Posts tagged ‘African American’

Simply Corrupt

The US Justice Department is using decades-old anti-discrimination law to stop poor black families from escaping crappy schools via a school choice program.  The awesome Clint Bolick of Goldwater has the details:

Despite reports of compromise or capitulation, the U.S. Justice Department is continuing its legal assault on the Louisiana school-voucher program—wielding a 40-year-old court order against racial discrimination to stymie the aspirations of black parents to get their children the best education.

The Louisiana Scholarship Program began in 2012. It provides full-tuition scholarships to children from families with incomes below 250% of the poverty level, whose children were assigned to public schools rated C, D or F by the state, or who were enrolling in kindergarten. In the current year, 12,000 children applied for scholarships and nearly 5,000 are using them to attend private schools. Roughly 90% are used by black children.

Parental satisfaction is off the charts. A 2013 survey by the Louisiana chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a national school-choice organization, found that 93.6% of scholarship families are pleased with their children's academic progress and 99.3% believe the schools are safe—a far cry from the dismal public schools to which the children were previously consigned.

But last August, the Justice Department filed a motion to enjoin the program in dozens of school districts that still have desegregation orders from generations ago. It claimed that any change in racial composition would violate the orders. After a tremendous public backlash, Justice withdrew its motion for an injunction, insisting it did not intend to remove kids from the program....

In fact, the children are very much in danger of losing their opportunities. The Justice Department is demanding detailed annual information, including the racial composition of the public schools the voucher students are leaving and the private and parochial schools the students are selecting. If it objects to the award of individual vouchers based on those statistics, the department will challenge them.

If I had to make a list of the top 10 things we could do to actually help African-American families (as opposed to the garbage programs in place now to supposedly help them), #1 would be decriminalization of narcotics and in general stopping the incarceration of black youth for non-violent victim-less offenses.  But #2 would be school choice programs like the one in Louisiana.

PS- I am thinking about what the rest of the top 10 list would be.  #3 would likely be putting real teeth in police department accountability programs, as I think that police departments tend to be the last bastions of true institutionalized racial discrimination.  #4 might be some sort of starter wage program that gives a lower minimum wage for long-term unemployed.  If I weren't a pacifist and committed to free speech and association, I might say #5 was shutting down half the supposed advocacy groups that claim to be working for the benefit of African-Americans but instead merely lock them into dependency.

Gee, I Wonder Why US Business Investment Is Sluggish?

From Jon Gabriel:

Trader Joe’s wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. Instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.

The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.

The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordly said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)

After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe's, we understand, and we won't open the store in question.”

Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.

It's Apparently Racist to Creat Jobs in Minority Neighborhoods

I remember the fuss a number of years ago that a disproportionate number of heavily polluting industrial plants were in poorer neighborhoods.  I suppose it is no surprise that companies look to site plants where there are large labor forces and cheap land, which probably means that they are not going to buy of large swaths of Grosse Pointe for their new auto plant.  But there also seemed to be some chicken and egg here - residential land around industrial tracts probably attract residents who can't afford to live somewhere else.

Anyway, I had never realized just how destructive public policy had become in response to this "problem," nor how much our current climate czar had to do with it:

Case in point is "Climate Czar" Carol Browner, former EPA chief under Bill Clinton and ghostwriter of Al Gore's apocalyptic book Earth in the Balance. In the late 1990s, Browner championed the effort to apply Title VII U.S. civil rights law to plant permitting, arguing that locating industrial facilities in majority black cities "disproportionately impacted" minorities and was there "environmental racism."The policy provoked outrage among those black elected officials across the country who believe it's a good thing to have jobs available in minority areas.

Some of those officials were in Michigan, where Browner's green allies tried to use EPA rules to shut down electric power facilities and auto plants. At the time, Browner had already bagged the pelts of two major facilities in Louisiana -- a plastics plant and nuclear fuel facility -- that would have brought hundreds of jobs to minorities.

As can be expected, African-American politicians who were told it was racist to locate jobs in their communities were not amused:

Horrified by this threat to jobs within poor communities, Detroit mayor Dennis Archer led the primarily Democratic U.S. Conference of Mayors to scrap "green redlining" -- so called because the EPA actually drew circles around plants located in minority areas that would encourage lawsuits. The mayors were joined by a rainbow coalition of groups from the National Association of Black County Officials to Republican pols like L.A.'s Richard Riordan and Michigan Rep. Joe Knollenberg.

Addressing the Black Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting, then-U.S. Chamber president Thomas Donahue said: "I'm trying to think of a policy that would be more effective in driving away entrepreneurs and jobs from economically disadvantaged areas -- and I can't do it."

Apparently, the whole to-do was BS anyway

Mastio's News investigation further uncovered that Browner's EPA had suppressed documents finding that there was not a corporate conspiracy to locate polluting industries in black areas (in fact, they are mostly in white areas), and the bipartisan outrage eventually led to a Congressional vote blocking the EPA rule.

Government Health Care: Only For the Little People

Not much I even need to add to this, via Riehl World View:

On Tuesday, the Senate health committee voted 12-11 in favor of a two-page amendment courtesy of Republican Tom Coburn that would require all Members and their staffs to enroll in any new government-run health plan. Yet all Democrats -- with the exceptions of acting chairman Chris Dodd, Barbara Mikulski and Ted Kennedy via proxy -- voted nay.

In other words, Sherrod Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse won't themselves join a plan that "will offer benefits that are as good as those available through private insurance plans -- or better," as the Ohio and Rhode Island liberals put it in a recent op-ed. And even a self-described socialist like Vermont's Bernie Sanders, who supports a government-only system, wouldn't sign himself up.

Does anyone else find this reminiscent of Obama's decision to send accept a scholarship for his own education, send his kids to private school in DC, and then, nearly as his first action as President, kill the voucher program that let other African American kids in DC go to private school.

A Brief Thought on Wealth

One of the pieces of data that turns out to be nearly impossible to find is a direct comparison of the median income by quartile on a PPP basis between countries.  In other words, how does the income of, say, the US lower quartile compare to other countries?  There are a zillion sites with metrics of income inequality and GINI indexes and such, but to my mind these are meaningless.  OK, the poor in the US are much less wealthy than the rich in the US, but how do they compare to the poor of other nations.  The few studies I have seen have reluctantly (remember, these are leftish academics) admitted that the US poor do pretty well vs. the poor in other nations.  Here is data for US vs. Europe.

I got a lot of grief a few years ago when I said, related to Kwanzaa:

Every African-American should wake up each morning and say "I give
thanks that my ancestors suffered the horrors of the slavery passage,
suffered the indignity and humiliation of slavery, and suffered the
poverty and injustices of the post-war South so that I, today, can be
here, in this country, infinitely more free, healthier, safer and
better off financially than I would have been in Africa."

I wanted to actually make this comparison more real.  I used the CIA Factbook to estimate the share of per capita GDP on a PPP basis earned by the top decile, or top 10% wealthiest individuals, in a number of African nations (Example page here for Ethiopia -- calculation would be [25.5%/10%] x $700 per capita). 

So here are the results:

  • Ethiopia top 10%:      $1,785
  • Nigeria top 10%:        $6,972
  • Zimbabwe top 10%:    $800

Hopefuly this is enough of a sample to give you an idea of the range.  Only South Africa is a real outlier from this range.  Now, by the same methodology and source, here is the average share of the per capita GDP for the bottom 10% of earners in the US:

  • United States bottom 10%:   $9,160
  • United States African-American avg (est):  $32,060**

Wow!  This means that the average person in the bottom 10% in the US, most of whom we classify as below the poverty line, would easily, by multiples and orders of magnitude, be in the top 10% richest people in most African nations.   And the surviving decedents of those poor folks who got dragged to the US in slavery would be the Bill Gateses of their mother countries.

The point being, of course, that the size of the pie is typically more important than how you divide it up.  And it is nearly an axiom that government efforts to divide the pie more evenly almost always make it smaller.

** estimated based on 2006 median black household wages being about 70% of the US median household wages.  Yes, I know, we are wildly mixing apples and oranges here to get African American share of GDP per capita in the US, but its in the ballpark -- certainly close enough to make my basic point.  And yes, I know there are flaws in measuring income across countries even on a PPP basis.  If anyone knows of how to get this data more directly, please email me.

These Are Trained Professionals: Don't Try This In Your Own Home

Three Duke professors, two of whom were members of the infamous group of 88 who advocated a presumption of guilt for the lacrosse players in the Duke non-rape case, have written their own self-serving version of history in an "academic" magazine.  The funniest part is where they claim that only trained experts like themselves are qualified to discuss any subject once the race card has been played:

"the most extreme marginalization was reserved for the faculty
whose professional expertise made them most competent to engage the
discourses on race and gender unleashed by the inaugurating incident
"” scholars of African American and women's studies. Instead, administrators,
like the bloggers themselves, operated under the assumption that
everyone was an expert on matters of race and gender, while actually existing academic expertise was recast as either bias or a commitment to preconceived notions about the legal case.
Some
faculty thus found themselves in the unenviable position of being the
targets of public discourse (and disparaged for their expertise on race
and gender) without being legitimate participants in it."

Beyond the hilarity of such a claim on its face, how does such a self-serving discussion meet the editorial standards of any academic publication?  For though they claim to have "professional expertise,"  all they really accomplish is to reinforce my impression that the social sciences in general, and racial/gender studies departments in particular, have the lowest academic standards of any group on modern campuses.  KC Johnson goes on to sample some of the outright mistakes, outrageous (and unproven) claims, and general lack of sourcing and footnoting that would likely have gotten them laughed out of most any university department with actual standards.  As I wrote about the Ward Churchill affair:

And, in fact, in the rush to build ethnic studies programs, a lot of
people of very dubious qualifications were given tenure, often based
more on ethnic credibility and political activism than any academic
qualifications.  Hell, Cal State Long Beach hired a paranoid schizophrenic
who had served prison time for beating and torturing two women as the
head of their Black Studies department.  And universities like UC
patted themselves on their politically correct backs for these hirings.

I could go out tomorrow and find twenty tenured professors of
ethnic/racial/gender studies in state universities whose academic
credentials are at least as bad as Churchill's and whom no one would dare fire.  This has nothing to do with Churchill's academic work or its quality.  UC is getting exactly what it expected when it tenured him.

Freedom from Criticism

I have argued many times on this page that there is a dangerous new rights theory gaining traction in today's college campuses.  That theory holds that there exists a freedom (mostly for people in "protected" groups -- women, minorities, etc) from being offended or even being criticized, and that this trumps free speech. 

For years I have supported the legality of what is called hate speech -- not because I agreed with it, but because I thought its expression, no matter how contemptible, should be legal.  Free speech should have no content tests.  I also argued that there was a slippery slope.  If making racist remarks is illegal today, perhaps just criticizing a woman or an African American might be illegal tomorrow.

Enter Priya Venkatesan, former English teacher at Dartmouth.  Ms. Venkatesan was hired by Dartmouth to teach all kinds of odd (but always trendy) socialist eco-feminist babble.  Such courses seem to be a staple of colleges today.  I remember a number of such professors at Princeton, but it was no big deal as long as the course were clearly labeled and one could avoid them.  After all, if people really were attracted to such drivel, it just left more spots open for the rest of us in classes that actually prepared us for the real world. 

The problems began, though, when Ms. Venkatesan's students refused to blindly agree with her  (apparently, they did not attend the University of Delaware indoctrination course that explained why you are not allowed to criticize anyone but white males).

The agenda of Ms. Venkatesan's seminar, then, was to
"problematize" technology and the life sciences. Students told me that
most of the "problems" owed to her impenetrable lectures and various
eruptions when students indicated skepticism of literary theory. She
counters that such skepticism was "intolerant of ideas" and "questioned
my knowledge in very inappropriate ways." Ms. Venkatesan, who is of
South Asian descent, also alleges that critics were motivated by
racism, though it is unclear why.

After a winter of discontent, the snapping point came
while Ms. Venkatesan was lecturing on "ecofeminism," which holds, in
part, that scientific advancements benefit the patriarchy but leave
women out. One student took issue, and reasonably so "“ actually,
empirically so. But "these weren't thoughtful statements," Ms.
Venkatesan protests. "They were irrational." The class thought
otherwise. Following what she calls the student's "diatribe," several
of his classmates applauded.

Ms. Venkatesan informed her pupils that their behavior
was "fascist demagoguery." Then, after consulting a physician about
"intellectual distress," she cancelled classes for a week. Thus the
pending litigation.

Litigation, exposure of the names behind anonymous course evaluations, and email threats from Ms. Venkatesan follow.  More from Lubos Motl.

Postscript:  By the way, it is just astounding to me that anyone with an over-room-temperature IQ could passionately believe that technological progress is bad for women.  One might argue that way society is organized still under-utilizes women and/or puts artificial roadblocks up to a woman's progress, but get some perspective!

Pre-modern life for women was horrible.  Because of the biological complexities of child-rearing alone, they died young far more often than men and their physical vulnerability caused them to be marginalized in virtually every society of every culture of the world until at least 1750 and really until 1900.  The whole women's movement is built on a platform of technology that only begins with the pill and encompasses a thousand things from automobiles to computers that reduce the importance of size and physical strength in getting ahead in the world. 

I Wonder if This Is Related?

Megan McArdle had a stat the other day that was pretty depressing, related to the number of kids of middle class African-Americans that appear to fall back into poverty:

A chapter of the report released last fall found startling evidence
that a majority of black children born to middle-class parents grew up
to have lower incomes and that nearly half of middle-class black
children fell into the bottom fifth in adulthood, compared with 16
percent of middle-class white children

That is not good, though I am always suspicious of income statistics (for example, income statistics show me as close to or below the poverty line over the last few years, a function of an entrepreneurial startup).

Then I saw all the silly to-do about Michelle Obama's senior thesis at Princeton (I can't say I honestly even know what my wife's thesis was about).  But what got me to thinking was the fact that as an African-American Ivy League student, she felt compelled to study and write her thesis about race.  I started to remember a disproportionate number (but by no means all) of my middle-class African-American Ivy League acquaintances studied and wrote on the same thing - race.  This means that while I was studying engineering, which had obvious value in the workplace, many blacks are studying a topic that has no marketplace value except to get a very low paying job in a non-profit somewhere.  Which is all fine and good if that is what people want to do, but if blacks are worried their kids are not financially successful, they should consider whether its smart that, while other kids are studying subjects that will get them ahead, their kids are studying a subject that seems to focus mainly on explaining to them why they will never get ahead.

Update:  I want to be careful not to call race / gender / group identity majors "worthless."  Worthless is in the eye of the beholder, and if a student values such a course of study, then it has worth.  However, by the same token, the student should be prepared for the fact that most of the world, particularly the subset called "hiring managers", does not value degrees in majors that have little practical application outside of academia and which have a reputation in general for having low academic standards.  The student does not have to accept the rest of the world's judgement of her degree, but in turn the student can't demand that the rest of the world adopt hers.

In fact, when I made these comments, I didn't know Ms. Obama's choice of course of study.  Knowing that now, it is even more amazing to me that she sees her student debt experience as an average data point indicating a structural flaw in the economy instead of the fact that she chose perhaps the most expensive college in the country and then chose to dedicate four years of study to a major that is nearly impossible to monetize in the job market.

Yearning for Something Better than Kwanzaa

I have had several emails this week about Kwanzaa, so I guess it is time for my annual Kwanzaa rant.  This article has become an annual tradition at Coyote Blog, I guess to make sure I start the new year with plenty of hate mail.

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of
themselves and their history is a good one.  Whenever I write about
blacks in America, much of the email I get tries to educate me in how
much the "lost heritage" issue matters to African-Americans, a concept
I have never fully grasped since I am happy, after the 20th century, to
leave behind my German heritage.  Even if I'm not into it, I have no
problem with people of any ethnic
group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth
celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new
occasions.

The specific values
celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist-Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe
around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because
they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible
to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the
African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly
constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these
same values have played out in Africa.

To begin, its important to understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah
Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord
and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their
clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss
Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her
own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent
and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly,
after this conviction as well as incidents of schizophrenia in prison
where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and
imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by
dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to
make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a
holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their
history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built
around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.
Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition
from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by
blacks.
  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red italics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On
its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight
Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th
century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In
practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of
a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly
criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack
Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally
cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this
was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more
revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's
context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To
build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and
sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To
make our collective vocation the building and developing of our
community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To
do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I
guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things
better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on
this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To
believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers,
our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What
about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the
individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is
interesting that a holiday
that
was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as
a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage
to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn
over our destiny and daily lives."

However,
this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and
totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god,
and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ...
them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for
Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the
totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and
daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So,
in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a
totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among
African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh,
that's not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the
core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin
and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom
- Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other
master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against
injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and
heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in
particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American
should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors
suffered the horrors of the middle passage, suffered the unforgivable indignity and
humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the
post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country,
infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than
I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

You can view the comments previously posted to this article here and here.

Bloggers are Tehwable

Sports columnist Stephen A. Smith fires off an over-the-top rant at bloggers:

"And when you look at the internet business, what's dangerous about it
is that people who are clearly unqualified get to disseminate their
piece to the masses. I respect the journalism industry, and the fact of
the matter is ...someone with no training should not be allowed to have
any kind of format whatsoever to disseminate to the masses to the level
which they can. They are not trained. Not experts."

Despite its wackiness, we can still draw some useful observations:

  • Yet again, we have an industry incumbent calling for some sort of professional licensing, nominally to protect consumers, but in actuality to protect the incumbent's position in the industry.  Smith himself couldn't be more explicit about this:

"Therefore, there's a total disregard, a level of wrecklessness that
ends up being a domino effect. And the people who suffer are the common
viewers out there and, more importantly, those in the industry who
haven't been fortunate to get a radio or television deal and only rely
on the written word. And now they've been sabotaged. Not because of me.
Or like me. But because of the industry or the world has allowed the
average joe to resemble a professional without any credentials
whatsoever."

He can't even complete the sentence with the window dressing justification that this is for the consumers before he gets to the real people he is trying to protect, ie traditional media personalities like himself.  You know, trained professionals.   You could subsititute attorneys, doctors, nurses, real estate agents, funeral directors, massage therapists, hair braiders, fishing guides and any other licensed or unionized professional and find the same speech given somewhere at some time.

  • People called me crazy when I said that the next step in the media wars with bloggers was a call for licensing (and here) Whose crazy now?
  • McCain-Feingold sent us a long way down this horrible path by establishing that there are such things as "journalists" who can be trusted to speak in public before elections, and everyone else, who cannot be so trusted.  This was the first time the debate over whether bloggers are journalists turned heated, because there was a legislated cost associated with not being a journalist.
  • Note the implicit disdain for the consumer, or in this case, the viewer or reader.  The unstated assumption is that the consumer is a total idiot, a dupe who mindlessly keeps tuning in to inferior news reports from untrained bloggers rather than watching pros like Stephen A. Smith as they should be
  • Finally, and this may be unfair because I am only partially familiar with Mr. Smith's work, but I will observe that he is an African-American who brings a kind of street style to his reporting.  A style that I might guess that a crotchety sports reporter from thirty years ago might easily have defined then as unprofessional.  Mr. Smith's career has benefited in part because he has differentiated himself with new style and approach, but now he wants to slam the door on others trying to similarly bring innovation and new approaches to the sports world.  Unfortunately, all too typical of professionals of all stripes, particularly since the government has set the expectation over the last 100 years that it is open to using its coercive power to enforcing professional standards in even the most trivial of professions.

I end such a discussion, as always, with Milton Friedman:

The justification offered [for licensing] is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.

A Real Mixed Week for Free Speech

On the positive side, the Supreme Court has struck down portions of the BCRA, also known as McCain-Feingold:

The Court concluded that Wisconsin Right to Life's ads, which urged
people to contact their senators (including one who was up for
re-election) about the confirmation of judicial nominees, did not
constitute either. The majority said "a court should find that an ad is
the functional equivalent of express advocacy only if the ad is
susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to
vote for or against a specific candidate." To put it another way,
BCRA's pre-election blackout cannot be constitutionally applied to a
spot that reasonably can be viewed as an issue ad, which means interest
groups are once again free to engage in public policy debates on the
air, no matter what time of year it is.

By the way, does anyone on the left feel at all worried that the four liberal judges were on the "limit speech" side of this issue?

But at the same time, the Supreme Court upheld speech limitations against High School students based on the content of the speech.  The rights of non-adults is a complicated issue, but precedent has been set that student speech is generally protected unless it is significantly disruptive of the school's functioning.  Except, it appears, when it is related to drugs.  This is part of a disturbing trend where an increasing number of topics, from "hate" speech to drug legalization speech are considered to be exceptions to the First Amendment.  However, almost everyone on the court seemed to have a different view on this, so it may be hard to generalize here.  Even the concurring opinions ranged the gamut from "this is narrowly aimed only at speech about narcotics" to "there is no free speech right in schools for minors."

And, speaking of hate speech, out in wacky Oakland, the world leader in Ebonics studies,

Marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family
values. That sentence is inflammatory, perhaps even a hate crime.

At least it is in Oakland, Calif. That city's government says those
words, italicized here, constitute something akin to hate speech and
can be proscribed from the government's open e-mail system and employee
bulletin board. ...

Some African American Christian women working for Oakland's
government organized the Good News Employee Association (GNEA), which
they announced with a flier describing their group as "a forum for
people of Faith to express their views on the contemporary issues of
the day. With respect for the Natural Family, Marriage and Family
Values."

The flier was distributed after other employees' groups, including
those advocating gay rights, had advertised their political views and
activities on the city's e-mail system and bulletin board. When the
GNEA asked for equal opportunity to communicate by that system and that
board, it was denied. Furthermore, the flier they posted was taken down
and destroyed by city officials, who declared it "homophobic" and
disruptive.

The city government said the flier was "determined" to promote
harassment based on sexual orientation. The city warned that the flier
and communications like it could result in disciplinary action "up to
and including termination."

We might as well just repeal the First Amendment now and save time if we continue to believe that the government should ban any speech that offends someone.

Oh, and while we were talking about kids and drugs, check out this awesome rant by Mayor Cory Booker of Newark.

He wants to reserve prison cells for those who do violence and
divert the nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs and
halfway houses.

He wants to change the New Jersey laws that
bar many ex-cons from getting a driver's license. He wants a black kid
from Newark who sells marijuana to clear his record as easily as the
white kid from the suburbs who buys it.

He wants to stop banning ex-cons from such a long list of jobs, including warehouse jobs at the nearby airport.

The scale of the problem is staggering: About 1,500 convicts are
released from state prison to Newark each year, and 1,000 of them will
likely be arrested again within three years -- mostly for drug crimes.

"The drug war is causing crime," Booker says. "It is just chewing up young black men. And it's killing Newark."

Good, its about time.  Not to be misunderstood, I would kick my kid's asses from here to the moon if I found them doing hard drugs.  But I want the responsibility to mold and repair their behavior to be mine, an option that is cut off if they get thrown in jail (which they probably wouldn't, since my kids are well off and white).  It is fine and fairly rational that we have determined as a society that kids can mess up their life doing drugs.  It is insane -- totally insane -- that our response is that we will respond by ... messing their life up even worse by throwing them in jail.

The Problem with Kwanzaa

[This is an update and a reprint of a post from 2004.  Lesson learned from last time I posted on this topic:  If you are going to send me hate mail, at least read the post carefully first]

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of
themselves and their history is a good one.  The specific values
celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist
-Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe
around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because
they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible
to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the
African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly
constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these
same values have played out in Africa.

First, understand that I have no problem with people of any ethnic
group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth
celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new
occasions. One of the great things about living in Arizona is getting to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Second, understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah
Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord
and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their
clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss
Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her
own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent
and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly,
after this conviction as well incidents of schizophrenia in prison
where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and
imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by
dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to
make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a
holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their
history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built
around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.
Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition
from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by
blacks.  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red itallics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On
its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight
Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th
century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In
practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of
a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly
criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack
Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally
cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this
was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more
revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's
context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To
build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and
sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To
make our collective vocation the building and developing of our
community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To
do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I
guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things
better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on
this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To
believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers,
our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What
about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the
individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is
interesting that a holiday
that
was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as
a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage
to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn
over our destiny and daily lives."

However,
this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and
totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god,
and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ...
them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for
Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the
totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and
daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So,
in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a
totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among
African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh,
thats not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the
core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin
and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom
- Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other
master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against
injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and
heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in
particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American
should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors
suffered the horrors of the slavery passage, suffered the indignity and
humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the
post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country,
infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than
I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

Ignoring a Positive Cancer Test

Baseball Crank reports:

In ... Gulino v. New York State Education Department (2d Cir. Aug. 17, 2006),
the Second Circuit reinstated a race discrimination suit against the
New York State Education Department based on the theory that a test of
"basic college-level content" that asks applicants to get just
two-thirds of the questions right is racially discriminatory because it
has a "disparate impact" on African-American and Latino teachers. The
test, developed in response to a 1988 task force report on problems with teacher quality, is described at pages 11-13 of the opinion.

There is nothing surprising, really, about this.  This theory, that a test that shows African-Americans performing more poorly than whites is by definition racist, has been floating around by decades.  It is particularly popular with various African-American leadership groups.

I have no problem with various ethnic and racial groups bringing expertise to bear to weed out poorly worded questions on exams.  But making this their only reaction to the test - ie the test shows we as a group may have a problem so lets throw the test out - is insane.  By way of explanation, here is a little play to consider:

Doctor:  I am sorry to tell you that you have cancer.  If untreated, it can be fatal.  The good news is that it is treatable, but the treatment will take time and can be quite difficult and painful.

Patient:  Your test is bad.  If other people don't have cancer, then I don't either.  I am going to ignore the result and ask the government to make sure that no one else is allowed to take the test either.

Doctor:  But that's crazy!  The cancer is treatable, but only if we get to work on it right now.

Patient:  You will be hearing from my lawyer for the pain and suffering your bad test has caused me.

I fully believe that the average African American wants her kids to be well educated, and has deep concerns about the quality of the education her kids are getting.  So I will limit my comments to African American "leadership".  Is what these leadership groups are doing in trying to legally strike down tests that show that the education they are getting as a group is failing really any different than a patient ignoring a positive cancer test?

Postscript:  In the article I linked, I do not share the author's concern about political T-shirts at school.

An African Holiday is a Great Idea, But the Principles of Kwanzaa Suck

This article has become an annual tradition at Coyote Blog, I guess to make sure I start the new year with plenty of hate mail.

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of
themselves and their history is a good one.  Whenever I write about blacks in America, much of the email I get tries to educate me in how much the "lost heritage" issue matters to African-Americans, a concept I have never fully grasped since I am happy, after the 20th century, to leave behind my German heritage.  Even if I'm not into it, I have no problem with people of any ethnic
group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth
celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new
occasions.

The specific values
celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist-Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe
around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because
they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible
to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the
African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly
constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these
same values have played out in Africa.

To begin, its important to understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah
Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord
and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their
clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss
Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her
own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent
and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly,
after this conviction as well incidents of schizophrenia in prison
where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and
imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by
dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to
make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a
holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their
history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built
around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.
Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition
from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by
blacks.  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red italics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On
its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight
Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th
century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In
practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of
a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly
criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack
Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally
cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this
was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more
revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's
context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To
build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and
sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To
make our collective vocation the building and developing of our
community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To
do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our
community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I
guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things
better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on
this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To
believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers,
our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What
about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the
individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is
interesting that a holiday
that
was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as
a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage
to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn
over our destiny and daily lives."

However,
this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and
totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god,
and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ...
them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for
Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the
totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and
daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So,
in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a
totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among
African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh,
that's not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the
core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin
and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom
- Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other
master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against
injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and
heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in
particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American
should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors
suffered the horrors of the middle passage, suffered the unforgivable indignity and
humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the
post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country,
infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than
I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

Reparations for Slavery

Groups like the NAACP are actively pursuing claims for compensation from both corporations and governments for slavery in the United States 140 or more years ago (that's 7+ generations in the past).  The particular article linked is on seeking reparations from corporations, but many efforts exist to extract compensation from taxpayers, e.g. you and I.

Lets forget for a minute why I owe money for what my great-great-great-great-great grandfather did to your great-great-great-great-great grandfather.  Lets even forget that my great-great grandparents and all preceding generations of my family did not even live in this country.  Forget even about whether a statute of limitations has been exceeded by waiting 140+ years and seven or more generations to file a claim.

Lets however ask the question of what damages are incurred by the current generation of African-Americans who are decedents of American slaves.  Clearly the slaves themselves were irreparably harmed by slavery, but lets talk about the people who are actually bringing the suit.

If it were not for slavery, then many African-Americans today would be ... in Africa.  And in Africa, they would very, very likely be in horrible mind-numbing poverty (see Live8).  Its hard to pin down a number, but estimates of average incomes in Sub-Saharan Africa are between $600 per year and $1,770 per year.  By comparison, the average income of an African American was $14,397 in 1999 and is certainly higher today, since black incomes are growing rapidly in this country and actually falling in Africa.  And African American life expectancies, which still have some catching up to do with whites in the US, are nevertheless 10-25 years longer than their counterparts in the old country.  Everything from AIDS survival rates to education levels to VCR ownership and Internet access are far superior for American blacks than blacks in Africa.  So in this context, how does one demonstrate economic damages from slavery?

If I were an African American, I would give thanks every day that my ancestors endured the torture and humiliation and horror of slavery so that today my family could live, despite frustrations that sill exist for blacks, in relative wealth and prosperity and good health instead of some sub-Saharan shit-hole.

One Note:  I have certainly gotten some interesting emails on this one, including at least one "you will roast in hell" offering.  One comment I have gotten several times is "But there is no statute of limitations on murder, so how can there be on slavery?"   To which I answer - yes, there is not statute of limitations on murder, BUT, if we fail to catch a murderer in his lifetime, we don't throw his kids or grandkids in jail in his stead, nor do we ask his grandkids to pay reparations for his murders.  If we suddenly could absolutely prove the identity of Jack the Ripper, would we track down all his descendants and sue them for his actions? 

The second comment I get, presumably from African-Americans by the pronouns "I" and "we" used in the emails, is "we had our heritage ripped away".  I will confess that I may have a blind spot on this loss-of-heritage issue.  My great-grandparents were forcibly exiled from Germany about a century ago, and I don't shed any tears for my lost heritage, particularly given Germany's atrocious actions during the twentieth century.  I am thrilled to be an American and reject or at least ignore my German heritage.  I am not at all saddened my disconnectedness from the Kaiser or Hitler, and am not sure in turn that if I was black I would feel a loss from not being closer to Robert Mugabe or any of a zillion other repressive African regimes. 

By the way, in terms of being disconnected from one's heritage,  I have no way to prove it or get the numbers, but I would be willing to be that there are more college students right now studying black and/or African history in the US than in the whole of Africa.

Followup on Income Inequality

Several people say that I have missed the point in my post here - that the issue is
with mobility, particularly in multiple generations.   They argue that
the rich of the next generation are likely to be the kids of the rich
of this generation, that success now depends on education and
connections that only the wealthiest can buy for their kids.   

A couple of thoughts on this.  First, the Times's own data (plus
many other studies) doesn't bear this out, particularly with new
immigrants.  Thomas Sowell addresses this in more depth here and here,
and suggests that the explanation may lie more in values and
aspirations than in purchased stuff.  Marginal Revolution, for example,
had this thoroughly depressing story featuring a study by Harvard economist Roland Fryer on the social pressures in many African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods to under-perform in school.

My other thought on this is that to the extent social mobility is
slowing in this country, our public education system is a major
culprit.  Forget for a moment about quality issues.  Schools have
increasingly emphasized self-esteem over achievement and competition.
Standards are lowered, and the value of exceeding standards or
improving performance is downplayed.  Without other influences,
students will walk out of public schools with a value system vis a vis
achievement and competition and performance that leaves them totally
unprepared for the real world.  I am reminded of one of Bill Gates' pieces of advice to graduates

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS
NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as
MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest
resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Kids with parents who have achieved in some way in the world are likely
to overcome this by the example and exhortations of their parents.  But
what happens to kids without this example?  Or kids (lacking voucher
programs) who can't afford to escape the public school system cult of
mediocrity for high-achievement private schools or home schooling?

Ironically, the very people who bemoan income inequality and lack of
mobility are the very same people who have gutted the public education
system.  These are the people who deal with inequality by flattening
down the peaks, which is exactly what they have done in schools,
eliminating valedictorians and substituting social promotions.

Phallocrats of the World, Unite

This letter to the editor at SIU about embattled professor Jonathon Bean is hilarious if parody, and even funnier if real.  The letter begins:

To the Editor:

My eyes were edged with tears as I read Caleb
Hale's article
in the Southern which exposed Southern Illinois University at
Carbondale history ("His-Story") Professor Jonathan Bean as a racist
hate-mongering phallocrat.

"Phallocrat" -- I love that term!  Great name for a new political party.  Stealing a joke shamelessly from one of the commenters:  "you are going to elect a dick anyway, so vote Phallocrat".

Backstory on the whole blowup at SIU is here, but the gist is that professor Bean is being excoriated for having the temerity to suggest one (1) piece of optional reading in his course (which has scads of required reading from African-American writers about white racism) about an incident of black racism.

Update:  Oh no!  The campus phallocrats are meeting stiff resistance in Rhode Island.

This is Nuts Too

I must be going crazy.  First this, and now comes this story, via Overlawyered.com:

A former Inglewood police officer [Jeremy Morese] who was fired for punching a black teenager and slamming him against a patrol car was awarded $1.6 million Tuesday by the jury in a discrimination lawsuit he and his partner brought against the city [note that the teenager was handcuffed at the time]

OK, we won't even get into the fact that employers should be able to fire "at-will" employees for just about any old reason.  How, though, have we gotten to a world where a police department can't fire an officer who abused a handcuffed man? 

It gets better, though:

the jury was unanimous in awarding $810,000 to Morse's partner, Bijan Darvish, who had been disciplined in connection with the 2002 incident.

Darvish was suspended 10 days (presumably without pay) for falsifying a report to cover up for his partner's abusive actions.  Ignore for a moment whether a 10 day suspension is the right punishment for his actions (I would have fired the guy), but ask - how is $810,000 proper recompense for a 10 day suspension, even if the suspension was totally invalid?  The main damage was lost pay -- but on this basis the $810,000 for 10 days pay would represent $29,565,000 for a whole year.   I guess I need to quit my job and go sign up as a police officer in Inglewood, because they sure as heck make more money than I do.

By the way, if I was an African-American, I would sure as hell stay away from Inglewood, or any other community that pays million dollar rewards to cops that beat the hell out of black people.

The Principles of Kwanzaa Suck

The concept of a cultural celebration by African-Americans of themselves and their history is a good one.  The specific values celebrated in Kwanzaa, however, suck.  They are socialist -Marxist-collectivist-totalitarian crap.   Everyone seems to tiptoe around Kwanzaa feeling that they have to be respectful, I guess because they are fearful of being called a racist.  However, I find it terrible to see such a self-destructive set of values foisted on the African-American community.  These values are nearly perfectly constructed to keep blacks in poverty - just look at how well these same values have played out in Africa.

First, understand that I have no problem with people of any ethnic group or race or whatever creating a holiday.  Life is worth celebrating, as often as possible, even if we have to make up new occasions. 

Second, understand that Kwanzaa is not some ancient African ethno-cultural tradition.  Kwanzaa was made up in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.  Karenga was a radical Marxist in the 60's black power movement.  Later, Karenga served time in jail for torturing two women:

Deborah Jones ... said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga ... also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said."

Interestingly, after this conviction as well incidents of schizophrenia in prison where "the psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers," California State University at Long Beach saw fit to make him head of their Black Studies Department.

Anyway,  I give credit to Karenga for wanting to create a holiday for African-Americans that paid homage to themselves and their history.  However, what Karenga created was a 7-day holiday built around 7 principles, which are basically a seven step plan to Marxism.   Instead of rejecting slavery entirely, Kwanzaa celebrates a transition from enslavement of blacks by whites to enslavement of blacks by blacks.  Here are the 7 values, right from the Kwanzaa site (with my comments in red itallics):

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race

On its surface, this is either a platitude, or, if serious, straight Marxism and thoroughly racist.  Think about who else in the 20th century talked about unity of race, and with what horrible results.

In practice, the notion of unity in the black movement has become sort of a law of Omerta -- no black is ever, ever supposed to publicly criticize another black.  Don't believe me?  Look at the flack Bill Cosby caught for calling out other blacks.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves

Generally cool with me -- can't get a libertarian to argue with this.  When this was first written in the 60's, it probably meant something more revolutionary, like secession into a black state, but in today's context I think it is fine.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together

Um, do I even need to comment?  This is Marxism, pure and simple.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

OK, I said the last one was Marxism.  This one is really, really Marxism. 

Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

There's that collectivism again

Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

I guess I don't have much problem with creativity and make things better.  My sense though that if I was to listen to the teaching on this one in depth, we would get collectivism again.

Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

What about in ourselves as individuals?  Through all of this, where is the individual, either individual responsibility or achievement?  It is interesting that a holiday that was invented specifically to be anti-religious would put "faith" in as a value.  In fact, Karenga despised the belief in God as paying homage to "spooks who threaten us if we don't worship them and demand we turn over our destiny and daily lives."

However, this is in fact very consistent with the teachings of most statists and totalitarians.  They tend to reject going on bended knee to some god, and then turn right around and demand that men go on bended knee to ... them, or other men.  This is in fact what this "faith" was about for Karenga - he is a statist laying the foundation for obedience to the totalitarian state.  He wants blacks to turn over their destiny and daily lives to their leaders, not to god.

So, in conclusion, Kwanzaa was designed as a celebration of creating a totalitarian collectivist Marxist racist state among African-Americans.  I may well get comments and emails that say "oh, thats not how we celebrate it" and I will say fine - but Marxism is the core DNA of the holiday, a holiday created by a man who thought Lenin and the Black Panthers were all wimps.

Never wishing to criticize without suggestion a solution, here are alternate values I might suggest:

Freedom - Every individual is his own master.  We will never accept any other master again from any race (even our own).  We will speak out against injustices and inequalities so our children can be free as well.

Self-Reliance - Each individual will take responsibility for their life and the lives of their family

Pride - We will be proud of our race and heritage.  We will learn about our past and about slavery in particular, so we will never again repeat it. 

Entrepreneurship - We will work through free exchange with others to make our lives better and to improve the lives of our children

Education - We will dedicate ourselves and our time to education of our children, both in their knowledge and their ethics

Charity - We will help others in our country and our community through difficult times

Thankfulness - Every African-American should wake up each morning and say "I give thanks that my ancestors suffered the horrors of the slavery passage, suffered the indignity and humiliation of slavery, and suffered the poverty and injustices of the post-war South so that I, today, can be here, in this country, infinitely more free, healthier, safer and better off financially than I would have been in Africa."

By the way, if you doubt that last part, note that in the late 90's, median per capita income of African Americans was about $25,000, while the per capita income of Africans back in the "old country" was around $700, or about 35x less.  Note further this comparison of freedom between the US and various African nations.  Finally, just read the news about the Congo or Rwanda or the Sudan.

Women's Rights Groups Have Lost Their Way

It is not uncommon that advocacy groups struggle to declare victory.  The problem with crossing the finish line for such groups is that their leaders will lose power, influence, and face-time on the news, and rank and file members may lose jobs.  Also, it is always possible to point to some instance where victory has not been secured, though these instances are often trivial compared to the original problem the groups were organized to fight.

Such seems to be the case with women's groups today.  Their shift from women's issues advocacy to groups trying to maintain their political stature probably began in the Clinton administration, where most women's groups chose to support their political ally (Clinton) rather than their traditional issue (sexual harassment in the workplace).

This trend seems to be accelerating.  Here are some other indicators:

  • Increasingly, women's rights seem to have become a euphemism for abortion rights.  I don't have any problem with people organizing to support abortion rights, but it strikes me that women have more rights than this.  What happened to free speech and property and religion and bearing arms?  Aren't those women's rights?  But press most women today who say they are concerned with the erosion of women's rights, 95% of the time they will be talking narrowly about abortion rights.  The majority of the articles on the NOW site are related to abortion and Roe v. Wade, not any other discernable consitutional rights.
  • At the same time that the US Government was in the process of freeing millions of Afghan women, opening up to them for the first time the right to vote and go to school, womens groups in the US were mostly opposing these actions.  In fact, their main focus at the time was instead on trying to get one female millionaire into a country club in Georgia.  This contrast both points out the trivialization of the battles left to fight for women in this country who can mostly claim victory, as well as the loss of focus on the most fundamental of women's rights that are still denied to women all over the world.  For many women in the world, women's rights aren't getting an abortion or joining a country club, they are not getting beaten with impunity by your husband, not getting stoned to death for minor offenses, being able to vote, or read, or be educated, or even to show some skin every once in a while.  Women have far fewer rights in islamic nations than blacks had in aparteid South Africa.  African-American groups in the US actively opposed apparteid in South Africa -- where are womens group's voices on islamic fascism?
  • Women's groups have lost any consistent philosophical focus.  With abortion, they were of one mind - our bodies are private, the government can't tell us what to do with them.  Great, I'll buy that.  But, along comes the breast implant scare, and suddenly women's groups are all for banning women from doing certain things to their body (mainly because women's leaders see breast implants as frivolous and not something real women should do).  So, you can do whatever you want with your body as long as women's leaders agree with your decision- making.  Don't believe me?  Here is the spot on the NOW site urging women to complain about that the government is micro-managing their bodies by denying them certain medical items, and here is an article urging woment to complain that the government is not micro-managing their bodies enough by making certain medical items too available

And now comes this story on banning Walmarts and other big box retailers from certain parts of Maryland.  I won't even get into the ridiculousness of this rank protectionism for unions and small retailers - other blogs have attacked it well enough, example here.  I was struck by this line:

Officials of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400, meanwhile, organized labor, education and women's rights advocates to testify with them in front of the council in October [in favor of the ban].

Huh?  Women's groups are out campaigning to ban Costcos and Walmarts?  Is it somehow hurting women to go to one place to do all of their shopping rather than 4 or 5 smaller stores?   Is it a fundamental right of women not to be tempted by lower prices?  Are women somehow genetically more susceptible to those large boxes of cereal?  Yes, I know that women's groups are opposing some hiring and promotion practices at Walmarts, but is this really a valid reason to have the government ban construciton of all large retail establishments?

The fact is that womens groups have just become another generic liberal advocacy group, jumping in on whatever hot topic is out there to keep them in the press, but with little connection to the original issues that energized their formation.

If women's groups want some valid women's causes, here are some suggestions:

  • Support women in their transition from slave to citizen in Iraq and Afghanistan.  You don't even have to sanction the war - just accept the situation as-is and help tens of millions of women who are trying to be free
  • Protest the UN's treatment of women, including widespread rape, in the Congo
  • If they want a cause closer to the US, support the women whose husbands are stationed overseas in war zones.  Or, if you would rather support the troops than their wives, petition Congress for more budget to ensure women soldiers have the tools they need to survive and be victorious