Byrd droppings, racial speeding, and more.
Apr 8, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 29
Want a laugh? Hie on over to Sen. Robert C. Byrd's official Web page--www.senate.gov/ byrd--and click the appropriately labeled "About Me" option. Then follow the link for "My Story," where you'll find what has to be the greatest example of unchecked, un-selfconscious egotism currently on display in Washington. Which is saying quite a lot.
Sen. Byrd's cringe-making first-person essay, entitled "From Humble Beginnings to West Virginian of the Century," begins with little Bobby "mastering life's early lessons" as a "virtual orphan" in the coalfields of West Virginia, and watches him in slackjawed admiration until it comes time, just after World War II, to develop a "new vision of what my home state and my country could be."
The rest, as they say, is history, as the newly minted statesman, "continuing my upward trajectory," rises to become president pro tempore of the Senate and achieves various other "feats" and "distinctions" and "milestones" and "honors"--more of them "than any other Senator or any party...in the history of the Republic."
Byrd is also, unless The Scrapbook is mistaken, the only current senator ever to have served, back in the 1940s, as a recruiting "Kleagle" for the Ku Klux Klan. And he's the only current senator ever to have sworn, a few years later, that he would rather "die a thousand times . . . than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." And he's the only current senator to have used the N-word on national television, a "feat" he performed just this past year!
But for some reason the otherwise self-lovingly meticulous "My Story" leaves out these and other details of the great man's record on questions of race--like that Byrd led the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Make that "West Virginian of the Century with a Couple of Decades Dropped Politely from View."
UNFAIR AT ANY SPEED?
Over the last several years in New Jersey, the proposition that the Garden State's highway troopers are guilty of racial profiling became a stereotypical certainty as commonplace as assuming their penchant for bad mustaches and Krispy Kreme donuts.
But as Heather Mac Donald writes on City Journal's website (www.city-journal.org/dev/html/eon_3_27_02hm.html), most studies purporting to prove racial profiling use "crude population measures . . . arguing, say, that if 24 percent of speeding stops on a particular stretch of highway were of black drivers, in a city or state where blacks make up 19 percent of the population, the police are over-stopping blacks. Such an analysis is clearly specious, since it fails to say what percentage of speeders are black."
On that count, score one for New Jersey police--sort of. Two years ago, the Clinton Justice Department inflicted a consent decree on the smokies, rapping their knuckles for stopping speeding blacks more than speeding whites. The bad news for anti-profiling activists is that according to a new study, blacks do speed more on Jersey highways than whites.
Commissioned by the state, the study was performed by a contractor, the Public Services Research Institute, which, over a three-month period, photographed tens of thousands of motorists on the New Jersey turnpike, while clocking them with radar guns. Defining "speeder" as someone traveling more than 15 mph over the posted speed limit, researchers found that in a 65 mph zone, blacks were nearly twice as likely to speed as whites.
This would appear to put a serious crimp in the notion that New Jersey law enforcement officials disproportionately stop black drivers based on their color, rather than their speed.
Not so, however, according to the Bush Justice Department, which has decided to handle this politically sensitive issue as if it's juggling porcupines. As the New York Times first reported, while the state planned to release the report in January, Mark Posner, a lawyer in the Justice Department's special litigation section, pressured them to withhold it, offering a laundry list of possible problems with the data, such as having to discard photographs because of weather and windshield glare (which wouldn't seem to skew results, since the sun tends to shine on everyone equally).
Predictably, the head of the state's NAACP chapter, the Rev. William Rutherford, has publicly denounced the meticulously documented study as false, even though he hasn't read it. Such unyielding bias won't qualify Rutherford for a job as a traffic empiricist, but he might want to drop a r sum off at the Justice Department's special litigation section.
THE KINSLEY RETORT