Friday, January 25, 2008

Quote of the Evening

No immediate link to anything currently in the news, though it does remind me of my Dartmouth L.J. paper. I just wanted to save it for later:
The question of how Jews would fit in when cultural and linguistic identity became the basis of citizenship, and the Volksgeist was embodied in a Volksstaat, could be answered in only one of two ways. Either the Jews had to surrender their Jewishness and become good Germans or there would be no place for them. At the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, a liberal assimilationist perspective was ascendant in German thought, but beneath it lurked a deep intolerance of the Jew who remained distinctive. In 1793, the philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who professed to be advocating that Jews be given "human rights," put the choice before them in starkly brutal terms: "As for giving them [the Jews] civil rights, I see no remedy [*72] but that their heads should be cut off in one night and replaced with others not containing a single Jewish idea."

George M. Fredrickson, Racism: An Introduction (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2002), 71-72.

Similar sentiments were expressed in France during this time period. And, of course, this theory of enlightenment universalism is the guiding force behind much of modern Western philosophy in America and Europe -- including the "color-blind" theory of race relations and the doctrine of strict separation between Church and State.

Notice how obliterating Jewish distinctiveness was cast as being in accordance with securing human rights -- Jews literally had to be destroyed in order to be saved. The evident Christian overtones accentuate the fact that this "liberal" revolution was hardly the break from the past that it used to be -- it merely found new language to express its fear of Jewish difference and its desire for Jews to disappear. Given that the "universal" personhood Jews were expected to assimilate into was based on a Christian norm, even the desire for conversion is barely affected. All that changed was the removal of the few protections Jews had when their oppression was strictly theological: at least some Christians theologians had some need for some living Jews -- the model expressed here explicitly wanted all Jews to disappear and pointedly chose a very violent metaphor to bring across its point.

It's no wonder that many post-Holocaust theorists consider the Shoah to be the bastard child of the Enlightenment.

Weekend Roundup

Dana Goldstein: Andrew Sullivan does not determine what constitutes feminist.

Though I'm sure some of my fellow progressives might consider me part of the problem here, I too have wondered why right-wing views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are automatically labeled "pro-Israel".

Reading conservative blogs, I can never tell if, as someone who strives to hold "responsible" foreign policy views, I'm supposed to support democracy abroad or not. Here Powerline attacks Barack Obama for being too close to Kenya's opposition during the recent election dispute in the East African nation. There's a lot of talk about how the current government is an "ally on the war on terror." There is very little about whether it, you know, actually won the election under dispute.

Here's a phrase I hate to see in print: "U.S.-style torture". It's from the Asia Times, and its describing American complicity in Thai torture techniques.

TPM has a good post on Hillary Clinton's mid-game push to allow delegates from Michigan and Florida into the Democratic National Convention (after they were excluded for hosting their primary too early), but Matt Yglesias wins for titling his post "Calvinball."

With the drop out of Fred Thompson from the GOP race, Orin Kerr announces he's now backing John McCain. Fellow VCer Dale Carpenter follows suit.

PG has far more patience dealing with folks who try to minimize the wrongfulness of Japanese internment than I do.

Michael J. Klarman, author of From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, is moving from UVA to Harvard Law School. As someone who is considering UVA law school, who else working on race relations is currently there? I know Alex Johnson just returned from Minnesota -- anyone else?

Today, the FRC cheers California for giving cancer patients the choice between losing their job or agonizing pain. Because not giving an inch in the war on marijuana is worth sacrificing our humanity for. On the other hand, they give updates on gay marriage maneuvers in four states, and only in Maryland are the anti-marriage equality forces firmly on the defensive. Go Maryland! I cannot express how proud I will be if my state is the first to ratify gay marriage solely through democratic procedures.

Finally, be sure to congratulate Rachel, who is pregnant with twins!

It's All So Clear Now

Hugo Chavez cops to drug use. Bwahaha.

Brownback Come Back

In the form of a McCain administration:
On the issue of appointments to the Supreme Court, McCain mentioned that Sam Brownback would play an advisory role in helping decide who he should nominate for the Supreme Court. As models of who he would select, John McCain pointed to Justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia. Pro-life advocates see the choice of Supreme Court Justices as key to overturning the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

Via Bean. More right flank protection from the media darling -- but will anybody call him out on naked pandering?

Look, I'm not as hostile to Brownback as many folks are. I once described him as "Genuinely Crazy" -- yes, he's crazy, but he's also quite genuine, and sometimes it leads to good things, like human rights work in North Korea, or supporting a resolution apologizing for slavery. But if there is one area he should be kept far, far way from, it's the judiciary.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Another One Down....

Rep. Jim Walsh (R-NY) is out, challenger Dan Maffei is likely in, and as Matt Yglesias notes, the NY-25 is not only a district we can win, it's a district we can hold with a progressive Democratic.

Another moderate Republican retirement. The GOP is on the verge of being reduced to a rump party with a hyper-conservative base that can only win in a quarter of the country. And though this is really just part of the overall realignment that's putting Democrats in control of the Northeast, we're the party that's expanding elsewhere -- making inroads in the south (Virginia, Kentucky) and mountain west (Colorado, Montana).

The Obama Future

Ross Douthat takes a look in the crystal ball and lays out the scenarios if Obama loses the Democratic Primary. Short story: he's still got a very bright future -- so long as he doesn't accept a VP slot in the Clinton administration (I'm not sure I agree with that, actually, but it's good to know that this isn't a one-and-done scenario for such a bright star).

Stone Cold Misogyny

Early this month, I remarked on how the blind, seething hatred held by the right against Hillary Clinton was one of the main forces pushing me into her camp. I don't want people to think that they can engage in this cesspool of toxicity and still win elections. And the best thing that could be done to accomplish that goal would be to stuff a Hillary Clinton presidency straight down their misogynist, Neanderthal throats.

When I first saw this, I just assumed it was another juvenile, hateful antic from some random mid-twenties Hillary-basher trying to prove his masculinity and failing dramatically:

Charming, isn't it?

But it turns out that this not the work of some random dude. Rather, it's a project of Roger Stone, a top Republican operative and one of the doyens of modern smear campaigning. In addition to being a Watergate conspirator, Stone has plenty of links to the modern party: he worked on Reagan's presidential campaigns, Dole's presidential campaign, even Arlen Specter's aborted presidential campaign, and was enlisted by James Baker to start street riots to shutdown the Florida recount in 2000.

Stone isn't connected to any campaign (or if he is, they've got some 'splainin to do real fast). But he is a critical component of the Republican Party apparatus. The hatred of Hillary Clinton is not just the work of some Limbaugh-listening hicks in trailers. It is institutionalized by the modern GOP. They buy into it as a party.

But this year, finally, folks are starting to push back. Folks are saying they're tired of this sort of treatment, and they're rising up it against it. So keep it up, Stone. you'll demean her right into the White House.

Tax Cut Druggies

Commenting on the upcoming stimulus package, the keen economic minds at Powerline inquire:
Along with election-year cash, the plan will include some tax breaks for businesses that are intended to stimulate investment. These are probably a good idea. I wonder, though: if more money in the hands of taxpayers and lighter tax burdens on businesses are now urgently needed to rally a slumping economy, why wouldn't it be a good idea to have lower tax burdens all the time?

I know just how they feel. When I urgently need painkillers because my body's in trouble, my doctor prescribes morphine. But then I wonder, why wouldn't it be a good idea to be strung-out on opiates all the time?

Seriously, they've got to be joking with this logic. The point of a stimulus package is to provide a temporary boost to the economy. It's not designed to increase economic growth permanently, and if it's built into the system, the economy would adjust around it (with unpredictable results) and the next time it slumped, which it will, we'd need to lower taxes again (at which point Powerline would wonder why not make it permanent again, until our tax rate was a flat 1% and the government was so weak we could be overrun by a squad of Haitian bellhops). Drug addicts know that you can rather quickly adapt to any level of stimulant -- for it to have any effect, you need to keep increasing the dosage.

On the other hand, even if Powerline's correct, a permanent working stimulus would not be a good thing either. Again, the point of a stimulus package is to provide a temporary boost in economic activity to get folks through tough times. You don't want that supercharger running when thing are good, else the economy get, well, over-stimulated (and we all know what happens then). Controlled growth is the key -- ask the Hoover administration what happens when things go too fast.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Al Gore Comes Out in Favor of Gay Marriage

TNR's Dayo Olopade says he agrees with the position, but asks "Why would such an eminent Democratic voice--and potential tiebreaker--spend his time plowing a wedge issue into the race?"

Possibly because it's the right position to take? One of the perks about being a non-politician is that you don't have to refract all your opinions based on how they play in Michigan.

PS: Also, Al Gore has a really goofy voice.

Two Models of Diversity

The comments in this post have inspired me to flesh out my thoughts on diversity more fully. In that post and elsewhere, I've been called out by Mark Olson for only supporting particular kinds of "diversity", and choosing those kinds due particular political commitments I hold. This post concedes both points. However, it argues why that is not only not a bad thing, but likely unavoidable, and in doing so expands on the concept of "salient diversity" I alluded to in the comments.

I. Pure Diversity

Even as an abstract matter, diversity is beneficial, if only from the generic observation of a liberal education that it is good to be exposed to a wide variety of things. It is good that I have at least some background in music, biology, and economics (among other disciplines), even though I don't plan on directly utilizing any of them in my career, because they broaden my mental horizons, enable me to more fully communicate with people for whom these areas are important, and expose me to new manners of manipulating and expressing myself in the world that I may (unexpectedly, perhaps) find useful or fruitful. The same thing can be said about meeting different types of people, who also can broaden my horizons, improve my ability to relate with other people unlike myself, and give me new and useful perspectives on important issues.

I associate these benefits with "pure" diversity because they accrue regardless of how, exactly, the two parties are different from each other or from their normal experiences. That is to say, interacting with someone who seems genuinely and materially different from myself helps my ability to relate and communicate with all of those who seem significantly unlike myself, regardless of whether that someone's difference is that of race, nationality, occupation, class, or anything else. The only operating factor is the fact of difference, not the specificity of what that difference is.

This matters because it establishes that at least some of the benefits of diversity still occur even though it is obviously impossible for anyone to encounter every sort of person or all types of difference. Even though I can't take every class here and there are whole departments which I have never set foot in, I've benefited from Carleton's liberal education in the aforementioned ways, because I've taken some different courses and some areas of study beyond that which I'd normally be inclined. So long as diversity is pursued in some form, the people will reap the benefits, even though necessarily only some types of diversity will be represented in anyone's experience. However, this does not mean that particular kinds of diversity don't bring their own, unique benefits. They do, and this is something I will explore in the next section.

II. Two Models of Diversity

The act of pursuing diversity necessarily requires the pursuing actor to make decisions over what type of diversity they want. Since it is impossible to represent every sort of difference, these decisions always contain a normative component -- some differences will be privileged, others, subordinated. There are, I think, two broad models one could use as guidelines for diversity pursuit: The "distance" model, and the "relational" model.

A. The Distance Model

The distance model of diversity takes as its starting point the idea that our differences are measurable, and hence some people are fundamentally more different (more diverse) than others. Since we're viewing diversity as a positive good, then, the goal should be to incorporate into the system or institution the most different people possible, and the model looks for those whose experiences or life position are most "distant" from our own.

The distance model first requires is to construct a measuring point -- a norm from which we measure difference and distance. So, a college might start with who it imagines to be its paradigmatic student, Jane: White (Caucasian), American, female, upper-middle class, Christian, able-bodied, moderately-liberal heterosexual. It would then actively pursue students who were as distant from this image as possible. A White American upper-middle class heterosexual male moderate conservative would be a little different. A poor lesbian Latina Marxist would be far more different. A poor disabled gay nationalist Rwandan who has traditional "pagan" beliefs, of course, trumps all.

There is obviously some appeal to this. In terms of the benefits of pure diversity, it is likely that Jane would benefit more from the Rwandan prospective student than either the Latina Marxist or the male moderate conservative. Moreover, the distance model seems to carry with it the benefit of objectivity. We're looking for diversity. The Rwandan is clearly the most diverse. Hence, he should be admitted.

But as it turns out, the model is deeply flawed. For starters, there is a big problem is with creating the "paradigmatic student" at all. The establishment of certain students as "normal" (with the concurrent implication that others are, to varying degrees, "deviant") is inherently problematic, with unavoidable messages of privilege and subordination. If Jane is the norm, does that mean the college should structure its educational mission around her? The distance model's answer is clearly yes: we're looking for the "most distant" person as it relates to Jane, a yardstick which might not hold true for other students. If the college admitted the Latina Marxist, neither Jane nor the Rwandan would be "most different" for her -- that position would seem more likely to be occupied by, perhaps, a wealthy libertarian straight Asian male. By establishing one type of student as the norm, the college ends up objectifying all the others, who are perceived solely as tools for the educational benefit of a few.

Furthermore, upon closer examination, the supposed objectivity of the model is questionable as well. Obviously, the college has to choose certain attributes to be calculated as part of what makes one "diverse." But not every attribute can be chosen -- favorite color, height, body type, and non-academic interests, for example, were not directly included on my original list. The choice to include certain characteristics but exclude others is both subjective and political. And even if one could settle upon an agreed upon list of salient characteristics, that would represent only marginal progress, for two reasons:

(1) It doesn't account for what Stentor aptly calls non-Pareto cases. In the above example, each person listed was indisputably more "different" than the one before -- I held the other variables constant. But outside perhaps the absolute poles, most of the time people mix-and-match along categories: we're White and liberal, but Jewish, French and disabled, versus Black and poor, but American, able-bodied, and straight. These differences aren't in themselves fungible, and so they provide no basis for comparison in all but the most extreme cases.

(2) It doesn't account for the fact that people weigh these differences differently. This came into play already in the original decision of which categories to include (excluding, say, favorite color is implicitly saying one doesn't find that it has any meaningful weight at all). But even if we have a set of characteristics we agree are all somewhat important, we might not agree that they are all worth the same amount or which ones are worth more than the others. Jane might relate to her own nationality, sexual orientation, and class more than her religion, political ideology, or able-bodied status. Hence, she'd view a poor gay Frenchman (who is also an able-bodied, moderately liberal Christian) as significantly more different than a disabled atheist conservative (who is also an American, heterosexual, and middle-class). If she weighs any of them highly enough, it might even cause her to see someone with just one salient difference (nationality, say) as more distant than someone with many differences she is less concerned about (religion and political ideology and able-bodied status). And of course, someone who has the exact same characteristics as Jane could have a precisely inverted weighing scheme. So unless we are to expand the "paradigmatic student" so that it also includes a "paradigmatic weighing mechanism" (which would be impossible to do objectively), its objectivity becomes mythological.

B. The Relational Model

The relational model, by contrast, does not take as its position that there are objective distances in the differences between people. Nor, for that matter, does it assume that certain differences are objectively more salient than others. The relational model takes as its starting point that different differences can matter in various circumstances, and pursues specific types of difference insofar as those differences can contribute to the ascertainment of particular political or social goals.

A good example for this model is a basketball team, which wants on its roster a diverse number of positions represented (i.e., it wants to have some guards, some forwards, and some centers). It is not creating a "paradigmatic player" (Shaquille O'Neal, say) and then trying to find qualified players who are as different from him as possible. Rather, the quest for diversity here stems from the observation that, as good as Shaq is, a starting lineup of five Shaq clones likely would not create a good basketball team. We need players who can shoot the three, who can create off the dribble, who can shoot free throws(!), who can make fast breaks, and who can defend the perimeter. What we're looking for is a group of players who as a team (student body, corporation, legislature, etc.) are best able to fulfill the goals we want them to fulfill. I call it the relational model because it looks at diversity not in terms of objective distance between people, but rather based on the idea of a network of individuals, none of whom are considered the center, whose relationships to each other are defined by the particular roles they can play specific systems.

In a relational model, selecting "players" (admitees, hires) is what the late Harvard Law Professor Lon Fuller called a "polycentric problem." Polycentrism occurs when the selection of one person changes the "ranking" of all the other potential candidates. The Los Angeles Lakers have Shaquille O'Neal. Their next priority in player choice is likely not to be a center, even a really good one, because they already have the center role filled (back-ups excluded) and what they need now is a guard. If their first two players were Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, by contrast, then their next choice might well be a center.

But it's even more complicated. Some people can fill a given "role" in certain networks but not others. For example, Kobe Bryant can normally fill the role of guard rather well. But, as the Lakers can tell you, if your center is Shaquille O'Neal, then Kobe Bryant maybe isn't your best choice at guard. The players, in other words, can't just fill their role abstractly. They have to be good in relation to one another. This lends the relational model considerable dynamism compared to the more static distance model.

So the relational model asks "what set of people would most effectively allow us to do the things we want to do", noting that in any complex system people will likely have to fill different roles, that different people are best suited for different roles, and that different people are best suited for different rules depending on who else is filling the other roles. The basketball team is a simplified example, however, because by and large "things we want to do" is simple and agreed-upon: we want to win our games. That isn't always the only consideration -- a team might want to have high attendance, and thus plays a home-town hero to build fan loyalty -- but it generally has primacy.

In other environments, however, "what we want to do" is contested and variable. An institution has to decide what its goals are before it can pursue the type of personnel set necessary to do it. Since these goals are contested, it is a normative decision to adopt one set over another. What goals you adopt is premised on what you think is important. So in that sense, it's perfectly fair to say that institutions constructing diversity programs are pursuing an agenda -- and a specific one at that. But it's clearly necessary to adopt such an agenda, and doing so channels decision-making procedure towards particularly types of diversity.

For example, I think inter-racial dialogue is important, and I think colleges are a key institution that constructs people's ability and inclination to engage in public dialogue once they enter society. Hence, I will specifically support the types of collegiate diversity that foster such dialogue and create people who can communicate with persons of different racial backgrounds in the public sphere (something which requires a critical mass of people filling the "role" of each major racial cleavage in American society). If you do not think inter-racial dialogue is important (or is less important than other, competing goals), then you will not support this type of diversification (or won't support it for that reason). And on the other hand, in institutions that I do not believe play primary roles in constructing society's discursive horizons (say, a graduate program in eastern European studies, or for that matter a basketball team), I won't support that same type of diversification (or at least, not for that reason).

The last example indicates that different differences matter in different places. As I noted in my discussion of the difference model, we can legitimately put different weight on various differences depending on whether we feel they are more or less salient. This is not an objective procedure in either the distance or relational model, but it is at least mitigated in the relational model because its localized -- we're only asking for relative weights in a particular situation, not as some sort of metaphysical truth that exists across all cases. Just as it is likely that all major differences will be valued by some people, some of the time, it is also likely that these differences will be seen as salient by at least some institutions, some of the time. This has the effect of expanding diversity conceptually beyond the strictures of the American affirmative action debate and places it instead as a consideration for all types of decision-making.

III. Conclusion

The first section establishes that diversity confers at least some benefits no matter how the diversity is constructed. The mere fact of being exposed to different people, different disciplines, different ideas, and different experiences is inherently salutary. The second section, noting that we have to pursue diversity in some fashion, identifies and analyzes two competing frameworks of diversification. If it isn't obvious already, I find the relational model greatly superior to the distance model as a framework for how we ought to construct social relationships. The latter not only avoids the creation of a particular norm and the exclusionary implications that would follow from it, but it also displays more flexibility to adopt itself to differing situations. A corporation might not care how many tall guys it employs, a basketball team definitely does. A chemistry department might not care how many Ukrainian immigrants it has among its affiliates, an eastern European studies department could find that very relevant. What matters about diversity is not any objective measurement of difference, but the manner in which difference is operationalized to enable different functions and achieve social goals.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Padilla Gets 17 Years

Jose Padilla was sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in prison today after being convicted of terrorism related charges. A "terrorist enhancement" which increased the sentencing guidelines to between 30 years and life, but Judge Marcia Cooke then used her discretion to downwardly depart from the guidelines, citing explicitly his treatment while in US military detention for three years.
"I do find that the conditions [for Padilla as an enemy combatant] were so harsh that they warrant consideration," Cooke told a crowded courtroom of attorneys, family members and media.

Padilla was expected to receive life in prison, and the government plans to appeal his sentence. Though the crimes Padilla was convicted of were serious, serious as well was his brutal treatment while in American custody. Judge Cooke was absolutely right to take that under consideration, and those apathetic to human rights standards should be made to deal with the consequences of that sort of abuse.

Drive In

Saudi Arabia is set to drop its ban on women driving in the Kingdom, in response to increasingly strident protests by women's rights activists. The effort is seen as an attempt to forestall growing unrest among the female population -- and as far as that hope goes, I hope the government fails dramatically. Still, this a big step forward, and I hope that the local Arab activists who took the lead in getting this reform enacted keep up the pressure.

Via Feministing

Toodles Fred

Fred Thompson pulls out of the Republican Presidential race.

My one serious Republican friend at Carleton will be devastated.

Open Letter from American Feminists

Katha Pollitt has an "Open Letter from American Feminists", documenting the strong and consistent interest American feminists have had regarding issues of women's rights world wide (including the Islamic world) and demanding that media sources stop the ridiculous falsehood that American feminists stay silent on the subject.

She's collecting signatures at . Just give her your name and how you wished to be identified (e.g., "David Schraub, Student, Carleton College"), and she'll add you to the list.

Feminism ought to and does care about women's rights the world over. The louder we proclaim that basic truth, the better.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama's Best Speech of the Season?

On the eve of Martin Luther King day, Barack Obama spoke on King's old pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. His speech was bold, progressive, and necessary:
“For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

“And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

“We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

As Steve Benen put it, if anybody still thought after the Donnie McClurkin incident that Obama was going to throw gay Americans under the bus, they can lay those fears to bed.

Pam Spaulding describes Obama's words as "so necessary", but adds:
This topic has always been a perceived as a third rail topic for the other leading Dem candidates, Clinton or Edwards -- they are, like many whites, particularly if they see themselves as allies, dread being seen as pointing out the evils and hypocrisy of such bigotry in the black faith community, even as wrong and tragic as it is on its face.
That we cannot discuss the matter of homophobia or anti-Semitism in the black community bluntly is everyone's problem. This burden and legacy of fomenting bigotry out of fear and ignorance is borne by all of us. If no one takes responsibility, we all fail. And we're failing -- look at how easily gender bias and racial overtones have surfaced over and over in the campaign so far. It's almost reflexive to "go there," the toxicity and effectiveness of stirring those sentiments has been part of the political process by both parties for so long that they are addicted to it.

The "third rail" analysis is, I think, solid (although it's easy to under-state the degree of political courage it takes for a Black man to deliver this speech on MLK day. Whites aren't the only people at risk from the rail). It's a difficult issue. Specks and logs and all that. But open, honest dialogue is the only way forward. And Obama deserves massive amount of credit for opening the doors and demanding that everybody take stock of their own participation in injustice.


A brief perusal of blogger reaction seems to buttress my instinct that this speech hit a sweet spot:

The Vig: "If you don’t think the man who spoke those words is worthy of being the next president, I can’t help you."

Daniel Hernandez: "Barack Obama crystallized his message so powerfully yesterday, a political rhetoric of true reconciliation, the type I don't believe we have seen in generations."

Buffalo Pundit: "After 12 years of Reagan and/or Bush, after 8 years of Clinton, and after another 7 years of another Bush, this speech speaks to me, and rings true."

And finally, one of the ways you know my quoted section is good is that in this unbelievably hackish dissection of it ("Obama says he wants unity, but he's upset by greed-motivated lending policies causing people to lose their homes. Guess he doesn't want to unify mortgage brokers!") by "The editors of the American Federalist Journal", the above excerpt doesn't even make an appearance. When even the snipers can't snipe, you know you've nailed it.

So Many White Boys

CNN reports that Black women face a particularly tough choice in this primary, having decide between race (Obama) and gender (Clinton).

Hell, I've got them beat. Do you know how many White boys are running this election? I scarcely know where to begin! How on earth am I supposed to make a decision when my identity group is so fragmented? (But wait: I'm supporting Obama!)

Or maybe, I'm able to make a decision because I'm a rational human being who is able to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and express a preference. And reading the article, it looks like the Black women discussed are doing the exact same thing.

The decision between Obama and Clinton is a difficult one, no doubt, for people of all races and genders. That's because they're both excellent candidates who would make wonderful presidents. It annoys me that Black women are being treated this cycle as if their deliberations -- unlike mine -- aren't occurring off that very basic premise.

UPDATE: Now CNN has an article up detailing the "angry reaction" its previous article elicited from its readers. Good. Not good enough if they keep running articles like this, but good.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Frankenstein Veto

I'm no fan of the line-item veto, but even I am shocked by the cynicism displayed in this edition of it. You've got to read it to believe it.

Via my friend Eva Lam at Dem Apples (sorry about the Packers, Eva!).

Ethics Case

In what PrawfsBlawgger Paul Horwitz calls "Tomorrow's Legal Ethics Exam, Today," the New York Times reports on a lawyer who revealed a secret about a Virginia death penalty case that resulted in a death sentence being overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. The lawyer was previously prohibited from revealing the information, as it would have been potentially harmful to his own client, who was a co-defendant in the case.

It's really a fascinating story. And it shows some of the absurdity of a legal system which uses the threat of death to get testimony out of defendants, then acts as if that testimony is in any way reliable.