Saturday, September 08, 2007


By Jeff Jacoby

Debating capital punishment at an Ivy League university a few years ago, I was confronted with the claim that since death sentences are more often meted out in cases where the victim is white, the death penalty must be racially biased. It's a spurious argument, I replied. Whites commit fewer than half of all murders in the United States, yet more whites than blacks are sentenced to death and more whites than blacks are executed each year. (56 percent of death row inmates are white, and of the 53 murderers executed last year, 32 were white.) If there is racial bias in the system, it clearly doesn't operate in favor of whites.

But if you do choose to focus on the race of victims, I added, remember that nearly all black homicide is intraracial -- more than nine out of 10 black murder victims in the United States are killed by black murderers. So applying the death penalty in more cases where the victim is black would mean sending more black men to death row.

After the debate, a young black woman accosted me indignantly. Ninety-plus percent of black blood is shed by black hands? What about all the victims of white supremacists? Hadn't I heard of lynching? Hadn't I heard of James Byrd, who died so horribly in Jasper, Texas? When I assured her that Byrd's murder by whites was utterly untypical of most black homicide, she was dubious. So I asked for an e-mail address, and promised to send her a link to the FBI's violent-crime statistics.

I thought of that young woman when I read recently about James Ford Seale, the former Mississippi Klansman sentenced last month to three life terms in prison for his role in murdering two black teenagers 43 years ago. The killing of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964 was one of several unsolved civil-rights-era crimes that prosecutors in the South have reopened in recent years. Seale's trial was a vivid reminder of the days when racial contempt was a deadly fact of life in much of the country. His sentence proclaims even more vividly the transformation of America since then. White racism, once such a murderous force, is now associated mostly with feeble has-beens.

Yet many Americans, like the woman at my debate, still seem to view racial questions through an antediluvian lens. To them, it is always the 1960s: White bigotry remains a clear and present danger, and the reason so many black Americans die before their time.

But the data aren't in dispute. Though outrage over "racism" is ever fashionable, African-Americans have long had far less to fear from the violence of racist whites than from the mayhem of the black underclass. "Do you realize that the leading killer of young black males is young black males?" asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan 16 years ago. "As a black man and a father of three, this really shakes me to the core of my being." From Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, came a similar cry of anguish. "Nothing in the long history of blacks in America," he lamented in 1994, "suggests the terrible destruction blacks are visiting upon each other today." Happily, crime rates have declined from their 1990s peak. But it remains the case that the worst destruction in black America is self-inflicted.

In a new study, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms once again that almost half the people murdered in the United States each year are black, and 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by someone of their own race. (For white homicide victims, the figure is 85 percent.) In other words, of the estimated 8,000 African-Americans murdered in 2005, more than 7,400 were cut down by other African-Americans. Though blacks account for just one-eighth of the US population, the BJS reports, they are six times more likely than whites to be victimized by homicide -- and seven times more likely to commit homicide.

Such huge disproportions don't just happen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously warned 40 years ago that the collapse of black family life would mean rising chaos and crime in the black community. Today, as many as 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock or raised in fatherless households. And as reams of research confirm, children raised without married parents and intact, stable families are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.

High rates of black violent crime are a national tragedy, but it is the law-abiding black majority that suffers from them most. "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life," Jesse Jackson said in 1993, "than to walk down the street and hear footsteps . . . then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

It isn't an insoluble problem. Americans overcame white racism; they can overcome black crime, too. But the first step, as always, is to face the facts.

No glamour allowed on planes

Sounds like Southwest airlines is one to avoid

As the mercury climbed over 100 on Labor Day, I called Southwest Airlines with a not entirely hypothetical question: Could a young woman board a flight to Tucson today wearing a bikini top? Angelique, the agent who took my call, assured me that a young woman could. "We don't have a problem with it if she's covered up in all the right spots," she said. "We don't have a dress code."

Tell that to Kyla Ebbert, who was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight two months ago for wearing an outfit far less revealing than a bikini top. Ebbert, a Mesa College student and Hooters waitress, was allowed to stay on the plane, but only after she put up a fight and, she says, was lectured on how to dress properly. I don't know about you, but one of my big gripes with the airlines is that they just don't take the time to dispense fashion advice any more.

Southwest explained its treatment of Ebbert in a letter to her mother, saying it could remove any passenger "whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive" to ensure the comfort of children and "adults with heightened sensitivities."

Ebbert, 23, says she was judged unfairly by the airline and humiliated by the experience. Who wouldn't be? She had a doctor's appointment that afternoon in Tucson, where temperatures had topped 106 all week. She arrived at Lindbergh Field wearing a white denim miniskirt, high-heel sandals, and a turquoise summer sweater over a tank top over a bra. After the plane filled, and the flight attendants began their safety spiel, Ebbert was asked to step off the plane by a customer service supervisor, identified by the airline only as "Keith."

They walked out onto the jet bridge, where Keith told Ebbert her clothing was inappropriate and asked her to change. She explained she was flying to Tucson for only a few hours and had brought no luggage. "I asked him what part of my outfit was offensive," she said. "The shirt? The skirt? And he said, 'The whole thing.' Keith asked her to go home, change and take a later flight. She refused, citing her appointment. The plane was ready to leave, so Keith relented. He had her pull up her tank top a bit, pull down her skirt a bit, and return to her seat.

Ebbert says several flight attendants overheard the conversation and, after an embarrassing walk down the aisle, she took her seat and spread a blanket over her lap. She kept her composure until the plane landed, when she called her mother and broke down. She took a photo of herself with her cell phone so her mother could see her clothes. That's when mom became livid. "My daughter is young, tall, blond and beautiful," Michele Ebbert told me, "and she is both envied and complimented on her appearance. She dresses provocatively, as do 99 percent of 23-year-old girls who can. But they were out of line."

Who knows where the lines are drawn these days, particularly when it comes to dress? If you watch television, or visit the mall, or take in a game at Petco Park, you'll see women dressed in ways that, 50 years ago, were pornographic. Today they are stylish. A Supreme Court justice famously could not define "obscene," and declaring a thing "lewd" imputes motive. Did Kyla Ebbert intend to excite sexual desire on that flight to Tucson? I doubt it, just as I doubt that flight attendants are proper judges of such matters. But neither am I. So when I arranged to see Ebbert in the notorious outfit, I brought along my fashion advisers, writer Nina Garin and photojournalist Crissy Pascual, who for years collaborated on a feature in this newspaper called "Seen on the Street."

The three of us met Ebbert and her mother for lunch at Nordstrom Cafe. Ebbert, who is 5-foot-5 and has green eyes, is pretty enough to be a model. Yet even wearing the clothes that scandalized Southwest, she did not attract attention beyond some lingering glances. My fashion advisers were baffled, saying they saw nothing you don't see on a college campus or in Pacific Beach. "I was expecting to be shocked, and I was shocked the other way," Pascual told me.

"It wasn't a big deal," Garin said. "Her skirt was a bit short, which was only accented by her heels. If she had been wearing flip-flops it wouldn't have mattered." Garin wondered if a jealous woman may have complained about Ebbert's outfit. I asked her what she would have said had she been on the plane. " 'I hope she's not sitting next to my husband,' " Garin replied. "She's pretty. She wears her clothes well. But I wouldn't complain about it." Pascual detected sexism in the way Ebbert was treated, wondering if a man would have been asked to change clothes. Do men dress inappropriately? "I see butt cracks, a lot of butt cracks," she said.

In its letter, Southwest said "there were concerns about the revealing nature of her outfit." I called Hollye Chacon, the Southwest customer relations representative who wrote the letter, to see if we were talking about the same outfit. "What exactly was being revealed?" I asked. She said yesterday she'd call back, but never did. That's pretty revealing in itself.


Totally dishonest "protesters" in Sydney

ARE these shouty protesters - and their sock puppets in the media - sure they've got the right guy in their sights? Let me check again what tomorrow's big Stop Bush 2007 rally outside Sydney's APEC meeting is demanding. Hmm. Foreign troops out. Defend workers' rights. Stop global warming.

And, indeed, at the APEC meeting is a president who really does occupy a foreign country, really does trample workers' rights and really does lead a country that now belches more greenhouse gases than any other. What's more, this president also runs a gulag, bans free speech, stacks courts, jails dissidents, executes crooks and leads a government even he admits is too corrupt. That's surely enough to tick the box of every protester in Sydney.

So here's the puzzle: why isn't tomorrow's protest called Stop Hu Jintao 2007 instead? Why do the protesters shout abuse at Bush, the elected president of democratic United States, but not boo Hu, the unelected president of communist China? Why did students this week stage a Walk Out on Bush, but stay at school for Hu? And why is the big-city media so savage against Bush, while writing headlines yesterday declaring "Hu is Australia's main man" and "Big welcome for China's leader"? None of it makes sense. What's Bush done that Hu hasn't done worse?

Under Bush, the US last year actually cut its greenhouse gases. Hu's China, though, is now the world leader, belching out more carbon dioxide every year, with no sign of slowing. Under Bush, US troops have liberated Iraq from a tyranny and are staying temporarily on the invitation of that country's elected government to keep that democracy safe.

Under Hu, China has just tightened its grip on occupied Tibet, this week demanding Beijing now approve all of Tibet's spiritual leaders. It has meanwhile propped up mad Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe and the genocidal one in Sudan and has threatened democratic Taiwan with war.

Bush isn't even a starter in any spot-the-tyrant game that includes Hu, whose country runs as many as 1000 forced labour camps, refuses to let even the Catholic Church operate openly, and last month even sent blogger He Weihua to a mental hospital for criticising local officials. So tough is Hu's regime on even foreign reporters that CNN's Beijing staff were last month stopped from reporting on media freedom in China. You'd think the media, at least, might conclude from this which of the two governments is its better friend.

Yet it's Bush, not Hu, who gets the mockery and open contempt of journalists and who is made out by protesters to be the Hitler of our times. Here's how weird is this cognitive dissonance. The Sydney Morning Herald, in its campaign to make Bush seem the nuisance who on his own whim forced a security shutdown of central Sydney, last week sought out the views even of the Communist Party of Australia. The CPA naturally obliged, huffing: "The APEC security fence that stretches through Sydney's CBD is a 'wall of shame' and undemocratic." That's brazen. You'd think anyone so upset by walls and keen on democracy would actually never have been a communist in the first place.

And you might also wonder why the Herald didn't at least note that this temporary fence to lock out violent protesters was being attacked by a party that once endorsed the Berlin Wall, built by a communist despot to lock up an entire population. But it's unfashionable even to mention "communism" as though it was a bad thing, or to note America was right to resist it then as it is right to resist Islamist fascism today.

That is a history that's erased from polite talk, and rarely taught to the children now wearing the bandannas of the Marxist Resistance group and chanting fierce slogans against capitalism and Bush. ("I pretty much disagree with everything that George Bush, like, represents," babbled one student on the ABC's PM show.)

Instead of holding old communists to account, our institutions honour them. Sydney University last year gave the CPA president, Hannah Middleton, a "community peace award" for working so hard to stop Australia from defending itself. Hu, too, is getting the warmest of welcomes. On his last visit, you'll recall, he got to address our Parliament in respectful silence, while Bush, in his own address the day before, was heckled by Greens leader Bob Brown. This time he has enjoyed a lavish dinner thrown for him by NSW Premier Morris Iemma and attended by every former Labor prime minister still alive. How grateful he was at being so honoured by the Left, saying: "I want to thank in particular Mr Whitlam, Mr Hawke and Mr Keating for attending tonight's dinner."

And how grateful he must be that journalists didn't feel such an aching desire to ridicule him that they inspected even his plate for something they could throw at his head. Contrast that with Bush having to watch his every mouthful at a barbecue held by the Prime Minister. The Sydney Morning Herald not only sent a snarky writer to check how he loaded his plate -- "I'll help you out, he told the reporter, "Here's your first sentence: 'The President takes a spoon. . .' " -- but got a health expert to whack him for eating so much meat. At a barbecue. Of all things.... so much of the rage against Bush is fundamentally insincere -- an affected hatred of much that the protesters actually would hate to go without. Like a teenager's rage against his parents.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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