Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Fools They Were To Trust The Website I Write For

In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod scandal, it became known that Noah Jonathan Joel (so many Pollaks!) Pollak -- the soon to be crushed election opponent of Rep. Jan Schkowsky (D-IL) -- is a contributor to Andrew Breitbart's website. Schkowsky, seeking to make some hay, asked Pollak to stop writing for Breitbart. Pollak demurred, saying he would continue his association, but released this statement:
"Andrew [Breitbart] used intemperate language in his debate with the NAACP, which was wrong," Pollak said in a statement. "It was even more wrong for the White House and the NAACP to punish a woman for alleged racism without conducting a full and fair investigation."

Beautiful. "Sure, the website I write for released a spliced-up, wildly misleading video in order to smear a woman and a prominent civil rights organization as racist," (I assume that's what "intemperate language" means, though Lord knows that's an A+ demonstration of weasel-wording). "But even worse was that the White House and NAACP were dumb enough to trust that something posted on it can be taken at face value. I mean, come on!"*

Honestly, I need to genuflect for a moment at this, because ... wow. It's just in a class of its own, isn't it?

* Not that I disagree entirely -- it is bad that the Department of Agriculture rushed to fire Ms. Sherrods without fully investigating the charge, particularly given that the source was, um, Andrew Breitbart. But it is a bizarre standard that the entity that initiated the lie should be judged less harshly than the entity that got taken in by it.

In any event, we've all learned a valuable lesson in trusting things posted on Andrew Breitbart's website -- including those, I imagine, posted by Noah Jonathan Joel Pollak. As Pollak has reminded us, we'd be fools to trust anything he says at this point without undertaking an independent investigation of our own.

A Model to Emulate

When Sarah Palin announced her desire that "peaceful" Muslims "refudiate" a proposed Mosque to be built a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, I was stunned at her brazen devolution into religion demogoguery. Put aside the fact that the organization building the group is the epitome of a "peaceful" Muslim group. As Adam Holland observes, there really isn't any other way to characterize the opposition of Palin and her ilk other than as naked religious bigotry.

A law school friend of mine was defending Palin, and I told him that the argument (such as it is) against the Mosque reminded me of a decision by the Egyptian government to forbid Jews from utilizing a recently restored synagogue in retaliation for Israeli "aggressions" against Muslim holy sites. When I read that story, I saw a human rights violation. Sarah Palin, I said, saw a model to emulate.

I didn't mean it farcically, but I hardly expected Palin or one of her allies to actually consciously admit that they viewed religious discrimination the Middle East as a guide for us to follow. Yet here's Newt Gingrich, explicitly pointing to Saudi bans on synagogues and churches as a reason to bar a Mosque in New York. What I see as barbaric, Gingrich apparently sees as pathbreaking. If only we could be as humane and open-minded parochial and bigoted as the Saudis! What a great vision for America!

The similarity between Palin (and Gingrich) and the bigoted policymakers in the Egyptian and Saudi government doesn't surprise me, as Palin clearly cut from the same cloth as those who would render me a second-class citizen -- perhaps why she is one of the most singularly unpopular politicians amongst American Jews (others have alternative explanations).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Redemption Scenario

Cross-posted to The Moderate Voice

The scandal of the day was the story of a USDA employee who appeared to indicate that she gave less than full help to a White farmer in an incident over 20 years ago, on account of his race. She told the story at an NAACP dinner, hence the contemporary hook -- conservatives (or at least segments of them) are still on their kick that the NAACP is the true racist organization in America. As it turns out, the employee was actually telling the tale as a redemption scenario -- she realized her prejudice was wrong, threw her full support to the White family, and ended up saving the farm. Hence why the family has consistently intervened to give her their full support.

When I first saw the story this afternoon, I didn't have time to blog about it, which is good, because I didn't know the full context and, like the NAACP, would have been at risk of getting "snookered". But I did know that the incident happened over 20 years ago. And that got me to thinking.

When the United States finally repudiated Jim Crow in the 1960s and 70s, it did not come with any purges. By and large, the same bureaucrats who managed our racist system in 1950 still managed the more egalitarian system that had emerged by 1970. There are lots of reasons for this, starting with the fact that firing every single person who had participated in America's brand of racial apartheid would have effectively left us without a civil service, and ending with the fact that America never really has managed to wrap its head around just how deeply the sins of racism had enmeshed itself in the system -- a full accounting of which would have extracted its pound of flesh from virtually each and every man and woman alive in this nation.

In any event, these bureaucrats took many forms. Some undoubtedly had opposed racism even at its apex, others really didn't care about it one way or the other. Some were loyal disciples of Jim Crow who later realized the error of their ways, and some had no guilt at all regarding their role as agents of apartheid, but adjusted to the new social order all the same. And some, of course, were entirely unrepentant and maintained a belief in White supremacy, but suppressed that outlook just enough to keep their job.

The point being -- this nation has a long history of employing the formerly racist. The best case scenario for such employees, usually, is that they come to see the light and dedicate the remainder of their professional lives towards remedying racial inequality and securing racial justice. And that story -- a story of redemption -- appears to be the story of Shirley Sherrod. It's not the worst tale in the world. To the extent that this country has moved forward on matters of race, it is, in fact, the quintessential American tale.

But Will It Be Enough?

Solicitor General and SCOTUS nominee Elena Kagan advanced out of committee today, garnering the surprise support of South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Some commentators are now wondering whether Graham will face a backlash from the far-right base over the lethal apostasy of not filibustering each and every Obama-led initiative that comes down the pike (Erick Erickson -- best known for calling David Souter a "goat-fucking child molester" -- said not filibustering Kagan would constitute "a high act of confirmation treason"). In response, a Graham consultant argued that Senator Graham is "a thinking person's conservative. I expect him to do well among voters with IQ's in triple digits."

Steve Benen took note of that passage and observes that any Democrat who essentially called opposing voters idiots would be tarred and feathered as an elitist. Fortunately, since I'm not really a public figure, I'm simply free to wonder whether the class of voters with IQ's over 100 is sufficient to cobble together a winning coalition in a South Carolina GOP primary (ask Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) about that).

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Grand Except

Arizona Law Professor Jack Chin is far, far more charitable than I'm inclined to be towards UMKC Law Prof Kris Kobach, a principal drafter of the Arizona anti-immigrant law who is falsely claiming in bars racial profiling. Of course, it doesn't -- the bill says that law enforcement officers "may not consider race, color or national origin . . . except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution." Which, under Arizona and federal law, they can -- at least to some extent. Professor Kobach simply omits the qualifier at the end of the passage.

Professor Chin graciously accepts that "the misleading quotation reflects Prof. Kobach's honest [though incorrect] recollection of the law", and urges him to go back to the legislature and get them to fix the language so it actually bars racial profiling. But, "[o]n the other hand, on the off chance that the law was actually intended to" sanction racial profiling, Professor Chin rightfully says the law's proponents should acknowledge that it does so.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pope and Anti-Pope

A leader of the National Tea Party Federation has announced they are expelling Mark Williams and his "Tea Party Express" from the movement, after he published a "satirical" letter wherein the "coloreds" complained to Abraham Lincoln that slavery was better than having to think for himself (this was hardly an isolated incident for Williams).

And while that is very much a good thing, who knows who has authority to expel whom? Is the National Tea Party Federation the real movement and the Tea Party Express the splinter? Or vice versa? I have no idea. Williams' group is still leading the charge for Sharron Angle -- maybe somebody can ask her which wing of the movement she represents.

UPDATE: This Steve Benen post demonstrates some of the shuffling of Williams' affiliations in the wake of the controversy. His roles have definitely been reduced across the board, but he certainly hasn't been cut out of the movement entirely.

Mixed Boxing Results

Just some brief thoughts to keep the blog posts rolling ....

... Tim Bradley was simply way, way better than Carlos Abregu. I figured it would be a skill mismatch, and it was. But I didn't think the disparity would be so great that Abregu would effectively stop trying. Anyway, Bradley tried to call out Pacquiao after the fight, but Max Kellerman not-so-subtly said "good luck, who else you want?", at which point Bradley called out the entire 140 lbs. division.

... Alfredo Angulo isn't exactly the most versatile fighter in the world, but what he does, he does very well, and when Joachim Alcine let him start working on the inside, that was it. The stoppage came at the last moment of the first round, but it was good stoppage -- Alcine was out on his feet against the ropes and was at risk of serious injury.

... Somebody just won a ton of money by picking "over" for the David Tua/Monte Barrett fight. Everybody, and I mean everybody, was picking Tua KO1. After all, he's a gigantic puncher, and Barrett's chin has looked, well, less than stellar of late. But apparently Barrett fought his heart out, even knocking Tua down for the first time in his career in the 12th round, and many folks thought he deserved the nod. Barrett had already announced he was retiring after this fight regardless of the outcome, and it's a promise I hope he keeps. He seemed like a nice guy, always tried his best, and had a perfectly respectable career. Now he enjoy his retirement.

... Ishe Smith continues his streak of losing agonizingly close decisions, in large part because he doesn't have a high enough work rate. I had him winning the fight narrowly, but like basically every other Smith fight it could have gone either way (the 97-91 card was absurdly wide though). He did score a nice knockdown though. Also, towards the end of the fight when he did open up, he was astonishingly good at it, which makes me wonder why he doesn't do it more often. So frustrating.

... It's hard to say whether Zab Judah is "back" or not after his knockout win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz, but he certainly looked pretty sharp, and I think folks were a little too harsh ragging on the talent level of Santa Cruz. The big difference was that Judah actually finished Santa Cruz -- the last time I saw him on FNF, he was doing stupid little "throat slash" gestures instead of actually fighting his staggered opponent, so that's a step in the right direction. The hand speed is still mostly there, and it is still blinding, which would make Judah an intriguing match-up against anyone at 140. Khan, particularly, would be a battle of the blazers, but unfortunately Judah can punch, so that fight likely won't happen any time soon.