Friday, January 14, 2005

Breaking News: Bush Admits a Mistake (Sorta)

According to, President Bush may, for the first time, have admitted he's made a mistake!

Specifically, Bush said that "words have consequences" and conceded that maybe telling terrorists to "bring 'em on" may not have been the brightest idea.

Well, it's a start. For the record, the front page of CNN currently contains this story on the Armstrong Williams affair, and this story about prisoners escaping from Abu Gharib.

Perhaps, if Bush really puts his thinking cap on, he can identify a few more mistakes...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Foundation for the Promotion of High School Debate

Former debate champion John McKay has announced that he is creating Voices: Foundation for the Promotion of High School Debate. So far, there isn't anything more to it than the announcement, but he hopes to run a charity tournament/round robin and camp to raise money for aiding debaters with fewer economic resources in competing on the national circuit.

John says that debate is "the most valuable activity a high school student can partake in," and I couldn't agree more. For those of you who appreciate the analysis and commentary I give on this site, it was only possible because of the practice, training, and experience I had while competing in tournaments around the country. Debate teaches young men and women how to speak clearly, persuasively, and concisely, it shows them how to construct an argument, and it forces them to think critically about the most important issues that face our nation and our world. Most importantly, it exposes them to the immense variety of views that exist in this country, and thus creates a class of citizens who are aware that political life extends beyond their own particular partisan affiliation. These assets should be spread far and wide, to any student who wants them.

Like John, I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the means to attend these tournaments. However, many of my closest friends were not, and they had to work, fundraise, and scrape for every dollar to travel. Many of these people also happened to be some of the most talented debaters in the country, but many of them could not have succeeded without the support of a community willing to help finance their competition. Who knows how many more voices have been excluded from the debate world because they couldn't muster the funds to compete? Economics should not pose a obstacle to excellence, and any program which seeks to lower the barriers of entering debate has my fullfledged support.

I'll post more on this as more information comes out. However, I highly urge anyone who recognizes the importance of educating young people to be active and engaged citizens to aid and assist your local debate programs in whatever means possible.

Revisiting Booker (Already)

In my post on the three Supreme Court cases handed down yesterday, I wrote regarding Booker v. US:
"I'm not an expert...but I do dislike federal sentencing guidelines. So until I read the opinion closely...I'll call this a victory."

I may have spoke too soon. While I still haven't managed to read the opinion yet, it has come under A LOT of fire from the left. UNC Law Prof Eric Muller is happy to see the guidelines go, but caveats:
"I find myself wondering, though, about the impact on trial judges. If I'm right about appellate review, and the appellate courts are now more or less out of the business of reviewing guideline applications under any sort of even moderately rigorous standard of review, then the guidelines themselves might come to occupy the space of a sort of strange quasi-law. This will leave trial judges enormous discretion to use or abuse the guidelines to reach or avoid reaching desired or undesired sentencing outcomes without concern for correction. I hope I'm wrong about this, and that the result of today's decision will be more, rather than less, responsible trial court sentencing. But on this question, I think, the jury is (so to speak) out."

He continues in this vein in this post as well. Basically, he thinks that with the guidelines "advisory" but not "mandatory," defendants will have almost no grounds on which to challenge their sentences on appeal. What are they supposed to argue: that the trial court wasn't "advised" enough?

Dana Mulhaser argues that the ruling could give juries more power without giving them any more information. Since juries aren't told what their rulings mean in terms of sentencing (IE, they don't know the difference, in terms of punishment, between manslaughter and 2nd degree murder), if Congress decides to have juries rule on every aggravating question of fact (one way in which congress could get around Booker), then the result could be more harsher sentences in cases where the jury feels leniency should be in order--exactly the opposite of what liberals want.

Finally, Publius at the Legal Fiction blog argues that giving "discretion" to judges is a bad idea if what we want is fairer sentences. He argues:
"One of the recurring debates in law is about 'bright lines' versus 'standards' (or discretion). Your tendency to adopt one over the other is a function of the level of your trust (or distrust) of the official who will be making decisions. For example, the Warren Court distrusted state governments and especially local police in the context of protecting civil liberties (and you cannot divorce their jurisprudence from the civil rights struggle around them). They believed, rightly, that Alabama sheriffs would never protect the constitutional rights of black people. So, they adopted bright-line rules such as the exclusionary rule or Miranda warnings. If you cross these lines (e.g., if you don't give Miranda warnings), the defendant goes free. There is no discretion.
Fast forward to yesterday's decision. The real question you must answer before deciding whether to support the Guidelines is how much you trust judges in the context of sentencing. A lot of people, quite reasonably, believe that it's impossible to devise a just sentencing regime ex ante. Given the great diversity of factual situations, it's best to give judges a wide statutory range and leave the actual sentencing decision to their discretion. If John Kerry had appointed the entire federal judiciary, then maybe I would be a bit more likely to trust them. But progressives need to remember that the federal judiciary is overwhelmingly Republican and very anti-criminal...

It's more than a partisan concern. When the Guidelines were adopted, there was overwhelming evidence that criminal sentences varied along racial and class lines. The length of the sentences imposed by the Guidelines (especially gun and drug crimes) may be unjust, but they're not unfair. Everyone gets screwed equally. Yes, tossing the Guidelines will, at times, allow progressive judges to remedy some of the insanely long sentences that get issued for small amounts of drugs or gun possession (any Second Amendment-ers out there with me on this one? Brett?) But Booker will unfetter the Federalist Society too. And the Federalist Society, which fancies itself the guardian of classical liberalism, doesn't much care for criminals and really doesn't much care for the Fourth Amendment. It's just as possible that a lot of people will get increased sentences now that the Guidelines are gone."

I think he makes a good point, but I'm inclined to disagree for a few reasons.

First of all, with sentence guidelines as high as they are, right now the requirement is essentially the same as what conservative judges would give if they wanted to throw the book at defendants. How are they possibly going to go HIGHER if given discretion than what they already have been doing (maybe they'll give first time drug possessors the death penalty. That'll deter 'em!). Sure, there are some cases where judges might have liked to do an upward departure. But the Feeney amendment, which governed judges conduct on upward vs. downward departures, was much more lenient on judges who go up than go down. The fact remains there are both few instances where judges would want to issue tougher sentences but were precluded by the guidelines, and far fewer obstacles in the previous system that would block them from upward departures if they really were so inclined.

Second, I disagree with his claim that the system screws everyone over equally. That just isn't true. Not every criminal who gets 15 years for possessing ammunition is getting "screwed," some very much deserve it. But 15 years for an ex-felon who finds one bullet in his house and puts it in a drawer (sub. only, here via Proquest or here for Blog de Novo's summary)? They aren't getting "equally screwed;" one is getting far more screwed than the other. The whole problem is that while the sentence guidelines provide adequate punishments for certain crimes, they are wildly off base for others, because every crime is different.

That dovetails nicely with my third objection: I am inherently skeptical of one-size-fits-all rules in criminal law. The problem with hard rules is that they ignore or suppress context. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic note that
"Normative highly fact-sensitive, which means that adding even one new fact can change intuition radically. For example, imagine a youth convicted of a serious crime. One's first response may be to urge severe punishment. But add one fact--he was seen laughing as he walked away from the scene--and one's intuition changes: Even more serious punishment now seems appropriate. But add another fact--he is mentally impaired or he was abused as a child--and now leniency seems in order." [Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, xvii-xvii]

While guidelines can accommodate for some of these facts (via mitigating and aggravating factors, for example), the problem is that there are infinite combinations and permutations of facts that might surround even one type of crime. The idea that the legislature might be able to account for ALL of them in advance (much less how they interplay with each other) is a vain hope, but people can observe the relevant facts and relationships in individual situations and judge accordingly. The problem, as Publius points out, is that individuals might also add in subconscious class and/or racial biases to the process. But all that means is that there must be a renewed emphasis on rectifying those problems at the appellate level. Saying "some people will get screwed, so let's screw everybody" is not, in my view, a moral answer to the problem.

Election Fraud

Powerline makes the case for strengthening our laws against electoral fraud. I'm going to thread a bunch of needles here, because I agree with their conclusion while disagreeing with virtually all their warrants (which essentially boil down to: "It's the Democrats fault." Bad way to start).

They give three examples of "electoral fraud": Election 2000, where Gore "tried to steal the Presidency...and nearly succeeded," the 2004 Washington Governor race, where it "appears reasonably clear that the Democrats stole [the] race, and...will probably get away with it," and an alleged 46,000 voters registered to vote in both New York and Florida. Now, on the former, many Democrats (myself included) might be inclined to switch who was doing the stealing. If there was any case in the long line of legal mush that became Election 2000, it was the Supreme Court decision that was utterly and completely out of line (basically, it concocted a federal issue as a pretext for telling state judges how to interpret state law--a federal no-no.). To the middle case, its entirely possible that the voters were REGISTERED in both states but only voted in one (or didn't vote in either). Many people retire to Florida, or live part-time there. Is it inconceivable that they might have accidentally forgotten to cancel one of their registrations when they moved? I registered to vote in Minnesota when I got to college, but I'm not 100% positive that my Maryland registration is canceled. I can assure the folks at Powerline that I only voted in the snowball state, but perhaps they would like to check and see if evil college students like myself stole Minnesota from Bush's column as well. To the latter, even Rossi himself has (laudably) emphasized that nobody was trying to "steal the election". I'm sympathetic to Rossi's position, and part of the reason why is that he has been meticulous in casting the controversy as an issue of fairness, not partisanship. Powerline would do well to follow his lead. All of this, of course, raises the inevitable question: Is it possible for Powerline to address a real problem without a prerequisite level of sniping at Democrats? But I digress.

The point about who is doing the stealing isn't really relevant, because a stronger system would go far in alleviating the paranoia and conspiracy theories that are running rampant on both sides today. A system that prevents fraud would (presumably) prevent it equally by both parties, so if both parties feel they are the victim than both should support stronger statutes. At the same time, the OVERRIDING GOAL must be to make sure everybody's vote counts. This is why I support liberal "voter intent" constrictions. If someone checks off a box for "Bush," then, under a line for write-in candidates that says "Write Candidate's Name Here" writes "Bush" again, I think we can fairly say that's a vote for Bush. It shouldn't be tossed out as an overvote. And while preventing fraud is absolutely imperative, it is equally important that all legal voters get to vote. Provisional ballots are a step in the right direction, but it is also important to provide enough voting stations in crowded urban areas, and to cut down on the bureaucratic red tape so it is easier both for voters and officials to see who has voted and who is registered to vote.

Powerline says we need to "upgrade our electoral system and guard its integrity with at least the fervor that we bring to preventing, say, underage drinking." Speaking as an 18 year old college student, I think that's unfortunately about the level we care about it now.

Turning Into Fire

Sometimes, the best way to break out of a bad position is a full-out offensive. On the other hand, a full-out offensive can also be suicide.

When it comes to redistricting, that's apparently the choice we face. Kevin Drum earlier opined in opposition to Ahnold's proposal to move redistricting out of the hands of legislature and into the hands of a set of retired judges. While Drum and I both sympathize with this goal, we opposed it on the grounds that since Republicans would never follow suit, it would only hurt Democrats (see my concurrence here).

Peter Beinart authored a rejoinder, arguing that Democrats should a) agree to the proposal starting after the 2011 census and b) in the meantime, should use this proposal to push for the same reforms across the entire nation. Presumably, this could offset Democratic losses in California with pickups in Florida, Pennsylvania, and other GOP-controlled states where the legislature has artificially reduced the amount of Democratic-controlled seats.

Sounds great to me, but Drum has a caveat:
But is Beinart right? If Democrats led a charge to end gerrymandering, would it sweep the nation or would it sweep only the blue states where they were leading the charge? Make no mistake: this is a very high risk strategy that assumes Republican leaders can be embarrassed into following suit. Maybe they can, but count me as still needing to see a sign somewhere to give me faith.

In other words, its total victory or total defeat. If the Democrats can force Republicans into redistricting their own strongholds (as well as our own), then we'll have scored a huge victory for Democracy and competition. If the Democrats CAN'T "convince" the Republicans to do it, then the Democrats will lose dozens of seats and be sent into perpetual political exile.

So the question is: Do you feel lucky, punk?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Blockbuster Case Day

A bunch of big decisions came down from the Supreme Court today. The most important one, U.S v. Booker, is also the one I have the least to say about. Booker ruled that the controversial Blakely v. Washington decision applied to federal sentencing guidelines. From my vague recollections, Blakely held that Washington's sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional because they allowed for judges to make "upward departures" (IE, sentences higher than what was recommended by the guidelines), instead of referring the matter to juries. However, Booker didn't entirely toss out the guidelines, but it instead made them into ACTUAL guidelines: advisory, not mandatory. I'm not an expert on Blakely, but I do dislike federal sentencing guidelines. So until I read the opinion closely (it's 124 pages), I'll call this a victory.

The next case was Jama v. INS. The INS wished to deport Mr. Jama to Somalia, but as many readers know, Somalia doesn't have a functioning government. Jama protested that therefore the government couldn't "consent" to his deportation, and therefore he couldn't be sent there. This case particularly interests me, as one of the organizations aiding Jama in his case (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights) presented in front of my "International Perspectives on Human Rights" class last term. When I inquired about the case, they said that they were confident based on oral argument that Jama would prevail. Apparently, they misread the situation, because the Court rejected Jama's claim by a 5-4 margin. Another point of interest in the Jama case is a quote by Judge Morris Arnold Shepard in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing of the case, currently residing in my AIM profile:
"We note...that between countries, it is not uncommon behavior to attempt to accomplish a task by asking politely first, and then to act anyway if the request is refused."

Too true.

Cases such as these always revolve around complex areas of statutory and immigration law, of which I am ill-qualified to comment on. However, I am seriously disturbed at the possibility of deporting someone to Somalia. A country like that, which is in the midst of an anarchic civil war and doesn't even approach "functionality," is hardly a place we would send even hardened criminals. I don't know whether Jama committed a crime or not, but I wouldn't wish that fate on anybody, let alone someone who may have just been fleeing war and oppression.

Finally, we get to Clark v. Martinez. Speaking by way of Justice Scalia, the Court ruled that illegal immigrants facing deportation cannot be detained indefinitely if there deportation is not likely to occur in the foreseeable future (for example, aliens from Cuba). Six months was the guideline given for detentions, though the Court held open the possibility of exceptions in extenuating circumstances. When I first glanced over the summary, I thought the Court had allowed for indefinite detention, and I found it amusing(/troubling) that the Court would offer less protection to illegal immigrants than it did to suspected terrorists (see Hamdi v. Rumsfeld). I'm glad the Court didn't take that step, and I think that Justice O'Connor's concurrence (noting that there might be acceptable situations where one could detain an alien beyond six months) struck the right balance. The point is to create manageable and effective, but humane guidelines, not to place security on a pedestal at any price to liberty.

Edit: Jama was 5-4, not 7-2. I apologze for the error.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Court Refuses to Hear Gay Adoption Case

UPDATE: 1/11/05 @ 5:25

In a depressing development, the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal challenging Florida's absurd and deeply degrading ban on allowing gay couples to adopt children (How Appealing with the link).

I'm obviously very disappointed to hear that they aren't taking the case. I think that the 11th circuits reasoning in the case was shoddy, and contrary to what the Washington Post article implies, it isn't in any way comparable to the Court denying cert to the appeal of Massachusetts' pro-gay marriage decision. Put simply, Lofton (the gay adoption case) has a federal issue, and Goodridge (the Massachusetts case) doesn't. The Florida law is wholly unique amongst the nation, the legislative history makes it clear that the guiding, if not entire, principle behind the law was naked animus toward Gay people, and the law as a whole seems entirely inconsistent with the Court's groundbreaking decision in Lawerence v. Texas.

Now, those who wish for equality must turn to the political process. There has been an effort to round up support for repealing this disgusting piece of discrimination, but I don't have too much hope. The American political body just isn't ready to consider gay Americans equal citizens quite yet.

At least Israel is getting it right.

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh weighs in, as does Larry Ribstein. Meanwhile, Pseudo-Polymath takes issue with labeling those who oppose gay rights as "haters" (be sure to see my response in his comments section!). To be clear, its possible to vote for a law that restricts gay rights and not be hateful (although I think the Florida law, being an outgrowth of Anita Bryant's anti-gay "Save the Children" campaign, was an expression of hate, pure and simple), the vote certainly isn't "innocent" and at the very least is reflective of prejudice. However, in the interest of cooperation, I'll cease tagging all anti-gay rights personnel as universally "hateful," and instead label them "prejudiced" (clearly I've learned a lesson or two from Mr. Bush about bipartisanship!).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Bland Leading the Bland

CNN is canceling Crossfire (link: Crooked Timber). Not a huge loss, as anyone who watched Jon Stewart's smackdown knows. But CNN's justification is interesting:
"Mr. Klein said he wanted to move CNN away from what he called 'head-butting debate shows,' which have become the staple of much of all-news television in the prime-time hours, especially at the top-rated Fox News Channel.
Mr. Klein specifically cited the criticism that the comedian Jon Stewart leveled at 'Crossfire' when he was a guest on the program during the presidential campaign. Mr. Stewart said that ranting partisan political shows on cable were 'hurting America.'

Mr. Klein said last night, 'I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise.' He said he believed that especially after the terror attacks on 9/11, viewers are interested in information, not opinion."

I'm not sure that's what Jon Stewart was going for. The problem with shows like Crossfire, from my (and I believe Mr. Stewart's) perspective, isn't that they represent "opinion," it's that they concoct clashes between ideologies and thus artificially polarize America (as if it needs any help!). That's bad because it prevents interpartisan discourse and makes politics into a field of battle, rather than a reasoned, deliberative process.

But arguing that we shouldn't needlessly sow discord is not the same thing as arguing that we should eliminate all opinion from our information sources. Opinions are important, because they allow people to process the information given to them, prioritize it, catagorize it, and digest it. Most people don't think critically about the news they hear; opinion journalism forces them to account for different perspectives and allows to refine, or sometimes perhaps modify, their value systems and policy preferences. All of this is essential for a functioning democracy.

Opinions can be dangerous, of course. A demagogic pundit (Michael Moore, Ann Coulter) can do a lot of damage in a very short period of time. However, that's an argument for putting on sober, well-reasoned commentators on the air; it isn't an argument for eliminating commentary altoghther. One method seeks to combat demagoguery, the other tries to put its head in the sand and prays the problem will just go away. I'm sure we all know which option is better.

Let's Make a Deal

UPDATE: 1/10/05 @ 11:25 AM
I noted earlier that the prospect of getting the US to leave Iraq is probably the single issue that both the Shi'ites and Sunnis can unite around. So this article is quite intriguing (link: Kos).
"Iraq's most influential Sunni group will abandon its call for a boycott of Jan. 30 elections if the United States gives a timetable for withdrawing multinational forces, a spokesman for the group said Sunday."

If true, this brings about a tough decision for the US. On one hand, leaving Iraq too soon could be catastrophic. On the other hand, this is an incredible oppurtunity to put the elections back on-track. Since free elections offer the only hope, in my opinion, of getting Iraq back toward a stable and free future, I'm inclined to take the deal, with caveats. The US should be able to provide a "timetable" for withdrawal that is premised on and hinges upon certain levels of stability in the country and acceptance by all parties of the newly elected regime. If the US can make such a deal, I say we jump at it.

UPDATE: Iraq'd is also elated at the prospect. Bush may have been handed a oneshot deal to fix what had seemed to be an intractable failure. I suggest he take it.

Blinded by Mirrors: Fetishizing Our Own Oppression, Part Two

My first post on how people fetishize their own oppression got perhaps the biggest response of any blog post I've ever written (oddly enough, it was all via IM and not at all through commenting. Oh well). Strangely enough, I wasn't really happy with the post; I liked the topic but I thought it was poorly written. So here's a second go at it.

The first thing about self-fetishization (SF for short) is that pretty much everybody does it to an extent, but it gets more apparent the farther from the political middle one goes. Also, one can, depending on one's political leanings, SF either their own oppression (IE, how you are oppressed) or their own oppressing (IE, how you oppress others). Generally, Conservatives and Liberal minorities do the former, while Liberal majorities do the latter. Obviously, the second form of SF is a relatively new development; it is relatively unique to this era for a group to say, in essence, "we're not as good as we think we are." And I think that this is overall a good thing: It's beneficial for groups, especially empowered ones, to look in the mirror every once in awhile and recognize that they aren't the embodiment of justice, morality, and virtue.

Liberal SF was originally a response to the "my country right or wrong" jingoism that has been so pervasive across human history. Looking critically at the disconnect between stated social values and actual social action, liberals realized that we weren't actually what we said we were. Much, if not most, of the "American creed" was a myth; or at the very least, only accessible to certain people of privilege. Liberals thus became skeptical of actions justified on the basis of "American values," since so often these justifications were figleafs for the naked pursuit of national interest and were utterly separate (if not radically opposed) to the "values" they purported to uphold. Vietnam may have been the epitome of this dynamic. In a war that was fought for "democracy" and "freedom," the U.S. actively opposed democratic elections, installed oppressive dictatorships, "destroyed villages in order to save" them, and launched a brutal chemical warfare program that has had a serious longterm impact on the environment of Vietnam. None of these actions were in line with "American values," but they were all justified on that basis.

So far, so good. But what happened next was truly tragic. Amongst some elements of the radical left, a game of "oneupsmanship" commenced. Essentially, the object of the game was to prove liberal bona fides by opposing the exercise of US power. Basically, it consisted of a bunch of liberal academics saying "I'm so committed to progressive values that I'll oppose the U.S. even when its doing X!," where X is some US action justified on "American values." When X is an action like Vietnam, this makes sense, and is even laudable. When X is intervention to stop a genocide in Kosovo, it becomes incoherent. Eventually, with all the academics seeing just how far they would go, Vietnam, Kosovo, and Iraq all melded together into one grand narrative of US oppression, morally indistinguishable from one another. But in doing so, we are staring so intently into the mirror, so enraptured by our own gaze, that we forget that their are those in the world who are far worse off than ourselves. The Vietnamese people may have been far worse off in the wake of US intervention, but the Kosovar Albanians certainly weren't. Blinded by self-loathing, the SFers cannot see the ways that we--meaning the powerful--can aid the world instead of destroying it.

This type of masochism is the intellectual equivalent of "cutting," we inflict hurt upon ourselves (in the form of attacking our oppressive ways) in order to relieve the pain of being part of the oppression. By speaking out so vociferously even against ourselves, we hope to absolve ourselves of the guilt we feel, since we KNOW that we, too, benefit from the very structures we criticize. However, like cutting, SF hurts its cause more than it helps. Nobody looks at someone with razor slashes and thinks to themselves: "I want to be just like her!" similarly, the majority of Americans understandably don't want to live the remainder of their lives in perpetual self-flagellation; if that's what it takes to oppose oppression, then they'll pick the status quo, thanks. (Conservative minorities, briefly, work in the mirror image of liberal majorities. Guilty about perceived injustices perpetuated in their name, they elevate the "oppressions" caused by the quest for racial justice to prove that they are bona fide Conservatives).

Conservatives, too, SF, but in a very different way. The civil rights movement of the 1960s painfully demonstrated to many Americans that their privileged status was not a result of "merit" or "hard work," but a consequence of centuries of violent suppression and legal, social, and political inequities that made racial, sexual, and other ethnic minorities into a permanent political underclass. As America progressed, it became increasingly unacceptable for the dominant class to overtly express racism, sexism, or other forms of "isms" in order to justify the maintenance of their privileged position. The game had changed, and now the prevailing political discourse centered around "equality" and "rights." And the dominant class reacted accordingly. Whenever the government took express actions to rectify the fruits of discrimination, the majority, now put on the defensive, complained of "reverse discrimination." Giving preference to Black applicants to college is no different than giving preference to White applicants, they argued. Whereas many Whites might have admitted that Blacks were oppressed in the 1950s, in the 1980s they thought it was Whites who were faced with systematic inequality, barriers to achievement, and oppressive double standards.

Probably if you asked most Whites whether or not the discrimination they faced was worse than that faced by Blacks throughout most of their history, they'd admit that Blacks had seen worse. Even if one opposes Affirmative Action, it is apparent that it is a comparatively lesser harm than Jim Crow or Slavery. However, by elevating the "oppression" Whites faced so that it was now the equal to the horrors Whites had perpetuated on minority Americans, Whites could lay claim to the moral highground--while defending the very system of privilege they admitted was unjust! All the benefits of being racist, without the social disgrace of actually joining the KKK.

Conservative SF also serves another purpose: it allows the groups that reached the middle class via New Deal programs to avoid extending the same programs to the new underclass which needs them as much to succeed. Again, deep down, most of these people know that they had help in reaching their relative levels of prosperity, they didn't just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. However, by simultaneously elevating the nature of their struggle (by emphasizing their own hard work and deemphasizing the government aid that got them their) and degrading the status of the current underclass (tagging them as "welfare queens" who "don't even want to work"), the new middle class created a culture of victimization in itself that justified cutting back on the very programs which had granted their privilege in the first place. The middle class was being "robbed" of its hard earned middle class status in order to aid a set of people who were "too lazy to get a job" because they couldn't pull themselves up without some sort of aid. Of course, there is a very good reason why they couldn't just pull themselves up like their now-middle class predecessors: the story was a myth. None of the groups, past or present, had succeeded alone. However, the middle class was encouraged by conservatives to SF their own hardships to provide a contrast to the current poor, justifying inequitable treatment on the basis of "equality."

Finally, we get to the SF by liberal minority groups. These groups have a valid, current claim to oppression. However, what often gets lost in the mirror is that there are many forms of oppression, and most people are both the oppressors and the oppressed in different forms. A Black, Christian, Male, for example, gets the benefits of Christian and Male hegemony at the same time as he is suffering from the effects of White Racial hegemony. The population of black, African, disabled, pagan, lesbian women being rather small, it is fair to say that the majority of persons in the world today both reap benefits and pay tribute to the hierarchy system. However, rather than recognize this, many minority groups elevate their own oppression so they can dodge responsibility for fixing the oppression they participate in. Hence, one sees a African-American church loudly preaching for racial justice on one day, then engaging in the most vulgar forms of homophobia the next. When pressed, the community becomes defensive: How can you accuse ME of oppression? Can't you see that WE'RE the ones being oppressed here?

The real tragedy of the self-fetishization trend is that it causes people to talk past each other. When everyone sees oppression only in themselves, the ability to actually solve oppression (which, after all, is an evil that requires both an oppressor and an oppressee) becomes impossible. Blinded by mirrors, communication is reduced to cross-claims of who are the real oppressors, who are the real oppressed, and what obligations, if any, we all have to end it. The answer, of course, is that we are all the oppressors, all the oppressed, and we all have to work to end it to the best of our abilities. The liberal majorities must realize that ending oppression requires them to take action, the conservative majorities must realize that ending oppression requires them to make sacrifices, and the liberal minorities must realize that ending oppression requires them to look beyond the mirror of their own situation. Only then can the world truly end oppression.