he includes Fred Reed on his blogroll has been answered.
But, we need not end on a glum note. At least one member of the group Oglesby markets his blogroll to has chosen to remove Fred Reed from the listing after discovering how excreable Reed is.posted by J. | 9:35 PM
Spec. Shoshana Johnson freed by Iraqis
Spec. Shoshana Johnson, the remaining known female POW, was among the seven American troops who were missing in action apparently freed by the Iraqis today.
The Johnson family learned about Spec. Johnson's fate one Sunday morning while watching television. They were shocked by her capture, having believed she was safe as a military cook.
Like many African-American families, the Johnsons are overrepresented in military service. Spec. Johnson's father, Claude, is a 20-year Army veteran. An aunt also served. Currently, her sister is an Army Captain. Nikki Johnson prayed for Spec. Shoshana Johnson's safe return.
The released POWs have been medically examined and are now at an American base in Kuwait. There is much relief in El Paso, Texas, where the Johnsons reside.
posted by J. | 5:44 PM