Friday, September 10, 2010

When a Boy Isn't Just a Boy

We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 551 (1896).

The 11th Circuit has once again reversed a verdict finding racial discrimination a Tyson Foods factory, holding (among other things) that the evidence whereby a White supervisor had called the Black plaintiff "boy" was insufficient to provide evidence of discriminatory bias.

This case had already been up to the Supreme Court once, where they reversed a prior 11th Circuit decision holding that "boy" could never be evidence of racial prejudice unless accompanied by a modifier like "Black" or "White". The Supreme Court chastised the lower court:
Although it is true the disputed word will not always be evidence of racial animus, it does not follow that the term, standing alone, is always benign. The speaker's meaning may depend on various factors including context, inflection, tone of voice, local custom, and historical usage.

Not taking the hint, the 11th Circuit continues insist that there was simply not conceivable way a jury could have interpreted the usage of "boy" as evidencing a discriminatory attitude.

Obviously, it's true that whether "boy" is malevolent or benign depends on the factors the court laid out. And you know who is, if not really good at examining those factual elements, then at least is legally tasked with sorting them out? Juries! They're the ones who know the most about local custom, and inflection, and tone of voice, and how comparable "boy" is to the n-word. Not, say, three judges on the 11th Circuit reviewing trial transcripts after the fact.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Jill and I made it in alright, except that I came across this story, which is more horrifying than anything I could possibly imagine. I mean, you thought the DOJ was politicized under Gonzalez....

Shana Tova

At the airport -- Jill and I are heading back home (my home) for the high holidays. Blogging will be appropriately sparse. Stay tuned, though -- I may have exciting news in a week or two (or else crushingly disappointing news. But let's stay optimistic).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Castro Tells Iran To Back Off the Anti-Semitism

If you haven't read Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with Fidel Castro, it's worth you time. Kind of like stepping into bizarro world, but worth your time.


The ever-more disgusting Marty Peretz: "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." Take a guess on who "these people" are.

If Peretz didn't own the damn place, this is the sort of thing that would get one fired. What an embarrassment. (Incidentally, Alex Pareene is correct that if TNR's in-house critics can't weigh in on this, then what's the point of having them around?).

Monday, September 06, 2010

Home of the Brave

Daniel Gordis has a rather repellent column up in the Jerusalem Post. It purports to be about the Park 51 community center, but it actually barely talks about it. Rather, its focus is on the need of Americans to know, with clarion certainty and no distractions, that we are in a potentially endless, apocalyptic war, with Muslims (yes, yes, not all Muslims are terrorists. But this observation, he writes, "only goes so far."). To the extent the Cordoba Initiative comes up, it seems to be that any indulgence to any Muslim, anywhere, risks distracting us from this steely steadfastness we'll need to pull through.

As Tim F. once noted, the possibility that Americans might forget that Muslim terrorists attacked us on 9/11 "seems vanishingly unlikely when at any given time a Republican is running for office somewhere." But more fundamentally, what this article is, more or less, is an unapologetic paean to pure fear. It says that America's noted "gentility" (which, I imagine, is like France's noted courtesy. I love America and lots of things about it, but "gentility" is hardly among our better-known qualities) will be the end of us. For all its macho rhetoric about how we need to be strong and unified, it is cowardly and weak. For all the talk about how the terrorists wish to destroy us and our liberties (and, no doubt, they do), it seeks to do much of their job for them, by turning our robust, vibrant, and free society into a paranoid fortress. I fly pretty often, and no, US air travel is not "abominably unpleasant". It isn't, it doesn't have to be, and really, if that's the best you got, your siege mentality needs work. We have stood resilient for years against this threat, precisely by not making our state a ghastly imitator of bigoted, oppressive regimes worldwide; precisely by not deciding that their discriminatory hatred is not a sin to fight, but a model to emulate.

We do need to be both the "land of the free" and the "home of the brave". But Daniel Gordis is not brave. He is weak. He is cowardly. He would have America panic and treat the Muslim community writ large as presumptive enemies, when what distinguishes America from so many countries around the world right now is the relative lack of homegrown Muslim radicalism. We've preserved that lofty status because we have no yet wavered from our belief that America is for all Americans -- that we are all equals here. Now, some folks, like Mr. Gordis, seek to cut and run from our constitutional commitments. There is no bravery in that.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Proof This Roundup

To quote my friend Marlena: "Let's kill 'em!"

* * *

Venezuelan Jews appeal to Hugo Chavez to stem the tide of anti-Semitic incitement pouring from the state's media.

9/11 families appeal to Pam Geller not to hold an anti-Muslim rally on the day of 9/11. Geller tells the families to get lost -- a bit weird, given that she claims to be speaking on their behalf.

Speaking of 9/11, American Muslims may have to curtail their end of Ramadan celebrations because the timing overlaps with 9/11. I smell another round of "out respect for the feelings of real Americans (and certainly not any prejudice!), Muslims should spend most of their waking hours in caves in service of interfaith dialogue" concern trolling.

UC-Irvine has upheld, though slightly reduced, its suspension of the campus' Muslim Student Union after it was found to have engaged in coordinated disruption of a speaking appearance by the Israeli ambassador. There was, I think, a good discussion of the original decision in the comments here.

The history of America indicates that nothing is better than effectively preventing minority groups from integrating into society.

A history of union violence against poor, defenseless corporations.

The Anti-Obama

Haley Barbour makes the pitch:
Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and one of the most powerful Republicans said to be considering a run for president, is making the case that his southern accent and lobbying career might make him exactly the kind of candidate who can mount a successful campaign against President Obama.
"As far as southern accents and Mississippi, this country may be looking for the anti-Obama in 2012. Don't know. Could be," Barbour continued.

A corrupt lobbyist with ties to White supremacists? Yeah, that's the anti-Obama alright.

PA Savages Iran, Ahmadinejad

I figured there existed some tension between the Palestinian leadership and the Iranian government, given that the latter (a) tends to arrogate itself the right to speak for Palestinians and (b) provides support for brutal separatist groups which violently removed the PA from various Palestinian territories. Still, this is pretty amazing:
The one who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified election results, who oppressed the Iranian people and stole authority has no right to speak about Palestine, its president or its representatives," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I have to ask whether this is the first outright statement by a (non-Israeli) middle eastern leader that Ahmadinejad stole the election and is an oppressive tyrant?

This, once again, reinforces the delineation between the folks who actually support Palestine living side-by-side in peace with Israel, and Iranian-backed stooges who couldn't care less what happens to Palestinians so long as they can be used to whip up racist hatred.