Posts from October 2006

Yet another isolated incident: blackface in Ohio pee wee football

(Story thanks to Rachel S. @ Alas, a blog (2006-10-26).)

Say, did you ever wonder where all these white college kids come from who are so wilfully stupid, or so openly malicious, that they think that minstrel-show blackface is a great party gag?

The answer is they come from white suburban families who are so wilfully stupid, or so openly malicious, that they think that minstrel-show blackface is an appropriate way to root for their kids’ pee-wee football team and rib the (mostly black) opposing team.

Here’s the story from WKYC Cleveland:

HUDSON — A pee-wee football game between Hudson and Shaker Heights turned into a lesson on racism.

Shaker parents say that Hudson fans, took their team spirit too far. They say those fans became offensive, even racist, because they wore black face and afro wigs.

The parents also claim the Hudson fans beat on frying pans on the sidelines.

Some of the kids on the Shaker team even say they used racial slurs.

It was supposed to be about fun building skills and teamwork. To the seven eight and nine year olds on the Shaker team, the game ended up being about our country’s racist past.

They were calling us ns — the n word, is what one nine year old said.

They shouldn’t say that to other people because they don’t know what it means to us, another player said.

The racial slur was enough to bother these kids but it wasn’t all they faced on the field. There were Hudson fans dressed in black face.

— WKYC (2006-10-25): Pee Wee football game marred by alleged racism

Alleged racism? Whoa, look out there, some fire-eating demagogue has gone so far as to allege that ordinary white people with Midwestern accents and middle-class incomes might be doing something racist when they put on blackface and shout nigger at grade-school black children. Quick, activate the White Denial!

But many parents of the Hudson players told Channel 3’s Mike O’Mara that there was absolutely no intent for any of their fans to be offensive.

Kelly Dine is a parent of a Hudson player.

It was two little boys, not the entire fans, that happened to wear part of the Halloween costume, Dine said. They thought they were supporting their brother on the team.

— WKYC (2006-10-26): More controversy over alleged racism at pee-wee football game; Hudson mayor apologizes

Oh, O.K. I mean, this doesn’t explain away everything. But hey, you’ve got to admit that if it was part of a Halloween costume, then minstrel-show blackface is totally appropriate. Right?

And besides which, we can hardly expect children to have parents, who might have explained to them that racist caricature might not go over so well with a mostly-black football team or their families.

Clearly there is no racism involved here. Didn’t they get rid of that in the sixties, anyway?

O.K., so this isn’t working so well. Better try the Insincere White Apology instead:

Meanwhile, in downtown Hudson, residents are deeply upset about the perception of insensitivity. The banners in the business district proclaim a history of excellence.

… Dine said that she feels very badly if the Shaker parents felt like they were offended.

If two little boys had these wigs on and they perceived that somehow it was an insult against them, it wasn’t. It was truly to support our 8, 9 and 10 year old boys.

— WKYC (2006-10-26): More controversy over alleged racism at pee-wee football game; Hudson mayor apologizes

Oh, man, that I’m sorry you’re offended apology just never gets old. Here’s more from the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Alas, a blog (2006-10-26)):

[Coach Jeffrey Saffold] said after Sunday’s game, he complained to John Elffers, president of the Hudson Hawks Youth Football Association, who sent him a letter apologizing for the fans’ actions.

Elffers, however, said the first complaint he heard came Monday when Saffold called him and said parents of Shaker players were offended. Elffers said he doubted supporters meant to be offensive.

Their actions, albeit unwise, foolish and insensitive, were meant to be totally supportive and not intended to insult or offend anyone in any way, Elffers wrote in his letter to Saffold. We regret what occurred and apologize for any righteous indignation these actions may have caused to the coaches, players, parents and family members of the Shaker football organization.

Just out of curiosity, if the blackface and afro wigs weren’t intended to insult or offend anyone in any way, what exactly were they intended to do?

O.K., so maybe that one didn’t work out so well either. Better fire up the White Dissociation, quick:

Liz Murphy has owned the bookstore in downtown Hudson for 23 years.

I want to tell them that we’re not like that, Murphy said. I was horrified.

— WKYC (2006-10-26): More controversy over alleged racism at pee-wee football game; Hudson mayor apologizes

I’m sure that Liz Murphy doesn’t personally feel like that. You might wonder, in light of what just happened, what could entitle her to invoke the royal we, here. But I’ll bet the people who are like that don’t have anything to do with all the good white folk of Hudson. They probably don’t even come from Hudson. I hear they fell into the football game through a wormhole that leads back to their Evil Racist Dimension, where everyone wears a mullet, where everyone speaks in funny accents, and where this sort of things is enjoyed or at least quietly tolerated. Certainly this has nothing to do with the sort of community that the white majority in Hudson, Ohio has built, or the assumptions they share, or the customs they indulge in, or the habits of thought they have fallen into. Nothing to see here, citizen; move along.

The mayor of Hudson, William Currin, said personally I am appalled and saddened by the reported acts. I don’t condone nor will I tolerate such actions. I will be investigating this incident and working with all interested parties to try to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. Please know that this is an isolated incident and in NO WAY represents the vast majority of the upstanding citizens of Hudson.

— WKYC (2006-10-26): More controversy over alleged racism at pee-wee football game; Hudson mayor apologizes

Sure it’s an isolated incident. Just like all the others.

Further reading:

National Resolve

You know, I hear people say, Well, civil war this, civil war that. The Iraqi people decided against civil war when they went to the ballot box. And a unity government is working to respond to the will of the people.

— George W. Bush, August 7, 2006

Well, then, good to hear that’s been cleared up.

Maybe next we can all have a vote on the nuclear arms race, or perhaps the Second Coming of Jesus.

(Via Reason November 2006, and Crooks and Liars 2006-08-07.)

Student strike at Gallaudet University

(I heard about the recent events through the Movement for a Democratic Society announcement list.)

Here is what Oliver Sacks wrote about the legacy of the 1988 Deaf President Now student strike at Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal-arts university designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and a backbone of Deaf culture in the United States. This is from his beautiful book, Seeing Voices:

All sorts of changes, administrative, educational, social, psychological, are already beginning at Gallaudet. But what is clearest at this point is the much-altered bearing of its students, a bearing that conveys a new, wholly unself-conscious sense of pleasure and vindication, of confidence and dignity. This new sense of themselves represents a decisive break from the past, which could not have been imagined just a few months ago.

But has all been changed? Will there be a lasting transformation of consciousness? Will deaf people at Gallaudet, and the deaf community at large, indeed find the opportunities they seek? Will we, the hearing, allow them these opportunities? Allow them to be themselves, a unique culture in our midst, yet admit them as co-equals, to every sphere of activity? One hopes the events at Gallaudet will be but the beginning.

–Oliver Sacks, Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf (ISBN 0-06-097347-1), pp. 162–163.

Unfortunately, the answer from the Gallaudet University administration and Board of Trustees–even those who were direct beneficiaries of the Deaf President Now movement–appears to be No, not yet. Here’s the story from The Washington Post (2006-10-07):

Hundreds of protesters took over the main classroom building at Gallaudet University on Thursday night and refused to leave yesterday, demanding that the board of trustees reopen the search for a president.

With trustees meeting on campus and celebrating outgoing President I. King Jordan, students pitched tents outside the entrances to Hall Memorial and blocked the doors. Inside, trash cans and desks held elevator doors ajar, and the floor was covered with sleeping bags, cans of energy drink and fliers that spread messages to the school for the deaf: THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES WON’T LISTEN TO US! and DO NOT LET ANYONE IN.

When security officers arrived early yesterday, students said, they couldn’t understand what officers were saying — that officers gave orders without sign language and did not seem to understand that the protest was peaceful. Some people were injured when officers shoved their way through and used pepper spray, students said.

A lot of people are scared, Leah Katz-Hernandez wrote on a neon yellow notepad, and some faculty members were in tears as they signed with students.

Communication with security staff is an emotional issue at the university. In 1990, a student died while being restrained by security officers; his hands were cuffed, so he couldn’t use sign language.

The administration has denied that pepper spray was used and said that officers used sign language and that no students were hurt.

… The choice of the school’s next leader has divided campus since the spring, prompting faculty no-confidence votes and protests last semester and continuing opposition by a coalition of faculty, students, staff and alumni. In a scene reminiscent of student takeovers of District universities in past decades, protesters barricaded doors and refused to compromise.

At some schools for the deaf elsewhere in the country, groups pitched tents and made signs supporting the Gallaudet protesters.

The leaders of the National Association of the Deaf issued an open letter saying the campus is in crisis and asking the board to exercise leadership and for the university to immediately cease any confrontational tactics toward campus faculty, students, and staff.

In May, when the board of trustees announced that then-Provost Jane K. Fernandes would be the next president of Gallaudet University, students stood up and walked out of the auditorium, climbed onto the front gates and began to protest.

They said that the search process was unfair, that Fernandes was not strong enough to lead a school often seen as the cultural backbone of the deaf world and that the board had ignored their concerns.

Because longtime President I. King Jordan swept into office after students demanded a deaf president now and started a civil rights movement, the selection of Fernandes had particular weight for the deaf community.

— Susan Kinzie and Nelson Hernandez, Washington Post (2006-10-07): Protesters Occupy Gallaudet Classroom Building

From The Washington Post (2006-10-10):

Since May, protesters say, the university has only become more deeply divided.

What is her plan? And, what is she waiting for? She had all summer to bring the community together, but as you can see, [that] didn’t happen, wrote Andrew J. Lange, president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association, which is setting up an independent Web site because it cannot send e-mail to alumni without university approval.

The second wave of demonstrations began last week when the board of trustees met on campus. Protesters say that the way Fernandes was chosen was unfair and that the board has ignored people on campus for too long.

Last night, hundreds of students agreed to spend one more night in the classroom building. They awaited a response from administrators to a proposal that they would leave the building if the university satisfied 24 demands, including guaranteeing their right to protest in specific areas.

The students also are seeking a public apology from university President I. King Jordan, whom they accuse of making misleading statements about the protesters. The students are not backing down from their original demands to reopen the presidential search process and to guarantee that protesters would not be retaliated against.

In May, faculty members passed a series of no-confidence votes after it was announced that Fernandes, then the provost, would become president.

Trustees have said that their decision is nonnegotiable and that they have chosen the strongest candidate. This summer, Fernandes stepped down as provost to work on her transition to the presidency.

… Jordan, who is stepping down at the end of this year, said yesterday that Fernandes’s leadership since May has been outstanding.

— Susan Kinzie, Washington Post (2006-10-10): Intensity of Gallaudet Unrest Surprised Incoming Leader

From The Washington Post (2006-10-14): Dozens of Protesters Arrested On Gallaudet President’s Order:

Campus police arrested dozens of student demonstrators at Gallaudet University last night to reopen the famed college for the deaf after a three-day shutdown staged in a long-simmering protest over the appointment of a new president.

The arrests began shortly before 9 p.m., when police began carrying away students from a jeering throng that had been blocking the school’s Sixth Street NE entrance. Students hollered and signed, This is our school! By early this morning, police said, about 80 had been arrested. Witnesses said many students were still awaiting arrest.

Teams of officers, acting on orders from President I. King Jordan and aided by interpreters in orange vests, picked up individual students, who went limp, and carried them to a D.C. police van.

The students were to be taken from the school, at 800 Florida Ave. NE, to a police training facility in Southwest Washington for processing, officials said.

The arrests brought to a head a bitter dispute that began in May between the administration and students angry about the appointment of then-provost Jane K. Fernandes as the university’s next president. She is scheduled to replace Jordan, who is to step down in December.

Protesters expressed dislike for Fernandes, saying she was remote and divisive. They argued that other candidates, especially minorities, had been overlooked. And they called for her to step aside.

She has refused, saying she is the target of student extremists. And earlier yesterday, speaking to the protesters for the first time this week, she said: This has gone on long enough.

About 7 p.m., Jordan announced to demonstrators at the school’s main gate on Florida Avenue that they faced arrest if they did not disperse. I deeply regret being forced to take this action, he said. But the protesters have left me no choice.

Two hours later, after three warnings from campus Police Chief Melodye Batten-Mickens, arrests began at the Sixth Street entrance.

— Susan Kinzie and Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post (2006-10-14): Dozens of Protesters Arrested On Gallaudet President’s Order

There’s a lot of discussion from a lot of different points of view at the DeafDC group weblog. See especially the statements from Julie Hochgesang (2006-10-13): Why I’m Still Protesting at Gallaudet, Allison Kaftan (2006-10-11): Worlds Apart: Divergences in Perspectives on the Protest, and David Stuckless (2006-10-14): Today, Irving Shot the Buffalo, the criticism from Juanita Garcia (2006-10-13): This Week The World Snubbed Gallaudet and Kristi Merriweather (2006-10-14): A Fictitious Protest for Fictitious Reasons, and the proposals from Bobby White (2006-10-16): Concerned Students Take a Step Forward and Tom Willard (2006-10-16): A Few Ideas to End the Stalemate. The Gallaudet University Faculty, Staff, Students & Alumni coalition, which is coordinating the protests, offers news updates through their website. There’s also more at WikiPedia: Gallaudet United Now Movement.

I have no particularly strong opinion on the groups, the individuals, or the actions involved in the student strike and lock-in at Gallaudet. How would I know? I’m not deaf (or Deaf), I have no personal connections with Gallaudet or anyone there, and I haven’t done research beyond reading through news stories, Op-Eds, and weblogs for an hour or two today. But I do have some experience with abusive power-mongering and cronyism from University Trustees and administrators. I also do know enough to know that these issues are particularly sensitive for Deaf students, many of whom are sick and tired of being ignored, patronized, and manhandled by know-it-all suits connected with the established power structure. From what I can see, it looks to me like Fernandes had damn well better step aside in light of the vocal opposition to her from students, faculty, and staff.

Further reading:

Psychiatric Torture

(Link via Le Revue Gauche 2006-10-14.)

But remember, it doesn’t really count as torture unless a government lawyer decides that it’s bad enough to count.

In a new court filing on behalf of alleged dirty bomber Jose Padilla, his lawyers allege that government interrogators forced him to take LSD, Gerstein reported.

Additionally, Padilla was given drugs against his will, believed to be some form of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or phencyclidine (PCP), to act as a sort of truth serum during his interrogations, he quotes the filing.

— Justin Rood, TPMmuckraker (2006-10-12): Is U.S. Government Using LSD for Interrogations?

I have no way of knowing how credible Padilla’s specific claims are. But I do know this:

… in 2002, Justice Department lawyers carefully considered the issue and advised the White House that it was okay. In their view, it was acceptable to force detainees to ingest mind-altering substances, as long as it was not intended to cause months-long bouts of serious mental illness.

How do we know that? Because in August 2002, the Justice Department gave then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales a 50-page document saying so. And a follow-up document in 2004 reaffirmed it.

The now-infamous 2002 Bybee Memo was leaked to the press in 2004, at which time the administration quickly disavowed it. (In December 2004, Justice released a new version of guidance for detainee treatment.)

For nearly two years, the Bybee Memo was the administration’s guiding document for how detainees were to be treated. The document which replaced it does not appear to substantively alter its conclusions on forced drug use by detainees.

In the 2002 Bybee Memo, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay S. Bybee (now a federal appellate judge) concluded that giving detainees mind altering substances (that’s a commonly used synonym for drugs, he noted for the squares in the White House) was legal, as long as doing so did not cause prolonged mental harm by disrupt[ing] profoundly the senses or personality, and was not intended to do so.

Bybee wrote that conditions such as months-long bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder or even chronic depression could be considered prolonged mental harm. As for what constituted a profound disruption of senses or personality that would cause such long-term suffering, he included:

  • the inabliity to retain any new information or recall information about things previously of interest to the individual.

  • deterioration of language function, e.g., repeating sounds or words over and over again;

  • impaired ability to execute simple motor activities, e.g., inability to dress or wave goodbye;

  • inability to recognize and identify objects such as chairs or pencils despite normal visual functioning;

  • the onset of ‘brief psychotic disorder, in which a detainee suffers psychotic symptoms, including. . . delusions, hallucinations, or even a catatonic state [which] can last for one day or even one month;

and more. (These examples, of course, are in no way intended to be an exhaustive list, Bybee noted.)

Oh — and for this to constitute torture, the government handler who’s forcing drugs into the detainee has to specifically intend to cause prolonged mental harm, according to Bybee.

— Justin Rood, TPMmuckraker (2006-10-13): LSD Mystery: In 2002, Justice Dept. OK’d Dosing Detainees

Please bear in mind that this government has no particular qualms about forcing psychotropic drugs on prisoners against their will, if they find it useful to deliberately destroy the prisoner’s sense of reality in the course of an interrogation, just as long as the psychotic break that they force on you wasn’t specifically intended to be more prolonged than a government lawyer thinks it ought to be.

Welcome to life in Red State America.

Further reading:

In Their Own Words, “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” edition

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:

And there have not been large numbers of civilian casualties because the coalition took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians as well as holy sites. … When the dust is settled in Iraq, military historians will study this war. They’ll examine the unprecedented combination of power, precision, speed, flexibility and, I would add also, compassion that was employed.

General Tommy Franks, Bagram Air Force Base, 19 March 2002:

I don’t believe you have heard me or anyone else in our leadership talk about the presence of 1,000 bodies out there, or in fact how many have been recovered. You know we don’t do body counts.

Donald Rumsfeld, interview on FOX News Sunday, 9 November 2003:

Well, we don’t do body counts on other people ….

Gilbert Burnham, Shannon Doocy, Elizabeth Dzeng, Riyadh Lafta, and Les Roberts (principal authors): The Human Cost of the War in Iraq: A Mortality Study, 2002–2006:

A new household survey of Iraq has found that approximately 600,000 people have been killed in the violence of the war that began with the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

The survey was conducted by an American and Iraqi team of public health researchers. Data were collected by Iraqi medical doctors with analysis conducted by faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The results will be published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.

The survey is the only population-based assessment of fatalities in Iraq during the war. The method, a survey of more than 1800 households randomly selected in clusters that represent Iraq’s population, is a standard tool of epidemiology and is used by the U.S. Government and many other agencies.

The survey also reflects growing sectarian violence, a steep rise in deaths by gunshots, and very high mortality among young men. An additional 53,000 deaths due to non-violent causes were estimated to have occurred above the pre-invasion mortality rate, most of them in recent months, suggesting a worsening of health status and access to health care.

Methods: Between May and July 2006 a national cluster survey was conducted in Iraq to assess deaths occurring during the period from January 1, 2002, through the time of survey in 2006. Information on deaths from 1,849 households containing 12,801 persons was collected. This survey followed a similar but smaller survey conducted in Iraq in 2004. Both surveys used standard methods for estimating deaths in conflict situations, using population-based methods.

Key Findings: Death rates were 5.5/1000/year pre-invasion, and overall, 13.2/1000/year for the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that through July 2006, there have been 654,965 excess deaths–fatalities above the pre-invasion death rate–in Iraq as a consequence of the war. Of post-invasion deaths, 601,027 were due to violent causes. Non-violent deaths rose above the pre-invasion level only in 2006. Since March 2003, an additional 2.5% of Iraq’s population have died above what would have occurred without conflict.

The proportion of deaths ascribed to coalition forces has diminished in 2006, though the actual numbers have increased each year. Gunfire remains the most common reason for death, though deaths from car bombing have increased from 2005. Those killed are predominantly males aged 15-44 years.

Deaths were recorded only if the person dying had lived in the household continuously for three months before the event. In cases of death, additional questions were asked in order to establish the cause and circumstances of deaths (while considering family sensitivities). At the conclusion of the interview in a household where a death was reported, the interviewers were to ask for a copy of the death certificate. In 92% of instances when this was asked, a death certificate was present.

White House Press Conference, 11 October 2006:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Back on Iraq. A group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war. That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December, at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure, and do you consider this a credible report?

George Bush: No, I don’t consider it a credible report. Neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me and it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate. And it’s now time for the Iraqi government to work hard to bring security in neighborhoods so people can feel at peace.

No question, it’s violent, but this report is one — they put it out before, it was pretty well — the methodology was pretty well discredited. But I talk to people like General Casey and, of course, the Iraqi government put out a statement talking about the report.

Q — the 30,000, Mr. President? Do you stand by your figure, 30,000?

Bush: You know, I stand by the figure. A lot of innocent people have lost their life — 600,000, or whatever they guessed at, is just — it’s not credible. Thank you.

Harry Frankfurt, On Bullshit (1986/2005):

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. …The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

Further reading: