Monday, September 29, 2014

ILWU Statement on "Block the Boat"

Nothing is more progressive than threatening workers!
At 6:00 PM Saturday, ILWU [International Longshore and Warehouse Union) Local 10 and 34 represented longshoremen and clerks dispatched to work the vessel ZIM Shanghai at SSA’s Oakland California Terminal were met with hostile demonstrators, effectively blocking all access to the terminal. Longshoremen and Clerks trying to report to work were threatened physically at some points of ingress and their personal vehicles were physically blocked. As such, all personnel stood-by outside of the demonstration perimeters for health and safety purposes. At approximately 8 PM SSA released all personnel from work.

As far as the union can ascertain, the protests are organized by a coalition of individuals and organizations that plan events and create action alerts under the name of “Block the Boat for Gaza” online.

The ILWU is not among the groups organizing the protests, and the leadership and membership of the ILWU have taken no position on the Israel/Gaza conflict.
Indeed, pretty much all efforts to block Israeli boats on the West Coast end up resorting to threatening the dockworkers. Curious, that.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half

Richard Silverstein, opening a post titled "The European Anti-Semitism Hoax.":
Despite hyperbolic claims like this, “these are the worst times since the Nazi era” ... there is not even a serious, widespread attack on the Jewish community in Europe.
Richard Silverstein, closing that very same post:
To be a Jew in the world has never been more dangerous since World War II.
Clearly, holding even a simple thesis over the course of a single blog post is beyond the capacity of some.

On the degree to which Israeli policies correlate with anti-Semitism abroad, I of course refer back to this post. But I also think this is a rather stark exemplar of my Innocent Until Proven Nazi theory. Silverstein declares it a "hoax" to characterize attacks on Jews worldwide because they do not appear to present an imminent threat of global elimination. Which, while probably true, sets the bar rather low in my view. And indeed, even when we're talking about people who do seem to desire such extermination ("Jews to the gas!"), it's still unfair to consider it a form of anti-Semitism because the motives are so, so different. Arab and Muslim attacks on Jews are simply a response to Jews allegedly being implicated in the oppression of Palestinians. This is distinct from classical anti-Semitism, which contended ... oh wait:
Anti-Semites weren't - aren't - just people who think they're better than Jews. They're people who think they're being oppressed by Jews.
Wasn't the Holocaust really just an overzealous response to Jews oppressing German businesses (Google this event if you want to vomit)? It is ever so important, as Silverstein reminds us, to be absolutely scrupulous in placing "these expressions in a historical and political context."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Double-Counting RECs

Today I wrote a guest-post at the Legal Planet blog (a joint UC-Berkeley/UCLA project) about an interesting challenge before the FTC on how Vermont's Green Mountain Power makes renewable energy claims.

When a generator produces renewable electricity, the power company is entitled to a "Renewable Energy Credit" (REC) (typically 1 megawatt hour of renewable electricity equals one 1 REC). RECs represent the electricity's renewable attributes. These RECs can be bundled or unbundled from the associated electricity. If they're bundled (kept together), then the consumer of the electricity also receives the electricity's renewable attributes -- effectively, the customer is getting green power. But the electricity can also be unbundled from the REC, with different consumers receiving each product. In that case, the consumer who receives the electricity is not actually receiving "clean" electricity -- only the recipient of the REC is (basically, the REC recipient is off-setting dirty power she consumes from another provider).

The FTC petition claims that while Green Mountain Power claims to supply renewable energy to its consumers, it actually sells the associated RECs to other entities elsewhere in New England. This is misleading, since once the RECs are unbundled the electricity consumers are not actually receiving renewable power.

I go into some more detail in my guest-post. If you're interested, I encourage you to check it out.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Homeland Seasons 1-3

Jill and I have been urged by many, many people over the past few years to watch Homeland. We finally cracked last week (it was a trade with my Aunt, who promised to watch Inception) and binged the first three seasons. Thoughts below (possible mild spoilers, depending on how broadly one defines the term):

* For me, this show epitomizes "better than the sum of its parts." I think Homeland is good, albeit not great. But even that positive evaluation is pretty impressive given its raw materials. Three seasons'-worth of plot were driven by a ludicrously forced love story between two characters with almost no chemistry and whose motives were, to say the least, opaque. And both Brody and Carrie distinguished themselves by making awful and inscrutable decisions over, and over, and over again. Literally the only reason I ever rooted for them as a couple was so Morena Baccarin could hook-up with that Captain guy guilt-free.

* Speaking of Morena Baccarin, it is credit to her as an actress that there were very few moments in the series where I found myself squealing about Inara. Jill and I both agree that it is probably good for her that -- following Firefly, Stargate SG-1, and V -- she got a prominent role in a non-Sci-Fi show (though how big a step away "Spy Thriller" really is from her norm is up for debate).

* With apologies to Damian Lewis and his character, this show was far, far, far better whenever Nicholas Brody was locked in a box on another continent.

* Morgan Saylor did a great job as Dana. Dana, on the other hand, did a terrible job as Dana. Also, what is with shows featuring a family with two children, the younger of which is basically a non-entity? Mad Men (pre-Gene), Masters of Sex, I'm looking at you.

* Jill says she's more of a Claire Danes type. I personally favor Morena Baccarin (Inara! Sorry, couldn't help it). But we're both in agreement regarding Mandy Patinkin. I bet he's called "The Bear" all the time.

* Also -- Mandy Patinkin was Inigo Montoya? That's incredible and incredibly awesome.

* Has there ever been a series where "Stand down, acknowledge!" has been used so often, to so little effect? And it only took the show three seasons to become self-aware of that particular running joke.

* Homeland also confirms one my favorite tropes about lawyers on television. To wit, if you're a lawyer in a show about law -- well, I wouldn't call the portrayal accurate, per se, but it has some bearing on what lawyers do if what they did was browbeat potential witnesses by day and have sexual trysts by night. But if you're a lawyer in a show that isn't about law -- you're basically a superspy. At the very least you'll be a crack shot with multiple weapons, and you'll probably be proficient in running a high-stakes kidnapping ring, extortion racket, or intelligence-gathering operation. It's as if Hollywood thinks all law schools offer a mandatory 1L course in wetwork operations. Chicago does, but that's because human life and death can efficiently be reduced to a market transaction.

Behind the Mule

Urging attacks on America, ISIS calls Barack Obama "mule of the Jews". Quick, somebody inform the Greeks!

Oddly, while the ISIS statement asks for attacks against Americans, Canadians, Australians, and the French, it does not appear to mention Israel (at least as summarized in this article). A certain (former) Labor candidate in England must be very disappointed indeed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

South African Jews Meet With South African Leadership

I've done a lot of depressing blogging recently about the state of South African Jewry (no I mean a lot), so it's good to provide some positive news for once. Top members of the South African government, including President Jacob Zuma, met with Jewish community leaders to discuss rising anti-Semitism and to work on ways to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The community leaders seem to think the meeting was very successful, so I'm happy too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hamas Arrests Mortar Team

Hamas has reportedly arrested a cell which fired a mortar into Israel yesterday, breaching an agreed-upon ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. And hey, good for them. I know I should have some snarky comment, or at least some cynical statement about how they're just biding their time yadayada, but you know what? We can't ask them to do things like this and then grope for reasons why it doesn't matter when they follow through. I'll curse their sudden-but-inevitable betrayal when it happens, but for now? Good on them.

UPDATE: ... or not?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Word of the Day: Dysphemism

Today, I discovered the word "dysphemism." To be more precise, I thought I coined the term only to discover that the word already existed. Sad for me, although a good sign at my ability to properly match up Greek roots.

In any event, a dysphemism is the opposite of a euphemism -- it replaces a positive or neutral term for a person, concept or activity with one that is negative -- for example, calling a mental hospital a "loony bin" or referring to welfare recipients as "strapping young bucks." I'm intrigued by it because dysphemisms often hold the potential to both conjure up an explicitly negative picture of a given group while allowing the person to claim plausible deniability that this was their intent. For example, when people talk about "young thugs" they are often using a dysphemism for young Black men. Certainly, they are trading on that image which inevitably is conjured up when they make the reference. Yet call them out on it, and they'll immediately cry foul -- who said young Black men? I certainly didn't. Are you saying all thugs are Black people? Who's the real racist now? A similar move gets made with respect to "Zionist" -- its often a dysphemism for "Jew" that also allows the speaker to disclaim that they're at all talking about Jews.

In any event, yes, there is a word for this. The more you know!