Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Roundup

I'm flying back to Minnesota tomorrow. With the new year upon us, this is probably my last post until 2008. So, hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's, and I'll see y'all on the flip side!

Kevin Drum reminds the right that just because their feelings towards Clinton are motivated by blind, unthinking rage, doesn't mean her Democratic supporters are inspired by the same sentiments. If anything, the "angry" wing of the Democratic Party is attracted to Edwards (if they're pragmatists) or Kucinich (if they're not).

Frank Pasquale has a simply fantastic post talking about Martha Nussbaum's views on masculinity and political violence -- particularly after the Bhutto assassination. It's really interesting.

Are folks still trying to bank-shot the Obama-is-a-Muslim claim? Daniel Pipes is.

Speaking of dirty campaign tricks, the fake Romney Christmas card that says Mormon's believe God has multiple wives is pretty low. I'm guessing that Huckabee supporters (not the Huckabee campaign) are behind it.

Topless women used to lure men into indecent exposure. This a) isn't entrapment b) isn't a massive waste of time and c) isn't really degrading to the female cop?

Obama makes his closing pitch to younger, undecided voters. In my humble opinion, Obama's campaign lives and dies on whether he can bring to the polls the many, many normally-non-voters who think he is something special. I can very much see him gathering a storm of support based on people who want to seem themselves as a "part of something." I can also see those folks doing what they normally do -- stay home -- and Obama under-performs badly.

Mitt Romney! Wash your mouth out with some soap!

Special girls hockey equipment reifies the false binary: You can be "girly" or "sporty". I have no problem with equipment that is designed for the female physique. I do have a problem with the implication that girls won't play hockey if the sticks don't have polka dots. Though I say that and then wonder -- if folks want a polka dotted stick, why shouldn't it be provided?

Why men (and women!) still will be able to compete with robotic sex.

I don't binge drink, but apparently I shouldn't start for 20 years anyway.

Are Americans blaming Republicans for the fact that Congress hasn't gotten much done this session? They're right if they do, but the average voter is rarely this astute.

Newark Reborn: The Cory Booker legend continues. If this guy isn't a hot prospect, who is? And since my beloved Devils are moving to an arena in town, I might have to stop by and see it for myself.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty continues to raise eyebrows as to whether he's John McCain's VP of choice.

Jed Bartlet endorses Richardson. Toby Ziegler, by contrast, is breaking for Biden.

In Praise of Sakio Bika

In it's countdown of the 20 best fights of 2007, Bad Left Hook rates the Codrington/Bika Contender finale fight #5. About right, I think. But it seems everyone who talks about Bika prefaces it with how this is going to be the high point of his career, he's not really an elite fighter, he's no threat, etc., etc.. BLH put it this way:
Even the show's biggest supporters will admit that neither Bika nor Codrington are likely to become serious contenders in the 168-pound division, let alone champions. After all, Bika's had his shot at Calzaghe, and he lost to Bute, who went on to win a title, too.

Sakio Bika has a record of 25-3-2 (15 KOs). His only unavenged losses are to Joe Calzaghe and to Lucien Bute -- the undisputed #1 and either #2 or #3 guy (depending on where you now put Mikkel Kessler) in the division. People are acting as if this basically exposes him as a club fighter. Excuse me, but if I'm not mistaken nobody has beaten either Calzaghe or Bute. Bika's a former Olympian, has an chin like granite, and a solid punch. While he lost decisively to both Calzaghe and Bute, he certainly wasn't overwhelmed by them. I think folks are being way too harsh.

Bika may never be a champion, but that's more a testament to the depth of the Super Middleweight division and the fact that it is possibly the one division in boxing without a ridiculous amount of title fragmentation. But if you're telling me that Bika wouldn't be a really tough match-up for any of the contending Super Middleweights (Allan Green, Edison Miranda, Jean Pascal, Markus Beyer, -- whom Bika scored a technical draw against), I say you're joking. He's a live name, and folks take him lightly are their own peril.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Resolutions: A Recap

I just looked over my New Year's resolutions for last year. Amazingly, I actually did rather well. Of the 21 I listed, here's the break-down:

Met: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19

Failed: 13, 17, 20

Pick 'em: 4, 5, 8, 21

And, incredibly, though I haven't achieved #14 yet, I will before the year is out -- I have tickets to the Wild/Sharks game on New Year's eve.


Resolutions for the coming year:

1) Don't go crazy waiting for admissions decisions (I'm close to failing this one already) (Met)

2) Submit another article for publication in an academic journal (Missed)

3) Get into law school (Met)

4) Get into grad school (Met)

5) Make new friends after graduation (Met)

6) Don't lose track of old friends after graduation (Pick 'em)

7) See a boxing match, live (Missed)

8) Write something for a boxing website (Missed)

9) Keep up blogging as I move to a new school (Met)

10) Watch more hockey (Missed)

11) Finish more non-fiction (Met)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fire Away

Earlier today, the co-chairman of "Veterans for Rudy in New Hampshire" made a rather impolitic remark on how Rudy was the guy who will "chase them [Muslims] back to their caves or in other words get rid of them."". Kind of indicative of the sort of fellow who supports Rudy Giuliani, but I figured that the story would take a predictable course: the speaker would backtrack, saying that he only meant "Islamofascists" or something of the like, Rudy would disavow him, and the guy would quickly decide to spend some more time with his family.

Instead, when contacted for a follow up, the man in question, John Deady, stood by his comments and expanded on them:
"I don't subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims," Deady told me by phone from his home in New Hampshire. "They're all Muslims."

Yikes! He did, however, clarify that when he said "get rid of them", he "wasn't necessarily (!) referring to genocide." Which is good, I suppose, though I'd rather he dropped the "necessarily" entirely. But nonetheless, this is absolutely extremist territory. What should Giuliani do about Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress? Should he be forced to take a Glenn Beck-style loyalty test? How about Israel's Muslim cabinet Minister -- does he need to be chased back into a cave?

Nobody is saying that this is Giuliani's actual beliefs, but given the flap over Clinton campaign surrogates saying the word Madrassa, shouldn't this be somewhat of a big deal? Thus far, the Giuliani campaign has no comment. If they don't have a comment within 24 hours along the lines of "we deplore these sentiments and totally disassociate ourselves from them", there better be some hard questioning going on about -- at the very least -- whom Giuliani feels comfortable associating with.

UPDATE: Mr. Deady has offered his resignation, and the Giuliani campaign has accepted.

Boxing Blogging: FNF Debut 12/28/07

Tonight was the first night of the upcoming season of Friday Night Fights. Teddy Atlas, in what must have pleased the ESPN network executives, warned us at the outset that it wasn't the best of cards to start the year, and he was right. I have to say that this was one of the toughest boxing events for me to watch. It was less because of the action and more because you really felt like you were seeing two guys' careers come to an end in ways they did not want to go.

Louis Sargeant (9-11-2, 2 KOs) RTD4 Darrell Woods (26-12, 18 KOs)

The card opened with Florida-based Darrell Woods fighting against a local pug named Louis Sargeant. Woods gained minor notoriety with his all-action win over then-undefeated Samuel Miller on a ESPN card last year; an early fight of the year candidate. It was a nice story -- a 40 year old guy, just using some veteran savvy and ring experience to get some nice wins (prior to the Miller win he had won three straight, including a good victory over Emmett Linton). In his next bout, he was blitzed in one round by Allan Green -- but lots of guys had been taken apart by someone as strong as Green. In this fight, against an opponent with a losing record, Woods was looking to bounce back -- or at least end his career on a note that wasn't a first round knockout.

Alas, it wasn't to be. Woods was put down in the first round by Sargeant (who, in addition to having won only 9 bouts, isn't exactly a power puncher -- one knockout coming into tonight's fight), and never really got his legs back. Physically, he didn't look steady, and mentally, he didn't seem confident. But he still had his pride, and when after four one-sided rounds the ref told him in the corner that he was stopping the bout, Woods looked near on the edge of tears, yelling "No, it's not over!" It was really difficult to watch -- particular because I still remember his Woods bout less than a year ago and because, even tonight you could still see flashes that made it clear that Woods was the far superior fighter. His body had just abandoned him.

Byron Tyson (9-0-1, 4 KOs) DQ4 Claudio Ortiz (6-15, 2 KOs)

This was the bright spot of the evening. The fight wasn't that good -- after getting hit with a low blow in the second round, Ortiz went into constant foul mode until he was finally disqualified in the 4th round for hitting behind the head. What made this fight my favorite was getting to watch Tyson, who really looked good. Sure, he was in against a tomato can. But he was very fast, punching sharp, in shape (coming off a two year layoff for shoulder surgery) and technically sound. Definitely the sort of guy I'd want to see again. He hasn't done enough to deserve any serious fight, but I'd like it if ESPN put him on a couple more swing bouts to give him more exposure.

Robert Hawkins (23-10, 7 KOs) UD10 Dominick Guinn (28-6-1, 19 KOs)

Very similar to the first fight, though not as extreme. Guinn is an extremely talented heavyweight who, after winning his first 24 fights, has let his career unravel. Like with Woods, it was clear watching the fight that he had far more natural talent than Hawkins. Unlike Woods, it wasn't Guinn's body that betrayed him. It's purely a mental block. He admitted before the fight that he was over-thinking in the ring and dwelling on the past, and it showed again tonight. Guinn did not let his hands go, he allowed himself to get smothered on the inside, and was just outworked by Hawkins. Guinn definitely has the talent and the natural ability to get somewhere in the heavyweight division, but he just can't seem to escape his own demons, and it's really unfortunate to watch.

Hawkins doesn't have the prettiest record, but all 10 of his losses have been to very strong opposition, and he owns some solid wins as well (former contenders Terry Smith and Guinn, gatekeepers Robert Wiggins, Kendrick Releford, and Melvin Foster, plus Gary Bell, James Ballard, Boris Powell, and John Poore, who I've never heard of but have if nothing else glossy records). Prior to this fight, he was handily defeating top heavyweight Vladimir Virchis in Germany before getting knocked down and -- he claims -- being victimized by a quick stoppage (this being Germany, I believe it -- refereeing and scoring is notoriously poor and biased over there). He's not going to make a run at any titles, but he's doing reasonably well for himself. I wouldn't say I enjoy watching him, because he's a defensive minded fighter who won this fight by smothering the taller Guinn all night, but give him credit -- he fought his fight, and won against a guy who was once considered an elite heavyweight. Kudos to him.

ESPN has some better name fighters coming up as the season progresses, including Allan Green, Edison Miranda, Jean Pascal, and Randall Bailey. Unfortunately, they're not fighting each other, but I've seen all of those guys in the ring before, and they're exciting no matter who they're in against. Hopefully it will be a better card than what we saw tonight.

Take It Off

David at Harry's Place is having a daughter, and is looking for name suggestions. Specifically, he wants a "rock n' roll" middle name. To which I said, is there any better choice than Donna?

My girlfriend suggested Avril. I pity her sometimes.

Lucy in the Sky

Spencer Ackerman has reopened his old blog to write about Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism". It's a very detailed and careful analysis. And at the end of the day, Ackerman remarks:

The real victim of this book isn't American liberalism. It's young Lucy Goldberg. Every child is endowed with the right to believe his or her father is the smartest man alive. To take that away is sheer brutality.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Oh Minow

Martha Minow is a paradigmatic case of too much of a good thing.

I first stumbled across her by reading her 1991 book, Making All The Difference: Inclusion, Exclusion, and American Law. I often tell people that the speed I read books is directly in relation to how much I'm enjoying it. Books I love speed along, books I loathe crawl. That's true up to a point, but if I really love a book, my pace comes crashing to a halt, because I need to stop and chew over particularly juicy bits, or copy down especially illuminating passages. And so, even though I consider MATD to be one of the best books I ever read, and even though I have four whole pages of quotations from the book copied onto my computer, and even with two library extensions, I never actually finished it. I just got it for a Chanukah present, so maybe I'll take another shot at it.

In addition to MATD, I also got another Minow book from 1997, this one called Not Only For Myself: Identity, Politics, and Law. Like MATD, this one is going slow because I'm loving it. It's making great arguments, and at the moment it's making great arguments switching from the 1st Century Jewish Rabbi Hillel to an episode of Star Trek within the space of a page. How cool is that?

But the Minow awesomeness extends beyond her work in identity politics. She literally seems to have a hand in everything cool. The collection of works by the late, great, Jewish legal theorist Robert Cover? She edited it. A primer to Feminist Legal Theory? Minow. Post-genocide reconciliation and reconstruction? She has three books on it. She even co-wrote an editorial criticizing US detention policy by comparing us to and advocating for the Israeli model. It's like if Samantha Power decided to expand beyond genocide and do everything awesome. It's almost too much to handle at once.

Anyway, if you ever have a chance ever to read anything by Minow, I can't recommend her highly enough. She truly is one of the most brilliant, and under-appreciated, legal minds out there in the United States today.

Jon Swift's Best of 2007

Jon Swift has collected a "best of 2007" round-up, with every blogger contributing their own favorite post of the year. I ended up choosing The Chronicle of Madison's Tomb: Why "Roe Rage" has Nothing To Do With Legal Theory". I want to thank everyone who gave their input on my list of finalists -- it was a good year of blogging, if I do say so myself.

But you should certainly check his list out -- there are some excellent posts up there, and Jon put a lot of work in putting it together.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Exchange Rate of Whiteness

I'm back from Colorado (with little, but not no, difficulty), and while on the plane I finished Emory History Professor Eric Goldstein's The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and the American Identity (Princeton UP, 2006) (I don't know which is worse -- that I originally started reading it in July of 2006 as part of a three book set, the goal seeing which I'd finish first -- or that it came in second). Anyway, delay notwithstanding, it was very, very good.

Goldstein examines the way Jews in American history (from about the post-Civil War era to after WWII, with an epilogue dealing with the present day) a) thought of Blacks, b) conceptualized themselves as a "race", and c) identified as White. It really covers a lot of ground, and aptly demonstrates the ambivalence and discomfort Jews had in being labeled as "White." On the one hand, they wanted to access privileges and status that Whiteness entailed (not the least of which is not being subjected to the vicious discrimination and violence that American Blacks faced as a matter of course). On the other hand, Jews worried that assimilating too much into Whiteness would threaten their own cultural distinctiveness. Moreover, the Jewish relationship with Whiteness was always tempered by their own ethical and historical commitment to Black Americans, whom they often saw as brother sufferers with experiences that mirrored their own oppression in Europe. Casting their lot with White America meant adopting the mantle of the very persecutors they fled from to the United States.

But after finishing the book, there was a further observation I had that I found very intriguing. The phenomena of groups "becoming" White (the Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.) is not at all unknown or novel. Most scholars of race, as far as I've seen, have associated this "Whitening" with a simultaneous divergence of the incorporated group's interests with those of Black Americans. Indeed, often times, enthusiastically buying into anti-Black discrimination was a way for groups to prove their Whiteness bona fides. The Irish, for example, were staunch supporters of Black equality in Ireland, but in the United States they rapidly became one of the most anti-Black groups in all the country. And as they became more firmly entrenched as White, the formerly distinct groups adopted the interests of their new racial category and -- generally speaking -- effectively ceased to care about the plight or standing of African-Americans.

But Goldstein's book seems to demonstrate that Jews didn't quite fit this pattern. In fact, the "Whiter" Jews got, the more likely they were to press for Black equality. Tracking the oscillations in Jewish "Whiteness" in the little less than a century between the Civil War and World War II, Jews exhibited the most racism when their status as White persons was threatened. Undoubtedly, this was to avoid falling out of Whiteness entirely and being grouped with Blacks, which would demolish whatever social, economic, and political gains the Jewish community had managed to achieve for itself. But when Jewish Whiteness stabilized, Jews would swing back towards loud, prominent, and passionate advocacy for Black rights. In fact, Goldstein notes that Jewish Whiteness has today become so entrenched that Jews are actively fleeing from it -- specifically disassociating themselves from Whiteness and launching a whole new wave of engagement with the Black community. Contrary to popular belief, and despite the emergence of a small but vocal "neo-conservative" Jewish movement, Jews of the 1960s and 70s became noticeably more likely to identify with and work for "Black" causes than their generational predecessors -- at least in part, it seems, in reaction their discomfort with being seen as 100% White.

What does this imply? First, it shows that Whiteness is a powerful draw for dispossessed groups, particularly when the alternative place in the hierarchy is so starkly presented. Even otherwise sympathetic or allied groups, such as Jews, can abandon their Black comrades if solidarity means risking falling to the bottom of the racial pile. But on the flip-side, it demonstrates that Whiteness does not have to be all encompassing. "White" groups can still see it in their interests to act outside the stereotypical White interest of maintaining White supremacy. Indeed, White groups can sometimes see it as in their interest to "flee" from Whiteness, if they view it as threatening other important aspects of their identity (such as social distinctiveness or solidarity with the dispossessed). And perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates that the very ascertainment of Whiteness can provide the social cushion for sympathetic groups to work with their marginalized brethren without fear and thus subvert the racial system from the inside. Once Jews became unambiguously White, they could freely advocate for Black interests without fear (or at least, with reduced fear) that their work would lead to a revival of anti-Semitic oppression and murder. Being at the top of the racial hierarchy, with access to all the privileges that entailed, gave Jews the opportunity to let their ethical commitments shine through, rather than having to only look out for themselves. It's tough to behave selflessly when you're one step away from an Inquisition. Those with power at least have the capacity to use it for good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Iranian Jews Settle in Israel

CNN reports on a cluster of Iranian Jews who have just moved to Israel -- the largest group in recent memory. Many have family members already in Israel -- some of whom they haven't seen in years. At least as the story reports it, they are quite glad to have made the move.

The Jewish community in Iran is the most vibrant in the Middle East (excluding Israel, obviously), and is actually treated fairly well. But there have been some reports of discrimination, and the community is definitely nervous about President Ahmadinejad's increasingly strident and hard-line stance against Israel, which they think runs a serious risk of a domestic backlash against Iranian Jews.

On the one hand, these people are my sisters and brothers, and I want them to feel secure wherever they live. And, more than anything else, isn't that Israel's purpose? To provide a haven for Jews who don't feel safe in their land of birth? So in that sense, I am happy that they are in a place where they don't have to look over their shoulders for being Jewish.

But at the same time, it's disheartening why they felt they had to move. There are, to be sure, many good reasons as a Jew to move to Israel. Personal security is definitely one, but it should not have to be. Security aside, I am glad there is an Israel -- a place where Jews are the norm and not the margin, a place where we're in control of our own destiny. But yet, I don't want to move there. I prefer to make my contributions in America, because I think I and my people have something to add to our delightful cultural mosaic. And I wish that other countries recognized that too. Some countries (albeit usually inartfully) say they specifically want Jews to move there. I want us to be wanted. I want us to contribute to the flourishing of Israel, and the US, and France, and Japan, and yes, Iran. So even though I support the right of any Jew to emigrate to Israel, for any reason, at some level I want to maintain the diaspora as well.

Happy Day!

To all my Christian friends, a sincere Merry Christmas! And to everyone else, have a happy eat-Chinese-food day!

I'm coming home tomorrow. Though things leveled out over the past few days, I still can't wait for this trip to end. Get me out of here!

Monday, December 24, 2007

This Kid Rocks Out

As Melissa McEwan puts it, "Pwned by a seven year-old":
"Who is your favorite author?" Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

"My favorite author is C. S. Lewis," she said.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

J.K. Rowling Article

No commentary, but if you're a Harry Potter fan, Time Magazine's article on J.K. Rowling (runner-up for Person of the Year) is actually quite good.


I know I'm supposed to find this adorable, and to an extent I do, but a significant portion of me finds the idea of NORAD tracking Santa to be very, very creepy.

Via Opinio Juris

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Occam's Dildo

Mary Ann Case defines "Occam's Dildo":
While Occam's razor requires that of two competing explanations the simplest be selected, Occam's dildo predicts that the most titillating of the two explanations will be preferred.

Discovered by Dan Markel

Don't Get Distracted Now

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on John Conyers' bill to study the issue of reparations (you can read my own several-years-old thoughts on reparations here). All the witnesses had interesting things to say, though if you're only going to read one, Eric Miller's testimony is, in my opinion, particularly interesting and insightful (particularly in how it seeks to broaden the discourse beyond stale cliches about "blaming Whitey").

At the other end of the intelligence spectrum, there's shorter Roger Clegg:
Studying reparations would be bad, because it would distract Black people from remembering that all their problems are their own fault. Also, why should the US government apologize for slavery, when it had nothing to do with it? Now, if Democrats want to apologize for racial injustice, that would be just swell.

Other common themes from the anti-reparations (or rather, anti-studying reparations, since that's all the bill would do) crowd include that there are many confusing questions to ask about reparations (which would seem to be an argument for studying the issue), some Blacks don't descend from slaves and some Whites don't descend from slave owners (which a) is meaningless, because some do and some are, and b) assumes that the fruits of the slave system only affect its direct descendants which probably isn't true), and (my personal favorite) that reparations are "radical" because Whites oppose them, even though Blacks support them. The latter, incidentally, are only supporting them because of their financial interest in the matter (the former, of course, are coming to a neutral and dispassionate conclusion the way only White citizens can).

Via Christopher Bracey.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Greetings from Aspen!

But my worldly possessions will have to send their regards from Basalt. Allow me to explain.

Seeking to run-around the inevitable delayed baggage that inevitably occurs when flying into Aspen Airport, the 'rents seized on the idea of shipping our stuff ahead of us via FedEx. Two-day delivery, guaranteed, which meant it would get to the place we're staying at a day ahead of us. How perfect! We'd back only carry-on stuff, and all our clothes and ski stuff would be at the lodge when we arrived.

Alas, it was not to be. It is now Friday, and said luggage has still yet to arrive. It got to Denver alright, then detoured to Grand Junction, where it sat for awhile -- awhile past Wednesday, when it was day to arrive, for example. After a significant amount of hectoring, we got them to move it to Basalt -- closer, but still not at its destination, namely, us. They promised us it would arrive today (two days late, in other words) -- no dice. But the lady in Basalt was friendly enough to ask us to give them until 5:00 PM before checking again. 5:00 PM, as it turns out, is closing time. Calls to UPS yielded a lot of waiting times, a lot of run around, and a lot of false promises. We did find out that someone had issued an order to "hold" our package in Basalt. We did not, tragically, figure out who did so or why they felt compelled to. Alas, this was about the time that the inevitable disconnect occurred.

Now, Aspen is a very lovely place. But it is rather difficult to enjoy its charms when you don't have any clothing beyond what is on your back. It is even more difficult to rebuild your wardrobe in this town without seriously risking bankruptcy. We're trying to get FedEx to pay for the clothes we've needed so we can actually go outside. In the meantime, my brother and I are borrowing some over-sized material from our cousins so we can at least get some skiing in.

One thing I will say: the conditions are great. It snowed all day today, and the entire mountain was filled with fresh powder. I can't really enjoy it as much as I'd like, since my knee has started acting up again, but in principle it's quite nice.

It was also dead empty, and, as one employee cheerfully remarked, with the blizzard that's been ripping through Colorado, it's likely to stay empty for at least another day. The airport here is closed, which means that dad can't get here -- he's trying to figure out an alternative path from Denver to Aspen at 10:00 PM at the start of a holiday weekend in a snow-storm. Best of luck to you, dad! We're rooting for you here.

In any event, it remains a vacation, and we're making the best of it. Hope I'm at least absorbing some of your bad holiday karma, and that all y'all are having a great holiday season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To Colorado!

I'm off to the annual family ski trip to Aspen. The goal this year is: don't die. And ski the Cirque Headwall. Kind of in tension with each other, but there you go. I'm bringing the computer in case I hear anything application-wise, but blogging is likely to be sporadic, if at all.

I get back on the 27th, but leave for Minnesota on the 31st. So I likely won't be back at full speed until New Year's.

Happy holidays to everyone!

It's Unbearable

In addition to waterboarding, Zubaydah was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.

Quoteth Yglesias: "I have to think you'd feel just terrible if you learned that your music was being used as part of a regime of torture."

Christmas Carol Duel

Who wins, the professional a cappela group out of Indiana University?

Or the untrained but spunky outfit representing the Detroit Pistons?

While the Indiana group can actually sing, the Pistons don't actively humiliate the Jews. Toss-up, really.

Musical Lure

I assume it would be hideously immoral to apply to a law school solely for the $20 iTunes gift card they're offering to applicants?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This is a Cool Hit

I was browsing through my hit counter, and I came across this recent visitor, reading my post on Gordon Smith's boneheaded defense of Trent Lott, from the US Senate, referring URL http://smithg-dc2:980/default.aspx. Bizarre, but neat.


Domain Name ? (U.S. Government)

IP Address 156.33.73.# (U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms)

ISP U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms


Continent : North America

Country : United States (Facts)

State : District of Columbia

City : Washington

Lat/Long : 38.9097, -77.0231 (Map)

Language English (U.S.) en-us

Operating System Microsoft WinXP

Browser Internet Explorer 7.0

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)

Javascript version 1.3


Resolution : 1024 x 768

Color Depth : 32 bits

Time of Visit Dec 18 2007 4:34:49 pm

Last Page View Dec 18 2007 4:35:09 pm

Visit Length 20 seconds

Page Views 1

Referring URL http://smithg-dc2:980/default.aspx

Visit Entry Page

Visit Exit Page

Out Click Steve Benen

Time Zone UTC-5:00

Visitor's Time Dec 18 2007 5:34:49 pm

Visit Number 221,272

What Is Smith Thinking?

Politicians are normally rational creatures. This isn't to say that they act in ways that I find preferable. Rather, though they upset me rather often, normally it's based on at least a perception of political gain. When they do dumb things, it's usually based on a miscalculation of the same.

That being established, what was Gordon Smith's angle, defending Trent Lott's comments on Strom Thurmond (specifically, that he should have been elected to the Presidency on his 1948 segregationist platform)?

Steve Benen has the complete story, but let's run through the basics.

-Gordon Smith is a vulnerable Senator in a blue state. Defending Trent Lott's bone-headed (to say the least) comments is hardly a winning strategy.

-Though Lott is retiring, the comments themselves are hardly back in the news -- indeed, I'd suspect Lott more than anyone would rather let sleeping dogs lie on that front.

-Indeed, Lott himself repented and called the comments disgraceful.

-And when Lott said the comments, Smith condemned them, and expressed satisfaction when Lott did resign his post as Majority Leader.

So, while it's easy to mock or condemn Smith, I'm too perplexed to even be scornful. What could he possibly have been thinking?

This Election Is About Torture

In 2004, after the Presidential debates had concluded, conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan noted an interesting omission from the question list. Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry had ever been asked about torture. Abu Gharib was still of relatively recent vintage, and it seemed like the sort of topic that should have gotten some play. But no. We got a free pass. It's easy to keep on torturing when nobody is reminding us that we do it. It's harder when you have to stand up in front of the world and explain why simulated drownings are now part of the American example we try to set for the world.

A couple years later, as new allegations of torture started to trickle out, one of my co-bloggers argued that we should just "rip off the band-aid" and come clean with everything, all at once. Otherwise, he argued, the torture issue would never leave the public eye. I responded that perhaps torture should stay in the "public eye" until we, you know, stop torturing. It's an important issue, and as members of a quasi-media body, we have an obligation to keep it on the agenda until such time as the government and American people come to a consensus that we cannot abuse the bodies of those under our custody.

It's been nearly two years since I wrote that post, and torture continues to dart in and out of the media consciousness. But I humbly submit that there is no more important issue facing the nation today. One party seems specifically pro-torture, the other party just enables it. Some candidates take strong stands against torture, others are equally bold in saying that it is necessary for the defense of the nation.

It pains me to say we need a "debate" on torture. But we do, because it's a salient issue that divides the party. Is America going to be the type of place that tortures? Put people on the record. Don't let them duck and dodge and hem and haw about whether the particular "harsh interrogation procedures" qualify. Water boarding is torture. If it was torture to Jim Crow Mississippians when used on Black criminal suspects, it's certainly torture now. And yes, the media has an obligation to call a spade a spade, and tell us that when Bush threatens to veto a bill that would prohibit waterboarding, he is protecting his right to torture. Enough language games.

If there is a debate to be had, then a debate we deserve. But what can't happen is pretending that this isn't the issue on the table. If we are going to be a nation that tortures, then we need to take responsibility for it the way a democratic nation should: we need to openly deliberate over it, vigorously debate it, and have critical media coverage about it. To do anything else is a disservice to who we are as a people, and what we represent as a nation.

Causing a Ruckus

Two announcements:

1) My other home, The Moderate Voice, has been selected to be a contributor for Newsweek's new political blog, The Ruckus. Basically, all the campaign coverage that goes up on TMV gets put up on The Ruckus as well. Though we all benefit, this is an honor wholly due to Joe Gandelman, so thanks to him for that.

2) In a wholly unrelated matter, all of my campaign-specific posts will now be cross-posted at TMV. So no change to anybody who is reading me here -- but yes, my vanity is somewhat tickled at the opportunity to write for Newsweek.

Best Post of 2007?

A blog-friend of mine wants folks to collect their best post of the year, for a massive, end of year round-up. What's my best post? I have no idea! But perhaps you can aid me.

I include this list of nominees, which I culled after (literally) looking through every post I wrote over the past year. If the topic isn't clear from the title, I give a brief description underneath. But if you're particularly enamored of something missing from the list, feel free to name-drop it in the comments.

I look forward to your help! And happy browsing!


2007 Best Post Candidates

“Card Me”, 1/7/07 (Discussing the phenomenon of "cards" -- "the race card", the "anti-Semitism" card, etc.).

“Sensitivities”, 1/28/07 (Defending Justice Ginsburg's claim that women bring certain "sensitivities" to the judiciary that men don't have).

“Narrative in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict”, 2/5/07 (Examining how everyone's particular "narrative" of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict impacts how we perceive news and events emanating from it).

“Taking Thomas Seriously”, 4/22/07 (A reflection of Justice Thomas' views on racism, and the implications they hold for White liberals and conservatives).

“The False Hero”, 5/9/07 (Refuting the idea that Justice Harlan was any sort of hero for his Plessy dissent, in which he specifically affirmed White Supremacy).

“Whiteness Candidates and Post-Racial America”, 5/21/07 (Exploring how and why groups "become" White, whether new groups are likely to become White now, and which groups are likely candidates for the transition).

Series on Parents Involved v. Seattle Supreme Court Case, 6/28/07 (9 posts total, links to the series available here).

“The Diversity Rationale and the Problem of Subjectification”, 6/30/07 (Defending the "diversity rationale" for affirmative action on the grounds that it gives due credence to the objective value of students of color).

“Colorphobia”, 07/09/07 (Arguing that American society needs to get beyond it's phobia of race-as-a-concept).

“The Chronicle of Madison’s Tomb: Why ‘Roe Rage’ Has Nothing To Do With Legal Theory”, 08/01/07 (A narrative demonstrating that the popular opposition to Roe v. Wade has nothing to do with it's legal legitimacy, and everything to do with policy disagreement).

“Why Is The Only Good Civil Rights Leader a Dead One?”, 10/01/07 (Asking and answering why Martin Luther King, a dead man, is the only civil rights leader accorded mainstream respect).

“On the Armenia Resolution”, 10/10/07 (Arguing in favor of the resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide).

Monday, December 17, 2007

10-Year Old Girl Arrested For Bringing Steak Knife To School

Why'd she bring the steak knife? Because she brought steak for lunch, and needed to cut it.

Why were the cops called? Because, according to a school official: "Anytime there's a weapon on campus, yes, we have to report it and we aggressively report it because we don't want to take any chances, regardless."

Or possibly, the school officials are dumber than the students they purport to be teaching.

Hussein Power!

While endorsing Hillary Clinton, former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey had this to say about Barack Obama: "I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal."

Mark Kleiman agrees this is a boon for an Obama Presidency, while James Joyner dissents:
I disagree strongly with Kerrey and Kleiman about the value of having a president with a Muslim middle name. Indeed, the idea that religious nuts who are willing to murder thousands of Americans would think “Hey, they elected a guy with a Muslim middle name! They must be okay!” is absurd. Hell, they kill plenty of people named Hussein who actually are Muslims; the only thing they hate more than American infidels is Arab apostates.

But as Kevin Drum rejoins, the benefit of Barack Hussein Obama isn't that the hardcore jihadists will suddenly see the error of their ways. It's that he has a great potential to peel off support from the rest of the Arab World (also, is Obama even of Arab ancestry? His father was from Kenya -- not an Arab state, though he still could be ethnically Arab).

Kleiman also points out that Obama's race could be a disadvantage, given the intense amount of anti-Black prejudice in the Arab World. I think that likely won't be a factor -- and certainly will be outweighed by the boon the "Obama image" would bring in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere throughout the globe.

How To Legally Hire a Prostitute, Part II

Insuring my string of google hits for another year!

Orin Kerr has an important tip: The "are you a cop" question is a myth! It is not entrapment if they lie to you! Don't think you're in the clear if you ask it. That prostitute still could be bleeding blue!

But It Was Made With Such Care!

I swear, when I first saw this, I thought it was a parody. But no, it appears to be the actual table of contents of Jonah Goldberg's new Liberal Fascism book. My mind is screaming for mercy. It can't take stupidity in such concentrated doses.

Punk Islam

The Texas Observer on the rise of Islamic Punk Rock in America. It's a really neat article, and, I'd add, a very positive development. Though, even if "Vote Hezbollah" is a joke, I'm a bit leery....

The Democratic Primary in Less Than 50 Words

Courtesy of Atrios:

Obama: The system sucks, but I'm so awesome that it'll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we're gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

Any quarrel?

Sunday, December 16, 2007


It's been three and a half months of work. And the fun part is just beginning. But as of tonight, I have completed all my applications. Nine law schools and eleven Political Science Ph.D programs.

I've got to get into one, right?

Wow, Did I Call That

When Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee accused the Bush administration of having an "arrogant, bunker mentality" on foreign affairs, I predicted that
if past experience is any guide, Huckabee's somewhat surprising break from orthodox, institutional conservative talking points will rapidly be followed by a sprinting back-track, as he cowers from the furious reaction of the base.

And sure enough, after taking flack from Mitt Romney, here's the new Huckabee line:
“I didn’t say the President was arrogant…. I’ve said that the policies have been arrogant…. I’m the one who actually supported the President’s surge. I supported the Bush tax cuts, when Mr. Romney didn’t. I was with President Bush on gun control, when Mitt Romney wasn’t. I was with the President on the President’s pro-life position, when Mitt Romney wasn’t.”

So predictable.

McCain's Looking For Some Joe-Mentum

CNN's political ticker reports that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is going to endorse fellow pro-war Senator John McCain (R-AZ) tomorrow.

I'm not sure anyone should find this surprising. Lieberman is not exactly enamored with the Democratic Party after primary voters dumped him 2006, and the Party is likewise not thrilled at Lieberman's increasingly reactionary conservative stances on foreign policy. The odd thing, in a sense, is that Lieberman isn't that conservative on other issues. He's certainly not a liberal icon, but outside of foreign policy and business regulation, Lieberman is pretty well in line with the rest of his party. But over the past several years, it's become increasingly clear that a hawkish foreign policy agenda is his political raison d'être. The endorsement of McCain is the culmination of that shift.

So will it matter? Back to CNN:
This endorsement could help emphasize McCain's national security standing, show he is able to work across party lines, and perhaps help persuade independent voters in New Hampshire to support his presidential bid.

Possibly true -- I think in New Hampshire, particularly, Lieberman might have some sway on the independent voters (who can vote either in the GOP or Democratic primary). But by and large, I'm not convinced it will have much impact. A candidate needs more than New Hampshire to win a nomination, and I don't see Lieberman's influence extending beyond that neighboring state's quirky political climate. Lieberman isn't an influential Democrat anymore -- in fact, he isn't a Democrat at all anymore. He gets to be this year's Zell Miller, and I don't really think ol' Zell ultimately had a big impact in 2004.

Guerilla Stem Cells

Via Balloon Juice, a new development in cancer treatment:
GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s drug Tykerb, in an unexpected finding, cut the number of breast cancer stem cells by half in 30 patients, and two-thirds were cancer free after follow-up treatment with other therapies.

The finding, reported today at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas, supports the newest theory in cancer, that a tiny number of stem cells lurking within tumors are the driving force that fuels their growth. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said the finding may be a first step toward changing the way cancer is treated.

Stem cells! I always knew they were really a force for evil. And those liberal apostates wanted us to cultivate them.

Liberals: Objectively pro-breast cancer.

PS: Did anyone read that Boondocks series where President Bush declares a "war on stem cells"?

Boxing Blogging: Understatement of the Year

ESPN reporting on Jorge Linares' 8th round knockout over Gamaliel Diaz:
On the undercard, Jorge Linares retained his WBC featherweight title by stopping Gamaliel Diaz in the eighth round.

Linares (25-0, 16 KOs) had Diaz down and nearly out in the fourth round but Diaz fought back gamely. The Venezuelan put Diaz down again with a right hand late in Round 8 and this time, Diaz could not beat the count.

Here's the video of the knockout (it's at about 1:50):

"Could not beat the count"? Ummm, yeah, I'd say so!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Head Fake

Dan Drezner on Mike Huckabee's Foreign Affairs essay: "[T]here are feints in interesting directions, but in the end it's just a grab-bag of contradictory ideas."

Why Do I Get My Hopes Up?

A few days ago, I noted Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) raking an Army General over the coals for refusing to say, explicitly, that water boarding would be torture if done by Iranian intelligence on a U.S. soldier. I noted the rhetoric was pleasing -- but Graham has a history of talking without walking when it comes to torture.

And lo and behold; Steve Benen reports that Graham has put a hold on legislation that would have restricted the CIA to techniques permitted by the Army Field Guide Manual.

When push comes to shove, Graham stands in favor of torture. Don't let me forget it.

Does Intention Matter?

Upon request, Kevin Drum receives a conservative argument as to why it's okay for America to torture in the war on terror. He reprints it without comment (I, as you will see, am not so generous):
I want our side to win. Or maybe more accurately, I don't want our side to lose....As with any other form of violence, motivation is everything. A cop shooting a murderer is not the same as a murderer shooting an innocent victim, although both use guns, and at the end, someone is bleeding and dying.

You'd be amazed at how many people find these things nearly equivalent. A leftist I know sees no difference between a Palestinian child dying from a stray Israeli bullet during a firefight, and an Israeli child dying when a Palestinian terrorist puts the barrel of a gun to the kid's forehead and blows his brains across the back wall of the child's bedroom. In his two-dimensional perception, the only important factor is that both resulted in a dead child. Avoiding true moral analysis and motivations allows him to skirt the concept of "evil," a term which makes many liberals intensely uncomfortable.

John Kiriakou said that waterboarding a terrorist stopped dozens of attacks. Dozens. Not attacks on military targets, but attacks on innocent non-combatants.

That was the motivation.

The terrorists who torture and kill our prisoners (never something as benign as waterboarding) don't do it because they need information to save innocent people. They do it because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone.

At some point you have to decide if a known terrorist having a very bad day (after which he goes back to a hot meal and a cot) is more of a moral problem than allowing a terrorist to blow up a building full of people.

Yes, it's good if we do it, when it's for the right reasons. So far, it's been for the right reasons. And no, it isn't good when it's done to us, for the reasons it has been done to us. Get back to me when some enemy tortures one of our soldiers in order to save innocent lives.

Got it?

There are two issues that spring to mind upon reading this argument.

1) The unidentified conservative draws a contrast between America, which tortures to save innocents, and the terrorists, who do it "because they like it, because they want to hurt or kill someone." This is a tempting argument. But ultimately, it is intellectually lazy. Certainly, there are brutes among men -- people who simply like to cause pain. But when it comes to vast, multi-national organizations, motivation is never that simple. The world is not made of cartoon villains. Ask anybody -- from the Klan to the Gestapo to Al Qaeda -- if their intentions are good, and they'll answer yes. They'll say they are building a better world. They are saying they are saving their people from damnation and imperial domination. They'll say they are purging society of the infidels and the undesirables. People don't cackle in corners about their plan to bring darkness and evil down upon the world. Everybody comes with good intentions.

A hypothetical I heard used was if Iran captured and water boarded a downed American airman to figure out if the U.S. was planning an invasion. Surely, innocent lives are at stake. They could claim good intentions. They wouldn't be lying. But neither would it be enough. Water boarding is not something civilized societies engage in.

2) Nonetheless, motive does matter. It is different; torturing someone to save innocent lives versus doing it for thrills. And we can evaluate different proffered motives dispassionately -- we don't have to simply agree with an assertion that a motive (establishing the caliphate, sending a message to the queers) is good.

But motive isn't all that matters. Nobody seriously disputes this, because nobody (I hope) disagrees that there is some outward limit to what we can do under the moniker of good intention. Can we water board suspected terrorists in order to save lives? This man says yes. But that isn't the only question at issue. Can we water board suspected terrorists without knowing whether it will save lives or not? Can we torture people who we're not sure are terrorists (and in some cases, we find out later are not)? All of these are moral questions raised by the current torture regime.

Or let's press the issue further. Can we dip their fingers in acid? What if they still won't talk? Can we dip their family members' fingers in acid? Can we sodomize their sons with spiked bats? If we do so, does it matter that we went in with pure souls?

Intention only gets you part of the way. There are still boundaries which an ethical society cannot cross, no matter how noble the heart and no matter how righteous the cause.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comedy Is a Dead Art. Now Tragedy! That's Funny!

Is there a grad student alive in the Western World with worse luck than Scott Eric Kaufman? I should thank him for literally being a magnet for bad karma.

But he's a good guy, so I hope everything turns out okay. And he wins the lottery for good measure.

Authoritarian Evolution

Following up my post yesterday on how the changing international scene is proving a boon for African liberalization, Daniel Drezner rescues us from crippling optimism by noting how authoritarian regimes have adapted to the new era and found new ways to solidify their grip on power. Route #1: economics. Keep the economy humming, and folks really don't care that they don't get to vote. Route #2: use quasi-Democratic means to ramp up executive power. This appears to be a favorite in South America, where Presidents win office democratically, then host loaded "constitutional conventions" to remake the system to their liking (Drezner cites Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the narrowly defeated attempt in Venezuela).

It's a good post, and shows that the forces of democracy can't get complacent.

In The Bunker

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, writing in Foreign Affairs, critiques the Bush administration for having an "arrogant, bunker mentality." Now, if past experience is any guide, Huckabee's somewhat surprising break from orthodox, institutional conservative talking points will rapidly be followed by a sprinting back-track, as he cowers from the furious reaction of the base.

See, e.g., immigration, taxes.

Law School Brochure Blogging, Part II

Positive ones today, kids.

I got a nice thick envelope from Michigan Law School today. At first, I was really excited -- until I remembered I hadn't actually submitted my application to Michigan yet (soon!). A nice counter-balance to the thin envelope I received from a school "acknowledging" my application. Anyway, I give Michigan full marks on its brochure. It was jammed full of information, and it came with a personal note at the bottom ("We love to get Carleton grads!"). The author even underlined "impressive" in "credentials as impressive as yours." Am I a sucker for having my ego stroked? You better believe it. But actually, it was the "Carleton grads" note that really made me happy. I like it when my school gets recognition, one of my close friends from Carleton just got into Michigan, and my adviser is a Michigan alum (undergrad and Ph.D -- she got her law degree at Boalt Hall).

Also with a good brochure was Chicago-Kent School of Law. While my eyebrows did hike slightly when they said they were "among the top three law schools in the Chicago area" (true, but I think there's a real gap between them, and Northwestern and Chicago), I did think they did a good job pitching their Honors Scholars program. I was particularly impressed that their LSAT cut-off for the Honors Scholars program was higher than their 75th percentile LSAT score (which isn't too shabby itself). That tells me they're a) truly gunning for top students and b) trying to improve the quality of their student body overall -- both good signs.

Indiana came today too, but it was pretty forgettable.

See Part I.

Five Myths About Torture

Courtesy of Reed College Professor Darius Rejali. They are:

1) Torture worked for the Gestapo [I like how this is considered an argument in favor -- DS]

2) Everyone talks sooner or later under torture.

3) People will say anything under torture.

4) Most people [specifically, the intelligence professionals administering the torture -- DS] can tell when someone is lying under torture.

5) You can train people to resist torture.

The McGwire Paradox, Redux

Last year, I wrote a post on the burgeoning baseball steroids scandal entitled The McGwire Paradox. Noting the intense amount of loathing Barry Bonds has received as he pursued a cherished national record (namely, career home runs), I asked why Mark McGwire, who also chased and eventually broke a popular home run record (Roger Maris' single season mark) while under steroid suspicions didn't receive the same opprobrium. Now it's not like McGwire was treated with kid gloves during his run. But surely we can agree that he didn't face the same level of hostility that Bonds has: booing at every ball park, a universally hostile media, and now a criminal probe.

Working off that, Paul Butler of George Washington Law School wonders if the 89 players -- mostly White and Latino -- named in the Mitchell Report will face similar charges to the ones being pressed against Bonds. If not, Butler argues, prosecutors should drop the case against Barry.
There is a sense, both in the criminal justice system and in the social Zeitgeist, that drug use by African-Americans is somehow worse than drug use by others....To state the obvious, all drug offenders ought to be treated the same. Since we don’t have the resources to “level up” enforcement for white people to enforcement for African-Americans, we should “level down” enforcement for blacks. It seems unlikely that the 88 other baseball players accused of doping will be investigated and prosecuted like Bonds. Dropping the charges against Bonds would send the important message that when it comes to criminal justice, what is good enough for white people is good enough for African-Americans.

Butler has written much excellent scholarship on this and related topics. If you have the time (and the access), I highly recommend his article Starr is to Clinton as Regular Prosecutors are to Blacks, 40 Boston College Law Review 705-716 (1999).

Drug Users of America, Unite!

At his new American Prospect location, Ezra Klein argues that Bill Shaheen's clumsy effort at making Obama's past drug use an issue may have actually aided Obama by inoculating him against the charge when Republicans (or their proxy groups) throw it at him in the 2008 elections.

I certainly hope that's right. But can I just say I find this whole thing ridiculous. Obama used drugs as a kid. Fantastic. Lot's of kids do. I don't find that thrilling information, but you know what I consider the ideal outcome of a youthful drug habit? Kicking it, going to Ivy League schools, and eventually becoming a front-runner for President. There is this persistent murmuring that Obama is a bad example for kids because, after he admitted to taking drugs, he didn't have the decency to become a hobo or thug for the rest of his life.

This mentality simply won't last. Kids today know people who take drugs. If we got rid of all the people who had tried marijuana, I wouldn't have a college anymore. And you know what? Having had friends, class-mates, roommates, family members, and romantic partners who have experimented with cannabis, I can say without a doubt that the world would be a worse place if they were in prison. Anybody who has attended college in the last several decades has had the same experience. Eventually, it's going to have an effect on policy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oprah's Racial Politics

Nobody should be surprised that some of Oprah's fans are not happy seeing her stump for Obama. When you have as much of an audience as Oprah has, undoubtedly you're going to have people who aren't Obama fans, and it's no shock that they would rather not see their icon pitching for a politician they find distasteful.

What does amaze me, however, is that they are accusing her of being racially divisive:
But, what's especially interesting about reading Oprah's Web site is why some of those fans seem to be upset: the way she stumped for Obama, they say, seemed to pit white against black.

"I've been inspired to believe that a new vision is possible for America,"
Oprah said while on the stump with Obama in South Carolina. "Dr. King dreamed the dream, we get to vote that dream into reality."

Back on Oprah's Web site, one commenter wrote, "Winfrey has artfully begun her stump speeches alongside Obama with a negative racial tone."

And another commenter wrote, "Don't pit blacks against whites."

How Ms. Winfrey's comments could conceivably be called "a negative racial tone" or "pit[ting] blacks against whites" is literally beyond me, except so far as any mention of racial justice makes whites defensive and angry.

Oprah says she is "offended" by implications that she is supporting Obama due to his race. As she should be. It is offensive to assume that Black voters are so immature that they see nothing but skin color when casting their ballots. Obama is getting her vote because she thinks he is the best candidate for America -- the same reason most other voters choose their candidates.

Day In, Day Out

Michelle Cottle has an important observation on Fred Thompson:
With only three weeks to go until the caucuses, is it really possible that Thompson is going to at last get serious about the race and exert some sort of effort? I've always gotten the sense that ol' Fred likes to think of himself as a clutch player, the type of fella who doesn't need to work up a sweat in the early going then comes to life in the last few minutes of the game to carry the day. You saw this in his 1994 Senate run, where, in the closing months, Thompson perked up, hunkered down, and scored a major victory after getting his butt whooped for most of the race.

I suppose Thompson could still be plotting something similar in this election. But do we really want a president who thinks of himself as a swoop-in-at-the-last-second kind of guy? The presidency isn't really a "clutch" kind of job. Yes, you need someone who responds well under pressure, a strong leader who doesn't freak out in a crisis or buckle during intense negotiations. But you also need someone who can perform over the long haul, who can handle the daily grind and grinding anxiety of the job.

This is important, and the media needs to incorporate Cottle's words into the broader narrative of the hypothetical "Thompson surge." It matters because the media needs to take note of this if/when Thompson begins his last-minute push. I would not be surprised if Thompson at least makes a strong move back to the top in the waning days of the campaign. After all, the Republican electorate does not seem happy with it's choices, and Thompson's original rationale as a candidate was precisely to be the savior for conservative voters who had nowhere else to go.

But Thompson shouldn't be given bygones on his previously lackluster effort when covering this surge. It'd be one thing if had been chugging along diligently up to this point, and was regaining votes as Republicans decided to give him a fresh look. That's essentially what happened with Huckabee, and his move to the top of the pack was properly framed. It'd be easy to use that template all over again with Thompson. Easy, but wrong. Huckabee overcame lack of name recognition, but that won't be a problem if he's the leader of the free world. Unlike Huckabee, Thompson's prior mediocre polling is intricately connected with the type of President he'd make. Thompson will have to work hard every single day, day in and day out, if he's President. His lack of commitment to going through the grind is the sort of thing voters have a right to be reminded of, even if he's willing to buckle down in the clutch.

Could You Be More Specific?

Hit and Run live-blogs the last Democratic Iowa debate. Unfortunately, they tag the debate as "The One Nobody is Watching", which is spectacularly undescriptive. But the coverage itself is interesting.

We Can Only Hope

The Boston Globe reports on Africa's surprising turn-around over the past few years. Democracy is up, economies are thriving, and peace is spreading. Matt Yglesias notes that the end of the Cold War, which inherently stymied reform by letting corrupt nations play the two global superpowers off for string-free support, has given these states breathing room to grow and prosper. Yglesias is right that it's important to not get into that same game with China in the coming years, but we must be equally vigilant to not let China cast itself as a "shield" for illiberal regimes who want to continue oppressing their citizenry with impunity (as they have been doing for Sudan).

Of course, it's not all good news -- there are still hellish scenarios playing out in Zimbabwe and Sudan, and Yglesias linked to the Globe article itself as a counterpoint to Congo's descent back into chaos. But any progress is good progress -- and nothing would be better for the persistent trouble-spots in the region than if their neighbors were able to get on solid footing and could pull them up with them.

House Votes To Outlaw CIA Use of Waterboarding

In a 222-199 vote, the House passed a bill which would prohibit the CIA from using interrogation techniques not sanctioned in the Army Field Manual, such as waterboarding. Good news.

There were five Republicans amongst the ayes. They were Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Wayne Gilchrest (MD), Tim Johnson (IL), Walter Jones (NC), and Chris Smith (NJ). Special credit to Bartlett and Gilchrest, whose ballots meant that the entire Maryland Congressional delegation voted unanimously against sanctioning torture.

There were also ten Democrats who voted nay. They were Representatives Danny Davis (IL), Dennis Kucinich (OH), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Jim Marshall (GA), David Scott (GA), Jose Serrano (NY), Pete Stark (CA), Maxine Waters (CA), and Lynn Woolsey (CA). With the exception of Marshall and possibly Scott, I'm guessing that these folks were objecting from the left, not casting ballots in favor of torture.

Contempt Citations for Rove and Bolten

The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to hold Karl Rove and Josh Bolten in contempt for refusing to produce documents related to the U.S. attorneys scandal. It now goes to the full Senate for another vote there. If it passes again, then we could have a major constitutional showdown brewing, as the Bush administration has signaled its willingness to fight to the death to prevent these subpoenas from being enforced.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The WaPo

I'm a fan and defender of the Washington Post, though some parts more than others. I think it's news section is really good (when it's not talking about Hillary Clinton's cleavage). Tom Toles, the editorial cartoonist, is a god amongst men. I even think the unsigned editorials are decent. Their columnist rotation, well, that's a bit iffier:
It has been extraordinarily soft on George W. Bush throughout the various debacles over which he has presided. In fact, the most recent addition to the Post's Op-Ed writers is Michael Gerson, the former Bush speech writer, a man who combines a sunny shallowness with insular retrograde politics. The hiring is inexplicable -- the only possible way Gerson could attract an audience in this area would be if he were slated to be torn apart by wild dogs -- then he could sell out FedEx field.

Truer than you'd think. We're actually that liberal, and actually politically savvy enough to know who Gerson is.

Ossining Public Schools

Dana Goldstein in the American Prospect has a great article on the efforts of Ossining Public Schools to reduce the performance gap between its White and minority students, in part through programs specifically targeted at Blacks, particularly Black men. Ossining is a rare school district that has a long outstanding commitment to racial integration -- one that recent Supreme Court decisions has threatened.

It's really a fantastic and fascinating piece. Go read.

Our Problem Too

This Echidne post on feminists debating "trivialities" is great the whole way through. She lambastes "concern trolls" who claim to support feminist ends but complain that nominal feminists spend all their time debating trivial concerns like language. If only they were talking about rape in Saudi Arabia, then I'd be right on board. Echidne responds:
Note first that the real and grave injustices that women still face: oppression, rape and even being killed for their gender in some countries, are somehow all problems that only the feminists should try to solve. The rest of the society can just sit back and criticize the feminist attempts, almost like those ice-skating judges at the Olympics. Though of course they would applaud should the feminists actually solve all those frighteningly large problems, without much external funding and while being criticized of nitpicking and various forms of lunacy. But are these problems not the responsibility of the rest of the humankind to solve? It appears not. Only the feminists are expected to fix the world for billions of women.

So true. If you don't think feminists are focusing on the right issues, I guess that's your prerogative. But then you better start focusing on those "right issues". Criticizing them for not pressing for women's rights in Iran is a hollow gesture if your next move is to write your Congressman demanding he repeal the Estate Tax.

But also, as Echidne points out, these "trivialities" are often a big deal to those affected. It's easy to call "trivial" what you yourself aren't being subjected to, but that doesn't mean it's not a special form of arrogance to demean the experience of the other:
That there might be something deeper in the trivial topics some feminists (read: Echidne) chooses is lost on the critics. This something deeper is twofold: First, language matters. It matters that the most common insults in the unmoderated parts of the blog threads are about the object of the insult taking the female position in sex (blow me! bend over!). It matters that a politician who is viewed as bought is called someone's bitch. It matters that "whores" are a common term of denigration, too. It even matters when a politician gives a speech with references to great statesmen, not to stateswomen, and it matters because of what the images might be that our brains create from that speech, and how those images then become expectations having to do with how a politician should look (masculine).

Second, trivialities are sometimes trivial for only those who are not affected by them. Suppose that you are bitten by mosquitoes while your friend is not. You go out for a camping holiday together. You get bitten in the morning, your friend does not. You get bitten at noon, your friend does not. You get bitten in the afternoon, your friend does not. You get bitten all evening at the campfire while your friend enjoys some marshmallows. You then scratch like mad and swear and rant, and your friend suggests that you pay far too much attention to such trivialities as mosquito bites. Then you kill your friend.

People who haven't experienced what you have (or, usually worse, have experienced it one time in isolation and think that because it wasn't a big deal then, they "know" you can deal with it now) don't have the right to tell you what matters and what doesn't in your life. I'm sorry, but you don't get to expropriate experience that way. Certainly, sometimes we have to take our best guesses, and we remain free to forward our opinions and conjectures about what matters and what doesn't. But, as Iris Marion Young put it, ultimately "the only correction to...misrepresentation of the standpoint of others is their ability to tell me that I am wrong about them." You got to listen, people!


No Further Questions

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is part of that class of Republican Senators that is willing to talk a good game on torture, but when push comes to shove, isn't willing to do anything that will actually prevent it from happening. Still, tell me he doesn't look genuinely upset when Guantanamo Bay legal adviser Gen. Thomas Hartmann refuses to answer whether Iran waterboarding a downed U.S. airman would constitute a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Senator Graham is right that there are no further questions to be asked on this issue. It's time for some concrete action backing up Graham's strong words.

Via Liberty Street

Unbidden Verses

I've been listening to Fall Out Boy's song "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs", and I kind of like it. But once it hits this verse:
And I want these words to make things right
But it's the wrongs that make the words come to life.

My mind immediately flashes to this line from Wizard People, Dear Reader: "H.P. knows he's got to make it right, even though it feels so good to make it wrong."

And then I can't stop laughing. It's a curse.

Freedom Showers

Stephen Suh at the new Cogitamus Blog asks for defenders of torture policy to tell us why we were wrong back in the 1940s when we stood strong against torture. We prosecuted Japanese military officers after WWII for waterboarding our guys. Even the Mississippi Supreme Court, at the height of Jim Crow, declared it beyond the pale. Why were they mistaken?

My TMV co-blogger Pete Abel thinks the era of the culture war is over as foreign policy and national security take their place as the primary political issues of the new era. I'm afraid I can't share his optimism. Even if abortion and homophobia fade to the background as my generation takes over, they'll merely be replaced by different areas of concern. One of the more terrifying developments of the past few years has been the significant segment of the American electorate -- including a goodly portion of the presidential candidates for a major political party -- unabashedly declaring themselves pro-torture. Like the debates on abortion and gay marriage, this is a moral issue that speaks to the very soul of the nation. Culture still matters when it is still a matter of debate as to whether the American culture will sanction simulated drowning, endless detention without trial, and the other gross human rights abuses that have characterized the "war on terror". Foreign policy hasn't changed the game, merely the frame.

In any event, with a nod to this comment, I move we rename "waterboarding" to the far more apt "freedom shower." It certainly fits the self-image of its barbaric proponents.

l33tspeak FTW!1!!!1!!1

Merriam-Webster's word of the year is "w00t". Seriously. I have to say, though I am a fan of "w00t" as a word, "ftw" is my favorite piece of 133tspeak. But I guess that's just an acronym ("for the win").

Also, "pfft" is in the dictionary. But can I play it in scrabble?

Via Feministe

The Place for Jews in a "Christian Nation"

Of all the places you'd expect to see Jews be safe from anti-Semitic violence, I'd put New York City at the top of the list. Yet, the New York Post is reporting a possible hate crime on the Q train:
A Hanukkah greeting among passengers on a Q train set off an altercation that resulted in ten people being charged with hate crimes yesterday, police said.

The incident in which four people were assaulted took place on a Q train at the DeKalb Avenue station in Brooklyn on Friday at 11:15 p.m.

It began after the four victims exchanged Hanukkah greetings and one of the assailants made anti-Semetic remarks about Jews killing Jesus, saying, "This is a Christian country," sources said.

The group of 19 and 20-year-olds then allegedly attacked the four passengers, who suffered minor bruises and swelling. They were charged with assault and unlawful assembly.

The father of someone in the attacking group claims that the victims shouted obscenities about Jesus. But according to the Gothamist, at least two of the attackers have had brushes with the law before, both after assaulting Black men elsewhere in New York.

Via Phoebe, who herself was near the scene of the crime.

UPDATE: The New York Daily News reports that the man who intervened to stop the attack was a young Bangladeshi Muslim student. That's really nice to hear. Kudos to him. As one of the victims put it, "That a random Muslim kid helped some Jewish kids, that's what's positive about New York."

Also, the story gives more background on how the fight started. The attackers apparently yelled "Merry Christmas" at the group of Jews, who responded with a resounding "Happy Chanukah". Then they jumped them. Elsewhere, I've heard it reported that the attackers thought that Chanukah commemorated "the day the Jews killed Christ", so that could be the "obscenity" the father cited above (but, I hasten to add, that's just speculation on my part).

CNN also picked up the story.

My Fellow Students of Higher Learning

All things considered, I've decided I'm opposed to graduation. I rather like it at Carleton. I know the people there, the community is nice, my stuff is there, I have good roommates....there is a lot going for it. College life appeals to me.

On the other hand, remaining in college means that I'm a compatriot of these people. So it's a wash, really.

Pence For Your Thoughts?

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) ridiculous resolution promoting the importance of Christmas passed overwhelmingly. But in a pleasant surprise, some folks did stand up -- 9 Congresspersons (all Democrats) voted against, and 10 Congressional Representatives voted "present."

One of whom was Republican Mike Pence of Indiana. This is intriguing.

Pence, for those of you who don't know him, is a conservative's conservative. He was the right-wing's preferred candidate for House Minority Leader after the Republican's crushing defeat in 2006 (he was annihilated by John Boehner in that race), and he describes himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order." In other words, he hardly seems the sort to register his dissent from Christianist orthodoxy here. And yet, I'm looking at a vote tally that says he did just that.

Anyone know what's up?

The Essence of the Huckabee Campaign

Via Balloon Juice

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Founders and Christianity

In response to Mitt Romney's recent speech, Geoff Stone, of the University of Chicago Law School, runs through the various religious beliefs of our founding fathers. His conclusion? Enlightenment Deism, not Christianity, was their primary influence, insofar as religion mattered at all. Indeed, echoing my warning of confusing "old" and "original", Stone claims that "Those who promote this fiction [of a "Christian nation"] confuse the Puritans, who intended to create a theocratic state, with the Founders, who lived 150 years later."

Via Brian Leiter

Pseudo-Originalist Arguments

In a previous post, I unpacked the originalism trinity, exploring how the broad term "originalism" really encompasses at least three subtly different interpretative theories. To follow-up that one, I thought I'd write a post on "pseudo-originalist" arguments -- ones that often drape themselves under the label of "originalism", but really are something else entirely. Specifically, I've noticed that often, nominal originalists simply cite the fact that a proposition or position is old in lieu of proving that it constituted the original intent, meaning, or understanding of the clause in question. For example, Scalia and Thomas, the Supreme Court's prominent originalists, defend the "color-blind" principle, which is quite old (the term dates back to Justice Harlan's Plessy dissent in 1896, and Justice Thomas has tried to date it back even further to the writings of Fredrick Douglass) and has a long pedigree in American racial thought. But there is very little evidence to show that this is the original meaning of the 14th Amendment -- a fact that becomes evident when one remembers that Plessy was decided nearly 30 years after the ratification of the Amendment. Another good example would be the debate over whether the federal government only has powers "expressly" delegated to it. John Marshall answered that question in the negative in McCulloch v. Maryland, holding that the omission of the word "expressly" from the 10th Amendment (in contrast to the Articles of Confederation, where it was included), showed that the original intent of the constitution was to give the central government broad powers. But as Kurt Lash argues in a upcoming paper, that conclusion appears to be incorrect -- the framers did, in fact, think that the powers of the federal government were supposed to be limited to that which was expressly enumerated.

This mistake tangles up two very different justifications for legal decision-making. To be sure, there are perfectly good reasons to take the longevity of a given legal principle into account when deciding how to rule on present cases. But these reasons aren't the same as the one's that motivate originalists. Originalism is normally justified on two grounds: that it is more democratic, because it enacts the policies people actually and consciously chose to vote for, and that it represents the "true" meaning of the clause, before it was muddled about by interpretation. Appeals to the longevity of a rule (through stare decisis or other means), by contrast, are defended on two rather different premise: that people have come to rely on the prior rule (predictability), and that the fact that the rule has "stood the test of time" signifies that it is working.

Two sources might be the cause of the mix-up. The first is that both originalism and, to coin a term, temporalism are both appealing to historical texts in opposition to a contemporary re-interpretation. The second is that both the reasoning used by originalism and that used by temporalism are appealing to modern-day conservatives -- they (say they) like democratic deference and absolute Truth (originalism), but the also are strong proponents of social stability and relying on received wisdom (temporalism). It is unsurprising that the two might be blended together, as they both make arguments that judges of similar political alignments will find persuasive.

But that notwithstanding, originalism and temporalism are actually very different. The latter is more pragmatic and Burkean -- it draws its power not from the "legitimacy" of the interpretation, but the fact that society has already adopted it as the "rule" and has creating working institutions relying on that. Originalism, by contrast, is ideological -- it claims supremacy because it shows the "true" meaning of the law in question and because it's interpretation is democratically ratified. It doesn't particularly care about how the change in law will work in practice.

Why does this matter? The blurring together of originalism and temporalism, in effect, gives conservative jurists two bites at the apple when seeking to justify their preferred policy ends as legally mandatory. Some policies are legally defensible under an originalist regime, but not a temporalist one, others vice versa (and some both, and some neither). People who think of themselves as constrained by an interpretative philosophy, of course, are not free to simply hop from theory to theory until they find the one that fits their preference for the case. But that self-check only kicks in when the judge is cognizant that this is what she is doing. When originalism and temporalism are not seen as separate, that constraint falls away.

Do You Believe This Book?

At the Republican YouTube debate, one of the questioners inquired as to whether the candidates believed that every word of the Bible was literally true. The Jerusalem Post thought it would be interesting to pitch the question to a bunch of Jewish Rabbis (using the Hebrew Bible, of course). Their answers are fascinating, and shed important light on how Judaism as a religion is operationally different from its Christian cousin.

Jews are all about interpretation. The "literal truth" of the Bible, such a point of controversy in Christianity, has never been a big fissure point in Judaism. As early as the Saadia Gaon (6th Century C.E.), and possibly earlier, Jewish scholars have held that the Bible should be understood metaphorically when it conflicts with science. The tradition of oral law and Talmudic interpretation necessarily has created a religion comfortable with differing views, and a rather unique tolerance for interpretative diversity (e.g., the "These and These" principle).

I'm not entirely sure how that would be gotten across to a polity that is largely unfamiliar with the development of Jewish law and largely doesn't realize how different we are from our Christian peers. I suspect that an Evangelical audience, in addition to rejecting the substance of our answer, would also reject that it is a legitimate "Jewish" (or "Judeo-Christian") answer. But that's their ignorance, not ours.