Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Post-Grading Roundup: 5/13/15

Exams are graded and turned in. I've yet to have an angry mob of students assail my office door (or email inbox). And my browser is starting to be overrun. So let's clear some debris, shall we?

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* The always-provocative Northwestern Law Profesor Eugene Kontorovich explores how the international community and international press has reacted to other blockades in situations analogous to the Israel/Gaza conflict (e.g., Georgia/Abkhazia, Sri Lanka/Tamil, and Saudi Arabia/Yemen). In all cases there seem to be few claims that the blockades are illegal (indeed, there seem to be few instances where people pay attention at all).

* Eugene Volokh has the rundown on a really bizarre story out of Canada, where some reports have high government officials threatening prosecution of anti-Israel BDS activists (on "hate crimes" charges), while other officials dismiss those reports as "conspiracy theories." It's unclear what is going on, but if I had to guess the government is not planning to prosecute anyone for mere advocacy of a boycott, but might be indicating its belief that actually carrying out such a boycott would constitute illegal national origin discrimination. But that's really a wild guess on my part.

* Speaking of national origin discrimination and boycotts, a proposed BDS resolution at an Ithaca co-op was rejected after co-op attorney's determined it would put them at risk of liability under New York human rights laws (which prohibit boycotts based on national origin). This interests me, since I've always though the BDS movement was vulnerable to this point of attack, but I hadn't seen it get much traction up until this point. And to be clear: the attorneys are not saying adopting a BDS resolution is illegal, only that it raises a sufficiently colorable risk such that it might (for example) affect their insurance rates. That seems pretty incontestably true.

* A South Africa columnist sharply condemns those rallying around a student leader who expressed admiration for Hitler (the defenders, needless to say, are accusing the student's administrative critics of being "puppets" for the shadowy Jewish conspiracy supposedly funding the university). I'm of two minds on this: On the one hand, the column really is well done and unapologetic in its condemnation of this form of anti-Semitism, even when it (as always) tries to cloak itself as mere "anti-Zionism" (and the author makes abundantly clear that he agrees with the basics of the anti-Zionist position). On the other hand, I feel like if I'm getting excited that a columnist is able to unapologetically condemn praising Hitler, I might be setting the bar too low.

* My latest draft paper is up on SSRN. It's titled The Siren Song of Strict Scrutiny, and explains why the failure of sexual orientation to be elevated to the ranks of a "suspect classification" is actually a very good thing for the gay rights' movement.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Extra-Diverse Democrats, Part III

Last month, I noted how Republicans would inevitably describe Hillary Clinton following Barack Obama as Democrats engaging in "affirmative action." Wayne LaPierre grouping both Obama and Clinton as naught but "Demographically Symbolic" Presidents gave me an n of 1 , but I claimed vindication. And now look: the Weekly Standard has devoted a cover story to the theory authored by Joseph Epstein (via)!
If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016 she will not only be the nation’s first woman president but our second affirmative-action president. By affirmative-action president I mean that she, like Barack Obama, will have got into office partly for reasons extraneous to her political philosophy or to her merits, which, though fully tested while holding some of the highest offices in the land, have not been notably distinguished.
If by "second", Epstein means "forty-fifth", he might be on to something (though admittedly, it is hard to argue that George W. Bush's rise to the presidency benefitted from any factors "extraneous to [his] political philosophy or to [his] merits"). But of course, any time women or non-White people rise to any level of political or social prominence, their accomplishments are dismissed as simply undeserved gifts bestowed by guilty White men. They never earn it on their own the old fashioned way: say, by being born into a political dynasty or by benefitting from only members of one's social class having the right to vote or by appealing to crude public sentiments of xenophobia and victimhood or by knowing that the only candidates adjudged to be "viable" would be ones who shared their race and sex. That's choosing a president on the merits.

Let's be clear: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were and are every bit as qualified and meritorious as your typical President before them. That's true regardless of whether or not one subscribes to their policy preferences. The only work "merit" is doing in the above critique is stand as a proxy for their non-White male character. Just like the Sotomayor confirmation, where " Princeton, Yale, and nearly two decades of federal court experience makes one a big ol' dummy [unless your name is Samuel Alito]", the veneer here is so thin it is incredible even the Weekly Standard was able to get it out with a straight face.