Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why We are Still in Perilous Times

While we finished our unit on "Perilous Times" late last semester, it can be argued that we are still living in perilous times.

Next week (on Feb. 25th) we will hear from Professor Geoffrey Stone, author of the book from which our unit took its name. Mr. Stone is a Constitutional law expert and he will talk about current threats to civil liberties. Sadly, the news is rife with such threats these days. Here are two examples:

*** Last week the Republicans and Democrats waged a political battle over the "Protect America Act," which expired on Saturday. The act updates the surveillance regime used by the government to monitor e-mails and phone calls in this country and abroad. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Republicans and Democrats are essentially playing a game of chicken that could test the public's attitude toward balancing anti-terrorist measures with civil liberties. Bush has often been able to prevail in such battles, but some Democrats are betting that the equation has changed."

*** This morning I read an extraordinary op-ed by Morris Davis called "Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissable Evidence." Davis was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo until he resigned in 2007. He once defended the practices at the military base, but here Davis reviles such practices as waterboarding (simulated drowning) to elicit confessions. Aside from raising questions of legality and constitutionality, he argues that the U.S. military's torture (to say nothing of the U.S.'s abandonment of the Geneva Convention rules our country helped write) has destroyed our moral authority. You can read his article in full by clicking on the title of this post.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Twice as Good as a Man?

Nicholas D. Kristof, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times wrote a column this morning that seems tailor-made for our unit on women, and speaks to many of the issues raised at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, which we are simulating.

He makes an argument that historically, and for various reasons, being a female leader in a democracy has been much more difficult than a being one in a monarchy. Beyond that, however, and more important for Americans, he concludes that, "they [women] have to be twice as good as men to get anywhere" in our society.

The reason for this may surprise you: according to the "Goldberg paradigm", both men and women judge more harshly a speech delivered by a woman, than the identical speech delivered by a man. What gives here? Why the double (dual) standard applied to leaders of both genders?

Click here for Kristof's article, and please weigh in with your thoughts, particularly in light of Hillary Clinton's run for president.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yo, Respect: Women's Rights

A current political clash in Turkey attempts to balance the possibly conflicting issues of women's rights and civil liberties. According to Spiegel (on-line) "Turkey's parliament is likely to vote next week to allow women to wear head scarves at universities." The Turkish Constitution banned this practice in 1989, fearing the practice of wearing head scarves would threaten the secular (non-theocratic) state of modern Turkey.

But Turkey's current ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has its root in an Islamist religious movement, reached an agreement with an opposition nationalist party on Thursday to cooperate on legislation to lift the two decade-old ban.

How do you feel about the ban? To what extent would such a ban limit women's freedom? Consider how this issue relates to our Civil Liberties unit last semester and our current Women and Children unit. In light of the accompanying cartoon (appearing only on our blog through the generosity of the author, Khalil Bendib), how accurate are our perceptions of "so-called Islam"? To what extent are women in the U.S. "respected" by men, by other women, by themselves? When does "respect" lead to inequality?