Monday, November 28, 2005

This is a contrast?

The opening two paragraphs of a story on the Iraq War in today's New York Times:

"In public, President Bush has firmly dismissed the mounting calls to set a deadline to begin a withdrawal from Iraq, declaring eight days ago that there was only one test for when the time is right. 'When our commanders on the ground tell me that Iraqi forces can defend their freedom,' he told American forces at Osan Air Base in South Korea, 'our troops will come home with the honor they have earned.'

"But in private conversations, American officials are beginning to acknowledge that a judgment about when withdrawals can begin is driven by two political calendars - one in Iraq and one here - as much as by those military assessments. The final decision, they said, could well hinge on whether the new Iraqi government, scheduled to be elected in less than three weeks, issues its own call for an American withdrawal. Last week, for the first time, Iraq's political factions, represented by about 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal."

So, when are the troops supposed to come home?
  • Bush: When Iraq no longer needs American troops to defend itself.
  • "Reality": When Iraq declares it no longer needs American troops to defend itself.
The only way you get a contrast here is if you assume that either the American military or the Iraqi government will act in bad faith. Trying to get opposition out of this says as much about those making the comparison as it does about the situation in Iraq.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The* Last* Charge* of* the* Shift-8* Brigade*

Yesterday saw what will presumably be the final word in the saga of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's infamous "asterisk" editorial. Columnist Gregory Stanford, who penned the editorial on behalf of the board, outed himself as the author in order to mount one last defense of the indefensible.

Stanford cast the controversy as a collision of two schools of thought--one, the "colorblind school," hopelessly mired in "racial fantasy;" the other, the "race-conscious" school, "deal[ing] with the world as it is"--and devoted the meat of his column to matching the two schools up against one another.

Dissecting each of his "comparisons" would render this blog entry unwieldily large (suffice it to say that I'd like to know where he got the hay for all those strawmen) but there is one more "colorblind fantasy" that I wish he'd bothered to address:

Colorblind view: The asterisk carries an implied meaning in present-day American culture of inauthenticity, illegitimacy, and in some instances even fraudulence; barring evidence of impeachable conduct, it should never be applied to a public official, in any context.

Race-conscious view: ...?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

How to retract without actually retracting...

One of the daily features on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial page is a box called "Quick Hits," containing a brief opinion written by someone on the paper's editorial board. Today, this little gem by Mabel Wong caught my eye:

"It's rare to see in today's youth the strength of individuality as displayed by Keenya Hofmaier and Rosetta Riley. They're the high school students embroiled in a dispute with Mike McGee Jr. over what they say was racist and anti-gay behavior by the Milwaukee alderman. The girls, who are biracial and who embrace both sides of their heritage, call prejudice as they see it, regardless of the source. The assumption that people of color are a homogenous lot with a single set of beliefs is as offensive and racist as any other stereotype assigned to them."

Admittedly, the Journal Sentinel has been covering this story for some time, so it's possible the timing of this was just a coincidence. But one has to wonder at the fact that, even as O. Ricardo Pimentel continues to back Gregory Stanford's "asterisk" editorial to the hilt, the only other minority member of the editorial board writes a piece that closes with a line which blatantly contradicts the assumption that spawned the controversy (that there are "black" beliefs, and blacks who don't hold to those beliefs aren't "authentic" blacks).

Perhaps the board isn't as enthusiastic about the editorial as Pimentel's "no regrets" commentary might suggest. At any rate, though, given that commentary, this is probably as close to a retraction as we're going to get.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Quoting from the lead editorial (about new Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito) in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"Another minus is that the nomination lessens the court's diversity. [Sandra Day] O'Connor herself had expressed the desire that her successor be a woman. O'Connor seems to have grown wiser about diversity as a result of her Supreme Court experience. She came to see the virtues of having a court that looks like America - doubtless a big reason she softened her opposition to affirmative action in recent years.

"In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America."

If a white man might be permitted to make a couple of observations...

  • Six white men, two white women and one black* man--as opposed to seven white men, one white woman and one black* man--looks like America?
  • As I recall, the job of the Supreme Court is to uphold and interpret the Constitution. Perhaps I'm just dense, but I fail to see how racial or gender diversity has any relevance to that. Ideological diversity, I could see, but linking that to racial and gender diversity is dubious.
  • Especially dubious is linking specific genders and races to specific ideologies, as the Journal Sentinel does with its race-baiting "asterisk" comment about Clarence Thomas. (I wonder if, had Harriet Miers been confirmed, the Journal Sentinel would have called for an asterisk by her name, the first time she cast a vote different from how she "should have" voted as a woman...)
  • For that matter, if the only black on the court having views "unacceptable" for a black man to hold was such a serious matter, President Clinton had an opportunity to rectify the situation with his second Supreme Court nomination (the first going to Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Who did he select? Stephen G. Breyer--a white man.
There are plenty of qualities that can serve as either merits or demerits for a prospective Supreme Court justice. Neither race nor gender is one of them.