Friday, July 11, 2008

Doing Well By Doing Right

A few days ago I finished David B. Wilkin's article From "Separate is Inherently Unequal" to "Diversity is Good for Business": The Rise of Market-Based Diversity Arguments and the Fate of the Black Corporate Bar [117 Harv. L. Rev. 1548 (2004)]. It undertakes a sophisticated analysis of the so-called "business case for diversity" (that diversity in various ways improves the bottom line of corporations, and thus companies should pursue it), and sounds alarms as to why it may not cross-over well in terms of advancing the career prospects of Black lawyers in the corporate bar (though his ultimate conclusions on the matter are mixed).

It was one of the better articles dealing with diversity issues that I've read, and it's critical approach was an important one for me to keep in mind as someone who really is a cheerleader for diversity as being part of "doing well" as well as "doing right."

However, this article on, detailing how big corporations are beginning to demand real commitment to diversity from the law firms they work with, offers hope to those demoralized by Wilkins article. Most notably, it provides examples of companies taking aggressive action to prevent "gaming" -- companies who, for example, bring a Black attorneys to client meetings to flash diversity but give him no substantive work on the case. If companies were just showing "commitment to diversity" as a PR effort, this would probably be sufficient to insulate themselves from criticism. The fact that they trying to eliminate that sort of superficial diversity effort and are demanding that attorneys of various backgrounds actually get assigned to the meaty parts of the cases indicates that they see value in diversity beyond just imagery.


Two siblings, torn apart by the Holocaust, have been reunited for the first time 66 years later.

No Mezuzot Means No Observant Jews

The 7th Circuit, in a 2-1 opinion written by (Chicago law prof!) Frank Easterbrook, has held that an apartment which -- in the course of prohibiting all outside objects on doorways -- bars observant Jews from posting Mezuzot on the door frames does not violate the Fair Housing Act. Judge Diane Wood (also a Chicago law prof!) wrote the dissent, in which she noted that the prohibition effectively served as a red-line against selling to observant Jews. She also noted the charming argument by the condominium association in its brief that the Jewish plaintiffs were attempting to extract a "pound of flesh" in the case. The reference, of course, is to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice -- one of the most prominent Jewish villains in Western literature. Indeed, Judge Wood's summary of the facts shows a distressing pattern of, at best, insensitivity, at worst, prejudice, against the Jewish tenants here.

Judge Easterbrook argued that since the law was "neutral" with respect to religion (barring sports pennants right along with Mezuzot), it was thus permissible. This is a perfect example of my argument as to why "neutrality" in Church/State jurisprudence ends up providing insufficient protection to religious minorities, such as Jews.

First, Judge Wood's dissent makes it clear that, at the least, there are serious questions about whether the "neutral" interpretation of the rule in question was a deliberate guise for religion-specific hostility. Second, even if the interpretation was adopted with nothing but "indifference" to the consequences to Jews, it is facile to suggest that even the most ardent Bears fan is harmed in being barred from putting up a team pennant on his door the way that an Orthodox Jew is when she is prevented from putting up a Mezuzah. The banner of neutral principles does not work when grappling with fundamentally dissimilar cases. And the final point this case helps illuminate is how religious protection gets hinged on similarity to majority faiths. Had this rule been enforced only against Jews but not Christians, it'd clearly be illegal. But of course, there is no analogous religious obligation requiring objects on door frames in mainstream Christianity, so that's a moot point. And even more obviously, if Christianity did have such a requirement, then the rule and/or interpretation would never have been passed, because it would violate the conscience of the majority.

The New York Sun has more coverage.

Keep Cool

One of Feministing's new community bloggers posted a story about how she and her friend attempted to buy a pregnancy test. Both were 15, and both rapidly found out that it was a lot harder than the movie Juno made it out to be.

Kudos to them, though, for working together, for knowing their rights when challenged, and for keeping their cool in front of a hostile clerk who decided it was her role to cast judgment on the two young women rather than do her job.

No Say List

John Cole has a list of phrases he wants to exile from political conversation. I agree with some, but not all of them.
1.) flip-flop
2.) throw under the bus
3.) Sister Souljah moment
4.) slap in the face
5.) but how will it play in Scranton? (or whatever city that is supposed to signify middle America).
6.) Middle America
7.) “Elitist,” when what you actually mean is able to read at a fourth grade level or higher [OH GOD YES!]
8.) homeland
9.) “He’s comfortable in his own skin”
10. “Would like to have a beer with him.”
11.) practicing partisan politics or practicing politics as usual
12.) Maverick
13.) Ethnic cleansing [don't know what's wrong with this if it's being used to reference actual ethnic cleansing]
14.) “rock star” to refer to anyone not engaged in the actual playing of actual music.
15.) “give them the tools they need.”
16.) “played the x card” (where x = race, gender, whatever)
17.) white working class and “Reagan Democrats,” who now consist of Geraldine Ferraro and the 6 folks running the 400 sockpuppets at NoQuarter
18.) Adding the ‘-gate’ suffix to any scandal (or, as it is most of the time, non-scandals) [I totally agree on the second half]
19.) “commander in chief” threshold
20.) stab in the back
21.) family values
22.) pain at the pump
23.) change agent
24.) “my friends”

Any other mods?

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/11/08

Your morning dose of civil rights and related news

An Ohio jury has ruled that a Black community in the Appalachian region was denied water service for decades on account of race.

The pitch is out for a designer for the new African American History museum, scheduled to open in 2015.

The Washington Post calls for the repeal of DADT.

The Post also issues a call for state's to reduce the number of non-violent offenders they're imprisoning.

US diplomat asks for reduced sentence for sex with under-aged girls overseas, argues it's okay "over there".

The Maryland town of Cambridge -- famous as the birthplace of Harriet Tubman and later for a vicious race riot in which the entire Black section of town was burned to the ground -- has elected its first Black and first female mayor.

Politicians from around the country are speaking out against Virginia's ban of voter registration efforts at campuses where veterans are receiving medical care.

I think Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) would have been an awful VP pick, but Sir Charles is right to give him due props for his unflinching attack on the drug war as draconian and racist. Particularly as a freshman senator in a swing state, this is an act of genuine political courage.

The Baltimore Sun reports that their might be fissures between the old-guard civil rights community and Obama. I don't doubt that they have their differences, but differences of opinion are normal in a healthy movement, and I can't imagine it will dilute Obama's Black support at the polls.

The mayor of Jackson, Mississippi has been indicted on federal civil rights charges for his...aggressive...anti-crime tactics.

43 years later, an Alabama state trooper will stand trial for murdering a civil rights protester in Marion.

Black voters remain the most adamantly opposed to gay marriage of any racial group, and unlike their peers, their numbers are staying stubbornly persistent.

Publius of Obsidian Wings says its time to retire "sister souljah moment" from political discourse.

N.C. public employee retires rather than honor Jesse Helms.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rhetorical Point Down!

While it does deprive folks of a rhetorical point with regard to the oft forgotten Jewish refugees who had flee from their middle east homes when Israel was established, this little blurb buried in this already good news made me smile:
The Bahraini king’s decision comes amidst talk to grant “full citizenship rights” to Jewish returnees to Bahrain, whereby any Jews “who were residing in Bahrain and are of Arab or Iraqi roots who migrated from another country” can become full Bahraini citizens.

It is (or would be, if approved) a nice gesture of good faith from the Bahrain government and another step towards establishing a pluralistic democracy there.*

*That being said, it is not parallel to a Palestinian "right of return" -- at least so long as a two-state solution is on the table. The number of Jews who even could return to Bahrain on this plan pose no chance of attaining a majority or ending Bahraini self-rule.

Goodbye To You Too

Wow, this was incredibly ass-holish even for Bush:
"President George Bush signed off with a defiant farewell over his refusal to accept global climate change targets at his last G8 summit.

As he prepared to fly out from Japan, he told his fellow leaders: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

President Bush made the private joke in the summit's closing session, senior sources said yesterday. His remarks were taken as a two-fingered salute from the President from Texas who is wedded to the oil industry. He had given some ground at the summit by saying he would "seriously consider" a 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2050."

Via Obsidian Wings

A Blog and a Post

The blog: This is Babylon.

The post: "The Pintele Yid (Yiddish for 'Jewish spark')". at Racialicious.

The readers: you.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/10/08

Your morning dose of civil rights and related news

The American Medical Association is set to apologize for its racist past, including excluding Black doctors and largely sitting out the civil rights movement.

The NAACP alleges that Nashville's new zoning plan will alter the racial dynamics of the city so much that it actually re-establishes segregation.

A performing arts charter school in LA with a focus on hip-hop is probably going to be shut down after its charter expires.

You're saying "Asian" is too broad a description to accurately capture a coherent, unified set of people with regards to educational achievement? Whoa!

The San Francisco Chronicle has an editorial exposing how ridiculous the fears surrounding the demise of the English language are.

In related news, though I personally am awful with foreign languages, I can still recognize that if I were able to learn one it'd be a valuable skill. That apparently qualifies as progressive in today's political context.

Police officers in Maryland also see the benefit of foreign language knowledge.

The Washington Post writes on how the declining Latino population is affecting Prince Williams County, Virginia.

Is progress against pay discrimination and the "glass ceiling" (or as the author calls it, porthole) stalling out?

Republicans are investigating voter fraud in largely Black Alabama counties. Maybe there is a there there, but it remains true that voter disenfranchisement is a far, far worse problem than voter fraud.

On the front of trying to encourage more engagement, not less, the We Are America Alliance (WAAA) is kicking off a huge campaign to encourage immigrants to become citizens, citizens to register, and registered voters to get to the polls.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

FRC on Helms

I guess there was never any real doubt their "tribute" would go something like this:
Perhaps one of the most profound tributes to the life of Senator Jesse Helms comes from an unlikely source, the ultra-left magazine Mother Jones. In a 1995 profile of the staunchly conservative senator, the reporter observed, "Unlike many of his Republican counterparts, Helms has changed little over the past 50 years." Where the Left may see unrelenting dedication to principle as a character flaw, we salute a gentleman who was unwavering in his convictions and devoted to faith, family and freedom. Unlike the many who are changed and influenced by their time of service in this city, Senator Helms was among the few who have changed this city and influenced the world. He stood for strength in our foreign policy and partnered with Ronald Reagan in the effort to bring down communism. He unflinchingly withstood mockery from radical abortion activists in defending the unborn. With his death this July 4th, the conservative movement lost a true leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Dot, and their family.

Still, that was rather more explicit than most in praising Helms "principle" of never giving up on White Supremacy (what do you think Mother Jones was talking about?).

Is Anti-Israel Anti-Semitism Incidental or Structural?

In my civil rights roundup today I noted a post at Feministe by Girl Detective that talks about the link but anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Entitled "This is what anti-semitism looks like", it lists types of arguments made "against Israel" that the author thinks are infused with anti-semitism.

This is a topic I've written extensively about in various forms. A goodly portion of my thoughts were expressed in the comments of other Feministe posts, specifically this one and this one (Feminist Gal excerpted some of her favorite comments so you don't have to slog through). I've also written related posts asking Can Zionism Be Defended by Proxies?, and lamenting the tragedy of left-wing zionist advocacy.

I am thus very happy that this post was written. I think it is a conversation that the left definitely needs to have, and I applaud Girl Detective for getting the ball rolling. That being said, I think the way she frames this issue has significant problems and doesn't actually take seriously anti-semitism as a structural manifestation of power and subordination. Instead, it is extraordinarily deferential to the prevailing power structure, doing nothing to challenge anti-semitism as embedded within our modes of thinking about Israel and Jews, rather than an aberrant exception to our general liberal souls.

The structure of her post is to list a particular argument ("Israelis are just like the Nazis!") and explain what's anti-semitic about it. It's not that I disagree with her on any given point. But by grappling with specific claims piece-meal, she ends up presenting the problem as episodic -- individual incidents which are disconnected from the broader thrust of how Israel is discussed in both leftist and mainstream circles.

Framing the question this way invites arguments over the particulars of specific claims (as evidenced by the people in comments who seem very wedded to preserving the linkage between Israel and Nazis), rather than analysis about how the whole discourse is integrated within a broader structural condition which acts to subordinate Jews. Is the Israel lobby influential? Yes, clearly it is. But that doesn't mean that the discourse around it isn't influenced by the stereotype of Jewish hyper-power. Most pertinently, that AIPAC is influential doesn't mean that it represents the only avenue by which American policymakers hear about the Israel/Palestine conflict (it's not like our Arab allies are shut out of Washington), and it's not as if AIPAC's influence in DC extends globally (the UN is virulently anti-Israel). Arguing about it in isolation, however, allows folks to turn the focus away from the broader context in which pro- and anti-Zionist arguments are made in the public arena -- which includes not just US Congress but the United Nations, college campuses, the EU, and many others.

The incidental focus also sometimes means Detective Girl doesn't really seem to grasp get at the meaning behind certain types of arguments she does agree are anti-semitic. Here's DG's criticism of the "Israel = Nazi" claim:
The main reason this comparison is unproductive is that Godwin's Law doesn’t allow for much in-depth analysis. A description of the specific crimes that the Israeli government is committing should be more than enough to constitute a call to action; anyone who's not swayed by the facts on the ground probably isn't worth trying to sway. And, like condemnations of "the Zionists," comparisons of Israelis to Nazis also come directly from anti-semitic propaganda.

It's not so much that this is wrong as that it misses the major point. The reason "Nazi" is used against Israel as opposed to the myriad of other horrible regimes (Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Attila the Hun) is because of the perception that the Holocaust is critical to the legitimacy of the creation and maintenance of the Jewish state. Consequently, suppression of that experience is a critical part of anti-Zionist discourse. In the extreme case, this comes out in Holocaust denial. But the Nazi comparison serves roughly the same purpose -- it seeks to break the link between the Nazi extermination of the Jews and supporting Israel by depriving it of its unique horror (while at the same time, piggybacking on that revulsion to muster support for Palestinians). But that tactic is facially anti-semitic: it tries to suppress Jewish experience and fundamentally alter the nature of our history and reality. That's inherently wrong, but it takes on particular significance given that we're talking about an experience of blood and death: washing it out of the historical memory makes Jews more vulnerable by removing the impetus to fix the problem and weakens our vigilance looking out for signals of future anti-semitism.

The other thing the focus on particular instances of rhetoric does is that it externalizes the problem only to the extremes. Again, the amount of people who are invested in talk about Israel being Nazis shows that this isn't insignificant. But the trouble is that if the problem is Jewish anti-subordination on a structural level, it's incorporated in the very fabric of our discourse. It is interwoven into our basic assumptions and perceptions about the conflict. Anti-semitism is not only implicated when someone says "Israel is the Jewish vanguard of world domination", anymore than racism only occurs when someone says "all those n***ers should go back to Africa." Anti-semitism, to borrow from Taunya Lovell Banks, is often restricted only to "rabid hate and/or violence." But anyone who has seriously looked into anti-subordination studies knows that the mechanics which keep certain people in power and others down are rarely that simple. Put simply, DG sets the bar too low: it is way too easy to talk about Israel without being "anti-semitic" under her taxonomy, in ways that don't require the speakers to do any critical engagement with how their own lives and perceptions might be influenced by anti-semitism. Instead, she engages in soothing bromides about how Jews are, in fact, "paranoid" about anti-semitism -- as if the whole post is just to assuage our (totally unfounded!) fears on the issue. Talk about blaming the victims! There is certainly nothing approaching an analysis of "gentile privilege" here.

Anti-semitism doesn't occur (merely) as sporadic incidents of hate or extreme rhetoric. It is embedded in all of our perspectives of what Jews deserve, what their role is in the global community, and fundamentally who we are. A progressive praxis that is truly committed to liberation of all peoples has to be willing to listen to Jewish voices and Jewish stories about our own experience and history. When we tell you that we perceive something as anti-semitic, listen -- don't chide us about our paranoia in the wake of millions of dead Jewish bodies. When we tell you what we need for our freedom and security, take us seriously, and realize the burden ought to be on you, not us, to offer realistic alternative paths if you don't like the one we're travelling on now.

The gentile world has not earned Jewish trust. That it nevertheless demands that we defer to them, live under their rule, and substitute their judgment for ours is an expression of arrogance (I'd like to say unparalleled arrogance, but it sadly is quite reminiscent of how many privileged groups -- Whites, men, heterosexuals -- have treated those they keep under their boot). It is not something progressives can tolerate any longer if they wish to keep the name. We need to engage with anti-semitism beyond the superficial, and get down to the deep, deep roots it has laid in all branches of western and global society.

Congressional Hearings Quick Grades

So the reason I blogged so late and spartanly today was because I was at a Hill hearing, namely, the House Oversight and Governmental Reform committees hearing on formaldehyde levels in FEMA trailers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The witnesses were a CDC scientist and four leaders of various corporations involved in trailer manufacturing.

It was long -- far longer than the transgender discrimination hearing I attended earlier. Part of that was because it was the full committee, rather than a subcommittee, and part of that was because for some reason everyone decided they wanted a piece of the action. The issues themselves were a mix of confusing and arcane (what are the proper protocols for formaldehyde measurements?), tertiary and side-tracking (was FEMA given sufficient notice to attend?), re-hashed and agreed upon (yes, the government should have had consistent standards!) and a few (very few) spots of actual substance -- primarily, when the conversation focused on whether the corporations had/should have provided notice of the formaldehyde levels in their trailers, and one instance of Gulf Stream flagrantly lying in a statement to the press.

So I passed the time giving mini-ratings of some of the committee members (not all, a great many of them were boring and left no impression). It's really for my amusement more than yours, but maybe you'll like it as well.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) -- A: For getting one of the CEOs to say on the record that he thought it was "irrelevant" information when one of his trailers measured nearly five times the maximum level of formaldehyde that OSHA says anyone should be exposed to in one lifetime, she wins the day in my book. But I already knew Norton was a BAMF.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) -- A: For being the one person to follow up on what I thought was a key issue -- the fact that Gulf Stream clearly lied when it made a statement to the press in April 2006 saying that it had heard no complaints about its trailers, when a month earlier it had received this message from a trailer owner:
“There is an odor in my trailer that will not go away. It burns my eyes and I am getting headaches every day. I have tried many things, but nothing seems to work. PLEASE, PLEASE HELP ME!!”

The chairman of Gulf Stream lamely responded that they were referring to their "history" with FEMA. Lynch replied that that was nice way of saying they didn't tell the truth.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) -- A-: He was effective, he was funny, he was clear, he was incisive. He would have gotten an A had he not at one point described his efforts as preventing the poor, poor CEOs from becoming "the last victims of Katrina." Okay, that's a bit insensitive, no?

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- A-: The committee chair. Was also very effective, and passionate, and correctly noted that companies have an obligation to make sure their products are safe even when government isn't looking over their shoulder. Did get beat by ranking member Tom Davis on the issue of notifying FEMA, in my estimation, though.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) -- B+: He seemed nice. And very good lines of questioning, without coming off as a total hack (which is more than I can say about some folks coming up). He wasn't very memorable though -- albeit that might be how late he came in the cycle of questioning.

Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) -- B+: For some reason, I loved his style of questioning, even though the best way I can describe his tone of voice is "bored beyond all belief." Possibly because to my ears it sounded more like "bored with prey that is beneath my contempt", which I find appealing for some reason.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) -- B: He was outraged, which was a nice change of pace, but maybe not the most effective one.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) -- B-: The companies were all from his district, so I can understand him being a zealous defender. And the issue of science is important (though Souder appears to be in the "Global Warming is controversial" camp, which made his pretensions about the need for hard science a bit ludicrous). But geez, man, quit beating a dead horse. The issue wasn't worth having every GOPer on the committee yield to you.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) -- B-: The ranking minority member did seem to get the better of the debate with Waxman over whether FEMA and other governmental agencies were given sufficient notice to attend the hearing. So that's a point in his favor. But -- particularly since everyone agreed that FEMA screwed this issue up in particularly dramatic fashion -- it became a moot point very quickly. Which did not stop him from laying into it over and over and over again. It also (and this is what really escaped Davis' notice) did not make the rest of the proceedings irrelevant.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) -- C: He wasn't on the committee -- he just asked special permission to come and ask questions. 75% of his single question was waxing poetic about how trucks with trailers rolled through his Indiana district, making him so proud to be from Indiana (did he mention that he visits his district often? It's true!).

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) -- D+: Like Donnelly, but worse. He basically said the hearing never should have been held because he knew the "families" of the witnesses and could vouch that they'd never hurt a fly ("intentionally").

The Witnesses (Collectively) -- C+: Eh. The scientist was clearly terrified to be there -- he literally told Waxman that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), with whom he'd ridden on the plane to Washington, promised that Waxman would be nice to him. Waxman rejected the overture. The businessmen really became a single businessman -- the chairman of Gulf Stream -- who was reasonably good at bobbing and weaving except when Norton and Lynch sunk their teeth into him. At least he was better than the CEO who actually cried in his opening statement because the hearings hurt the feelings of his employees. Oh spare me.

Civil Rights Roundup:07/09/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news (abbreviated and late due to work, alas)

CNN has now picked up the story of the racist Mexican cartoon character I posted on in yesterday's roundup.

An atheist solider is suing the military, alleging discrimination.

A Louisiana judge has overturned the conviction of Albert Woodfox, an ex-Black Panther and one of the "Angola three", who was held in solitary confinement for thirty years.

Can a diversity advocate serve two masters? A Loudoun County advocate tasked with outreach to the minority community has been ousted, despite rave reviews and strident support from the minority community. The county itself, however, apparently did not like her performance (hints in the article point to her being too aggressive).

ICE is reporting that tougher enforcement against employers who hire undocumented/illegal immigrants is coming up.

Illegal/undocumented college students face anxiety about their future. Following up on a theme, I'm not all that keen on deporting B+-average UCLA grads.

Buried in this piece on that same issue comes a shocking policy out of Virginia: apparently, state universities are allowed to decide "on a case-by-case basis" whether U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants (also known as U.S. citizens) should be allowed in-state tuition.

Girl Detective at Feministe has a post up that I'm thrilled to see: This is What Anti-Semitism Looks Like.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Turkey's "Military"

Last year, I wrote a post noting (through Nate Oman) the parallels between Turkey's military and a "supreme court" as understood stateside. The military in Turkey views itself as the guardian of the nation's core constitutional values, most namely secularism, and has not been shy about launching coups against democratically elected governments when they, in the military's estimation, stray from these premises.

Now Rick Mills argues that Turkey's Supreme Court might be stepping into the military's shoes, preparing to launch what effectively is a coup of their own by ruling that the governing party of Turkey (the AKP) is unconstitutional (again, for being insufficiently secular).

Mills notes how this parallels and diverges with the conservative critique of a "politicized", activist judiciary. Several conservative commentators have analogized politically motivated judicial review to a military coup (most namely Robert Bork), saying in fact that there is no difference, and Mills says it could provide fodder for their claims. He also says that it might, by taking the claim seriously, in fact show off the very real differences between judicial and military checks. The ones he gives are transparancy, general lack of violence, ability to present arguments, and ability for the ruling elites to express dissent from overreaches. I gave some of my own in the year-ago post: obedience to court rulings, as opposed to military fiat, demonstrates political evolution of a state towards accepting rule of law (admittedly this doesn't work as well for politically motivated judgments).

But I'd argue that the Turkish scenario presents a graver indictment of Bork's jurisprudence than Mills lets on -- namely, that from Bork's standpoint the ruling banning the AKP might be plain right.

Originalism has always been pretty well tied to the Roman maxim "Let justice be done though the heavens fall"; otherwise known as "the law is the law, and damn the consequences." The Turkish judiciary, as Mills notes, is avowedly Kemalist -- Kemal being the founder of modern Turkey and the framer of its values. They certainly see themselves as implementing the Turkish founder's rules on how Turkey should, constitutionally speaking, be organized. The fact that in this case the ruling would effectively amount to a coup is immaterial, or should be, to Bork. Yet it is impossible to describe this as a "good" ruling -- from a democratic standpoint, from a liberal standpoint, from a rule of law standpoint, from any standpoint.

The critique is simple (originalism sometimes mandates catastrophically bad results), but effective. If Bork was on the Turkish Supreme Court, he may well have been obligated to join the coup.

Nice Doggy

Obama's kids are so so cute.

I say this as someone who hates dogs and would consider one in my house to be a grave punishment.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/08/08

Daily roundup of civil rights and related news

A new study confirms that having gay members in the military doesn't damage unit cohesion, or have any negative effects whatsoever.

Elie Wiesel testifies in case of assailant. He feared he was being kidnapped -- the perpetrator has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

A Turkish Studies Institute has been roiled by charges that its Turkish funders seek to suppress inquiry into the Armenian genocide.

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales raised eyebrows the other day with an editorial on what Latinos want this election cycle. Attorney Raul Reyes wrote a response today that bears notice.

I was prepared to laugh at this editorial complaining of "age discrimination" in retirement mega-communities, but the author actually raises some valid points.

Rosa Brooks has a message: the constitution "doesn't contain any footnotes that say, "Note to our descendants: This Constitution is intended for easy times only. At the first sign of trouble, feed this document to your dog."

Tolerance of minorities: it's not just more just, it'll also make you happier!

It's something crits have been urging for years, and social service workers in Orange County are finally getting: different communities require different tactics if you want your services to reach the people.

The LA Times says that between 271 and 433 illegal immigrants are enrolled at the University of California. I say, if you're good enough to make it into the UC system, you're welcome in my community -- legal or illegal.

A controversy is brewing in Texas about a Mexican comic book whose main character is eerily reminscent of the "sambo" image of Black people. The local Black community is outraged that these comics are being sold in Wal-Mart; while some leaders in the Mexican community have responded that the sambo image does not exist in Mexican culture. Even if that's true (and I'd be interested in asking the Black population in Mexican about it), I think one Mexican immigrant parent they interviewed had the right line: he read it as a kid in Mexico, but he wouldn't want his own kids reading it. Different things have different meanings in different places -- pluralism means adjusting our behaviors accordingly.

Also in Texas, a Catholic Church has had its statutes and religious icons knocked over several times. What was originally assumed to be vandalism is now being investigated as a hate crime after a message was left: "You have been warned: don't worship idols."

The military is reforming its response to sexual assault reports. Given some of its past behavior in this field, I'm glad to hear it.

Woman arrested at public McCain event for holding McCain = Bush sign. She was reportedly standing on city property when she was arrested for "trespassing."

Jeweler settles lawsuit for discriminating against a former employee who wears a headscarf.

A rural Maryland town is being sued after it blocked a Muslim organization from building a temple and retreat within its borders.

Advocates are fighting for illegal immigrant day-workers cheated out of their wages. Under federal law, they have the same right as any other worker to sue for unpaid back wages.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Resist/Accept Oppression!

Dave Kopel, the Volokh Conspiracy's resident gun scholar, has an interesting request of his readers. Or rather, an interestingly juxtaposed pair of two requests:
I believe I have read--but I can't recall where-- that during the Second World War, some English pacifists proposed that when the Nazi troops arrived in England, unopposed by military resistance (thanks to pacifist policy), they should be greeted with Christian love. Such a greeting would be disarming, and the Nazis, seeing that the invaded population were Christian friends rather than belligerents, would realize the error of the war-like Nazi ways.

Does anyone have a citation or other information about this proposal?

.... How a good article or book chapter on Frantz Fanon's influence in promoting racist violence and other terrorism? There's mention of this scattered in many sources, but how about a consolidated, extended treatment?


Now, I admit to playing psychologist as to the motives of Kopel's request, but I feel pretty confident about this. The former bleg is about the need to sometimes violently resist oppression. The latter bleg is indicting Fanon for encouraging...the violent resistence of oppression. The British pacifists were clearly unrealistic in their appraisal of Nazi evil (and of course, the Jew in me knows what happens to those of us who are not by any twist "Christian friends"). But the French colonization of Algeria was undeniably evil as well -- is Kopel guilty of misapprehending the nature of the situation as well? There's no indication that pacifism would have been any more likely to drive the French out of Africa than it would have been a deterrent to Nazi occupation of the UK.

Fanon, at least, was consistent: he won the Croix de Guerre after being wounded fighting for the Free French Forces in World War II.

Webb Won't Be VP

The report is here. I'm not as harsh on Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) as some, but he would have been a surprisingly catastrophic pick for someone who superficially is so tempting. It would have been the single choice most likely to (justifiably) re-enflame the wounds of the Clinton/Obama primary fight, primarily by unnecessarily pissing off women who are already annoyed at Obama for back-tracking on reproductive rights. The advantages Webb wins (military experience, appeal to rural and purple-state voters) can be gotten elsewhere. The visceral anger he provokes in the Democratic Party's female base can't.

Sins of Omission

Steve Benen and Ed Brayton are crowing over a "modified" quote from Thomas Jefferson that appeared in President George W. Bush's 4th of July speech in Charlottesville. Here's Bush:
“The principles that Thomas Jefferson enshrined in the Declaration became the guiding principles of the new nation. And at every generation, Americans have rededicated themselves to the belief that all men are created equal, with the God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Thomas Jefferson understood that these rights do not belong to Americans alone. They belong to all mankind. And he looked to the day when all people could secure them. On the 50th anniversary of America’s independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, ‘May it be to the world, what I believe it will be — to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all — the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.’”

And here's the original of the quote he draws from:
“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.” [emphasis added]

The bolded part was omitted.

Color me unimpressed. I understand the point Benen and Brayton are trying to make -- Jefferson was skeptical of organized religion and that's a fact that has been purged from "civilized" discourse -- but I don't think the omission was all that significant. Famous quotes are truncated all the time. So long as Bush didn't change the meaning of Jefferson's words (and I don't think he did), I have no problem.

Indeed, reading the quote in original form might have been a bigger blunder. The context Bush read it in was his standard refrain about hoping the whole world will become democratic. It's a vision that has never really stepped beyond the rhetorical for Bush, but the rhetoric does matter at least somewhat. And I have to say, given the primary arena in which we are seeking to promote democracy at the moment, I think it would be rather unwise to tie its rejection to "monkish ignorance and superstition."

Asian Plurality at TJ

The Thomas Jefferson High School of Science & Technology is one of the top public schools in the country. I'm familiar with them because they were in my high school debate league, and they were one of the few local programs that could run with my own school (a local, if not national, powerhouse). The students are sharp -- including the now-Rhodes Scholar I once beat in debate.

Anyway, the Washington Post reports that, for the first time, TJ will have a plurality of Asian students in its entering class. The article focuses on the continued lagging enrollment of Black and Latino students, but underneath that there is an intriguing subtext about how Whites are getting nervous now that "meritocracy" is leaving them in the minority:
Jenny Tsai, a recent Harvard University graduate, wrote her thesis about what she perceived as a growing sentiment that "too many Asians" were at top magnet schools. She attended the selective Hunter College High School in New York, where she sensed "a certain level of anxiety" as the portion of Asian American students in the entering class grew from less than a third to more than half between 1997 and 2003. Tsai said some students felt a need to justify their admission or their contributions.

"I don't think there was ever a question of who really belonged there until the numbers shifted," she said.

Scholars studying Asian-Americans in the United States have noted this dynamic before -- how White society has, to varying degrees, reworked what counts as merit to discount Asian accomplishments (one of the more popular being to dismiss test scores and math/science acumen as "mechanical", whereas White students supposedly demonstrate greater creativity and innovation).

In any event, I'm curious to see if and how the White pushback on this issue develops. It would be interesting if Whites suddenly develop an interest in racial equity as they are no longer the top performers along "traditional" scales of merit (or if they will show continued dexterity in changing the metrics to keep themselves safely ensconced on top).

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/07/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

An inspiring story in the Boston Globe of a graduate of one of Boston's struggling public schools. The Globe also has the story of a teen mother from the same school who is heading off to college.

Chicago is bracing for challenges to its gun ban in the wake of the Supreme Court's Heller decision.

The Washington Post reports a new surge in law students studying immigration. Anecdotally, when I've asked folks attending law school what they want to study, immigration law has in fact been a surprisingly common response. Most of these folks are liberals -- I wonder if its a counter-mobilization to recent conservative demagoguery on the issue?

A new trend sweeping American states is to try and keep illegal immigrants out of college. Apparently, we're so blinded by rage in this issue that we actively want to make gang life the only salient option for these kids. I, for one, support meritocracy -- it's not like we have a surplus of smart people out there.

Immigration reform isn't being sunk because it offers amnesty. It's being sunk because it's being wrongly characterized as offering amnesty.

Wal-Mart lost another multi-million dollar lawsuit regarding its wages-and-hours practices. As Lindsay Beyerstein points out, though, the settlement amounts to less than $3.25 per violation.

Like Hilzoy, I have refrained from blogging on Sen. Jesse Helms death because it seems unseemly to speak ill of the dead. But also like Hilzoy, I am stunned at the degree to which the right is claiming Helms as an exemplar of their movement, given that he was -- how to put this gently? -- an unabashed force for evil in the world. Yet there they are. Jim Lindgren clearly protests too much. Also, it is amusing that in the wake of this out-pouring of admiration for a open-and-shut racist, Republicans will indeed probably attempt to reach out to Black voters once again -- and then wonder why they fail.

A discrimination lawsuit against the Minneapolis police force is moving forward after a Latino veteran of the force was turned down from a position with an elite anti-gang unit.

Pam's House Blend calls gay bars one of the "worst offenders" with regard to anti-trans discrimination. Yay, solidarity!

Wal-Mart blocks an HIV-prevention and testing awareness event to be held on its site under pressure from "pro-life" groups (Planned Parenthood was running the show). How life-affirming.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Geography Bee

From a article on the potential boycott of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies:
Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda also said he would attend the opening ceremony despite concerns about human rights in China that prompted some other European leaders to boycott the event.

Some other European leaders? I know Japan is industrialized and rich and prosperous, but it remains quite comfortably in Asia as far as I'm aware of.

(The previous paragraphs were talking about the United States -- also not in Europe).

Sign of the Apocalypse

Spotted at the movies today: an advertisement for a Glenn Beck stand-up routine.

Lord, whatever we've done to deserve this, I repent with the depths of my soul.

Sign of the Apocalypse

Spotted at the movies today: an advertisement for a Glenn Beck stand-up routine.

Lord, whatever we've done to deserve this, I repent with the depths of my soul.