Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hardcore Obama

Let's be clear: This description of Barack Obama working out is borderline pornographic. Not that I'd react any differently.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Is Colorblindness?

Back in 1994, Lani Guinier noted an interesting paradox regarding the ideology of "colorblindness":
In contemporary discourse, colorblindness has come to mean that mere recognition of race, except to condemn intentional racial discrimination, is dangerous. Yet because of the recognition and support our political system gives to other, non-racial groups, colorblindness, although ostensibly race-neutral, singles out race for special treatment.

Lani Guinier, The Supreme Court, 1993 Term: (E)racing Democracy: The Voting Rights Cases, 108 Harv. L. Rev. 109 at 123, n. 104 (1994).

Sometime before that, Neil Gotanda noted that in order to "not consider race", you have to recognize it (else how would you know what to avoid?).* Colorblindness is at least a little bit of a misnomer, then -- we have to see race in order than decide not to consider it.

This is a maneuver we make as a matter of course with regards to all manner of identity orientation. We notice, and decide to consider, gender when assigning bathrooms. We notice, and decide not to consider, religion when assigning public school teachers. As Guinier notes though, by creating a unified rule for the race category, we are treated it different -- specially -- compared to other identity groups. We are consciously deciding to treat the category "race" in a specified manner.

There might be excellent reasons for doing this. We might believe that conscious consideration is so dangerous that it rarely will result in more good than harm. But this sort of calculation is still, at root, color conscious -- deflating any theoretical (as opposed to pragmatic) reasons to maintain a fictive "colorblind" polity. Colorblindness, in other words, is just a particular subdivision of a color conscious outlook. Recognition of that fact allows us to have the debate between color blindness and its alternatives on fair ground, without slanting the playing field by unrealistically placing colorblindness as somehow beyond the realm of race-based decision making.


* Neil Gotanda, A Critique of "Our Constitution is Color-Blind", 44 Stan. L. Rev. 1, 6 (1991).

Israel Planning a New Settlement

Israeli officials are moving forward with a plan to build a small new settlement in the West Bank, sparking dismay from the US and outrage from the Palestinian Authority.

Honestly, this is unacceptable behavior by Israel. It is a simply gesture of bad faith, and Palestinians have every right to be upset about it. The new settlement is to be built in the Jordan Valley, an arid, sparsely populated region which has significant strategic value for Israel as a buffer zone between it and Jordan. Israel claims the right to continue building settlements in areas which it will keep under a final status agreement.

No dice, in my opinion. First of all, that's putting the cart before the horse: we don't know the borders of a final agreement until it's, you know, agreed upon. Second, even if this location does end up remaining inside Israel's jurisdiction, what's the rush? Build the new town then -- don't thumb Palestinians in the eye during delicate negotiations. The fact that the settlement is so small -- only 20 houses -- makes it even worse, because it's basically a symbolic middle finger.

The Washington Post article says that Israel is making this move because they assume the current US government is too weak to stop them. They may be right, and I doubt that George W. Bush has the will to prove them wrong. Nonetheless, this is the wrong move at the wrong time, and the US needs to do its best to derail it.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/25/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

Congress is questioning the use of expedited trial procedures against suspected illegal immigrants picked up in an Iowa raid on a meat processing plant.

E.J. Dionne asks: Is this the year the youth vote finally arrives?

Rep. Mark Souder wants to control DC's gun laws. Mark Souder is from Indiana, which, thanks to the District's disenfranchisement, still gives him more power over Washingtonians than their elected officials have.

In an Atlantic City sex scandal, some claim that an implicated White councilman are being treated more leniently than his Black peer.

The Houston Chronicle (a bit belatedly, to my ears) remarks on the wild popularity of Vogue's all-Black issue. Though the white-hot sales hopefully will explode the myth that Black models don't sell, some feminist writers are worried that the "all-Black" edition reinforces White normalcy and won't lead to long-term diversity in the modeling industry.

The CIA's "good faith" torture defense is a doozy.

Girls and boys are equally good at math. I wonder I much I weigh down the average of my gender?

Voting rights groups are accusing three states -- Michigan, Kansas, and Louisiana -- of illegally purging their voter rolls.

A Latino immigrant in Pennsylvania was beaten to death while attackers yelled racial slurs. Nonetheless, police say the attack was not racially motivated.

Citing data that Black motorists are disproportionately targeted, Illinois civil rights groups are asking that the state ban consent searches during vehicle stops.

A South Carolina state trooper is being brought up on civil rights charges after ramming a fleeing suspect with his patrol car. Apparently, this has become a trend among the state's police officers, who also use racial epithets while doing it.

New Jersey officials failed in their bid to have a lawsuit filed by state prisoners thrown out. A judge ruled that if the inmates allegations were true, their confinement conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Violence between Latinos and Blacks in LA is driving area hate-crime stats through the roof.

A transgender Georgia state employee is suing, claiming she was fired once she announced she'd be transitioning from male-to-female.

A top corporate executive, who is Black, still thinks his peers must be "twice as good" in order to make it in corporate America.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Sir, nobody cares about that stuff."

I don't mean to be a one-trick pony today, but Pam has a guest-post up by Democratic Congressional candidate Ashwin Madia, who is running for retiring Rep. Jim Ramsted's Minnesota seat. Madia is a veteran and former lawyer in the Marine Corps, and he talks about his experience defending a marine who was caught downloading gay pornography. While one his fellows who had been downloading straight porn was merely given a verbal reprimand, this soldier received "a demotion in rank, loss of pay, restricted in his movements on base, and most severe of all, an administrative separation from the Marine Corps with an Other-Than-Honorable (OTH) discharge, just one step below a court martial."

Madia managed to get this result overturned, and the man was returned to his unit. But he was worried the marine might face harassment after what had happened. So Madia called his former client on the phone a few weeks later to check up on him. The marine told him calmly, "Sir, nobody cares about that stuff."

Madia has done a stellar job fundraising, which he'll need against his well-funded opponent in a swing district. But he's worth the effort, and would make a strong and progressive voice in the next Congress.

"Forced Co-Habitation"

I wish I wish I wish I could have been at this hearing on gay soldiers serving in the military. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA), a Iraq War vet, just rips into Elaine Donnelly, whose unbelievably reactionary testimony undoubtedly caused her position more harm than good.

See also the Post's coverage.

Five and Ten

Remarking on Paul Caron's latest law blog rankings, Brian Leiter remarks: "Of the top five, four have almost nothing to do with law.... What this tells us, I think, is that the market for actual legal analysis on blogs is not as big as one might hope."

Okay, but each blog ranked 6-10 is pretty law-focused (with the exception of #10, all have hit counts about 1,000,000). So I think he's being a bit dire, or at the very least, curmudgeonly.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/24/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

An interesting profile of the Prince Williams County Police Chief, who is tasked with enforcing his counties unusually harsh anti-immigrant policies.

Conservative columnist Robert "Hit and Run" Novak has a column up alleging Democrats are blocking legislation that would make it easier for soldiers serving abroad to vote. A bit later, he hints that the real problem is that Dems want to expand the legislation to include all American expatriates. But nonetheless, I certainly agree that everything feasible should be done to allow our men and women overseas (in uniform or out) to vote as easily and efficiently as possible.

Recently retired Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett has an editorial calling for an end to Don't Ask Don't Tell. There really seems to be a wave of pro-equality sentiment pouring forth over the past few weeks.

Speaking of gay rights, the Washington Post calls for ending the ban on HIV positive visitors to the United States.

Three illegal immigrants were rescued from a train car they were trapped inside of in Texas. The men called 911 from a cell phone -- a precaution that officers are saying more illegal immigrants are taking when making the dangerous trek across the border.

Though integration in the military has been one of America's great success stories, it appears that Black military officers have hit a bit of a glass ceiling in terms of achieving the highest ranks.

Massachusetts has taken the first step towards insuring all laws are written using gender-neutral language.

It's worth repeating for the ump-teenth time: If you care about women's rights, you'd have to be crazy to vote McCain.

French undocumented immigrants (many who hail from former colonies) are looking to come out of the shadows.

Michigan is looking at expanding its hate crime laws.

Among the many bills Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is holding up is the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which would aid prosecutors trying to re-open "cold" civil rights cases.

The House Judiciary is complaining that the Department of Justice is not adequately preparing to make sure the 2008 elections are conducted fairly.

Some interesting poll data reveals that Whites and Blacks still have a pretty big gap in how they view the impact of race in America.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Don't Want To Get Blacker

This is a chilling story recounted by Bishop T.D. Jakes:
I have twin boys who are almost 30 years old now. But when they were very young, I was sitting with both of them in the predominantly white environment of my home in West Virginia talking about things fathers discuss with their sons. I shared with one of my sons, that when I was his age my skin tone was very much like his, very light. In a matter of fact way, I mentioned that as I got older, my skin darkened and changed to become much more like his brother’s skin, which was darker.

My son, whose skin tone was lighter, began to cry profusely. I was befuddled by his reaction, but when your 7-year-old is crying without a reason and you love him, you investigate it immediately! So I asked him why he was crying. He blurted out, “I don’t want to get blacker, Daddy!” He looked at me in total anguish and said something that left me astounded. He said, “Because if you are black they hate you more.” He cried so hard that I took him in my arms so that he couldn’t see that I too was shedding a tear or two, myself. I was hurt for both of my sons, and I was hurt with them.

People wonder why so many Black writers focused on creating a sense of self-love from within the Black people. Shouldn't we encourage them not to think about race? But when even seven-year-olds are terrified by the thought that they might become Blacker, it is clear that the need to reclaim Blackness from the scourge of racist hatred is a moral imperative. Jakes' essay is a fantastic defense of that argument.

A Black Power writer once remarked that (I'm paraphrasing from memory here) "we were taught to love Whitey before we learned to love ourselves, and that ain't good." Love for all of humankind is important. But when you've been beaten down, denigrated, abused, and told to be worthless your entire life, learning to love yourself might be even more so.

Remembering Which Side I'm On

Back when I was in high school, Church/State separation was one of my pet issues. And believe you me, I was a staunch separationist. I wrote my college admission essay on why I believed "under God" in the pledge was unconstitutional. In fact, I wrote my first real blog post about it. It was one of my favorite topics to speak on in debate, and I did so regularly.

My current position of skepticism towards standard separationist doctrine was thus quite some time in coming. And reading this opinion just released by the 10th Circuit, written by Judge Michael McConnell (whose scholarship was instrumental in my shift) reminds me of how far I've departed from my old stance. For even though I (think I) agree with his ruling (at least on an ideal level -- I'm not 100% convinced it comports with the relevant Supreme Court precedents), I still felt a bunch of twinges when I read it where I had to remind myself, "David, this is your position too."

Basically, the case dealt with a Colorado statute which prohibited the assignment of scholarships to students attending "pervasively sectarian" colleges or universities. The state originally enacted the rule to comply with Supreme Court precedents which heavily restricted the usage of state funds for sectarian ends. Twinge #1 came when Judge McConnell was recounting how many of those rulings were overturned. I think that to some degree those precedents were too harsh, but I still instinctively recoil against their loosening.

I had presumed such laws were permissible under Locke v. Davey, 540 U.S. 712 (2004). Judge McConnell spends a lot of time distinguishing that case, and while I'm not 100% sure that he's successful, I thought Locke was wrong in the first place (so again, speaking to my ideal state of the law here, not what this panel in this case should have done given the existence of that precedent). Particularly, I do not find the panel's argument that distinguishing "sectarian" and "pervasively sectarian" institutions constitutes impermissible discrimination between religions, though I'm more sympathetic to the argument that the deep inquiry the statute demands into the university's content to see if it's too "indoctrinating" may run afoul of the Establishment Clause.

Twinge #2 came when the college which was suing, Colorado Christian University, was described. It sounds like the type of hard evangelical institution that I want to suck as much power from as possible. But though my paradigm does, broadly speaking, provide greater protection to minority faiths than majority belief systems like Christianity, this appears to be a case where a Christian organization would earn protection under my general accommodationist tendencies. Moreover, another school that will likely benefit from this decision is Naropa University, one of the few Buddhist-affiliated institutes of higher education in the country. And indeed, at first glance the denial of scholarships to otherwise qualified Naropa University students seems to be a dead-on case of the way strict separationist laws can unjustly harm minority practitioners (particularly since Naropa does not appear to be "pervasively sectarian" anyway).

In any event, regardless of how ultimately this case should have been decided (under either the prevailing or my own Church/State doctrine), I found it interesting my gut response opposing the ruling even though intellectually I knew it was closer to my current jurisprudence. I'm glad I could recognize the contradiction when I saw it, but it just goes to show that I haven't managed to extract myself from separationism quite yet.

Legal Academic Fistfight

Legal Ethics experts Bruce Green and Bill Simon have been having a bit of a spat over an article Simon wrote. Green wrote a reply that virulently attacked Simon's piece, and Simon's rejoinder included this riposte:
It is true that "there is no indication that the plaintiffs understood" my intentions only in the sense that it is true that "there is no indication" that Green is not embezzling from Fordham Law School or assisting Al Qaeda.

Yikes. Play nice, kids.

Tax Policy Live Blog

The Obama and McCain campaigns have each dispatched a senior economic policy adviser to the Tax Policy Center for a forum on their respective tax policy. Since I have to take notes on it anyway, I've decided to live-blog it for you.

Cast of Characters

Len Burman, director, Tax Policy Center, and senior fellow, Urban Institute (analysis of each campaign’s plan)

Robert Reischauer, president, Urban Institute (moderator)

Austan Goolsbee, senior economic policy adviser, Obama

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, senior economic policy adviser, McCain


Okay folks, the forum is over. They said they might hold a similar forum in the future on spending. My one take away: the guy from the Obama campaign sounded exactly like a WWII fighter jock (at least, through the distortion of the audio feed). Beyond that, I have no commentary, because this is all way over my head.

Question and Answer

1:29: Concord Coalition: Deficits: Where will the deficit be in 2013? McCain says $0, what about Obama's (going to the Concord Coalition baseline)?

A: We'll offset any spending beyond current policy projections. He will cut the current nominal deficit. McCain says $0, but the TPC's numbers belie that.

Q: Same person to McCain. You realistically think we can get spending down during the aging the baby boomers?

A: It's a 5 year target, but we think we can do it. If we stuck with the rules set in 1997, we'd be doing fine.

1:27: National Taxpayers Union: How much will the refundable credits cost?

A (McCain): We haven't done the calculations yet, but it will cost money, and we don't disguise that.

1:23: Q: Simplification of tax plans?

A (Obama): For people with simple tax returns, the IRS can fill out the form for them, and they can just sign it (California tried it). Many people who don't itemize are in a simple situation, and this would work for them.

A (McCain): No specific plan, but its a problem. If we want to get anything done, we need someone will stand up to special interests (in this case, the Tax Prep industry).

1:21: Q: What's the relation between taxes and economic recovery? Clinton raised taxes, we fix the deficit and incomes go up. Why do we need current tax rates?

A (McCain guy): Sure, we could do it again with a tech bubble, but it's hard to engineer that. Taxes, by themselves, are overblown. It's about where you spend and how much.

1:16: National Association of Realtors: Structural issues I don't get. Why is an elective system simpler for everyone else (for that alternative tax?):

A: We just lock in everyone in.

Q: Forever?

A: Well, they can't switch every year.

1:07: Financial Times to both guys: What's your overall fiscal framework? What level of deficit to GDP are reasonable under current circumstances, with the looming rise in entitlement spending.

A (McCain guy): Near-term, try to balance budget by 2013. There are a lot of subsidies that McCain opposes which will bring significant money in. That gives the credibility to go to the American people to go the rest of the way.

A (Obama guy): The McCain program doesn't do any of that according to the TPC. Your plan for an alternative flat tax would cost $1.1 trillion (McCain guy: we are committed to making it revenue neutral, but we haven't figured out how yet). Obama's plans are better about restraining costs in entitlement programs.

1:03: Now we're on to audience Q&A. Question from the National Journal: To Obama guy, do you have any spending cuts planned?

A: Yes. Obama's plan is a net spending cut. Ending the Iraq war is a big spending cut (McCain wants to vastly increase defense spending). Called for cutting Medicare advantage subsidy, streamlining government initiative, rolling back earmarks to 1994 levels, ending no-bid contracts. It comes out to a net spending cut and a small net tax cut.

1:00: Moderator: Tax policy situation is unique, because of all the expiring tax policies. Do your candidates believe there is a need for fundamental tax reform, and if so why don't you use this opportunity do this, rather than being more Bush or more Clinton?

Obama guy: We need more tax relief for ordinary Americans. We already have a situation where working classes pay at a higher rate than the wealthy. We both are changing the system pretty fundamentally (albeit in different ways). But we're motivated by the idea that the squeeze on ordinary Americans is the root of the problem.

McCain guy: McCain agrees the tax code is a mess. We're working on making the code simpler, fairer, and more pro-growth. Our most pressing priority is energy. 50% of Americans don't pay an income tax, a huge portion of the bill is being paid by the wealthy. The working classes are hit by social security taxes, so fix social security as the first priority. McCain "expects" the Congress will pass bipartisan social security reform once he is elected.

McCain's surrogate

12:52: You can't reduce deficit during a depression -- growth needs to come first. And that means spend less -- just like President Clinton and the GOP Congress. Here's how:

1) Stop earmarks, which corrupt the legislative process. Obama has $1 million in earmarks for every working day he's spent in the Senate. Be clear about where money is going;

2) Tough budget controls that prevailed in the 90s need to return. Cut spending growth.

12:51: High corporate rates hurt workers -- the benefit goes to people who don't lose there jobs when companies relocate overseas.

12:50: Obama is bad on trade. McCain doesn’t believe taxes are everything, but they’re important. Keep the cuts that are important for small businesses, but there are no new cuts for the wealthy.

12:48: Burdening firms with health care mandates is a bad thing. Do no harm to small businesses, especially, because they're the job engines. They can't afford mandates.

12:47: McCain is focusing on job growth, because nothing substitutes for getting people a job. The first problem is energy, and McCain is willing to invest in oil, gas, coal, and nuclear (Obama doesn't like any of these).

12:46: Doug Holtz-Eakin is up now for McCain (all the below was the Obama guy). He starts by mocking the Obama guy for being "post-partisan."

Obama's surrogate

12:44: McCain says his health plan pays for itself; the Tax Policy Center says it costs $1.3 trillion dollars. McCain includes his health care plan as income, so part of it gets sucked out in taxes.

12:42: The only tax credit McCain has that goes to working families is the Child Tax Credit, and that doesn't apply to families too poor to pay income taxes (not to mention those who don't have kids!).

12:39: 2/3 of Obama's tax cuts go to folks making less than $65,000, while McCain's number for that demographic is 6%. Obama's tax cut all go to those making less than $250,000.

12:38: Obviously, McCain's plan is more regressive. And our current fiscal slowdown did not occur because high-income individuals weren't making enough money. It occurred because ordinary Americans felt the squeeze.

12:36: Add up the expenses for these sorts of things, and it pushes the yearly deficit to $750 billion a year. And he says he's going to balance the budget by 2013!

12:35: On McCain's website he says he's repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, but in the plan he gave to the TPC, he says he is just patching it. Also, he offers wealthy tax payers the choice for a flat tax.

12:33: Obama's plan is $1.4 trillion dollars more fiscally responsible than McCain's without counting McCain's budget "shenanigans."

12:32: CBO baseline falls prey to all those budget gimmicks -- nobody actually thinks that all those tax cut "sunsets" are actually going to occur. They're there to mask the true cost of all the tax cuts.

12:31: McCain's close to doubles the deficit, and has $3 trillion dollars of similar budget gimmicks that the Bush admin used, and the overwhelming majority of the tax credits McCain puts out are aimed at the rich.

12:30: McCain's plan is twice as big as Bush's, and twice as regressive. Relative to the current law, Obama's plan reduces the deficit.

12:27: The Obama campaign representative is on now. He wants to start with a three-part critique of Bush's "fiscal legacy":

1) Huge fiscal deficits fueled by "massive tax cuts" and promised-but-never-delivered spending cuts;

2) Hiding the true cost of the tax cuts through budget gimmicks;

3) Focusing the tax cuts on wealthy individuals when working families struggle. Working families income fell during the latest economic recovery.

The Tax Policy Center's analyst

12:25: Obama's health plan is $1.6 trillion over 10 years, but costs grow over time. Some employers will drop coverage, but "play-or-pay" plan mitigates that.

12:25: Obama would mandate coverage of all children (below 300% of the poverty line?).

12:24: New Obama plan: Health Insurance Exchange to give employees healthcare options, for people who don't have healthcare from their employers (or don't like the plan they have).

12:23: $1.3 trillion over 10 years for McCain's healthcare, and the number of people covered would decline over time.

12:22: McCain's health plan eliminates the incentive to get more generous health plans because the credit doesn't depend on how much you spend on healthcare. But it might undermine people without insurance. McCain's talk about a "risk pool" wasn't fleshed out, and that's where the big spending will be.

12:19: Burman's worried that McCain's plan will require more taxes to make up for the debt. Obama's plan increases progressivity, but also makes the tax code more complex and could inspire a backlash by people who don't understand the code and assume they are being screwed.

12:17: Obama's campaign summary from Burman:

- Most Bush tax cuts (for lower and middle classes) extended.

- Cut the Estate Tax.

- Extend and index to inflation the AMT patch.

- Eliminate income tax on most senior citizens

- Make Child Tax Credit refundable

- Increase tax credit for HOPE (high education)

- Expand EITC

- Renewable energy tax credits

- Penalty for large employers that don't have health plans.

- Have the IRS prepare tax plans for people with simple tax situations to simplify tax system.

12:15: Burman forgot to summarize the plan. Here's McCain:

- Cut Estate tax (15% rate, 5 million exemption)

- Permanently index Alternative Minimum Tax

- Increase dependent exemption

- Cut corporate tax rate and allow exemption for equipment investment

- Make R&D credit permanent (Obama too)

- Make all of Bush's tax cuts permanent

12:13: $4.2 trillion addition to the deficit under McCain's plan ($5 trillion with interest). Obama's plan is $3.4 trillion with interest. Both campaigns claim that there is a current policy baseline that reduces that -- under that scoring, $600 billion addition to the deficit for McCain, and $800 billion cut to the deficit for Obama.

12:12 PM: Burman starts by giving the bare bones of each campaign. Obama is about increasing progressivity, McCain's is about lowering marginal rates.

Or Whatever

A Louisiana cop might face criminal charges after tasering to death a Black suspect in a town near Jena. Fellow officer Chuck Curry defended his (former) compatriot:
"This has come down to a police officer that was trying to apprehend a suspect that they had warrants for," he said. "He done what he thought he was trained to do to bring that subject into custody. At some point, something happened with his body that caused him to go into cardiac arrest or whatever."

The "something" that happened, presumably, was one of the 9 taser shots officer Scott Nugent used against Baron Pikes. The seventh came after Pikes was already in the squad car, the eighth and ninth might have come after Pikes was already dead.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/23/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The HIV/AIDS infection rate for American Latinos is skyrocketing. In some urban cities, the proportion of gay Latinos who are HIV positive rivals that of sub-Saharan Africa.

Being handicapped in one's ability to have sexual relations constitutes a major life impairment under the ADA. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is here.

New York City will officially begin offering services in six foreign languages: Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole.

I couldn't resist linking to this Houston Chronicle letter to the editor, where a Texan says of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), "How dare he even set foot here." Conyers was in town for a panel on abuse by local law enforcement officials.

The Chronicle also has an editorial up urging the state not to execute Jose Ernesto Medellin until the review ordered by the World Court can be completed. Legally, it's Texas' call whether to comply, but failing to do so could seriously undermine the protections of the Vienna Convention.

Did Chicago police engage in acts of torture to secure confessions during the 20 year period between 1972-1992?

Obama helps introduce bill to allow voter registration drives on VA campuses.

A group of progressive media watchdogs is handing over a petition to Fox News demanding they stop their racist attacks on Michelle Obama. Particularly egregious cases include calling her "Obama's baby mama" and Bill O'Reilly saying that a "lynching party" was the way to deal with her.

Four Yonkers residents are suing the local police for civil rights violations stemming out of a warrantless search.

A Honduras man is urging immigration authorities create a new justification for asylum: sexual abuse. His three children were sexually abused by a relative. My knowledge of immigration law is slight, but based on what I do know I'm very skeptical his claim will succeed.

Latino groups are launching a huge new voter registration effort.

Latino transit workers in Boston are pissed about anti-Latino comments made by, of all people, the transit authority's anti-discrimination chief.

The city of Minneapolis has approved a settlement regarding its city police force that would require it to more closely oversee diversity and race issues. The lawsuit had been filed by five Black police officers alleging a long history of discrimination.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pardons for Bush, Take Two

Last year, I came up with what I (in a severely sleep-deprived state) thought would make for beautifully passive-aggressive politics: I urged that the Democratic President pardon George W. Bush.
So why a pardon? Simple: you don't pardon people who haven't done anything wrong. The very act of pardoning Bush establishes him as someone who needed a pardon. Pardons damage the reputation of their recipients -- it's not like Nixon's pardon convinced Americans that he really just got a bad rap (even just-defeated Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher's spate of pardons, which he cast as protecting the targets from illegitimate prosecution, made both him and them look much worse than they were before). Meanwhile, President Obama the Democratic President looks magnanimous, moving the country forward rather than focusing on rehashing the malfeasance of the past. And of course, removing the specter of criminal prosecution from President Bush, under a variety of precedents, makes it easier to compel him to testify about the events in question, if that ever becomes necessary.

But that might have been a bit too clever. Under Burdick v. U.S., 236 U.S. 79 (1915) it is possible to refuse a pardon, precisely because pardons carry with them that taint of guilt. And the American people might see it as partisan and theatrical.

But Steve Benen suggests that ol' W might do the work for us, by pardoning, if not himself, then key members of his administration responsible for some of his "controversial" counterterrorism programs.

To which I say, "bring 'em on." Not because I don't think that many of these men and women deserve criminal inquiry. But realistically, they won't. And once the threat of criminal sanction is officially removed via pardon, it becomes possible to compel testimony on the issues in question (following from Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441 (1972)).

If we can't hold people legally accountable for torture, at the very least we can demand the truth about what they did. A truth commission about just what this administration did in the name of "protecting America" would be a dramatic departure from the precedent set by George W. Bush and his cronies of lies, obfuscation, and obstruction. And I believe that when the truth, in all its ugly glory, comes out, it will be as much of a deterrent to future abuses as a criminal trial would have been.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/22/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The ACLU is seeking to overturn Alabama's voter disenfranchisement law.

The Boston Globe calls on the state to restrict unequal retirement plans that pay women less than men.

Online adoption business discriminates against gay couples.

John McCain: Anti-contraception.

16 years after "the year of the women", women still account for less than 25% of legislators. PS: Barbara Mikulski, still a BAMF.

Research shows: discrimination still quite present in the lending and credit industries.

The Houston Chronicle is livid over how immigrants were treated after a raid on a meatpacking plant.

Is California ready to vote for a gay-rights governor (Arnold, apparently, doesn't count).

A Michigan report says that obese workers are as effective as thin ones. Michigan bans weight discrimination.

A tremendous backlog still exists for testing rape evidence.

As troop levels drop, Democrats are getting more aggressive about repealing DADT.

A South Carolina town is looking to initiate its own crackdown on illegal immigrants. Th bill failed the council by one vote -- one councilman said he had a hang up about the law's "English only" policy.

7th Circuit: termination due to infertility treatments is sex discrimination. The case is Hall v. Nalco Co..

Is my (barely paid) internship exploiting me?

Monday, July 21, 2008

So You Think You Have a Sovereign Nation?

John Derbyshire lays down the law for Iraqis. Democracy? That's for suckahs! We'll do what we want to do in your "country", because we're big, you're little, and we can.

Breast Fine Overturned

An appeals court has overturned the $550,000 fine levied against CBS after Janet Jackson bared her breast for a fraction of a second during the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast.

Will it ever be safe to walk our nation's streets again?

From Hillary to McCain?

I know of a few (fewer than the media would have you believe, but a few) folks who were Hillary Clinton supporters in the primary and who are contemplating switching their allegiance to McCain. I certainly understand the frustration Hillary Clinton supporters must have felt, having come so close to the Presidency only to fall just short of the nomination. But can we clarify something? If you're a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, supporting John McCain makes no sense, and, to use the phrase d'jour, it's a slap in the face to everything Senator Clinton ran for.

That was, more or less, what my dad said when I asked him his opinion on the subject. A middle-aged progressive Jewish (and very pro-Israel) attorney, he voted for Senator Clinton in the Maryland primary. But, given that there is not a single issue in which Senator McCain is closer to Senator Clinton's position than Senator Obama, what would be the point of switching to the Arizona Senator? "Experience"? What does John McCain have experience with besides being wrong? "Sending a message"? I'm sure that the 12th straight year of Republican rule will really send the message that the country is looking for a more progressive stance on women's rights, and equally sure that even in that improbable case, a Supreme Court stacked with conservative reactionaries wouldn't let it happen.

Independents who leaned towards Clinton may have solid reasons for voting McCain, I don't know. But for Democrats who are in the party mainstream, this "threat" is a strange way to express "support" for Senator Clinton. I just saw her at a rally for pay equity, and I'm pretty damn sure she'd consider it cruel parody for her "supporters" to launch into office someone who openly applauded the Ledbetter decision.

Fortunately, I'm not all that worried. There aren't as many people taking this position as the blogosphere would have you believe. But the die-hards need to know: they're alone. They don't have the support of the party, they don't have the support of the activists, and they certainly don't have the support of Senator Clinton. So don't bullshit me by pretending this is about her. This about you. And I don't have the time to deal with that egomania.

Civil Rights Roundup: 07/21/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The Boston Globe has a report on Democratic efforts to find an "anti-Scalia." Could Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a former bigwig in the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department, be that guy?

A dissident Catholic group claims it has ordained three women as priests.

I missed this while I was in NY, but Connecticut is likely to file suit to mandate that the VA allow voter registration drives.

The Washington Post reveals how nannies organized themselves to get the first housekeeper protection law in the nation passed in Montgomery County.

The Post also has an op-ed about "career academies", which have demonstrated some success in improving the job prospects (though not the academic performance) of at-risk youth. Jonathan Kozol, as I recall, was skeptical about this programs, as they essentially track these youth away from any chance at joining the nation's elite, thus perpetuating class divides.

The Arizona Republic has an interview with By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) on the Arizona affirmative action fight.

Local religious leaders are rallying behind a Massachusetts synagogue which was again hit by vandals.

The Orlando Sentinel urges Florida to stop withholding civil rights for ex-felons just because they can't pay restitution to their victims. After all, no civil rights often means no jobs, which means the victims will never get paid.

South Dakota gives doctors a script to read when talking to women considering an abortion. The script says that abortion "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being," and "informs" the women that she possesses "an existing relationship" with the fetus that is protected by the U.S. Constitution, that "her existing constitutional rights with regards to that relationship will be terminated," and finally, (falsely) tells her that "abortion increases the risk of suicide ideation and suicide."

Lemons into lemonade: School districts around the country are looking for ways to integrate in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision last summer severely limiting voluntary desegregation plans.

New Orleans residents wonder if the air of police entitlement that allows them to violate citizens rights with impunity is the exception or the rule.

Finally, hip-hop star Usher is launching a voter registration drive in Georgia.