News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Cops and domestic violence
Tacoma police chief kills self, shoots wife
The chief of the Tacoma, Washingon police department, David Brame, has attempted to murder his wife and killed himself. Crystal Brame was seeking a divorce.
It appears that Brame tried to cover his tracks by falsing claiming to have been the victim of abuse by his wife. Considering his stature in comparison to hers, that may explain why the situation ended in tragedy. His superiors adamantly refused to investigate Crystal Brame's allegations of abuse, promoting her husband instead. Brame also had a troubled first marriage which they were aware of. A Tacoma Tribune article published hours before the shootings gives the details.
Anyone who has studied police officers knows domestic abuse is a major problem in the field. The same personality traits that lead a man to want to be an enforcer can lead him to be abusive. Many departments have domestic abuse counseling for their employees. The problem does not merely impact the homes of cops. For decades, domestic abuse victims were treated unsympathetically because the policemen called often empathized with the abusers. Domestic abuse is another issue we will be examining at Silver Rights.posted by J. | 7:08 PM
"Weight": The song explained
Ben of The Wily Filipino, who you should be visiting regularly, answered the $60,000 question of what the lyrics to "Weight" mean. Turns out they mean different things to different people. The song was written by Robbie Robertson of The Band. However, other artists had much greater success on the charts covering it. Music historian Peter Viney has devoted a full entry to probing the history and the meanings of "Weight." Robertson's interpretation is interesting, but not the most intriguing of the possibilities.
Part of Viney's analysis is considering the meaning of the word "load" using The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
People seem to have used all those definitions in interpreting the song. But, as far as I know, my take is novel. I first heard the song as a child, so I suspect I took it literally. Being overweight can be a load, in keeping with the first definition. "Take a load off Fanny," could literally refer to the fanny. A man who only shakes a woman's hand might be discriminating against her because of her weight. You get the picture.
I find Viney's take on "Weight" really perspicacious. He sees Nazareth as a kind of Old West town with a microcosm of types peopling it. Carmen and the Devil? Ladies of the evening perhaps. This page is one of those finds that make being on the Web worthwhile. Read it.posted by J. | 3:25 PM
Friday, April 25, 2003
The Weight: Revisited
Shadow of Fatshadow says I don't understand the fat liberation movement. Perhaps she is right. But, I am trying to. As is often the case, our disconnect on this topic turns on language. Shadow detests the words "over weight," preferring "fat." With most people it would be the other way around, so I did not anticipate she would feel differently.
I had a reason for calling the original entry The Weight. It is the name of a song popularized by Aretha Franklin. From the lyrics, it is difficult to know if the weight described is physical or moral.
I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' bout a half past dead; I just need some place where I can lay my head . "Hey, mister, can you tell me where a [girl] might find a bed?" He just grinned and shook my hand and "No," was all he said. Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free; Take a load off Fanny, And (and) (and) you can put the load right on me.
I believe this also applies to the issue of weight in our culture. Part of the rejection of fatness is because being over weight is perceived as being loose, not exercising enough control over one's physical appetites -- a moral judgment. I thought I had communicated that in the original entry.
Another area Shadow and I disagree on is medical research. Though some of that material may be biased against fat people, I don't believe all or most of it is. I come from a family with a history of diabetes. For me to ignore the link between weight gain and developing adult onset diabetes could lead to severe illness or death. In addition, I don't believe all medical research is against where Shadow is in her journey. Women over 35 tend to gain weight and have a harder time losing it. So, in that instance, medical research actually supports what she has likely discovered herself.
In what I think was just a misreading, Shadow believes I was criticizing Camryn Manheim when I wasn't. My point was most of our society still expects a fat woman to lose the weight no matter how well she is doing professionally.
Whenever one posts a blog entry one takes the risk of offending someone one didn't intend to. I will continue to read Shadow's blog and hope she will continue to read mine.
Update: Replaced lyrics with official version from The Band.posted by J. | 9:05 PM
On the Web
•A people problem
Ninety dead big cats have been found on the property of a California animal "rescue" group.
An eight-year-old child was also discovered living among decomposing corpses of animals.
The veternarian for Tiger Rescue is among the defendants.
What does animal abuse have to do with civil rights? A lot. Most people who engage in this all to common form of depravity are mentally ill. In their sick minds, they are doing the animals a favor. The question of how to keep mentally ill people from doing harm while protecting their civil rights is one that has long haunted legal systems. I will be writing more on the topic. I also intend to explain a neurological condition that has symptoms that are similar to mental illness, especially in severe cases.
•George loves Rick
The appointed resident of the White House has praised a man who said sex acts between adult, non-related, consenting adults are like incest.
Some people thought the Trent Lott affair would result in a sea change in the Republican Party and the Bush administration. Though glad to see Lott get at least a knuckle rapping finally, I was skeptical. Subsequent events, including this one and the amicus brief the Bushites filed in the University of Michigan cases, convince me that not much as changed in regard to their attitude toward minorities.
•Jeanne honors Nina
At the risk of being accused of overwhelming people with remembrances of Nina Simone, I have one more you must read. Jeanne d'arc, the queen of expository writing in the blogosphere, has paid homage to a great artist and great lady.
That was Nina Simone. Proud. Demanding. Uncompromising. One cannot read too much about her.posted by J. | 11:12 AM
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Winnie Mandela convicted of bank fraud
The BBC is reporting that a heroine of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa has been convicted of taking money from an arm of the African National Congress.
Not enough is known about the case for extensive comment now. However, the sentencing scheme sounds severe for the amount of money allegedly diverted, $120,000.
Mandela has long been a controversial figure in South Africa. Though revered as the mother of the nation, she alienated some men who believed she possessed too much power for a woman and other people who considered her aloof and peremptory. She was accused and convicted of being responsible for a kidnapping and murder by the soccer team that acted as her body guards in 1991.
The Court did not find her testimony credible.
American writer Alice Walker has long been firmly in Winnie Mandela's corner. She belives Mandela's troubles result from her politics having been more radical than those of the men who have run South Africa. There is a superb essay on the topic in "Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism."
Nelson and Winnie Mandela divorced in 1996.
She is the mother of his two youngest daughters.posted by J. | 9:02 PM
The blogger at Fatshadow devotes much of her weblog to an issue we have not touched on at not quite a month public Silver Rights yet. She is a woman coming to terms with being over the medically recommended weight, or as she prefers to say, fat.
Health experts estimate forty percent of Americans will qualify as obese by 2008.
Paul, at Big Fat Blog, a fat acceptance weblog, takes exception to linking being overweight and health problems. Here, he says there is a lack of causal support for new research that finds fat people are more likely to die of cancer.
To me, the medical research seems pretty convincing.
I grew up with an older sister who was chronically fat. She had three sisters who were slim. I think her experiences may have shaped my tendency not to stay even zaftig for long. I will let some extra pounds creep on sometimes, but cut down on food intake as soon as my pants feel snug or my tummy claims my attention. I believe the body should be almost unnoticeable except for grooming. That may be because I've often been perceived as a body person instead of a brains person. (Remind me to write about that phenomenon later.)
I haven't decided whether I agree with Shadow's reclamation of the word "fat." My concern is that describing someone as fat, Chicana or the one in glasses seems to suggest that is the most important aspect of the person, at least briefly. Shadow may be fat, Sandra Cisneros may be a Chicana and I may wear glasses, but there is a lot more to each of us. Additionally, each of those descriptions focuses on something society considers not to be the ideal. I am wary of doing anything to encourage that kind of stereotyping. In my experience, men do make passes at girls who wear glasses. I suspect much of what people think about what it means to be fat or Chicana is equally false.
After sleeping on it, Shadow had second thoughts about her use of the adjective"fat."
I still have an expectation that fat women will try to lose the weight. After all, after going through periods of fat acceptance, Oprah, Roseanne and Delta Burke have. So, each time I watch The Practice, I am puzzled that Camryn Manheim hasn't followed suit. Manheim is a fine, Emmy Award winning actress as she is. She seems to be happy as the mother of a toddler and an actor who has no trouble finding work. Still, I, and I suspect, other people, expect her to conform. That is the kind of tension women who are overweight must live with everyday.posted by J. | 12:18 PM
Off the web
•Inured. It just struck me, an hour later, I did not even mention the earthquake that hit while I was blogging the items below. I guess I have become too use to quakes. I just thought, 'That was an earthquake,' and kept on writing.
•A new blog? I estimate that I now have an additional 30 minutes to an hour three or four days a week I can devote to blogging. That makes an idea I've had in the back of my mind seem more feasible. I also write fiction. That means having a file cabinet full of manuscripts that I would not include in a new short story collection because they are dated or not my best work. However, these are not the ones I consider awful. They are good enough to allow people to see them. If I start a fiction blog, I could gradually publish them and any new stories of the same type to it. I could also invite other writers of fiction to link or publish their stories and poetry. And, there are my fiction-writing friends from offline. I'm sure they would contribute. Readers would get an opportunity to read something different in the blogosphere. For now, this is just an idea.
•Better off dead. I got away from that second hour of The Practice this week. The plot I was following most was resolved in the first hour. A serial killer who had escaped conviction for years did Lindsay the 'favor' of killing another serial killer who had been harassing her friend, Helen. Lindsay violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by turning him in. The judge kicked the case out. Lindsay's friend the serial killer committed suicide. It was one of those situations in which a kind of bittersweet justice occurs. The serial killer, who would not seek treatment and was too wily to get caught and convicted, is better off dead. Yet, one does not feel comfortable saying that.
•Back to the gym. One of my writing teachers, Kristin Hunter, once said to give any character over the age of 30 some kind of physical difficulty. I've understood why for the last few years. I've decided to do less biking and spend more time at the gym. Riding a bike means the occasional quick stop or spill. Both are hard on the knees. Rather than risk more anterior cruciate ligament problems in my right knee, I'm going to ease up. The gym is boring in comparison to riding, but it is also safer.posted by J. | 11:47 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The best of tributes to Nina Simone
I learned from Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged that Laura has her tributes to Nina Simone up. Both are wonderful. Not only do they pay almost holy homage to Simone, they explain much about African-American religious and musical traditions. From "She's gone back home:"
The piece also highlights Laura's skills as a songwriter.
She is equally informative and impassioned in "Gospel Meme 2 - Goin' Back Home." In addition, the entry emphasizes the mixture of influences from all over the world that so much of American culture is.
As a fellow musician, Laura brings informative insights to the Simone experience. For example, she believes Simone's greatest talent was as an arranger. Laura also alludes to the corporate chicanery and bad marriage that prevented Nina Simone's music from reaching the much wider audience it deserves.
Go to Interesting Monstah and read these entries in their entirety. Because I said so.posted by J. | 7:32 PM
Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Thinking about death
My position on the death penalty is not fully liberal. I am generally opposed because of the disproportionality and racial discrimination so obviously present in the way the penalty is applied. However, I can think of egregious situations in which I would not oppose the death penalty. For example, I shed no tears over the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Nor am I feeling sympathetic toward John Muhammad, assuming he is guilty of the crimes with which he is charged. I favor sparing his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, because of his age. Perhaps in my golden years I will mellow and come to oppose the death penalty altogether.
Prior to the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, Tennessee's death penalty history was typical of a Southern state's.
After reinstatement, executions became uncommon. One person has been executed since 1976.
Texas holds the record for executions in the United States, having killed 45 people in 2002-2003 alone. Post-reinstatement, the number stands at 301 . . .for now.
Part of my repulsion in regard to the death penalty is there is no way to opt out of it. The states kill convicts in the names of their citizenry. We are complicit whether we want to be or not.
Oregonians have experienced two family murders in which the husband and father took his wife and childrens' lives, but spared his own, during the last two years. (In at least one other case, the man also killed himself.) Christian Longo was convicted of murdering his wife and three small children and sentenced to death this month. Edward Morris is yet to be tried. The rate of family murders here is surprisingly high.
I have not decided whether I support the death penalty for either man.posted by J. | 9:57 PM
Some news from down South
•A liberal in South Carolina
The Wyeth Wire provides some insight into what is like to be a Democrat in a state politically hijacked by Republicans and/or neo-Confederates. Here's a recent entry:
One person ponied up a significant contribution to a Southern presidential candidate who is a Democrat. Telling, regardless of whether one supports Gephardt or not.
I have been looking for more Southern blogs to add to the blogroll. Unfortunately, the ones I come across are far Right and often openly hostile to people of color. If you know of a liberal, progressive or moderate blog in the South, please bring it to my attention.
•South Carolina NAACP chief to step down
Also in South Carolina, the leader of the state's NAACP is resigning after six years in office. James Gallman, 60, is credited with forcing the state to remove the Confederate flag from atop the state capitol.
•Flag controversy is not flagging
Meanwhile, in Georgia, legislators have encountered a new difficulty with their proposed replacement flag.
Most, if not all, African-American legislators are opposing the bill because it contains a backdoor provision that could restore the old Confederate battle flag to the state's emblem. I am inclined to agree with them since I perceive Gov. Sonny Perdue, who rode into office on neo-Confederate votes. as one hell of a sneak.
posted by J. | 5:58 PM
Monday, April 21, 2003
A farewell to a fine woman: Nina Simone
I just learned Nina Simone died today. Anyone who knows me also knows I loved Nina Simone, both the woman and her music. Yes, I know it is considered naive to say I 'loved' someone I didn't know. But, to the extent that it is possible, I loved Nina Simone. A classically trained musical prodigy, my fellow North Carolinian could have taken that route to stardom instead of the jazz singing career she chose or that chose her. Not only was she a superb pianist, her voice was special and powerful. Whether she was reinterpreting Billie or Ella, or singing a song she penned herself, Simone's rendition was invariably unique and perfect in its own way.
I loved the woman because she was brave and determined. Simone could have been a 'nice Negro' and accepted second-class citizenship despite being a famous artist. She never did, even when it meant bumping heads with the powers that be. You can be assured there were few venues willing to book her in the South for a long time after she wrote "Mississippi Goddam." At times she chose to live outside of America, including Liberia and France.
Though forced to confront racism, Simone remained someone who treated people as people. From her first marriage, interracial during a time when such relationships were illegal in most states, to her belief the French were her people, too, she was truly a humanist.
Yahoo News reports:
I deeply regret Nina Simone was not able to die feeling more positive about race relations in her native country.posted by J. | 7:31 PM
Bill Gates does the right thing
James, of Outside the Beltway, congratulates Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates on his philanthropy, but with an interesting reservation.
The answer seems obvious to me: Gates has targeted the money to where it is most needed. More than 35 percent of American youths are minorites. Continuing economic discrimination means minority group members are more likely to be low-income. Continuing residential segregation means that minority students are often confined to the worst schools with the worst teachers. The result is an achievement gap that is not closing with the dispatch it should. Largely, the mainly minority districts the Gates Foundation has targeted will be the same poor districts James says he is in favor of helping out.
To ask James' question a person needs to be oblivious to the disproportionate impact of poverty on minorities in the United States. An analysis of the most recent Census Bureau data reveals:
Facts like those above seem totally lost on many conservatives. A commenter at Beltway blunders more than James.
It is not a matter of going out of the way for minorities. Attempting to include minorities in the fruits of society the white middle-class takes for granted is simply being inclusive. Not to do so is to help perpetuate the status quo, which is rife with inequities because of centuries of discrimination. Do nothing, as people like the commenter would endorse, and those minority children will mainly repeat the cycle of poor achievement. Richard Nixon had a name for the practice, which he supported in regard to African-Americans, whom he considered inherently inferior, "benign neglect."
Gates has donated $53 million for the program, not billions. That misstatement seems to have come from a story in the biased and neo-Confederate run Washington Times.
The proposed approach, which will combine high school and college under one roof, is very ambitious.
Note that white students who are poor are not excluded, but the emphasis is on minority students.
The Gates Foundation has analyzed the problem correctly and is responding pro-actively. It should be commended.
Read more about the plan here.posted by J. | 4:57 PM
For someone who gave her all
MB of Wampum Blog has written to inform me the planned memorial fund to help Pfc. Piestewa's heirs is now a fate accompli.
Memorial fund created for Piestewa children
posted by J. | 3:52 PM
Inequality and interracial relationships
I have been meaning to post about interracial relationships and marriages for some time. Part of the impetus is to clarify data from the Census Bureau that was falsely reported in some quarters. Another is to discuss my own experiences with interracial relationships, including a marriage. The more recent reason I am writing about the topic is that I've been reminded of a trend I don't like. That trend involves very conservative white men dating or marrying women of color. They then turn around and use the women as supposed trump cards when they are busted for being racists.
Yes. you heard me right. A person in an interracial marriage can be a racist. The mere fact a man is involved with a woman of color does not mean he considers people of color his equal. American and world history are replete with white men who formed relationships with African, Indian and Asian women who bore them children. However, those relationships did not mean the men had any intention of treating people of color as equals. They saw nothing wrong with killing the brothers of their Indian concubines, abusing Asian men or selling their children by black women into slavery.
The best known of these stories is that of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings. Though Jefferson was an admirable man in many ways, he was a complete failure in regard to race relations. If he had acted on his better impulses, the entire history of American race relations would be quite different. Instead, Jefferson helped maintain slavery. In his personal life, he was equally despicable, never freeing any of his slaves, including his paramour and children. There was a tiny minority of situations in which a white lover behaved honorably, but Jefferson's actions were the norm.
Recently, two people accosted me about an incident in which I alluded to inequality in interracial relationships. I was asked about a remark I made months ago as a commenter in regard to an attack on people of color by Stefan Sharkansky. Long story, middling short version. Sharkansky attacked Oliver Willis for mentioning the lack of diversity among bloggers at a conference. It was a typical Right Wing white person's assault: 'How dare Willis bring up the issue of race? Doesn't he know people of color are not allowed to discuss race unless they are praising white people? And furthermore, blacks and Hispanics shouldn't receive affirmative action. Yada. Yada. Yada.' My response was Willis had raised a valid concern. He had said:
Sharkansky continued with his attack on affirmative action in the U.S., and people of color in general at Willis' blog and his own. (He particularly hates Arabs and Muslims. His entire blog is pretty much devoted to that. See for yourself.) I continued pointing out that his claim to know what is best for people of color smacked of paternalism and that his simultaneous deriding of them was overt bigotry. After painting himself into a corner, Sharkansky produced what he thought was his trump card -- 'My wife is Asian, so I can't be a racist.'
I laughed out loud. Whether someone is a racist turns on their entire response to the people they might be bigoted against and issues which impact those people. Who one is married to is not remotely probative. As I said above, marriage does not even necessarily mean the white spouse sees the colored one as an equal. Furthermore, to 'produce' a woman for that purpose is to treat her as a commodity. Sharkansky and others like him are saying 'I have this thing that I pull out whenever someone notices I don't consider all people equals.' My response was to ask where he ordered his commodity from. Of course I knew the woman might not be a mail-order bride, but he introduced her into the conversation as an object, a commodity. I followed his lead hoping to reveal the nature of what he was doing. Both persons I've heard from regarding this missed the point, one rather purposely, I suspect.
I reiterate that these situations involving reactionary white men and women of color smack of the old arrangement to me. That impression is further supported when someone commodifies the woman he supposedly considers his equal.
I don't mean to leave the impression I am opposed to interracial relationships. Most of the relationships I have been in have been interracial. However, I have quickly weeded out anyone who I thought harbored racist attitudes. A person should not trade his or her self-respect to be in a relationship, including interracial relationships that involve inequality.posted by J. | 9:13 AM
People are saying
Doing Pinochet's time
The former dictator has remained unprosecuted despite efforts to get him a day in court, both at home and abroad. However, Randy Paul at Beautiful Horizons believes a comrade, Manuel Contreras, the head of Pinochet's secret police, is doing time in his stead.
Some people reap what they sow . . . and the crop from the seeds their friends planted.
Pax Americana, indeed
Laura has some thoughts on trigger-happy American troops at Interesting Monstah. She says something I have been thinking: Why do Americans believe they belong everywhere in a 'police' capacity? Sometimes, it seems the imperial British have been reborn in Milwaukee, Nashville and Seattle.
Rummy gets around
My young libertarian friend Julian Sanchez is intrigued about how the same names involved in 'rebuilding' Iraq were lucratively hanging around the Middle East 20, even 40-something years ago. He isn't sounding very philosophical at Notes from the Lounge.
A Dem who has made up her mind?
Julia may have decided who she will support for President. Go to Sisyphus Shrugged to see her spill the beans. Me? I haven't a clue, except for knowing some of the candidates I won't back.
Grass rubs it in
Richard Einhorn at Tristero is quoting Gunter Grass about national pride:
Take that, Americans. And, truth be told, Grass is right.
posted by J. | 1:13 AM
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Nathan Newman goes for the gold
Nathan Newman proves once again that when he's well, he's swell. His blog currently features at least a half-dozen items of interest to anyone who cares about what is going on in the world. Among them:
•The New York Times editorial board is not playing doormat for George W. Bush despite a war-fueled rise in opinion polls for the appointed president.
•A tiny tax on stock transactions would raise billions for cash-strapped New York.
•Newman reminds us what McCarthyism is.
And offers an example of what could be real McCarthyism occurring right now.
•The destruction of Iraqi artifacts, including the burning of Qurans, some of them centuries old, in a fire at the Ministry for Religious Affairs in Baghdad, reveals how clueless the Bushites are about world history.
•Why does the economy continue to decline? "Here's the bottom line -- manufacturing is operating more than 27 per cent below its potential -- the lowest level since 1983."
Read Nathan's reportage. When you're finished with it, read his movie reviews.posted by J. | 10:55 PM
Going digital still divides us
Pew's new study
A topic that was the talk of the Web a few years ago is back on my mind and in the news. New research reveals the digital divide is still with us.
Members of minority groups, which are disproportionately low-income, are much less likely to be online than whites.
Not the usual suspects
However, the poor and people of color are not the only groups who are more apt to be non-users. Members of other demographics, including some who have access to computers, are also often non-users. Among them are the disabled and people over 50.
Fellow Oregon blogger Cowboy Kahlil of the ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose has some interesting observations regarding the new revelations. He believes age, from both directions, may be key to why some people are not on the Internet.
Cowboy, who used to live in a rural area, also has some thoughts about why city-dwellers are more likely to be on online.
The dropouts are among us
Another blogger thinking about the digital divide is Tristan Louis of TNL.net. Like Cowboy and your host, he is curious about Internet dropouts. Wired tells us who they are.
Tristan has some suggestions for how business and government, both of which have vested interests in getting people to use the internet, can do so, including winning dropouts back.
There are proposals to use the newest connectivity technology to help the poor, disabled and elderly get online. I will explore the topic in an upcoming entry.posted by J. | 11:06 AM
If you have checked out Silver Rights, especially at odd hours, lately, you've noticed some peculiarities. Archives that went AWOL. Disappearing links and sometimes the entire blogroll. Colors that come and go. All of this was repair work, made necessary by the landlord, Blogger. After less than a month residing under their auspices, I have learned not to expect much. The lessor is the equivalent of the tenement owner who offers you a cheap flat, along with water that comes and goes, lead paint on the walls and roaches.
I was apparently able to repair my archives yesterday and last night. I did so by using my imagination, not the Blogger FAQ. They had gotten so bad this blog could no longer be reliably linked to. When I tried to repair them using Blogger's advice, the archives went from unreliable to almost not there. Even the cache files at Google, which are supposed to maintain the status quo of the time they are built, were impacted. I had become wary of suggesting links to Silver Rights. The problem of bloggered links is system wide, but it still bothered me.
Some bloggers solve the Blogger blues by moving. Both Laura and Kevin Drum are now with Movable Types. Their MT addresses are:
Silver Rights should now be in the best condition it has ever been. I welcome linkers and being added to more blogrolls.posted by J. | 10:55 AM