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September 27, 2007

Never too young
Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:51 PM * 73 comments

I see here that Mitt Romney is needling Democratic presidential candidates over a moment in last night’s debate where they refused to condemn a Massachusetts schoolteacher for reading a children’s book about a prince who marries another prince. Romney is complaining that Dems didn’t pretend to be shocked at the thought of “young children learning about same-sex marriage in the second grade.”

Second graders aren’t too young to absorb the anti-gay bigotry of their parents and surrounding culture. They aren’t too young to torment boys who seem effeminate or don’t like sports. So they aren’t too young to be told not to do those things.

I also see, in that USA Today article, that Georgia’s already passed, and several other southern states are working on, legislation that would give parents the legal authority to prohibit their kids from joining gay/straight alliance clubs. This after Georgia schools tried to ban such groups altogether, an effort that included an attempt to eliminate all extracurricular school groups. And you may already be aware of right-wing attempts to oppose any anti-bullying legislation that covers bullies who beat up gay kids.

This here is the traditional right-wing double standard. When the rich bleed the poor, that’s business as usual; when the poor try to keep from being bled, that’s “class warfare”. When bigots beat up gays, that’s business as usual; when gays protest being beaten, that’s “special rights” or “recruitment”.

Update: And two minutes after posting, I see that the Senate has passed the Matthew Shephard Act, which expands existing federal hate crime laws to cover bias based on the victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On the plus side, if we’re going to have hate crime laws, they ought to cover this. On the minus, I’m not thrilled with hate crime laws in general. They put still more power into the hands of prosecutors, who are plenty powerful enough nowadays.

Comments on Never too young:
#1 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:21 PM:

But that sort of mens rea question is already present.

Murder/Manslaughter/Cops in the line of duty.

Theft/Fraud.

#2 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:32 PM:

This is one of the issues that I care enough about to de-lurk for a bit.

I've found that the vast majority of people who tell me that they don't like hate crimes legislation don't really understand what hate crime legislation is intended to do.

This doesn't mean that everyone that opposes hate crimes legislation doesn't understand it. I certainly have libertarian friends that are against it because they feel that existing law is too complicated already. That is certainly a legitimate complaint, and there are other valid objections as well (although I certainly can't think of any others at the moment).

Most people who disagree with hate crimes seem to think that it only applies in a racist way (that only white people can be charged with a hate crime, for example) or that they can be charged with a hate crime for any crime committed against a person of color. Some people even seem to think that hate crimes laws would criminalize certain kids of speech. One person told me that the reason she opposed hate crimes was because she thought that her priest wouldn't be able to preach about the sin of homosexuality without being charged with a hate crime.

Arvam seems to understand what hate crimes are intended to do (although I disagree that they place too much power in the hands of prosecutors), but Romney is the person that really surprises me. As the former governor of MA I would be shocked if he hasn't supported hate crimes laws at some point in the past, and I suspect that his condemnation will only serve to encourage people who don't understand these laws to rally against them again.

The massive strawman of hate crimes is what most people oppose, and I can only hope that we eventually reach the point where people understand what hate crimes actually are and why they are necessary. Actions like Romney's are unlikely to straighten out the confusion.

Back to the main topic, I'm sure that second graders already have an awareness of heterosexual marriage in second grade. I certainly did. I don't think introducing concepts of alternative marriages are that out of line as long as neither concept is related to sex by the teacher, which is exactly what this political furor over the matter is doing.

This whole situation seems so surreal to someone that thinks that this legislation is worthwhile.

#3 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:38 PM:

Wait, Spherical Time, when did Romney come out against the Matthew Shephard Act? I mean, it wouldn't surprise me if he did, but I didn't see anything like that in any of the articles I linked to in that post.

And really, you shouldn't be surprised by anything Romney says. He's come out on both sides of almost every major political issue, because the constituency he was courting when running for governor is almost the exact opposite of the one he's courting in his presidential run.

#4 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:39 PM:

It's bizarre to me, and also perversely flattering, that people who do things like that odyssey of homophobic legislation in Georgia care so very much about me & my evil kind that we trump everything else. "After school activities can be used by homosexuals? No after school activities at all! The risk is too great!"

#5 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:49 PM:

My high school's gay-straight alliance was really fantastic. I'm happy to have been involved with it as it started. I hope it still exists.

I still remember mentioning it offhandedly to a new friend during college orientation -- and the way his jaw dropped, and he said "That's amazing. If we'd had one of those at my high school, everyone in it would have gotten beaten up."

How, exactly, would the parental permission law work? I mean, parents can already forbid their children from doing pretty much anything they disapprove of, but the legal system doesn't get involved, and I can't offhand see how it would. Would it be a situation where the school had kids' names on a list, and threatened suspension or another punishment if they attended GSA meetings? (At this point, my GSA would have started meeting off-campus, and organized carpools so everyone could get there.)

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Well, now, the Bible says that gays are bad. So we shouldn't protect them. The Bible also says that violence is bad, and that we should love our neighbours. {Cue sound of crickets.}

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:50 PM:

What I want to know is this: if gayness is catching (which seems to be one sub-text), how come I haven't caught it?

#8 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:53 PM:

"Romney here."

"Governor Romney or Candidate Romney?"

"That depends."

#9 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:53 PM:

Fragano (#6): don't forget shellfish. Why hasn't the Westboro Baptist "Church" gone after Long John Silver's?

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 07:56 PM:

Christopher Davis #9: Not to mention clothing made of two different fibres.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:00 PM:

CKD... No working on Sunday.

#12 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:02 PM:

I wonder if the gay members of that Gay-Straight Alliance group understood that, in one sense, they actually wielded the power? I expect that they might not have felt empowered by it (unless they setup the group specifically to stick it to the PTBs).

On a more silly, but seasonal, note: I wonder what the costume stores in those parts of the south sell for kids who want to dress up a a scary homosexual or a scary atheist? Or, for the double whammy, a scary homosexual atheist?

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:03 PM:

I wish they had had something to help kids who got picked on in high-school for being misfits. I guess it was all about building character.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:07 PM:

John Houghton #12: At Dragon*Con someone dressed up as the FSM.

#15 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:09 PM:

Well, how charming. How innovative. How cutting edge. Gays will be made an issue in the next presidential election. Now there's something to look forward to.

I don't know how I manage it, but I continue to maintain some tiny, nano-sized ability to be surprised every time this issue comes up in campaigns and is somehow regarded as Important.

Sometimes I effing hate this effing culture. I guess it's that tiny, nano-sized ability of mine to be surprised by its more astonishing stupidities that keeps me going when I think I genuinely can't stand one more thing from it.

#16 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:16 PM:

The important things we learn in school:

The universe isn't fair, and there are people placed in power above us to ensure that it remains that way.

Justice is subservient to law blindly applied.

What table you sit at for lunch is far more important than how smart, knowledgeable, or skilled you are.

The biggest rewards go to achievements unrelated to the core mission of the school.

#17 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:19 PM:

Fragano (13):
Are you sure it wasn't a Pierson's Puppeteer on a bad hair day?

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:26 PM:

John Houghton #17: Were you at Science Fiction Jeopardy, by any chance? (I couldn't remember 'Pearson's Puppeteers' in time.)

#19 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:47 PM:

Nope, I've never been to a Dragon*Con. I had to sneak up on my memory to pull it out, "Hindmost" is what popped into my brain first, I had to work backward from there.

#20 ::: Tom S ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:51 PM:

To be fair (and balanced), Romney's at least consistent on this. As Governor, he vetoed a bill funding hate crime enforcement and actually embargoed money previously appropriated for a state anti-bullying program.

#21 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 08:59 PM:

Caroline@#5: Would it be a situation where the school had kids' names on a list, and threatened suspension or another punishment if they attended GSA meetings? (At this point, my GSA would have started meeting off-campus, and organized carpools so everyone could get there.)

Schools are already working to establish the principle that they can discipline kids for things done outside of school without the use of school resources. Basically, if the administration doesn't like whatever it is that you're doing, it can make your life suck beyond the telling of it, as Buffy would say, and nobody really cares if anyone talks to a lawyer or not, because by the time the case actually makes it to court, all the students will have left school and all the teachers will have retired, the principal will have moved on to a new job, and the school board elections will have long since come and gone.

#22 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 09:06 PM:

I really want someone to ask Romney whether he plans to have the same respect for the laws and citizens of the US as President as he has shown Massachusetts as Governor.

#23 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 09:58 PM:

John #16:

Yeah, thank God the real world's nothing like that....

#24 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 10:06 PM:

Arvam (#3): Yeah, you're right. I conflated the two situations. Sorry about that.

I was wondering what mistake I would make delurking this time.

However, this is Mitt Romney. If the Matthew Shepard bill makes headlines, I'm sure he'll condemn it soon.

#25 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 11:28 PM:

And just to make the whole situation more simple & easy to discuss and deal with, there's also a relationship between someone's perceived 'social race' and how they are treated within and outside their social or cultural race, living and working conditions, health treatment etc, etc, etc, which would have an interaction with any 'physical (or genetic) race' characteristics.

Then there's the effects of 'class' — here I mean mostly money/employment. I continue to argue that a lot (not all) of the problems many Aboriginal Australians have to deal with are shared by non-Aboriginal Australians in a similar level of poverty (there's a different question as to why there is a greater proportion of them in poverty). Doing things that would help all people in that situation would be preferable, and more helpful to everyone, and society, to me.

Then there's another overlapping set of problems shared by most people who live in remote areas (still a minority of Aboriginals, but a larger proportion of them than non-Aboriginals who live in remote areas). It's like labelling particular things "women's problems", and only looking at the "women" part, instead of trying to work out ways to help the "problem", whoever has it.

#26 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2007, 11:58 PM:

I'm sorry, my comment #25 belongs over on the 'lying for God' thread (is now there, #300). Too many tabs open, and distracted by other parts of life around ...

At least there's only one copy on each thread, unlike some of my other previous problems <sheepish>

(Hello to Michael Weholt, #15 above, who's helped me out recently online. It was much appreciated. I share some of your pain and disgust, tho' aimed in a slightly different direction, particularly with some of the issues around the 'phony' election campaign now happening in Oz.)

#27 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 12:41 AM:

I believe this is an incorrect use of double standard, a double standard would be:

When the rich bleed the poor, that’s business as usual; When the poor bleed the rich, that's 'class warfare'.

#28 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 12:54 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 14

Someone dressed up as a Finite State Machine?

#29 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Debra #21, with that sort of intrusive, control-freak, attitude, it almost seems inevitable that there's going to be a Columbine with teachers as primary targets.

By dropping on the misfits for what they do out of school, they assume the status of active enemies, becoming indistinguishable from the bullies.

(The nearest I came to that was a teacher ranting at me with rhetorical questions I didn't have the words to answer (I was about 11), who then switched to accusations of "dumb insolence". At least I could escape him at the end of the day.)

It's a little too easy to see schools as a place wehere people are broken, and remade into a crude approximation of a human being. If you're lucky, you're thumb isn't stuck to the end of your nose as a horn.

#30 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:12 AM:

I think they key point about a hate-crime law is that it makes explicit that attacking a particular class of people is wrong.

It takes even minor things out of the "we was only joking", "boys will be boys" territory.

There are risks: I've heard a few stories of what looks like an over-reaction by the Police. Maybe there's a cultural element, with different standards for the sorts of tolerated insult: look at the end of the alien spaceship scene in Life of Brian for an instance.

Hate crime laws are a social amplifier, and like every amplifier they boost both the signal and the noise.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 06:24 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #28: A Finite State Machine would be an interesting device, however I meant His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

#32 ::: Kevin Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 06:42 AM:

Why, when I was in second grade, we used to walk 20 miles in the snow uphill just to get to the homosexual matrimony gift registry. And by God, we liked the kicky shoes and darling window treatments.

But the heretics of humanity always drove us to hard whiskey at lunch time.

#33 ::: Doonbogglefrog ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:06 AM:

While I'm sure most of the people on this site get it, a lot of people out in the broader world who object to Hate Crimes Laws do so on the grounds that all crimes ought to be punished equally, regardless of the motivation. This seems like a powerful argument, because it is the origin of the argument that hate crimes laws amount to establishing "thought crimes".

What people who use this argument miss (or are deliberately obfuscating) is that a hate crime is 2 separate crimes: 1. the physical act of violence, say, a group of white men beat up a black man for some perceived slight; 2. the resultant intimidation/terrorism against the entire community of the threatened group (and anyone who might think of helping them).

The existing laws against assault may or may not adaquately punish the former (a whole separate issue), but they do nothing about the latter, and that is the notion behind hate crimes laws.

#34 ::: Eric S. Gratton ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:17 AM:

Delurking to note, pace Doonbogglefrog @ #33, that one of my favorite bits of justification for hate-crime legislation has always been something David Neiwert of Orcinus said in one of his books -- I'm relatively sure it was Death On The Fourth Of July -- quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Even a dog can tell the difference between being tripped over and being kicked.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Dave #30:

My impression is that the practical impact of a federal hate crime law is to make sure that, if (say) some gay-bashing incident is ignored by the local/state prosecutors, the feds can still prosecute it.

I guess whether that's good or not depends on what you think will happen with federal involvement. If it only happens when there's a big (rare) media circus surrounding some bashing, then it's probably good for nothing but making a statement. If it encourages the state prosecutors to take it just as seriously when some gay guy gets beat up as when a straight guy does, there's a good effect.

The usual place people I get tangled up in thinking about these laws, is that assault is a crime regardless of the reason, so it's not so obvious that there needs to be a second crime. It makes sense to me that there needs to be some way to make sure people really get prosecuted for it, even when they assault unpopular people, but doesn't make sense to me that someone beating me up because he doesn't like my political arguments is any less bad than beating some guy up for making a pass at him.

#36 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:35 AM:

Terry #1:

Are there other crimes where the state of mind involved in deciding what crime was committed isn't itself somehow criminal? I mean, the obvious examples here are assault with intent, incitement, and attempted murder, and conspiracy, where your state of mind involves "I really intend to commit a serious crime here." The closest I can think of is negligence, but I'm not anywhere close to being a lawyer, so I could be missing a bunch of stuff.

#37 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:53 AM:

I've found that the vast majority of people who tell me that they don't like hate crimes legislation don't really understand what hate crime legislation is intended to do.

I've found that there is a pretty large subset of those people who don't want to understand what hate-crime legislation is or does, because they prefer to wallow in "ZOMG thought crime!!1111!" as an excuse for keeping gay-bashing as legal as possible.

IAAL: the very short version is that existing criminal law very much looks at "thoughts", and that they protect everyone, not just certain minority groups. (If a group of gay men decide to go beat up a straight man to 'teach the breeders a lesson', that would be a hate crime.) It's just that, for some bizarre reason, most hate crimes don't run in that direction.

#38 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 11:44 AM:

I would like to echo what Doonbogglefrog said at comment 33, and amplify it:

It is necessary first to recognize the existence of that second crime--that of terrorizing the victim's community--in order to even begin addressing it. I think that some opponents of hate crime legislation--no one here, of course, no one here is anywhere close to that disingenuous--want to get on with "putting those people in their place" but continue denying that there is a community to terrorize at all. They want the victims thoroughly aware of the second crime, but they want law enforcement blissfully unaware of it.

Hate crime laws, in essence, are a tool for combating terrorism.

But of course, try convincing some people that the KKK, or Operation Rescue, or other home-grown and predominately white organizations, are guilty of terrorism. To be a terrorist you apparently have to be foreign and/or Muslim, and brown.

#39 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 12:19 PM:

IANAL either, but I do know that some crimes have "aggravating circumstances" having to do with the class of victim. It doesn't seem to me that hate crime is significantly different from that.

But yes, the importance of hate-crime legislation is that it addresses the secondary agenda of such actions -- the terrorism aspect. The implicit threat to anyone in that target group, and also to anyone who might think about working to help them, that "YOU might be next". Ordinary assault completely lacks this element.

#40 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Nicole #38, Lee #39:

The terrorism aspect makes sense; it's basically increasing the penalty for crimes where the goal of the crime is spreading terror, rather than just hurting a single person. One similar sort of thing I can think of is that assault, attempted murder, kidnapping, etc., done to silence witnesses leads to some additional charge like witness tampering or obstruction of justice. Haven't there been some laws that made the penalty heavier for gang-related crimes? That would fit in the same broad pattern.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Albatross: Murder.

I can want to kill someone. That's not a crime.

I can even say I want to do it. That's still not a crime (At least in Calif. Words alone do not equal assault).

Now, the flip side. Killing someone isn't always criminal. It isn't always illegal.

There are accidental homicides, negligent homicides, and justifiable homicides.

So the state of mind is the thing which makes the difference, and the state of mind; absent action, isn't criminal.

What the state of mind does is change the actions the state takes.

Kill someone with pre-medititation, and you go to prison for life.

Do it with "careless disregard" and you get 15-25 (or some variation of a lesser punishment).

Start a fight in a bar, shove someone;the guy staggers back, slips in some beer; falls down, cracks his head on a briefcase and dies, you get convicted of Manslaughter.

You didn't intend to kill him, and you had no way to forsee that the chain of events would lead to his death.

You meant to shove him (and wanting to shove him isn't illegal), but you didn't mean to kill him.

The actions (shoving/killing) are illegal, but the intent is what separates the determination of the crime.

Look at the enhancement of killing cops.

Killing people is illegal (as a rule). But killing a cop, because he's cop, gets a harsher sentence.

It's a bias enhancement.

#42 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Albatross at 41: (Disclaimer IANAL) Crime must have a component of intent. If I run you over in my car by accident, I didn't commit murder; if I ran you over on purpose, I did commit murder. It's much easier to show intent in armed robbery. And a large number of murder to manslaughter conversions rest on the state of mind of the accused. Intent matters.

#43 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:22 PM:

Terry #41

Saying you want to kill [the ****** infesting Pennsylvania Avenue) lost the protection of freedom of speech with the Kangaroo Legislation following the mass atrocities which the *******'s misadministration facilitated

(that is, 9/11 would have been a LOT less likely to have gone through had a) the FBI cared to allow its suspicious agents to investigate the Middle Eastern nationals who at least two FBI agents independently and in different parts of the US requested subpoenas to investigate, which foreign nationalists were taking airline plane flight lessons with no apparent good rationale for who was paying and why they were there (not e.g. aspiring to positions as airline piles...) and not wanting to learn how to land the planes, b) paid any heed with any interest in attending to the threat that the departed Clinton Administration considered dire, posed by Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, c) increased the threat level and put the INS on notice to enforce its watch list....)

I hold the Schmuck, Cheney, Condelisa Rice, Colin Powell, Mr Ashcroft, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, etc., responsible for failure to take actions to prevent 9/11--for willfully neglecting the threat posed by Al Qaeda, for arrogance in blocking all attempts for nine months to listen to information detailing the threat posed by Al Qaeda, for arrogance and willful ignorance blocking all attempts by FBI operatives to bring issues of suspicious Middle Easterns taking large passenger plane flight training to substantiative investigation, for failing to be competent, and gross negligence and dereliction of duty.

Furthermore, I hold them responsible for manufacturing fear, uncertain, and deceit; exploiting the manufactured emotional reign of terror to abrogate the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, push through fascist dicatorship legislation and surveillance and incarceration and gag order rules, and commit mass election fraud and voter disenfranchisement; impose illegal and immoral theocracy within the US military and particularly at the national military academies; invade a sovereign nation on malicious manufactured excuses, and be responsible for mass murder, mass mayhem, displacement of millions of people, the disenfranchising and disempowerment and beggaring of anyone not a religiously extreme Sunni or Shi'ite male in effectively a gang living in non-religiously diverse area (that is, an extremist living in a nest of armed and nasty extremists of the same ilk) devastation of archeological sites and wanton looting and destruction of millions of items ranging from prehistoric jewelry to the antique religious texts to national records going back to when the Mongols devastated Baghdad to the burning of university libraries.

Thinking about it, I consider the aforementioned fascists, to be the moral equivalents of the likes of Nicolai Ceacescu and his wife, and Mr Milosevic and his wife.

#44 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Kevin Hayden #32: the way I usually put that one is, "When *I* was in high school, we didn't HAVE gay-straight alliances, oh no... we had Rocky Horror, and we were grateful to have it!"

#45 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Mitt Romney... candidate for mangy loose dog for town dog officer to round up and impound....

I live in Massachusetts. The legacy of Romney and the previous Repuke governors immediately before him, include
- bridges which drop concrete on cars passing beneath them and roads with flying metal grates maiming hapless drivers,
- public pools which were closed due to lack of maintenance and/or funds for holding open (budgets chopped by Romney or not proposed in the first place for maintenance, and lack of funding for employing lifeguards and other personnel) when the weather was breaking heat records this yar;
- public parks closed due to lack of funding, perniciously, and with years of deferred maintenance that's put them in critical condition
- court buildings that are utter disgraces, with leaking roofs and leaking plumbing and leaking corroded water fountains and trashcans used to collect the dripping water, again victims of deferred mainenance and lack of funding
- court systems in disgraceful condition from lack of funding and DAs etc. not returning calls because they're overworked and don't have office support to provide the public with a decent level of services...
- general fiscal crisis in the state, with endemic lack of funding for infracture and mainenance of services.

Yeah, Romney was such a good governor, leaving behind a tide of red ink that makes the noxious red tide that makes shellfish poisonous to eat, look appetizing and desirable.

#46 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Dave Bell #29: "It's a little too easy to see schools as a place where people are broken, and remade into a crude approximation of a human being."

It strikes me that much depends on how you define "people" and who gets to do the defining. Have you seen the trailers for the new movie "Mr. Wood" starring Billy Bob Thornton as a stereotypical sadistic southwestern high school PE coach? I can imagine him recasting your sentence with pride: "Schools are a place where geeks and freaks and nerds and all y'all losers are broken, and remade into human beings!"

In other words, they don't see this as a bug; they see it as a feature.

#47 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:55 PM:

#12 ::: John Houghton :
On a more silly, but seasonal, note: I wonder what the costume stores in those parts of the south sell for kids who want to dress up a a scary homosexual or a scary atheist? Or, for the double whammy, a scary homosexual atheist?

Down here in Georgia they also want to outlaw Halloween and trick or treating as it's Satanic, dontcha know.

#48 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 02:57 PM:

John Houghton, #12, my friend's ex-furniture store is now a Costume Superstore Halloween!!!! so when I went by today, I stopped in. They've taken out all the walls for the room vignettes, and the railings from the mezzanines (had giant inflatable stuff up there), and the fire extinguishers (which seemed like a bad idea). It was just me and the employees, so I asked if they had scary homosexual or scary atheist costumes. The guy in charge looked at me like I was nuts and said "What?" I explained and he said no, and while he likes to help provide costumes for kids, he wouldn't be looking for those. He then suggested I ask next door, where a church -- Victory Crossing -- moved in after Hollywood Video moved out due to the doubled rent (the reason my friend closed his store).

The interesting part was that the costume store is temporary and when I wondered aloud what would move in permanently, one of the employees said it would probably be a Hispanic supermaket. Everybody (but me) agreed with her and joined in talking about how there's too many Hispanic stores around.

So the guy in charge knew enough not to jump on gays or atheists, but Hispanics are fair game.

#49 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Christopher Davis #9: don't forget shellfish. Why hasn't the Westboro Baptist "Church" gone after Long John Silver's?

God Hates Shrimp.

#50 ::: Kristi Wachter ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:27 PM:

My thinking about hate crime laws has undergone a lot of change.

I used to support them pretty automatically.

I was somewhat swayed by the "a crime is a crime" argument. If a friend of mine is killed, he's just as dead whether the killer hated him for being gay or just wanted his wallet. (I do see the point about the intent to terrorize a community and society's desire to squash acts intended to terrorize.)

I think I'd be much less ambivalent about hate crime laws if they didn't specify protected groups. If we said "If your motivation for the crime was driven by the victim's membership in a group" rather than specifying religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and race, that would seem to me a better approach than enumerating protected classes.

I've been a critic of Scientology for years. I've been stalked by Scientology agents, been in a car following a picket that was pinned into a parking space by a Scientology PI, "outed" (I started picketing Scientology under a pseudonym, aware of their reputation for harassing critics), and libelled. Scientology teaches and encourages mistreatment - sometimes illegal mistreatment - of perceived enemies, including "suppressive persons" (like me) and psychiatrists (yes, all psychiatrists). However, suppressive persons and psychiatrists aren't protected classes. On the other hand, Scientologists are. I certainly think Scientologists, like members of any other religion (and members of no religion) should be free from harassment. However, hate crime laws make it far easier for Scientologists to claim harassment based on behavior that would not be illegal - and is not illegal - when others do it.

A friend of mine, Keith Henson, just served four months in prison for "interfering with a religion" as a result of his peaceful protests of Scientology. At his trial, members (whom he'd never seen, even during his pickets) complained about him doing things like writing down license plate numbers (which is not illegal) and protesting at members' residences - it happened to be their residence because they both live and work at the massive, razor-wired compound he was picketing (in other words, he wasn't picketing individual homes), and more to the point, Scientologists have picketed both his home in Palo Alto (where residential pickets are illegal) and my apartment building in San Francisco (where they're legal).

My experience with Scientology has made me wary of making an act illegal (or more strongly punished) simply because it's aimed at an organization that identifies itself as religious (and of course, in our cases, we're protesting the organization, not individuals, but that didn't result in a happier outcome for Keith). I certainly have enormous sympathy for those who are physically attacked (including the physical act of vandalism) based on their beliefs. But codifying protected groups means that people who don't happen to fall into those groups receive less protection under the law.

(Click Preview.) Geez, that was long. Sorry.

#51 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:32 PM:

I used to fantasize the elementary school and environs I was incarcerated and verbally and physically assaulted at, as having a nuclear detonation turning into a glassine crater with a mushroom cloud over it, as a schoolkid...

#52 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:36 PM:

Ever notice how (at least here in the US of A) every time reasonable people manage to accept that bigotry against some other group of people is Not A Good Thing, there's a general rush to find yet another group to be bigoted against? Is it a fundamental aspect of this culture, or it that some people are so used to be being bigoted that they can't live without some scapegoat around? Is it possible to run out of scapegoats?

#53 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Kristi: You seem to have made the common conflation that the "desire" to harm a member of a group has been criminalised (i.e. creation of a "thoughtcrime").

That isn't what bias crime laws do. Dave Neiwert, has done a huge amount of work on the subject.

When I was younger I was of the, "Crime is crime" thinking. But it's not true. A lynching is more than just a murder. Beating a "fag" is more than just battery.

Those are meant to change the behavior of blacks (at least as a rule) and gays. They imply that stepping, "out of line," (or for gays, just stepping out) is going to get you punished.

They are acts of terrorism. Is burning a cross on the lawn of the synagogue nothing more than simple tresspass? You bet.

So is hunting down Scientologists and beating the snot out of them.

And for a Scientologist to do the same is also a bias crime; if they did it because of a specific affiliation.

Some of those crimes come under different, for want of a better term, "associational" laws. Racketeering covers all sorts of intimidation. It also enhancees the penalties.

Paula Leiberman: Yes, making a threat against the president get the Secret Service to pay you a call. But so too can making a threat against an ex (not the Secret Service, but the local cops). Make it against a public figure and the odds of such a visit go up.

Because being a public figure increases the odds of someone being disturbed enough to actually carry it out.

I know people who've been visited because of things they've said (about this administration). So far none of them have been arrested, much less charged.

Does that mean I think it's safe to just vent? No. But that's because I'm becoming a nutjub conspiracy theorist.

#54 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Kristi --

Boy, that's an interesting edge case, all right. (Sympathetically.)

Would it help if members of a religion pursuing non-members of that religion were automatically considered for hate crimes? Because, to religion X (and maybe only to religion X), non-X are a group.

#55 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 04:28 PM:

clew #54:

Hey, you think that might get rid of proseletyzing, and missions, and other bad Mormon/Jehovah'sWitness/Baptist behavior?

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Joann... I had friends whose dog was quite mellow when strangers showed up at the front door. Unless they were Jehovah's Witnesses.

#57 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 07:44 PM:

Ah, a jealous and avenging dog.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 07:47 PM:

The Road to Hell is paw-ved with good intentions.

#59 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 07:51 PM:

Bruce Cohen #52: I seem to recall a story in which the discovery of Martians led to immediate racist anti-Martian jokes -- and a concomitant reduction of racism against black people. I can't remember who it was by (Bradbury perhaps).

#60 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 07:53 PM:

Fragano, that sounds like "The Day After the Martians Came" by Señor Pohl, from Dangerous Visions.

#61 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 08:05 PM:

ethan #60: That's probably it. Thanks.

#62 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:20 PM:

Me, I'm happy any time Congress does anything like this. One only has to think about what's going on in Jena, after all, ti get a reminder that the criminal justice system in this country needs all the help it can get.

#63 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2007, 09:45 PM:

#45: Paula Lieberman's rant is, if anything, kind to Massachusetts government. I have wondered if the Mooninite and Star Simpson clown shows were attempts to distract the public away from its continuing incompetence and the decline of the quality of life here.

Sadly, the recently elected Democratic governor is proving little better, as he has squandered the early optimism and hope of those that reluctantly can no longer support him. When I voted for the man I never even dreamed of thinking that he'd use casino gambling as the way to revive the economy and bail out the state. Silly me, I guess. Should have spent more time in those long lottery lines at the local convenience store.

#64 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 09:49 AM:

#52,59: Ah yes, the First Law of Idiotdynamics, aka the Law of Conservation of Bigotry.

Second Law: In a system of closed minds, stupidity will tend to increase.

Third Law: As a mind asymptotically approaches absolute reason, both bigotry and stupidity asymptotically approach zero. However, this state cannot be actually reached by any finite mind.

#65 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 02:37 PM:

If I have to choose between Quantum Fetish Mechanics and the Law of Conservation of Bigotry, I'll have to go with the former....

*shudders, thinking of AdultFanFiction.net*

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Nenya @ 65... Quantum Fetish Mechanics

There once was a man in Nantucket,
Knowledgeable in physics,
Who covered his body with magnets,
Hoping he would attract chicks.

#67 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 08:00 PM:

This human tendency to need an 'Other' (or a whole series of Others) to set up yourself in opposition to, and its possible consequences, was one of the themes in Quatermass and the Pit (1967 colour film, aka Five Million Years to Earth and 1958 B&W BBC series) — also discussed, for instance, in the Knowing vs. showing thread, including a comment by our much-missed Mr Ford (#107) and in the Open thread 89 . Think about some of the things happening around those years, too.
Reducing and redirecting the urge into as harmless a way as possible is, to me, one of the functions and markers of a good civilization/society.

#68 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Oops. I left out the last sentence of my previous comment:

Deliberately fostering it is one of my markers for a person or organization with tendencies towards what I'd define as evil.

#69 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2007, 11:15 PM:

"I wonder what the costume stores in those parts of the south sell for kids who want to dress up a a scary homosexual or a scary atheist?"

Ah, you see, but that's what makes them so scary - you can't necessarily tell.

#70 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Dave Neiwert has a new post up on bias crimes, and how they work.

Bias Crimes at heart of divide

#71 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Dan S: "I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like other people." (Wednesday, at the end of The Addams Family)

#72 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2007, 03:27 PM:

My problem with hate crimes laws is somewhat like Kristi's.

When the underlying crime is fairly severe, and the intent is terroristic, I have not problem with hate crimes enhancements.

Where I have a problem is when "crimes" are defined broadly, and "hate" is defined broadly, so that (e.g.) blocking traffic while carrying a "God hates fags" sign becomes a felony. And we aren't there yet--but I don't trust the government that thought RICO was an appropriate basis for prosecuting legal, public, regulated activities to keep that distinction.

#73 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Sam @ #72: Hate Crimes Laws =/= Hate Speech Laws.

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