Silver Rights

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

Saturday, September 06, 2003  

Study shows environment trumps genetics for poor kids

George Kelly of All About George, a supporter of Silver Rights from its very first week, alerted me to some good news this week. New research reveals poor black children are impacted more by their environments than by genetic endowments, something I've believed all along.

Back-to-school pop quiz: Why do poor children, and especially black poor children, score lower on average than their middle-class and white counterparts on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive performance?

It is an old and politically sensitive question, and one that has long fueled claims of racism. As highlighted in the controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve, studies have repeatedly found that people's genes -- and not their environment -- explain most of the differences in IQ among individuals. That has led a few scholars to advance the hotly disputed notion that minorities' lower scores are evidence of genetic inferiority.

Now a groundbreaking study of the interaction among genes, environment and IQ finds that the influence of genes on intelligence is dependent on class. Genes do explain the vast majority of IQ differences among children in wealthier families, the new work shows. But environmental factors -- not genetic deficits -- explain IQ differences among poor minorities.

Eric Turkheimer, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, decided to look beyond the conventional wisdom and lack thereof. He wondered if the bleakness of many poor children's environments might need to be addressed before jumping to conclusions about their innate ability -- a rather obvious inquiry if one is not blinded by bias. He concludes "the influence of genes on IQ was significantly lower in conditions of poverty, where environmental deficits overwhelm genetic potential." The study will be published in the November edition of the scholarly journal Psychological Science.

A colleague of Turkheimer's explains why this research matters.

"This paper shows how relevant social class is" to children's ability to reach their genetic potential, said Sandra Scarr, a professor emerita of psychology now living in Hawaii, who did seminal work in behavioral genetics at the University of Virginia.

Specifically, the heritability of IQ at the low end of the wealth spectrum was just 0.10 on a scale of zero to one, while it was 0.72 for families of high socioeconomic status. Conversely, the importance of environmental influences on IQ was four times stronger in the poorest families than in the higher status families.

"This says that above a certain level, where you have a wide array of opportunities, it doesn't get much better" by adding environmental enhancements, Scarr said. "But below a certain level, additional opportunities can have big impacts."

Those of us who grew up among the disadvantaged already know that neither poor children nor low-income adults are stupid in general. Instead, their skills tend to fit their surroundings and what society suggests they are capable of. A boy who could just as easily have become an engineer with adequate educational opportunities and encouragement sets his eye on the unlikely goal of basketball stardom instead. A girl of modest vocal ability develops an unrealistic notion of becoming the next pop diva. Her real strength is empathy for others and she would make an excellent nurse or social worker.

Many of the people in the demographic simply become inured to academic failure early and stop trying, as Dr. Benjamin Carson, one of the most respected neurosurgeons in the world, says he did for a time.

Not surprisingly, white supremacists don't like the news of the new study and are trying to discredit Turkheimer. To save your virtual noses, I ventured into the odiferous environs of several of their sites. At two of them, the inmates run to hide behind The Bell Curve, brandishing it like a cross in the presence of vampires. Below, one of them cites an overtly racist source with approval.

the Bell Curve is a fact of life. The blacks on average score 85 per cent on IQ and it is accurate, nothing to do with culture. [Emphasis mine.] The whites score on average 100. Asians score more... the Bell curve authors put it at least 10 points higher. These are realities that, if you do not accept, will lead to frustration because you will be spending money on wrong assumptions and the results cannot follow." [Emphasis his.]

The fellow relying on the citation does not realize that claim (which incidentally, the authors of The Bell Curve offer no proof of) is exactly what the new research purports to disprove. Turkheimer's point is that assumptions about the futility of environmental interventions are wrong for children with virtually no resources to stimulate their innate intelligence, such as building blocks for toddlers or story books for pre-schoolers. Perhaps someone can explain the phrase 'begging the question' to the sad specimen of humanity we're discussing simply enough for him to grasp it. I refuse to devote that much time to him.

Steve Sailer, the liason of choice between traditional white supremacists such as the neo-Confederates and 'genetic realists' (believers in 'modern' genetic inferiority) offers a equally dunderheaded 'rebuttal.' Consider this effort to dismiss the study because it is of children, as nearly all studies of IQ are.

. . .The older people get, the more impact genes have on their IQ test scores, probably because as people get more autonomous they choose to make for themselves environments more compatible with their own genes than the environment their parents provided them with.

Most people lose a few IQ points as they stop using some of the skills they learned in school. However, Sailer has exaggerated that fact to support his obsession -- the alleged genetic inferiority of black people. For him, African-Americans must have low IQs or else. And, note the source he is citing to try to discredit the new research agrees with Turkheimer, not him. Poor thinking does not get much worse than serial underachiever Sailer's. (Hmmm. Does shilling for Right Wing hack house UPI because he is too inept to get a job with real media mean Sailer has accepted his intellectual limitations?)

Fortunately, most people in Bloggersville are not so insecure that they run screaming from the thought of black people being just as intelligent as any other group like the ghouls at Gene Expression and their 'advisor,' Sailer.

Tapped gets it:

Stated simply, the study found that environmental factors loom much larger in the development of children when they have a low socioeconomic status, and much smaller when they have a high one. What this suggests is that for people on the lower end of the totem pole, a bad environment -- that is, high rates of crime, concentrated poverty, crumbling schools -- can overwhelm those otherwise predisposed to high achievement, while people born into a more positive environment, with a wide array of opportunities, are more likely to get a chance to express their natural gifts and abilities. This makes sense intuitively, but it also has some precedent in the natural world.

Rick Heller of Smart Genes, also a strong supporter of this blog, suggests additional reading on the topic of heritability, H. Allen Orr's review of Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human.

Part of the significance of Turkheimer's study is that it will lead to others which will hopefully bolster the realization that tangible intervention in the lives of poor children can improve their lives for the longrun. Contrary to the delusional thinking of white supremacists, a child who reads well at seven will not have forgotten how at 27 because of the melanin content of his skin. When I was a poor child in Lumbee land, my third grade teacher, Ms. Ross, took it upon herself to supply me with books for the rest of my elementary school career. Though I learned to read at four and had jaw-droppingly high IQ scores, our home held little that was stimulating for bright children, as all five of us were. I believe that kind of intervention, on a large scale, and not out of a schoolteacher's wallet, can make a difference. If real reform comes, the entire society will reap its rewards.

posted by J. | 2:36 PM

Friday, September 05, 2003  

The best of Silver Rights:
Understanding Asperger Syndrome

I recently had the unpleasant experience of dealing with someone with severe Asperger Syndrome. At first I just thought she had gone off the deep end -- completely. I had noticed symptoms that seemed to fit mental illness over a four-month period. Rudeness. Self-preoccupation. Lengthy rants that made little or no sense. Claims of being victimized when there was no objective evidence of that. Then, out of the blue, she really went too far. Bonkers, I decided. Then someone reminded me the woman has Asperger's.

"What is Asperger Syndrome?"

Asperger's Syndrome, also known as Asperger's Disorder or Autistic Psychopathy, is a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) characterized by severe and sustained impairment in social interaction, development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. These characteristics result in clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

". . .Adults with Asperger's have trouble with empathy and modulation of social interaction -- the disorder follows a continuous course and is usually lifelong. "

The condition is more likely to impact males than females and is usually diagnosed later than the norm for other children with autism related problems. It is often noticed after they begin school. Though Asperger's is thought to be neurological in origin it is also defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Most of the news stories on the web about the illness relate to crime, though it has not been established most Aspergians are particularly at risk to become criminals. A fairly typical sample of the ones I've read is about Martin Milam of the United Kingdom.

A man suffering Asperger's syndrome, who terrorised volunteers at the Samaritans with threatening and obscene telephone calls, has been given 100 hours community service.

Winchester Crown Court heard, over a five-year period from 1995, Martin Milam, 33, made thousands of calls to mainly female volunteers at numerous Samaritans offices across southern England.

. . .Action was finally taken in January this year when a call was taken at the Amersham branch and Miss Lamb said Milam had told the volunteer he was looking to go out and rape someone.

Similar obsessive behavior is part of the modus operandi of a New Yorker enthralled by the subway. The obsession has continually landed the Asperger's sufferer behind bars.

Darius McCollum first came to the attention of legal authorities as a 15-year-old when he was arrested for "borrowing" a subway train and driving it to the World Trade Center. Since then he has been arrested 18 times, always for crimes related to his obsession with subways. Most recently, he pulled a subway emergency brake during rush hour, and then impersonated a transit worker investigating the incident. . . .Their [Aspergians] lives tend to revolve around unusual preoccupations, and many - like McCollum - become fascinated with maps, trains, and transportation schedules.

There are other 'markers' for Asperger's in addition to obsessiveness.

Often someone with Asperger's may be obsessed with complex topics such as music, history, or the weather, and have above average verbal skills.

But in some cases, the voice appears to be flat and lacking in emotion, speech can be stilted and repetitive, and conversations tend to revolve around self rather than others.

Many have dyslexia or writing problems - and can appear to lack common sense.

Some more severe examples of Asperger's can be prone to depression or even aggression.[Emphasis mine.]

It is the latter aspect of condition that gives me pause. I recall a man who carried every known bus scedule and obsessively lectured the driver on a bus I used to take to work a few years ago. He was odd, but not frightening. I will guess that he had Asperger's. I've also encountered people who talk endlessly about themselves. Boring, but not scary. However, there was a case in the Pacific Northwest in which a totally self-centered young woman pushed her boyfriend off a mountain, killing him. The reason? He took time away from her preoccupation with herself.

Malice, an aspect of that crime, is another characteristic associated with worst case scenarios for Asperger Syndrome. It was first identified by Asperger himself.

"A young man with Asperger syndrome rang his favourite Aunt to say that her husband had been killed in a road traffic accident on his way home from work. The report was a complete fabrication as became apparent an hour later when his Uncle arrived home.

The Aunt was disgusted at her nephew's action because she did not feel it was explicable. It challenged her sense of what could be expected in the world. Moreover, she had always thought that she was close to the young man and had, indeed, recently helped him out."

That is eerily similar to what I experienced, except for the 'feeling close' part. It is so obvious other people don't exist for the woman except to use them in her schemes, I doubt anyone feels close to her.

The commentator goes on to say:

"Acts of malice like this include creating unnecessary uproar which stops a social activity from taking place, calling a person names or revealing embarrassing information about them, being spiteful to them in other ways, for example damaging their property, or hurting others. These hurts can range from surreptitious pinching through to serious violence."

He describes other episodes of malicious behavior by sufferers of Asperger's, including the story of Alice.

"Alice's parents had split up when she was in her early teens, and her father had remarried a younger woman. Her father and his new wife had a daughter, and Alice was very interested in her. The parents were pleased and several times left the baby with Alice. Alice on two of these occasions mixed ground glass into the baby's food before feeding the baby with it. Alice knew that this could cause the baby serious harm, even kill the baby. Alice explained her actions by saying that she wanted to see what would happen. She also said that she did not want the baby to die, but did feel excitement after she had fed the baby the poison. "

I am not a very patient person. So, it would be difficult for me to deal with even the minor behaviors described. In addition, there is no help in understanding from the Aspergerian. The person feels no remorse or regret for his bad acts. That is like the behavior of sociopaths and sometimes leads severe Aspergians to be diagnosed as having borderline personality or bi-polar disorder.

Blogger Wowbagger describes his efforts to cope with Asperger's.

"Being an "aspie" doesn't mean I can't improve my situation, of course, and I have been trying to read social cues and be [more] polite, but so far with mostly disastrous or merely embarrassing consequences. Sounds ridiculous, but I reckon I was far worse some years back. Some incidents still make me grimace when I chance upon them in the ruins of my memory."

Bagger's description of his symptoms suggests a typical Asperger's Syndrome sufferer, somewhat stymied -- but coping. However, I happened to encounter someone with the more severe form or either Asperger's and mental illness my first time knowingly dealing with such a sufferer of the disorder. So far, the worse thing she has done is engage in a bizarre virtual attack against me and send me threatening emails. However, she could be capable of worse. (That remark proved to be prescient.)

Is Asperger's treatable?

There is no one specific medication for Asperger's syndrome. There is no one specific medication for Asperger?s syndrome. Some are on no medication. In other cases, we treat specific target symptoms. One might use a stimulant for inattention and hyperactivity. An SSRI such as Paxil, Prozac or Zoloft might help with obsessions or perseveration. The SSRIs can also help associated depression and anxiety. In individuals with stereotyped movements, agitation and idiosyncratic thinking, we may use a low dose antipsychotic such as risperidone.?

Of course, with adults, the responsibility to take the medication falls on them. As is the case with many mental health patients, they may choose not to.

Training in social skills is also suggested for children with Asperger's Syndrome. However, if adults are still engaged in malicious and aggressive behavior that suggests that, if available, the treatment did not work or the effects have worn off.

I have no solution to the problem of dealing with a person with pathological behaviors associated with severe Asperger's. In the future, my coping mechanism will be to avoid anyone who has the same traits I identified in the woman who has been harassing me. However, I would have preferred not to have been caught off guard in regard to Asperger's. If I had been more aware of what I could expect from someone with the condition, I would have either not have become involved with her or severed the relationship sooner. Fortunately, my only contact with her was virtual, though she resides in a neighboring state. With this information available, you won't be caught off guard.

Note: I will be reposting some entries from my 'lost archives' occasionally. Doing so provides a way for me to recover those entries and gives readers who may have missed them the first time a chance to read them. This entry has been updated slightly since its publication this Spring.

posted by J. | 5:58 AM

Wednesday, September 03, 2003  

Horowitz watch:
Part I: Lamentations of a former Leftist

Blogger and writer Rick Heller of Smart Genes, who I often agree with, has presented me with a challenging issue. He believes an icon of the Right, David Horowitz,' has been done wrong by an icon of the Left, Morris Dees, of the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC, bane to both old-fashioned and modern bigots throughout the United States, published a recent report depicting Horowitz' Center for the Study of Popular Culture as one of several groups that promote bigotry. Rick, a centrist, believes the center does not deserve such a designation. He has written Dees a letter, saying, in part:

There may not be many people who contribute both to the Southern Poverty Law Center and Frontpage Magazine. I have been a member of the SPLC since 1996, and also contribute articles to Frontpage.

This morning, I read a letter from David Horowitz taking issue with the characterization of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in an article entitled "Into The Mainstream," by Chip Berlet, in the Summer 2003 Intelligence Report. I hadn't cracked open my copy yet, but in reviewing it, I find that Horowitz is right.

. . .To include the Center for the Study of Popular Culture among a list of organization[s] spreading bigotry, in an issue which features a "Hitler Doll" on its cover, is unfair to Mr. Horowitz, and frankly, to myself as a contributor to his magazine. But not only does the Berlet piece harm the reputation of the CSPC, it is damaging to the reputation of the Southern Poverty Law Center as an honest broker in the charged debate over civil rights.

One of the most useful things I learned as a reporter is to follow the money trail. People dissemble, but where their money comes from usually tells the truth about them. The CPSC's money trail leads to the same Right Wing foundations that have been responsible for movement to dignify scientific racism, defund PBS and cripple public education through 'choice.' Donors include the Olin, Bradley and Sarah Scaife Foundations, which also have funded Philip Rushton, Charles Murray and Ward Connerly's attacks on people of color. This is part of a pattern of the monied Right using mouthpieces who poison the public discourse while claiming to do just the opposite.

In the article Rick is referring to, Chip Berlet sets the stage for a listing of organizations that generate malignant thought in regard to race, religion and class, in the opinion of the SPLC.

How do ideas that once were denounced as racist, bigoted, unfair, or just plain mean-spirited get transmitted into mainstream discussions and political debates? Through a wide array of political and social networks. Such networks are a robust part of democracy in action, and include media outlets, think tanks, pressure groups, funders and leaders. In the 1960s, for example, networks based in churches and on college campuses mobilized people to support civil rights legislation. But it is important to remember that backlash movements also formed to oppose equality. In the 1950s and 1960s, segregationists and white supremacists mobilized to block the demands of the civil rights movement.

Today, there are still political and social networks that seek to undermine full equality for all Americans. Their messages are spread using the standard tools: prejudice, fear, disdain, misinformation, trivialization, patronizing stereotypes, demonization and even scare-mongering conspiracy theories. While many of the groups within these networks describe themselves as mainstream - and many disagree with one another - they all have helped spread bigoted ideas into American life.

About CSPC, Berlet writes:

David Horowitz, a former leftist born again as a right-wing conservative, founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in 1989, and is also the editor of the Net publication Although he makes much of his past working for civil rights for blacks and others, he more recently has blamed slavery on black Africans abetted by dark-skinned Arabs -- a selective rewriting of history. He also claims that there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen and Americans - created one. That, of course, is false. Critics note that Horowitz is ignoring everything from the slave revolt led by Spartacus against the Romans and Moses' rebellion against the Pharaoh to the role of American blacks in the abolition movement. He has attacked minority demands for special treatment as only necessary because some blacks can't seem to locate the ladder of opportunity within reach of others, rejecting the idea that they could be the victims of lingering racism.

Considering some of the insidious ideas Horowitz has disseminated, I consider Berlet's description of him mild.

Among them are:

• Slavery in America was beneficial for Africans,

• Black Americans owe white Americans reparations because their greater rate of poverty has led to a disproportionate reliance on welfare, and

• There is something inherently wrong with people of African descent.

The evidence I've reviewed so far leads me to believe that the shrill and ego-crazed Horowitz has again raided the hen house and is crying foul when caught despite the feathers stuck to his face. I will do some additional reading, but doubt I will warm to Horowitz.

posted by J. | 4:33 PM

Monday, September 01, 2003  

In the news

  • Parents decamp with sick boy
  • There is another strange 'Northwesterny' kind of story out of the Pacific Northwest. A father is refusing to allow his 'tween to be treated for a deadly cancer. This episode follows other similar ones that grabbed the national eye. The McGuckin case in Idaho featured a mentally ill, alcoholic mother who declared a right to rear her children in squalor. In Oregon's Christine case, the parents kidnapped their three young children from Child Protectives services at gunpoint. The youngsters had been malnourished almost to the point of starvation while in their parents' care. Many children in the region have died because their parents withheld medical care for religious reasons.

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah father charged with kidnapping his own son said Sunday that authorities were trying to force chemotherapy on the boy for a cancer that was unconfirmed.

    Daren Jensen said his lawyers were asking Utah authorities to drop the custody and kidnapping warrants as part of negotiations to end the standoff over medical treatment for 12-year-old Parker Jensen.

    ``Any parent with concern for a child would want to know definitely what he has before doing something as invasive as 49 weeks of chemotherapy,'' Jensen said, speaking to The Associated Press by phone from Pocatello, Idaho.

    Jensen said he wasn't satisfied by a diagnosis that Parker has a rare and deadly form of cancer, Ewing's sarcoma. He accused the doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City of trying to rush the boy into chemotherapy.

    . . .``They have taken away our rights as parents. It is our decision as to treatment,'' Barbara Jensen [the mother] told KUTV of Salt Lake City on Sunday.

    . . .The family says the boy is testing negative for cancer and that chemotherapy would only stunt his growth and leave him sterile, claims that doctors dismiss.

    The Jensens' claim Parker does not have cancer, but have presented no proof. They were on their way to a clinic in Houston that does not treat Ewing's sarcoma when they were apprehended. I am amenable to the rubric 'the parents know best' in many situations. But, when they aren't qualified to make a decision, my empathy is set aside.

  • Schwarzenegger says he will debate . . . later
  • B-movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a candidate in California's gubernatorial recall election, has declined to participate in an upcoming debate, but says he does see one in his future. The campaign period is only two months long.

    SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) - Under fire for refusing to commit to a debate this week featuring California's top gubernatorial recall candidates, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday he looks forward to one "fantastic debate" scheduled for late September.

    Campaign aides said Schwarzenegger, the leading Republican in the field of more than 100 candidates vying to replace California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, in the October 7 recall, won't participate in a debate scheduled for Wednesday.

    But Schwarzenegger told CNN he would participate in a debate sponsored by the California Broadcasters Association, set for the third week in September.

    . . .One of Schwarzenegger's GOP rivals said that one debate would not be enough. Former Olympics chairman Peter Ueberroth called on Schwarzenegger to reconsider and participate in Wednesday's debate.

    "Giving voters a chance to hear him several times before Election Day is good for him. It's good for the voters. And it's good for the democratic process," Ueberroth said in a statement released by his campaign.

    Ueberroth's assertion may not be accurate. As a public figure with massive name recognition, Schwarzenegger possesses a reserve of good will without actually campaigning. If he participates in debates and performs poorly, that reserve will leak away. Schwarzenegger, an immigrant with a limited education, is said to be neither a quick thinker nor an articulate speaker. His best strategy may be to avoid this and all debates.

  • Newspaper regrets kissing chicks photo
  • Two pop divas who exchanged spit on television offended some readers of a Southern paper your correspondent is more than passingly familiar with. A photograph of the smooch ran on its front page.

    ATLANTA - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution apologized to readers Monday for using a picture of Britney Spears kissing Madonna on the front page.

    The picture, not much bigger than a postage stamp, was near the top of Friday's front page. It showed Spears and Madonna in an open-mouth kiss they shared at the MTV Video Music Awards the night before. A larger version of the picture was in the Living section.

    The sloppy kiss picture elicited a deluge of complaints to the newspaper. In Monday's editions, managing editor Hank Klibanoff apologized, saying the picture should have been inside but not on the front page.

    Klibanoff compared the Spears picture to graphic images from the war in Iraq.

    We ran images we otherwise might not have run. But that was war, and war was news. The photo we ran Friday was neither, and I wish I had limited its display to the inside of the Living section," Klibanoff wrote in a response to letters on the opinions page.

    I'm not sure why the comparison between war and scene stealing at an awards ceremony is being made. One thing is 'fer shur.' I would not want to be the slot man (copy desk chief) who decided to put the photo on the front page. He's toast.

    posted by J. | 5:17 PM

    Sunday, August 31, 2003  

    Bloggers explore life 'on the Down Low'

    Commenters at Blogcritics have brought my attention to a new controversy involving 'brothers on the Down Low.' The phrase refers to African-American men who have sex with other men while pretending to be heterosexual. They may also be sexually involved with women. Down Lows are often held responsible for the epidemic of HIV infection among African-Americans, though disproportionate use of intravenous drugs also plays a part.

    The issue has arisen in regard to the murder of a New York politician by a gay man said to be on the Down Low last month. The killer, Othniel Askew, a would-be political competitor, shot Councilman James Davis in the council's chambers after sneaking a gun into City Hall. He was, in turn, shot by a security guard. Village Voice columnist Richard Goldstein has written a column claiming Askew shot Davis because Davis outted him.

    . . .As the campaign heated up last month, Davis replied to a question about Askew by insisting, "I've never heard of him or her." [Emphasis mine.]

    It seems unlikely that a politician wouldn't know about someone gathering petitions to run against him and Davis was a master pol. It's quite possible that he was not above outing an opponent. Askew reportedly waited to file his petitions until just past the deadline. Perhaps he had weighed Davis's threats and decided at the last minute to withdraw. By then, his fragile personality was crumbling into paranoia. But, as the saying goes, even paranoids have enemies.

    On the eve of the killing, Askew told a friend he was being played by Davis, who had declined to sign a letter guaranteeing him a job. He had sabotaged his own campaign; he felt betrayed by a man who had posed as his mentor; he was in terror of having his deepest secret revealed -- even to his family. Askew had always been a control freak. Now he was a bomb ready to explode.

    However, Goldstein errs in two ways:

    • Davis made the statement Goldstein considers outing Askew before he knew who Askew was; and

    • Askew's first name is ambiguous vis-a-vis gender. Davis' saying "he or she" made sense.

    Writer Erik Engquist corrected Goldstein in a letter to the Voice in regard to his chronological mistake.

    Re: Richard Goldstein's "Death by Outing" [July 30-August 5]:

    Goldstein should have called me before leaping to an inaccurate conclusion about a quote from slain city councilman James Davis in my Brooklyn Politics column.

    Goldstein questioned Davis's truthfulness when the councilman said of his eventual killer, Othniel Askew, "I've never heard of him or her." According to Goldstein, Davis uttered the quote "as the campaign heated up" and thus it was doubtful that a "master pol" like Davis would not know about someone collecting signatures to run against him.

    In fact, Davis delivered the quote before petitioning began. I had called Davis immediately after Askew's name surfaced for the first time in a June 2 filing with the Campaign Finance Board. The back-and-forth between Davis and another opponent, Tony Herbert, was indeed under way, but neither Davis nor anyone else in Brooklyn politics had ever heard of Othniel Askew before June 2.

    Davis said more than a few zany things to me during his tenure but I never found him to be dishonest or disingenuous, unlike some of his colleagues in politics.

    Goldstein's deeper concern is with gay men being depicted as psychologically unstable.

    This [outing] is one explanation for Askew's deadly outburst. But it doesn't fit the irresistible image of the homicidal homosexual. Ever since Tom Brokaw used those words to describe Andrew Cunanan, they've become a staple of stories about gay killers. Flamboyant madness and kinky inclinations are part of the type and AIDS is icing on the cake. To the New York Post's headline writers, Askew was an "HIV ASSASSIN." The paper blithely declared that "HIV AND FAILURE FUELED HIS RAGE," though there was no evidence to support this claim. When a gay man commits murder, every aspect of his identity is tarted up to create the portrait of a pervert.

    That creates an interesting dilemma for Goldstein. Research shows that gays are more likely to have psychiatric problems. Where expert opinion differs is why. Some believe the psychologically fragile are more likely to become gay. Others that the pressures of being homosexual in a heterosexual world cause more gays to become neurotic or psychotic. I expert this to remain a the chicken or the egg question for a long time.

    Askew's behavior, in my opinion, does suggest mental health problems. But, I am also struck by the industrial strength jealousy Askew had for Davis. Perhaps it would have been grounds enough for murder.

    The issue of whether masked bisexuality is a good idea is less complex than unraveling the mental health and homosexuality connundrum. Commenter 'Tricks' offers a defense of 'brothers on the Down Low.'

    DL only means a man wont tell his personal business to anyone else who can blame them and i know i am a lesbian female the dl guys i know are secure and happy being dl they still screw girls but arent in realtionships use rubbers far as i know and they DONT LIKE FEMININE MEN AT ALL.

    its the openly gays who have an problem with the dl men cause they are insecure about there own dealings with being gay or bi sub consciously unaware of it meaning they dont know they insecure and unhappy cause they worried about what another man does.

    BEING DL does not mean no one doesnt have pride EVERYONE isnt the same and dont have the same views as what pride is every man and woman has his or her own self definetion of there pride . . . .

    what openly gay men need to start doing is accepting the dl lifestyle cause its bad enough the straight society doesnt accept them or even lesbian females like myself.

    I cannot agree with Tricks. The rate of HIV infection among African-Americans suggests DLs are not practicing safe sex with women. Black women are the fastest growing group of victims and most are not IV drug users. To agree with Tricks, I would have to devalue the lives of women while exhorting the right of bisexual men to do their own thing -- regardless of the consequences. I don't find that position feasible.

    Hip hop blogger Madison of Diesel Nation led me to this defense of men on the Down Low lying about their sexual preference at Alter Net. I don't find it convincing either.

    On another channel

    Considering all that has been said about the neo-Confederate movement by some of us in the blogosphere, one might think everyone gets it by now. One would be wrong. Again, a blogger is claiming the Civil War was not about slavery, and, racial conflict in the South was caused by "damn Yankees." Corrective action has been taken. See:

    • Blogosphere hosts new attack on Lincoln, here.

    • Blogger denies slavery cause of Civil War, here.

    posted by J. | 6:12 AM