Saturday, December 01, 2007

Women Are Not Like Cows. Sex Is Not Like Milk

Bridget Crawford on the well-worn (and worn-out) expression. Offensive for many reasons, the one Prof. Crawford focuses on is how it treats women like a commodity. My girlfriend would rightfully slap me if I called her a cow, and do not conceive our relationship, or any relationship I might have, progressing to the point where I would "buy" her (and if I ever did start thinking along those lines, I'd hope she'd break up with me immediately).

But beyond that, "why buy the cow when the milk is free" acts as if sex is the only thing a woman has to offer a man. While I certainly think sexuality is an important part of a relationship, at least for me there are many other wonderful things that come from being in a relationship. Companionship. Emotional support. Fidelity. I could go on. It's unbelievably objectifying to act as if that one attribute is the only thing of value a woman has that a man might want. And, I might add, it displays a pretty degrading view of men, to think we're that shallow. It's amazing how my gender loves to revel in how backward we can be (anyone who's seen a beer commercial knows what I'm talking about).

Women are not cows. Nor are they talking sex toys. They're real people.

No Place

I'm always torn about negotiating with Hamas. On the one hand, it wouldn't be a negotiation if they weren't on the other side. You got to deal with the people in front of you. If the Palestinians were represented by a group that was friendly and positive towards the Israelis and the Jews, then we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.

On the other hand, it's difficult to negotiate with someone who doesn't think your state's existence is legitimate in the first place:
To mark sixty years since the United Nations plan for the partition of Palestine, Palestinian militant Islamic movement Hamas called Thursday for the UN to rescind the decision which led to the establishment of the State Israel, Army Radio reported.

"It is not shameful to correct a mistake. Palestine is Arab-Islamic land from the river to the sea, including Jerusalem, and Jews have no place there," the radio quoted a Hamas statement as saying.

Interesting phrasing. Jews have no place there. I'll keep that in mind.

In the same article, right-wing Israeli cabinet member Avignor Lieberman renewed his call for a land-swap to create a two-state solution. Lieberman still advocates a "transfer" of Israeli-Arab citizens (whether all, or just the one's near the border whose towns could easily be included in a land-swap, is unclear), which is pretty loathsome in its own right. But at least he concedes that there has to be a Palestinian state in the area -- that they do have a "place" between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Future of DADT

Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin blogs on the future of Don't Ask Don't Tell. If 2008 ends with a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President, as seems very probable, then he thinks it's gone. Barring that, things get a bit more fluid. But one interesting side-story is the potential for a court challenge.

Don't Ask Don't Tell has been upheld thus far in every lower court which has heard it. But these decisions all came in the early-mid 90s, when views on gays hadn't progressed as far as they have today. This wouldn't matter, except that there apparently a case pending now before the 1st Circuit (based out of Boston), a reasonably liberal appellate court which could shake the boat. By itself, this wouldn't do much, but the circuit split would greatly enhance the likelihood of Supreme Court review. In that case, all eyes would be on Justice Kennedy (huge surprise, I know), who has written two straight opinions strongly in favor gay rights (Romer v. Evans and the path-breaking Lawrence v. Texas). Nonetheless, the court is generally far more deferential in cases involving the military, so it really is a toss-up.

Though the conciliatory side of me wants this decision to be decided by democratic branches, a big part of my heart wants the courts to be the ones to strike down DADT. It really is a gross insult to gay and lesbian Americans, and wildly inconsistent with equality under the law. I want a paper record of America's Justices explaining that very fact, so in future generations people will have something to point to akin to Brown. Lawrence did that to some extent -- but, social controversy aside, court decisions seem to have different moral weight on our descendants than mere legislation.

Armed Man Hijacks Local Clinton HQ

There was a hostage situation in New Hampshire as an armed man, possibly with a bomb, took over a Hillary Clinton campaign HQ in Rochester, New Hampshire today. Fortunately, it appears the man has finally released the hostages, and now is just engaged in a personal standoff with the police. No word on the man's motivation -- the Washington Post merely says that he has an "unspecified grievance" against the New York Senator.

Let's hope the whole thing can be resolved peacefully.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Musical Bleg

One of the most annoying things in the world to me is knowing a song by tune but not title, and not being able to find it. Normally, I'll just punch the lyrics in a search engine, but that doesn't work for instrumentals.

So I'm enlisting the collective help of the blogosphere in my quest. Does anyone know what the song playing through most of this YouTube video is? (The song I'm talking about starts at 0:48):

It's a pretty well-known song, I've heard it before in many other contexts, but I have no idea how to figure out the title.

Thanks in advance!

UPDATE: We're closer, but not there yet. A commenter identified the song as Lux Aeterna, by Clint Mansell. The problem is that version is strings-only rather slow and mellow -- I'm looking for the one with the cranking guitar strings. I thought that with the title I'd be able to find it no trouble -- but it's still eluding me!

UPDATE II: Found it! Contrary to popular belief, it is actually not Lux Aetnera, although that did get me on the right track. But that version, alas, doesn't have the guitars power chords. This one is a remix, done only for The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers trailer, called "Requiem for a Tower." But if you look for that, you'll only find a chopped up version by the Corner Stone Cues. Here's the real thing.


The Gay General

There's a minor controversy from the latest CNN/YouTube debate, stemming from a question posed by retired Brig. General Keith Kerr. Kerr, who came out as gay after leaving the US Armed Forces, pointedly asked the Republican candidates about the military's policy of excluding openly gay members, specifically why they thought "American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians." Unsurprisingly, though many were uncomfortable, none responded by repudiating Don't Ask Don't Tell.

But that's not the controversy. Immediately after the debate, it came out that Kerr had links to Hillary Clinton's campaign, where he is an adviser for her on LGBT issues. Kerr is also a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, but it appears that in recent years (undoubtedly due in no small part to this issue) he has been voting Democratic.

I agree that CNN should have done a better job checking Kerr's credentials. It is relevant that he is affiliated with a Democratic campaign, and folks watching the debate have a right to know it. I do not, however, believe that this means Kerr's question should have been excluded. I have no problem with Democrats and Republicans having to answer pointed questions from the other side of the aisle. That strikes me as a feature, not a bug. The goal of these debates isn't to make the candidates comfortable. It's to get them to engage with real Americans which (though I know the partisans have trouble believing it) include folks from both sides. I'd be very interested in hearing the Democrats respond to a pointed query from an anti-gay American, or someone who feels that religion is being chased out of the public square.

So, failures of disclosure notwithstanding, the question and questioner should have stayed. Even conservative blogger James Joyner concedes it was a poignant and appropriate question, source notwithstanding. What bothers me is that it would have been so easy to include Kerr's Democratic conversion into the question and make it better, not worse. Here was his original question:
My name's Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. And I'm an openly gay man. I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

What if it were asked this way?
My name's Keith Kerr, from Santa Rosa, California. I'm a retired brigadier general with 43 years of service. I'm a graduate of the Special Forces Officer Course, the Commanding General Staff Course and the Army War College. Though I have long been Republican, in recent elections I have been compelled to support Democrats for one simple reason. I'm an openly gay man, and I want to know why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.

Just as powerful, and up-front.

Before we leave this topic, I just want to cast a spot-light on Rep. Duncan Hunter's answer to this question:
Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said: "General, thanks for your service, but I believe in what Colin Powell said when he said that having openly homosexual people serving in the ranks would be bad for unit cohesion.

"The reason for that, even though people point to the Israelis and point to the Brits and point to other people as having homosexuals serve, is that most Americans, most kids who leave that breakfast table and go out and serve in the military and make that corporate decision with their family, most of them are conservatives,'' Hunter said.

"They have conservative values, and they have Judeo-Christian values. To force those people to work in a small tight unit with somebody who is openly homosexual goes against what they believe to be their principles, and it is their principles, is I think a disservice to them. I agree with Colin Powell that it would be bad for unit cohesion.''

I may be wildly off base here, but I think Israelis would know something about Judeo-Christian values -- at least, if the "Judeo" part has any meaning whatsoever. If ever there was proof that the term has absolutely no Jewish component at all, Hunter just provided it.

McCain On Muslim Cabinet Members

Reacting to the mini-scandal Mitt Romney caused when he said he would not allow a qualified Muslim to serve in his cabinet, John McCain hit back:
"I’m proud of the Muslims who are currently serving in the United States armed forces," McCain said, "and my sense is that if they can serve in that manner, they can serve in any position of responsibility in America." McCain's comments were provided to us by his advisers.

McCain added: "I just think, appoint the most qualified individuals to positions of responsibility."

McCain's comments today built on his criticism of Romney yesterday: "I think his comment is indicative of how he might govern and I think it's absolutely wrong."

One interesting side note: Saying you won't appoint Muslims to your cabinet certainly isn't something that will hurt you in a GOP primary, so unsurprisingly, none of the other GOP candidates has had any criticism for Romney over this. Only McCain has been willing to go down this path.

Good for McCain (and by extension, shame on other GOP candidates for not taking the same position). Also, aside from it being the right answer substantively, good job framing it as well. This was rhetorically very strong, and unwavering.

McCain oscillates between the "good" McCain, who is not a moderate but is independent and somewhat sensible, and the "bad" McCain, who will sell out his deepest positions for another two points in the polls. I wouldn't support the good McCain; we differ on too many key issues. But I do have some respect for him. This is the good McCain -- a side that has been virtually absent this campaign and whose reputation has taken a drubbing over the past few months. It's hard to feel bad for meta-McCain -- he brought it all down on himself. But I do feel bad for good McCain.

Oh, and quickly on Romney's original comments. I'm inclined to be charitable and think that what he said was a gaffe (though this account by a top Nevada Republican makes me skeptical). I am not, however, inclined to believe that he didn't say it. That I firmly believe is just him lying, and it's truly unfortunate. Finally, major negative points to Captain Ed for totally skirting past the content of Romney's original answer to skewer the questioner.

Chavez Gets Drilled By The New Mexican

New Mexico's second largest paper takes Marty Chavez to the mat. But what's most impressive is that the subject is Chavez's opponent, Tom Udall, refusing to pork barrel the Los Alamos National Lab unless it starts looking at alternative energy solutions.
Udall doesn't want folks out of work any more than Chávez does — or Sen. Domenici, who used his leadership on the Budget, then Energy, committees to keep the gravy train chugging onto Pajarito Mesa.

The recent announcement that LANL would cut 500 to 750 jobs, it seems, would place Udall front and center as the villain — until you consider how many Democrats might agree with him, and disagree with pork-barrel spending of an especially warlike kind. Los Alamos likely will remain trigger-maker to the nation for increasingly sophisticated and massively destructive weapons. Yet America has far more nuclear bombs than it would take to destroy enemies of today and tomorrow. What we don't have is the new energy system we and the rest of the world will need as fossil-fuel consumption soars and supplies of the stuff, inevitably, run short.

Can't our national-lab scientists see that — and do something about it? And if they can't, shouldn't Congress invest in operations that can?

Those are the nationally responsible questions Udall and some of his colleagues are asking; Kennedyesque queries in the form of challenges to mobilize our brightest scientific minds. It's time to transform the systems that make America run.

Udall knows it. And he wants New Mexicans gainfully employed in that pursuit.

Mayor Chávez and most Republicans have yet to recognize the grim challenge of "peak oil" and the global warming it promotes. Against such backward thinking, Tom Udall is a profile in courage.

You expect to hear that out of a blogger -- a blogger who does not live in New Mexico. Most Americans, unsurprisingly, are pork-for-me-but-not-for-thee, and I didn't expect New Mexico's papers to be any exception (and Los Alamos is far easier to defend than most pork projects!). So kudos to Udall for making the ballsy call, and kudos to the New Mexican for giving him credit in such unreserved language.

But Does It Work For Law School Apps?

Orly Lobel links to this funny rejection of a rejection letter:
Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall
Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson's outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.


Chris L. Jensen

I suspect this will be useful to have in my back pocket in the coming months.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Minow on Difference and Categories

From the start of Martha Minow's fantastic book, Making All The Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law (Ithaca: Cornell UP 1991):
When we analyze, we simplify. We break complicated perceptions into discrete items or traits. We identify the items and call them chair, table, cat, and bed. We sort them into categories that already exist: furniture and animal. It sounds familiar. It also sounds harmless. I do not think it is.

I believe we make a mistake when we assume that the categories we use for analysis just exist and simply sort our experiences, perceptions, and problems through them. When we identify one thing as like others, we are not merely classifying the world; we are investing particular classifications with consequences and positioning ourselves in relation to those meanings. When we identify one thing as unlike the others, we are dividing the world; we use our language to exclude, to distinguish—to discriminate. This last word may be the one that most recognizably raises the issues about which I worry. Sometimes, classifications express and implement prejudice, racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, intolerance for difference. Of course, there are ‘real differences’ in the world; each person differs in countless ways from each other person. But when we simplify and sort, we focus on some traits rather than others, and we assign consequences to the presence and absence of traits we make significant. We ask, ‘What’s the new baby?”—and we expect as an answer, boy or girl. That answer, for most of history, has spelled consequences for the roles and opportunities available to that individual. And when we respond to person’s traits rather than their conduct, we may treat a given trait as a justification for excluding someone we think is ‘different.’ We feel no need for further justification: we attribute the consequences to the [*4] differences we see. We neglect the other traits that may be shared. And we neglect how each of us, too, may be 'different.'(3-4).

This doesn't mean we can avoid categorizing things. As Angela Harris notes at the start of her own article, Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory [42 Stan. L. Rev. 581 (1990)], the world would collapse into incoherence if we did. It merely means that categorizing things is problematic. It has moral implications that we need to be aware of, and potentially pernicious effects that we need to be prepared to counteract. That can only happen if we're cognizant of the problem.

Geography Challenge

This was a pleasantly addicting game. Obviously, knowing the countries helps a lot (except that time it identified a place as being in Norway, and it turned out it was some island they owned in the south Atlantic Ocean). But unless it's a small country, there's still plenty of room for skill (and luck). And it is an awesome feeling squeezing out a passing score because you actually do know exactly where Ushuaia is.

Fortunately, I was able to squeak out a victory on my fourth try, so it won't suck down any more time I hope.

The Real Reason To Say No To Giuliani

Steve Benen has the scoop on the latest Giuliani scandal to hit -- this one having to do with him using official resources to conduct (and cover up) his affair with Judith Regan Nathan (too many scandals, too little time....).

Eh. I mean, maybe I'm just jaded. But while I certainly find this very distasteful, it annoys me that we have to use this has the route to derail his campaign. Giuliani is a nut. He has authoritarian instincts, a foreign policy that seems to consisted of blowing up any country that winks at us the wrong way, and really just doesn't seem to have the skill set needed to be an effective President. I'd be far happier if that became the reason his campaign lost steam.

Too idealist, I guess.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Law School Brochure Blogging

[This post deleted by the author. It was the product of high stress, it wasn't being taken as humorous, and not being particularly wedded to it, I've decided to take it down]

No Muslims Allowed

I really hope this statement will be held against Romney all campaign season long, but I kind of doubt it. There are just too many conservatives that are quietly (or not so quietly) nodding their heads along with the idea that we should categorically refuse to appoint Muslims to high level positions. Remember what Glenn Beck said about Keith Ellison?

But seriously. Between the implicit sanction of quotas, and the denial that there is such thing as a qualified Muslim (even if we restrict it to conservatives -- Zalmay Khalilzad, anyone?), this is just absurd. If Israel can have a Muslim cabinet minister, I think we can manage to pull it off too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

East and West: Never The Two Shall Meet

This is a great post by Phoebe Maltz, problematizing the idea that Israel is "of the West."

"Racism as Subjectification": Draft Posted

You may have noticed a brief skip in my blogging these past few weeks. While there have been many reasons for this -- finals, applications, holidays -- the excuse I'm currently settling on is that I've been finishing up my latest article. And I am pleased to announce that I have just posted a completed draft of "Racism as Subjectification" online to the SSRN (you can download the PDF from there).

Unlike my last paper, this one is still a work in progress. In fact, I may add a whole new section on the Parents United case, depending on the feedback I get. But that makes me all the more eager to hear your thoughts on the paper. So get cracking! I can't think of a single better way to kick off the holiday season.

Here's an abstract:
Nobody likes to feel used. But everyone likes to feel useful. This paradox has long been overlooked by people examining the parameters of racism in the United States. The classic model of racism focuses on the manner in which Black Americans have been objectified - and for good reason: from chattel slavery to Jim Crow, African-Americans have faced a long and sordid history of being regarded as little more than objects - useful tools for White power-brokers, but not independent subjects with their own desires, perspective, and rights.

However, in the post-Civil Rights era, this dynamic has shifted. While racial objectification has by no means disappeared, today the prevailing sentiment in American society is one that, outwardly at least, respects the independence and inherent dignity of its Black members. However, even as they are granted the full rights of citizenship, the idea that Black people are objectively valuable, are necessary to the full and complete functioning of society, has faded away. While Whites admit that they have inherent dignity and human rights, they nevertheless deny that Blacks have any objective use - and if their presence is lacking in elite institutions (colleges, corporations, and legislatures), it is not seen as a cause for concern. This is the problem of subjectification - when people who are conceded to possess subject status are nevertheless treated as if they have no objective worth. In this paper, I articulate the concept of subjectification and show how it provides a new and fruitful perspective on the problems of race and racism in American society.

Credits and Debits

Latoya Peterson at Racialicious has a great post up on the term "Bougie" (as in "bourgeois"), often used as a derogatory term for middle-class Black folk who are seen as "inauthentic" or insufficiently connected to their Black roots. One of my classmates this term used the phrase "bougie Blacks" all the time (very much in quotations, however) -- but I didn't realize it was so widespread until now. Anyway, Peterson's post is really more of a series of stories than a cohesive unit, but they're all good. This excerpt in particular, however, struck me as particular poignant:
Once upon a time (read: four years ago) when I was waiting tables at a spot in Dupont I happened to serve an older African-American man who worked for the DC school system. I asked him for his order, told him the specials, and was perplexed by his ever widening smile.

“You speak so well,” he beamed, and I inwardly cringed. “What school did you go to?”

I explained that I went to school in Montgomery County, but he continued to smile.

“You,” he proudly pronounced, ” are a credit to the race!”

I smiled weakly, hoping that the other tables around him did not hear.

OMG Please tell me he didn’t just say that around white people!

My mind whipped around for a few frantic moments trying to purge some of the memories this man had involuntarily called forth.

Stop it. Stop it! I don’t want to be a credit to the race. I don’t want to be part of the Talented Tenth! I don’t want to be different! I don’t want to stand out! Because if I stand out, and I am the credit to the race, what does that make my cousins? What does that make my friends? Are they blight? Why do we have to be marked as better or worse? What do you want from me?

My mind swirled, but the rational part of me realized that I was on the clock. I smiled and moved on. He left me a 40% tip.

"Smiled and moved on." So it so often goes.