Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Rosetta Stone of English Departments Everywhere

SEK in the comments to this post: "If I learned one thing in grad school, it's that if it's longer than it is wide, it's a penis."

I, Too, am Seismic Shock

British Reverend threatens bloggers who dare talk about his links to anti-Semites and authoritarian thugs. Specifically, he threatens to "report them" to the police if he is labeled anti-Semitic. It's an affront to free speech, an abuse of police resources, and an affront to freedom.

Israel Set to Present Its Goldstone Rebuttal

Ha'aretz has the report that Israel is preparing to issue its rebuttal to the UN. I noted several weeks back that we should expect that some of Judge Goldstone's allegations would turn out to be inaccurate, not because of any malfeasance on his part, but simply because (for better or for worse) Israel did not cooperate with his investigation, meaning that much potentially exculpatory evidence was withheld from him. It looks like the report Israel is going to issue will include much of this evidence.

Whether or not we should ultimately judge this process as a serious one or not depends on what happens yet. It is almost undoubtedly true that some of the Goldstone allegations will turn out to be relatively conclusively wrong. It is also almost undoubtedly true that some of the Goldstone allegations which Israel will be contesting in its report will still have legs. What we would hope to see, then, is Judge Goldstone (and the relevant UN bodies) taking precisely that stance -- withdrawing certain claims, and digging in on others. It doesn't have to be debasing; he could say something like the following:
"Based on the evidence presented in this report, I am satisfied that the events that transpired on X date in Y location were within the bounds of accepted military practice. We regret that it could not be included in our findings, but this evidence was not made available to the commission at the time of its report, despite our efforts to secure Israel's cooperation. We reiterate our disappointment that Israel did not participate in our inquiry; as this example indicates, their non-participation unfortunately barred the committee from ascertaining the fullest, most accurate account possible of the events in question."

I'm not sure whether Judge Goldstone will react to this -- I continue to believe there were at least some admirable qualities undergirding why he took on this mission, but there is no doubt he feels burned by the response and I suspect he believes a substantial amount of his international credibility now rests on defending his report to the death. This is his legacy, for better or for worse, and he will not be remembered well if his legacy is "that report which he later admitted wildly exaggerated Israel's culpability for war crimes" (by pro-Israel loyalists for issuing the report, by anti-Israel partisans for admitting its shortcomings). I guess we'll see. As for the relevant UN bodies, well, them I have no hope for, because for them this was never about fairness or human rights to begin with -- there is no reason to suspect they'll change that now.

If It Means Some Infinitesimal Portion of the FRC's Tax Dollars Go To An Abortion, I'm All For It

John Cole gets a push poll from the FRC (the FRC push polls? But they're so moral and upright!) with such questions as "Do you support taxpayer funded abortions", "Do you support cuts of up to 50% in medicare in the Pelosi/Reid/Obama healthcare plan", and "Do you support backroom deals to pass the Pelosi/Reid/Obama healthcare plan?"

Chavez, Morales, and Robertson Duke It Out

For supremacy in the idiotic comments about Haiti contest. We've already discussed Robertson's contribution. Here's Morales:
President Evo Morales said Wednesday that Bolivia would seek U.N. condemnation of what he called the U.S. military occupation of earthquake-stricken Haiti. "The United States cannot use a natural disaster to militarily occupy Haiti," he told reporters at the presidential palace.

"Haiti doesn't need more blood," Morales added, implying that the militarized U.S. humanitarian mission could lead to bloodshed. His criticism echoed that of fellow leftist, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who said Sunday that "it appears the gringos are militarily occupying Haiti."

When asked Wednesday about the possibility of the U.N. General Assembly condemning the U.S., assembly spokesman Jean Viktor Nkolo pointed to previous U.N. statements expressing gratitude for U.S. help in Haiti.

The United Nations will soon sign an agreement with the U.S. stipulating the U.N. as the lead organization for security in Haiti, Edmond Mulet, acting U.N. special envoy to Haiti, said Tuesday.

And here's Chavez:
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez Wednesday accused the United States of causing the destruction in Haiti by testing a 'tectonic weapon' to induce the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country last week.

President Chavez said the US was "playing God" by testing devices capable of creating eco-type catastrophes, the Spanish newspaper ABC quoted him as saying.

One thing that is missing from this "analysis" is why America has any particular interest in occupying Haiti. At least with Iraq, we have a facially plausible, though conspiratorial, interest in Iraq's oil (left unclear is why we couldn't just buy it from the Hussein regime, as he would have been quite glad to sell it to us). Haiti carries with it no such natural wealth; an occupation would be a massive expenditure of American resources (at a time when they are locked up in various other locations) for no apparent gain. I'm uncomfortable enough with bare materialist explanations for behavior (particularly when they are cast as a dualism: one side is materialist, the other side, of course, morally pure), but what we are supposed to imagine is that American's have some innate, pathological desire to control the world -- something in our national biology apparently turns us into sociopaths. We might describe such a view as racist.

UPDATE: The Chavez quote, at least, appears to be a fabrication that managed to get some legs in the global media. Interestingly, the statement was repeated both by anti-Chavez outlets like Fox News and pro-Chavez entities like Iran's Press TV, apparently because, as Harry's Place put it, it panders to the prejudices of both those who think Chavez is crazy, as well as those who think that America is.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In the Same Boat

A new Gallup poll concludes that the strongest predictor of anti-Muslim sentiment is ... anti-Jewish sentiment. Presumably, this indicates that both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiments still are primarily associated with the American right to far-right. The overlap doesn't really surprise me, though I'd be curious to see whether it is as extensive in Europe.

One thing I do wonder about, though, is reporting bias. Presumably, liberals who harbor negative feelings about Jews or Muslims are less likely to admit them, even to themselves, as such prejudice is dissonant with the prevailing self-image of what it means to be a good leftist. I doubt that Tom Hickey, for example, would be keen on confessing anti-Jewish prejudice, even to a pollster.

But taking the poll at face value (and to be clear, I feel reasonable in asserting that the poll captures a goodly portion of the social positions of Jews and Muslims in America), it does reinforce something Jews have known ever since we set foot on these shores: the only way to insure our security, is to insure the security of all vulnerable minorities here. Anytime America looks poised to create another division between "real" and "fake" Americans, Jews are at risk of falling into the latter camp. We're all in the same boat here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Fun in Denials

We already saw one walkback of what had seemed to be a breakthrough between Israel and one of its more implacable foes when the Iranian government denied one of its ministers shook hands with his Israeli counterpart at a conference. Today, we saw a similar dynamic with Hamas. The Jerusalem Post had a report claiming that Hamas' top West Bank representative signaled his willingness to nullify Hamas' anti-Semitic charter and recognize Israel's existence:
During the meeting in Hebron, [Aziz] Dwaik stressed that other Hamas leaders, including Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, have voiced support for the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 boundaries.

"The [Hamas] charter was drafted more than 20 years ago," Dwaik noted, adding that his movement would even be prepared to "nullify" the document.

"No one wants to throw anyone into the sea," he said.

That would be good news. Unfortunately, Hamas immediately issued a furious denial, so who knows what's going on. A mistaken report by the JPost? A misunderstanding by Mr. Dwaik's interlocutor? A Hamas official who got too far ahead of himself and was slapped back into line? An example of double-speak -- one set of words for western audiences, and another for domestic consumption? So much ambiguity, so little time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can You See Color in a White Ball?

A new professional basketball league is starting up: the All-American Basketball Alliance (AABA). What distinguishes it from the NBA, you might ask? Lack of Black people!
A new professional basketball league called the All-American Basketball Alliance (AABA) sent out a press release on Sunday saying that it intends to start its inaugural season in June, with teams in 12 U.S. cities. However, the AABA is different from other sports leagues because only players who are “natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”

But don't worry! He says he's not racist, which, as we all know, is a failproof way of determining that someone is not racist:
“There’s nothing hatred about what we’re doing,” he said. “I don’t hate anyone of color. But people of white, American-born citizens are in the minority now. Here’s a league for white players to play fundamental basketball, which they like.” [...]

He pointed out recent incidents in the NBA, including Gilbert Arenas’ indefinite suspension after bringing guns into the Washington Wizards locker room, as examples of fans’ dissatisfaction with the way current professional sports are run.

“Would you want to go to the game and worry about a player flipping you off or attacking you in the stands or grabbing their crotch?” he said. “That’s the culture today, and in a free country we should have the right to move ourselves in a better direction.”

Nope, not racist at all. He just is forming an "all-American" all-White group (you'd think that'd be a contradiction), to play "fundamental basketball" (as distinguished from its "street ball" variant), as a way for White people to express their superior, "better" culture.

Hat tip to a certain ex-blogger whose Facebook account makes me think he's having trouble staying out of the game.

UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks it's a hoax. The thought crossed my mind as well.

Another Greeting

A few weeks ago, a top Iranian soccer official resigned after his body accidentally sent a greeting to their Israeli counterparts. This, on the other hand, looks far less accidental:
Israel's Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov made unlikely history in Madrid on Wednesday when he shook the hand of an Iranian tourism representative, Israel Radio reported.

The two found themselves face to face at a reception in Madrid with the Spanish Royal family.

Previously, when confronted with Israelis, Iranian officials have shunned contact. In the past, Iran has even pulled out of sporting tournaments to avoid encounters with Israeli athletes.

This time the Iranian representative, who like Misezhnikov, was visiting Madrid for a trade fair, surprised the Israeli minister and grasped his hand before inviting him to visit Iran.

Misezhnikov, who also visited the Egyptian, Jordanian and Moroccan stalls at the fair, replied that tourism could be a "bridge for peace" and that he looked forward to the day when all Israelis could visit Iran.

That was pretty clearly intentional. But what does it mean?

One possibility is a thawing, however slight, of Iran's hardline position towards Israel. That I doubt.

Another, somewhat more likely, is that this demonstrates weakness in Iran's government flowing out of their recent electoral repression, such that more and more government officials feel comfortable breaking from the official line.

A third, related interpretation is that openness to Israel of any form is understood in Iran as a repudiation of Ahmadinejad -- it is a way for dissident officials to signal their distance from the regime, or, more crudely, show their disdain for it.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this -- particularly if the Iranian official is forced, like his soccer peer, to resign.

UPDATE: Or there's option #4: denying it ever happened.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mufti Pronouncement

The Mufti of Syria has a message of peace between Jews and Muslims:
Syria's foremost Muslim leader declared on Tuesday that Islam commands its followers to protect Judaism, according to Army Radio.

"If the Prophet Mohammed had asked me to deem Christians or Jews heretics, I would have deemed Mohammed himself a heretic," Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun, the Mufti of Syria, was quoted as telling a delegation of American academics visiting Damascus.

Hassoun, the leader of Syria's majority Sunni Muslim community, also told the delegates that Islam was a religion of peace, adding: "If Mohammed had commanded us to kill people, I would have told him he was not a prophet."


Monday, January 18, 2010

Livni: I'll Face Arrest in the UK

Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Kadima), who held a key position in Israel's government during Operation Cast Lead, has announced she is willing to stand trial in the UK to settle, once and for all, the war crimes claims against her (and by extension, against the government of Israel).
Tzipi Livni, leader of a key Israeli opposition party, said Monday she would be willing to face arrest to challenge the validity of war crimes charges reportedly filed against her in a British court.

"For me, this is not a question," Livni told CNN's Christiane Amanpour, when asked whether she was willing to face arrest. "I mean, yes, the answer is yes. I am."

A British court last year issued an arrest warrant for Livni, leader of Israel's Kadima Party. Details of the warrant were never made public; the warrant was reportedly later dropped.

"I would like this to be, in a way, maybe even a test case, because I'm willing to speak up and to speak about the military operation in Gaza Strip," Livni said.

Livni had served as Israel's foreign minister during an Israeli three-week military offensive against Hamas in Gaza that ended exactly one year ago. The United Nations and some human-rights groups have blamed Israel and Hamas for human rights abuses during the conflict.

But Livni, who is no longer in the Israeli government, defended the former government's decision to go to war, saying that the campaign was needed to confront rocket attacks by Palestinian movement Hamas on Israeli civilians, particularly those living in southern Israel.

"I know that the decisions that we made were crucial to give an answer to Israeli civilians that couldn't live in the south part of Israel and later or even also in different parts of Israel," she said.

"It was part of my responsibility, and this was the right answer. And I'm willing to stand for these reasons and to explain this to -- to the world and to any court."

A bit early for the trial of the century, no? But in reality, I expect this is simply another step in a high-stakes game of chicken. The UK doesn't want this trial to go off anymore than Israel does. It's the diplomatic equivalent of a hand grenade being tossed about. At some point, the train will be derailed.

Happy MLK Day!

Here at Chicago, we celebrate holidays, so I have the day off. Hope everyone is having a relaxing, rejuvenating day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Abominable Snowmen

Massive, massive, Calvin & Hobbes-inspired win:

I Feel Better about that "C" in Spanish Class

An inquiry into some of the world's most difficult languages. Via early Debate Link fan Random Scrub.

Martirosyan Tops Ouma

If you're hungering for some of my vaunting boxing coverage, I recapped last night's bout between rising star Vanes Martirosyan and former beltholder Kassim Ouma. It wasn't a robbery, per se, but Vanes won by scorecards that I thought were pretty wide, particularly given that I had the fight scored for Ouma 96-93.

Fruits and Vegetables

A student newspaper at Notre Dame has issued an apology after running a cartoon with the following punchline:
"How do you turn a fruit into a vegetable?"

"No idea."

"With a baseball bat."

Here is the apology:
The editors of The Observer would like to publicly apologize for the publication of “The Mobile Party” in the Jan. 13 edition. The burden of responsibility ultimately lies on us for allowing it to go to print. 
There is no excuse that can be given and nothing that can be said to reverse the damage that has already been done by this egregious error in judgment. 

Allowing this cruel and hateful comic a place on our pages disgraced those values and severely hurt members of our Notre Dame family — our classmates, our friends. For this, we sincerely apologize. Unfortunately, the language of hate is an everyday reality in our society.”

The South Bend Tribune has the most complete coverage I've seen. Via Andrew Sullivan.