Archive for October, 2002

The Re-Election of Jim Crow

October 30th, 2002
From Greg Palast, writing in Southern Exposure, the magazine of the progressive Institute for Southern Studies:
THE RE-ELECTION OF JIM CROW: How Jeb Bush's Team is Trying to Steal Florida Again There is no shame. In 2000, Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, ordered county elections officials to purge 57,000 citizens from voter registries as felons not allowed to vote in Florida. In fact, about 95 percent of these voters were innocent of crimes -- but 54 percent were guilty of being African-American. No guess there: a voter's race is right there on the voter form. So there was the election: BBC Television, for whom I conducted the investigation of this black-out operation, figures Al Gore lost 22,000 votes this way. But I was wrong. The company that put together this racial roster that fixed the election, DBT On-Line of Boca Raton, has now 'fessed up, having been sued by the NAACP for violating Floridians' civil rights. They have turned over to the NAACP's lawyers a report indicating that the state ordered the purge of 94,000 voters and that, according to the company's data, no more than 3,000 are likely illegal voters. In April of this year, Harris wrote that my reporting was "twisted and maniacally partisan" -- but not, in the main, wrong. The Secretary of State, now candidate for Congress for Sarasota, settled with the NAACP, agreeing that legal voters had been mistakenly purged, but admitting no wrongdoing. Here's where it gets nasty. Harris and the state admit that tens of thousands of black voters had been wronged, and with plantation noblesse have agreed to return them to the voter rolls -- at the beginning of 2003. In other words, the votes seized in November 2002 will not be emancipated until after the ballots are counted in the race between Governor Jeb Bush and his Democratic opponent Bill McBride. Is there some technical reason for the delay? The first purge was launched in 1998 only weeks before Jeb's last run for office; yet the order to reverse the process is dragging for months since settlement and nearly two years since the exposure of the list's falsity. Not all of the 91,000 wrongly listed for the purge lost their vote; and most, though not all, are Democrats. But in a Governor's race in a statistical dead heat, these tens of thousands of votes may well decide the outcome.
Small print: This story appears in a special edition of Southern Exposure magazine, "The Right To Vote." Copies are available for $5 at Southern Exposure, P.O. Box 531, Durham, NC 27702, USA, or (919) 419-8311 x21. The full version of this story will appear in the winter 2002/2003 issue.

Image of the Week, #16

October 29th, 2002
Mount Etna's not happy. From the BBC. Get uptodate satellite images from the RSDAS Etna project: registration is quick and free.

Link

October 24th, 2002
Tom writes to the Virtual Stoa [24.10.2002]: Doesn't quite qualify for Image Of The Week, and it's hardly rapier-sharp satire. Still....

Curse of the Stoa

October 23rd, 2002
Only a day after mockery at the hand of the Virtual Stoa, and the Secretary of State for Education resigns... Wow. "In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold", and so on.

Press Release of the Day

October 22nd, 2002
From the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns:
The NCADC welcomes the Community Fund's decision to finally release the grant of �336,261 that was agreed in August this year. It is to be regretted that the hate campaign 'encouraged' by some sections of the press, together with the unwarranted intervention by the Home Office, caused the grant to be delayed by more than two months. However, we are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received from the voluntary sector and the other organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers. National Spokesperson and NCADC vice chair Pete Widlinski said, "While we never doubted that the Community Fund would make the grant, we find it unacceptable that staff and trustees of the Community Fund and our own workers have been subjected to a sustained campaign of misrepresentation, race hate and threats. We hope that this difficult period is now at an end and that we can again concentrate on our role of giving advice and support to those campaigning against deportation. The allegation that we 'encourage' criminal activities has been proven to be completely unfounded." The funding will ensure that NCADC continues its work of advising and supporting people who often have no one else to turn to, and maintaining our website, which is a source of invaluable information for groups and individuals in Britain and elsewhere. The NCADC is a very small organisation that attempts to assist people to access all options available to them. The NCADC has successfully assisted over 100 families and individuals to campaign against deportation. We advise people on how to campaign, that is, on how to communicate the facts of their cases to the Home Office, and bring their cases to the attention of those who might be able to influence the Home Office. These people have been allowed to remain as a result of Home Office decisions and their own tenacity and courage. Although the majority of the people we help are not 'political' and our assistance is confined to their anti-deportation campaigns, media attention has focussed on a small number of our campaigns, including Paramjit & Mukhtiar Singh, Ragbhir Singh, Karamjit Singh Chahal, Ajit Singh, Shafiq-ur-Rehman and Hikmet Bozat. NCADC can confirm that all of the above named individuals have been allowed to stay legally in the UK as a result of decisions by Jack Straw or David Blunkett, following campaigns supported and advised by NCADC. This proves that the work we do is completely within the law. We are convinced that the measure of a mature democracy is that it is not threatened by lively and engaged groups that seek to improve their society and the lives of those that reside within it. We hope that the Community Fund's decision is a signal that the independence of the voluntary sector and its funders is safe from government interference.
We look forward with interest to reading tomorrow's Daily Mail.

Education Education Education

October 22nd, 2002
This is very funny, if, at bottom, good Tory propaganda fodder. This, from Hansard, 2 March 1999:
Mr. Willetts: Will the Minister commit herself to the Secretary of State's pledge to resign if the Government do not reach their literacy and numeracy targets by 2002? Ms Morris: Of course I will; I have already done so. Indeed, I generously commit the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke), too. We speak with one voice. The hon. Gentleman's question is a reflection of what life was like under teams of Conservative Ministers, when a Secretary of State would promise to resign but the rest of the team would not go too. I will tell the hon. Gentleman another thing: there will be a team celebration when we achieve those targets--because achieve those targets we certainly will.
Achieve these targets they certainly did not. (Yup, those boys are "underachieving" again). But Morris -- then Schools Standards Minister, now Secretary of State -- and her team are still in place. Young Miliband -- then policy wonk, now Schools Standards Minister and part of "the rest of the team" -- is reported by the BBC as saying that "I don't know the ins and outs of who said what to whom and when". But it is not at all complicated, as you can see.

Peers

October 17th, 2002
It is quite depressing to read through the twenty thousand words of debate which filled three hours in the House of Lords yesterday, as their noble Lordships debated and then voted against provisions which would legalise adoption by unmarried or gay or lesbian couples. But amidst the dross, two contributions stood out: the speech of Waheed Alli was widely reported; that of Conrad Russell less so, and it is reproduced in full below.
Earl Russell: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, will not misunderstand me if I join her in deeply regretting that we will not have the opportunity to hear Lady Young today. Lady Young was a parliamentarian to her fingertips. She was as devoted to the procedures by which we reach our decision as she was to her own principles. And that is saying something.I want to put two questions to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain. First, will she concede that those of us who oppose the amendments today are quite as devoted to the interests of children as those who propose them? We merely see the interests of children in very different ways�in many more different ways than time will allow me to expound today. Secondly, will she concede that as regards Members on these Benches and, as far as I know, everyone else, this is nothing to do with political correctness or social engineering. Those are things I despise. People, not the state, are generally the best judges of their own interests. That is a fundamental principle behind the philosophy of these Benches. Were I am not convinced on those grounds, I would not be saying what I am saying now. Parliamentary measures tend to get shorthand nicknames. There was a Bill that constantly occupied another place, in the 1580s, which became known as the Bill Against Wednesdays. I know that today is a Wednesday, but I have nothing against that. However, these amendments should be known as the amendments against couples. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, explained very clearly, it is perfectly legal for a single homosexual to adopt or for a single member of a cohabiting couple to adopt, but not for the two of them to do it together. That can only cause confusion. I remember, when I was about 10, being struck down by appendicitis. The doctors decided that it was necessary to operate that night. They flashed a message on the screen at the nearest cinema�which, being in north Wales, was 40 miles away�to fetch the surgeon. The operation took place at midnight. I was assured the next morning that I would have been dead by then had the operation not been carried out. Medical people are rather careful about falling into legal traps. Had there been any doubt whether either of the people in charge of me was entitled to sign a medical consent form, I might not be addressing your Lordships now. It is, I know, possible for the partner of an adoptive parent to apply for a parental responsibility order under Section 8 of the Children Act. However, that is a temporary order that may be withdrawn. Moreover, parental responsibility is governed by case law, which means that it is subject to change at any time. It is, I think, very much better to have two people in charge who are both clearly in a legal position of authority. Otherwise, we may find someone saying, "I'm sorry, darling, you know I cannot sign it, and Mummy is on the Front Bench". That is going to cause a good many problems. I was interested in an article in this Sunday's Observer by Maureen Freely. She remarks:
"In 1974, when I left university, it still raised eyebrows to live with someone before marriage. Now it's the norm, and the norm most people accept".
She further said:
"If marriage is not the all-defining and confining institution it once was, it's not just because a generation of Seventies upstarts decided to change the rules. It's also because the legal and economic underpinning have changed beyond recognition. When marriage ceases to be the only way a woman can find her way in a world, when men no longer can or wish to treat women and children as chattel, when the penalties of divorce are no longer as cruel and inhumane as they used to be, relationships become defined by the degree and the quality of the personal commitment".
I heard what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester had to say about the ecosystem. I think that the ecosystem was changing before the changes in the habit of cohabitation came in. I think that contraception changed sexual relations as permanently and as inevitably as nuclear weapons changed the nature of war. I think that there is no going back on that.When I talk to my female pupils, I realise that there is nothing in the world harder to understand than the time just before the time when one was born. I simply cannot bring them to conceive of a world in which women have the sort of total economic dependence on a man that used to be normal even when I was young. This means that there must be an element of choice in marriage which was often not there before. It also means that there must be, as Maureen Freely remarks, a concern about quality. That is why I make no apology to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for using anecdotal evidence�because one cannot measure quality by quantitative evidence. I entirely agree with what the noble Earl, Lord Howe, had to say about the virtue of permanence: it is very great. However, it is not the only virtue. According to John Chamberlain�the Matthew Parris of the 17th century�James I and his wife lived together "as well as a couple who do not converse can do". They gave their children permanence; it did not seem to do Charles I very much good. As well as permanence, we need love and we need peace; not only love for the child, but also the example of love between the parents. Where those things are absent, the child is losing something which is in my view quite as precious as permanence. Many statistics have been produced by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. I think that the question between those who marry and those who cohabit is whether we think it better to have a bad marriage or none at all. That is a question on which there may be two opinions, but I do not see a research method of testing them. How is one to collect the sample of bad marriages on which to do one's research? Who is going to admit to belonging to it? I grant that people brought up in happy households are likely to do better than people brought up in unhappy households, but I do not understand how one brings that to bear on the evidence on whether the ceremony of marriage is in the interests of children. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, alleged that there was no research at all on the effect on children of homosexual couples. That is not in fact the case; there is a fairly considerable body of research. It was reported by Professor Gottman in 1999:
"Studies on children of lesbian mothers and gay fathers report no negative effects on children relative to their parents' sexual orientation. Children did not appear deviant in gender identity, sexual orientation and social adjustment".
Being gay is not contagious. The fact that, by definition, all gay children are children of straight parents would seem to me to be evidence to support that point of view. In so far as there is trouble, it is the result of stigma. Those who complain of the effect of stigma and use it as an argument against change are showing the inability of the unanalytic mind to recognise its own handiwork. I except the noble Earl, Lord Howe, from that�he has not used that argument today; but others have. It seems to me that it is inevitably a disadvantage to have a type of loving relationship that one cannot avow proudly and in public. If one thinks that children brought up by homosexuals are at a disadvantage, the way to remedy it would be to allow their parents to avow their love proudly and in public.We have had opinion polls quoted. I do not believe that I am the only person in this Chamber who was brought up on Burke's address to the electors of Bristol. He said that a Member is not a delegate but a representative and that he owes his constituents not only his attendance but his judgment. If that is true in another place, of which Burke was speaking, then a fortiori it must be true here. Finally, children need to be brought up by somebody or something that can hear them. There are two cases, at least one of them fictional, of children brought up by wolves: Mowgli in The Jungle Book and Romulus in Rome. We are not proposing anything as shocking as that.
To read through the list of peers who supported this shameful amendment is also to be reminded just how much human waste-product still sits and votes in the House of Lords -- the Normans Lamont and Tebbit, Margaret Thatcher, David Waddington, and many others, hiding behind their stupid feudal titles -- none of whom should have the slightest role to play in British public life.

October Update

October 10th, 2002
What's on the minds of those who surf the internet? One way to find out is to take a look at some of the things people are searching for when they stumble across the Virtual Stoa. Highlights from the last few days include...
meta chants canonization false opus John Locke social contract theoretician elephants sex michael hardt wife revolutionary anarchist clown bloc Opus Dei comments canonization Josemaria Escriva bedford sex [again!] W H Auden Funeral Procession sexuality sideburns edwina currie blow job opus dei russia widdyweb wild crazy elephant sex
Interest in Opus Dei trumps elephant sex, by four queries to two. Most of these people, I suspect, would have been sadly disappointed with what they found here. And at least one of them is just sick.

Shadow Cabinet

October 8th, 2002
How well do you know the Shadow Cabinet? (How well do you want to know them? I scored 9 out of 10, which seems an embarrassingly high score, really. Never having heard of Tim Collins was a problem). Nick wrote [13.10.2002]: This has to be one of the cruellest things I have ever seen. 3/10, BTW. And I thought I was paying attention. Martin wrote [14.10.2002]: I only managed 8/10, I fear, also never having heard of Tim Collins. I had no idea that Eric Pickles, that foul grotesque, was now in the Shadow Cabinet. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel. There really isn't a single redeeming feature among the current Shadow Cabinet. By comparison, to remember figures like Denzil Davies is to remember an era of political Leviathans. What a sorry damn state we're now in. Josephine wrote [15.10.2002]: I got 3/10 too, and I had never actually heard of any of them, so I don't think Nick was paying much attention. I had heard of Michael Howard, but I think I got that one wrong. Nick wrote [17.10.2002]: Picky, picky, picky. So it's somehow *my* fault the Tories today are a crowd of anonymous no-hopers, Josephine? I vaguely remember Michael Howard, too... "the worst Home Secretary since Henry Brooke," or some such.

Tory Party Conference

October 7th, 2002
Here are some of the better bits of Teresa May's speech to the Tory Party conference earlier today. Every word is true, every promise credible, oh yes. (The whole thing is here, but you really shouldn't bother.)
Some Tories have indulged themselves in petty feuding or personal sniping instead of getting behind a leader who is doing an enormous amount to change a party which has suffered two massive landslide defeats....And there are reasons for real optimism. The Conservative Party has made progress this year and has laid the foundation for sustainable progress ahead. The reason is clear. Iain Duncan Smith has had the courage to recognise the seriousness of our problems and the imagination to develop a programme for recovery... And on Wednesday afternoon you won't just have Oliver Letwin's s peech, you will have, in your hands, a campaign pack for you to take the message of this conference out onto the streets where the real battle is there to be fought... Yes we've made progress. But let's not kid ourselves. There's a way to go before we can return to government. There's a lot we need to do in this Party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us - the nasty party. I know that's unfair. You know that's unfair but it's the people out there we need to convince - and we can only do that by avoiding behaviour and attitudes that play into the hands of our opponents. No more glib moralising, no more hypocritical finger wagging...
Yes, indeed. There'll be no more glib moralising, finger-wagging, petty feuding or personal sniping. From now on it's straight forward to victory with Iain Duncan Smith! Dan writes [15.10.2002]: I thought you might appreciate this.

Self-Parody Alert

October 7th, 2002
I don't usually like to reproduce items from other people's weblogs in full, but Junius today raises a good question:
I wonder who selects the titles for the Independent's debate section? A few weeks ago they had "Stoning: Is it ever justified?", today's offering is "Saudi Arabia: It is [sic] democratic?"
Self-parody through headline writing seems to be quite a common phenomenon these days. I spotted a copy of Vogue the other day whose cover proclaimed, "DISCOVERED: Traffic-Stopping Trousers". (But, sadly, they were very dull).

IDS Watch

October 7th, 2002
According to a poll published in today's Daily Telegraph, an impressive 5% of voters think that Iain Duncan Smith is providing "strong and effective leadership" to the Conservative Party. What fun!
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