Friday, July 22, 2011

Sleep Chronicles

I've come to the realization that the problem with this wedding is going to be less the lack of sleep and more the time zone differential. Going to bed at 4 AM and waking up at 11 AM isn't the worst amount of sleep one could have. But since I'm in Mountain Time, that translates to going to bed at 6 AM and waking up at 1 PM Eastern Time, which is not precisely compatible with the bar schedule. Oy.

Other observation: You ever have that thing happen where you have to wake up by a certain time, and you wake up a little before then, look at the clock, and calculate how much sleep you have left? But sometimes, you're so addled, you completely misremember what time it was you woke up. This is sleep roulette, because it is equally possible that you thought you had one more hour of sleep when you really had five minutes, or vice versa. Today, I won the roulette (I thought I woke up a little before 11, but really had woken up a little before 10). So that was good.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Lots of travel in the coming days. Tomorrow I fly out for my college roommate's wedding in Casper, Wyoming (the bride is also a college friend of mine -- it's going to be a fantastic Carleton reunion). This entails flying into Denver, renting a car, and then driving four hours. On Sunday, I'm flying back to DC (again, through Denver) to take the Maryland bar exam (Tuesday and Wednesday). I will then take some very deserved days of doing nothing. And then sometime the week following, I will fly back to Chicago, to prepare to move to Champaign (that will go down August 8th).

Uf-da. There was a time in my life I liked traveling, too.

Franken Finds Focus on the Family Flub

You know, this is funny and all, but it also characterizes why Senator Al Franken (D-MN) is such a good public servant. He does the work. He looks into the studies in the testimony. And here, it turns out the Focus on the Family (surprise!) was blatantly lying about the facts, and it led to them getting called out in public.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) took on a representative of the conservative group Focus on the Family for mis-characterizing a study on "nuclear families" at a hearing on a bill which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

"I actually checked it out," Franken said in reference to a study cited by Focus on the Family's Thomas Minnery at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday.

"Isn't it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?" Franken asked.

"I think that the study, when it cites nuclear families would mean a family headed by a husband and wife," Minnery said.

"It doesn't," Franken said, getting laughs from the audience.

"The study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family," Franken continued. "And I frankly don't really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways."


A Rick Santorum fundraiser email complains that "[Dan] Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name." Which is sad, I guess. On the other hand, Santorum and his perverted sense of ethics is the reason why some of my friends can't get married, don't enjoy anti-discrimination protections, and are otherwise second-class citizens. Which, in the scheme of things, is a far bigger deal, I think.

UN Resolution 181, Baby!

Glenn Beck at his Israel CUFI rally: "When, when has a state been declared a state by a global body?"

Oooh -- I know this one!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Masterchef/Hell's Kitchen Combined Thoughts

It's summer time, and that means a double dose of Gordon Ramsey for Jill and I. Masterchef has been chugging along, but Hell's Kitchen has just started. Some early (for Hell's Kitchen) and late (for Masterchef) thoughts on the two shows thus far.


* When they showed Erryn for the first time on Monday, Jill and I cheered. When they showed him for a second time, we said "uh-oh". By the third time, we knew he was a goner.

* And the week didn't get better with Giuseppe going home today. It was obvious that he was the "dad" of this crew (Alejandra is the mom -- Erryn confirms this), and everyone was clearly devastating to see him go home.

* The challenge today was to cook for the three judge's moms. Which, frankly, is a little unfair to Gordon and Fluffy's mothers. Lidia Bastianich is a world-famous chef -- putting two essentially random people on a panel with her is like having a judging panel of Gordon Ramsey and Jill and I.

* Alejandra's accent seems to vary wildly, not just from show to show, but from paragraph to paragraph. Sometimes it is "just off the boat", sometimes it is "I've spent my entire life in Illinois". It's bizarre.

* I couldn't care less if she wins MasterChef -- any show with Christine on it, I'll watch.

* Suzy may have peaked too soon. She's been having a rough go of it for awhile, and doesn't seem to realize what she's doing wrong.

* Chicago had four people in the finals (five if you count Tony, who was from Grant Park), but only Suzy is left. A shame -- I liked all of them. I wonder if any of them will cook for me before I move to Champaign?

Hell's Kitchen

* Jason was this season's medical casualty; a shame because he seemed nice enough. He also looked like a cross between Paul Kinsey of Mad Men and a Canadian lumberjack.

* Steven was forgettable. But Jill and I literally high-fived when Brendan was eliminated. He demonstrated himself to be a cocky jackass with impressive celerity.

* Speaking of Brendan, Carrie, your taste in men is appalling. You managed to squander the goodwill Jill and I had for you as the target of Elise's bitchiness, and believe me, that was a lot of goodwill.

* Just because Carrie has squandered her goodwill doesn't mean any reverts back to Elise. That woman appears to be nuts.

* The men thus far are far more memorable than the women, who are mostly indistinguishable blondes. This is not necessarily an advantage for the men.

* That being said, Will so far is easily the front-runner. He's very good, very committed, and appears to have a good head on his shoulders. He's a nice guy without being a sycophant. I really like him. Plus, he's got a great nickname: "Pizza bagel" (he's half-Italian, half-Jewish).

* Speaking of nicknames, we've labeled Jonathon "Boomhauer". That boy is unintelligible.

* You cannot tell me that Tommy was not addicted to heroin in the very, very recent past.

* Krupa is the only true standout on the women's team. Though Amanda looks kind of like if you took Amanda from Season 6, aged her a few years, and then dyed her hair. Wait a minute ....

One Week Out Roundup

I'm one week away from the bar exam. My strongest area is constitutional law. My weakest area is everything else.

* * *

Soccer clubs often break along broader cultural and national faultlines, and certain clubs are typically identified with various political movements. In Israel, for example, Hapoel Tel Aviv is identified with the Israeli left, and Beitar Jerusalem representing the nationalist right. Two liberal American Jews have now bought the team; hopefully, they'll help clean up its act (an interesting fact for folks not privy to how Israeli society divides -- Beitar supporters hail overwhelmingly from Israel's large Mizrachi [Arab] Jewish population).

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Yesh Din a "terrorist organization". Board member Shlomo Gazit notes it's a label he's borne before.

That far-right Iowa "marriage" petition also calls for "robust childbearing". How exactly does one birth "robustly"?

Good post by Ta-Nehisi Coates on people feeling a connection to where they're from, even it is a place that is considered a "problem".

A Columbia professor writes a book on how to resolve (or at least ameliorate) intractable conflicts. One notes that his advice could succinctly be summarized as "the opposite of what anti-Israel BDS campaigners propose".

Hussein Ibish underestimates the proportion of the BDS movement which targets Israel as a whole (the UCU academic boycott being perhaps the most prominent case), but he's absolutely right that the Israeli anti-boycott law itself is not designed to protect Israel but protect its settlements.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) flips out at fellow Floridian Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D). Lest we forget, West is a war criminal.

Maryland Redistricting

Maryland already possesses some of the most bizarrely gerrymandered congressional lines in the country. Some of that is due to the Chesapeake Bay making any line look fuzzy, but not all of it -- the bizarre quad-helix thing going on in Baltimore is truly a gem of the genre. Currently, it has produced a 6-2 Democratic split in the congressional delegation, which, to be fair, isn't totally out of line given the sharp Democratic bent of the state.

But Democratic leaders are going to the drawing board in an effort to make it 7-1. The presumed target had been freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R) of the 1st District (Eastern Shore), but Josh Kurtz is reporting that intense lobbying from Rep. Donna Edwards (D) has instead caused state lawmakers to shift their aim towards the 6th District's Roscoe Bartlett (R), representing the western part of the state.

I like ex-Rep. Frank Kratovil (D), who won the 1st District in an upset in 2006 and seems like a nice enough guy. But Bartlett is going to be 86 years old, and folks raise a good point when they note that the exurbs which would anchor a reformulated 6th district are trending our way. Edwards herself volunteered to take on some deep-red territory (no skin off her back, she won with 83% last time out), and the 8th District (Chris Van Hollen -- and my home turf) probably could do so as well, as we no longer need to pack Democrats in to oust Connie Morella.

The only question is whether the lines can be drawn in a way that looks a little more sane than they do now.

Anti-Gay, Or Kinda-Gay, or Sorta-Looks-Gay, Discrimination

A 22-year old Indiana man was prevented from donating blood because officials at the donation center informed him he "appear[ed] to be a homosexual".

Unbelievably, the center's undoubtedly highly attuned gay-dar misfired, as the man is in fact straight. Of course, the blanket ban on gay men donating blood (first put in place in the early 1980s at the height of the HIV-panic) has long since passed into insanity, but a federal committee upheld it as recently as 2010, provoking protests from gay rights organizations as well as the American Red Cross.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Betraying the Holy Mission

Jeffrey Goldberg has a solid piece up on the dangers of Israel getting too snuggly with its evangelical Christian friends. He sounds some of the traditional refrains: that making foreign policy based on presumptive knowledge of divine revelation is generally unwise, and that the particular policy prescriptions evangelicals often support with respect to Israel may very well prove quite dangerous for that state's well-being.

But his final point may be the most important one -- at least rhetorically. While right-wing Christians often like to cast themselves as "unconditional" supporters of Israel, in contrast to their wishy-wash liberal peers, this is hardly the case. Just like the liberals, they have a particular vision of what they want Israel to do. And when Israel doesn't adopt positions consistent with those policies, they tend to lash out:
How will the Christian right feel if Israel does, in fact, make compromises for the sake of peace by “betraying” its biblical birthright? Some pro-Israel evangelical leaders already blame Jewish stiff-neckedness for the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.

In his book “Jerusalem Countdown,” Hagee writes: “It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God’s chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day.” The Jews’ own rebellion, he writes, “had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism.”

I’ve met evangelical leaders who share an unpleasant tic with Israel’s critics on the far left: They all hold Israel to an impossible standard of moral and political behavior. To much of the Christian right, Israel isn’t a real nation-state facing a series of painful choices. It is, instead, a biblical fantasyland, and an instrument of Christian salvation. In Bachmann’s case, it’s a living test of America’s fealty to God.

There's no need for conjecture on how some religious conservatives will react if Israel "betrays" them -- Pat Robertson famously declared that Ariel Sharon's coma was divine punishment for dividing the land of Israel (by withdrawing from Gaza).

In any event, the point is that both pro-Israel liberals and pro-Israel conservatives have policies they prefer that the state adopt, and ones they oppose the state adopting. Which is fine -- that's sort of the point of having a political ideology. But casting it in terms of unconditional love or support is simply a misrepresentation. Indeed, in a lot of ways, it is the opposite -- conservative support for Israel is not generally predicated on a fundamental commitment to Zionist principles (a Jewish democratic homeland), with policy preferences flowing out of what they honestly believe will best buttress that dream. Rather, support for Israel is instrumental to goals external to the Zionist vision, e.g., "to thwart the global jihad" or "to create conditions for the return of Jesus."

Choices, Choices

Tablet Magazine has an interesting story up about abortion politics in Israel. Historically, abortion has not been the hot-button topic in Israel that it has been in the United States, but the issue is slowly rising in prominence, as conservative groups in the country argue that abortion conflicts with both classical and post-Holocaust Jewish mandates to bring more children into the world.

The story centers around Efrat, which appears to be a cross between a Crisis Pregnancy Center and what a Crisis Pregnancy Center would be if it wasn't purely evil. Like CPCs, Efrat is quite high on manipulative imagery and purported pleas from the fetus to "let me live". Though they purport to be about "education" and present themselves as pro-"choice", they are deeply tied to movements in Israel which seek to make abortion significantly more difficult to obtain.

On the other hand, Efrat's officially stated mission is in fact deeply tied to issues of "choice": it is "founded on the belief that no Jewish woman should have to abort a child because of money troubles." That, of course is quite true (and true of any woman) -- while I absolutely believe in a woman's right to choose, a women who would rather carry her child to term but feels compelled to abort because of financial insecurity should not be presented with that choice.* And Efrat does appear to put its money where its mouth is, providing needy mothers with cribs, strollers, baby food, diapers, and a cash stipend.

Of course, there is a question how much the tail is wagging the dog here. As noted, like American CPCs (which also sometimes provide similar financial assistance to pregnant mothers), Efrat appears to mostly operate as an adjunct to a broader anti-choice movement in Israel that is not about giving women choices, but rather about channeling them into their preferred outcomes. But that notwithstanding, it is undoubtedly true that the long-term goal of the pro-choice movement should be (and, as best as I can tell, is) to create a world in which every reproductive decision a woman makes is their first-best choice.

* I think a fundamental misunderstanding of the pro-choice movement promulgated by their opponents is that pro-choice woman are totally psyched about abortion -- because, you know, invasive surgical procedures are how kids these days cap off a night of clubbing. Nobody wants to have an abortion, in the sense that it is their first best choice -- something they dream about from the time they were a little girl. They'd rather that their contraception didn't fail, or that they were in position to access contraception in the first place, or that they weren't raped, or that the fetus didn't have health problems, or that they felt financially secure enough to carry their child to term. Abortion is often a welcome relief as an important second-choice option; a fall-back because the best-case scenario didn't happen. And thus, it is wrong to assert that abortion represents some sort of "tragedy"; though it can often be precipitated by one, abortion is no more tragic than surgery is (nobody wants to be in a situation where they need an operation, but if they do need one, it is far better that surgery be available to them). But by necessity, an abortion implies that something happened that one did not want to happen.

So in the case of a woman who would like a child, but does not feel financially secure enough to have one now, the first-best solution is to shift to a world where one's financial wherewithal does not materially impede one's ability to have and effectively raise children. In a world where that is not the case, however, the right to an abortion is an important fallback.