Saturday, April 22, 2006

Drinking and Culpability

Of importance to the Duke rape case, Michelle Anderson points us to an interesting study about how alcohol affects people's perceptions of culpability in rape cases.
How will intoxication of the parties affect an assessment of blame? Studies on the issue are fascinating. In a 1982 study (Richardson & Campbell, The Effect of Alcohol on Attributions of Blame for Rape, 8 Per. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 468 (1982)), participants read a story about a college student raped at a party. Some students read a story in which the attacker was drunk and some read a story in which the victim was drunk. The male attacker was held less responsible for the rape when he was intoxicated than when he was sober. By contrast, the female victim was held more responsible when she was intoxicated than when she was sober.

In a 1997 study (Stormo et al., Attributions about Acquaintance Rape: The Role of Alcohol and Individual Differences, 27 J. Applied Soc. Psychol. 279 (1997)), participants assessed rape scenarios involving two college students who meet at an off-campus party. Students read stories that varied the level of alcohol consumption by the perpetrator and victim. The study indicated:
Results of the present investigation support and extend previous research indicating that intoxicated behavior differentially influences the degree to which responsibility and blame are attributed to the victim and perpetrator depicted in a rape scenario. Whereas the bottle may grant a pardon to the perpetrator, it tends to hold greater blame for the victim.

The study continued, "When portrayed as moderately or highly intoxicated, the victim was assigned significantly more responsibility/blame and the perpetrator significantly less." It noted, "At the same time, perpetrators were held less responsible and blamed less when portrayed as moderately or highly intoxicated."

Hence, his inebriation tends to taint her and exonerate him. Likewise, her inebriation tends to taint her and exonerate him. Boys will be boys. Girls had better not be drunken sluts.

The double standard has an exception, however. The 1997 study indicated that, if the victim was perceived as more inebriated than the perpetrator, he was perceived to be more blameworthy. "This suggests," researchers wrote, that participants "placed additional blame on the perpetrator when he seemed to be taking advantage of someone more incapacitated than he."

One thing that I wish the studies included (or maybe they did and Professor Anderson didn't include them) was if the gender of the study participants meaningfully impacted there response. Such data would definitely help refine some of the issues I raised in "Rape for the Perspective of its Victims."

But in spite of that, I think this sort of mentality is important to keep in mind as we evaluate the Duke case. The role of alcohol is definitely going to come up as the trial continues, and it's important that, when evaluating it as a factor, we do not do so in a discriminatory manner.


I stumbled across this while doing research for my Philosophy Professor overlord boss.

Chndran Kukathas, "Cultural Rights Again: A Rejoinder to Kymlica," Political Theory 20 (Nov. 1992): 674-680
In the early 1950s, social scientists began a comprehensive poll of Indian villages to determine how many were aware that British rule had ended in 1947. The survey was abandoned when it was discovered that most villagers did not know the British had arrived (680 n.1).

That tickles me.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Hate Speech Ruling Crits Were Waiting For

The 9th Circuit has just issued a 2-1 decision in Harper v. Poway Unified School District. The majority opinion (linked above) was by Stephen Reinhardt, Judge Alex Kozinski dissented here.

First, the facts. Stephen Harper is a student in the Poway Unified School District who, following the "National Day of Silence" in which gay and gay-friendly students refuse to talk in protest of discrimination and prejudice, wore an anti-gay t-shirt to school. Specifically, the shirt said "BE ASHAMED, OUR SCHOOL EMBRACED WHAT GOD HAS CONDEMNED" on the front, and "HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL" on the back. The school had experienced tensions between homosexual and homophobic students before, including several physical altercations in the previous year. It was also subject to a lawsuit by gay students complaining of a pervasive attitude of harassment that the school did not act meaningfully to stop (a jury agreed with the students). In this context, the school asked Harper to remove the t-shirt. When he refused, he spent the day in the principal's office but was not otherwise punished.

This opinion is sure to be controversial. And it should be--the case is undoubtedly a tough call. Schools are permitted far more latitude in regulating student speech than is the norm in American society--Harper's t-shirt would surely be permissible if he wore it on the street. There are several reasons for this, but they boil down to the fact that schools play very special roles in society. Ultimately, there goal is to provide an equal opportunity for education for all, and speech which runs counter to that goal is at least more likely to be within the school system's regulatory purview. The question is whether this restriction in this context is permissible. I think Judge Reinhardt makes several important points in favor on this point.

First, he musters impressive evidence on the very real impact such hostile speech has on the education of gay students:
Speech that attacks high school students who are members of minority groups that have historically been oppressed, subjected to verbal and physical abuse, and made to feel inferior, serves to injure and intimidate them, as well as to damage their sense of security and interfere with their opportunity to learn. The demeaning of young gay and lesbian students in a school environment is detrimental not only to their psychological health and well-being, but also to their educational development. Indeed, studies demonstrate that "academic underachievement, truancy, and dropout are prevalent among homosexual youth and are the probable consequences of violence and verbal and physical abuse at school." One study has found that among teenage victims of anti-gay discrimination, 75% experienced a decline in academic performance, 39% had truancy problems and 28% dropped out of school. Another study confirmed that gay students had difficulty concentrating in school and feared for their safety as a result of peer harassment, and that verbal abuse led some gay students to skip school and others to drop out altogether. Indeed, gay teens suffer a school dropout rate over three times the national average. In short, it is well established that attacks on students on the basis of their sexual orientation are harmful not only to the students' health and welfare, but also to their educational performance and their ultimate potential for success in life (21-23, internal citations and footnotes omitted).

It is overwhelmingly obvious to me that speech which causes these sorts of problems runs contrary to--indeed, overtly sabotages--the educational mission of the school. At the very least, it shows that this is not the stereotypical whine of a thin-skinned minority that wants to live a life free from criticism. Justice Kozinski is too trite when he writes: "Any speech code that has at its heart avoiding offense to others gives anyone with a thin skin a heckler's veto" (dis. op. at 35). This is hardly about "avoiding offense."

The next issue is how one distinguishes a shirt which says "Jews Will Burn In Hell" from the shirt present here. Reinhardt argues:
It is simply not a novel concept, however, that such attacks on young minority students can be harmful to their self-esteem and to their ability to learn. As long ago as in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court recognized that "[a] sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn." 347 U.S. at 494 (internal quotation marks omitted). If a school permitted its students to wear shirts reading, "Negroes: Go Back To Africa," no one would doubt that the message would be harmful to young black students. So, too, in the case of gay students, with regard to messages such as those written on Harper's Tshirt.

In other words, there are, I'm pretty sure, messages targeted at minority groups in which it is not controversial that the school can restrict. Why isn't this one of them? The clearest objection is that the moral status of homosexuality is politically contested, while racism is fringe (Kozinski makes this argument in dissent). Reinhardt dispatches with this argument rather neatly:
The dissent takes comfort in the fact that there is a political disagreement regarding homosexuality in this country. See dis. op. at 12. We do not deny that there is, just as there was a longstanding political disagreement about racial equality that reached its peak in the 1950's and about whether religious minorities should hold high office that lasted at least until after the 1960 presidential election, or whether blacks or Jews should be permitted to attend private universities and prep schools, work in various industries such as banks, brokerage houses, and Wall Street law firms, or stay at prominent resorts or hotels. Such disagreements may justify social or political debate, but they do not justify students in high schools or elementary schools assaulting their fellow students with demeaning statements: by calling gay students shameful, by labeling black students inferior or by wearing T-shirts saying that Jews are doomed to Hell. Perhaps our dissenting colleague believes that one can condemn homosexuality without condemning homosexuals. If so, he is wrong. To say that homosexuality is shameful is to say, necessarily, that gays and lesbians are shameful. There are numerous locations and opportunities available to those who wish to advance such an argument. It is not necessary to do so by directly condemning, to their faces, young students trying to obtain a fair and full education in our public schools (26-28).

Can I just highlight this statement, by the way? "Perhaps our dissenting colleague believes that one can condemn homosexuality without condemning homosexuals. If so, he is wrong." That is very powerful language--rare to see in a Court opinion. It also is absolutely right, and in many ways the crux of the analysis Reinhardt is making. This line of reasoning may be uncomfortable for many, but I think that they are the ones who should be doing some soul-searching if they can't find a meaningful distinction between anti-gay and anti-Semitic or racist speech (see below).

I'd note that Kozinski seems willing to bite this point, admitting at the end of his dissent that:
There is surely something to the notion that a Jewish student might not be able to devote his full attention to school activities if the fellow in the seat next to him is wearing a t-shirt with the message "Hitler Had the Right Idea" in front and "Let's Finish the Job!" on the back. This t-shirt may well interfere with the educational experience even if the two students never come to blows or even have words about it (36-37).

I admire his intellectual consistency, but this seems to be the point where nearly every American will depart. I do not find it controversial in the slightest that a school can prevent students from praising the Holocaust without breaching the constitution.

I'd add to Reinhardt's analysis that prohibiting only speech that is no longer "politically controversial" strikes me as far closer to impermissible viewpoint discrimination than banning speech that specifically targets a "discrete and insular minority", speech which empirically affects their ability to learn and grow as students. The latter is a prima facia compelling state interest, the latter isn't.

Admittedly, the school allowed a "Day of Silence", which is (at least Harper argues) a "pro-gay sentiment. Isn't it viewpoint discrimination to allow this view, but not the anti-gay view? Not particularly--unless a school must balance "religious tolerance" messages with "Muslims are evil sub-human" messages. Reinhardt elaborates:
Part of a school's "basic educational mission" is the inculcation of "fundamental values of habits and manners of civility essential to a democratic society." For this reason, public schools may permit, and even encourage, discussions of tolerance, equality and democracy without being required to provide equal time for student or other speech espousing intolerance, bigotry or hatred. As we have explained, supra pp. 28-29, because a school sponsors a "Day of Religious Tolerance," it need not permit its students to wear T-shirts reading, "Jews Are Christ-Killers" or "All Muslims Are Evil Doers." Such expressions would be "wholly inconsistent with the 'fundamental values' of public school education." Similarly, a school that permits a "Day of Racial Tolerance," may restrict a student from displaying a swastika or a Confederate Flag. In sum, a school has the right to teach civic responsibility and tolerance as part of its basic educational mission; it need not as a quid pro quo permit hateful and injurious speech that runs counter to that mission (37-38, internal citations omitted).

Okay, cool. So where is the dividing line, then? Reinhardt answers this in his footnote 27, which is the part crits will love:
The dissent suggests that our decision might somehow allow a school to restrict student T-shirts that voice strongly-worded opposition to the war in Iraq. See dis. op. at 12. That is not so. Our colleague ignores the fact that our holding is limited to injurious speech that strikes at a core identifying characteristic of students on the basis of their membership in a minority group. The anti-war Tshirts posited by the dissent constitute neither an attack on the basis of a student's core identifying characteristic nor on the basis of his minority status (30 n.27, emphasis added).

This is the type of standard that makes the Crit in me swoon. Not only is it actually workable, but it recognizes the difference in status that minority groups face with relation to majority groups. He continues in footnote 28:
Our dissenting colleague worries that offensive words directed at majority groups such as Christians or whites will not be covered by our holding. See dis. op. at 21. There is, of course, a difference between a historically oppressed minority group that has been the victim of serious prejudice and discrimination and a group that has always enjoyed a preferred social, economic and political status. Growing up as a member of a minority group often carries with it psychological and emotional burdens not incurred by members of the majority. In any event, any verbal assault targeting majorities that might justify some form of action by school officials is more likely to fall under the "substantial disruption" prong of Tinker or under the Fraser rule permitting schools to prohibit "plainly offensive" speech (31 n.28).

Both the points Reinhardt makes here are worth emphasizing. First, that it is illogical and wrong to just group minorities and majority as needing to be treated "the same." They aren't similarly situated, so treating them similarly leads to unequal results. Second, and perhaps more importantly, is Reinhardt's implication that speech offensive to the majority is far more likely to be bannable in the status quo. Even if one does not think that any "offensive" t-shirt (e.g., "Hitler was right") can prohibited, I think virtually anyone with a mind believes that speech that is causing substantial disruption to the school can be stopped. This is far more likely to happen for speech offensive to the majority (because there are more of them and thus a higher probability that a) the speech will seem absolutely beyond the pale and b) that someone will take their anger too far). This implies that not adopting Reinhardt's standard is actually the discriminatory stance, since it would de facto prohibit actions against hate speech targeted at minorities while allowing such actions against speech the majority dislikes. This is doubly ironic, given that minorities should (given the first point) enjoy greater protection, but instead they'd be getting reduced protection. I should note that I do think that speech which targets the moral personhood of a majority member can also be restricted in schools (all of this analysis, I remind you, only applies to schools), I just think that a) the standards are different in that case and b) we have alternative mechanisms for addressing said speech.

The final thing I want to point out (and again, this is something Crits will love) is the intensively fact-based opinion Reinhardt wrote. Unlike Kozinski in the dissent, Reinhardt was not willing to gloss over the manner in which these sort of displays materially affect the lives of gay students. Kozinski virtually mocks the situation, citing to a variety of movies and books to show that going off-task in class is normal in school, and that "tense situations" are to be expected when people debate politics passionately. Maybe, but one's very personhood is not normally at stake in "normal politics." In any case, this type of experience-based jurisprudence highlights the importance of how the narrative of events are constructed in a judicial opinion. Comparing the overview of facts in Judge Reinhardt versus Judge Kozinski's opinions, one cannot help but feel the difference in how the case "feels." Same situation, two storytellers, two different conclusions.

A round-up of other views on the case:

Dale Carpenter and Eugene Volokh both comment over at the VC with substantive legal analysis. Both think the ruling was wrong, though Carpenter wonders if Tinker v. Des Moines should be modified so the ruling could be right. Orin Kerr smells cert.

Alexandra von Meltzen writes that defenders of the ruling (like myself, I guess) are "all conveniently confused about the First Amendment." She also gives the lethal epithet: PC. I supposed being "confused" is better than being an "oppressor", which is what Hoystory labels my ilk. Blue Crab Boulevard makes the same "confused about the First Amendment" claim.

Doc's Home says this is all about protecting the "professionally offended" from having their self-esteem hurt. So does Rovian Conspiracy. And Plus Ultra. Dmaetzon says the case stands for the principle that free speech ends if someone is offended. This parroted line of argument disturbs me, because it just brushes aside as irrelevant the court's documentation of the concrete harms gay students by just calling it an issue of "self-esteem." That demeans what is assuredly a complicated question. It's like dismissing a fraud claim by saying: "Oh, look, the Court is saying that the first amendment doesn't apply when naive people get upset! Boohoo!" At the point where the court identifies an empirically measurable harm, I think opponents have to do more with the argument than just dismiss it as a case of "self-esteem" gone wild.

Sister Toldjah can't conceptualize about what right could possibly be violated here. Allow me to quote Brown v. Board "In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." And again, given two pages of empirical data showing that these types of slurs create an unequal learning environment for gay students, I think the right outlined in Brown is breached. Toldjah claims that the school should bar both the "day of silence" and these shirts. If she can find any credible evidence that shows those actions had empirically measurable impacts on Harper's ability to learn, then I'll take her seriously. Barring that, I still believe that a school can have a day promoting racial harmony without allowing the Klan to stop by for lunch.

This is the underlying fallacy--Colossus of Rhodey makes it too. The standard the Court set was when speech attacks the moral personhood of a community member. Rhodey says this is an "easy argument." I agree (though I don't think that "easy" equates "bad"). The First Amendment protects "disagreeable speech." But as our prohibitions on libel, fraud, and slander (among other things) establish, words that cause a harm ("words that wound") are not so protected. Insofar as the opinion relatively clearly established a harm in Harper's speech (that doesn't exist in the gay students speech), that strikes me as a perfectly logical place to line draw. That isn't to say that this is an "easy" case--it isn't--but the Court's linedrawing decision strikes me as a sound one to make.

A couple of surprising concurrences for my side, from Outside the Beltway and (possibly) Ann Althouse. Feministe's agreement is less surprising (and very close to mine own opinion). I don't know Betsy's Page.


Segregated Spaces

The Nebraska state legislature has approved a plan to split the Omaha school district in three--one district predominantly White, one predominantly Black, one predominantly Latino (the tax base of the district will be pooled, however). What makes this case interesting is that the single Black member of the Nebraska legislature, Ernie Chambers, voted for the plan, explaining that he wanted the Black community to be in charge of its own schools.

Jack Balkin has a great post exploring some of the dangers of such a proposal. But the real gold in them thar hills was written by Heather Gerken, who explores the consequences of labeling the Omaha plan "segregation", and makes a call for more complex vocabulary to talk about the issue (a position that I hold near and dear to my heart regarding race generally). All I can say is go read.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gaze Into Infinity

Lance Mannion parses the conservative myth of what once was:
This is the Right Wing Kulturkampf ur-myth restated. Once upon time we were all good and well-behaved, if plagued by demons and temptations within. You know, back in the day, when lynching was a spectator sport, children were worked to death in factories and mineshafts, and employers thought nothing of hiring goons to beat and kill workers who dared strike for safer working conditions and decent pay.

Then came the Fall, and with it moral relativism, post-modernism, Freudianism, Marxism, feminism, birth control, Roe v. Wade, situation comedies that make dad into a buffoon, and black people who expect to live in our neighborhoods and send their kids to our schools...whoops, did we say that last one out loud? We meant entitlements, the nanny state, and the culture of dependence brought about by Welfare.

The temptation when things are bad now is to drop back into a mythologized history, one that never existed. As Mannion points out, this history isn't just about barbecues and social order--it has aspects we cannot in good conscience try and bring ourselves back to. Slightly more sophisticated indulgers might admit to the horrors of the past, but say they can be excised from the revival--we can bring back the community feeling of the 50s without also resurrecting the "segregated" part of said community. I applaud these people for at least recognizing that their collective past was not, in fact, idyllic, but it still misses the point: the whole schema of these time periods were intricately tied together--good and bad. This feeling of "community" that is so exalted, for example, was sustainable because it was socially permissible to exclude mistrusted minorities from the endeavor. It's easy to be friendly and neighborly when your entire neighborhood is of one race, class, religion, and mindset.

The root of this falsification is nothing too complex: It's just easier. This is liberalism's strategic (not moral) flaw. It's asks people to run an endless marathon. History is an endless struggle for moral progress (though there is no guarantee that at any given moment we are moving forward instead of backwards). There is no place on the horizon where we can rest and say "We're here. We've reached paradise." Justice being an ideal, chasing it is like chasing infinity. Not only that, but liberalism has to always pick at its own scab. We have to constantly emphasize the failings of the present, constantly remind the people that the journey continues.

This isn't a moral indictment of liberalism. The search for Eden may be fruitless, but it is still a worthwhile quest. And just because we can never get to the end doesn't mean we haven't made progress--real progress. But the gaze out into infinity can be paralyzing; is it any wonder that some wish to grasp something concrete and say "this, this was what the world should have been"?

H/T: Feministe

Watch Them Fall

The New Republic has an incredible--and chilling--article about Iran up by German political scientist Matthias Kuntzel. It's behind a subscription wall, but its for articles like this that you should be subscribed to TNR already. Some of the history he gives about the Iran/Iraq war is terrifying in the inhumanity it brings to light:
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported 500,000 small plastic keys from Taiwan. The trinkets were meant to be inspirational. After Iraq invaded in September 1980, it had quickly become clear that Iran's forces were no match for Saddam Hussein's professional, well-armed military. To compensate for their disadvantage, Khomeini sent Iranian children, some as young as twelve years old, to the front lines. There, they marched in formation across minefields toward the enemy, clearing a path with their bodies. Before every mission, one of the Taiwanese keys would be hung around each child's neck. It was supposed to open the gates to paradise for them.

At one point, however, the earthly gore became a matter of concern. "In the past," wrote the semi-official Iranian daily Ettelaat as the war raged on, "we had child-volunteers: 14-, 15-, and 16-year-olds. They went into the minefields. Their eyes saw nothing. Their ears heard nothing. And then, a few moments later, one saw clouds of dust. When the dust had settled again, there was nothing more to be seen of them. Somewhere, widely scattered in the landscape, there lay scraps of burnt flesh and pieces of bone." Such scenes would henceforth be avoided, Ettelaat assured its readers. "Before entering the minefields, the children [now] wrap themselves in blankets and they roll on the ground, so that their body parts stay together after the explosion of the mines and one can carry them to the graves."
The chief combat tactic employed by the Basiji was the human wave attack, whereby barely armed children and teenagers would move continuously toward the enemy in perfectly straight rows. It did not matter whether they fell to enemy fire or detonated the mines with their bodies: The important thing was that the Basiji continue to move forward over the torn and mutilated remains of their fallen comrades, going to their deaths in wave after wave. Once a path to the Iraqi forces had been opened up, Iranian commanders would send in their more valuable and skilled Revolutionary Guard troops.

This approach produced some undeniable successes. "They come toward our positions in huge hordes with their fists swinging," one Iraqi officer complained in the summer of 1982. "You can shoot down the first wave and then the second. But at some point the corpses are piling up in front of you, and all you want to do is scream and throw away your weapon. Those are human beings, after all!" By the spring of 1983, some 450,000 Basiji had been sent to the front. After three months, those who survived deployment were sent back to their schools or workplaces.
Whether they survived or not was irrelevant. Not even the tactical utility of their sacrifice mattered. Military victories are secondary, Khomeini explained in September 1980. The Basiji must "understand that he is a 'soldier of God' for whom it is not so much the outcome of the conflict as the mere participation in it that provides fulfillment and gratification." Could Khomeini's antipathy for life have had as much effect in the war against Iraq without the Karbala myth? Probably not. With the word "Karbala" on their lips, the Basiji went elatedly into battle.

Thousands of children, brainwashed so that they elatedly rush to death as human bullet and mine fodder. It's a twisted display of barbarity the likes of which I can scarcely imagine.

There are no ground wars on the horizon for Iran in the near future, so the prospect of similar action for the Basiji is scant. But that does not mean Iran has not found new uses for them.
At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010. The elite special units are supposed to comprise some 150,000 people by then. Accordingly, the Basiji have received new powers in their function as an unofficial division of the police. What this means in practice became clear in February 2006, when the Basiji attacked the leader of the bus-drivers' union, Massoud Osanlou. They held Osanlou prisoner in his apartment, and they cut off the tip of his tongue in order to convince him to keep quiet. No Basiji needs to fear prosecution for such terrorists tactics before a court of law.
The Basiji's cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse. Nowadays, Basiji are sent not into the desert, but rather into the laboratory. Basij students are encouraged to enroll in technical and scientific disciplines. According to a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Guard, the aim is to use the "technical factor" in order to augment "national security."

What exactly does that mean? Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that "the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it "will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable--only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam.

"Only" 100,000--my head is spinning.

Stanley Kurtz says we're in Iraq, not to provide peace and democracy, but to show Iran we're serious. Lindsay Beyerstein dissects the argument in her own way (and if peace and democracy are completely superfluous, why not immediately pull out of Iraq to invade Iran?). But the problem, as I see it, isn't that a show of military force in the region is counterproductive to deterring Iran. The problem is that the level of fanaticism demonstrated in the above article implies that Iran may simply be undeterrable. When 100,000 deaths can be shrugged aside as the costs of martyrdom--I have no idea how to make a tactical response to that sort of mentality.

Shoot for the Stars

I meant to link to this New York Times snippet about Gambia earlier, because it amused me:
President Yahya Jammeh, a former wrestler and bird lover, said anyone aspiring to his job needed "to wait like a vulture, patiently," because he planned to stay in office at least 30 years longer. Mr. Jammeh, who is 40 and seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, said he would consider handing over power only after he had turned his tiny former British colony into an oil producer and a "role model for Africa." Gambia produces peanuts but has not struck oil.

"I'm going to stay in power until we develop a resource we don't even have!" I suppose that's one way to guarantee you'll be ruling for a long, long time. Let it never be said that President Jammeh let geological realities get in the way of his dreams.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Whiteness Symposium

Bridget Crawford points to a paper by Stephanie M. Wildman entitled "The Persistence of White Privilege," now available on SSRN. It looks great. I'd also like to point out to any other interested parties that the broader symposium the article was a part of, "Whiteness: Some Critical Perspectives", is available online from the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy.

My seminar paper for my Foundations of Black Political Thought class is going to be on Black views of Whiteness. Any help in finding sources on the subject would be much appreciated.

How Do I Look?

Like Eric Muller, I found this post by feminist law professor Michelle Anderson on her upcoming marraige to be quite an interesting read. The opener:
I got hitched Saturday. Beforehand, I had been sheepish about telling my students I was getting married. It seemed inconsistent with my professional persona as an independent, fearless, freedom-fighting law professor. So I waited until the last possible minute to mention it. "OK, I have a quick announcement," I began a recent Criminal Law class. "I do apologize, but I have to cancel next Thursday's class because... um... well... my partner and I have decided to get married." My students then began to clap. Gads, this was worse than I'd imagined it would be. The applause grew.

Professor Muller seizes on this concept of a "professional persona." Specifically, that he doesn't conceptualize himself as having one. So, he wonders, is this a gender issue, or him being oblivious, or Professor Anderson being weird, or what?

I think there are almost definitely gender elements to this split, though as in all such things it's difficult to tell in an individual case what is personal choice and what is societal pressure. I know that I have a good idea of how I want to perceived as a professor when I enter academia (brilliant, fair, and a mix of scary, intimidating, and respected); a perception that (I hope!) doesn't really represent how I act in private life. But for women, such dreams aren't just idle fantasy, they're professional survival skills. To put it very simply, while everyone is bound by societal convention to some degree, women have a far smaller box to play in then do men. Thus, it is more likely that women will either a) find that their natural personality falls outside "acceptable" parameters, or b) be more cognizant of the borders (and thus how they appear) because they are constantly bumping up against them.

This is all just speculation on my part of course. In any event, best wishes to the new couple!

Formative Experience

I don't ever forget the fact that Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas is an army veteran. Upon reflection, I probably could tell you that he was a Salvadorean war refugee too (a central American immigrant who came here for a better life, served in the army, and now is the titular head of one America's largest civic communities? Say it ain't so, Tancredo!). I do, however, often forget that he used to be a loyal Republican. Campaigned for Henry Hyde, voted for Bush in '92--the whole works. And what changed him?

This American Prospect article details how Moulitsas' time in the military made him a Democrat. It's a fascinating read. A taste:
There's a reason most vets running for office this year are running as Democrats. The military is perhaps the ideal society -- we worked hard but the Army took care of us in return. All our basic needs were met -- housing, food, and medical care. It was as close to a color-blind society as I have ever seen. We looked out for one another. The Army invested in us. I took heavily subsidized college courses and learned to speak German on the Army's dime. I served with people from every corner of the country. I got to party at the Berlin Wall after it fell and explored Prague in those heady post-communism days. I wasn't just a tourist; I was a witness to history.

The Army taught me the very values that make us progressives -- community, opportunity, and investment in people and the future. Returning to Bush Senior's America, I was increasingly disillusioned by the selfishness, lack of community, and sense of entitlement inherent in the Republican philosophy. The Christian Coalition scared the heck out of me. And I was offended by the lip service paid to national service when most Republicans couldn't be bothered to wear combat boots. I voted for Bush in 1992, but that was the last time I voted Republican.

Certainly lends an interesting counter-point to this Josh Trevino post (over at the new and fascinating-looking Swords Crossed blog, which I introduce here).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Books Are Not My Anti-Drug

They are simply a drug.

You'll note I've added "books from my library" to my sidebar. This is a function of Library Thing, a online book-organizing tool that is nothing short of addictive. Pleseantly addictive, to be sure, but still addictive.

You can see my personal catalog here. It isn't all the books I own, but it is virtually all the ones I have here at Carleton, plus a few selected ones I remember possessing at home.

I Want MY Lawyer!

Dan Filler has an interesting post on choosing one's own attorney, and why simply having an attorney is not the same thing has having an attorney you know and trust.
First, there is the matter of plea bargaining. While plea bargains are usually available in criminal cases, they almost always require a modicum of attorney-client trust. Why? First, if the deal requires a defendant to cooperate with the government, the defendant must trust the lawyer to handle this sometimes dangerous transaction properly. Second, when a deal is available, many defendants will not accept it if they think their attorney has negotiated inadequately or, worse, is in league with the prosecution. The higher the stakes in the case - when a defendant is facing decades in jail, for example - the more a defendant must trust his lawyer.

There is also the matter of trial preparation. Defendants often have a great deal of knowledge that can help secure a better deal, or result in a better trial outcome. They know witnesses. They know the facts of their own crimes. They know their own personal history. But defendants are often reticent about sharing this information with lawyers they don't trust.

Finally, there is the trial itself and, particularly, a defendant's decision whether to testify. Defendants often want to tell their story. Defense lawyers often want them to remain silent. This decision ultimately rests with the defendant. If he doesn't trust his lawyer, he is less likely to listen to her advice.

These subjective notions of trust and solid relationships, Filler argues, are pervasively under-valued by Court precedent. Presumably, the focus of some jurists (e.g., Scalia) on "brightline" rules has something to do with this. It's really difficult to quantify how much "trust" is enough trust, or when a more trusting relationship would have yielded tangible benefits to a given case. However, in my view, where ex post facto review is difficult, that makes it all the more important to utilize pre-event proxies to try and maximize these values.

Monday, April 17, 2006

It's Not All About Us

Shakespeare's Sister has a post decrying the Bush administration's tendency to label every bad despot as another incarnation of Hitler.
Saddam Hussein and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are indecent, maniacal fuckwits, but that doesn't mean they were/are a threat to Americans even if they want(ed) to be. The administration didn't sell the Iraq war as a humanitarian intervention to protect the people most likely to suffer at the hand of Saddam--his own people--but as a preemptive strike against a nation that both intended and had the ability to harm the American people. Iran is now the same story. And once again, they're not selling it as a rescue mission on behalf of Iranians (or even Israelis), but as an American national security concern, which is patently false.

The point I'm going to make is a bit iffy here, because Shake is pretty accurate when she says that the Iraq war (and the potential Iran war) was/is not being sold on the grounds of humanitarianism or human rights. So fair play for her.

But even still, the rhetoric of the post seems to imply that the Hitler analogy is proper for nation's who display a manifest threat to our country's existence. My first thought upon a Hitler comparison, however, is to the commission of genocide. Saddam Hussein wasn't "like Hitler" because he posed a serious threat to American security (he didn't). If he was like Hitler, it was because he used poisonous chemicals to slaughter hundreds of thousands of his own citizens.

The Glenn Greenwald post she cites to does the same thing. The "Hitler" analogy is made with reference to "a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world." All very bad qualities to be sure, but they're united by the fact that they are problems for us. Hitler is bad because his lunacy pushes him into war with us, he's too irrational to know when to stop attacking us (or our interests), and even if he doesn't actually go to war, crazy people destabilize the ordered international system we so depend upon to go about our business in relative peace and prosperity.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned about ourselves, of course. But I think Hitler was bad for reasons wholly apart from his maniacal desires toward world domination. I think the whole thing with the genocide and gassing and killing of innocents (even those who didn't live in other countries and thus couldn't destabilize anything!) was bad too. Really bad, in fact. And this spectre of genocide, whether it is Iraq in Anfal, or Iran with its threats to wipe Israel off the earth, can quite legitimately provoke comparisons to Hitler.

I wrote in a previous post that, to some people, Hitler's crime wasn't that he killed millions of Jews, it's that he invaded Poland. Had he just stuck to his internal minorities, then there is no threat to external security, no challenge to the prevailing world order, and thus, Hitler becomes "just another" sadistical dictator. Perhaps we should tut at him, but heaven forbid we stop the slaughter. It's no longer our problem, he no longer threatens us.

I don't claim that the Bush administration has any credibility on this issue, because it doesn't. And I know that both Glenn and Shakespeare's Sister are not pro-genocide. I just wish that, when listening to the left dialogue about Iran and pre-war Iraq, there were fewer shadows of Kissengerian Realism, and a bit more empathy with the plight of the oppressed in their own country, not just ours.

Ethics You Love To Hate

Via Professor Bainbridge, an interesting quote on rage, hate, and politics from the Rev. William Sloan Coffin:
If you love the good, you must hate evil; or else you are sentimental. But if you hate evil more than you love the good, you become a damn good hater! And the world has enough of that kind of activist.

Incidentally, Rev. Coffin is the namesake for Doonesbury character Reverend Scot Sloan.

Loving the good more than you hate the evil...this strikes me as an important lesson many pundits could learn. It's not about fuzzy feelings: "we're all in this together." It's about self-discipline and limitation, preventing justified ethical outrage from descending into moral vigilantism. We hate the evil of terrorism. And justifiably so. But do we hate it more than we love the principles of human dignity? The answer to that question, on an abstract level, can tell us a lot about our torture policy.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

American Pioneers

Fordham Law Professor Eduardo Penalever has a great editorial in the Washington Post about the famed "pioneers" who settled the American West:
A number of the politicians calling for the criminalization of illegal immigrants may not be aware that they and a good many of their constituents could themselves be direct descendants of people who did some illegal migrating of their own many years ago. Much of the territory of the United States was settled by people -- hundreds of thousands of them -- who disregarded the law by squatting on public lands.

Of course, they had a ready reason for doing so: Like today's immigrants, they were seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Indeed, many of the current residents of the states between the Appalachian and Rocky mountains can trace their roots directly to these onetime criminals -- whom we now call "pioneers."
Eastern politicians, many of whom dabbled in land speculation, condemned the squatters' defiance of federal law. They accused squatters of being "greedy, lawless land grabbers" who had no respect for law and order. In 1815 President James Madison issued a proclamation warning "uninformed or evil disposed persons . . . who have unlawfully taken possession of or made any settlement on the public lands . . . to remove therefrom" or face ejection by the Army and criminal prosecution. Henry Clay expressed a widely shared sentiment in 1838 when he dismissed the squatters as a "lawless rabble."

As The Genealogue says:
Perhaps if the government had built a wall to keep out these opportunistic scofflaws, they would have given up their dreams of better lives.

And of course, the nation would have been better for it.