Friday, January 19, 2007

Dewey, or Dewey not?

Last week Solon posted on death threats over pizza. I responded to his post with a comment about a sign in front of a liquor store that reads "American-owned." Solon and I noted how both these instances attempt to exclude Americans who embody some kind of otherness. We also acknowledge how uncomfortable it can be when such attempts to marginalize and exlude groups are cloaked in a language of patriotism.

I've been reading some John Dewey today, and I think he aptly addresses the issue of American otherness:

No matter how loudly any one proclaims his Americanism, if he assumes that any one racial strain, and one component culture, no matter how settled it was in our territory, or how effective it has proved in its own land, is to furnish a pattern to which all other strains and cultures are to conform, he is a traitor to an American nationalism. Our unity cannot be a homogenous thing...; it must be a unity created by drawing out and composing into a harmonious whole the best, the most characteristic which each contributing race and people has to offer. ("The Principle of Nationality" 288-89)

Guaranteed to break the ice at parties

Here is a fun party game: Try to discern what these symbols mean in this cartoon from Captain's Quarters.

Call the Attorney...

Wait... on second thought you may not want to call this attorney, the top attorney in the United States. Yester, while testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Gonzales declared that not every citizen or individual in the United States possess the Constitutional right of habeas corpus. Instead, he assured us, that Congress cannot take the right away. Oddly, is Congress cannot take something away, there must be something to take away (a simple correlation of ideas).

Here is the Constitutional Right in Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 of the Contitution: “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

Here is the transcript:
SPECTER: Where you have the Constitution having an explicit provision that the writ of habeas corpus cannot be suspended except for rebellion or invasion, and you have the Supreme Court saying that habeas corpus rights apply to Guantanamo detainees — aliens in Guantanamo — after an elaborate discussion as to why, how can the statutory taking of habeas corpus — when there’s an express constitutional provision that it can’t be suspended, and an explicit Supreme Court holding that it applies to Guantanamo alien detainees.

GONZALES: A couple things, Senator. I believe that the Supreme Court case you’re referring to dealt only with the statutory right to habeas, not the constitutional right to habeas.

SPECTER: Well, you’re not right about that. It’s plain on its face they are talking about the constitutional right to habeas corpus. They talk about habeas corpus being guaranteed by the Constitution, except in cases of an invasion or rebellion. They talk about John Runningmeade and the Magna Carta and the doctrine being imbedded in the Constitution.

GONZALES: Well, sir, the fact that they may have talked about the constitutional right to habeas doesn’t mean that the decision dealt with that constitutional right to habeas.

SPECTER: When did you last read the case?

GONZALES: It has been a while, but I’ll be happy to — I will go back and look at it.

SPECTER: I looked at it yesterday and this morning again.

GONZALES: I will go back and look at it. The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —

SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Torture is okay...

if it occurred before December 30th, 2005. From CNN:
Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, a legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions, told reporters that the manual provides for a "clear prohibition of evidence obtained by torture" if it was obtained after December 30, 2005.

But if it was obtained before that time, and if the judge determines that it is reliable, it may be admitted, he said.

Why bother with a cut-off date?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The UNI Ranking

I know, I know: I am way beyond my time.

Paul Lukas, at ESPN, developed the "UNI Ranking," which gauges a city's performance in the crucial category of athletics aesthetics with the uniform numerical index, a.k.a., the UNI.

For an explanation:
Here's how it works: First, only cities with at least three major-level sports teams are eligible for a UNI ranking (college and minor league teams don't count -- because there are too many of them and because their uniforms tend to change too frequently anyway). Unfortunately, this means two-team cities such as San Diego, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Buffalo and Nashville didn't make the cut (and are therefore implicitly uninhabitable). But ineligibility can have its advantages: Because Cincinnati has only two teams, for example, it was spared the albatross of having its ranking pulled down by the Bengals.

Assigning teams to specific cities involved a few judgment calls. Should the A's, Raiders, Warriors and Sharks count as San Francisco teams? (Yes.) Should the Nets, Devils and Islanders be filed under New York? (No.) Should the Patriots be assigned to Boston? (Duh.) That sort of thing. After lots of careful consideration, Uni Watch ended up with 20 U.S. cities plus Toronto meeting the three-team standard.

A rigorous, highly scientific set of standards then was employed to rate the uniforms of each team in the 21 cities. The ratings, on a scale of one to five stars, roughly translate to the following expressions of civic pride (or angst, as the case might be):

Five Stars = "Man, is this a great city or what? Why didn't we move here sooner?"
Four Stars = "Hey, maybe that broker's fee wasn't so outrageous after all."
Three Stars= "I really like it here. But you know, I like lots of places."
Two Stars = "I pay property tax, school tax and garbage tax just so I can look at this?"
One Star = "Call the movers -- we're leaving tomorrow."

After adding up a city's ratings and dividing by the number of teams, Uni Watch ended up with the city's average score. Because a uniform can be enhanced or diminished by its surrounding context, especially on TV, a stadium/arena bonus (for particularly attractive settings) or penalty (for domes or artificial turf) of as much as one point was applied to certain cities. The average score, plus this bonus or penalty, yields the city's final UNI, destined to become the key yardstick of urban stature.

The winners (rating in parentheses):
(1) Boston (5.25- Everyone looks good at Fenway; bonus point awarded)
(2) Chicago (4.8)
(3) San Francisco (4.33)
(4) (tie) Los Angeles (4.0)
(4) (tie) Pittsburg (4.0)

Rounding out the top-ten:
(6) New York (though, the Islanders fell off the radar) (3.83)
(7) (tie) St. Louis (3.67)
(7) (tie) Cleveland (3.67)
(10) (tie) Philly (3.5)
(10) (tie) Houston (3.5)

I think that the writer should have created a top-ten list for the unlivable places.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Next time I'm on campus, I'm traveling to the library like this.

In Honor of MLK Jr...

Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." I prefer this to "I Have a Dream."

This is a great passage to use in class to discuss the style of the argument reinforces the argument. In the second paragraph, King combines anaphora (repetition at the beginning of a clause) with copia (excessive use of clauses) to argue that civil disobedience is the necessary course of action and the timing of the boycotts and protests is correct, especially for the demonstrations in Birmingham, which occurred over the Easter holday-- a time when, traditionally, shopping was very important to the local economy.

Here is the passage:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"