Saturday, October 17, 2009

PA Won't Oppose War Crimes Trials for Hamas Militants

Interesting. Although, lest we forget, the Fatah-controlled PA has very little to say about whether Hamas militants go before an international court. Not only do they not control Gaza (where the criminals would be), they are, to reiterate, pretty mortal enemies with Hamas. It's tempting to view this conflict monolithically, but there are factions, and Fatah and Hamas are nearly as opposed to each other as each are to Israel. So this is more a case of killing two birds with one stone for Fatah than it is a brave stand of principle.

There's also the fact that no international body will ever indict a Palestinian rocket man. So it's cost-free along that axis as well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

UNHRC Adopts the Goldstone Report (Sort of)

The UNHRC has officially adopted the Goldstone report criticizing Israel and Hamas for their conduct during the Gaza war. Well, sort of -- though Goldstone's report contained criticisms of both Israel and Hamas, the UNHRC's resolution, "inexplicably", says nary a word about Hamas. Stunning, I know. Judge Goldstone apparently is displeased with this, but you can't tell me he's actually surprised, as the only principle the UNHRC holds deeper than "screw Israel" is "insulate Palestine". His at least partial effort at demanding that Hamas be held accountable for war crimes as well was noted and admirable, but it was also completely unsupported by the commission's original mandate and no credible observer expected it to go anywhere. I'm not exactly shocked to find out that the UNHRC felt absolutely zero compunction in ignoring it. I sort of feel bad for Judge Goldstone, whom I suspect had convinced himself that he had made a difference in countering the absurd one-sidedness of the UNHRC's treatment of Israel, but at the same time, he's a big boy, and he was not so naive as to not know what he was getting into.

That gets, somewhat obliquely, to Jeffrey Goldberg's warning to the West that the precedent set by this commission will come back to bite it once American or British or NATO commanders are arraigned on war crime charges. Insofar as the commission's standards have made terrorist tactics nearly immune from retaliation (essentially, if you're willing to kill off the civilians you're supposedly "defending", you're in the clear), that's going to hurt America in Iraq or NATO in Afghanistan as much as it hurts Israel in Gaza.

Nope. I've noted before that the development of international law vis-a-vis the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a sterling example of how great cases make bad law. Insofar as legal rules and doctrines are being promulgated primarily based on the metric of insuring that they vindicate as many Palestinian claims as possible (and diminish Israeli ones accordingly), they undoubtedly are pushing law in a bad direction -- not because Israel is always right, but because a legal regime whose first principle is that Israel is always wrong is not going to be one that crafts legal rules well-suited for the entire breadth of human experience.

But for Mr. Goldberg's warning to hold true, we have to assume that the "precedent" set by the Goldstone Commission (and the UNHRC's adoption thereof) will be applied to other countries, and there is no reason to think that's true. After all, it's not like the recent fawning resolution the UNHRC wrote about Sri Lanka's conduct against the Tamil rebels had any bearing on how it treated Israel. It seemed to have no precedential value whatsoever, because Israel effectively exists in a lawless space: nobody actually intends for the rules and standards applied against it to enjoy cross-applicability to other contexts (undoubtedly because if they were, they would ensnare many, many other nations far more powerful in the relevant international bodies than Israel). That's why the critique of the UNHRC with regards to Israel that holds the most resonance with me is the double-standard criticism. The great check a liberal polity has against unjust legal rules is that they will be enforced against everyone. Once it is accepted that a given body is sui generis and can be treated as a unique category, disconnected from the rules and regulations that everyone else must abide by, there is literally no constraint on imposing the most biased, arbitrary, or politically expedient requirements on them.

If I were France, or South Africa, or Sudan, or Iran, I would not worry in the slightest that the Goldstone precedent will give them any trouble whatsoever. Not because they can meet it, but because everyone knows they'll never be expected to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Maybe I'm just jaded, but it seems like every protest (no matter what the subject) basically involves a conglomeration of crazy people. Probably because for the most part, it takes the fiery heart of a radical to stand out in the rain and yell fruitlessly. And radicals aren't known for their careful, sober grasp of issues.

My bus home from the law school today was rerouted because of a protest. All I could see from the window was that it was Israel/Palestine related. I was tempted to walk back and interview folks for the blog to see what the protest was about, but it was raining and I figured I'd just find it depressing. It looks like the protest is over a speech being delivered by Ehud Olmert at the Harris School (there were pro-Israel counterprotesters as well).

The protest is "endorsed by":
Al-Awda, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)-Chicago, American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Arab Student Union at Moraine Valley, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)-Chicago, Palestine Solidarity Group (PSG), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at DePaul & UIC, respectively, and United States Palestine Community Network (USPCN)

Obviously, I don't know about all of these groups, but my curiosity was piqued, because I'm always curious as to the pleasure centers of active pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups. And now I know that American Muslims for Palestine* wants the US to investigate the allegations of the Swedish blood libel article. So at least this was educational for me in that sense.

* It was the second relevant google hit when I searched for "palestine protest university of chicago". The first was this site, which seems to be an opinion aggregator and not a sponsor. It does lovingly feature Gilad Atzmon on the front page (and calls Zionism "the highest stage of imperialism"), but I can't necessarily blame the organizers for who promotes them.

Meghan McCain Chased off Twitter for Having Breasts

Everyone remember when Jessica Valenti was roundly lambasted by, among others, Ann Althouse, for the dreaded offense of possession of mammary glands? Basically, Valenti was in a group picture, and her pose apparently wasn't sufficiently chaste given the size of her cups for some internet denizens (from my perspective, she was just standing there. But what do I know?).

Now, it's Meghan McCain receiving a dose of this medicine. Ms. McCain posted a picture to her twitter account about her lazy night in -- reading a book and dressed in (gasp!) a tank-top! Which revealed (smelling salts, please) cleavage! After what CNN described as a "string of negative responses", McCain wrote dryly: "When I am alone in my apartment, I wear tank tops and sweat pants, I had no idea this makes me a slut."

McCain apparently has apologized, and I believe this whole thing has caused her to take down her twitter account entirely. It's a shame she felt compelled to apologize, and it's a shame she felt compelled to take down her account. People need to get a grip. Women have breasts. Some are large, some are small, but this idea that a) possessing them and b) not shrouding them in veils and mystery (or even standing the wrong way, in Ms. Valenti's case) is some sort of grave moral offense is just a ridiculous manifestation of contemporary sexism (and immaturity).

UPDATE: Apparently Ms. McCain will not be leaving twitter, and said "To be honest, I don't feel that I have anything to feel ashamed of. I've always embraced my curves and will continue to do so." Good for her.

Limbaugh is not MLK

Adam Serwer nails it re: the GOP meltdown over Rush Limbaugh's failed bid to become part-owner of the Rams.

The logic is simple. The NFL has many Black players, and many Black fans. Limbaugh has a history making a racist remarks. The latter is not healthy for an entity with the former's characteristic. Hence, no ownership for Limbaugh. This is only difficult to understand because some people still can't fathom that racism exists except when it is a convenient cudgel to bash their political opponents.

UPDATE: You know, I thought about making a Montgomery Bus Boycott reference, but I presumed the thought of red-blooded conservatives boycotting the NFL over this was just too darn crazy...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Terror Threat?

Four Republican Congresspersons held a press conference today to make "public a national security threat on Capitol Hill." This threat? There are Muslim interns on the Hill. Or as they put it, "spies", presumably for the Muslim advocacy group CAIR. I mean look at this strategy document they uncovered. Registering voters? Lobbying Congress? Can you say, "smoking gun"?

The racist quartet making the accusation is comprised of Reps. John Shadegg (R-AZ), Sue Myrick (R-NC), Paul Broun (R-GA), and Trent Franks (R-AZ).

You Have To Keep Reading

While I'm glad he got the answer he was looking for from a J Street spokesperson, it still remains true that if Jeffrey Goldberg really was curious what that spokesperson meant when it referred to Israel's future as a democracy (namely, whether it ought to remain a Jewish state), he could have read a passage in the same article he quoted from, where the same women who prompted his initial query says the goal of her organization is "securing Israel's future as a Jewish, democratic homeland." Which, presumably, would have taken -- what? An additional two minutes?

More Powerful than AIPAC, the NRA, and the AARP Combined

Nobody has messed with the NAQA and escaped unscathed. The ACLU wished it had this track record.

H/T: My old constitutional law professor (via Facebook).

It Never Ends

Back when President Obama was elected, a Greek newspaper hailed the results as the end of Jewish domination (to which I responded that the 78% of Jews who voted for Mr. Obama must have been very confused indeed). Alas, now the far-right fringe is discovering no such luck. Scope the image that recently "graced" the homepage of Wake Up America, a right-wing website set up by (among others) two North Carolina Republican state legislators.

It has since been taken down, albeit without any explanation I can see.

Where's the Call?

I have noticed this, and it annoys me too. I really, really, really dislike the appropriation of the Holocaust for political ends. Unless you're actually talking about either a) the legacy of the Holocaust on its victims or b) the ongoing or imminent genocide of a vulnerable group of individuals, it's really a form of Holocaust trivialization. The Nazis weren't bad because they had a disagreeable health plan. The Nazis were bad because they rounded up and killed 11 million people.

I think the ADL was right to scold Alan Grayson, but he's clearly not the only or even primary offender, and I've been wondering where they and other Jewish organizations have been hiding these past couple months. The entire discursive model of a huge swath of the conservative movement has been tremendously disrespectful towards the Jewish community during the health care debate, and we shouldn't be hesitant to call them on it.

UPDATE: The ADL has just secured an apology from Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, for yet another "health care = Holocaust" comparison.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Careful -- What You Say is Heresy

The Fix (a WaPo political blog) asked its readers to name the "most overrated Senator". They responded by naming John McCain (R-AZ), by a reasonably healthy margin. But The Fix writer is incredulous! Don't readers know that this is John McCain we're talking about? The maverick-y maverick of the Senate?

I concede that McCain has legislative accomplishments. What makes him overrated isn't that he doesn't do anything, it's that he's considered to be some sort of level-headed, sober independent, when in reality he's a pretty doctrinaire conservative on most issues, with a bad temper and a foreign policy disposition that basically boils down to "war rocks". Yet he gets trotted out on media talk shows with what can only be described as a reckless indifference to the scope of the contribution he makes to the public discourse. Hence, overrated.

Shutting Out the Crazy Voices

Like Kevin Drum, I think one of the only reasons I manage to stay sane as a political junkie is that I basically never, ever watch cable news.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Spot That Doesn't Go Away

In a prior edition of "Blood Libel spotting", I noted that Alison Weir of "If Americans Knew" gained the ignoble distinction of being the first person (that I know of) to purvey the original blood libel in a remotely mainstream media outlet (Counterpunch). Adam Holland did a delightful job taking the original piece apart. But Weir, undeterred, has doubled-down, mustering a surprisingly skimpy array of discredited bigots to her cause. There would be more, of course, but greater evidence is lacking because it is suppressed by the global Jewish conspiracy, whose opposition to this outrageous slander is actually simply a blanket assertion that "an entire population ... has never done anything wrong".

And the world turns.

Specialization, Please

I attend the University of Chicago Law School. Everybody here has an economics degree or a statistics background or is thinking about getting an MBA or can do math and empirical work. Except me, our token philosophy/humanities guy. Here, let me demonstrate the extent of my grasp on formulaic concepts:
If n represents the total number of law review staffers, the number of law review staffers who are more qualified than I to conduct an article review on "Myths About Mutual Fund Fees: Economic Insights on Jones v. Harris", or "The Jumbled Alphabet Soup of the Collapsed Home Mortgage Market: ABCP, CDO, CDS and RMBS", equals n - 1.

And yet...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hurry While There's Still Time

The Washington Post's flubbed editorial saying that the Nobel Prize should have been awarded to Neda Agha-Soltan, the Iranian protester whose brutal murder by regime thugs was video-taped and became a rallying banner for the opposition, was certainly embarrassing (the Nobel Peace Prize cannot be awarded posthumously). On the other hand, Iran is set to put three election protesters to death in the near future, so maybe we could hurry and get them the Nobel Prize under the wire.