News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Threat from gun industry growing
Part II: The ban on assault weapons
Another threat from the gun industry and its allies is their support for ending the ban on some assault weapons. It will will expire next year unless Congressional action is taken to extend it.
The far Right, aided by the National Rifle Association, has lobbied against extending the ban, claiming citizens are entitled to have any weapon under the Second Amendment. The courts and mainstream legal commentators disagree. The majority opinion is that the Second Amendment applies to militias or their modern equivalent, not individual gun owners.
Among the people who don't grasp the distinction is blogger Benson of Hello, welcome to Doozy.
Benson does not explain why he thinks easily availability of dangerous weaponry is a wonderful idea. But, the fellow won't be lonely. Tom DeLay and other Right wing legislators feel his pain.
Schumer's interpretation of George W. Bush's complicity in failing to assure the continued life of the ban is shared by other liberal observers.
The outcome will turn on quid pro quos and Bush's determination of whether supporting the assault weapons ban is a needed way to attract or at least not lose the suburban, moderate Republican vote when he seeks reelection.
The blogger at Backwards, Down and to the Right has an accurate and humorous take on Bush's stance.
Read the rest. The blogger has an apt sense of the ridiculous.
But, ultimately, this will not be a laughing matter. The widespread availability of assault weapons results in incredible carnage. Instead of being allowed to lapse, the ban should be stiffened and extended to more guns.posted by J. | 1:01 AM
Friday, May 16, 2003
Roy Barnes: A bittersweet legacy
The dean of Southern journalists Bill Ship had something to say about the deposed governor of Georgia, Democrat Roy Barnes recently.
Barnes is no longer the governor of the Peach State because he tried to evade the neo-Confederates and their allies. In 2001, he cobbled together a plan to change the state flag, which had borne a large Confederate symbol since 1956, to a less controversial emblem. Barnes won the battle, but lost the war. He was defeated by the first Republican to be elected governor of Georgia in more than 130 years.
Sonny Perdue bested Barnes by promising neo-Confederates and their sympathizers that he would allow a referendum on the return of the Confederate standard. They interpreted the promise to mean the flag would return since it was likely to win in a referendum with such an incentive for conservative voters to go to the polls. Perdue was unable to deliver on his promise. The nonbinding referendum will offer two flag options, but not the 1956 design. The neo-Confederates are now vowing to defeat Perdue in 2006.
Canadian blogger Ikram of Path of the Paddle sees right through the pretext.
The actual resolution of the conflict is sure to be what Barnes sought -- a less controversial flag for Georgia. But, as Shipp explains, Barnes' epitaph had already been written.
He compares him to another tragic Georgia politician.
And neither will Barnes, according to Shipp.
The former governor stood by his guns in the ceremony Sunday, uttering words guaranteed to further anger conservative Southerners.
"Wrong" is a word they will never forgive.
•New flag comes from same era
My inclination is to accept the new design. Though it may not be pristine, it is not the flag the neo-Confederates were so determined to reimpose on the state.
•Is the flag issue hard to understand?
Dustin, of The Legal Guy, thinks so. He says the matter should be resolved by letting the Sons of Confederate Veterans decide the meaning of the Confederate flag. Some people disagree.posted by J. | 8:46 AM
Thursday, May 15, 2003
The 411: Bigotry is still with us
Every single time I listen to Right Wingers telling me racism is over and I am late to learn that, several correctives come along within hours, sometimes minutes.
•It's a Negro. Run!
The blogger at Blah3 posted one of those 'don't buy the hype' alerts. He cites a new study on how holding racially biased views effects bigots.
Oh the bright side, none of the bigoted students asked to see the black interviewer's genitals.
The researchers believe the racist college students became unable to concentrate or complete tasks well after talking to the black interviewer because they used up considerable mental and emotional resources controlling themselves during the discussion. (Which could explain why none of them asked to see his Johnson.) Non-racist white students did not experience anxiety because they had interacted with a black person.
This research may explain the discomfiture I have often observed in some white people around people of color, which can be quite obvious, including tics such as lip or nail-biting and even trembling.
Remember the college professor from Cornell who hates affirmative action? I would love to see his results from a similar test.
•Volokh makes a boo boo
Conservative law prof and elite blogger Eugene Volokh has overextended himself, methinks. Volokh asserts:
I believe Volokh misunderstands the realities of race and gender. A nonwhite student in a conference with a conservative or hypocritical liberal professor may be insulted by that person. A female student may be sexually harassed. The fact that such occurrences are still common makes it clear that white, male role models may often be uninterested in helping minority and/or female students.
Perhaps one of the other eight members of the Volokh blog will set him straight. But, I doubt it. They are probably all Right Wing white guys just like him.
•Conservatism can be lethal
Curmudgeon of the Left Hesiod has another revelation at Counterspin. He reminds us conservative politics kill people.
Will enough be done to remedy the problem? Probably not as much as should be because of longstanding attitudes about sex, race and religion in the region.
African-Americans living in the South are impacted the worst.
Ronn Taylor, of A Burst of Light, a new member of the blogroll, which focuses on gay people of color, is keeping me abreast of issues in this area. But note that the face of HIV has become increasingly heterosexual.posted by J. | 11:21 PM
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Voices from the blogroll
I've been reading blogs by three interesting women I want to tell you about.
•Timi moves in
Timi is the helmsman at the U.S.S. Clueless. Don't confuse her blog with the similarly named craft of the embarassing Steven den Beste. The 20-something is just embarking on a lot of things we wish we could go back and do over again.
I remember one of my first apartments. I went away for a few days and forgot to turn the air conditioning off. When I came back all the tropical fish in my aquarium were dead.
Reading Timi reminds me of days gone by. If you read Matthew Yglesias, as I do, she makes a good complement, reminding us what more typical young people are up to.
•Lives should have soundtracks
Laurie of Cocokat in slumberland has some thoughts I can relate to.
What it is? What it is? It's a funky and low-down feeling, makes you move from left to right.
And the Rev. Al was perfect when you couldn't go anywhere, especially when there was someone you would like to go somewhere with. Then you'd think 'I can't get next to you.'
(Checked out the liner notes in my The Best of Al Green CD while I was writing that. Lord Dee, he was hot back in the day!)
Rebel? For me that was just another brick in the wall. Later, I learned there's not enough love in the world.
I'm claiming that song for J. Don Henley would want me to have it.
Laurie isn't the only jukebox graduate around here.
•Trish will single task
Blogger and fellow Mac celebrant Trish Wilson thinks the folks at Microsoft have gone too far.
I doubt that kind of 'innovation, too. Remember that forty-six percent of Americans are not even on the web. Seems to me it would be smarter to try to attract some of them to buying computers and software and surfing the web than to try to convince us that we must never stop surfing, even while using the loo.
I wonder whether this is a Bill Gates original. Various books about him say he is a big believer in multi-tasking.
Trish's blog is about whatever is on her mind and a lot of things are on her mind.posted by J. | 10:54 PM
Threat from gun industry growing
Part I: Jury says 'no' to gun industry liability
A New York jury wasn't swayed by the claim the high incidence of gun violence in black and brown communities is caused by easy availability of handguns.
I am not surprised because this is a hard case. Proximate cause in a shooting is almost always the shooter choosing to pull the trigger. There can be other causes, but it is difficult to get people, including juries, to extend their perspective beyond the shooter and the gun. The crux of the matter is that a process led to how the shooter came to have the gun. A key component of the process is decisions by gun manufacturers to make Saturday Night Specials available to low-income, and often minority, buyers. If cheap guns were not as available there would be a lower incidence of serious injury and death because other weapons are not as dangerous and lethal. So, even with the same behavior by assailants and murderers, there would be less gory results.
There is still some hope for the plaintiffs. The jury did not reach a decision in regard to more than 20 of the defendants. In addition, the judge will make the ultimate decision in the case.
The plaintiffs' attorneys where wise to direct attention to the unscrupulous nature of some gun sellers.
For more than a decade, enforcement powers for the ATF agency have been tongueless as well as toothless. For example, the dealer who sold the rifle allegedly used by the Washington, D.C., area snipers has a long history of shady sells and 'lost' weapons.
The gun industry is complicit in the American epidemic of gun violence. But, it would take a more sophisticated populace to understand how and why, especially with the gun sellers and the NRA spending millions to pull the wool over our eyes.
•Addendum: Victor 'gets' guns
Victor at Balasubramania's Mania has more information on the jury's verdict and the judge hearing the case via Jacob Sullum.
I remember enough of federal civil procedure to answer the diversity question. It was important to get the case into federal court because state legislators and state courts are more amenable to pressure from the gun lobby. If Beretta was excluded on diversity grounds, it is because it is a New York corporation and would have led to the case being tried in state court in New York. But, if plaintiffs in another state want to sue Beretta, they can do so in federal court there without violating diversity, which requires the parties be from different states and a certain amount of money damages be involved.
Victor's coverage of gun issues has been outstanding in general. I recommend Balasubramania's Mania as a resource on this topic.posted by J. | 7:05 PM
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Hellacious blogging by a centrist
I. Conservative source, liberal conclusion
Rick Heller must have had some extra time to read, think and write because he is on a roll over at Smart Genes. (The permanent link is broken for this item, but it should be at the top of the page for a while.) Commentators on the Far Right are very fond of citing Amy Chua's book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. They use it to support a policy of maintaining the economic, political and social status quo in societies where there are gross inequalities among segments of the population. For example, they would argue that democratization in South Africa was a bad idea because it increases resentment against the white minority that controls more than 90 percent of the country's resources.
You see the problems with the reasoning of the Right on the issue. As I said, it is a perfect rationalization for maintaining unjust status quos. The argument also assumes markets are much 'freer' than they are outside certain economics textbooks. In addition, Chua studiously ignores how societal elites obtain their wealth, or she would not be able to paint such a sympathetic picture of them. (Anyone who believes the white Zimbabweans became rich because they are smarter, harder working and blessed by God should decamp to Gene Expression where there is a soft, comfortable chair waiting for him.)
Rick reaches a conclusion that will make most of Chua's advocates nauseous.
The phrase"income redistribution" is guaranteed to make them ill.
II. Rick meets Zadie
Heller has also discovered youthful British writing sensation Zadie Smith, author of the acclaimed novel White Teeth, which I had the pleasure of reading soon after it was released.
There are also liberals who like brown-skinned people too much for being, well, brown. A J. Phillip Rushton type racist who relishes the experiences he had molesting African boys doing World War II. And, sexual confusion that makes paternity 'Mama's baby and Daddy's maybe.' You will want to watch the movie if possible and buy the book.
III. What makes the 'sphere go 'round?
I don't know which category Silver Rights fits into, if any. It does have a topical focus, though I include only slightly related material for variation and some insights into who I am and what I'm doing and thinking. I write essays. Use news sources. Link to other blogs liberally. Maybe this blog does not have a category.
You may become chagrined if you look at Rick's blogroll. It contains some blogs I would never link to, such as Little Green Footballs. Rick considers himself the consummate centrist. (What is a centrist? Keep reading.) He is more tolerant of the excesses of the Right than I am. However, I have friends like Rick. He is the sort of somewhat conservative person I get along with well. And, good-looking to boot.posted by J. | 6:56 PM
Conversation with a centrist
Praise Whomever and don't pass the ammunition! I have been rescued from my so far fruitless search for a centrist. The man wasn't dragged, decrying the abuse by a feminist, to the stocks and made to 'fess up, John Ashcroft style. He volunteered. Rick Heller of SmartGenes says he considers himself a "centrist," the middle C of the American political continuum. He offers this test as one way to determine if one fits the definition:
I have voted for independents and Democrats. A Republican? Not so far. (But then, I have never used a drug stronger than grass, either.) How about you? Voting, not drugs. What the heck. Come clean about both if you want to.
For additional thoughts about centrality, see Rick's entry regarding who he supported and why.
The major issue Rick believes currently separates him from liberals is his support for the war in Iraq. However, he reminds us there are degrees of support for the invasion.
Rick goes on to explain his requirements for the U.S. invading another country. Based on what he says, he may have to break ranks with the conservative cohort about war down the road. Their plans are becoming more and more obviously about establishing a Pax Americana.
If I read Rick right, he won't walk that way.
Note: This item is a resurrected and reprinted from Mac-a-ro-nies. It appeared there April 6. It is now reportedly lost to history courtesy of Blogger.posted by J. | 6:54 PM
People are saying
•A Jewish cabal in Britian?
Amygdala fills us in on Britain's own L'Affaire Lott. A politician has implied that three peers who happen to be of Jewish descent are in cahoots to favor Israel in the Mideast conflict. The Guardian says:
Not only is the accusation in poor taste and rather paranoid, it does not make sense considering that two of the three men Dalyell is concerned about are secular fellows with liberal views regarding the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Internet Activism has a list of organizations and initiatives you can join or support to actually do something about our problems from local to national. Among the organizations described and linked to is YDA.
The site lists something for everyone of a moderate, liberal or progressive persuasion.
•GOP hopes wife is Kerry's liability
John Kerry's wife has personality. Will the presidential candidate live to wish he had selected a less outspoken woman?
Blogger Susan Nunes of Random Thoughts doesn't believe the focus on Ms. Heinz Kerry is an accident.
Well said. And, funny, I don't recall anyone attacking a certain wealthy actress who was married to a certain Republican senator, who did very well finanically when they divorced, thank you.posted by J. | 4:17 AM
Sunday, May 11, 2003
A bigot weighs in
I see really clueless comments about race on blogs often, just about any time I read more than a handful at a time. However, some stand out more than others. One which recently appeared in regard to Calpundit Kevin Drum's discussion of fired New York Times reporter Jayson Blair stood out.
The writer, John Thacker, a constant commenter at Right Wing web logs, is both utterly wrong in what he said and utterly sure of his correctness. No where in a lengthy post does Thacker offer an iota of proof that minority reporters are more likely to break the rules than other reporters, or that people of color in other fields are likely to do so. That is because no such proof exists. Thacker tries to evade the issue by saying, " I'd prefer not to get into some kind of racial bean counting..." He sure would because he knows he would be proven wrong. Better just to drop a baseless allegation and hope it sticks. Less than ten percent of reporters at American newspapers are minorities. (Up from virtually none until the 1970s and 1980s, when journalism was doubtlessly perfect to people like Thacker, because it was whites-only.) If newspapers were surveyed about reporter and editor misconduct, I suspect that at least 90 percent of employees reported to have gotten into some kind of trouble would be white. Probably more, since minority journalists are likely more concerned about holding on to the jobs it is more difficult for them to obtain and therefore more careful about their conduct.
Furthermore, how does Thacker know that Blair isn't a sneak who got away with things because he was "talented" or excelled at "telling people what they wanted to hear" the reasons he offers for white plagiarists? Apparently, Thacker has never noticed that black people have personalities, too.
Some of Blair's bosses seem equally blind to the deceptive ways of people, not just black people, Angry Bear succinctly notes.
Thacker's bigotry doesn't end with those fatuous claims. He goes on to say something even worse.
The truth is the most special advantage a person in American society can have is to be white. Preferably white, male and middle or upper-class. But, somehow, Thacker gets it backwards. People who have been discriminated against for centuries and continue to be are the ones with a special advantage. Hello? Nor would Thacker ever show up at a blog criticizing nepotism the way he is criticizing affirmative action because he favors the major beneficiaries of nepotism -- white males. (Yes, I checked. Thacker constantly criticizes affirmative action. The only comment in which he mentions nepotism at all is the one we are discussing.)
Thacker next claims the only reason Blair was hired was because he was African-American, a dead giveaway to the racism infecting Thacker's perspective. If that is true, why didn't the NYT go to any street in Brooklyn, pick a random black 21 or 22-year-old and give him a job as a reporter? Well? Methinks Blair being qualified for a job as a journalist because of his education and some experience had something to do with his being hired. In fact, it is difficult to determine what, if any jobs, black Americans would be allowed to hold if Thacker's views had free reign over the entire work world. Since he believes African-Americans' educational and work histories don't matter, as proven by his ignoring Jayson Blair's, picking cotton comes to mind. But, I've heard that's obsolete.
Not one to miss a trick in the 'How to Be Bigoted While Pretending Not to Be" book, Thacker says he is concerned about black folks being hired for professional positions because it might somehow harm black folks. You know the ploy, any African-American in a profession will be stigmatized by people believing his presence is related to affirmative action -- so there should be no black people in professional positions to prevent that from happening. The result of that 'logic' is, um, interesting.
The penultimate insult for me in reading Thacker's remarks was his email address at Cornell University, where he holds the title of Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He is the kind of person I hate to see teaching young people in our increasingly diverse society because I know, from experience, bigotry can impact the way teachers teach. Any black students who have had the misfortune of being instructed and graded by Thacker probably have some unsettling stories to tell.
Thacker, who is apparently from North Carolina like me, strikes me as another neo-Confederate type dressing his views up to make them seem modern and respectable. He doesn't deceive me. He might as well be walking around wearing a tee shirt with a Confederate flag logo and the words, 'Fergit, hell.'
Note: The coverage of this topic in the blogosphere, at least in the Left blogosphere, has been good over all. Atrios at Eschaton, Roger Ailes via SR, and Prometheus 6 have taken Mickey Kaus to the woodshed for his racist remarks about Jayson Blair. Kevin's entries have been thoughtful and fair. Meanwhile, Byte Back puts the recent news about the news in context.posted by J. | 10:52 PM
What's goin' on
•Missing in action
If you have looked to the right on the page you may have noticed something is missing. Didn't the time period April 20 to May 3 occur? Blogger ate my archives for that segment. I am usually pretty good at beating the baneful Blogger Basic at its own twisted game, but have not been able to repair this problem. Any advice on a method I haven't tried would be appreciated. I've tried rebuilding the archives, replacing the archive script with an untouched version (that got my archives working again, but left the gap) and trying to use search service caches to fill in the missing entries. No dice.
•Parts is parts
Do I need to say I am not gender confused? Avedon, over at The Sideshow, among others, has noticed I have been writing a lot about the issue. I like being a girl. (Well, there was a time, when I was eleven or twelve, when I couldn't believe I was expected to participate in a certain monthly messiness. However, I have resigned myself.) I've been writing about gender dysphoria because advocates on the web and in the blogosphere are misrepresenting the issues involved so often. I wanted to do that old reporterly thing of getting the facts out.
ABC is playing games with what regular readers know is my favorite television show. They have not said whether The Practice will be renewed for the coming reason. This is ludicrous considering it used to be their most successful program until they jerked it around by changing the time slot.
Since I began watching again, I've been very impressed with the work done by Steve Harris, the actor who plays Eugene. He started out as the tough guy in comparison to Bobby's brooding sensitivity. In the more recent episodes, more facets of the character have emerged. Here's hoping we get to see Eugene and the other characters continue to develop.
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, he of the vendetta against capital letters, anticipated this back in February. However, he spreads the blame around.
I will agree that episode had problems, though I would indeed watch Alfre Woodard read the phone book.
•I want that Apple on the tree
I want and need a new computer. My TiBook is getting the job done -- sort of. I still haven't gotten the FireWire port fixed, being reluctant to part with it for a week. (A local repair is not possible. It has to be sent to the Apple laptop shop in Texas.) So, I can't do backups despite having bought a hard drive for that purpose a couple months ago. Or backup to or add music to my iPod. The paint erosion on the right side of the palm rest (I'm right-handed and don't use a mouse) has become really unsightly. There is a unremovable discoloration on the left side of the screen. I also feel very uncomfortable having just one computer. In the past, I've made it a practice to have two, in case of a disaster.
Love my TiBook, but would settle for the less expensive iBook this time around.
•Will there be work?
Now, I am putting the finishing touches on a book. However, I will soon have to look for work in Oregon. We have the nation's highest unemployment rate at 8 percent. I'm starting to wonder if I will be able to find a job.posted by J. | 7:53 PM
Gender dysphoria: An overview
People often confuse transsexuality with transvestitism and homosexuality, however it is neither. Transsexuality is a specific form of a broader psychiatric disorder termed "gender identity disorder," also known as gender dysphoria.
The first major sex reassignment clinic opened at Johns Hopkins University in 1966. The operation on men was the most typical then and still is. Actually, the process consists of a series of procedures, which can include hair removal, breast inplants and facial surgery. But the most defining aspect is removal of the penis and creation of a vagina.
An oft-cited study was completed by Money and Erhardt in 1970. Its goal was to determine ""to what extent the living conditions of male and female transsexuals change after the sex-reassignment." It is fairly typical of such studies, though somewhat larger than the norm in size. The overall results reported were positive.
This study excluded persons with psychiatric problems or serious criminal records, thereby eliminating a significant proportion of those who might have applied.
For a semi-comprehensive list of studies of transsexualism, some of them in the U.S., see this chronological index.
The most controversial issue beyond whether people should get this type of surgery at all is how it should be paid for. However, that controversy seems to exist mainly among the gender dsyphoria community and its supporters.
An interesting case involving payment for sex change operations occurred in Canada this year.
Though I found some exceptions, in the U.S., gender change operations usually are not covered by insurance policies. The advice offered by a sex change advocacy site is "Do not plan financially on getting insurance coverage for SRS." The commentator explains the most typical reason why.
The site's suggestion of setting up a medical fund and gradually building up enough savings to cover various operations related to gender transformation is good advice. However, some of the other suggestions, such as misrepresenting the reason for getting dental or facial surgery are not legal.
Another site suggests obtaining credit cards, charging them to the maximum to pay for SRS treatments and then declaring bankruptcy. The transsexual offering advice there is rather blunt.
Though I encountered disapproval from a couple of transsexuals when I said so previously, I believe that working for months or years in one's birth gender is the most rational way to acquire the funds for the series of procedures.
In 1998, a commission in Oregon considered whether to offer gender change surgery under the state's health plan for the poor.
Another state official explained that deciding what health services to cover is a balancing act.
The state ultimately decided against offering such coverage.
A federal appeals court has held that employers need not cover the surgeries on the grounds they are not medically necessary.
The effect of the ruling is that transsexuals in Mario's position will probably have to fund their medical expenses out of pocket.
San Francisco's city government has voted to cover the procedures. As far as I could determine, it is the only unit of government in the United States currently paying for sexual reassignment surgery. Legislators and local government officials across the nation have agreed that government funded sex change operations are not a priority. Considering that alternative sexuality does not have constitutional protection under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, I don't believe the status quo will change in the foreseeable future.posted by J. | 3:39 AM