Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hope Happened To Me

Y'all might think I'm the most cynical White person on race relations alive in America today. But that isn't true. Take this post from Too Sense. It's entitled "Obama Campaign Bus Stopped In Mississippi", and links to an Onion article in which Barack Obama's bus is stopped under false pretenses by a racist Mississippi cop. Noting it's satire, the author nevertheless asks, "But, before you read this, ask yourself one question: when you saw the title of the post, didn't part of you think it might actually have happened?"

To which I responded, I thought the title of the post was telling me that the Obama bus made a campaign stop in Mississippi, not that it was stopped by the police. So I was elated: "Hurray, Obama thinks Mississippi is in play!"

Hope. It happened to me, and it can happen to you.

In somewhat related news, I'm not sure what to think of the opening anecdote to this post (below the Kerouac quote).

Choose Your Own Proposition 4 Adventure!

On the ballot in California is a proposal (Prop. 4) which would require teenagers seeking abortions to notify their parents. It doesn't require their consent, and it has exceptions for abusive parents and a judicial bypass option.

Sound okay to you? Well then play Modern Mitzvot's Choose Your Own Adventure: Prop. 4 Saga! Fun for the whole family (except the pregnant teenage daughter, of course)!

Obama Calls the ACORN Bluff

So John McCain has been crying wolf over ACORN registration fraud? Fine, says Obama, let's appoint a special prosecutor to take a look at it, along with all other allegations of voter fraud or voter suppression. The McCain campaign's response? Strident opposition, of course. It's an "absurd" attempt to "criminalize political discourse". But, the spokesman continued,
Rest assured that, despite these threats, the McCain-Palin campaign will continue to address the serious issue of voter registration fraud by ACORN and other partisan groups, and compliance by states with the Help America Vote Act's requirement of matching new voter registrations with state data bases to prevent voter fraud.

Yes -- having qualified professionals actually take a look at your allegations would be a threat when your claims are completely bogus.

Meanwhile, it is worth stressing again what this ACORN business is all about. ACORN's objective is to register as many new voters as possibly (or, depending on your level of cynicism, as many new liberal voters as possible -- it actually doesn't matter for purpose of our analysis). It pays some of its employees by the amount of registrations they collect, and some of those employees collected fraudulent registrations -- either by registering the same person multiple times, or by simply putting down false names. ACORN is legally bound, however, to turn in every registration card that it receives -- a good thing if you think they're just a left-wing front group, as it means they can't sort through the cards and chuck out all the Republicans.

But if ACORN's goal is get new (liberal) voters out there, registration fraud doesn't help them. Federal ID is required for first time voters, so even if Micky Mouse is on the rolls, he's not going to show up at the polling place, ID in hand, and cast a ballot. There is, in fact, virtually no evidence that registration fraud spills over to voter fraud. The fraud here is being committed on ACORN, who has to pay its employees for bogus registrations that don't actually help their cause.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Anything Can Be Not Racist

On the now infamous Obama food stamp, where he is surrounded by fried chicken, watermelons, ribs, and kool-aid, there is very little to say. The only thing noteworthy is that the creator of the piece and her family are denying it's racist. That's unsurprising -- anything that's accused of being racist is always denied to be such. The American South was adamant that it did not treat it's Black residents the least bit unfairly.

Maybe this case will impress upon us that racism can always be denied. Always. The denial, on its own, doesn't establish jack. And if anything, the justifications offered here (the author is married to a Mexican-American, the author also eats fried chicken) go to show that these typical defenses are not in the slightest way inconsistent with racism. We are watching living proof that you can do something racist and be married to someone non-White. You can do something racist and still support Alan Keyes for President. They're not mutually exclusive.

Palin Away

Concurring with Ezra Klein and Kevin Drum, I'm reasonably confident that Sarah Palin will cease to be a player in national politics after the McCain/Palin ticket goes down in ignoble defeat. Sure, the base loves her. But, as Klein notes, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) inspires the same sort of love while still managing to be coherent (indeed, quite articulate) on matters of national policy. Republicans are not utterly insane -- they know that Palin has become synonymous with all that the American center (much less the left) finds detestable in the current GOP. There is simply no way any reasonable Republican will decide to double down on the biggest failed bet of the 2008 cycle.

I'll just add that in the first set of 2012 Presidential GOP primary polls, we'll inevitably see Gov. Palin's name high on the list. This is solely a function of name recognition -- remember how well Joe Lieberman was doing early in the 2004 cycle? Let the primary season swing into full bloom, with some genuine solid Republican candidates running against her, and she'll be taken down right quick.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

W to M

The SEIU has a clever new ad up:

Via Too Sense. The irony is that, to the extent that it's misleading, it's because it's being too nice to President Bush. Tough for Republicans to go out and remind everybody that President Bush spent most of his tenure as an avowed opponent of increasing the minimum wage.

Cue Up Barry White

Phoebe Maltz wins at debate live-blogging:
Obama just told parents to "turn off the television." Is this a sign that the X-rated portion of the debate is about to commence?

Drill, baby, drill.


The latest GOP mailer, heading out to Virginia:
"Terrorists don't care who they hurt," says the cover the brochure, arriving in mailboxes Wednesday in the battleground state of Virginia.

The words appear over a picture of someone in shadow eyeing or photograhing the front of an airplane, an apparent reference to the fact that terrorists used hijacked airplanes to kill Americans in 2001.

Flip open the brochure, and the photo is of Obama.

The mailer proceeds to give out standard Republican fare on how Obama "thinks terrorists just need a good talking to," before concluding with:
Barack Obama: Not who you think he is.

Even McClatchy flatly says that the mailer is making "a play on the fears, expressed by some Democrats in the primaries and some Republicans this fall, that Obama is a sort of Manchurian Candidate fronting for an anti-American identity or agenda." I think we've moved beyond "palling around with terrorists" now, haven't we?

Great Leader

The "Group of 77", comprised of 130 (it has expanded from it's original membership) "non-aligned", mostly developing countries in the United Nations, has selected it's chair for the upcoming year. The winner? Sudan.
Since it was the African countries' turn to pick the chair of the organization, and since the selection of Sudan was supported by China, the outcome--however outrageous--is hardly surprising. Strong support from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference helped ensured Khartoum's diplomatic victory. The selection of the National Islamic Front regime as chair is no mere symbolic exercise, though the symbolism of the choice is intensely dispiriting. For it comes at a time when the head of the regime faces a likely arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court---for crimes against humanity and for genocide in Darfur.

And I thought my cynicism couldn't go deeper.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

$100 to the First To Kill Joe the Plumber

I'm kidding, of course -- it's not Joe's fault. But I like how he managed to incorporate whatever characteristic McCain or Obama wanted.

I had the debate on, but wasn't watching closely -- in fact, I was playing solitaire while listening with an ear to it. The bottom line is that Obama is like a Winky Wright -- you simply can't hurt him. He's too good defensively. A fellow chessmaster might be able to out-box him, but McCain is no debate whiz. McCain needed a knockout, and he wasn't going to get it. And in striving for it, he sounded far more conservative and doctrinaire than he has at any point in the last few weeks. His derision at protecting the "health of the mother" in abortion -- though undoubtedly thrilling to the conservative base -- is going to kill him with independent women.

Of Blood and Country

Harry's Place reports that the new Macmillan Encyclopedia on Race & Racism has an entry on Zionism, unsurprisingly calling it racist. I say unsurprisingly, because my unfortunate experience is that whenever Zionism gets singled out for focus amongst various nationalist ideologies (which it was here -- indeed, "nationalism" itself didn't even warrant an entry), it's not going to be in a manner that is precisely equitable or fair-minded to the Jews.

The author of the section on Zionism is a Noel Ignatiev, who, though having done interesting work on the normative status of Whiteness, does not have any particular expertise on Zionism or Jews that I know of (he was born to Jewish parents, but I'm pretty sure he does not practice or identify at all). He has on occasion written on the topic, such as in this lovely essay where he alleges that Zionism served as a Nazi collaboration project and claims that "Osama Bin-Laden was telling no more than the truth when he said that the Muslim world is facing an alliance of Zionists and Crusaders." So, you know, a neutral figure to construct an encyclopedia entry.

Anyway. Insofar as Dr. Ignatiev has an academic specialty, it is on race, and particularly Whiteness, which he wishes to "abolish". This is a polemical claim, and though I find myself disagreeing with it, it is easily misunderstood. But I fear that in this case, Dr. Ignatiev's lens of Whiteness as the paradigm by which he views race leads him to significant misunderstanding of how "race", Judaism, and Israel intersect.

Ignatiev's justification for labeling Zionism as a fundamentally racial endeavor is the following:
Because it defines 'Jew' not by religious observance, language, place of birth, or culture, but by descent, Zionism is an ideology of race.

Now, there a couple things to be said about this. First, strictly speaking, this is inaccurate, as one can convert to Judaism and persons duly converted as considered to be full members of the Jewish community. There are, of course, disputes about who is eligible to oversee a conversion and thus which conversions are legitimate, but the principle is well established that, both religiously and as far as the state of Israel is concerned, one can be Jewish without having Jewish descent.

Second, the subtext to Ignatiev's claim here is that the "descent" definition is exclusionary, hence why it is problematic. This comes out of his dominant framework for understanding race, Whiteness, by which using "White" as a defining characteristic (as opposed to other potential identification axes) was done specifically to point at a given class of Other people and say "not for you". But the descent framework for Jews has the opposite effect -- it is considerably more inclusive than alternative frameworks, such as place of birth or degree of observance. Ignatiev could argue that Whiteness served the same effect by uniting disparate European nationals with little else in common under a single banner for the purpose of exploitation. But that "little else in common" is the kicker here, which moves me to my next point....

Third, the definition is remarkably ahistorical. As noted by some critics of Ignatiev's entry, his encyclopedia article makes no mention of the Holocaust. This, of course, is problematic, because it, and the broader currents of anti-Semitism from which it stemmed, were instrumental in making the definition of Jew what it was. Jew was defined broadly because it was intended to capture all those who would be targeted for death by anti-Semitic violence. It is asinine to assert that the broad definition was created for purposes of domination and control. It rather clearly was done so as to protect the maximum number of people possible. The broadly defined "class" of Jew does share something in common, and that something is anti-Semitism. It is little consolation to religious Jews if violence is being directed at their less observant brothers if that violence is occurring due to their Jewishness -- it is still equally threatening. And Israel has practiced what it preaches in this respect: when Jewish-identified persons whose Jewish descent is subject of question and debate by Israeli authorities (such as the Ethiopian Jewish community) seek to emigrate, they are welcomed in regardless of whether it is ultimately determined that they are Jewish-by-descent (indeed, the Ethiopian Jewish community was encouraged to convert, indicating that the relevant authorities did not think they were "actually" Jewish through descent).

Fourth and finally, I think that Jews as a community show an interesting malleability to such concepts as "race", "religion", "nation", and "culture". I've often heard it demanded that Jews "pick one", for example, that Judaism is "properly" a religion and thus should not be able to claim rights rightfully restricted to nations. For those of us who think those concepts should be destabilized, or at least shaken up a bit, the way which Judaism blends these categories should be exciting and laudable, as we seem to reject the notion that Jews as a "race" or "nation" or "religion" has to be calcified and eternal across all time. But Ignatiev is insistent upon keeping Jews in one box: if we're acting like races typically do, then that is the root of any national policies we promote, regardless of whether we ourselves see religious, cultural, communal, or historical influences as being as much or more important to the behavior.

Ignatiev, in short, doesn't see Jews as Jews. He sees them through eyeglasses tinted by other experiences, and expresses no interest in hearing our own tale as we express it. In doing so, he inevitably misses the reality of our situation, and will find it impossible figure out a solution that promises the flourishing of Jews qua Jews as one of its characteristics.

View From Her Window

Apparently Sarah Palin's windows fogged up, as she was unaware that Russian officials traveled to Alaska to meet with state employees and oil companies about expanding energy projects.

Okay, cheap shot, but I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

We Really Are Just All The Same

On the persistence of certain right-wingers -- quite respectable members of the conservative establishment, mind you -- pushing the Ayers-ghost-wrote-Obama's-book hypothesis, Ta-Nehisi Coates nails it:
I'm going to say this one last time--actually I'm going to say it until they put me under: I don't ever want to hear anyone complaining about black people and their conspiracy theories.

Every community has its crazies. Ours appear to reside at The American Thinker (among other places).

Dissent Blocked in DeLay Case?

Can anything be done in Texas without the imposition of massive political drama? The latest twist in the Tom DeLay legal saga is an appeals court judge alleging that the chief judge of her court refused to file her dissenting opinion as to whether one of her colleagues should recuse himself. She's asking the state supreme court to intervene. The chief judge, a Republican, is running for re-election and refused comment. The dissenting judge, naturally, is a Democrat (this is Texas).
According to her filing, Patterson said she twice requested responses from the defendants regarding the recusal motion and Law refused to obtain a response and instructed the clerk not to seek one.

Patterson then informed her colleagues that she would file a dissent to the ruling on Waldrop's staying in the case. She wrote that Law instructed the court clerk not to file her dissent.

Indeed, the story is ripe with accusations that the judges are acting politically in trying to hamstring the DeLay case and investigation. Given that a significant part of the Texas governmental structure was an apparatus of the DeLay machine, this does not surprise me in the slightest.

Civil Rights Roundup: 10/14/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

Among other problems, the language interpretation at Guantanamo Bay trials is awful.

Wyoming remains one of the few states without a hate crimes law.

The Tulsa World: Many Native Americans don't celebrate Columbus Day.

Civil rights leaders are worrying that a new agreement between Las Vegas officials and ICE will increase racial profiling and decrease the reporting of violent crime.

Working from the ground up: Increased success by local Black politicians is getting White voters used to Black leadership. See, e.g., my home of Montgomery County, which recently elected African-American Ike Leggett as our County Executive. Montgomery County is 65% White and only 15% Black.

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for Troy Wilson to be executed. Wilson, convicted of capital murder, became a cause for many death penalty opponents (or supporters who care about justice) because the vast majority of the witnesses against him have since recanted their testimony.

Gay couples in California worry it's now or never. What a sad position to be put in.

Are Georgia election officials illegally purging voters?

The war over Amendment 46 continues to rage in Colorado.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Guess You Could Say They're Improving

Florida Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney paid his former mistress $121,000 after she threatened to sue. The women, who was on Mahoney's staff and began the affair with him during his 2006 Congressional election campaign, tried to break off the relationship after she learned that Mahoney was also involved in yet other extra-marital affairs.

Mahoney, of course, was elected to the seat formerly held by Rep. Mark Foley (R), who resigned due to his own sex scandal involving male teenage Congressional Pages. So I guess you could say that the district is improving -- at least this scandal involved adults.

UPDATE: Mahoney has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate his conduct. That's interesting.

The Godfathers

Sometimes, history is quite timely:
The bombing of a prominent Atlanta synagogue in 1958 claimed no lives, but the community outrage that it prompted helped galvanize the city's nervous Jewish community to embrace the civil rights movement.

Members of The Temple gathered Sunday for the blast's 50th anniversary, recalling its terrifying aftermath and the way it changed their congregation's mission to promote racial equality.

But it isn't the bombing that interests me. It was the response given by Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield, during a synagogue visit after the attack:
Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield visited the Temple and quickly went on television to condemn the bombers and the politicians who he said should share the blame.

"Whether they like it or not, every political rabble-rouser is the godfather of these cross burners and dynamiters who sneak about in the dark and give a bad name to the South," he said. "It is high time the decent people of the South rise and take charge."

Words to keep in mind, no?

Civil Rights Roundup: 10/13/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The Virginia GOP chair compared Obama to Osama, and then refused to back down after critique from the McCain campaign ("While Barack Obama is associated with domestic terrorist William Ayers, the McCain campaign disagrees with the comparison that Jeff Frederick made."). It's a civil rights issue because I'm coming around on my earlier views as to whether the Obama-as-terrorist charges are racially tinged or not.

See also this NYT story.

On the other hand, McCain's resistence to bringing up Rev. Jeremiah Wright is heartening, if frustrating to many of his supporters (including, unsurprisingly, Gov. Palin).

Frederick County, Maryland, is weighing the consequences of its recent immigration crackdown. According to the article, since an agreement was reached with ICE, "9 percent of all people arrested and taken to the county detention center have proven to be illegal immigrants," a number the local sheriff considers a success.

The Austin American-Statesman takes a look at how Latinos are responding to immigration and other issues.

A Fresno Catholic priest came out as gay and gave a sermon urging his parishioners to reject Proposition 8. He was immediately stripped of his post by the local bishop.

In the face of surging US prison populations, policymakers are looking at alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is trying to assuage a wave of voter fears that they will be targeted by suppression and disenfranchise efforts. One of the "myths" they're trying to dispel is that you can't vote if your home was foreclosed. Well, glad to hear it, but if so it won't be for a lack of trying.

Finally, the dean of the University of Nebraska law school is defending affirmative action, and questioned the results of a Center for Equal Opportunity (gag) study which purported to show the school "discriminated" against White applicants. The law school has six African-Americans in its entering class of 146 this year. CEO chief Roger Clegg (remember him?), who has been leading the charge against race-conscious admissions across the country, flatly said he'd rather the school turn "lily white" than preserve affirmative action.