Thursday, September 06, 2007

Prejudiced Alabama council to consider revoking business license of Asian

The store owner is Asian, the woman complaining is black. He's had dozens of complaints against Black gang members hanging out on his property over the years - all ignored, but on the word of one (black) woman he's going to lose a business he's owned for 17 years.

Birmingham City Council members will investigate revoking the business license of an East Lake convenience store owner accused of assaulting a customer. Kathleen Bullard of East Lake told council members Tuesday that Ty Nyugen and his son, Hieu Nyugen, assaulted her on Aug. 17 after they thought she stole a bag of ice from the Texaco station at 421 Oporto-Madrid Boulevard. Bullard, 45, has filed assault charges against the 51-year-old father and the 18-year-old son. "I want justice," Bullard said. "He needs to be closed down."

Ty Nyugen did not attend the meeting, but in a later interview Tuesday said Bullard attacked him and he was trying to defend himself. Neighborhood leaders and residents from Gate City, Wahouma and North East Lake joined Bullard to complain about Nyugen, saying he treats patrons rudely and hurls racial insults at them. "I don't want him there," said Exie Bridges, North East Lake Neighborhood Association president. "I want him gone."

Pat Johnson, president of the Wahouma Neighborhood Association, said the store is in an area where gang members hang out. Nyugen said he does not hurl racial insults at customers and has to endure them himself. "This store has almost 2,000 customers a day," he said. "If I act that way, how would I get so much customers?" He also said he has called police about gang members loitering, but they keep coming back.

Council members said they were troubled by Bullard's account and the reports of neighborhood leaders. "It sounds like a scary place to even buy a soda," said Councilwoman Valerie Abbott. Councilman William Bell said if the accusations are true, the council should look into revoking other business licenses Nyugen owns. He has owned the Texaco station in North East Lake for 17 years, Nyugen said.

Council members said they would seek to revoke Nyugen's license. They set a public hearing for Sept. 11. Councilman Roderick Royal said residents can do more to show their immediate dissatisfaction. "Y'all need to stop going," he said.


Finding said to show "race isn't real" scrapped

A renowned scientist has backed off a finding that he, joined by others, long touted as evidence for what they called a proven fact: that racial differences among people are imaginary. That view -- entrenched today in academia, and often used to castigate scholars who study race -- has drawn much of its scientific backing from a finding that all people are 99.9 percent genetically alike. But geneticist Craig Venter, head of a research team that reported that figure in 2001, backed off it in an announcement this week. He said human variation now turns out to be seven times greater than was thought, though he's not changing his position on race. [It would be fatal to his business if he did]

Some other scientists have disputed the earlier figure for years as underestimating human variation. Venter, instead, has cited the number as key evidence that race is imaginary. He once declared that "no serious scholar" disputes that, though again, some recent studies have contradicted it.

Geneticist Armand Marie Leroi of Imperial College London wrote recently that a recognition of race could in the future help society protect endangered races. The more common past practice was for societies to oppress other races, which is largely what led some to try to banish any recognition of race altogether.

Thus, views like Leroi's have been largely marginalized. The race isn't real doctrine prevails, typically portrayed by backers as settled fact that only racists or their dupes could question. It "can be something close to professional suicide" for researchers to even suggest race exists, psychiatrist Sally Satel wrote in the Dec. 2001 Jan. 2002 issue of the magazine Policy Review.

Venter didn't originate the notion that race isn't real. But his support of it has carried great weight because he is something of a star, thanks to his key role in the highprofile Human Genome Project, completed in 2003. In a teleconference on Monday, Venter and colleagues announced their revised assessment of human diversity, based on a study of Venter's own DNA. It was the first "diploid" genome published to date, said Venter and members of his research team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md. This means it was the first listing of the sequence of letters of genetic code from both of a person's chromosomes, the genes inherited from the mother and the father.

The findings reveal "human-to-human variation is more than sevenfold greater than earlier estimates, proving that we are in fact very unique individuals at the genetic level," Venter said. The findings are to appear in the October issue of the online research journal PLoS Biology. Venter added that the cost of sequencing an individual person's genome is rapidly dropping, and that a decade from now, "thousands or tens of thousands" will have their DNA code written out. He said the new findings were a pleasant surprise, as they show we're not all "clones" as the previous results suggested.

The original estimate showing near-zero variability in the genome, a product of the Human Genome Project, was a result of the different technology used for that work, said a colleague of Venter's, Stephen Scherer of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. The technique originally used, Scherer said, could read the sequence of letters of a genetic code. But it couldn't detect repetitions of some parts of the code, which also occur. Differences in the number of these repetitions, called copy number variants, have since turned out to account for much of the variation in a species' DNA. Another type of variation recently found to be important is called insertion-deletion variants, snippets of code that are either extra or missing in some genomes compared to others.

Some researchers said that now that Venter has dropped the 99.9 percent claim, he should also admit race might exist. Denial of that "obvious" fact is "an extreme manifestation of political correctness," wrote Richard Lynn, a psychologist who has proposed links between race and intelligence, in an email. Lynn, of the University of Ulster in Ireland, added that he thinks Venter has unfairly maligned scientists who believe race exists.

Venter stuck to his guns. Race-isn't-real proponents have other arguments beside the 99.9 percentage, though these are debated also. Venter remarked that even though variability is much greater than once thought, human populations and traits blend together everywhere. That means each person could arbitrarily divide humanity into a different group of races, if he so chose. Thus "race is a social concept, not a scientific one," Venter said, repeating a common dictum.

Neil Risch of the University of California at San Francisco -- who has led research challenging that view -- said he doesn't feel maligned by Venter's statements on race and researchers of it. But the data behind those claims really gave little new insight into population differences, and "I have always felt it is best to avoid entangling genetics with politics," Risch wrote in an email.


Of Prophets, Priests, and Pansies

Last week, I reported that a number of newspapers had decided not to run a two-part storyline appearing in Berkeley Breathed's comic-strip Opus (the reincarnation of his once wildly popular Bloom County). In the comic, the main female character, Lola Granola (a name redolent with meaning), had decided to convert to radical Islam and had begun to wear a burqa. According to Editor & Publisher, some newspapers "won't publish any Muslim-related humor, whether pro or con." But, as I explained (both in my post and repeatedly in the comments), this strip wasn't making fun of Islam, but of Western "converts" who, a few years ago, might have followed Madonna into Kabbalism or Richard Gere into Buddhism.

That fact made the media's cowardice all the more telling. Now the second installment has appeared, and the story has moved from the ridiculous to the bizarre. According to, the Washington Post Writers Group, which distributes Opus and had originally defended the two-part series (while offering an alternative selection to newspapers that wanted to opt out), would not approve the second installment until Breathed made a slight (but significant) change to the text. To push the event beyond the heights of absurdity, the Washington Post then refused to publish even the bowdlerized version.

So, what's so horribly offensive to Muslims about part two of the storyline? Again, as far as I can tell, nothing. Lola's initial enthusiasm for Islam is waning, and she's abandoned her veil. Breathed still pokes a little fun at her character, but the joke could apply equally to some conservative Christians who are perhaps a bit too hypersensitive on questions of female modesty.

Breathed reserves his main stab at humor for his lead male character, Steve Dallas. Realizing that Lola's "conversion" is just a passing phase, Steve slips into stereotypical male chauvinism, telling her that "You love that I'm so damned smart about what's best for you" and then demanding that, "In 30 seconds, you will come back out wearing that steamy little polka dot [bikini]." Just to drive the point home, Steve exclaims, "America rocks!"

Clearly, Breathed is satirizing those "conservatives" who believe that the way to combat Islam is to export our "values"--values such as, in the words of one Iraqi in the heady days after the overthrow of Saddam, "Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!" In fact, in the very next panel, he drives the point home, as Steve turns to his son and declares, "And that, little dude, is how we're gonna straighten out the Middle East."

Except that he doesn't. At least, not in the version approved by the Washington Post Writers Group. Only ran the original text. All of the other papers that ran the second part of the storyline had Steve saying, "And that, little dude, is how we're gonna straighten out the world." (The final little twist in the strip makes it clear that, world or Middle East, Steve's not going to succeed in straightening out anything.)

This is political correctness at its worst. Again, Islam is not the butt of Breathed's joke. As he did last week, he deftly satirizes a certain group of contemporary Americans. What's even more strange about the decision of the Washington Post and others not to run this installment is that it's hard to hide behind the "no Muslim-related humor of any kind" justification. In fact, Islam has taken such a low-level supporting role in this installment that I have to wonder whether the concern about Steve's declaration that he's going to straighten out the Middle East has to do with another lobbying group.

In any case, it's just a cartoon, right? Of course--except that it tells us a little something about the willingness of the American media to engage in honest discussion of controversial issues. No wonder the Chicago Tribune and the Rockford Register Star both ran glowing articles about the local Muslim school in Rockford, Illinois, without ever once mentioning the many red flags that I noticed in the course of one day at the school. It's bad enough to be blind; it's even worse to poke your own eyes out.


The infantilization of public life

A few days ago my wife and I visited the Meadowbrook concert venue in lovely Gilford, New Hampshire. One of our favorite bands, the North Mississippi Allstars, was there opening up for the Allman Brothers Band, and we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

We entered the Meadowbrook grounds through a large iron gate after being lectured - twice - by a staff member that we would all be searched; that absolutely no "weapons" - including even a small pocket knife or Leatherman tool - would be permitted; that all concert-goers wishing to purchase alcoholic beverages would have to provide adequate identification to prove their age; that re-entry to the grounds is forbidden. (Before we even left home, we'd received an email from the venue which stated that no alcohol would be permitted in the parking area.)

Inside, the first thing I noticed was the police presence. They were everywhere. I've been to several concert venues in the last few years, yet I had never seen so many cops. Typically they've stayed on the periphery. At least, if there were more mingling around with us subjects they'd had the decency to be out of uniform. Here, I felt like I was in disaster area or an occupation zone.

We were instantly assailed by a variety of vendors giving away free stuff like backpacks, newspapers, and lottery tickets. United Way was there, asking for donations. I wasn't interested in any of that; I grabbed the first official looking person I saw and asked where the beer was. He sent me to the wrong place. When I got there they sent me to the "beer tent" at the back of the venue, near the lawn-seating. This was perfect - we had lawn seats. When we walked up there, however, we were told that it wasn't open yet; we'd have to use the bar back near the entrance. Without noticing, we'd walked right past this bar when we entered. Naturally, we had to show our I.D. to get past the policeman "guarding" the entrance-way to a fenced off area around the bar.

Finally, I had beer. Content, I was now ready to walk up to the lawn and find a spot to hang out and dance when the show started. Turning from the bar and heading back out of this bar area, I was stopped by the same large, militaristic-looking young policeman who'd stopped me when I was coming in. "No alcohol beyond this point," he said. So we sat down at a table and sipped our beer.

"Let's finish these and see if the beer tent is open yet," I said to my wife a few minutes later. After walking back to the lawn, we found - to our great pleasure - that the beer tent was open. Again we had to show our I.D.'s to enter a fenced-off area. Thinking that finally we'd grab a drink and find that spot on the lawn, our illusions were quickly shattered: we were not allowed to leave with our drinks.

Though our beers had been put in plastic cups, we couldn't be trusted to walk twenty-five yards and sit down on the grass; we had to stay near the bar (and the six-dollar cups of beer). At least they had good beer. Again, cops were everywhere. If you lingered too long without a drink in your hand, some conscientious staff member would encourage you step up to one of the many bartenders ready to serve you. Of course, you'd have to drink the entire cup before leaving the bar area. I couldn't help but notice how all of this encouraged quick and heavy drinking. This would keep the many police officers watching the roads around Meadowbrook in work.

We finished another drink and found our spot on the lawn, where loudspeakers blared a local radio station broadcast. Before the show started, an instantly-irritating host announced the winner of the lottery, plugged future Meadowbrook events, and informed the pavilion audience that a select and favored few of them, if they were to look under their seats, might find some "artist's" new CD, theirs to have for free. The North Mississippi Allstars played for about an hour. After they'd left the stage, the same irritating host returned to announce another lottery winner.

Knowing the place would quickly start to fill up for the Allman Brothers Band, we decided grab a quick bite to eat. There's one decent and expensive (and this is a relative term!) restaurant at Meadowbrook. There were countless vendors selling bland burgers, cold chicken tenders, cheese-covered French fries and pizza. We bought some of the crappy food and walked around. Other than a few picnic tables - which were already being used - there was nowhere in this massive place to sit down. So we kept moving.

Before heading back to the lawn we decided to answer nature's call, and waded through a sea of policeman thuggishly glaring at anyone approaching the restrooms. No doubt some malcontent had just smoked a joint in the Men's Room, elevating our protectors to Threat Level Orange or whatever.

My wife and I have a long-standing policy in large public places: if one or both of us wishes to use the restroom, we establish a meeting point where we can rendezvous when we're finished. Whoever gets there first waits right in that spot until the other returns. This prevents us from getting split up in a crowd. Unwittingly, the spot we picked was next to a predictable vendor at any place where hippies converge: the banner across the front of their stand read "Saving the World One Beat at a Time." Apparently, music doesn't require fossil fuels.

Waiting for my wife, I overhead a conversation between two nearby people. A young man was trying to hand something to a young girl. I could see them out of the corner of my eye; I'd have needed to wrap duct tape around my head to not hear them. He was pushing something towards her, and she kept pushing it away. After a minute or so of this, the item - which turned out to be a t-shirt - fell to the ground. Instantly, the young man howled at the top of his voice, "Litterer! This girl hates the Earth!" It wasn't said maliciously. Obviously he was goofing off. Yet the high volume startled me from my slumber, and I reflexively looked in their direction. At this point I made eye contact with the girl, who looked to be somewhere between 18-22 years old. I would guess her companion was the same age. Key voters a healthy democracy needs, we're constantly told.

Do you remember what it was like to be, say, 8 or 9? Elementary school days? Invariably, a friend on the playground would try to embarrass you by making a loud and scandalous allegation. "He plays with himself!" some kid might shout at you. "He's gay!" was a favorite when I was in school. "He likes girls!" was almost as bad. The point is, the instant reaction of the now-mortified victim of this verbal assault was to deflect any and all attention away from himself - preferably back on the accuser. The standard response was to point back and say, childishly, "No I don't - he does!"

Well, back to Meadowbrook. I was staring into the eyes of a now-mortified young woman who had been accused of littering and "hating the Earth." Doubtless she thought I was looking at her in reaction to the accusation. Pausing only long enough to swallow hard, she stared back at me fearfully. "No I don't," she said, hastily, pointing back at her friend, "He does!" I didn't care. I didn't say anything, just walked far enough away that I could see my wife when she returned. Blissfully, this happened within moments, sparing me any further contact with the Earth-hating couple.

It was getting dark. The Allman Brothers started to play. The first thing I noticed when the sun went down was the aroma of marijuana all around me. With lots of people now on the lawn, the police and security guards were hard pressed to identify individual offenders. Safe in relative anonymity, the kids smoked away. Another lesson from another flawed policy: prohibit something peaceful and you merely drive it, literally, into the shadows.

We got bored after about half an hour. We'd seen what we came to see, so we decided to drive around a few of the nearby towns surrounding beautiful Lake Winnipesauke before heading back home. Walking out, we were scrutinized by staff members who were probably instructed to report anyone appearing intoxicated to the police. They also reminded us - again - that re-entry was prohibited. That was fine with me; I didn't want to come back.

Reflecting on this experience the next day, I thought how much it served as an example of life in general. Police everywhere, watching our every move; approved "areas" for particular activities (like "Free Speech Zones"); the arbitrary limitation of choices (and the accompanying artificially high prices); fast food; constantly being shuffled around; mis-information; always having to show identification; endless visual, verbal, and commercial stimulation; irrational fear of everyone and what they might be doing; generally being treated like a small, irresponsible child. It would be foolish to blame all of this, as many are so tempted, on the excesses of capitalism. Meadowbrook is controlled and regulated to every last detail by government. Unsurprisingly, it resembles a public school more than a bustling marketplace. "I feel like a kid again," I said to one of the staffers that night. He smiled at me, probably thinking I'd meant it as a good thing.



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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