Saturday, May 23, 2009

Biographical Tidbit

I knew of Judge Thomas Buergenthal as the American member of the ICJ and the only dissenter to the ICJ's ruling that Israel's security barrier violated international law. Judge Buergenthal's argument was predicated on the fact that the court did not have the requisite factual record before it to determine whether Israel's legitimate security considerations warranted the building of the barrier (he did not say they necessarily did, only that without critical absent facts it was impossible to make a determination on that crucial issue); hence, he believed the court should have declined its discretionary jurisdiction. I remember when reading the original opinion how annoyed I was at the degree to which it brushed aside these concerns, and I was pleased at least one judge had the temerity to stand up and call it out. (Incidentally, for an opinion concurring in the judgment that I nonetheless found illuminating at the time and today, see the separate opinion of Judge Higgins).

In any event, I knew that. I did not know that Judge Buergenthal was also a Holocaust survivor. I imagine that experience is one that informs his jurisprudence -- I can't imagine it didn't in the ICJ separation barrier case.

New Tagline?

"'Meta' is our motto." Holla atcha, Gerard.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Daniel Doron: Neo-Colonialist

Daniel Doron writes in opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state:
But should not the establishment of such a state--which the Europeans so strongly promote--adhere to the European Union's 1993 Copenhagen Political Criteria for new members, which states, "Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities"?

Not unless Palestine is applying for membership in the EU, no. This has been my edition of simple answers to simple fundamentally idiotic questions.

The idea that political rights are something you "earn" through sufficient social advancement is an idea we discredited not one but two centuries ago. Recognition of one's rights should never be considered an "unreasonable" demand to make. It is something that should come with the territory, if you will. I find it a moral violation when Palestinian and Arab states refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist as constituted by its citizens (that is, as a Jewish state). But I have no grounds to assert the wrongness of that belief if I am not willing to affirm that claim equally for the Palestinians: that Palestine has a right -- a right just as unconditional as Israel's -- to exist. You can affirm that and still say that we need to negotiate our way to a settlement (though I support unilateral disengagement and recognition, with negotiations proceeding from there -- I'd prefer this dispute to be one of borders between nations). But you have to affirm the basic right.

And this puts me in a quandary, because right now the Israeli Prime Minister (in contrast to the opposition) does not recognize this right. He flatly opposes a Palestinian state. Not that the time isn't ripe, not that "we can't do it now". He rejects Palestine's right to exist. That's wrong. And unless you're willing to say it is wrong, you don't have grounds to complain when the Palestinian Authority takes the same position.

Doron, for his part, vacillates between opposing a Palestinian state flatly and implying, as he does above, that they need to meet requisite standards of political maturity before it is established. They are different positions, but it doesn't really matter. There is a name for putting a people under the occupation and political control of an external sovereign, of whom they are not citizens and have limited political, social, and legal rights, until such time as they are deemed enlightened enough to be worthy of self-governance. Its name is colonialism, and its track record is not good. Doron seems to specifically want Israel to be a colonial power.

Remind me what pro-Israel means again?

Such Bravery! Such Courage!

Phoebe Maltz rocks the house in her analysis of what Roger Cohen wants. Namely, Roger Cohen wants to create a binary between crazed, over-sensitive, parochial, psychologically damaged, neurotic Jews (i.e., every anti-Semite's stereotype of Jews), and ... him. The voice of reason. The sane one. The one who has nuance.

But since that isn't the actual state of the world -- since there are many Jews of many political persuasions who nevertheless see many shades of gray -- Cohen has to fiat folks into his little box. And in doing so, he makes it well-nigh impossible to have a conversation; what with any criticism immediately becoming fodder for how brave he is to stand up to the ravenous, mindless (but impressively coordinated!) mainstream Jewish horde.

Waterboarding. Is. Torture

Why aren't we clear yet?

The Effects of Overpunishment

An interest I've been developing recently is the connection between moral criticism and punishment. Specifically, what happens when we criticize too harshly? Are their moral costs to such behavior? Does it have any predictable negative effects we want to take into account?

On the subject, I give you an excerpt from A.C. Ewing that I personally found illuminating. Concluding that "We may ... regard punishment as a kind of language intended to express moral disapproval" (paralleling my argument that criticism is the "punishment of first resort"), he writes:
To punish a lesser crime more severely than a greater would be either to suggest to men's minds that the former was worse when it was not, or, if they could not accept this, to bring the penal law in some degree into discredit or ridicule. One of the requirements of a good moral code is that there should be a right proportion between values, and, in so far as penal laws affect popular morality, they ought to help and not hinder right judgment in this matter. This is not to fall back on the old retributive conception that a certain amount of pain intrinsically fits a certain degree of moral badness. [M]oral condemnation of [murders] can only be suitably expressed by inflicting a severer punishment for them than for [thefts]; but this would not be an objection to lowering the penalty for both, because there is no necessarily fixed scale that we can see by which so much guilt deserves so much pain. There is another bad effect of disproportionate punishments. [I]f a man is very severely punished for a comparatively slight offence, people will be liable to forget about his crime and think only of his sufferings, so that he appears to be a victim of cruel laws, and the whole process, instead of reaffirming the law and intensifying men's consciousness that the kind of act punished is wrong, will have the opposite effect of casting discredit on the law and making the action of the lawbreaker appear excusable or even almost heroic. These punishments are specially liable to produce an effect of this sort on their victim. He will be likely to think the penalty excessive in any case, and the great danger of punishment is that this will lead to self-pity and despair, or anger and bitterness, instead of repentance, but if he has really good grounds for complaint, this danger will be doubled.

A.C. Ewing, A Study of Punishment II: Punishment as Viewed by the Philosopher, 21 Canadian B. Rev. 102, 115-116 (1943).

This supplements quite well some of the points I made in the above post. First, that the justifiability of a given punishment is inherently relational to how we punish other offenders: it's not that there is an objective amount of "pain" we should give to thieves or murderers, it's simply that murderers should be punished more than thieves. The complaints of those who ask why Israel is "singled-out" for greater vitriol than, say, Burma or China, are based on a similar moral intuition: they don't necessarily object to raising the amount of criticism we direct to human rights violators across the board, they merely demand that the judgments actually correspond to a reasonable hierarchy of violation.

Second, I think it is very clear that the perception by Israel of being excessively punished is sparking a similar reaction to that predicted by Ewing: namely, "self-pity and despair, anger and bitterness". And there is a corresponding tendency amongst Israel's supporters to label even clearly wrongful acts by Israel as excusable or heroic because they are thumb in the eye of the groups engaging in over-criticism. One can see this dynamic in Palestine too, I think: excessive Israeli punishment (e.g., house demolitions for not getting building permits) leads many to see even clearly wrongful Palestinian acts as "excusable or even almost heroic".

Henry Waxman: Legislative God

Fascinating Washington Monthly profile about one of Washington's most talented (and, if you're a Republican, most feared) legislators.

Somebody was a Policy Kid

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) abandoned his threat to have his whole amendment to the climate change bill read, but he wanted to hear a taste of the speed-reader Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) hired first. He didn't disappoint.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Delete or Not to Delete?

Someone just left a string of anti-Semitic comments on an old post of mine. It is one of those posts that still gets a reasonable amount of traffic because it ranks high on some apparently popular google searches. So, do I delete the comments?

Part of me wants to leave them up for posterity's sake. But I've become attuned to how hideous comment trolling can really affect people's sense of well-being on the internet, and I don't want to contribute (particularly since random folks who aren't regular readers might come across the post). Advice?

With These Hands

Under the stellar headline "Real Men Don't Take Dictation", the XX Factor blog points to a study that tries to examine why low-skilled men drop out of the work force in droves when economies transition from manufacturing to service focused. The short answer is that men feel these jobs conflict with their conception of masculinity -- in contrast to their old work of making or building or mining things, the new service jobs are more focused on deference, emotion, caring, and understanding.

File this under "patriarchy hurts men too".

UPDATE: The article might be behind a pay wall -- I don't know. But it is really good.

A Date with the Hate

As you're no doubt aware by now, police have arrested four men who allegedly attempted to bomb some New York synagogues. Though the FBI was apparently quite on the ball regarding this plot and nobody was ever in true danger, obviously it is a very scary thing for the Jewish community in America, and reinforces how even here we are vulnerable to anti-Semitic terrorism and violence.

Or are we? Harry's Place notes that under the prevailing logic employed by many who embrace a hard distinction between "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitic", it would be quite logical to deny that the bomb plot was anti-Semitic at all -- or at most, was only incidentally anti-Semitic. Though recognizing that their advocacy is taken to be hostile by a disproportionate amount of Jews, and their policy proposals would have massive disparate impact against Jews, the anti-Zionists declare that because their advocacy is fundamentally targeted at Israel, and not Jews, there is no anti-Semitism present. Jews who oppose Israel are quite welcome.

These bombers, too, apparently saw their agenda as politically motivated as against American military actions in the Middle East. And in addition to targeting the synagogues, apparently the terrorists also planned on attacking American military jets. Jews were targeted not necessarily qua Jews, but in their supposed capacity as supporters of these putatively unjust policies.
But if the attackers are perceived to be driven by anger over Israel, then for many anti-Zionists who share that premise – who perhaps hate Israel themselves and recognise the urge to act on that hatred, but would never do so – then the firebombing of a synagogue is a crime, for sure, but not a hate crime; there is no bigotry, just a mistaken politics; no antisemitism, no need for anti-racist solidarity and certainly no need for Zionism and Israel. I am yet to see anyone try to explain the attempted bombing of a synagogue in New York as an understandable, though misguided, expression of anger about Israel. But I won’t be surprised if someone does.

I haven't seen any reporting on the attackers' views on Israel, as opposed to American foreign policy more generally. It wouldn't surprise me if they were quite opposed, but it really is irrelevant for the point here -- replace "Israel" with "America" and it works quite as well (and with that modification, the claim has been made).

The crime is still a crime, but it isn't a hate crime, because the problem wasn't the underlying politics (which are conceded potentially legitimate) but rather either the over-extension or misattribution of it. This framework, with its focus on perpetrators instead of victims, pays little heed to the effects of these sorts of crimes and plots as Jews experience them. When folks are trying to bomb our synagogues or rocketing our towns or promoting genocide of our people, the precise political location of the attackers is not what is on our minds. There is a degree to which Jews feel abandoned in the face of this hate by the left, and the reason is that the left hasn't quite come to the consensus about whether this counts as hate or not.

The Tiers of a Conservative

ATL asked a prominent conservative activist to "rank" Obama's nominees in terms of most acceptable to least acceptable. With the exception of a Kagan/Sullivan inversion, the tiers seem amazingly tied to which candidates are seen as the most likely nominees:
In the first tier -- consisting of the most problematic nominees, with "judicial activism guaranteed" -- Levey listed three: Judge Sonia Sotomayor, of the Second Circuit; Judge Diane Wood, of the Seventh Circuit; and Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School (and one of the most famous failers of the California bar exam, along with this guy).

For the second tier -- containing nominees who are still "very liberal," but might have some respect for the rule of law, "if only because they haven't proved otherwise yet" -- Levey mentioned three: Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm; and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Finally, in the third tier, Levey mentioned two names: Justice Leah Ward Sears, of the Georgia Supreme Court, and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, of the Ninth Circuit. He described Justice Sears and Judge Wardlaw as jurists who have at least "shown some respect for the rule of law."

We're going to see some sad little kids in the very near future.

Victory on MPIRG

With the votes tallied, the "no on MPIRG" campaign has won a crushing upset victory, 321-847. This is obviously a huge victory, and my congratulations to those who organized and led the campaign.

I sent an email to some of the MPIRG staffers asking them for comment. I laid my cards on the table about where I had come down on the referendum. But now that the election is over, I want to reiterate what I said in my piece: MPIRG is a democratic organization; ideally, it should take this resounding message by the voters of Carleton to heart as it evaluates how to grow and change from here.

MPIRG has the potential to be a great progressive backbone once more. But it will only get there if it takes seriously the concerns of its student members and gives them the space and respect necessary to do their jobs. It should not have come this far, but hopefully last night's elections were a wake up call.

I'll let you know what response, if any, MPIRG had to my inquiry.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rutgers' Rejects

Congratulations to Imani Perry, who will be leaving Rutgers-Newark Law School to take up a position at Princeton University's Center for African American Studies. A great and well-deserved honor, to be sure.

We last saw Prof. Perry on this blog when she eviscerated her colleague Michael Livingston's suggestion that the school was being compromised by affirmative action hires ("people other than the best candidates"). Prof. Perry was too polite to explicitly note that her own credentials seem to be, if anything, superior to Livingston's, but I showed no such forbearance (Cornell undergrad plus Yale law is trumped by Yale undergrad plus Harvard J.D./Ph.D). And while Prof. Livingston is still hanging out at Rutgers, the woman he implied was unqualified to grace his academic halls will be departing for Princeton. Ah, come-uppance is a glorious thing.

* The post title is undoubtedly unfair -- I have no knowledge that Prof. Livingston's rudeness was common to the Rutgers-Newark faculty, or that they didn't by and large have anything but the highest respect for Prof. Perry and her fellow colleagues of color.

Let Vick Play

I was annoyed with the hyperbolic hatred directed at Michael Vick when he was being prosecuted (which isn't to say I thought he should escape punishment), and unfortunately tempers do not seem to have dissipated with time. So let me just endorse Roland Martin's column top-to-bottom, but particularly this line: "Frankly, I'm sick of Americans who talk all day about 'do the crime, then do the time,' then still want to treat a man like a criminal when he gets out of prison."

As Martin says, there are plenty of reasonable restrictions we might impose on Vick post-prison that are related to his particular offense (such as a prohibition on owning dogs). But seeing as his offense had nothing to do with football, there is no reason to block him from earning a living in his chosen profession. Particularly given the number of pro-athletes facing far more serious charges (such as spousal abuse) who continue to play with little to no objection from the public, the idea that Vick represents some uniquely horrible case just verifies the cynical observation that we'd have sent the 82nd Airborne to Darfur years ago if we only knew that dogs were among the victims of the genocide.

Don't Cry For Me, Argentina

Harry's Place has the story on violent activities by a far-left Argentinian group, who assaulted a pro-Israel march in Buenos Aires. Five members of the gang, possibly affiliated with the Revolutionary Action Front, were arrested, and an investigation revealed they possessed arms and bombs in possible preparation for a more severe attack.

In response to the attacks, 200 leftists rallied in protest ... of the arrest of the attackers. Sickening.

Barak Talks Tough to Settlers

Speaking before the Yesha Council (an umbrella group for Israeli settlers), Defense Minister Ehud Barak said flat out that the Israeli government will dismantle illegal outposts, and "If it won't be through understanding, it will be done quickly and by force." Barak said that this was simply a matter of the rule of law -- and he's right. But the fact that these settlements are a tremendous injustice and barrier to peace is also worth noting.


When debating America's stance towards the death penalty, an argument often trotted out is the company we keep: our death penalty policy is most closely aligned with such luminous states as Iran and China. But there is another area of punishment in which America truly does stand alone. As of 2008, there were 2,381 child offenders who were serving life sentences without parole in the United States. This is out a worldwide total of .... 2,381. The United States of America is the only place in the entire world to sentence juveniles -- some as young as 13, many convicted of crimes other than homicide -- to this punishment.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Quote of the Evening

It's from that most intriguing Supreme Court Justice:
A system that does not hold individuals accountable for their harmful acts treats them as less than full citizens. In such a world, people are reduced to the status of children or, even worse, treated as thoug they are animals without a soul. There may be a hard lesson here: In the face of injustice on the part of society, it is natural and easy to demand recompense or a dispensation from conventional norms. But all to often, doing so involves the individual accepting diminished responsibility for his future. Does the acceptance of diminished responsibility assure that the human spirit will not rise above the tragedies of one's existence? When we demand something from our oppressors -- more lenient standards of conduct, for example -- are we merely going from a state of slavery to a more deceptive, but equally destructive, state of dependency?

Clarence Thomas, "Crime and Punishment -- and Personal Responsibility," The National Times, Sept. 1994, at 31

Oral Argument Roundup

I did mock oral arguments today (the case was essentially: "Google books gets sued by authors for copyright infringement." I represented the authors.). It was quite the flashback to high school debate -- right down to the universal consensus that "you speak way too fast!" Oh, the memories. But it seemed like substance-wise, the judges liked what they heard, and I like to think that's what counts.


A grade school choir sings Eye of the Tiger.

My friend Julia, who tragically abandoned a respectable debater's path to become an astrophysicist (how embarrassing!), has signed on to write for the new blog A Scientist and a Woman. Her first post takes a look at a paper I sent her that examines how having female professors impacts female STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) students.

Former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is set to take a high ranking position in that nation's government. Khalilzad was born in the US but as an Afghan citizen.

Meanwhile, with Bill Clinton being named UN special envoy to Haiti and Canadian-born Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) floated as a SCOTUS candidate, folks are talking about the new "post-citizenship/post-sovereigntist age of governance and leadership."

Ha'aretz: Settlements a bigger problem for Netanyahu than two-state solution is.

Noting that we are on pace to see more women than men in the workforce, Melissa Murray & Darren Rosenblum argue that we should tailor our economic recovery plans to harness the some XX power.

A Rare Pair

I feel like there are few more incongruous groupings than Lubavitcher Hasidim and Tamil Tiger sympathizers. But there you go.


Though not the type myself, most of my friends at Carleton were deeply integrated in Carleton organizing and activist community. So I was surprised when many of them told me they were opposing the renewal of MPIRG's (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group) automatic refundable funding program. I was even more surprised to find out that the very persons whom I had known as MPIRG leaders on campus were the same people leading the charge to defund it.

But the reason I was surprised is the same reason I take these people seriously. And their indictment is a serious one. MPIRG, they argue, is wasting Carleton student funds on overhead and salaries that could be put to better use on campus. MPIRG has set its agenda with an eye towards bigger chapters in the Twin Cities, while ignoring the goals, desires, and priorities of Carleton students. More damningly, they have dealt with the students they are supposedly "representing" in an arrogant and high-handed manner, effectively ousting several long-time student organizers, prompting a massive turnover in MPIRG's Carleton leadership as many of the group's longest-standing members left in solidarity. Those people -- who had direct experience with what MPIRG has and hasn't been doing -- have come to the conclusion that it's time for Carleton students to take control of their own destinies. The old MPIRG would have taken this groundswell of popular discontent as a signal. The MPIRG we have seems to see it as insolence.

MPIRG hasn't taken these charges lying down. And they are certainly entitled to state their case. But unfortunately, their argument seems to be high on mud-slinging and political tricks, and light on substance. They implied that the constructively dismissed student leaders had engaged in harassment -- a vile slander of some of Carleton's most hard-working activists. They took credit for the accomplishments of the very organizers they successfully pushed out of the group. And unfortunately, they've only brought more of the same to this campaign: bringing in their professional organizers to tear down opposition posters, accost students in class, and illegally place posters in campus bathrooms (in violation of election rules). I wonder if MPIRG supports EFCA -- for it certainly seems that their commitment to fair and deliberative democratic process is, at best, a fickle thing.

I know the students who are leading the anti-MPIRG fight. They are an incredibly accomplished group of activists who show the full breadth of Carleton's talents and ingenuity. If they feel stifled by MPIRG, I believe them. If they believe MPIRG is poisoning their efforts to enact progressive social change, I believe them. If they feel that MPIRG has been disrespectful of Carleton students and Carleton values, I believe them.

MPIRG proclaims itself to be a democratic organization. Democratic theorists will tell you that democratic organizations respond to one and only one type of pressure: that of the voting booth. So long as MPIRG thinks it can maintain the blind support of the student body without a corresponding commitment to humility, engagement, and respect, we can't be surprised when it doesn't enact those values. You make MPIRG better by sending it a message: shape up, or ship out. Vote no on MPIRG.

More on the "no" campaign can be found here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Jewish First

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the first African-American female Rabbi will be taking the pulpit at a Conservative congregation in Greenville, North Carolina.
She will be the first African-American rabbi to lead a majority white congregation, despite the fact that about 20 percent of the American Jewish community is ethnically and racially diverse, according to the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

Stanton's ordination will provide young black Jewish Americans "with an important role model," says Diane Tobin, associate director of the institute. "Hopefully over time they will see themselves reflected in the community."

Via Ilya Somin, who asks what that 20% figure means in this context. It seems pretty clear that it refers to non-Ashkenazi Jews of all stripes, which from an American Jewish perspective is the minority group.

Your Plan is Losing

Right now, the prevailing thrust of the Republican plan to rescue itself from irrelevancy is that they need to become even more purer. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) expressed the agenda in particularly inane fashion by saying "our plan is freedom" (after declaring he'd prefer 30 Senators "with principles" than 60 "who had none"), and declaring that "The federal government is too big, takes too much of our money, and makes too many of our decisions." Though objectively speaking neither DeMint nor other orthodox Republicans have the slightest interest in reducing government (ask your local woman or gay person for their thoughts on the matter), even interpreting it charitably -- that is, a strategy centered around less government spending, a reduced safety net, and economic intervention, it looks like -- surprise -- it's still a loser.

That's the response rate for the under-30 crowd -- the very demographic group that will rule American politics in the future, as well as the one voted "most likely to hate the GOP with the fury of a thousands suns". As Yglesias notes, typically the emergent Republican problem with younger voters is cast in terms of social differences (they loathe gay people, we don't). But it seems to be that the chasm is much broader than that, and represents a wholesale repudiation of Republican ideology up and down the political map.

Voluntary Appearance

A Darfuri rebel commander, indicted by the ICC for war crimes, has shown up voluntarily in The Hague to face prosecution.
Bahr Idriss Abu Garda spoke only briefly during his short court appearance at The Hague, to thank the court.

Garda surrendered himself to the court voluntarily.

His spokesman said earlier he was not guilty and that he had come to The Hague to show an unwavering commitment to justice.

"We know how innocent he is. After the court, he will be freed. He will return to Darfur to continue his struggle," said Tadjadine Bechirniam, communications director for Garda.
"There should be no immunity for anyone. We show our commitment to justice, to support justice for people in Darfur and Sudan," Bechirniam said in explaining why Garda is voluntarily appearing before the court. Garda believes in the court's independence, his spokesman said.

This is a daring move, and one obviously meant to highlight the distinction between the rebel groups (willing to face responsibility and the rule of law), and the Sudanese government (defiant and flouting its legal obligations). Of course, if Garda is convicted all PR gains might be lost.

Meanwhile, from the vantage point of the ICC this is a rarity isn't it? Most (not all, of course) of the time when someone is summoned before an American criminal court, they voluntarily appear. The ICC, by contrast, is normally ignored, and its targets tend to adopt a "catch me if you can" posture. One defendant (acting out of political calculations) won't change that, but it is a development worth noting.

More from Kevin Jon Heller (who, among other things, highlights the hypocrisy of some of the local African states in this little drama).

Writer's Block

The internet is dead to me. Maybe things will pick up later.

Reverse Nuremberg

This one's been flying around the internet, but I want to link too:
We’ve got what amounts to a reverse Nuremberg defense, where Bush administration officials are let off the hook because they were only giving orders. I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Plurality of Israelis Think Obama Even-Handed

The Jerusalem Post headlines it "31% of Israelis call Obama pro-Israel", but that's slightly misleading: the poll appears to measure whether Israelis consider Obama slanted in their favor, in favor of the Palestinians, or neutral. 40% chose "neutral", versus the aforementioned 31% "pro-Israel" and 14% "pro-Palestinian". Read that way, there is very little conflict with a previous poll mentioned in the article giving Obama a 60% approval rating -- after all, only 14% of Israelis think he is biased against them.

Since I believe that the destinies of Israel and Palestine are inextricably linked and a pro-peace agenda is in the interests of both nations, I would hope that Obama is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. But since "both" apparently wasn't an option, I'd settle for "neutral".

UPDATE: Funny thing. The Ha'aretz coverage of the same poll emphasizes some different questions. The 57% of Israelis who think Netanyahu should accede to a two-state solution when he meets with Obama this week (including 40% of Likud voters!). Or the 55% who think Netanyahu is as bad or worse than ex-PM Ehud Olmert (whose approval ratings, Ha'aretz helpfully reminds us, dipped into single digits). Indeed, the only major government figure to have unabashedly positive approvals was none other than Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the dovish Labor Party. His ratings were 60% positive to only 27% negative. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, by contrast, clocked in at a rather dismal 31/45.

All in all, pretty heartening figures for the Israeli peace camp.

Tiger Down

It looks like the Sri Lankan government has managed to completely crush the Tamil Tiger insurgency. It did so with a ruthlessness and disdain for civilian casualties that makes Cast Lead look like a training exercise, but such is the world we live in. For all the talk about how we step so lightly around Israel, there is almost no doubt that the global community keeps it on a shorter leash than any other nation engaging in counter-insurgency operations. Whether we should loosen our standards on Israel, or tighten them everywhere else, is an open question. Sri Lanka does seem to be a point in favor of Give War a Chance, but, much like with torture or the suicide bombings of the Tamils and Hamas, "it works" isn't always a good enough reason to let things fly.

But what's done is done. Robert Farley gives his military perspective -- he really seems to think this could be the end for the LTTE in its current form (though he doesn't rule out a reorganization stemming from the Tamil diaspora). At the very least though, it may give the Sri Lankan government the breathing space it needs to negotiate a settlement. Hopefully, it will take the chance, rather than re-entrenching the grievances that led the Tamils to revolt in the first place.