Saturday, March 07, 2009

Making Dreams Reality

Iran: Wants to wipe Israel off the map.

Hamas: Genocide of the Jews is in its charter.

Sudan: Actually committing genocide, right now!

Solidarity mission of Iran and Hamas to Sudan: Utterly unsurprising.

Friends and Classmates

A Wall Street Journal editorial urges President Obama to continue DC's school choice program, which, among other things, has provided the scholarships that allow two of Malia and Sasha's classmates at Sidwell Friends to attend the school. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation has put up this video with more student voices pleading with Obama to save their scholarships (via Greg Sisk):

I've written before on my feelings on the school vouchers debate, including my discomfort when wealthy White liberals box in students of color into schools they'd never dream of sending their own kids to. At the same time, I remain convinced that school choice is not a solution to the problem -- at best it is a stop gap measure that will help some kids, some times, but will do very little to resolve the bigger issues plaguing inner-city education. There is simply no way that "school choice" will provide a good education for every child, and frankly, it's not designed to. If it is an escape hatch, it is a very narrow one.

Now, I'll be honest -- at this point, I'm willing to support a stop-gap compared to just ignoring the problem. But my fear is that voucher advocates don't recognize that the policy is insufficient to get us where we want to go. Viewing vouchers as a panacea when that is clearly false, voucher advocates don't get broader systematic reform. That's its own problem, and one that worries me significantly.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Political Parenting

Forward has a fabulous spoof entitled "I Made You, I Can Break You Just as Easily: Lessons on Parenting From Inside the Beltway," putatively written by Rahm Emanuel. Heart.

This is Not Closure

First I thought I bit it. Then I thought I burned it. Then I thought I cut it. Now, I'm pretty sure I've figured it out: I have a canker sore on my tongue.

And it is tremendously painful.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

WBC Coming to Town

Folks might be interested to know that the notorious Westboro Baptist Church will be picketing various locations (including the law school) at the University of Chicago. The WBC is famous for hating gay people, but, in their defense, they hate pretty much everybody (including, naturally, Jews).

If anything interesting happens, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: Hey, one of the crazies left a comment!

You know, the whole thesis of this argument seems to be that unless you accept the Bible as the WBC interprets it, you're going to hell (along with the vast majority of your friends and family, of course). The alternative is spending eternity with people like the WBC, which also would be a form of hell. At the very least, it's two very unappealing options. Personally, I'll take my chances with the infernos, if for no other reason than I'd prefer the company.

Also, I've never been more tempted to experiment with homosexuality than when I know it would send the WBC into paroxysms of rage.

A New Resolution

Resolved: Saying Zionism = racism is equivalent to saying criticism of Israel = anti-Semitism.

I don't deny that one can defend Zionism or Israel in racist ways, and hopefully is equally uncontested that one can attack Israel/Zionism in ways that are anti-Semitic. But likewise, just as I think we ought to affirm that one can criticize Israel without it being anti-Semitic, it must likewise be affirmed that one can defend Israel (and Zionism) without it being racist. The extreme positions are equally poisonous to the discourse. Persons concerned with the former need to be concerned about the latter (and vice versa).

(Inspired by this post)

Part of the Problem

Ishmael Khaldi, Israel's deputy counsel general for the Pacific northwest, takes to the San Francisco Chronicle to eviscerate UC-Berkeley's "Israel Apartheid Week".
You are part of the problem, not part of the solution: If you are really idealistic and committed to a better world, stop with the false rhetoric. We need moderate people to come together in good faith to help find the path to relieve the human suffering on both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Vilification and false labeling is a blind alley that is unjust and takes us nowhere.
You are betraying the moderate Muslims and Jews who are working to achieve peace: Your radicalism is undermining the forces for peace in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. We are working hard to move toward a peace agreement that recognizes the legitimate rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people, and you are tearing it down by falsely vilifying one side.

To the organizers of Israel Apartheid Week I would like to say:

If Israel were an apartheid state, I would not have been appointed here, nor would I have chosen to take upon myself this duty. There are many Arabs, both within Israel and in the Palestinian territories who have taken great courage to walk the path of peace. You should stand with us, rather than against us.

Mr. Khaldi, a Bedouin, is the highest-ranking Muslim representing Israel in the United States.

Via Engage

Morning Roundup

Kevin Jon Heller dives into the ICC indictment decision and explains why the refusal to indict Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges is legally indefensible.

Matt Yglesias says that the attacks on Chas Freeman are in "bad faith", but that "doesn't mean that his enemies don't have the goods."

Ezra Klein noted that Hamas got everything it wanted out of the Gaza operation (this, of course, assumes that Hamas "wanted" massive loss of infrastructure and life in Gaza in order to put pressure on the Israelis. Which is not an unreasonable assumption).

But America may be learning to play the same game: A proposal in Congress would hitch the $900 billion in aid slated to go to Gaza for the release of Gilad Shalit. I'd far, far prefer that Israeli prisoners are exchanged for aid and supplies to the Palestinians than the normal practice of releasing terrorist murderers.

When a man dates a robot, there is no purpose. Only enjoyment.

China: More popular in America than Congressional Republicans.

The California Supreme Court will be hearing arguments over various post-Prop. 8 litigation issues today. The two main elements at stake are (1) whether the proposition was really a "revision" to the constitution, not an "amendment" and (2) what the status is of the gay marriages entered into prior to the passage of Prop. 8. Dale Carpenter has a good overview of what's going down.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier. Color me unsurprised.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Damn It Feels Good

Is it just me, or is Hugo Chavez reveling in acting the thug?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday he had ordered the nationalization of at least some of the operations of the U.S.-based food giant Cargill and threatened to do the same with the Caracas-based food maker Polar.
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez accused Cargill of growing specialized rice to evade price controls.

"Begin the expropriation process with Cargill," he said in a nationally televised speech in which he accused the company of growing specialized forms of rice in an attempt to evade price controls.

The leftist president called the company's practices "a flagrant violation of everything that we have been doing."

"Everything that we have been doing", of course, is taken from the text of Article 2, Sec. 127 of the Venezuelan national code, which states that anyone who violates what the government does is subject to asset forfeiture (with additional penalties if the violation is "flagrant").

Meanwhile, regarding another potential nationalization target (Polar), Chavez had this to say:
About Polar, which is led by Lorenzo Mendoza, Chavez said, "We can expropriate all the plants of Polar. Mr. Mendoza, be alert. Because then you will go out and order your pricey lawyers and I don't know what to say that this is a violation of the constitution. Well, fine. If you want to fight with the government, brother, there you go. It's not with the government, it's with the law!"

And it's the law because "Hulk" Chavez say so. Brother.

Open Season on The Debate Link!

My blogroll host has been down doing repairs for (literally) months. But today, finally, it relaunched, giving me the opportunity to make some much needed updates (and clear out some deadwood).

But this also makes an excellent opportunity to expand my reading horizons. So, if you see something missing from my 'roll (either because I read it and don't have it up, or because I don't read it and I should), drop it in the comments. Self-nominations are highly encouraged (unless they're from spammers).

Picture, Meet Lead

CNN has an article up on Saskatchewan's status as a jobs "hot spot".
Normally, "hot spot" isn't the first phrase that comes to mind when talking about Saskatchewan. But with most of Canada suffering from devastating job losses, this cold province is becoming exactly that. Premier Brad Wall encourages people not to count out a move to the area based on stereotypes that it is "only winter here," and "all of the land is just rolling hills." full story

If Mr. Wall is hoping the stereotype that his province is an isolated arctic outpost would be dispelled by this article, he probably was hoping for a different picture to go along with it:

Fun? Yes. Height of civilization? Not quite.

I Eez Teh Most Nooanzed

I really, really recommend this WWPD post. It is easy to portray oneself as reasonable if one only deals with the most insane elements of your opposition.

See also: Jon Chait on Stephen Walt's vitriolic hit job on the critics of Chas Freeman.

Hold the Parade

The ICC has officially issued an arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, the first time a sitting state leader has been indicted for war crimes.

People are celebrating. But perhaps they shouldn't. International law expert Kevin Jon Heller argues that, by refusing to specifically indict al-Bashir for the crime of genocide, the ICC has effectively absolved him of the allegation:
As I have pointed out before, Article 58 of the Rome Statute required the PTC to issue the arrest warrant if there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Bashir was responsible for genocide. Not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Not clear and convincing evidence. Not even more probable than not. Just “reasonable grounds.” That is an extremely low standard of proof — and the PTC is saying that Moreno-Ocampo failed to meet it. That’s a very strong, and very shocking, conclusion. I disagree with those scholars who believe that Moreno-Ocampo would be unable to prove genocide at trial, such as Alex de Waal, but I readily admit that it’s a debatable point. I find it very difficult to believe, however, that the evidence of genocide — the murder of the male members of the tribes, the sexual violence and slow-death conditions in the IDP camps, etc. — doesn’t even establish reasonable grounds to believe that genocide occurred.

Normally, refusing to indict does not signal anything about culpability, but that's because indictments normally are discretionary. If Prof. Heller is correct that the indictment for genocide is not supposed to be discretionary so long as there are "reasonable grounds to believe" al-Bashir is liable for genocide, then the ICC is effectively absolving him of all fault. That's a disturbing thought.

Obviously, I'm glad that the ICC has finally taken some action (though I am skeptical that even this will go anywhere). But it is a baby step, and the people of Darfur need and deserve more than that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Taking it In from the Outside

This Matt Yglesias post makes an interesting observation:
To the vast majority of external observers, the primary issue facing Israel is the Palestinian issue. The continued growth of settlements, the growing strength of Palestinian radicals, and the dramatic rightward shift of Israeli politics all point toward a closing window of opportunity for a two-state solution. To the vast majority of Israeli observers, the primary issue facing Israel is Iran and there’s a powerful, if somewhat odd, desire to believe that the Palestinian problem is basically an epiphenomenon of the conflict with Iran. US policy ought to be sensitive to Israeli concerns on this front, since it’ll be very difficult to get them to move on the Palestinian issue if they’re terrified of external threats. But at the same time, I really think the Israelis have this backward—the IDF is perfectly capable of deterring and defeating the Iranian, but the Israeli nuclear program isn’t going to protect them from a total collapse of international legitimacy.

I think that's almost exactly right. Israel is suffering from a bout of statecentrism, and it is not serving it well. Though I don't think we should just ignore Iran, Israel is in a perfectly fine position to deter that state if it makes any offensive moves. Its ability to deal with the threats posed by Palestinians is much weaker, simply because it is difficult to effectively use conventional military force when dealing with an urban insurgency. Not to mention, of course, that much of its problems with Palestine aren't really military/security ones at all, but are demographic and democratic. Making it clear that as far as we're concerned, Palestine is the central focus of our relationship with Israel is a good starting point for getting the Israel government to take it seriously as well.

More than a Straw Man

I've been reading some stuff recently by John Strawson, Reader in Law at the University of East London, and also on faculty at the Palestinian Birzeit University. Prof. Strawson specializes in international law, Middle East studies and Islamic jurisprudence, with a particular focus on post-colonial thought. And he is a fascinating, fascinating man. From a standpoint that is extremely pro-Palestinian, he nevertheless comes off as meticulously fair-minded, committed to justice, unwilling to countenance anti-Semitism, and engaged with Israeli and Jewish perspectives.

Here is Strawson talking about issues of law and justice in the context of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. And here (update: seriously this time) he is opposing the AUT boycott of Israeli universities.

It's not that I agree with Prof. Strawson on everything. But he is perhaps the clearest representative I have yet seen of someone non-Palestinian, who clearly and unambiguously announces himself to be a pro-Palestinian activist and adopts a post-colonial standpoint, articulating his stances that don't immediately worry or alienate me.

Very fascinating. And very impressive.

Finishing Business

I've very deliberately avoided commenting on the ongoing Minnesota Senate drama. My reasons have been simple: In 2000, I believed that Vice President Al Gore had every right to litigate the outcome of the Florida election for as long as he believed (a) he actually received more votes than his opponent and (b) legal litigation was likely to change the result to reflect that outcome. Norm Coleman has that precise same right, and as long as he genuinely believes the preceding two conditions, he has the right to attempt to vindicate his rights in court.

But, it is becoming more and more clear that Sen. Coleman does not really believe either of these things. He is losing legal challenge after legal challenge, the courts are not budging to his interpretations, and now he's starting to convince folks to simply call a revote -- which boils down to "I admit that under the rules of the state of Minnesota, I lost the election -- but it was really, really close." That isn't good enough to support.

So when Michael Steele talks about "unfinished business" in Minnesota and asks contributors to "stop liberal Democrat comedian Al Franken from stealing Norm Coleman’s U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota," he's talking from nowhere. Al Franken is going to be seated as the senator from Minnesota because he won the race. By the skin of his teeth, after a recount, but he won the race.

Is it true that if Norm Coleman were Senator, it'd be more difficult for Barack Obama to pass his agenda? Sure. But that's only a relevant consideration if Coleman won his race. And he didn't.

UPDATE: Coleman makes it official; his attorneys are asking to set aside the election results.

Signing Off Alas

February is finished, law school finals are imminent, so I figured it was time to bring my guest-stint at Alas, a Blog to a close. You can read my sign off here, if you like. Blogging at this site, of course, will continue unabated by such trivialities like "passing Property Law".

Now Hear This

Working off of this article on Obama's "dog-whistles" which signal to the Black community that he is one of them, Ta-Nehisi Coates observes:
I remember watching Tim Russert try to tie Obama to Farrakhan, and thinking, "Don't they know this dude has been paraphrasing Malcolm X? Why aren't they asking him about that?" Not that I'm in favor of any of that, but I think this is what fueled so much of the "he's not really black talk"--most white reporters don't really know what black is. And so while they were waiting for Obama call for reparations or another Back To Africa movement, the missed the subtle things.

If White folks view Obama has "post-racial" and wonder if he is "really Black", it's mostly because they have a ridiculously caricatured idea of what Black people actually want or how they behave. Blacks themselves, of course, are far more steeped in the culture, and can recognize who is real and who is posing.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Steele versus Limbaugh

Michael Steele calls out Rush Limbaugh:
Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with CNN that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

And Steele described Limbaugh as a performer.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment," Steele said. "Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

Last month, Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected chair of the RNC. He is the first African-American to lead the Republican Party. At the time of his election, Steele said that "Rush will say what Rush has to say; we'll do what we have to do."

Limbaugh, of course, is not happy, and is making his displeasure known:
Yes, said Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, I’m incendiary, and yes, it’s ugly. Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC. You are not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the RNC and right now they want nothing to do with it, and when you call them, asking them for money, they hang up on you. I hope that changes. I hope the RNC will get its act together…

It seems to me that it’s Michael Steele who is off to a shaky start….

Fun. Any fratricide in the GOP ranks is good news for Democrats.

I expect this to shake itself out without any major explosions, but assuming Steele pushes things and presses his fellow Republicans to take a firm anti-Rush (or at least, Rush-is-a-non-entity) stance, it will be a fascinating display to see where elected Republican officials line up. Despite all assertions to the contrary, it's clear that Democratic criticisms that the GOP has been captured by loons like Limbaugh are having their mark -- Republicans realize that to the extent they are seen as in Limbaugh's thrall, they'll never break out of minority status. But of course, Rush still has plenty of boots in the base. The temporary disunity Steele would provoke might be well worth it if he manages to wrench his party back into the mainstream. Of course, if he picks a fight with Limbaugh and loses, the party likely will be moribund for a generation.

Rating State Mottos, Part V

I took a short break to heighten the tension over South Dakota (yup), but now we're ready to finish the show once and for all.

Part I: Alabama - Florida

Part II: Georgia - Maine

Part III: Maryland - New Jersey

Part IV: New Mexico - South Carolina

South Dakota: Under God the people rule

Oooh, a pan! Sorry Adam, but my visceral loathing of Godly mottoes continues unabated. I really should group the God-mottoes together and have a box-off to see which one is the best least repulsive. So far, it's Colorado. South Dakota's contribution, which makes sense (unlike Samoa), does not evoke turn of the century excuses for starving the poor (Arizona), is not plagiarized (Florida), does not take on a tone of groveling (Kentucky), and is not tautological (Ohio) is, I suppose, one of the wetter places in the Sahara. C+.

Tennessee: Agriculture and commerce

Aren't these zoning categories in Sim City (answer: no -- though you can get agriculture in SimCity 3000 if you zone industrial in a sufficiently isolated location)? Tennessee took Montana's idea (yes, Montana's motto predates Tennessee's -- way to slack off, guys) and decided to make it duller. C-.

Texas: Friendship

If Nevada's motto is so perfect as to make it unnerving, Texas' is so incongruous that I'm suspicious of the real meaning. They should add a little Mao: Friendship grows out of the barrel of a gun. Now that's a Texas-sized motto! C-.

Utah: Industry

Utah: Unbelievably boring. Motto: Unbelievably boring. So, high marks or low? I refer to the Delaware rule for motto-creation in boring states: holding that for states with no distinctive qualities, it is permissible to throw out a bunch of abstract virtues. But "Industry" is not a virtue, it is, well, an industry. That's pushing it even under the most lenient interpretation. C-.

Vermont: Freedom and Unity

See, Utah, take your cue from Vermont. Most Americans know nothing about the Green Mountain state other than it gave us Ben & Jerry's (who, I'm sure, could create a fabulous state motto if given the privilege). So, why not something generic like "Freedom and Unity"? Given that Vermont was for a few years an independent nation (freedom!) and once was part of New York (umm...disunity!), the motto even has vague claims to a specific relationship with the state. B-.

Virginia: Sic semper tyrannis/Thus always to tyrants

It's a shame this phrase is now associated with the Lincoln assassination, because it is a stellar motto. I checked, and it turns out that the motto easily predates the civil war, so this wasn't neo-confederatism talking. Excellent news for Virginia. A+.

Virgin Islands: United in Pride and Hope

I can't decide how I feel about the "United in" part of this motto. The conventional approach would definitely be just "Pride and Hope". Virgin Islands innovates by adding a preface. But I'm not convinced the aesthetics are there. C.

Washington: Al-ki/By and by

Fantastic. This motto is so unbelievably chill. I'm not even sure what "by and by" means (I'm thinking of how Richard Fish used "bygones" in Ally McBeal), and I don't really care. The language is not Chinook, but Chinook Jargon, which adds to the laid-back quality. And of course, it's not even formally Washington's motto. Dude, Al-ki. I can feel my blood pressure lowering just by saying it. A.

West Virginia: Montani semper liberi/Mountaineers are always free

There's a dig at Virginia if I ever saw one. Virginians, for all their blathering about tyrannies, certainly had plenty of unfree people in its domain when WV seceded. Of course, West Virginia might not even be constitutional, so Virginia would get the last laugh after all. Still, it's got a good flow, and anything that burns the Old Dominion is fine by me. A-.

Wisconsin: Forward

I can't top the Book of Ratings on this one, so I won't even try: "[I]f I was a settler and I found myself in Wisconsin that's what I'd say, too. That's why California's state motto means 'I have found it.' You get to Wisconsin, you keep moving. You get to California, you've arrived." Sorry, 'sconies. B-.

Wyoming: Equal Rights

Wyoming was the first state to grant women's suffrage, in 1869 (well before it became a state actually). One of the reasons was to boost its voting population to get it admitted to statehood faster. So the motives weren't entirely pure, but the fact that Wyoming chose to inscribe its early stand in favor of sex equality as its written face to the world is still a nice gesture. B+.


Well, we're through! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. I gave exactly two A+'s and two D-'s. So congratulations to our winners (New Hampshire and Virginia) and throw eggs and stuff at the losers (Michigan and Florida).

Getting Realistic About Freeman

Ezra Klein's defense of Chas Freeman being appointed to a top intelligence position essentially is that Freeman is an outlier: a foreign policy realist amongst the liberals and idealists that populate the Obama administration. He may or may not be an ideologue, Klein argues, but since Obama is mustering a diverse array of perspectives to advise him, it's not a huge problem to have a few ideologues, so long as they are different sorts of ideologues and balance each other out.

Okay, reasonable enough. But I've been a bit confused about Freeman for awhile now. Freeman's been under fire for being too harshly critical of Israel, while at the same time serving as a moral apologist for China and Saudi Arabia. But -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that isn't what one would expect out of a true realist ideologue at all. A true realist would neither support or defend Israeli, Saudi, or Chinese actions on moral grounds. He'd say they're fundamentally irrelevant: All that matters is what is in the American national interest. If it's in America's interest to be buddy-buddy with the Chinese, then it's none of our business if they gun down protesters in Beijing city centers. But that doesn't seem to be the role Freeman is taking. He seems at least partial to the idea that moral considerations are a relevant concern -- he just has different views on who is moral and who isn't.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


With February over, it's back to celebrating White History Year -- traditionally observed from January 1st to December 31st (with the aforementioned one month gap).

Via J&J

Women Are Not Like Cows, Part II

Women are not like cows. That's true when we're talking about sex, and it's true when we're talking about breast-feeding.

Jews with Power versus Empowered Jews

Instead of studying for finals, I wrote this post.

But Now You're Back Here, Baby

Republican Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) "The era of big government is clearly back."

Why, I never realized it had left in the first place. I'd be fascinated to see Rep. Price's voting record over the last three years, to determine just how recent a vintage this concern over deficits really is. For example, it would be very strange for a deficit hawk to vote against the 2007 pay-as-you-go resolution (H. Res. 6).