Saturday, November 03, 2007

Applying Myself

Apologies for the sparse blogging. I'm really crunching my graduate and law school applications. I'm applying to 9 law schools and 11 Ph.D programs, and even though there is a fair amount of overlap, there's a fair amount of new material for each. Add on regular schoolwork, and a presentation of my summer research work, and my energy is pretty sapped.

Friday, November 02, 2007

"Value Voters"

This a clip from the FRC's "Value Voters Summit." I wish, I wish, I wish these people were not mainstream political figures. But they are, and they're the Republican Party's baby.

Via Dave Neiwert, who adds:
You'll note, of course, the obvious eliminationism coursing through all this talk -- yet another clear indication of the political religious right's increasing fanaticism and xenophobia.

It's a scary thing.


Link to the 2007 Weblog Award Polls: Vote Debate Link

The 2007 Weblog Awards

But At Least They Aren't Swearing

Via the lovely J-Rod, something I thought I never thought I'd read in a movie rating explanation. For the forthcoming Darfur Now:
Rated PG for thematic material involving crimes against humanity.

Well fuck. Oh, oops! Hope no children under 13 saw that. But by all means, enjoy some genocide with your popcorn.


Link to the 2007 Weblog Award Polls: Vote Debate Link

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Lamborn is Nuts

This has no real national significance, but I still am amazed that the Colorado GOP is refusing to endorse one of its own incumbents, Doug Lamborn. Lamborn is, needless to say, crazy, but that usually isn't a barrier. But he also made some major enemies in his own party in the bitterly contested 2006 primary in which he won his seat.


Link to the 2007 Weblog Award Polls: Vote Debate Link

The 2007 Weblog Awards

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2007 Weblog Awards!

Remember last year, when I spammed all my friends with demands that they vote for me for some stupid Weblog Award?

Well, here we go again! I'm up in the "best of the top 5,001 - 6,750" category. You can cast your vote here. Polls are open until November 8th, and you can (and are encouraged to) vote once a day.

Thanks in advance for your support!

The 2007 Weblog Awards


A quick note about campaigning. Unlike last year, I won't be going the full-fledged, spam-all-my-friends-until-they-hate-me route to go after the win here. I will be putting the above icon below all my posts this week, and I certainly welcome any votes that come my way. But I'm not doing anything more than that. One year of aggravation is about all my interpersonal relationships can stand.

Best of Links, Worst of Links

Checking my sitemeter stats, I discovered that I have recently been linked to by the The New York Times (specifically their "Lede" blog). Neat-o (even though they apparently confused me with Sherrilyn Ifill)! The NYT is now the second newspaper to have pointed traffic here -- the first being the Chicago Sun-Times.

On the other hand, the same perusal of sitemeter also revealed that I had been linked to by the White Supremacist site "Stormfront" (no link, google them if you want). So, that was less pleasing.

But I'm pretty sure the hits I'm getting from the NYT are significantly outweighing those of Stormfront, so I'm claiming a net benefit.

I'm Not a Racist, I Support Obama!

Mike Meginnis asks if some of the support Obama receives from high-brow Whites, particularly Republicans, is (at least in part) anti-racist signaling.
It’s not too hard to explain why people hate Clinton — equal parts sexism and her genuine lack of personal appeal, I would say — but I think Republican love for Obama is a little weirder. My partial explanation is that Obama is black. Republicans aren’t complete morons — they know they have a reputation for racist attitudes and policies. Many of them are really defensive about it. They constantly remind their relatives and friends how they don’t see any difference between black and white, they believe we’re all equal, they support civil rights, etc. But it’s hard to adopt any low-cost behaviors that signify such anti-racist perspectives without causing awkwardness. We all feel sort of weird around that white guy who spends every waking minute talking about civil wars in Africa, blood diamonds, his appreciation for the music of Bob Marley, and so forth. He means well enough but we don’t know how to read him — to what extent is his conspicuous demonstration of virtue an endearing flirtation with genuinely progressive politics, and to what extent is it all just a cover?

Obama support offers people a chance to symbolically demonstrate their enlightenment at no cost. I’ve heard and read a number of times now about racist white people developing a strange attachment to Obama. They don’t normally like Democrats but this kid seems alright. It doesn’t hurt that he uses language designed to help him buddy up with those who are, more or less, afraid of black people — he is, in some ways, professionally a nonthreatening black man. I don’t mean that as a criticism. To an extent this highlights the expert way in which he has navigated this country’s complicated and often awful relationship with race, but ultimately it doesn’t mean much for his chances come election day. People are brilliant in this country at finding ways to vote conservative when everything they know tells them not to. My mother knew Bush was a disaster and she voted for him anyway not because Kerry would do anything to make abortion more common but because he approved of it. They’ll find something or other like that come election day if Obama gets the nod. There’s no reason they can’t say one thing and do another. They might even go on doing it after the fact. Obama has been adopted by many racists and anxious, defensive republicans as a symbol, but that’s as far as it goes.

I think there is something to this. In a nominally color-blind society, people need to have someone they can point to as proof that they are not making judgments based on color. It's tough to swing that when the only politicians you ever vote for are White. Finding that one guy you can support makes for a great bulwark against future charges of racism. And, as Meginnis says, you can always find a last-minute reason to vote for his opponent anyway -- just so long as you continue to assert how much you like Obama. But is there any substantive anti-racism message or practice in one's support of Obama?

A few months ago, my friends asked me why I was supporting Obama, and among the several answers I gave, one was that I thought it was long since time we had a Black (or just non-White) President. They laughed and accused me of casting an "affirmative action vote."

At first, I recoiled from the term, but the more I've thought about it, the more I think it's okay. Voting, after all, is just a way of divvying up a particular social good, and in fact, as a young, relatively powerless college student, it's one of the most direct avenues I have for pointing how I think society should distribute a particular socially salient position. Taking seriously my own position on affirmative action, which is that it accurately takes "contribution to diversity" into account as a function of merit, there is no reason why Obama breaking up the Whites-only club at the White House ought not factor into my decision. It's one more thing about Obama that makes him better from the rest of the field.

That doesn't mean it couldn't possibly be outweighed. If I found Obama's policies to be wrong-headed, or I thought he wasn't qualified to take the helm as commander-and-chief, or I thought that his opponents' views were substantially more in line with my own, then those factors could easily take precedence over the diversity plus factor. But that doesn't mean it isn't a relevant consideration.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Welcome to the Party!

John Cole, everyone's favorite moderate Republican, wears the label no longer. He has switched party registrations, and is now officially a West Virginia Democrat.

Welcome aboard!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Holding Out For a Hero

This is an unbelievably important post by Maryland Law Professor Sherrilyn Ifill on the idea of victims of racism as "heroes." Basically, the argument is that people challenging racism have historically been forced to be superhuman figures -- men and women with squeaky clean slates who didn't have a single blemish on their records. Because if they did, that would become the subject of the conversation, rather than the racism being challenged.

Tactically speaking, there's a lot to be said for this approach. But of course, it ends up abandoning the vast majority of people who aren't perfect, who do bad things on occasion, and sometimes deserve (reasonable) punishment. The question in the Jena Six isn't whether the Black kids deserve punishment for attacking their White classmate. Nobody disputes that they do. The question is whether they should be sent away to prison for multi-decade sentences. That, they most certainly don't. As Ifill puts it:
I don’t regard Mychal Bell or the other teens that comprise the Jena 6 as “heroes.” For me, they needn’t be mythic figures. The fact that they are ordinary black, southern high school students who acted inappropriately (seriously beating down a white student who they claim boasted about engaging in racist activity) makes them more powerful symbols. They didn’t respond to what they saw as provocation like “heroes.” Instead, they responded like thousands of 16 and 17-year old black boys would. That’s why the prosecutor’s response – overcharging the case — merits our scrutiny and condemnation. Because black teenagers, like white teenagers, should not be held to “heroic” standards. They should be punished for wrongdoing – in this case seriously assaulting a schoolmate — but the punishment should be proportionate to the crime, to the context, and to the age of the perpetrator and the victim.
The point is that heroes aren’t always or even most often, the victims of injustice. Mostly it’s just ordinary folks, making ordinary, (often) bad decisions. In 2007 we ought to be able to hold two thoughts in our head at the same time: that Wilson and the Jena 6 made mistakes for which they deserved some punishment, and that the prosecutors in Georgia and Louisiana used the law in a way that treated the lives of these black teenagers as entirely expendable.

To paraphrase a remark someone once made about women's rights, the goal now isn't to get a Black Albert Einstein admitted to a local state college. The goal is for a Black schmuck to be treated just the same as a White schmuck.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Israel and Post-Colonial Studies

I agree with Phoebe, this book looks fantastic. Unfortunately, unlike Phoebe Carleton's library is not so extensive, so I have to plead with the Inter-Library Loan service to get me the whole issue of Israel Affairs upon which the book is based.

But still, excitement city.

Extra-Diverse Democrats?

Commenting on early Democratic VP speculation, The Garance articulates the conventional wisdom that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will put "additional" diversity on their ticket. This, I think, is true, but not necessarily for the reason Garance says. She argues that the ideal Democratic VP candidate is someone from a swing-state who can deliver those extra electoral votes. Wesley Clark, for example, fits the profile because he's "white, Southern, military, and from the potentially swingable (for a Clinton) state of Arkansas" (although Garance thinks worries about Clark's campaign skills may sink him).

Back in 2004, I recalled reading an article about VP selection that argued that so-called "balancing the ticket" is over-rated. It doesn't matter as much to make sure that the south is represented on the Democratic ballot. Rather, what matters is the "narrative" that the newly created ticket presents. What story will the media write about the selection? Selecting a VP is an opportunity to create a positive media theme around your campaign, or diffuse a negative meme. And of course, an unwary candidate can unwittingly construct a very negative image of their campaign. For example, if Hillary Clinton doesn't select someone who can claim some serious military credentials, it will undoubtedly feed into the stock narrative that she's intolerable to (or worse, has written off) the armed forces. (Incidentally, this example shows another truth about media narratives -- they don't have to be true. The idea that Hillary is anti-military is utterly ridiculous, but so long as it's a "perception" it can be written about, and thus reinforced, indefinitely).

Of course, regional balancing cannot entirely be divorced from narrative construction, if for no other reason than that it's been so drummed into us that tickets are supposed to have geographic balance that refusing to do that is a story in of itself. But that doesn't explain why Clinton or Obama couldn't select a female VP from the "appropriate" region. For example, Governors Kathleen Sebelius (KS) and Janet Napolitano (AZ) would seem to fit inside the geographic story just fine (and Napolitano could arguably put Arizona in play). And, to be sure, I've heard both of their names bandied about -- just not for Clinton (or really, Obama).

The reason is that there is a very predictable media narrative that will form if two members of politically underrepresented groups appear on the Democratic ticket. One person is ground-breaking and history-making. Two people, by contrast, is an "affirmative action" choice and proof the Democrats are in thrall to "interest groups." If Obama picks a woman, it will undoubtedly be cast as "appeasing" women's groups who were ready to see Clinton break the ultimate glass ceiling. If Clinton picks a Black running mate, same thing, except replace NOW with the NAACP. This is what Derrick Bell calls the unspoken limit on affirmative action. Even if at first the diversity is applauded, at some point folks will start getting uncomfortable with too many women or people of color. A presidential ticket that doesn't include a White male is virtually inconceivable, and it's equally inconceivable that the media won't make heavy note of that fact in the unlikely instance it comes into being.

Real Women Have Curves (Or Not. But They Can)

Queen Latifah:
"Beauty is not just a white girl. It's so many different flavors and shades," the 37-year-old rapper-actress tells People magazine in its latest issue. "It's good for regular girls because the meter (for beauty) has been a slim white girl."

I happen to be currently dating a beautiful White girl. But it's still good to keep in mind.

Today in Obvious

WaPo: U.S. Promises on Darfur Don't Match Actions

No kidding!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Remember Rick Warren?

This is a fantastic and much needed post by Think on These Things (a pro-Obama blogger) regarding Barack Obama and the Donnie McClurkin scandal. McClurkin was the anti-gay pastor who was invited to participate in a gospel singer campaign swing through South Carolina. Unsurprisingly, it aroused a furious reaction among many liberals who find McClurkin's views on homosexuality appalling (as, it bears mention, do I).

Rick Warren, by contrast, was the pro-life, anti-gay pastor who invited Obama to speak in front of his congregation on the topic of AIDS. For this, Warren was blasted by his evangelical fellows, who could not stand the thought of standing side-by-side with a "pro-death" (their words) leader like Obama. And liberals, for their part, derided this reaction as proof of conservative intolerance (I wrote a brief blog post on this at the time).

Juxtaposing these two events together, TOTT writes:
There is no way to unify this country if people on both sides refuse to be in the same space as those with whom they disagree. It is fine to disagree and be vocal about your disagreement, but you absolutely can’t make progress without even talking to each other. Both sides need to stop being intolerant and threatened by those who are different from them. We need more Rick Warrens on the conservative side and Barack Obamas on the progressive side.

Via Sully

Returning in Love

Yeah, I've been razzing on Maryland lately. And yes, they deserve it: using the existence of sadomasochism as an excuse to let a domestic abuser go free is seriously uncool.

But it's difficult for me to stay angry at Maryland for long. I love Maryland. And it's polling like this that shows why. On same-sex marriage:
On the same-sex marriage issue, 51 percent said they oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, and 44 percent said they support changing the law to allow that.

But Marylanders are far more open to the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to form civil unions, giving them some of the same legal rights as married couples. Fifty-seven percent support civil unions; 39 percent oppose them.

A national poll last year found that 45 percent supported civil unions and 48 percent opposed them.
Fifty-nine percent of white Marylanders favor civil unions. Blacks are split, with 46 percent supporting and 48 percent opposing them. Meanwhile, 59 percent of African Americans oppose same-sex marriage, and white are split, with 50 percent supporting and 45 percent opposing.

I'd be very surprised if there are more than a half-dozen states where even White voters (who, on this issue at least, are probably more liberal than Blacks) can pull a majority in favor of gay marriage. But that's Maryland! And I have to say, those are the sort of numbers in which a bold state legislature could legitimately act and win passage for legalization. Given Maryland's huge Democratic skew in terms of state-wide representation, I think it's time to make the push.