Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Ever-Increasing Political Sphere

Michael Froomkin points me over to a resolution recently passed by the American Society of International Law:
1. Resort to armed force is governed by the Charter of the United Nations and other international law (jus ad bellum)
2. Conduct of armed conflict and occupation is governed by the Geneva [Conventions] of August 12, 1949 and other international law (jus in bello)
3. Torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any person in the custody or control of a state are prohibited by international law from which no derogations are permitted.
4. Prolonged, secret, incommunicado detention of any person in the custody or control of a state is prohibited by international law.
5. Standards of international law regarding treatment of persons extend to all branches of national governments, to their agents, and to all combatant forces.
6. In some circumstances, commanders (both military and civilian) are personally responsible under international law for the acts or their subordinates.
7. All states should maintain security and liberty is a manner consistent with their international law obligations.

Roger Alford says he voted against the resolution because he fears "it will be seen as politically motivated." To which Froomkin ask: which of those statements possibly could be construed as political? And if "obey the law" and "international law prohibits torture" are considered "political" statements, what exactly isn't?

I think that politics is whatever people make it to be, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't vote for this resolution. Sometimes one has to take a stand, even when something is politically contested, because sometimes a given side on a political issue is morally or factually wrong. The law is pretty clear on this subject--I haven't heard anyone this side of John Yoo claim that states can claim exemption from the categorical bar on torture. The real "debate" on the matter is about as substantive as the evolutioon/creationism "debate," which is also "political" even though there isn't any actual dispute amongst the experts.

I think the scarier thing is what this says about our political system, when one reasonably could assert that "torture = bad" is a "political question." I'm fine with taking a stance on political issues, but on issues like this, it's a tragedy that I even have to.

Friday, March 31, 2006

It's Time to Snitch

The Duke University rape case is one of the most shocking racial flare-ups we've seen in America in quite some time. A bunch of wealthy, White, often northern boys sexually assaulting a Black woman, all while hurling racial slurs at her--it brings to mind a darker age of our nation's history. And of course, the upshot is that maybe we should start thinking about these cases in the context of this age in our nation's history.

Anyway, Rachel Sullivan, who has been indefatigable in getting this story out (drop her a line of encouragement at her blog, if you will), has a particularly interesting post up about how the media portrays Black crime as indicative of group behavior, and White crime as isolated and aberrational. Consider:
The most famous example of this is the term "wilding." The term wilding was used to describe the attack of a White woman in Central Park in the late 1980s. Scared Whites suddenly worried that groups of young Black and Latino men would descend on innocent White women and attack them, like that has supposedly done to this woman. The term was almost exclusively used for young Black and Brown men, and as such has became synonymous with them. What is even more striking it that through DNA evidence and a confession by an imprisoned man, we later found out that this group of young men didn't attack the Central Park jogger and in 2002 their sentences were vacated (DNA evidence confirmed that it was a lone attacker, who was a Latino man.). Why not use the term wilding to talk about what the rape survivor said happened at Duke. One of the regular commenters on my blog, Anthony, reminded me of this term, when he argued that the attack at Duke was an example of wilding. I wondered if popular media outlets will use the term wilding, or will they come up with some special code word that referred to groups of young White men who attack women (especially Black women). Probably not. When White men behave badly it is usually framed as a problem with the individual White man or the small group of White men involved, but it is almost never a collective statement about the problems with White guys in America.

Another example of this is the whole "Stop Snitching" phenomenon, which has been labeled as a huge threat to the criminal justice system. The term "Stop Snitching" has been connected with an underground video out of Baltimore. "Stop Snitchin'" has also been advertised on T-shirts that have become very popular mostly among young urban Black and Brown kids. If you watched shows like America's Most Wanted or the nightly news, you would think the "Stop Snitchin" phenomenon is new and young Black men created it. However, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the idea of not snitchin' has been around for a long time, way before Hip Hop and way before the T-shirts. In fact, I was watching the Abrams Report, since he has been covering the Duke case, and he kept alluding to the editorial that he was going to do at the end of the show. The editorial was about "Stop Snitchin." My initial reaction was good somebody finally gets it. These Duke boys are living by the "Stop Snitchin" code of ethics. It's not just poor Black and Brown people and Hip Hop artists. Well much to my chagrin Abrams didn't even connect the Duke case to this phenomenon even though it was so blatantly obvious--the Duke lacrosse players need to start snitchin.

This second one gave me some pause, because I am not a proponent of the "stop snitchin'" school by any means, but I know I give more leniency to "I'm not going to talk on the advice of my lawyer," even though they're effectively the same. Dressed up in legal language, suddenly it's not a threat to social stability but a cherished legal right. Imagine that! It's especially ironic because the most pervasive "stop snitchin'" mentality ever to actually come into practice is not inner-city Blacks refusing to aid murder investigations, but southern Whites refusing to cooperate with lynching investigations. In the end, I concur with Rachel--maybe we can't expect the actual guilty parties to come forward and confess, but we can expect the bystanders to act as witnesses to see that justice is done.

The other part of this story that's been nagging me (and I apologize because this is a bit of a leap) involves the "apologetic White guy." Let me just give a summary of the story for context:
According to a search warrant, the victim and another woman went to a university-owned house on March 13, where three members of the team live. When the men became aggressive, the women left but another player apologized and convinced them to return.

The women returned to the house, but were separated. The victim alleges she was forced into a bathroom and assaulted. The men also allegedly yelled racial slurs at the women.

Okay, what do we do with this mysterious man? Let's assume that he wasn't "apologizing" in a deliberate effort to get them back in the house to undergo this abuse. I'm not saying that this couldn't be the case, only that if it is we'd all agree that this guy is a Really Bad Man and there'd be no debate.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that this guy was operating in good faith. The rest of this thought experiment goes under those lines. We don't know what he said, but it might have been something like this: "I'm really sorry, those guys just got really drunk, they didn't mean it, I'll talk them," etc etc in those lines. Naive perhaps--but there are naive people out there. Hell, I'm a naive person--I always underestimate the amount of "true" racism that exists in America, so in my shoes I'd probably be far more likely to attribute this sort of thing to drunkenness than animus (at least one time someone said something anti-Semitic to me while drunk, I shrugged it off). Anyway, his apology is genuine, not a ploy to get the rape to happen. But happen it did--in some respects, as a direct result of this person's "apology", for if he'd had said nothing, the woman probably would have went home. Given that sequence of events, the apologizer feels awful about it. How do we feel about him? Is he a complete accessory of the rapist? Not as morally culpable, but still condemnable? Is he more or less condemnable than the complete bystander at the party--the one who said nothing to girl but stopped nothing either? Does it matter how he behaved once everyone went back inside? We might say he had an obligation to stop the rape--but remember, he's still one guy on 39 at this point--not exactly fair odds.

Anyway, this person seems to be in a different category, for better or for worse, than the rest of the partygoers. I'm curious to hear his story. If he really does feel guilty about his role in this crime, it's time for him to snitch.

Justice 4 Two Sisters is the information clearinghouse for this story.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Law and Grad School Bleg

It's a bit early to be thinking about it, but I figure it's never actually to early. So, to anybody that has relevant information, I ask the following:

-Which top law schools (defined as, ones from which I could plausibly make the leap to legal academia) have strong programs in Critical Race Theory?

-Which top law schools, if any, have strong programs in Jewish law and legal theory?

-Are there any grad schools of any sort offering work specifically in the field of Whiteness studies?

-Let's say my scholarly interests primarily lie in these the above three fields (CRT, Jews and the Law, and Whiteness studies). What would be a sensible post-graduate route I could take to enhance my knowledge in these fields while preparing myself for an academic career (preferably without staying in school forever)?

Leave your pristine advice in the comments, or drop me an email ( schraubd *A*T* carleton *D*O*T* edu ). And thanks in advance.

Indiana Jones as Nietzchean Drama

It's a slow day today, so I thought I'd just throw this one out.

In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the climatic scene has Indy and the evil Thuggie cult leader, and a bunch of his cultist hanging from a cut bridge. As they all climb up the bridge, they throw off the people above them in their way. The cult leader actually deliberately throws off his cultists in an attempt to knock Indy off the bridge and into the alligator infested gorge below.

Is this not a perfect analogue to Nietzche's tightrope metaphor in Thus Spoke Zarathustra? That man must cross the bridge to be the overman, overthrowing all the weak men in his way? And that the weaker men are sacrifices to the pursuit of the overman (much like the cultists are sacrificed to get to the top of the bridge and to safety)? If I made that analogy in my Post-Modern Political Thought class, would I not be really insightful (as opposed to just crazy)?

All I know is that while everybody else was comparing Nietzche to Plato and Socrates, I'm like "no, the real story here is what happens in Indiana Jones." Can somebody say seminar paper?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Democratizing Germany

Germany (and its post-war compatriot, Japan) is my favored example when folks lecture me that democracy can not be established during a military occupation, or in a post-war environment, or all the other arguments that swirl around the general contention that THE IRAQ WAR WAS DOOMED FROM THE START AND THERE WAS NOTHING WE COULD HAVE EVER DONE!!!! I mean, it seems rather self-evident that it is, in fact, quite possible to democratize in the wake of war, and it failures to do so are probably due to specific contextual failures rather than with some notion that exporting democracy militarily is inherently flawed.

Anyway, Ilya Somin, guest-blogging at the VC, has an interesting post buttressing the German example and arguing that German history did not make it specially prone to democratic change.
Many critics of efforts to promote democracy in the Muslim world claim that the successful occupation of Germany after WWII is not a relevant precedent because postwar Germans, unlike modern Arabs and Afghanis, supposedly had a strong cultural affinity for liberal democracy. As one of my commenters put it, Germany was "the land of Kant" and therefore (it is implied) highly receptive to liberalism and democracy. This claim is largely a myth.

The truth is that Hitler and Goebbels were much more reflective of German opinion in the immediate post-WWII years than Kant. According to a series of surveys conducted by the US occupation authorities in 1951-52, 41% of West Germans saw "more good than evil" in Nazi ideas, compared to only 36% who said the opposite. In a 1949 survey, 59% of West Germans said that National Socialism was a "good idea badly carried out," compared to only 30% who said that it was wrong. 63% in a 1952 poll said that German generals held on war crimes charges were innocent and only 9% said that they were guilty. Well into the 1950s, large numbers of Germans rejected liberal democracy and expressed sympathy for various forms of authoritarianism. By the time the 1951-52 surveys, were conducted, West Germany had been occupied by the Allies for 6 years, and had had its own democratic government since 1949. Thus, German support for authoritarianism and even for many aspects of Nazism was quite deeply rooted. For these and other survey data from postwar Germany, see Anna J. Merritt & Richard L. Merritt, Public Opinion in Semisovereign Germany (1980).

Indeed, Iraqi and Afghan opinion today is probably more pro-democracy than German opinion in the 1940s and early 50s. For example, a December survey shows 57% of Iraqis expressing support for a democratic form of government, compared to 14% who endorse an "Islamic state" and 26% who support "a single strong leader."

If it worked then, it can work now. The belief that Germany (just because it's European?) was inherently more receptive to the democratic ideology is demeaning to non-white people around the world, who are presented as too primitive or backwards to even have a hope of grasping the abstract ideal of a free and liberal state. And I don't even know how these people even deal with Japan, which underwent a similar militarily-induced transformation from autocracy to democracy without even the concocted "crutch" of being White.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cruel But Accurate?

I'm really not enough of a McCain follower to know if this is true or not, but I laughed out loud when I read it. So, is it true that he's "never seen a war he didn't want to start"?

H/T: Publius, who defends McCain from charges that he's sold his soul for the Presidency. He reminds us that when the baseline is George Allen or Sam Brownback, he looks pretty good.

Speaking of Brownback, while I still give props for his human rights advocacy, lets not forget that he remains insane on the mythical "war on Christians".

Wednesday Song Lyrics

Yesterday was a travel day--sorry for not warning you. Anyway, here are some song lyrics that always make me, Mr. Otherization Analysis himself, smile everytime (it's a good song too):
Despite that he saw blatant similarity
He struggled to find a distinctive moiety
All he found was vulgar superficiality
But he focused it to sharpness
And shared it with the others
It signified his anger and misery

Them and us
Lobbying determined through a mire of disbelievers
Them and us
Dire perpetuation and incongruous insistence
That there really is a difference
Between them and us

Hate is a simple manifestation
Of the deep-seated self-directed frustration
All it does is promote fear and constrenation
It's the inability
To justify the enemy
And it fills us all with trepidation

Them and us
Bending the significance to match a whimsied fable
Them and us
Tumult for the ignorant and purpose for the violence
A confused loose alliance forming
Them and us

--Them and Us, Bad Religion--

Monday, March 27, 2006

We'd Like To Compliment You On Your Awesome Principles That We're Trying To Undermine

The Family Research Council cites and lauds Jefferson and Madison's work in the Virginia state legislature and US congress as proof that in America, religious freedom was absolutely crucial from the start. They offer this up in contrast to Afghanistan, where Condi Rice tried to explain the near-execution of a Christian convert by noting they were a "young democracy." How much Madison and Jefferson's work translated from parchment to practice is difficult to ascertain, but the point is well taken--these two founding fathers made sure to protect religious liberty even at the most fragile point in our nation's history.

However, it is important to remember that Madison and Jefferson were both staunch church/state separationists. This was a principle they took very seriously, and it is embodied in both the texts the FRC cites (the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom of 1786 and the 1st Amendment). Jefferson himself was the author of that much-detested (by the FRC) phrase, "wall of separation between church and state." Jefferson and Madison led the charge against public funding for religion in any respect whatsoever, and were adamant that the union of church and state tends to destroy and degrade both. The FRC takes precisely the opposite stance, urging ever-more integration between religion and the government. The end result is that either religion will become the vassal of the state, or the state will become the vassal of religion--and I'm not sure which is scarier.

Jefferson and Madison's contribution to protecting religion in America was absolutely noble, but it is a legacy that the FRC has consistently opposed in its political and rhetorical advocacy. To claim it as one of the crucial aspects of American democracy is definitely true, but incredibly ironic.

Interdepartmental Warfare

This is how feuds start.

First, we have a spat brewing at Rutgers-Camden Law School over affirmative action in their hiring process. Professor Michael Livingston wrote a blistering attack claiming that Affirmative Action lowers the quality of new hires, gives free passes to "can't lose" minority profs who don't meet normal tenure requirements, and reduces civility at the law school. The last point is warranted by Livingston's claim that:
Because everyone knows that the people other than the best candidates are being selected, but in the nature of things cannot really say so, they tend to develop a habit of dishonesty and "wink-nod" compromises that is extremely difficult to limit to this one area. The entire trust and honesty that characterize academic exchange accordingly tends to atrophy in very short order.

Briefly, I'd like to point out the premise that "everyone knows" these people aren't the best hires is hardly self-evident (see below), and even if he is right that there is some incivility flowing from minority professors attacking other members of the department over the diversity issue, it's no more uncivil than the blanket attack that Livingston makes against this entire group's qualification set. I'm beginning to understand what folks were talking about when they told me how the call for civility acts as tool to suppress minorities defending themselves from majority attacks. The double standard is palpable.

But I digress. The really interesting thing was Imani Perry's email response to Livingston (reprinted at BlackProf). Perry is a black female professor at Rutgers-Camden, and she was a bit perturbed at some of Livingston's insinuations:
[M]y ten publications, coming back to work five weeks after giving birth (by c-section) and three advanced degrees are all certainly signs to our community and the world at large of Rutgers' lowered standards. And the illustrious backgrounds, high level of scholarship, and exemplary faculty citizenship of our aforementioned [minority] colleagues raise serious questions about the legitimacy of their candidacies as well. I know, you said, the issue is not whether we are actually "good enough" but rather that the school would/could have done so much better if it had sought "the best" instead of "the black." Shame on the institution for including racial diversity in its vision of excellence! (Is my facetiousness clear enough?) Incidentally, are you confident that you were objectively the "best" that Rutgers could have hired during your year on the market, or that unconscious racial and gender preferences didn't play a role in your candidacy? I doubt that you or anyone else in your position can be.

Game, set and match. But the irony is that Livingston can go and take this email, and use it to buttress his "incivility" cry. I think that would be complete crap, since he was obviously the provocateur. But it still can happen, and its still wildly unfair.

Oh, and for the record, I'd just like to compare the Livingston's resume to Perry's. Livingston attended Cornell undergrad and got his law degree from Yale. He published a casebook on Tax Law in 2004, has another book in progress, and has published several articles in prestigious law journals (none, however, was listed as being more recent than 1998). Very impressive, to be sure. Perry attended Yale undergraduate, and received both a Ph.D and a J.D. from Harvard University. She hasn't been teaching as long as Livingston, so it's difficult to compare publications, but she has one book out already, and five articles forthcoming this year. Also a stellar resume.

Can anybody fairly say that Livingston was "clearly" a better hire? Perry is already matching him pound-for-pound in scholarly output, and in terms of pre-hire qualifications I have to give Yale/Harvard/Harvard the edge over Cornell/Yale. Who's really got the built-in advantage, then?

On the other side let's look at an unrelated beef from the right. A prominent Baylor University Professor, Francis Beckwith, has been denied tenure. His supporters are aghast, and to be fair, his c.v. looks pretty damn impressive. The American Spectator comments, as does Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, who suspects this case will reverberate nationally. Southern Appeal (where Beckwith co-blogs) has been all over this story, and they all seem convinced that Beckwith was targeted for being an unabashedly evangelical, conservative, pro-life scholar. Ed Brayson, by contrast, attributes it to intra-Baptist and intra-University politics (Baylor is a Baptist school), not to a specific animus against conservatives (its important to note that Brayson, who disagrees with Beckwith on many key issues, is also appalled by the denial). Either way, it's a shame. Beckwith's resume seems almost unimpeachable, with overwhelmingly positive student reviews to match.

Interdepartmental politics--be they powered by political, racial, religious, or personal agenda--are scary things. I don't relish having to navigate them when I enter the job market.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

No Way Out

There is an interesting post by Adrian Wing regarding how Black men are portrayed in the media. Basically, she argues that with a few exceptions (Barack Obama) and outside a few select categories (entertainers and athletes), there are very few positive portrayals of Black men getting out to society writ large. She admits that the media craves scandal and trouble (that's what's "newsworthy" after all), and thus has little incentive to give Black success stories page room. But she argues that this is having tremendous negative effects on the Black community--especially the "success stories" who are under tremendous pressure to be a "role model" for other young Black men. She claims that these men statistically die earlier than any other group in the population--a shocking claim if true--due to the stress and weight put upon them (strokes and heart attacks get to them more than street violence).

All well taken. But I wonder if newspapers and other media outlets are being put in a double bind. I recognize that the excessively negative portrayals of black men have ill effects (Beyond what Wing talks about, see the works of Jerry Kang). But in a way, I think the media fears that running stories on model minorities will yield just the same type of backlash. For example, it could perpetuate the stress of being everybody's token role model. Or alternatively, they could be accused of glossing over the problem, ignoring the plight of the inner-city and poorer Blacks who really need our assistance and letting White America pat itself on the back and tell themselves that being Black is not, in fact, a barrier to success. And even if they ask these successful Blacks to explicitly talk about how racism still affects them, it still might not solve for this. First, they might not be willing to articulate it, either because a) they really don't think they feel it or b) they don't want to seem whiny or piss off their white friends by seeming ungrateful. This is especially likely to occur because of the obsession with "balance" in journalism--the story almost definitely will include some successful black saying how racism is not a big player in his life to counter-act the one explaining how it does. But even if they do talk about it, White America will discount it, because they'll see all these trappings of wealth and refuse to believe that these people could seriously be facing marginalization. Whites tend to define racism out to its extreme, so if someone isn't being lynched or enslaved, racism isn't happening. That isn't true, of course, but nevertheless it remains the dominant perception and will be a prevailing response to such an article.

I want to clarify, I'm not really taking a position on whether or not the media should, in fact, pursue these stories to a higher degree than what they're doing now. In fact, while some of the above objections are reasonable, I think all in all it'd probably be better if such ads were run. Rather, what I'm arguing is that its at least plausible that a different branch of the Black left would critique them for running the articles based on the objections I made. At the point, newspapers would feel like they're in a no win situation on the topic. And if they indeed have that perception--that they're going to be slammed by some segment of the black community no matter what they do--that could explain the dearth of the articles Wing would like to see.

Done With Debate

Well, the tournament is over--for Carleton at least. My team went 3-5 (3 of those losses were clear, 1 was a muddy round, 1 I think we got shafted). We had another team go 3-5, one more that went (I think) 2-6, and one team get disqualified mid-way through because of a miscommunication. Yeah, they were pissed. The tournament was kind of a catastrophe.

It was still a good learning experience though (especially considering few of us had much national circuit tournament exposure prior to this), and it gave me loads of ideas on what to work on with my team come next year (where I'll be shifting from debating to coaching for the most part). Topicality shells, Counterplan/DA structure, coverage, and argument selection are the biggies for us.

Anyway, the season is over, and I've got a free day and a half before I fly back to Minnesota. I'll be using it predominantly to relax and unwind, and probably blog as well.

Enjoy the rest of your "spring break" (if that's where you're at in the year)!