Silver Rights

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

Saturday, May 10, 2003  

My glorious cause!

Finally! A pet issue I can jump up and down, shreik and show my arse about like some other folks.

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- Position Available: Interpreter, must be fluent in Klingon.

The language created for the "Star Trek" TV series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County.

"We have to provide information in all the languages our clients speak," said Jerry Jelusich, a procurement specialist for the county Department of Human Services, which serves about 60,000 mental health clients.

As a resident of Multnomah County, I vociferously object to this topic even being mentioned! Obviously, this a plot to insult the denizens of my beloved geographic area. Truly sensitive persons deserving the title of 'liberals' would not even dream of speaking of Klingon, the language of genuises like Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton, in jest. Furthermore, this a plot against our children. Yes. The persons promoting this topic seek to mock the suffering of little Klingons everywhere. I urge you to unite against them. Send them threatening emails! Yank their names from your blogrolls! Write lengthy screeds accusing them of whatever you like, the less true the better! Resist! Resist! Resist!

posted by J. | 7:05 PM

The prom and the slippery slope

This entry is being written because three separate things I had on my mind converged.

Calpundit Kevin Drum is concerned about the whites-only prom planned in Albany, Georgia. However, many of the people who have responded have argued in favor of letting the students and parents behind the maneuver do whatever they like in the name of freedom of association.

•The Portland Police Department is being very tight-lipped about the shooting of an African-American woman, Kendra James. She was young, petite, unarmed and more than five months pregnant.

•I recently had an exchange with a Gene Expression supporter, i.e., 'scientific' racist.

I believe that if left alone the ideas behind the whites-only prom, which are the same ideas that motivate all racists, lead to tragedies like the shooting of Kendra James and the likely failure to indict or convict the white police officers responsible.

For purposes of this discussion, we will treat 'race' as being a more legitimate term than it is.

Why have a whites only prom? To prevent students from commingling and possibly dating and marrying across racial lines, I'm read. Why is it so important to prevent racial mixing? Because one race is superior to the others is the only answer that makes sense. Why is one race superior to the others? Because it has better genes, according to the likes of Philip Rushton, Chris Brand and Charles Murray, the white gods whom the Gene Expressors and other 'scientific' racists worship. (Men who are actually crackpots that serious geneticists laugh at, by the way.)

The people who are making the freedom of association argument in regard to Kevin's condemnation of the whites-only prom are well along the slippery slope that would lead them to shoot Kendra James if they were police officers or refuse to indict the cops involved in the shooting if they were on the grand jury or jury. That is because they have already accepted the idea that some people's lives are of less value than others. Children of a lesser god, you might say.

A person who does not accept that proposition would do whatever he could to oppose the segregated prom. Among the methods he might use is pressure on the school board, administrators and city government not to support the whites only prom, including not allowing school facilities to be used for planning it, down to the telephones and notepads. He would let any local business that rented space for or catered the whites-only prom know it would lose the business of him, his family and friends. He would explain to young people he knows why any efforts to perpetuate segregation are wrong. In the absence of taking affirmative steps such as these, any adult is aiding racism.

The police officers who regularly abuse and shoot minority Americans without sufficient reason do so because they have accepted the idea that the 'children of a lesser God' are of less value than white Americans. And, not all of them live segregated lives. Justin Volpe, the New York cop who sodomized a Haitian immigrant with a broom stick, was engaged to an African-American woman. (As I've noted in a previous entry, a person in an interracial relationship can be a racist.) What set him apart from fair-minded police officers is his belief that he had the right to impose any punishment he chose on a black suspect.

That thought about punishment leads us back to the 'scientific' racists. Once people have been deemed inferior, punishments of various sorts invariably follow. A key component of race 'realism' is claiming blacks and Hispanics are inherently violent. Once that claim is made and accepted, it seems logical to treat brown or black people as if they are about to rampage at any moment -- to punish them. That attitude results in assaults and shootings of totally innocent people of color and refusals to indict or convict the officers by the general population because the victims are perceived as deserving to be assaulted or murdered.

Some of the folks defending racism under the rubric of freedom of association will claim they are opposed to a shooting of the sort I've described. But, if put to the test, I believe they would either pull the trigger themselves or try to justify the officer doing so, if not now, after they become more comfortable with bigoted thinking. If someone wants to avoid that result, he needs to step off the path of racist thinking before he has slidden farther down its slippery slope.

posted by J. | 2:47 AM

Friday, May 09, 2003  

Wish I had said that

•Take this, oxymoron

Prometheus 6 has an excellent description of people like Michael King in an email I don't think he'll mind me citing.

I may check out the Black Conservative(tm) you referenced. Fact is, they're like the foam on the cappuchino when you're looking for a stiff dose of caffeine. Feh.

That captures it. The people of color willing to parrot Right Wing guano tend to be clueless, mercenary or both. Foam indeed.

•Jeanne and Bill? Oh no!

Jeanne d'arc of Body and Soul has a revelation that will surprise some liberals.

My Microsoft-hating son will never forgive me for saying this, but I love Bill Gates.

I am ambivalent about Gates. From what I was taught as a law student, Microsoft is definitely a monopoly. However, like Jeanne, I appreciate Gates' philanthropy. I particulary like that he does not sneer at the people he is contributing to, in essence blaming them for the problems they have. (In case you haven't noticed, even Right Wing philanthropists do that.)

•Einhorn on change and the GOP

Richard Einhorn of Tristero has some of the same thoughts about David Neiwert's 'Sea Change' entry, in which he posits the GOP may leave behind its modern hostility to minorities, as I did. Richard is skeptical.

The Democrats are a genuine puzzlement indeed. Are there really so few voters with brains that Dems really risk anything by standing up and forcefully denouncing Santorum?

As with the peace protests, the Republican powers that be have unilaterally declared the Santorum flap unimportant. One can only hope that both the peace protests and outrage against Santorum's perverted bigotry grow into something permanent and politically powerful that will make it far more difficult to take issues embarassing to the right wing off the national agenda.

Is it real or is it Memorex? I believe we will have to keep probing what the Republicans are up to behind the scenes to find out.

•Bb gives someone the bird

I need to spend more time at Burningbird's place. It seems we have a lot in common.

Actually, it felt rather good to write that last posting, though I know I'll piss people off. Probably people I care about. But then I ask myself, why do I care about them if my being honest would piss them off?

As some of you know, I occassionally say things that "piss off" some of my readers, too. And, for the same reason she does, because I believe those things to be true.

Bb goes on to say:

However, I got a chance to see some huge mansions, and I also got my first chance to flip the bird to a driver today. I followed a large truck in the right hand lane when all of a sudden I noticed it was a turn only lane. I flipped on my light to get over and looked for an opening. The guy behind me LEANED into his horn, without a break.

So I flipped him the bird.

There goes my driver good conduct metal. Plunk, hear that sucker being dropped into the trash.

It has probably been years since I gave anyone the finger. I'm the soft-spoken, mannerly sort. I really lose my temper maybe twice a year. However, I reserve the right to give someone the bird today and lose my temper tomorrow. Why? Because I'm just another human being and human beings get to do things like that.

posted by J. | 3:19 PM

Thursday, May 08, 2003  

How to be a bad blogger

I was just telling Prometheus 6 about a blog by an African-American conservative I came across the other day. I happened onto the blog because I was looking for other web logs that consider civil rights issues. The fellow's name is Michael King and he apparently lives in Atlanta. His blog, Ramblings, is disappointing, both in its content and its purpose. There isn't much worth reading on his blog, but it is interesting to fisk its failures.

•Copyright. He violates it regularly, posting full articles instead of observing the rules of fair use. (I was going to do individual links, but, predictably, all his links are broken.) As a published writer, I am touchy about this issue. Stealing someone's content is equivalent to stealing her purse or car in my opinion. Is breaking the law publicly any way to be a role model?

•Shallow content. Beyond echoing Right Wing bromides, King clearly doesn't have anything to say. So, he resorts to discussing soda pop or other trivia.

When you've finally gotten used to Chazz Palminteri sneering at you in Vanilla Coke ads, now comes Pepsi with their version. BevNet recently talked about Vanilla Pepsi and orange-flavored Mountain Dew Live Wire, both of which will be coming your way this summer.

Are you gonna try it? I dunno....

Feel enlightened? Me either. He seems like a Vanilla Coke fellow to me, though.

•Poor reasoning. Considering that King posts news articles at length, you would expect him to at least know what a piece says. He doesn't. Discussing celebrities and the war, King reaches these conclusions.

The anti-war celebrity crowd and their most visible faces - Tim Robbins, Janeane Garafolo (sic), Michael Moore & Martin Sheen - are noticably (sic) silent, now that US troops are starting to come home victorius(sic), and now that the Iraqi people are cheering their new-found freedom.

Garafolo (sic), in particular, insisted before the war that if the Iraqi people cheered the arrival of Coalition (sic) troops in Baghdad, that she'd "crawl across broken glass" to deliver a personal apology to the White House. Now that the Iraqi people have begun - happily, I might add - working on developing their new government, post-Saddam, Garafolo (sic) insist (sic) that no "apology" is coming.

However, by the time King posted his entry, the 'liberation' of Iraq propaganda had already become passé. The 'rescue' of Jessica Lynch had been revealed to be a hoax. The decimation of Iraqi public buildings, including the historic museum in Baghdad was well-known. Top Baath Party officials had escaped. American troops had killed unarmed civilians. The Shiites were demanding a role in an Iraqi run government. Heck, the American military had even been stopped from making the Iraqis buy water from it. The illusion of success he is championing had already failed. A person who blogs about current events needs to know what the current events are.

Nor have celebrities who opposed the war disappeared. Michael Moore is on a national speaking tour. He was hailed in Austin, Texas, George W. Bush's stomping grounds, days after winning his Oscar. Janeane Garofolo is just as vocal now as she was before the war and she hasn't changed her mind. I'm sure neither Robbins nor Sheen has either.

A more amusing example is King's analysis of the Sen. Rick Santorum episode. After posting a full article lifted from an unnamed source, this is King's entire analysis.

Will someone please tell me when we started letting the Democrats set Republican policy and naming GOP leadership!?

Not a word about the issue: Do homosexuals have the same right to engage in private, consensual sexual acts as other people? All King has noticed is that some Democratic politicians expressed an opinion about the matter. He dutifully sneers at them for doing so. The actual issue might as well not exist.

My usual gripe with Right Wing minority voices is that they are just mockingbirds. A white conservative says some ludicrous thing or takes some inhumane stance, and the red, brown, yellow or black conservative goes, 'Me, too!' (Remember Kevin Martin, the shill for the African-American Leadership Council, and Trent Lott?) However, King is worse than that. Though a willing echoer I'm sure, he lacks the resourcefulness to even get the minor details of sycophancy right.

He has even less potential as a blogger

posted by J. | 10:36 PM

Brame probe widens after victim's death

Plans for remembering and burying Crystal Judson Brame have been confirmed.

Her parents, Lane and Patty Judson, have scheduled a funeral and memorial service for 11 a.m. Saturday at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 7700 Skansie Ave., Gig Harbor. The public is welcome.

...Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma has designated Friday as an official day of mourning for Crystal Brame. She was shot April 26 by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who then shot and killed himself. Crystal Brame died of her injuries Saturday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The belated response of sympathy for Ms. Brame is welcome news. The initial reaction of city officials was to continue the coverup of abuse by her husband that led to this tragedy. It is unfortunate she never recovered consciousness to learn people finally realized she had been grievously mistreated by someone the system protected.

One of those officials prevented release of the information David Brame had been accused of rape before he was promoted to chief of police.

TACOMA -- An assistant city attorney moved to block disclosure of a date rape accusation against David Brame 11 months before he was named police chief, newly released court records show.

The official, Shelley Kerslake, tried to block questions related to the accusation, then got a judge to seal court records in the lawsuit that cited it, The News Tribune reported today.

...Citing attorney-client confidentiality rules, Kerslake would not say whether she told Jenkinson or Corpuz about the investigation into a woman’s rape complaint against Brame in 1989. The police chief at the time ruled the complaint “not sustained,” although a fellow officer said Brame confessed privately and two internal investigators said they believed the woman’s account when he told them he and the woman had consensual sex.

Corpuz also would not say whether he was told.

Corpuz is on leave while his actions in the apparent coverup are investigated.

Another police official, former acting chief Catherine Woodard, is also on a leave. She appears to have helped cover up the rape allegation and accompanied David Brame to pick up his children for custodial visits.

The commission investigating the Brame murder-suicide consists of persons from outside the Tacoma Police Department. However, it is not clear whether they knew Brame or not. At least one of the officers who helped create the investigatory committee, Woodard, is on leave for her own role in protecting Brame from scrutiny.

For now, the group will remain regional.

The investigation panel, which consists of the Kitsap County prosecutor and detectives from the Bellingham and Everett police and the state patrol, will seek personnel experts from the Association of Washington Cities, said Larry Erickson, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

I would feel more comfortable with about the panel if people who are truly outsiders, i.e, not members of the Oregon-Washington law enforcement community, were on it.

posted by J. | 5:06 PM

'Sea change' and South Carolina

DailyKos has the latest poll data for Democrats in South Carolina.

Dick Gephardt 9 (11)
John Kerry 8 (1)
John Edwards 7 (8)
Al Sharpton 3 (4)
Howard Dean 2 (2)
Bob Graham 2 (0)
Gary Hart 1 (1)
Joe Biden 1 (0)
Carol Moseley Braun 1 (n/a)
Wesley Clark 0 (0)
Dennis Kucinich 0 (n/a)
Undecided 47 (51)

Kos says,

"The verdict? It looks as though Kerry is gaining support at the expense of Lieberman and Gephardt. And half of respondents are still undecided."

I don't expect a Democrat to carry South Carolina in the next election. However, I believe the state is an excellent bellweather for determining whether anything has changed in regard to the Republicans' Southern strategy. S.C. has one of the most active neo-Confederate movements and a long history of extreme aversion to racial equality that has benefitted the GOP enormously. The boycott by the NAACP demanding the Confederate flag really be moved off the statehouse grounds keeps the issues in the spotlight.

David Neiwert, who has a keen political ear, believes things have changed. He cites the recent response to Sen. Rick Santorum's verbal assault on homosexuals as evidence.

It's also worth considering for a moment what the situation reveals about the politics of being gay and lesbian in America today. Ten years ago, Santorum would have been backed by a chorus of fundamentalists decrying everything homosexual, and there would have been little hesitation by party officials in their support. Now they're hoping the controversy just goes away. That quietly suggests a sea change that lurks beneath.

It became clear during the Trent Lott controversy that Karl Rove and Co. were writing off the neo-Confederate wing (for now, at least) in pursuit of the ever-elusive Suburban Voter, who might swing Republican if he/she could be convinced the GOP weren't awash with extremists of nearly every stripe. To pull off such a ruse, Lott had to go. But the scandal revealed a growing tension within the GOP, between its longtime pandering to the bigots and haters who comprise much of its voting base and the desire of the conservative movement to become a genuine majority with broad appeal.

Have the Republicans in S.C. gotten the message? I haven't seen any reason to think so so far. The simplest act they could engage in to distance themselves from their mossbacks is to move the Confederate flag from a memorial on the capitol grounds where it is more obvious than it was atop the capitol building to a museum or park. That hasn't occurred and I am not aware of any plans to make it happen.

The outgoing chairman of the state party, Dick Harpootlian, has asked his fellow Democrats to go slow on the issue instead of challenging the Republicans.

The NAACP is continuing a boycott of the state because of the Confederate flag that flies on Statehouse grounds. The boycott began when the flag flew on the Statehouse dome.

...Harpootlian urged Democrats to come together and not fall prey to the racial issues that Republicans have used to divide them in the past. For Harpootlian, that includes giving the Confederate flag issue a rest.

That could be a significant mistake because it insults South Carolina's largest group of Democratic loyalists, African-American voters. It sounds as if Harpootlian is more concerned about not alienating neo-Confederate sympathizers who might vote Democratic than he is about black voters.

The editor of The Data Lounge, a publication with a largely gay audience, believes the GOP will be the beneficiary of any embrace of gay rights by Democratic presidential candidates, especially in the South.

Republican strategists, confident Dean's embrace of gay civil rights will doom his election prospects, are only too happy to cheer him on.

Several of Dean's rivals for the Democratic nomination also are speaking out in strong support of gay and lesbian civil equality. And as with Dean, Republicans are happy to sit back and watch, fully expecting it will backfire.

Mark Sandalow, the Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle agrees and expands on the idea.

...Yet Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's comments equating homosexuality with adultery and incest this week -- while prompting howls of protest from Democrats and gay groups -- show no signs yet of jeopardizing his spot as the Republican Party's third-ranking senator.

Several conservative organizations released statements supporting Santorum, while GOP leaders in the Senate remained silent, and White House officials declined to rebuke him Tuesday. Strategists from both parties predicted that unlike the Lott controversy, which festered for weeks before leading to his demotion, a slap at the gay community is likely to be viewed as a problem only for a small segment of voters.

South Carolina blogger Kevin Murphy of Ghost in the Machine is optimistic. He is glad to have had a ray of light appear for embattled progressives there in the form of the debate. He believes it gave them "a chance to influence the Democratic primary as never before."

Tom Davey of Monster of the Id predicted that the most visible symbol of the GOP's Southern strategy in South Carolina would be gone by now earlier this year.

I fail to see why this should be a partisan issue at all. If both parties simply say the truth -- that the Confederate flag is a symbol of white supremacy that has no business flying over any public building in the United States -- then the issue is neutralized to no party's disadvantage. And I suspect that, in these post-Lott times, even President Bush -- who uttered weasel words about the flag in 2000 -- will fall in line with that.

Sensible. But, so far that hasn't happened. David Neiwert's theory that the GOP is withdrawing support for its Southern extremists may be accurate. But, it can't be proven by probing politics in South Carolina currently.

posted by J. | 12:48 AM

Wednesday, May 07, 2003  

Welcome to reality

Am I the only clear-eyed person in Bloggersville? Sometimes, it seems so. Yesterday and today are a couple of those sometimes. My initial reportage about not believing the heroic sagas being reported from Iraq was another. Currently, I am privy to people who must know better holding the hands of hysterical transsexuals who threaten suicide unless they get gender reassignment surgery ASAP on somebody's else's $100,000. And, it does not stop there. A couple advocates for autism are claiming that any mention of the truth about autistic conditions, that austistic people are retarded despite the savant mythology for example, or that Asperger's Syndrome sufferers are sometimes malicious, cunning and violent, means one is a child-abuser out to harm their children. Makes about as much sense as claiming pigs fly, but they are not above saying it. Pathetic.

Will J. be changing her tune to fall in line with whatever self-serving claptrap advocates of one form of special pleading or another are spouting? Not at all friends. I will remain the only clear-eyed person in Bloggersville if necessary.

Not that it is necessary yet. Even as some bloggers run screaming from reality, others are facing it.

•Ailes fisks Kaus.

My blog brother Roger Ailes is on the case, taking Mickey Kaus, another one of those strange people who claim the mantle of liberalism while being anything but, to task for his bigotry. Kaus, too self-satisfied to be aware of his own lack of talent, says:

I'm just saying that people should also acknowledge that there are costs, and that one of those costs is almost certainly a) more cases of African-American reporters who screw up, and b) uncertainty about whether a program of no special-preferences might have averted any particular screw-up before it turned into a credibility- and career-damaging incident.

Roger, very aware of Kaus' shortness and shortcomings responds.

I'm not saying there are no countervailing benefits to hack preferences in journalism -- there are even benefits, such as ability to get poorly written and unedited pieces that talented reporters wouldn't write... In the long run, Slate doesn't seem to have done Mick any favors -- not to mention the effect on other Slate writers who now have to unfairly labor under the sneaking suspicion that they are potential diminutive, grasping, innnumerate hacks.

Of course Kaus offers not an iota of evidence that black reporters are any more likely to make mistakes than others. In fact, the only real scandal involving a black reporter, other than the Jayson Blair situation he is trying to make hay from, was the Janet Cook episode about two decades ago. Other episodes have involved white reporters, often the sort who have been coddled from prep school to the Harvard Crimson to The Washington Post. The name Steno Sue Schmidt comes to mind.

So, why would Kaus make such an absurd claim? Because simply by saying such a thing you can create or feed the impresssion it is true.

•Healy unkind to Bennett

Kieran Healy's weblog brings us a debate between Eugene Volokh and Brad DeLong over the monkey on William Bennett's back. And, Kieran doesn't pull any punches to save sympathizers' oh so delicate feelings.

No-one disputes that Bennett was a high-rolling, high-stakes slot-machine player for years. We know how slot machines work. They are set up to make a fixed profit over time. There is no uncertainty about their profitability. The house cannot lose in the long-run. It defies belief that a single player routinely playing the house’s slots for 10 years could break even.

Kieran must might have offended gambling bloggers, or perhaps parents of gamblers who blog or even their advocates. He also shouldn't be surprised if ultra stupid drive-by commenter John Isbell stops in at his comments and says he is posting hate remarks against gamblers.

•Will Digby go down?

Meanwhile, at Hullaboo, Digby is optimistic about the political fortunes of the Democratic Party, taking a minority view of the recent debate among the candidates.

So, all in all, I found the debate quite instructive and rather than feeling disillusioned, I'm actually a little bit more enthusiastic. I would surely like to see Clark and Hart jump in with a couple of dynamite foreign policy arguments because I see difficult times ahead beating back "Mav" Bush and "Goose" Cheney on national security. But there is time for the candidates to develop these arguments.

I do not believe that George W. Bush is unbeatable. Yes, they are tarting him up like a war hero, but in reality he remains a stupid, shallow, reckless loose cannon whose adolescent ego may be in danger of interfering with Karl's ability hold together the disparate and competing factions of his administration and his party.

Uh oh. Digby said something of substance. Let the criticism begin.

Until next time, this is J. saying what needs to be said -- because someone should.

posted by J. | 11:18 AM

Two white guys just sittin' around talkin'

Frank at I Protest. is taken aback. He recently said something he considered to be rational and humane. However, someone disagreed, dismissing him as a wuss who does does not understand people or what is going on in the world. What did Frank say? This:

Remember: The next time you see a person with a skin color different from yours, from a different country or with a different accent, bear in mind that they are just like you are.

Break out the tar and feathers, eh?

The person who disagreed with Frank is, you guessed it, a Right Winger. Conrad of the Gweilo Diaries, one of those expatriates who seem to have no respect for the Third World people among whom they live, had this to say among other inanities.

Walk the streets of Saigon and the streets of Lagos (that's rhetorical, don't actually try the latter, you'll get yourself killed), both desperately poor places, and tell me that there isn't something fundimentally (sic) different about the values, ethos and mindset of their respective inhabitants. How come Saudis are flying planes into buildings and not Swedes? How come the children of Chinese immigrants fill America's best universities while those of Mexican immigrants do not? How come resource poor Singapore is rich while nearby resourse rich Jakarta is poor?

No, Conrad does not explain how there can be thousands of people walking the streets of Lagos if everyone who does that gets killed. But, then, like most advocates of 'scientific' racism he doesn't explain anything, preferring to make grand assertions about the superiority of some peoples or cultures and inferiority of others instead. Heck, he doesn't even get Frank's name right. Calls him 'Tony.'

In one of those pretenses to intellectuality people like that make to mask the fact their notion of reading literature is looking at comic books, Conrad says,

"It's all well and good to believe in the Jeffersonian notion of universal equality. But to believe that we are all actually the same is to be frightfully misinformed about the way the world really is."

Smug. Ignorant. A waste of oxygen a decent human being could be breathing.

Frank isn't pleased with Conrad. (After Joseph? Nah. That would mean the fellow once read a real book.)

He calls this "balderdash" and bases this opinion upon his experience of living "among people whose skin color, nationality, language, accent and/or religion were different from my own." He claims that there is something "fundimentally [sic] different" about the inhabitants of Saigon and Lagos (Nigeria, I assume, since I don't think he was referring to Portugal).

Not that Conrad has ever walked the streets of Lagos or we wouldn't be discussing his remarks because he would be a goner, right? Interestingly, I have and lived to talk about it. Lagos has one of the hippest music and nightlife environments in the world. You would be a fool to go there and not walk the streets.

Back to Conrad. Frank can handle him.

Sure, there are differences between cultures. There are even differences between individuals within cultures. Culture, though, is a thin veneer that provides the rules of behavior within a society. Certainly those rules can seem very surprising to a member of another culture, and sometimes the rules are very hard to understand when one is accustomed to unconscious adherence to a quite different set of rules. I know this very well indeed, since I've had to understand a lot about my wife's native culture in order to understand some of her behaviors and the reasons for them. Culture, however, is learned. There are many, many things about being human that are not learned, and it is to those I was referring when I said "they are just like you are."

What are some of those unlearned behaviors? Well, a set of behaviors that spring immediately to mind are those surrounding human gregariousness. All human cultures have some form of family. While not all may reflect the so-called "nuclear family" of the West (one man, one woman, children), they all have some social grouping that is recognizable as a "family" to virtually all other cultures. The fact that there are, in fact, rules for social behavior makes us alike, as well. Not the rules themselves, they can vary widely, but the fact that there are rules. As it happens, some of the rules are more or less the same across cultures. Respect of elders, some hierarchy of authority, specific gender roles and others. Details may vary, but the fact that there are rules is a constant.

. . . Being part of a community, being respected, being safe, all are as true in Africa as they are in Europe, as common in Hong Kong as they are in Sao Paulo.

In a way, this is such a given that it is amazing we need to explain it to our race 'realist' brethren. The most cursory glances at people from other cultures confirm our common humanity in my opinion. But, not to some people. Monday at Starbucks, while I was writing blog entries, a man I know interrupted me. He said, "J., I wish those damn kids over there would shut up. They are too loud.' I had noticed the young people he was talking about. They were apparently on a group 'date'. Six or seven of them. Boys and girls, from maybe 14 to 16, talking, laughing and horsing around. You know the drill at that age. My acquaintance had been trying to read. However, I don't think the noise is what annoyed him. There is always ambient noise in a Starbucks -- music playing. The espresso machine. Conversations. When I don't want to hear it, I put on my earphones and listen to music on my iPod instead. What was bothering my acquaintance was that these youths, Cambodian I think, were from another culture. They were being loud in a language he didn't understand. That kept him from seeing that these teenagers were just behaving like teenagers.

Conrad also makes superficial claims about complex situations, another typical behavior of 'scientific' racism advocates. But Frank does not fall for them.

Why did Saudis fly the planes into those buildings and not Swedes? Not because Saudis are different from Swedes, but because the circumstances of the Saudis, the culture they were a part of, led to it. In similar conditions, the Swedes might very well do similar things. Why do Chinese children fill the best universities in the US while Mexican children do not? Because Chinese cultural values lead to the very strong desire, even obsession, to succeed in school, whereas Mexican cultural values do not. I might add that the American culture isn't too great about that, either. . . It's not the people, it's the culture. It's not that people are different, it's that the rules by which they live vary.

Frank closes his remarks by saying something I too have observed.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, what has amazed me has not been the differences, although those have been obvious enough. It has, instead, been the similarities that have left me shaking my head in awe at just how alike human beings are, at just how much we all have in common with one another.

So I stick by my assertion that those people from different countries, from different cultures, with odd accents and skin color, are indeed just like we are. I think I have all the proof I need that this is true. And, therefore, there is no need to be afraid of them, which was my point in the first place.

I first noticed the common humanity of people across class, race and gender lines through reading. If someone was to study people attracted to racial and cultural bigotry in this regard, I believe they would discover people who are not readers. Being able to 'live' in literature requires empathy for other people's experiences, something racists obviously don't have. I have been a voracious reader since I was four years old. But, empathy may be something a person can learn at forty.

One of my friends is a diversity counselor. She works with people, usually white, who have violated the workplace rules of her employer in some way involving discrimination. When she asked me how I would try to reach people like Conrad, I suggested through books. If he were the employee being counseled, I would recommend the works of the great Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe. Achebe has written a history in literature of Nigeria, particularly of the Ibos, from colonialism to the present. He does for understanding human nature through Nigerians what Balzac did for understanding human nature through the French.

Do I believe that empathy training of this sort would produce results with our benighted emigres and fellow Americans? Possibly with the ones who don't have a strong psychological interest vested in remaining bigoted. I will report back to my readers when my friend tells me what results she is getting with having her counselees read The Color Purple, The Joy Luck Club and Yellow Raft on Blue Water. But, we need not await formal empathy training to try and see if this approach is useful. Frank of I Protest. already did.

posted by J. | 2:14 AM

Monday, May 05, 2003  

J. and the the limits of liberalism:

Part II: The entitlement complex

Stir it up, little darlin.' Stir it up.

My earlier post on just how far I will go with my liberalism had another aspect of the topic embedded in it I didn't reach. Part of the reason the pair of obnoxious transsexuals exasperated me is their entitlement complex. We are talking about two fit as a fiddle middle-class white men who think their fantasies of becoming women should be indulged by taxpayers who are often less well-off than they are. If they want to change their gender they should be willing to pay for the surgery themselves in my opinion.

I've found myself thinking along the same lines in regard to my post about Asperger's Syndrome. I received a letter from someone who may or may not have read my entry on the topic, saying what a tragedy it was that her child is autistic. It is a tragedy that anyone's child has autism. However, I believe we hear a lot more about the ailment because so many of the childrens' parents are white and middle or upper-class. The unsaid assumption in the woman's letter is that if a tragedy was going to occur, it should have happened to someone else, preferably someone not like her. An entitlement complex is also something that collides with J.'s limits on liberalism.

Another example of that phenomenon at work occurs in reverse discrimination claims about affirmative action. Let's consider the University of Michigan cases.

In late June or early July, the court will rule on the lawsuits challenging the University's use of race in the admission policies of the . . . Law School and College of Literature, Science and the Arts - a ruling that is considered the most significant higher education case in a generation.

The undergraduate admissions committee grants as many as 20 points out of 150 to applicants who are from minority backgrounds. The law school does not use a numerical method, but tries to assure diversity in its entering classes.

Many legal experts anticipate a split decision, with the court upholding one of the policies while overturning the other. Wayne State University law Prof. Steven Winter said Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the possible swing votes, may favor the Law School policy because it more closely follows the requirements of the Bakke ruling.

There have been numerous interviews of the plaintiffs in the cases, Barbara Grutter, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hammacher, all white and middle or upper-class. However, hardly anyone has paid attention to the minority students who will be deprived of opportunities to go to college if affirmative action is curtailed. That is because most people automatically assume white middle and upper-class people are entitled and that poor minority people are not.

Even more telling is that one rarely hears of the thousands of white students admitted with lower test scores and grade point averages than the plaintiffs in reverse discrimination cases every year. The fact they are white and middle-class, again, makes them entitled in most people's eyes. Even in high-profile situations, such as those of Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, you won't hear a word said about the obvious mediocrity of their academic records except for the wake up calls from folks like me.

A letter writer to Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large did bring up the issue recently.

When there are so many disadvantages attached to race, one reader found it odd that opponents of affirmative action criticize consideration of race while remaining silent about other forms of affirmative action.

This particular reader, a supporter of affirmative action, pointed out that several white applicants with scores lower than the plaintiffs were admitted to the law school and to the freshman class, but their admission was not challenged.

"Why is that so? Do lower scores only matter if the applicant is black? Why did (plaintiff Barbara) Grutter not challenge the admission of the white applicants?

It seems that race only matters if the applicant is black. It is OK to be a `less qualified' white?"

The person who wrote that letter is going to get a lot of hate mail. One is not supposed to admit that most white people are just middling academically.

Of course there are white, middle and upper-class people who understand why 'colorblindness' is not a remedy to racial discrimination but a way to maintain the status quo.

Rand Jack, professor for the Law and Diversity Program at Fairhaven College, said Western [University] would be a more diverse campus if affirmative action was in place.

"I strongly support affirmative action," Jack said. "Ultimately, we have a long history of discrimination against people based on race, and these patterns are deeply etched in society. You don't reverse them by simply stopping discrimination; you have to take affirmative action to reverse those patterns."

Blogger Laura Gleason of Miscellaureous also sees just what is wrong with a relatively privileged person like Barbara Grutter wanting people with comparatively less in their favor to hand over any opportunities they obtain to her.

I've been reading the recent arguments in the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case, and I'd like to make a few comments on them. There is a lot of interesting stuff in there, and it might take me a while to go through it.

In the interest of openness, here is my personal opinion on the case: I think a) the plaintiff is a whiner, b) affirmative action is something America needs, and, c) Grutter should get over her rejection and move on with her life.

I wish more people had the insight of Laura Gleason. However, much more common is the dim-witted racist grumbling of the blogger at God of the Machine.

I agree with Steve Winter, an old friend, that SCOTUS will likely render verdicts that fail to answer the question of what exactly is to be done to remedy the massive impact of racial discrimination on American society. I hope those verdicts don't encourage a greater entitlement complex among middle and upper-class white Americans.

posted by J. | 11:50 PM

Portland woman shot by police

I have been busy looking into a local news story. A young African-American woman was shot and killed early this morning by the Portland police. So far, what is known is that the woman, Kendra James, 21, allegedly tried to drive off in a car that had been stopped.

A Portland police officer shot and killed a woman in her 20s early today when she got behind the wheel of a car and tried to drive off after other officers took the original driver into custody during a traffic stop, police said. . . .As the officer took the motorist into custody and led him to a police car, the woman passenger in the car climbed from a back seat into the driver's seat, according to Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz.

I've also learned the woman has a history of drug abuse and may have been trying to avoid a check for warrants. She was shot once in the chest. James appears not to have been armed.

The main issue is whether the shooting was justified. From what I am aware of, it appears doubtful James would have escaped even if force had not been used. There were several police vehicles blocking the exit route.

She is survived by two small children.

posted by J. | 11:31 PM

J. and the the limits of liberalism

I stopped reading the transsexuality conversation when a couple of guys who want to be girls tossed out um, suggestions, they would commit suicide if they were not given gender reassignment surgery -- at taxpayers expense. The two who made the remarks had said irrational things all along, though they are the most adamant in claiming there is nothing psychologically awry with people who want to change their gender. They believe only folks with gender dysphoria should counsel, write about or apparently, hold opinions, in regard to transsexuality. When conversations reach that degree of ridiculousness, which they often do when talking to extremists, I realize that I, J., have reached the limits of my liberalism.

I could have responded to some of the irrationality with legal arguments. Sometimes that is a good way to handle overly emotional people because one can be very dry. For example, I could have said that government services, when they are available, must be allocated on a reasonably fair basis, or the state may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. So, moving transsexuals to the front of the line for free medical care as the pair demand would not be legal, considering there are people with more serious illnesses which have proven medical treatments.

Instead, I relied on plain old common sense. When one of the transsexuals claimed he couldn't work and pay for sex reassignment surgery because people discriminate against men dressed as women, I suggested he go to work dressed as the gender he was born in. Let's just say he didn't like that suggestion. His next sortie was to say the discrimination faced by transsexuals forces them to work as prostitutes. And, working as a prostitute is dangerous, therefore the public health system should cover the cost of the surgery so that transsexuals don't have to. Right.

In most states, including mine, free transgender surgery simply is not going to happen. Government is allowed to decide what illnesses it will cover as long as it does not impermissibly discriminate. It is not discriminatory to rank illnesses according to seriouness, constancy in the population and likelihood of control or recovery. Sex reassignment surgery scores low on all three characteristics because it is a treatment for a rare mental disorder which may not be an actual remedy.

At least one post-op transsexual blogger, Becky, seems to share the belief that people who don't have the problem should not hold opinions about it, even if they have the requisite training. She refers to the unaffected as 'nons' and 'nons' are to be seen and not heard.

posted by J. | 6:04 AM

Sunday, May 04, 2003  

Ain't nuthin' but a party, baby

•Levitate CNN

George says it is high time we helped CNN get up off its thing. Bound to make both it and us feel better. You can dig it, right? I knew you could because very hip people hang out at Silver Rights.

Bloggers, I'm ready to get up and do my thing. I wanta get into it, man, you know ... Like a, like a peace machine, man. Movin'... doin' it, you know. Can I count it off?

Spoken: one, two, three, four!

Get up, get on up
Get up, get on up
Shame on CNN, stop the war machine

Wait a minute!
Shake your arm, then use your form
Stay on the scene like a peace machine
You got to have the feeling sure as you're born
Get it together right on, right on

Get up, get on up

Take it to the bridge, George!

•Don't ignore the color purple

Which reminds me I've been meaning to say I am a very strong advocate of not ignoring the color purple. Civil rights is a subject where we focus on some really sleazy behavior by some really sleazy people. But, as far as I know, we only live once. So, we had better enjoy some of that living. That means laughing sometimes, which mi ami Jesus' General has a knack for making me do. Listening to good music. Reading good books. Seeing good movies. And dancin', even if it is just by yourself in the livingroom. Haven't seen a movie, lately? Get up off your thing and go. Meant to check out that blues or jazz club downtown, but keep putting it off? Haul your arse there next week. And, hey, its your tax dollars partly supporting the local art museum, ballet and symphony. They are yours to enjoy, too.

A cartoon is worth 1,000 of words

Speaking of not seeing lovely things around us, talented cartoonist Jenn Manley Lee has an excellent commentary on that subject. Enjoy several chapters of Dicebox free, starting here. She also reminds us we can subscribe to a bevy of comics by women for a modest monthly fee.

posted by J. | 3:28 AM