Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ignorance of justices does not disguise reality of race-based policing

Washington State Supreme Court justices Richard Sanders and James Johnson are not particularly well-known for their sensitivity—especially Sanders, who once dressed as a Nazi as a “prank.” But the pair shocked listeners at a recent court meeting when they blamed black overrepresentation in the prison population on the greater propensity of blacks to commit crimes, as if it was “natural.” Racial discrimination, in their opinion, was just more liberal hanky fodder; Johnson used the pejorative term “poverty pimp” to belittle people who attempt to bring the subject up for discussion. As the Seattle Times rightly noted when it withdrew its endorsement of Sanders (Johnson is running unopposed), poverty and racial bias do play a role. Although many whites complain about job “quotas” and non-existent affirmative action, the numbers do not lie: That no matter the educational level, whites are at least twice as likely to be hired than blacks. .It should also be added that black unemployment—particularly that of black men—is perpetually at Depression-era levels, and this is bound to have long-term societal consequences.

The question also arises: “Is there racial bias in arrests, particularly those that are drug-related?” The fact that police spend almost all of their time in minority communities speaks for itself; of course there is going to be higher crimes rates indicated on the books. But for a closer look at how the police differently handle drug crimes when race is involved, a “police beat” writer for the Seattle “alternative” weekly “The Stranger”—who is surprisingly unquestioning of police methods even after the recent unjustified killing of a Native American woodcarver—wrote some years ago a “beat” report on an incident that has stuck with me ever since. The writer quoted a police report that stated that two officers sitting in an unmarked car observed a young black male carrying a backpack walking back and forth nervously in front of a club in North Seattle. Presently two young white males in a gold Cadillac arrived, driving slowly; the black male motioned to them into the parking lot, and then walked up to the driver and conversed with him. At that point the officers drove up behind the Cadillac, and while one officer kept the black male occupied, the other “interrogated” the white males, and then let them go. Marijuana was found inside the 17-year-old black male’s backpack, and he was arrested. The writer for “The Stranger” absurdly praised the actions of the officers, observing that “What we want out of a (cop’s) day’s work is this kind of purity.”

To me, this was as about as far from “pure” as police work gets, short of killing unarmed “suspects” in incidents that an officer instigates (such as in the woodcarver killing). This was race-based policing at its very core. Obviously the “buy” was set-up by the two white males in the gold Cadillac, who doubtless the progeny of a wealthy household. Yet the police did not wait for the transaction to be completed—they intervened in time to prevent it, and allowed the white males (who doubtless made such purchases before) to get away scot-free. Their “upstanding” parents ought not be troubled by such embarrassing events. Doubtless the two white males–their hearts’ racing–thanked their God for their “good fortune” that the cops, at least in regard to drug crimes, are only interested in arresting minorities.

The "informed" electorate wants opinion, not news

When I came to work today, the television in the break room was tuned to Fox News instead of another interminable rerun of “Law and Order” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Does this suggest a sudden interest in being “informed” rather than “entertained?” Not really; in the morning hours Fox is aware that people are more interested in traffic and weather reports, interspersed with “light” news. But in the afternoon and evenings, many people who are grumpy after work are more susceptible to ravings and rantings about who is to blame for making their pitiful lives so unbearable; it’s bad enough that there are minorities demanding their fair share at all—let alone a black man as president who in “the good old days” might have been taken to the woodshed for being “uppity” and “not knowing his place.”

There are some people who actually believe that Fox provides news that is what it claims it to be: “fair and balanced.” Take, for instance, my dad, who unsuccessfully tried to convince me of this. He rationalized his belief by observing that Fox actually on occasion allows guests from the non-extreme right of the political spectrum to “debate” the issues of the day--meaning, of course, that he had bought into the "liberal media" myth. I have seen a few of these “debates;” one can sense the frustration of the Democrat trying to reason with a child in adult clothes who has not gone beyond the “no way” stage of critical thinking. And frankly, with Glenn Beck repeatedly calling Barack Obama a “racist” and Sean Hannity calling him a “terrorist,” the juvenile wins every time. On the other hand, as laughable as the “debates” are in CNN’s “Situation Room,” where the odds are stacked in favor of the Republican talking points, at least right-wingers are forced to offer responses in complete sentences (so as not to embarrass “moderator” Wolf Blitzer); occasionally the clouds break when a Republican is asked too many questions and goes berserk, revealing his or her Mr. Hyde personalities (such as when Anderson Cooper repeatedly asked Rep. Louis Gohmert for evidence of “terror babies”). Over at MSNBC, Chris Mathews on “Hardball” has the temerity to demand illumination on what exactly people mean by “second amendment solutions” and the specifics of the Republican plan for preventing insurance companies from denying health coverage. In any case, the reality is that Fox News is not “fair and balanced.” If you want “fair and balanced,” watch PBS News Hour.

But do people really want “fair and balanced?” When it comes to cable news shows, the answer is probably not. People who choose between these news shows watch whichever one fulfills their predetermined beliefs; CNN lags behind both Fox News and MSNBC in the October 26, 2010 Nielsen overnights, probably because it is so vanilla and can’t make-up its mind if it wants to be “fair and balanced,” or a Fox News mini-me. Fox had an average 24-hour viewership of 1,453,000; MSNBC had 468,000 and CNN had 380,000. It is perhaps easy to over-estimate the impact of these news shows, given the rather puny numbers; after all, Rush Limbaugh claims to have 20 million listeners. Of more interest is not the fact the numbers for Fox shoot considerably higher when bigoted, paranoid morons like Beck and Hannity are on the air, but the fact that both Fox and MSNBC leave CNN far behind when it comes to attracting viewers in search of political commentary. Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, although still considerably behind their Fox competitors, have double the viewership of their CNN alternatives.

What does this all mean? It means, of course, that people who receive their “news” from broadcast media (as opposed to newspapers), are likely to receive opinions, not news. The fact that Fox News dominates the cable “news” viewership is testimony to the fact that a majority of people prefer to moan and groan and look for scapegoats, as opposed to MSNBC viewers who prefer at least the pretense of analysis and exposure of hypocrisy. Does this mean that CNN is filling the news void? CNN used to fill that role admirably in its heyday, but now it is struggling to find a niche. Besides News Hour, the network evening news shows still seem to be the most reliable purveyors of “hard” news; but overall, the broadcast news media is failing in its obligation to sustain an informed electorate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The right to vote under threat by Tea Party extremists--and the media

I am becoming less and less interested in the political situation in this country, and why not? The New York Times has published a story that should remind people that the Tea Party movement is what many of us tried mostly in vain to expose it as: storm troopers for the Republican extreme right. These racists—and let’s be honest about that for just one moment—are in many minority centers around the country attempting the kind of voter suppression that enabled Republicans to steal the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Claiming that they are only interested in stopping voter fraud, Tea Party activists have engaged in various sleazy tactics to suppress the vote in Democratic leaning areas; in Milwaukee, billboards featuring blacks and Latinos behind bars is clearly meant to confuse and intimidate minority voters, especially first-time voters. In Minnesota, Tea Party activists are establishing “surveillance squads” to follow and intimidate voters. In Houston, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots falsely accused a minority registration drive organization of turning in registration forms with incorrect information. Despite the fact that the “Patriots” were exposed in their false claims, that has not prevented one-in-five new registrations submitted by Houston Votes to be arbitrarily tossed by the Republican voter registrar in Harris Country.

Meanwhile, the Brennan Center for Justice has released a report that accuses many states—especially “red” and “swing” states—of deliberately violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. States are required by law to make blank registration forms “readily available’ to anyone who wishes to vote, and to “organized voter registration programs.” The “deputy” registration system—which requires people to be “deputized” to engage in voter registration, but in practice was used to prevent “disfavored” groups, like minorities, from participating—was made illegal, but states like Texas continue the practice it in violation of the law. Other states have reimposed the “deputy” system in another name; other states have imposed arbitrary and confusing “deadlines” for turning in registration form, while other states limit the number or force to registration organizations to pay for registration forms. Because of these restrictions, and the general lack of “enthusiasm” among Democratic voters, voter registration is down considerably from recent times; it’s all part of the “plan.”

But voter suppression by right-wing extremists and a dip in voter registration are not the only factors involved in making the mid-term election a potentially dangerous crossroad in this country’s evolvement, especially if the Republicans and their Tea Party brown shirts take control. The “mainstream” media has revoltingly given the Tea Party—which in reality is nothing more than an extremist, racist fringe—the power of a national movement, overwhelming common sense and tolerance, and giving credibility to the worst aspects of the national character. Most news media outlets (like CNN) have allowed right-wing extremists and certifiable lunatics center stage to spout the most mind-numbing lies and proven deceptions—without question or comment. The media has allowed the right to make the most outrageous slanders against Barack Obama without bringing them to account. The media has refused to bring the Republicans to account for its deliberate campaign to demonize and marginalize Obama from even before he took office, and has refused to recognize and debate the deliberate refusal of Republicans to deal with Obama and the Democrats on a single major piece of legislation, when this country is suffering from an economic failure that can be directly traced to Republican perfidy—for purely cynical partisan reasons. Are people this intellectually inept that they cannot see this? Or is the media only feeding them what they want--paranoia and self-serving intolerance? A current Washington Post story only notes that some Tea Party candidates are running into trouble with some of their "policy" views--but apparently not far-right extremists like Sharron Angle of Nevada, probably because her policy statements consist of talking points, and she refuses to answer questions that seek clarification of her positions anyways.

Even in Seattle, the local media usually reflects the opinions and wishes of its corporate masters. When people are not sidetracked by incessant crime stories, discussions on the issues are put in the hands of right-wing activists and "populists." On KOMO, far-right activist and failed candidate for governor John Carlson's "opposite" number was Ken Schram; their "The Commentators" radio show was recently discontinued--apparently because Schram couldn't keep faking he disagreed with Carlson's paranoid white views. They now have separate shows, where both can share the same opinion in different voices; Schram's recent attack on the state income tax on the rich initiative betrays no interest in what is right, fair or in the interest of maintaining a civil society; it is also indicative of the fact that there is no room in the media (even in allegedly left-wing Seattle) for alternative (that is non right-wing) opinions.

Will the forces of ignorance and racism win-out in 2010? I fear so. I wonder how many people in the state of Washington won’t even bother to vote because the mail-in ballots are not even provided with envelopes with pre-paid postage—as other states provide.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why oh why did I come back?

Brett Favre’s disaster of a year continues. If only Percy Harvin had paid attention to where his feet were, people would be talking about a miracle comeback win against the Packers instead of how Favre’s turn-overs have led to 51 points--which is what people on personal vendettas strive to find out (there seems to be no interest in finding out the points off turnovers from other turn-over machines, like Eli Manning and Drew Brees). The coach of the Vikings, Brad Childress—who owes his recent contract extension not to his “system” but to Favre—has come under criticism for publicly throwing Favre under the bus, and his blasé attitude toward the pounding Favre continues to take, courtesy of his “system’s” offensive line, can’t improve their already tense relationship.

Now Favre’s 291 consecutive start streak is in jeopardy, due to two fractures in his previously injured ankle. I heard on one radio program a debate on whose streak was more impressive—Cal Ripken’s or Favre’s. There was some leaning toward Favre when it was pointed-out that all baseball players do is bat four times, field maybe a half-dozen plays and run bases; injuries to baseball players, when they occur, is more likely due to lack of physical conditioning. But that only lasted until somebody pointed out that former Minnesota defensive lineman Jim Marshall had started 270 straight games (he played in 282 straight games, compared to Favre’s 293). Marshall’s streak is impressive insofar as that his knees and ankles held-up for so long; the upper body weight of linemen is such that most injuries occur in the lower body, and usually because they are not athletic enough to make all the twists and turns a running back can make. Quarterbacks, however, are more likely to take hits that break bones, as Tony Romo of Dallas suffered in the Monday Night loss to the Giants; I don’t see linemen being picked-up and pile-driven into the turf like quarterbacks are. In the NFC championship game last year, Favre was hit sixteen times, including that stomach-churning double hit that officials only later admitted should have resulted in a penalty that would have negated the first interception and given Minnesota the ball in the red zone.

Favre was probably more torn about coming back for this season than at other point in his career. Why come back for another beat-down on his 40+ body? After the championship game, other teams could see how they could physically neutralize Favre, and Childress—married to his “system” which had produced only questionable results in the past—failed to take remedial action to shore-up the offensive line’s failures. Jake Cutler’s travails in Chicago are also testimony to how refusal to modify a “system” without the proper personnel can play havoc on a quarterback’s health. I would like to see Favre win one more game and call it a day, just so that he can go out on his terms. Of course, the media hounds will take him to the cleaners, for “letting the team down” and being “selfish.”

The reality is that Favre didn’t believe or want things to progress the way they have, and for anyone in the media to suggest otherwise says more about its cannibalistic nature than it does about Favre. After he criticized Favre for being a "drama queen," I looked-up former Cowboys coach Jimmie Johnson's career as a player in the NFL on, and I have to tell you, his stats are just as impressive as mine. Of course, I never even played pee-wee league football, but at least in Johnson's defense he never had the opportunity to embarrass himself, which would make his opinions even more laughable than someone who never played. Johnson obviously loves the mute types who took his abuse in silence; not talking frankly about injuries allows people like Johnson to heap abuse when they don't have a clue about what they are talking about.

Meanwhile, unless Jenn Sterger decides or not to talk, the investigation into that pathetic affair seems to be winding down, but the fallout continues. According to a story in Steppin' Out (I never heard of it, either), a former friend of Sterger's--Allison Torres--claims that she has "no doubt" that the man package pics are Favre's, but goes on to say that Favre wasn't the first "celebrity" to try to "hook-up" with Sterger; she could also "make millions if she ever cashed in on all the naked photos she gets from friends (and "star athletes")." It was Torres' impression that Sterger "enjoyed" the attention (so much for "sexual harassment?), but could not say if the two actually "hooked-up." Can we be allowed to speculate that she also encouraged it? Sterger's manager responded by accusing Torres of trying to exploit the situation for personal gain; my suspicion is that Sterger opened this can of worms through third parties hoping to cash in without being accused of being a golddigger, but any leverage she might have had in shaking down a large private payday is now gone. Although over the weekend Sterger's manager stated that his client's "silence" cannot be bought, this contradicts an earlier report that they were attempting to reach a “financial settlement.” Apparently Sterger was reacting to commentary that noted the contradiction in her earlier claim that she was not a golddigger; Sterger does, in fact, pay a great deal of attention to what people say about her, and I'll talk more about that later.

What started this, of course, is what the media described as “scandalous” and “racy” voice mails that Favre admitted to sending (but not the pics):

“Jenn, it’s not a set up. Just got done with practice. Umm, got meetings here and I’ll pull out a couple of more hours and I’m going back to the hotel and just – just chill, so, ah, send me a text, cause I’ll be in the building, for a couple of hours, loved to have you come over tonight, but ah, I know ah, I think Aron came up and asked you ah, would give – you know, your number, or he was going to give you my number, but I understand. Send me a text, loved to see you tonight, alright, talk to you later. Bye.”


“So, some garbage can, huh, so that’s what you think that I think of you. Huh, well I’m still trying, just got done with practice – I’ll try again at home. You probably got caller I.D. I think but if you can make it, it would be great. Alright, later.”

Scandalous! Racy! This is the “raciest” voice mails they could find? Now, I admit that this stuff might befit the dialogue in a porn movie script, but in real life, this is what Deadspin’s editor reported when Sterger first approached him with the story: “They were still on her computer because they were FUN to LAUGH at amongst friends." Not because they were “racy,” but because they found Favre’s bumbling, “Mississippi simpleton charm” amusing. Another oddity about the media coverage is the repeated but mistaken reference to Sterger as a “reporter.” In fact, her official position with the New York Jets was team "hostess." According to my dictionary, a hostess is “a woman who entertains socially.” Favre probably wasn’t the only guy who was confused about what her “function” was with the Jets. In the above quote, Favre is not asking for sex (“it’s not a set-up”), but to “chill” with him. Why should we presume it is anything but “social?” Given the present facts, Favre and Sterger seem to have been playing teasing games with each other, and it is the media--which has lowered the bar for what they think a woman should consider “offensive”--that has decided that nervous bumbling of this sort should be considered “sexual harassment," and predetermined what Sterger's reaction should have been. Now, of course, we know that Sterger "enjoyed" the attention and considered it a matter of amusement; she could deny this at some future date, but then again we have Torres' testimony that suggests otherwise.

Curiously, given the circumstances, Sterger has in the past been overly sensitive about her own “reputation.” She doubtless expected most people to follow the lead of the media and treat her like poor Jenn, even after it was reported that she admitted she found the “creepy old man” more a matter of humor. After she was (or not) fired as a “commentator” on Sports Illustrated’s website, where she got top billing over a real journalist, Frank Deford (and showed much cleavage), she had this to say in an interview with sports writer Bob Mantz:

"I have people like [Former Agent] Roger [Finger] and my family who keep an eye on the internet and we try to stop people from slandering me. But I know how the internet works and...People just tag things to get hits. I'm just so glad that you took the time to listen to my answers and print the truth. People always want the juicy answers and really sometimes my life is just not all that interesting. People trying to start drama."

Sterger also tried to explain her apparently disparaging comments about ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, caught on tape:

"Oh yeah, there is audio. I actually have audio that is slowed down three times so it is extremely evident that it is 'second'. I was speaking off points. I said 'first' I am on the internet [compared to Erin at the time being on TV], then I said 'second' while the hosts were talking over me. Bad microphones, bad audio, and just someone looking for extra publicity and wanting to drag my name through the mud. If you want to get hits that way then by all means go for it."

Fascinating that Sterger is so concerned about what people think of her—which puts Favre’s “garbage” voicemail, perhaps made in a chivalrous moment, in a different light. In any case, it seems clear that Sterger is not only paranoid and thin-skinned, but not above mocking people and then lying about it; remember: she did say she and her friends found Favre’s voicemails “fun to laugh at.” It also should be apparent that Sterger’s fascination with “hits” suggests she is aware of the potential for personal gain that targeting someone of real stature, like Favre, will bring her.

I do feel for Deanna Favre in all of this; she put on a brave face before television cameras to promote her book that was ironically appropriate for the present situation. Favre should have known that if you play phone tag with skanks whose “fame” is derived from the sale of their frame—and who like to save their voice mails, first for laughs among equally skanky friends (like Torres) and then for blackmail—you will inevitably come-up stanking. I'd also like to add that if this was all just a shakedown for money or notoriety (that is apparently backfiring), the toll it has taken on Favre's family is unconscionable. The media, of course, is doing its sleazy part in promoting this shameless self-promoter being passed off as a "victim."

After the fact - the man who took down O.J.

The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected the O.J. Simpson defense team’s latest effort to overturn his conviction on kidnapping and robbery charges after a “bust” to retrieve allegedly stolen personal items from a memorabilia dealer in a Las Vegas hotel in 2007. The court did rule that Simpson’s notoriety did unfairly influence the trial jury’s verdict on his co-defendant, Clarence Stewart, although curiously did not consider the effect that notoriety might have had on Simpson himself. I am not going to rehash the did-he-or-didn’t-he debate (he probably did), or the effect that the guilty-until-proven-innocent white media barrage had on black jurors, or the fact that blacks were excluded from the jury in the trial in the Nevada case, or all the sleazy characters who tried to profit monetarily from their connection to both cases. I’m not even talking about the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink counts in the Nevada trial, of which Simpson was convicted of every one by an all-white jury:

Count 1: Conspiracy to commit a crime (GM - Gross Misdemeanor)
Count 2: Conspiracy to commit kidnapping (F - Felony)
Count 3: Conspiracy to commit burglary (F)
Count 4: Burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 5: First degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 6: First degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 7: Robbery with use of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 8: Robbery with use of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 9: Assault with a deadly weapon (F)
Count 10: Assault with a deadly weapon (F)
Count 11: Coercion with use of a deadly weapon (F)
Count 12: Coercion with use of a deadly weapon (F)

It seems by their very redundancy that prosecutors were taking no chances that Simpson would escape punishment, this time.

What fascinates me the case is the story of The Man Who Took Down Simpson for all those who wanted to see him taken down. I’m not talking about the police or the prosecutor or even the judge (who was a woman). The Machiavelli of this story is one Thomas Riccio, who despite the fact concocted and orchestrated the incident for which Simpson was convicted, was never charged with a crime, but given immunity by prosecutors. Who was this man?

For a man like Simpson in need of “friends” who still believed his story that his mission in life was to find his ex-wife’s “real killer,” Thomas Riccio fit the bill. This so-called dealer in collectibles was in no position to be choosy in picking friends himself, being a multiple convicted felon. He was convicted in New Jersey federal court in 1984 of acquiring items he knew to be stolen. Three months later he was an escapee from a federal penitentiary, and was apprehended five months later, and obliged to serve out almost five years in prison. Four years out of prison, Riccio was arrested and convicted in California for intent to commit arson, and served two more years in prison. Riccio wasn’t of out of jail for that conviction long before he was in trouble again; this time he was arrested and convicted for possessing a half-million dollars worth of stolen gold and silver coins discovered in his home. After a short period in jail, Riccio was released but then rearrested on a parole violation.

After he was released from prison (again), we are supposed to assume that in the intervening years until the time of the Simpson robbery in 2007, he led a blameless life as a “dealer” in memorabilia. Or at least he wasn’t caught doing anything nefarious. Meanwhile, during his 16 month stay in prison in the course of his murder trial, Simpson developed a cottage industry signing numberless items, doubtless in the hope of recouping some of his financial losses. Shady memorabilia dealers like Riccio, Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong became “friends” of O.J. in this way. In 2007, Riccio informed his “friend” that his other “friends,” Beardsley and Fromong, had stolen some valued personal items with the intent to sell them, including the so-called “acquittal suit” Simpson wore at the murder trial, and his NFL Hall of Fame certificate: “Beardsley called me and said he had some unbelievable O.J. Simpson stuff. He came right out and said the stuff was stolen,” Riccio later frothed. Riccio informed his friend O.J., and helped concoct a scheme to retrieve the items. Simpson assembled a motley crew which was led by Riccio to a Las Vegas hotel room, where Riccio had persuaded Beardsley and Fromong to lay out the items on a bed for an unnamed “buyer.” After some heated “discussion” which included a couple of guns, Fromong and Beardsley were involuntarily relieved of the merchandise that Simpson believed were his. During the adventure, Riccio—without Simpson’s apparent knowledge—made an audio recording of the event, which he later claimed he needed to “prove” that Beardsley had indeed stolen items from Simpson. It didn’t occur to him, it seems, that audio is a poor substitute for visuals of allegedly stolen items. Fromong reported the event to police (after he could be heard on tape observing that he could “make some money” from this), and by the next day Simpson and crew were all in police custody.

Now, what are we to make of this? The average person looking at the given “facts” would draw the “obvious” conclusion that here was the devious, violent, paranoid Simpson going off the deep end, traveling down a path where only people of volcanic, ungovernable temperament tread—proof that he was entirely capable of murder. He needed to spend to the rest of his unworthy life in prison, and here was the perfect opportunity to make it so. But a professional historian cannot accurately account for an event without looking beyond the given facts. So let’s take a look again at some of the facts, some old, some new:

Riccio had a felony record for theft, knowingly receiving stolen goods, and arson (probably for an insurance swindle).

Riccio had obtained the rights to sell the diary of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith, who had died from an overdose of prescription drugs. Riccio gained minor notoriety making the rounds on tabloid TV, where his prior activities were not discussed.

Riccio regarded Beardsley and Fromong as “rivals” in the memorabilia business.

Riccio claimed that Beardsley once swindled him in deal involving Simpson merchandise.

Riccio claimed that Beardsley boasted that he could sell allegedly stolen Simpson items for at least $100,000.

Being a convicted conman, Riccio was surely aware of Simpson’s susceptibility to paranoia about people “out to get him”—especially from “friends” like Fromong and Beardsley who it was suggested “betrayed” him—and how to exploit this to his advantage.

Riccio informed the FBI of the plan three weeks before it occurred. They did not alert Las Vegas police or take action themselves.

Riccio faxed Simpson a “list” of the alleged stolen items, which included family photos and the “acquittal suit.” But other than three ties and Simpson's All-American football, most of the items were incidentals or not related to Simpson at all.

Riccio had placed a hidden audio recording device in the hotel room, which he did not retrieve until after Beardsley, Fromong and then later the police had left.

During the alleged robbery, Beardsley tells Simpson that they had bought the items from Simpson's former agent, Mike Gilbert, implying that he had stolen them.

Media outlets reported that Riccio sold the audio tapes a few days after the incident to TMZ, reportedly for $165,000.

Prosecutors gave Riccio immunity for his “testimony.”

The jury at the subsequent trial included no racial minorities.

Given these particular facts, we can perhaps deduce an alternative version of history. In his book “Busted,” Riccio tries to pass himself off as a harmless guy who was mildly deficient in ethics but who looks after the interests of his “friends.” Riccio admitted, however, that it was much easier making money in the memorabilia business through illegal means (like theft) than legal means, and his criminal record speaks to his preference. We know that he had a grudge against Beardsley, even though it is odd that Beardsley would feel comfortable about telling Riccio that he had stolen items; either Riccio is lying about the conversation, or people in the business had the general impression that Riccio was still not entirely aboveboard in his own dealings. In any case, it was clear that Riccio wanted to get even with a competitor he thought had defrauded him. Knowing how hot-tempered and paranoid Simpson was, Riccio knew that he would be the perfect instrument of revenge. In order to insure Simpson’s unknowing “cooperation,” Riccio sent him a list of valued personal items allegedly up for sale, which he knew would enrage Simpson further. Although it would be questioned why the police were not contacted, with the Goldman’s still hounding him for settlement money, Simpson obviously preferred the retrieval to be a “private” matter. Since the alleged thieves were not going to admit to Simpson himself that they had stolen items, Riccio concocted the idea of luring Beardsley (and Fromong, whose initial involvement was to “verify” the authenticity of the items) and the loot into a hotel room, on the pretext of that he had a buyer who was interested in Simpson memorabilia. Although Simpson predictably put more resources into the retrieval operation than necessary, it was disingenuous for Riccio to claim that he was unaware of Simpson’s input. The fact that Riccio contacted the FBI before the plan was carried out makes plain that he wanted to cover his fundament in case something went awry; the FBI, perhaps predictably, did not take him seriously. But if Simpson had known of Riccio’s betrayal, it is not only likely he would have second thoughts about conducting the operation, but he would have questioned Riccio’s motives and veracity. We also have only Riccio’s explanation as to why he secretly recorded the subsequent operation; but the ex-wife of one of Simpson’s storm troopers admitted that people who hung-out with Simpson had a habit of making secret recordings in the hope of selling them to tabloid “news” outlets. When the “bust” actually took place, it quickly got out-of-control, not in small part due to the fact that Riccio had lied about the quantity and quality of items allegedly belonging to Simpson, let alone stolen. Having to beat a hasty retreat, Riccio was unable to retrieve his audio recordings until later; the fact that he did not inform police of the recording until after he sold a copy to TMZ strongly suggests that making money from the "bust" was his undercover plan all along, notwithstanding his “friendship” with Simpson. Fromong’s own outrage at the suggestion that he would steal from his “friend” Simpson when he had helped him off-shore some of his assets (to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Goldmans) is off-set by the fact that during the “bust” both he and Beardsley admitted to Simpson that the items they did have were probably stolen by Simpson’s former agent Mike Gilbert (after the two had a falling out), and was, under the circumstance, prepared to give them back so long as the items not belonging to Simpson were left behind.

All involved were on the low-end of the morality and ethics scale, but out of all of them, Riccio was the only one who emerged not only unscathed, but made a handsome profit from it. Why did prosecutors give immunity to the man without whose involvement this incident would not have occurred? Who claimed he was told by another party that there were stolen Simpson items on the market? Riccio. Who told Simpson about the alleged thefts? Riccio. Who provided Simpson with the list of items alleged to be stolen? Riccio. Who had an ax to grind with the alleged thief? Riccio. Who concocted the plan to set-up the “bust?” Riccio. Who sought to profit personally from it? Riccio. It is clear, of course, that given Simpson’s notoriety there was some self-promotion involved with prosecutors in “getting” Simpson, and with Riccio—who was from first-to-last the provocateur in the entire operation and had knowledge of all the “inside” dope—it was necessary to shield him, as the “star witness,” from the reality that he was perhaps even more guilty than Simpson. In jury selection, the prosecution successfully excluded minorities from sitting; a minority juror—particularly a black juror—would have been more receptive to a defense argument that Simpson had been set-up by Riccio for his own personal revenge and monetary gain. The fact that the all-white jury, doubtless seeking “justice” for the murder case despite admonitions from the bench not to take their personal feelings into account during deliberations--apparently decided to overlook Riccio’s massive culpability. And as did the tabloid media, where Riccio once again made the rounds painting himself as a “good guy” just trying to help his “friend.”

It is a matter of course that many people, mainly those outraged at the verdict of the Brown/Goldman murder trial, believe that justice was ultimately served. The question is at what price? The facts suggest that Simpson in this case was the victim of a small-time hood who thought nothing of using him for his own nefarious purposes. The price, at least for this observer, is a jaundiced eye toward the system of justice in this country. This is a country where black defendants cannot expect justice from all-white local juries, or if it is found at all, justice in a racially-motivated murder such as that which occurred in Shenandoah, PA can only be found in federal court; two men acquitted in the original trial were recently convicted of hate crimes in the murder of Luis Ramirez; the trial of the police chief and two officers who conspired to cover-up the crime still awaits.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Angle and Rand know how to "party"

Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is the perfect example of what the Tea Party movement is all about. She and compatriot Rand Paul of Kentucky have made many bizarre statements and hold views so reprehensible to our idea of modern society that they make us question if we as a nation have advanced beyond the Neanderthal.

Why, we may ask does Angle feel comfortable saying that she supports “Second Amendment remedies” to “take out” Harry Reid? Could it be that at the Tea Party conventions she spoke before, this was standard issue conversation, and now she finds she must account for herself, having escaped the asylum? You know, the one that is proud to have been likened to Timothy McVeigh by Sean Hannity.

More Anglisms: "The Federal Department of Education should be eliminated. The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level." Especially in states like South Carolina, where desegregation of schools and equal funding was still being fought over decades after Brown v. Board.

"People ask me, 'What are you going to do to develop jobs in your state?' Well, that's not my job as a U.S. senator." We’ll see shortly that her view of her “job” is subject to confusion.

"When I said privatize, that's what I meant. That I thought we would just have to go to the private sector for a template on how this is supposed to be done. However, I've since been studying and Chile has done this." Chile, it should be said, was at the time ruled by the brutal right-wing dictatorship of Pinochet.

After insisting to a classroom of Latino students that she didn’t know that the three fearsome (to white eyes) dark-skinned men in a virulently racist campaign ad were Mexican (they posed a "threat" to a photo of white kids dressed in graduation gowns), she went on to say that "I don't know that all of you are Latino. Some of you look a little more Asian to me." Many of the students, needless-to-say, were shocked by this transparent effort to treat them as if they were dim-witted fools completely ignorant of the cynical efforts to demonize them to gain "cred" with the racist element.

“You know, this is a war of ideology, a war of thoughts and of faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change.” Faith and trust, of course, is a euphemism, used by white right-wingers as another way of saying maintain the status quo that favors them.

When a Las Vegas television reporter tried to track Angle down to explain some of her statements after a campaign rally, in the perfect “Know-Nothing Party” tradition she refused to answer any of them, save to attack the reporter as a Harry Reid stooge. Did Angle really desire to end social security? Didn’t she say that she would support “transitioning out” of Social Security into personal retirement account “options,” putting their money in the hands of Wall Street, where the gambling of banksters might end with crashes that would wipe-out those “options?” Did I say that? What, me worry? What about eliminating the EPA? Angle didn’t deny it, but claimed that national issues are not the prevue of a U.S. senator, at least not from Nevada.

At least when Rand Paul says crazy things, he follows-up by denying he said them at all, or was taken out-of-context. After a brouhaha from his insistence that Medicare should be eliminated, he came backatcha with “Medicare is socialized medicine! People are afraid of that because they’ll say ‘ohhh, you’re against Medicare.’ No, I’ll say ‘We have to do something different. We can’t just eliminate Medicare, but we have to get more to a market-based system.” His suggestion? A $2,000 deductable, just what seniors just barely making it month-to-month want to hear. After Paul mused on a right-wing radio show that in his view the federal government should not have the authority to enforce integration on private businesses—meaning banning racial discrimination in hiring—he insisted that he said no such thing, that if he was a senator at the time the 1964 Civil Rights Act came-up for a vote, he would have supported it. It’s just that, well, um, you just shouldn’t have such regulations on businesses.

Angle and Rand are true representatives of the Tea Party movement. We should not mistake them for being mainstream in any way. They are born from the same cesspool of hate, intolerance, xenophobia and paranoia as other extremist elements that have emerged time and again when certain people (mainly white) have felt threatened by “change,” which they interpret as a threat to their hegemony. These people have no real political agenda or ideology, they only know what they are against and who they hate. They do not believe in a program of progress and solutions, or at least not one that doesn’t involve a meat cleaver. Confront them, and they whither in tired clichés, and if you press them further, they expose their mindless bigotry. If we allow them to define what this country claims to be at the polls in November, it will take decades—if ever— for this country to dig out the cesspool from which they came. The country needs unity more than anything to face an uncertain future, not a virus that tears us apart.

We need FDR -- not Lincoln or Carter

During a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden, FDR denounced the “do nothing” Republicans and the powerful interests that they represented. What he said nearly 75 years ago reminds us that the forces of intolerance, bigotry, greed and narrow-mindedness have always been with us:

“For four years now, you have had an administration, which instead of twirling its thumbs, has rolled up its sleeves. And I assure you that we keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs; and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred.”

FDR went on to say that he wished it be said that in his administration, the forces of “selfishness” and “lust for power” had “met their match.” Barack Obama and the Democrats, fearful of disturbing the minds of extreme right Tea Party fanatics and providing deliberately misstated sound bites for Fox News and its little sister CNN, should have taken-up that sword and occupied the moral high ground from the very beginning; instead of groveling to a few “moderate” Republicans and Yellow Dog Democrats, it should have pushed more forcefully the idea that this government is for the people, not for powerful corporate and moneyed interests who do not have the welfare of the country in mind, but their own pockets. Of course the Republicans would shout “class warfare,” but it would force them on the defensive to explain why they seem more interested in the big money “welfare’ of their campaign donors than that of ordinary Americans. They would need to explain why they would cut programs that benefit the poor and unemployed while pushing for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans even while they sit upon $1.6 trillion dollars during a period high unemployment. It isn’t enough to say that corporations are waiting for more “favorable” conditions, which merely means the hope that their Republican friends will gain control of Congress and try to force-feed even less regulation than we have seen before. What if those “favorable” conditions do not occur? Will the powerful interests that really control and blackmail government officials decide in the end that the interests of the country come before their own greed? Or will they continue to oversee a destructive process?

It never ceases to amaze how people are gulled by powerful interests, none more so than Tea Party types. In the state of Washington, even the pathetic remains of the Seattle Times and its “independent” editorial board only sees the smoke. Instead of pointing out the unfairness of a regressive state tax system that is most burdensome on the low-income worker, which Initiative 1098 would address by placing a modest income tax on people making $200,000 or more, it decries the “crimp” it might put in the lifestyles of well-off, and making the fearsome claim that the legislature will use this initiative to pass an income tax on everyone. This latter claim has been used as the mantra of the anti-1098 campaign, but nothing is ever said about the current system which unfairly targets the less well-off.

Like Republicans demanding the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, the anti-1098 campaign does not have the interest of the majority of public in mind. I used to work for a company that fell on hard times (the whole of the 2000s was a “recession”). Who was laid-off? Not the people upstairs making the six-figure salaries, but the people downstairs making piddling wages. I encountered a former colleague who told me she was one of only three of the old crew still left, and she hadn’t had a pay raise in five years—while almost everyone upstairs still had a job, although on occasion they grumbled downstairs to do customer service and warehouse work because of the lack of sufficient labor. The question then is why are the people who are making a lot of money and still have a job not in some way responsible to the low-wage people who lost their jobs—especially since a modest salary decrease would be enough to retain another person's job? Why should they be disturbed by contributing to a modest income tax regimen for programs to alleviate the suffering of those left on the wayside? Especially when the low-income workers had little money to save as a cushion because of the regressive tax system?

The moneyed interests and their Republican stooges would say that it is only “fair” that the people who use public welfare programs should pay for them (when they are not saying that we should cut-out the programs altogether). But with what, if they don’t have a job or have poverty wages? Low-income wage earners have low wages so that others can have high wages; there has to be some balance to oppose what FDR called “selfishness.” And the well-off do benefit a great deal from government “aid.” Not just corporations who find ways to pay virtually no taxes, but the fact that law enforcement takes-up a huge chunk of local and state funds—and what is law enforcement but the means from which the “haves” are protected from the “have-nots?”

People should not be fearful of being accused of being "anti-American"--a pathetic euphemism for liberal and non-white American--in highlighting and denouncing the gross iniquities perpetrated by the extreme right on this society, and that includes the so-called Tea Party movement. Why should we be? We have seen that Republicans do not like to answer hard questions. When they are forced to explain themselves, they go daffy and say things like "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we" or "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." A counter-campaign that demands that they answer questions instead of hiding behind talking points will force them to show their hand—a hand that is firmly in the pocket of “organized money.” Obama should also “welcome their hate” instead of trying to make “friends.” He should long ago have forcefully have stated what he is for and what he is against, and fight for it. That is what people who voted for him wanted from him. This is what “change” meant. Whatever the outcome of the 2010 mid-term election, Obama must eschew Carteresque niceties and “bi-partisanship” and speak boldly and frankly about an egalitarian vision of America that looks to the future--as opposed to that of the Republicans who have no thought but lust for power, and who have no desire to work with Obama under any circumstances. They would rather destroy this country than see Obama succeed in any shape.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Green is too noisy

A few days ago I purchased a bag of SunChips at a local Safeway; the check-out clerk asked me if I was aware of the fact that the company that manufactured the chips (Frito-Lay) was discontinuing the use of the “100 percent compostable” bags being experimented with for this particular project, because they made too much noise. Really, I said. The bags were indeed noisy as all beat, but I wasn’t bothered by it. The bags themselves seemed to be light and threadbare but surprisingly sturdy, and that they were 100 percent compostable was another positive aspect in its favor. Noisy, yes. But so what, unless you happened to be eating chips at a funeral.

The bags are made from a biopolymer called Ingeo, created by a company called NatureWorks, and uses plant sugar as its base component. Amazingly, it is being used not just in packaging, but items as diverse as pens, clothing and electronics. Because the material is “bio-based,” it will degrade “naturally” and completely when tossed in a landfill, unlike, say, metal cans. Products like this are the kind of forward-thinking projects that this country needs in this day and age. The public at first blush claims to support such efforts to promote a green environment and green jobs such as this. But interfere with a person’s “comfort” level, such as the amount of noise they can tolerate, even for the time it takes for them to stick their hand in a chip bag—well, that is completely unacceptable. Being “green” is too terrible a burden.

The question that Jared Diamond posed in his book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” remains: “At what point do we as individuals prefer to die than to compromise and live?” Everyone knows that at some point in human habitation of this globe that the use of resources must better managed, which means more efficient land use, conservation and recycling. We need to invest in “green” solutions. But if it only takes something as innocuous as noisy packaging to put-off people from embracing what is necessary, than what about the acceptance of what is hard? Republicans, of course, have the answer to that: Do nothing.

Swine flu redux

Viewing signs posted on grocery and drug store windows advising people to get their H1N1 flu shots while their hot reminded me of something that happened to me last spring at the airport where I work; during the height of the swine flu “pandemic,” I was asked by one of the glorified waitresses if I had the flu. Not because I was sick, you understand, but because I look like a “Mexican.” I said nothing but gave her a questioning look, to which she responded with a not very convincing “I was just joking.” The “pandemic” never happened, but the “Mexican” angle kept paranoia afloat, so much so that the Mexican press accused the American press of pandering to anti-Mexican sentiment. After the faux-pandemic, a few in the media were conjecturing about the “lessons” that were learned from this episode once reality fell like a lump of lead. There were supposed lessons in timely responsiveness to a sudden deadly outbreak of flu, and developing enough vaccine quickly and in enough quantity. But these “lessons” were already learned that during the 1975 “pandemic,” and the country forgot another lesson from that episode: about how easily people can be driven into a panic by media-driven agitation and official over-excitement. After all the initial excitement, the virus took its time to develop into a full-blown load of nothing; the vaccine eventually developed proved so effective that thinking people started to wonder what the fuss was about (in fact the swine flu virus has been deemed no more dangerous a strain than typical). Even the WHO’s irresponsible altering of its pandemic “standard” started to look suspiciously like the Bush administration’s use of terror alert status hues to fit a particular political need of the moment. 36,000 people die of complications of the flu every year in this country; only a relative handful last year could be directly traced to H1N1.

No one really knows the precise origin of the swine flu, but the American media and then the world was quick to demonize anyone who looked Mexican. Mexican nationals were quarantined by countries like China (which has peculiar notions about race; many couldn’t believe a black man was president, because they thought black people were all janitors). In this country, it was all part and parcel of the current anti-immigrant hysteria, fueled by people like Lou Dobbs and Michelle Malkin who likened “Mexicans” as disease-carrying animals. In order to spice-up the alleged “connection” the press pointed at the so-called “Spanish” influenza following WWI, perhaps to remind people of the “origin” of the current “pandemic.” Spain was actually one of the last countries that the pandemic visited; it is believed that the flu became dangerous when it infected the suppressed immune systems of soldiers who had lived in fetid conditions in the trenches, and spread when they returned home. Spain was a neutral country and had stayed out of the war. But the U.S. and other European governments and press suppressed information about the spread and strength of the flu, and it was the Spanish press that gave the lie to the official censorship—which it could hardly do otherwise, since the country’s king had taken seriously ill with it. Since Spain was the first country to acknowledge the existence of the flu, it was given the “honor” of giving its name to it.

It remains to be seen if the continued focus on the swine flu is justified, or another misguided misdirection of resources that ignores the more usual—and more usually deadlier—strains. Politics has no place when human safety is at issue—particularly when unwarranted paranoia requires the demonization of whole groups of people.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

India's other problem

I happened to be in a Laundromat when I found another piece of fascinating prose in a Bloomberg’s magazine; no doubt someone thought that people obliged to patronize Laundromats fascinate at the riches that others experience. But not all is good for people with money, especially when there a lot of people without money. Take for instance, India, where there is a minority of educated people who have done quite well, while the vast majority remain in grinding poverty. While many people are aware of the tensions with Pakistan and Kashmir rebels, what is not so well reported in the Western press is how the Maoists hold sway over a significant swath of territory in the eastern and central regions of India—called the “Red Corridor.” Although the Communist Party is banned in India, the Maoists have captured the imagination of many of poverty-stricken in India, and like in tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the government has little control over their roaming, and local populations give them tacit, and occasionally material support (such as in new fighters).

India’s army can do little to stop their predations and terrorism; I asked an acquaintance from India about the Maoists, and he told me that corrupt politicians in the Red Corridor—in exchange for money or their own personal safety—often tip-off the rebels on imminent raids by security forces. The problem for India is not just that the government does not have enough resources to break-up the Maoists, but the Red Corridor contains much of India’s mineral wealth; the country’s continued economic growth is at stake. Maoists continue to attack mining operations and destroy equipment from their hide outs in the Dandkaranya forest. Like other insurgent groups, the Maoists also believe that creating disorder by attacking civilians will discredit a government that fails to protect them.

The principle issue for India, however, is what to do about the hundreds of millions of people who are literally dirt poor. It is estimated that it will take $1 trillion to support policies that will lift a majority out of poverty. One problem in reaching this goal is persuading farmers on mineral rich land to be bought out; for most people in the countryside, without land they have nothing.

Deputy Dan has no friends

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the other day I observed a King County Sheriff “transit” deputy saunter onto the Metro bus I happened to be on. He entered from the rear door and slowly strolled to the front of the bus, thumbs in belt, in what I’m certain he intended to be an “intimidating” pose. When the crew-cut, bespectacled deputy (if he had a moustache he’d pass for Heinrich Himmler) finally made it to the front of the bus, he asked the driver if there was anyone she wanted him to throw off the bus; he’d be “happy to do it.” His tone did not suggest he was “joking.” There were only a half-dozen people on the bus, and there was hardly a sound to be heard, mainly because people were just sitting minding their own business—except, of course, the deputy. “You’d be surprised how much that helps” he declared, seeming rather certain in his power to abuse his authority. The driver laughed and “thanked” the officer; I couldn’t tell if she thought he was merely “jesting” and joining in the ”joke,” or showing her appreciation for this particular offer of “assistance.” But I knew from experience that he was entirely serious. The question was why he decided to enter this bus and pose that question? Perhaps it was the “Mexican” who he spied and wished to intimidate if he couldn’t find immediate justification to harass. This deputy apparently has the same mentality as the SPD officer who recently stomped and kicked a prone Latino man while shouting racial slurs, or the one who put four bullets into the sides of the Native American woodcarver (a police union spokesperson still claimed he posed a “threat”). He was just like the officers I overheard saying on another bus that they only hassled “short people” because it was “safer.” These are the kind of officers who shouldn’t be on the street.

Why don't we just hang all men

It seems that my hero, Brett Favre, is in some trouble. It seems that while he was playing for the New York Jets, he sent voice mails to a buxom in-house “reporter” named Jenn Sterger, and what she “believes” are pics of his man package. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has ordered an investigation, although it is curious that there has been no suggestion that there will be punishment meted out for Jets players and coaches involved in the alleged sexual harassment of Ines Sainz; perhaps this is because she is actually a legitimate sports reporter for a Mexican television station. Sainz, as I have pointed out in a previous blog, dresses the way she does because it is fairly common practice (at least among the Latin American Euro-elites) in that culture; she was not trying to provoke Jets players. The same cannot be said of Sterger, however. In the current American unisex culture, in the post 1960s “free love” and mini-skirt age, prancing around in skimpy outfits is designed to provoke a response (but only from the “right” people, of course). Sterger’s eye-popping bosom (artificially-enhanced) in a bikini top at a Florida State football game led Brent Musberger to exclaim "1,500 red-blooded American males just decided to apply to Florida State."

Playboy soon came calling, and Sterger obliged by putting her birthday suit on display. Count on the Jets to help her parlay her form into a job as a “reporter,” and from there on to cable television, where skimpily-clad young women are the order of the day. Don’t mistake me; I have no issue with semi-nudity on television—it certainly is less dull that than all these Barbie Doll TV actresses who “won’t do nudity” in films. But most of these women are talentless, whining bores. Sterger has her own show on Versus; by all accounts it is awful, which might explain the sudden need to bring all this Favre stuff up two years after it allegedly occurred.

I have no doubt that Favre, the lonely country boy in the Big City (certainly not Green Bay) saw this pleasing-to-the-eye in-house female reporter, and who might want to “chill” with him and maybe even talk about football (after all, she was a team “reporter”). Favre (assuming that’s his voice) sounded like an uncomfortable Hillbilly on the call—almost apologetic—insisting that this wasn’t a “set-up”—meaning, we can assume, not for sex. Sterger hasn’t made that claim; in fact earlier she stated that she and her friends found the voice mails highly amusing, and she derided Favre as being an “old man.” Sounds like the classic description of a “victim.”

The pics that Sterger provided (isn’t it amazing how she is trying to “distance” herself from her greed and self-promotion by passing this stuff through a “third party?”) that she “thinks” are of Favre’s man package, have been treated by the media in general as established “fact.” The media must do this to justify in delving in sleaze for ratings, but it is wrong in assuming that most people are not annoyed by all this dirt-dealing; the fact is that it is only holier-than-thou media types and the fanatical few that only sounds like millions that turns greedy victimizers into “victims.”

Sexism is an increasing problem in this country, except that it isn’t exactly what feminists and their media supporters claim it is. I’ve already discussed part of it in previous post. Another aspect is the way crime is reported on the news and portrayed on television. A murder victim is typically considered newsworthy if that person happens to be a white female, the more attractive the better. On crime shows, the vast majority of murder victims are white females. Is this an expression of reality, or an assumption that white female victims have more “appeal” than male victims? Appealing to whom? The white female audience that is repeatedly told on one hand that they are “superior” to men, and the other that they are perpetual victims. There is a “war against women,” or so say activist pundits. It is a “given” fact.

But does reality match the “facts?” According to the 2010 Statistical Abstract and Department of Justice crime statistics, nearly 80 percent of all murder victims are male. Although white and black male victims are roughly equal in raw numbers, black males are much more likely to be murder victims: 37.59 per 100,000 compared to 4.63 per 100,000 white males. Black females have a 5.62 per 100,000 rate compared to 1.61 per 100,000 for white females. The disparity indicated by these figure should be staggering. Blacks are nearly seven times more likely than whites to be a murder victim, and black males 23 times more likely than white females. What does this tell us? It tells us that the media—both news and “entertainment”—prefer the cheap emotional manipulation rather than confront the real disparities and iniquities in this country.

But it’s no good to fight this, especially with people like attorney Gloria Allred around. Allred recently accused anyone who was not a feminist to be a “bigot,” although her recent proclivity toward targeting black male athletes makes one wonder who the “bigot” really is. I recall back in 1991, feminist Eleanor Smeal had the audacity to claim that media coverage of the Pamela Smart murder case (Smart persuaded her teenage “lover” to murder her husband) was evidence of “racism against white women,” which, if nothing else, shows how self-obsessed these people are. Allred—whatever moral high ground she might have claimed in the past—is now nothing more than a sleazy shakedown operator—just like her clients. One of her recent “victims” of the prevailing “patriarchy,” porn star Devon James (or whatever she’s calling herself these days), claims to have a tape of herself in flagrant flagrante with Tiger Woods; none of the “mainstream” porn production companies, surprisingly, would touch this, so James set-up her own. But there may be a glitch; her former manager claims that James and her porn “actor” husband approached her with the idea of a video with a Tiger lookalike, but refused to participate. After a judge threw-out James’ paternity suit against Woods, her own mother called her a “pathological liar.”

In the midst of the Woods’ scandal Allred appeared before the news networks to explain why she represents women who knowingly enlist themselves in adultery. We all know, of course, that the women involved with Woods knew he was married, but there was a certain “wow” factor of having the attentions of a famous man, especially with one who has a lot of money to throw around. Allred ludicrously told the Today Show that Woods needed to “apologize” to James for “breaking her heart.” James, of course, was married herself, although it would take some thinking to determine what marriage means to porn performers still active in their trade. All this suggests that Allred further sullies the already sullied reputation of feminists, to whom distorting or inventing facts to suit their agenda is not a matter of embarrassment. Embarrassment or no, Allred told the Today Show and others that men needed to “pay’ for the mistakes, meaning, in her case, she wants to make them “suffer”—meaning ruining their lives and careers as best she can, and if she and her clients make a million bucks or so off of them, all the better. Allred really does like making men suffer for being men. You’d have to ask her why her hatred knows no limits; she claimed that she was raped by a “well-respected doctor” at gunpoint in Mexico in 1966, for which she provides no supporting evidence; on the other hand, she did abandon her first husband when she discovered he had bipolar disorder (I wonder what stories she has told their daughter to justify the abandonment); he later committed suicide, which I am sure didn’t then and still doesn’t trouble Allred (or her allies) the slightest bit.

But Allred is only one face of a culture of oppression and intolerance. We live in a society that not only tolerates but elevates such hollow bigots as Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, merely because women should be elevated. Now I am reading a post on ESPN’s website by a woman named Jemele Hill, who tells us that what Favre allegedly did was “much worse” than Tiger’s serial adulteries which were “consensual” affairs. Sterger has claimed that she received hundreds, maybe thousands, of text messages and pics from men—many of them athletes. On one local sports radio program, where the host and friends are having a hard time keeping a straight face with all the factors considered, the woman who does the traffic was sent out to conduct a “poll” to see if any of her female friends received pics of a man’s package. She reported that 18 out of 58 responded claimed to have received such donations, out of which 5 or 6 felt some measure of discomfort. We are left with wondering if Sterger, in her quest for another 15 minutes of fame to resurrect her lousy show on Versus, decided that the pics she actually kept for two years (as well as the voice mails?) could be useful, other than sources of amusement for her and her girlfriends. Beyond that, what did Favre do? He asked a woman he hadn’t met for a “date”—as if Sterger didn’t know who Favre was. Why don’t we just hang 90 percent of all males while we’re at it? Allred would certainly be up for that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Black folks always handy for white folks in need

There was the recent story about a white woman named Bethany Storro, who was just sitting around in a park in Vancouver, Washington when some anonymous black woman walked up to her and splashed acid in her face, and ran off. It was all over the news. People were appalled at this racist act. Black woman envious of white woman’s beauty; well ha-ha, not beautiful anymore. People sent in donations to help buy Storro a new face; probably racist whites who live by such stories. Just like the story told by a woman who claimed that she had been raped by a local homeless man while her child was playing a few feet away (she needed rent money from her parents). Turns out that Storro had accidently washed her face with drain cleaner she found in the park restroom. And she had just had a face peel two weeks before the “attack.” $620 down the drain! What to do? Blame a black person; it works every time. Everyone will believe it. Black people all look the same, and the cops will never find the “right” person anyways, so no harm done. Her face only hurt a little anyways, and in fact she wasn't so beautiful in the before (in fact rather pudgy), so why not buy a new face? With all this money that people are sending her, why not? Or go on a shopping spree at Target, and buy lots of new clothes.

But not anymore, for the moment; Storro, having been exposed, is currently awaiting charges for second-degree theft for accepting donations based on making a false charge.

Naturally, people remember the original accusation, but probably missed the follow-up. When I first heard the accusation, my first reaction incredulity. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this tale. Dating at least back to the Scottsboro Boys case, white people seeking to explain shocking behavior (in the Scottsboro case, two white women riding in the same rail car with black men) have found it convenient to accuse blacks of heinous crimes that they assume everyone will believe, due to the prevailing stereotypes. In 1989 there was the infamous Charles Stuart case, whose pregnant wife was shot in a Boston neighborhood, and himself wounded. Stuart called police, claimed that a black man had carjacked them, drove them to a seedy neighborhood, robbed and shot them. Stuart even went so far as to identify the killer from a mugshot book. The killer was quickly apprehended, and the country was aflame from the heinous deed; even William Raspberry, an African-American columnist for the Boston Globe, felt guilt and shame that another black man could be capable of such an act.

It turned out, of course, that Stuart had shot his own wife, because he was afraid that there would be financial hardship in the household if she quit her job to care for the child (as if killing her would put her back to work). Stuart then shot himself, called his brother to fetch the gun and a few personal items to make it look like a robbery. The brother, panged by guilt, turned himself over to the police and confessed what really happened. Charles Stuart, realizing the game was up, drowned himself. And then there was poor Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who was forced out of her car by another evil black man, who for no apparent reason decided he wanted to kidnap two white boys. It was instant national news. Outpourings of grief, outrage and sympathy everywhere. But an intensive hunt for the car turned-up nothing, and there was a good reason for that: Smith had allowed the vehicle to roll into a lake with her sons still inside, where they drowned. Smith confessed that she was infatuated with a local man with money who wasn’t interested in having kids. Although the media quickly jumped on the usual psychological “syndromes” that women peculiarly suffer from to explain her actions, Smith is not due for parole until 2024.

Many people felt “betrayed” by the alleged victims after the truth came out. Why “betrayed?” It is as if they actually wanted to believe these heinous stories. Why? Because these stories about blacks (and Latinos as well) committing such crimes “confirms” their own beliefs and prejudices? It justifies their bigotry? It eases their minds when segregation and discrimination is the order of the day?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dreaming of a different world

What kind of world would it be if George Bush had not been “elected” president? Bush himself knew that many people thought his election was illegitimate. That is why after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially handed him the crown (Justice Sandra Day O’Connor would later say that she would not retire so long as a Democrat was president, so now she could retire with peace of mind), he would claim that he “heard” the American People, and he would not pursue his controversial $1.3 trillion tax cut that benefited almost exclusively the wealthiest Americans. We’ve heard this kind of talk before, of course; Republicans always claim that they have “heard” the People. The problem is they that they are listening to a very small minority that has a very large amount of bucks; in the 2001, it turned out that the rich and the powerful were heard with more clarity than “The People.” The Republicans listened to the corporate dog whistle and passed the massive tax cuts for the rich anyways—through budget reconciliation, because Democrats still claimed to “hear” the rest of the People. Today, of course, the Republicans still claim to hear the people—except that instead from backrooms, the rich and powerful are channeling their propaganda through Tea Party types.

Anyways, continuing the dream that Bush was not president. We would not have the massive budget deficits we are seeing now, not just because there would be no massive tax cuts for the rich, but because there would be considerable less warfare to pay for. Would 9-11 have occurred under an Al Gore presidency? We know that the Clinton administration warned the Bush people about a possible attack on U.S. soil by Al-Qaeda operatives. We also know that at least a month before the attack, the FBI warned the Bush people about possible attacks using jetliners as suicide bombs. We also know that the Bush administration essentially ignored these warnings as baseless (we think). If a Gore administration had acted on these warnings, it is certainly within the realm of reason that steps would have been taken to take more seriously reports from FBI field agents who reported suspicious activity by several of the terrorists who would eventually be involved in the 9-11 attacks. We also know, of course, that the Bush administration—intent on starting another war in Iraq—deliberately ratcheted-up the language of belligerence from the start, no doubt further inciting the terrorists.

Furthermore, it seems more likely that any “war”—if in fact the attack was successfully carried out—would have been limited to attacks on Al-Qaeda positions in Afghanistan and perhaps more serious attempts to take-out Bin Laden and his cohorts whatever means necessary, rather than waiting on the Taliban to “give-up” Bin Laden, which the Bush administration knew would not occur, but gave them an excuse to get their feet on the battleground. Even if a Gore administration had decided to put boots on the ground, we can presume that all resources necessary would have been deployed to the task, rather than faking it, and then becoming bogged down in Iraq. We can also presume that this war would have been a rather less expensive one to fight.

Since Gore is into “green,” we could also expect, without the problem of massive budget deficits created by massive tax cuts for the rich and a two-front war, that the country would have taken more concrete efforts at finding ways to offset the country’s dependence on foreign oil. There also wouldn’t have been the attempt to fleece the elderly and further enrich drug companies with the Medicare Part D program, which obliged the government to subsidize drug companies’ inflated prices. What about the economy? Instead of gutting HUD funding for affordable housing and pitching the “affordable” home loan myth, people who otherwise did not have the means would not be finding their life’s work lost in toxic mortgages—and financial institutions would not have needed bailouts. There would have been less willingness by oversight bodies to allow the financial gambling that the Bush administration allowed to occur. The recession would still have occurred—but certainly not on the scale as experienced now, and the government would have had the means to provide relief without breaking the bank. And not least, we wouldn't have had an administration that deliberately tried to enhance racial divisions and created an atmosphere conducive to hate for cynical political gain.

This is of course hindsight, but looking back, there is almost nothing that the Bush administration did that did not contribute to the tribulations the country faces today.

Are American Jews an oppressed "minority?"

I must confess that I was never much impressed with Rick Sanchez’s shtick on CNN. A bit of excitable bluster here, a suggestion of being malinformed there trying to bloat something out of nothing, and not being very good at small talk. So Sanchez, apparently angry that he was being shuffled to an inferior post, which may have been warranted, went-off in a radio interview claiming anti-Latino bias. The funny thing is, if a white person were to point out that this bias existed (and let’s face it—CNN has few minorities on the payroll—although more than “liberal” MSNBC), everyone would be nodding in agreement, if they be honest. But Sanchez had the temerity to voice the opinion himself; minorities are not allowed to talk about discrimination, or else they’ll be accused of “racism.” Note that every time Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton open their mouths about alleged racial discrimination, the knee-jerk reaction of many whites is denial and claims of black racism.

However, if Sanchez had simply clammed-up after making the racism accusation, he might still have a job. But Jon Stewart’s poking fun at him on “The Daily Show” may have been “proof” to Sanchez that this kind of talk that was occurring behind his back, leading to his “demotion.” He started talking about Jews, and that is a no-no. Accuse Jews of discrimination (especially if they work for your boss—or are your boss) then what happens to you is what happened to Sanchez: you get fired. Frankly, I found Sanchez’s resorting to attacking Jews to be reactionary, ill-informed, idiotic but most of all foolish ; there may well be large percentage of people of Jewish persuasion in positions of authority in the media, but I must observe that it has done little to” liberalize” it or make the news programs more about news than entertainment—like CNN; even “The Daily Show” really isn’t about news, it’s about making fun of newsmakers. Sanchez’s mistake was forgetting that Stewart really doesn’t have much of a conscience, and thus shouldn't be taken seriously--unlike Stephen Colbert, who I will credit with having somewhat of a moral center the bears examination.

This attacking Jews is bad business, because the fact is that many Jews do live in the past—in fact in another country, where the Holocaust did occurred. But the Jews were not victims of this country’s version of the Holocaust: the destruction of 90 percent of the Native American population in the first three centuries of European exploitation. Jews were also not slaves in this country (new archeological evidence suggests that they were not even slaves in Egypt). They were not interned, like the Japanese. They were not spoken of as pests and vermin as Latinos are in this country today, or being deported even when they have their birth certificates on their persons. Jews were transgressed upon by “gentlemen’s agreements” that barred them from exclusive country clubs and residential areas. But they were not prevented from pursuing careers and making a lot of money. While many Jews were heavily involved in the civil rights struggle, throughout much of the 20th Century, “white” and “Jew” were synonymous with those shopkeepers who were perceived as exploiting inner city black neighborhoods; I found it extremely hypocritical for Jewish leaders to denounce civil rights leader Julian Bond when he made this point. Rather than examine the truth of the matter, Jewish leaders merely claimed that Bond was a “racist.” White (supposedly mostly Jewish) shopkeepers were targeted in riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, and were duly critiqued; on the other hand, as Jewish scholar Jonathan Schorsch observed, speaking of black/Jewish relations by Jewish writers and researchers was permissible only if “subjectivity did not threaten certain conceptions of Jewish passivity and disempowerment." Meaning that speaking of discrimination against blacks by Jews was not to be countenanced.

For racial minorities who continue to be made to feel the substantive effects of racism, resort to talk about remembering the Holocaust should be as much about how racist propaganda and stereotyping is used to dehumanize people and justify discrimination, not just about killing a lot of people (I mean, this is America). Sanchez found himself in additional hot water when the interviewer, Pete Dominick, posed the question “Are not Jews minorities too?” His first response was to find this bogus, before backtracking. But it is a bogus comparison. Jews can be labeled a religious minority, but not a racial minority; that was an anti-Semitic myth. Jews are, at least those in this country, Caucasian. Hardly anyone has Barbara Streisand’s enormous proboscis, so it is impossible to distinguish Jews from any other white American. Even Jerry Falwell or Osama Bin Laden couldn’t tell the difference unless you told them. To compare the issues that Jews confront in this country to that of black and Latinos is to diminish the harsh reality that the latter confront in this society.

CNN never allowed Sanchez to redeem himself by apologizing for his comments on the air, which suggest it was looking for an excuse to fire Sanchez anyways. But you can bet your bottom dollar that CNN commentators will continue to make outrageous claims of sexism without substantiating evidence, and no one will ever be fired over it or be forced to apologize for it. CNN will also not be required to explain why it broadcasts so many negative images of Latinos that help create an atmosphere of hate. Some groups are simply more “relevant,” and powerful, than others.

While the country fries, corporations are swimming in money

It sure took the New York Times long enough to figure out what many of us have been talking about for some time now: That instead of using bail-out money and low-interest loans to restart the economy, large corporations are treading water at best, saving the money for replacement equipment and cutting jobs, for their next big acquisition and cutting jobs, stockpiling the money so that upper-echelon managers can safely parachute away and cutting jobs, making sure shareholders get a beefy dividend and cutting jobs, or generally not doing anything at all and cutting jobs. One thing they are not doing at the moment is creating new jobs. Why? Because maximizing profits is still the number one goal in life. Nothing else matters, even the survival of the country. The domestic economy will not improve unless these corporations start using the $1.6 trillion they have stockpiled for job creation; if the vast disparity in wages was managed in a more equitable manner, this alone could create jobs. But if there are fewer people with money to spend, the economy will not restart. If corporations do not hire, people will fear for their own jobs, and save more in this vicious cycle. More people will be on unemployment, raising government deficits. For corporations in a global economic environment, American consumers don’t matter as much to American corporations as they used to; there are always customers elsewhere. Ironically (or not) small businesses that need the money to invest and hire new employees have been stopped at the door when seeking the same loans.

The claim is that corporations are waiting until after elections to see if the “climate” is more “business-friendly”—meaning, of course if more Republicans populate Congress. Unless voters retrieve their senses on election day, that will certainly happen. The health care and financial reform bills will at best be the only significant “change” we will have seen from this administration, and frankly we were lucky to get that given the way conservative Democrats blocked anything of greater substance. And we may not even have that if Republicans gain majorities in both chambers. Only Obama will have the ability to keep Republicans and their corporate allies from running amuck and building another “bubble” that people will mistake for growth but in reality is merely the precursor for another bust that reveals that the interest of business is not to build a structurally sound domestic economy, but to outsource and cut jobs in order to maximize profits and personal bank accounts—while the average American will continue to suffer low wages and job insecurity. When the next bust comes, companies will again blackmail the federal government for bailout money, and their Republican backers will again accuse Democrats of wasting taxpayer money to gain political advantage (even though TARP has in fact not in end cost taxpayers anything—and has even made a profit), and of course demand that more tax cuts for business, more deregulation, and expect that clouding voters’ minds to the truth of their crimes. Even now, Karl Rove’s “non-profit” Crossroads GPA campaign organization claims on its website that the Obama administration is “cutting the supply of investment capital” to businesses. The reality is that financial entities have been loaning large companies massive funds; the question is what do they intend to do with the money. What appears to be happening is that companies are “investing” in their own profit margins and pocket books.

Citizens United case already bearing its rotten fruit

The can of worms that we all expected to be opened after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, allowing virtually unlimited campaign spending, has occurred. Campaign finance watchdogs are calling for the IRS to investigate the non-profit status of two so-called “issues” organizations, the Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Federal Elections Commission is supposed to oversee the legality of these organizations campaign activities, but has been too far politicized itself to do anything. In order to receive tax-exempt status, such organizations must be “non-partisan” and claim no political affiliation or directly support or oppose a particular candidate. But count on Karl Rove (who should be in prison, but apparently has a lot of dirt on a lot people), the principle backer of Crossroads, to thread the needle as finely as possible, hoping that no one will notice. Crossroads is classified as a “social welfare” organization under the federal tax code, which is patently absurd on its face. The organization’s website might suggest “social welfare” for corporations, but otherwise it is nothing more or less than a transparent front group targeting the administration and Democratic lawmakers. Its blatant partisanship is clear enough from its word-for-word parroting of the same right-wing talking points and bald-faced lies and deceptions we’ve heard ad nauseum over the past two years, and its cross-country attack ads on exclusively Democratic candidates merely reinforces the point.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is not only accepting “contributions” from foreign companies to help influence elections in this country, but is actively soliciting those contributions. The legality of the Chamber’s activities is a subject of debate, but the total lack of ethics in the matter appalls the mind. The watchdog group StopTheChamber is calling for the Justice Department to “shut down” this “criminal organization once and for all.” As with all right-wing organizations, when it comes to maintaining power and influence, the law is merely an inconvenience to be skirted, or ignored.

U.S. tax laws state that organizations like Crossroads GPS and the Chamber cannot be political or participate or intervene in political campaigns if they desire to be classified as untaxed nonprofits that can spend unlimited funds and keep donors’ identities private. This is the can of worms that the Supreme Court has opened. All these groups have to say is that they only run “issues” ads, and they can do whatever they like without any oversight whatever. Both of these organizations are so blatantly partisan—and the Chamber has been so since its creation—and have such potent resources to draw on, that unless they are reigned-in now, the U.S. electoral process (thanks to the blatantly extreme right majority on the Supreme Court) will make a typical Italian or Third World election look like the very model impartiality and honesty.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Piling on

The Justice Department is reportedly readying a report on alleged discrimination against girls in college admissions, to determine if boys are benefiting from “favoritism” in violation of Title IX. How can this be, you ask? Girls constitute an increasing majority of college students—as much as a 60-40 split—so why is the Justice Department wasting its time on an apparently frivolous and self-serving accusation? Good question. Until the report is released, we won’t know what colleges and what persons were involved in bringing forth these allegations, although it won't be a surprise if it is feminist activists from the American Association for University Women—responsible for the shockingly distorted and utterly devoid of fact 1992 report “How Schools Shortchanged Girls,” which led to a variety of changes that merely led to more overt challenges to boys’ already eroding ability to find a place in an academic environment geared to over-state girls’ “strengths.” The AAUW was, of course, also shamelessly responsible for the now discredited and completely disreputable “study” which claimed that one-in-three college women are raped.

The subject being investigated, of course, should have been “Are boys being discriminated against in college admissions?” But the wider question is “Are boys being discriminated against in general in the education system?” Yes, boys are dropping out of high school at higher rates and less likely to be admitted to college, so there may be a problem worth investigating, states a Seattle Times editorial; but we shouldn’t do anything that will “hurt girls,” and this has been the general refrain from those who deign to perceive a problem but don’t really want to do anything about it—doubtless either fearful of a gender politics backlash, or outspokenly desiring such an outcome. While nit-picking anti-affirmative action statutes opposed to under-represented racial minority admissions have been passed in allegedly blue states like Washington and California, the country seems loath to take-on the loud and sometimes frenzied gender activists, even merely to address the disparity issue. As I noted in an earlier post, some gender activists applaud the disparity, since it “proves” that women are “superior.” Yet, as I noted, there doesn’t seem to be any Einsteins, Beethovens, Newtons or even Bill Gateses coming out of this new crop of “superior” beings. Even Linda Buck’s Nobel Prize for her cancer research is now being questioned after two of her research papers were withdrawn for being based on fraudulent data.

Although Christina Hoff Sommers’ Atlantic Monthly article “The War Against Boys” was published in 2000, the situation seems even worse now for boys than it did then. How did we get to this point? Sommers’ placed the ongoing propaganda of victimology at the feet of Carol Gilligan, a Harvard professor in gender studies, which more appropriately should be referred to as “women as victims studies” since Gilligan and her ilk have never shown any understanding (or desire to understand) the problems confronting males in this society. In a “ground-breaking” 1982 book entitled “A Different Voice,” Gilligan claimed that "As the river of a girl's life flows into the sea of Western culture, she is in danger of drowning or disappearing”—and schools were the principle culprit. Gilligan was merely expressing her own opinion as one of the “oppressed,” so the need for actual data to back-up her claim was completely unnecessary. It was a given “fact.” Thus “girls in crisis” became a “national emergency” once the media got a hold of the story—emphasis on “story.” Media types like Anna Quindlen—for whom I feel a great deal of contempt—ignored the reality of their own success and made female victimology all the rage; in an op-ed, Quindlen even implied that she felt a degree of dismay over even the possibility that her own sons might be more successful than her daughter, blaming it on a “patriarchal” society dismissive of women.

Gilligan was followed by other feminist writers who made increasingly horrific claims without offering any empirical data that could be peer-reviewed. For example, repeated efforts to obtain the data upon which Gilligan claimed to base her findings in "Voice" on have not only not materialized, if it does in fact exist it would likely stand-up to close inspection as well as a twig in a bonfire. The aforementioned AAUW study was not at the time questioned, but since then its research methods have been criticized and discredited as “politics dressed up as science.” Other, less politicized and biased reports, concluded that the exact opposite of what the academic feminists were claiming was occurring: That boys were increasingly falling behind in almost every area of the educational environment, and that school was a much more demoralizing experience for them than for girls.

But the damage had been done. And continues to be done. The effect of the AAUW “studies” persuaded government agencies to pour money into programs to reverse the non-existent “gap” in academic achievement and “nurturing” environment between girls and boys, and merely extended the one that did exist, as yet unrecognized in the cloud of female victimology. What to do? Gilligan would claim that boys needed to get closer to their mothers and discover their “feminine” side, which was contrary to studies with harder evidence that concluded that boys in fatherless households were more susceptible to failure (the one exception being households where single mothers were able to provide a stable environment). Increasing evidence that flatly contradicted and criticized the AAUW’s findings was greeted by the then president of the Association with the accusation that “reducing the problems of our children to this petty 'who is worse off, boys or girls?’ gets us nowhere.” In this scenario, only boys are going “nowhere,” but this is just fine with the gender activists; as the Seattle Times stated, no “solution” that “hurts” girls should be countenanced. But those that hurt boys do, apparently, have a “legitimate” purpose. Take for instance the fact that while girls have higher GPAs, boys have slightly higher SAT scores. GPAs are thus given greater weight in college admissions (which also often includes the requirement of an “essay” in which girls and their verbal skills are more likely to “excel” in), but this isn’t the only problem. While girls’ higher GPAs are cited as “evidence” that they are “smarter” than boys, higher SAT scores by boys are cited as just more “evidence” that girls are “discriminated” against. The hypocrisy boggles the mind.

Much of the effort to legitimize diminishing boys in favor of girls involve “demasculinizing” boys, and failing that, punishing them for exhibiting “masculine” traits that allegedly “inhibit” girls. 90 percent of elementary school teachers are female, and so not surprisingly the process starts at an early age. Girls at an early age have a higher aptitude for reading and writing than boys; but like in dumbed-down math, teaching language ignores the fact that young boys are more restless than girls. Boys early reading skills were improved when teaching language phonetically, where one learns by breaking down the sounds that letters or groups of letters make to form words; but this system was apparently regarded as “unfair” to girls, and most schools no longer use it. A 2006 complaint to the Office of Civil Rights by a male high school student claimed that teachers in his school showed outward favoritism toward girls; boys are too “unruly” and do not sit quietly and behave like zombies. Girls who decorate their homework with feathers and sprinkles are given “extra credit.” Boys are far more frequently punished for the same transgressions that girls are guilty of, like showing up late for class. Why wouldn’t this lead to a decrease in motivation to learn if for boys, school is a “hostile” environment?

While college seems less susceptible to the negative effects of gender politicking, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur in the classroom. When I thought I wanted to go to graduate school (because I couldn’t find a decent job) I enrolled in what is now Sacramento State University. I was in a media class taught by a proudly (and loudly) feminist professor; she liked to talk about Madonna and how she was the greatest cultural force since Shakespeare. One day she was talking about sexist images in the media or something, and I observed out of the blue that I couldn’t help but observe that there were an awful lot of white female instructors in this school and an awful few minority instructors, and all this talk about sexism/victimization was relative. After class, one of the students threatened me with physical violence because I had the temerity to disturb the instructor’s reverie in her cloud of victimology.

All this contributes to an environment where boys are at a disadvantage—and contrary to the claims of gender activists, this does have far-reaching negative implications for the nation as a whole. As I noted in an earlier blog, 60 percent of students receiving bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are women, but as the number of females in colleges and universities has increased dramatically, there is an equally dramatic shift away from “hard” sciences like engineering, the physical sciences and mathematics toward “soft” sciences like behavioral and biological sciences. While the “soft” sciences may be more in tune with an economy that is increasingly devolving into customer service and marketing instead of manufacturing, it bespeaks of the loss of competitiveness in actually creating things the U.S. has sustained in the past several decades. It is better to “speak well” and look pretty rather than speaking in incomprehensible technical terms required for jobs that now only exist in another language. Almost all high-ticket consumer goods (with the bare exception of automobiles) and electronics are manufactured overseas, and it is only naturally that innovations and advancements in this area are almost exclusively occurring overseas as well. Only feminists like Hanna Rosin (“The End of Men”) can have the stupidity of believing that this is “progress.”

Education is not the only arena where female victimology has gone to illogical extremes in this country. There is yet another report out bemoaning that that women earn only 81 percent of what men do. This latest “crisis” naturally does not take into account factors that not only mitigate but suggest a reversal in trends. For example, white women hold the plurality of jobs in this country, (and women a majority of the jobs in general); their unemployment rate is the lowest of any demographic. In fact, the unemployment rate of black males is four times higher than white women’s, and this is probably on the low side: the incarceration rate of black males (who presumably did not have jobs in any case) and those who have simply “disappeared” indicates a disparity of closer to 10 times. Given the changing nature of the workplace, with more low-pay jobs that require communication and physically-aesthetic “skills” replacing higher-paying manufacturing jobs, the fact that women are more likely to be hired for these types of jobs at least initially would send the wage percentage to the lower-end.

The fact that more women have college degrees accounts for a recent study that suggests that in 147 of the 150 largest cities in the country, young women earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts, and in some locations the disparity is as much as 20 percent. What this means is that older males making large amounts of money may skew the numbers now, but in time they will be replaced by women who are favored in the current economic dynamic, and who make more money. There is no “crisis”—or if there is one, it isn’t the one feminists and gender activists claim is occurring. In many jobs, women are put in higher-paying “supervisory” positions for entirely arbitrary reasons; for example, one vendor for the airline I work for deploys women as “supervisors”—presumably because they cannot be discomfited with being out in the weather doing “hard” work running transfer bags.

Outright and blatant discrimination in favor of (white) women cannot be discounted as “sexist” talk, either. I experienced this myself about twenty years ago when I was living in Sacramento. I was working through a temp agency, and one day I was sent to a small business that engaged in advertisement piece work, simple stuff. At the end of the day, the supervisor called us all together, and started counting heads, beginning with the white women; when he finished counting all of them, he informed the rest of us that he didn’t require our services. I mused to myself that he had just picked-out his “harem.” While the rest of us–a dozen minorities and two older white men–were waiting for the supervisor to sign our time cards, I mulled over what had just transpired, and after I was done mulling I blurted out “You know, we need the work, too.” The reaction to this was a mix of fear, horror and amusement–the latter mostly on my part. The supervisor’s expression suggested that he had just witnessed an ape talk, while the other temps, mouths agape, seemed bizarrely perturbed that anyone should be permitted the temerity to have an opinion about an ethically-challenged employer whose discriminatory actions effected them materially.

On another occasion, I was twice sent to a workplace where when I arrived I was told at the receptionist’s desk that I was no longer needed. The agency expressed surprise at this, because the same supervisor kept calling them requesting a worker, and were told I was coming. The next time the agency was called to fill the position, I was told to just go meet the supervisor unannounced. The supervisor, who was a white female, was extremely hesitant to tell me that the position was still open, but being a minority person she apparently did not want to be accused of being racist. But sexist maybe. I often hear on the news stories about sexual harassment and hostile work environments for women; what I encountered was a shop filled exclusively by women (examining photographic negatives of motherboards for errors). Not only was the supervisor practicing gender discrimination, but did so because it allowed an atmosphere of where women could safely enunciate their unflattering views about men. Could I have complained? Should I have? Or better yet, who would have listened? Four months of it was enough for me.

Justification for apparent discrimination comes in the way of a claim I just heard on the radio made by some women’s symposium in Washington D.C.; the Campbell Soup company has seen a 15 percent rise in sales over the past few years, and it is directly contributable to the rise in female managers at the company. A company spokesperson said that for Campbell, hiring more female manager has been “mm-mm good.” But the website last month had this to say: “Campbell Soups prospects look cold.” Its stock report observes that Campbell—which controls 80 percent of the soup market—has only seen an average of 1 percent sales increase per year over the past decade, and over the past year and half an effective decline in sales. Profit margins were maintained only through mass lay-offs and tax cuts. It seems likely that hiring more female managers had little impact on actual sales, but that didn’t stop a self-promoting group from stretching the truth to further their agenda.

Female victimology also affects men in other, more insidious ways. The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The NFL forces players to wear pink ribbons, visors, armbands or cleats to observe the occasion. I’m sure players will say that it is not a big deal even though they know it is a cynical PR stunt, and it is clear that the NFL is only doing this to mend its tarnished image after unfortunate incidents perpetrated by a few players. But it is not uncommon for football players to end their careers permanently physically disabled, often with brain damage that doesn’t manifest itself for years; many wind-up in homeless shelters or on city streets. Do the same women who make breast cancer a political event give one solitary damn about these former players? Highly unlikely, knowing the self-obsessed nature of gender activism.

Some statistics: One in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetimes, and it is responsible for 2.9 percent of all causes of mortality among women. A 2007 study revealed that $25,000 per death was spent on breast cancer research in 2006, while less than $2,000 per death was spent on lung cancer, the biggest killer among cancers. Since breast cancer has a 95 percent cure rate if caught early, at least we can say it is money well spent—and a clue to what can be done to combat other cancers if a similar level of research funding was available. Lung cancer, although it infects fewer women than breast or skin cancer, kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer each year. Colon cancer (depending on its location), by way of comparison has a 59 to 66 percent survival rate five years after detection, which suggests a much higher mortality rate per victim. While I’m sure that many men are just as concerned about breast health as women (but for different reasons, one may reason), the anecdotes that the media provides—of the young, attractive female—are contrary to the reality that the vast majority of breast cancer victims are women over 65 years of age.

On the other hand, I was listening to Coast-to-Coast where a guest was deriding the “overblown” concern about prostate cancer, since it “only” accounted for 3.6 percent of deaths among men; not that I was surprised by this claim, since C-to-C has a tendency to have guests who see conspiracies everywhere. Nevertheless it is somewhat ironic, since this death rate is higher than that of women who will die of breast cancer as a percent of all causes. Obviously, the fact that breast cancer is probably the most politicized illness in history has shielded it from such complaints. It is also, it seems to me, somewhat disturbing “advice” given that men in general seem less concerned with their health than women are to begin with; Bill Clinton, the very picture of health and vitality in his mid-fifties, succumbed to a heart attack, aided by his supposed addiction to McDonald’s burgers and fries. I’m sure many people remember how ghastly weak and shriveled he appeared after his surgery; many men are not even as “lucky” as he was to survive it.

There are other issues along these lines I could discuss—the media’s knee-jerk support of any claim of female victimization (the “war against women” shouts CNN’s hysterical shouter Jane Velez-Mitchell), Judge Sluggo squashing Mr. Bill like a bug in divorce and child custody courts everywhere while cleaning out his bank account, and the University of Washington’s call for male “volunteers” to help them deal with domestic violence. Is UW acknowledging the fact that unbiased studies suggest that fifty percent of domestic violence incidents are initiated by women? What planet do you think you are on? Pluto? Might as well be; Pluto isn’t even a planet anymore. No, UW wants to experiment on men with new anger management techniques to “help” them deal with their personal issues—and continue the pattern of only addressing half the problem, thus insuring that domestic violence (over-blown or not) continues to be a problem. Or I could discuss what it felt like being the only male in the audience listening to a visiting lecturer named Catherine MacKinnon, who I had never heard of; an instructor told me that I would learn something useful, which I have to admit I did. Like all heterosexual sex is rape.

I will end this conversation on this note: I once saw a YMCA television ad promoting a “self-esteem” camp—for girls. Isn’t that what the YWCA is for? Whatever happened to the place where a young man down on his luck could go? It is a pointless question, because nobody wants to answer a question they don’t want asked in the first place.