Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wedding Bells Roundup

I'm headed off to Arch Cape, Oregon tomorrow for the wedding two of my old college friends, Tim and Wendy (aka the fish killer). The location is a happy medium between Rochester, Minnesota (bridge bride [not again!]) and Anchorage, Alaska (groom). But both will be returning to Minnesota for medical school next year. Oh for cute.

Anyway, I'll be out of town until Sunday, sans laptop.

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Jeff Sessions wants to smoke some crack with my boss from last summer.

Eugene Kontorovich has another thought-provoking post on the settlements. Again, I want to stress that I have no opposition to repatriating the settlers back to Israel. But it is fraught with implication that in, say, Western Sahara, Moroccan villages aren't even called settlements (let alone is there talk of expelling their inhabitants back to Morocco).

David S. Cohen wants to know why Sotomayor is worth such a fuss?

While our proportionate representation amongst death eaters is unnerving, Jews also get to claim Harry Potter, so it's all good.

And yet another tragic police shooting. Ta-Nehisi Coates comments.

Daisy of Dear Diaspora's got a guest stint going at Feministe. I know that I always prefer hits at my home base, though, so I'll link to the latest post on her own site.

It's hard out there for an aspiring political science professor.

Palestinian militants fired a rocket into Israel today. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

Gershom Gorenberg gives his thoughts on the "Breaking the Silence" testimony regarding IDF conduct in Gaza. One important point Gorenberg stresses is the importance of field level commanders on individual behavior. There was apparently significant variation in how various companies behaved in combat; differences that can likely be chalked up to the emphasis different commanders put on minimizing civilian casualties versus minimizing unit casualties.

About That

I for the most part want to stay out of the burgeoning debate of Human Rights Watch's fundraising practices in Saudi Arabia. But I did want to make a brief comment. David Bernstein's "throw every argument at HRW but the kitchen sink" maneuver here is tremendously aggravating and really unwarranted. Yet, there is one thing that had a little resonance for me, and it's the facet Jeffrey Goldberg picked up: the danger of raising money in Saudi Arabia specifically by referencing their ongoing battles against the Israel Lobby. In part, this is because that shouldn't be the focus of HRW's mission -- I'm funding them to be an observer for human rights, not to serve as a counterweight to certain pro-Israel groups. I'm not denying that the former may sometimes entail clashing with the latter, only that it is theoretically secondary, and there is something askew when it is part of the marketing pitch. If HRW was able to criticize human rights violations in Israel (and elsewhere) without remotely straining its relations with pro-Israel groups, that would be fine. If HRW was picking fights with pro-Israel groups and letting that take primacy over human rights watching, that would be very bad.

The other facet of this comes from this excerpt by Goldberg:
Another problem here, of course, is that Sarah Leah Whitson, if the allegation against her is to be believed, trafficked in a toxic stereotype about Jews in a country that bans most Jews from even crossing its borders, and whose religious leadership often propogates the crudest expressions of anti-Semitism. The term pro-Israel lobby, of course, means something very different on the Arabian peninsula than it does here. Here, even to critics of AIPAC, it means a well-funded, well-oiled political machine designed to protect Israel's interests in Congress. In much of the Arab world, "pro-Israel pressure group" suggests a global conspiracy by Jews to dominate the world politically, culturally and economically.

This was the focus of Goldberg's exchange with HRW head Kenneth Roth -- not the propriety of raising money for HRW in Saudi Arabia (I agree with Roth and disagree with Bernstein in that I have no problem with that), but whether the organization's pitch included "we need your help to fight the Israel Lobby." Roth is extremely elusive in answering, but eventually seems to concede it was.

I don't necessarily think Roth was intentionally trying to be evasive, in part because Bernstein's argument was so wide-ranging that I'm sure Roth was primed to hear a broad-spectrum attack and respond accordingly (as opposed to the extremely narrow issue Goldberg was raising). Likewise, I doubt Whitson is intentionally trafficking in the stereotype Goldberg identifies. But the fact that for both, the potential for this sort of rhetoric to severely threaten Jewish (not Israeli, not Zionist, Jewish) security doesn't seem to be particularly salient information, is important on its own. And I find it meaningful that many of HRW's defenders in this saga don't address this element of the dispute at all. The persistent effort to exile anti-Semitism from the conversation leads to this -- it leads to well-meaning actors having no idea how their behavior will react against entrenched anti-Semitic ideologies and institutions, and it leads to a massive blind spot when other people look at the issue and start with a default position that anti-Semitism is not a relevant topic of conversation unless proven (beyond a shadow of doubt) otherwise. This is problematic.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sessions Gets Owned

There is an old lawyering maxim: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Senators presumably have their own, related maxim: Never make a snide comment unless you're absolutely sure it can't get thrown back in your face like a boomerang. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the Republican leading the Senate's anti-Sotomayor efforts, forgot that lesson and paid the price:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), seeking to discredit Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy, cited her 2001 “wise Latina” speech, and contrasted the view that ethnicity and sex influence judging with that of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, who “believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices.”

“So I would just say to you, I believe in Judge Cedarbaum’s formulation,” Sessions told Sotomayor.

“My friend Judge Cedarbaum is here,” Sotomayor riposted, to Sessions’ apparent surprise. “We are good friends, and I believe that we both approach judging in the same way, which is looking at the facts of each individual case and applying the law to those facts.”

Cedarbaum agreed.

“I don’t believe for a minute that there are any differences in our approach to judging, and her personal predilections have no effect on her approach to judging,” she told Washington Wire. “We’d both like to see more women on the courts,” she added.

Of course, we all know the intellectual firepower Jeff Sessions brings to the table. Which is why it is all the more appalling we let someone like Al Franken share the floor with him. After all, Franken is just like Ann Coulter, if by "just like" we mean "has sound, mainstream policy positions in contrast to Coulter's proud advocacy of massive civil and human rights violations." But they do both sometimes make vulgar jokes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bike Crash Roundup

Well wishes to Professor Strauss, who was in a bike accident this weekend. Upon learning this fact, I asked if the perpetrator was a taxi cab near the bookstore. Random question, you think? Well, it would be, except Jill saw a cyclist get clocked by a taxi while she was walking to the bookstore Saturday. Turns out it was a different guy. Cyclists are getting mowed down left and right in Hyde Park.

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It's like Gran Turino, but in real life (and a little less dramatic)!

Mellisa Harris-Lacewell to the SCLC: You call yourself a civil rights organization?

Relatedly, Bill Clinton has just come out for gay marriage. Patrick Appel is not impressed.

Israel is dropping charges against a settler filmed shooting at Palestinians, on the grounds that evidence in the trial might "harm the security of the state" (specifically, operational data about the Shin Bet). I understand the need to maintain operational secrecy, but you want to know what else harms the security of the state? Letting terrorists walk off.

J.K. Rowling talks body positive (via).

Ta-Nehisi Coates takes on the "hard truth" narrative surrounding Obama.

A former legal adviser to the IDF gives his take on targeted killings.

If you're wondering why I'm not blogging about the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, this roughly states my view. Call me if Sotomayor breaks down and admits that she secretly harbors a desire to kill all White folk.

The other reason is that when I read blurbs like this, all I can think of is "wow, White people sure are desperate to clarify that people of color are the real racists!"

The Great Debate

Isaac Chotiner and Matt Yglesias hash out one of life's great questions.

Jonah Goldberg: Venal, or moron?

Discuss. And no fair selecting both -- we're looking for the dominant trait here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hilzoy Retires

The blogger known as Hilzoy -- staple at Obsidian Wings and spotted of late at the Political Animal -- has announced her retirement from blogging. Having recalled the ill-fated attempts to quit by PG and Andrew Sullivan, I'll believe it when I see it (not that I don't think she'll make a game effort, but this business is like crack, it is).

Still, if this is the end, it's been a great run. The entire blogosphere has been enriched by Hilzoy's presence, and her voice will be sorely missed.


I learned from Michael Bay's wikipedia page that he was rejected from USC's film school. Now, normally when someone is rejected from some program and goes onto to major success anyway, they have major schadenfreude as they imagine the entity lamenting their awful mistake (or maybe that's just me).

But even though Bay probably has grossed more than 99% of USC's graduates combined, somehow, I think they're okay with not having his name associated with their cinematic training.

Weiner Gets Married

New York Democratic Representative Anthony Weiner is reportedly engaged, to none other than top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

One gets the distinct feeling that the far-right Israel National News won't be sending flowers to the wedding, given its opinions of interfaith marriage (Abedin is Muslim, Weiner is Jewish). They spend most of their time wondering how Weiner's fiance will affect his staunchly pro-Israel stance. I am curious what makes them say that Ms. Abedin is "conservative" (one would think she wouldn't be working for Clinton, then, right?).

But who cares what the Israeli far-right has to say about American nupitals. I can give my congratulations. May they have a long and happy marriage!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

RIP Thunder

As you may know, Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, one of boxing's all time great action warriors, was found dead in his hotel room while on vacation in Brazil. His wife is currently suspected of murdering him.

This is a great tragedy for the sport of boxing. As SC put it, Gatti could have come with a money back guarantee. Every fight he gave it his all, and every fight he was in had the chance to be something special. He retired in 2007 with a final career record of 40-9, 31 KOs, and four appearances in The Ring Magazine's "Fight of the Year" (only Muhammad Ali and Carmen Basilio had more).

Here's a highlight reel of Arturo Gatti's career. "Requiem for a Tower" makes anything sound more badass, but Gatti hardly needed it.

Rest in peace, Thunder.