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News Briefs

News Briefs

by Sarah Cameron

Flimsy insults from the Right

Ann Coulter, the post-feminist bastion of right-wing political incorrectness, successfully defined her own place as the Queen of crude ad hominem while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. At the close of her address, Coulter stated, “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot.” described the audience response: “The CPAC crowd responded—albeit a little slowly—with laughter and then applause.” From the YouTube video, it appears there were also a few groans and grimaces amongst audience members. It remains unclear as to whether the audience believed Coulter was making an actual statement about trends in political correctness, or if they were all fans of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

John Edwards, while not giving the comment a great deal of creedence, clearly didn’t appreciate the intended humor of the verbal attack: “Ann Coulter’s use of an anti-gay slur yesterday was un-American and indefensible. In American we strive for equality and embrace diversity. The kind of hateful language she used has no place in political debate or our society at large. I believe it is our moral responsibility to speak out against that kind of bigotry and prejudice every time we encounter it.” Because, of course, this is an issue of patriotism.

Coulter, author of several snappily titled books, including the upcoming If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans, has found the future of her newspaper column and television punditry in jeopardy. Given Coulter’s reputation, the media circus that ensued from her comments is probably exactly the kind of publicity that she was looking for; less to do with the rude word or the TV scandal, and more to do with getting her name back in the newspapers.

Flimsy resolutions from the Left

paint spotIn New York City, an historic but arguably pointless resolution has been passed. Councilman Leroy Comrie, following up on a web-based project,, has successfully initiated a moratorium on use of the n-word. Comrie stated: “People are using it out of context... people are also denigrating themselves by using the word, and disrespecting their history.” New York City approved the symbolic resolution, which has no legal impact, at the end of February.

The resolution is receiving very mixed reactions, furthering a long-standing debate over whether the word can be reclaimed as an identity, rather than as an oppressive and denigrating force. On their website, they describe themselves as “individuals who just got tired and fed up with the passive acceptance, code of silence, nonchalance, and there’s-nothing-we-can-do-about-it attitude… Has the overwhelming use of this word really empowered anyone or taken the power out of its oppressive origins for such complacency?” One New York City councilman, Albert Vann, suggests that the increased use of the word is due to naivety amongst a younger generation, telling the AP: “I forgive these young people who do not know their history, and I blame myself and my generation for not preparing you.”

Gary Younge, discussing the word in The Guardian stated, “Some African-Americans use it as a form of camaraderie and have done for some time. But I have never heard white people use it as anything but a derogatory term or in a bid to over-identify that invariably fails and insults. It’s not a word I use or feel comfortable around, whoever’s saying it, although I have become immune to it in films and music.”

Given the ever increasing use of the word in pop culture, it seems unlikely that the “symbolic” resolution will be just that, rather than instigating a positive change in common discourse.

And just plain...

On the absurd end of political correctness, a high school in Scarsdale, New York, has suspended several teenagers for using the V-word during an open mic held at the school. They were reading from Eve Ensler’s, “The V*****a Monologues.”

The school’s principal, Rich Levine, defended the descision to suspend the students in a written statement published in The New York Times. Levine claims that the students had been ordered by the school not to use the oh-so-offensive word prior to the open mic, and that “when a student chooses not to follow [instructions from the school], consequences will follow.”

paint spotThe moral war

The contracts provided to Blackwater, USA, and other private security companies to provide extra-military services in Iraq, are finally coming into question. A hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was introduced by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, in scathing terms: “The committee will investigate potential fraud, waste and abuse in the almost indecipherable world of contractors and subcontractors.” Referring to attempts to investigate the employment of the four private military personnel killed in Fallujah in April, 2004, Waxman stated, “It is now almost three years later, and we still don’t know for sure the identity of the prime contractor under which the four Blackwater employees were working. What we do know is that Blackwater was providing security services under a contract with a Kuwaiti company called Regency, and that Regency was itself a subcontractor for ESS Support Services Worldwide, which in turn was a subcontractor providing dining services and construction services for other contractors…” Families of the four Blackwater employees who died allege that the company “[failed] to provide armored vehicles and other critical safety equipment.”

Uncle Sam, however, still needs you. Maybe. The military has been making extensive attempts to appeal to the younger generation and boost enrollment as the war drags on. Your MySpace page may have a banner advertising how great it is to be in the Army, or you may have seen heart warming TV commercials where father and son learn to bond over the prospect of going off to fight in the Middle East. You may even have heard that they’ll pay your college tuition. Now the military is around 50% less likely to dismiss soldiers who come out of the closet. Reuters reported, “The Pentagon said it dismissed 612 people for homosexuality in its most recent fiscal year, fewer than half the 1,227 dismissed in [FY] 2001.”

This is not to say that the military has updated it’s thinking, more that they need the soldiers. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated to the Chicago Tribune: “I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts… I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.” Which is perhaps why the current “Don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation signed in by Bill Clinton in 1993 explains that “the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

Robot Violations

In South Korea, robots have rights too. At least, they will soon, as a government task force works to draft an ethical code to prevent humans from misusing their artificially intelligent beings.

paint spotThe “Robots Ethics Charter” is described by South Korea’s Ministry of Information and Communication as “set[ting] ethical guidelines concerning the roles of robots, as they are expected to develop strong intelligence in the near future.” The Canadian Broadcast Company explained the South Korean government’s decision: “Low birth rates and an aging population has made the adoption of robots in service roles an important part of the government’s future-planning. Last year the Ministry of Information and Communication said it hoped to have a robot in every South Korean household between 2015 and 2020.”

The committee drawing up the charter consists of five experts, including a futurist and a science fiction writer. It remains unclear as to whether the South Korean government expects robots to be aware if and when they are being abused, and exactly what regulatory committee will assume responsibility for the rights of these robots.

Democrats full of hot air

While Al Gore has made it hip—in the grey-haired old-white-guy way—to be green, other Democrats are struggling to muster up enough political sincerity to even appear as though they care about the environment.

Rick Boucher sits as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. Taking a break from his hard legislative work, which recently involved voting on HR 136: “Commending the Girl Scouts of America on the Occasion of Their 95th Anniversary,” Boucher enjoyed a very lavish breakfast, courtesy of the Coal Lobby. The breakfast, with plates at $1000 a head, was a fundraiser hosted by the lobby for the Virginia Democrat, a representative of 25 years.

Meanwhile, on February 28, Boucher sent out a letter “inviting leaders from the energy industry and environmental community to provide recommendations as to which issues should be addressed in climate change legislation currently being developed by the Committee,” according the committee’s website.

It’s not Boucher’s fault that we’ve just come to the sunny end of what was the world’s warmest winter on record, but it would be nice if he could look like less of a hypocrite.


illustrations by Soo Youn Lee

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