Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tomorrow's Another Day Roundup

Busy busy day tomorrow -- may not have much time for blogging. Better clear the browser now.

* * *

If Nancy Grace could take on Nancy Grace.

North Korea seems to have ditched the communism facade completely, and now is embracing full on classic racist fascism.

Top defense officials are onboard with repealing DADT.

Relatedly, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who previously indicated that support from the top brass was what he needed to reconsider his support for DADT, has let anti-gay animus trump prior statements of principle. Stunning.

Why we should be especially thankful for our gay and lesbian servicemembers. Their sacrifice for a nation that fundamentally still rejects their equal citizenship is heart-rending.

Michael Klarman pops the myth that courts have been historical friends of racial minorities.

It's so scary when Jews have opinions and try to convince others to share them.

What's the trajectory of the California gay marriage litigation?


Peter Orlowicz said...

Gays and lesbians aren't citizens? I guess I missed the state where gays couldn't vote or were subject to warrantless, unreasonable arrest. Serving in the military is a duty and a privilege, but certainly not a right. Before we canonize gays and lesbians serving just because of their sexual orientation because their "nation fundamentally rejects their equal citizenship", you might consider mentioning the enlisted folks who really AREN'T citizens, and choose to serve anyway.

I'd also be inclined to allow Senator McCain the benefit of actual deeply-held doubt with regard to DADT rather than "anti-gay animus". I don't think there's an incompatibility between being opposed to DADT as a policy and being reluctant to overturn it without being conscious of the current deployment situation. After all, Truman waited until after WWII to integrate the armed forces.

David Schraub said...

Obviously, I'm very proud of non-citizens who choose to serve in our nation's armed forces -- and I don't see how noting the inequalities we force upon gays and lesbians denies that.

I said gays and lesbians aren't equal citizens. And they're clearly not. We don't afford them equal rights. We think they're unworthy of serving our country. In large swaths of our country, they are freely discriminated against, hated and despised -- often by government figures, often by government policy. They're an underclass.

And I can hardly think of a more degrading and repellent message a society can send to a given class of people than telling them that they are so corrupted and despicable figures that they cannot volunteer to openly serve their country. Indeed, I'd say that historically the ability to serve in the military is the classic mark of who societies consider to be full citizens (or at least viable candidates for citizens), and who they consider to be irredeemably foreign and suspect.

As for Senator McCain, I don't have much of an inclination to presume he has deeply held principles of any kind. Despite the media hagiography that's been constructed of him, as a politician (as opposed to as a serviceman, where he served honorably and with distinction), he's never been a man particularly concerned with principle. I won't say that he's more concerned with expediency and opportunism than the average politician, but he has manage to combine it with an aura of self-righteous "straight talking" that is unbelievably grating to me, and this is just another iteration of it.

Peter Orlowicz said...

'Unworthy' isn't the issue in the eyes of supporters of DADT. (I should explicitly note here that I'm not exactly among them, but my position is perhaps more nuanced than most on either side of the issue, including yours, I think.) Again, serving in the military is not a right, so claiming that someone isn't an equal citizen merely because they're not able to serve in the military isn't supportable. Does that imply that overweight people, conscientious objectors and people with psoriasis aren't equal citizens either? It's not a matter of "corrupt and despicable". Women still can't serve in infantry divisions, special forces or submarines, is that a societal judgment that they're "corrupt and despicable" and unequal members of society? No. It's a judgment that unit effectiveness has a significant likelihood of being negatively impacted if women serve in those positions. Now, the merits of that judgment are open to discussion, and reasonable people can disagree, but throwing around terms like "degrading and repellant message" is hardly the stuff of reasonable and rational discourse about the merits. The same debate about gays and lesbians can be had, but if the knee-jerk reaction from people opposed to DADT is that only anti-gay bigots could possibly have a justification for the policy... that's not going to lead anywhere productive. I might not be on the side of DADT most of the time, but when my only choices are "degrading and repellent message" and "gays and hermaphrodites openly copulating", it makes me disgusted with both sides.

I should also point out that segments of the military have even more specific criteria; the service academies don't take anyone over age 23, married people, anyone with dependents... is that a societal judgment that ALL those people are inferior, corrupt, despicable? That's not a question that bears scrutiny at all; if you feel the need to even hesitate over that one, then I am forever grateful that you don't have any direct influence over our armed forces.

David Schraub said...

First of all, I think we need to not obscure things here: while there are other groups which are restricted from serving (you'd have to tell me if any other group is categorically barred from serving openly in any capacity in the armed forces), the reasons for those restrictions are almost invariably capacity-based (gender restrictions on combat roles is a rare exception, I also think that it's a deeply wrongful, albeit more limited, one). By contrast, the reason gays and lesbians are prohibited from serving is, bluntly, because many people, including many top American policymakers, consider them disgusting creatures worthy of hatred and scorn. That's the long and the short of it: I am completely, completely, unpersuaded that there is fundamentally more to it than that. Even the "unit cohesion" argument is essentially an argument that many servicemembers are weirded the fuck out by gay people and don't want to be near them -- effectively, an argument from the (supposed) bigotry of servicemembers. I'm not going to refrain from calling a spade a spade. That we have other, more benign, reasons for other restrictions doesn't change the quality of this one. I think you're pretty well aware of why our country restricts the rights, privileges, and opportunities of gay and lesbian citizens, so I'm not sure what purpose it serve to kick up a dust cloud over the issue.

I just don't see this as a particularly prime subject for a "nuanced" debate. "Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue" (as a man I agree with on virtually nothing but the issue of gays in the military once said). Insofar as I believe this sort of discrimination cuts to the heart of equal human dignity, I'm not particularly interested in half-solutions. If the US decided to bar Jews from serving in the military because (a) the military is largely Christian and was worried that Jesus wouldn't smile upon Jew-infiltrated units (or more "charitably", that they couldn't trust to the utmost anyone who hadn't accepted Christ as their savior) and (b) Jewish loyalty to the state can't be ascertained, I think the Jewish community would be apoplectic, rightfully seeing it as a very core attack on their equality as Americans. Same if we put service restrictions on atheists, same if we put service restrictions on Arabs. And I doubt they'd be placated by noting that married folks can't go to West Point. Why? Because Jews, and gays, and atheists and Arabs, know that the reason for their (hypothetical or real) exclusion isn't just an iteration of why we don't accept 500 lbs men into the Green Berets. It'd be a sop to prejudice of the most pernicious sort. Suggestions to the contrary are just an obscurantist smoke bomb.

Peter Orlowicz said...

"By contrast, the reason gays and lesbians are prohibited from serving is, bluntly, because many people, including many top American policymakers, consider them disgusting creatures worthy of hatred and scorn. That's the long and the short of it: I am completely, completely, unpersuaded that there is fundamentally more to it than that."

Then we have nothing else to discuss. You're unwilling to ascribe anything but the worst possible motives to proponents of this policy, and are unwilling to consider alternatives. So what's the point of even trying to convince you otherwise? Wallow in your self-imposed, close-minded ignorance if you wish. I won't bother you further.

David Schraub said...

At some point, Peter, I'm not willing to hand hold people defending manifestly discriminatory policies as they search for the most benign possible rationales to prop up the status quo. Are there people, perhaps many, who don't consciously take their position to be motivated by anti-gay animus -- who genuinely believe they hold their positions for other reasons? Sure, I believe that -- virtually all the literature on the psychology of prejudice suggests that's precisely what's going on. I'd even believe that it's possible that someone genuinely believes this sort of discrimination is as abhorrent as I do but still has a cocktail of reasons for supporting the status quo, though I don't think the class of people who both think anti-gay discrimination is absolutely intolerable are highly represented in those driving the support for DADT.

But at the end of the day, I firmly believe that the policy is a fundamentally unjust one -- one which manifests discriminatory attitudes towards gays and lesbians that should be unacceptable in a modern liberal society. It's not really my province or problem to caress defenders of the status quo, reassuring them that they're not bad people and this is just a nuanced policy debate. In the ordinal rankings of problems the DADT debate raises, John McCain's self-esteem is somewhere in the triple digits (for me; my assessment of Senator McCain's character indicates that for him it is firmly entrenched at #1). In general, I care far less about what people hold in their hearts than what they enact on the statute books and in their daily lives. I prefer, by several orders of magnitude, an angry John McCain who hates gay people but feels compelled to vote for and protect their equality in American life, to a happy John McCain who fancies himself a friend of the gays, but who constantly acts to reify and ratify their ongoing subordination.

People who are members of groups who have been historically subjected to, or are at continued risk of, de jure discriminatory treatment, know that it's an extremely dangerous game once your equal human dignity becomes a "dispute" subject to "normal politics" with which "reasonable people can disagree". It is absolutely critical to draw a line in the sand; a firewall that can't be passed.

In all honesty, even that is aspirational -- gays (or Jews or atheists or Arabs) can't stop mainstream America from deciding that suddenly our equality is up for no-holds barred political discussion. That's why it sucks to be a minority. What we can say is that holding certain positions is a per se bar to being seen as a friend and ally of our community. Senator McCain wants to defend DADT? Well, one of the sweet things about being heterosexual is that he can do that with virtually no tangible repercussions. The least, perhaps only, thing gays and their allies can do is tell him he's made himself into their enemy. It's the prerogative of gays (and Jews, and etc.) to say who our friends are and are not. If that pains you, then you need to either decide (a) you no longer care whether the GLBT community considers you a friend or (b) whether the opinions of the GLBT community are sufficiently weighty to encourage you revise your own.

Peter Orlowicz said...

But when you accuse people like me, by extension, of anti-gay animus simply because I refuse to acknowledge the other side as completely irrational, then I have the prerogative to be offended at that implication. I can also be upset at people who take it upon themselves to speak for an entire community of people, making judgment calls about "who our friends are", appointing themselves guardians of some endangered group, and making "with us or against us" ultimatums. There's a reason I don't want to associate myself with groups who espouse this kind of garbage. The irony here is that you and I both likely agree on the end result of the debate, that DADT isn't a good policy, but the way in which you press your point and demand such absolutism in the views of anyone who you deign to allow as a "friend" have lost you respect and sympathy from someone who would otherwise be on your side.

David Schraub said...

I still have no idea what your views on this issue are -- this post was about Senator McCain, and, more broadly, about the particular persons who are in critical positions in maintaining DADT. It is my argument that the "fundamental" reason why DADT continues is "because many people, including many top American policymakers, consider [gays] [consciously or subconsciously -- my edit] disgusting creatures worthy of hatred and scorn." There might be other issues at the periphery, and there might be peripheral people who are driven primarily by other issues, but this is (I argue) the prime mover. My warrant is that essentially all anti-gay discrimination in the US is traceable to this sort of revulsion of homosexuality as deviant and sinful, and that even arguments for DADT that don't directly make this claim bank-shot it by relying on the putative bigoted views of servicepeople, which we need to soft-pedal. The bigotry is still the underlying factor.

Not knowing your position, so I'm in no position to evaluate it. I can say that in my experience reading about debates over anti-Semitism, a prime qualification many people have for a "good" or "non-abusive" or "fair" or "moderate" (or what have you) definition of anti-Semitism is that it doesn't include them. If they can be tagged as anti-Semitic in any which way, ipso facto the definition is wrong. That's obviously absurd. With Senator McCain, he seems to find it outrageous that anyone would insinuate he's anti-gay, but not based off any substantive argument -- just the emotive claim that any formulation of anti-gay that includes him or his policies has to be wrong. Buying into that framework eviscerates the capacity to have any discussion of what it means to be anti-Semitic or anti-gay -- the terms become definitionally contentless. Any discussion of anti-gay has to include the possibility that the policy under discussion is, in fact, anti-gay. If that's off limits, there is, as you say, no conversation to be had.

As for my appropriation of the gay position, I'm pretty well-tied into the various streams of gay political activists, and they're quite unified on this issue (I'd note you weren't quite as concerned about the perils of guardianship when you attacked me for perceived slights against immigrant servicemen and women on this very thread).

joe said...

Hell, I guess merely talking about "gays and hermaphrodites openly copulating" is marginally less offensive than that beowulf guy talking about men "sexing each other up the butt" in full view of public schools, but what's in the water here these days?

Peter, no one who knows as much about military regulations as you seem to is unaware of the anti-fraternization policies that are in effect for all servicemembers. So "openly copulating" was never on the table in this debate. It's a red herring at best (and at worst it's strong evidence of bigotry, but since you seem to hate that suggestion I'll stick with saying you are being disingenuous). That comment forces me to conclude you are concern trolling.

Peter Orlowicz said...


When I commented about "gays and hermaphrodites" I was making reference to comments made by Representative Hunter on NPR, while maintaining his support of DADT. It was intended as an illustration of the ridiculousness of elements of the OTHER side of the argument, because some parties that should know better seem to want to take that very stance.


You're correct that anti-fraternization regulations largely prohibit this sort of conduct (sex aboard ship, for instance, and relations between significantly different ranks). There's never been a complete ban on dating or sexual relationships within the military, however. The rule is essentially to keep your relationships discreet and private. PDAs are regulated, for instance. Personally, as long as we're willing to hold gays to the same standard, I'm not opposed to letting them serve. I won't, however, characterize the entire support of DADT as homophobic bigotry, just as I'm sure sexism isn't the sole reason David doesn't sleep with his female roommates in a space the size of his kitchen cabinet.

PG said...

I won't, however, characterize the entire support of DADT as homophobic bigotry, just as I'm sure sexism isn't the sole reason David doesn't sleep with his female roommates in a space the size of his kitchen cabinet.

Peter, why don't you spell out what your nuanced position is instead of getting offended and upset by this discussion? You're really hiding the ball here in a spectacularly unhelpful way. What's your position? What do you consider to be non-bigoted reasons to support DADT?

you might consider mentioning the enlisted folks who really AREN'T citizens, and choose to serve anyway.

Non-citizens who enlist in the military get an expedited path to citizenship, sometimes by an extraordinary degree (e.g. people on temporary visas becoming citizens in 6 months). What benefits do gay and lesbian citizens who serve receive that are not received by straight citizens who serve?

(Incidentally, immigrants do a lot of things that are good things for anyone to do, but that they are obliged to do in order to obtain a particular status. For example from my family's experience: foreign doctors are over-represented in under-served rural areas and inner city hospitals, because while the government can't mandate where U.S. citizen doctors practice, it can mandate that in order to gain admission and green card, foreign doctors work where many American doctors won't.)

After all, Truman waited until after WWII to integrate the armed forces.

WWII was only 6 months from over when Truman became president. It would have been fairly ridiculous at that point to try to mix units that already had established leadership and experience together. And the de-segregation of the military -- a nearly 6-year-long process beginning with the 1948 Executive Order and only completed under Eisenhower -- was accelerated by the Korean War, as the military could not afford to have mass civil disobedience by black draftees refusing to serve in segregated units.

My own compromise on DADT would be to have its elimination occur similar to the progress of racial integration: with the branches that have less raw manpower needs, but higher skilled needs and a higher average level of education, (i.e. Air Force) going first, and the Army and Marines later. There's a correlation between level of education and acceptance of homosexuality that makes a branch with a higher average level of education less likely to cause trouble over openly-serving gays. Also, DADT does more damage where we lose skilled personnel in whom the military has invested expensive training, so the Air Force would have more reason to want to keep its gay pilots and other skilled personnel.

Once one branch has come out of the closet, we have an empirical basis for judging all the vague claims about "unit cohesion" or whatever else Peter will put forward as the non-bigoted reasons to want some members of the service choose between lying every day and failing to serve their country in the armed forces.

PG said...

By the way, I'd be interested in what the non-bigoted reasons are that have an empirical basis. I.e., what is peculiar to the U.S. military that we can't handle having out soldiers, but Israel, Britain and other allied nations can? Or if it's not that there's something about the U.S. that makes it alone have these difficulties, what are the difficulties that have been identified in other nations' non-discriminatory militaries that we are worried about having to deal with during a time of war?

And if there's no evidence of problems in other militaries, and no reason to think the U.S. is going to be hugely different, why is it wrong to assume that DADT support is driven by prejudice against homosexuals?

David Schraub said...

I actually have shared rooms with female roommates before. More on point, I've shared rooms with gay roommates before, including once when I shared a room with three roommates, all gay, and two beds, and thus shared a bed with a gay roommate.

I'd applaud their self-control and not jumping me every night, but alas, as Joseph Steffan put it, "Heterosexual men have an annoying habit of overestimating their own attractiveness."

David Schraub said...

what is peculiar to the U.S. military that we can't handle having out soldiers, but Israel, Britain and other allied nations can?

Well, as Rep. Hunter has reminded us, we know that Israelis don't possess Judeo-Christian values. So there's that.

Peter Orlowicz said...

PG, my particular position on DADT isn't at issue here; my comments and sense of outrage stem from David's assertions that there can be no possible non-bigoted reasons for supporting DADT. Some submarine crews billet junior enlisted members in the torpedo room, under the hydraulic equipment (U.S.S. L. Mendel Rivers, 2000, for instance) so that everyone has their own sleeping space. This is roughly like sleeping underneath your kitchen sink. Said billets are stacked three deep; there's a narrow passage in the middle of the sub, and then you have three guys arranged lengthwise (my head near your feet, in a line) until the most junior guy is against the bulkhead. The only way out, then, is to try and crawl over the other two people to get to the passageway, or wait for those other guys to leave.

In that sort of situation, it's not completely irrational to me to think that 18-20 year olds would be uncomfortable sharing that space with gays, even if David and I wouldn't personally be uncomfortable. Likewise, I don't think you're definitionally a misogynist and sexist if you would be uncomfortable sharing that space with women. I know I would have been, at 20, living in those sorts of accomodations with females. The military has separate living spaces for females aboard ship (not on subs, since females don't serve in subs yet), and at this point in time, it's far from clear that it would be practical to do the same for gays. Plus, I'm sure the GLBT community would be all over that issue with comparisons to separate-but-equal, and that's not going to help either.

Before women were deployed on ships, many of the same arguments were put forward about good order and discipline, unit cohesion, etc. The same fraternization regs were present then. While most women have served with dignity and distinction, there are still problems involving sexual relations aboard ship. Last year, the Navy fired at least three commanding officers of ships for excessive fraternization on board (relieving a CO is a BIG deal, usually a career ender on the scale of running one's ship aground) and in at least one case, tossed the XO and command master chief (most senior enlisted) as well. So we're still dealing with these issues over a decade later with women, and that's why I think it's ignorant to slap every supporter of DADT with the bigot label.

joe said...

Where are all these DADT opponents crying out for removing the ten or so percent of female servicemembers from the military? If they're so problematic that should be a big, big deal. Much bigger than freakout over the maybe 2% of the military that's gay.

Also, I apologize for misunderstanding you earlier, but I think you are sill engaging in false equivalency. The number of people calling for "Double Secret Gay Privilege to Openly Copulate" approaches zero, so when you're talking about "as long as we're willing to hold gays to the same standard" you're alluding to a controversy that doesn't exist (except as it relates to people advocating discrimination against LGBT individuals). Conversely, even if we except your argument that there is some legitimate concern over unit cohesion or what-have-you, any intellectually honest person needs to admit that a lot of the opposition to ending DADT is motivated by animus--the belief that homosexuality is immoral, full stop.

With regard to John McCain, how do square his conflicting statements? It seemed like he was happy enough to defer to the military leadership on this matter when they were in favor of continued discrimination, citing his trust in their judgment. Now all of a sudden he's reversed course. Hmmm... could it be he is pandering to an element of the Republican base that sees gays as immorals? Is this political expedience at work when you've got a primary challenge from a well-known Tea Partier?

I dunno, you tell me.

PG said...


While most women have served with dignity and distinction

I am confused as to why we need to specify that it's the women who served with dignity and distinction before discussing those who violated the fraternization rule, unless these were lesbian violators of that rule. If not, the men involved are at least as much (if not more, depending on who was in a senior position and who made the first inappropriate advance) to blame as the women for violating the rule. You seem to have a pattern of thinking that it's the "out-group" that should be held solely responsible for any difficulties that arise.

my comments and sense of outrage stem from David's assertions that there can be no possible non-bigoted reasons for supporting DADT.

But DADT is absolutely worthless for the particular concern you're describing. It would make sense if you were describing people who want to bring back the prior policy of actively prohibiting non-straights from military service, wherein the government actually asked people if they had same-sex attraction before allowing them to join. But with DADT, every guy sandwiched in with you could be gay or bi. With DADT, you don't know who's into dudes.

If you think being "uncomfortable" with sharing one's living quarters with a person of the opposite sex, or with a person of the same sex who might have a same-sex attraction, is a sufficient reason to support DADT, then how much more "uncomfortable" must everyone be with this uncertainty about fellow soldiers' sexual orientation?

Being "uncomfortable" is a pretty common state of mind when dealing with people different from oneself. You still haven't made clear what differentiates it from bigotry.

PG said...

Going by Peter's rationale, apparently American soldiers can't handle being "uncomfortable" as well as soldiers from allied nations like Britain and Israel can. I guess America should officially desist in our assertions about being the toughest military on the planet, if someone's flicker of unease at being squished up with another dude who has been known to find some dudes attractive is going to determine our policy.