Silver Rights

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.

WASHINGTON - Democratic lawmakers and gun control advocates urged President Bush Wednesday to call for a House vote on extending a ban on semi-automatic weapons, despite opposition from a key GOP lawmaker.

The comments came one day after Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, indicated that he would not bring the assault weapons ban up for a vote in the House, effectively letting it expire next year.

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.

HR 2038 IH: Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2003 (Introduced in House, 8 May 2003).

Among other things, the bill proposes to eliminate the sunset clause from original Klinton assault weapon bill. It adds many new guns to the banned list. It forbids the import of large capacity rifle magazines.

The politicos are betting that the public is too stupid at actually read the bill and will vote on the title alone. "Hey Cindy, I think we should support Mr. Moran because he's trying to ban machine guns and help the police!"

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.

DeLay angered supporters of the ban who had recently been buoyed by President Bush's renewed support of the 1994 legislation, hailed by gun control groups as a landmark federal law that needs to be strengthened. The law bans the sale and possession of 19 types of semi-automatic guns. Schumer accused the president of publicly supporting the ban while privately working against it.

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 assault weapons ban, which outlawed certain kinds of rapid-fire weapons such as the Uzi and AK-47, is set to expire next year and House Republican leaders are ready to let the ban expire.

President George W. Bush says he supports the ban and campaigned on the issue in 2000, but he hasn't pressed Congress to continue the law.

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.

They Shoot Shitzus, Don't They?

Host: Why is Middle America obsessed with owning assault-weapons? Why should you pander to them and people like Grover Norquist and his ilk?

George Bush: That's the dumbest thing I've ever been asked. What's an ilk?

Jethro Bush: I think it's a big deer.

G.B. Thanks Mr. Know-it-all, now get me an O'Douls. Well, first of all I don't pander to deer, I use assault-weapons on them. So do a lot of people in Middle America and that's the reason they need them. There are too damn many giant deer hanging around eating people's yards and running into SUVs and stuff. But lemme tell you the truth: people in Middle America needs assault-weapons to protect themselves from people like you in Left and Right America. I want to ban assault-weapons, or some of them, sorta. You can still buy them at gun shows and stuff, so it doesn't make any difference. But I want to ban them so the next time some nutcase starts shooting people left and right nobody points the finger at me. Does that answer your question, asshole?

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.

Figuratively speaking, Barnes can't come home again, certainly not as a viable political prospect. As the 2002 election for governor demonstrated, most Georgians are not ready to turn their backs on the 19th century and race-based politics. But they are ready to show the door to any elected leader who suggests official symbols of the Confederacy are out of place in 21st-century Georgia. Barnes and his family were in New England Sunday and Monday to accept the prestigious Profiles in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Foundation.

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.

This is the way I personally feel beginning with Governor Zell Miller's attempt to change our Georgia flag in 1992-1993, the (dishonorable) retirement of our beloved flag by Governor Roy Barnes in 2001 and your signing bill 380 in 2003, which excludes (the Soldier's Memorial Flag of Georgia).

What do you, Barnes and Miller have in common? (None) of ya'll listened to the majority of (Georgians) who continuously claim their love for the 1956 (Soldier's Memorial Flag.)

Canadian blogger Ikram of Path of the Paddle sees right through the pretext.

I think most reasonable people would agree that flags and symbols do not mean what you want them to mean -- their meaing is built up through association with causes and events. And while a symbol, like a swastika, might mean different things to different people in different places, in any one region in generally means only one thing. In the USA, the swastika is associated with Nazis, not Jains, and the Confederate battle flag with bigots, not chicken-fried steak. Any group is free to try and change these associations, but it's silly to assume it isn't there. (The FalunDafa folks have set up this web-page to try to convince Israelis, of all people, that the swastika is A-OK.)

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.

Without the flag issue and his ensuing defeat, Barnes was the obvious Southern Democratic governor to help mount a challenge against the Republican administration in 2004.

He compares him to another tragic Georgia politician.

Gov. Ellis Arnall earned national recognition in the 1940s for his then-progressive stands on racial matters. (Among other things, he campaigned vigorously to repeal the poll tax.) He was a friend of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and was rumored as a vice presidential nominee. He wrote a couple of books about the South and its problems The Shore Dimly Seen and What the People Want. When he left office in 1947, his political enemies vilified him as a traitor to the South.? He tried for a comeback in 1966, but he never held elective office again. Diehard segregationist Lester Maddox defeated Arnall in the Democratic primary and, a second time, when he ran as a write-in candidate in the general election.

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.

The debate you hear in the South today is not about whether segregation is right, or whether African-Americans should vote. That would be impolite. No, the discussion across the South from South Carolina to Mississippi to Georgia is whether the Confederate battle flag, the St. Andrew's cross, is the only acceptable symbol to honor an era when our ancestors fought with valor even though they fought for a cause that was wrong.

"Wrong" is a word they will never forgive.

•New flag comes from same era

As Larry of Larry's Log observes via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the new Georgia flag has less obvious Confederate-era connotations.

The only portion of the governor's proposal that survived was the immediate raising of a new state flag based on the Stars and Bars, the first national flag of the Confederacy.

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.

The study included 59 white college students. They were given a test to assess the degree of racial bias in their thinking. The students then spent time talking with either a black or a white person and afterwards were given a test that measured their ability to concentrate on a challenging mental task.

The more racially biased the students were, the worse they did on the mental task after speaking with a black person. But racially biased students who spoke with a white person, even if they discussed racially sensitive issues, had no decline in mental function.

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.

People who are racist may suffer a temporary lapse in mental capacity after interacting with people who are members of a racial minority.

Researchers from Princeton University and Dartmouth College found that white people with a high degree of racial basis experienced a decrease in "executive function" after spending time talking with black people. Their research appears in the May issue of Psychological Science.

Executive function is a key element of thought that involves the ability to fix attention on certain, high-level mental tasks.

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:

More broadly, for women to succeed in many walks of life, they should draw their role models from men. To become great soldiers, women have to emulate other great soldiers -- who were men. To become great scientists, women need to draw inspiration from Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and others -- overwhelmingly men. (The same is in large measure true for many racial and ethnic minorities in many fields.)

Dissenting views can be read here and here.

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.

•While the South represents a little more than one-third of the U.S. population, it accounts for 40 percent of people who have AIDS and 46 percent of new cases. Georgia, which has 11,193 people with the disease, ranks seventh in the nation for the number of cases.

•Between 2000 and 2001, the estimated number of new AIDS cases in the South increased while other regions experienced declines or relatively stable levels.

•Southern cities represent 18 of the top 25 U.S. metropolitan areas hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic. Atlanta is one of the 18.

•Seven of the states with the 10 highest AIDS rates are located in the South. Georgia's AIDS rate of 20.8 cases per 100,000 population is sixth-highest.

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.

[Dr. Gene] Copello, who is also director of Florida AIDS Action in Tampa, said the coalition compiled the report in response to the region's rising crisis in AIDS and HIV infections, which cause the disease.

The group called for a "bold response" at the federal, state and local levels for funding and providing outreach and treatment to combat the surging epidemic. "The resources are not available to meet the needs," Copello said. "Unless some crucial steps are taken, the epidemic will get worse. We plan to be very loud and forceful about this."

The South is more greatly plagued by AIDS and HIV infections because of racial and economic differences and a conservative cultural attitude that interferes with attempts to halt the disease, the report said.

African-Americans living in the South are impacted the worst.

More than half of the people with AIDS in the South are African-American, though only 20 percent of the region's population is Black. African-American men are less likely to acknowledge that they are in a high-risk group for AIDS and are less likely to volunteer for HIV testing, researchers say.

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 kicked back & enjoyed my 1st weekend alone in my new place. It was so relaxing. I slept ALL DAY. Do you know how long it's been since I've had a full day's sleep...let alone 8 hours? It's been a while. Even I cant even remember the last time I had a decent night's sleep. Saturday was also my grandmother's birthday, so we all took her out to dinner. It was cool have my whole family together. I couldn't wait until the whole thing was over. I wanted to go home & enjoy my time ALONE.

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.

The Reverend Al Green. Sometimes there is no one but YOU.

So much happening here. What it is, ain't exactly clear.

Angela called me a jukebox graduate recently and I was not quite sure what that meant but I LOVED it. Sometimes I think I could just talk in lyrics. Spend the rest of my life expressing myself verbally in nothing but song lyrics. I spent so much of my growing-up years shut up in a bedroom, not allowed to go anywhere but home and not rebelling. Why didn't I just rebel? Some did. I didn't. I hold that not rebelling part of me in such contempt, sometimes, I have these awful crashing tsunamis of regret that build up in me and force the fountain of tears up from my toes. Cloudy days are difficult.

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.'

Oh I,
can turn a gray sky blue,
You see, I can make it rain when I want it to
Oh I,
can build a castle from a single grain of sand
You see, I can make a ship sail on dry land.
Ain't happy am I with all the powers that I possess,
Cause girl, you're the key to my happiness,
And I can't get next to you, babe
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 know people hurt you so bad
They don't know the damage they can do,
and it makes me so sad-
How we knock each other down just like
children on a playground
Even after that ol' sun went down-
I was either standing in your shadow or
or blocking your light
Though I kept on trying I could not
make it right
For you girl-
There's just 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.

The last thing I'd want to do in a portapotty is surf the 'Net. Had the geniuses at Microsoft thought about the smell?

iLoo gives new meaning to the words "log in."

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.

NEW YORK - Rejecting a lawsuit brought by the NAACP, a federal jury Wednesday cleared 45 gun manufacturers and distributors of allegations their marketing practices have stoked violence in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The jury deliberated for five days before reaching its verdict in the closely watched case that now goes to the judge for a final decision. The panel was unable to reach a verdict regarding 23 other defendants.

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.

In an unusual ruling, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein decided ahead of time the jury would play only an advisory role and that he will make the final decision in the case. Both sides will submit written arguments interpreting the jury's verdict within 30 days.

The plaintiffs' attorneys where wise to direct attention to the unscrupulous nature of some gun sellers.

The lawsuit claimed the firearms industry knew corrupt dealers were supplying products to criminals in minority communities and did nothing to stop it.

Rather than monetary damages, the NAACP sought to force distributors to restrict sales to dealers with storefront outlets, prohibit sales to gun show dealers and limit individual purchasers to one handgun a month.

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.

But for the hands off posture taken by Justice Department from John Ashcroft on down, a clearly illicit operation such as Bull's Eye, the shop where the assault rifle used in the attacks was likely sold under the table, would not be in business after years of malfeasance. That posture is reflected in both purposeful under-staffing of ATF and reluctance to prosecute cases presented to them by ATF by federal prosecutors in most states, many of them conservative Republicans who may support Ashcroft's odd reading of the Second Amendment.

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.

The piece notes that: (1) "[t]he NAACP [case]. . . will be heard by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein, who is notorious for his activism and anti-gun bias" and that (2) the suit omits "Beretta USA, the country's third largest handgun maker, from the list of defendants." Why? Because inclusion of Barretta would defeat diversity jurisdiction--->"No federal court, no Judge Weinstein." That also explains the *advisory* jury (?).

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.

In many Third World countries, she argues, "Markets concentrate wealth, often spectacular wealth, in the hands of the market-dominant minority, while democracy increases the political power of the impoverished majority."

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.

This is something for free enterprise utopians to keep in mind. Certain ethnic groups, for instance Jews in the West, and overseas Chinese in much of Asia, are better prepared culturally for capitalism. This often creates resentment. A certain amount of income redistribution which is "inefficient" in economic terms may be wise to maintain social peace.

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.

I watched the terrifically entertaining Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Zadie Smith's White Teeth last night. It's worth catching if you can find a rebroadcast this week, or even just tuning in for the second part next Sunday. It's a comic romp following two World War II buddies, one English and one Bengali, as they settle down with interracial families in the London of the 1970's. According to the PBS introduction by Russell Baker, it's a celebration of the multicultural transformation of Britain (i.e. the process which produced the British suicide bomber in Tel Aviv). But in fact it deals with these transitions in a delightfully non-PC way, satirizing one character's Jamaican Jehovah's Witness mom, and the Islamic guilt of boozing Muslim adulterer.

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?

Another item at Smart Genes well worth your attention is Rick's examination of the blog ecosystem via Venomous Kate and Dean Esmay of Dean's World. Kate says:

Finally, there are the "intra-bloggers," the group in which those who are good are very, very good, and those who are bad are abhorrent. It is with this group that Rob's phrase "the politics of blogging" seems most apt, because here is where not only the internal conflicts between bloggers most often arise, but also where blogovution mercilessly illustrates the survival of the fittest.

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.

Another source for analyses of the blogophere is Mac-a-ro-nies. The most recent entries can be read here and here.

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:

If you're talking about real centrists, as opposed to the center of the liberal spectrum, you have to ask if the person has voted for major candidates of both parties.  Anyone who votes down the line Democratic or GOP is not a centrist.

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.

In fact, I think I'm a bit of a bellwether. I tend to vote for the winning candidates--not because I jump on the bandwagon, but because my feelings are consistent with the estimated 20% of the voting population that is not habitually committed to either side. This middle group moves with the issues of the day and often decides the election.

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.

Mac Diva is looking for centrists. It may seem like I'm to the right, but it's mostly because I've been for the war. And in supporting the war, I have been with the center of public opinion. But my instinct for the center says this: Unless we find weapons of mass destruction, which have been surprisingly absent so far, this war will be remembered as a mistake.

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.

Empire building is part of the Bush inheritance. "New World Order" is the foreign policy initiative most identified with the current president's father, George H.W. Bush. That concept of projected American power has been refined by the son and expanded into "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." Both are part of a continuous thread (broken temporarily during the Clinton years) extending back to the end of the Cold War. Their common message: America, the globe's only remaining superpower, is in charge; it will shape the world to suit its values and interests, and police that world as it sees fit.

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:

The good news is that Tam Dalyell's outburst to Vanity Fair - in which he suggested Tony Blair was unduly influenced by a Jewish cabal - has not been ignored. His remarks made all the papers, proof that anti-semitism is no longer an uncontroversial part of public conversation.

If there is bad news it's that Dalyell has been treated as a naughty boy - "incorrigible," said Peter Mandelson - rather than as a man who has uttered a racist slur. Bad news, too, that so far much of the condemnation has come from Jews rather than Dalyell's comrades in Labour and on the left -who one might have hoped would be queueing up to denounce such a whiskery old prejudice in their own ranks.

In a way, this episode is a test for Britain. American journalists covering the Dalyell story say the same comments would be a career-ender in Washington - much as Republican Trent Lott's expression of nostalgic sympathy for racial segregation recently cost him his place at the helm of the US Senate. Admittedly Dalyell does not hold leadership rank in Labour, but it seems Britain's intolerance for intolerance is not quite as advanced as America's.

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.

•Get involved

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 Young Democrats of America (YDA) has been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932. Open to anyone under the age of 36 who affiliates with the Democratic Party, YDA is a nationwide grassroots organization with 42 chartered states and 780 local chapters. Our 43,000 plus membership reflects the broad diversity of our nation and the Democratic Party. This includes high school students, college students, young workers, young professionals and young families. All of the members have the interest of their community at heart and work hard to affect the democratic process.

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?

Casually insulting a dead president and first lady was probably not the message her aides had hoped for in the interview on Friday afternoon at the Pierre Hotel in New York. But then, ever since Mr. Kerry was discussed as a possible presidential candidate, he has often been overshadowed by his wife's frank comments about everything from her marriages past and present, her prenuptial agreement with Mr. Kerry, her botox treatments and the Bush adviser who accused her husband of looking French. As the Kerry campaign gets under way, she is being described as either its greatest strength or its biggest liability.

Is she refreshingly candid or hopelessly impolitic? Will her devotion to progressive causes imbue her husband's campaign with badly needed passion or offend voters who expect first ladies to be obeisant sidekicks? Will the fortune she inherited from her first husband, Senator H. John Heinz III, be used to pay for a winning campaign? Will middle-class voters be alienated by the "ketchup heiress" with five houses and a Gulfstream jet?

Blogger Susan Nunes of Random Thoughts doesn't believe the focus on Ms. Heinz Kerry is an accident.

And the Outrages Get

worse. Now Rovespeak is in full attack mode, with the NYT as conduit. This time it's Teresa Heinz being attacked (again). I posted a similar article the other day, which pointed to the Elle magazine interview, an interview Heinz NEVER should have given.

Also the reporter writes about her inherited fortune from her first Republican senator husband, John Heinz. Then some years later, she marries the younger Kerry. Well, you know, the old Sunset Boulevard routine: older well-to-do woman, younger man not doing too well, that sort of b.s.

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.

Furthermore, nowhere in implying that affirmative action can overall lead to less preparation among affirmative action hires implies that no one else can commit plagiarism. It simply argues that it increases the probability, by giving people yet another way to slip through without preparation. Affirmative action isn't brought up in other cases because that plausible explanation doesn't exist. Thus, people rely on other reasons why "the system failed," like R.W. Apple Jr. and Mike Barnicle having previously been talented and being tolerated, or Stephen Glass and Michael Bellesiles telling people what they wanted to hear.

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.

The Times Scandal

7,238 words ripping into the former Times reporter Jayson Blair for pulling the wool over their eyes for five years. Now, if they would just take a look back to 1999 and 2000, especially Frank Bruni. But I guess that overt servility and sycophancy don't violate journalistic ethics.

Thacker's bigotry doesn't end with those fatuous claims. He goes on to say something even worse.

All of those things involve getting ahead because of special advantages. Anyone who gets ahead because of special advantages, who didn't have to take the normal path and work hard to get ahead, it's perfectly reasonable to be skeptical of. It applies just as much to nepotism as to affirmative action.

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.

•The Practice.

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.

david kelley blames abc's move of "the practice" from sunday to monday night for its low ratings. personally, we at skippy tried to watch the season opener, having been fans of the show since its beginning episodes. however, we'd have to ask mr. kelley if maybe he wasn't just a wee bit culpable, since the show sucked.

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.

Gender identity disorder can affect children, adolescents, and adults. Individuals with gender identity disorder have strong cross-gender identification. They believe that they are, or should be, the opposite sex. They are uncomfortable with their sexual role and organs and may express a desire to alter their bodies. While not all persons with GID are labeled as transsexuals, there are those who are determined to undergo sex change procedures or have done so, and, therefore, are classified as transsexual. They often attempt to pass socially as the opposite sex. Transsexuals alter their physical appearance cosmetically and hormonally, and may eventually undergo a sex-change operation.

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.

In the male-to-female operation, which takes three-and-a-half to four hours, the external genitals are removed and a vaginal passage created.

Female hormone treatments before and after surgery gradually reduce secondary male sexual characteristics such as body hair and enhance feminine appearance through breast development and the widening of hips.

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.

Authors' Conclusion

The authors called the results provisional.... Summarizing, they say that "psychological, hormonal and surgical means ... (have) a demonstrable, encouraging and improving effect on the previously conflicting life situation of the patients." They attributed the positive results partially to the selection criteria of the Gender Identity Clinic of the Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

This study excluded persons with psychiatric problems or serious criminal records, thereby eliminating a significant proportion of those who might have applied.

While opinion is not unanimous, many leading psychiatrists and psychoanalysts who have examined transsexuals, believe that they cannot be helped by psychotherapy. Such persons, moreover, are regarded as prone to mental breakdown and depression, suicide and, occasionally, self mutilation.

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.

VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia Health Ministry has been ordered to pay more than $36,000 to cover the full costs of a transsexual's sex-change operation from woman to man.

. . .The tribunal found that Mr. Waters was discriminated against because of his gender and sexual orientation when British Columbia's Medical Services Plan failed to reimburse him for the full costs of expensive Californian medical services.

Full treatment costs are granted to transsexuals making the opposite switch, from men to women, the tribunal found.

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.

Some women [meaning male transsexuals] have been denied coverage because the insurance company determines their transsexualism was a pre-existing condition. In other words, they'll say you knew you had this condition when you signed on, so they are not obligated to cover it. You can get busted through proof you had been seeking treatments for transsexuality prior to coverage. If they want, they could even get nasty and say you committed fraud by not reporting the condition at the onset.

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.

"If you're able to work and make good money this should be a no-brainer. Yet, I hear people whine about how they can't get a job, or are just too lazy to work their butt off for awhile."

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.

. . .The subcommittee members were unsure about the effect of surgery on the underlying psychological roots of gender-identity disorders.

. . .Dr. Eric Walsh, one of the subcommittee members, said he found "a lot of uncertainty" among medical experts about the effectiveness of transsexual surgeries. He said he reviewed 145 medical journal articles about transsexualism and found widespread disagreement about the usefulness of the surgeries.

Another state official explained that deciding what health services to cover is a balancing act.

Hersh Crawford, director of Medicaid programs in Oregon, says those benefits must be weighed against others. "[Transsexual] services may be very important to those individuals," he says, "but we must look at the good to society at large."

The state ultimately decided against offering such coverage.

The notion of sex change benefits is not unique. Oregon rejected the idea as too wacky in 1999, possibly a first for that state. Minnesota actually did provide sex change benefits for state employees until 1998, but apparently even the slightest possibility of a Gov. Jessica Ventura was enough to bring them to their senses.

A federal appeals court has held that employers need not cover the surgeries on the grounds they are not medically necessary.

[NEW YORK, NY] - Finding that gender-reassignment surgery is merely "cosmetic" and not "medically necessary," a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, upheld on December 20 the refusal of an employee benefits plan to cover the costs of such procedures.

Born female in 1955, Margo Mario began working for P & C Food Markets in 1992 as a supervising pharmacist. Beginning in the mid-1990s, Mario, who had been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, decided to begin the process of transforming from female to male. Mario advised P & C of this decision, and was given permission to begin dressing as a male and presenting himself as male at work, using the name Marc Mario. Mario began hormone therapy, and underwent two surgeries in support of his transformation, a bilateral mastectomy in September 1996 and a hysterectomy in October 1997.

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