Sunday, August 31, 2008

FIRE goes back to college

Well, it's back to college time. A time for some students and faculty to be thankful for the existence of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). Issues & Views has covered the work of FIRE since its formation, back in 1999, by civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate and Charles Kors, a Professor of History. See here, here, and here.

Determined to live up to its mission to defend constitutional rights on the college campus, FIRE has lent its support in legal actions to students and faculty members against recalcitrant university officials, who suppress free speech and due process. It also has been called upon to assist students who face administrative punishment for nothing more than wearing Halloween costumes or face masks deemed by some to be "hurtful," when viewed by members of specifically "protected" groups. You know which groups they are.

Although FIRE champions the rights of all members of academia, no matter their political perspective, you may remember its early days, when the organization went to bat for those conservatives, who were invited to speak at colleges, but were often barred from doing so, by the obstreperous behavior of campus goons, who did not share their political views. Sometimes, events simply had to be canceled due to threats of physical assault. Such behavior often was not condemned by school administrators, whose politics usually coincided with those of the trouble makers.

Over the years, the grievances began to pile up, as college administrators allowed politically biased students or staff members to set arbitrary rules for others to follow, or engaged in such high-handed practices themselves. In 2002, at Arizona State University, for example, there was actually a course listed in the school's catalog that forbade anyone, except "Native American students," from taking it. Here was course restriction based on race at a tax-funded state institution. One letter from FIRE brought a prompt removal of the enrollment restriction.

Then came "speech codes," "free speech zones," "sensitivity training," the banning of parody and satire in student publications, and even open incitement to members of "historically oppressed groups" to discern real or imagined instances of "offenses" directed towards them. "What an astonishing expectation to give to students," wrote Silverglate, "the belief that they have the right to four years of never being offended."

Kors observed that, through intimidating policies that might result in punishment, "Students learn to censor themselves so as not to say or do anything that may possibly bring them trouble. They are taught not to discuss or debate, but rather to call upon coercive authority to silence those with whom they disagree by means of sweeping disciplinary action and thought reform."

Thought reform, indeed. In 2003, FIRE challenged the speech code of Shippensburg University (Penn.) in federal court. The code, among other crazy stipulations, required that "every member of the community" mirror the official views of the university administration "in their attitudes and behaviors." Along with other repressive policies, students were ordered to take down any displays of posters or flyers that might be "hostile to Osama bin Laden." Such displays were deemed to be "offensive to other students." Upon FIRE's intervention, the U.S. District Court ordered Shippensburg's president to cease enforcing provisions of his university's ridiculous speech code.

Since feminists make up a large part of the female staff on most college campuses, it's not surprising that policies biased against men have become the rule in some college settings. In 2003, Harvard University defended a policy that gave women students the right to bring charges of assault or rape against male students, without the need of any form of corroborating evidence. Any student charged with this crime was not only denied the right to defend himself, he could not face his accuser directly, while hearing her testimony. There was no pretense of due process, and his fate was decided in closed sessions that he was not allowed to attend.

FIRE joined with a consortium of other civil libertarians to oppose what Kors described as "Star Chambers" proceedings at Harvard. He wrote, "There is virtually no place in the United States where Kangaroo courts and Star Chambers are the rule rather than the exception, except on college and university campuses."

Seven years earlier, in 1996, New York Times' reporter Nina Bernstein had written an investigative piece, in which she told of tendentious cases on campuses that "vanished into a separate judicial world so secret that many Americans are unaware that it operates behind closed doors at most of the nation's 3,600 colleges and universities."

When pressure was put upon Harvard to institute fairer procedures, the feminist brigade called out the troops, to protest any alterations to the existing policies that declared a woman's word alone sufficient to sustain a rape charge. In response to an appeal made by the feminist camp, which claimed that new rules would be a violation of Title IX, the Office of Civil Rights ruled that it found no evidence to support such a claim, and closed the case.

Charles Kors described the OCR's ruling as "an important first step" in opening the door for "greater due process at colleges across the country."

Now, in August 2008, an important victory for free speech on campus was rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third District (Phila.), in the case of DeJohn v. Temple University. In 2006, Temple student Christian DeJohn filed a complaint in federal district court charging that the university's sexual harassment policy violated his First Amendment right to free expression. DeJohn, who was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, claimed that speech codes inhibited him from discussing his views on campus, especially in regard to the role of women in the military. He said he would be punished under the specifications of Temple's speech codes.

When the university tried the clever dodge of revamping parts of its speech policy, thereby hoping to get the district court to drop the complaint, the court denied this motion, declaring that there was nothing to prevent Temple from reinstituting the policy at a later date. The district court ultimately found Temple's sexual harassment policy to be unconstitutional, and issued an injunction against its enforcement.

Unbelievably, Temple appealed the ruling in 2007. This gave the U.S. Appeals Court the opportunity to rule in favor of DeJohn, and to uphold the district court's ruling. The Appeals Court found that Temple's policy prohibited constitutionally protected speech and was "unacceptably overbroad."

So, where does this presently leave free speech on campus? A Washington Times editorial ponders how long restrictive speech codes can survive after the DeJohn ruling. "Colleges and universities generally know the game is up," writes the editorialist. Striking an optimistic note, the writer predicts, "The moment when the Orwellian practice of restricting speech at what are supposed to be this country's free centers of learning may not be far off."

That moment might be further away than we'd like to believe, if reports by FIRE on current policies and practices at dozens of colleges are any indication. Check out FIRE's Red Alerts, to learn about ongoing disregard for fundamental rights at colleges described by FIRE as "unrepentant offenders." Perhaps this month's court ruling will force certain modifications of blatantly biased policies, but the fight is not over yet.
Read more!

Help keep Issues & Views online

Although you won't always agree with the opinions on this blog, your financial assistance will help sustain and propagate the opinions with which you do agree.

Please consider using this link to PayPal:
The link also leads to a mail-in form

Or send your donation directly to:

Issues & Views
P.O. Box 467
New York, NY 10025

All donors receive two Issues & Views bookmarks. Read more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The end of identity politics? Not likely.

In these times I am rarely surprised by most notions put forth by political pundits. But I must admit to being taken aback by the suppositions of Terry Michael in "Obama as the End of Identity Politics as We've Known Them" (Reason magazine, 6/10/08). Michael appears to believe that under an Obama presidency, we soon will be on "the beginnings of a journey away from the Great Society mind-set of the Democratic Party" and on a course that will put "the Jesse Jacksons, the Al Sharptons, and the white identity politics liberals out of business."

Michael envisions the end of what he calls the peddling of black victimology, which will mean no more demands for "diversity training, minority contracts, or other tribal reparations." For Michael, the myth that minorities cannot assimilate "dies when a majority white nation selects a leader of color." How logical he is; how well-reasoned is his thesis. Yet it is clear that he has no clue as to who benefits, among blacks, from that "diversity training" and those "minority contracts." It is the most powerful and influential who are recipients of victimology largesse.

Anyone who thinks that Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson are going to be put out of business does not comprehend the manner in which these two men, and others like them, are protected by prosperous, influential middle class black elites – the major beneficiaries of most entitlement programs. Sharpton and his fake rowdiness is viewed by this middle class as their ace-in-the-hole. He is the go-to man, in charge of appearing to control the steam, so to speak.

It is the prosperous black bourgeoisie, who grew prosperous by fostering the "victim" mentality among blacks, who are most responsible for the current state of the underclass – for a multitude of reasons. Don't be fooled by the sporadic concern sometimes shown by members of the upper classes, like Bill Cosby, Juan Williams, and others. Their scolding proclamations to the lower class are due mainly to the embarrassment caused by scurrilous black behavior, which they feel reflects upon them.

Every time Reverend Al does his in-your-face, tough guy routine, sending out signals that the steam pipes could burst at any moment, a capitulation takes place, and well-behaved, non-threatening black elites reap the rewards and bounty. This symbiotic relationship will not come to an end with the entry of a black man into the White House.

As for those "other tribal reparations" that Michael speaks of, I'd like to see Chief Obama dare to be dismissive of the items on that long laundry list of grievances that blacks keep compiling. In order to avoid another public verbal joust, as he recently engaged in with those Florida hecklers, Obama will have to be cautious that none of his words be interpreted as a rejection of the slavery Reparations crusade. This crusade, too, has a high representation of middle class blacks within it, especially in academia, and these folks are not going away.

Those who fantasize that under President Barack Obama there will be less of a push for "diversity" and affirmative action policies favorable to selected groups and a diminished call for whites to mend their evil racist ways, are setting themselves up for future disappointment. Along these lines, writer Jim Pinkerton offers an insightful observation. Putting aside his strange notion that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, might be scheming to undermine Barack Obama's presidential bid, Pinkerton is onto something when he claims that Rendell's recent creation of a "Chief Diversity Officer" to rule over an "Office of Diversity Management" is an "early warning indicator" of things to come.

Governor Rendell, eager to go to the front of the line in an Administration in which blacks will figure prominently, does his self-promoting with a can't lose "comprehensive" diversity program. He vows that his new office will "use the full force of state government" to "outlaw discrimination." Or, to put it another way – to burden citizens with yet more race-based mandates. Rendell's political instincts tell him that the business of race will continue as usual, and he's learned how to make the right promises. Will President Obama dare promise any less?

[See the results of Gil Spencer's attempts to get clarification on just what Rendell's new Office of Diversity Management is expected to achieve that years of Affirmative Action policies have not.]

Matthew Biggs, writing for Reuters, is another optimist who wonders if the fact of an Obama presidency will put an earlier generation of "civil rights leaders" out of business. On the surface, he claims, "this might be expected, as political inclusion has been a key goal of the civil rights movement for half a century."

Are not blacks already included in the political process? Is Biggs implying that only with the election of a black President comes proof of this inclusion? Does this mean that American Jews have been excluded all these years from the political process, along with Chinese-Americans, and members of sundry other groups, who have never witnessed one of their ethnic compatriots take command of the Oval Office?

It is surprising that after all these years, Mr. Biggs has not discovered that there is no sincerity in the stated goals of the civil rights establishment. Haven't any of these starry-eyed optimists read Thomas Sowell's serious works – I mean his books, not the syndicated column? If so, they would have learned that it's the CRUSADE for political inclusion, it's the CAMPAIGN for racial justice, and it's the PURSUIT of social acceptance, not the achievement of these ends, that drive those who profit off the lucrative race industry. In fact, any evidence of blacks being treated fairly must adamantly be denied. The goal, if there is one, is simply to keep whites confused and worried, as they meekly submit to the demands put forth by these cunning povereticians.

And here is a fantasy on the Danhop blog. This dreamer thinks that an Obama presidency "could effectively bring an end to affirmative action" and even possibly bring about the end of the NAACP. After all, he reasons, once blacks have reached the pinnacle, "There isn't much more to advance beyond the President of the United States."

His views are probably representative of so many misguided whites, who see the ascendance of Obama as one more appeasement to get blacks to cease their persistent calls for still more "rights." Have any of the other appeasements over the last four decades lessened the crusades for "justice" or diminished the demands for that "level playing field," which only God can guarantee?

If you want to see the face of the future, look no further than the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Over the last couple of decades, there has been no fiercer interest group that has pushed for hiring and promotion based on race than this organization. Not even the NAACP has dared to push the envelope on some race demands to the degree of NABJ. There is no way that the resolutions that make up NABJ's platform can be mistaken for anything but demands for outright quotas.

From its inception in the 1970s, the leaders of this group have made no bones about their determination to see lots of black faces in every newsroom and on every newspaper beat. Now allied with UNITY, a coalition of other "journalists of color," including Asians and Hispanics, NABJ is a serious pressure group within the mainstream media of newspapers and television newscasting.

Even while admitting to the crisis now faced by the newspaper industry, where staff is being fired left and right, and hundreds of print journalists have lost their jobs, the NABJ continues to scorn newspaper executives for "doing little to increase their percentage of minorities." As if this single quest is all that the besieged overseers of this crippled industry should have on their minds.

In a recent press release, NABJ reminded industry chiefs that they "should not treat diversity like a passing fad." That line is sure to become a motto to be passed on regularly to President Obama, who spoke at the organization's UNITY conference in July. The wise Obama assured his audience, for whom racial preferences is the core focus, that he is a supporter of Affirmative Action "when properly structured." He knows that he'd better get with the program, and these blacks are certain to send him daily reminders about their pet topic, while keeping tabs on his progress in their behalf. (I wonder who gets to decide what constitutes "properly structured.")

That NABJ press release offered still more warnings to the heads of newspapers: "NABJ will hold you accountable if you do not consider diversity in your hiring and, particularly, firing practices." In other words, think carefully before you fire a black. Also, NABJ will inform "every new generation of news management that minority hiring, promotion and retention are not disposable concepts." As things appear now in this industry, it's uncertain that there will even be a new generation of news management. Do these journalists of color not yet see the handwriting on the wall?

"Diversity," the NABJ news release chimes, "is a necessity for telling balanced news stories." We are assured that reporting is bound to be more objective and balanced when seen through "the lens of minority journalists." Might their fawning behavior towards Obama at that UNITY conference be an example of such balance?

Along with the bourgeois black professionals, President Obama also will have to assure "progressives" and militants, similar to Glen Ford and Larry Pinkney and the likes of those Florida hecklers, that he will not ignore the ongoing push for their (mostly self-inflicted) grievances – that he has not forgotten "The Struggle." Grassroots blacks have grown used to their community leaders going to bat for them, that is, taking their part in disputes with The Man – explaining away their bizarre conduct. Whether it's the neighborhood preacher, the local councilman, or the city's Mayor, display of such loyalty to the group is a given. No less loyalty will be expected from their Brother, the President.

If you think Americans walk on egg shells now in regard to race matters, it could be that the worst is yet to come. We already are getting a taste of how any form of criticism directed at Obama is taken personally by his advocates and supporters. Perhaps Peter Kirsanow's "You may be a racist, if . . .," should not be taken lightly.

White Americans, over at least three decades, have had it drilled into their souls that "racism" is the world's worst sin. It's a far greater sin than those minor sins, you know, like the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and the killings at Waco. The simple fact of harboring negative thoughts in one's head about a particular group – not acting on those thoughts, mind you, but just thinking them or expressing them to others – constitutes a crime fit for punishment. Western countries are now in a spasm of legislating "racism" as the worst of all crimes. Under an Obama presidency, we can probably count on people like Senator Ted Kennedy to finally succeed in the passage of a federal "hate crime" law, which has failed to pass in the last couple of sessions of Congress. Once passed, the fun and games will really get underway, as we begin to replicate the new Canada, where government investigations into political opinion have now become routine. It's a back door to finishing off what's left of the First Amendment.

Americans are learning to adapt, as they master the art of dancing around those egg shells. As a blog commenter puts it, "I have had to learn to speak with more sugar coating now that I'm only one of three white people in my workplace." Get out those barrels of sugar. Here comes Obama.
Read more!

Joe Klein expands the "political space" to speak out

As a liberal for many years, Time magazine columnist Joe Klein has grown used to getting into hot water. Back in the 1980s, he bucked the trend of his compatriots, when he challenged the worth of Affirmative Action policies and other social programs. His dissident views created a little firestorm of criticism among the liberal media and other intelligentsia.

It was at this time that I met Joe, outside some political event, whose title and focus are long forgotten. I was distributing the hard copy version of my Issues & Views newsletter, and he was there to cover the event. I think he was then employed by Newsweek magazine. We struck up a conversation, with me pre-judging him as just another liberal media type, until he informed me of the flak he was then undergoing, due to what was deemed his "conservative" stances on the above-mentioned issues. This was not a knee-jerk liberal.

In 2006, I did a brief piece on Klein's book for the I&V website. In Politics Lost: How American democracy was trivialized by people who think you're stupid, Klein described, through his first-hand observations of several presidential campaigns, how diverse "consultants," public relations specialists, pollsters, and various kinds of "handlers," have overtaken the political process and the people who run for public office. In the book, he observed that "to be moderate is to be homeless in 21st century American politics," and that "it isn't easy to be a classic liberal or conservative these days, either."

Today, Klein again finds himself in hot water. This time, it is his views on the foreign front, rather than the domestic one, that has ruffled the feathers of his adversaries. Last month, on his Time blog, Swampland, Klein took exception to the role played, during the past several years, by Washington DC's powerful neoconservatives. He wrote about "a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary," who, "plumped for war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran . . ." He denounced those who are successfully "using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel," along with "the two oil executives, Bush and Cheney," who are "securing a new source of business for their Texas buddies." Klein chided those who make a fuss over the so-called surge in Iraq, which he referred to as "whipped cream on a pile of fertilizer – a regional policy unprecedented in its stupidity and squalor."

In a follow-up interview with The Atlantic magazine's Jeffrey Goldberg, Klein elaborated further on his convictions, explaining that he is not "anti-Semitic" (as you knew Abe Foxman and the horde of squealing hawks would charge), but is "anti-neoconservative." He continued, "I think these people are following very perversely extremist policies." Klein implied that the threat of Iran is hyped for cynical reasons, referring to the elderly Jews who retire to Florida, including his own parents. Picking a fight with Iran is strictly for political purposes, Klein declared, "to scare the shit out of my parents. It's a Broward County strategy, it's a Florida strategy."

When Goldberg observed that Klein was "using the word 'Jewish' in ways that we haven't seen Jewish reporters and Jewish columnists use," Klein replied, "It's about time. I think everyone else is too afraid to do it." Claiming to be a "strong supporter" of Israel, Klein insists, nevertheless, "There were people out there in the Jewish community who saw this as a way to create a benign domino theory and eliminate all Israel's enemies." This is a "dangerous anachronistic neocolonial" notion, he contends.

Klein revealed some of the vituperative responses emanating from his angry opponents. One columnist wrote on her National Review blog, "I can't imagine why Time hasn't shut this guy down and fired him." Klein says, "That's what they want. They want to stifle opinions that are different than theirs."

That might not be so easy any longer. Once unspeakable thoughts can now be spoken. Some believe this is essentially due to the bravery of scholars Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who, in 2006, published their groundbreaking essay, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" and, in 2007, published the expanded version as a book. Many others risked their livelihoods and reputations when attempting to speak out on this subject.

As Daniel Luban writes, Walt and Mearsheimer helped to create the "political space" in which the once taboo subject of the United States' involvement with Israel can be openly discussed and debated. It's in the closet no more.

We know that it is not only Jewish neocons who are responsible for the current Middle East debacle, but, as writer Daniel Levy puts it, "Too many Jewish communal leaders and institutions made the mistake of not standing up and speaking out more against the right-wing excesses of a small minority of their co-religionists." They cheapened the term "anti-Semitism," he says, as they built a "wall of untouchability" around them.

M.J. Rosenberg, a former member of the AIPAC staff, now with the Israel Policy Forum, congratulates Joe Klein on the firmness with which he has expressed himself, and is pleased that Klein has not issued the expected mea culpa, so familiar, whenever a public figure dares to wade in such politically incorrect waters. As for all who helped to bring on the Iraq invasion, Rosenberg writes, "They should shut up and volunteer at Walter Reed. For the rest of their lives."
Read more!

Who cares about the public?

In "Rendering public opinion irrelevant" (, 9/20/08), Glenn Greenwald asks, "How are views that are held by large majorities of Americans on key policy issues rendered forbidden in our political discourse?"


One of the most striking aspects of our political discourse, particularly during election time, is how efficiently certain views that deviate from the elite consensus are banished from sight – simply prohibited – even when those views are held by the vast majority of citizens. The University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes – the premiere organization for surveying international public opinion – released a new survey a couple of weeks ago regarding public opinion on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including opinion among American citizens, and this is what it found:

A new poll of 18 countries finds that in 14 of them people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey) and one is divided (India). No country favors taking Israel's side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.

The worldwide consensus is crystal clear – citizens want their Governments to be neutral and even-handed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, not tilted towards either side. And that consensus is shared not just by a majority of American citizens, but by the overwhelming majority. Few political views, particularly on controversial issues, attract more than 70% support among American citizens. But the proposition that the U.S. Government should be even-handed – rather than tilting towards Israel – attracts that much support. That's not an "anti-Israeli" view – to the contrary, it's a position that America can and should resolve that violent, four-decades-long dispute by being even-handed rather than one-sided.

Read complete article here.
Read more!

Stifling parody and satire

In "Parody flunks out" (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, 7/30/08), Harvey Silverglate claims, "Political humor is no longer welcome in Academia as administrators choke the life out of parody."


When I first saw the cover - yes, that cover - of the New Yorker, I expected the swift and nauseatingly self-righteous condemnation it received from the TV personalities and politically correct pundits. That's par for the course in the knee-jerk, brain-dead, humor-free Oughts. But what caught me off guard, even in this Age of Cynicism, was that Barack Obama joined their ranks: his official campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, labeled the lampoon "tasteless and offensive."

Artist Barry Blitt's brilliant illustration - which sought to satirize the naysayers who portray Obama as a flag-burning, unpatriotic Muslim and his wife as a black-power radical - cut to the core of today's political paradox. The cover received so much attention, it has even led to meta-parodies, the most amusing of which was offered by the New Yorker's sister publication Vanity Fair, which depicted a wobbly, walker-wielding John McCain and his wife in the same setting and artistic style. Still, the Illinois Senator's heated, visceral attack of the parody led me to ask: how can Obama, such a brilliant student of American law, politics, and culture, not get the joke - or at least not recognize that the joke was on his enemies?

But then I realized I had failed to account for what can be called the Harvard Factor. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee had, after all, been elected to the staff of the Harvard Law Review in the late 1980s and assumed the presidency of that august publication in 1990. By that time, the strictures of political correctness had seeped into all levels of American higher education and had utterly destroyed the sense of humor of so many college and university students.

At the very least, this atmosphere stifled them from admitting (to anyone but their friends) that they even got a joke involving matters of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other hot-button issue at the center of the nation's culture wars. And, as was predictable, the intellectual rot that began to infect the academy in the mid-1980s spread to the "real world" within a single generation. All of this displaced outrage, by Obama and many of his supporters, suddenly made sense.

Read complete article here.
Read more!

Escape to the church

Following is a brief excerpt from Black Men: They Could be Heroes - Part 2, originally published in the Fall 1993 hard copy edition of Issues & Views, now on the I&V website. It discusses the negative role played by the black church – the other side of the story.

The writer of Ecclesiastes asks, "For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?" Our black men once had a ready answer to that question. If so many of them no longer know how to answer this question, it might very well be due to the legacy of the civil rights movement and to its ideas and stratagems that have been forcefully transmitted by the black church for the past 30 years. Few institutions in this country have a nobler image than the black church. Endlessly praised for its early role in providing blacks with a refuge in an antagonistic world, it is generally considered off limits to close inspection or criticism.

It was not off limits, however, in the early 1900s, to Booker T. Washington's piercing scrutiny. In fact, one of the reasons why Washington was resented by the elites of his day was the laserlike probe he turned on the various hypocrisies of certain blacks, and his no-nonsense assessment of them. When it came to the disproportionate numbers of black men who became "preachers" or took to politics for a living, he could be merciless in his criticism. He publicly lamented the loss to the race of its most vigorous and ambitious men, who chose these easier paths to esteem and financial comfort.

Washington claimed that as soon as some black men "halfway learn to read and write," they grabbed a Bible and ran to open a church, or they took to the political stump. Or they did both. He viewed this behavior as setting a precedent that could ultimately weaken the race. For, instead of playing economically productive roles, as did their counterparts in other ethnic groups, such men removed themselves from the critical task of economic development. As solo operators, and heads of their own little private church entities, they thus avoided the risks of economic competition with other men. Once they established a constituency of loyal followers, they could confidently look forward to some degree of prestige and a dependable income.

Washington decried this "escape to the church," which usually included some heroic notions about finding grand solutions to the race problem. He was alarmed by the fact that the minds of a great many blacks were so "filled with the traditions of the anti-slavery struggle," that it prevented them from "preparing for any definite task in the world." Instead, he complained, large numbers fixed on the idea of "preparing themselves to solve the race problem." Because of the tradition of riding the circuit to preach abolition, there was already a strong tendency among many black men to view themselves as heirs to the great abolitionists, such as Frederick Douglass, and to emulate these figures as a route to glory and prominence.

Over the years, Washington developed friendships with numbers of black ministers, several of whom he admired and respected. But that did not cloud his judgment about what was really at the bottom of why so many men chose this profession, this "safe haven" away from competition. One year, when he was on a train ride from Alabama to Washington, DC, his train was boarded by a couple of dozen black preachers who, apparently, were on the way to the capital for a church convention. They filled the car with laughter and high spirits, as they dined on home made lunches, smoked, played cards, drank bootleg liquor, and engaged in telling coarse, off-color jokes. In observing this behavior and listening to their conversation, it struck Washington that almost anybody "who took a mind to it" could be a preacher.

He was reminded of a joke about a poor farmer then making the rounds. It seems that the farmer, after spending years with his mule plowing hard, unyielding soil in the hot sun for long hours every day, decided he had had enough of such labor. One day he put down his plow and looked to the sky and proclaimed, "Oh, God, this sun is so hot, and this ground is so hard, I do believe this Negro is called to preach." Could it be our misfortune that, almost a century later, so many black men are still dropping the plow and hearing the "call" to preach?

Unlike black businessmen, black preachers are numerous and everywhere. In some cities, black-owned newspapers fill several pages, not only with listings of all the black churches in town (along with each pastor's photo), but also with announcements of ordinations (recently completed and forthcoming). In the 1950s, sociologist E. Franklin Frazier discussed the question of whether the Negro population was "over-churched." The subject is still as pertinent today. In terms of its most prominent and wealthiest members, American blacks could be called "a race of athletes, entertainers and preachers." A group with a minuscule number of entrepreneurs, it is understandable why its members are totally dependent on others for employment.

From early on, there were blacks expressing the concern that every time a black man built a church, instead of a business, he established his own personal "cathedral of commerce," to benefit himself and a few others. In recent years, it has been pointed out that if the same percentage of the country's Asian men were to take to the pulpit, the political stump, the basketball court, or the entertainment stage, the masses of Asians would find themselves on the bottom of the economic barrel. Ditto for Greeks, Poles, et. al.

Complete article here.
Read more!

Corrupting the work ethic

Following is a brief excerpt from Black Men: They Could be Heroes - Part 1, originally published in the Summer 1993 hard copy edition of Issues & Views, now on the I&V website. It takes a look at attitudes among the black middle class, those elites who had already begun to increase in numbers long before slavery ended.

Among blacks, the undiluted pretentiousness of this elite was legendary and had already become the stuff of humor and ridicule, long before it was incisively chronicled in the 1940s and 1950s by the black sociologist E. Franklin Frazier. From earliest times, it is members of this elite, more concerned with image and immediate gratification than with the task of building, who have sent forth signals that have contributed to undermining the work ethic among the poor. Such signals are still sent forth today.

Zealous in their own desires to avoid the prospect of menial labor, they encourage the poor to disdain "dead end" jobs and to hold out for "meaningful work." On a practical level, the unemployed poor also play important roles as symbols. Held as hostages in the war against the "system," they can be publicly displayed as more victims of "racism," a situation best dealt with by devising more and more social programs. The message of the elite has taken firm root in the culture of the poor.

In an 1989 interview, George Waters, director of EDTEC, an organization in Camden, New Jersey, that teaches entrepreneurial skills to youth, described the greatest obstacle to youngsters' success as "attitude." Waters said, "We're up against bad, unproductive attitudes toward work, which have been instilled into these youngsters, not only by their peers on the streets, but also by parents who actually tell their kids that working for fast food wages is beneath them. . . . There are adults who actually pass such notions on to kids."

In another era, before the corrupt views of the elite achieved
dominance, the humblest blacks believed what economist Thomas Sowell teaches, that there is no such thing as a dead end job—that it is up to the individual to turn every work experience into a chance to either learn skills, or improve work habits, or position oneself for achieving still higher goals.

Clifton Taulbert demonstrates this spirit in his memoirs of his southern childhood and youth. He is author of two books that celebrate the character and moral fiber of the citizens of his segregated home town of Glen Allen, Mississippi, where he grew up in the 1950s. In the 1960s, like other young people in the region, he struck out for St. Louis, where social change was just beginning to stir, and where he landed a job as a dishwasher in a major restaurant. Back home, Taulbert had been part of a poor, but close family, for whom work was an imperative and the expected norm. He had grown up with people who instilled within him an ambition to succeed. In his second book, The Last Train North, he describes the dish washing job, and how his days were filled with "grease and soap suds."

What is important is his attitude toward that job. He saw it as a way to pay his share of expenses to the relatives in St. Louis with whom he lived. He spent his spare time diligently searching employment ads and going on interviews arranged by an agency. He says, "I washed those pots and pans with an intensity, because I was determined to wash my way out of that grease room." And, indeed, he did wash his way out, and went on to become a successful businessman. Today he would be discouraged from ever taking that first lowly "degrading" position.

Taulbert's life had been surrounded not by people who fed him defeatist notions, but by those from whom he drew inspiration. He writes, "My family down South had dreamed of better things for me and I could not let them down. The stack of pots filled that washroom, but memories of southern voices crowded into that little room with us, and enabled me to look beyond."

Disdain for Small Businesses

In interviews, members of today's black elite make clear that even little mom and pop ventures are to be avoided, since they are not "viable" businesses that can produce the high incomes to which they would like to become accustomed. Busy as members of this class are with trying to break through those glass ceilings in white corporations, in their quest for higher level positions, they cannot summon the concern to help those on the lowest rungs find the economic means to create these smaller enterprises.

A recent publication from a black Washington, DC, "think tank" offers a brief historical survey of American black business, and then condescendingly dismisses the many small businesses that were formed. The article laments that, "The blacks who were lured into the world of business in the 1920s were typically not the ones who were highly educated," and goes on to imply that since such businesses were not created by the more affluent and did not grow beyond a limited size, they were hardly worth noting. Get it? Those thousands of black-owned businesses that were created by the humblest people, and had sustained families and employed children, were not the "viable" kind that would be acceptable to the needs of the better classes. ...

Sociologist Nathan Hare writes, "Members of the black middle class essentially occupy a parasitic relationship to the black underclass." Consumed primarily with a quest for recognition and validation, they derive satisfaction only to the degree that the white world grants them "here a news anchor [job], there a distributorship." Television journalist Tony Brown, in his syndicated column, regularly berates members of this class for neglecting to take up their responsibility to lead with their money instead of with rhetoric and bluster. He views their indifference as the true waste in the black community. Brown
claims that the only role played by the middle class is as "managers of resources allocated by government and corporate programs." They are, in effect, overseers of the bounty. He charges them with acknowledging a connection to the race, in order to "pick up their affirmative action paychecks."

Complete article here.
Read more!

One of the most formidable instruments of tyranny

In "Supreme Court restores habeas corpus, strikes down
key part of Military Commissions Act" (, 6/12/08), Glenn Greenwald writes:

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 was – and remains – one of the great stains on our national political character. It was passed by a substantial majority in the Senate (65-34) with the support of every single Senate Republican (except Chafee) and 12 Senate Democrats. No filibuster was even attempted. It passed by a similar margin in the House, where 34 Democrats joined 219 Republicans to enact it.

One of the most extraordinary quotes of the post-9/11 era came from GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, who said at the time that that the Military Commissions Act – because it explicitly barred federal courts from hearing habeas corpus petitions brought by Guantanamo detainees – "sets back basic rights by some 900 years" and was "patently unconstitutional on its face" – and Specter then proceeded to vote for it.

The greatest victim of the 9/11 attack has been our core, defining constitutional liberties. Of all the powers seized by this administration in the name of keeping us Safe, the power to imprison people indefinitely with no charges and no real process is the most pernicious.

Then, on June 12, 2008, in a major rebuke to the theory of imperial presidential power, the Supreme Court declared Section 7 of this noxious law unconstitutional. This is the section that abolished the right of habeas corpus to "enemy combatants" being arbitrarily detained as prisoners by the U.S. government. Alexander Hamilton called such imprisonment "one of the most formidable instruments of tyranny."

Following are excerpts from the Court's Syllabus and the Opinion of the Court

Syllabus – Section (iii)

Although the United States has maintained complete and uninterrupted control of Guantanamo for over 100 years, the Government’s view is that the Constitution has no effect there, at least as to noncitizens, because the United States disclaimed formal sovereignty in its 1903 lease with Cuba. The Nation’s basic charter cannot be contracted away like this. The Constitution grants Congress and the President the power to acquire, dispose of, and govern territory, not the power to decide when and where its terms apply. To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this Court, say "what the law is."

Syllabus – Section 3(c)

Petitioners identify what they see as myriad deficiencies in the CSRTs [Combatant Status Review Tribunals], the most relevant being the constraints upon the detainee’s ability to rebut the factual basis for the Government’s assertion that he is an enemy combatant. At the CSRT stage the detainee has limited means to find or present evidence to challenge the Government’s case, does not have the assistance of counsel, and may not be aware of the most critical allegations that the Government relied upon to order his detention. His opportunity to confront witnesses is likely to be more theoretical than real, given that there are no limits on the admission of hearsay. The Court therefore agrees with petitioners that there is considerable risk of error in the tribunal’s findings of fact. And given that the consequence of error may be detention for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, the risk is too significant to ignore.

Excerpts from Opinion of the Court

Some of these individuals were apprehended on the battlefield in Afghanistan, others in places as far away from there as Bosnia and Gambia. All are foreign nationals, but none is a citizen of a nation now at war with the United States. Each denies he is a member of the al Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks or of the Taliban regime that provided sanctuary for al Qaeda. . . .

The Government argues, in turn, that Guantanamo is more closely analogous to Scotland and Hanover, territories that were not part of England but nonetheless controlled by the English monarch (in his separate capacities as King of Scotland and Elector of Hanover). . . .

No Cuban court has jurisdiction to hear these petitioners’ claims, and no law other than the laws of the United States applies at the naval station. The modern-day relations between the United States and Guantanamo thus differ in important respects from the 18th-century relations between England and the kingdoms of Scotland and Hanover. This is reason enough for us to discount the relevance of the Government’s analogy. . . .

At the close of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded control over the entire island of Cuba to the United States and specifically "relinquishe[d] all claim[s] of sovereignty . . . and title." See Treaty of Paris, Dec. 10, 1898, U. S.-Spain, Art. I, 30 Stat. 1755, T. S. No. 343. From the date the treaty with Spain was signed until the Cuban Republic was established on May 20, 1902, the United States governed the territory "in trust" for the benefit of the Cuban people. Neely v. Henkel, 180 U. S. 109, 120 (1901); H. Thomas, Cuba or The Pursuit of Freedom 436, 460 (1998). And although it recognized, by entering into the 1903 Lease Agreement, that Cuba retained "ultimate sovereignty" over Guantanamo, the United States continued to maintain the same plenary control it had enjoyed since 1898. . . .

There is no indication, furthermore, that adjudicating a habeas corpus petition would cause friction with the host government. No Cuban court has jurisdiction over American military personnel at Guantanamo or the enemy combatants detained there. While obligated to abide by the terms of the lease, the United States is, for all practical purposes, answerable to no other sovereign for its acts on the base. Were that not the case, or if the detention facility were located in an active theater of war, arguments that issuing the writ would be "impracticable or anomalous" would have more weight. See Reid, 354 U. S., at 74 (Harlan, J., concurring in result). Under the facts presented here, however, there are few practical barriers to the running of the writ. To the extent barriers arise, habeas corpus procedures likely can be modified to address them.

It is true that before today the Court has never held that noncitizens detained by our Government in territory over which another country maintains de jure sovereignty have any rights under our Constitution. But the cases before us lack any precise historical parallel. They involve individuals detained by executive order for the duration of a conflict that, if measured from September 11, 2001, to the present, is already among the longest wars in American history.

The detainees, moreover, are held in a territory that, while technically not part of the United States, is under the complete and total control of our Government. Under these circumstances the lack of a precedent on point is no barrier to our holding. We hold that Art. I, §9, cl. 2, of the Constitution has full effect at Guantanamo Bay. . . .

Within the Constitution’s separation-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to imprison a person. Some of these petitioners have been in custody for six years with no definitive judicial determination as to the legality of their detention. Their access to the writ is a necessity to determine the lawfulness of their status, even if, in the end, they do not obtain the relief they seek. . . .

We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law. The determination by the Court of Appeals that the Suspension Clause and its protections are inapplicable to petitioners was in error. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The cases are remanded to the Court of Appeals with instructions that it remand the cases to the District Court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.
Read more!