Friday, March 09, 2007

Tape DeLay

Guess who CNN is hiring as its latest commentator?

None other than...former Representative (let's all remind ourselves why it's "former") Tom DeLay (R-TX). And I though they couldn't top Glenn Beck. But Tom DeLay probably is one of the few people more vile than even Mr. Keith-Ellison-are-you-working-for-our-enemies over yonder.

Via Steve Benen: "The Liberal Media strikes again." He also points out that, along with Beck and DeLay, CNN has also hired far right-wingers Bob Bennett and former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK) for commentary. Nice trend.

UPDATE: HuffPost says its not happening. Thank the media Gods.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Black Strikes Back

Spencer Overton forwards an email by one pissed off member of the Black community furious that her brothers and sisters appear to be hanging Obama out to dry. A small excerpt from an excellent (and evocative) piece:
Rather than using his credentials and connections to build his personal wealth, Obama chose to pursue careers like providing job training for residents of poor neighborhoods, directing voter registration drives and fighting for civil rights. Unlike other candidates in the race, Obama has been consistent in speaking against sending our black babies to murder, and to be murdered by, brown people in the Mesopotamia for the sake of multinational corporate interests. He has successfully forged coalitions with people across racial and political lines to introduce a host of legislation that would, among other things, get guns off our streets, reduce greenhouse emissions, and limit the influence of special interest lobbyist on Capital Hill.

As for whether Barack's black enough, let us not forget that race exists in America not in our biology, genetic code or even our phenotype, but rather by the institutionalization of the economic and social construct of chattel slavery and its vicious offshoots. Under that regime, "a dab'll do ya." Whiteness equates to economic and social privilege and that privilege fades as it traverses the racial spectrum. Anyone who has any black ancestry living in this country, whether for a day or for generations, will experience the vestiges of slavery and the consequences of white privilege, making the question of whether one is descended from enslaved Africans or colonized and oppressed Africans irrelevant. It is not simply the experience of that oppression, however, that demonstrates loyalty to our community and that deserves our community's loyalty, but rather recognition of the injustice of it and actions taken to dismantle it. Clearly, Obama has met this test!

An interesting contribution to the slow-boiling issue of whether the Black community will line up behind Obama.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Negative Gain Round-Up

I actually have made negative progress on my finals this week. The four pages I've written are washed out by the five page paper I only just today was informed/remembered I had. Net: negative one page. Speaking of finals and failing, I also played in the IM floor hockey championship game today. I had two goals, but we lost 5-3. Still, it was an excellent season (we had to win a razorthin 2-1 upset to even make the finals), and we'll be back next term.

So instead of real posts, you get a round-up:

The NYT has a cool story about adopted Chinese orphans getting their Bat Mitzvot. I like anything that binds Judaism into multiculturalism--we're not all (or even mostly) White, y'know (for example, That Black Lesbian Jew)!

A BBC Poll is out, measuring various countries' assessments of whether other countries are mostly positive or negative influences on the world. Israel beats Iran for last place, both as an average and in terms of most countries ranking it last. Israel had net positives only from the US, India, Kenya, and Nigeria. Incidentally, Germany's split on Israel was 10% positive, 77% negative--only Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon had lower net negatives for the Jewish state.

Belle Waring has a stellar post on female sexuality from a feminist lens.

A post by Jill at Feministe explores her personal experience being targeted on law school posting forums. Some pretty sleazy stuff happens on those threads. Dave Hoffman makes an interesting contribution to the discussion.

Peggy McGuinness blogs on the State Department's release of the 2006 Human Rights report. It's a bit tough to condemn Egypt for torture when we're sending our terror suspects over to Cairo so they can be tortured on our behalf.

Ezra Klein excerpts from an intriguing interview with GOP Presidential Candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR).

Watch the surge work!

The Washington Post has a series of stories up on the Darfur situation. They aren't good news. The refugee camp situation along the Chadian border is worsening, and gunmen have kidnapped and killed two peacekeepers. Meanwhile, Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir wrote Bush a letter, and Bush apparently wrote back (no judgment on my part without knowing the content of his response).

A Southern blogger not-so-gently corrects Newt Gingrich for blaming the victims of Katrina.

In Which I Respond To PG

PG has launched another one of her trademark flurry of comments, and I figure I'll just respond to them on the front page, one by one.

On Samantha Power's relationship to Obama and Darfur:
Has Powers [sic] helped Obama formulate a position on Darfur? If so, do you know what it is?

I am nearly positive that Power was brought on to the campaign specifically because of her Darfur expertise, and I assume she has played a key role in crafting his position on the matter. Darfur Scores gives Obama an A+ on the issue, "for supporting and voting in favor of all significant Darfur legislation." He is on the record as supporting a UN peacekeeping force, and I believe he has expressed willingness for US troops to act as a "bridge" until such a force can be put together.

Here's Rolling Stone on the Power/Obama link:
One of the biggest names to work with Obama is Samantha Power, the scholar and journalist who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. "In 2004, I came out of election night just completely depressed," Power says. "We thought Kerry would win and we'd all get a chance to change the world. But then it was like, 'Nah, same old thing.' " Obama gave her a place to channel her energy. She advised him on the genocide in Darfur, an issue that most politicians at the time were studiously avoiding. "He's a sponge," Power says. "He pushes so hard on policy ideas that fifteen minutes after you've started talking, he's sent you back to the drawing board. He doesn't get weighted down by the limits of American power, but he sees you have to grasp those limits in order to transcend them."

Power is part of a generation of thinkers who, like Obama, came of age after the Cold War. They worry about the problems created by globalization and believe that the most important issues America will confront in the future (terrorism, avian flu, global warming, bioweapons, the disease and nihilism that grow from concentrated poverty) will emanate from neglected and failed states (Afghanistan, the Congo, Sierra Leone). According to Susan Rice, a Brookings Institution scholar who serves as an informal adviser to Obama, their ideas come from the "profound conviction that we are interconnected, that poverty and conflict and health problems and autocracy and environmental degradation in faraway places have the potential to come back and bite us in the behind, and that we ignore such places and such people at our peril."

On hockey players being smarter than other jocks:
I can't help but wonder how much of the better academics you've noticed among hockey players has to do with race, geography and class. Hockey players will tend to be white, non-Southern, and (given the expense of hockey equipment and rink time) middle or upper class. All of these are groups more likely to be higher academic achievers.

Probably true. I think it may be a little easy to overstate the class bias for hockey--I'm thinking Canadian farmboys who are playing on frozen ponds and backyard rinks, and where the sport is so widespread that it's a lot cheaper to get started. But that may be pleasant nostalgia at this point, and in any event my intuition is that Canadian prospects are far more likely to play in Juniors instead of going to college anyway, and so the Ivy Leaguers I'm noticing are Americans for whom PG's analysis is probably completely on target (Richter, for example, is from Pennsylvania).

On Hate Crimes, Jews, and Paul Begala (the example here was the difference between spray-painting "Go Longhorns!" and "Kill the Kikes"):
I don't think there's much reason to fear that hate crime laws will bleed over into chilling expression. Hate Jews all you want, talk about it all you want -- just don't commit a crime against them. However, I think Begala's example is one where the two actually should be punished the same, because otherwise the government IS treating people differently based on their speech, rather than their motivation. If defacing school property is a crime, it should be the same crime regardless of what the defacing words actually say. On the other hand, if you choose to deface a synagogue, "Kill the Kikes" certainly indicates that you have a hateful motivation for the crime, whereas spraypainting "Go Longhorns" on a synagogue is just weird.

I'm not sure why we can't assume a hateful motive for "kill the kikes" regardless of where it's spray-painted. It is, of course, hateful when spray-painted on a synagogue. But what other motivation could possibly be operating when the venue changes to a school? Is it really meaningfully less likely that the motive there is hate too? I feel like the distinctive harms we associate with "hate crimes"--sowing fear, perpetuating marginalization--are pretty generalizable. Certainly, I'm not sure I'd feel any differently if I saw my synagogue vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs than if I saw it in my school.

"Just World" theory:
The research on "just world" mindset is really fascinating -- I only started reading about it this semester while editing an article about the problem of requiring people to file sex harassment complaints with the EEOC within a few months of the first harassing incident. This is problematic because people often want to rationalize away the bad stuff that happens to them, to deny that it did occur, because they have the just world mindset that says bad things only happen to bad people. Either they're good people so a bad thing like harassment couldn't have happened to them, or they're bad people and they deserved it and shouldn't complain.

Yes, it is fascinating. Yes, employment discrimination law is a key area where it really causes problems with what current legal structures demand. Yes, this whole area is awesome and I want to do research on it (and now, maybe I can!).

Incidentally, I wish I could comment on PG's posts at HTSM, but her comments thing doesn't ever work for me. Any insight there?

Send Me Back To 1963

I just want to let my readers know that Carleton College has awarded me Class of 1963 Fellowship, granting me $2,000 this summer to study White responses to anti-racism challenges.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dead Post-Modernists....and VAMPIRES

There's got to be a joke here somewhere....

First, acclaimed French post-modernist Jean Baudrillard has died. LGM remarks: "Jean Baudrillard did not happen."

Second, via Ann Bartow, an interesting twist regarding the papers of (already dead) French post-modernist and deconstructionism pioneer Jacques Derrida:
When a vampire expert allegedly seduced a tipsy UC Irvine student four years ago, he inadvertently set off a chain of events that now jeopardizes the school’s control of a dead philosopher’s prized archives.
According to multiple sources, Derrida wanted UCI to halt its investigation of a Russian studies professor, Dragan Kujundzic, who was accused of sexually harassing a 25-year-old female doctoral student. So he tried to use his archives as leverage to derail the case, they said.

Weird. Disturbing.

The Big News

Okay, I blogged it--Scooter Libby found guilty. Honestly, if you heard it here first, there's a problem. Us small bloggers have a problem in stories like this--there's little for us to add, but it feels weird to just ignore the issue.

This issue of Libby as the fall guy is a little more interesting, at least. The meme floating around the liberal blogosphere is that Libby was protecting Cheney, and it seems the jurors are of that mind as well.

Oh, and the National Review's immediate response was to demand a pardon. Because (I swear I'm not making this up), the only thing Libby was guilty of was being part of an executive branch that wasn't "unified" enough.

Monday, March 05, 2007

On the Cusp of Again

For people like me, for whom opposition to genocide was a key reason for our original support of the Iraq war, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Samantha Power argues bluntly in a LA Times editorial that we need to start crafting our future Iraq policy explicitly around preventing a genocide from erupting. Hopefully, she argues, we can leverage withdrawal to press the various Iraqi factions into an 11th hour agreement. However, we have to be prepared to evacuate vulnerable Iraqis into religiously homogenuous neighborhoods--and dramatically increase the amount of refugees we allow into our borders.

As I just wrote, Samantha Power is one of the sharpest thinkers out there, and on genocide especially is an indispensable resource. That doesn't make this editorial any less hard to read. But I does make it far more necessary.

Good Fatwa

I wanted to make sure I mentioned this before the day is out--The Grand Mufti of Egypt has released a Fatwa that strikes a crucial blow for women's rights in the region:
Reconstructive hymen surgery for women who lost their virginity before marriage is halal (religiously permissible), said to Aly Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt.
Shiekh Khaled El Gindy, an Al-Azhar scholar and member of the Higher Council of Islamic Studies told The Daily Star Egypt that he agrees with the new fatwa.

"Islam never differentiates between men and women, so it is not rational for us to think that God has placed a sign to indicate the virginity of women without having a similar sign to indicate the virginity of men," El Gindy said.

"Any man who is concerned about his prospective wife’s hymen should first provide a proof that he himself is virgin," he added.
Even more shocking to many observers, Gomaa said that if a married woman had sexual intercourse with another man but truly regretted her actions and asked God for forgiveness, she should not tell her husband.

"According to Sharia, if a husband knew that his wife had sexual intercourse with anyone else, he should divorce her, so by not telling him she would be protecting her home and her life," he explained.

The fatwa has led to much controversy within Al-Azhar and Egyptian society as a whole.

In Upper Egypt honor crimes are still committed. If a woman loses her virginity out of wedlock, she is considered a big shame on everyone and deserves to die.

In response to such ideas, El Gindy told The Daily Star Egypt that, "Islam does not care for the feelings of ignorant people, just as the law does not protect the idiots."

H/T to Werewolf Neil, who remarks:
While we in the West have progressed far enough that it makes sense to just make fun of anybody who cares enough about hymens enough to think hymen replacement surgery is a good idea, it's probably a good thing to make available in a society where the murder of women who have premarital sex is a real possibility.


I should add I original saw this from the massive roundup at Feministing, which is a great site generally and had a particularly interesting set of links in that post.

Poway's Gone

The Supreme Court has vacated the 9th Circuit's ruling in Harper v. Poway School District, thus rendering my massive uber-post on the opinion moot (much like the case itself).

Oh well. So goes the world of legal commentary.

Power Trip

Ankush at Ezra Klein's place reports that Samantha Power, "human-rights activist, journalist, professor, and adviser to Barack Obama" (and, I'd add, one of the foremost writers on genocide issues in the world) is becoming a foreign affairs columnist for Time.
Power is about as good as it gets -- a conscientious and deep thinker who, on even her worst day, could put Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer to shame. She also had the foresight to oppose the Iraq war, which, as we all know, typically means that you're never to be heard from in the traditional news media. To be sure, this column won't make her the next Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., but it's a glimmer of hope for those of you who, like me, shared Ezra's lament last week about the serious dearth of public intellectuals today.

Having read some of Power's stuff, I can vouch for her brilliance, and I am thrilled she's getting a prime perch in a magazine that still is one of the nation's foremost political sources.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Off The Case

The folks handling our oh-so-fair military commissions appear to be going for another Swift-Boating. From the International Law blog Opinio Juris:
I have written before about the Bush Administration's war on attorneys who defend individuals accused of terrorism. (See here and here.) A new front has now been opened in that war, with the chief U.S. military prosecutor accusing Major Michael Mori, who is representing David Hicks -- the Australian scheduled to be the first GITMO detainee tried by military commission -- of violating the Orwellian article 88 of the UCMJ, which prohibits the use of "contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession."

This "charge" could force Major Mori off the case, not only indefinitely delaying the trial, but depriving Mr. Hicks of an attorney he knows and trusts. As Major Mori notes, the mere threat of legal prosecution creates a conflict of interest that may prevent him from providing the most effective representation possible.

UPDATE: The always-brilliant PG has more at Blog de Novo.

Exiled From "Pro-Israel"

Filling in at Ezra Klein's place, Neil the Ethical Werewolf has a good post on the problematic labeling of certain hard-right groups and speakers as "pro-Israel."
I want the folks who live in Israel now to stay there and live happy lives untroubled by violence. I think that peace agreements, like the agreement of the late 1970s that has ended war between Israel and Egypt, are the only way to achieve this. Compare me to the Texas megachurch pastor who endorses Israeli military action as the best means for covering the region in a "sea of human blood drained from the veins of those who have followed Satan." The term "pro-Israel" should not be applied to his view. Yet NPR bestows the "pro-Israel" appellation on him, even while noting that most Israelis reject his position.

I obviously agree that this preacher is not "pro-Israel"--calling for the country to plunge itself in a violent, potentially genocidal conflict runs wildly hostile to both Israeli national interest as well its moral and ethical commitments.

I'd add further that when people like me let "pro-Israel" slide to the right like this, we allow at least two negative impacts to occur. The first is that we make it less likely that politicians and groups with innovative solutions for peace will be seen as operating within a "pro-Israel" framework. This reduces their effectiveness and implies that there is a gap between a pro-Israel and pro-peace position. Second, it gives credance to those who think that Israel's position really does reflect that of this blood-thirsty pastor, which is a serious problem and badly at odds with the belief of most Jews, most Israelis, and most Americans who would consider themselves supportive of Israel.

Insofar as these people call themselves or are called part of "my" group, I have an obligation to try an disassociate myself from them and render them to the marginal fringe where they belong. Unfortunately, I can't do this myself--or even with the help of the majority of pro-Israel liberal Jews out there. We have a role to play, obviously, but nothing will change unless the media too is willing to break from this frame in cases where what is being called for is not a position that favors Israel, but the objectification of Israel into a tool for the radical right's dream of anti-Arab bloodletting.

Richter for Congress?

I'm a Devils fan, so I have reflexive residual animosity for Mike Richter, but I think I could look past it if he challenges Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) in 2008. This doesn't look like a vanity run--Richter has political experience, including time as an operative for Rep. John Hall, who upset former Rep. Sue Kelly in a hotly contested New York House seat.
Richter, a 40-year-old Democrat who lives in Guilford, said he expects to make a decision in the next few weeks about whether to run for the Fairfield County seat in 2008.

"I've considered entering public office in some form for a long time," Richter told The Associated Press. "I'm getting positive responses."

A series of concussions forced Richter into early retirement in 2003 after 15 seasons with the Rangers, the club he backstopped to the Stanley Cup title in 1994 after a 54-year drought. Richter was a three-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1996 World Cup, in which he led the United States to a gold medal.

In the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Richter criticized President Bush's comment that Osama bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive."

"I think that was entirely inappropriate -- I think it was sickening actually," Richter told Newsday at the time. "This is no cowboy movie. This is not something to be glib about."

Richter worked last year for U.S. Rep. John Hall, a Democrat and former musician who upset six-term incumbent Republican Sue Kelly in upstate New York. Richter helped Hall, who opposed the Iraq war, win over police officers, fire fighters and other constituents who might not have otherwise voted for him, said Tom Staudter, Hall's spokesman.

"He was hugely popular," Staudter said, describing Richter as bright and friendly. "He'll be great."

In a sign of his status, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani named his dog "Goalie" after Richter.

Another intriguing factoid: Richter is currently enrolled at Yale University, majoring in ethics, politics and economics. So this ain't your typical dumb jock (an aside: it's entirely anecdotal, but I've noticed that hockey players seem to be, on average, smarter than athletes in other sports. Ivy league schools whose teams are jokes in other sports have some of the best college hockey teams in the nation. Probably just a bias on my part, but still).

Shays' 4th District is one of the wealthiest in the country, and I wonder if a bit of old-fashioned elitism might cut against Richter ("Only uneducated rabble would elect a sports star to Congress"). But certainly, an intriguing potential matchup.

Obama Before AIPAC

M.J. Rosenberg has the text of Obama's speech before AIPAC. It's been getting solid (albeit not outstanding) reviews from a surprisingly diverse swath of the blogosphere. Here's Matt Yglesias, Andrew Sullivan (he doesn't say anything, but I can tell by his excerpt that he liked it), Marty Peretz, and the NJDC.

Generally, more conservative Dems were happier than the more liberal wing--the biggest eyebrow raiser was his "nothing off the table" quote with regards to Iran.

I too, think the speech was solid but not spectacular. I think Obama is right to emphasize that it is in both Israel's and America's interests for a stable, lasting peace to develop in that region, and that our foreign policy must center around getting that reality into being. That may mean (indeed, probably means) negotiating with some unsavory regimes. Such is life. It is not anti-Israel to talk with its more hostile neighbors, so long as part of those discussions is dedicated to pushing for real peace.