Wednesday, January 26, 2005

So much for "values" and PFOX President

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

PFOX Leader Richard Cohen Expelled From American Counseling Association

ANTI-GAY P-FOX PRESIDENT RICHARD COHEN EXPELLED FOR LIFE FROM THE AMERICAN COUNSELING ASSOCIATION


This is a Devastating Blow For Outdated Pseudo-Science
That Tries To Turn Gay People Straight, Says Besen


NEW YORK (Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2005) – Author Wayne Besen today released a letter (copy posted for viewing, here) he uncovered from the American Counseling Association that "permanently expelled" reparative therapist Richard Cohen in 2003 for serious ethics violations. As the outspoken president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s ex-gay advisor, Cohen’s expulsion casts a dark shadow over the disreputable practice of trying to change sexual orientation.

"The Right wing should be ashamed for promoting the work of a therapist who has been officially rebuked for egregious ethical lapses," said Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. "That Cohen is the best the far right can find in support of their position that gay people can change underscores the quack-like pseudo-science that they rely on. It is time they end the charade that reparative therapy works."

According to the ACA’s letter: "Mr. Cohen was found in violation of the following code sections A.1.a; A.1.b; A.5.a; A.6.a; C.3.b, C.3.f, and has not elected to appeal the decision taken by the ACA Ethics Committee within allotted timelines." (Please see below for full explanation of violations)

The letter referred to Cohen’s violations which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive.

"It is no surprise that Richard Cohen violated the ACA ethics because reparative therapy itself lacks integrity and attempts to meet their agenda’s need, not the needs of client’s," said Joe Kort, psychotherapist and author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives. "Of particular note is that Cohen’s violations are self-serving as he is accused of violating standard ethics of protecting his client from dual relationships, marketing purposes, and testimonials."

Richard Cohen is the president of P-FOX, a group that recently placed an ex-gay billboard in Virginia (www.Pfox.org) and sponsored a controversial ad campaign in Washington DC’s subway system. His website is www.gaytostraight.org and he is a conference instructor for the National Association for the Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH). Cohen is also the author of "Coming Out Straight", a book in which Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote the forward.

"With intellect and care, he [Cohen] offers invaluable insight into the reason for same-sex attractions and, for those willing to brave it, he illuminates a challenging journey from isolation," wrote Dr. Laura in Cohen’s book.

Cohen has also been prominently features on Larry King Live, The Ricki Lake Show, The Salley Jessy Raphael Show and 20/20. Reparative therapy is rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in America.

The Rules Violated By Cohen

ACA Code of Ethics

Section A: The Counseling Relationship

A.1. Client Welfare

Primary Responsibility. The primary responsibility of counselors is to respect the dignity and to promote the welfare of clients.

Positive Growth and Development. Counselors encourage client growth and development in ways that foster the clients' interest and welfare; counselors avoid fostering dependent counseling relationships.
A.5. Personal Needs and Values

Personal Needs. In the counseling relationship, counselors are aware of the intimacy and responsibilities inherent in the counseling relationship, maintain respect for clients, and avoid actions that seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients.
A.6. Dual Relationships

Avoid When Possible. Counselors are aware of their influential positions with respect to clients, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of clients. Counselors make every effort to avoid dual relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of harm to clients. (Examples of such relationships include, but are not limited to, familial, social, financial, business, or close personal relationships with clients.) When a dual relationship cannot be avoided, counselors take appropriate professional precautions such as informed consent, consultation, supervision, and documentation to ensure that judgment is not impaired and no exploitation occurs. (See F.1.b.)

C.3. Advertising and Soliciting Clients

Testimonials. Counselors who use testimonials do not solicit them from clients or other persons who, because of their particular circumstances, may be vulnerable to undue influence.

f. Promoting to Those Served. Counselors do not use counseling, teaching, training, or supervisory relationships to promote their products or training events in a manner that is deceptive or would exert undue influence on individuals who may be vulnerable. Counselors may adopt textbooks they have authored for instruction purposes.


Here you have a copy of the letter expelling Mr. Cohen.

Take me to your leaders...May be not!

Evolution...oh, no!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Religious Beliefs Underpin Opposition to Homosexuality

Here we have the report from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Religious Beliefs Underpin Opposition to Homosexuality. There is no surprise that it concludes that there is a direct connection between religion beliefs and rejection of homosexuality. But it is important to read the full report, to see the many nuances the report brings.

As we know, also, the African American religious community is very opposed to gay marriage and to gay rights in general. Darryl Fears from The Washington Post states so in an article:

A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life showed that since 2000, black Protestants have become far less likely than other Protestant groups to believe that gays should have equal rights. Black Protestant support for gay rights dipped to a low of 40 percent this year, down from 65 percent in 1996 and 59 percent in 1992.


The Pew Report shows that:

Attitudes about gay marriage are closely linked to where a person lives ­ with opposition significantly higher in the South, and in rural areas of the country. But there is little racial divide over gay marriage. Both whites and blacks oppose gay marriage by roughly two-to-one ­ most Hispanics also oppose the idea, but by a smaller margin (51% to 36%).


We certainly know how people use those common grounds to carve association with the same people they despise and whose interests they oppose in every other issue. It's the same strategy as when they try to divide African Americans and Hispanics on the grounds of low paying jobs, minority scholarships and other crumbs while obscuring the huge list of similarities and things and extremely important things they have in common that would allow them to fight together, instead of against each other. The issue of homosexuality, as much as the emphasis on virginity, and the like are divide and conquer issues, and we should not let them play with us on that. And, as many of us have come to realize by digging into this issues, homophobia and racism often, too often, go hand in hand.

On something directly related to our issues in MCPS, -remember when someone asked about gay teachers in Einstein???- the report also gives some hope that common sense and love for freedom and equality is still holding a place on society:
In 1987, the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press found Americans divided over whether school boards should (51%) or should not (42%) be allowed to fire teachers based on their sexual preference. Today, Americans reject this idea by nearly two-to-one (62% to 33%). While significant differences remain across partisan, religious, and generational lines, all segments of American society have become less willing to allow this kind of explicit job discrimination, even in schools.


And, while you are in the Pew website, stop by the following Press Briefing, with many interesting views, but mainly one regarding the manipulation of numbers.
How the Faithful Voted: Political Alignments & the Religious Divide in Election 2004
In some ways you can argue that the strong pro-choicers and the strong pro-lifers are the most philosophically consistent people in the electorate, but an awful lot of Americans, even on an issue as philosophically and personally difficult as abortion, or in search of some other ground, the same is true on the gay marriage question: 25 percent said that gays and lesbians should be allowed to legally marry, 35 percent favored civil unions, 37 percent favored no legal recognition of homosexual relationships. Again, you can percentage these numbers whichever way you want, and I'm sure interest groups will do exactly that. On the one hand, 60 percent of Americans favor either marriage for gays or civil unions, or, alternatively, 72 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage. Both statements are true from these exit polls. So it suggests, I think, a certain subtlety out there in the electorate and a country, again, involved in a very serious argument with itself.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Administration Paid Commentator (washingtonpost.com)

Administration Paid Commentator (washingtonpost.com)

Administration Paid Commentator
Education Dept. Used Williams to Promote 'No Child' Law

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page A01

The Education Department paid commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to help promote President Bush's No Child Left Behind law on the air, an arrangement that Williams acknowledged yesterday involved "bad judgment" on his part.

In taking the money, funneled through the Ketchum Inc. public relations firm, Williams produced and aired a commercial on his syndicated television and radio shows featuring Education Secretary Roderick R. Paige, touted Bush's education policy, and urged other programs to interview Paige. He did not disclose the contract when talking about the law during cable television appearances or writing about it in his newspaper column.

Congressional Democrats immediately accused the administration of trying to bribe journalists. Williams's newspaper syndicate, Tribune Media Services, yesterday canceled his column. And one television network dropped his program pending an investigation.

Williams, one of the most prominent black conservatives in the media, said he understands "why some people think it's unethical." Asked if people would be justified in thinking he sold his opinions to the government for cash, he said: "It's fair for someone to make that assessment."

The Education Department contract, first reported yesterday by USA Today, increased criticism of the administration's aggressive approach to news management. The department already has paid Ketchum $700,000 to rate journalists on how positively or negatively they report on No Child Left Behind, and to produce a video release on the law that was used by some television stations as if it were real news. Other government agencies -- including the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- also have distributed such prepackaged videos, a practice that congressional auditors have described as illegal in some cases.

The Williams incident follows a series of other media embarrassments in the past 18 months involving such high-profile outlets as the New York Times, USA Today and CBS News that have further eroded the credibility of the news business.

Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, said the Williams contract "is propaganda, it's unethical, it's dangerous and it's illegal" and called it "worthy of Pravda." Committee Chairman John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to join Miller in requesting an inspector general's investigation, a spokesman said.

Miller cited two Government Accountability Office opinions that the administration violated federal law with video news releases. In May, the GAO criticized the Department of Health and Human Services for using the technique to promote Medicare's new prescription drug benefit. This week, it criticized the Office of National Drug Control Policy for distributing similar reports with a contractor posing as a journalist, including a "suggested live intro" for anchors to read.

Miller, joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats, asked Bush in a letter to put an end to "covert propaganda."

In a separate letter, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked the president to recover the money paid to Williams. "We believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy," they wrote.

The Education Department defended the contract, which Paige knew about in advance, as a minority outreach effort through Williams's syndicated program, "The Right Side."

"Our contract was for advertising," said department spokesman John Gibbons. "Our intent was to reach out to minority audiences. Armstrong went out and talked about it -- we didn't have anything to do with that."

But the contract also required Williams to "utilize his long term working relationship" with black producers to "encourage" them to "periodically address the No Child Left Behind Act."

"Our objective was to put out basic information to audiences. . . . We certainly had no intention to do it in an underhanded way," Gibbons added. He said the department stopped putting out video news releases after the first GAO report and has no other contract involving payments to journalists. Ketchum executives declined to comment.

Alex Jones, director of Harvard's Shorenstein media center, said he is "disgusted" by what he called "the worst kind of fakery and flackery" on Williams's part. "It's propaganda masquerading as news, paid by government, truly a recipe from hell," he said. "It would make any thinking person hearing any pundit speak want to say, 'Okay, how much did they pay you to say that?' " Jones said the contract also shows that "the Bush administration neither understands nor respects the idea of an independent media."

Williams, a onetime aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is the founder and chief executive of the Graham Williams Group, a public relations firm on Capitol Hill, and, according to his Web site, a "multi-media wonder." He frequently discusses politics on CNN and other networks and on his own radio show. "The Right Side," owned and hosted by Williams, is carried by the Lynchburg, Va.-based Liberty Channel, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell; Sky Angel satellite network, a Christian organization; and Sinclair Broadcast Group.

His other show, "On Point" -- on which Williams interviewed Paige last year, as well as Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- is carried by TV One, a Silver Spring-based network aimed at African Americans. Williams said he had disclosed his contract to TV One, but chief executive Johnathon Rodgers said the network knew nothing about it and has taken the show off the air while it investigates.

"As a former journalist, I'm bothered by things like this -- people being in the pay of various political groups and pressing their messages without a declaration," Rodgers said.

As a longtime supporter of No Child Left Behind, Williams said, he was receptive in the summer of 2003 when Education Department and Ketchum officials approached him about buying an ad on "The Right Side" to promote the law. Although he "agonized" over the first of two six-month contracts, he said, the law "is something I believe in."

Williams said he aired the spot twice on each "Right Side" broadcast and disclosed the contract on that show. He said he successfully urged another black television personality, Steve Harvey, to twice interview Paige.

Williams has written several newspaper columns defending administration education policy. Last January, he wrote that the No Child Left Behind law "has provided more funds to poor children than any other education bill in this country's history." In May, he wrote that the law "holds entire schools accountable."

Chicago-based Tribune Media Services dropped Williams's column yesterday, saying he had violated his contract. "Accepting compensation in any form from an entity that serves as a subject of his weekly newspaper columns creates, at the very least, the appearance of a conflict of interest," prompting readers to ask whether his opinions "have been purchased by a third party," a company statement said.

In October, Williams praised the law on CNN. He "didn't disclose to us that he was a paid spokesman, and we believe he should have," said CNN spokesman Matthew Furman. "We will obviously take that into serious consideration before booking Armstrong in the future."

Williams said he will not accept such government contracts again.

Spokesmen for other federal agencies acknowledged yesterday that they also have distributed prepackaged video news releases. Last March, the Census Bureau sent out a video release to trumpet Women's History Month. "Women are breaking the gender barrier in one field after another," contractor Karen Ryan, who produced and narrated the videos, said, citing a Census Bureau analysis. The story included comments by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and ended with the sign-off: "I'm Karen Ryan reporting."

Census officials said yesterday that they no longer distribute tapes that could be broadcast as complete news stories.

As recently as October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shipped a video package on the flu vaccine that mimics a real news report. Spokesman Tom Skinner said he expects broadcasters to use the information as components of their own stories.

Staff writer Ceci Connolly contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Friday, January 07, 2005

Well, what was wrong with those abuse pictures, anyway? How can we condemn Graner and promote Gonzáles? HOW!!!???

How can we condemn Graner and promote Gonzáles? HOW!!!???
It's a shame, but it's more than a shame. It's incredible, but it's more than incredible.
I read an article in The Nation a couple of days after the elections in which the author said not to tell her now:"don't mourn, organize!" Her rational was that things had gotten so bad, that it was impossible not to mourn, and despair. Well, she ain't seen nothing yet!
I was thinking back then: mourn, and organize!
We have to mourn, because the issues at play in the past election were really grave ones, and the country or more than half of it decided to go against everything that we supposedly hold dear. And if we look to the history of the last four years - yeah, I'm not into looking to the future now, I'm not that brave!- there is a trend of cowardice and politics put on top of every other interest. No one Democrat senator stood up with the black representatives to oppose the "election" of George Bush...and they still expected the African American community to vote for them.
We have to mourn the America we loved, and organize to resuscitate it (forgive the religious reference.) You know what, I'm willing to support a party that it's willing to lose an election is that what it takes to stand for its core values and principles, for what is actually right, and for what America should be about.
The cowardice of the Democrats was once again shown in public television with the confirmation hearings of the criminal Alberto Gonzáles to the highest post in the defense of the laws of this country. It was a circus of the worse type! It certainly reminded me of the "trial" of Arnaldo Ochoa in Cuba, but in a reverse way: here the government is appointing a criminal, someone who justified torture by changing its name, someone who said that only organ failure could be considered torture, someone who in the past ignored evidence that would exonerate people on death row, someone with such a distinguish record of good judgement, to the position of Attorney General; and this man Mr. Gonzáles has the nerve to actually promise that he would not do it again and that he would oppose torture. Wow! We are in good shape over here! The man to be responsible for the safekeeping of our laws is repenting from torture trends, and promising to uphold all the "quaint" and "obsolete" international treaties that U.S. has signed over the years.
And since irony is the spice of life, today, a day after the confirmation hearings of the man that signed the memos authorizing torture, U.S. Army Spc. Charles Graner, the accused ringleader of the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal goes on trial on Friday. His defense? He was following orders. And I'm wondering how people could be so outraged by those pictures of abuse and with a straight face now confirm the man who actually authorized those abuses.
In fact, those pictures were not torture at all: where is the organ failure in stepping on the fingers of a bunch of Iraquies? How can the liver stop functioning just because you keep them naked and force them to masturbate into each others mouths? Only the man that punched one in the chest so hard that make him collapse may be accused of torture, because the heart may have stopped working right there, didn't you read the memo????!!!
Like always, I can't help but wonder what we would have said if the hooded ones were Americans.
How can we condemn Graner and promote Gonzáles? HOW!!!???
And to the Hispanic community - that's me, for those who wonder - I will remind them that having a Hispanic last name does not entitle you to anything, don't play into their game of using diversity as a tool to impose their most backward policies, their most repugnant discrimination, don't let either the religious matter to become the weapon of the right wing. Extreme religiosity has helped many tyrants to rule, don't forget that!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Alberto Gonzáles: Uno de los “nuestros”

Las trompetas -probablemente las del Juicio Final- anuncian la nominación del primer hispano al puesto de procurador general de Estados Unidos. El honor le cabe al actual consejero legal de la Casa Blanca, Alberto R. Gonzáles, de 49 años.

Antes de proceder con la evaluación del caso, nótese la terminología legal en uso, debemos mencionar las circunstancias que lo propiciaron. El actual procurador general, John D. Ashcroft ha renunciado a su puesto con una carta manuscrita al presidente Bush en la cual asevera ¿triunfal? que “el objetivo de garantizar la seguridad de los estadounidenses contra el crimen y el terrorismo ha sido alcanzado”.

Debemos reconocer que eso parece cierto, pues a apenas una semana de la reelección del presidente -nótese esta vez cómo se evitan los calificativos- la alerta antiterrorista fue bajada a amarillo en Nueva York y Washington, D.C. y el laberinto de puntos de seguridad que asemejaban el D.C. a la franja de Gaza fue desmantelado.

Conste que la alerta antiterrorista fue subida a naranja, coincidentemente en la semana de la Convención Demócrata, basado en información encontrada más de un año antes en unos archivos computarizados que sólo Dios sabe dónde estarían hasta ese oportuno momento. ¿O sabrá Dios? También debe constar que el peligro mayor ya ha sido derrotado: la posibilidad de que John Kerry ganara las elecciones.

Pasemos a los pormenores que nos ocupan. Gonzáles es lo que aquí se llama “una historia de éxito”, el hijo de inmigrantes que llega a las más altas esferas a fuerza de trabajo y sacrificio suyo y de sus padres. (No, este no es el momento de preguntarnos por qué las historias de éxito son excepcionales.)

Gonzáles ha acompañado a Bush por mucho tiempo, desde su juventud política en Texas, y durante todo ese tiempo se ha caracterizado por darle muy malos consejos legales. Nada grave, no, apenas cosas como ignorar evidencias de inocencia o de procedimientos judiciales incorrectos en casos de pena de muerte cuando era el consejero legal del Gobernador Bush.

Ya en su posición actual como consejero de la Casa Blanca su participación ha sido más notoria: él fue el autor del famoso memo que intentaba justificar la tortura de prisioneros y que se considera el caldo de cultivo del desastre de Abu Graib; ayudó al establecimiento del sistema de prisión en la base naval de Guantánamo, Cuba, al que no han logrado encontrarle una esquina constitucional todavía y declaró que las Convenciones de Ginebra son un anticuado anacronismo ("quaint" fue la palabra usada por él).

Al nominarlo, Bush dijo que Gonzáles siempre le da su “opinión franca” -que tiende a coincidir con la de Bush más de lo que a muchos nos gustaría- y que él tiene un “sólido principio de respeto por la ley”.

Como dijo un amigo mío: parece que hay leyes más legales que otras... o por lo menos más respetables.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Today, as Yesterday... Race Actually Does Not Matter!

Black Leadership and the Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning
By Cornel West
The most depressing feature of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings was neither the mean-spirited attacks of the Republicans nor the spineless silences of the Democrats – both reveal the predictable inability of most white politicians to talk candidly about race and gender. Rather, what most disturbed me was the low level of political discussion in black America about these hearings – a crude discourse about race and gender that bespeaks a failure of nerve of black leadership.

This failure of nerve was already manifest in the selection and confirmation process of Clarence Thomas. Bush’s choice of Thomas caught most black leaders off guard. Few had the courage to say publicly that this was an act of cynical tokenism concealed by outright lies about Thomas being the most qualified candidate regardless of race. The fact that Thomas was simply unqualified for the Court – a claim warranted by his undistinguished record as a student (mere graduation from Yale Law School does not qualify one for the Supreme Court!); his turbulent eight years at the EEOC, where he left thirteen thousand age-discrimination cases dying on the vine for lack of investigation; and his mediocre performance during a short fifteen months as an appellate court judge – was not even mentioned. The very fact that no black leader could utter publicly that a black appointee for the Supreme Court was unqualified shows how captive they are to white-racist stereotypes about black intellectual talent. The point here is not simply that if Thomas were white they would have no trouble uttering this fact from the rooftops, but also that their silence reveals that they may entertain the possibility that the racist stereotype is true. Hence their attempt to cover Thomas’s mediocrity with silence. Of course, some privately admit his mediocrity then point out the mediocrity of Judge Souter and other Court judges – as if white mediocrity is a justification for black mediocrity. No double standards here, this argument goes, if a black man is unqualified, one can defend and excuse him by appealing to other unqualified white judges. This chimes well with a cynical tokenism of the lowest common denominator – with little concern about shattering the racist stereotype or furthering the public interest in the nation. It also renders invisible highly qualified black judges who deserve serious consideration for selection to the Court.

How did much of black leadership get in this bind? Why did so many of them capitulate to Bush’s cynical strategy? Three reasons loom large. First, Thomas’s claim to racial authenticity – his birth in Jim Crow Georgia, his childhood spent as the grandson of a black sharecropper, his undeniably black phenotype degraded by racist ideals of beauty, and his gallant black struggle for achievement in racist America. Second, the complex relation of this claim to racial authenticity to the increasing closing-ranks mentality in black America. Escalating black-nationalist sentiments – the notion that America’s will to racial justice is weak and therefore black people must close ranks for survival in the hostile white country – rests principally upon claims to racial authenticity. Third, the way in which black-nationalist sentiments promote and encourage black cultural conservatism, especially black patriarchal (and homophobic) power. The idea of black people closing ranks against hostile white Americans reinforces black male power exercised over black women (e.g., to protect, regulate, subordinate, and hence usually, though not always, use and abuse women) in order to preserve black social order under circumstances of white-literal attack and symbolic assault.

Most black leaders got lost in this thicket of reasoning and thus got caught in a vulgar form of racial reasoning: black authenticity – black closing-ranks mentality – black male subordination of black women in the interests of the black community in a hostile white-racist country. This line of racial reasoning leads to such questions as "Is Thomas really black?"; "Is he black enough to defend?"; "Is he just black on the outside?" et al. In fact, these kinds of questions were asked, debated, and answered throughout black America in barber shops, beauty salons, living rooms, churches, mosques, and schoolrooms.

Unfortunately, the very framework of this line of racial reasoning was not called into question. Yet as long as racial reasoning regulates black thought and action, Clarence Thomases will continue to haunt black America – as Bush and his ilk sit back, watch, and prosper. How does one undermine the framework of racial reasoning? By dismantling each pillar slowly and systematically. The fundamental aim of this undermining and dismantling is to replace racial reasoning with moral reasoning, to understand the black-freedom struggle not as an affair of skin pigmentation and racial phenotype but rather as a matter of ethical principles and wise politics, and to combat black-nationalist views of subordinating the issues and interests of black women by linking mature black self-love and self-respect to egalitarian relations within and outside black communities. The failure of nerve of black leadership is to refuse to undermine and dismantle the framework of racial reasoning.

Let us begin with the claim to racial authenticity – a claim Bush made about Thomas, Thomas made about himself in the hearings, and black nationalists make about themselves. What is black authenticity? Who is really black? First, blackness has no meaning outside of a system of race-conscious people and practices. After centuries of racist degradation, exploitation, and oppression in America, blackness means being minimally subject to white supremacist abuse and being part of a rich culture and community that has struggled against such abuse. All people with black skin and African phenotype are subject to potential white-supremacist abuse. Hence, all black Americans have some interest in resisting racism – even if their interest is confined solely to themselves as individuals rather than to larger black communities. Yet how this "interest is defined and how individuals and communities are understood vary. So any claim to black authenticity – beyond being the potential object of racist abuse and heir to a grand tradition of black struggle – is contingent on one’s political definition of black interest and one’s ethical understanding of how this interest relates to individuals and communities in and outside black America. In short, blackness is a political and ethical construct. Appeals to black authenticity ignore this fact; such appeals hide and conceal the political and ethical dimension of blackness. This is why claims to racial authenticity trump political and ethical argument – and why racial reasoning discourages moral reasoning. Every claim to racial authenticity presupposes elaborate conceptions of political and ethical relations of interests, individuals, and communities. Racial reasoning conceals these presuppositions behind a deceptive cloak of racial consensus – yet racial reasoning is seductive because it invokes and undeniable history of racial abuse and racial struggle. This is why Bush’s claims about his own black authenticity, and black-nationalist claims about black authenticity all highlight histories of black abuse and black struggle.

But if claims to black authenticity are political and ethical conceptions of the relation of black interests, individuals, and communities, then any attempt to confine black authenticity to black-nationalist politics or black male interests warrants suspicion. For example, black leaders failed to highlight the problematic claims Clarence Thomas made about his sister, Emma Mae, regarding her experience with the welfare system. In front of a conservative audience in San Francisco, Thomas made her out to be a welfare scrounger dependent on state support. Yet, like most black women in American history, Emma Mae is a hardworking person, sensitive enough to take care of her sick aunt, and she was unable to work for a short period of time. After she got off welfare, she worked two jobs – until three in the morning! This episode reveals not only a lack of integrity and character on Thomas’s part; failure to highlight it by black leader s discloses a conception of black authenticity confined to black male interests, individuals, and communities. In short, the refusal to give weight to the interests of black women by most black leaders was already apparent before Anita Hill appeared on the scene.

The claims to black authenticity that feed on the closing ranks mentality of black people are dangerous precisely because this closing of ranks is usually done at the expense of black women. It also tends to ignore the divisions of class and sexual orientation in black America – divisions that require attention of all black interests, individuals, and communities are to be taken into consideration. Thomas’s conservative Republican politics does not promote a closing-ranks mentality; instead, his claim to black authenticity is for the purpose of self-promotion, to gain power and prestige. All his professional life he has championed individual achievement and race-free standards. Yet when he saw his ship sinking, he played the racial card of black victimization and black solidarity at the expense of Anita Hill. Like his sister Emma Mae, Anita Hill could be used and abused for his own self-interested conception of black authenticity and racial solidarity.

Thomas played this racial card with success – first with appeals to his victimization in Jim Crow Georgia and later to his victimization by a "high-tech lynching" – primarily because of the deep cultural conservatism in which and black America. In white America this cultural conservatism takes the form of a chronic racism, sexism, and homophobia. Hence, only certain kinds of black people deserve high positions, that is, those who accept the rules of the game played by white America. In black America, this cultural conservatism takes the form of an inchoate xenophobia (e.g. against whites, Jews, and Asian Americans), systemic sexism, and homophobia. Like all conservatisms rooted in a quest for order, the pervasive disorder in white and, especially, black America fans and fuels the channeling of rage toward the most vulnerable and degraded members of the community. For white America this means primarily scapegoating black people, women, gays, and lesbians. For black America the targets are principally black women and black gays and lesbians. In this way black-nationalist and black-make-centered claims to black authenticity reinforce black cultural conservatism. The support of Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam for Clarence Thomas – despite Farrakhan’s critique of Republican Party racist and conservative policies. – highlights this fact. It also shows how racial reasoning leads disparate viewpoints in black America to the same dead end – with substantive ethical principles and savvy, wise politics left out.

The undermining and dismantling of the framework of racial reasoning – especially the basic notions of black authenticity, the closing-ranks mentality, and black cultural conservatism – leads toward a new framework for black thought and method. This new framework should be a prophetic one of moral reasoning, with its fundamental ideas of a mature black identity, coalition strategy, and black cultural democracy. Instead of cathartic appeals to black authenticity, a prophetic viewpoint bases mature black self -–love and self – respect on the moral quality of black responses to undeniable racist degradation in the American past and present. These responses assume neither a black essence that all black people share nor one black perspective to which all black people should adhere. Rather, a prophetic framework encourages moral assessment of the variety of perspectives held by black people and selects those views based on black dignity and decency that eschew putting any group of people or culture on a pedestal or in the gutter. Instead, blackness is understood to be either the perennial possibility of white-supremacist abuse or the distinct styles and dominant modes of expression found in black cultures and communities. These styles and modes are diverse -–yet they do stand apart from those of other groups (even as they are shaped by and shape those of other groups). And all such styles and modes stand in need of ethical evaluation. Mature black identity results from an acknowledgement of the specific black responses to white-supremacist abuses and a moral assessment of these responses such that the humanity of black people does not rest on deifying or demonizing others.

Instead of a closing-ranks mentality, a prophetic framework encourages a coalition strategy that solicits genuine solidarity with those deeply committed to antiracist struggle. This strategy is neither naïve nor opportunistic; black suspicion of whites, Latinos, Jews, and Asian Americans runs deep for historical reasons. Yet there are slight though significant antiracist traditions among whites, Asian Americans, and especially Latinos, Jews, and indigenous people that must not be cast aside. Such coalitions are important precisely because they not only enhance the plight of black people but also because they enrich the quality of life in the country.

Lastly, a prophetic framework replaces black cultural conservatism with black cultural democracy. Instead of authoritarian sensibilities that subordinate women or degrade gays and lesbians, black cultural democracy promotes the equality of black women and men and the humanity of the black gays and lesbians. In short, black cultural democracy rejects the pervasive patriarchy and homophobia in black American life.

If most black leaders had adopted a prophetic framework of moral reasoning rather than a narrow framework of racial reasoning, the debate over the Thomas-Hill hearings would have proceeded in a quite different manner in black America. For example, both Thomas and Hill would be viewed as two black conservative supporters of some of the most vicious policies to besiege black working and poor communities since Jim and Jane Crow segregation. Both Thomas and Hill supported an unprecedented redistribution of wealth from working people to well-to-do people in the form of regressive taxation, deregulation policies, cutbacks and slowdowns in public service programs, take-backs at the negotiation table between workers and management, and military buildups at the Pentagon. Both Thomas and Hill supported the unleashing of unbridled capitalist market forces on a level never witnessed before in this country that have devastated black working and poor communities. These market forces took the form principally of unregulated corporative and financial expansion and intense entrepreneurial activity. This tremendous ferment in big and small businesses – including enormous bonanzas in speculation, leveraged buy-outs and mergers, as well as high levels of corruption and graft – contributed to a new kind of culture of consumption in white and black America. Never before has the seductive market way of life held such sway in nearly every sphere of American life. This market way of life promotes addictions to stimulation and obsessions with comfort and convenience. These addictions and obsessions – centered primarily around bodily pleasures and status rankings – constitute market moralities of various sorts. The common denominator is a rugged and ragged individualism and rapacious hedonism in quest of perennial "high" in body and mind.

In the hearings Clarence Thomas emerged as the exemplary hedonist, addicted to pornography and captive to a stereotypical self-image of the powerful black man who revels in sexual prowess in a racist society. Anita Hill appears as the exemplary careerist addicted to job promotion and captive to the stereotypical self image of the sacrificial black woman who suffers silently and alone. There should be little doubt that Thomas’s claims are suspect – those about his sister, his eighteen-year silence about Roe v. Wade, his intentions in the Heritage Foundation speech praising the antiabortion essay by Lewis Lehrman, and the contours of his conservative political philosophy. Furthermore, his obdurate stonewalling in regard to his private life was symptomatic of all addicts – passionate denial and irrational cover-up. There also should be little doubt that Anita Hill’s truth-telling was a break from her careerist ambitions. On the one hand, she strikes me as a person of integrity and honesty. On the other hand, she indeed put a premium on job advancement – even at painful personal cost. Yet her speaking out disrupted this pattern of behavior and she found herself supported only by people who opposed the very conservative policies she otherwise championed, namely, progressive feminists, liberals, and some black folk. How strange she must feel being a hero to her former foes. One wonders whether Judge Bork supported her as fervently as she did him a few years ago.

A prophetic framework of moral reasoning would have liberated black leaders from the racial guilt of opposing a black man for the highest court in the land and feeling as if one had to choose between a black woman and a black man. Like the Congressional Black Caucus (minus one?), black people could simply oppose Thomas based on qualifications and principle. And one could choose between two black conservatives based on their sworn testimonies in light of the patterns of their behavior in the recent past. Similarly, black leaders could avoid being duped by Thomas’s desperate and vulgar appeals to racial victimization by a white male Senate committee who handled him gently (no questions about his private life, no queries about his problematic claims). Like Senator Hollings, who knows racial intimidation when he sees it (given his past experiences with it), black leaders could see through this rhetorical charade and call a moral spade a moral spade.

Unfortunately, most of black leadership remained caught in a framework of racial reasoning – even when they opposed Thomas an/or supported Hill. Rarely did we have a black leader highlight the moral content of a mature black identity, accent the crucial role of coalition strategy in the struggle for justice, or promote the ideal of black cultural democracy. Instead, the debate evolved around glib formulations of a black "role model" based on mere pigmentation, an atavistic defense of blackness that mirrors the increasing xenophobia in American life and a silence about the ugly authoritarian practices in black America that range from sexual harassment to indescribable violence against women. Hence, a grand opportunity for substantive discussion and struggle over race and gender was missed in black America and the larger society. And black leadership must share some of the blame. As long as black leaders remain caught in a framework of racial reasoning, they will not rise above the manipulative language of Bush and Thomas – just as the state of siege (the death, disease, and destruction) raging in much of black America creates more wastelands and combat zones. Where there is no vision, the people perish; where there is no framework of oral reasoning, the people close ranks in a war of all against all. The growing gangsterization of America results in part from a market-driven racial reasoning prevalent from the White House to the projects. In this sense, George Bush, David Duke, and gangster rap artists speak the same language from different social locations – only racial reasoning can save us. Yet I hear a cloud of witnesses from afar – Sojourner Truth, Wendell Phillips, Emma Goldman, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Michael Harrington, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Tom Hayden, Harvey Mild, Robert Moses, Barbara Ehrenreich, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many anonymous others – who championed the struggle for freedom and justice in a prophetic framework of moral reasoning. They understood that the pitfalls of racial reasoning are too costly in mind, body, and soul – especially for a downtrodden and despised people like black Americans. The best of our leadership have recognized this valuable truth – and more must do so in the future if Americans is to survive with any moral sense.

Something really funny, by Molly Ivins

AUSTIN, Texas -- Oh 2004, 2004, bird thou never wert. Was it really that horrible
a year, or does it only seem that way?

Abu Ghraib, the endless trials anent Kobe Bryant and Scott Peterson, war in Iraq
looking worse every day, Howard Dean eliminated over a whoop and a presidential
race so devoid of joy that the high point was when the president claimed God speaks
through him -- leaving us to contemplate the news that God doesn't know how to pronounce nuclear and has yet to master subject-verb agreement. "Performance enhancing drugs" in baseball. Ray Charles died. Karl Rove is Man of the Year. We're all overweight. Swift Boat Liars win the presidential race for Bush. Then just to round things off nicely, a terrible natural disaster. What a bummer.

But, look at it this way ... the Boston Red Sox won the championship. Eliot Spitzer
is scaring the spit out of the insurance industry (check out those year-end bonuses
on Wall Street, El). The Greek Olympics went well. Maybe we could end the payola
by just having them in Greece every time. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France
for a record sixth time, a symbolic victory for cancer patients everywhere.

Jon Stewart survived a storm of approval and came out just as sardonic as ever.
Richard Clarke showed us all that public servant, class act and bureaucrat can be
the same thing.

In other highlights:

-- The Coalition of the Willing was depleted when Hungary, Thailand, Nicaragua,
New Zealand, Honduras, Ukraine, Spain, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the Czech
Republic and Poland (so movingly cited by President Bush during one of the debates)
all proved less than willing. On the other hand, Tonga is still with us.

-- Texan Jessica Simpson, the one who makes Paris Hilton look like a genius, showed
an astonished nation what a Texas intellectual looks like. Upon being introduced
to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, she said, "You've done a nice job decorating
the White House."

-- The Ukrainians showed us all what people who really care about democracy do when
there's cheating at the polls. Bless them for just not standing for it.

-- Media Low Point of the Year: Rush Limbaugh on Abu Ghraib: "I'm talking about
people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You
ever heard of the need to blow some steam off?"

-- Emblematic Political Moment of the Year: As the full dimensions of the tidal
wave in the Indian Ocean became clear, Bush's staff used the occasion to ... take
a few cheap shots at Bill Clinton. Explaining why the president had neither returned
to Washington nor even bothered to come out and read a statement of sorrow, The
Washington Post reported that one official said: "'The president wanted to
be fully briefed on our efforts. He doesn't want to make a symbolic statement about
'We feel your pain.'' Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for
the cameras and to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark sympathy. 'Actions
speak louder than words,' a top Bush aide said."

So for action, the Bushies pledged $15 million to help out, less than half the amount
that will be spent on parties for the Bush inauguration.

-- What Were They Thinking? Moment of the Year: Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. Seriously, who planned that?

-- Dumbest Reaction to Wardrobe Malfunction: FCC decides its job is to censor bad
taste on television (got their life's work cut out for them, haven't they?), instead
of preventing the truly obscene and dangerous concentration of ownership in the
media.

-- Another high point: John Ashcroft (the man whose understanding of the right to
dissent is so profound he said, "To those who scare peace-loving people with
phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists,
for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve") will be replaced
as attorney general by Al (Defining Torture Down) Gonzales.

Gonzales put out the legal memo that says "cruel, inhumane or degrading"
treatment does not constitute torture as long as it is not "equivalent in intensity
to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment
of bodily function or even death."

Well, friends, the old ball is starting another orbit of the sun, giving us all
a chance to do better this time. Let's not blow it, because we sure look like dogmeat
after this one.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other Creators Syndicate
writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Originally Published on Thursday December 30, 2004

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Sex Education Curriculum Raises Eyebrows, and Strong Support

It all started at the Einstein High School listserv, when a group of parents began expressing oppossition to an announcement of a meeting to disrupt the new Family Life and Human Development Curriculum, approved by the Montgomery County's Board of Education (BOE).

The meeting announcement, made by Michelle Turner, with four children in county schools, and the dissenting member of the Family Life and Human Sexuality Committee, read:

“For those of you with concerns regarding the teaching of sexual orientation and variation to 8th graders and how to put on a condom for 10th graders, along with the "new"definition of what constitiutes a family, you are invited to attend a meeting with parents, and a teacher or two...This meeting is to discuss concerns over the new curriculum that is scheduled
for introduction next semester and how to either alter it or remove it.”

This brought up an onslaught of emails repudiating not only the meeting, but also subsequent comments disregarding homosexuality, and the need for a more comprehensive sex education curriculum that emphazises abstinence, but includes accurate information about contraception, and sexualy transmitted diseases.

As a small but very vocal group of parents, and church leaders is organizing meetings, letter writing, and other efforts to oppose the new sex education curriculum, and ultimately recall the entire BOE on charges of promoting and normalizing homosexuality, another group is also organizing to support the curriculum, the Board, and the tolerance their community prides on.

A new website, Vigilance, http://teachthefacts.org/vigilance.html, guided by Wendell Phillips's “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” has been set up by two Einstein parents.

“We put up this website for two main reasons,” says Jim Kennedy, one of the creators. “First, it is important to get the facts to people, both facts about the MCPS curriculum and information about the debate over sex education as it unfolds locally and nationally. Second, we hope that the web site can become a kind of center for people to organize and come together to bring common sense and truth to the discussion.”

For Kennedy, the new curriculum teaches facts about sexual behavior without conveying values that any family should be uncomfortable with.

“It presents facts about homosexuality, for instance, without advocating homosexual behaviors. Some beliefs cannot persist in the presence of facts, and some people who hold those beliefs want this information removed from the schools. A number of us, though, do feel that Montgomery County students should be provided with accurate and complete information, both for understanding their own developing lives and to teach them tolerance and respect for others,” concludes Kennedy.

Maryam Balbed, the other creator, says that as a woman of color, she feels “it's necessary to speak out against bigotry in all forms.”

And now, more parents and concerned individuals are joined a group called “Teach the Truth,” whose main purpose is to reaffirm that students should be taught the scientific truth, and not indoctrinated in a specific set of beliefs.

Another Einstein parent, Nancy Greenfield, not a member of the group, expressed in the listserv that she was “tremendously concerned about the growing intolerance and
homophobia... in our community and our country. What about the health issue of suicide among gay teenagers. Why is there such a fear of discussing the fact that there are children in our community who are indeed gay.”

She also touched up on one of the main concerns of the group that supports the changes: those against the curriculum could have their children opt out of the classes.

“As far as teaching children about condom use...do we really think that encourages children to be sexually active? I am a sonographer. I regularly scan pregnant 13 and 14 year olds. They ARE, unfortunately, having sex. But perhaps with condom use they would not be pregnant. If you do not want your child discussing these issues, have them opt out. That is your perogative. But don't use your sense of morality to keep the rest of our children from having these important, sometimes lifesaving, discussions.”