Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Have a Name!

When your blog gets cited for the first time, and that citation is in the Harvard Law Review, it's pretty exciting. Enough to make you look past the fact that the citation forgot your name. Unfortunately, that same forebearance doesn't extend for citation #2 (as grateful as I am), found at Maurice R. Dyson, De Facto Segregation & Group Blindness: Proposals for Narrow Tailoring Under a New Viable State Interest in PICS v. Seattle School District, 77 UMKC L. Rev. 697, 736 n.139 (2009). It's not like my name isn't prominently placed in the upper-right corner of the blog. And it's also not like proper citation form for blogs (as mangled as it is in the blue book) does not include the author's name. What, does it smell bad or something?

To add insult to injury, the proposition it is cited for is incorrect (probably a typo): "Although Justice Thomas finds nothing problematic with racial balancing and thus concludes it is not a compelling state interest...." Justice Thomas finds a lot problematic with racial balancing -- he finds nothing problematic with racial imbalance.

Geez, I'm turning into a total grump, aren't I?

Weekend Roundup

Welcome to the weekend, ladies and gentlemen.

An Austin reporter goes through a bit of training with retired lightweight Jesus Chavez.

Lucy Michaels describes her experience with Judeophobia in the pro-Palestinian movement -- and their resistance to acknowledging it as a problem.

Authoritarian regimes stand by Iran by censoring information -- a bit nervous, perhaps?

If Gilad Shalit is released, we might see the Gaza border crossings opened up. Egypt has already begun to loosen restrictions.

The remaining members of the Jena 6 have been sentenced to a fine and probation. Good. They should have been punished -- just not with attempted murder. That's all anyone was ever saying.

Is it possible to raise a kid outside the gender binary?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Progress in Spots

The WaPo has a good article on the growing professionalization of Palestinian security forces, and how they are beginning to serve as a viable anti-terrorism force in their own right. Unfortunately, their ties to the US (they are trained by American Gen. Keith Dayton) and the ruling Fatah Party make them somewhat controversial within Palestinian society. Hamas, unsurprisingly, hates them, as they hate everything else that might bring peace a little closer (to be fair, a strong national Palestinian security force would be serious threat to Hamas' viability, both as a direct threat to their own military operations and by weakening Hamas' claim to be the only entity capable of defending Palestine from Israeli incursions). But the Israelis are very impressed with their prowess, prompting them to remove dozens of West Bank roadblocks which had been strangling the Palestinian economy (and humiliating the Palestinians).

In a way, it is unfortunate that the settlements are right now the litmus test issue. Not because settlements aren't important or that rolling them back isn't a critical step for peace; but simply because security guarantees and checkpoint withdrawals are an arena where it looks like the players are making serious progress, of the sort that could spark major momentum towards a comprehensive peace solution. Unfortunately, these aren't the areas in the middle of the public eye right now, so a lot of potential energy is being lost. Oh well.

Cohen Draws Another Challenge

Five-term Memphis mayor Willie W. Herenton has announced he is resigning in order to challenge progressive lion Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) in the Democratic primary for the 9th Tennessee Congressional seat. After some fretting by yours truly, Rep. Cohen handily turned back a challenge last cycle by Nikki Tinker in a campaign marred by race-baiting and anti-Semitism. But while Herenton's popularity has been flagging of late, he is still a far more credible and dangerous opponent than Tinker ever was. I haven't seen any indicator that Cohen is disliked in his district, but this cycle will be probably his best chance to demonstrate whether he's truly entrenched himself or not.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I did not know the Junior Middleweight contender Yuri Foreman (27-0, 8 KOs), one of the few top-level Jewish boxers competing today, was also training to be a Rabbi. Now that would be something -- a Rabbi who also holds a world boxing title.

Foreman faces off against Contender alum Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (29-4, 17 KOs) in an IBF junior middleweight eliminator. I'd like to say it will be an interesting fight, but both have a tendency to stink up joints -- albeit in different ways: Bundrage loves to hold and fight dirty on the inside, whereas Foreman is feather-fisted and is content to spend a fight pecking away with his jab.

Not Time To Back Down

Mark Lynch is back from a trip to Israel and Palestine and has a message for Barack Obama: Don't back down on the settlements:
Rightly or wrongly, Obama has made the settlement issue a test of his credibility, and if he backs down then all the progress he has made will wash away instantly. That makes this a pivotal moment, whether or not an Obama administration focused on Iran wants it to be one. Most Palestinians, with their well-earned skepticism of American policy, expect Obama to back down. Most Israelis probably do as well. And that would be tragic, because without much publicity Obama's pressure has already started generating some important results on the ground -- not just Netanyahu's carefully hedged uttering of an emasculated two state formula, but the significant easing of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank, the lifting of some of the more ludicrous parts of the blockade of Gaza, the release of Hamas prisoners (including its Parliamentarians) by both the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and reports that the Egyptians are planning an unveiling of a Hamas-Fatah unity government agreement on July 7.
That Israel has quietly made significant changes to the checkpoints in the last few weeks -- after ignoring six years worth of Road Map commitments, snubbing Tony Blair and the Quartet's persistent demands, dismissing the recommendations of the World Bank and other international development agencies, and greatly expanding them even while negotiating during the Annapolis process -- suggests that Obama's tough love approach has actually been the only one able to achieve real results. It hasn't gotten much publicity, and it's only a minor thing in the wider context of the occupation, the battle over the settlements, the tortuous politics of the final status issues, the trends in Israeli politics and the disastrous Palestinian political divisions. But it shows that there is already something to show for his policy and that it's worth fighting for. But all those developments could disappear in a heartbeat if the Israelis decide that they have gotten the better of the Obama administration.

Peace Now (via) gives a rundown of the top "myths" used to justify avoiding a settlement freeze. A big problem is that even the more reasonable anti-freeze arguments (like "vertical growth") aren't being deployed in good faith. And in any event, a goodly chunk of settler growth isn't coming from natural growth anyway.

I'm not adverse to a face saving compromise here. But it has to involve more that symbolic concessions by the Israelis -- it needs to get us moving down the real path to creating a viable environment to a Palestinian state. And, I should add, if such a genuine compromise is reached, then I fully expect pro-peace elements of the blogosphere to support it and demand it be seen as a real step forward. A lot of times when Israelis and Palestinians take important steps, their opposing partisans dismiss them as falling short of the ideal. Of course they do -- if people were behaving ideally, we wouldn't have a conflict anymore. But we're long past the time when we could afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Minimally Minimalist

Ramesh Ponnuru has an op-ed in the NYT blasting his fellow conservatives for abandoning originalism and judicial restraint when the topic of race comes up. And he's right to do so -- in cases like Parents United and Ricci the right suddenly wants to strike down democratically enacted policies like drunken school boys because they dislike the policy.

But over at Southern Appeal, Owen Courrèges counters by making the usual stock response: Judicial review means sometimes laws are unconstitutional, so it is hardly anything problematic if conservatives sometimes find themselves striking down laws. There might be a bit of cognitive dissonance given that conservatives are significantly more likely to strike down federal laws, but in general, Courreges' point is quite reasonable.

Except that it proves too much. For anyone this side of Jeremy Waldron who does believe in judicial review, the division between laws which we uphold and laws which we strike down is always going to be at the line where those laws violate (our interpretation of) the constitution. Who does Courreges think he's distinguishing himself from? If conservatives shouldn't feel bad about striking down the law at issue in Parents United, it is precisely because they -- just like every liberal on the Court -- have a theory of the constitution which sometimes requires that laws be struck down. The term "activist" here has become totally impoverished because it translates into "decision I disagree with".

There is, of course, the separate problem about whether the conservative doctrine of originalism is faithfully applied to race cases. Justice Thomas' pathetic attempt to justify the Parents United decision on originalist grounds strongly indicates that it is not. There is not a scintilla of evidence indicating that the Reconstruction Amendments were intended, meant, or understood to create a color-blind society. And there is at least some evidence indicating they were intended to be consistent with race-conscious remedial practices. I've seen efforts to impeach the latter, with varying degrees of success. But what I've yet to see is any evidence indicating the former -- which should be a must for originalists if they're going to justify judicial supremacy on the matter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Good Luck in this Fight

JTA: Some Jewish Settlers Turning Against Israel. I believe I've already registered my appreciation for those clarifying who is pro-Israel and who isn't? The far-right radical settler youth are not just a threat to Israel, obviously. Their hateful and supremacist also manifest in vicious violence against local Palestinians.

Fortunately, Israel has plenty of experience in dealing with extremist fringe groups. I dare these punks to try and "put a price tag" on IDF operations. It will bring me great pleasure to see these kids rot in prison for awhile.

Cornering Prison Rape

I've written before on prison rape, including my feeling that its status as a popular joke is one of the primary barriers to seeing true reform in the field. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a truly stellar post at the Corner (how often will I say that?) talking tough on the prison rape epidemic.
Anyone who looks at the problem can’t react with anything other than horror. According to the Bureau of Justice Statics, over 60,000 prisoners — the great bulk of them male — fall victim to sexual abuse in prison each year. A fair number of these men are “punks” who are subject to frequent, even daily, male-on-male rape for years on end.

The federal report’s conclusions — a zero-tolerance policy, more direct monitoring, and the like — almost are all common sense. State, local, and federal governments should take immediate legislative and administrative action to implement nearly everything in the report. (Most of the practices are already commonplace in the federal and better-run state systems.) Although giving trial lawyers more business rarely makes sense, Congress may also want to reconsider laws that make it very difficult for prisoners to sue prison authorities absent concrete evidence of physical harm. It’s quite possible that many legitimate prison-rape claims get thrown out of court under current laws. And prison rape needs to stop.

But the nation’s prison-rape problems can’t go away overnight for at least two major reasons. To begin with, the racial supremacist gangs that control many prisons use rape as a tool for keeping other prisoners in line and, in some cases, prison officials may turn a blind eye towards sexual abuse when it keeps prison populations more orderly. Second, the understandable widespread social distaste for people in prison has lead to a widespread attitude that’s frankly inhumane. It is one thing to say that prison shouldn’t be fun and quite another to say that detainees “deserve” rape. Nobody does. But, somehow, prison rape remains a perfectly acceptable topic for sitcoms, widely trafficked websites, and late-night comedians.

Government runs the prisons and, in the end, government policy will have to play the dominant role in eliminating prison rape. But, to facilitate that, society also has to change and acknowledge that, even though most people in prison have done awful things, they’re still human beings and still have rights.


Hate: A How-To Guide

There is a misconception about hateful speech and practices -- that it always comes wrapped in an ugly, repulsive shell. For the most part, this isn't true, for one simple reason: Hate is a political action. People who hate, for the most part, wish to enact that hatred into policy. To do that, then, they will seek to frame their hatred in the dominant language of the time -- that which will accord it the most authority and make it more likely to be translated into action. Some express hate for hate's sake. Most, though, are savvier. They believe that their hate is in accord with the dominant paradigms of the age, and will express their points accordingly.

Anti-Semitism has long followed this pattern -- constantly mutating in form so that it fits comfortably within authoritative schemas. In some places and epochs, that language was Christianity. In others, Islam. In others, Enlightenment. And in the context of modern international politics, human rights. Jonathan Sacks observed this trenchantly.
“It begins as anti-Zionism — but it is never merely anti-Zionism when it attacks synagogues or Jewish schools,” Sir Jonathan said. “In the post-Holocaust world the single greatest source of authority is human rights — therefore the new anti-Semitism is constructed in the language of human rights.”

In a new book, Future Tense, he describes a “virulent new strain of anti-Semitism”. A worrying alliance had developed between radical Islamists and anti-globalisation protesters, he said.

The UN had also fanned the flames. At the World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001, he said, “Israel was accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights — racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and attempted genocide. So the old myths are recycled they are alive and well but they are done in a new kind of vocabulary.”

This isn't to discount "human rights" or to say that they are unimportant. Far from it; I believe human rights are absolutely critical. But precisely because I and so many others accord human rights that sort of power, the term becomes one of the primary ways one states and warrants political claims. Hence, we should expect that anti-Semitic activities will come couched in language of anti-racism, human rights, and like terms, precisely because that language carries with it, in the words of Mari Matsuda, "legitimating force."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bad All Around

I had some reflexive snark reaction to this story about how the business of producing the oh-so-chic keffiyehs has been completely outsourced to China, but really, it's just demoralizing up and down. American hipsters engaging in uncritical faux-solidarity with Palestinians. American hipsters not actually paying attention to the political or economic consequences of their purchasing decisions (there's a huge surprise). Money redirected from a Palestinian economy that desperately needs it to China. And another local industry integral to Palestinian culture shuts down.

Henderson's WIP

I don't believe I've mentioned that I'll be keeping up my blogging for the UChicago Faculty Blog this summer, writing up each week's "works in progress" (WIP) talk. The first of those posts is now up, featuring Prof. Todd Henderson's presentation on the "nanny corporation".

Whites-Only Party

The modern GOP was forged when Richard Nixon launched his "Southern strategy" to lure away racist Whites away from the civil rights supporting Democrats and into the conservative camp. It was a brilliant short-term calculation. But unfortunately, it lost the larger bet, due to the repudiation of overt racism in America. So over the last few years, we've seen efforts by the GOP to atone for that breach in ethics, and to build a broader, more diverse party that can be competitive in an increasingly multi-hued America.

Epic fail.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Homeless to Harvard

I saw a movie about a girl who went from being homeless to going to Harvard (based on a true story). As I recall, the girl had trouble adjusting and ended up transferring to a school in NYC. They buried that fact in the epilogue, as if it was an embarrassment -- ruining the fairy tale ending they'd put out (it turns out the school was Columbia, so hardly a step down anyway). I disagree. Being smart enough to go to Harvard (from any background, much less that one) is a victory in of itself. There is no failure in struggling to adopt to that cultural shock; and there is no reason why one can't be every bit as successful coming out of any other school in the nation, so long as you work hard and show the passion and intelligence that got you accepted in the first place.

So that's when I think when I read another story about a girl who is going from homeless to Harvard. I wish her all the best, and hope that she thrives in Cambridge. But I also want her to remember that no matter what happens, she has already shown herself capable of great things.

How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Islamic Republic

HBO's series Rome focused on the exploits of two Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, weaving a tale of how these relatively minor characters had a huge impact on the course of human history itself. In the episode How Titus Pullo Brought Down the Republic, for example, a friend of a man Pullo had killed attacks Pullo as he is escorting Marc Antony to the Senate. The ensuing brawl is seen as an assassination attempt by Pompey, and the political fallout of the event directly leads to the collapse of the Roman Republic. And so we see how one man, a bit player by all accounts, can through his actions change the tide of history.

I think of this episode when I reflect upon the death of Neda Agha-Soltani, whose shooting at the hands of a Basij sniper is becoming the banner around which pro-democracy protesters are rallying. Neither Ms. Agha-Soltani, nor her killer, were major political figures. The sniper likely will remain anonymous for all time. Moussavi did not intend for to die, and I am sure that Ahmadinejad did not wish her to be killed.* And yet, in their deathly duo, they may be the ones who cause the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran in its current form.

There is much happening in Iran's halls of power, which will undoubtedly have great impact on the future of that nation. But everyone's best laid plans can be swept away by the squeeze of a single over-zealous triggerman, and the martyrdom of a brave young woman.

* Not out of any tenderness of his heart, but because the fallout from her death may be the event which finally causes him to break his grip on power.

Well Wishes

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has apparently disappeared ... literally. Not even his wife seems to know where he is.

The official line right now is that he's just taking a vacation to recharge his batteries. I hope that's all this is, and that nothing more serious is going down with the governor.

Sotomayor Too Thorough

Apparently that's literally the latest complaint about her: That her opinions are too methodical, address too many issues, and don't have enough quotable catch-phrases. Of course, everyone knows that thoroughly addressing each and every argument is a hallmark of judges who lack the intelligence to be on the bench. [/sarcasm]

As an aspiring attorney, it is certainly more pleasurable for me to read opinions that have a little snap to them. But a judge's first job isn't to be a stand-up comic, it is to, well, calmly and methodically dispose of the issues before them. And I will note that judges who wrote for the quote sometimes miss the important legal issues in the process. So once again, advantage Sotomayor.

Heat Wave

Last night, I found out that:

a) sweltering heat +

b) no air conditioning +

c) dehydration +

d) a hot and spicy dinner =

e) heat exhaustion!

Ugh, summer. What a stupid season.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

PEPSI Generation

One of my favorite things about anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is that they're so over the top. Starbucks' logo is a picture of Queen Esther. The blue stripes on Israel's flag denote its desired borders (wrong to begin with) -- not the Mediterranean to the Jordan, but the Nile to the Euphrates.

And today, we get another fine contribution to the genre: "Pepsi" is an acronym for "Pay Every Penny to Save Israel." Not only was Pepsi trademarked in 1903, some 45 years before Israel was established, that would be a really dumb choice of an acronym. We rule the world, don't we have any marketing consultants on staff? Give us some credit here.