Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Helping Hand

The Jerusalem Post has a fascinating article up about Israeli settlers who want out:
Breaking the stereotype of the radical settler are an increasingly vocal number of families in certain communities who want to leave voluntarily, driven by motives ranging from personal security to wholesale political U-turns. Bound together in wanting out of the West Bank, they are campaigning for government assistance to enable them to move out of their homes, which in some settlements have plummeted in value. But their potential lifeline, a law compensating those who voluntarily evacuate, is now facing an uncertain fate, with a new right-wing government and the most liberal US administration Washington has seen for years.

For those of us who think that arresting the growth of the settlements is one of the crucial stepping stones to reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict, this is an important instinct to nurture. A goodly chunk of the settlers recognize that their presence is an obstacle to peace, and they are willing to leave, so long as there are feasible alternatives (hell, even Avigdor Lieberman has placed himself in this camp, albeit in his case only as part of a negotiated resolution to the conflict rather than in response to a proposed resettlement program). I'm more than willing to support an Israeli law compensating those who resettle in Israel proper, and I believe the US should throw its own diplomatic muscle into getting it passed (hell, why not bundle it into our own financial aid package that goes to Israel?).

The article notes that a large portion of the settler community, far from being the stereotypical religious zealots, are more akin to American exurban families. They were drawn to the West Bank because of the open space, the potential to have a bigger house than reasonably available in Israel's core, even superior schools. To be sure, it was Israeli policies which made that dream realizable in the West Bank (like the United States, which very deliberately constructed the conditions which allowed what we know as suburbia to flourish). And, again like the United States, many of these policies were at the very least spectacularly short-sighted, if not wholly disconcerned with the way they affected political outgroups. We shouldn't overstate: there is still much hostility directed toward the people within the settlement community leading the calls for evacuation. But their presence in neither minuscule nor trivial, and is something that committed actors have a chance to build upon.

It may be this article is overly optimistic. Nonetheless, once we get past the idea of all the settlers is irrational nutjobs motivated by hate, it is possible to create and implement a pragmatic peace agenda that can get them out of the West Bank. Every settler that we can get out of the West Bank and back into Israel is one less irritant blocking the resolution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. But even those settlers who personally desire to leave and are even ideologically aware of the implications for regional peace and justice are going to hard pressed to register support for any evacuation if they don't know where they're supposed to land after they're pushed. It doesn't do any good to yell and wave signs about ending the occupation if you're not thinking about what happens the day after.

(Via Greens Engage)

UPDATE: Charles Ettinson has a good followup post tracking where the bill is at in the Knesset and the particulars of "how" to get the settlers out.

Leave Out All The Rest

Last night's episode of Dollhouse might have been the best in the series. The twists were well executed, we got a much better look at Topher and Dr. Saunders, and an inside look at the personalities of some of the main dolls (Sierra, particularly, got fleshed out excellently). This show has really found its voice over the last few episodes, and for that I'm really happy.

Meanwhile, I was listening to the latest Linkin Park album, and it occurred to me that one of their songs seems to fit perfectly with the theme of the show (this is a program which managed to make Lady GaGa's Just Dance fraught with meaning, so Linkin Park isn't much of a stretch).
I dreamed I was missing
You were so scared
But no one would listen
'Cause no one else cared

After my dreaming
I woke with this fear
What am I leaving
When I'm done here?

So if you're asking me
I want you to know

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

And don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest

Don't be afraid
I've taken my beating
I've shed but I'm me

I'm strong on the surface
Not all the way through
I've never been perfect
But neither have you

So if you're asking me
I want you to know

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest

Forgetting all the hurt inside
You've learned to hide so well
Pretending someone else can come
And save me from myself
I can't be who you are

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest

Forgetting all the hurt inside
You've learned to hide so well
Pretending someone else can come
And save me from myself
I can't be who you are
I can't be who you are

-- "Leave Out All The Rest", Linkin Park

RIP Dr. King

That is all.

Y'all Shall Not Kill

I'm converting to Oklahomaism!

Via Steve Benen's TWIG.

Bauer Channels The Bad Romney

Back in the cesspool that was the 2008 Republican primary, Mitt Romney indicated that he would refuse to hire any Muslims into his cabinet were he President of the United States (to his credit, John McCain was I believe the only Republican candidate to sharply criticize the remarks).

Now, former candidate and all around nut Gary Bauer has a column up entitled "Muslims in the White House?", raising the terrifying specter that Obama, who "says he's a Christian", may still appoint some Muslim persons to various jobs in the White House.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Two Things He Fears Most

Ah, there it is: Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) reaction to the Iowa Supreme Court decision striking down the state's gay marriage ban:
This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. Iowa law says that marriage is between one man and one woman. If judges believe the Iowa legislature should grant same sex marriage, they should resign from their positions and run for office, not legislate from the bench.

Now it is the Iowa legislature’s responsibility to pass the Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman, to give the power that the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself back to the people of Iowa. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca due to the Supreme Court’s latest experiment in social engineering.

I genuinely wonder whether King hates the "gay marriage" or the "Mecca" part of that statement more.

In Dissonance, Strength

In my readings on the effects of diversity in social institutions, there have two distinct and seemingly contradictory findings that have emerged. The first, more pessimistic, is exemplified by Robert Putnam's study which found decreased social cohesion in diversified communities, particularly in the form of greater withdrawal from the public sphere. The second, indicated by Samuel Sommers, provides data which shows that diversified institutions tend to out perform their homogeneous peers.

It may be, though, that far from being a contradiction, these effects are two sides of the same coin. A new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin argues that we see improvements in institutional performance through the addition "Socially Distinct Newcomers" in tandem with increased discomfort by the "old-timers" at their presence. From the abstract:
The impact of diversity on group functioning is multifaceted. Exploring the impact of having a newcomer join a group, the authors conducted a 2 (social similarity of newcomer to oldtimers; in-group or out-group) x 3 (opinion agreement: newcomer has no opinion ally, one opinion ally, or two opinion allies) interacting group experiment with four-person groups. Groups with out-group newcomers (i.e., diverse groups) reported less confidence in their performance and perceived their interactions as less effective, yet they performed better than groups with in-group newcomers (i.e., homogeneous groups). Moreover, performance gains were not due to newcomers bringing new ideas to the group discussion. Instead, the results demonstrate that the mere presence of socially distinct newcomers and the social concerns their presence stimulates among oldtimers motivates behavior that can convert affective pains into cognitive gains.

This is definitely an interesting study -- the finding that the increased performance gains were not due to the unique ideas of the out-group. That's in itself counter-intuitive and deserving of further study. But the overall observation of the paper -- that the discomfort in-groups feel about diversity (that Putnam observes) actually translates into concrete performance gains (Sommers) has many important implications for policy-making in the context of meritocratic structures (i.e., ones where "performance" matters).


Katherine W. Phillips, Katie A. Liljenquist, Margaret A. Neale, "Is the Pain Worth the Gain? The Advantages and Liabilities of Agreeing With Socially Distinct Newcomers," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 3, 336-350 (2009) (via)

Clash of the Titans

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has a better idea for former Sen. Ted Stevens than a futile effort to get Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) to resign. He thinks Stevens should challenge Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and try and take the Governor's mansion.

Are Both Sides Up For Investigation?

This Ha'aretz article, reporting on the appointment of Jewish South African judge and prominent international law expert Richard Goldstone to lead a probe into war crimes allegations stemming from Israel's Gaza operation claims that Goldstone's mandate includes both Israeli and Palestinian violations. This is a break from the UNHRC's historical practice, and conflicts with other sources I've read which say Goldstone only has jurisdiction over Israeli activities.

This AP article seems to catch the heart of the dispute:
According to the mandate, the investigation should focus on Palestinian victims of the three-week war between Israel and Hamas earlier this year.

But Goldstone, a Jewish former judge of the South African constitutional court, said his team would investigate "all violations of international humanitarian law" before, during and after the conflict that ended Jan. 18.

"It's in the interest of the victims. It brings acknowledgment of what happened to them. It can assist the healing process," he told reporters in Geneva. "I would hope it's in the interests of all the political actors, too."

Martin Uhomoibhi, the council president, explained the apparent contradiction by saying the mission always intended to evaluate the proportionality of Israel's response, which requires that acts of both warring parties be examined.

It will be interesting to see a) how vigorously Goldstone pursues his claimed mandate over violations committed by both sides and b) how the UN bodies will react if Goldstone does do more the engage in a pro forma critique of Palestinian human rights violations.

It's a Dangerous Percentile

The Iowa decision also gives me an excuse to link to Ta-Nehisi Coates post explaining the linkage between conservative fears of gay marriage, and racism, and anti-Semitism (Amber says this is maybe the first thing to convince her of intersectionality, but I'm not actually sure this is an intersectionality claim).
The most laughable aspect of America's long war against racism, is the justification racist would always trot out--the specter of interracial union. I can remember being a kid and reading about black folks struggling for some small right, that, these days, we take for granted. So you'd have some black dude who'd been born a slave, in some one room shack, but had risen to become a lawyer, arguing for, say, school funding for black kids in rural Alabama. And then you'd see some bigot responding with, essentially, the following, "If we give the nigras school funding, they'll take our women! Do you want a nigra marrying yer daughter?!?!?"

I would read that and think, "What? The dude just wants some textbooks, WTF??" There's this great riff in Wattstax where Richard Pryor talks about Southern whites accusing a black dude of raping some white guy's wife. The guy brings out his wife and says something like, "The nigger raped her!" The assembled black folks look at the guy's wife who, let's just say is not Scarlett O'Hara, and go, "You sure??"

But in the white male paranoid mind, the deepest ambition of all black men lay between the two legs of some white woman--any white woman. And white women, of course lacking any real agency in the narrative, joyfully go along. Or are forcibly carried along. From that perspective, white racism really is a fear of a black planet--and (paradoxically) of white women.

Bigotry, in all forms, requires a shocking arrogance, a belief that other communities deepest desires revolve around your destruction. It is the ultimate narcissism, a way of thinking that can only see others, through a paranoid fear of what one might lose. The fears are almost always irrational. To go back to Chuck D, perhaps he was too cold when he said, "Man, I don't want your sister." But there was deep truth in it, the idea was, "Fool, this ain't about you and your fucked-up sexual hangups." In much the same vein when I read people complaining that gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, I think, "Fool, these gay motherfuckers ain't thinking about your marriage. This ain't about you and your hang-ups."

Coates mentions anti-Semitism, but making it more explicit, much of anti-Semitism rests on this idea of Jews as hyperpowerful -- pulling the strings of the entire world; an insidious cancer which if left unchecked will corrupt and destroy modern society.

I'm sorry to say that for the most part, Jewish lives are considerably less dramatic. We want the same things as most other people do, and live the same lives that most other people do. But the conceit is always there: the 1% of the population that was Jewish has always been seen as an existential threat to Christianity; and now is seen as an existential threat to humanity itself. And, again I hate to be this blunt but: Get over yourself.

Breaking: Iowa Supreme Court Unanimously Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

Here's a PDF of the opinion, which just came down. I'm not sure which is more surprising: that it was Iowa, or that the opinion was unanimous. Pam has snippets. I, personally, can't wait for Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) reaction, which I'm sure will be priceless. I'll have more commentary later in the day -- I'm particularly pleased to see that the Iowa court recognized that laws which discriminate against gay and lesbian persons should be met with, at the very least, heightened scrutiny.

But seriously -- congratulations to Iowa for this great step forward towards equality, and to the gay, lesbian, and straight citizens of that state.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

First Guys

Men who are the husbands of G-20 leaders somehow don't feel obligated to pose for those lovely spouse photographs.

Good Luck With That

Alaska GOP calls on Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) to resign, allowing for a special election "allow[ing] Alaskans to have a real, non-biased, credible process where the most qualified person could win, without the manipulation of the Department of Justice."

Cry me a river.

Another Jewish Roundup

This is becoming a near-daily occurrence. I wonder what that means.

The Forward obits Janet Jagan, former President of Guyana, and one of two Jewish women to lead a modern nation (the other was Golda Meir).

Also in the Forward, Rep. Keith Ellison (R-MN) "walks a tightrope" as he tries to craft a stance on Israel/Palestine that is genuinely pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, and pro-peace. I'd say he's doing a darn good job so far, and has seemingly maintained the support of the local Jewish and Muslim communities (both of which were early backers of our nation's first Muslim congressman).

Still from the same source, an examination of how and why Palestinians are so resistant to acknowledging the Holocaust (exemplified by the disbanding of a Palestinian youth orchestra which had serenaded Jewish Holocaust survivors).

Aliza Hausman writes on her experience as a Latina woman who converted to Orthodox Judaism.

For some people, every Seder is an African-American Seder.

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay is worried that the Durban II conference may get hijacked by the same elements who poisoned Durban I.

At a Norwegian dialogue on hatred, one speaker helpfully explained to his audience "Why I hate Jews".

A 13-year old boy was axed to death and a seven-year old wounded in a terrorist strike on a West Bank settlement. Though Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, a Hamas spokesperson praised it, saying "This attack was committed in the framework of the resistance .... We are a people occupied, and it is our right to defend ourselves and to act in every way and with every means at our disposal in order to defend ourselves."

New Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman continues his zig-zag tacking, renouncing the Annapolis agreements while simultaneously criticizing his predecessors for refusing to evacuate settlement outposts. He said, however, that there must be "reciprocity" from the Palestinians when Israel follows the 2003 U.S. "roadmap" for peace.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad distressingly echoed Lieberman's claim that "If you want peace, prepare for war," arguing for his part that "The Israeli will not come by his own will, so there is no alternative but for him to come from fear."

Justice Thomas on the Bill of Responsibilities

Justice Thomas delivered the keynote address to a group of high school students who won an essay contest sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute:
Thomas touched on familiar themes of responsibility and self-reliance. In the current economic crisis, Thomas said it is remarkable how many people think that "each of us is owed prosperity and a certain standard of living." But his own upbringing taught him that prosperity is not a constant, and he recalled a time when "air conditioning was the ultimate luxury." Laughing, he added, "I'm one of those who still thinks the dishwasher is a miracle," which he said explains why "I like to load it" at home.

Likewise, Thomas said the proliferation of taken-for-granted rights has led to the "virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances ... Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our bill of obligations, our bill of responsibilities?" Thomas did say that rights were important, and he extolled the 14th Amendment as the source of many of them.

I don't really have a comment on this; I just like collecting statements by Justice Thomas. He really is one of the more fascinating legal actors I've come across in my studies.

The Ultimate Revenge Scenario

I wonder how often it is that professors are teaching at a school which, at some point in their academic careers, rejected them? E.g., John Doe is teaching at Harvard University, when Harvard rejected him as an undergraduate (or better yet, for the Ph.D. program in the department he now teaches in).

On the one hand, that must be the ultimate feeling of vindication. On the other hand, I feel like I, at least, would have trouble with an inferiority complex if I taught at a law school which had rejected me as a law student. After all, I'd basically be looking out on a group of individuals who -- according to the value system I've enmeshed myself into -- are considered to be qualitatively smarter than I am. That makes it tough to project that scholarly authority thing.

Why Washington Failed

I meant to flag this post earlier, but I forgot. Ta-Nehisi Coates has a trenchant observation on why Booker T. Washington's self-uplift program for Black empowerment was such a resounding failure.
Washington basically said to the white South in 1895. "You win. We don't want the right the vote. We just want to till our farms, better ourselves, and be left alone. Leave us in peace, and you'll here no more of this voting or integration business." You have to remember the state of mind of black people, at that time. Reconstruction had been rolled back. The South was wracked by race riots. Three years after Washington's speech, the only coup in American history was orchestrated in Wilmington, North Carolina by racist thugs. Washington was basically conceding what he'd already lost. In return he hoped to simply secure the right of good Christian blacks to work the land in peace.

The dominant logic of the post-Reconstruction era held that the real problem wasn't white racists, but carpetbaggers and meddlers from up North who'd elevated illiterate blacks above their station. The white Southerner, presumably, had no existential objection to blacks, they just didn't want to live next door to them or have an illiterate and morally degenerate population electing their politicians. To this Washington, and much of black America, said Fine. Cease fire. You let us be, we'll let you be.

In retrospect, this was a grievous error. In point of fact, whites actually did have an existential objection to black people. Their beef wasn't that illiterates and moral degenerates might get too much power. Quite the opposite. Their beef was that blacks would prove to not be illiterates and moral degenerates, and thus fully able to compete with them. To see this point illustrated, one need only look at the history of race riots in the South. When white mobs set upon black communities they didn't simply burn down the "morally degenerate" portions--they attacked the South's burgeoning black middle and working class and its institutions. They went for the churches, the schools and the businesses. It's one thing to be opposed to black amorality. It's quite another to be opposed to black progress. The lesson blacks took post-Atlanta Compromise was that whites had used the former to cover for the latter. These days, it's popular to bemoan the fact that Washington has fallen into disfavor. But it wasn't blacks who proved the Atlanta Compromise fraudulent--it was the whites of that era.

You must understand the chilling effect this had to have on black people. To actually concede to all the racist propaganda out there, and then to be rewarded by hooligans burning down your community must have been psychologically devastating. People wondering why the GOP can't get a foothold in the black community, need to not just think about Goldwater and Nixon. They should think about Du Bois telling black men to go fight in The Great War, and then having those veterans come home to the Red Summer of 1919. They should think about the pogroms that greeted Booker T's compromise. There's a lot of hurt out there. A lot of ancient hurt. A lot of it, even in these times, quite deep.

This is important history to remember. And it's the reason I trace a direct line to Black Power and Black Nationalism from Booker T. The Black Power ideology was also about self-uplift. It just added a spin, learned from Washington's experience: "And this time, if you fuck with us, we're firing back."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

As If We Didn't Know Already

John J. Mearsheimer, guest-blogging at Stephen Walt's place (good to see the old gang back together), has a post up which demonstrates quite clearly that he really doesn't understand the dynamics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It's not that his predictive analysis is wrong -- he is quite right that if Israel pursues a "Greater Israel" policy unchecked, it will mean the eventual demise of the state. But beyond that, he ... how to put this gently? He doesn't know what he's talking about.

First, neither Ehud Barak nor Avigdor Lieberman "are committed to creating a Greater Israel." Barak proved his two-state bona fides at Camp David and Taba, and his Labor Party has been the primary mover in making the two-state solution official Israeli policy for nearly two decades. We can debate whether Barak should have brought Labor into government absent a commitment by Netanyahu to a two-state solution (one he wouldn't get), but there is no reason to believe that Barak will affirmatively use his position to try and create a "Greater Israel" that he has spent his entire political career trying to undermine.

Lieberman may be a racist, fascist thug, but Mearsheimer clearly doesn't know anything about his specific and peculiar brand of politics. Lieberman is most certainly not an advocate of "transferring" Palestinian Israelis (Israeli Arabs) out of the country -- a term which has a very specific meaning (essentially, expelling them). Lieberman wishes to redraw the borders of Israel so that predominantly Israeli Arab villages are incorporated into a new Palestinian state (and, in exchange, primarily Jewish settlement blocs are kept by Israel). This policy is inherently impossible to achieve without creating a Palestinian state. It is true that Lieberman doesn't see the creation of Palestine to be the immediate item on the agenda, but that's not because he's pursuing a "transfer" policy domestically.

Finally, Mearsheimer also doesn't understand the politics of the American pro-Israel community. He asks why "Israel's Jewish backers" think "Greater Israel is good for the Jews." Well, there's a simple answer to that: We don't. The settlements and the idea of Greater Israel are not particularly popular amongst American Jews. And even many (not all) of the more conservative Jewish organizations are not affirmatively in favor of Greater Israel or pro-settlement. They just either don't see the settlements as that big a deal, or think of them as a distraction from the "real" issue of Palestinian terrorism and Israel's security.

What American Jews tend to battle over is the degree to which settlements should be a primary item on the agenda. There are many Jews who will say that the settlements are a bad thing, but we have to deal with the problem of terrorism first. I think that's short-sighted -- I think the settlements are a major issue that has to be dealt with now, because they are continually aggravating the conflict, don't make Israel safer, represent an injustice to the Palestinians, and constitute a ticking time bomb on Israel's ability to maintain itself as Jewish and democratic. But that's the axis where the debate is.

I think the resistance many Jews have to putting the settlements front and center is the degree to which this conflict has been moralized into a game of "who is the worse evildoer." In the discursive climate we have, where there is nothing stupid, only something evil, saying the settlements need to be one of the primary items on the agenda table is read as saying that they are equally morally wrongful to, say, a Palestinian rocket attack on Sderot. Whether they are or not, though, is immaterial to Mearsheimer's completely correct observation that they still are a "remarkably foolish" policy. But until we can talk about Israel that way -- until not everything about the conflict is collapsed into this moral gamesmanship -- I think this debate will still be live.

But that's neither here nor there. At least in my lifetime, it hasn't been Greater Israel versus two-state solution. On that question, Greater Israel is in the definitive minority. The big debate is whether the degrees to which we should direct our energies towards pressuring Israel over the settlements versus pressuring Palestinians on terrorism and extremism. It's a debate I'm committed to winning, because like Mearsheimer and former PM Olmert I think the path Israel is going down with the settlements is suicidal. But Mearsheimer doesn't help his case when he fundamentally misunderstands the mindsets of the relevant players.

We've Got Legs

And they're neither knee-jerk nor lock-step.

The NY Jewish Week reports that Jewish groups are "not going to the mattresses" over America's decision to try and rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. The UNHRC is well reviled in the Jewish community for (a) engaging in one sided and hyperbolic criticisms of Israel and (b) doing very little else. But nonetheless, while some groups are more cautious about the decision than others Jewish groups by and large are adopting a wait-and-see approach. After all, maybe we can change the group for the better on the inside. Or maybe we can't. But the point is, contrary to some popular conceptions, the Jewish community is not some crazed animal which catches a whiff of something arguably anti-Israel and launches into a coked-out frenzy.

Stevens Is Out of the Fire

Citing major prosecutorial misconduct by the Justice Department attorneys who led the case, the Obama administration has announced it is dropping all charges against former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and will not seek a new trial. Unfortunately, this is hardly surprising given the rather relaxed standards of competence the Justice Department enjoyed over the last eight years.

Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), of course, couldn't stop talking out of both sides of her mouth even if one was glued shut, released a statement bemoaning Stevens' treatment and the "frightening" misconduct he was forced to endure. "It is unfortunate that, as a result of the questionable proceedings which led to Senator Stevens' conviction days before the election, Alaskans lost an esteemed statesman on Capitol Hill. His presence is missed." Of course, after his conviction she was singing a different tune, criticizing him for failing to resign his seat and saying "Even if elected on Tuesday, Senator Stevens should step aside to allow a special election to give Alaskans a real choice of who will serve them in Congress."

Pardon Jack Johnson

There are very few things I agree with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on, but I do think he's done some genuinely good things in pressing for reforms in the sport of boxing -- a fanship that he and I both share. Now I see that along with Rep. Peter King (R-NY), McCain is pushing for a posthumous pardon for Black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, convicted of violating the Mann Act in a racially charged and motivated case (Johnson was reviled in White America for not only being a nearly unbeatable boxer, but also for openly having relationships with White women).

12 Year Old Law Students

Today, we learned that asking which professor your fellow students have for Civil Procedure II becomes far more perilous when the choices are (Adam) Cox and (Diane) Wood.

Sweetie Pies

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is supporting some draconian restrictions on women's rights. Women can't go outside the home without their husband's permission, can only get work, education, or see a doctor with their husband's permission, and can't refuse them sex.

But don't worry! It's actually pro-women's rights!
Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women's rights.

"Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters."

Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable "excuse". And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.

How generous. These "protections", incidentally, are all clearly linked to the purported strength of men and weakness of women. You don't see how that obviously counsels giving husbands a presumptive right to sex with their wives (subject to "reasonable excuses")?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Songs That Saved My Life

PostBourgie takes on Andrew Sullivan's "gated community conservatism". But I'm not sure they pick the best example. This is the passage that they highlight:
I value the private healthcare system in the US, that, for all its faults, has innovated medicines that have saved my life.

And in response?
Almost everything Sullivan turns his attention to is filtered through the lens of “what is best for Andrew Sullivan?” More often than not, especially in the case of his writing on conservatism, that makes for some fairly interesting reading. With regards to policy though, this approach is terrible. The measure of a health care system isn’t whether or not it generates innovations which benefit Andrew Sullivan, it is whether or not it adequately serves the majority of health care consumers. And at this point, it’s virtually incontestable that that’s the case. Sullivan might understand this on an intellectual level but it has yet to pierce through his elitism, which at times makes for very frustrating reading.

It's not that this is technically wrong, but I think it loses a lot of its potency when it's directed against Sullivan's belief that he owes his life to current health care policies. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would say "I'd be dead if X policy wasn't in place, nonetheless, we should abandon X." That's asking a lot out of people.

"Gated community conservatism" is not always or even largely limited to cases like these. Mostly, "what's best for me" isn't "what keeps me alive" but rather is "what makes me marginally more comfortable while foisting huge costs on everyone else." PB's citation to the Ross Douthat/Ta-Nehisi Coates debate over whether our draconian crackdown on crime has been "vindicated by events" is a far better example: the persons behind the gates feel a little safer and a little more secure, and that's enough to justify massive intrusions on the safety, security, and liberty of poor and dark American citizens. But just as we might step more lightly when the speaker is someone who had been a crime victim themselves, I think we also might put on soft shoes when dealing with someone for whom the health care system status quo is not just mildly more convenient but literally life-saving.


Kos on former netroots hero Rep. John Murtha (D-PA):
Of course, if you start a sentence with "If I'm corrupt", you've pretty much given up the gig. I'm not the biggest Steny Hoyer fan, but we dodged a bullet when Murtha lost his race for Majority Leader. Had he won (which Pelosi pushed hard, by the way), the parallels with DeLay would've been painful. As is, it would be nice if Democrats would work harder to clean house, rather than circle the wagons, GOP-style, and try to pretend that corruption within one's ranks is acceptable or justified.

As of yet, House Democrats are refusing to pursue a review, even as the FBI circles around Murtha's office.

Lest there be any doubt, Kos starts the post off with "Murtha, corrupt Democrat."

Monday, March 30, 2009

First Day Back Roundup

I was a responsible law student today. I got all my books, ran necessary errands, went to the grocery store, and finished my reading early. And I still had time to go out to dinner and go to the pub.

Winslow Robertson, guest-blogging at post-bourgie, on why he doesn't like the "Blackademy".

Howard Jacobson writes on the rise in UK anti-Semitism. He also adds something important: regardless of whether it actually is or is motivated by "Jew-hating" "The inordinacy of English Israel-loathing--ascribing to a country the same disproportionate responsibility for the world's ills that was once ascribed to a people--is toxic enough in itself."

Why is the mainstream/right Jewish establishment so spooked by J Street? Honestly, I didn't know they were. Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein have more.

Do we need another anti-racism 101? The issue is being discussed over at Alas.

My college friend Moshe Lavi (an Israeli citizen from Sderot) makes the case for taking Yisrael Beiteinu's plan seriously.

Publius argues a) Barack Obama's economic recovery plan is not unconstitutional and b) conservatives are hypocritical for suggesting it is.

Meanwhile, Rick Hills wonders why conservatives like the non-delegation doctrine (the linchpin of the conservative argument for why Obama's plan does violate the constitution) in the first place.

Daring to Ask

Temple Law Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales dares to ask: "What's wrong with teen sexting"? It's something I've wondered myself.
Posing for or simply allowing semi-nude photos to be taken of oneself seems to me to be typical teenage risk-taking behavior -- standard slumber party fare. The difference in today's world, of course, is the technology that can spread the image virally and have a real impact on a teenager's reputation and future. Rather than recognizing the problem as one of immaturity and perhaps naivete, the district attorney's heavy-handed approach seeks to brand these girls as immoral miscreants while letting the boys responsible for spreading the images do so with impunity. The message, then, is that girls must be chaste at all times or else they will face serious repercussions, but "boys will be boys." Moreover, this "blame the victim" mentality assumes that the girls are the sole cause of a rather complex problem. Perhaps that's what the district attorney plans to teach at his re-education program in which those charged are to "gain an understanding of what it means to be a girl in today's society."

Well, it's a good thing these girls have the nice DA to tell them "what it means to be a girl in today's society!" As far as I can tell, being a girl means that society can treat your body as its property and condemn you as a harlot if you choose to be sexually active.

The latest flurry of these stories, if nothing else, has shown that the cure is worse than the disease: the putative "victims" (the young women) are being met with the full fury of the law -- including threats to have them permanently labeled as sex offenders. The young men who are receiving the pictures are typically getting off with a wrist slap (no pun intended).

Nobody is denying that sexting is generally a foolish thing to do, but that applies to a lot of teenage behavior. Given that I don't actually have a problem with teenage sexual activity (so long as it is safe, consensual, and uncoerced), it is difficult for me to justify this reaction based on anything but the catch-all of slut-shaming young women.

It's All So Confusing

Oh, if only the feminists never came around. Then kids wouldn't be blaming Rihanna for being abused by her boyfriend.
What has happened — and what Rihanna and Chris have to do with Gloria and us — is that by inventing oppression where there is none and remaking woman in man’s image, as the sexual and feminist revolutions have done, we’ve confused everyone. The reaction those kids had was unnatural. It’s natural for us to expect men to protect women, and for women to expect some level of physical protection. But in post-modern America, those natural gender roles have been beaten by academics and political rhetoric and the occasional modern woman being offended by having a door opened for her. The result is confusion.

I'm not sure what work "natural" is doing here (or "post-modern", for that matter, but that's a common theme in conservative writing), but there doesn't seem to be any warrant for why "women are equal" should correspond to "blame women for being beaten." We "expect" men to protect women? What does that even mean? Historically, it means putting women "not on a pedestal but in a cage", as Justice Brennan put it. Historical masculine "protection" of women meant protecting their own exclusive rights to women, which, quite often, included their exclusive right to act violently against them -- through deprivation, through beatings, and through rape. What history is K-Lo reading where this traditional masculine paradigm didn't manifest itself in horrific violence towards women, particular in the home? And always this violence was justified either as the "natural" right of man to "his" woman's body, or as the proper response to "his" woman's obstinacy. Always.

Via Feministing.

Is it the Silence or the Speaking?

Jacob Shrybman gives his account of a presentation he attempted to give at Chicago's DePaul University detailing the experiences of Israelis who live in Sderot:
When I welcomed the custom of a question and answer period following my presentation, the very right of free speech that I welcomed to the audience of now over 100 people was thrown in my face and denied to me. First, an audience member verbally attacked me, expressed his support for the firing of rockets into Israel, and ended his anti-Semitic rhetoric filled rant with a question irrelevant to anything in my presentation. I then pointed out to the audience the same fact I want to point out in this article, that this person was not simply criticizing Israel but was clearly expressing his support for a terrorist organization.

Yet before I could finish answering the question, I was interrupted and silenced by the overwhelming Hamas supporters. Next, another audience member stood up and screamed out, calling me a “dirty whore” in Arabic and proceeding to grab his crotch and scream “Here’s your Qassam!” in Arabic.

Shrybman refers to this event as stifling his free speech. To me, that distracts from the issue. So much of the Israel/Palestine debate devolves into dueling accusations of "silencing" that I am now automatically leery of these sort of "free speech claims". Is aggressively hostile questioning during a Q&A session, after the presentation had concluding, a free speech violation (presumably in the moral, not legal, sense)? I dunno, maybe -- Shrybman seems to feel he was not actually allowed to answer the questions and that he was drowned out by a crowd that simply wanted to scream hate.

And that's the problem. As much as I care about open dialogue and norms of communication -- and I do, very much -- the content does matter. I'm less concerned that the conversation broke down here than I am by the fact that some members of the DePaul community engaged in anti-Semitic rants, vulgar threats, and at one point (according to Shrybman) "laughed at raw footage of kindergarten children running for shelter as a Qassam was fired at their city." In other words, the problem is that certain members of the DePaul community have become infected with a sickness -- a moral failure of imagination that lets them pronounce hate and cheer death and consider themselves righteous all the while.

Get Well Soon

I just wanted to send some well wishes to my friend Jeremy, currently deployed in Iraq, who suffered a concussion and an array of minor injuries after an IED exploded several meters away from his position. He got off relatively light -- the brunt of the explosion was taken by an Iraqi army comrade standing next to him, who is currently in stable condition. Jeremy seems to be recovering well, and knowing him he's itching to get back onto the front lines with his platoon (though he was slated to be transferred to a less combative position anyway -- coordinating battalion actions during the evening when the normal leadership is asleep). Knowing his wife, she's less than thrilled at his gung-ho attitude.

Anyway, best wishes to Jeremy to make a full recovery (and also to the unknown Iraqi Army Captain who may have unwittingly saved his life). We're all thinking of you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Hard Road Before Sheikh Nasser a-Din al-Masri

When I was younger, I used to wonder why there wasn't a Palestinian equivalent to the Israeli peace movement. Israel had Meretz and groups like Peace Now -- where were they in Palestine? Palestinian politics, in my mind, was a battle between different varieties of terrorists: secular Fatah, Islamist Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Marxist PFLP and DFLP. It wasn't so much that I expected every Palestinian to adopt a Meretz-like line so much as the seeming lack of political diversity that confused and frightened me.

These were the opinions of a young kid, and of course today I recognize them to be too simplistic and ill-informed. Nonetheless, there remains the nagging question of why the movement to create an independent Palestinian state has so persistently remained within the confines of violent struggle?

Gershom Gorenberg (via) has a fabulous essay examining that precise question in, of all places, The Weekly Standard. It explores the idea of a Palestinian Gandhi or Martin Luther King -- the history of Palestinian nationalism, the persons promoting non-violent ideologies, and the barriers to seeing such a dream become reality. It is a stellar piece of work, and I highly recommend it.

There is one more obstacle to the emergence of a non-violent Palestinian resistance movement that Gorenberg doesn't really address. Palestinians want an independent state and an end to the Israeli occupation -- both just goals that persons worldwide ought support. But for some of them, including many of the political leaders, that is not all they want. Some want to destroy the state of Israel. Some want to slaughter the Jewish inhabitants. Some might be willing to allow Jewish inhabitants, subject to Palestinian domination or Islamic theocracy. Some might settle for expelling the Jews (or the "Zionist" Jews -- the Jews who can't trace their ancestry in Israel/Palestine prior to some arbitrary date). These goals, of course, should not be supported by anyone concerned with justice or progressivism. The general problem is that these agenda items bleed together: when Hamas kidnapped an IDF soldier, were they trying to advance the goal of ending the occupation, or killing off the Jews? The answer is: both. The trouble is, I can support one, but I'm obligated to abhor the other.

Whatever support I have for the creation of a Palestinian state is tempered by the fact that -- even outside the tactics they use to achieve the goal -- many of the people pursuing such an outcome are also pursuing much darker and ignoble ends; ones I cannot support; ones that put my very life in peril were they to come to pass. And unfortunately, the tactics for the former are applied equally to pursue the latter.

When it comes to non-violence, however, the mixture of laudable and terrible ends does more than just muddy the waters -- it is outright poison. While Gandhi's satyagraha may have succeeded in getting the British to leave India, he never extended the principle to see if it could get them to leave London as well. I'm skeptical the expansion would have met with much success.

The point isn't to undermine the possibility of a Palestinian non-violent resistant developing. I believe one can, and I sincerely hope it does. The point is that the viability of such a movement will depend on disentangling various Palestinian political aspirations -- some of which are the sort which could be worthy heirs of King and Gandhi's legacy, and others which are nightmarish inversions of them.

And It's Out of the Music

The Palestinian youth orchestra that serenaded Israeli Holocaust survivors has been roundly condemned by local Palestinian authorities for its trip, and has now officially been disbanded by the local PLO, whose officers claim the Holocaust is "political" and that the children were being "exploited" by the orchestra director.

Khaled Abu Toameh reports:
Adnan al-Hinda, director of the Popular Committee for Services in the Jenin refugee camp, said that the participation of the children in the concert was a "dangerous matter" because it was directed against the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians.

He accused "suspicious elements" of being behind the Holon event, saying they were seeking to "impact the national culture of the young generation and cast doubt about the heroism and resistance of the residents of the camp during the Israeli invasion in April 2002."

It was a small good thing. Now, it is just another victory for the forces of hate over the forces of peace.

Myth-ing Authors

Virtually every time I go into a book store, I check to see if a new installment of Robert Asprin's "MythAdventures" has come out. The Myth series is a light-hearted fantasy comedy, filled with whimsical humor and (very, very) bad puns. I've been reading it since my 5th grade teacher introduced it to me when I was 10.

Coming home for spring break, I ducked into a book store to buy a gift for Jill, and, as is custom, I looked to see if any new books had come out. And, to my delight, not just one but two new stories (both co-written with his relatively recent collaborator, Jody Lynn Nye) were on the shelf. I happily purchased both (along with Jill's gift of course), and brought them home.

I finished the first book before Jill arrived, but the second, Myth-Fortunes (what did I say about bad puns?) had to wait until my plane ride back to Chicago. I felt a little bit silly -- there is no denying the Myth series is a children's series, and I generally take a bit of pride in reading some footnoted academic tome while traveling. But at the end of the book (which I quite enjoyed), there was an epilogue. It turns out that series creator Robert Asprin had died suddenly last summer. He was 61.

For some reason, this hit me quite hard. I've read Asprin's work (including his Phule series, though less religiously) for a long time -- it is one of the few continuous links between what I do today and what I enjoyed as a child. Growing older means those sorts of links begin to die, in this case literally.

Nye indicated that she will likely continue the series on her own. That's good -- I still want to hear more about the adventures of Skeeve and the gang. But still, it is a bitter pill that one of my favorite authors has passed away.

RIP, Robert Asprin.