I think it’s easy for people of my generation to underrate him because of his generally dreary feature film career, but Richard Pryor was a genius comedian, one of the very greatest. I’ve been listening to his collection of comedy recordings–mostly from his peak in the mid-70s–and it’s just brilliant stuff, a must-own if you’re interested in the genre at all.
The NYT has an extensive obit here.
…nice roundup and tribute from Joe Gandelman. Good stuff from Digby too.
Apparently sick of having to have politicial appointees overrule professional lawyers, the Bush administration has decided to just skip the middleman:
The Justice Department has barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics, congressional aides and current and former employees familiar with the issue said.
Disclosure of the change comes amid growing public criticism of Justice Department decisions to approve Republican-engineered plans in Texas and Georgia that were found to hurt minority voters by career staff attorneys who analyzed the plans. Political appointees overruled staff findings in both cases.
The policy was implemented in the Georgia case, said a Justice employee who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity because of fears of retaliation. A staff memo urged rejecting the state’s plan to require photo identification at the polls because it would harm black voters.
But under the new policy, the recommendation was stripped out of that document and was not forwarded to higher officials in the Civil Rights Division, several sources familiar with the incident said.
Fortunately, in this case the courts have provided the function the Bush DOJ won’t perform: the 11th circuit has unanimously sustained the lower court decision striking down the Georgia poll tax that the Bush DOJ (for obvious reasons) refused to evaluate legally. But every year of Bush appointments make having federal judges who will perform such oversight of the executive branch less likely. Having an executive branch that isn’t strongly committed to gutting voting rights starting in 2008 is critical.
Peter Schuck’s NYT op-ed starts with a defensible premise, but reaches a conclusion I couldn’t disagree with more strongly. It should be said at the outset that I’m inclined to agree that the Solomon Amendment does not violate the First Amendment. Some of the arguments he uses to defend this proposition, however, aren’t very convincing. First, as I said before, his description of the SA as “a federal law barring federal funds to universities that deny the military the same access that civilian employers enjoy to recruit students” is problematic, because contrary to the implication that most of the universities in question have some sort of double standard it is the military that wants a special exemption from neutral rules. And his attempt to discern a contradiction between universities’ argument in thus case and their arguments in the recent affirmative action cases is pretty feeble question-begging; that case turns on the question of whether the policy is in fact discriminatory, and while one can disagree with their assessment it’s not an internal contradiction. Still, I do think he identifies one legitimate internal contradiction, and it’s one that for me is decisive:
The universities’ position on government threats to cut off financing to enforce public policies is also inconsistent. A quarter century ago, many universities argued that Bob Jones University’s tax exempt status and access to federal loans should be revoked because its racial policies violated civil rights law. Now the universities argue that their own funding should not be revoked for violating another federal policy.
I think that’s right. But having made that particular case, he goes on to suggest that even of the university’s non-discrimination policy is unconstitutional, universities should abandon them. And on that count, I think he’s wrong:
Let us assume, which I seriously doubt, that the universities are right that Solomon violates their free speech rights in that it somehow “compels” them to associate themselves with “don’t ask, don’t tell” – even though they loudly oppose the policy and everyone knows this. A key moral question remains: Should universities like Yale, where I teach, place extra obstacles to military recruitment on campus?
In shielding students from military recruiters, universities disserve both their students and the military whose policies they hope to liberalize. They fail to treat students as mature adults who can weigh the evidence and make their own choices among employers without the universities’ thumb on the scales. They supposedly cherish diversity, but then reduce students’ exposure to a world view – opposition to gays in the military – that is the law of the land and is preached by some of the great religions to which many of the students subscribe.
Everything he says here about “diversity,” of course, is equally applicable to all of the non-discrimination requirements. Presumably Yale’s law students are mature enough to make judgments about whether they want to work for an employer that won’t hire women or black people, but I somehow doubt that Schuck would take to the pages of the Times to urge law schools to drop those requirements. Schuck’s argument here is premised on the assumption that bigotry against gay people is more acceptable than other forms of bigotry, and that’s where I get off the bus.
Law schools certainly should do what they can to rid law firms of these irrational prejudices, and to argue that by allowing forms that practice rank discrimination to recruit on campus is to promote “diversity” is simply Orwellian. The federal government is, I think, within its powers to use its spending powers to promote its own values. But on the substantive (as opposed to constitutional) merits, the universities are clearly right, and the federal government clearly wrong.
- Like Shakes’ Sis and Lindsay, I think this Nancy Goldtsein article is excellent. I definitely agree that abortion politics need to be seen as a part of a broader project of reproductive autonomy, with particular attention made to the needs of women who often lack access to contraception (and good information about it.) Amanda emphasizes the important point Goldstein makes about the origins of the hearings, which represent the classic pro-life argument that women are not really rational moral agents–if they choose to get abortions they must somehow have been coerced or duped, maybe by greedy doctors, because if you want to get rich your surest route is to start up a Planned Parenthood clinic!
- See also Shakes on the hapless Dalton Conley. Between its ev-pysch wankery and woe-is-men posturing his apologia is so catastrophically bad it’s almost impossible to choose, but my favorite line is his argument that a fetus isn’t really part of a woman’s body: “This gets us back to the notion that a fetus is part of her body — an argument that was more sustainable, I would say, before the advent of ultrasound and other technologies that let us ‘see’ into the womb.” Indeed. Similarly, the argument that a woman’s bones were part of her body was more sustainable before X-Ray technology allowed us to “see” beneath the skin. And for that matter, you can see a woman’s nose and breasts without even an ultrasound, so they must really not be part of a woman’s body! I think men should be able to go to court and order women to get nose jobs and silicone implants, because while it would be nice if partners could work things out it’s tragically unfair that women alone are allowed to make choices about a woman’s body, which is really collective property.
UPDATE: Jill dissects Conley’s illogic and null analogies with considerably more patience than I could manage.
Shorter Chris “Guilt-By-Overlapping-Opinion-About-the-Merits-of-the-War” Snitchens: the fact that Ramsey Clark is a crackpot proves that “the antiwar faction has subordinated everything to its hatred of Bush.” (An auspicious debut for his “stop the taunting and have a real debate” program…)
Many people pointed out that Ohio’s gay-bashing constitutional amendment would raise potentially serious constitutional problems because it was so overbroad. In breaking news the Ohio courts have struck down the odious second sentence of the initiative as violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The sentence in question reads:
This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.
As the court pointed out, this sentence was in clear conflict with Ohio’s Domestic Violence Act, which created a separate court that were able to issue protection orders against abusive partners even if the partner was not a spouse. The court found–quite correctly–that this discrimination against unmarried couples failed even the “rational basis” equal protection test, and hence violated the Constitution. So get ready for calls of “judicial activism” against the court, and remember that people making these calls apparently believe that a state can fail to provide unmarried people with fundamental legal protections against private violence it provides to married people as part of a campaign of irrational discrimination against an unpopular minority. And then ask yourself what, exactly, the equal protection clause does prohibit if it allows states to do that. It should be noted, as well, that the opinion is narrowly drawn, saying at the outset that “the court finds that this Judgment Entry should not be construed to express any opinion whatsoever regarding the issue of whether same-sex marriages should be legally recognized in the State of Ohio.”
More when I get more info.
It’s nice that my gym’s renovations are finally done, but the downside of the snazzy new TV sets is no CD players, so I was stuck watching MSNBC in the noonhour. Five minutes of Michael Medved going on about how John Lennon encouraged someone to smoke pot and he was therefore much worse than McCartney, though, and it was over to the Weather Channel. Roy, however, points us to this, which takes what one might call the “Althouse approach“: continuing to evaluate artists politically, but projecting your politics on artists that you like so you can still like them. I dunno, I think I prefer my philistinism in the straight-up Medved variety, which is at least honest.
But, hey, maybe the latter school is onto something. Let’s imagine the Althouse-approved “Right-Wing Bob” model applied to the left. Anybody want to start “Feminist Phillip Roth?” “Philo-Semitic T.S. Eliot?” “Agnostic Van Morrison?” “Progressive Humanist Dostoyevsky”? “Liberal Democratic Eisenstein?” “Labourite Evelyn Waugh?” God forbid that art be evaluated in aesthetic terms, or present ideas that challenge your worldview in any way…Sweet Fancy Moses, this kind of argument drives me crazy.
Lest you get the idea that people who were born in Calgary, subsequently moved to Montreal, moved to the States, and blog about hockey are aesthetically dubious male academics, Yglesias notes the new blog from Elisa Cuthbert. (And she’s not alone among up-and-coming starlets; apparently Kristen “Veronica Mars” Bell is a diehard Red Wings fan…)
Admittedly, I’m partial toward Tom Baker, who led a great seminar I attended at the Law & Society Association grad student workshop, but for reasons Kevin Drum cites I’m very excited to read his new book. Note, too, the solution–the point if these studies is not generally that the tort system is a perfect of even a very good way to deal with the underlying problems, but that the perpetuation of myths by people who have a financial interest in demonizing trial lawyers prevent us from considering alternatives.
So, since I hadn’t seen a live game in a year and a half, I had a friend in from Philly who said she was up for it and my boys were in town, I decided to head out to bucolic New Joisey and take in the game. As per reputation, it was a very different experience than seeing a game in Calgary or Montreal, starting with the fact that we were able to but tickets in the 14th row on the blueline at the door, and the crowd was thin (maybe 11,000) and pretty quiet. One of the hooks to the game was seeing the top two most recent finalists for the Vezina Trophy (for best goaltender)–Marty Brodeur, the Devil’s first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Mikka Kiprusoff, the Flames’ young star. Alas, this didn’t really come off, as Kipper was rested after an overtime game in Philly the previous night and Brodeur–who had looked to my eye to be slipping a bit despite the award–was terrible. In fairness to the crowd, it was a bit of a strange game; the Devils controlled the first period territorially but got only one goal and not a lot of chances, and the best player in the game, Jarome Iginla, tied it up late, allowing the Flames to escape with an ill-deserved tie. Then, early in the second the Flames quickly scored two more, and then midway through the period after a great pinch by Warriner Iginla got a real clinker past Brodeur, and that was that. The Flames used their first-rate, physcial defense and speedy forwards to put on a defense-through-forechecking clinic, beautiful to watch if you’re a student-of-the-game Flames partisan, but I guess it would be rather less so if you’re a casual Devils fan. The pockets of Flaming-C jerseys were making more noise by the end of the game. So, anyway, I certainly enjoyed it.
Logistically, 1)New Jersey is, fact, much colder than the city, and 2)despite claims that it’s nearly impossible to get there through transit, it was actually easy as pie; 15-minute bus ride to the Port Authority subway.
Asad Raza‘s post about the NYU grad student strike notes that Sexton is using two of the very silliest arguments that come up when “progressive” university administrators and professors make unions-for-thee-but-not-for-me arguments:
But the sticks are many. By email, Sexton threatened students who choose not to scab tomorrow with the removal of both their ‘stipends’ (pay) and their spring ‘teaching eligibility’ (jobs)–the disaggregation of the two things being a rhetorical strategy meant to preserve the fiction that the stipends do not represent payment for teaching labor, despite the fact that they are disbursed to graduate teachers in the form of paychecks with taxes and social security withheld. Of course, despite the fictive bureaucratese, firing workers for striking is illegal and generally considered a vile form of strike-breaking. In practice it puts NYU’s graduate students in the position of almost all strikers – i.e. without pay.
This one always gets me. Evidently, the idea that the grad students who universities rely on for large percentages of their teaching aren’t workers is so transparently idiotic that there’s not much you can do to defend it, but you have to like the aribtrary division between “stipends” and “teaching eligibility,” as if NYU is really doing students a favor by permitting them to teach. As I’ve said before, if that’s the case, there’s an easy solution: keep the “stipends” and end the “teaching eligibility.” Since grad students aren’t really performing “labor,” I’m sure you won’t notice the difference!
And then there’s this, which some NYU faculty members are latching onto:
But let me offer a counterexample to the view that graduate students are not workers: the fact is, they already are classed as workers at many universities, including all the SUNY schools as well as Rutgers. The only difference is that these universities are public. Is there, then, any significance to the distinction between public and private-university graduate students? I don’t believe that a distinction germane to this issue can be made. Certainly the argument that unions erode collegiality and interfere with internal academic affairs can be dispelled by a glance at Rutgers, where graduate students have been unionized since 1972 without incident. It is also very difficult to deny that working conditions at NYU have improved since unionization. In 2000, students in the English department were paid 12,000 dollars for teaching four classes or discussion sections, with no health benefits. Today, compensation for the same workload is 19,000 dollars plus health coverage. Better working conditions make for better teaching; thus the undergraduates are better served by the union as well. Either we should have a union, or Rutgers shouldn’t. You make the call.
This is right, of course; the idea that there should be less right to organize at private universities makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Grad students instructors don’t suddenly have different jobs because they work at private schools. And when it’s made by professors at private schools, it’s even worse for being so self-serving as well as being illogical. It’s a companion of the argument noted by Dave, where allegedly pro-labor professors say that they’re all in favor of unions…as long as they don’t restrict the discretion of employers in any way whatsoever. Needless to say, the distinction between this position and just being anti-labor is one without a difference, unless one is prepared to defend the claim that negotiated restrictions on management discretion are acceptable only when the management isn’t you.