Thursday, October 06, 2005


Eager to find a job after leaving jail for stalking, burglary and vandalism convictions, Richard Karelas filled out more than 30 applications that, he said, asked whether he had ever been convicted of a felony. "I would get a look from people like, 'Oh, man, a hardened criminal,' " said Karelas, 56, of Rancho Cordova. "As soon as they put a label on you, you don't have a fair chance."

Experiences such as this are driving an effort in San Francisco to eliminate the practice of requiring applicants for city jobs to disclose upfront whether they have ever been convicted in court. If successful, the San Francisco initiative would stand as a high-profile deviation from decades of tough-on-crime policies and post-9/11 security measures that, advocates say, have made it more difficult for former convicts to re-enter daily life.

But even San Francisco's human resources director says some information could be lost by eliminating the question. And San Francisco would be alone among more than a dozen California municipalities the city surveyed if it drops the requirement. "It doesn't eliminate criminal background screening altogether," Tom Ammiano, the supervisor who introduced the measure, said in explaining the city can ask about convictions during subsequent interviews. "But it's about keeping the door open. ... San Francisco has always been at the forefront." ...

San Francisco's 11 supervisors could vote on the resolution as early as mid-October, and if it passes, it would go to Mayor Gavin Newsom's desk...

Northwestern University sociologist Jeff Manza estimates 15 million ex-convicts live in the country today, nearly 7 percent of the adult population. Because minorities are disproportionately incarcerated, employers generally can't just refuse to hire anybody with a felony conviction. The exception is when an offense is job-related, such as someone with a drug felony applying to work in a pharmacy or a sex offender who targets children seeking to work in schools....

And, at a time of growing security concerns, criminal background checks are on the rise. Eighty percent of employers conducted background checks in 2003, up from 51 percent in 1996, the Society for Human Resource Management found. "There are lots of legitimate reasons employers would be concerned about hiring ex-offenders," Pager said, adding that companies also risk being sued for negligent hiring if they bring in someone who harms co-workers or customers.....

The San Francisco proposal generated a strong reaction from Harriet Salarno, head of Crime Victims United of California. "The employer needs to know if there's a violent offender or child molester," she said. "Why not ask that question? Why are we so protective of felons and not protecting innocent people?" Such reservations were not voiced in San Francisco last week when Ammiano introduced the resolution.

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I have already put up one review of the latest hymn to lesbianism but the review below by Caitlin Flanagan is more comprehensive

Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., is a renowned gender scholar at Cornell who has also held a prestigious post at Stanford. Raising Boys Without Men is the result of her "groundbreaking study" into "maverick moms" -- lesbians and "single mothers by choice" who are raising sons. It turns out that boys raised by women without men are actually better off than boys raised by mothers and fathers. They may fuck you up, your mum and dad, but two mums can make a "head-and-heart boy" out of you.

Drexler asserts that the most important element in predicting how a child turns out is not the number or gender of his parents but their economic status. Since most maverick moms are relatively affluent and highly educated, their sons are less likely to end up in trouble -- legal, educational, or emotional -- than are those of the general population. This essential truth trumps almost all arguments against gay and single-by-choice parenthood. What's left are religious objections and distaste for a lifestyle, and those are hardly the basis for public policy.

No sooner, however, is the reader nodding in agreement than Drexler kicks the book into high gear: not since the SCUM Manifesto have we had such a comprehensive accounting of the low-down rottenness of men. A household with a dad in it is a place where "competition, dominance, and control" are the mainstays. Men, if roused to emotion, become like "wounded rhinos" -- verbally or physically aggressive. Dads demand too much of sons, expect athletic excellence, bully them. "Not having a dad has let Henry off the hook," one lesbian mom reports; "he doesn't do well if he's pushed into things." The book is full of bad dads, from Austin Powers's crappy father (who missed a school event) to Ward Cleaver, whose crimes are beyond number. (Most feminists consider the producers of Leave It to Beaver to be Burbank's answer to Leni Riefenstahl.)

Like Gunsmoke's Miss Kitty, maverick moms affect a jaded familiarity with male behavior, but the little rascals succeed in shocking their delicate mothers time and again. One mother gives her son a toy hair dryer for Christmas and then is horrified when he pretends it's a gun instead of a styling aid. Two brothers are so full of aggro that they desperately gnaw their toast into guns and start shooting. Occasionally, male problem-solving techniques give the moms a happy surprise. One son gave a broken washing machine a hard kick (a prelude to gnawing it into a rocket launcher?) and -- shazam! -- the thing cut back on and has been working ever since. Like boys the world over, these ones tend to brood silently over baseball cards and ball games. Of course, nothing makes a woman go bananas like a man who won't talk, so the poor kids have to yak, yak, yak about their feelings or they'll never get to see the bottom of the ninth.

Drexler believes not that gender is a construct, layered on by the culture, but that differences between the sexes are genetic. This is entirely correct -- but Drexler takes the idea a step further. She believes that because masculinity arises naturally, boys don't need an actual father on the premises to shape or inform it. In her opinion, maleness is a bit like Jiffy Pop -- put the thing on the stove, give it a shake now and then to keep it from overheating, and voila: let's eat!

Raising Boys Without Men is as much a work of advocacy as objective research. As such, it's the latest entry in the ever growing field of "You go, girl!" studies. There is nothing a woman can do that is so fundamentally self-centered that it won't be met with a cackle of "You go, girl!" from a female somewhere on the planet. It's a way of transforming an essentially selfish act into one of liberation, and thereby protecting it from male criticism......

The boys in the study pine for their fathers. Drexler notes that they share a peculiarly intense fascination with father-son athletes from the world of professional sports, and that they have an outsize interest in superheroes. Those who have ongoing relationships with their "seed daddies" mourn piteously when the men fail to take a fatherly interest in them. A humane assessment of these impulses would be that boys want fathers, but when the world does not mete them out (because of either tragedy or maternal intention), good mothers can ease the pain and do what widows and abandoned women have done throughout time: raise their sons as best they can, often with great success.

But this is "You go, girl!" territory, and no quarter can be given to any fact that might suggest the women are slighting their children. None of these boys is exhibiting "father hunger," Drexler reports; it's only natural "to long for what you don't have." Not having a father is a bit like not having a skateboard -- kind of a bummer, but at least you don't have to worry about head injuries.

One could logically conclude from this report that the very worst situation for a boy would be to have two fathers raise him -- but I'm sure Drexler doesn't mean that. It's straight men she's afraid of, and it's been open season on them for such a long time that her preposterous book is unlikely to raise a ripple beyond its intended audience. Yet the book and its conclusions are not without consequence beyond the tightly circumscribed world she describes.

We are all building a culture together, and it is one with a remarkably consistent message. From the shady groves of our elite universities to the Hollywood offices of Interscope Records, a chorus of powerful voices is telling us that men don't need to stand by their women and children anymore. Male rappers delight in this notion because there is sexual power to be gained by impregnating many women. Feminists like it because it allows them to enjoy the delights of being a mother without the hassles of being a wife.

The ramifications of this new attitude are going to be grave. Belittle men's responsibilities to their families, raise boys to believe that fatherhood is not a worthy aspiration, and the people who will suffer are women and children. For the past forty years women have been insisting that they be able to enjoy the same sexual freedoms as men (You go, girl!), and to become single mothers by choice (ditto!). Surprise, surprise: men have been more than happy to comply. Someday American women may realize that the great achievement of civilization wasn't Erica Jong's zipless fuck of yesteryear. It was convincing men that they had an obligation to contain their sexual energies within marriage and to support -- economically and emotionally -- the children they created in that marriage.

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