Friday, November 18, 2005

Leave Me Out of This!

The latest anti-ACLU attack is out. Some folks, like Eugene Volokh, are getting all upset-like because the press release compares the ACLU to terrorists and the KKK. And yes, that is a rather nasty thing to do, so even sympathetic organizations should disassociate themselves from the message.

However, because this is me, I'm going to lodge my own separate protest. Here's an excerpt from the start of the release:
The Reverends Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK) and Patrick J. Mahoney will visit ACLU headquarters today to hand-deliver more than 20,000 petitions demanding that the left-leaning liberal attack group back off of terrorizing communities and individuals who seek to affirm America's Judeo-Christian values.

Regular readers know where I'm going with this...


Maybe, maybe, you can plausibly claim to represent Christian values. I don't know, that's your religion, not mine. But don't drag my religion into your political advocacy. I'll bet money that these activists don't have the foggiest clue about traditional Jewish ethical teachings on the issues they care about. And I'll bet twice that amount that the "10 commandments" that the ACLU sued over was the Protestant version of them, not the Jewish (or Catholic, for that matter) translation.

The obnoxious thing is that the press release itself is titled "Christian Activists to Hand-Deliver Letters Demanding ACLU Back Off." Well gee, where did all the Jews go? It's dishonest and disingenuous to claim to represent people that you don't, and by and large Jews aren't and never have been part of this coalition. Really, I can accept that Christianity has been hijacked by its extreme right elements--tragic, maybe, but there you go. But the vast majority of Jews, as represented by our religious and political organizations, are steadfastly opposed to the imposition of Christianity into our public school curriculum. And remembering the long history of Christians murdering, oppressing, and harassing Jews throughout the past millennia or so, the separation of Christianity and government has been a great victory for the "Judeo" part of the tradition at least. Which may explain why Jews overwhelmingly support the ACLU and it's project. For us, it's quite literally life or death.

When Do Black People Vote?

Well, according to the sponsor of Georgia's new "anti-voter fraud" bill, only when they're paid to do it.
The chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

It's pretty tough to find more blatant racism from an elected politician.

All laws that might affect minority voting strength in the south require Justice Department approval. And indeed, career DOJ employees reviewed the bill and recommended it be rejected as falling disproportionately on minorities. But (surprise, surprise), political appointees from the Bush administration overruled them and approved the law.

According to Legal Fiction, the burden put on Georgia by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act makes it nearly impossible for an honest attorney to say this law meets it:
Under Section 5, Georgia therefore has to get changes to its voting laws "pre-cleared" by the DOJ. The state has the burden of showing that any new measure will not have a negative effect on minority voting. The new measure doesn't have to be intentionally discriminatory - it's an "effects" test. A negative impact on minorities is enough to make it illegal.

LF quotes the Post as saying the following:
The program requires voters to obtain one of six forms of photo identification before going to the polls, as opposed to 17 types of identification currently allowed. Those without a driver's license or other photo identification are required to obtain a special digital identification card, which would cost $20 for five years and could be obtained from motor vehicle offices in only 59 of the state's 159 counties.

Given the way race and poverty are tied together, there is no way to argue this won't have a negative impact on minorities.

LF says that the attorneys in the DOJ who approved the law aren't racist so much as they don't really care about racism. I'll grant there is a distinction, but it's small consolation to those who are forced to live with the effects of their apathy. The only good news is that I cannot imagine this surviving a court challenge.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Iraq Crack

For better or for worse, our Iraq tenure looks to be drawing to a close. Chuck Hagel has slammed Bush's policy. Democratic hawk and military affairs guru John Murtha has called for an immediate withdrawal (even the hard right is taking this guy seriously). TNR says that Sadr--of all people--is likely to become the primary power player in Iraq--and it's the occupation that fuels his power. Apparently only the lunatic fringe of the GOP is willing to defend the stay the course policy, but even Powerline admits that its view is the "minority view." And the famously tight Republican House, legendary for its party discipline, is finally starting to fall apart.

Good or bad, I don't know. I've been a steadfast war supporter from the start, and I'll admit even I'm starting crack. But the political trend is definitively moving in favor of withdrawal. Not even John McCain, I think, can stop this train.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Black-Black Racism: Why White Liberals Should Care

Sparked by Protein Wisdom, Ampersand writes a post on why, as white liberals, we should not devote much (if any) attention to so called "black-on-black" racism. I've written on this issue at least once before, but I want to further explicate on why, even from a Critical Leftist stance, we should be vociferous in condemning racism by blacks against blacks.

Essentially, there are two distinct arguments against whites condemning black-on-black racism. The first is ideological--either such actions aren't really a problem, or alternatively, they should be dealt with within the community itself. This claim I addressed in the prior post--look there for my critique.

The second argument, and the one Ampersand makes in this post, is political--black-on-black racism is comparatively less damaging and less prominent than the massive amount of structural racism still present in society, thus, anti-racism advocates should focus their attention where the greatest harms are. Or as Amp puts it, "deal with Judy's collapsed lung before dealing with Bob's scraped knee."

Such an argument admits that both white racism and black racism, like Bob and Judy's ailments, are indeed problems. In an "ideal" world, where there are no time trade-offs or issues of resource allocation, presumably Ampersand would support loud and consistent denunciations of all racist acts. However, in a world where resources (time, effort, and money) are limited, we have to make trade-offs, and the end-result should be affecting the most change possible to eliminate racism in its most damaging forms.

Insofar as this is a political argument, it should be addressed on political terms. The question is whether or not white condemnations of black-on-black racism (or black-on-white racism, for that matter) have positive and non-replicable consequences in the political sphere, and whether those consequences outweigh whatever negatives exist (in terms of resource allocation, time spent, etc..).

We should start by noting that in general, condemning individual acts of black-on-black racism is not particularly time intensive. I probably spent a few hours, tops, on my post about the black-facing of Michael Steele--and that was a post that actually got attention (which of course, makes it more likely that I'll post updates and the like). Meanwhile, as I'm sure Amp knows, I also blog relatively frequently on the "big" issues of structural racism and white privilege that Amp says I should be focusing on. So, to a partial extent, the "ideal world" and the "real world" merge--we can do both. I think the problem is that we conflate the amount of effort needed to oppose structural racism (which is pretty high, since it is persistent and omnipresent) and black racism (which is relatively low, because it is scattered and not supported by some overarching societal superstructure). To sum up: opposing black racism is not likely to be a time-intensive endeavor compared to opposing white racism.

More importantly, though, is that I think my condemnation of such acts as Steve Gilliard blackfacing Steele gives me credibility amongst moderates and conservatives when talking about race issues that I wouldn't otherwise possess. After posting on Lt. Gov. Steele, I've inoculated myself against charges of bias and partisanship, such that it's more likely that the people we need to reach will take me seriously. If some conservative reads one of my posts about structural racism and makes the stock attack, that I'm anti-white or just some wild-eyed multicultural radical, I can point to these posts and prove that I'm not. They might still ignore me, but it's more likely that they'll tune in and in any event any undecided observers will look on me more favorably. That's a positive benefit and one that's seriously lacking when we only attack white power and privileges. We can't expect to make any gains on race when we're alienating the majority of our audience. If whites hold the levers of racial power in our society, than it is whites who we need to persuade to affect racial change, and we must adapt our arguments accordingly.

I'm not saying we should go out of our way to find incidents of black racism for counter-balancing purposes. But when they're thrust in front of our faces, we should be clear where we stand. Perhaps in an ideal world I shouldn't have to prove my even-handedness by attacking black racism too. But recall that Amp is making an argument that is expressly divorced from the ideal world. She can't just jump from idealism to realism and back again whenever it suits her. If we're trying to affect positive racial change in real-world America, part of that project means taking deliberate steps so that the audience will listen to our words. I think that goal requires some showing of non-partisanship.

Incidentally, I disagree with John Cole's response post--I do think that "identity politics" has been incorrectly caricatured, that the tactic is neither new nor radical, and that the vast majority of the message is positive and needs to be heard. But we should still be cognizant of the "politics" in "identity politics," and that means building bridges to both the friends we have and the foes we seek to convert.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cry Baby Cry

John Leo gives his nominees for the "top victims of 2005." Leo laments that "[n]obody is responsible for anything anymore," this giving us our victimized society. Andrew Sullivan has the link.

Perusing the list, I couldn't help but notice a trend in the "victims." Children of Witches, Muslims, College Students, a Liberal, Atheists, and...George W. Bush? Alas, this last one appears to be the only person Leo thinks has a legitimate complaint. As for the rest, they all are a) politically disempowered and b) favorite targets of conservatives everywhere.

Why is it that only minority groups (not just racial here) can be cry-babies? Atheists cry when athletes point their fingers to God after a touchdown: Wah! But Christians hollering because Macy's says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas"? Our national traditions are under siege! Leo, if I recall his columns on the subject, hardly considers this to be "whining" to be condemned, despite the fact that, realistically, how a department store decides to deliver its winter salutations is shockingly trivial (and yet, still blogworthy). If anything, we should not be surprised if the majority whines more often than anyone. We do, after all, live in a democracy. And like the spoiled child who gets (almost) whatever she wants, American dominant groups will throw a bona fide temper tantrum whenever someone else gets attention for awhile. And like a doting but misguided parent, Leo rushes in, not to discipline the wayward child, but to defend her and chide the others for demanding a piece of the pie.

There's really nothing more to it beyond blatant majoritarianism. If a given majority value is even marginally knocked from it's pedestal, then the conservative punditcracy will come out armed for battle. But if it's a minority value being slighted (or more often, though perhaps not in Leo's examples, stomped on), they're just oversensitive PCers.

Standards, anyone?

Political Recusals

Reflecting again on judge who was removed from Tom DeLay's corruption trial, I found some interesting precedents that should shed some light on the matter.
In re Mason, 916 F.2d 384, 386 (7th Cir. 1990) (denying a writ of mandamus to disqualify a judge because he made pre-appointment contributions of $100 to each of the defendants). A judge's former political affiliation does not create an appearance of impartiality. See United States v. Alabama, 828 F.2d 1532, 1543 (11th Cir. 1987) (refusing to disqualify a judge, who had acted as plaintiffs' counsel in a civil rights suit in the past, from presiding over an action to desegregate Alabama universities). "The fact that a trial judge harbors political views, religious persuasion or values that are in direct opposition to those of the defendant does not, standing alone, constitute a basis for recusal." Welsh v. Commonwealth, 416 S.E.2d 451, 461 (Va. Ct. App. 1992)[Paul Butler, Should Radicals Be Judges?, 32 Hofstra L. Rev. 1203, 1205 n.7 (2004)]

The full article, by the way, is really interesting--I highly recommend it.

These precedents show two things to me. First, that the recusal of the Democratic judge from DeLay's trial probably was inconsistent with precedent. If contributing money to the defendants themselves doesn't violate judicial ethics, then clearly contributing to a political advocacy group prior to it having any dealings with the defendant can't be grounds for recusal. Second, that this issue is really, really, tough. That first case, Mason, seems almost ridiculously counter-intuitive to me. We're caught in a quandary here. On the one hand, nearly every judge is political--especially in the type of super-charged cases where the public at large actually cares. So to penalize the "overtly" political judges seems to be delusional, it just (as Butler argues in his article) encourages radical judges to go underground. On the other hand, if we are to preserve public notions of judicial integrity and honesty, then there has to be some level of entanglement that qualifies as a conflict of interest. The question is whether mere abstract political advocacy qualifies. And I'm just not sure.

Judicial Activism Card

For debaters working on the current LD topic about Judicial Activism, six reasons why activist judges won't go completely wild but will still be constrained.

Duncan Kennedy, Imagining a Judge's Reasoning Process, in ANALYTIC JURISPRUDENCE ANTHOLOGY 208-209 (Anthony D'Amato ed., 1996)
First, I see myself as having promised some diffuse public that I will "decide according to law," and it is clear to me that a minimum meaning of this pledge is that I won't do things for which I don't have a good legal argument....

Second, various people in my community will sanction me severely if I do not offer a good legal argument for my action....

Third, I want my position to stick....

Fourth, by engaging in legal argument I can shape the outcomes of future cases and influence popular consciousness about what kinds of action are legitimate....

Fifth, every case is part of my life-project of being a liberal activist judge. What I do in this case will affect my ability to do things in other cases, enhancing or diminishing my legal and political credibility as well as my technical reputation with the various constituencies that will notice....

Sixth, since I see legal argument as a branch of ethical argument, I would like to know for my own purposes how my position looks translated into this particular ethical medium.

Some of these I think blend together, but they still represent a pretty good aff block or spike.

The Mediocre Compromise

The Washington Post reports that there has been a "compromise" on Lindsay Graham's abhorrent effort to strip detainees of their legal rights (H/T: Orin Kerr).

Obsidian Wings (whose coverage of this whole issue has been nothing short of spectacular) thinks that the compromises are an improvement, but still fall short of what our moral and constitutional principles require. Kevin Drum, by contrast, is "cautiously optimistic." I'm inclined to agree with Tim F. on this--meeting in the middle is not acceptable when the stakes are this high. Moderation be damned, we're talking about basic legal rights here. If there are any principles I won't sacrifice, it's that people have the right to prove they're innocent of wrongdoing. Just chucking random folks in jail on slim (if any) evidence is not just unamerican, it's outright evil. I should also note that the bill only applies to Guantanamo Bay detainees. Given the recent revelations about our "black site" prisons, this seems to be rather twisted, as those places probably, if anything, have a more urgent need for judicial oversight than even Guantanamo.

See also: The Poor Man.

Monday, November 14, 2005

We're All French Here

This post over at Armchair Capitalists is must-read-material for anyone looking for background on the French riots. I'll excerpt briefly:
This was January to July 2003 when the great debate over the veil was raging. One of my teachers, Monsieur Moysan, would take rather long digressions to rail against the evils of the veil, and how this was destroying notions of community and etc. If one wanted to retain any sort of Muslim identity, one could not be French (though getting days off for Catholic holidays was perfectly acceptable: I was much chagrined to discover that "Ascension" had nothing to do with joining the EU and everything to do with Christ's body rising to heaven). Moysan enjoyed picking on one of the three Arab students in the class, Idriss, who was not only the most intelligent member of the class, but also the most intellectually curious (and it was for this curiosity that he was mocked, but the curiosity was that of an outsider trying to figure out how the world fit together). When n=1, it is hard to draw inferences (and Moysan was from Corsica...), but...

Count this as a data point in my what's the French race situation really like model. But also, count it as a rather naked proof of how "universalism" acts as a mere cover for majoritarian norms.

Meanwhile, both D-squared Digest and Daniel Drezner point out what we're all thinking--smashing things apart and setting fire to vehicles isn't proof that the rioters are outsiders in France; if anything, it's proof they've assimilated.

The Glorious World of Publishing

The first edition of The Lens: Carleton College's Magazine of Politics and Culture has been released! In theory, we'll have an online copy, but it appears not to be up yet--I'll link to it when it comes out. In any event, this was my first experience on the editing side of one of these things, and it was a lot of work! But very worth it.

I have a nice article published as well, entitled "Jews in Space." I'm quite proud of it--and the layout folks did a great job making it look all pretty and such. On the flip side, the copy editors appeared to "improve" the article by inserting mistakes at random intervals, which is frustrating (yes, I checked the final copy against the original I sent in--it was right when I wrote it). And they misspelled my name. Ouch.

But try to look past that. The whole magazine looks wonderful, and I encourage all y'all to read it.