Sunday, July 31, 2005

Is There any Good from 50-Year Delayed Reparations?

Can receiving money for an education 45 years delayed as reparations make up for any of the long-term harm of racial hatred?

That's the serious question prompted by today's NY Times article about the reparations effort being undertaken by Prince Edward County, Virginia. 46 years ago, in response to Brown v. Board of Education, Prince Edward County decided that it would rather have no public education at all than permit it to be integrated. So they closed and chained the public schools in 1959, until forced by the Supremes to reopen them in 1964. The 5-year void left thousands of Black children without access to an adequate education and forced their parents to find creative solutions if their children were to receive any education at all. (As should have been expected, white children received state-funded vouchers so that they could continue their education at private schools unaffected.)

Prompted by a white journalist, whose guilt over this ugly legacy spurred him to political action, it appears that a $2 million fund has been established by the State of Virginia and a private donor to provide education scholarships of up to $5,500 to those adults who were victims of the 5-year closure of Prince Edward County schools nearly 50 years ago.

There are obvious questions that this idea raises, no matter where you come down on the question of its philosophical merit. To start with, if you have only $2M available, you can provide only Up to 363 scholarships at the maximum level of $5,500, if my math is correct. Yet according to the Times, thousands of people are eligible. How does one decide who gets help and who does not? What happens to the rest if scholarships are awarded at the maximum level?

Another obvious place of inquiry is to ask what happens to those children who relocated out of Virginia at some point after the closure, whether because of the closure or not? Do they qualify to share in the scholarships? And, if they do, at what price can they access Virginia colleges? At a time where in-state college tuition in Virginia ranges from $3,840 to $7,584 (at VMI), but out of state tuition starts at $6,275 for Community College and goes all the way up to $21,000 plus for the University of Virginia, that question is a Big Deal if the maximum that any of these victims can get is $5,500. There is no point providing a drop in a bucket that has no water coming in from any other source. In some cases, where the affected adult has no other ability to access funds due to poverty, it seems almost cruel - designed to create the appearance of doing something without actually doing anything meaningful at all.

Also, how do you utilize the money to help those who may not have finished high school at all, and who need adult education? There is a compelling argument that these students should not be forced to spend the award of remedial adult education, but that this should be provided free of charge by Virginia without reduced eligibility going forward. Since, after all, the Supreme Court made clear in Griffin v. Prince Edward County (1964) 377 U.S. 218, Virginia was totally, completely, utterly out of pocket when it closed the schools in the first place rather than acquiesce to Brown's holding. There was no excuse, and no defense to the charge of a deliberate violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

And of course, the most important question of all: Does any of this really heal anything?

It is clear that the wound of this chapter of history run deep in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Apparently, so deep that a movie was made about it, and the role of the Griffin case in establishing a constitutional right to a publicly-funded education:

They Closed Our Schools

Any doubt about the ongoing harm should be readily erased by simply reading the words of some of the people, now senior citizens, who were directly affected by what happened in Prince Edward County. Reading their words in the Times literally hurts:

The group had mixed views on whether they could ever forgive the state for what happened, scholarships notwithstanding.

Barbara Spring, 53, a retired firefighter, said she sat at home for four years after the schools closed. She said the scholarships enabled state officials to deal with their guilt. "It's a way to make up for what took place, and, in part, that's good," Ms. Spring said. "I believe in education, but it will never heal the wounds and scars of the past."

Leola Bailey, 52, who lost two years of school before she found classes to attend in a local church, agreed. "I feel like it's never too late to learn," Ms. Bailey said. "They have apologized for what they have done, but I don't know if they really mean it. I think they're doing it just to say they've done something."

But Alda Boothe, 55, a lab technician whose parents sent her to live with relatives during the years the schools were closed, was more willing to let it go. It was unfair, she said, to blame contemporary elected officials for the sins of their predecessors.

Ms. Moseley, too, is willing to forgive, saying she does not feel as bitter as others. "I'm the kind of person who thinks it's never too late," she said. "To do it now is better than not having done anything at all."

Even so, images of rejection still haunt her after several decades. "I lived behind one of those schools; they were closed with chains," she said. "I looked at it every day of my life. If I close my eyes, I can still see those doors chained up."

Anyone who still questions that the harm lives on to this day needs to plaster this woman's quote on a prominent place like their refrigerator door or bathroom mirror where they have no ability to avoid seeing it. Racially-motivated cognitive dissonance is indeed powerful, but even it can be overcome if you prevent folks from escaping the truth.

Many have said that had Andrew Jackson -- racist SOB, president or no -- just honored General Sherman's 130-year old promise and actually handed out the 40 acres and a mule to the heads of emancipated slave families, much of the harm we still see readily today as the legacy of Jim Crow and anti-Black discrimination -- including the lingering harm from the closure of Prince Edward County schools knowing it would prevent Blacks from obtaining an education because of an economic inability to access private education -- would have likely not existed, and even if they had, it would certainly not be to the degree that exists today. Of course, we cannot prove or disprove this assertion because folks don't even want to objectively evaluate the issue of reparations. For example, Congressman John Conyers' proposal to form a subcommittee to seriously study the question of reparations is rebuffed each year, like clockwork:

Committee to Study Reparations Proposals for African-American Act

But avoiding the questions don't make them go away. Here's one of my favorites: Exactly how much accrued value has been lost by America's refusal to honor the 40 acres and a mule promise for the past 130 years? Folks far more dedicated than I have actually tried to look at this question. One look at the bottom line number explains a lot about why there is no way in hell that even a fraction of it it would ever be paid:

What would an 1865 plot of 40 acres be worth to Black America today? According to economist Darity’s numbers, about $1.6 million dollars to every African American – not counting the mule. “That should be the anchor for reparations,” he said.

And what of free and devalued Black labor? In a 2000 paper, Professor Joe R. Feagin, of the University of Florida, at Gainesville, reviewed a number of labor reparations calculations. He concluded:

”Clearly, the sum total of the worth of all the black labor stolen by whites through the means of slavery, segregation, and contemporary discrimination is staggering – many trillions of dollars. The worth of all that labor, taking into account lost interest over time and putting it in today's dollars, is perhaps in the range of $5 to $24 trillion.”

The entire article is here: Wealth of a White Nation. But it is clear that if the country won't even come up with the money to honor it's Millenium Challenge Promise, Jesus himself would have to come back before they'd even be willing to look at this one again. It's far cheaper to delay delay delay and then when everyone is dead, argue that all the victims are dead and that there is no way to "fix" anything now (the successful strategy pursued by America for some time now to avoid making amends for its anti-Black legacy), not even through the one thing that costs nobody any money at all - a national apology.

Ultimately, one can make compelling arguments that what was promised back then is completely irrelevant given that the promise was not honored in the first place - as Dr. King once said, in another famous context, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds.". But in 20-20 hindsight, the refusal to honor the promise back in 1865 should strike everyone as Penny wise and Pound Foolish. After all, whites did not reduce their hatred one iota after they got to keep all the land that their former slaves had made productive. Yet 130 years later we're still talking about the issue of how to make up for the indisputable harm that is the legacy of our slave past (Of course, I'm speaking in an echo chamber, because the folks most opposed to reparations are the same folks who are in constant denial about the direct relationship between what happened in the past and what is happening today.)

One has to ask how much a person would have been willing to pay if they could have purchased, with reasonable certainty, assurance that our country would not be still hung up on trying to address the long-term effects of the psychological, cultural and educational genocide formerly known as slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow today.

So why bother? No amount of money in the world can stop someone from being haunted 50 years after the fact. It will never make up for the psychic damage, and anyone who thinks that it can is delusional - the human mind and spirit simply don't work that way. So why bother at this point? This is the central argument of those who are opposed to any reparations movement for African-Americans, and it is a compelling argument.

But on the other hand, as the man whose moral conscience led to the idea in the first place said:
"We can't rewrite history, and we shouldn't. . ."But we can make history, and it needs to be made. The scholarships are a piece of goodness in a world that wasn't there before. As an educational opportunity, they're a chance to give back as best we can and teach a lesson that we can never do anything like we did again."

Some might argue, myself among them, that the future lessons learned from the exercise of making reparation is the only real value to reparations at all, since nothing can truly "undo" that which has happened. But the fact that reparations discourse may have no further value than that does not change that it indeed has at least the potential for tangible value, even today (or perhaps, especially today.)

Given this, the reparations effort in Prince Edward County, no matter how inadequate it actually is to the task of making full amends, utterly belies the idea that the past is the past and that today we can do absolutely nothing, merely because things happened "too long ago." At least some people think it can - and that's a starting place for a honest, serious discussion, if nothing else.

More Below!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

From 4 to 277

That's the difference in Google News hits between Thursday and today when one searches for the name Latoyia Figueroa.

Folks have Richard Blair, aka Richard Cranium, who first held CNN's feet to the fire about this missing, pregnant Black/Latina mother to thank for it first and foremost. (As a byproduct, we now have solid evidence that the MSM can indeed still be shamed into doing its job.)

The efforts still have not brought Latoyia Figueroa home safe and sound to her waiting 7 year old daughter (and the ugly karma of this disappearance happening when Ms. Figueroa's own mother was murdered when she was just 6 is unreal). But IMO, that outcome is not one anyone should be realistically expecting, even though of course I pray that I am wrong. Pessimism simply can't be avoided when one knows that for 11 days Latoyia has neither used her cell phone nor tried to access her money in the bank. But the closure of knowing what happened to her is still critical - for her baby girl at home, and the rest of her family. And I hope that the media and the blogosphere and local police continue with the increased commitment to learn what happened that they have shown since this story finally went national 3 days ago (9 days after she disappeared, in notable contrast to the 12 hours it normally takes when the victim is "just right.")

Finally, today's "You're a Dick" award goes to Stephen Pouche, Ms. Figuroa's so-called boyfriend and the father of her unborn baby. Apparently, Mr. Pouche takes offense that some folks in Latoyia's family are troubled by the fact that the last person who saw her alive was Mr. Pouche (not surprising, given that most perpetrators of violence against pregnant women are the fathers of their unborn children), and further offense that folks are upset that he is not out there searching for the mother of his unborn child himself. So, he called into a local Philly radio station to defend his honor. I can never be as eloquent as he was so I will let his words speak for themselves:

"Why should I aid people who think I've done something?" Pouche said. "I wish she would pop up so these people would leave me alone."

Looks like another deserving candidate for the Clue by FourTM. So here it is:

HEY ASSHOLE, did it ever occur to you that by looking for your missing girlfriend, you'd also be looking for YOUR UNBORN CHILD?

More Below!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kristof Rightfully Slams Everyone for Ignoring Darfur

The genocide in Darfur continues. People are still dying. More than two million have been killed or displaced.

Here in the so-called Free World, we largely still don't give a damn.

But there are glimmers of hope that at least a few people have at last been shamed into saying or - gasp! - doing something. Nicolas Kristof's editorial in the New York Times yesterday about the deliberate choice of the media and celebrities visiting Africa to ignore the suffering and murder in Darfur was blistering:

All Ears On Tom Cruise, All Eyes on Brad Pitt

The money quote:

. . .[T]o sustain the idealism in journalism - and to rebut the widespread perception that journalists are just irresponsible gossips - we need to show more interest in the first genocide of the 21st century than in the "runaway bride."

The underlying data Kristof references about television coverage should result in everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Dan Rather being forced to go out in the public streets of Darfur wearing hairshirts and praying for forgiveness. Just one shocking comparison should convince anyone how utterly irresponsible the television media has been in terms of covering this years-long genocide and the murder/displacement of what is now estimated at 400,000 dead and 2.4 million displaced:

In 2004, network television news minutes about Martha Stewart: 130 minutes
In 2004, network television news minutes about genocide in Darfur: 23 minutes

Despite these shameful stats, and even despite outrage finally being expressed by a handful of MSM pundits, our political leadership is STILL allowing this genocide to proceed unabated without any meaningful intervention. Where is the Leader of the Free World? His Handmaiden, the so-called Black woman Condoleeza Rice? Oh, I know - whinging about how her press crew got roughed up when it went to Africa with her and demanding apologies.

(Hey Condi, how about an apology for the fact that you are the most powerful woman of African descent anywhere in the world yet it has taken you TWO YEARS to even bother to show up? Have you forgotten from whence you came?)

The good news is that the blogosphere appears to be stepping up. A new campaign to shame the media into doing their job of reporting on Darfur was announced yesterday on Huffington Post by its creator:

Be a Witness

If the juxtaposition of Runaway Bride footage with footage of the dead in Darfur doesn't shake folks into action, I don't know if anything can. Because, as the creator of Be a Witness makes clear:

Genocide is News.

More Below!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Where This Non-White Women At?????

No, she is NOT Natalee Holloway's long lost Black cousin.

She is not blond, she is not rich, and her mother so far isn't quite as arrogant when it comes to asking for the help she deserves finding her child. But this young sister, the mother of one no-doubt confused and frightened 7 year old and 5 months pregnantis just as missing as the lamented Ms. Holloway.

Except that she was not last seen on vacation partying her ass off with some guy she'd just met at a bar.

Latoyia Figueroa" is a 24-year old mother-to-be who has been missing for the past 8 days in West Philadelphia. She was last seen this past Monday, when she apparently took time off from work to spend with her unborn baby's father ( you think that might be a clue about who to ask about what might have happened to her????) She has not been seen since.

But other than brief stories in the Philadephia local media the mainstream press has been notably silent. That is, until a commendable DailyKOS blogger whose handle is Richard Cranium shamed CNN by sending a snarky e-mail to Nancy Grace:

Missing Pregnant Mother Alert (Non-White Woman Division)

This appears to have resulted in CNN actually doing something:

CNN Story on Latoyia Figueroa.

As of right now, nobody else in the mainstream media seems to give a shit. (According to Mr. Cranium, who deserves much love for how he handled CNN, if you Googled the name Natalee Holloway you would get 5,600 hits. Before yesterday Latoyia got only two. 10 minutes ago when I started writing this, it was up to a whopping 4.) Even in the local Philadelphia paper that did report the story, today they have a prominent story about a lake being drained in Aruba to look for Natalee but you have to actually search to find the story on their own local missing person, Ms. Figueroa yesterday.

The Latoyia Figueroa story makes clear "Where the White wimmin at" missing persons journalism is racist to its core. Here we have a missing woman falling into that most sacred category of women in the media: mothers-to-be. Yet it took being shamed before CNN -- which might as well rename itself The Natalee Holloway News Channel given how constant their coverage is -- to cover her story. Contrast the lack of attention Latoyia is getting in the media at 5 months pregnant to that which Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking, God rest them both, got from the moment they were first reported missing by the fathers of their unborn children, who'd just happened to have killed them. Within 24 hours, the entire region in which they lived was inundated with news and searches. Because we all know that pregnant women do not just pick up and leave. There was never any doubt in anyone's mind that something had happened to Laci or Lori, because of this bottom line media truth (however stereotypical, but that's a discussion for another time) about heavily pregnant women.

Why would anyone assume any different about Latoyia?

There is a reward fund for information about Latoyia's disappearance that has been set up by All Spin Zone in conjunction with the Philadelphia Citizen's Crime Commission. The reward is presently up to $10,000. Contrast that with how much was set aside for Ms. Holloway's life ($1 million) or Laci Peterson's life ($500,000) and ask yourself why one life is worth 500-1,000 times more than the other.

Make no mistake. I am just as saddened about Natalee Holloway's disappearance as I am Latoyia Figueroa's. I too hope Ms. Holloway is found, since it is not her fault that the media's disproportionate attention to her international disapperance has made her the current Exhibit A in "Where De White Wimmin At?" debate about race and class bias in the media. She was just a child, unsupervised, and got into what ended up being bad circumstances. That is never the victim's fault. But at the same time, it is clear which of these two women mainstream America values more. And that is OUR fault.

More Below!

Friday, July 22, 2005

All A-twitter About Mythical Plans to Teach "Ebonics"

I wrote this in response to a diary by a blogger whose talents deserve much love from the masses, PaminDurham on a new, yet already well-launched leftist blog, My Left Wing, but it deserves repeating here. The original news article is noteworthy because it has now been discredited entirety, but it's publication -- and definitely the reactions to it, which can be explained only by the fact that folks didn't read it closely -- still demonstrates handily the unthinking, knee-jerk, racist thinking about the entire subject of the Black venacular this country engages in with regularity. Otherwise, there is no way that in light of the true facts folks would have been running around claiming the predictable claptrap: that a school district was going to be "teaching children something called 'Ebonics' -- "EBONICS" BEING A STANK WORD WHICH IS NOTHING MORE THAN A COLLOQUIAL, ALMOST-DELIBERATELY SILLY, DEFINITELY-USED-AS-INSULTING BY THE MAINSTREAM AND WORTHLESS LABEL for what is properly referred to by anyone only as Black Vernacular English (BVE) or African-American Venacular English (AAVE.)

Anyhoo, here's what I wrote:

I saw the article about this week's resolution by the San Bernadino School District. And the minute, I did, my head started hurting. Much the way it does when we have the Cosby DiscussionTM, the OJ DiscussionTM, the Hip-Hop DiscussionTM and a variety of others relating to The Things Black People Do TM in which folks -- even or especially Black folk -- have their passionate views, know what they are, and proceed accordingly to stand firm against all comers without any serious personal study of the many many MANY highly complex issues involved (but largely assumed away in the discussion.) Today I'm already 4 hours into the work day and it's only 9:45 AM, and I have only a 10 minute break, so for now I can't write as much of a studied, thoughtful response to Pam as she deserves (she's a hell of a writer who I respect unconditionally.) So I guess for now I'll just say: Sister about some of what you say, I wholeheartedly agree with you. But about some things, I wholeheartedly disagree with you, too.

One question: How many have actually read the seminal works about the linguistic, psychological and sociological implications of African-American Vernacular English (what it is really called?) The two that began my own journey of academic (as opposed to political) understanding about the issue came from Rappin' and Stylin' Out: Communication in Urban Black America (Thomas Kochman, 1972) and Black English: Its History and Usage in the United States (J.L. Dillard, 1972).

Those books is where my study of AAVE began, in 1979, as part of my psych training, long long LONG before some idjit in the media refused to call AAVE by its proper name and insisted that it was called "Ebonics" or nothing, and the the rest of us followed like sheep without thinking about *why* suddenly, the proper name for this venacular was no longer being used. While I certainly have not kept up with the literature (since I'm a lawyer, not a linguist,) I can't say what the definitive work is today. But in my mind everything since 1996 has been tainted by the political flap that took place in Oakland.

(You have to admit that one's mindset about the entire matter might be different if the colloquialism "Ebonics" had remained as obscure as it was from 1973 to 1996 and the only thing we knew about was the name actually given to "African-American Vernacular English" or "Black Venacular English" by the only discipline that matters when it comes to deciding what is, or is not, a language/dialect/vernacular- linguistics.)

Frankly, at least as far as the questioned legitimacy of AAVE as worthy of study, I'm going with the linguists on this one:

Linguistics Society of America

Of course, that is only the tip of the iceberg of issues raised by that position, as Pam eloquently discusses. Just wish I had time to discuss it as well for now. But since I don't, I'll hopefully get to post something later. But here's what Wiki has to say on the matter:

African-American Vernacular English

As for me, I'm a code switcher, and damned proud of it (much the way I am when I speak using one dialect of Spanish used in the classroom, another in New York and another in California.) I certainly have been quite successful, SAE being my "second language" notwithstanding. My kids are code switchers too. In fact, so are my parents, who taught me how to do it. And their parents. And frankly millions of Black folks - which is why I wonder why so much flap is being raised over this issue yet again, since if we weren't able to code switch NONE of us would have made it long before anyone had ever HEARD of the word Ebonics. Frankly, I believe that in terms of teaching young Black children how to speak SAE (the dialect known as Standard American English - and if you don't think it's a dialect ask the folks across the pond), teaching SAE as a method of code switching continues to be, at a practical level, the most successful approach to resolving both their needs in mainstream society and their need to preserve their cultural heritage. But since folks are so busy fighting over the least important part of this (whether AAVE is "legitimate") they never get around to just looking at how practically to address a very real issue in education today. And those who do try to address it, like San Bernadino and Oakland before them, end up being the subject of ridicule.

But I'm curious why this issue is such a hornet's nest when we don't find speakers of Spanish, French, German, Chinese or even Swahili fighting over about whether their respective dialects and vernaculars are "legitimate", reflect "laziness" "ignorance" "inability to learn" or the host of other insults labeled at the entire concept of AAVE. One has to, as always, ask why the difference.

More Below!

Women Are Sometimes Our Own Worst Enemies - Part II

As I was saying.....


(Women are indeed moving up in the world I guess, when they are described as the "ringleaders" of an immigrant sexual slavery business /snark).

Where are the freedom fighters against patriarcy and oppression of women? Why are none quoted in this article? Is it the Times engaging yet again in male supremacy bias? Or is it that this type of exploitation is off the radar since, after all, this does not appear to have anything to do with the right to choice? If you listen to the echo chamber, it seems that this is all that matters politically to women's groups, now.

But the economic and sexual exploitation of young girls is a well-known global crisis. It does not appear to be improving - indeed, it continues apace, both in war zones and in the most peaceful places, such as New Jersey. If women don't start making it more of a rhetorical priority in our fight, we have ourselves as much to blame for its continuation as men.

More Below!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Women Sometimes Are our Own Worst Enemies

Especially when it comes to the unthinking dogma about abortion rights on both sides of the political divide.

Take the latest news from California - that two more women have died from infections after using Misoprostol, otherwise known as RU-486:

California Women Die From Post-Abortion Infections

Here's why BOTH sides are stupid.

First of all, make no mistake. Abortion is indeed a safe procedure, compared to other surgical/interventionist procedures and childbirth. The right wing crazies that try to conjure up visions of women are dropping dead in the streets right and left having had abortions are just plain ignorant. If that were the case, women would have been wiped out by now, since abortion -- legal or not -- has existed throughout the millennia. Yet I can already see in my mind's eye women out there who are reading this story and concluding "Oh My God, abortion is unsafe! RU-486 is unsafe". As I said, idjits. Because, as the doctor quoted in the article makes clear:

the risks of death from infection for users of the pill is roughly one in 100,000 uses - similar to the risks of death from infection after surgical abortions or childbirth.

BUT.....that important fact is precisely why I also think that the quoted unnamed source from Planned Parenthood is also just as stupid. That person, rather than acknowledging this important medical fact, chose only to speak about the overall safety of RU-486 rather than confront the reality of these deaths, and advocate that women take better care when using it. That clearly indicates that abortion politics remain more important to rabid pro-choicers than truly taking care of women's health.

Any woman who has actually been pregnant and either carried to term and delivered or had an abortion knows that there is *always* a risk of bacterial infection afterward. It is not a rocket science concept: You open that normally unopen area of our bodies through dilation of the cervix and that risk of infection is just there, same as it is when you get a cut on your hand. You can't get around nature, even as you can, and must, take extra care to avoid it. IME, that risk of bacterial infection is normally fully disclosed to most women either right after they have had a child, or a traditional abortion, if not long before.

Were the women who took misoprostol told as clearly before they went home with their tiny pill bottles? Did anyone call them afterward to follow up, as is often the case with traditional abortion and childbirth?

That's a serious question. Has anyone in the pro-choice community, in the rush to normalize RU-486 (not a bad thing, in and of itself) bothered to take the same pains to warn women who abort using RU-486 about the fact that medication abortion is doing exactly the same thing as childbirth or traditional abortion- and therefore carries EXACTLY the same risk of post-hoc bacterial infection? Even though the process is done using a cute little pill you get to take at home instead of a currette or extractor, or that powerful mother nature in labor, both of which you can contemporaneously feel doing the job of opening the cervix and therefore potentially exposing the inside of your uterus to everything floating around nearby?

This difference in what happens is not an unimportant one. We're a pill-popping culture, by nature. And most people tend to think of pills as Mostly Harmless, largely because the exercise of taking a pill usually creates psychic distance from the chemical processes that goes on inside the body after we take one. My gut tells me that these women were NOT as clearly warned to be extra vigilant for signs of bacterial infection in the same manner as women who give birth or have a more-traditional abortion.

And, if this is the case, the fact that they weren't firmly warned, and followed up with, but instead simply left to their own devices afterward and subjected to sideswiping of the clear medical issue and platitudes about overall safety, makes any pro-choice advocate who does not face this issue just as stupid as the women who will no doubt read about these deaths and go running out with their "abortion causes breast cancer!" placards to face another day. Since, by sidestepping it rather than acknowleding it, the Planned Parenthood speaker makes it sound like it is fact to be avoided.....and therefore there must be Something a way that just stepping up, expressing concern and advocating for better post-procedure educationa and follow-up would not. As I said, idjit. Not to mention hypocrite, since it is supposed to be, first and foremost, about saving women's lives, isn't it?

More Below!

It Pays to Be Loyal to Right-Wing Ideology

Well, well, well.

Not Gonzales. Not Garza. But instead, John Roberts, Jr. Of DC Appellate Circuit fame, gets the nod:

John G. Roberts, Jr.

A candidate who will sail to confirmation, all of his anti-women, anti-minority, anti-labor views notwithstanding, since of all the names bandied about, Roberts is clearly the smartest, the youngest, and the most ideologically consistent with Bush's base on all issues corporate while also being and the closest to the model of the stealth candidate that has become the fashion since Robert Bork:

Roberts' Picked for both Brain and Stealth

I haven't done skimming Roberts' published decisions yet but I have read his bio and clearly, this appointment of a young, completely partisan political active is a reward for 20 years of steadfast loyalty to the right-wing ideology that has taken over our country today. Unlike Gonzales, Roberts has no association with the Iraq War, Bush's achilles heel at the moment. Unfortunately, unlike Gonzales, Roberts has made very clear what will happen to a woman's right to choose if he gets in the position to be a deciding vote.

Never let it be said that Bush forgets those who have been his family's political friends. He clearly doesn't.

The more interesting thing, perhaps, will be how the this particular nomination tests the ill-advised "filibuster deal" that created the new "extraordinary circumstances" standard for opposition to judicial nominees.

More Below!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Right to a Speedy Death

I've said it before and I'll say it again: progressives act to their peril if they turn their back on those ignorant rabid neocon theocratic boneheads currently in charge of our federal government for even 5 minutes......

In yesterday's New York Times, a quiet op-ed warning appeared about a stealth bill that a Google search confirms is managing to proceed well under the radar of most folks, the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005.

In a nutshell, if passed, under the Streamlined Procedures Act (aka The Right to a Speedy Death ActTM):

. . . .the chief prosecutor of the United States would become the judge of whether state courts behave fairly enough toward defendants appealing capital convictions. If a state system was certified as up to snuff, then the federal courts would lose their jurisdiction and condemned defendants their last hope.

The entire op-ed piece is a must read: Attack on Habeas Corpus for Capital Cases

As the WaPo opined in its own editorial last week, entitled Stop this Bill:
It is no exaggeration to say that if this bill becomes law, it will consign innocent people to long-term incarceration or death.

This Act, which is only two months out of the starting block in the Senate and only 3 weeks old in the House, is already in mark-up phase in the Judiciary Committee despite having only 5 sponsors and has already had hearings in the House Subcommittee for Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security". That's pretty fast for a bill that should have been dead in the water, congresspersons rolling on the floor laughing at the sponsors and lobbing copies of the Constitution at them, when it was introduced.

Except that it wasn't. And it isn't, despite some success in at least slowing it down this week. This should scare folks. Seriously.

If you think that you, a fully-law abiding, got it all together member of our Great Country TM have nothing to worry about if this bill even manages to get out of either committee it is presently assigned to, and to the floors of both houses of the current Legislature, think again. The writ of habeas corpus, which has existed since our nation was founded, having been grounded in England's Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, is the ultimate check on the power of incarceration granted to the state in our democratic republic. It creates the "last hope of review" as a balance against what no thinking person can deny is the lust for conviction when there has been a public wrong and the sense that without someone being held "accountable", there is no justice. It recognizes that only in a truly neutral forum, free from state-based partisan motives fueled by local politics and legitimate rage at crime, can we ensure a full and fair review of the evidence sending someone to their death. And, at least in theory, habeas is supposed to ensure that if that evidence is truly found lacking, no state will find itself standing in the same murderous shoes it is allegedly trying to punish.

Because it actually shines a spotlight on how our system of Justice is not all that just, habeas corpus has been under attack by the right wing for decades. Except that it hasn't just been the Right Wing, something that should also scare so called liberals and progressives. For example, habeas corpus took a serious body blow during the watch of that Bastion of Liberalism, President Clinton, in the form of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which largely eliminated federal review of all factual and legal questions decided at the state level and imposed a 6-month statute of limitations on seeking the writ after direct review was completed, as if somehow miraculously, lawyers -- assuming that a defendant actually had one willing to do the work, a usually false assumption -- could parse, analyze and develop legal arguments to attack court convictions based on records that in capital cases are tens of thousands of pages in a heartbeat, such that they didn't really need any time.

Yet even that gutting of habeas at the practical level in 1996 was not enough, such that the right wing has now come back for yet another bite at the habeas apple through the Streamlined Procedures Act. And almost nobody is paying any attention.

Of course, the current administration reflects the political will of its base - and frankly, reflects the thinking (or lack thereof) of the majority of people in this country, who still need to believe that nobody is ever caught up in the Criminal Justice System accused of murder if they aren't really guilty. That refusal to see is the only explanation for outrage over the fact that the legislation's current emphasis is not on ensuring that fairness in our criminal justice system, but expediency for the sake of expediency. Why else would the Legislature's resposne to increasingly successful legal efforts to show systemic flaws in our capital punishment system (Thank you, Innocence Project!) be to try and speed up, rather than slow down, the process of sending someone to their death? To cut off, rather than expand, opportunities to challenge capital convictions that are believed to be incorrect?

Can it possibly be that we as a society have came to the place where all that matters is the money? Have we done the societal calculus and truly concluded that the adverse impact on the public fisc from exhaustive review really is so bad that it is more of a benefit to society to roll the innocence-odds dice in connection with in the state's decisions to take human life in the name of "justice?" How does such an approach to the death penalty reconcile itself with our so-called Christian nation, our increasingly theocratic republic in which everything from curtailment of reproductive choice even in the non-grey areas (i.e. our access to birth control) and the public circus of Terri Schiavo is now being justified by our So-Called Leadership on the grounds that America is a Culture of LifeTM?

Make no mistake: Death is the one place from which we can reclaim absolutely, positively, no one. It is a harm that cannot ever be cured. No matter how much "mea culpa" is done afterward. No matter how large any court judgment (as if the current state of law would even permit it, given the success that the right has also had over the past 20 years curtailing the liability of state governments who fuck up). You'd think that death, because it is something that can never be reversed by anyone living on this particular planet, deserved the slowest, most deliberate, most thorough, exhaustive-to-the-point of nitpicking process human beings could come up with before it was imposed on anyone. Because even the most cynical about crime have to admit that the value of human life far exceeds the value that can possibly be conveyed by later by writing a check and saying "oops, my bad."

If you're still not convinced, just ask this brother, assuming that you can find him in the afterlife (since he appears by all accounts well on his way to earning the dubious distinction of being remembered as the first confirmed wrongful execution in this country):

That's right, ten years after the state of Missouri killed him, this man's case is being reopened - because he is likely innocent of the crime that sent him to his death, just as he claimed all along:

Larry Griffin

Looks like, if the word coming out of the prosecutor's office (and out of the mouth of the so-called victim who admits that Mr. Griffin was never at the murder scene yet also admits that he kept his lily-white mouth shut while they executed him anyway) the Show MeTM State is well on its way of having to go out with a backhoe, dig Mr. Griffin up, un-execute him and say "We're sorry" before sending him on home.

Oh wait....they can't do that, can they? Because he's DEAD.

Foo, those little details always get in the way...

The depressing fact is that this outcome, which is definitely being downplayed in the mainstream media, should not be a surprise to anyone actually paying attention, as Bob Herbert in his op-ed piece in the Times made clear this week:

The Inevitability of Larry Griffin

Make no mistake, there is an unavoidable nexus between cases like the late Larry Griffin's and the Streamlined Procedures Act of 2005. They go together like peas and pods. Like apples and cobblers. Like murder and the death penalty.

(For those who wish to keep track of this bill's progress, since in just two months it has already begun the mark-up stage in the Senate Judiciary Committe, the relevant Bill numbers are S. 1088 and H.R. 3035.

More Below!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences?

Or are things working with No Child Left Behind EXACTLY as intended?

NCLB's Bright Flight

I have to ask - is this type of story genuinely a surprise to anyone, let alone the politically-in-the-know folks at the Washington Post? Every time I listen to a defender of the NCLB system (and its red-headed stepchild, vouchers) insist that NCLB is improving the life chances of all those poor, Black and Brown children because Schools are Now Accountable TM I want to scream. As Malcolm said, in another context: You NCLB supporters have been had. You've been took.

What type of cognitive dissonance does it take to contend in the same breath that that it benefits our children to "Make Schools Accountable" for failing to educate them by siphoning off the quality students, quality teachers and quality funding that are an inherent part of a quality school?

How can a school system be held accountable to parents who don't even know how to game the system in the first place because they have no idea what their rights are? After all, if they *did* know how to game the system, and if they had the resources to game it, their kids were gone before NCLB even came along???? How can a school system be held accountable to students who don't even know what they are entitled to, education wise? And how can they even find out, when those who are most in the know, and most able to share knowledge, are too busy fleeing their "failing schools" (even if most students in an NCLB "failing school" actually are doing just fine) to worry about somebody else's child? And how can anyone be held accountable for not effectuating what would be, without money and time that simply does not exist in most overcrowded, underfunded, physically deteriorating and damned-near prison-like urban schools, nothing short of a miracle?

I cannot believe how most politicians in this country allowed themselves to get played with this nonsense. Setting aside the obvious -- that anything that Dubbya or a Dubbya minion proposes is not designed to help any but those who might someday be part of his "base", which does not include the urban poor -- NCLB is the educational equivalent of the "Healthy Forests Initiative". A particularly destructive attack on a foundational pillar of our society, tarted up in real-life Newspeak for those who don't investigate but simply absorb what they are told. A paean to the mantra "I Got Mine, Get Yours", dressed up for consumption in a beautiful box called "helping those who need our help".

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that When the best students with the most active parents are given public license to flee and take their public educational funds with them, it will reinforce, consolidate and centralize a culture of underqualification. This type of consolidation has been shown over and over in the housing context lead to destructive results, to ghettoization, to a permanent underclass. Make no mistake - NCLB may indeed "help" the few who can now take advantage of an ability to flee that was previously denied to them for financial reasons. But for the majority who either cannot or choose not to abandon their communities, NCLB increasingly ensures that what is left for those left behind are the crumbs and leavings, the detritus, of the quality public education that all children are supposedly guaranteed. Just enough education to ensure their diminished life chances for a future in which they live and die as followers, rather than leaders, without extraordinary luck.

The cynic in me that looks at the arrogant reshaping of American society that the Bush Administration has engaged in with fervor since 2001 can't help but believe that the "unexpected consequences" of NCLB written about in today's Washington Post are, in fact, merely evidence that NCLB as Bush's rabid-right brain trust envisioned is Working as Intended.TM. It is hard not to conclude that this is deliberate, given how much the Right has publicly admitted that it despises publicly-funded education, a backbone of America that was born during Reconstruction and intended, at least originally, to ensure access by the financially downtrodden -- back then, emancipated slaves -- to the education they needed to succeed.

NCLB may well be the ultimate Stealth Bomber of the Rabid Right. It seems well on its way to ultimately destroying public education as we know it, with the consequence that knowledge and power will again rest in the moneyed classes - to the detriment of those supposedly being helped by it.

I wonder if Teddy Kennedy feels played, right about now.

I myself am NOT looking forward to seeing the test scores in Fairfax County public schools in a few years. Assuming that they do not pull off yet another Texas Miracle TMand deliberately disappear thousands of failing and borderline children from their enrollment lists. After all, anyone who knows anything about the Texas Miracle knows full well that the dramatic improvement in mandatory test scores following Bush's implementation of mini-NCLB in Texas was achieved only because of the Texas Educational Authority's corrupt and amoral willingness to encourage Texas students in poor and minority areas to drop out of school rather than face a mandatory test date and "fail". Despite the strident warnings from those in the know who pleaded with our congresspersons to reject NCLB unless dramatic increases in education funding accompanied it, our nation's public schools appear to be queuing up for the same miraculous process under NCLB that Texas faced under its predecessor system.

If Bush's so-called Miracle of NCLB isn't in fact increasingly leading to Children Being Left Behind, I don't know what is.

More Below!

Unemployment Rate is "Not So High"

At one of the many sites I cruise each day, a clearly sheltered individual made valiant efforts to argue that yesterday's June unemployment figures were a sign of glad tidings because a 5% unemployment rate was "Not So High", such that the focus of our efforts should be on speculating about why people are out of a job for a long time rather than on worrying about how many people actually have jobs.

That type of cluelessness usually causes me to reach for the Clue by Four. So I compiled some further data for his consideration, since I'm a big believer that speculation is always more entertaining if you have some further data to inform your thoughts about the unemployment being "not so high".

Let's deconstruct the "not so high" number using the Household Survey, just a bit....

The "not so high" unemployment rate of 5.0.% deliberately masks hides all the following underlying data:

Unemployment Rate including discouraged workers: 5.3%

Unemployment Rate including discouraged workers and "marginally attached workers": 6.0%

Unemployment Rate including discouraged workers, "marginally attached workers" and involuntary part-time workers: 9.0%
(Definitions of discouraged and marginally attached workers are at BLS' website).

I can't speak for you, but I don't consider 1/11th of our eligible workforce out there wanting to work and being unable to find that work as support for your contention that the unemployment rate is is "not so high."

I feel even more strongly when I look at the data relating to the distribution of the pain of unemployment across our work force. At present:

White Overall Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
Hispanic Overall Unemployment Rate: 5.3%
Asian Overall Unemployment Rate: Data Unavailable
African American Overall Unemployment Rate: 10.5%
White Males: 3.6%
Hispanic Males: Data not available
African American Males: 9.6%
White Females: 3.9%
Hispanic Females: Data not available
African American Females: 8.8%
White Teens (Aged 16-19): 14.2
African American Teens: 32.4%

(I find it fascinating that BLS can tell me with so-called certainty the current aggregate Latino unemployment rate but can't disaggregate the rate at the same time /shrug).

Oh well, every cloud has a silver lining, since seasonally adjusted, the white unemployment rate looks even better - having dropped from 5.0 to 4.3 (as opposed to holding steady at 10.3 for Black folk) over the past year. Clearly, Things are looking up.

The trending data indicates that the unequal distribution of unemployment based on race is getting worse, not better:

Change in White Unemployment Rate 6/04 -6/05: (From 5.1% to 4.3%, a decrease of 0.8%)
Change in Hispanic Unemployment Rate 6/4 - 6/5 (From to 6.5 to 5.8, a decrease of 0.7%)
Change in Asian Unemployment Rate - data for 6/5 unavailable per BLS; original rate was 5.0% in 6/04
Change in African American Unemployment Rate 6/04 - 6/05 (From 10.7 - 10.3, a decrease of 0.4%)

And to think that there was a time in the not so distant past that Black folks could actually joke about being "Last Hired First Fired". It isn't funny, anymore. Particularly when you consider that historically, Black unemployment has been about double of that suffered by whites (ever since the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed.) That ratio of 2-1 has held pretty consistent throughout the decades, with a small dent being made into it during the Clinton Adminstration. Well, it isn't holding steady anymore. Right now, the ratio of Black to white unemployment is 2.67-1 and steadily climbing its way to 3-1.

And folks wonder with a straight face why the underground economy -- particularly the youth/gang crime economy -- flourishes despite all the harm it causes /sigh. It's pretty hard to moralize about what people do when they have ever-decreasing opportunities to put food on the table any other way, isn't it?

Look at those numbers closely. Think about them, with both your brain and your heart. Then decide whether you still wish contend so strenuously that the unemployment rate is "not so high". Maybe it isn't for SOME, but clearly that assertion is just dead bang WRONG when ALL are taken into account.

Finally, to really have a gut feel for what the unemployment rate means, one has to also look at how long folks stay unemployed. And if you look, what you'll find is that no small number of the unemployed are staying unemployed longer, even though the average number of weeks unemployed dropped. In the past year (06/04-06/05):

Change in Average Duration Unemployment: -1.7 weeks
Change in Median Duration: +0.9 weeks

% Unemployed <5 weeks (-2.7%)
5-14 weeks: +6.2%)
15 weeks - 26 weeks: -0.2
27 weeks and over: -2.8

The trend sort of mimics what is happening to average American incomes: technically, wages continue to go up, but the average still factors in both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett .......

I invite anyone to go out there and tell that 1/3 of African American kids who wanted a job this summer that didn't get one (many who, statistically speaking, actually NEEDED the job to help support their families) and you tell them the unemployment rate "isn't so high". I dare you.

When you disaggregate the "unemployment rate" and even if you disregard all the reasons that it is already a mythical number (which many folks have discussed) it is clear that the only way one can describe the unemployment rate as "not so high" is as if one assumes that one is something other than Black, Brown or young. If you're not one of those others? Well, I guess as the youth might say: sucks to be you.


More Below!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Slow Going Vent Day

Man this blogging thing is working my nerves.

I have so much I want to write about recent events (the Outing of Karl Rove TM and the upcoming Supreme Court nomination process at the top of the list) and, as usual, so little time. Not to mention that I still don't have links up, still need to at least read HTML for Dummies so that posting doesn't take an hour, and I have GOT to find a different color scheme because this out of the box blogger design Just Ain't Me. Forget about sending a broadcast e-mail to my crew that the site is even up here.

Bill, or Blog? The eternal lawyerly question.

More Below!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bittersweet Fourth of July

Each 4th of July, I see the beauty of our flag, the universality of the love for our country that far too many show far too infrequently, and read the extraordinary beauty of our country's Declaration of Independence.

And each year, I cry. A bittersweet cry, born from love, and from anger.
To cope with my reverent pain, in the face of reading literary and philosophical beauty that is the Constitution of this great country, each 4th of July I let myself dream a little dream.

I dream of what our nation would be, could have been, should have been, had all the grievances against King George that our Founding Fathers been aired with that same brave collective voice that demanded, as divine right, "Liberty or Death!:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another...

This passionate language affirming the God-given right of human dignity is not alchemy.  It is not fantasy.  It is, instead, history.  This paragraph was included in the recitation of grievances against King George included in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence submitted to the Continental Congress by Thomas Jefferson on July 1, 1776.

But it was rejected, and deleted.  And forgotten - even by those who each 4th of July, open the hearts and say We are All Americans, today.  Most of us have never been taught about this missing paragraph - it is unimportant, because it is absent. And, because of its absence, the day of liberty, of freedom, of independence, the day in which all men of the United States could truly embrace the rights given to them by the Creator to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, was deferred, for 87 years after the eloquence of our Founding Fathers and their utopian vision was first heard the world over.  89 years if you include the Great State of Texas TM.

Today, it is this knowing of the truth about what was, and what could have been in America that many African-Americans contend with on the Fourth of July.  Many of us do not even celebrate the holiday - since, after all, it has nothing to do with our rights, our freedom, our independence from anyone.  That date is celebrated today in the form of Juneteenth.  But most do.  After all, we are still Americans.  We built this country even as most of us were excluded from its utopian promise for nearly 100 years legally, and arguably, still are nearly 230 years later.

The love-hate relationship that many African-Americans have with the 4th of July is not a historical artifact.  It continues to plague us as a people, and at times can be quite confusing, even to those like myself that consider myself well informed, well-educated and American:

Fourth of July and African-Americans

The pain from our love of America probably stems from the knowledge that the greatest of the great Americans, including the Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and their progency, including the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln himself, never wanted us to be part of America.  They wanted us Away.  Other.  Outside, because America was not for us, even though the chattel enslavement of millions had in fact built America, in large part:

The Efforts to Send us Away

So when I think of what the Fourth of July means to me, what it means to many Black folks like me, I am left confused. How can anyone fail to love the vision of America set forth in the Declaration of Independence? How can anyone not be stirred to the depths of their very soul reading the steadfast passion with which the Founding Fathers asserted the inalienable rights of man? How can African-Americans feel anything but the same love, even as we hate the bastardization of the founding Vision of America to further a new king's agenda - the agenda of King Cotton?

It's hard to love something so much yet hate it so much at the same time. Yet it is important for African-Americans in particular to confront that hardness, to face the vision of America even as we continue to hold it to task for what has been done to us, and continues to be done to us. It is our unique experience of America that calls us, especially, to work to solve its problems, including the problems of poverty and race. Because, Dr. King once said, in a sermon he delivered on the 4th of July, 40 years ago, called The American Dream:

And I tell you this morning, my friends, the reason we got to solve this problem here in America: Because God somehow called America to do a special job for mankind and the world. (Yes, sir, Make it plain) Never before in the history of the world have so many racial groups and so many national backgrounds assembled together in one nation. And somehow if we can’t solve the problem in America the world can’t solve the problem, because America is the world in miniature and the world is America writ large. And God set us out with all of the opportunities. He set us between two great oceans; made it possible for us to live with some of the great natural resources of the world. And there he gave us through the minds of our forefathers a great creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

That is the burden of being American, a burden that we should celebrate today even as we celebrate America itself. Each of us are called to do our small part, whether the personal or political.

I am 43 years old, 44 soon.  I have reared three children with God's guidance, two of who are grown, one nearly so.  They have been blessed with keen intellect, physical beauty and brilliant minds even though each is taking fundamentally different paths in life.  Yet I cannot overlook that their path has been different from mine, yet still too familiar.  In our one family, we have different Experiences of AmericaTM.  To my immigrant husband, America is The Arrogant Master of the Universe TM, but also "My Wife's Home, and now Mine". To my children, of mixed racial and religious heritage, their vision of America is born of the hopeful cynicism that is sometimes created when one is born of a politically passionate Black mother and white father, when one faces both the benefits and the burdens in a world in which they have personally largely escaped the trials of being black because of their birth, yet still suffer the indignities of the friends and neighbors they live next to, because they are not So Fortunate.  . They are both blessed and cursed.

And to me, the most patriotic of us all, America is....America. Home. The place that despite my parents Blackness nonetheless offered them a chance to send their eldest daughter to the best public schools, to go to college, to go to law school, that many other countries would not have. That allowed them at least the semblance of freedom, even as they grew up in the segregated Deep South and True Freedom came to them only after they fled to the North, although even then it was only freedom from, not freedom to. So on the Fourth of July, I spend the day thinking about my father, the man who but for Jim Crow and poverty could have been a brilliant mathemetician.  About my mother, and her love of both the flag and singing in the church, destroyed through the retreat into alcoholism that so many Black women choose as the alternative to the retreat in unthinking religion. I think about the life faced by the tens of millions, today, in a country that despite all we have given it thinks about us last, if at all and seems to value us only what we can still give - especially political power, not for what we already have given.

And I cry, yet again, thinking about this.

Because despite it all, I still love America.  Not for what it has been, to me, and to mine.  I rail against it for its failings, but nonetheless want to be part of the vision that has never had a chance, not really, to operate on the ground.  And I think that is true for many of us African-Americans who are politically involved, at whatever level.  But it is not because of what it is. It is instead for what it could have been, and might still be.  And am reminded why I fight for it, even as I fight against it - because it is my Home.  By choice.

Happy Fourth of July, one and all.

More Below!

Friday, July 01, 2005

The End of an Era - Sandra Day O'Connor Retires

I had a deep-seated feeling that this was coming, if any justice was retiring at all this year, all "Rehnquist is on the verge of death" arguments notwithstanding.

I knew, deep in my heart, that it would be O'Connor. And damn I HATE when I'm right:

Sandra Day O'Connor Announces Retirement

Any SLS graduate who attended any events in the past few years where Justice O'Connor was present knew that she was tired.

I have to go ponder our nation's future now. And what I really feel - since Justice O'Connor meaning for me personally that is greater than just her role as the first female Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Meaning that goes all the way back to that hot, muggy day in June, 1982, shortly after her appointment, that she came back to our mutual alma mater, and served as commencement speaker. Meaning that survives despite all the many hurtful decisions Justice O'Connor has written over the years, when it comes to, in particular, the subject of race.

I'm genuinely afraid for the country right now. I really am.

Damn damn damn DAMN.'s the $64,000 question:

Gonzales? Or Garza?

I'll write more when the fog in my head clears - I admit that I'm still taking it all in.

More Below!