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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

July 02, 2004
It Was 40 Years Ago Today

A couple of months ago, NPR had some fascinating audio interviews around the Brown vs Board of Education decision. This one and this one were particularly good.

Actually, I understand Eisenhower's stance (see previous post). You cannot, in fact, legislate how someone thinks, although I do believe that mandating equality of treatment can gradually build a new mindset in most people.

Sadly, then entire process is taking a lot longer than most of us had hoped.

Oh, yes, you can't discriminate against someone because they're female, or black, or asian, or whatever, but Eisenhower was right. A legal ban on openly discriminating against someone doesn't mean you can't find sneaky ways to block them, if you're so minded. And far too many people in this country are still so minded.

(The most interesting site I've found is this one. Read it and scroll through the links at the bottom to read the other pages as well.)

And yet….

If you listen to Integration's Unfulfilled Promise (and Part II), you might find yourself wondering.

Are black people better off today than they were forty years ago today?

Economically…yes. Most of them. A lot of them.

Another bunch of them…not so much. (It has to be said that there isn't a public restaurant, bus, or hotel in the country that any one of us can't walk into a demand service from, though. That was worth doing.)

Spiritually/Emotionally? If you listen to those audio programs, you might have your doubts.

No, I'm not advocating a return to segregation, but I'm looking at the history of 'integration' in this country and starting to wonder about some things. We did the best we knew how at the time and I really believe that. But I'm speculating if a different path might not be more suitable from today on.

This question is all tangled up with the frustration I've posted about recently, about how I don't understand "ethnic" and "religious" wars and simply can't understand why someone wants to kill someone else because they're too tall/too short/too brown/too white/too different.

I've been reading a book on the "roots" of mass movements. It talks about the personality types that are attracted to mass movements, from religion to totalitarianism, and about how there are basic personality similarities in the people such movements originally attract.

I'll do a proper review after I finish the book, but I happened to read something relevant to the last two NPR audio stories above last night and I wanted to mention it. There's a significant passage in the book about "community" identities and what they mean to people.

People part of a solid, defined community are allowed to abandon a certain amount of personal responsibility for their own success or failure; they're not required to face the world on their own merits.

Further, the book goes on to discuss how the USofA standard of "individualism" is largely what's so offensive to less-developed countries. (Published in 1951, the book is still relevant today.) We're trying to impose economic prosperity, using our model which means reorganizing at the cost of their tribal or extended family affiliations, which not only erases their culture, but forces them to face the cold, hard world on their own two feet.

(The author's premise, though he tries hard to write from an objective perspective, seems to be that "worldly" success is hollow and meaningless, that it's only in these group affiliations that true fulfillment can be found…but that at the same time, you have to give up some freedoms to be a member of such groups as well as giving up what we think of as "personal ambition.")

The point is, that his idea about the importance of community or family affiliations in people's sense of identity and happiness dovetails very well with the regrets about the dissolution of the 'black community' (can't remember the exact words used in the audio, sorry) in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Ethnicity exists. I may not understand it, but I accept that people find comfort and security in their ethnicity.

I'm just saying, if that kind of thing is of value to people, then we shouldn't throw it out.

Is the "melting pot" really the best solution for stabilizing a society made up of as many nationalities and ethnicities as this country is? Should we be struggling for assimilation...or should we be looking at something more like a jigsaw puzzle? Complementary sections, not erasing the edges.

(If we changed to a jigsaw model, would the country gradually lose its overall identity as people identified more with their chosen community group and less with a government that wasn't, quite, able to service that community's needs because of the pressure of needs from so many other communities?)

On the other hand, of course, I'm also considering some of Bill Cosby's latest speeches.

I'll have more to say on these ideas in the near future, I hope. These are just some preliminary musings.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:30 PM | Comments (2)
July 2, 1964

It was forty years ago, today....

There's an important anniversary today. Kennedy's idea, and, later, Johnson's determined support, drove through The Civil Rights Act of 1964, building on the foundation created by a reluctant Eisenhower:

(The statistically inclined can look at the numbers. I find a timeline more meaningful.)

A Civil Right: "[A]n enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury."

Previous civil rights acts passed by the Federal government had been thrown out by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the Constitution didn't give Congress the authority to pass such legislation.

The most important expansion of civil rights in the United States was the enactment of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States. See U.S. Const. amend. XIII. In response to the 13th Amendment, various states enacted "black codes" which were intended to limit the civil rights of the newly free slaves. In 1868 the 14th Amendment was passed to counter the "black codes" and ensure that no state "shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the citizens of the United States . . . [or] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, [or] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." See U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Congress was also given the power by section five of the Fourteenth Amendment to pass any laws needed for its enforcement.

Based on that last sentence, I'm not sure how previous Acts could have been unconstitutional, but variances in wording make a big difference, of course. I haven't researched the history of the failed attempts, but I was very interested to learn that the equal gender protection was added to the 1964 Act in an attempt to alienate Northern Senators who might be willing to press for equal rights for minorities but who could be expected to draw the line at letting women be equal.

The attempt to scuttle the 1964 Act failed and was resulted was an outright ban on discrimination.

A law that covered everyone. What a concept.

Little Rock was the catalyst for the 1957 bill.

The Little Rock High School incident of 1957 in Arkansas brought international attention to the civil rights cause. The Montgomery Bus Boycott may have been important but it hardly had media appeal. Here at Little Rock, you had a state fighting against federal authority, national guard troopers facing professional paratroopers and a governor against a president. As part of a media circus, it proved compulsive viewing - but what happened was shown throughout the western world and brought the civil rights issue into the living rooms of many people who may have been unaware of what was going on in the South.

Eisenhower had shown that he had little faith in measures to support the African American community in the South simply because he believed that a change of heart was required and that enforcement would not work - if anything, enforcement would make matters worse. In 1957 a civil rights bill was being pushed through Congress and Eisenhower made it clear that it did not have his support. This bill was very mild but the leader of the Senate majority, Lyndon Johnson (a future US president and from Texas) watered it down so that Southern senators would not ruin what was on paper. The bill was passed into law in 1957 with a 72 to14 vote. It barely changed anything but it was more a symbol of hope that the law could be used to change Southern society. It was, in fact, the first civil rights act to pass Congress since the Civil War.

(Little Rock, in pictures.)

I've decided to break this into two parts. I'm going to re-read the rest of it (and eat a donut) before I post it.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)
July 01, 2004
JULY 1!

It's Canada Day!

Canada became self-governing on July 1st, 1867, with the passage of the British North America Act (BNA Act) in the British Parliament. The holiday was originally known as "Dominion Day" but the name was changed to Canada Day on October 27, 1982. (Does that make October 27 a holiday as well?)

Personally, I wish the British Parliament would have had the foresight to pass their act on July 4. Then the two countries would be able to collectively knock off work once a year and throw the world's biggest picnic!

Here's the Canadian "take" on the day, in English and French.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)
Getting It Wrong

I see an awful lot of coverage lately of the various, "anyone but Bush" groups working toward the November election and I find it a bit disturbing.

(Of course, there's a fair amount of "Bush at all costs" campaigning going on, as well, but the desirability of that is "their" problem.)

It's not that I don't agree we need to get Bush & Gang out of the White House, because naturally I do. And I do understand the idea that we need a simple rallying point. The majority of the population isn't going to think long and hard about all the issues so the Left needs to present a quick and snappy, clear-cut choice to get those votes.

Some might think, "anyone but Bush" is a sufficient message for that kind of voter, but it's not. We're getting it wrong. Running "against" isn't good enough. We have to be for something. I mean…after we elect Kerry on November 2, what happens next?

If we want Kerry to do the things we want him to do, we have to pay attention to what he says he's going to do and give him feedback now. If we want education to be a priority, we have to make that clear now. If we want corporate reform to be of the first importance, we have to say so now. If we want protection for the environment, we have to speak up now.

He can't do what we want him to do if we don't tell him what we want him to do, can he? He's a politician, not a mind-reader.

He probably has a position on each of the major issues that voters care about. It's up to us to help advertise those positions. If enough voters agree with him, he'll get the White House. That's the way it works.

Also? By all accounts, John Kerry is a serious politician/elected official, with intelligent ideas about how to run this country. I say, it's about time the Motivated Left stopped mourning the loss of Dean's explosive campaign style, entertaining as it was, and started listening to Kerry.

We need to help advertise what it is he stands for and what it is he wants to do once he's in office. He's about more than, "anyone but Bush." He's not running on that as a platform, which tells us he has more to say, he has some ideas he wants to share, and we need to be listening. Listening and repeating.

The media isn't interested in Kerry…they're polite about him, but that's all. And that's not because of any lack in Kerry necessarily…we're not all cut out for rabble-rousing speeches, after all. If you actually listen to the man, he speaks very well.

It's because of a lack of enthusiasm from us about Kerry. The media is there to sell newspapers or magazines or to get us to turn on their channel to view the nightly news. They're going to cover anything they think we'll come to them to read or to watch. If we're enthusiastic about Kerry, they'll be enthusiastic. If we talk about what he's saying, they're going to report what he's saying. (And they have the resources and the ambition to dig into the facts and figures and give us some context for what he's saying.)

I was complaining myself the other day about Kerry's lack of 'passion' when he's campaigning and I'm a bit embarrassed to remember that now. How shallow of me.

Yes, I'd like to feel some emotion coming from him. It quickens the pulse and adds excitement to the campaign…but then suddenly I'm remembering that a campaign isn't about excitement.

This isn't Reality TV, folks. It's reality. This is about electing someone with the brains and experience to do the job and someone whose beliefs and goals are close enough to ours to reassure us they want to live in the same kind of 'democracy' we want to live in.

Also? A campaign doesn't exist in a vacuum. A political campaign isn't like an ad campaign for snack crackers. You're not meant to be a passive consumer, you're meant to be a part of the process. (You're either part of the problem, or you're part of the solution. In politics, sitting on the sidelines eating popcorn and complaining that the sound-bites are boring makes you part of the problem.) Instead of watching with an expectation that we're going to be force-fed some entertainment, we need join in. If we want passion, if we want enthusiasm, we're responsible for creating them.

The man is flying and driving all over the country, speaking to every group he can fit into his schedule, working hard to get people to listen to him. If we're not hearing his 'message' and talking about it among ourselves, it's our own fault. A politician isn't a circus clown and he shouldn't be required to juggle chainsaws, breathe fire, and dance a little jig at the same time in order to get our votes.

(If we don't get many serious, honest, intelligent people to run for office, maybe it's because we don't treat candidates for office as serious, honest, intelligent people.)

Those of you who have blogs and brains (the two aren't necessarily synonymous) might think about picking out whatever issue or issues interest you, researching Kerry's stand on it and discussing it with the world via your blog.

You're going to be blogging anyhow. You might as well be making a substantive contribution while you're at it.

(I know, I know. I've barely acknowledged Kerry's campaign in this blog and I'm aware of the fact. I have 'projects' going on, okay? I'm trying to understand what's wrong with the South. I'm re-reading a foot-tall stack of books about democracy, trying to figure out what I actually believe and how to articulate it. I'm doing some casual research on international mass murder and attempted genocide in the past hundred years. Also, I have this more-than-full-time job thing going on, and a reasonably active social life to be managed. My days are just packed.)

I'm going to start paying attention to what Kerry is saying and then I'm going to think about it and talk about it here. I don't anticipate I'll agree with everything he believes or that I'll agree with everything he wants to do, but that's okay. (I tend toward the impractical sometimes, so anyone who agrees with me 100% would not be a good elected official.) The point is that I'm voting for this man in November, and I don't want to be sitting here next July, whining because I didn't know what we was going to do with the White House once we gave it to him.

Now all I need is four more hours in every day, to give me time to fulfill this resolution. At the moment, though, I'm fielding tech calls every two minutes because no one in the tech department has shown up yet except the one guy who isn't trained yet.

Me. Doing tech support. This place is in real trouble now.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:45 AM | Comments (12)
June 30, 2004
Metaphorically Speaking

Okay, so we've handed over "legal custody" of Saddam Hussein, which is a nice gesture and makes good headlines, but we didn't hand over Saddam Hussein himself, preferring to keep him in our custody. Technically he belongs to the Iraqis but in reality, he's ours.

That's a nice metaphor for Iraqi sovereignty, isn't it?

"Explosions Wound 27 in Eastern Afghanistan"

Elsewhere, militants burned trucks supplying American troops and abducted their Afghan crews, and government forces killed three gunmen in a Taliban stronghold.

I heard on NPR last night that NATO promised (and the U.N. explicitly approved) the deployment of thousands of troops in Afghanistan, scattered around the most turbulent parts of the country to help security and peacekeeping.

NATO did pledge to send another 1,500 troops but that number falls far short of the minimum Afghan government and UN say is needed. In the past, NATO has failed to meet some of its troop commitments to Afghanistan.

[…]

Previously, NATO pledged to send five small security & reconstruction teams to the provinces, but only one ever materialized. Most NATOtroops remain in Kabul.

To-date, NATO has about 6,500 troops in Afghanistan It's not safe to go anywhere else.

That's a nice metaphor for our 'war on terror' don't you think?

Travelers of "Pakistani descent" are going to have some trouble getting around the country this summer, now that there's been a unilateral announcement that they're potentially terrorists.

Amateur climbers with the wrong ancestry had better schedule extra time for airport security since "rope burns" are on the list of suspicious possessions.

My brain being what it is…I was distracted for several minutes trying to figure out how you tell an "unusual" bruise from a "usual" one.

("That's a funny-shaped bruise, mister. Looks just like my mother-in-law's left ear. Up against the wall!")

And, of course, there's the "wounds/scars" thing…but that's not as much of a problem as it could be because even though we sent better than a hundred thousand young men and women into a war zone, we're not letting them come back, so there's no chance that airport security will be faced with thousands of military-age people sporting scars from bullet wounds, bomb shrapnel, missing limbs, "unusual" bruises, and the rest of the detritus of war.

Anyhow, it's not safe to travel because there are either terrorists or the security lines will be humongous (what with the Feds cutting funding for TSA staff and cutting back on the number of airport security screeners).

That's a nice metaphor for how much better off this country is than it was when the Bush Administration was appointment, isn't it?

Sources say there is no hard intelligence connecting the Pakistani camps to any imminent threat against the U.S.

Doesn't matter. We're not really as fussy about having actual evidence that someone is planning to attack us as we used to be. "Looking at me funny" now counts as an act of terrorism in Bush's America.

But the Customs bulletin concludes, "...it is reasonable to expect that many of the individuals trained...(there)... are destined to commit illegal activities in the United States."

As opposed to, oh, I don't know, some country Palestinians are actively engaged in warfare with, like, say, Israel?

At the same time, U.S. officials have moved to ban foreign pilots with possible ties to terror groups. Sources say at least eleven pilots -- most of them Saudis -- have now had their licenses revoked by the FAA.

Note that. Saudis. The original hijackers were mostly Saudis, too.

We're prosecuting the 'war on terror' against everyone except the people who were directly responsible for 9/11.

That's a nice metaphor for stupidity.

Why did we choose to deport a terror suspect when we had material to take him to trial? Better yet, why did we release him to Syria? I thought we-the-people had pretty much made our position clear when it comes to exporting people so that they can be tortured?

The Iowa Republican repeatedly cited the AP story and demanded that Ashcroft answer 19 questions about al-Marabh's case, including why the Justice Department didn't prosecute the man they had in custody for nearly two years either in a military tribunal or through a secret court proceeding that could protect intelligence information.

Grassley also asked Justice to detail what has happened to other terror suspects that appeared on the same post-Sept. 11 terrorism list as al-Marabh.

Aides to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have also made some preliminary inquiries into the case.

One of Ashcroft's top deputies, Chris Wray, recently told Congress that he was concerned some terror suspects rounded up after Sept. 11, 2001, were now being deported because prosecutors were having a hard time making terrorism cases or couldn't expose sensitive intelligence information during court proceedings.

Charming. Just charming. We can't prosecute them because it compromises our security, so we deport them to a country famous for harboring terrorists, so that they can report whatever sensitive information they possess there, instead of here?

Or, we can't prosecute them because we don't have evidence they're terrorists…so we deport them to a country that, if it doesn't want to be next on the Bush Hit Parade, will torture them into confessions whether they're guilty or not.

That's a nice metaphor for…something. The incompetence of our current leadership, I guess.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:54 AM | Comments (3)
Other Stuff

Cassini has reached Saturn. It's a story worth following. There's a story here, as well.

Current fuss aside, the BBC is a great news reference source, the best I've found on-line. Their interactive guide to Israel's Barrier Wall is well worth looking at. (And if you look here or here, you'll figure out one of the main reasons there's been no peace between Palestine and Israel up until now. It's all about water.)

Darfur. Aid and action are needed. I'm still thinking about that.

And if the political parties want more television coverage of the conventions, they need to make news at the conventions. Fewer canned speeches patting each other on the back for being so noble and patriotic and more actual discussion of actual policies and actual proposed legislation.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:27 AM | Comments (2)
June 29, 2004
American People Ruled Unfit to Govern
WASHINGTON, DC—In a historic decision with major implications for the future of U.S. participatory democracy, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Monday that the American people are unfit to govern.

The controversial decision, the first of its kind in the 210-year history of U.S. representative government, was, according to Justice David Souter, "a response to the clear, demonstrable incompetence and indifference of the current U.S. citizenry in matters concerning the operation of this nation's government."

As a result of the ruling, the American people will no longer retain the power to choose their own federal, state, and local officials or vote on matters of concern to the public.

"This decision was by no means easy, but it unfortunately had to be done," said Justice Antonin Scalia, who penned the majority decision in the case. "The U.S. Constitution is very clear: In the event that the voting public becomes incapacitated or otherwise unfit to carry out its duties of self-governance, there is a danger posed to the republic, and the judicial branch is empowered to remove said public and replace it with a populace more qualified to lead."

"The public's right to the best possible representation is a founding principle of our nation," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told reporters. "If you were on a jet airliner, you wouldn't want an untrained, incompetent pilot at the controls, and this is the same thing. As federal justices, we have taken a solemn oath to uphold every citizen's constitutional rights, and if we were to permit an irresponsible, indifferent public to continue to helm the ship of state, we would be remiss in our duties and putting the entire nation at risk."

The Onion

Posted by AnneZook at 04:43 PM | Comments (4)
Iraq, blah, blah, bombs, blah, blah, economy, blah, blah

Well, well, well. So, we handed over "sovereignty" to the interim government a couple of days early.

I'd say that the hasty and unpublicized handover, and the relief everyone feels now that it's accomplished, is a signal of how badly we're failing in Iraq. We've been liberating Iraqis for a year and we still can't make them be grateful, can we?

I'd also say that leaving a lot of laws, some of which are just stupid, dictating what the "sovereign" Iraq can and can't do is pretty much proof that we have no intention of actually allowing Iraqis to determine their own future at this point.

There's not much point in the new 'government' passing a new law that says people can drive with only one hand on the wheel if they want to…we'd probably send Bremer back in to take over again at any such sign of insurrection. Nor is there any point in protesting that someone can honk their car horn if they feel like it. Nope, we've mandated two-handed driving and horn-honking only in emergencies part of the deal.

I'm glad to know Bremer had the violence in the country so well under control that he had time to consider things like driving habits. Tell the Iraqis. Honk if you love freedom.

There's a dreary sameness to the headlines these days, in spite of that event.

Three marines were killed in Iraq and kidnappers claim to have executed another soldier. I wonder why it didn't merit front page coverage this time?

We're so desperate for a "win" in the Middle East that we're cozying up to a terrorist, happy to accept his word that he's really a much better kind of guy than we thought.

There's fighting between Palestinians and Israel. "I was a psychotic madman, but I'm all better now."

A plane in Turkey had a bomb on it. It exploded when the plane was being cleaned. Three injuries, no fatalities.

There was a lot of gloating about consumer spending hitting a two-year high in May (Look! The economy! Look! It's improving!) but not so much talk explaining that the "high" was caused by high food and fuel prices and not some surge in "consumer confidence" about the economy.

It seems like I've read these headlines a hundred times before in the last couple of years.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)
June 28, 2004
How long has this been going on?

I hate it when everyone knows about the good sites to read before I do. No one ever tells me anything.

Anyhow. Let's welcome these two to the old blogroll:

David Geffen's The Bonassus You could do much worse than to start with this post.

Kim Pearson's Professor Kim's News Notes.

Excellent material all over both sites and I only regret I didn't discover both blogs sooner.

Posted by AnneZook at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)