Saturday, June 03, 2006

Embarrassing Allies

This has to be pretty much the weirdest pro-immigration piece I've ever read. Short summary: only Hispanic Whites are having enough babies to provide the comfort levels elderly White Americans expect. Non-Hispanic Whites are too lazy to have children, and Blacks are "killing their babies." If we allow Hispanic immigrants into the country, we can avoid the horrifying fate of becoming...Europe:
The populations of all European countries are (a) dropping and (b) becoming Muslim. Within fifty years, we will be faced with a much smaller Europe that is much more Islamic and probably more militant. America answers this problem by creating enormous incentives for Hispanics to enter the country and have babies here instead of in Mexico. If the plan works, the elderly white baby boomers will all have their noses wiped at appropriate intervals by young Hispanic nurses and will therefore keep today's politicians in office. But there is more.

The white baby boomers will all be dead in fifty years, either via natural causes or euthanasia. But if the Hispanic replacement population is successfully purchased from Mexico (which will experience its own population replacement problems within the next decade), America’s population will (a) not drop and (b) still be Judeo-[sic] Christian.

Actually, becoming Europe would be a pretty awful fate--they have pretty much the paradigmatically wrong policy when it comes to immigration. But basically supporting immigration because it will keep America nice and White and Christian (spare me the "Judeo" part, what percentage of Latino immigrants are Jewish?) is kind of twisted. The frustrating thing is that this piece has close to the right policy on immigration by complete accident: letting in Latino immigrants will be good for the country economically and will pose no problems culturally. But he only is writing the piece as a foil against the evil Islamist horde that we need to fight against. And it is overwhelmingly obvious that he'd vastly prefer White women to get back in the bedroom and start cranking out babies.

H/T: Bitch.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Log Cabin Dream

One of Dale Carpenter's course evaluations made me smile: "Coming in to this class, I thought all people with his 'lifestyle' were morally depraved. Now I recognize that Republicans aren't all bad."

It very much reminded me of the bill in Ohio that would prevent Republicans from adopting (a response to a similar bill that would prevent gays from adopting).

There is something intrinsically funny about linking the dignity of Republicans to the dignity of gay and lesbian Americans. Political jujitsu is fun!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Get Your Facts Straight

Over at The New Republic, John Friedman and Richard Holden have an interesting article up called "The Gerrymandering Myth". Title notwithstanding, it actually deals with a very narrow question: is gerrymandering the reason incumbent re-election rates are so high? And they answer that no, the culprit is actually increased media saturation and big money.

This is a tremendously silly article. For starters, I don't think anyone in the anti-gerrymandering crowd disputes that media penetration and big money have an large effect on incumbent re-election rates. We just think gerrymandering has an effect too. Second, they completely misunderstand the political calculus that goes into gerrymandering. It isn't just about keeping incumbents in office. It's about keeping your incumbents in office and kicking out the opposing party. Friedman and Holden claim that incumbent re-election rates actually go down in the years immediately after redistricting. But that just proves the point: gerrymandering targets vulnerable incumbents from the opposing party, they're kicked out, your new guys entrench (and your veterans re-entrench), and everything settles down by mid-decade. And third, since the authors admit gerrymandering is bad for other reasons, I don't understand the point. At best, they've shown me that we need broader based reforms than just on the redistricting issue, something which I really didn't need persuading on.

More disturbingly, the authors seem to have serious trouble with basic facts. When talking about the prevalence of gerrymandering (in the obligatory "both parties are at fault" section), they write that "in Massachusetts and Maryland...Republicans (who make up nearly 40 percent of both states' populations) account for just 1 of 19 House members."

The problem is that a) together, Maryland and Massachusetts have 18 representatives, not 19, b) two of them are Republicans, not one (specifically, Maryland has two Republicans out of its eight delegates), and c) Republican voter registration is 15% in Massachusetts and 30% in Maryland (with Democrats at 40% and 55%, respectively), which is significantly less than 40% of both state's populations.

I suppose there could be differences in measuring how many GOPers there are, but the former two errors are simply boneheaded. Take what you will.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Seeing Black

Meet the new chief White House domestic policy adviser. In an article for the American Enterprise Institute, Karl Zinsmeister argues against color-blindness--but only as it relates to Black-on-White crime. Now, I'm not color-blindness defender either, but not because the color-blind principle is unfair to White people. What does Zinsmeister have to say?
In my private and internal life I am, and must always remain, colorblind....But hard experience has taught me that colorblindness is an ineffective and even dangerous ruling principle. This is not something that I, or the vast majority of other Americans who share my view, learned from public policy conferences or books published by right-leaning theorists. It springs starkly from practical life....
The penalty for the person who, ignoring race, turns down the wrong street today can literally be death. It is unfair and unrealistic to demand that people "ignore race" so long as race has direct connections to troubles and dangers of this magnitude....

I have five immediate responses. The first relates to the public/private distinction. Though Zinsmeister says that we should be scrupulously color-blind in our private lives, he later references private decisions as the epitome of when race matters (turning down the wrong street is rarely something forced by the government). So if I'm to take him at his word, he thinks that we should be provisionally color-conscious both as a "ruling principle" and as a private concern, but only to the detriment of Blacks. What he's advocating, then, is frighteningly close to a race-based apartheid system. I use apartheid deliberately, because Zinsmeister's analysis appears to both advise socially exclusionary measures (avoid interacting with "dangerous" Blacks and their neighborhoods) backed up by governmental force (when such actions brush up against areas within the legal sphere, the law should approve the White actions).

Second, there is no parity. What about Blacks who have legitimate fear of Whites? If Black people think that Whites are more likely to discriminate against them in hiring decisions (and have the statistical evidence to back it up), how do we respond to their claim? Where are they present in Zinsmeister's analysis? If one is going to be color-conscious in remedying persistent social problems (and I agree we should), the very least one has to do if we aren't to collapse into naked racism is to not restrict the inquiry only to when Whites feel threatened.

Third, there is almost no critical analysis of the statistics which purport to show how much Whites have to fear from Black criminality (presumably Blacks have it even worse, but who cares about what happens to them--they're Black). It is intellectually sloppy, to say the least, to take such statistics at face value. As Angela J. Davis has noted, the issue of prosecutorial discretion and the disparate treatment of alleged Black and White offenders can severely impact who goes to prison and who stays free [Angela J. Davis, Prosecution and Race: The Power and Privilege of Discretion, 67 Fordham L. Rev. 13 (1998)]. How much of this is race, and how much is poverty, and how much of this is Blacks being arrested more often than Whites because of their race (disproportionate to the relative rates of criminal activity)?

Fourth, the parameterization slants the issue dramatically. If one looks at certain types of crimes and actions, then Blacks will look worse than Whites. Change the parameters, and Whites look worse than Blacks. As Richard Delgado has noted, if one compares the costs of "street crime" (what Zinsmeister is talking about and associated with Blacks) versus "White-collar crime" (associated with Whites), the monetary cost of White collar crimes dwarfs that of street crime, the former ranging from an annual cost of $328-519 billion, the latter costing only around $9 million a year. And in lives, the disparity is similar. In 1991, 24,703 people were killed in murders and non-negligent manslaughters. Deaths caused by corporate actions in that same year was approximately 1,486,000 [Richard Delgado, The Rodrigo Chronicles (New York: NYU Press, 1995): 272-75]. Who really poses the danger here?

Fifth, even granting the legitimacy of White fears, there is not even a hint of weighing out the harms Zinsmeister's policies would have on Blacks. Jody Armour, in his book "Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism: The Hidden Costs of Being Black in America", gives solid analysis of how to deal with so-called "reasonable racists" (who are essentially embodiments of what Zinsmeister advocates--those who base their anti-Black actions on statistics and "reasonable" beliefs that they pose higher risk of criminal activity), and how such beliefs can result in real and acute violations of the rights of law-abiding, innocent Black citizens. Professor Armour ultimately concludes that these harms outweigh the "reasonable racist" argument, but regardless of whether one agrees with him, we at least have to recognize that such an analysis is necessary in discussing these issues.

This lack of analysis is the crucial and revealing shortcoming. It's not that White people who exhibit a fear of Black criminality are completely irrational nutcases who need to be locked away. It's that Zinsmeister, probably without realizing it, only examines the White perspective. The logical counterpoise of how such anti-Black policies would impact real Black bodies is not just dismissed, it is never brought up in the first place. That lack of concern, from a man who will be crafting domestic policies which effect millions of Americans, should trouble us all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Shadow of Equality Looms

In the Chicago Tribune, Pepperdine Law Professor Douglas Kmiec warns that allowing gay marriage will eventually expand into forcing churches to perform them, under pain of legal sanction. He provides two supporting examples: the backlash against the Boy Scouts, and the marginalization of racists in American society:
With the states being so vigilant in defense of traditional marriage, is there really a need for the people to act? Yes. Activists are deployed across the country challenging traditional marriage, and it is more than likely that some additional judges will compound the Massachusetts mistake. This increased judicial approval of same-sex marriage will metastasize into the larger culture. Indeed, an insidious, but less recognized, consequence will be a push to demonize--and then punish--faith communities that refuse to bless homosexual unions.

While it may be inconceivable for many to imagine America treating churches that oppose gay marriage the same as racists who opposed interracial marriage in the 1960s, just consider the fate of the Boy Scouts. The Scouts have paid dearly for asserting their 1st Amendment right not to be forced to accept gay scoutmasters. In retaliation, the Scouts have been denied access to public parks and boat slips, charitable donation campaigns and other government benefits. The endgame of gay activists is to strip the Boy Scouts (and by extension, any other organization that morally opposes gay marriage) of its tax-exempt status under both federal and state law.

Now, whenever I hear this "we'll be treated just like racists!" argument, my first inclination is that the complaining party might reflect as to why the comparison to racism is so easy to make. I think a little humility in the face of that accusation may be in order. But let that slide for now. There are some points to be had here, but even if Kmiec's worst-case scenario occurs (and I doubt it will), he's overstating his case.

Commenting on Kmiec's article, Dominico Bettinelli claims that this is about legally mandating that churches perform gay marriage. But while it's clear that this is the impression Kmiec wants to give, his argument doesn't actually show that (for good reason, there is no way that would pass free exercise muster). What it does show is that there is some risk that Churches which don't perform gay marriages will lose their tax-exempt status. That's definitely coercive (although no more so than what anti-gay advocates celebrated in the FAIR v. Rumsfeld decision), but it's not the same as compulsory.

But I'll agree that losing tax-exempt status is not exactly a neutral pose, so what about it? Well, first of all, contrary to what Bettinelli says, it is virtually impossible to imagine that it would be a judge who made this decision, as tax decisions are nearly always kept to the legislature. Even Kmiec concedes that it would take a State Attorney General to issue an opinion leading to a revocation of tax-exempt status. Gay equality advocates have enough trouble securing their own rights in the democratic forum, what are the odds that they'll be able to attack others with any success? Incidentally, I want to pre-empt a response to this that is sure to piss me off: saying that judges will do it because judges don't care about the law. I think that the really sloppy legal analysis by Bettinelli (not Kmiec) comes out of a misguided belief that law does not matter to (liberal) judges, so they'll just do whatever their (evil) hearts desire. This just isn't true. To be sure, liberal judges have different interpretive techniques, ones that conservatives find to be illegitimate. But they are still constrained and are not free to do whatever they want. Duncan Kennedy, perhaps the most prominent member of the Critical Legal Studies movement (and thus far less likely to feel constrained by conventional legal restrictions that probably any judge on the federal bench) still ticks off several factors that would prevent him from just doing whatever he likes on the bench:
First, I see myself as having promised some diffuse public that I will "decide according to law," and it is clear to me that a minimum meaning of this pledge is that I won't do things for which I don't have a good legal argument....

Second, various people in my community will sanction me severely if I do not offer a good legal argument for my action....

Third, I want my position to stick....

Fourth, by engaging in legal argument I can shape the outcomes of future cases and influence popular consciousness about what kinds of action are legitimate....

Fifth, every case is part of my life-project of being a liberal activist judge. What I do in this case will affect my ability to do things in other cases, enhancing or diminishing my legal and political credibility as well as my technical reputation with the various constituencies that will notice....

Sixth, since I see legal argument as a branch of ethical argument, I would like to know for my own purposes how my position looks translated into this particular ethical medium. [Duncan Kennedy, Imagining a Judge's Reasoning Process, in ANALYTIC JURISPRUDENCE ANTHOLOGY 208-209 (Anthony D'Amato ed., 1996)]

To reiterate, there is not a single judge on the federal bench that would take even this radical a view. Most others feel bound to some extent by precedent, by prevailing legal norms, by constitutional traditions, and by a commitment to protecting rights (which in this case includes the right of religious majorities to practice their belief system as it sees fit).

But I digress. Okay, let's assume that a state attorney general or legislature does pass such a restriction. What then? Well, I probably would not vote for such a law. And as a judge, I'd probably strike it down as unconstitutionally impinging on the free exercise clause. But since I am neither a legislator nor a judge, that isn't a huge barrier to hurdle. What would the upshot of such a law be? It would merely hold that organizations who discriminate against free and equal members of the polity can not lay claim to the succor of a state committed to the equal status of its citizenry. I really have a hard time getting riled up about that. Bettinelli complains that:
As we have seen it is not enough, according to liberal activists, to have an absence of active persecution or oppression. Anything less than full-fledged love and admiration for their particular lifestyle choice will be seen as hate-speech, racism, or whatever other disparagement can be thrown our way. What they want is approval and acceptance.

Okay, so what? Not giving acceptance to homosexuality is not racism, but it is homophobia, and hateful toward homosexual[s/ity]. There really is not any dodging that, and the fact that Bettinelli feels compelled to try means he's already lost his argument. Blacks shouldn't have to settle for not being actively persecuted, they have the right to demand full and equal acceptance in the American community. When this is denied (even in the absence of legal barriers), we rightfully call it racism. There is no reason this shouldn't be true of homosexuality. And if the Christian right wishes to hitch itself to that train, then it is going to have to admit forthrightly that it is discriminating, that in that respect it is breaching one of America's core values, and that it feels sufficiently strong about this commitment that it is willing to accept the consequences.

Ultimately, the argument being presented here is one that likely never will come into being, would probably not survive court muster even if it did, and would not be particularly onerous even if it survived. Spare me the apocalyptic rhetoric, please.

Ultimate Heads Up: Southern Appeal.

The Patriot Game

There is something quite stirring, to my ears at least, about this Spencer Overton post about Patriotism. A taste:
Black folk have a complex relationship with patriotism. I've always been somewhat suspicious of flag-wavers, but in the last couple of years I'll have to admit that my relationship to patriotism has evolved. First, my cousin Larry gave me the military flag from the funeral of my grandfather's brother, Uncle Harry. Second, by visiting Gettysburg and the White House of the Confederacy, and researching and writing about the Civil War and Reconstruction in my new book Stealing Democracy, I've come to appreciate some of the more noble values embraced by the Union during the Civil War (I also appreciate that many were not noble--which contributes to the complexity of the patriotism of Black folk). Third, I invest much of my time into working to protect and expand voting rights in the United States. These three factors have brought me to the conclusion that I've got as much right as most to articulate the normative values to which America should aspire.

When one thinks about it, the fact that so many Blacks volunteered to serve for a country that was systematically and brutally oppressing them is nothing short of amazing (same for Japanese-Americans in WWII). They made what in some cases was the ultimate sacrifice for a country that would spit in their eye when they came home. And yet still, they rose.

This Memorial Day, I ask that we remember all of our veterans, especially those who were fighting for all Americans.

Frist Has It Right

Let's just say it. Bill Frist has the right line on the FBI's raid of Congressman William Jefferson's office. Congressmen are not above the law, and while I think that context is critical, I see no real plausible way that this act in these circumstances breached either the separation of powers, or the speech and debate clause.

Hastert (and Pelosi too) is egomaniacal to the extreme by protesting this. As a great anonymous wit put it, for congress, "WARRANTS: Not good enough for us, too good for you."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Feedback Loop

As my second blog birthday approaches (this is one of the few institutions where being two years old makes you a veteran), I figure now is a good time to take stock of where the blog is, where I want it to be, and what you, the precious readers, want out of it.

Basically, my blog is an intellectual exercise. I use it to explore some of my pet issues (liberal interventionism, anti-racism, etc.). I prefer deep argumentation to armchair punditry, and I try to really think through the posts I write. Hopefully, this cuts down on the bonehead moments. I know I write lengthier and don't post as frequently as most blogs. That both fits my schedule better, and is more in line with my desire to actually engage an issue rather than throw a few lines of snarky commentary at it (of course, that can be fun too). I'm happy with my 200-300 readers a day (or at least, per day that I post), and I wouldn't say no to a larger readership, but I have no desire to become one of the top of the pile blogs. I feel like I have a niche here, with patrons who want to read what I have to say, and I like that. I hope you do too.

I like my blog, and I'm pretty satisfied with it. However, I'm interested in what you feel. I've said before how blessed I am to have such wonderful readers (with such few trolls), and I'm sure you have some advice to offer. Any pet peeves that drive you crazy? Topics I spend too much time on? Too little? Writing quirks that make you want to gouge your eyeballs out?

Any comments, be they complimentary or complaints, are appreciated. And I thank all of you for reading The Debate Link!


Alright, so I'm starting to feel better, but it's the start of final season (horrific timing on my part), so I've fallen way behind. Blogging is, alas, one of the first things to go. And to make things worse, I've found myself enmeshed in a massive time-waster (see below).

About a million of my friends told me I had to play Final Fantasy VI (aka, Final Fantasy III). Now, I love the FF series, so it didn't take much persuading, but what really sold me is the claim that VI was better than VII, which, to my eyes is the highlight of the series. So I downloaded an emulator and started it up. And, in the spirit of what Ann Althouse might call Mixed Blogging, I give you my preliminary thoughts (from what I surmise to be about a third of the way through the game (in the cave to the sealed gate).

Okay, let's get the first thing out of the way: it's amazing. I love it. That said, it isn't quite up to VII or even IX (which I seem to have a disproportionate love for compared to other FF fans). A couple of my gripes are pure technological. The graphics are obviously much better in VII, but that I don't care about as much (though it is amazing to think that VII came out just 3 years after VI). What I really miss is the 3-dimensional movement. That is frustrating and can really slow you down, especially where diagonal movement is necessary. The gameplay feels slightly less intuitive than the other games (which is partially--but only partially--because I don't have a manual): I shouldn't have to look up an FAQ to figure out how to change Espers. But by far the most infuriating thing is how you can't run without "sprint boots" equipped. So I either have to waste a relic slot, or I crawl across the game like I'm a dinosaur in a tar pit? Spare me.

The plot is stellar, as all FF games are (though it does not outstrip any of the other games). The characters are strong, but I feel like none stands out and truly pulls me in. There is no equivilant of, say, a Vivi here (I prefer VII to IX, but Vivi is simply the baddest character around. He rocks out.), someone who rules both in and out of the battlefield. It also suffers from the recurring flaws of the FF series: getting lost is very easy (and in a tough dungeon, nearly fatal), if you zone out when the dialogue tells you were to go next, you can be in serious trouble (there has been more than one occassion where I've stopped playing an FF game entirely because I left for a week and forgot where I was supposed to be going), and if you accidently exit a zone, you can miss a heap of important dialogue. This last problem seems even worse in VI, because they skimp on the warnings ("Are you sure you want to leave? (Yes) (No)"). On at least one occassion, I talked to characters out of order and missed what seemed to be a crucial plot twist.

This is all focusing on the negative, but the game really is awesome. Just not quite as awesome as its successors.