You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for August, 2003.


August 29th, 2003

77% of survey respondents oppose removal of the 10 commandments from Alabama’s state judicial building.

This is deeply troubling. The monument is so clearly misplaced. While I disagree with those who think that Judeo-Christian ethics are the basis of the Constitution, I do support their right to commemorate that belief — just not on public property. It really bothers me that such a large marjority of Americans can’t seem to make a distinction between private belief and public practice.


August 21st, 2003

ACM, in comments to yesterday’s rant about proposition 54, correctly points out that the proposition exempts racial data collected for medical purposes — one of the key issues I was angry about.

Oops. I did make a mistake. I’m sorry.

I also overlooked a few other provisions (notably i and j) which would exempt existing consent decrees (often used to track a company’s compliance with a settlement or decision in a discrimination case) and anything that would prevent the state from receiving federal funds (which will exempt most kinds of federally-funded research, and might also prevent redlining, although I’m not clear on exactly what data the federal Community Reinvestment Act requires from lenders).

I still maintain that ignoring the problem is the wrong way to go.

Trend or Change?

August 20th, 2003

In all the hullabaloo over the California recall, not much attention has been paid by the national media to Proposition 54, which will share the ballot with the recall. Prop 54 would prevent state and local governments from collecting any information on race. The proposition is backed by Ward Connerly and his ilk who believe that we live in a color blind society and that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.

This proposition is incredibly stupid. At the most basic, scientifically unassailable level, research has shown that some medical conditions are related to race due to genetic characteristics of some subgroups — there’s no squishy social science involved. Preventing the state from tracking these medical conditions just to make a political point is not only stupid, but will decrease the state’s ability to serve these populations and might ultimately harm the state’s economy (to the degree that these medical conditions are related to individual productivity).

Even conservatives who think that racial discrimination no longer exists should be able to distinguish between their own political agenda and the real health needs of the population.

Furthermore, the possibility that we might be living in a color-blind society isn’t enough reason to abandon the collection of data on race — how can the advocates of this position hope to prove themselves right without data?!

But setting all that aside, even a quick glance at any social indicator demonstrates that we do not live in a color-blind society. Pretending and wishing that we did isn’t enough, and ignoring the problem won’t solve it.

Prop 54 would eliminate the ability to track the racial gap in education in California. It would make it impossible to prove the presence or absence of employment discrimination. It would allow red-lining, race-based credit checks, racial profiling by police and so on. Without the data collected by governments, proving the presence or absence of discrimination would become next to impossible — consequently, I think Prop 54 would result in an increase in race-based discrimination.

The continued hostility of American conservatives to scientific knowledge is apalling — instead of merely putting their own spin on facts (as Herrnstein & Murray did in The Bell Curve), they are restricting our ability to find facts.

That’s shameful.

I was told by a colleague in California that Connerly plans to take this dangerous proposition to all 50 states — I can’t verify that in any of the news reports I’ve seen, but that possibility scares me. The good news is that support for Prop 54 is falling.

For shane

August 14th, 2003

Laramie street is no more. All the studios once had Western sets, but Laramie street (at Warner Brothers) was the last. It was buldozed in June to make room for a new, residential suburban set and production offices.

The list of TV shows and movies filmed on Laramie street is breathtaking. Ranging from The Lone Star Ranger in the 1930s, to ‘The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr in the 1990s, the list reads like a film school syllabus of Western tv/movie history and includes titles like Maverick, Kung Fu, Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, The Great Race, The Great Bank Robbery, and more.

it does a body good

August 14th, 2003

One of the most interesting and telling bits of Howard Dean’s political history is his involvement in the New England Dairy Compact, which set a floor price for milk and revitalized the dairy industry in the Northeast by helping younger people enter the dairy industry. The Compact ensures that more small farmers can make a living while also encouraging competition (unlike farm subsidies, which discourage competition). Dean was at the head of the battle for the Compact.

This story struck a chord in me, because I am strongly committed to the notion that small, local farms matter. I don’t care if smaller farms (or the policies that sustain them) charge higher prices — the benefits to society (in the form of greater genetic diversity, fresher & healthier food, dense community networks, retention of locally earned dollars, and so on) are worth it. If Americans really wanted cheaper food, they would stop eating at McDonald’s and would consume fewer processed products. Stomping out small farms is not the way to a lower food bill — it’s the way to dependence on corporations with no interest in the health of local communities or economies.

Dean has indicated that the Compact would be a model for his national agricultural policy. This is the creative approach to problem solving that our nation needs — that I need. I’m tired of seeing the same tired solutions trotted out for the same old problems — they didn’t work before, and there is no reason to expect that they will work now. We need new ideas.

No Comment Needed

August 7th, 2003

This is old news, but it was new to me: New Zealand’s ministry of public health has withdrawn a poster featuring a man breastfeeding a baby in an office (a picture of the poster is included in the article). The poster was part of New Zealand’s National Breastfeeding Week and was designed to suggest that breastfeeding might not be so controversial if men did it.

The poster model is Michael Hurst — that’s Iolaus to you Herc & Xena fans. I think the poster is powerful — it’s too bad that it was pulled.

Apparently, breastfeeding is controversial down under. Earlier this year, an Australian MP was evicted from parliament because she was breastfeeding during a session. The rule she was evicted under states that unelected people are not allowed in chamber. Legislatures around the world need to rethink certain antiquated rules that simply don’t work for working mothers.


August 6th, 2003

This is an update to my earlier comments about the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop. The Rev. V. Gene Robinson has this to say about his election:

In a news conference after the vote, Robinson said his opponents were right that the decision was contrary to the church’s traditional teaching against homosexuality.

“Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong,” he said. “We worship a living God, and that living God leads us into truth.”

There is a great deal embedded in this simple statement. To shift the conversation away from traditional scriptural debate and toward modern spirituality is not just brilliant strategy — it’s beautiful theology.

One of these nights

August 6th, 2003

I called the Singer Company yesterday. Based on my sewing machine’s serial number, they were able to tell me when & where it was made: September 16, 1946 in Elizabeth, NJ.

Not only do I think it’s cool that my machine is 57 years old and still going strong (it formerly belonged to my Great Aunt and then to my Mom), but I was really impressed by how quickly the representative on the phone retrieved the information. The whole interaction took about 45 seconds.

And my machine? It’s a Featherweight 221.

Update: I’ve learned that Singer birthdates are not as exact as they appear. They represent the date on which a range of serial numbers was assigned to a factory, not the date on which the machine was made.

One potential clue to my machine’s real age is that the faceplate is the fancier art deco face plate (like the one pictured here) — which is an older face plate used mainly before & durring WWII. However, even that clue is dubious as face plates are easy to change and the parts bins in the Singer factories were topped off with new parts — meaning that an older art deco face plate could have surfaced in a bin years after it was first deposited there.

Thus, while I can conclude that my sewing machine is no older than 57 years, but it might be considerably younger. There is no way to know for sure.

But I love it anyway.

In Context

August 6th, 2003

The Tuesday election of the Rev. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion is just the tip of the iceberg. The Episcopal Church has been divided for decades between a more conservative, fundamentalist wing, and a more progressive, social justice wing — and the debate over a homosexual bishop is just the public face of that conflict. This debate will most likely continue to make headlines for a while, as Episcopalians debate a special “blessing” of same-sex unions.

Personally, I find the whole debate a bit silly — and I agree with Medley’s perspective on the issue:

I think the solution is to take government out of the ‘marriage’ business all together. Go to a courthouse, gay or straight, and what you get is a civil union (with all the attendant legal and political rights that traditional ‘marriage’ has bestowed up to this point). Want to get ‘married’? Go to a church and let the church decide who it allows to be ‘married’ in its faith.


History Lesson

August 1st, 2003

The Atlantic has a really nice History of Liberia/US relations that is based on archived Atlantic pieces:

The question of what the United States owes Liberia