Rush and others have it wrong even if they have a point…

May 31, 2009

(WARNING: This is a long post. So if you don’t want to read it all I just want to say that while I think that Sonia Sotomayor would probably be a good Supreme Court justice I am concerned about a ruling she took part in that seems kind of like reverse discrimination (almost) and I also want to say that I know why the reactionary loudmouths are hollering “racist” and what they mean and why someone might buy it; it’s all about ratings, politics, and some legitimate white resentment. But if you have time, read on anyway so I will feel that I did something worthwhile.)

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While I don’t agree with the tone of folks such as Rush Limburger Cheese (not his real name) or Newt Gingrich in their shrill, especially in the case of Limburger, sounding accusations that Sonia Sotomayor is a “racist”, I understand where they are coming from. I don’t agree with their motives or possibly in this case even the accuracy of their charges.

What they are claiming is that because she is on record as asserting that as a Latina she has better judgment than a white man, she is a reverse racist, thereby no better than the more familiar conventional racist who just does not care for folks who are black or even brown or yellow, because he (or she) is white.

Sotomayor is Puerto Rican (Hispanic) by heritage. She has been nominated by President Barack Obama to replace the retiring Justice David Souter (she is considered liberal and thus would keep the court’s liberal contingent intact, but interestingly enough, Souter was considered conservative until after he took his place on the court and the decisions started coming down).

Limburger (not his real name) is an entertainer who uses politics as his shtick, although I must admit he seems to have become a primary de facto spokesman for the somewhat fractured or disorganized Republican party, which seems to be searching for a new identity. Power abhors a vacuum, so Rush rushed in. And I’m going off the subject here, but apparently the cable news, to include the left-of-center commentators, seem to love the fact that Rush is the spokesman – they run clips of his harangues every day.

Gingrich I suppose is looking for some kind of political comeback. So every time he makes a racist accusation he is appealing to his base for political (money) support.

But buried way down to right here in this blog is what I really wanted to say. Both Limburger (not his real name) and Gingrich and others of their ilk are playing on white resentment. And by that I mean resentment from white racists as well as just everyday white people who are not racist.

Let’s go back in time to the 1950s and the1960s.

As a kid, even as a little kid, I knew that there was such a thing as racial discrimination and as a white boy I did not have to suffer from it.

The little farming town where I lived in the middle of California’s Central Valley had one area designated “Colored Town” and one designated “Mexican Town”.

A de facto type segregation was noticeable in the public elementary schools, especially among the black children, because most of them lived in a certain section of town.

I was told by my parents and learned by watching the news on TV, and I guess from teachers at school too, that in the South there were actually laws that discriminated against black people. They could not go to the same schools, could not use public swimming pools, and had to use separate drinking fountains – and the list goes on, and let’s not forget, perhaps worst of all black people were kept from voting by various means.

I saw the news reports of a white sheriff (s) using dogs against black civil rights demonstrators. I saw the National Guard having to be sent in just to allow some black kids to go to a public high school, and federal marshal’s to get them into state universities, and, well you know the rest…

Later, as I got older, I also learned that there was often discrimination in employment – and this was not just in the South. And also, I learned that discrimination of all kinds was not just in the South. In fact it was just as bad everywhere.

I was taught not to be racist, and that is not to say that no one while he or she grows up is not exposed to or even indulges in some what may be thought of as a benign form of racism (racial jokes and such).

We had a neighbor lady from Texas. She saw nothing wrong with discrimination (and this was no joke). She said that “colored people” back where she came from were more polite. “If you are walking down the sidewalk they will step off the curb for you,” she said, just as matter of factly as you please. She was telling that to my mom and I think my mom almost fell out of her chair. I was listening. But I knew better. She was an otherwise nice lady, but in her Southern culture she had grown up with some assumptions about the place of race in society.

My upbringing, from an early time, pointed me toward support of civil rights and dismantling racial discrimination.

Things seem to turn when through a tragic event, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, his vice president, from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, became president. Even though Johnson at one time had been a segregationist, he had turned to new deal-style Democratism and support of civil rights. Because Kennedy had unsuccessfully pushed for civil rights legislation, Johnson was able to use the sorrow of a nation to push it through, partly as tribute to Kennedy’s memory.

But of course passing laws alone does not necessarily change people.

However, at least the law was there. But as I became a teenager and throughout my teen years there were riots in the black ghettos all summer long every summer. There was a new militancy among black society. I never could understand what breaking a department store window and running out with a TV had to do with civil rights. None of us, no matter what our color or heritage, have a right to do that.

And then I was in the Army. And that is where I saw this strange dichotomy. Get this: I was assigned to my company. I was first greeted (if you want to call it that) by a stern and black First Sergeant. I was next introduced to a firm but somewhat less stern black platoon sergeant. I think the racial makeup of my company was about 50/50 black and white. It seemed that there were a tad more black NCOs among the career soldiers in my battalion. Among my peers I can tell you that there was no discrimination in promotions, at least from buck private to sergeant. I don’t recall seeing any black officers at that time where I was. But what I am trying to say is that there was certainly equal opportunity.

But among all of this we had a certain contingent of black soldiers who did not feel that they had to do what everyone else does or at least did not care to. To be fair, we also had white soldiers who felt this way. But the black soldiers had a ready advantage in this. If they did not want to do something, they hollered “discrimination”. Although this did not always work, especially in my company with so many black NCOs and a black First Sergeant, it did sometimes. The officer corps was particularly sensitive to discrimination charges because their higher ups were getting heat from their higher ups (it was all about the political pressure back home from those riots).

And caught in the middle of all of this are white folks who have never been overtly prejudice or practiced overt discrimination (or even acted in those ways in a suttle fashion) but who have watched some shirk their duties or try to take advantage using false charges of racism. And these white people are also told that if a person is a minority and robs a store we should consider the fact of his or her upbringing and the legacy of racial discrimination. There are white people who grow up poor (and yes, some of them rob stores), but they don’t, and shouldn’t, get that consideration.

We should all be judged “on the content of our character and not the color of our skin”, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said. And under the law we should be treated equally, and that goes both ways. We should all have the same rights and the same obligations.

I think a lot of us thought that civil rights legislation would mean that folks would be treated fairly and that there would be neither discrimination against blacks (or other minorities), nor against the majority, because turning things around and just treating others wrong didn’t make sense. If white folks have been discriminating against black folks, you don’t solve the problem by turning around and letting them be discriminated against.

But in too many cases in interpreting civil rights legislation the federal courts have done just that. Although I think most of it has been abandoned now, in many instances court decisions led to racial quotas being mandated by court orders. We wound up with qualified non-minorities being refused jobs because a certain minority quota needed to be filled.

I once suggested to a racial quota-supporting professor at college that rather than quotas, a better solution might be a lottery. I proposed in a paper for her class that if you had virtually equally qualified candidates for a job you could put their names in a hat and whomever is chosen gets the job by luck of the draw. She thought that was a novel approach, but I could tell she was not buying it.

Enough of that – back to that court pick:

At this point I have neither read nor heard anything yet that makes me think that Sonia Sotomayor should not be appointed the U.S. Supreme Court, but I still have a nagging concern over her part in the New Haven, Conn. firefighters case.

And her comment from sometime back saying something to the effect that as a Latina she would hope she would have better judgment than a white man seems to me like just so many words and probably one needs to read or hear the whole context of that. And it probably proves nothing more than that if you ever think you might have a chance to sit on the high court you’re better off to say little to anyone (except I’m interested in that open position). Then maybe again, she may be benefitting because she is so outspoken and caught the ear of Obama. Remember Republicans (and conservatives), the other side won and gets to choose.

She’s authored enough opinions and took part in many more, so her record is clear to anyone who cares to study it. I’ve only read some summaries, but she seems fairly even handed, except I imagine on close inspection one would conclude that she as often as not leans to the left (whatever that means – to me it means she can give the benefit of the doubt to the side that might not get such treatment from those who think there is always a hard and fast answer to everything and it always means preserving the status quo).

The firefighters case, Ricci vs. DeStephano, has reached the Supreme Court and is awaiting a decision. From what I have read it is expected that the court will reverse the lowers courts’ decision, thus, interestingly enough, reversing Sotomayor’s ruling, sitting on the appellate court. I guess that is because there is still a conservative advantage on the Supreme Court (in this particular case I feel that is a good thing).

You can read the case or stories or summaries of it online at various sites, but in a nutshell 118 firefighters of the New Haven, Conn.  City Fire Department took a test for eight vacant lieutenant positions and seven captain positions. Trouble was, the only ones who scored high enough for promotion were white (and, or to include, two Hispanics). No blacks scored high enough. The city decided to scrap the test figuring it would be liable for discrimination. The case eventually wound up before an appellate panel, upon which Sotomayor sits, and with a summary opinion, not arguing the merits of the case, the appellate justices decided it was proper for the city to throw out the test. No one got promoted. Those who would have got promoted are suing.

While I have read that the test may have been flawed somewhat in that it has a question or questions irrelevant to these particular positions, and while I have read that the test was judged by some not to be the best way to determine qualities of leadership, I have not read anything that says the test by itself was in anyway discriminatory to minorities (just possibly the result).

From what I have read, at least one of the white men taking the test had a learning disability and had to go to some expense to buy study materials, but he was able to pass it through his own hard efforts and sacrifices.

And that’s kind of the way it is in life. Sometimes it’s all about taking the test. The smart people are the smart people often for no other reason than they study for the test. I am sure that every one of those applicants had the same opportunity to do what was necessary.

However, I do think that the city could decide that maybe that test was kind of useless and a new test and a new procedure could be found and a new recruitment effort could be made to encourage all to learn what it takes to pass it and get promoted.

But, you know, aside from race, there are other barriers we all face. Some of us take tests better than others. Some of us are smarter (or not) than others, and, I hate to say this folks, but we all do not possess leadership qualities. But I think leadership probably is something more to judge by actual job performance and interviews.

And, I’ll never get through with this blog, but the idea that simply because minority test takers do not score high enough does not mean they are being treated unfairly.

And is it not being forgotten that the bottom line, especially for emergency personnel, is are we promoting those with leadership and SKILL? Those two qualities have to trump concerns over racial discrimination every time.

P.s.

The Wall Street Journal has a good story on the New Haven case:

http://onlinewsj.com/article/SB124354041637563491.html

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Swine flu a liberal plot, Limburger (not his real name, but the odor is the same) and Paul suggest…

May 3, 2009

I suspected it and I now think I know where the no nothings I heard the other day got their pitch that the swine flu story is just a gimic or diversion that the Obama administration has cooked up to take the public’s eyes off of what they are doing (ruining the nation, turning it into a socialist state, making us all Godless, or whatever).

None other than Rush Limburger (not his real name, but the odor is the same) is making that pitch. I don’t listen to him these days, but I caught a clip of his spiel on a cable news show.

For now I’ll stick with science, as much as I can understand it. It all is confusing and it seems as if the feared pandemic is thankfully not turning out to be as bad as originally anticipated, but we still don’t fully know its potential.

I for one am glad that the powers that be, the World Health Organization and the world’s governments, are taking this seriously.

Has there been overreaction, perhaps, but I see little harm done so far if that has been the case. I did hear Texas congressman, former presidential candidate (in the primary), libertarian, and medical doctor Ron Paul claim that the whole thing has been overblown and liberals are using the swine flu as a scare tactic to convince people that they must be totally dependent upon government. While I actually see some, only some mind you, semblence of a point to his argument, I think we can all make our own minds up on that.

(Paul also claimed that back in 1976 there was a previous swine flu scare and that only one person died from the swine flu, but 25 died from being innoculated against it. I do not know the authenticity of that — have not tried to look it up — but I am sure that will now become part of the official talking points of the Limburger cheese crowd too. I would say, though, I would be against mandatory innoculations if that were ever suggested.  Okay, I felt guilty and did check this out on Wikipedia and it told me that the swine flu deaths from innoculations back in 1976 were unconfirmed. There had been a mandatory innoculation program at that time but delays and fears over the innoculations prevented everyone from getting vaccinated. Seems like I recall getting a flu shot back then, but I am not sure about that one. )

The rest of this blog I have previously posted on Saturday except for an update to an update, and I offer it for those who may not have read it:

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I’m confused. Not a new state for me. But just how many people have died in Mexico from the swine flu?

For a couple of days or more the figure reported on the web, in newspapers, and on the television has been around 150.

Yesterday (Friday) I heard some know nothings tell a racially-tinged joke about President Obama (so that gave me a clue as to their credibility) and also proclaim that there had only been 10 deaths in Mexico and that the whole thing was some type of diversion President Obama was orchestrating to distract from his political agenda. So I just dismissed what they said.

Then I pick up my morning newspaper and read in the middle of the latest swine flu update (I’m talking way into the depths of the jumped from page one to the middle of the paper story) that there have been 16 (not 150, although the story did not even acknowledge that higher figure having been reported) confirmed swine flu deaths in Mexico.

As a former journalist I am nervous about statistics. They almost always get reporters into trouble. One has to be careful about reporting numbers when they deal with breaking and/or ongoing news stories, because first of all you are not sure as to the accuracy and second of all by the time anyone reads what you write the numbers have changed one way or the other from updated information. But if you were to wait until everyone was absolutely sure you would be writing ancient history. Broadcast news people just spit out the numbers and seldom go backwards to correct what they might have said before and few listeners are going to try to get the video tape to prove their errors (or the errors of the statistics — I once tried to get info from a local TV station and they offered to sell me a copy of their video tape).

So anyway, I checked out Wikipedia today, my instant source for so much info (is it reliable? I don’t really know) and it said 16 deaths from swine flu have been confirmed in Mexico. That seems a lot less than 150.

I suppose the problem is the difference between reported (who’s doing the reporting?), suspected, and confirmed.

And then there is the name “swine flu”. So far, as I understand it, no pigs have been detected with this swine flu even though it has been suspected it originated in swine and in Mexico. I even read that pig farmers, besides being angry and fearful of the bad publicity this all has given their product, pork, are also concerned that humans could infect their animals with swine flu.

And there has been an effort to change the name of the disease from swine flu to 2009 H1N1 or Influenza A (H1N1), but so far many of the accounts I am reading still call it swine flu (to avoid confusion, I suppose).

Earlier in the week I read a post by an obviously right wing, evangelical, concerned about Mexicans sneaking across the border (and I don’t discount the problem of illegal immigration) group that proposed to call swine flu the “Mexican flu” or the “killer Mexican flu”. And then yesterday I saw a headline in a German newspaper that called it the “Mexikogrippe”, most German papers are calling it the “Schweinegrippe” (and by the way, “grippe” is what folks here in the good old USA used to call the flu years ago. And I was taught in Spanish class that “la gripe” means the flu. And I read today that in Israel they are calling the swine flu the Mexican flu.

So anyway this whole thing is confusing what with the changing statistics and the name thing. The news today of course is that it may be petering out. We all hope so.

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UPDATE: I don’t know if I should even do this since I just now read it hours after posting the above and don’t know if it will hold true, but I just read on the CNN website that a farmer (update to this update, it was now reportedly a farm worker) in Alberta, Canada is suspected of giving his pigs swine flu. He reportedly had recently returned from a trip to Mexico. More erroneous info — I wonder.

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P.s.

And as most of you know, flu is short for influenza. And my problem is that when I type flu it often comes out flue, like on the pipe coming out of your roof.


Who to criticize: Obamaphiles or fake capitalists???

March 7, 2009

Anyone who has followed my blog, which began somewhat less than a year ago, saw that through the presidential election campaign I made observations but tried to give both candidates the benefit of the doubt. Okay, I’ll come clean. I leaned toward Obama all the way in my mind. But even so I tried to keep an open mind for my blogging (I’m not into preaching to the choir). In the end, as a voter I made my decision and was quite satisfied with it.

Am I now? Too early to tell for sure. He seems reasonable, much more able to see the broad spectrum of the issues and from all appearances more concerned about society as whole instead of just an elite monied class, whom under the previous administration we were supposed to look up to and ask for their benevolence. Oh Please anointed ones, may you prosper and trickle down upon us!

To be sure, the Rush Limburger Cheeses and his ilk warn us of being lured into class warfare by a special liberal elite snobbery who only want us to be dependent so that they then can control us. In reality they claim if we all had any self-respect and confidence in ourselves we would throw off the yoke of socialism and all be rich. Sir Ronald Reagan is the great dead prophet who invented Trickle Down. But if we were all rich whom would we trickle down upon? And why pray tell would one even want to be rich if he could not trickle down upon someone lower. And isn’t the notion that everyone can be rich false? The correct word to express it escapes me, but basically being “rich” in the terms of money is a condition that’s definition depends upon a comparison. For someone to have more depends upon someone else to have less. But I certainly agree with my blowhard brethren on the right that dividing things up equally neither works nor is fair. Communes reward those who do not work as much as those who do and that approach stifles innovation and just is all around kind of dull.

And isn’t this kind of strange? I actually started off this blog with the intent of asking one thing:

“When will the love affaire between the mainstream media and Barack Obama end?

Some folks near and dear to me ask me if someone has a better idea of what to do than what Obama is trying to do.

My answer is no, apparently not. But while no one knows quite what to do, some things should begin to be apparent as to what not to do.

Throwing out money to the Wall Street banking industry and the dinosaur that is the domestic auto industry is as good as lighting a match to it.

What if all that money had gone to relief efforts for displaced workers and medical care for the needy? At least it would have done some good.

If the interests who preach the philosophy of Laissez faire (government keeping its hands off business) believed in what they preached they would run in horror at the notion and the shame of accepting money from the public trough, made worse because it requires further indebting ourselves to Communist China.

No I am not anti-Obama. But he is not above criticism, just as the phony capitalists who do not have the courage to support their supposed convictions are not either.

And the biggest conundrum of all is that Communist China resorted years ago to capitalism to save itself and prosper, but on that fateful day that Capitalist Sir George W. was told he really had no clothes (okay there was no money in the counting house) he socialized the debt of the Wall Street bankers, reserving their right to eventual profit.

But in so doing, Sir Bush once again sought to cover his nakedness by cloaking himself in the imaginary wardrobe as Savior of the People, willing to take drastic, distasteful measures to save the economy. Giving money to his base, a group of moneyed elite may have been embarrassing if he had any feeling of self respect, but not really so distasteful.

If the wave of business failures and unemployment along with bank failures along with endless bailouts in which no one has a clue where the money is going continues, Obama along with all of the politicians in Washington could face more than voter disapproval. They may well face an ugly backlash that could lead to a failed state.

Alarmist you say? How many of you even thought it would ever get like this?

(Copyright 2009)