Irritants VI

Another right wing chestnut, probably the second favorite after “liberal media”, has been burnt to a crisp. The farcical hiring-firing-rehiring of law professor-cum-dean Erwin Chemerinsky by the University of California at Irvine is ample proof of the conservative bias prevailing in the academy. The hue and cry raised by the right wingnuts about “liberal bias” on campus should finally find its peace in a very deep grave. The man was asked to establish a law school at the university, negotiated and agreement, started working on assembling a team to render it a topnotch institution. But, a week after signing his contract, he was let go because he “wasn’t a good” fit. Given the information in the media, it seems to me the right wing establishment of Orange County started turning the screws on the university resulting in this situation. It’s not the first time the wingnuts have tried, often successfully, to cost someone their campus position, but it is their most spectacular failure. Let’s see which of the right wing myths will be the next to be debunked. What’s irritating about this kind of ultimately good news? It’s the fact that the actions of a Ward Connerly (the poster-child good-slave who helped pass California’s Proposition 209 terminating affirmative action considerations in college admissions) years ago were insufficient to explode this myth.
While we’re discussing right wingnuts, how about that out-of-state funded effort to fracture California’s reliably Democratic electoral college vote. Yup, some lawyer in Missouri creates an organization, TIA- Take Initiative America (tugs at your heartstrings, don’t it?), on September 10, and on September 11 (how devilishly appropriate) a $175,000.00 donation from that organization is received by the backers of a California initiative. This ballot measure proposes to allocate the electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district, with the two additional, “senatorial”, electoral votes (other than the 53 based on the number of representatives) going to the statewide winner. As if stealing the presidency in Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004) was not enough, the Republicans are now gearing up to continue their electoral thievery through the biggest (populationwise) state in 2008. Of course, this is all done in the name of “fairness”. So, does this mean that the Tom Delay-initiated, %u218tween-census redistricting in Texas will be reversed and the same state, along with other Republican-leaning states will adopt the same approach? Isn’t that fairness? Not in the crooked Republican Party’s lexicon. Fair means winning at all costs. California voters, beware this scam. Don’t get me wrong. I am no supporter of the Electoral College. It is an antiquated, anti-democratic, and absurd holdover from the days when even slavery was deemed legitimate. But, given the extra leverage this relic gives the small-population states, it’ll never get amended. So, a number of states have found a workaround. They have passed, or are considering laws, that commit the state to casting all its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the COUNTRYWIDE popular vote. This would go into effect when enough states to provide an electoral college majority have enacted such legislation. The California State Senate passed such a bill (SB 37), but it is currently inactive, not having made it through the Assembly. Let your legislator know you support this bill. Success in the latter approach would indeed bring fairness to the United States’ presidential elections.
A final partisan irritant is the constant quest for bi-, multi-, and non-partisanship. Many wax dreamy about the good old days of “consensus” and “cooperation” in legislative bodies. To me, that is just a sign of the duopoly that governs this country and smacks of the much reviled dictatorships of yore and the present or only one party line is permitted. Why should any party water down its approach to the point of unrecognizability? This leads to, at best, partial solutions to the problems of the day. Even a bad policy is better than a good policy so compromised that its efficacy cannot be determined. The bad policy can at least be recognized as such and discarded. It was refreshing to see “No, we can’t all just get along” in the Sunday LATimes (September 23). The author, Jonathan Chait, ascribes the post-WWII era of bipartisanship to the Cold War and a fundamental absence of disagreement over the basics of governance between the two major parties. That no longer exists, thanks to the Republicans being taken over by people with confidence in their (whacky) ideology. Now, the Democrats seem to be developing a backbone. If all goes well, we’ll soon have two (preferably more) identifiable parties standing for some ideology. Then, the need to organize will be much more sharply felt and all partisans will have to go back to the people to win their support, if their ideas are more appealing than others’. The pass, given to parties for the last four or five decades, absolving them of the need to organize, will finally be rescinded. Then we’ll have some progress.
In the spirit of standing up for what you believe, let me gripe about people who are pathologically averse to confrontation or conflict. You meet them in organizations and elsewhere. They’ll avoid returning a phone call if they have to refuse someone a request. Why? The other person might actually try to convince them otherwise, and that’s “conflict”. No one advocates acrimony, but avoidance at the level described is just as destructive. I had someone contact me once months after an article I wrote appeared. The caller recognized him/herself and thought I had done him/her an injustice. The request was for an apology or retraction from me. I stood my ground, at which point I perceived the discomfort noted above. I suggested a letter be sent to the editor. I said I’d support, nay advocate, its publication. But I sensed this was too confrontational for the caller. Too bad, I’d love to be proven wrong, or at least engaged in verbal battle. It can only enliven the pages of the newspaper and serve the lofty goal of enriching public discourse.
Returning to matters of (un)fairness, did you notice the news about Hyundai Chairman Chung-Mong-koo? A three-judge panel ruled that he was too important, and jailing him would damage South Korea’s economy. So much for equality before the law. Hey, maybe this is why the crooks in Armenia are allowed to get away with their financial shenanigans;
Then we have the case of the Jena six. These black high school students beat up a white student who had strung up a lynching noose. Both actions are unconscionable. But the most unacceptable action came from the adults in this Louisiana community. The principal’s expulsion of the white student was overturned. Meanwhile, the black students were to be tried as adults. Fortunately, the court rejected this. Does this unequal justice smell to you like the treatment of Armenia’s by Turks in Ottoman times? It should.
How about the case of Kenneth Foster, once again in our favorite state of Texas, the leader in legalized murder. For a change, Gov. Rick Perry commuted Foster’s sentence from death to life imprisonment. This came upon the heels of the state parole board recommending he do so and a public campaign to get this result. Why should you care about a convicted murderer? Well, because, simply, he’s not– a murderer, that is. Even Texas’ justice system (I use the term loosely here) admits he committed no murder. He was the driver in a robbery where his accomplice killed a man. Under Texas law, he can be treated as if he pulled the trigger, even though he had nothing to do with killing a man. How ridiculous is that? Seemingly, Texans may be developing a conscience and some sense of fairness.
Let’s not omit Jack Kevorkian’s, “Dr. Death” a he was vilified in the media, parole. Could this be another case of justice piercing the fortified walls of the law? The man was doing something fundamentally humane in relieving those who desired it, of terminally agony. The state jailed him for his kindness instead of changing the law to reflect modern medical reality. Despite the parole, this remains another travesty since he was not acquitted and found innocent, not to mention given an award.
While we’re in the realm of the law, let’s talk about traffic court. Ever fought a traffic ticket? It’s virtually futile. I did it again after a good half-a-dozen year hiatus. I neglected to bring a photograph, so the judge opted to believe the officer. That is usually the case, the judges/commissioners have an implicit, and you might argue understandable, bias in favor of the police. If their rulings weren’t proof enough of this slant, here’s another piece of evidence for you. I just learned while in court, that the police officers may not present arguments, at least in traffic court, just the facts, whereas the accused can do both. In effect, this implicitly places the judge in the position of being on the officer’s side. Besides all this, the only person found not guilty (other than those case where the officer did not appear) was a white guy on a seat belt offense. The others, a number of Armenia’s among them, were found guilty. I have to wonder, given his tone and attitude in dealing with Armenia’s, if this particular commissioner might not be guilty of a different bias as well;
Moving on to the more mundane but still relevant, we have Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) proving that 52 years on the same job can pay off in terms of slyness. This guy is, if not the major obstacle to Congress adopting higher CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. He is the auto manufacturers’ man on this issue. So what does he do to cover himself? He introduces a bill that would remove the mortgage-interest tax exemption on all houses larger than 3000 square feet in size. The rationale behind this is sound. Such large houses have an outsized impact on the environment because of how much material is (over)used in their construction, and the subsequent heating/cooling/maintenance requirements, especially in terms of energy. Is the honorable Congressman familiar with the acronym CYA? Or is he perhaps well trained by magicians in the art of distraction? Face it John, currently, the largest single contributor to our pollution problems, particularly global warming related, is the automobile. Get on the wagon, Congressman, (forgive the pun) and let’s save ourselves from our own excess.
You’ve heard of or seen, people combing their hair, applying makeup, or otherwise grooming themselves while driving, right? Well, they even do that on buses. In the former case, it’s private, but unsafe, in the latter, vice versa. But the cake-taker was unsafe and un-private when someone used hairspray on the bus! Aside from the noxious smell and potential for (other passengers’) burning eyes, it’s arguably hazardous. I was thrilled when the driver gave the idiot a tongue-lashing.
Given blood lately? You should, unless health reasons preclude it. But you might also be one of those who just doesn’t want to deal with the absurd paperwork even repeat, regular, donors have to tolerate. Between the FDA and Red Cross, they can’t seem to figure out that no one has yet built, much less owns, a time machine. Every time a donor goes to give, he/she is asked the same question about where they’ve been between 1980 and 1996 (the dates are approximate and don’t matter, they’re in the past). Perhaps someone would like to explain how the answer to that question could change. Given the looming chronic shortage of blood, it behooves all of us to apply some common sense. Let the FDA and your legislators know what you think.
Not wanting to be outdone by my erstwhile colleague in critique, Skeptik Sinikian, who long ago wrote about them here’s an item about Armenian dating websites. There are people who post a picture (only one) of two or more individuals of their own gender. How is the viewer to know, which one is the right one?
Finally, to all those orthographically challenged, stop misspelling the word “lose”. That’s what you do when you want to get thinner– he wants to lose weight, or misplace something– lose homework, have a poor sense of direction– lose her way home, or even suffer defeat in battle– Azerbaijan would lose a war against Armenia. Many, especially among Armenia’s, seem to like to misspell the word as “loose”. That’s what you are when you’re promiscuous–she’s loose, or when a zoo escape occurs– the elephants got loose, or you’re referring to coins– loose change. Please be careful on this one, it’s embarrassing (to you), infuriating (to me), and confusing (to your reader).


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