Friday, October 06, 2006

Tasty, Tasty Diversity

One of things that is rarely noticed in the affirmative action debate is that business loves AA. And the reason is because a diverse workforce is a more productive and a more profitable one. Workplace Prof Blog tells the interesting story of Frito-Lay utilizing its diversity to drill its introduction of "Guacamole" flavored Doritos. The Wall Street Journal elaborates on how businesses are starting to devote more attention and manpower to diversity issues, giving the executives in charge a greater mandate, and greater top-level executive involvement. The article also outlines five challenges diversity programs face today:
Challenge 1: The difficulty of communicating effectively when diversity-related data include sensitive information such as age, gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

Challenge 2: The slowness of change and progress brought about through diversity initiatives, which is especially difficult in fast-paced cultures that want to see immediate results.

Challenge 3: Obstacles to ensuring the consistent and rigorous implementation of diversity programs across large, dispersed organizations.

Challenge 4: "Diversity fatigue," which occurs when employees become desensitized to the many diversity messages they receive through diversity training, recruitment programs and outreach projects.

Challenge 5: Keeping white males from feeling overlooked in diversity programs.

In related news, Eric Rauchway comments on Walter Benn Michaels's new book, The Trouble with Diversity, whose thesis is getting kicked around the blogsphere. Michael's thinks that liberals focus too much on diversity, and too little on inequality. I think that diversity is a really important way to end inequality, primarily because inequality is a particularly non-diverse descriptor.

Target Identified

Michael Crowley reports on a recent MSNBC talkingfest, where conservative pundit Armstrong Williams called for hawkish action against North Korea, and its mysterious leader "Jon Kim Il" (aka "Jon Kim Yung"). Of course, the actual leader of North Korea is Kim Jong Il. But no matter, it is absolutely, positively crucial that we attack what-his-face over there!

Pluralism Among The Survival Set

Twisty of the well-known "I Blame The Patriarchy" blog remarks on women who defend their enjoyment of certain patriarchal trappings (think Carleton's "Feminists for the use of mascara" group):
[P]atriarchy, though ubiquitous, is largely invisible. Women are understandably reluctant to concede that their deep attachment to the trappings of patriarchy (marriage, femininity, gender, fashion, porn, religion, beauty, the nuclear family, pink tool kits, et al) is not the manifestation of empowered personal autonomy, but rather a survival skill.

There's something to this, but I'd modify it to say that it is very difficult to disentangle a genuine preference from a "survival skill" in a world as bound up in patriarchy as this one. I'd unwilling to simply assert that these preferences are (period, stop) the result of patriarchy. Counterfactuals are tough, and people are idiosynchratic. I'm skeptical of folks who think they have The Answers when it comes to why people choose the way they do, especially when it comes down to structurally deterministic factors. This isn't to say that Twisty's point is wholly without merit--I have no doubt that women subsume the impact of patriarchal structure on their decisions for precisely the reasons Twisty says they do. I'm just not willing to say that represents the whole story for the whole gender.

Via Feministe

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Evil of a Different Sort

I've been debating with Mark Olson about the relative horribleness of the detainee treatment bill. As far as I can tell, we both now agree it does some really bad things, and only disagree as to how evil it is. But since Mark seems to agree that a) the torture stuff is really bad and b) the inability for any person in any situation who is detained to assert habeas is bad, I can safely claim vindication in my original lamentation of the bill and the blot it puts on America's conscience.

Several months ago, I penned a post on a wholly different topic: The 4th Circuit case of Jordan v. Alternative Resources Corporation. The 4th Circuit is the most conservative in the nation, but even I was shocked at how far they descended to obliterate civil rights protections here. Here are the facts and judgment of that inkblot:
Jordan worked for IBM. As many of you know, the "DC Sniper" was operating in our area, causing much fear and tension. The two snipers (both of whom were Black) were caught while Jordan was at work. One of his fellow employees, seeing the news, proclaimed: "[t]hey should put those two black monkeys in a cage with a bunch of black apes and let the apes fuck them." Jordan consulted with several of his other coworkers, who confirmed that this particular employee had made comparable comments many times in the past. Pursuant to IBM policy, which mandated that employees report racial harassment, Jordan filed a complaint. His supervisor responded by changing his work hours to less convenient times, making a derogatory gesture and comment towards him at an office party, and within a month firing him. It does not appear that anyone is seriously arguing that these actions were not retaliatory. Incredibly, the Court found that this did not constitute a retaliatory action in violation of Title VII, because Jordan could not even have reasonably believed that his coworkers action could have created a hostile work environment.

So, yeah. Nuts case. My usage of "evil" in that case was less serious than with regards to torture, and more "why does the 4th circuit not care about basic principles of justice." So, it's not as bad as, say, extra-judicial torture. But it's still pretty sucky. Anyway, Dan Filler reports that, by a 5-5 vote, the 4th Circuit has voted to deny en banc review, effectively killing any hope of overturning the ruling. So now, in my homestate of Maryland and throughout the 4th circuit realm, your corporation can mandate that you report racist remarks, then fire you for reporting them, and then you can be subjected to the indignity of a court telling you that you were "objectively unreasonable" for believing that a co-worker with a history of racist remarks talking about putting "two black monkeys in a cage with a bunch of black apes and let[ting] the apes fuck them" might create a hostile work environment.

Hooray for judicial conservatism!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

We Know Whose Fault This Is

So the latest GOP spin on Foley-gate is that it's the fault of the all powerful gay Republican organization. Kevin Drum terms this "The Velvet Mafia." I don't have anything to add to the story, except regarding the name. "Velvet Mafia" is okay, but if we're talking about a secretive cabel of homosexual powerbrokers, the obvious name choice is "The Mauve Hand" (yes, I'm stealing from Robin Williams). I mean, seriously. Get with it, people.

In any event, this sordid story could put the final nail in Tom Reynolds' coffin at least. Even Hastert hasn't gotten rocked by this story as the New York congressman has.

Tag! You're Detained!

Mark Olson takes issue with my criticism of the Magna Carta Repeal Act of 2006. He claims I don't provide an alternative. The argument only works because he shoehorns me into one utterly implausible "alternative" of Mirandizing combatants on the battlefield. We can't do that, so clearly we should just assume the power to randomly detain people without show of cause. Somehow, in all the twists and turns of my hyperactive imagination, I have to think there is a middle ground. And wouldn't you know it, there is! Habeas review, pride of the West since 1215. So there's my alternative: post-detention habeas review.

Here's the full critique of Mark's post, and why some form of impartial review of detainee status is both a) plausible and b) required under Geneva.

When we detain someone (for example, capturing them on the battlefield), I presume there is some form of processing. Name, rank, and serial number if they are members of a legitimate army. Al-Qaeda is not a legitimate army, but I'm sure we try and extract something out of these people to identify them, and even if we can't even get a name, we can take a picture or jot down notes. If they challenge the detention, we can say "you were caught here, on this date, carrying arms, out of uniform." Case dismissed. Gosh, that was easy.

Of course, there are many cases where things aren't so cut and dry. Cases where the "capturing" was done not by coalition forces, but by local bounty hunters who might have found an actual terrorist, or who might have plucked Ahmed Schmoe off the street to try and get a reward (or more likely, had a grudge against ol' Ahmed and decided accusing him of terrorism would be an excellent way to exact revenge). Both cases have been documented. Since it is bad for innocent Ahmed Schmoe to be indefinitely detained and subjected to "harsh interrogation techniques" (what a rapper might term "slappin' fools just for livin'"), we need to find a way for Ahmed to at least argue that he's the wrong guy. Not providing said mechanism is not just unfortunate. It is profoundly and unambigiously evil, and I have no compunction against calling it such. To be blunt, I cannot think of a more fundamental guarantee of a free society than for innocent people to be able to assert said innocence to a impartial judicial body upon arrest. That's absolutely bedrock. So the spin I'd put on Mark's "provide an alternative" argument is that he has to do the same: He has to demonstrate some mechanism of letting the innocent assert their innocence and have a realistic shot of going free (or else just admit that he's ready to sacrifice rule of law outright). If he doesn't like my proposal to secure these rights, then suggest an alternative. But don't pretend like you've got a "better solution" just because you ignore a wholly different set of crucial moral values.

I see no particular reason why properly constituted federal courts can't make us both happy. What parade of horribles would occur if we just allowed them to hear the evidence against the accused? No Mirandizing, no brigade of lawyers, just good old fashioned "show me something." I'd even be okay with establishing a special Article III court (in the line of FISA) if we're worried about security clearances. But it's patently absurd to just throw up our hands and say "war sucks, so bring on arbitrary detention!"

And that's the crux of the matter. Yes, most detainee protections (but not all, see below) do not apply to illegal combatants. But before we can get that far, we have to determine that they are an illegal combatant first. Geneva is quite clear on this. Article 45:
"Should any doubt arise as to whether any [detained person] is entitled to the status of prisoner of war, he shall continue to have such status and, therefore, to be protected by the Third Convention and this Protocol until such time as his status has been determined by a competent tribunal."

That might offend your tender sensibilities, Mark, but it offends mine a lot more to think that we can detain innocent people indefinitely without any proof they did anything wrong. One is somewhat aggravating, the other is tyrannical.

It's also worth noting that even illegal combatants have some protections under the laws of war. These can be divided into two parts: protections while in combat (or prior to detention, as in the surrender scenario) and once detained. The section Mark cites to refers to standards for determining POWs--i.e., post-detention--and is inapplicable to the former case, I'll get to it later. As to in combat, there are clearly certain lines we cannot cross even in combat with terrorists. If we dropped horrible burning acid on terrorists then slowly chopped off their extremities bit by bit, I'd call that a war crime and object strenuously. Such actions are just wrong, even when applied to the bad guys. The scenario Mark outlined, refusing to accept the mortar guys surrendering after they fired from a Mosque, would be a war crime. I have no qualms about saying that, and I am rather shocked that Mark would even consider otherwise. Article 41 specifically protects "persons" who are hors d'combat from attack, and Article 40 prohibits "giving no quarter" or even threatening it. There is no indication either is restricted only to those who would be eligible for POW status--and I don't see any reason to make that extension. Perfidy (fake surrendering) is also a war crime (Article 37), and can be prosecuted/treated as such. Put simply, we have an obligation to accept real surrenders, and no obligation to accept fake surrenders. Admittedly, perfidy is a sucky tactic from our perspective, as most immoral deceptions are. Deception makes life difficult, no question about it. But Mark's response--and I could say this for his entire sad grappling with this issue--of completely punting our moral obligations as a result betrays a profound misunderstanding of what morality is. It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world, but morality still exists in a world with immoral people. To argue otherwise is to sanction barbarianism of the worst sort. "We're fighting evil-doers, dammit" is not a response, it's a capitulation to darkness.

Moving to the post-detention case. Most important to the discussion of illegal combatant rights post-detention are Articles 45 and 75 of the Geneva Conventions. Article 45, section 3, specifically says that combatants who are not POWs (i.e., illegal combatants) still have Article 75 protection:
"Any person who has taken part in hostilities, who is not entitled to prisoner-of-war status and who does not benefit from more favourable treatment in accordance with the Fourth Convention shall have the right at all times to the protection of Article 75 of this Protocol."

Also in Article 45 is the provision that:
"If a person who has fallen into the power of an adverse Party is not held as a prisoner of war and is to be tried by that Party for an offence arising out of the hostilities, he shall have the right to assert his entitlement to prisoner-of-war status before a judicial tribunal and to have that question adjudicated."
In general, Article 45 codifies the principle that the status determination has to occur prior to other prosecution. In addition, the same article provides that the prisoner be allowed to attend the proceedings here, with the provision for "exceptional" cases where state security makes this impossible. These cases, of course, should actually be "exceptional"--making it the rule by definition makes it no longer an exception.

Article 75 contains "fundamental guarantees" that are given to every detainee regardless of status (POW or not). What is included here?

Section 2 prohibits
"at any time and in any place whatsoever, whether committed by civilian or by military agents: (a) violence to the life, health, or physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular: (i) murder; (ii) torture of all kinds, whether physical or mental; (iii) corporal punishment; and (iv) mutilation; (b) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, enforced prostitution and any form or indecent assault; (c) the taking of hostages; (d) collective punishments; and (e) threats to commit any of the foregoing acts."

Incidentally, it's worth noting that the bill in question severely dilutes this definition, primarily by adding an "intent" requirement where Geneva has a categorical prohibition, thus circumventing the treaty.

Section 3 demands that any person detained be informed (in a language they understand) as to why they are detained.

Section 4 gives a laundry list of rights that such detainees have in any trial they are faced with. They include the right to be tried in front of an "impartial and regularly constituted court respecting the generally recognized principles of regular judicial procedure", innocence until proven guilty, right to confront witnesses and obtain witnesses in favor [with caveats for practicality], right to avoid self-incrimination, right to be present for proceedings, and generally "all necessary rights and means of defence."


Woof, that was long. Let's sum up:
1) Selecting people to be imprisoned forever and possibly tortured via a process that has all the procedural fairness of pointing a finger is hideously unfair and immoral.

2) Having to give Miranda rights to people on the battlefield would be dumb. Fortunately, nobody seems to advocate it.

3) Post-detention Habeas review to determine if there are grounds for detention--tried and true since 1215!--seems to be a reasonable way of adjudicating the original status claim. Some comparable procedure is required under Article 45 of the conventions anyway, and this seems to work well enough. This would help prevent random innocent people from accidently being caught up in the detention system, which is a recurring problem in the status quo.

4) Once that claim has been determined, prosecutions of illegal combatants can proceed under the rules articulated under Article 75, which guarantee basic procedural rights of the accused. Treatment of the detainees also is governed by Article 75.

5) Not adhering to the rules set down in Articles 45 and 75 constitute treaty violations.

Everyone clear?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Debater Hell

My Political Science professor handed back a paper of mine yesterday, tarring one of my arguments as "a debater's point." This, apparently, is a point I make just so I can say I've covered that base, without actually thinking the argument is important (she also responded with a (direct quote) "oh please" to another one of my claims. I love this professor). In any event, this utterly unwarranted slur against debaters notwithstanding, it seems that the political sphere is being inundated with arguments that would make any debater blanche. Seriously, what are these people thinking?

David Adnesik received a mailing from soon-to-be-ex Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. It tells a harrowing tale of the horrible economic slump of 1993, caused by Bill Clinton's tax increase. Yes, I remember the 90s well. Those were dark days. Anybody who claims otherwise is suffering from irrational exuberance.

John Cole has a round-up of particularly absurd responses to Foley-gate.

Speaking of Foley, Feministe explains the issue of consent, slowly, to those having troubl with it.

A CBS segment blames massacres on the teaching of evolution and legal abortion.

Dean Barnett: Torturing innocents is a "moral compromise" we need to make in war.

I actually like the Obsidian Wings bloggers, so I won't go too harsh here, but this post on the relative power of governments and corporations by Andrew is pretty weak. It is, of course, less weak than arguments of "hooray torturing innocents" vein, so I'll spend more time on it. First, he argues that "the core principle of the Democratic Party seems to be that government is a good thing." Jon Chait has noted the falsity of this claim. Democrats are entirely agnostic to government. We don't think (like libertarians) that it is a "necessary evil", but we don't worship it as a demigod either. We like government when it works, and feel that it can work more often that people give it credit for. If it can't work, or something else can work better, that's cool too. But the real fallacy is in Andrew's cavalier dismissal of the statement that corporations have grown more powerful than government. He says they don't have the power to coerce you into buying their products, which is only true if one believes coercion to only consist of "gun-to-the-head." But even in the most narrow sense, there are definite cases where corporations have outstripped the power of government. My favorite example is Ecuador, where the government wanted to stop Texaco from engaging in rampant environmental exploitation in the eastern jungles. It couldn't, though, because Texaco's annual revenue was 4x that of the entire country's GDP. Put simply, it was entirely under the company's heel. Examples of corporations hiring out paramilitary groups in Southeast Asia abound, making even the "gun-to-the-head" example a reality. Finally, the geographical fluidity of many companies makes even basic law enforcement difficult. The New York Times reports on a case of toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast, which "came from a Greek-owned tanker flying a Panamanian flag and leased by the London branch of a Swiss trading corporation whose fiscal headquarters are in the Netherlands." Where on earth do we start? Andrew is far too sanguine about the growing pernicious influence of MNCs.

Violence Against Women As Violence Against People

Redundant? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. USC Law Prof Ann Bartow points me to an interesting post at terrorism directed at women:
Unfortunately as women, we have no nation, we have no police force, we have no military and so we cannot launch any war on this terrorism which is waged against us every day, every night, and has been for millennia. More unfortunately, these acts are not even recognized as terrorism. But that is precisely what these acts are. They are acts of terrorism intended to subjugate the people of women and to keep us enslaved, intimidated, silenced.

This violence is pervasively underreported and underestimated. Bartow quotes prominent feminist Catherine MacKinnon in her book Are Women Human? as saying that as many women are murdered by men as were killed in the 9/11 attacks. Yet there is little outcry beyond the individual incident, or demand for systematic reform.

In the same vein, I highly recommend this article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on the virtual enslavement faced by many Muslim women in Europe. Ali calls on a long overdue effort by government to stamp out this brutal and oppressive practice, where even stepping outside the home is grounds for an "honor killing."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Forgotten Refugees

I found this Wikipedia entry about the Jewish exodus from Arab lands to be quite interesting. Obviously, it's wikipedia, so take it with whatever grain of salt you give to that august research tool. I kind of vaguely knew that many Jews fled Arab countries as the 20th century progressed, but I had no idea it was this bad. The cause of the exile was rather standard fare (for Jews)--violence, oppression, anti-Semitic riots, anti-Jewish legislation. But it's the magnititude that is truly astounding. The entry claims that the Jewish population in Arab states declined 99 percent from 1945 to the present day, from a base population of between 758,000 and 866,000 Jews to fewer than 7,000. To compare, the article claims that the Arab population in Israel has actually rebounded to exceed its pre-1948 level.

Of course, few people talk about the Jewish refugees. One reason is that most have resettled in Israel, rather than being held in an indefinite limbo by the UNRWA because nobody was willing to take them (this, in itself, is a rarity for Jews, as prior to Israel most states, including America, were quite skittish about admitting Jewish immigrants). Another reason, to be blunt, is that the victims are Jews, and exile and oppression are just par for the course. I truly believe that the international community has incorporated a base of violence and oppression against Jews that is considered to be the norm, and will only condemn gross deviations from that norm. They are not at all interested in lowering that baseline or (perish the thought) eliminating anti-Semitic ideologies and actions in the global sphere. The idea of a Jewish refugee isn't shocking to anyone who has internalized the "mark of Cain" narrative about the Jewish people. What is shocking (and unsettling) is that these people found a homeland which has greeted them with open arms and full acceptance. That is an unforgivable sin.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Most Trusted Institution

This editorial by Charles Dunlap, an Air Force JAG, on the use of the military in civilian law enforcement, is interesting all around. But there was a really intriguing tidbit that I wanted to point out particularly:
Americans don't seem especially worried about increasing the full-time military's role. Despite troubles in Iraq and detainee abuse scandals, polls show that the armed forces are the most trusted institution in American society. Nevertheless, few models exist around the world in which the recurring use of militaries in law enforcement furthers democratic values.

I have to admit, I was a bit surprised to read that the military is "the most trustd institution" in America. Not because I don't hold a high respect for our armed forces. But when I think of states where the military is held in higher esteem than any other institution, I think of states like Turkey--imperfect democracies where the people rely on the military to preserve internal order and are willing to accept some degree of military control over government to do it.

I think this is indicative of a broader American perspective coming into view now, that is rapidly losing its mistrust of centralized authority or power. Times were that Americans were overwhelmingly suspicious of having an army at all--a proposal by Elbridge Gerry to limit the size of the armed forces was defeated only when George Washington demanded a corrallary limiting invading armies to the same size. American's no longer fear loss of liberty, so we've become complacent. The result is the pro-torture and anti-habeas corpus fiasco congress just passed.

H/T: Kenneth Anderson