Saturday, September 06, 2008

Minimums and Individuals

Ian Ayres and Sydney Foster have posted a Texas Law Review article they wrote entitled Don't Tell, Don't Ask: Narrow Tailoring after Grutter and Gratz. I haven't read the article yet, but the gist of it is that in the wake of Grutter and Gratz, there has been a subtle realignment of the constitutional standard for race-conscious decision making by governmental bodies. Previously, the standard was that the usage of race had to be done as narrowly as possible to achieve the legitimate governmental objective. But, Ayres & Foster point out, the affirmative action plan upheld in Grutter actually likely was more dependent on race than the plan rejected in Gratz.

In light of this, Ayres and Foster claim that the new relevant standard is whether the affirmative action plan gives "individualized consideration". Gratz's impersonal points system does not satisfy this requirement, but Grutter's more ambiguous "critical mass" proposal did. However, A&F say this effectively encourages policymakers to simply not tell how large of a racial preference they're giving, with the promise that by doing so they'll receive court deference. Hence, they recommend that the court's return to the minimum necessary preference standard, which allows for weighing the relevant constitutional costs and benefits of particular race-conscious policies.

I find this argument interesting primarily because my own conceptualization of race-conscious programs relies very heavily on the individualized nature of them. To my mind, race consciousness can be defended primarily because racial identity is as "individually" mine as the fact that I'm Jewish, or (sometimes) smart, or graduated from Carleton, or like ice hockey. Whatever my race brings (or doesn't bring) to the table, that is something that decision makers can evaluate individually, for me and every other candidate. Since I believe that (among other things), contribution to racial diversity is a meritorious contribution to an institution, I think that this sort of analysis is part of how one engages in meritocratic evaluation.

I'm skeptical of a minimum usage standard because I believe they buy into a colorphobic image of American society that I think is ultimately damaging to efforts at racial healing and equality. They implicitly concede that race is something scary and dangerous, and we should try to use it as sparingly as possible, lest it taint us. I'm not convinced of this. I think that the plurality of racial identities in America are a source of beauty, strength, and character to our nation, and should be drawn upon to the extent that they are useful, relevant, and meaningful. That can never happen so long as the very concept of racial difference is seen as poisonous.

But, as I've said, I've yet to read the article. So perhaps I can be persuaded otherwise -- or perhaps my objections have no relevance to what was actually written.

And...We're Back To Normal

Fresh off of Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) calling Barack Obama "uppity", we get Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) questioning Obama's love of country:
Regardless of what polls show, Inhofe said, voters will have to ask themselves a question once they get behind the curtain in the voting booth on Election Day.

"Do you really want to have a guy as commander in chief of this country when you can question whether or not he really loves his country?" he asked.

"That's the big question."

Later, Inhofe "clarified":
After he was asked for an explanation on why voters should question Obama's love for his country, Inhofe issued a written statement on Friday to clarify his earlier comments.

"Let me be clear,'' he said.

"I am not questioning Sen. Obama's patriotism, but you have to question why at times he seems so obviously opposed to public displays of patriotism and national pride, like wearing an American flag lapel pin."

Ah. Well then.

Via Hilzoy.

Dispatches from Atlantis

It's raining here in suburban Maryland, and as usual, that means our basement is halfway underwater. I've been making a game effort with the water-vacuum, but I'm unconvinced its having all that great an effect. And since it's still raining, there is an extra dose of futility surrounding the whole ordeal.

Grr... Do they have to deal with this in Chicago?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Civil Rights Roundup: 09/05/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

What are Gov. Sarah Palin's views on race and civil rights? Her Alaska record leaves a mostly blank slate.

California politicians are looking to challenge the LPGA's new English profeciency rule -- the only one of its kind in professional sports.

Federal officials could not agree on whether a Muslim Imam from New Jersey had terrorist ties or not, and now an immigration judge has ruled he can gain permanent residency. Supporters of Mohammad Qatanani say he is a moderate who helped build bridges between Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as Muslims and law enforcement officers after 9/11. Opponents say he was linked to Hamas, citing his detention by Israel (where Qatanani claimed he was physically and mentally abused).

Pro-equality advocates in Maryland are trying to keep an initiative off the Montgomery County, MD ballot that would overturn county regulations protecting transgender individuals.

Chicago students -- mostly from the South Side -- boycotted their first day of classes and instead showed up at wealthy suburban New Trier High School in protest of massive educational inequalities in the area.

Another Texas execution is on the ropes following allegations that the judge and prosecutor were having an affair.

An open letter to Sarah Palin by National Advocates for Pregnant Women argues that her anti-abortion stand also threatens the liberty of women who take their pregnancies to term.

The Agriprocessors kosher meat plant is being attacked again for slaughtering practices that seem to violate both American and Kosher laws.

The same plant is also fighting desperately to prevent its workers from unionizing, despite an NLRB ruling requiring them to recognize one.

RNC police are denying they're using excessive force on protesters,

All-boys charter schools are causing controversy in Philadelphia.

The Treasury Department has to get cracking on making paper money accessible to the blind.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

It's In the Dictionary

I just had to share this exchange I just had with my mother, after John McCain's speech:

Me: I never knew John McCain was a POW.

Mom: Are you kidding me?

Me: *gives her a look* Of course!

Mom: You know I'm gullible!

Me: I know, but seriously! If you looked up gullible in the dictionary....

Mom: It'd have my picture next to it.

Me: Well, it wouldn't because gullible isn't in the dictionary.

Mom: Really?

Me: Arrrrghhh!!!

McCain Speech Liveblog

I went from "I'm not watching" to "I'm liveblogging" in the space of a minute. Let's see what ol' Straight Talk has for us.


11:04 PM: Very, very good speech. Much better, and much more effective than Palin I thought. This was the start of McCain's move to the center, and I thought he evoked the themes that attracted many independent Americans to him in the first place.

11:03 PM: He better end here, because this "stand up and fight" bit is a great concluding material.

11:02 PM: Maverick spelling of "mavrick" in the crowd, I see.

11:00 PM: As much as I think the story of McCain's background (not just in Vietnam, but as a "maverick reformer") is effective -- and I think it is -- there is an element of self-aggrandizement to the way he tells it that can come off as self-serving. Far more than Obama ever does, McCain focuses a lot on telling his audience that he is the shiz-nit.

10:58 PM: It's a harrowing story. But why can't John McCain say the word "torture"?

10:56 PM: I didn't know John McCain was a POW. How interesting.

10:51 PM: That bit about how John McCain hated war was quite good. He's not going to harness the dedicated anti-war set, obviously, but I can see that passage as being very appealing to independents.

10:47 PM: I'm being critical, but this is a solid speech. Quite policy oriented, which is nice given how little McCain has wanted to talk about policy. His speaking style is a little bit stilted, but it's not terrible and no worse than normal. He was never going to match-up to Obama on the speaking front, so as long as he doesn't actively hurt himself, I think his campaign will be happy.

10:45 PM: I love how the camara panned to the "environmentalist for McCain" poster just as he's talking about all the places he'd like to drill. And the chant of "drill, baby drill" goes up again.

10:44 PM: No, I really thought I heard it again. It's whenever he attacks teachers or teachers' unions.

10:43 PM: Did I just hear boos on his education plan? It was probably just me.

10:42 PM: Education is the new civil rights issue? Dangerous territory....

10:41 PM: Really good on free trade. New jobs "that won't go away" is a good line. He's really hitting this plan quite well -- and it's the type of concern that plays in a lot of swing states.

10:39 PM: Second highest business tax rate in the world? Did not know that, and it's an effective fact to drop in. Assuming it's true, rather than another "I opposed the bridge to nowhere" moment.

10:38 PM: And again with the booing. Is this really the image Republicans want to project?

10:36 PM: "Latina daughter of migrant workers" is one of God's children. Good line -- but notice how tepid the applause was? Some folks are thinking "anchor baby..."

10:35 PM: He's laying into Republicans now. Again, smart move. The base is there thanks to Palin -- now's the time to move to the middle.

10:33 PM: Interesting choice. The focus on special needs children is now a theme of the GOP convention between McCain and Palin's speeches, and I think it's a very effective one. It's not normal GOP fare, and it drives the social conservatives wild with delight, while also appealing to independents. Definitely both his and his running mate's strongest moment.

10:32 PM: McCain is saying he's done this and that, but with very few specifics. The only real specific examples he's given of what he has done and will do are that he supported the surge, and that he'll veto that first pork bill. With regards to the rest, it's just rhetoric ("I'll fight for you", "I took on corruption", etc.), and a question of whether independents believe him or not (or more importantly, think he'll still fight for it in his new, GOP-friendly incarnation).

10:30 PM: They will walk among the people, and pass laws, and you shall know them by their craft...thou shalt not suffer a pork-barreler to live!

10:27 PM: Again, does McCain really think he can beat Obama in a "change" themed election? Maybe he doesn't see another route to go. But this is a danger sign.

10:26 PM: McCain shouldn't have to be using his speech time to defend Palin. Did Obama have to defend Biden? That's a sign McCain still thinks she has weaknesses.

10:24 PM: Yes, this is turning into a problem. Every time McCain tries to acknowledge that there are issues that need to be dealt with in America, the crowd starts chanting "USA! USA!" It's very incongruous.

10:23 PM: Another protester made it through. Well timed, too -- it made it sound like the crowd was booing the idea that some people are having bad times.

10:21 PM: Nice brief outreach to Obama. But doesn't it ring hollow after Palin's speech? I guess that depends on the route McCain takes tonight.

10:20 PM: The Xcel Center is not small -- but the memory of Obama's outdoor speech makes it look like a hovel.

10:19 PM: Awww... I like Roberta McCain.

10:17 PM: He starts off by thanking President Bush. Wise move, assuming he is never mentioned again.

10:16 PM: And the crowd goes wild for the US Olympics team!

They Finally Said It

Democrats have been noting for months that "elitist" is the GOP's new word for "uppity". And now, Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) finally stopped using the code:
Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland used the racially-tinged term "uppity" to describe Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

"Elitist" is ambiguous. After all, Republicans have used it to describe every Democratic candidate since I've been following politics. "Uppity", however, is not. It is classic racist discourse, and you cannot tell me a 58-year old Georgian does not know that front-to-back. Even if it is Lynn "I voted for torture!" Westmoreland.

Westmoreland owes Obama a personal apology, to say the least, and if that's all that it takes to dissipate this he should consider himself lucky. This is despicable.

And That's Why I Don't Watch TV Coverage

I just turned on Hardball to hear Chris Matthews saying: "I thought Gov. Palin was very positive last night."

And then I turned off Hardball.

The Next Generation of Global Leaders

Echidne snarks about it:
Then Palin went on attack, telling us how very much better John McCain was than Barack Obama, because he was a POW and was tortured. Lots of people in Guantanamo Bay will be surprised to hear that they, too, are now presidential material.

She is being sarcastic. But I genuinely worry. Being tortured, abused, harassed, or illegitimately detained by a reviled state (foreign or domestic) is, in fact, a route to political and/or social power. Senator John McCain is just one example. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is another, as is Vaclav Havel. The Sadr family in Iraq gained significant popular following after the father was killed by Saddam Hussein. It happens for the very reasons John McCain talks about: being tortured is a demonstration of loyalty and perseverance in the heart of darkness. And, whether we admit it or not, that syllogism still applies when it is our men and women who are creating the moral void.

I genuinely fear that, one of these days, a released Guantanamo, Abu Gharib, or "black site" detainee will ride to political power as a survivor of American torture. Why couldn't it happen? Standing up to America is quite popular right now in the international community. The people who we've tortured are, I suspect, not all that concerned with damaging America's image. And given our non-existent legal safeguards, it's quite possible that our theoretical Guantanamo Archipelago survivor might even be innocent of all terrorist charges.

A President of a foreign nation whose claim to fame is surviving American torture. Very little could be more damaging to our standing in the world than that image.

Did Independents Buy Palin's Speech

If this Detroit Free Press focus group is at all accurate, not even close. Palin seriously turned off independents last night with her biting, sarcastic, and at times frankly vicious speech. Did the speech rally the base? Of course, and quite effectively at that. But it is hard for me to believe that rallying the base will be sufficient for the GOP this cycle.

Civil Rights Roundup: 09/04/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

This is a little late, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a fascinating story about an area police office who found out recently that she was intersex.

A judge has ruled that the ADA applies to airlines.

My home county is posting a decline test scores and an increase in the racial achievement gap. Mounting economic diversity is to blame, claims the school superintendent.

A Texas woman is fighting back against predatory lenders, saying they targeted her because she was Black.

Maryland's new DNA law is under criticism due to concerns it would allow police to keep a suspect's DNA on file even if she or he was not convicted.

The Human Rights Campaign's equality index shows an increase in firms' protections of LGBT Americans.

The chair of Vermont's commission on Native Americans has resigned in frustration with legislative inaction on recognizing local tribes.

Steven Steinlight of the far-right Center for Immigration Studies tries to convince Jews to oppose immigration (legal and illegal). Somehow, I'm skeptical it will work.

The Ft. Myers News-Press lauds a recent slavery conviction of several agricultural owners in Florida, but lays the blame for the problem squarely on our immigration policy. "Disrespect for human beings is in the DNA of the current system. Respect demands that we legalize the foreign labor we clearly need to harvest our crops."

The ACLU is suing to block Rhode Island's use of e-verify, which they say improperly labels foreign workers as ineligible to work.

The New York Times reports that the process of transitioning in the workplace has become easier for transgender individuals.

Federal job bias claims are down, but Paul Secunda thinks that it's mostly due to an unfriendly environment to whistle-blowing.

A Georgia man is scheduled to be executed in a few days, despite the fact that seven witnesses have now recanted the statements that got him convicted in the first place.

The few remaining Black Republicans are bemoaning the fact that their party seems to have all but given up on attracting Black voters.

The Colorado affirmative action counter-measure has failed to make the ballot. In contrast to the original, Ward Connerly-backed initiative, which would have barred affirmative action in all forms outright, this one would have only clarified that racial quotas are illegal.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin: Can You Feel The Energy?

I can, but that's because Gov. Palin's speech only delved into substance on the topic of energy. Which makes sense -- it is the one national-caliber issue on which she has any expertise. And she definitely sounded like she knew what she was talking about -- though I'm not entirely convinced that the Republican Party wanted "drill, baby drill" to be the defining chant of its convention.

But other than that, I thought the speech was a net negative for Governor Palin. Mostly, its because of what I said earlier: "nice" politicians who go nasty end up hurting themselves. The fact that she seemed to relish in the attacks didn't seem to help (my girlfriend disagrees me on this score -- she thought she looked "awkward" making the attacks. What Jill interpreted as a quavering face, I read as sneer. Your mileage varies.).

In general, though, her speech and Rudy Giuliani's showed something quite revealing about the RNC. They had applause lines, but they were far dwarfed by the "boo" lines. The crowd was most into it when they were being called on to chant "zero", or laugh mockingly at being a community organizer (it took them awhile to catch on that this was funny), or simply boo the fact that Barack Obama wants terrorists to win. And that echoes the general Republican mood, I feel. They hate liberals as much as they've always had -- there's nothing that's changed in the last eight years to make them feel that pro-choice policies or more balanced tax plans are the right things to pursue. They still have a massive victimhood complex with regards to the media (a play whose efficacy will be judged based on whether the news calls Palin out on her chutzpah-laden decision to -- again -- nakedly lie about opposing the "bridge to nowhere"). The difference is that this year they're just not that excited about their own brand. So they're happiest when they don't have to think about the Republican Party, today, but can recall Senator McCain's heroism in Vietnam, or can roast the always-worse Democratic Party.

The final verdict? Palin's speech would have made a solid, if unexceptional, performance by Josephine Average RNC Speaker. If Palin had given this speech, then worked quietly as Governor of Alaska for four years, it might even have set her up for a run later on. But in this environment, in this year, it did not rise to Vice Presidential levels. It was very defensive. It did not "change the game", or even move the ball. And, in something that has become a McCain campaign theme, it made a major long-term sacrifice in evaporating Gov. Palin's likability for the short-term image of a riled-up base. That, I think, is seriously going to backfire as the campaign progresses.

Palin To Blow Her One Advantage

Looks like Palin's speech is going to be standard Republican attack dog fare:
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin directs a sharp jibe at Barack Obama in her speech to the Republican National Convention Wednesday night, according to excerpts released by the campaign.

Contrasting her resume with that of the Democratic presidential nominee, she says: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Here, watch me play Obama campaign for a second:
Judging by her record, Governor Palin's view of "responsibility" appears to be identical to George W. Bush and John McCain's: leaving the next generation laboring under a crushing load of debt.

Wow. She walked into that.

Anyway, aside from the fact that her record is just wide open to critique, I don't think going into slam-mode is a good move for Palin. All she has at this point is the perception of being "nice" -- indeed, the GOP's latest strategy to deal with all the negative press around her is to cast it as beating up on the poor, defenseless Palin. If she goes out and gives a standard attack-ad speech, the base will love it, but it will shred her last remaining advantage with swing voters. Former Rep. Connie Morella (D-MD) found this out the hard way in 2002 -- a politician who survived on unfriendly terrain by cultivating a reputation as "nice Connie" was left without a leg to stand on when she started going negative in her race against now-Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D). Likewise, when Palin goes up against Joe Biden or any other Democratic surrogate launching attacks against her, voters will remember that she's perfectly capable of dishing it out -- so she better know how to take it.

Never Calls or Writes

For some reason, I find this hilarious:
I introduced myself, and she [Roberta McCain, Senator McCain's 96-year old mother] smiled graciously and seemed eager to speak as I asked her what the week was like for her. But then she spotted one of her handlers coming through, and looked at me sheepishly, and said, "They won't let me be interviewed." Her facial expressed became pained: "They won't let me talk." One of the handlers, a blonde woman with a Sarah Palin hairstyle and glasses (very popular here now), then pulled her away, along with a male secret service guy, and Roberta McCain looked into my eyes, helplessly, pleadingly, and repeated, "They won't let me talk!"

I do feel bad for her -- she sounds very sad. But the image of a cute old lady like her trying desperately to talk to somebody -- anybody -- only to be stymied by an armada of handlers and secret service agents is really just cracking me up.

Judgement Day

I may be the only political observer out there who feels more comfortable talking about Black political thought and theology than "mainstream" White conservative evangelical Christianity. So while I feel pretty good giving context to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I don't have the requisite background to know if there's any reason not to take Sarah Palin's pastor at face-value. Because while Rev. Wright certainly had some guests who weren't as Jew-philic as I would have liked, I don't think any of his mates thought that Jewish deaths represented the just judgment of God. (And with Rev. Hagee still lurking in the background of my memory, isn't this the second time we've had to deal with this issue?). She's already been dealing with the allegation that she was a Pat Buchanan supporter (David Bernstein has mostly convinced me that she was not, but at the same time I think Harry's Place is not being entirely off-base when it wonders if Palin would have sported a David Duke button had he dropped by town. After all, most Jews think, at best, the difference between the two is one of degree, not kind.). The info about her pastor will only inflame the situation (to be fair, he seems across-the-board crazy, rather than focusing solely on Jews).

Now, here's the problem: Palin's new emergence on the political scene means that she's a totally unknown quantity to Jews. With Barack Obama, he did in fact have a long pedigree dealing with Jews and Whites -- we had data points on him personally which demonstrated he wasn't going to launch on an anti-White and anti-Semitic crusade once in office. And he has also done an excellent outreach job to us as a community, something I am very grateful of. Meanwhile, Palin is being tied to possibly the most reviled organization in the Jewish community that isn't actively launching suicide attacks on us -- Jews for Jesus. It's possible she does not subscribe to their creed, and maybe we should give her the benefit of the doubt. But unlike Barack Obama, she just hasn't spent much time courting Jews on a national stage. I don't think we're unreasonable to ask for some heart-to-hearts -- particularly given that she comes from a community (evangelical Christianity) that has not always been the most respectful or friendly to Jews in the past (being apocalyptically pro-Israel doesn't get you as far as one might think).

My presumption on Palin is that her views on Jews are standard evangelical fare -- outward positivity (enemy of my enemy -- Islam -- is my friend) and some personal respect, mixed with a desire for our social extermination (via conversion) and very little grasp or concern with the issues that actually are important to Jews (or why, or how, they're important to us). Fortunately, this means my bar is not being set high -- it would not take much for her to dispel those sentiments. At which point, I would happily oppose her on pure political grounds. I'm not going to pretend that by assuaging the concerns of the Jewish community she's going to get my vote. She won't. But I greatly prefer opposing someone because I disagree with their policy stances than because I think they're actively or covertly hostile to me as a person.

Look at Me Still Talking When There's BrowsingTo Do!

Am I the only one who thinks that Google's new web-browser logo has some uncomfortable overtones?

Google "Chrome":


343 Guilty Spark:

Not good for a company that's trying to dispel the idea that they're looking to take over the world.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

A few days ago, The New York Times had an article about businesses which cater to designing products which are "Shabbat-friendly" -- that is, which won't cause observant Jews to violate their Sabbath upon use. Generally, this involves a lot of automation and a fair amount of creativity (Rabbinic maxims about "indirect effect" help a lot). Not being quite that observant myself, the exercise strikes me as a little silly, but at the same time I'm happy that people are catering to this need.

But that's not why I want to post. Rather, I was struck by the article's off-hand notation that one of the groups engaging in the work, the non-profit Zomet Institute, had its research facility located in a West Bank settlement, Alon Shvut. So I'm curious -- when Israel eventually cedes control of the West Bank (as it inevitably will, and should), what happens to the facility?* Should the Israeli organization relocate, or should it stay and maintain operations?

On the one hand, withdrawal means withdrawal. There is little indication that Palestinian groups are interested in residual Israeli institutions remaining in their territory, nor that Israeli organizations are all that keen at operating under Palestinian jurisdiction. Security, obviously, is a major problem. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but a significant stroke of Palestinian advocacy on the final status of the West Bank has taken a definitive "judenrein" tint to it.

On the other hand, a high-tech research facility would undoubtedly be a boon to a fledgling Palestinian state, giving high paying jobs, a good tax base, and trade opportunities with Israel and the wider world. Also, if I can be optimistic for a moment, it offers a chance for Jews and Arabs to work side by side in the new state to sell to the broad, global Jewish community. That's an opportunity to heal a lot of wounds. For Palestine to survive in the global environment, it's going to need companies like this located inside its borders. This group is a non-profit, but it offers the chance to be the locus of a technology hub in the future Palestinian state. I thus hope that it is able to stay. Even in a two-state solution, the destinies of Israel and Palestine will remain woven together. It is the groups that cross-borders which offer the way forward for both peoples.

* Though I think that Israel eventually will leave the West Bank, and most definitely should, the exact borders of any final settlement are, of course, unknown. It is likely that clusters of Israeli settlements near the border will eventually be incorporated into Israel proper, possibly as part of a land swap, and perhaps Alon Shvut will be included. But I'm operating off the assumption that it won't be.

Civil Rights Roundup: 09/03/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

Backlash over the Postville raid may be prompting the government to change its immigration enforcement tactics somewhat.

Orange County Register: The diversity given by immigration is a source of strength, not weakness, to our nation.

Same-sex marriage: good for the economy. How long until "pro-family" groups start up their victim complex by railing against "Big Marriage"?

Also on the marriage front, a New York court has thrown out a suit challenging Gov. David Patterson's (D) decision to recognize out of state gay marriages.

Police are charging several men with civil rights violations after shouting homophobic slurs and assaulting four men outside of a night club.

The Boston Globe reviews Mark A. Noll's new book, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. Noll is an evangelical Christian who documents the way in which religion and race have always been intertwined on both sides of America's race question -- from slavery to civil rights. Also interesting: I didn't know that Harriet Beecher Stove became a White supremacist after the Civil War.

Obama is up with radio ads attacking John McCain on abortion. That's rare from a Democratic candidate, but the fact that Roe is genuinely imperiled this election makes it wise move, in my view (and others as well).

A New York area supermarket chain was found to have cheated some of its managers out of overtime pay. Basically, the company tried to claim they were salaried employees to avoid giving overtime, but then would treat them as hourly to dock them pay if they missed part of the day.

Third Circuit: Spanish-speaking workers bound by arbitration ruling written in English. The trial court had held the agreement unenforceable because the workers had no way of knowing that it had an arbitration clause at all.

New Jersey schools still asking enrolling students about immigration status, despite it being a violation of state and federal(?) law.

Conservatives and Black people? Together under one roof? What a weird place New York is! Rich Lowry brings the funny.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I saw the second half of Sen. Norm Coleman's (R-MN) speech before the RNC. It was bad. I mean, bad. Nobody was into it, the crowd was tepid, at best, and the "theme" was utterly bizarre. "John McCain has a face that says yes"? The hell?

I always thought Coleman was known as a relatively effective pit bull politician. Is that incorrect? Or is the problem that the "serious" theme the RNC has had to put on due to Gustav means that their attack dogs aren't able to really get into their groove?

The AG with a Thousand Lives

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales mis-handled classified data (shades of Sandy Berger?), according to a just-released DoJ report. In classic Gonzales fashion, he reported that
he did not remember whether he took home notes regarding the government's most sensitive national security programs and did not know they contained classified information despite notations on the papers that they were "eyes only -- top secret," according to a report released this morning.

The Justice Department's inspector general concluded that Gonzales had improperly handled materials about the government's most sensitive national security programs, carrying the notes home in an unlocked briefcase for an "indeterminate" period of time. Gonzales failed to keep them in a safe at his Northern Virginia home because he "could not remember the combination," according to the report.

And, also in classic Gonzales fashion, the upshot of this ordeal will be....nada:
Improper handling of classified material can result in criminal charges, but prosecutors in the department's National Security Division declined to bring a case after reviewing the allegations and consulting with senior career officials at Justice, according to the report and lawyers involved in the case.

Is this guy made of teflon or what?

The Round Mound Holds Court

TNR has a very entertaining interview up with Charles Barkley. Barkley continues to flirt with running for Governor of Alabama. I have no idea how it'll play (I don't even know if he'd run as a Democrat or an Independent), but there is no denying he'd shake up the terrain there.

Carleton Prof Arrested at RNC

Carleton College Phyiscs and Astronomy professor Joel Weisberg was arrested after committing civil disobedience at the Republican National Convention. He doesn't dispute his own arrest (he was consciously engaging in civil disobedience by crossing a police line), but he reports that there has been a very aggressive police presence illegitimately targeting peaceful protesters and journalists.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Who is Against Bristol Palin?

CNN reports that evangelicals are rallying around Bristol Palin. And I'm glad to hear it. I'm glad that nobody is portraying her as a slut or whore. I'm glad that the evangelical community is reacting to the news with compassion given that they believe her to have engaged in what they see as immoral behavior, and I hope that they would demonstrate that compassion to all other women who have engaged in similar behavior -- both on a micro-level (in personal relations) and a macro-level (in terms of public policy).

And I, along with everybody else who identifies as pro-choice, respect her choice to keep her child. That is, of course, implicit in the definition of "choice". Assuming (as seems reasonable) that this was not a planned pregnancy, I wish that she had access to contraception and birth control so that she did not become pregnant before she was ready (I feel like it is a fair assumption that she received a pretty strong pro-abstinence message from her family). And if she did use contraception and it failed, then I hope that she had a full array of options presented to her, and that she made a free and independent decision about her future. And yes, I hope that she made it in consultation with her parents, not because I don't respect her autonomy, but because I hope that all teenagers feel safe and comfortable in discussing such weighty matters with their parents. It is a blessing that Bristol did appear to feel secure in talking to her parents about this. Many teens do not have that in their lives.

So when evangelical leader Richard Land says this:
"This is the pro-life choice. The fact that people will criticize her for this shows the astounding extent to which the secular critics of the pro-life movement just don't get it," Land said in a statement.

I am left perplexed. Who is "criticizing" Bristol Palin? At absolute worst, it is a data point for the proposition that abstinence-only is an insufficient reproductive health message for teens. But even that argument hasn't really cropped up. At Feministing, they note that insofar as Bristol had a "choice" on whether to keep her child (a point the McCain/Palin campaign emphasized to the press), that's a choice McCain and Palin want to take away. But again, that's not a criticism of Bristol -- that's a request that the right she had over her own body be extended to cover all women.

And certainly, nobody is saying that Bristol is a bad person. Those of us on the left don't even think that she did anything wrong, in a moral sense. We may suspect that she had insufficient access to reproductive health products or information, or that she may have felt uncomfortable using them. But that's hardly her fault.

It is all very simple. We on the left (like, I assume, our friends on the right) want every pregnancy to be a planned pregnancy. Assuming this pregnancy was not planned, then that is unfortunate, and we would like to see young women like Bristol have all the resources they need to prevent it from happening. But once the unplanned pregnancy occurs, we also want Bristol to be in a position where she can choose, in consultation with those close to her, what outcome she feels is right. Insofar as Bristol engaged in that process, and elected to keep her baby, that is a success story. And don't let anybody tell you the left feels otherwise.

What's in your Meat?

We have no idea, and thanks to the Bush administration we legally can't find out:
A federal appeals court has ruled that the government can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease. Because the Agriculture Department tests only a small percentage of cows for the deadly disease, a Kansas meatpacker, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wanted to test all of its cows, but the government says it cannot. Larger meat companies worry that if Creekstone is allowed to perform the test and advertise its meat as safe, they could be forced to do the expensive test, too. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said restricting the test was allowable.

Via Ezra Klein; see also Dean Baker wondering where all the free-marketers went.

Civil Rights Roundup: 09/01/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

I wasn't planning on doing this today, but tomorrow I'm taking my girlfriend to the airport and likely won't have time to post. So tomorrow will be my holiday, and today you get a roundup.

In a whole new level of cattiness, Republican lawmakers in California tried to block courthouse improvements in retaliation over the judiciary's gay marriage rulings.

The anti-affirmative action forces in Arizona have admitted defeat.

The recent economic downturn is hitting Hispanics particularly hard, as they are being forced from full-time to part-time jobs.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright traveled to Houston as a guest preaching, delivering sermons focusing on sexual abuse.

Gregory Rodriguez in the LA Times: Identity still matters.

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) wants to end birthright citizenship.

The California Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of a racially-motivated murder.

A Rutgers University report finds that American workers are in worse shape than they have been in some time.

A young woman was kicked off her football team by the state of Georgia, solely on account of gender.

Immigration ordinances have gotten so strict in Denver that Latinos are afraid to drive downtown.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Plays in New Hampshire

Here is an ad running for Jeb Bradley, who is running to get his seat back in the 1st Congressional District of New Hampshire. He lost the seat in 2006 to Carol Shea-Porter, but this ad is for his primary campaign against John Stephen.

Notice anything? How about the closing line: "That's not change, that's more of the same." In an ad for a Republican. In a Republican primary.

Sounds like Bradley has insight on where the New Hampshire wind is blowing....

What Republicans Really Think About Women

Often times, when Democrats run a candidate for office who is not a White male, Republicans unleash with a familiar refrain. "He's an affirmative action candidate", to Barack Obama. "She only got there because of her husband", to Hillary Clinton. And when these candidates do well, it's not evidence of any merit on their part, or that voters critically evaluated them and decided they were best for the job. It's because of "identity politics": Blacks mindlessly voting for Blacks, women mindlessly voting for women.

I always kind of assumed that this was an argument made in bad faith. But the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin to be McCain's VP candidate made me realize that conservatives really do seem to believe it. They really do seem to think that the only thing one has to do to appeal to women is to put a female candidate on the ticket. The idea that women might be critically evaluating the positions of their choices and voting for the person who best matches up to their interests seemed utterly foreign to them. We saw the same thing with Michael Steele and Alan Keyes -- Republicans ran them both for Senate, and were really perplexed when Black voters didn't show the slightest inclination to bite. The idea that Black people are, just like everybody else, analyzing their preferences and selecting the best candidate for their interests regardless of color seemed to escape them, then and now.

And so we get Gov. Palin, whose putative appeal to women seems to lie solely in the fact that she's a woman. Policy-wise, her rabidly pro-life outlook is a poor match for most women. The fact that she laughed when a female political opponent was called a bitch, appointed a sexual harasser to succeed the civil servant she fired in trooper gate, and that her supporters booed her latest reach out attempt to Hillary Clinton isn't going to help. I've yet to hear a single policy position she's taken that is supposed to give her a comparative advantage with the female vote compared to Obama/Biden. In terms of appealing to women, there is absolutely nothing there beyond biology, which leads one to the inevitable conclusion that Republicans think that's a sufficient credential.

My mother, who was a Clinton supporter, called her selection an insult to her intelligence, and other former Clinton fans seem to agree. Indeed, Palin polls significantly worse with women compared to men -- with a statistical dead heat between those who say it makes them more and less likely to vote for McCain (actually, 1% more say they'd be less likely to vote for him, but that's in the margin of error). As Ta-Nehisi Coates says, part of that has to be chalked up to the "insult" factor, more than anything else. Women aren't going to respond well to a selection that screams "we think you're morons who will vote for anyone with breasts."

At the end of the day, the choice comes off as patronizing more than anything else. Republicans bungled this choice badly, and they did because they believed their own identity politics rhetoric. Running women isn't enough to get women to vote for you. For women, like men; for Blacks, like Whites; it's fundamentally the policies, the record, the experiences, the background, the intellect -- all the things we expect voters to look at -- that count.