Thursday, May 19, 2005

The worst kind of hate crime

Via our old friend Kynn Bartlett comes news of an atrocious murder in Arizona that, if the information proves accurate, makes Matthew Shepard's killing look humane.

The body of a 23-year-old Yuma man named Amancio Corrales was found last Friday in the Colorado River. So far, the mainstream news sources have indicated very little about the nature of the crime.

However, according to Gay in Yuma, Corrales was a cross-dresser who had been last seen departing in the company of a man he purportedly had angered:
Eyewitness reports state that 23-year-old Amancio Corrales, a Yuma native, who most recently lived in Phoenix, was dressed as a women on the night of May 7th at Ron's Place in Yuma. While dressed as a women, it is reported that Corrales flirted with a well known US Marine named "David." Eyewitnesses at the bar that night said "David" was furious when he found out Corrales was a man. Corrales was seen leaving the bar in a silver Honda with "David" and two other men whom appeared to be US Marines. "David" and the two other men took Corrales to Paradise Cove, where later that night Corrales was found dead and mutilated. Corrales' family who lives in Yuma, confirms Armancio's penis was cut off, his throat slashed and that Mr. Corrales suffered severe trauma to the head. The viewing was May 11th at Yuma Mortuary; the funeral was May 12th. Armancio is burried at Johnson's Mortuary in Yuma.

The information in the Gay in Yuma piece has so far not been confirmed. I spoke with Jeffrey Gautreaux, the Yuma Sun cops-and-courts reporter, who is working hard on the story. He says he hasn't been able to confirm these details with Corrales' family yet, and police are being extremely tight-lipped. But he indicated he had gotten similar reports from various sources, and his sense was that this was the direction this case was going.

I'll keep everyone posted as details emerge.

A special kind of stupidity

One of the more illustrative aspects of Michelle Malkin's recent retraction of her attack on historian Peter Irons is the nature of the mistake she made.

It was, in a word, stupid. Embarrassingly stupid. And her continuing inability to understand it reflects a really special kind of stupidity.

Here, once again, is what Michelle wrote in In Defense of Internment:
While working for the commission, [Aiko] Herzig Yoshinaga parlayed her tax-subsidized archival research -- which "formed the core" of the commission's primary documentation -- into evidence for private lawsuits challenging the Supreme Court's World War II rulings upholding the war powers of the executive branch. She had met and befriended Peter Irons, an activist attorney and legal historian, during her tenure on the commission and surreptitiously shared confidential documents with him.

Malkin's chief defense is that she obtained her characterization of the exchange from a reading of an article that was itself in error. Fair enough, but it doesn't end there.

Neither the article's author, Thomas Fujita-Rony, nor his sources (authors Mitchell Maki and Megan Berthold) characterized the documents as "confidential." Only Malkin did that.

There's a reason for that. The documents, as Malkin well knows, were from the National Archives. And documents in the National Archives are available to any member of the public. There is nothing remotely "confidential" about them. Anyone who's had dealings with the National Archives would know this.

Of course, Eric Muller tried pointing this out to Malkin back in August 2004. Malkin, typically, brushed him off.

It was only when Peter Irons, the chief object of the smear, threatened legal action that Malkin finally got around to admitting that maybe she had gotten a little out of hand with a couple of words.

But if you read Malkin's e-mail exchange with Irons, it's clear she has never fully tumbled to how badly in error she was, and how grotesque was her smear.

Irons begins patiently enough and tries to keep it convivial, but as Michelle's special brand of obtuseness sets in over the exchange, he starts letting her have it. I particularly enjoyed this little missive:
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 20:19:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: duh!


I'm now convinced that you're a little dense. So let's run through this one more time for Michelle's benefit, class. Okay?

Eric, what did Michelle write in her book?

Teacher, she wrote that Aiko "surreptitiously shared confidential documents" with Peter.

Very good, Eric. Tom, who did Michelle cite for this claim?

She cited me, teacher. But I didn't write anything about Aiko sharing any kind of documents with Peter. I wrote that Peter shared documents with Aiko, but I didn't say anything about their being confidential.

Okay, Tom. Who did you cite for Peter sharing documents with Aiko?

Well, I cited Megan in the Maki book.

Megan, what did you say in your book?

Teacher, I said that Peter had not been allowed to copy documents at the Commerce Department. But I didn't say anything about their being confidential.

Well, did Peter say anything to you about their being confidential?

No, teacher, he didn't.

Would you have any reason to believe they were confidential, Megan?

Well, I know they came from the National Archives, and even a dummy like Michelle -- oops, I'm sorry -- would know they were available to any member of the public.

Let me ask Aiko a couple of questions. Aiko, did you slip Peter any confidential documents?

Of course not, teacher. I couldn't have gotten them from the Archives if they were confidential.

Well, Peter, do you have any idea why Michelle would say that in her book?

Actually, teacher, I do. But it might hurt her feelings to say why, and her feelings are very easily hurt.

Michelle, would it hurt your feelings for Peter to tell the class why he thinks you wrote those untrue things about him and Aiko?

No, teacher. My parents always told me, if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Okay, Peter, go ahead.

Well, I think Michelle wrote those untrue things because she was lazy, sloppy, in a rush to turn in her book, and because she wants to grow up and become a rip-and-tear, slash-and-burn, slice-and-dice, right-wing journalist, and make a lot of money.

Class: Way to go, Peter!

Michelle's comment: "This is just weird."

You have no idea just how weird, Michelle.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mainstreaming the Minutemen

Great. First we get a senator who endorses the Minutemen. Then the governor of California.

Now senior government officials from Homeland Security are endorsing the concept:
"We need more Border Patrol agents, there's no question about that," Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner told members of the House Government Reform Committee. CBP is in charge of the Border Patrol.

Bonner said his team has worked up a proposed increase in agents. He said the number is in the thousands but declined to be more specific, saying he still has to walk the plan through the Homeland Security Department.

... Bonner said CBP also is evaluating the effectiveness of using citizen patrols in a more formal way. He referred to the Minuteman Project, which set up citizen camps along a 23-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border in April to observe and report illegal activity.

Minuteman organizers claim their efforts helped the Border Patrol apprehend 335 individuals illegally trying to enter the country, and deterred others who would have tried.

"The actions of the Minutemen were, I believe, well motivated," Bonner said. "There were no incidents, there were no acts of vigilantism, and that's a tribute to the organizers and leaders of the Minuteman Project."

Now, I suppose you can say that the Minutemen were "well motivated" -- if you ignore all that talk about how Latinos are ruining the country and the presence of folks like the Aryan Nations and other white supremacists. You could even suggest it was well-run -- if you ignore the fact that neither the quality of vetting the participants (very few of the promised weapon-permit checks were made, for instance, and numerous white supremacists were in fact enrolled, despite promises to refuse them) nor the levels of participation (some 1,300 were promised, and only about 300 showed) were even close to acceptable.

As for the "acts of vigilantism," well, according to one participant, that is scheduled to come later:
"We understand why Gilchrist and [project co-organizer Chris] Simcox have to talk all this P.C., crap," said one. "It's all about playing to the media. That's fine. While we're here, it's their game and we'll play by their rules. Once Minuteman's over, though, we might just have to come back and do our own thing."

Meanwhile, the Minutemen are spreading their movement to Utah, where there are no international borders, but a large influx of Latinos. Because of that, any "border watch" would by necessity be replaced with an "immigrant worker watch" and targeting individual businesses:
Minuteman Alex Segura, also a UFIRE board member, said the group's target is businesses. The group's first action will be a protest, planned for June 17, of two Holladay banks that accept for identification matricula consular cards and the new driving privilege cards -- both used by illegal immigrants.

Such businesses, he said, are "aiding and abetting (people) breaking federal law."

The next businesses on their list, most likely, will be those that employ illegal aliens. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that this organization is a recipe for harassment.

But then, these are after all the new vigilantes. Sure, it's just a "citizen border patrol," a kind of friendly, civic-oriented "neighborhood watch." But it never stops there.

Especially when it is given official government blessing.

Malkin on a roll

Some things never change. Take, say, Michelle Malkin's methodology.

The other day, Eric Muller pointed out that Malkin had finally gotten around to correcting one of the more audacious smear jobs in her book In Defense of Internment -- namely, her groundless attack on lawyer/historian Peter Irons, whose work in uncovering misfeasance by Justice Department lawyers played a critical role in the court cases overturning the wartime convictions of internment protestors Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu.

Here's the passage in question, from pp. 122-23 of In Defense of Internment:
While working for the commission, [Aiko] Herzig Yoshinaga parlayed her tax-subsidized archival research -- which "formed the core" of the commission's primary documentation -- into evidence for private lawsuits challenging the Supreme Court's World War II rulings upholding the war powers of the executive branch. She had met and befriended Peter Irons, an activist attorney and legal historian, during her tenure on the commission and surreptitiously shared confidential documents with him.

This passage was a central part of Malkin's sweeping condemnation of the effort to in the 1970s and '80s to provide reparations for interned Japanese Americans. Malkin characterizes these efforts as an ideological campaign led by a pack of sneaking connivers, and her smear of Irons and Herzig-Yoshinaga are of a piece with this.

Initially, Malkin only provided the following correction to her errata page:
page 123: I wrote that Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga "surreptitiously shared confidential documents with" attorney Peter Irons. The word "surreptitiously" was erroneous and will be excised in future editions.

Not exactly forthcoming, as corrections go (especially compared to basic and broadly accepted standards for corrections by journalists). But then today, Malkin gives a more expansive correction that deflects the blame for her error on her original source:
In response to inquiries from Irons and me, Fujita-Rony now says the passage he wrote in 2003, which he acknowledges he failed to footnote, is erroneous. He has written a letter of retraction to the editors at Frontiers. Here is his e-mail to me:

Dear Ms. Malkin:

I was in error. I am retracting the assertion that Professor Irons was at any time denied access to the archival materials in question. I am "attaching" and inserting below the text of the letter I am sending to the editors of Frontiers. I hope this will clarify matters.


Thomas Y. Fujita-Rony

Accordingly, I am retracting my claim that Herzig-Yoshinaga "surreptitiously shared confidential documents with" Irons. I have made a note of this on the errata page of my book. Moreover, I am directing Regnery to excise the words "surreptitiously" and "confidential" from future editions of the book.

Meanwhile, her former colleague at the Seattle Times, Bruce Ramsey, discussed the matter briefly, and offered the following excuse for this misbehavior:
I want to express some sympathy for Malkin here. She is a political pundit -- an "unabashed right-wing columnist", as you say -- who gets paid only for what she writes, and she has to satisfy a public that likes strong and definite opinions about a wide range of topics that are in the public eye. She cannot be expected to follow the same standards as an academic who makes a study of a narrow subject, usually for several years, and publishes it through a university press, all while being protected by tenure and supported through teaching. That doesn't absolve a pundit from responsibility for mistakes, but you can't expect the same depth of verification. I think you should be satisfied with Malkin's quick agreement to acknowledge a mistake, post it on her web page and change future editions.

Malkin may not have to meet the standards of academic historians, but she does have an obligation to meet the basic standards of truthfulness that are expected of anyone who publishes written material for public dissemination, and particularly for someone who claims to be a journalist.

And even though the error was not central to her thesis, it formed a significant portion of her mischaracterization of the effort to gain reparations as being riddled with all kinds of miscreancy. Indeed, as Muller has noted (and reiterates today), it is typical of Malkin's entire approach to the evidence she uses throughout her text:
What she has done to Peter Irons and Aiko Herzig is, for example, precisely what she does in the book to Seattle attorney Kenji Ito and to Richard Kotoshirodo. She makes both out to be monsters--Ito a Japanese spy and Kotoshirodo the Mohammad Atta of his day--when just down the street from her home, hundreds of pages of documents in the National Archives refute her characterizations. With Ito and Kotoshirodo, as with Irons and Herzig, Malkin could not be bothered to take the most basic of investigative steps to research her scandalous allegations before trumpeting them to a national audience.

Indeed, the question that lingers is a fairly simple journalistic issue: Why didn't Malkin double-check her source before proceeding with her smear of two people whose reputations deserve better?

But then, I've discussed at length previously the nature of Malkin's methodology, which transcends mere polemics and is more in the realm of pure propaganda:
In Defense of Internment takes a few small slices of fact, removes them from their larger context or distorts their significance, embellishes them with non-facts, either sneeringly dismisses or utterly ignores an entire ocean of contravening evidence, and then pronounces the whole enterprise history.

That isn't history. It's propaganda.

Malkin, in fact, manipulates history in a way that makes clear that her entire methodology is little more than a polemical parlor game: Play up whatever scraps of evidence you can find to support your point, pretend that the wealth of evidence disproving your thesis simply doesn't exist, and then fend off your critics with a steady string of non-sequiturs and irrelevancies, never answering their core criticisms. This tactic is familiar to anyone who's dealt with the right much, especially in the past decade. Just call it Oxyconfabulation.

In Malkin's case, you don't have to just look in her books to see this methodology at work. It's present throughout her syndicated columns and her blog as well.

A fine recent example of the real sloppiness of her methodology was this post at her blog:
Did you know that there's a government-subsidized monument in Baldwin Park, Calif., that contains the following inscriptions:

It was better before they came.

This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, and will be again.

There's a problem with this, however. If you click on the the link to the story she's referencing, you'll find this tidbit regarding the first of the two inscriptions:
Baca said that Save Our State's complaint was misguided. She said the quote, "It was better before they came," was originally uttered by a "white man from Arkansas," who was complaining about the arrival of Mexican-Americans after World War II.

"When it went on the arch, its ambiguity became profound," she said. "The 'they' could be any 'they.' "

Malkin, apparently, not only deigns it unnecessary to double-check her sources before publishing a smear. She doesn't even feel it's necessary to read the stories she links to.

I guess we're supposed to excuse this because Malkin is only a "pundit" (as though this were a realm free of the obligations of factuality). But just how seriously are we supposed to take a finger-pointing "pundit" like this (see especially her current jihad against Newsweek) when it comes to media "credibility"?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A little talk

I mentioned earlier that I was flying down to Davis, California, last week to give a talk on hate crimes for a local community organization. Jeff Hudson at the Davis Enterprise did a pretty thorough report. I thought this part was worth pointing out:
One widely held myth, he said, is that "hate crimes are commonly committed by 'skinheads' or members of so-called hate groups."

"It's simply not true," Neiwert said, adding that "in reality, only 6 or 7 percent (of hate crimes) are committed by members of an organized hate group. The average (person who commits a hate crime) is a 15-year-old to 19-year-old white male, in every respect an average member of the community. He may have some police contact in his background, or may not. He may have a violent background, or may not."

Very often, communities view young men who are charged with hate crimes as "someone I've known since the third grade. He doesn't wear tattoos or leather. So it's not a hate crime," Neiwert said.

"But the reality is that the vast majority (of hate crimes) are committed by 'the kid next door,' " he added.

Neiwert said "hate crimes are very closely related to bullying. One of the most effective ways to counter the problem is starting when kids are very young. Anti-bullying programs are one of the most important steps you can take to deal with it at an early age. It's often not even a racial issue at that point, it's about power relationships."

A lot of people ask me how we can best make steps to actually preventing hate crimes. And my answer is to look at early education, particularly with regards to bullying. Hate crimes, like those earlier acts, are about power relationships too, and people who learn at an early age to assert their dominance violently are far more likely to do it as adults as well.

I also spent the afternoon with young people at Davis Senior High, which was very rewarding. I don't get to spend enough time with teens, and I have to say I came away very impressed, especially with the thoughtfulness and sincerity of those students who are clearly involved in these issues.

Thanks very much again to Jann Murray-Garcia at Blacks for Effective Community Action for arranging this appearance. She's obviously a gifted organizer, and a fine human being too. And thanks to the folks in Davis who made me feel so welcome.