Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quote of the Evening

From my father, at dinner tonight. He said this unprompted about Sarah Palin:
What an absurd pick. I mean, two weeks ago, she was the mayor of a Wal-Mart.

Both he and my mother (both Clinton supporters in the primary) seemed to take her selection as an insult to their intelligence as voters (quoting my dad again: "It's like he [McCain] thinks he's dealing with a group of moronic Kindergarteners").

Risks Ahead for Palin

It's been barely a day, and already the Palin pick is starting to look like a big mistake. Cast aside the issues I already raised, as well as the big one I didn't (how the pick stomps on McCain's "experience" narrative). Palin also fits into another important Democratic attack line this cycle: that McCain and the GOP are in the pocket of big oil.

Now, Palin tried to argue that she is actually a crusader against the oil industry. But from the looks of it, she is if anything oil's handpicked candidate. To the extent that she breaks with the industry, it's because they aren't aggressive enough, which is not what most people have in mind when they think of the "energy crisis". This strikes me as a risk free attack on her -- it has no gendered associations, it fits in with Obama's pre-existing strategy, and it keeps McCain on the defensive on an area he's weak in. Palin, in other words, doesn't just negate one of McCain's primary strengths, she also exacerbates one of his biggest weaknesses.

Top that with the fact that a report on her role in an Alaskan corruption scandal is scheduled to come out on the eve of the election, her past close association with indicted Senator Ted Stevens, and the surprisingly tepid response of Alaskans themselves to her addition to the ticket, and we've got issues.

There's one more angle I want to write on Palin, and that's how it'll affect the votes of women. But I'm saving that for another post.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Things Older Than John McCain: VP Edition

Not only is McCain (obviously) older than his VP, he's older than her state.

By 23 years.

Country First?

That's the slogan McCain's got front and center on the lectern he's speaking in front of. After Barack Obama specifically blasted McCain's attack on his patriotism, this is an interesting double down. There is no doubt now that McCain is deliberately trying to play the patriotism card against Obama -- a low blow, and one that I think will end up backfiring against him.

Palin's the Ticket

So CNN reports. It's an intriguing choice, and I think a dangerous one, for both the Democratic and the GOP tickets.

What do I mean by that? Simple: Palin is a risky choice for McCain. It could turn out really well, or it could turn out really badly. The breakdown on Palin shows someone who has the potential to really create movement for McCain, but whose main benefits are speculative, unproven, or based on shaky assumptions.

So what are the key points to consider? First, Palin's a woman, and McCain has of late been very focused on trying to grab disaffected Clinton supporters over to his side. Contrary to media reports, Obama actually is running better than the typical Democrat with the double-X set, but McCain clearly believes that this support is soft and that he can bite into it. Democrats will undoubtedly focus on Palin's unabashedly pro-life record as a reason for women not to take the bait. And I fully expect Obama to deploy Hillary Clinton as a virtual shadow for Palin on the campaign trail to neutralize whatever advantage she may bring.

Second, Palin, like McCain, has a not entirely deserved good reputation on ethics issues. The travails of Alaska Republicans on the corruption front are well known, with one Senator indicted and one Congressman in the fight of his life both due to scandal. Since Palin rode into office specifically as a challenge to that branch of the state party, it's unlikely to me that she'll be tarred with guilt by association, and she may even try to jujitsu the troubles of Stevens and Young into benefits. On the other hand, Palin's been mired in a serious scandal of her own in recent weeks, allegedly pressuring termination of a state trooper who is mired in a custody dispute with her sister. McCain clearly is hoping that she'll be treated deferentially on this score by the media. Much of her effectiveness on the trail will hinge on how much that issue taints her credentials as an outsider and reformer. Is she the real deal, or does she get false credibility by leaping the not-so-high-bar of "better than Frank Murkowski"?

Third, Palin is not known as an attack dog, and is far less experienced than her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden. In terms of the VP debate match-up, the DNC must be salivating at the moment. I have to think Biden would rip her to shreds when they come face to face (unless, of course, he makes one of his ever-threatening gaffes). Now, the question is whether anyone actually cares about the VP debate. I think it matters, but then I'm a political junkie. To the extent that it does have an affect, Democrats have a clear advantage.

Which brings us to fourth: what does Palin bring to the campaign trail? I don't see her as a particularly exciting campaigner. I think she may suffer from Sebelius syndrome: great resume on paper, but does it translate to the stump? We'll see on that score, but Palin is largely untested here. You can talk about Obama's inexperience, but it was only a few years ago that Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska: population 5,470. And unlike Obama, she's done nothing to demonstrate she has the type of big-ticket drawing power necessary to play ball at the highest levels. Maybe she does, but as I said, it's a risk.

So the best case scenario for McCain is that Palin a) picks off female voters, b) portrays the image of a reformist, youthful, crusading outsider, and c) surprises with strong campaign skills and holds her own against Biden. The worst case is that a) female voters prefer Obama's policies to Palin's gender, b) her reformist credentials don't hold water, and c) Biden and other Democratic surrogates eat her alive on the campaign trail. Either scenario, to be honest, seems plausible to me.

Ultimately, I think Palin is a better choice for McCain than many of the other finalists, including Romney, Pawlenty, and Lieberman. She doesn't actively anger the base (unlike Lieberman), she isn't loathed by everyone (unlike Romney), and she at least offers the potential for some game changing movement (unlike Pawlenty). And she probably pushes Alaska out of play, which is actually an issue this cycle.

Civil Rights Roundup: 08/29/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The backers of the Arizona initiative seeking to ban affirmative action got a reprieve today, as a judge is willing to give them more time to prove they received the requisite number of valid signatures to get on the ballot.

A suit against American contractor KBR alleges that 12 Nepalese workers were held in slavery in Iraq. They were later kidnapped by insurgents, and all but one was executed.

The Mexican Supreme Court has upheld Mexico City's relatively liberal abortion laws, making it a rare pro-choice foothold in largely anti-abortion Latin America.

Gainesville, Florida voters will have a chance to decide whether to keep civil rights protections for GLBT residents.

California is now adopting guidelines for what to do if gay prisoners want to marry.

To acquire Plan B, you might need a plan b, c, and d.

A UCLA professor on that university's admissions committee is resigning in protest. Professor Tim Groseclose wanted to find out if the school was admitting minority students with lower qualifications, presumably in violation of California's Proposition 209. But UCLA refused to release the data Groseclose said he needed. The professor actually claims to support affirmative action, but is angered by the lack of transparency.

The Black elite is taking special pride in Obama's rise, seeing it as reflective of their own hard work and experience.

It seems like the news is focusing on other issues today....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Okay I'll Give Him Credit

I don't like much that goes down on The Corner, but this was great line, in response to Obama's "this election is not about me, it's about you."
Is Obama breaking up with us?

That being said, wonderful speech.

Let's Make a Deal

The Washington Times, of all places, has an editorial taking its conservative peers to task for being far more forgiving of legacy admissions than they are of affirmative action. The meritocratic arguments against AA are obviously stronger, if anything, when applied to legacies. Yet you don't see right-wing groups rushing to put initiatives banning the procedure on state ballots across the country.

A lot of times I've talking to conservative opponents of AA who rush to assure me "I oppose legacy preferences too," as if that's some sort of ward against unfairness. I say, if you're truly concerned about establishing this pure meritocracy, an excellent gesture of good faith would be to work on barring legacy admissions first. Regardless of your opinion of how affirmative action relates to the broader goal of equal opportunity, its clear that if changes have to be made, the burden should not initially fall on the already disadvantaged. Carleton, for example, gives preferential admission to wealthy students in the 15% of our admissions process that is not need-blind. Clearly, that's got to go before we even start thinking about tinkering with race-based affirmative action.

I'll be honest -- I'm not categorically opposed to some legacy admissions. I think that they help maintain institutional memory and can strengthen the broader college community. Carleton, I feel, is benefited by the large number of second and third generation Carls who really help emphasis to current and prospective students the loyalty this place inspired. But that is not, in the conservative mind, a sufficiently "meritocratic" argument, any more than the benefits of racial diversity is.

The point is that liberals are, I think quite reasonably, concerned that this push for "meritocracy" will be applied only against Blacks, Latinos, and other marginalized minorities. It will not be applied against the wealthy or the well-connected. Even if conservatives feel some vague unease about such admissions standards, they will never organize or pressure to stop it. A good way -- normatively and politically -- to diffuse that anxiety would be to lead the charge against those who can most take the hit.

So let's make a deal. Attack legacy and wealth preferences first. Then we can talk about what to do about race-based affirmative action.

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Civil Rights Roundup: 08/28/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

A quick note: Now that I'm not doing this for my job, the CRR probably will undergo some changes. First, it'll probably be later. Because if I'm not forced by a paying employer to start working at 9:00 AM, it's highly unlikely I'll do it on my own. Second, it may well be shorter. I don't know. This is a transition. But I do enjoy providing the roundup each morning, so I am going to try to keep the feature going.

So without further delay...

The Boston Globe notes that the changing of the guard in civil rights leadership at the DNC.

In sadder news related to generational shift, Del Martin, one of the earliest leaders in the fight for lesbian and gay equality, died yesterday. She is survived by her wife, Phyllis Lyon, whom she married in California's very first legal gay marriage.

Governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) is responding to complaints that his voter reenfranchisement program isn't reaching the people its designed to help. I want to reiterate how impressed I've been with Gov. Crist on this issue.

A panel hosted by my former colleagues at the LCCR discussed conservative efforts to use controversial civil rights issues as a "wedge" to divide voters.

Hattiesburg American: "Obama speech has special meaning for Southern delegates."

The latest company to face an immigration raid had enrolled in the government's "E-Verify" program. Now companies are complaining that if the system is so flawed that they'll still be subjected to ICE attacks, what's the point of registering in the first place?

The gender equity problem in Japan has reached a crisis point, as Japanese women are refusing to marry until Japanese men start upholding their share of the family life. To the government's credit, it is responding mostly not by lecturing women about their need to be mommies, but by trying to reform the work culture that keeps men away from their families.

A federal appeals court invalidated a Wyoming law that would have made it easier for domestic abusers to acquire guns.

A lawsuit protesting a Arkansas district policy prohibiting boys with long hair from competing in school athletics programs was dismissed after the district agreed to amend the policy.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (R) has announced his neutrality in the upcoming battle to ban affirmative action in the state. David Kramer, former state GOP chairman and leader of one of the groups opposing the ban, is holding out hope he can persuade him to intervene in favor of equal opportunity.

The disabled community is not happy with the level of attention it's getting from Presidential contenders.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden and Clinton

I saw President Clinton and Senator Biden's speeches tonight (but not Senator Kerry's). Admittedly I saw them at a wine night, so I might have been somewhat distracted. And that might explain why I'm not as high on either speech as many others are. Certainly, I think Hillary Clinton blew both out of the water.

President Clinton's speech, I thought, was particularly flat. It felt disjointed, I didn't feel like his heart was truly in it, and it never really developed thematically. Particularly given Clinton's higher baseline, I felt disappointed. The irony is that before he started speaking I was really excited, and all my friends were more reserved. I still like Bill Clinton, whereas they were less forgiving of his efforts against Obama in the primaries. Afterward, I had the most negative assessment of the speech, and I was definitively in the minority.

Biden's speech I thought was significantly better. His son's introduction was heart-wrenching, although I wonder if between that and Michelle Obama's speech there has been a bit too much sentimentality. Biden started a bit slow, and stepped on a lot of his lines (though once it yielded a gem, when he accidentally(?) called John McCain "George"). The old debater in me didn't like that. But he picked up the pace and really started to light up McCain as he went on. He developed the meme that I think is, ultimately, the strongest case Obama can make against McCain: he was wrong. He might have experience, but his experience is at being wrong. I still think he could have been even more aggressive (apparently Kerry set the standard for the evening), but it was still quite good.

But again, I seem to be in the minority. Andrew Sullivan has blog reactions, and they seem mostly positive (excepting Linda Chavez, and honestly I don't care what she thinks). So maybe I'm just being a grump. Wouldn't be the first time.

The Exception That Proves the Rule

Look, I know from my commenters that nothing is ever racist (except affirmative action, which is Jim Crow resurrected and magnified to the 10th power). But this article, predicting that Barack Obama will be our "first hip-hop president" and wondering if he'll start calling cabinet members his "bitches", is racist.

Yes? Yes?

Civil Rights Roundup: 08/27/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The LPGA (woman's international golf organization) is requiring all of its players to be able to speak English if they want to compete. The Tour has been dominated in recent years by foreign-born players, and there are questions about whether this requirement violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

A Filipino man convicted of sending threatening communications to a variety of Black and biracial public figures was sentenced to over three months in prison.

Nebraska women still feel that discrimination is in front of them.

The Orlando Sentinel doesn't think Florida has done enough to notify ex-felons that their civil rights have been restored.

There once was a police department from Nantucket/that was sued for illegally detaining and using excessive force against some Black teens.

As Washington State gets more diverse, it has to deal with more bias crimes.

Good Magazine has an interesting profile of Ward Connerly.

HBO's new "Black List" documentary takes a look at the changing contours of Black culture.

Five rules for Black owned advertising companies.

Local Texas law enforcement officers are pledging to try and reduce the number of mentally ill and drug addicted inmates.

A disabled Florida woman is suing a local non-profit for discrimination, alleging that her supervisors forced her to do jobs beyond her physical capabilities.

The Justice Department filed a retaliation lawsuit against the city of Ft. Pierce, Florida, on behalf of a Black officer who was protesting racial discrimination.

Great Britain is adding study of the Atlantic slave trade to its mandatory secondary school curriculum.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bizarre Reaction of the Night

My gut reaction was that Clinton nailed that speech, but to sate my curiousity I hopped on over to The Corner to see what they were saying. And I found this comment by Ramesh "Party of Death" Ponnuru:
Hillary Clinton on McCain: "In 2008, he still thinks it's okay when women don't earn equal pay for equal work." Right: Opposing the Lily Ledbetter Act means approving of unequal pay for women. What a disgusting comment.

Ummm...does it mean something else? I guess we could split hairs and say it doesn't mean McCain supports pay discrimination, just that he supports getting away with it.

I guess Clinton owes McCain a big apology then.

Fun Convention Coverage Fact!

Pat Buchanan appears to have no eyes. Or at least none that I can see. His face just seems to collapse in that region.

She's Still Got It

Barbara Mikulski's speech before the EMILY's List crowd confirms something we all already knew: she's a total and complete BAMF.

Rock on, Senator Mikulski.

Beyond Bad Taste

With the caveat that this seems to be a very thinly sourced story (relying on random Daily Kos commenters? For serious?), I still feel comfortable saying that anyone who attacks Elizabeth Edwards for not "handling" her husband's affair correctly from a political standpoint (that is, not going public with it) is a seriously twisted individual.

Civil Rights Roundup: 08/26/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

Ms. Magazine gives its quick take on the appointment of Hans von Spakovsky to a staff position on the US civil rights commission.

Inside Higher Ed has the scoop on the higher education elements of the Democratic Platform, including (among other things) a restatement of their support for affirmative action.

.... And here's McCain's plan, courtesy of the Chronicle on Higher Education, which notes McCain's apparent reversal on that issue from the days in which he called attempted bans "divisive."

A restaurant was forced to pay damages to a woman they fired because she was pregnant.

While the US Senate dawdles, California may take fixing Ledbetter into its own hands.

Oddly, Colorado Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to support a measure banning affirmative action, leading observers to wonder if both sides are misunderstanding what the initiative would do.

Two DNC protesters were arrested for not giving their names to the police upon request. The case (and any civil rights complaint) will hinge on whether the cops had "reasonable suspicion" that the pair was committing or was about to commit a crime.

A column in the Detroit Free Press urges Michigan to expand coverage in its bias crimes law.

Two NYPD cops are being charged with civil rights violation after assaulting a motorist in an apparent road rage incident while off duty.

Shocking news: Immigration judges subjected to political vetting by the Bush administration are disproportionately likely to reject asylum claims.

Jesse Jackson in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Obama can inspire but we must lead."

Jacob Weisberg says that only racism can explain an Obama loss. A Wall St. Journal column ridicules that notion. I'm not going to buy into Weisberg's thesis wholesale, but I think legitimate questions will be raised if either Obama runs way behind the generic Democratic wave in a year with such good fundamentals for his party, or if we see a major showing of the Wilder effect.

Experts say that the Canadian police must diversify if they want to remain effective in their ever-more multicultural society.

Connecticut courts have recognized that transgender discrimination is in violation of law prohibiting sex stereotyping.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Still There

Earlier this year, a bunch of Carleton debaters and I were shooting the breeze about Barack Obama. One said that "you know Obama will be strong on foreign aid, because his grandmother still lives in a poor village in Kenya." And I, in a rare flash of wit, immediately replied, "and you know he'll be a strong fiscal conservative because she's still there."

Alas, I had no idea that the Republican Party would make a campaign ad operating off that same premise. But amazingly, the Texas GOP just went there -- using his half-brother George Hussein Onyango Obama (of course they used the full name) standing in front of a shack to argue that Obama won't care about our hard economic times. "If Obama cares so much about your family, why doesn't he doesn't take care of his own family first?"


Civil Rights Roundup: 08/25/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

An observant Jewish engineer was vindicated after being hounded by spying accusations, after a probe found he was targeted on basis of religion.

The Washington Post had a nice article up over the weekend on the experiences of other Black "firsts" (first astronaut, first Miss USA, first NBA player, etc.).

Also from the WaPo this weekend, an analysis of how voters perceive the theme of race popping up this cycle (focusing on Akron, Ohio).

The folks who know best whether it actually makes their communities safer -- the police -- are awfully reluctant to start enforcing immigration law on their own accord.

While thrilled at his path breaking candidacy, many Black supporters of Obama are beginning to worry it might take the wind out of the sails of further equal opportunity programs.

Even as New Orleans recovers, some streets still need to be patrolled by the National Guard.

We're still not very good at providing disability-accessible housing.

The New York Times editorializes about the now-scrapped self-deportation program.

Museums that focus on immigration history are trying to connect past to present.

New regulations seek to improve the quality of practicing immigration lawyers.

Affirmative action bans will be on the ballot in Nebraska and Colorado this election.

This year's DNC will be the youngest and most diverse ever.

This is a fascinating case out of Illinois dealing with whether a clause by a Jewish man disinheriting any descendant who married outside the faith is enforceable.

A Texas boy whose long hair (stemming from his Native American heritage) sparked controversy in a rural Texas town will be attending Kindergarten after all.

Feeling neglected in the public school system, more Blacks are electing to home school.

Gay marriage opponents are starting their campaign push to eliminate the institution from California.

The Houston Chronicle: "Chinese engineer shouldn't have died in agony in U.S. custody."

Pro-gun activists in Georgia are trying to repeal a law prohibiting folks from carrying guns in Church. They say the law has a racist past, but local Black leaders are accusing them of appropriating history to pursue a policy agenda deeply opposed by the Black community.