Now this is welcome: the New York Times (via Ronald Bailey) has a column by George Johnson jumping off from the question of whether locating a giant telescope on Mauna Kea would unfairly desecrate the religious and ancestral heritage of (some) native Hawaiians. Johnson notes:
While biblical creationists opposing the teaching of evolution have been turned back in case after case, American Indian tribes have succeeded in using their own religious beliefs and a federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to empty archaeological museums of ancestral bones — including ones so ancient that they have no demonstrable connection to the tribe demanding their reburial. The most radical among them refuse to bow to a science they don’t consider their own. A few even share a disbelief in evolution, professing to take literally old myths in which the first people crawled out of a hole in the ground.
In this turn back toward the dark ages, it is not just skeletal remains that are being surrendered. Under the federal law, many ceremonial artifacts are also up for grabs. While some archaeologists lament the loss of scientific information, Indian creationism is tolerated out of a sense of guilt over past wrongdoings.
Even some scientists bow and go along in the spirit of reparations, while admitting the loss to human inquiry and future knowledge. Earlier on NAGPRA and the Kennewick Man controversy here, here, etc.
If there are insuperable practical objections to the idea of reparations, how about if we find that out first before we’re asked to nod to the idea in principle? [David Frum responding to Ta-Nehisi Coates; earlier]
The Ta-Nehisi Coates essay in the Atlantic arguing the case for racial reparations stirred quite a bit of discussion and here are three more reactions:
* John McWhorter, “The Case Against Racial Reparations” [The Daily Beast]
* Jonathan Blanks, “Why Aren’t There More Black Libertarians?” [Libertarianism.org]
* Richard Epstein on Coates’ “acute tunnel vision” and misreadings of individual rights [Hoover "Defining Ideas"]
Plus: not a reaction but an older piece, “How Far Back Should We Go? Why Restitution Should Be Small” [Tyler Cowen, 2002, PDF]
An “international legal fantasy,” as one observer puts it. [New York Times; earlier on Haiti and France; more on reparations]
Megan McArdle says the judge seems to have dreaded only Type A and not Type B error when it comes to compensating discriminated-against farmers, and quotes more from the great Times piece:
“It was the craziest thing I have ever seen,” one former high-ranking department official said. “We had applications for kids who were 4 or 5 years old. We had cases where every single member of the family applied.” The official added, “You couldn’t have designed it worse if you had tried.” …
Accusations of unfair treatment could be checked against department files if claimants had previously received loans. But four-fifths of successful claimants had never done so. For them, “there was no way to refute what they said,” said Sandy Grammer, a former program analyst from Indiana who reviewed claims for three years. “Basically, it was a rip-off of the American taxpayers.” …
In 16 ZIP codes in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and North Carolina, the number of successful claimants exceeded the total number of farms operated by people of any race in 1997, the year the lawsuit was filed. Those applicants received nearly $100 million.
At Prawfsblawg, Paul Horwitz notes that legal scholars active in areas like reparations and discrimination law have up to now said little or nothing about the high quantum of fraud in the much-publicized Pigford settlements and asks (perhaps a bit rhetorically?) whether they will soon be taking note of the “public interest graft” revealed in the Times piece. And Hans Bader wonders whether the Obama administration might have avoided going down the embarrassing settlement route had it taken more seriously the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision in Alexander v. Sandoval. More: Ted Frank, Point of Law; Daniel Foster, NRO. Joel Pollak: “Even the Kinko’s guy knows about Pigford.” Earlier here, etc.
Big Government has been blowing the whistle on the Pigford settlement, which arose from allegations of racial discrimination in U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and has resulted in the allotment of billions in federal taxpayer money as compensation. The series of posts is here and here.
A California lawmaker targets a French railroad. [Coyote]
Another reparations case filed in the California courts over 100-year-old events, courtesy high-profile lawyers Brian Kabateck and Mark Geragos [AP, Reuters, complaint (PDF) courtesy WSJ Law Blog] Earlier here, here, here, etc.
Ugandans sue Britain over crimes during a 1893-1899 war [Telegraph]
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Missed from earlier this year: in the fall of 2007, following extensive litigation, the government of Canada began issuing payments to persons of Indian ancestry who had attended an officially promoted network of residential schools where abuse was common and whose aim of assimilating students into broader Canadian life was later assailed as calculated to suppress native culture. While the payments brought benefit to many recipients, among others they seem to have led to new cycles of dysfunction, family strife and substance abuse. [Jack Branswell and Ken Meaney, "Native suicides linked to compensation", Canwest/National Post, Jan. 26 via Western Standard]
“The Senate unanimously passed a resolution [Thursday] apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2 1/2 centuries of slavery.” [WaPo] Not altogether surprisingly, if you ask leading reparations advocates Randall Robinson and Charles Ogletree, Jr., whether this should reignite talk of reparations, they say yes. My City Journal article of last year explains why I think the latter very bad idea never picked up the political momentum its advocates expected.
Stephen Bainbridge has this response to the resolution’s sponsor:
“You wonder why we didn’t do it 100 years ago,” Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the vote. “It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice.”
Memo to Senator Harkin: We had a collective response. It was called the Army of the Potomac.