Saturday, April 08, 2006

An Empathic Approximating Experience of My Own

Rachel Sullivan has a great post up (here/here) about lynching and White empathy for the victims. One of the more interesting things she mentions is how Whites might learn how to empathize with Blacks on the subject of racism. She quotes a book by Hernan Vera, Joe Feagin, and Pinar Batur, White Racism: The Basics (themselves quoting Tiffany Hogan and Julie Netzer) on what they call "approximating experiences." They identify three ways this can happen:
(1) "Borrowed approximations," relying on stories that blacks tell to make sense of black experience; (2) "global approximations," relying on general humanism and values of fairness to relate to black oppression; and (3) "overlapping approximations," relying on aspects of their own oppression to make sense of similar black experience. (232)

I think this makes excellent sense, and is a crucial tactic we should utilize more often. Rachel continues, arguing that:
Rather than focusing on our own views and experiences, we need to step outside of our perspectives and try to develop the approximating experiences that challenge the apathy indifference that racism creates.

I left a comment contesting that this was precisely what Feagin, Vera, and Batur had in mind:
I think it's really important to look at the story's of other people, especially minorities, but I think that "develop[ing] the approximating experiences" is something that occurs inside our perspectives, not by stepping outside of them. Feagin and Vera seem to agree; their three methods of developing these experiences are "relying on stories that people of color tell about their experiences, relying on general humanistic values, and relying on aspects of their own oppression." The first one requires the stepping outside, but the second and third both require deeper engagement with one's own self and personal perspective. So I'd argue that if approximating experiences are what we want, then we need to encourage more storytelling by Whites qua Whites, not only so we can learn from them, but so they can learn from themselves and create these commonalities that link their own experience to that of their fellow human beings.

But irregardless, I found the post fascinating, and the Vera/Feagin/Batur formulation interesting, so I decided to go check out the book.

Here's where things got fun. I was browsing through the stacks for the book, and my eye catches on a slim, brown volume nestled between two examinations of White racism. It's called "The Jewish Onslaught." Disturbed, I force my eyes away, and keep looking for the book I want--which I soon find only a few steps away. I pluck it off the shelves, and set it down. Then, I scan for other potentially helpful books in the same area (I've rapidly discovered that this is a great way for finding useful materials I'd otherwise never have seen). But I'm drawn inexorably back to "The Jewish Onslaught." It's at the very top of the shelf--I reach up to grab it, but my hand slips, and as I fumble it falls to the ground with a loud clatter. Embarassed, I pick it up and open it. The author is one Tony Martin, a Professor in African-American studies at Wellesley College (no fringe figure, then). The book was published in 1993, apparently as a defense to a furious Jewish response to a prior book, The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews. I started reading. Allow me to share some of the rhetoric found in just the first chapter.

The title of the screed, "the Jewish onslaught" (it gives me chills everytime I read it) is repeated throughout. He slurs Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as "African America's most notorious Judaeophile" (3). He refers to "the last three decades of Jewish assaults on Black progress" (4). And again: "Hillel chapters have become the campus-based shock troops in the ongoing Jewish onslaught against Black progress (5). When Jewish organizations criticized him "in the midst of one of their highest holy celebrations" (I'm guessing this was between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but it's left unclear), he mockingly notes this "matter was of such extreme urgency and to override their religious scruples" (9), as if Jewish law prohibits responding to threats when there is praying to do (it doesn't). He derisively refers to the "hackneyed allegation of 'anti-Semitism'" (9). He argues that the relative lack of non-Jewish protest against him proves that this is just the "Jewish ability to make a lot of 'noise' and fill the media with their lies" (10). The inevitable comparison of Jews to Nazis first shows up on page 11. He refers to "organized Jewry's campaigns against those the would wish to destroy" (12). "[A]ll the dirty Jewish tricks" he writes constitute a "textbook case study of organized Jewish intimidation (12)."

The purpose of mentioning this book is not to launch into some claim about how Black leftists are anti-Semitic (for the very simple reason that this would be a moronic claim to make). Rather, I just appreciate the irony of finding my own "empathic approximating experience" in the process of researching "empathic approximating experiences." I'm nearly positive I've read stories about Black professors who, searching through the stacks for some research (perhaps looking for a historical document on American race relations) spots upon a book with a title like Are Blacks Human? or something of the like. It's a constant reminder of subordinate status, a weight that can be ignored but never completely lifted. I've seen books like Professor Martin's before, but my finding it sitting along side all the other books in the "anti-racism" section of the library, while searching for a book to aid in my fight against racism, made this one hit more powerfully than any of its predecessors.

In the next edition of The Lens, you should find my article "Reforging the Sword That Was Broken: The Revival of the Jewish/Black Relationship." And if you look inside your local library, you should be able to find a copy of Jews and Blacks: Let The Healing Begin by Cornel West and Michael Lerner. The efforts of soul-crushers like Martin cannot stop us from rebuilding the alliance between Jews and Blacks. My Jewish identity is not something I need to overcome to participate in anti-racism practice, it is a crucial part of what motivates me to join the struggle. Now, more than ever, Jews and Blacks need to join together in the fight for mutual human dignity. And the best way I can spit in Dr. Martin's eye is to prove that combining Jewish values and Black values will create a human whirlwind that will permanently banish haters like him to the fringes of the public sphere, where he belongs.

It's The Freakin' Weekend

It's the weekend, and boy did I need one. From sending a rough draft of my article to a Boalt Hall Dean, to getting hired as a research assistant for the summer, it's been one great, if tiresome, week. For my research duties, my Philosophy overlord professor/supervisor basically assigned me stuff she knew I'd be interested in finding on my own. Specifically, she wants to look up the reactions of White southern newspapers to pre-Brown Supreme Court decisions. The specific foil is a claim made by another philosophy professor that essentially went "I grew up in the Jim Crow south: my dad was racist, my mom was racist, my minister was racist, there was nothing on my perceptual horizon that even suggested that racism could be wrong." She's skeptical, and wants me to see if the coverage was so one-sided as to buttress the claim. Really interesting stuff.

In addition to searching for newspaper archives, I'm thinking of starting with Michael J. Klarman's From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality, an article Eric Muller is working on regarding "Judging our Ancestors," and the work of Derrick Bell. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Timmy Is Angry

Balloon Juice co-blogger Tim F. has two brutal posts up today. The first, Baby Steps to Authoritarianism points out that the Bush administration has yet to rule out any warrantless wiretapping technique, including domestic-to-domestic calls.
Question: is there anything that Gonzales has explicitly ruled out? Extralegal executions? Heh heh, trick question. Even if Gonzales does categorically rule something out he can always clarify his answer later. Senate testimony will go on meaning diddly-squat until the Republican Senate stops giving fellatio and calling it oversight.

"Clarify" I think deserves to be in quotation marks.

The second post is on the breaking news that Bush authorized the leaking of the Plame memos even as his office was decrying leaks. The legal issues are complex, but ultimately irrelevant, because in the court of public opinion, it shows Bush to be a flip-flopping hypocrite who used national security documents to further his personal political agenda. Remember McClellan's famous ultimatum: "[I]f anyone in this administration was involved in it [the Plame leak], they would no longer be in this administration."

Looks like a bunch of resignations should be coming.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

We'll Deal With It When It Happens

Whenever I or other liberals claim that racism and racist policies are relatively prevalent in contemporary America, conservatives claim that a) we're lying, but b) even if it's true, then we can address them when they happen. There's no need to create all these "special rights" and enforcement agencies and pre-clearances for such a minor problem.

"We'll enforce the laws when they're broken" has theoretical problems in its own right, but let's take a step back here. Because when you come down to it, we, um, don't.

UNC Law Professor Eric Muller has spectacular post on a 1996 Supreme Court case called U.S. v. Armstrong, which significantly raised the bar for when a defendant can force the government to turn over evidence pointing to racism in its practices.
The defendants in the Armstrong case had come forward with some evidence -- not a ton, but some -- that the US Attorney in Los Angeles was singling out blacks for crack cocaine prosecutions in federal court. It was enough evidence to persuade the federal trial judge to allow the defendants discovery of some material in the prosecutor's files and records. But the Supreme Court shut that discovery down, pooh-poohing the evidence of racial discrimination that the defendants had managed to come up with and setting an absurdly high burden of proof for defendants trying to prove discriminatory prosecution.

Muller then links to a similar case currently moving through Georgia courts. Relying on Armstrong, the Court denied the defendant's request for discovery into the Prosecutor's motives. So the ACLU sprung for the $60,000 necessary to fund the study privately. Here's what they found:
"Of 629 convenience stores in the six-county area in the sting, 80 percent are owned or operated by whites, according to the A.C.L.U.'s court filing, but fewer than 1 percent of the stores in the sting are white-owned or operated. The filing said the clerk at the only white-operated store was known widely as a methamphetamine addict whose husband was in prison for making the drug. None of the Indians charged are accused of using or making methamphetamine."

This is just a mind-blowing disparity that seems to be prima facia proof of racist intent. But because of Armstrong, there was no legal right to this information, it never would have come out if it weren't for the ACLU offering its resources. As Muller notes, most poor defendants don't have groups willing to throw $60,000 at their plight. Because our legal system pretends that racism is a smaller problem than it is, it virtually guarantees that the very real racist practices and policies in our criminal justice system will continue unchecked by law. Hence, even "when it happens," we don't "deal with it", we just figure out new ways of rationalizing it.

Level Up!

PG over at Half the Sins of Mankind has taught me the Strike out ability how to use "Strike Out" font. I will now become obsessed with my new toy a better blogger for it.

Thanks PG!

Law in the Cultural Mind

In the context of a book on the law of Star Trek, VC-guest blogger Ilya Somin comments that such projects, while perhaps entertaining, "won't help law professors overcome the invidious stereotype that we are a bunch of nerds who have no life," and wonders "if this is the most productive possible use of academic research effort."

While I understand the visceral "this is juvenile" reaction, I think there are interesting insights that such work can provide. I can't comment on Star Trek, because I've really never seen the show. But I can talk about Harry Potter. And (thanks to Volokh, as it turns out) I've read a very interesting article on law and Harry Potter, entitled: Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy [Benjamin H. Barton, 104 Mich. L. Rev. __ (forthcoming May 2006)]. It's not just that they're fun to read and offer interesting new perspectives on cultural icons [debater sidenote: rumor has it that there are "Consult the Ministry of Magic" counterplans floating around the debate world. The Barton articles forms the basis of my counter-attack to such CPs--arguing basically that the MoM is an oppressive dictatorship that censors the press, tortures children, executes people without trials, holds trials (again for juveniles) without representation, has no known democratic accountability, and has blatantly institutional corruption and influence-peddling]. They also teach us about how we view our own society.

Recall that in Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, the author is creating her own world with essentially a blank slate. She could, if she wanted, do anything. But she is constrained by two major factors: a) her own imagination and b) popular prejudices, what she feels the public can conceptualize while still finding the novel accessible. It's a fine line between "alien and evocative" and "totally unrecognizable/insane." The best authors land just on the right side of that line. So, looking at these novels can inform us of our cultural horizons--what simply has to be there for us to even recognize a government as a government, a judicial system as a judicial system, a society as a society, et al. For example, J.K. Rowling still uses the language of government in her book ("Ministry of Magic"), but there is no real talk of democratic accountability or a parliament--it appears to be a technocracy. But correctly surmising that most readers couldn't really grasp the idea of a shadowy guild running a modern European country without even pretending to be a state, she uses governmental rhetoric even thought that isn't really descriptive of what's going on in the books.

Furthermore, I'd argue that even beyond the issue of horizons, analysis of law and other such things in the popular realm can be a canary for how the people view law (an entity that, remember, most people only have a vague grasp of). Barton argues that Rowling's depiction of government in HP is a plea for libertarianism--the sometimes incompetent/sometimes oppressive government is nearly always placed in opposition to the heroic, rule-breaking individuals. Obviously, I don't think that HP will cause a massive libertarian brain-washing amongst its readers. Nor do I think people are buying HP because they are pre-disposed to libertarianism. But I do think that the fact that so many people are buying these books shows that they find the metanarrative contained within recognizable and not viscerally objectionable--it isn't beyond their consciousness. If we accept that analysis, then figuring out these books are saying becomes vital--it offers compelling insights into the national psyche and predictions about where law (or at least the popular conceptions thereof) might be going.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"Right" and Wrong in Affirmative Action Debates

It's not often that I really disagree hard core with the folks at BlackProf. Sure, we have our quibbles, but for the most part I feel like I'm in line with their intellectual and social mission.

This post, however, from guest-blogger Terry Smith, I must register my strident dissent from. Basically, the thesis is that often times, "Affirmative Action" hires aren't the type of minority progressives and radicals representative of the community of color at large, but rather are persons who are rather apolitical about race, or even (gasp) political conservatives. This, we can't have:
Attend a regional People of Color Legal Scholarship conference and you will not fail to hear the side chatter about racial betrayal-the white who expediently emphasized his Spanish surname when applying for a teaching job, then had nothing to do with people of color once in the academy; the black "conservative" who used race as his distinction to enter the academy but for whom race is now irrelevant; the "raceless" Asian whose ethnicity is taken into account for diversity purposes, but whose a-politicism is perceived as an inherent characteristic of a model minority.

The exchange between my two colleagues and the conversations at these conferences raise hard, discomforting questions about diversity and affirmative action. What is the value of a Spanish surname? Does the black conservative provide a type of intellectual diversity even if he has relied on his race as the active agent in his mobility? If so, why should the academy have an especial interest in black conservatives, given the under-representation--relative to the general population--of black progressives and radicals? Finally, if race and ethnicity are unimportant to a candidate personally, why should the academy--or any employer--count them as attributes in the hiring process?

First, note the rhetoric here: "race betrayal." I leave it without comment, only to say that I for one find such language to be quite frightening regardless of the source.

Second, I think the attack echoes eerily of the conservative "diversity of the crayon box" response to Affirmative Action--with all the implications. Conservatives use this to undermine the credibility of any disfavored minority professor. Smith, for his part, displays this same hostility to minority conservatives--they're only there to provide checkbox diversity, but they aren't actually offering anything of value to the university (or, at least, aren't offering optimal value--which is the same dodge conservatives use to get out of explicitly saying minority profs are underqualified).

Third, I'm not sure about the "under-representation" point as it applies internally to the Black community. That is, I know that there are disproportionately fewer Black professors than there should be given the Black population. But, within the subgroup, are minority progressives and radicals over- or under-represented compared to minority conservatives? This, at best, is an open question.

Fourth, I'm rather surprised that Smith seems to feel that the race and ethnicity of a minority candidate--any minority candidate--can be so easily boxed off and put away. One of the major premises of the CRT movement is that this analysis is unavoidable and that affirmative action serves as a check against internalized racism. Moreover, Smith gives little proof that these minorities are deliberately playing on their race to get their position--since most minority conservatives claim to oppose affirmative action, I think they would say they got their position (or that they hope they would get their position) without its benefits. Minority professors get justifiably angry when people say "you wouldn't have gotten hired if it weren't for affirmative action." Is the same not true for minority conservatives?

Smith continues to dig the hole yet deeper:
The frustration of a senior black professor at an elite law school underscores the point. She complained to a friend that her institution hired a black candidate for a tenure-track position. This decision by a premiere institution, one would expect, should have elated her. But she noted that she had not even been consulted about the hire, a slight in her eyes. Moreover, she feared that, left to its own devices, her institution had selected a black candidate whose own identification with blacks as a collective people was unclear at best and who would probably have few or no relations with black students. Although she fumed privately, the senior black scholar did not suggest that she might make a public issue of the matter. Instead, hers was the voice of resignation, a concession that if her institution was to hire people of color at all, they would fit the profile of the black they had just hired.

Minority scholars' quest to save affirmative action will be pyrrhic if the end-result is this kind of check-box, bean-counting affirmative action. We have as much right, ability and vision to define for our institutions what affirmative action should be as do the institutions themselves. Some of our prescriptions are certainly not without complication and risk. For instance, in questioning the authenticity of a minority candidate, are we insisting on an essentialism among people of color that requires uniformity of thought and politics that is itself inconsistent with academic freedom? Would our opposition to inauthentic minority candidates simply leave us with the arguably greater evil of fewer people of color in the academy? Is this a preferable result?

I'm a bit surprised at the "gatekeeper" mentality this professor had about her role in the university: "there is no way through the gates of the university but through me." Especially when we talk in such vague terms like "authentic," the prospect that such a world would lead to "an essentialism among people of color that requires uniformity of thought and politics" is not just a risk but a virtual certainty. The rhetoric itself is what's doing the essentializing--I'm relatively confident that Clarence Thomas would object strenuously if someone declared that he was not "authentically" Black. This language of authenticity is a mere dressing up of "who's a normal and who's an outsider, and the marginalizing effect is unavoidable.

Furthermore, the undertones of absolute authority within one's own fiefdom are extremely disturbing to me. From how the story was presented, it appears this professor did not know one way or the other if the new minority hire would establish links into his or her community--she just assumed that "left to its own devices," the academic establishment wouldn't hire such a person. But that isn't an assumption we can just fiat into existence. If she was just acknowledging the risk, that would be one thing, but she seems to be already resigned that her prediction is the reality. Smith signs onto this presupposition at the end of his description: "if her institution was to hire people of color at all, they would fit the profile of the black they had just hired," a profile which we technically don't even know about. "Defining your own reality" is all well and good, but shouldn't this new professor get a chance to define hers without having to get it validated first?

Put bluntly, while an external group should give significant leeway for a minority group to undertake its own affairs, that leeway shouldn't extend to permitting exclusivist policies targeted at internal subminorities. This is not a place where deference is due. As I wrote in a previous post:
Acting as if this was just folks debating ("free speech"?) blinds us to the realities of power and forces us to pretend that Blacks do all agree on the terms and conditions regarding opposition to racism--and moreover, we have to play that role by accepting the very controversy that is under dispute--that black leftists are "right" in how they frame the racism debate and the conservatives are "wrong."

Conservative minorities aren't irrational loons who need to be cooped up lest they scare the children. They have a story too, and it's vital that we hear it. The university system has no obligation to abet their marginalization.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Okay, I'm Beginning to Love Feingold

Feingold's co-sponsorship of the Darfur intervention bill has already made me forgive his past indiscretions regarding the Balkans (I know I have the link somewhere, but for the life of me I can't find it! Consider this my repudiation, then). And his principled, unapologetic defense of gay marraige is a sight for sore eyes. I don't think he'll be the candidate in 2008. But America would certainly be well served if he could be elected President (H/T: Shakespeare's Sister).

On the Edge of The Abyss

So, while Ron Paul gets pretty much everything wrong on immigration, Fareed Zakaria nails it spot on:
Many Americans have become enamored of the European approach to immigration -- perhaps without realizing it. Guest workers, penalties, sanctions and deportation are all a part of Europe's mode of dealing with immigrants. The results of this approach have been on display recently in France, where rioting migrant youths again burned cars last week. Across Europe one sees disaffected, alienated immigrants, ripe for radicalism. The immigrant communities deserve their fair share of blame for this, but there's a cycle at work. European societies exclude the immigrants, who become alienated and reject their societies.

One puzzle about post-Sept. 11 America is that it has not had a subsequent terror attack -- not even a small backpack bomb in a movie theater -- while there have been dozens in Europe. My own explanation is that American immigrant communities, even Arab and Muslim ones, are not very radicalized. (Even if such an attack does take place, the fact that 4 1/2 years have gone by without one provides some proof of this contention.) Compared with every other country in the world, America does immigration superbly. Do we really want to junk that for the French approach?

The United States has a real problem with flows of illegal immigrants, largely from Mexico (70 percent of illegal immigrants are from that one country). But let us understand the forces at work here. "The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world," writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. That huge disparity is producing massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces -- think of drugs -- simply increasing enforcement does not work. Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work, it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand -- that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal immigrant pool.

Ching Ching Ching. We have a winner. Aside from the perfect taunt on the issue ("Come on, do you really want to be French?"), Zakaria is absolutely right on the merits. Aside from absolutely draconian measures, there is no way we can deal with the immigration issue that does not involve increased legalization. The right is right about one thing: half measures like guest-worker programs will not fix this.

But to be honest, this is what scares me most of all. Congress being what it is, it most likely will pass some sort of half measure to "deal with" the immigration problem. It will inevitably fail, and the chorus will go up for even more severe crackdowns on these communities (and, as we're seeing, their children as well). Kevin R. Johnson once argued that America's attitudes and policies towards immigrants were like a "magic mirror" reflecting how we would treat other minorities were it not for pesky barriers like Civil Rights laws and the 14th amendment. There is no doubt that this issue has unleashed something very ugly in the hearts of many US citizens. I see talk of turning the US/Mexico border into a firing range, hear folks casually discuss "rounding up and detaining" illegals (am I the only one who flinches each time I hear "round up and detain" used with respect to other human beings), read about a bill passing in the House that would make it a felony to feed the starving, clothe the naked, or house the homeless, and I fear for our country's humanity. Not that we're there yet, but where we are going? The guest-worker program will fail, and when it does, I know that the right will use its failure to provoke another backlash against the immigrant community. This one, I fear, will not be containable.

This is why we must make our stand now. Those immigrant protest were incredibly inspiring to me. The GOP was on the ropes, and they again went to their oldest card--dividing America along ethnic and racial lines. They wanted to wedge Democrats and distract the voters from Iraq, from healthcare, from Tom DeLay, from Jack Abramoff, from the NSA--from everything. So they targeted a powerless minority group, constructed a debate centered on villification. It was the perfect plan. Except, this time the minority group didn't take it lying down. They fought back. They stood up. They took to the streets and boldly asserted that they too were Americans, they too were people. By showing their faces, they became human, and what looked to be a walkover for the Republicans became a real fight. They mounted a tiger, and they can't get off. And the tiger is getting hungry.

This sort of push back was long overdue. Those people who the right marginalizes, dehumanizes, and villifies as less-than-human have to stand up for themselves. The immigrant community did it, and the GOP is now backed into a corner. Hopefully, this experience will make them pause before they try to divide again.

Living The "American" Dream

Texas Representative Ron Paul has a pretty standard "kick the immigrants out" piece. It's standard bad argumentation. He strawmans:
We're often reminded that America is a nation of immigrants, implying that we're coldhearted to restrict immigration in any way. But the new Americans reaching our shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s were legal immigrants. In many cases they had no chance of returning home again. They maintained their various ethnic and cultural identities, but they also learned English and embraced their new nationality.

That's true. The immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s were legal immigrants. The immigrants of the 1600s and 1700s, however, weren't. "Legality" isn't going to cover you here.

Again, most of this is pretty boilerplate, and you can get the responses anywhere on the web right now. But I do want to talk about this section:
Birthright citizenship similarly rewards lawbreaking, and must be stopped. As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the perverse incentive to sneak into this country remains strong. Citizenship involves more than the mere location of one's birth. True citizenship requires cultural connections and an allegiance to the United States. Americans are happy to welcome those who wish to come here and build a better life for themselves, but we rightfully expect immigrants to show loyalty and attempt to assimilate themselves culturally. Birthright citizenship sometimes confers the benefits of being American on people who do not truly embrace America.

For starters, the incentive isn't all that "perverse." Dreaming a better life for your children is "perverse" only to the perverted. Second, I have no idea what this "connection to America" point is all about. Surely, waving foreign flags doesn't obviate an American connection, does it (do you know how many Norwegian flags I see here in Minnesota?)? I really don't get the folks claiming that these protestors embrace their countries of origin instead of America. The fact that people are marching to stay here, to take part in the American dream, is pretty powerful proof that they "embrace" America--more so than many citizens from families with deep roots in America (including those whose ancestors came here "illegally" in the earliest days of European colonialization). If someone sees a march whose message is "cede Arizona back to Mexico," you let me know, but until then I think is pretty clear that these people wish to take part in America and our ideals. Third, why limit this to the children of illegals? If the problem is that location isn't enough, it's about ideology, why not test all children to see if they are sufficiently loyal to America? Won't that be fun? All those times that the right has called liberals unamerican--it wasn't just an ad hominem, it was a setup to strip them of their citizenship! We disagree on many aspects of what the American ideal is, but one thing I think is uncontested: America is a place where families should be able to work to improve the lives of themselves and their children. I dare you to test the immigrant community--legal or not--on their commitment to that ideal. Finally, stripping of birthright citizenship runs into the not-quite-minor problem of the 14th amendment, which reads in relevant part "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." Children born of illegals are "born in the United States", and they are without question "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" (that's why we can prosecute them for crimes), hence, they are citizens. There isn't any way around that. Southern Appeal says there is a "debate" over whether the "such a change would require a constitutional amendment or simply a return to the pre-1900 Supreme Court understanding of birthright citizenship." With all due respect to my originalist friends, if the pre-1900 Supreme Court read the preceding clause in such a way as to preclude children-of-illegals being regarding as citizens, then that only shows those venerable old men to be illiterate. It does not change the plain meaning of the text.

People who want to move to America are not "perverse." They are not invaders. They are not terrorists. They are our greatest asset. I tremble for the day where America is not the destination of choice for those dreaming of a better life. That will be the day I know the sun has set on America's moral dominance. But we'll be locked so tight in our little castle, we might hardly even notice.

UPDATE: This post has what is effectively a part two.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sunshine Into The Heart of Darkness

Tom DeLay is done. Finished. Caput. "Retiring" from Congress. And it is beautiful. I can even express how happy I am.

Back when the Grand Jury first indicted old Tommie, a group of friends hosted a "Tom DeLay party." Basically, we wrote him little letters to commemorate the occassion. Stuff like:
Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
A Texas Grand Jury
Just Indicted You!

Ah, it was grand. But seeing him out of office, it's just that much sweeter.

Time Magazine has an exclusive interview on its website. It's pure gold. Some excerpts:
My main point was that this country was built on morals and religion. Our greatest leaders were very strong believers. There is a connection between religion and politics, and religion and government. There has to be for this country to have accomplished all it's accomplished and for its future. How many times have the great leaders--Ronald Reagan, Roosevelt, Lincoln, George Washington--have said there is a connection between morals and religion. And there has to be. The people that go to church understand that a country has to be based on some sort of religion and fear of God because they understand that.
If you know that we're all sinners, then you know that we have to work hard to have a moral foundation. So I felt very liberated in being able to say that. I didn't have to worry about being the spokesman for the Republican Party and all that kind of stuff.

Ah, American theocracy. I'm glad he feels "liberated" enough to call for that. James Madison would be rolling in his grave, but he wrote that pesky bill of rights, so screw him. Meanwhile, I'm just loving the expressed need for "fear" in our polity. Can someone cue Grand Moff Tarkin here? "Fear will keep them in line."
Christine DeLay [on the media not covering DeLay's work for foster homes]: [T]hey're scared to death it might make that Tom DeLay look like he could be part human.

Hey, y'all are the ones always screeching about the media needing to be more objective. Sometimes the truth hurts.
DeLay: Abortion on demand is still in this country, and I want to end abortion as we know it.

TIME: What would be the mechanism for doing that?

DeLay: I don't know. All I know is that's what my world view is.

Well that lays it bare doesn't it? A plan, Mr. DeLay, give us a plan. To be clear, he doesn't have one because he doesn't actually care what happens to these women or these now-born children. That, more than anything else, shows the moral bankruptcy of DeLay and his allies. If you're going to radically change American society, you better damn well plan for those who you're ripping the ground out from under. But it's always been DeLay's policy to shoot first and blame the liberals later.
I want to get rid of this tax code and replace it with a fair tax--national sales tax. That would be a revolution in this country. We will return to an economic leader. It would cause people to move back to the United States in order to do business.

People do move to America in order to do business. They're known as immigrants--often illegal ones. Remember them? They're currently serving as pawns in a crass political maneuver that is in the process of blowing up in your face.

"When I was elected to Congress, I was a self-centered jerk."

"Was"? "Was"?!? Honey, you still got a ways to go on that sin.
TIME: In public life, have you ever committed a crime?

DeLay: No.

TIME: Have you ever done anything unethical?

DeLay: No.

Oh dear. I seem to recall you singing a different tune a few months back:
Mr. Hurt: Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fundraising?
Mr. DeLay: Ever is a very strong word.

So ends a sordid chapter in American politics. DeLay says that he wants to continue lobbying for conservative causes on the outside of Congress. Here's hoping he spends plenty of time in jail first.

The folks at Public Campaign Action Fund are celebrating--justifiably. Their original "Daily DeLay" blog helped get this ball rolling. So for tonight, I join them in merriment. Tommorow, it's back to the trenches.

Kudos for Kos

Andrew Sullivan is not a natural fan of Markos Moulitsas, head honcho at The Daily Kos. So when Sullivan gives praise to the uber-lefty blogger, I'm left curious about what's up.

The post is regarding immigration policies. And Kos is showing an advertisement featuring a waving Mexican flag. Whose campaign was it from?

The answer is Florida Governor Jeb Bush. And the voiceover is simply stirring.

It doesn't matter where we come from
Or why we come
We have found opportunity in this land
A better education for our children
The health care our families deserve
A state that has opened up its heart
And has told us, "This is our home"

JEB BUSH, (speaking to the camera in perfect Spanish):
We all want a better life
Together, we're making this all possible in this land
Our house (Nuestra casa)
Our home (Nuestro hogar)

Kos could have pivoted to a standard "look how hypocritical the Republicans are" bit. But he didn't. Instead, he simply wrote the following:
Not just a great ad, but a great homage to the immigrant culture. We can love this nation yet still love and honor the nations we came from. What else is St. Patrick's Day parade? How many Greek flags fly in Chicago's Greek Town? How many Italian flags in Boston's North End?

Not all Republicans are xenophobic haters. Many of them could learn a thing or two from Jeb Bush.

After reading some of the rabid hate that this issue has brought out on the right, it was wonderful to hear a Republican speak the words America needs to hear. And it was even more gratifying to hear a partisan Democrat endorse them.

When Brownback Isn't Enough

Let's say you're a voter who wants to restore "Christian" values to America. Sam Brownback's coddling of genocide victims and bleeding-heart statements of concern for North Korean human rights violation just make him too liberal for your tastes. Where do you go?

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee seems like a good bet. While Rob Anderson finds his poor knowledge of television evolution objectionable, I am more disgusted by his homophobic slap at Barney Frank ("we've seen our country go ... from Barney Fife to Barney Frank"). Homosexuals in Congress? Soon, they'll demanding that we treat them like humans!

All the extremism of Brownback, without any apparent concern for human rights abroad. What can you say--he fills a niche!

Definitely Better Than Them

Though I try to mostly read thoughtful (which, unfortunately, usually means centrist) blogs rather than wade around in the muck of the partisan blogosphere, I do admit every once in awhile I wander over to the harder stuff. And, since I lean left, my partisan indulgences tend to also represent the left edge of the spectrum as opposed to the right. Because of this skew, I'll occassionally stumble across some really nasty stuff from these folks, which I dutifully condemn as an insult to the progressive name. These are just front page posts--if I wandered into the comments section, I'm sure I'd find more.

Since I don't tend to read the hard-right conservative sites, I don't usually have parallel stories to tell, to show that this is a sin both sides engage in. So when someone comes out and says "this is all the liberals faults," I usually can't cite to a hard source to prove otherwise. And admittedly, in my darkest moments of self-doubt, I wonder: "Do they do it too?"

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. And the bile on the right makes even the worst offenders I've seen on major leftwing blogs look like the Care Bears. Sadly, No gives us this smattering from a LittleGreenFootballs post on immigration (H/T: Michael Froomkin):
It is past time for the US citizens to put an end, a complete end, to foreigners, many here illegally, coming into the US and then "demanding" that the US change to support their concepts of how the US should function.
These IDIOTS leave their country because they do not like it but now want the US to change. We need a new law. If foreigners protest a US law or policy, they are DEPORTED IMMEDIATELY.
If they are found to be illegals, they are branded.
If they are found in the US a second time, put them aboard a leaky WWII vessel and tow it into the middle of the Pacific and leave it there.
Create a bombing and straffing range along the US/spixico border. No warnings as to when it will be used and DO make use of it. Dropping a few thousand bombs and a few hundred thousand shells fired into the area will have a significant impact on these illegal spixicans crossing into the US.

Casual calls for slaughter, racial epithets, grouping both legal and illegal immigrants under the moniker "foreigner" and urging them all to be deported if they criticize any US policy (including, presumably, the one in which they get branded then towed out to drown). Makes me pine for the days where the worst bigotry I blogged on concerned Michelle Malkin's tits.

See also Neil Boortz calling US representative Cynthia McKinney a "ghetto slut". I should add that I detest Rep. McKinney. But my intense dislike for her politics doesn't rationalize vicious slurs such as this.

So when I plead for liberal bloggers to be better than "this" (referring to some racial or sexual attack), it should be clear that they remain better than this.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

For Better or For Worse

Andrew Sullivan links to an Egyptian cartoon contest protesting the Danish Mohammed cartoons. As he says, it's better than riots. On the other hand, the fact that at least three of the cartoons played off anti-Semitic themes kind of ruins the whole "tolerence" meme that these protests are pretending to play off of. Can somebody remind me what the Jews had to do with this controversy? Please?

You can see all of the cartoons published here.