Saturday, August 26, 2006

Double Down

Two international legal scholars at Opinio Juris, Avi Bell (Bar Ilan University) and Kevin Jon Heller (Georgia) discuss an attempt by some retired Israeli diplomats to sue Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the ICC for incitement to commit genocide.

There are really two issues at play here. The first is standing, since neither Iran nor Israel is party to the Rome Statute. Professor Bell thinks this is an insurmountable hurdle, Profesor Heller thinks the statute contains a work-around. Second is whether Mr. Ahmadinejad's remarks constitute incitement to commit genocide. I think that they do, but I'm not sure that there isn't enough ambiguity--especially as to whether he wants to destroy merely the state of Israel or also all its (Jewish) inhabitants--for him to escape in a court of law.

Legal issues aside, however, I agree that this is somewhat quixiotic. The odds that a UN judicial body--whose pronouncements have been so uniformly hostile to Israel in the past--would stretch even an inch in order to protect the Jewish state is so far-fetched as to be fanciful. Israel can't count on the UN for protection when it comes to the likes of Ahmadinejad. They have to protect themselves.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Chavez Continues The Anti-Semitism

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is pushing hard to gain a seat on the Security Council, has accused Israel of "doing the same thing as Hitler" in Lebanon. Actually, according to Yahoo News (via Blue Crab Boulevard) he actually thinks that Israel's actions in Lebanon are "perhaps even worse."

Previously, Chavez accused the "descendants of those who crucified Christ" of stealing the world's riches. So this is hardly new behavior.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's Jewish community is fearing a domestic backlash, as anti-semitism apparently is on the rise there.

Here is a great post from a Venezuelan blogger who argues that Chavez--on this issue at least--is out of step with his own people.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"By Killing People"

One Paleo-Con offers an easy way to discern the true meaning of any neo-conservative proposal: Just append "by killing people" to the end of it. David Weigel uses Danielle Pletka to demonstrate:
The Palestinians must decide the way forward for themselves. And no amount of cajoling, strategizing or talking can change this most basic fact. The United States should support moderate parties, and encourage pluralistic democracy, by killing people.


As for me, I've always (tongue-in-cheek) described myself as a liberal who likes to watch things blow up. More seriously, I'm a liberal who is not shy about using military interventions to punish severe human rights violations. Neo-conservatives, too, like the idea of doing good by killing off evil. The problem is that, as the Iraqi reconstruction shows, they don't have the foggiest idea what to do after the killing stage ends. And that, my friends, causes all manner of unpleasantness.

Sadly, when it comes to domestic policy, I think it sometimes applies just as well.
"We need Health Savings Accounts! It will solve our healthcare problem, by killing people

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Survivor's Races

CBS has confirmed that the next season of Survivor will feature racially segregated tribes (H/T: Orly Lobel). They're claiming that it will be a useful social experiment. I never watched Survivor (or any reality TV with the occasional exception of The Contender), however I suspect that they magnify existing but somewhat dormant traits in persons by subjecting them to hyper-competitive environments. So ideally, Survivor might showcase the type of racially hostility that can develop when race-identified groups are pitted against each other in high-stakes competition--which can be cross-applied to American society where we have a de facto segregated society that also has to deal with tremendously stressful competition with each other for attention, political favor, goods, services, and other items.

Alas, life is not the ideal, and I am skeptical that race-based Survivor will end up doing more good than harm. Waveflux indicates some of the racist stereotypes that are undergirding the decision (them exotic minorities will make fire differently!). Marc Lamont Hill notes that while the simple act of segregating the competitors into race-based groups isn't intrinsically racist
the claim that this show is an "experiment" that can tell us anything meaningful about race is spurious. Like FX's Black/White, Survivor places relatively privileged people (check the list of participants) in contrived circumstances that don't approximate the conditions of American social life.

Although White privilege, anti-Black racism, and systemic inequality certainly seep through the porous cultural walls of reality television, they are obscured by the heavily orchestrated interactions and identity performances that the reality television genre demands. Unfortunately, many Americans lack the theoretical tools and political will to understand how just how inaccurate and mendacious the show's "findings" are. Just like in Black/White, when everyday people buttressed claims that racism didn't exist by pointing out that Bruno (the White guy turned Black) didn't get ignored in the shoe store, the new Survivor runs the risk of misstating the truth by overstating its "realness."

That's all true, and I think ultimately controlling.

I will say that the change numbers race-wise might lead to some interesting events. Historically, Survivor has been very segregated already--mostly White contestants. Here, it appears that Whites will be only five of twenty contestants, assuming that the numbers are distributed evenly across the White, Latino, Black, and Asian tribes. Seeing how Whites act when they are in the minority is an interesting window in America's future where they likely will be. Will it fundamentally change the dynamic? I will admit some curiosity here. Unfortunately, I also have equally morbid curiosity as to whether CBS will use some selective editing to portray said future as an apocalyptic race war with poor Whitey huddled together to protect against the savage horde.

Remember: at the end of the day, CBS is going to cut this in a manner which makes the best ratings, not which shows the most honest portrayal of racial dynamics. That alone taints the entire endeavor.


Rachel Sullivan is taking a wait-and-see attitude, but thinks this probably isn't the best way to diversify the cast.

Ace of Spades sees the next season--Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze going at it on Survivor: Beirut. Oh, Christ no.

Ankle Biting Pundits is more curious as to the alliance-making the will occur when the tribes merge in the mid- to end-game.

Rush Limbaugh handicaps the races. And doesn't use a single racial stereotype to do it! Haha, just kidding. About the lack of stereotyping that is. He really did handicap.

Lindsay Beyerstein calls it "Survivor: Jim Crow Edition".

Matt Yglesias recommends a similar format for the NBA all-star game, with the teams being "Black" and "Other." As he notes, "Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrei Kirlenko, Manu Ginobili, and Steve Nash is a solid starting squad for Team Other."

Into the Void

Have you ever seen a big post get swallowed up by blogger, and gotten too depressed to write another?

I have.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

From the Comments

I know I've posted these excerpts before, but they're worth mentioning again.

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...nor shall any person be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...." --Amendment V, U.S. Constitution

"No State shall...deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." --Amendment XIV, U.S. Constitution

"Whatever his status under the immigration laws, an alien is surely a 'person' in any ordinary sense of that term. Aliens, even aliens whose presence in this country is unlawful, have long been recognized as 'persons' guaranteed due process of law by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." Plyer v. Doe 457 U.S. 202, 210 (1982).

This was the comment (from a charming fellow named "Patriot Rightly") that precipitated the response:
You said the patriots opposed to the invasion of America show "a fundamental disrespect for basic human rights." The problem is that you are wrong because these people have absolutely zero rights once they illegally cross into the United States. We could shoot them all in the back of the head and line huge pits with their bodies and their is no harm-no foul. These people don't have a right to breathe my air let alone to be treated 'humanely.'

Thank dog you commies weren't around when we were fighting the Japanese after they invaded and bombed US soil. We did the right thing then, we made them into 'Nips', 'Slants', Gooks', and Asian Devils. This was completely appropriate since they started war on us. The key here is they started it. We ended it too, which is emminently moral (if you understand morals) by frying a bunch of em. Now, we don't hate them and we don't call them racial slurs.

I am not advocating wiping these Mexicans out for invading this country but I am only pointing out that it is no foul if we did. We need to get them all the hell out of here and we need to make Mexico pay for the trouble.


Oklahoma Insanity

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is no stranger to bizarre pronouncements. You may remember his commentary on Abu Gharib--he was the Senator who was "outraged by the outrage." But, via The Plank, it is rare to see so many truly jaw-dropping claims by a sitting Senator in one articl. Among other comments, Inhofe claimed that:

-The success America has enjoyed in Iraq is "nothing short of a miracle."

-Defended the "Bridge to Nowhere" as "one of the few things in Washington that works."

-Argued that "global warming is largely a front for international economic movements."

Oklahoma might have the worst duo of Senators in the nation (Tom Coburn (R) is the other). They are crazy in different ways, to be sure, but when you get down to it, they're both mighty crazy.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's The Good Advice...That You Just Didn't Take

Hitler on Gandhi, and Gandhi on Hitler:
Hitler advised the British to kill Gandhi. (Wikipedia claims that Viscount Halifax in 1937 'was also to listen politely to Hitler's advice on how he should have handled difficulties in India ("Shoot Gandhi!") and the meetings were generally uncomfortable.')

Gandhi, apparently, advised the Brits not to fight Hitler, except with non-violent resistance (apparently urging Britons to 'Let them take possession of your beautiful island with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these, but neither your souls, nor your minds.')

Immigration Honesty

A Washington Post article reveals what the GOP is really thinking on the topic of illegal immigration. First, Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) on the one-sidedness of his farce "hearings" on the subject:
"What I wanted was witnesses who agree with me, not disagree with me."

Nothing like a good old fashioned commitment to truth, regardless of source. As The Carpetbagger Report puts it, to the GOP, "an appropriate hearing is one in which everyone thinks exactly the same way."

But while Norwood got most of the attention from the blogosphere, amazingly, he does not win the award for the most appalling comment in the article. Check out the sentiments coming out of a GOP base voter:
At the Bakers Dozen donut shop in Sierra Vista, Sally Hawk of Huachuca City held her tongue as her husband, Jim, fretted over a Republican Party in control of the House, Senate and White House but "doing nothing." Then, when talk turned to the illegal immigrants flowing over the border, she chimed in hesitantly: "I think they ought to shoot them. I don't have anything against Mexicans. I just want them here legally."

Well, I sure am glad she hesitated before saying it. I was worried that this call for murder was one she came to hastily. But now it's clear that when mediating between the conflicting values of showing she has nothing "against Mexicans" and showing her disapproval of illegal immigration, the proper, balanced solution she thought up was mass execution. Heavens be praised.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fun Games

Well, I'm back from California. As the lack of posting indicates, I had a wonderful time. I even managed to get through airport security without a hitch (sorry Pechous!). So, a big thank you to Miss Hostess (who wishes to remain pseudonynmous), for hosting me. But now, back to business.

Business, in this case, means playing a fun game Kevin Drum thought up. It involves going to this site and picking the first five quotations that either reflect what you believe, or are polar opposite to what you believe. I love quotes. Let's rumble.

First Five Quotes That Reflect Me
1) We are all here for a spell; get all the good laughs you can.
-Will Rogers (1879 - 1935)

I'm all about having fun. I think the world (especially the academic world) is far to serious, and there are very few situations where a bit of humor would not improve matters immensely.

2) The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
-William James (1842 - 1910)

Fair enough. You have to pick your battles, and you have to budget your time wisely. Getting tied up in the small stuff is a vice of mine, but at least I'm aware enough to know it's a vice.

3) The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.
-Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

It must be depressing being a conservative, knowing with pretty much pure historical certainity that all your deeply cherished views will be considered hogwash, at best, in 50 years (liberals, at least, get a 100 year grace period before they fall off the edge of respectable public discourse).

4) Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.
-Lillian Hellman (1905 - 1984)

I'm a cynic, so of course I'll agree with this. As Ambrose Bierce once defined a cynic: "A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as he wishes they would be." (Is it cheating to use another quote?).

5) The price of greatness is responsibility.
-Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

Sure, he practically lifted it from Spider-Man. But I'm sure Uncle Ben will forgive him. When one has power, one must take extra care to use it for good. Might does not make right, although in the wrong hands it can make right irrelevant.

First Five Quotes That Are Flat Wrong
1) Don't try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night.
-Philip K. Dick (1928 - 1982)

I do all my best thinking late at night. Extrapolating from the solid premise that all geniuses have similar lifestyles to myself, we can infer that Mr. Dick is completely and utterly wrong.

2) Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear.
-Lois McMaster Bujold

Ah yes--the "Greed is Good" philosophy of morality. No surprise I don't buy this one.

3) Men have become the tools of their tools.
-Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

I hate hate HATE Henry David Thoreau. On Civil Disobedience was alright, I suppose, but Walden should have been thrown into the bottom of that god-forsaken lake and never been heard from again (much less appeared in my Junior English class). This quote epitomizes what I hate about Thoreau--smug assurance that the simple life is better, betraying the type of fear of change that grates me and should be the anathema of all thinking individuals. I like my tools. And I don't think that makes me any worse or less authentic of a person than ol' Abel's Island over there (anyone remember THAT book? Now that was a story!).

4) Getting fired is nature's way to telling you that you had the wrong job in the first place.
-Hal Lancaster

Sometimes, maybe, but sometimes getting fired is nature's way of telling you your boss is a moron. Or you are.

5) You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
Jack London (1876 - 1916)

While I agree that sometimes "waiting for inspiration" is an excuse to do nothing, I doubt the proper way to treat inspiration is to beat it to death with a blunt object. Sometimes, just sitting back and letting the mind wander is the best way to break new ground.