Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sarah Palin is Beneath Contempt

With no serious qualifications or intellectual chops to speak of, all Governor Palin has to rely on is her instincts. And her instincts, as we've seen time and again, are to be nasty, vicious, and far below the standards we ought to expect out of our public officials.

John McCain may be the best apologizer in politics, but Sarah Palin better "learn from the foot of the master" on that score if she is to escape the election without being seen as anything but the talentless, risible cretin that she is.

How Would You Like Me To Raise It?

Apropos of my discussion last night, as well as this interesting piece on the "Livingstone formulation" (extracted from this statement: "for far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government"), I once again return to the subject of discussing anti-Semitism in the context of discussing Israel. And specifically, how to address the Livingstone formulation, seeing as it came up last night, from the standpoint of someone who thinks that anti-Semitism is an important axis of discussion to be had in any conversation regarding Israel and Palestine.

My stock response to people who pull a Livingstone is to remark that, while assuredly it has to be possible to criticize Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic, I am skeptical that it is possible to discuss Israel in any sort of normative depth without (at least in the background, or as a set of shared assumptions) having discussed anti-Semitism. The analogue is to the conservative complaint about affirmative action: "I can't criticize it without being called racist!" Well, if so that's assuredly unfair. But certainly, it is fair to state that it would be rather absurd to discuss affirmative action while leaving the issue racism completely out of it, for doing so would make the resulting conversation simple non-sense. My experience, though, is that in both its race and religious forms, the Livingstone formulation extends beyond its terms as a mechanism to prevent the discussion, not just the accusation, of racism or anti-Semitism as a pertinent part of the conversation. And that's illegitimate -- just as it has to possible to criticize Israel without being said to be anti-Semitic, so does it have to possible to note potential anti-Semitism in particular critiques of Israel without being met with a Livingstone.

But part of me wants to be more charitable. Perhaps my standard response isn't as good as I think it is at illustrating my point, and perhaps my interlocutors are more willing to entertain the notion that anti-Semitism is a relevant element to our conversation that my intuition is telling me. At which point I raise the following question, which my readers are free to answer: Suppose I genuinely think that a given statement or topic raises the issue of anti-Semitism. How should I introduce it in the conversation, without being accused (or coming off as) "playing the anti-Semitism card"?

It's Different in Chi-Town: Anti-Semitism Edition!

Last night, I had my first (but inevitable) "criticizing Israel always gets me called anti-Semitic" discussion in someone else's room. When I was at Carleton, I always vaguely wondered if we were different from other places, not because we didn't care about the issue, but because it was a lot more keyed down. I didn't encounter much serious anti-Semitic action there -- particularly in the classic sense where I'd label the speaker a "bad person" (as readers know, I'm interested in pushing the boundaries of what we mean by anti-Semitism to encompass structural accounts of privilege, as we do on other identity axes). And at the same token, the Jewish community at Carleton rarely, if ever, talked about anti-Semitism. The experience made me skeptical that the contours of the debate were as bad as both sides made it out to be -- but I also figured that some of it was an outgrowth of Carleton's rather chill personality.

Anyway, one of the folks I was talking with, a Barnard alum, raised the case of Nadia Abu El Haj as an example of pro-Israel forces on campus (primarily, she noted, American rather than Israeli Jews, who she claimed tend to represent a broader spectrum of ideas on the issue) as an example of how some Jewish organizations are trying to squelch opposing views. That's not entirely unfair, although she implied Professor Abu El Haj did not receive tenure, when in fact it was awarded in 2007, and I noted that at least some of the opposition was motivated by scholarly concerns. Moreover, as my new friend admitted, the Columbia University's faculty lineup in the field of middle eastern studies is not lacking for anti-Israel representation -- it's more a battleground than an area where pro-Israel groups have carried the day.

But it was the other person in the room that really got to me. After also forwarding the standard "my anti-Israelism is not anti-Semitism" charge, he basically asserted that Israel gets away with whatever it wants because the Jews have the world bought off. When I raised the specter of the UN, he literally said "Look at where it was built! Rockefeller!", referring to the fact that the land for the United Nations building in New York was donated by the Rockefeller family. He proceeded to note the Vice Presidential debate and how candidates had to pledge they supported Israel, "or else nobody will give them any money." Then he went off on a rant about Jews had achieved "hegemony in the original sense of the word" in the field of middle eastern studies (at which point I rolled my eyes -- this guy is a Chemistry Ph.D student, and I'm supposed to believe he can quote Gramsci chapter and verse at me?) because they're disproportionately represented in the field. Of course, Jews are disproportionately represented in academia (a point which he said didn't matter -- it's "fine" for Jews to teach in physics, but middle eastern studies are apparently a different matter), and it would make more sense, not less, for us to have concentration in an area which is kind of historically and contemporaneously important to us.

It was like Walt & Mearshimer on steroids. And I said if your thesis is that there is too much waving of anti-Semitism on the subject of Israel, don't make your primary mode of attack "the Jews own the world and use their massive financial power to crush anyone who gets in their way." That's not one of my "expansions" of anti-Semitism, that fits very neatly under the classic model. And yet, he still was quite quick to assert "I'm no anti-Semitic!" If he can do it, anyone can do it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Abortion Migrations

Volokh conspirator Todd Zywicki has an interesting post up asking about people's development on the issue of abortion. Specifically, how and why they might have changed their mind on the issue. He says that he knows plenty of people who used to be pro-choice, but became pro-life -- but few who made the opposite journey. And for those who have, he's curious as to what prompted the change in mindset.

My abortion journey, like the hobbit's, was a case of there and back again. I started off pro-choice in my youth, primarily as an off-shoot of growing up in a generally liberal household that made my default views on most issues liberal. Then I switched over to being pro-life, albeit uncomfortably. I say uncomfortably because all the reasons for being pro-choice made no less sense to me: it still seemed critical for the equality of women, and it still seemed like not allowing it was a tremendous state imposition on female bodies. But even those tremendous costs, large as they were, could not logically seem to override my thought that you're still killing a person, which I took to be a moral bright-line.

My discovery of pragmatism aided in me switching back to the pro-choice side. I decided that, regardless of when and whether a fetus qualified as a biological member of the species, that doesn't answer the question of when it becomes infused with moral personhood. That is a question that has no bright-line answer, and thus ought to be answered pragmatically. At the point, the massive costs the "life(/moral personhood) begins at conception" standard imposes on women becomes a good reason to reject it as a standard. Alternative measures seem far more effective at balancing whatever moral interest we have in protecting fetal life with insuring the equal participation of women in society (not to mention allowing women ownership over their own bodies). Judith Jarvis Thompson's "violinist" story also was helpful in my transition by raising the point that moral personhood might, in fact, not be relevant at all (though I'm not 100% sure I buy it).

The major point is, however, that once I lost my faith in the existence of crystalline, pre-social categories of moral truth, the pro-life position became untenable, because it constructed a moral framework that was hideously oppressive to women on the basis of a groundless presupposition that we could just as easily avoid. Given the choice, I choose to draw the rules so as to promote equality.

But I'm interested in your stories, if any of y'all have undergone similar shifts on the issue (in any direction). Leave them for me in the comments.

Palin: Screw Substance -- I Want To Be Judged On My Character

Gosh darnit, Sarah Palin is miffed at the questions Katie Couric asked her in that catastrophic interview:
"I did feel there were a lot of things she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are that are represented in our ticket," Palin said. "I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that's also an indication about being outside that Washington elite, outside that media elite also, and just wanting to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for."

Translation: I don't want to talk about issues of substance (as we saw on the regulation question at the debate). I should have been given an hour to just chirp about how I'm from a small town and that makes me better than people from Chicago.

This. Is. Bogus. And it's an insult to the political process that it is even conceived of being a legitimate argument. You want my evaluation of your character, Gov. Palin? You're a whiner who thinks it's an abuse of the process that we got a chance to witness your own intellectual failings.

Incidentally, CNN followed up that quote from Palin with the following paragraph:
In two separate and lengthy interviews with Couric over the last week, Palin seemed to struggle with a number of answers, including a defense of McCain's record on regulation issues. She also appeared to stumble when relating her views on the financial bailout, her foreign policy credentials, her preferred news sources of news, and a Supreme Court case she disagrees with.

Possibly more effective if CNN hadn't written "news sources of news", but it gets the point across. Governor Palin is Governor Robert Ritchie. That's all there is to it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Choosing Your Phrases Carefully

Oh, and one more thing on the debate....

Was I the only (Jewish?) person who winced when Sarah Palin repeatedly used the phrase "never again" to refer to how we should respond to the financial crisis? Obviously that phrase has very particular connotations to me that aren't appropriately applied to even the worst economic situation, but I can't decide if I was being objectively unreasonable or if other Jews might have reacted the same way.

The VP Debate

These are off-the-cuff reactions, without having seen any commentary on the debate.

In my only post on the subject prior to the VP debate, I talked a little bit about the "expectations game" and the extent to which it's reasonable or unreasonable to use it as a frame for evaluating the debate. The basic theme I tried to lay out was that while beating expectations -- particularly when the bar was set as low as it was for Gov. Palin -- wasn't enough for a win per se, it's not entirely untrue that Palin doing better than expected was irrelevant if she didn't objectively beat Joe Biden. Insofar as some voters who would be agnostic about a seemingly typical, average, mediocre politician might still be turned off if they thought Palin was in a uniquely dim-witted class, she could still score points simply by being pretty good if that would move her overall impression into "average" territory.

So, did Palin "beat expectations"? Depends what you mean. If the expectation was that she would be a babbling nitwit, then yes, she did exceed that bar. Most of the time, anyway. But she didn't get much above that, and there were times were she lapsed back into Katie Couric territory -- most notably, her answer on the global warming question, which embarrassingly came right after she named energy as her core area of expertise. She got caught totally blind by the question about endorsing Dick Cheney's "ghost branch" argument regarding the VP, and actually endorsed it, which is incredible to me -- though I don't think she actually understood what it was she was being asked. The net effect was that, even if she performed marginally better than she did with Gibson and Couric, it was still not enough even to mark her as mediocre.

So let's be clear: under any objective evaluation, Joe Biden thrashed Sarah Palin tonight. It was a demonstration of what happens when you put politicians who are simply in separate leagues together in a room. And I got the distinct impression that Biden genuinely either does not like or does not respect Gov. Palin. It's hard to blame him -- I feel the same way -- and if I were a distinguished public servant like Biden I would have taken Palin's answers as a personal insult to the entire public profession. I think that explains the one time Biden really seemed to snap tonight, when Palin started talking about how she knew what it was like to raise a family in difficult circumstances, and that made her unique. Biden virtually never talks about his first wife and the horrible catastrophe that struck him, and it's obvious it's still painful to him. From a purely Machiavellian standpoint, maybe you could say Palin rattled him. But I think it made him more human, and more Palin -- who went right back on the attack -- look even more craven.

But Biden was, for the most part, on his game tonight. He was substantive, he was clear, he was aggressive without coming off as mean-spirited. And Governor Palin was the absolute reverse. Her talk about how Biden kept looking to the past when he was talking about the failures of Bush/McCain policies was absolutely inane. She would flat-out refuse to talk about any issue that might be difficult for her -- from when she smarmily said she wouldn't answer the way the "moderator" and Biden wanted her to in response to a perfectly reasonable request to discuss Biden's charges regarding McCain's stance on regulation (she talked about tax cuts instead), to her blanket refusal to admit she's ever changed her mind about anything. The latter quality was something she claimed as a virtue -- an exemplification of "straight talk" -- much as the fact that Sen. Kerry had learned from mistakes was taken as evidence of weak character in 2004.

Indeed, quite often Gov. Palin sounded like a 2004 flashback. She was at her strongest -- which in this case is "maintained reasonable coherency" -- when she was either a) reciting campaign cliches about being a maverick or hailing from small town America (note to Palin: I've met plenty of small town Americans in my life, and without exception none of them felt compelled to keep pointing it out to me. If being from a small town really impacts who you are and how you live your life, you should be able to demonstrate it by showing us, not telling us) or b) lobbing superficial rhetorical bombs about how Democrats want to "surrender" in Iraq, are "dangerous", and of course, the conservative mantra about tax raising. It's not impressive to me, and I don't think it stirs good memories in the minds of American voters anymore.

This is the election for the vice presidency. We don't grade on a curve here. Biden I give an A- -- I wish he would have mentioned even more his work on the Violence Against Women Act, which opens so many angles of attack it is not funny. And Palin? D+. "Exceeds expectations" isn't good enough. She had to prove Couric and Gibson were flukes, and she did not come close to doing that.

The Bazooka Returns

Former welterweight titlist and Ghanan boxing star Ike "Bazooka" Quartey is coming back after a nearly two year lay-off. Quartey (37-4-1, 31 KOs), who defended the WBA crown seven times before losing a contested split decision to Oscar de la Hoya, had lost two straight going into his break: a lop-sided decision to Winky Wright after moving up in weight, preceded by an outright robbery against Vernon Forrest. He plans to fight between welterweight and junior middleweight, both divisions he is competitive in. Aside from his "should have been" against Vernon Forrest, he also holds a victory over current titlist Verno Phillips in 2005.

Most of Quartey's best wins were in the mid-1990s, and he is 39. But he has had many extended gaps of inactivity, and arguably is a "young" 39 as far as boxers go. Quartey has never been stopped and can punch. It will certainly be interesting to watch him come back on the scene, particular at 154 pounds, where there are a host of young prospects looking to break out into the big time.

Picking up the Sword

The blogosphere is abuzz about this speech by AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka, talking to the United Steelworkers about racism in the labor movement and how they need to fight against it to get the right candidate, Barack Obama, into office.

It's a powerful speech. It's significantly more powerful because it comes from a union man, a White man, who grew up in small town Pennsylvania, and who does not have the look of an effete urban intellectual. And he's looking his peers in the eye, his fellow union members, and telling them: you know, and I know, that we have this problem in our community. And if we don't confront it, it is going to eat our movement alive, because unions are all about solidarity, and they don't work when we allow racism to divide worker from worker.

If one does not believe in the mission of unions, or generally votes on other things, that's fine. But if one is a union member, and believes in the cause and believes that what they're pursuing is just, not voting for Obama because he's Black, when he's the only one fighting for all the issues that are important to the union, is precisely the type of self-destruction that will make the union vote irrelevant in national politics.

So obviously, there's self-interest at work here. But it's the type of self-interest borne out of the observation that we're all in this together, and we're stronger when we are united than we are divided. Recognition of that basic premise has eluded too many people for too long. That Mr. Trumka is willing to take up the sword and fight this battle is a great day for the state of race relations in America.

Other reactions:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: "This is John Brown 2008."


Andrew Sullivan

Kathy G of the G-Spot has great analysis.

Steve Benen

Edge of the American West fills out some of the historical context with regards to the labor movement.

And finally, Bitch, Ph.D: "This speech might make you tear up; it did me."

Losing the Expectations Game

Obama campaign representative David Plouffe tried to tell the press today that "Gov. Palin is one of the best debaters in American politics." The press broke out laughing. That's called losing the expectations game. After all, Gov. Palin might actually be an excellent debater. I heard she did quite well in Alaska in 2006, and her lack of skill in front of Katie Couric may or may not translate in a different setting. Or maybe she'll be terrible, and everyone's assumptions are right. Nonetheless, from the expectations angle, its clear that Palin has nowhere to go but up.

Plouffe, of course, apparently pushed his luck by moving past "extremely good" debater, to "great" debater, and finally breaking the camel's back with "one of the best" debaters in the United States. But even still, this is getting back to the Daily Show sketch territory of trying to ramp up your opponent's debate skills to ridiculous levels in order to claim victory afterwords. Why don't we play the novel game of evaluating the VP candidates on the merits of their performance?*

* Honestly, though, it isn't entirely unfair to say that Palin might gain ground simply by exceeding expectations. If the expectation is that she's a blithering idiot, that assumption might be driving voters away who could be saying "I'm fine with a standard average politician -- the VP doesn't do that much -- but Palin seems to be in class by herself of dimness." If Palin manages to at least show she can talk about policy coherently, then yes, she's gaining ground in the class of voters. That begs the question of why voters are willing to settle for mediocrity, and whether a single debate performance really should be allowed to subsume all of Palin's other missteps these past few weeks. But I'm calling it like I see it.

Back In Your System

I found out today that I am officially registered to vote again in the state of Maryland -- a process that was slightly more difficult than I anticipated. It definitely occurred to me that I'm a more motivated voter than the norm, and I was finding it difficult, so it's easy for me to imagine less civic-minded individuals being deterred (admittedly, my case was complicated by my absentee status and the fact that I was previously registered in Maryland but had canceled upon moving to Minnesota).

Anyway, the absentee ballot should be coming to me in a few weeks, and then I get to cast a vote in this historic election. How exciting!

That last part is serious, incidentally. I'm genuinely excited in spite of myself to cast a vote for Barack Obama. That's not to say I wasn't pleased to vote for Kerry. But it wasn't exciting. This feels exciting to me.

Civil Rights Roundup: 10/02/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

A Nebraska law intended to stop the abandonment of new born babies is now seeing parents drop off older kids -- including teenagers -- saying they can no longer care for them.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will decide whether to leave the national church in protest of its ordination of a gay bishop.

GLBT voters in New Haven, Connecticut, got a chance to fire questions at the leader of the state Republican Party. Though he opposes most of the items on the agenda, he did raise a good point: In a state where Democrats hold substantial majorities in both legislative houses, "we're not stopping anything".

Alabama allows non-violent offenders to vote while in prison (who would of thought Alabama would be ahead of my curve here?). But they are refusing to allow a voter registration drive to get these men and women on the rolls.

Also, it's apparently really difficult for the average voter to figure out how a criminal conviction affects their right to vote.

The student association of the University of Nebraska has voted to oppose the effort to ban affirmative action in that state.

DC still can't figure out what went wrong with its electronic voting in the primaries, which is less than reassuring with the general election a month away.

San Francisco students are protesting the school board's decision to get rid of JROTC. The board is cutting ties to military organizations in protest of the discriminatory "don't ask don't tell" policy. (Fun fact for superdestroyer: the article reports that the fight to save JROTC is being led by "college-bound Asian-American students who make up the majority of cadets here".)

The US is rolling out a new citizenship test that focuses more on relevant knowledge and critical thinking skills. As always, the question of how many natural-born citizens could pass raises its head.

Arkansas is defending its policy of forbiddening unmarried couples from being foster parents. Observers note that the ban was passed shortly after state judges struck down the state's law barring gay individuals from serving as foster parents. Child care advocacy groups argue that these restrictions are depriving numerous children of well qualified and desperately needed foster families.

A jury found that a hearing-impaired man was discriminated against on basis of disability when his federal job wouldn't allow him to use a hearing aid during his hearing test. The man can hear perfectly fine with the device, and is permitted to use it while working.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ghostly Trespass

One of the more interesting qualities about the building in which the University of Chicago law school is housed is that it appears to be infested by ghosts. Or at least the sound system does. Most of the time, of course, it works fine. But occasionally it starts broadcasting completely random sounds that have no bearing on what is going on in the room or being spoken into the mic. At orientation, one panelists microphone would intermittently cut out on her and start instead broadcasting choppy fragments of what sounded like a two-way radio conversation somewhere completely different. At a talk by Mary Ann Case today, we got snippets of an opera. It's very bizarre.

Now, I'm sure there is a perfectly rationale explanation for all this that does not include ghosts. But such an explanation would probably involve science, and hence does not interest me. What does interest me is, are the ghosts committing trespass?

We learned this week that intangible trespasses (for such things as noise, radiation, or electromagnetic waves) are actionable, but only if the trespass causes physical damage. Regular trespasses, by contrast, see liability as soon as the boundary is crossed -- simply stepping onto my land without permission, even if you don't damage anything, is a trespass.

Assuming that these ghosts do not have permission to be mucking around UC's sound system, it seems we have a few questions to answer.

(1) Are ghosts considered to be physical or intangible? Does it matter if they are visible are not?

(2) If ghosts are considered to be intangible, are the effects they cause on the sound system "damage"?

(3) What difference, if any, does it make as to whether the ghosts have any agency in their decision? If they are "bound" to the law school sound system in some way, can they claim a necessity defense? What if the law school was built knowing there was a substantial risk of a ghost infestation? What if the ghosts are former UC law students and faculty members who died after the building was built? If the students were murdered by their over-ambitious classmates?

Civil Rights Roundup: 10/01/08

Your daily dose of civil rights and related news

The former police chief of Gary, Indiana has been found guilty of civil rights violations after kicking a suspect during a raid.

A Michigan commission has thrown out disciplinary charges against a member of the state's board of canvassers who had opposed certifying a initiative that successfully banned affirmative action.

The Supreme Court will not rehear its decision striking down the use of the death penalty in child rape cases.

Large numbers of the House Black and Hispanic caucuses revolted against the failed bailout bill, alleging that it was insufficiently geared to suffering middle and working class voters.

The Justice Department is filing suit against the DC Metro after it allegedly refused to hire an applicant on basis of religion. The complaint alleges that the woman was rejected because her religious requirements demanded she wear skirts, while the uniform requirement for bus drivers is pants.

The federal government is taking over a case where police shot allegedly unarmed Katrina victims on a bridge leading out of New Orleans.

A jury found Eric County liable in a prison rape case.

Illegal immigrant arrests on the Mexican border are way down, but nobody knows if its the result of better deterrence or worsened enforcement.

A private immigration facility hired guards without giving them required background checks, then lied about it.

A fight is breaking out in a tony New York community over whether local Orthodox Jews can construct an eruv, or religious boundary, which would allow them to complete minor tasks on Shabbat. Basically, the boundary allows the Jews to religiously claim they are not going outside, skirting some Sabbath prohibitions.

Three civil rights groups are alleging that disabled students in Hillsborough, Florida schools are being neglected.

The fight to overturn Florida's unique (and atrocious) law prohibiting gay couples from adopting continues to progress through state court. Previous coverage on the local state court ruling here, and on a federal ruling several years ago here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Civil Rights Roundup Returns! (09/30/08)

Okay, here's the scoop everybody. The civil rights roundup is back. But it will be on a significantly modified schedule. For starters, this is likely the only Tuesday you'll see it, as I have class with only a lunch break straight through from 9:45 - 4 that day. Most days, though, a probably abridged roundup will show up by mid-afternoon.

And with that, away we go!

The trial of a South Carolina state trooper accused of ramming a fleeing suspect with his car has begun.

A group of pastors gave political sermons in an effort to provoke a showdown over whether the IRS can withhold tax-exempt status to religious bodies which engage in political activity.

A prosecutor has been appointed by Attorney General Michael Mukasey to continue the investigation into the US Attorneys firings.

Early voting has been approved in Ohio.

The NAACP claims racial profiling is on the rise in the Seattle area.

Civil rights leaders are targeting Greenbelt, Maryland's at-large election system as diluting the power of Black voters.

A Montana woman whose same-sex partner adopted a child has gained parental rights, a first in Montana.

The Governor of Colorado has come out against the efforts to ban affirmative action in that state.

A Lowell man has plead guilty to hate crimes after beating someone due to his perceived sexual orientation.

A sex discrimination case against major glass manufacturer will move forward after the presiding judge rejected a motion to throw out the case.

Smaller school districts are beginning to encounter the language barrier.

Efforts to register veterans are foundering on a mess of red tape. But maybe they're "phony veterans" anyway?

This Boston Herald story commits the typical universalist fallacy of assuming Whites' views of Blacks, and Blacks' views of Whites are equally groundless.

American Airlines has endorsed the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. And here comes another boycott!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Guess What?

Sarah Palin recently argued that we shouldn't "second guess" Israel on matters relating to its security. I don't agree with this in general, for while I think Israel deserves some deference in making decisions related to its security, that cannot be a categorical imperative. Part of being an ally means sometimes taking your friends aside and telling them when they need to chill. And part of being an independent nation means that sometimes your interests and/or moral commitments won't overlap perfectly with another independent nation, in which case it is perfectly legitimate to try and move things towards your preferred alignment. None of this, I think, substantively conflicts with being an ally towards Israel, so much as it serves as a check against some of the more extreme manifestations of "alliance" where we totally abdicate independent judgment.

But in any event. Outgoing Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has come out and said that for Israel to achieve peace, it will need to withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that any territory that was kept would need to be counterbalanced by swaps. Kevin Drum thinks it might be fun to press Gov. Palin as to whether this is the sort of decision we ought not "second guess". I've noticed that many right-wing "allies" of Israel turn against it in a heartbeat whenever it seems willing to make the concessions necessary for peace. Remember how Pat Robertson called Ariel Sharon's stroke a divine punishment? That's what I'm talking about.

But also, this passage from Olmert's interview caught my eye:
“With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop,” he said. “All these things are worthless.”

He added, “Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”

I don't think we can be glib about how particular strategic territory might be important for Israel's security. But I do think its reasonable to say that the marginal importance of any given hill or ridge is vastly outweighed by the need to achieve a more or less permanent settlement. A paradigm shift amongst the Israeli political establishment that takes that insight to heart would be a tremendous step forward for the peace process.

Failure To Make Bail

The bailout bill has failed in the House. Interesting. Didn't see that coming, and don't exactly have thoughts on it as of yet. But Matt Yglesias wonders if Republicans aren't capable of bringing in the votes anyway, then why not just scrap the entire thing and write the bill from the left?

In other news -- first day of law school continues apace. So far, no blood spilled. But I still have Torts coming up. And I avoided a near crisis by finding out in the nick of time I have readings for Property tomorrow (taught by a professor nicknamed "the hammer").

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Google Says No to Prop. 8

The Google corporation has announced its opposition to California's proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. As Google itself notes, this is an unlikely position for the company to take, as companies who have employees and customers with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and political orientations rarely take positions on charged issues that don't directly relate to their business model. Indeed, many companies will sacrifice even the noblest of principles if their profit margins are at stake. But in this case, at least, Google has stood up and done the right thing, and we should salute them for it.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for the inevitable call by the American Family Association for a boycott of Google, which presumably will result in one of two things:

1) Shares of Altavista soaring.


2) The development of new search engine, "Conservagoogle", which will counteract the well-known liberal bias in Google's search algorithms. Search now, and each of your first ten hits guaranteed to reference Jesus at least three times!