Progressive At Cal
Progressive At Cal
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
More BCR Sexism
Thanks to Cal PATRIOT Watch for the heads up.

Looks like BCR, that bastion of racism, homophobia, Student Action-support, and sexism is at it again. This time, they've declared a verbal war against women, urging their supporters to oust politicians who are "girlie." Their simple message: men rule, women should get out of politics. How 19th century of them...

Monday, July 19, 2004
The Soft Bigots of Low Expectations
In the recent debate over UC eligibility standards at CalStuff, it's become popular for the conservative wing of the Berkeley blogosphere to argue that affirmative action harms its intended beneficiaries, because affirmative action leads to minority students who get "mismatched" with colleges where they cannot perform academically.  According to this story, minority students will face an academic environment they can't handle and then drop out, leaving themselves worse than they were before.  A version of this argument was recently made by everybody's favorite reactionary, Angry Clam: "They'll still do poorly in college, as it's highly doubtful that the magical day-care fairy will come for them when they show up at the university. Put them somewhere they can do better at, even if it doesn't give them quite the name brand."  The "mismatch" argument is not really new, however, because Thomas Sowell has been making this argument since the 1970s.   The argument is interesting and sounds perfectly plausible, but it also happens to be wrong.
According to William Bowen and Derek Bok's The Shape of the River,   
If race-sensitive admissions in selective colleges lead to more dropouts, it is more than a little puzzling that in our sample of twenty-eight selective schools, none had a dropout rate for minority students anywhere near as high as the average attrition of 60 percent for black students at all NCAA Division I colleges, many of which are not selective.  Black dropout rates are low at all of the C&B [College & Beyond database-Jon P.] schools (averaging just over 25 percent); moreover, the more selective the college attended, the lower the black dropout rate.
Since the C&B schools differ among themselves in their degree of selectivity, as measured by the average SAT score of their students, we were able to perform a much more conclusive test of the claim that black students will do better at schools with average SAT scores more nearly like their own (sometimes called the "fit" hypothesis).  We compared how black students with equivalent test scores performed at colleges where the average score for all students was much higher than their own scores and at colleges where their scores were more like the average score for the entire school (where the "fit" between the black student and the school was presumably better).  The results are completely contrary to the claims made by the critics.  The higher the average SAT score of the college in question, the higher the graduation rate of black students within each SAT interval (including the intervals for students with only very modest SAT scores).  More generally, when we predicted graduation rates for black students within the C&B universe on an "other things being equal" basis (holding constant socioeconomic status, high school grades and test scores), we found that graduation rates were highest for those who attended the most selective schools.  We also found that black students who did drop out were not embittered or demoralized, as some critics of race-sensitive admissions have alleged.  On the contrary, of the relatively small number of black students who dropped out of the most selective schools, a surprisingly large percentage were "very satisfied" with their college experience--indeed, black dropouts from these schools were more likely than white dropouts to be "very satisfied."
A broader test of the effect of race-sensitive admissions on graduation rates was carried out by Thomas Kane.  His results confirm our findings.  When Kane compared the graduation rates of black students who attended a much wider range of schools, including some that were not selective at all, he found that blacks admitted to selective schools graduated at significantly higher rates than blacks with equivalent test scores, high school grades, and family backgrounds who attended non-selective schools."
[All emphasis in the original.]
As the evidence from Bowen and Bok shows, the right wing of the Berkeley blogworld is not doing "underrepresented minorities" any favor by urging them to go to less selective colleges.  If anybody around here is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations, it's the conservative movement at Berkeley. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004
Hoku Jeffrey Debating Opponent Revealed As Violent Anti-Immigrant Vigilante
CalStuff and ResIpsaLoquitur have both discussed the recent appearance of Hoku Jeffrey on Comedy Central's fake debate show, "Crossballs."  I think the show is hilarious, but what's getting ignored is the other guy who got hoaxed on the same episode, anti-immigrant vigilante Chris Simcox.  Simcox is the founder of the Tombstone Militia.  In January 2003, Simcox was charged with two misdemeanors for knowingly bringing a firearm onto a national park and then lying about it to a law enforcement official.  In keeping with post-9/11 scaremongering, Simcox later changed the militia's name to Civil Homeland Defense, but despite the attempt to paint himself as an anti-terrorist fighter, he's really just focused on getting rednecks with guns to harass Mexicans, as this list of incidents on the Arizona-Mexico border indicates.    (Never mind that most terrorists in the U.S. have come either through the Canadian border or through perfectly legal student and tourist visas.)  According to Dusty Escapule, the mayor of Tombstone, Arizona, Simcox's vigilante behavior is a menace to his local community: "The guy is a lunatic and is going to get somebody killed."  What's worse is that Simcox has been saluted as a hero on VDARE, an anti-immigrant web site that still remains on Res Ipsa Loquitur's blogroll.   

Gobbets of Poison

After Calstuff about the regents and their efforts to change the GPA requirement for admission to Cal degenerated into a discussion of Hoku and his recent appearance on a comedy central game show, one of the bloggers at Res Ipsa Loquitur bragged that they had broken the story first. When I went to check, a review of "I, Robot", a movie which I had recently seen, caught my eye.   I was shocked when I read it.  David Orland had reposted excerpts from a flat out racist rant about the movie and its supposed message to black people.    The following is what appeared on the Res Ipsa Loquitur blog:
The Right Coast's Tom Smith with a very amusing and insightful review of the latest Will Smith disaster, "I, Robot":

"The movie was unusual in that almost all the good guys were black and all the bad guys were white. The robots themselves, in particular the new N5 (or whatever) model, are super-whiteys. With their pale, glutinous faces, they look like somebody shaved all the hair off a convention full of well preserved DAR matrons. The robots are the ultimate ice people, emotionless and menacing.

[...] Heartless, pasty faced white robots attempt to steal the world, and can only be stopped by a passionate, intuitive black cop, who will not be slowed down by the accusations of prejudice thrown his way. The CEO of US Robotics taunts him with 'You just don't like their kind,' which phases Will Smith not a bit. He knows a sub-human when he sees one.

[...] So, in spite of appearances, this little sci-fi nugget lives up to our culture industry's predilection of producing gobbets of poison. In I, Robot we learn that whiteys are smart, but heartless and ultimately evil, even if they profess to have the best of intentions. We learn not to worry if this sounds like racial prejudice; remember the pasty-faces aren't really human. They don't have that inner juiciness that makes a bro a bro. Don't trust white technology; it will turn on you. Street smarts will beat tricknology every time. You go, sun people."
This isn't even thinly vieled racism.   ProgCal's previous reports on racism at the conservative blog had been vigorously denied or argued by some conservative posters, but this most recent, blatant display should lay that debate to rest.

Thursday, July 08, 2004
Homeland Insecurity

So, my eyes were glued with interest to the TV when I learned that 200 pounds of explosives and bomb-making hardware were stolen from a Bay Area storage facility used by local police and, get this, the FBI. Another black eye for law enforcement. Good job guys, keeping the rest of us "safe"!

How embarrassing. In the bay area, the piggies simply lose 200 pounds of high explosives (and associated hardware -- basically everything you need for a car bomb making kit). You'd perk your ears up too, no? Especially with all the talk of terrorists running amok. So the story did break locally, but it was kept out of the national media. Especially embarrassing because these wieners were so totally at a loss they were appealing to the public for help. "Hey folks, we think we might have lost 200 pounds of explosives, help us look around for them." Like, is Admiral Stockdale about to bust into the press conference and go "Who am I? Why am I here?"

But soon, the story may get even better. So the ATF manages to find the explosives today. Whew! Quick turnaround. So, hopefully, we're going to figure out what happened. Was it an arch terrorist? Was it a crazed libertarian militia? ...speculation deleted... Update as of 7/8 noontime press conf.: Turns out the culprit was a "local doper" who was planning to resell the explosives, probably with more of an eye toward the public safety that the morons he stole them from. They were protecting the explosives, get this, with a SOLAR POWERED alarm system. You gotta love California!

If you are interested in the bigger issue, don't worry, says Agent McKee of the BATF. Apparently, this sort of thing happens all the time! She also has some advice for would be terrorists: "The problem with remote locations is they are very hard to keep an eye on," she added. "Sometimes when there's a will, there's a way."

Meanwhile, as explosives are being stolen from the FBI in the Bay Area, Homeland Security is working hard in a bunker underneath Washington DC. Tom Ridge dutifully passes on the latest Terror Alert News Bulletin(TM) to alert the nation that he is raising the threat level to BROWN (serious bullshit) from Greenish Brown (casual bullshit). More specifically (and you know how specific these folks like to get): "al Qaeda may be moving forward with plans to carry out an large-scale attack on the United States." ACHTUNG! ...Might be! ...Moving forward! ...With plans! ...Or planning! ...Or developing existing plans! ACHTUNG! Terror Alert! ...TERROR! ...ALERT!

And just to let you know how hard Tommy has been working: as usual, this Terror Alert News Bulletin has been based on... "No new specific intelligence exists". You can say that again (minus the adjectives).
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Governator's Moneyman Appointed to Regents

We all know the Governator can't pronounce California, but can he say conflict of interest? Calstuff blandly identifies the new Regents appointee, Paul Wachter, as an investment banker, but that barely scratches the surface. Wachter is no ordinary banker, but rather the personal financial advisor of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the needs of Schwarzenegger's investment portfolio conflict with the needs of the University of California, it is unclear which master Regent Wachter will serve.

Take Enron, for instance. A court ruled that the UC system is entitled to $69 million because of Enron's fraudulent business practices. Gropenfuehrer Ahnold, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine, because of Enron. In the middle of the California energy crisis, Schwarzenegger went to a private meeting with Enron chairman Kenneth Lay, as confirmed by these emails. You remember the energy crisis, don't you? As the Enron tapes now reveal, traders bragged about "fucking" California to the tune of 1 million dollars a day. The next time another Enron tries to drain the public coffers with some corporate scam, Regent Wachter will probably side with whoever fattens the Gropenfuehrer's wallet the most, instead of doing his duty to make tuition more affordable to UC students.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Another War Criminal Signs Books at Cody's

To be fair, it would be pretty damn hard to find a US President who isn't a war criminal. By my standards at least. Anyway, Clinton is a pretty smooth (slick? slimy?) politician and his cult of personality was definitely in full swing with the media testifying: Clinton-Mania Hits the Bay Area.

This visit came hot on the heels of Clinton's secretary of state Madeline Albright (also a war criminal). As with Albright, when Cody's brings these key American foreign policy makers for Bay Area liberals to fawn over, only a small number of people actually showed up to vocally protest.

You would think more protesters would show up, given how many people are opposed to the war in Iraq, and especially now that Michael Moore's screed is raging in the theatres ( if you are like me, you will like the movie but be disappointed that he selectively avoids criticism of democrats and is getting into bed with the wieners at ). Especially given that Clinton has been DEFENDING Bush regarding foreign policy on Iraq (paving the way for Kerry to keep the occupation going, in my view). Ironic, aint it? Anyway, you would think more protesters would show up.

As for me, I did show up, I couldn't resist. At first, I busted out a boombox and began playing Phil Och's Love Me, I'm a Liberal (listen to a bit) to all the people waiting in line to get their books signed. I quickly realized that it was going over most of their heads. They were annoyed because obviously, if I wasn't there to wait in line with them like a chump, then I was no better than Bush. Or something. I got booed before they could even tell what I was playing :).

Anyway, all the bad vibes bummed me out, cuz its a really good song, and I thought, maybe Im giving these Clinton afficionados way too much credit. I mean, maybe they will need to read the book and learn that Bill Clinton was once a student listening to Phil Ochs and draft dodging and organizing anti-war (Vietnam) protests and whatever else. Incidentally, speaking of students, active ones at that, readers will be interested to note that I ran into Student Regent (for one more day) Matt Murray. Apparently he had to wait in line like all the other chumps while new ASUC president Misha Leybovich got to go in VIP style - he was dressed up awful nice and milling around with the other buff guys in suits (but they were working - secret service). Ouch for Matt!

So I put the boombox in the hands of a friend. I borrowed a friend's bullhorn and did a quick survey of the crowd and asked those in favor of the war to raise their hands. Noone in the damn crowd had the guts to raise their hands (there were actually a few war supporters maybe about 3 or 4 per 100, as I later learned). So I made a sign that said
Bill Clinton:

“I have repeatedly defended President
Bush against the left on Iraq"
SO, if you oppose the war in Iraq, let Bill
know how you feel. You’ve got about 7 seconds
with him, long enough to tell him something like:
“Oppose the war, Bill”
“Bush was wrong, Bill”
“Lets bring the troops home”
Do it after he signs your book! If the Bay
Area doesn’t give him the message, who will?
I held this up and walked the line, getting into a bunch of really interesting discussions.

Some people became totally incoherent and basically attacked me outright. A lot of them debated whether Bill actually meant what he said (hee hee!), and whether there we had any reason to care about what a man like Clinton said publicly (funny, they were the ones standing in line for 3 hours with drool running down their faces and sweating under the weight of his 900 page book!). There was shitloads of cognitive dissonance and head shaking, even after I pointed out that all the Democrats voted for the war (and continue to do so), and that they, faithful Clinton fans, should really not be so surprised that Clinton would support the war, since, after all, he's a Democrat. More head shaking. Seems many of these people were in some serious denial. The point I made that seemed to convince the most people was when I asked folks if they seriously believe the troops will come home before the Democrats actually admit publicly that the war was a mistake.

Anyway, not everyone was negative, and a lot of people (maybe 50-80) nodded their heads and agreed to do it. One really nice guy even offered me his ticket and told me I should go in and talk to Clinton, which I politely declined. The most important thing, I think, was getting folks to address, to some degree, their own cognitive dissonance on the immorality of the war vs. their support for democrats (hopefully they can extend the analysis to other progressive issues).

The one big thing I learned is how incredibly affected folks are by mainstream propaganda, "leadership", and cults of personality. As an activist, I've decided that one needs to acknowledge and reaffirm the existence of these basic, non-subtle, totally anti-intellectual modes of behavior (herd mentality and aggressive idolatry) every once in a while just to maintain an idea of what you are working with (and against).
Thursday, June 24, 2004
Go Piss Off A Right-Winger...

...and see Fahrenheit 9/11. Please note that the first screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 will be at Landmark's California Theater on Center Street at 12:01AM on Friday (i.e., 12 hours from now).
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
New Legal Analysis on John Yoo's Torture Memos

Professor John Yoo's defenders on campus continue to provide the most pitiful arguments for their cause. One rocket scientist who calls himself "Meaty Fly" said "His interpretation kicks ass." Kicks ass? This isn't some Queens of the Stone Age CD we're talking about. It's not about liberals and conservatives. It's not about whether the Republican or the Democratic team gets more points. It's about good and evil, right and wrong, and how a professor allowed evil things to happen.

Anyhow, it's nice to know that the response to Yoo's memos from human rights lawyers, attorneys in the military JAG corps, and law professors have generally been unsympathetic to Yoo. My favorite site on the subject is, where Michael Froomkin has laid the rhetorical smackdown on Yoo's memos not once, but twice. But my favorite tidbit from is the comment from Bryan d'Pfaff who said, "What is wrong with US legal education, that it produces and rewards creatures such as Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who are all too willing to help shape policies that have deeply injured the worldwide reputation of our country?" (I predict that in the future that this comment will also apply to UCB alum/law student Rory Kennedy aka Angry Clam as well.)

I also enjoyed a great column on FindLaw that gets the Yoo memo out of the realm of the ivory tower and into a discussion of the real-world ethical implications of John Yoo's actions:

Some have claimed the controversy over Yoo's memo at Berkeley is simply an academic freedom/free speech issue, and urged that the answer is obvious: Yoo ought to be able to express whatever views he chooses. But Yoo did more than just express views; in writing the memo, he also offered counsel.

After all, Yoo's articles alone could have been used to justify Administration action, even if he had never worked for the government. What his memo added - as he was doubtless aware - was cover. It provides cover for the Administration, in the event there are future attempts to prosecute Administration members for war crimes.

It's as if Yoo provided a "technically correct" legal brief to Michael Jackson that enabled the King of Pop to molest little boys and get away with it. Even if Yoo's analysis was the most brilliant piece of legal analysis on God's green earth, the conduct it was designed to protect makes the memo inherently unethical.

And another thing, the attempt to paint the petition against Yoo as the greatest threat to academic freedom in modern times just doesn't wash. (If academic freedom was really what motivated campus conservatives, then why do they ally with Accuracy in Academia, which recently called for an FBI file to be started on Professor Hatem Bazian?) If Yoo weren't tenured, then the academic freedom argument might hold sway, but Yoo is tenured and the petition does not call for Yoo to be fired. Instead, it calls for Yoo to take voluntary action to recant his position or resign. Since the chances of that happening are between slim and none, the petition is at bottom nothing more than a symbolic expression of moral outrage, which is exactly what it should be. Yoo shouldn't be censored, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be censured. Besides, if activists wanted to get serious and move beyond merely "symbolic" acts with regard to John Yoo, the best course of action would be to avoid academia altogether and initiate disbarment proceedings against him and all the other lawyers who contributed to the ass-covering memos that legitimized the prison abuses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
We Own The Campus Now?

Daniel Frankenstein and Jesse Gabriel were both featured prominently in the recent East Bay Express article on anti-Semitism at Berkeley, which alleged that anti-Semitism was on the increase.

According to a May 2004 article posted by the New York chapter of the United Jewish Appeal, Daniel Frankenstein sang a much more upbeat tune than what appears in the recent East Bay Express article:

[Jesse] Gabriel, [Daniel] Frankenstein and Rebecca Simon, another Berkeley student, went to Washington to participate in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's Saban National Political Leadership Training Seminar, an intensive program for 250 college students from 60 campuses.

"We were given the tools to take back the campus," Frankenstein said on a spring afternoon, seated in a shady spot at an outdoor caf near Berkeley's campus. ``Not only have we taken it back -- we own the campus now."

What do you mean "we" here? In my sociology department, we have several members of the Tikkun Community Network and Tzedek, in addition to several Israeli "sabras" enrolled in our graduate program. It's certainly news to them that "we" own the campus, whether "we" is defined as Jewish or Gentile.
Israel boosters grasping at straws

Knock-off corporate weekly rag, the East Bay Express, recently found itself in the service of Micki Wienberg. It was truly a shameful bit of yellow journalism.

It sparked a good deal of commentary after Calstuff linked to it. 2 of those blog posts are available here and here.

The Berkeley Daily Planet has a good piece that addresses the issue from a different perspective, and there will be a response published in the EB Express as well, just dont know when that will come out.

Obviously, I don't think theres a huge problem with anti-Semitism on campus, but I do think its Adam Weisberg's (ex. director at Berkeley Hillel) job to worry about anti-Semitism, regardless of whether its a serious problem or not, and when it rears its ugly head, its his job to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Thus, if the East Bay Xpress had it right, and antisemitism was rampant on campus, you would assume that Adam would have DONE A BUNCH OF STUFF TO ADDRESS IT! The proper question to ask then, if you want to know if anti-Semitism is a problem, is WHAT HAS BERKELEY HILLEL DONE?

And the answer is, nothing, specifically, directly, to address anti-Semitism. I'm not counting press releases about the few hate crimes that have occured. Im talking about large scale anti-hate programming. Instead of doing anti-hate programming, they hired an "Israel Initiatives" coordinator to do promotional pro-Israel programming, chased Tzedek (pro-human rights jewish group) out of Hillel, and brought a bunch of fucked up speakers to campus to villify Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.

For those of you that want specifics on the lovely little things Hillel has been up to recently, you can take a peek at this handout.

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