aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The bias is sales
The NYTimes looks at research by two University of Chicago economists, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro:
[T]hey showed that the main driver of any slant was the newspaper’s audience, not bias by the newspaper’s owner.
A comparison of circulation data (per capita) to the ratio of Republican to Democratic campaign contributions by ZIP code showed that circulation was strongly related to whether the newspaper matched the readers’ own ideology.
Their measure indicates that The Los Angeles Times, for example, is a liberal paper. Its circulation suffers in Southern California ZIP codes where donations to Republicans are especially high.
The authors calculated the ideal partisan slant for each paper, if all it cared about was getting readers, and they found that it looked almost precisely like the one for the actual newspaper. As Dr. Shapiro put it in an interview, “The data suggest that newspapers are targeting their political slant to their customers’ demand and choosing the amount of slant that will maximize their sales.”
On one hand that sounds a little mercenary. On the other hand, there is certainly good news in the finding. If slant comes from customers, then the views of the owners and the reporters do not matter. We do not need to fear that some partisan billionaire will buy up newspapers and use them for propaganda.
Uh, or that leftist reporters will brainwash our convservative populace. The full paper is available, for five bucks, here.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions
The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The decision, which followed years of debate, was denounced by traditionalists in the movement as an indication that Conservative Judaism had abandoned its commitment to adhere to Jewish law, but celebrated by others as a long-awaited move toward full equality for gay people.
“We see this as a giant step forward,” said Sarah Freidson, a rabbinical student and co-chairwoman of Keshet, a student group at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that has been pushing for change.
But in a reflection of the divisions in the movement, the 25 rabbis on the law committee passed three conflicting legal opinions - one in favor of gay rabbis and unions, and two against.
In doing so, the committee left it up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, saying that either course is justified according to Jewish law.
Malcolm Gladwell wonders if we need a clearer definition of racism. He proposes one with three criteria:
1. Content. What is said clearly makes a difference. I think, for example, that hate speech is more hateful the more specific it is. To call someone a nigger is not as a bad as arguing that black people have lower intelligence than whites. To make a targetted claim is worse than calling a name. Similarly, I think it matters how much a stereotype deviates from a legitimate generalization. For instance, (and this is, admittedly, not a great example) I think it’s worse for someone to say that Jews are money-grubbers than it is to make a joke about how Orthodox Jews have large families. The first statement is groundless, and the second is at least statistically defensible. All hate speech is hurtful. But racism crosses the line and becomes dangerous when it encourages false belief about a targetted group. This much, I think, is fairly straightforward.
2. Intention. Was the remark intended to wound, or intended to perpetuate some social wrong? Was it malicious? I remember sitting in church, as a child, while our Presbyterian minister made jokes about how “cheap” Presbyterians were. If non-Presbyterians make that joke, it might be offensive. But a Presbyterian making jokes about Presbyterians with the intention of making Presbyterians laugh is fine, because there is a complete absence of malice in the comment. I think that Richard Pryor or Dave Chapelle’s use of the word “nigger,” or the Jewish jokes told by Jewish comics fall into the same category.
3. Conviction. Does the statement represent the individual’s considered opinion? This to me is the trickiest of the three criterion. In Blink, I wrote a great deal about unconscious racism--how powerful and how prevalent it is. All of us, in our unconscious, harbor prejudicial thoughts. (If you don’t believe me, I urge you to take the tests at www. i-a-t.org.) What is of greatest concern, I think, are not instances where those kinds of buried feelings leak out, but cases where hate speech appears to have been the product of considered, conscious deliberation. Comments made in writing, then, ought to be taken more seriously and judged more harshly than comments made in speech; comments made soberly are worse than those made in anger or jest. Comments made in the absence of emotional or chemical duress are worse than those made drunk, or in some stressful context. When a teenager yells at her mother, “I wish you were dead,” that’s hate speech. It’s malcious and its targetted (I wish YOU were dead, not all mothers.) But mothers forgive their children for shouting those words, because the speech fails the conviction test. When we are frustrated or angry, we say things we don’t mean--and the world, properly, ought to make allowances for us when we do.
Malcolm’s question comes in the context of Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Michael Irvin. My interest comes in the context of a Northerner living in the South and looking at race here.
Of the three points (content, intention, conviction) the South is egregious on the first, content. And we are nailed for it time and time again. But the South totally fails on the second, the intention test. The vast majority of people I know, including those with what would be considered distinctly racist opinions, have no racist intent. None.
The third, the conviction question, is much trickier. But is the South really any worse on that score than the rest of the country? Exhibits A, B & C are the nation’s prisons, schools and inner city poverty. Someone please point me to a bright shining northern star. There are no rural blacks in the north. Why? Here in the South blacks are evenly distributed throughout.
Right now the Left is smitten with Tom Schaller‘s Whistling Past Dixie. I still haven’t read it but I don’t get it. Schaller’s page 18 proposal is to turn Southern racism into a “burdensome stone to hang around the Republicans’ neck.” How does that help one bit with addressing the serious problem of race in America?
And just what does that say about the Democrats attitude toward race? Wouldn’t it be more noble, respectable and appropriate for the Democratic Party to redouble its efforts in the South, and make Race a defining characteristic of the party agenda nationwide?
The 5 day work week is anti-family
So says Georgia’s own Jack Kingston. But not for you and me, only he:
Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.
The horror. [...]
“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families—that’s what this says.”
LATER: Kingston defends his comments on Fox.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Hollywood’s biggest taboo
The Independent says that it’s changing, but it’s still hard to be an openly gay actor in Hollywood:
For the most part, fear continues to rule. One actor, who did not want to be named, told a story of asking after a colleague’s boyfriend while the two of them were in make-up. The colleague froze, visibly upset, and later explained that he didn’t want his homosexuality mentioned even in front of the hair and make-up people, for fear that word might reach the show runners and producers and jeopardise his prospects of future work.
The actor heaped considerable blame on Hollywood’s power elite, many of whom, are themselves openly gay but still continue to perpetuate an atmosphere of intolerance and oppression. “A lot of people are working against gays to shore up their own closet door,” the actor said. “They say it’s all about the market - if people won’t buy it, there’s nothing they can do about it.” This is, of course, the way it’s been since the golden age of the Hollywood studio system. Gay actors like Montgomery Clift and Rock Hudson were expected to make public displays of interest in the opposite sex. A recent biography of James Stewart revealed that, at the start of his career, Louis B Mayer was so worried about the implications of Stewart’s lack of association with women that he obliged him to visit a private brothel he kept near the MGM lot. Part of the job of powerful gossip columnists like Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, who took money from the studios, was to keep the public behaviour of gay actors in check and make sure their secret stayed safe from the American public.
The MySpace sex-offender purge
MySpace announced today it will begin searching its 100 million-plus user list for people listed in a national database of sex offenders. [...]
That leaves just one real disappointment in this announcement: How MySpace plans to use the data. With all that information at its disposal, and a “24-hour-a-day dedicated staff” using it, MySpace could seriously enhance its policing. Instead, the company is taking a sophisticated database and wielding it as a blunt instrument, simply banning everyone on the list from registering or keeping a MySpace account, regardless of who they are or what they did.
Frankly, I’m not sure I’m fond of the idea of a company “policing” but that’s neither here nor there. Once Kevin did his screen-scrape the writing was on the wall. A panicked public sure as hell won’t countenance nuance, even if he is right as rain:
This is bad because, obviously, banning sex offenders won’t keep them off MySpace: it’ll just give them a reason to lie about their name or location, even if they aren’t up to no good. (My survey found hundreds of past offenders, many with old or minor convictions, whose profiles reflected a seemingly normal life.) Now sex offenders who want to stay on MySpace will all be using false information from the start.
MySpace is essentially refusing an opportunity to detect and imprison active repeat offenders, by moving the entire superset of ex-offenders into the shadows. Does the convicted pedophile have lots of teenagers on his friendslist? MySpace won’t know, because he’ll be under same veil of anonymity as the flashers and peeping toms.
We know there are some ex-sex offenders who attempt to recidivate from accounts opened under their real names. If you believe they will now stay off MySpace, then the company’s policy is good for safety. But if you think they’ll simply start spelling their name a little different or lying about their ZIP code, then MySpace has lost the chance to take them off the streets.
MySpace is taking the easy way out. It may be good PR to be able to say that you don’t allow past sex offenders of any stripe on your website, but the company should keep its eye on the ball: the goal isn’t to keep a former flasher from blogging about his cat, it’s to keep current pedophiles from pursuing children. MySpace could tell the difference, if it wanted to. A smart policing effort would use the sex offender database as one of many data points in keeping the site safe. Sometimes zero-tolerance is really tolerance.
LATER: The Times reports on the development, “If registered sex offenders sign up but do not give their real names, physical attributes, locations or post their real picture, they could elude detection. Similarly, there is a chance that people who are not sex offenders might be flagged by the system.”
Let’s do lunch
Buy a TomTom
In August I wrote excited about my mother-in-law-equivalent’s TomTom, a portable GPS navigation system that’s really pretty terrific. More recently I borrowed it to tool around some of Georgia’s rural back roads. Even with the latest downloads it still misses some roads, and the occasional one-way street, but most are there.
I mention it again because with it the Kim family would likely have been spared its tragedy. I subscribe to the C-Net TiVoCast; in it Kim’s reviewing MP3 players as holiday gifts. I’m dumbfounded that something like this could happen. I wish him and his family all the best, but I fear the worst.
Last year heading north alone, trying to beat a snowstorm on an icy December night, the Interstate was closed by an accident. I got off and, misreading the map, went on a 90 mile trek through winding Virginia mountain roads. I’ll never do that again. Not without a TomTom.
LATER: Watching the Colbert Report just now I saw my first ever TomTom commercial (on TiVo no less). Now through January 6 get $100 off on any TomTom.
Monday, December 04, 2006
A feature not a
[C]ould Apple have purchased Parallels? If you at look at the facts, it begins to add up. The Parallels team has been releasing new features like crazy and hasn’t been charging for them. They’ve added features like Boot Camp support, making Parallels compatible with Apple’s offering. The new Coherency mode is approaching what some people have envisioned the next version of Boot Camp to be like. To top it off, 3D acceleration is expected to land in Parallels right around the time that Leopard is shipping.
I might be completely wrong, but to me it looks like something is going on behind the scenes. If Apple has purchased Parallels, I think that explains why the Parallels team has been releasing features out the wazoo without charging for them. This won’t be the first time Apple has included third party software in one of their offerings, so I think this scenario is completely possible.
Still a Couric fan
Howard Kurtz’ column today looks at Couric’s Journey:
“The news of the day is still our staple, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do a really smart series on obesity,” says Couric, who is perpetually on a diet herself. “Or a piece on foster kids being given addictive drugs . . . ‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ are completely antiquated terms. Some of the stories on the front page of The Washington Post and New York Times aren’t traditional hard-news stories, and I’ve never heard anyone ask them to justify that.”
I hadn’t watched the evening news in 30 years. Now I TiVo CBS.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Girls use technology; women spurn tech careers
The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation Report on youth and technology showed no difference in boys’ and girls’ use of technology across several categories, including time spent with the computer and on the Internet. In fact, teenage girls dominate boys in several technical activities, particularly those related to communication and information seeking. 97% of teenage girls have used instant messaging, compared to 87% of boys their age. 57% of teenage girls have sent text messages, compared with only 40% of boys.
What happens when those girls grow up? The picture still seems to be good - adult women are interested in using and purchasing technology. In 2002, the Consumer Electronics Association with eBrain Market Research tracked women purchasing and using technology and discovered that women are just as likely as men to be early adopters of technology. That same study showed that a majority of women surveyed selected an HDTV over a 1 carat diamond ring, and a digital camera over a pair of 1/2 carat diamond earrings (the study equated items of similar cost).
Is it only me or has anyone else noticed that the comsumer press implies that it’s men buying up all those Hi-Def flat screen TVs?
[W]hen we shift the focus to educational and career choices, the picture is a quite a bit bleaker. While young men and women spend equal time using computers and are equally likely to be online, girls are five times less likely than boys to consider technology-related studies in college and technology-related careers.... Even taking into account diminishing numbers of students entering Computer Science in general, women are less likely to enter CS than men, and less likely than they were several years ago.
When I chose television production as a career in the early 80s, I was under the very mistaken impression that it would be a gay-friendly occupation. All those sensitive portrayals on-screen did not translate into sensitive understanding off-screen from the production crew.
I took to saying then (and please forgive me my stereotyping based only on my experience from way back when; I’m thinking it’s changed since) that the television production culture was more akin to the car-mechanic culture; and as such equally pin-up, macho and male.
Now I’d say that goes doubly so for IT. Ask me nicely and I might explain why one day. Suffice it to say now that I think IT has a lot to learn and could benefit greatly from taking on some of the ways of the library (a historically female occupation I hasten to add).
The library has been deeply impacted and will be completely transformed by the networked world. With the library’s long legacy of opening up information to the public, protecting privacy, serving the patron and, significantly, securing public funding and using sophisticated tech systems, it’s just too damned bad that it’s not the other way around.
SEE ALSO: Justine’s take on the real reason behind the fear of girls using social networking sites, “I believe these moral panics gain hold in part because people are fearful of women becoming empowered as technology users and producers.”
Romney & abortion
Romney ran as a moderate during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. Despite saying he personally opposed abortion, he not only pledged to leave the state’s abortion laws intact, but noted his mother, Lenore, ran for U.S. Senate in 1970 as a supporter of abortion rights.
He now stresses his opposition to abortion in speeches across the country.
Flip. Flopper! Can we trust him? Newt says YES! - “I think Mitt Romney has an opportunity to fill [America’s yearning for a clearer conservative voice.]” (But then, we all know what Georgia really thinks of Newt now don’t we?)
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney charges it’s "disingenuous" of Sen. John McCain to think (1) gay marriage is a bad idea and (2) the issue should be left to the states (not a federal constitutional amendment). This, says Romney, is "having it both ways." Morality trumps federalism. I disagree, but it’s a coherent position.
But wait. Mitt Romney opposes abortion. "I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother," he wrote in 2005. So does he call for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion? Umm...actually, [here he says] abortion should be left to the states. [...]
So there’s room for moral variance on whether to slaughter unborn children, but not on whether to marry gay couples.
Romney’s recent past pro-gay positions
I actually think he’ll get away with this stuff here, which just makes me believe all the more that Democrats have more of an opportunity than they’re willing to bother with here. But I digress.
In 2002, Romney’s supporters also handed out fliers with well wishes from him and his running mate during Boston’s annual Gay Pride Parade. He was endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay party activists. In 2003, he signed a proclamation hailing a gay youth parade.
2002 to 2006. Golly, that’s a quick turnabout. Let’s go back a little further. Bay Windows:
When Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994, he wrote a letter to the Mass Log Cabin Club in which he pledged: “[A]s we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.”
Uh, need I underscore? His opponent was Ted Kennedy. What about that other Mass. liberal, John Kerry:
During [Romney’s] 2001 run for governor, his campaign distributed bright pink flyers at the June Pride parade declaring “Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend!” During his inaugural speech, he said it was important to defend civil rights “regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or race.” He appointed eight openly gay and lesbian people to high profile positions in his administration. And...Romney doubled the budget line item for the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth.
Romney week in Georgia
I missed this earlier in the week:
It’s Mitt Romney week, at least in the South.
A day after a key South Carolina operative, Warren Tompkins, joined his team, Romney’s Commonwealth PAC announced that Eric Tanenblatt, senior managing director at McKenna, Long & Aldridge and Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former chief of staff, will head up Romney’s finance team in Georgia.
And quite a team: Nancy Coverdell, wife of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell; Fred Cooper, the general chairman for Bush ‘08; James Edenfield, CEO of American Software and Joe Rogers Jr., CEO of Waffle House.
That list leaves out a ton of party positions this group has held. The bottom line is that this is a big chunk of the core Bush crowd in Georgia, going back to before the elder Bush became Bush 41.
Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written here this week will guess that I don’t think the Dems should be ignoring these goings on. As I hear it some evangelicals wonder how Christian a Mormon really is, and then there’s his gay thing. And abortion.
Perdue succeeds Romney
ATLANTA - Sonny Perdue has taken the reins as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, a post that will boost the Georgia governor’s profile as the GOP tries to regroup in the coming year.
Mr. Perdue was vice chairman for the past year and helped the group raise a record $27 million in the past election cycle. He takes over the top spot from Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who used the spot as a springboard for a possible presidential bid.
The brief mention (the piece is behind a firewall and not worth registering to get at) goes on to speculate about whether or not Perdue has national aspirations. But it looks much more like Romney trying to lock up Georgia for himself doesn’t it?
Saturday, December 02, 2006
It sounds better than it is
As it happens, I completed a food survey for school today. They all but asked for recipes. AP:
Stung by decades of jokes about mystery meat and soggy sandwiches, college dining halls around the country are borrowing recipes from the ultimate authority on heartwarming meals: Mom. (And Dad, too.) [...]
“It’s a great connection with home for the students, and a way to de-institutionalize a college food service program,” said J. Michael Floyd, food service director at the University of Georgia, which pioneered the approach 20 years ago with its annual Taste of Home competition.
From hundreds of entries that are taste-tested each year, Georgia has selected such winners as eclair squares, poppy seed chicken and bulldog punch bowl cake.
Mom’s recipes lose a little something in the translation.
I subscribe to 129 RSS feeds (I’ll replace my blogroll with the list when I can figure out how… I’m still struggling to figure out how to get cloudnine to build me a weighted tag cloud in my sidebar!)
When I was a subscriber to a dozen or more print magazines (and the New York Times) I learned to accept that I would not read everything from anything. I don’t even aspire to. Ever.
With my subscription list increased tenfold, I now use Shrook to aggregate to my desktop. When I’m interested in something, most anything, I can drill down deeply then link out.
That’s what I enjoy most; the serendipity that comes from dipping into my own personally sculpted information flow, and using those sources as stepping out points.
This little riff comes in anticipation of reading What’s the future for news personalization? from Online Journalism Review. I wonder where it might take me…
Via Martin Stabe.
I think that eventually all traditional media companies will have to rely on some form of citizen reporting, partly motivated by financial reasons but also because of access. While the quality of reporting from the average citizen is typically of a lower ‘quality’, in the traditional sense, I think that this is offset by the timeliness and unfiltered nature of accounts offered by citizen media. Traditional journalism will always be a part of the equation, but a combination of new and old media coverage yields a flow of information from event to consumer that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is for this reason that we don’t take sides between traditional media and small media. I believe that consumers will benefit from a convergence of the two models, and that the long-sighted media companies will adapt accordingly.
Take the recent incident involving the UCLA student who was Tasered. Prior to the existence of video-enabled mobile phones and youtube.com, I think we, as consumers of news, would’ve been further from the truth and less affected by it. However, without the follow up research and reporting by professional journalists on the officer’s background, we would be left with an incomplete picture of what led up to the incident.
Currently, a good deal of the reporting done by citizens is largely incidental, a byproduct of proximity, chance and personal initiative. Moving forward, I think economics and consumer appetite will convince publishers to actively procure citizen reports on specific topics or events. Meantime, Newsvine’s base of contributors from around the world grows and improves continually, ready to meet that demand.
Soldiers and debt
The AP reports that debt is causing more soldiers to lose security clearances:
The number of soldiers who are losing their clearances because of financial problems has nearly doubled over last year but is still an extremely small percentage of the Army’s ranks.
The Associated Press reported in October that growing numbers of Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force troops are so deep in debt they are losing their security clearances. The Army refused to supply data at the time, but later complied with a Freedom of Information Act request from the AP.
Over the past five years, 400 Army soldiers have been stripped of their clearances for financial reasons; during that span, the Army granted 747,000 clearances. After hovering at around 70 revocations per year since 2002, the number jumped to 149 in the fiscal year that ended in September. [...]
Data supplied by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force showed that the number of clearances denied for financial reasons rose every year between 2002 and 2005, climbing ninefold from 284 at the start of the period to 2,654 last year. More than 7,000 troops in the three branches have lost their clearances because of finances since 2002.
Gender identity rights: gaining ground
[A]s advocates gain ground for what they call gender-identity rights, evidenced most recently by New York City’s decision to let people alter the sex listed on their birth certificates, a major change is taking place among schools and families. Children as young as 5 who display predispositions to dress like the opposite sex are being supported by a growing number of young parents, educators and mental health professionals.
Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions.
[T]here was also a new guy in town, and the big news is that the guy will eventually be a gal. The Associated Press had promised that-in a first for network television-yesterday’s episode [of the ABC Soap All My Children] would introduce a storyline tracking a transgender character, a man who will become a woman, from the outset of his journey.
Bowers on Kilgore on Schaller
I agree. Consider, for example, how the conservative movement has consistently demonized the Northeast. The result has been a near-total wipeout for Republicans in the regions that will not be reversed anytime soon. Democrats now control 59 of the 74, or 80%, of House seats in New England, New York, New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Almost every Republican in this region who is left in Congress is on the endangered list. Running against a region lost Republicans ten seats in the House in 2006 alone, and those seats are not coming back. This is a situation far worse than Democrats face anywhere in the nation, and I think that having the national Republican Party and the conservative movement demonize the region for years probably did not help the case of local Republican moderates all that much. Whatever short term backlash the conservative movement gained from their portrayal of the region, it has resulted in a major long-term disaster for the Republican Party I can’t imagine why Democrats would want to replicate that strategy in regards to the so-called Deep south..
The point is that we work together, don’t throw each other under the bus, and that we run against the conservative movement wherever it may reside. We do not run against demographics or regions, as the conservative movement has done for some time in its crusades against immigrants, northeasterners, San Francisco, Hollywood, Massachusetts, homosexuals, Muslims, and whoever else is on their target list at any given moment. Doing that may win you backlash votes in the short term, but over the long-term it builds strong loyalty for your opposition within the demographics you are demonizing. Thus, not only is it bad for the country and immoral, it is terrible political strategy…
I like Tom Schaller a lot, and think he is quite brilliant. I also think that his book is quite excellent, but for the one caveat: I think we should run against conservatism rather than the South. Further, I think that Ed Kilgore has also consistently shown that moderates and members of the DLC can be valuable members of the Democratic coalition as long as they do not insist on throwing the party’s left wing under the bus and portraying liberals in the same strawman terms as conservatives have done for decades (paging LieberDems). In a coalition dependent on overwhelming liberal support, that path can only lead to disaster… As long as we respect intra-party democracy, I believe that is one key way progressives and moderates alike can build a new governing consensus in an ever-diversifying nation. And I say this as someone who resides decidedly within the party’s left-wing.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Kilgore on Schaller
Since Democrats did in fact gain ground in the South and did not lose a thing, Schaller is at pains to show how meager those gains were in comparison with the gains in other regions. But he largely ignores the constraints of the Southern political landscape this year. In a quirk of the electoral calendar, only five Senate seats were up in the South (accepting Schaller’s definition of “the South” as the 11 states of the old Confederacy), four held by Republicans. Democrats won two, for a net gain of one senator, which is a perfectly proportional contribution to the conquest of the Senate. Similarly, there were six gubernatorial contests in the South, five in seats held by Republicans. Democrats won two for a net gain of one, again a proportional contribution to the national results. (Democrats also won the single Southern governor’s races held in 2004 and in 2005, which means they now control five of the 11 executive offices.)
There’s no question Democrats underperformed in Southern House races, picking up five net seats (with a sixth and a seventh possible in disputed races in North Carolina and Florida). But it should be remembered that nearly half the region’s House seats are in three super-gerrymandered states, Texas, Florida and Georgia. Schaller emphasizes two near losses by Democratic incumbents in my home state of Georgia. But in fairness, he should acknowledge that both of these districts were re-gerrymandered by the Republican Legislature last year, making Jim Marshall’s district (the 8th) significantly more Republican, and taking John Barrow’s home base out of his district (the 12th) entirely. The close Georgia outcomes also owed a lot to the decision of the national GOP to make Marshall and Barrow two of the three incumbents they spent heavily to defeat, in the end falling short.
As for state legislators, Schaller sniffs that Democrats picked up a small percentage of their national gains in seats in the South, and didn’t win control of any new chambers. But the national seat-gain number is distorted by big Democratic pickups in the mammoth New Hampshire House, and Democrats were already stronger in Southern legislatures than in many other parts of the country. As of today, each party controls five Southern state legislatures, with one split (Tennessee). Not too shabby.
Big ‘D’ Democrats and Southern Heritage
Last week from On The Media:
Black, White & Red All Over
On November 10, 1898, a mob of white supremacists ransacked the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and toppled its biracial government. 108 years later, The Charolotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer are apologizing for their role in fomenting the violence. Duke historian Tim Tyson tells Bob [Garfield] how newspapers turned neighbor against neighbor and helped usher in Jim Crow. [...]
[F]or several years a bi-racial coalition of Republicans and populists had controlled two Senate seats, the governorship and a majority in the state legislature. Supporters of the so called “fusion movement” were mostly white, but in a number of counties, black men held elective office, too.
All that came to an end on one bloody November night in what came to be known as the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898. Spurred on by the local press, white mobs set fire to black owned businesses and overthrew the city’s own fusion government. They killed dozens of blacks and ran thousands out of town.
BOB GARFIELD: In the year 2000, a state commission finally was created to investigate the episode. It concluded that what happened that night in Wilmington was not so much a riot as an insurrection, a coup d’etat orchestrated by prominent members of the Democratic Party. They wanted to topple the fusion government. And though they had big business on their side, as well as a number of regional papers, that wasn’t enough. They needed the poor white farmers.
And so, says Duke professor Timothy Tyson, the Democrats used the printing press to paint the conflict in black and white.
TIMOTHY TYSON: The goal was elite rule. Racial rhetoric and racial violence was a tool to that end.
Emphasis mine. The story goes on to discuss how the “Democratic Party papers of that era” - including The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal Constitution - were complicit and the federal government did nothing.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but what of reparations?
TIMOTHY TYSON: I don’t know. Honestly, you know, I don’t think that private payments to individual citizens are really going to do much to fix the damage that’s been done. And I would also just say that The News and Observer, really, since 1998, on the 100th anniversary of the Wilmington race riot, has spent a lot of newsprint reporting on their own role back in the white supremacy revolution. The Greensboro paper and the Charlotte paper have done the same thing.
So I don’t think that they bear any great stigma. They’ve been very honest about how things were.
I accept that; it sounds good and reasonable to me. But what of the Democratic party and their role? Why are we holding “big business” and those “regional papers” accountable for their complicity in the atrocities but not the Democratic Party?
Just asking. And good for them I guess.
I have to say I wouldn’t be asking either except that it bugs me big-time how much of the party discussion is infatuated with Tom Schaller’s suggestion that we turn the very Southern racism those “prominent members of the Democratic Party” fostered into, from page 18 of his book Whistling Past Dixie, a “burdensome stone to hang around the Republicans’ neck.”
Wouldn’t it be more noble, respectable and appropriate for the Democratic Party to redouble its efforts in the South, and make Race a defining characteristic of the party agenda nationwide?
The Schaller crowd objects to pandering to Southern white voters. So do I. But what about the national level pandering that keeps our prisons disproportionately full of black men, our public school system disproportionately funded so that blacks disproportionately under perform and our inner cities disproportionately poor?
The abstinence myth
Now some might ask, where’s the proof? It’s here:
The Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy said that research from the United States showed that contraception was the way to bring down rates. Researchers from Columbia University and the Guttmacher Institute examined the relative roles of abstinence and contraceptive use in the “remarkable decline” in US teenage pregnancy rates, which dropped 27 per cent from 1991 to 2000. They said that 86 per cent of the decline in teenage pregnancy was due to improved use of contraception.
Only 14 per cent of the drop amongst 15- to 19-year-olds was linked to reduced sexual activity, according to the study, published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
Gill Frances, the chairman of the British advisory group, said: “Providing young people with good information, advice and contraceptive services, is the way to reduce teenage pregnancy.
“It is a myth that abstinence is a better approach and this US study confirms it.”