Thursday, May 28, 2009

Race and Merit: Conservative Hypocrisy

I get frustrated and repulsed by the duplicity of conservatives when it comes to questions of race and merit in terms of individual accomplishments.

For many conservatives, everything Barack Obama accomplished was due to the preferential treatment he was given because of his race.

Now, I hear the same argument being posited regarding Sonia Sotomayor. That argument goes something like this: Were it not for the fact that Sotomayor is Hispanic and female, she wouldn't be where she is today.


Here are the facts. Both Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor came from modest backgrounds and very daunting family situations. A reality that daily stands in the way of many individuals' ability to reach their full potential. Under these trying situations, situations that may have set back the best of us, both of these individuals persevered, achieved, and rose to prominence such that today Barack Obama is President and Sonia Sotomayor is up for the Supreme Court. No small feats.

If Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor were conservative Republicans with the same achievements, they would be hailed as testaments to individual perseverence and accomplishments in the face of such daunting odds. They would be treated with the same reverence and deference that Condoleeza Rice and Clarence Thomas are treated.

Instead, because Barack Obama is a liberal Democrat and Sonia Sotomayor is his choice for the Supreme Court, they are demeaned as unworthy of their success, which is considered the product exclusively of identity politics.

Let me just say this: There are hundreds of thousands of black and hispanic citizens of this country, both liberal and conservative, that don't graduate from high school, much less get admitted to Harvard or Princeton, much less graduate from these institutions with top honors and with recognized leadership roles in prestigious institutions, much less with successful professional careers. For anyone to suggest that Barack Obama or Sonia Sotomayor have not earned any of these accomplishments and are simply the beneficiaries of affirmative action is to exemplify the height of cynicism. It tells folks like me that such conservatives are not at all interested in individual initiative and merit, but are driven purely by ideology. It tells me that such conservatives think that only minorities who are conservative Republicans are capable of success and accomplishment by the merits of their own abilities and intelligence, instead of by affirmative action.

It's one thing to challenge Obama or Sotomayor on the merits of their thinking and their ideas, but it's another thing altogether to claim that their successes are due primarily to their status as racial minorities. Any conservative who even thinks this, in light of the objective impressiveness of Obama's and Sotomayor's accomplishments, isn't worthy of being taken seriously at all. In fact, any conservative who even thinks this is nothing but a hypocritical, angry, petty, race-hustling boor in my mind.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Liberty University College Republicans and Jim Gilmore

Former Republican Governor of Virgina, Jim Gilmore, threw his hat early into the ring for the GOP nomination in the 2008 Presidential Election. Consequently, we have a lot of good information on Jim Gilmore regarding his stances on the controversial moral issues of the day. We also have campaign finance information on his candidacy, too. Put the two together and this story emerges:

In general, Jim Gilmore is a pro-life Republican. BUT, Gilmore apparently supports the right of a woman to choose an abortion up to the 8th week of pregnancy. Or at least he doesn't believe in interfering with or denying a woman's right to choose an abortion for any reason up to the 8th week of pregnancy. And Gilmore also supports abortions after the 8th week of pregnancy when the life of the mother is threatened and under other extenuating circumstances.

In an interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on May 6, 2007, this exchange occurred:

Q [Blitzer]: Your position on abortion, correct me if I'm wrong, suggests that there is a moment, at least early on in a woman's pregnancy, when abortion would be OK. Is that right?

A [Gilmore]: Well, OK is not exactly the way I would put it. But what I would say is this: There has to be some time for the baby to form in the womb, which I think happens at about eight weeks. And after that, I think that abortion should be limited except to save the life of the mother.

Q [Blitzer]: Between the beginning and eight weeks, abortion would be OK if necessary?

A [Gilmore] : Not OK, but the question is, should the law prohibit it at that point? And I've never taken that position. [Emphasis added.] On the other hand, my record has governor of Virginia with the pro-life movement has been very strong. We passed a 24-hour waiting period, parental notification, & informed consent. I signed the partial-birth abortion ban. And I think I have furthered our pro-life movement very substantially, even though not everybody would agree with every nuance of my position.
And later, at the May 3, 2007, GOP Primary Debate at the Reagan Library, hosted by MSNBC, Gilmore was asked:
Q: You have said in the past that you believe in the first eight to 12 weeks of pregnancy that the woman should have the right to have an abortion. Do you still want to stick with that exception?
Gilmore responded:
A: I do. My views on this, my beliefs on this are a matter of conviction. And they've always been the same, and they've never changed, the entire time that I've been in public life. However, my record as governor of Virginia, I think, has been one that the pro-life community, of which I'm a part, would be very proud: passing a 24-hour waiting period, passing informed consent, passing parental notification, signing the partial-birth abortion law in Virginia. So I think the record is there. But my views -- my views are strongly and fundamentally believed and been held that way.
Whatever else that might be, that doesn't sound like a categorical pro-life, anti-abortion position to me. Now, the relevant question to this debate is whether Gilmore's "nuanced" position on abortion is consistent with Liberty University's moral foundations? I'm not sure, because I don't know if Liberty University has a specific position on whether any abortions, even under particular conditions or following a particular pregnancy timeline, are acceptable or not. But, if I had to make an educated guess, I would imagine that Liberty University's position is one that holds that life begins at conception and therefore that abortion is morally wrong absolutely and at any point during a pregnancy. So, if this is Liberty University's position, as I suspect it might be, Jim Gilmore is a candidate who supports a position regarding abortion at odds with Liberty University's principles on the subject. And, regardless, Gilmore clearly supports a woman's "right" to an abortion under current law.

Here's the kicker ... Guess to whom the "Jim Gilmore For President - Exploratory Committee Inc." paid $445 to in the Spring of 2007? According to the Federal Election Commission's April 2007 Quarterly Report, it was the Liberty University College Republicans!!!!!!!! Presumably the payment was for travel costs associated with the Liberty University College Republicans' hosting a campaign event for Jim Gilmore, who was scheduled to speak at Liberty by invitation of the Liberty University College Republicans. I am guessing that the Liberty University College Republicans paid for Gilmore's travel, and then were reimbursed by Gilmore's Exploratory Committee in order to be in compliance with Campaign Finance laws. I'd really like to know what this exchange of money between Gilmore and the Liberty University College Republicans was truly about, though. In any event, there is a clear connection between the Liberty University College Republicans and support for a particular Republican candidate whose pro-life credentials seem not to be 100% in line with an absolutist life-begins-at-conception, anti-abortion position.

And guess what Liberty University did to the Liberty University College Republicans for this egregious violation of the University's moral position on abortion by supporting and sponsoring a Republican candidate whose pro-life bona-fides were suspect? Yep, you guessed it: DIDDLY SQUAT.

Yet, here's how Liberty Univesity's Chancellor and President, Jerry Falwell, Jr., ends a letter defending the University's decision to elminate the College Democrat club's official standing:
To blindly support any candidate solely because of party affiliation irrespective of their moral views is wrong. Liberty would never endorse a Republican student group that supported abortion rights. [Emphasis added.] Liberty stands for certain core values; not for a political party.
I want to hold Jerry Falwell, Jr., to that statement.

I demand that the Liberty University Administration apply its policy in a consistent manner and take the same action with regard to the Liberty University College Republicans that they took with regard to the Liberty University College Democrats. And if they don't remove the Liberty University College Republicans from officially sanctioned status, they should reinstate the College Democrat club. Otherwise, there is no other thing to conclude than that Liberty University = Republican University.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It's Sotomayor for SCOTUS

I just saw the headlines that Obama has selected Sonia Sotomayor to be his nominee to replace David Souter on the US Supreme Court. I know very little about Sotomayor, but I applaud Obama for his selection. I will be following this nomination closely and learning what I can about Judge Sotomayor over the next few weeks. As someone very much partial to finding a justice with a solid understanding both of US law and with a personal understanding of the Latino community, I can't help but be initially quite thrilled with this pick.

Here's a bit more on Sotomayor's life and career as a lawyer and judge.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liberty University Disappoints: Where's David Horowitz?

I often hear from conservatives how universities and colleges routinely squelch divergence of opinion and free expression on campuses when it comes to conservative causes and ideas. Yet, all I usually hear as proof of this are how conservative speakers at colleges and universities are subject to a very unwelcome reception by activist liberals. Yeah, I guess it's true to some extent; but the fact always remains that these conservatives are actually invited to speak on college campuses and are at the very least given a forum and space to talk. So, I fail to see how universities and colleges are in any way bastions of such intolerance of differing opinions and expression.

For instance, I do not know of a single "liberal" university or college, whether public or private, that actively prohibits and bans such things as interracial dating, the formation of student Republican groups, etc. I challenge any of my conservative readers to point me to any instance where discrimination appears in such ways in a "liberal" university.

Yet, on the other hand, I can point to numerous instances where "conservative" colleges and universities practice exclusion simply on the basis of political ideology. We all know of Bob Jones University's prohibitions on interracial dating. The most recent example of conservative intolerance and exclusion simply because of political party affiliation is Liberty University's outright ban on a College Democrats club. Just so that I can't be accused of misrepresenting reports of this by the "liberal" MSM, here's a snippet from "fair and balanced" FoxNews' report of the situation:

Liberty University has ordered its fledgling College Democrats club to shut down, saying the group stands against the conservative Christian school's moral principles.

Club president Brian Diaz said he was shocked to be notified by e-mail last week that the club was being banned by the private university in Lynchburg founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. The university first recognized it in the fall.

"We were shocked, as well, that (the club) even got accepted. It was huge, and we were glad that Liberty did that," Diaz said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Fla.

The club is barred from using Liberty's name, advertising events and holding meetings on campus. Violators could be reprimanded and face expulsion for repeated offenses.

Vice president of student affairs Mark Hine said in the e-mail sent to Diaz on May 15 that the Democratic party violates the school's principles by supporting abortion, socialism and the "'LGBT' agenda," referring to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The e-mail said that even though the campus group "may not support the more radical planks of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party is still the parent organization of the club on campus."
How's that for a "conservative" university's respecting ideological diversity on campus? Note that even if Liberty University's College Democrats club doesn't even support the more "radical" elements of the Democratic Party platform that run counter to the University's moral convictions (and I would bet anything that the group is very careful in this regard), it's still being punished only and exclusively because of its association with being Democratic. If it's a club filled with "pro-life" Democrats -- no matter. If it's a club filled with anti-GLBT Democrats -- no matter. If it's a club filled with "good kids" who are Democrats -- no matter. It's "Democrat" -- and that's all one apparently needs to know.

If you want to see some inconsistency and warped logic in Liberty University's position, check out the following contradictions in the FoxNews report. In the first paragraph, University officials are reported as claiming that the ban occurs because the group stands against the University's moral principles. And yet notice how there is absolutely NO EVIDENCE provided that this group does anything of the sort. The only apparent reason given is that it's Democratic. The University doesn't point to any specific action that the group has done that goes against the school's moral foundations. In fact, if you read Liberty University Vice president of student affairs Mark Hine's email above, there seems to recognition that the Group actually DOESN'T embrace or advocate Democratic Party positions that run counter to the University's moral foundations. What's patently clear is that just the label "Democrat" is enough to get a group banned from campus, irrespective of what that group actually advocates and does.

I have to say that when I read stuff like this, I find conservatives' complaints about the "liberal" university's intolerance of conservatives to be hollow and hypocritical. Where's David Horowitz and his Freedom Center's Campaign for Academic Freedom? Where's the Horowitz-sponsored Students for Academic Freedom coming to the defense of these Liberty University College Democrats? If they really cared about academic freedom, diversity of intellectual opinion, and even their moral convictions, Liberty University's actions would be as loudly condemned by Horowitz and his minions.

It's a shame, because Liberty University just got some really positive exposure through liberal college student Kevin Roose's very sympathetic book on intellectual, ideological, and religious pluralism at Liberty University based on his very open-minded experience as a student there. Here we have an ivy-league liberal young man giving Liberty University the benefit of the doubt on the one hand, and now we have on the other hand Liberty University officials confirming the worst about the University's official intolerance of difference.

It's a shame, because the message that comes out of this decision to ban the College Democrats club at Liberty University is now quite clear: Liberty University = Republican University. You can't be a public Democrat at Liberty University, even if you support the moral foundations of the University, in a way that is recognized officially by the University. Simply being a Democrat is considered a violation of the moral foundations of the University. There's no other way to interpret this action.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cicero's Father Eulogizes

Behold a tattered toga
Ripped asunder by this display of
Bald treachery: Your lifeless
Head and hand tacked unceremoniously
(A wordless bulletin!)
To the site of your silver-tongued triumphs.

My liver is a Pompeiic eruption of
Paternal devastation.

I suffered you once proudly past me, my son.
It was a painful passing of the torch.

You always had the brilliant last word,
The perfect argument.
I could never contest.

Your famous fiery rhetoric is but
A fading whisper,
A muffled sob, a cooling ember.
As am I.
The words have flown with you and
Escape me.
There is nothing more to say.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Michael Steele, Gay Marriage, and Business

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that the current GOP chairman floated the boneheaded argument that Republicans should advance their opposition to gay marriage by showing how "gay marriage" will hurt small businesses.

My first reaction, after I put my incredulous eyeballs back into their sockets, was to ask, if Steele really believed that gay marriage would hurt business, why wouldn't interracial marriage or heterosexual marriage or any marriage hurt business in the same way? Really. Didn't Steele even think about what he was saying? The implications are so damn obvious.

There is absolutely no way Steele can make the argument that opposing gay marriage saves businesses money by denying the civil benefits of marriage without coming across as specifically targeting gay people for discrimination in the workplace by sharing in the exact same institution and the benefits it provides as heterosexual employees.

Steele's comments reveal that the GOP is desperate, flailing, and incapable of recognizing that, in a civil society grounded in equality, there is NO good, sustainable argument for denying gay people the civil benefits of marriage.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Confidential to President_Friedman

A very sincere and heartfelt thanks. I wish there were more minds and men of character like you at places like RWN.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jessie Ventura, Waterboarding, and Dick Cheney

"You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders."

Let's remember that Jessie Ventura, as crazy as he is, is a Navy S.E.A.L. who knows what he's talking about when it comes to waterboarding and whether it's torture.


A lesson for researchers. Now, don't get me wrong: I love Wikipedia and find it to be fairly accurate for the things that I research and know about; but the point shouldn't be lost on researchers and students.

Never, ever think of Wikipedia as the final and authoritative source on any subject. Always cross-check the information on Wikipedia with other reliable sources. And always hold Wikipedia to the same scrutiny of verification that you would hold any other resource.

In this case, the duped media outlets lifted from Wikipedia what was supposedly a direct quotation from an individual. However, this quotation was never sourced on Wikipedia. In fact, it was a planted hoax, designed to see how media would use it. And apparently, the media used it carelessly.

As I said, a lesson to be heeded.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Run, Mitch, Run!

I'd like nothing more than to see Mitch Landrieu join his sister, Mary, in the US Senate. Yeah, a Landrieu Brother/Sister combo might spook some of the conservative northern fundagelicals of the "Gret Stet" (and maybe even some of the conservative southern brain-deaders of the State); but Mitch is the only Democrat I can think of who has statewide name recognition, is not considered an overly ideological liberal, has done quite well as Lt.-Governor, and has infinitely better family values than Vitter. Besides which, Mitch, I think, can make some serious inroads in the more conservative suburbs of the Greater New Orleans area, a region which Vitter is going to need to go overwhelmingly for him, but which feels much more personally betrayed and wounded by Vitter's sexual indiscretions and family-values hypocrisy.

The one question mark for Mitch will be the lingering fallout from his racially contentious matchup against Ray Nagin for New Orleans mayor the last go around.

Even still, I think Vitter is vulnerable; but his defeat will require a well-known, family-values-unassailable Democrat. And Mitch Landrieu is really the only person I can think of that would fit the bill at this time.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Obama and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

I'm stunned, flummoxed, and flabberghasted.

I'm not a single-issue voter, but I can't hide the fact that Obama's apparent firing of an openly gay member of the military under that disgustingly atrocious piece of garbage legislation known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is extremely disappointing to me and does some serious damage to Obama in my eyes.

Believe me, I want to try to find some rationale that would make this shocking thing seem less so, but I can come at it by every which angle and there's just no getting around it. As Aaron Belkin notes, Obama could have stopped this legally, easily, and instantaneously; but he didn't. He could have effectively ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with a stroke of the pen, and had both the public's support and the cause of justice and moral righteousness on his side; but he didn't. Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, could exercise some authority over this issue; but he hasn't. Worse is that he doesn't even seem likely to.

Obama better change course on this soon, and live up to his clear campaign promise, or my enthusiasm (and support) for him will start to drop like the recent stock market.

Quote of the Day

"But surely, when it comes to combating teen pregnancy, the Palin family has done enough damage already. What worse message could you send to teenage girls than the one they delivered at the Republican convention: If your handsome but somewhat thuglike boyfriend gets you with child, he will clean up nicely, propose marriage, and show up at an important family event wearing a suit and holding your hand. At which point you will get a standing ovation." New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Gail Collins

Class of Katrina Graduates

Kudos to all the Spring 2009 College Graduates in New Orleans. This graduating class was the "Class that came back" after being scattered to the four corners for Hurricane Katrina. For many of these students and their families, the Katrina experience meant arriving to New Orleans on Friday or Saturday, unpacking and getting settled in the dorms, only to immediately have to pack up and leave for an evacuation that stretched out for more than 4 months. This class deserves a lot of credit for not only coming back to New Orleans and the local universities they had committed to attend, but also for being the first wave of young energy that really catapulted the City on its path to recovery.

Read this nice article from MSNBC on this graduating class.

Patriot Act

To all my readers who embrace the Patriot Act as a necessary and good policy in these troubled times, take heed of this story and know that any tech-punk with minimal skills could easily make an example of you or your own children.

Support the Patriot Act and its attack on basic, fundamental civil liberties out of fear if you must, but be ready to accept that you, or someone you love, could be wrongly subject to detention without any claim to due process recourse.

But I have this to say to you: If you think this one "mistake" is worth the price of your illusion of feeling more secure, you are no friend of freedom. The simple fact is that you are willing to sell out your fellow American's freedom without any solid guarantee of your own. And that's friggin' sick.

UPDATE: Friday, May 8, 2009: 10:00AM: One of my readers informs me in the comments that an update to this story has been filed that calls into question the Patriot Act as the source for this detention and arrest. Here's the new story: Link. Thanks to Eric for bringing this to my attention. It is still quite true that the Patriot Act could be used in this way and that detention without recourse to due process is possible under the Patriot Act. So I still stand by my general comments. As a matter of principle, the Patriot Act's potential assaults on the freedoms of American Citizens and their access to due process make any supporter of the Patriot Act no friend of freedom.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Juan LaFonta and HB521

Louisiana Legislator Juan LaFonta, from House District 96 in New Orleans, has filed a great piece of legislation that warrants everyone's support.

This legislative initiative, HB521, calls for the creation of "an advisory council to propose ways to eliminate
obstacles to the effective delivery of governmental services to Latin Americans."

Such an advisory council has long been needed. I can tell you from personal experience that the delivery of governmental services to Latin American and Latino residents of Louisiana suffers greatly from a lack of coordination. This advisory council would go a long way towards helping the Governor and his executive agencies provide much better and more efficient services to this growing community. Law enforcement agencies, state health agencies, the state department of education, etc., are having to contend with new issues and complexities in dealing with the Latin American and Latino residents of the state, especially recent arrivals.

Right now, HB521 is referred to the Committee on House and Governmental Affairs. It is on the Committee's agenda and will probably be scheduled for a hearing and debate within the next couple of weeks.

Rep. LaFonta will be hosting a public forum to discuss specifically HB521 this Thursday, May 7, 2009, from 7PM to 8PM, at the University of New Orleans Homer Hitt Alumni Board Room at 200 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Please try to make it out to this meeting. But at the very least, please support this legislative initiative by contacting your Louisiana Legislators in both the House and the Senate.

As some of you might recall, last year there were all kinds of legislative bills seeking to marginalize and ostracize undocumented Latin American migrants to Louisiana (and by extension, their documented friends and family residing in the state), while also seeking to criminalize those citizens who would have been good samaritans to such migrants. Thanks to the concerted efforts of many individuals and groups, every single one of these hostile and punitive bills was defeated. A strong message was sent to Louisiana legislators that Louisiana is a place that is friendly to its Latin American and Latino residents and workers, regardless of immigration status. In fact, this message was so strong that this year there seem to be no such hostile and punitive legislative bills on the docket. On the contrary, instead of such nasty legislation, there's LaFonta's HB521 which seeks to institutionalize the state's commitment to and interest in its Latin American and Latino residents. Let's punctuate the victories of last summer with the exclamation point of getting LaFonta's proposed advisory council established in this year's legislative session.

I'll keep you posted on this bill as it works its way through the current legislative session. Stay tuned!