Saturday, August 20, 2005

Myrtle Beach Bound

Work's over for me, but I'm off to Myrtle Beach for the next few days--Sunday through Thursday. I'm bringing my computer up, but obviously posting rates will be dependent on the timing of various vacation-ly activities.

Which, sadly, means you'll probably see no drop in frequency.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

People Please

Kevin Drum of The Washington Monthly has been writing a flurry of posts regarding an American withdrawal from Iraq. For example, here he links to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) demanding that the US get out of Iraq--possibly the first time Hagel has been this explicit on the matter. But the really interesting post is here, when he asks when pro-war liberal hawks are going to start proposing a timed withdrawal. While acknowledging that Democrats need to watch out for allegations they are weak on security, Drum seems to think that there is frankly no choice, and gives three solid reasons why a timed withdrawal is the best policy option:
The presence of American troops is what's largely fueling the terrorism-driven Iraqi insurgency in the first place. Announcing in a credible way that we plan to leave -- really leave -- would at least partially draw its fangs.

As long as American troops are around, Iraqi leaders don't have enough incentive to make the hard choices needed to agree on a constitution and train troops to guard their own country. A no-nonsense announcement from the U.S. would force them to get moving.

The military can't keep up its current tempo in Iraq for much longer, and sometime in 2006 a drawdown is probably going to become necessary no matter what. If that's the case, it's better to do it on our own terms instead of waiting to be forced into it.

I think these make a lot of sense. I have two concerns however.

My overriding framework for evaluating any Iraq policy is how it affects the people. No, not our people, the Iraqi people--the folks whose country we invaded. I think that too often the Iraqi people are getting lost in the Iraq debate. Liberals talk about dead American troops and mounting costs. Conservatives talk about all the terrorists we're killing. (And nutjobs talk about how awesome the terrorists killing American troops are). We have a moral obligation to not leave the people in a state of chaos, and unfortunately so far we've been performing miserably in that respect. For liberal hawks like myself, this has been THE most disappointing part of the invasion--that after all of this, we couldn't even guarantee Iraq a future. But I'm not quite ready to give up hope yet--I think there still must be some way that we can, if not "win" in Iraq, avoid a disaster. At this point, however, I'm open to arguments that withdrawing is the best way to help create a better Iraq--if not that we should abandon the project of creating a better Iraq all together.

Of Drum's three arguments, the third is irrelevant to the "people first" framework, and the second argument I just don't think is true. A sudden withdrawal I think is likely to create a panic amongst political leaders in Iraq. MAYBE this will result in them pushing aside silly differences and creating a working government, but somehow I'm skeptical. More likely, the panic will exacerbate pre-existing tensions and make the problem worse, not better. I mean, it's not like liberal values are doing so great in the constitutional process even with--in effect--unlimited time for negotiations. Push comes to shove, and I think everybody becomes a lot more testy and thus a lot more radical.

Whether or not you believe my likely conclusion or Drum's depends a lot on how you evaluate argument one. I'll assume, arguendo, that our troops are the root of most of the current terrorism against us. The question, then, is whether Iraq has passed the "tipping point" where it is so destabilized that it cannot support itself without outside assistance (IE, US troops doing right). After all, even if most of the terrorists are drawing their support right now as resisters against the occupation, it is a bit fanciful to assume that if we leave, they'll quietly disarm and go away. So, if you think that without the aggravating factor of US troops Iraq will be able to right itself, then withdrawal will seem like a good option. If you think that a withdrawal will lead to a power gap that will likely be filled by violent militias and a bloody civil war, then US troops (for all their flaws) become the last bulwark before disaster. Cynic that I am, I believe the latter.

Basically, if liberal withdrawal advocates want to win over liberal hawks to their position, they have to show some methodology by which Iraq won't obliterate itself the minute the US leaves. Barring that, I'll stick with the occupation I know, rather than the Lebanese-style civil war I know even better.

Ethics in Ohio

Embattled Ohio Governor Bob Taft just was found guilty of several ethics violations and was forced to pay $4000 in fines.

While I could use this as a jumping off point for my usual tirades against corruption and power-madness in the GOP, I won't. Why? Because aside from the lapse itself, I think Gov. Taft handled this exactly as a good statesman should. He plead "no contest" to the charges and immediately apologized. Furthermore, Governor Taft has fired several folks over corruption charges--though how much of it he himself was linked to, I'm not sure.

I wouldn't be so quick to give the Governor a free pass except the violations in question were extremely minor--a few unreported golf trips. If the Governor is implicated in the Coin Pension Fund scandal though (which he might), then you won't see me quite so conciliatory.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Troubled Youth

If you don't see any posts from me tonight, it's because I'm out committing a crime spree with my friends. Specifically, a college-bound neighbor is hosting a "pirating party," where we all can exchange music, movies, and other such media files before we head back to college.

I, personally, will not be partaking, since it is rather redundant--anything you can get here will be available at college: someone in the dorm is bound to have it.

But alas, some criminals are just irredeemable...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Invisible Hand Just Groped Me!

Most people seem a bit more conciliatory (in comments here and here) toward Roberts' stance against equal-pay/equal-work than I did. The general argument is that so long as we're talking about different jobs that require similar educational levels (as opposed to two people doing the exact same thing), then we should defer to the invisible hand's assessment of their "actual" worth rather than relying on judicial determination.

If it were that simple, I'd be in that camp too. But the problem is that I don't think you can divorce the issue of female pay from lingering sexism in American modes of the thought. It remains true that "woman's work" is devalued in American culture (when it is paid at all), females often constitute "invisible labor" that is just assumed to be available at all times. Formal antidiscrimination laws allow us to remedy the most egregious manifestations of this (such as unequal pay for the same exact job), but it does nothing where the jobs are different and have been laced with gender-based tropes that positively or negatively effect their value.

Is it possible that all "female jobs" would still be worth less than "male" ones if both were stripped of their sexual tenors? Possibly. But the problem is we have absolutely no idea. However, at best, the invisible hand would seem to indicate randomness--that is, if we've truly transcended sexism, then "similar" formerly male and female jobs might not all pay the same, but there wouldn't be a discernible pattern where one is consistently worth more than the other.

The argument that women are paid less because of pregnancy and such also doesn't hold water. First of all, it makes at least as much sense that the labor would be worth more because it is scarcer--assuming that these studies are adjusted for hours worked (which seems elementary), the built-in absences mean there are, on average, fewer women available for the same quantity of work (since there isn't anything that shows female jobs require less productivity than their male equivalents), and thus the reduced supply should drive prices up. But more importantly, this reifies one of the key points made by radical "second wave" feminists like Catherine MacKinnon--it acts like motherhood and pregnancy should be seen as freebies worth nothing--a devaluation if I've ever seen one.

Also, riffing off what PG says, I still think that the equal pay/equal work stance is more controversial than the opposition to Wallace. Again, this isn't because I think Wallace is less defensible, indeed, considering I'm a church/state zealot I'm probably one of the biggest supporters of Wallace there is. Like PG, I consider myself to be a social liberal and economic moderate. However, my generic line of thought is basically the following: If you asked the average American the following two questions:
1) Woman are paid an average of 60 cents for every dollar a male makes. Do you think that the government should try to reduce this disparity?


2) Alabama tried to reincorporate prayer in school by passing a law allowing voluntary, silent prayer during a mandatory "moment of silence." Do you think this is unconstitutional?

I think far more persons would fall on Roberts' side on the latter question than the former. Hence, I consider the former to be more "radical," notwithstanding my stringent objections to the latter.

PS: I'm not entirely alone. Suburban Guerilla also seized upon the equal pay issue for specific condemnation. Kevin Drum just wants to know what's so much more radical than this that the Bush administration refuses to release the memos containing it.

Forgotten Histories

You know, if you listened to some of the stuff coming out of right field, you'd almost forget our entire nation was founded by illegal immigrants.

Throughout our nation's history, we've had relapses into fervent anti-immigrant hysteria. The Know-Nothings, Chinese Exclusion Laws, 1920s quotas, and today Samuel Huntington's "American Creed" all have two things in common. First, they demonstrate an amnesia about how immigration has constantly made our nation stronger, more diverse, and more powerful. Second, they all are directed at certain hated ethnic groups: Germans, Chinese, Southeast Europeans, Mexicans, etc.. In all cases, this ethnic group is imputed to be inferior to the "stock" American, somehow having bad habits and traits that will prove detrimental in the long run. The fact that history has time and again proved us wrong appears to be no object--whoever first decided (probably less than 20 years after our nation's founding) that America had received enough immigration and we hitherto were perfect created an evil power which appears to be immortal.

In this context, Fox News' framing of the illegal immigration issue draws on a long history of xenophobia, racism, and American triumphalism which has long been the source of some our nation's greatest failings.
"Illegal immigrants--violent, carrying disease, and with possible ties to terrorism?"

Of course, some immigrants are violent, are carrying disease, and are tied to terrorism. But it is absurd to essentialize the entire group like that--there just isn't any justification to it.

There has been but one immigration movement this nation has seen that has been characteristically "violent, carrying disease, and [tied] to terrorism." But it isn't this wave. This isn't anti-Americanism. The sins of past bear no guilt on the denizens of the present--so long as we face up to them. But to insist on an asymmetry where they are the disease carrying violent hordes is to deny solid history, and is reminiscent of the worst forms of white supremacy.

Americans speaking on immigration need to look inside the mirror.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Swinging Both Ways

I meant to link to this earlier, but forgot. In a way, it represents a lot of what I feel about Iraq.

The link points you to two stories. One is on the Bush administration finally starting to admit that its wildly optimistic assessments of Iraqi Democracy were completely unrealistic. As a supporter of the Iraq war on humanitarian grounds, I've been forced to deal with this more than most anyone. I can't just say "I was deceived by WMDs," because I wasn't. I believed in this mission. I can't stand the thought of leaving another child under the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. So when President Bush says: "We can get that bastard out and spread freedom," I'll admit I'm all ears.

As Dan Savage notes, the liberal hawks wanted this thing to succeed more desperately than anyone else. For us, it wasn't about abstract notions of "the war on terrorism" or "punishing evildoers" (though we thought it would help those too). It was about changing lives, about freeing oppressed people from the most horrific of tyrannies. I can live with failing to find Saddam's WMDs (if there were any). I can't live with the notion that we raised the hopes of millions only to plunge a nation back into chaos.

The worst part is the what ifs. Leftist anti-war supporters are crowing that this war was doomed from the start. The US can't just expect to waltz in and pull democracy out of thin air in a fractured and balkanized environment like Iraq. Is that true? I don't know. I prefer to think that the incredible series of blunders the Bush administration made in its handling of the post-war occupation fumbled what could have been a golden opportunity. Of course, preferred is a relative term: In this case, it merely means that I think completely discrediting the philosophy of spreading freedom and aiding the oppressed is better than that philosophy being futile in the first place. Hurray.

The second story is optimistic. It's about Sunnis uniting against efforts by insurgents to drive Shiites from Ramadi. The solidarity I hoped, prayed, would emerge. Could it be true? After so many disappointments, I fear to take too much stock. It may be an aberration, it may be a trend. It may mean a lot, or perhaps nothing at all. Only time will tell.

The latter story gives me a sliver of hope against the former's confirmation of my worst fears.

The Radical Within Roberts Stirs

See? If it weren't for the release of memos, we'd have never known about this:
On the issue of gender equality on worker wages, Roberts was critical of three Republican congresswomen who supported the concept.

Roberts referred to a 1983 case in which the Washington state supreme court found the state guilty of discrimination for paying women less than men for jobs of "comparable worth."

Roberts said in a February 3, 1984, memo that the ruling smacked of judicial activism. "This is a total reorientation of the law of gender discrimination," he concluded, since "it mandates nothing less than central planning of the economy by judges. Under the theory judges, not the marketplace, decide how much a particular job is worth."

Later that month, Roberts again addressed the issue, noting three GOP lawmakers applauded the ruling. One was then-Rep. Olympia Snowe, now the senior U.S. senator from Maine. The congresswomen complained women at the time earned only 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.

"I honestly find it troubling that three Republican representatives are so quick to embrace such a radical redistribute concept. Their slogan may as well be 'From each according to his ability, to each according to her gender,'" said Roberts.

Roberts also opposed the Court's ruling in Wallace v. Jaffree. There, the Court ruled that an Alabama law which nominally only affirmed the right of students to pray silently during a moment of silence, but whose legislative history made it clear it was designed as an end-run around prior School Prayer cases like Engel v. Vitale, was unconstitutional under the 1st amendment. Though this case is nearer and dearer to my heart, I recognize it is far more controversial. Roberts' position on gender equality, by contrast, seems absolutely fringe. The "market" should decide what a woman's job is worth? If there was ever a clear cut example of a market failure, it seems like this was it (60 cents versus a dollar--come on). And Roberts' comparison of judicial efforts to remedy rather blatant sex discrimination in the work place to "central planning" is just absurd. This is precisely the type of ideological blindness to clear facts that I hoped Roberts would avoid.

My support is slipping.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Well This is Disheartening

You think Americans have shallow support for civil liberties? Compared to the rest of the free world, we're a nation of ACLUites. Orin Kerr brings us some revealing poll data from Canada:
What measures for the war on terrorism do Canadians support?

Deporting or jailing anyone who publicly supports terrorists or suicide bombers.

Oppose/strongly oppose: 15%
Strongly support/support: 81%
Don't know: 4%

Having video cameras in all public places.

Oppose/strongly oppose: 25%
Strongly support/support: 72%
Don't know: 2%

Giving the U.S. any information it requests about Canadian citizens whom they suspect of being terrorists.

Oppose/strongly oppose: 33%
Strongly support/support: 62%
Don't know: 5%

So the winner, by Technical Knockout...America. Congratulations on being the best of the mediocre.