Saturday, March 24, 2007


Marty Lederman reports on Tony Snow's stated reasons for why our prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has not yet shut down. Let's remind ourselves that the President has at least claimed he wishes to shut Gitmo. And new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates believes the taint of the institution actually hurts our prosecution of the war on terror.

I couldn't agree more. So why has this abhorrent eyesore, moral stain, and barrier to fighting terrorism continue to exist?
Q: Why is it that the President's stated desire to close Guantanamo Bay cannot be turned into some kind of plan of action?

MR. SNOW: Because there are legal constraints. . . . [T]he President made clear back in September that he would love to be able to shut it down, but unfortunately the circumstances do not presently permit."

"Legal Constraints"? What, exactly, could those be?
According to the Times, "[s]ome administration lawyers are deeply reluctant to move terrorism suspects to American soil because it could increase their constitutional and statutory rights."

In particular, if the GTMO detainees facility were transferred to a U.S. mainland site, they would unarguably be protected by constitutional due process and the right to petition for habeas corpus. And we wouldn't want that, would we? Better that we should continue to "hamper the broader war effort."

So there it is. It's not a "legal constraint" per se. It's a President who is terrified of what would happen if the legal system ever got to review what he's doing.

Who's afraid of the big bad constitution? The President. And he's willing to hurt the fight against terror to hide from his phobia.

Via Majikthise

Vegas Wrap Up

I finished up on the house! Six bucks, but it's the principle that counts. Take that, Video Poker! I own you!

Saw Jay Leno do standup tonight. He was fantastic. Very different stylistically than Lewis Black, but if anything he was funnier.

Aside from that, I went to an oxygen bar for the first time (overrated). I also tried a Kobe Beef "slider". I feel like it loses something in translation to hamburger form. In general, though, the dining was superb, no surprise to anyone.

Oh, and I got my third watch since Spring Break. Watch One, a Nike sports watch I got a Champs Sports (similar to my old watch), saw its battery die the day I got it. They didn't have a replacement on hand, so they're mailing me a new one to Carleton. But that left me without a watch in Vegas. So I bought, Watch Two, a nicer one from Swatch at its shop in Caesar's Palace. That one lasted a full day before the second hand stopped ticking forward. So I went back to the store in the morning. To their credit, they replaced it immediately, no questions asked, which I appreciated immensely. I'm currently wearing Watch Three--if the pattern holds, it should last two days (long enough to get me out of Vegas) before something goes awry. Watch Four should be in my Carleton mailbox when I get there.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Essence of Moderation

It isn't that I lie at the precise center of the political spectrum. I don't--at least not anymore--and I'll freely concede that. It isn't David Broder-esque "pox on both their houses", either. I have political commitments, most of which find far greater support from one party than the other.

No, moderation flows out of a post I didn't write this afternoon, on this Washington Post story. Here's the key quote:
If questions remain, Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers should be interviewed. They don't have to testify under oath, since lying to Congress is a crime.

Both Jon Chait and Steve Benen, writers whom I respect immensely, read this passage as the Post trying to accommodate Rove and Miers' inevitable lying. As Chait puts it:
I don't don't which is funnier: the Post's casual, unstated assumption that Miers and Rove will lie, or its casual, unstated assumption that this is perfectly OK. I look forward to the Post applying this logic to other areas of our legal system. ("Mr. Escobar's runners should not be searched for drugs at the airport, since importing cocaine into the United States is a crime.")

And I was about to write a Post joining that choir, for such a claim is horrifying and utterly indefensible.

But as I read further, I realized the Post's point was different. They were saying that the oath is unnecessary because "lying to Congress" is a crime, even if the witnesses are not under oath. Swearing them in is thus redundant.

Now, I think this is a relatively weak point, to be sure. The lack of a transcript would make proof of any lies by Rove or Miers nearly impossible to prove. And perjury is a far more serious crime than lying to Congress, and would probably have a greater deterrent effect. Finally, while the Post seems hell-bent on avoiding a "constitutional crisis", I'd say there is no crisis on the horizon. What is on the horizon is a court finally smacking down the President's argument that Congressional oversight is a separation of powers violation (Think I'm joking? Quoteth Tony Snow: "The executive branch is under no compulsion to testify to Congress, because Congress in fact doesn't have oversight ability."). There is no crisis, because there is really no question--outside Bush's fevered imagination, there is no doubt that Congress is a co-equal branch of government and indeed can hold executive branch agencies accountable. Incidentally, this is an example of the "bad" type of moderation--evading a conflict between Bush and the Democrats for the sake of avoiding conflict. When the point of contention is one party's insistence that checks and balances are a quaint relic of a bygone era, that's a claim that needs to be nipped in the bud (alas, too late for that, so nipped before it fully blooms).

However, the point the Post was making, while stupid, did not say that lying is okay. That was a misreading on Chait and Benen's part. If moderation means anything, it means hitting your opponents on their actual failings, not ones of your creation.

We Ain't Going Nowhere

Adam Kushner at The Plank has a good post explaining, slowly, how it is that Jews don't flock to the GOP merely because they loudly trumpet their support of Israel.

1) Jews have other issues important to us aside from Israel, most of which the GOP is diametrically opposed to us.

2) Jews don't trust the motives of the Christian Right on supporting Israel, and remain unconvinced that their different motives won't lead them to supporting policy positions actually detrimental to the interests of Israel.

3) It seems like the GOP "pro-Israel" stance is to encourage them to adopt a hyper-militaristic stance that really isn't in their best interest. Because we, unlike the Christian Right, have a real stake in this conflict, we can't afford to lock Israel in perpetual combat with its neighbors to prove a point about toughness against Jihad. As so often is the case, the GOP is talking tough with other people's lives on the line.


Apparently, Las Vegas does have enough to do to distract me from blogging. Who knew?

I have to say, though, I don't really like gambling. I don't consider myself an overly competitive person, but I don't like participating in activities that I know I won't do well in. Like chemistry. Or frisbee. Or gambling. Obviously, I am never going to "do well" in video poker. Yet I feel like I should be playing to win. So it's stressful, and I don't enjoy it.

That doesn't mean Vegas is a bust, of course. There is still plenty to do aside from gambling. I saw Lewis Black do stand-up last night (great) and will see Jay Leno tomorrow. I also rediscovered my love for pinball--which is a surprisingly cheap way to spend the day in this town, which sucks your wallet dry like nothing else (ask about the $5 glass of coke my brother got). Today is a lazy day--which is cool too.

Maybe I'll even blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

My Brother's Political Savvy

One of my favorite Boondocks strips features Riley telling Huey about missing a class question that even he felt embarrassed about. The question was "which Black political leader said 'turn the other cheek'", and Riley was given the hint "King."

"I thought, how many 'King's' could there be?"

"I know, but Rodney King?"

Last night, I had that same feeling when discussing over dinner whether "Gonzalez was going to go." My brother perks up and asks, "Elian Gonzalez?"

At the airport today, the TV was showing a Bush press conference. My brother looked over and asked "who's that?"

My brother, FYI, is 17 years old and will be attending the University of Virginia (Engineering School) next fall.

Let The Bankruptcy Begin!

Greetings from the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada! We got in a few hours ago, had a late dinner, and are now settling into our rooms. They screwed up our reservation, which is always nice, because it incurred no real inconvenience while causing us to fall upwards into upgraded accommodations. Hurray for failure!

As to the impending bankruptcy, after enjoying a $10 hamburger (yum!) and buying Internet service for another $10 (per 24 hours--again, I hate how I can get this for free at a Days Inn), I'm well on my way to financial oblivion. I even lost my first dollar on airport slots!

I'll keep you posted--assuming I can still afford the $10 Internet fee at the end of the trip.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Endless Introductions

Thinking Girl asks for comments on an interesting dilemma for those of us working in anti-subordination fields: How to deal with the endless parade of people who are (for lack of a better term) entirely ignorant of the basics of what we are doing? Anyone whose participated in these communities knows the type. It's generally the same questions, over and over and over again, basic 101 material that--because, alas, feminism and CRT are not yet mainstream--many folks still don't know. Sometimes it's genuine (if they ask to be taught something, I assume it's in good faith), other times it's trolling (hostile tones beget hostile responses).

The response the hosts and/or regular commenters give is somewhat ad hoc. If we're in a good mood, we'll answer the question as best we can. If we're not, we'll snap at the questioner to stop being ignorant, or coldly inform them that not every blog is designed to help beginners figure out the basics. From an outsiders perspective, it is difficult to understand, but try to imagine watching every discussion on a really important topic being pushed back to square one by (we'll be generous here) well-meaning commenters who just don't have a clue. It's like a Dilbert strip gone to hell.

There's an unfortunate paradox here. It is exhausting to have to tread the same terrain over and over again. Back in my early days doing anti-racism theory, I didn't understand this. I was like a kid with a shiny new toy, and with my debate background (and years of pent up evangelizing spirit that had no outlet since Jews don't missionize) I had near endless energy to try and explain Critical Race Theory to the masses (i.e., my White friends and blog readership). This was in part due to the fact that I was a new sojourner to the movement--I remember back when I was "unsaved" (so to speak), and so I viewed it as my obligation to try and bring as many of my fellow pagans to the fold as possible (I'm not joking with the rhetoric--this felt very much like a religious experience to me). There but for the grace of God and all that. I also hoped that I could use my Whiteness to my advantage here as well--since an aspect of my White privilege is that I do not have to live my life constantly "race-d", I thought that if I began to tire of the fight, I could step back, take a sabbatical, re-charge my batteries, and then return to the battlefield restored and renewed. Suffice to say, it didn't work: once you're attuned to the way race and racism permeate American society, you can't just start ignoring them, even if you're White. And if even I--who is not the primary victim of racism, whose life and equal status is not on the line in the debate--can feel this rhetorical exhaustion and fatigue from dealing with the same foundational debates, then I dare venture to say that it is a problem the whole community experiences.

But on the other hand, anti-subordination workers need to reach new people. We're in the minority, we want to move to the majority--it's axiomatic. And like I said, since I still can remember when I was the ignorant, uninformed one, I am unwilling to just abandon the masses. It was a total fluke that I came across this entire area of discourse--I don't expect other people to come to it the same way I did (a random debate round in high school). And, to speak on behalf of the ignorant for a minute--it's not their fault that they're the 40th iteration of a certain question, so long as they weren't also numbers 39, 38, 37, etc.. Sure, to us it looks like infinite repetition, but remember, for every 40 people asking the question (that they might overhear the answer), there are another 40,000 not talking about it at all. Statistically, the average man or woman is likely to be running in the social circle of the 40,000 than the 40. Such is life in an intellectual minority. In our frustration, it can be difficult to remember that cluelessness is not the same thing as malice. I think, as a community, we have an obligation to speak to anyone who, in good-faith, seeks us out for dialogue. The who and how are, to me, the bigger issues, and I don't want to minimize them. But I think we have to be wary of disclaiming the obligation entirely because we haven't figured out entirely how to go about it.

I hope that the Feminism 101 blog can help mediate this problem (am I the only one who thinks it might be a good Wiki candidate?). A anti-racism parallel would certainly be nice as well. But I just want to emphasize that this is a really important topic, and I'm glad that Thinking Girl has opened the floor for discussion on it.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Credible Source

Elizabeth Cassidy is reporting from the UN Human Rights Council's conference. It's an excellent (if depressing) post. Far and away the best part, though, was her recounting of Nobel Laureate Jody Williams' report on Darfur, which she is battling to see adopted by the commission:
Watch Jody Williams take those challenging her team's report to task for playing political games in Geneva while Darfuris die. Noting the Council's double standards on Sudan and Israel, Williams said that if her mission had gone to Palestine, "I imagine that the discussion here would be amazingly different." Regarding the challenges to the credibility of the report, she told Council members that the issue on credibility is "not about ours, it's about yours."

Supporting adaptation are Canada, Japan, South Korea and the European democracies. In opposition are most of the rest of the Asian bloc, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Russia, and Cuba. The swing votes are in Africa--several nations spoke out in favor of the report, but others have not publicly revealed a preference.

Speaking of Cuba, while they cannot bring themselves to condemn genocide in Darfur, they did issue a statement accusing Sweden of "carry[ing] out ethnic cleansing that only allows those whose skin and hair color fit with the racial patterns of former Viking conquerors to remain in the country."

The entire post is worth reading, if only to know what we're dealing with when talking of the highest human rights body in the world.

Sin City

Another break, another term I don't fail out of Carleton. Actually, I had one of my best performances at Carleton thus far this last term--taking far and away my toughest schedule. So hurray for me! And hurray for school!

Meanwhile, I'm missionizing on behalf of a drink my friends at college discovered through some alcoholic alchemy. It's very simple: Take a mug of hot apple cider, add one shot of peach schnapps. It's amazing--tastes like liquid candy. Be sure to credit me when you make it on a cold winter night.

Oh, and I almost forgot--tomorrow, I'm off to Vegas, baby! The family is going as a celebration for my 21st Birthday. It'll be sweet. Computer will be along--I don't anticipate any blogging break.

Bad Policies Beget Bad Spin

White House Press Flack Tony Snow: Troop withdrawal bill "victory for enemy."

Color me old-fashioned, but I think the enemy's "victory" in Iraq started with failed policy, not trying to remedy it. I read in my IR textbook that it is almost impossible for democracies to concede defeat in war. I'm not a politician, so I can say it: we've lost. It's a tragedy (for us but more so for the Iraqi people). It will stain our nation for decades to come. But if we're going to blame someone for our defeat, it's the administration that (after years of having a nearly complete free hand) failed to win the war, not the Congress which finally recognized we're losing it.

Running on "Racist"

I understand my definition of "racist", while supported in the academic literature, is much broader than the popular conception. So, there a persons (more often, policies) I consider to be "racist" that other people do not. I think that's a problem, but it is irrelevant to the forthcoming conversation. For "America's Mayor" Rudy Giuliani has decided the best way to win back conservative primary votes is to brag about how he's viewed by some of his Black former constituents.
The campaign also helpfully provided a bunch of quotes from New York papers that demonstrate Giuliani's conservative credentials, such as this one from The Amsterdam News in 2000 (before Giuliani dropped out of the U.S. Senate race):

"[Giuliani's] Only Hope For An Overwhelming Victory In Upstate New York Would Be To Remain As He Is: A Hard-Nosed, Evil, Racist Republican Conservative."

The Amsterdam News is a NYC-based paper catering to the Black community. Remember, Giuliani thinks that being called a racist will gain him votes in conservative primaries.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Erin Esurance

Feministe's "Shameless Self-Promotion Sunday" gives me the chance to ask a question that's been nagging me for awhile:

What's the feminist take on Erin Esurance? For those of you who don't watch TV (ever--she is on like all the time), Erin is the animated spokeswoman for Esurance, an online car insurance company. She appears in a variety of flash animated advertisements, pitching the company's "quote, buy, print" motto in secret-agent type settings. The ads are produced in-house, not by Madison Avenue, so that could explain why they aren't at least flagrantly sexist (in my opinion).

The ads have a male character in them (and various robot baddies), but he is definitely second-fiddle. Erin, for her part, is not cast in stereotypically feminine roles--she races cars, jumps out of buildings, and beats up on robot evildoers. Basically, she spends most of the ads kicking ass. Which is good.

On the other hand, she certainly is drawn in the stereotypical slender, White, pretty mold that virtually all female actresses on commercials have (even animated ones, apparently, though I doubt her figure is humanly possible even among the model-set). When I ran a google blogsearch to try and answer this question on my own, all I got was a bunch of male bloggers repeating how hot she was. Which might be an answer itself, but I suspect it merely proves that any normatively attractive woman in a public arena will find herself objectified. That's certainly not her fault (though Esurance is arguably exploiting that fact--they, of course, control the proportions of their animated characters).

So? What's the line?

Take The Gloves Off

John Cole comments on Senator Patrick Leahy's stated desire to question Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and other top Bushies on the Prosecutor Purge: "Personally, I say we subject them to strict interrogation methods. After all, those methods aren’t torture."

What's good for the goose....