Friday, February 19, 2010

Good Luck, Man

Alas points me to the comics of Keith Knight, including this one of famed hockey enforcer Georges Laraque.

The video referenced is here, and yeah, it's pretty hilarious:

You Gotta Throw an Elbow Sometimes

I have no idea if this will work or even accomplishes anything useful, but I have to think it got the bank's attention:
Hoskins said he's been in a struggle with RiverHills Bank over his Clermont County home for nearly a decade, a struggle that was coming to an end as the bank began foreclosure proceedings on his $350,000 home.

"When I see I owe $160,000 on a home valued at $350,000, and someone decides they want to take it – no, I wasn't going to stand for that, so I took it down," Hoskins said.
Hoskins said he'd gotten a $170,000 offer from someone to pay off the house, but the bank refused, saying they could get more from selling it in foreclosure.

Hoskins told News 5's Courtis Fuller that he issued the bank an ultimatum.

"I'll tear it down before I let you take it," Hoskins told them.

And that's exactly what Hoskins did.

Sometimes, one elbow is enough. Here -- I'm doubtful.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Very Targeted Assassinations

One major shift we've seen from the Bush to Obama administration is an increase in targeted strikes successfully killing al-Qaeda terrorists. Most people consider this a good thing, though a few die-hard Obama haters are annoyed that we aren't capturing and sending them to Gitmo instead. But by and large, we consider this an example of a step forward in the war against al-Qaeda.

The recent assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, possibly (though not assuredly) at the hands of Israel, has not raised similar cries of pleasure. Indeed, it seems to be seen as some sort of mini-scandal. This despite the fact that this manner of eliminating a known terrorist resulted in precisely zero civilian casualties, property damage, or serious negative effect whatsoever. I seriously object to some of the policies endorsed here, but Sonny Bunch has a point when he writes:
I mean, look, I’m all in favor of lobbing missiles at terrorists from airplanes; it’d be nice to capture them alive and get some info out of them via harsh interrogations, but a Tomahawk up the keister works just as well as far as I’m concerned. But then you get all the hemming and hawing about “Oh, we’re just creating more terrorists when we accidentally kill an innocent bystander.” Well, there’s none of that here, is there? The guy was traced to his hotel room, zapped with a stun gun, and smothered to death. Quick and easy. If only all terrorists could meet the same fate.

I don't endorse torturing anybody, and I don't endorse recklessly lobbing missiles at terrorists without regard to the surrounding civilian population (though that doesn't mean no collateral damage is acceptable). Nonetheless, from within the framework folks say they judge Israel within (accepting its right to self-defense, but urging it to do more to avoid collective punishment and civilian hardship), this really was the ideal killing. At least, Alan Dershowitz writes, that was seemingly Judge Goldstone's view on things:
The Goldstone report suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in his interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists engaged in the firing of rockets. Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate, retail and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Not only was Mabhouh the commander in charge of Hamas' unlawful military actions at the time of his death, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and coldblooded murder of two Israeli soldiers several years earlier.

Not putting any words in Judge Goldstone's mouth -- he may have no problem with the killing of Mr. Mabhouh -- but the global community hardly seems to be taking this stance. One gets the distinct sense it's damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Broomball Roundup

They play with weak-sauce rules here at Chicago, but I'm just excited to retake the ice.

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Early reports of a possible coup attempt in Niger.

Crazed South Carolina state Rep. wants to eliminate the use of US currency in his state.

Given that I don't drink at all, I found Alyssa Rosenberg's story of how she learned to drink surprisingly fascinating. Then again, she is just a really good writer.

BBC interviewee: One million Jews are secretly available to aid Mossad assassins.

Phoebe Maltz says she's too tired to give thoughts on the Wieseltier/Sullivan quasi-anti-Semitism throw-down, but even her exhausted contribution is pretty spot-on. Still, you should scope the older, longer version.

It must be tough being a news writer who can't even rely on he said/she said. Sometimes, one side is just wrong.

Whaling protesters as pirates?

This strikes me as pretty thin gruel in terms of a benefit for joining the UNHRC.

Israeli foreign ministry apologizes for snubbing J Street-linked American Congressman. This is yet another case of Deputy FM Danny Ayalon unilaterally embarrassing his country.

A Loose Coalition of Arguments

Stephen Walt makes an interesting two-step in defending his claims regarding the "Israel Lobby's" influence in getting America to go to war in Iraq. First, he dilutes the hypothesis so much that it ceases to have virtually any normative punch, but becomes descriptively banal. Then, having established that banality, he dresses it back up as something shocking, disturbing, and pernicious, for which we should be thankful to have bold truthsayers like Walt pulling back the curtain.

The first thing Walt does is blur together necessary and sufficient conditions. He asks us to consider what Andrew Sullivan calls a "powerful counter-factual":
What if Bush and Cheney had independently dreamed up the idea of invading Iraq after 9/11, but the plan was openly questioned by Israel, AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and the ADL, on the grounds that it might lead to a quagmire and maybe even strengthen Iran? What if these groups had openly opposed the war, or just quietly pushed for an genuine debate on different options, or simply remained on the sidelines and let members of Congress know that they had their doubts? What if their counsels of restraint had been reinforced by similarly prudent advice from respected think-tanks like the Saban Center at Brookings, the American Enterprise Institute or the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)? What if staunchly pro-Israel pundits like Charles Krauthammer, Max Boot, Kenneth Pollack, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Thomas Friedman, among others, had spent 2002 raising questions about the wisdom of an attack, or arguing as passionately against the war as they did in favor of it? It's possible that Bush & Co. still might have been able to stampede the country to war, but surely it would have been much harder.

In other words, if a large quantity of important beltway players supporting the Iraq War had taken the opposite stance, the push for war would have been considerably more difficult. Ladies and gentleman, consider my mind officially blown. It never occurred to me that major reversals in political support would have political consequences. Of course, one can tell the same story about, inter alia, the Evangelical right, or the congressional Republican leadership. Nobody disputes that "neoconservatives" (who are not synonymous with "the Israel Lobby" -- particularly given the expansive definition Walt provides that I'll discuss below) were in favor of the war in Iraq. What's supposed to be controversial is that they were essentially sufficient to get America to go to war. A claim that they were a necessary part of the pro-war coalition is utterly banal. If important elements of the pro-war coalition were not, in fact, pro-war, the pro-war position would suffer. Yes, duh. Can I get a book deal now?

Now let's go to Walt's, shall we say, expansive definition of the Israel Lobby. It isn't just formal lobbying organizations like AIPAC. Nope, it is
a "loose coalition" of individuals and groups that actively works to promote and defend the "special relationship" between the United States and Israel (i.e., the policy of generous and unconditional U.S. support). Having a favorable view of Israel or generally pro-Israel attitude doesn't make someone part of the Israel lobby; to qualify, a person or group has to devote a significant portion of time, effort or money to promoting that "special relationship."

You may note that this definition is amorphous to the point of incoherency. A "special relationship" isn't the same thing as a policy of "unconditional U.S. support". Many of the folks he characterizes as unquestionably part of The Lobby would, I think, hotly dispute that they are in favor of "unconditional support" for Israel. To "devote a significant portion of time, effort or money" to promote this vague vision is a standard begging for scholarly manipulation.

Indeed, as best I can tell, this standard is just double-speak for "people who publicly advocate views on Israel Stephen Walt disagrees with". It hardly restricts itself to uncritical allies of Israel -- elsewhere in the piece Walt completely gives up the ghost by characterizing J Street and Americans for Peace Now as part of The Lobby under this definition. Now, I speak as a staunch supporter of J Street when I point out that there is no conceivable world in which it is uniformly uncritical of Israel. That is, bluntly, a bizarre claim. If everyone to the right of Jewish Voice for Peace (which is, literally, where Walt places the border) who speaks out on Israel is part of the Israel Lobby, the term encompasses nearly the totality of the American Jewish community. A community which, we might point out, was disproportionately opposed to the Iraq War.

Third, even conceding that it makes sense to speak of the Israel Lobby in Walt's broad, messy brushstrokes, he still falls into a trap we've seen before: that folks who hold a particular set of views on Israel (that Walt finds distasteful) can't possibly hold any other policy positions. Everything that they say, do, or advocate for has to stem, ultimately, from determinations of Israel's best interest. And that's clearly false (and offensive). The absolute most generous interpretation of Walt's evidence is establishing a correlation between Israel Lobby views and support for the Iraq War. But this doesn't imply any sort of causation, and as Andrew Sullivan himself noted, in 2003 he'd have qualified as part of the Israel Lobby under Walt's definition, yet his support had nothing to do with Israel in all "but a peripheral sense." At most, Sullivan writes, "Israel was one factor, if one of the least prominent ones, in their [the neo-conservatives] case."

And Walt's essentially concedes this. Turning back to the testimony of Tony Blair which sparked this debate in the first place, he writes:
I made it clear in my post that Blair's comments were not a "smoking gun" that proved we were right, and I neither suggested nor implied that Blair's testimony demonstrated that Bush went to war at Israel's urging or to accommodate the Israel lobby. I merely noted that Blair had said that concerns about Israel were part of the discussion, and that Israeli officials were consulted as part of the conversation. Indeed, after summarizing Blair's testimony, I wrote:
Notice that Blair is not saying that Israel dreamed up the idea of attacking Iraq or that Bush was bent on war solely to benefit Israel or even to appease the Israel lobby here at home. But Blair is acknowledging that concerns about Israel were part of the equation, and that the Israeli government was being actively consulted in the planning for the war."

Yeah, that's pretty peripheral if you ask me. Indeed, to characterize this as even remotely mendacious is absurd. "Concerns about Israel were part of the equation"! You're kidding me! You're telling me that, in determining whether to take a relatively major foreign policy operation (say, invading a country), we including in our deliberations considerations about how the shockwaves would affect regional entities particularly vulnerable to the reverberations? How irresponsible! Clearly, the only patriotic approach is to adopt an appropriate, devil-may-care attitude to how launching a war would affect other countries in the region.

So what are we left with. It's hard to say, mostly because the inconsistent definition Walt provides for the Israel Lobby defies cohesive analysis. But at worst, we have (1) Actors who take certain views on Israel that Walt finds disagreeable (2) were part of a pro-war political coalition, which would (naturally) suffer if they weren't part of it (which is somewhat implicit in the notion of a coalition) (3) whose support for the war seems to have stemmed from policy stances entirely independent of their views on Israel but (4) may have acted to insure that Israeli concerns were "part of the equation" in the deliberations over war.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February Blues Roundup

I've been feeling very tired these past few weeks -- both physically and academically. Someone said I had the "February blues", which depresses me (paradox!) because I like February. I find winter to be a beautiful season, and February contains my birthday.

Anyway, I think I might be snapping out of it a little. So that's good.

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Write your very own incendiary blog post

Is Citizens United the perfect wedge issue for Democrats? Answer: Only if they can muster the balls to really take on corporate power.

More race-baiting in the 9th congressional district. Fortunately, this electorate in this district has proven itself against these sorts of campaign tactics -- though Cohen's opponent poses easily the toughest challenge of his congressional career.

New Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) reverses non-discrimination protections for gay state workers.

Fortunately, the American people are moving in the right direction on gay rights.

And the Jewish Council on Public Affairs is also set to endorse DADT repeal.

Arizona's proposed rule barring all use of foreign or religious law in state court adjudication is unbelievably stupid.

Jon Chait eviscerates the principle-less Harold Ford.

What drives the tea party movement? The fact that affluent conservative White men don't like President Obama or his policies. Wow -- shocking political development.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT): 9/11 troofer?

And THIS is How You Repay Us?

The former premier of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad -- a key player in the red-brown-green alliance uniting over anti-Semitism -- got some negative press coverage recently for a speech in which, among other things, he said the following:
Jews “had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom,” Mahathir said.

“Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world.”

A Malaysian paper reported on the remarks, but accidentally omitted "in European countries". An incensed Mr. Mohamad wrote a letter to the editor correcting the mistake, and adding the following:
I would like to point out that in the past when Europeans confined (the Jews) to ghettos, and periodically massacred (them), they used to seek refuge in Muslim countries (of North Africa and the Ottoman empire).

They couldn't have gone there if Muslim countries were less hospitable than the Europeans. Even today, Jews live in Muslim countries including in Iran. It was only after the US welcomed the Jews that they ceased to migrate to Muslim countries.

For the hospitality of the Muslim countries, they were repaid by the Zionists by seizing Palestine to create the state of Israel. Not content with seizing Arab land, they went on to expel the largely Muslim Palestinian [sic].

All that I say here can be verified by the history books of Europe. If Muslims are antagonistic towards the Jews today, it is because of the way the Jews repaid them for their hospitality.

As Judeosphere put it: "So, to clarify—we control the world and we’re ingrates."

It is quite true that many Muslim nations were more hospitable to Jews than their European colleagues throughout the last millenia (though not for all of it, and certainly they still weren't treated as equals). One might note, however, that hundreds of thousands of Jews felt it necessary to flee these countries in the mid-20th century, as that "hospitality" turned with astounding rapidity into rabid, genocidal hatred. Indicating, perhaps, that this wasn't exactly a paradise of equality to begin with.

Regardless, I think it is quite telling that this is all presented as a favor done to the Jewish people -- something we should be grateful for. "Yeah ... we tried not massacring Jews at the first opportunity, and the bastards still complained about unfair treatment! See if we ever make that mistake again!"

As obviously abhorrent as such a stance is, I think there are two elements to it that need to be teased out and given emphasis. The first is how clearly it indicates the danger of such things as a "one-state" solution. Mr. Mohamad's argument, in essence, is that they (Muslims) tried being nice to the Jews, and they've proven they can't be trusted. Given that outlook, it is pretty apparent that reverting to a situation in which Jews are under foreign domination is one unlikely to be result in the (largely mythical) equal treatment that Mr. Mohamad now considers failed policy. Second, it demonstrates the thinness of Mr. Mohamad's conception of just treatment of Jews. Anything that extends beyond "periodic massacres" is "hospitality" -- not even something Jews can demand as of right, but a favor that we should be grateful for. From within that framework, is it any wonder that even relatively basic, fundamental human rights claims made by Jews are looked upon with disdain by Mr. Mohamad and his cohort? It's way beyond what Jews have any right to claim. Pushy Jews -- we give and give and give, and they still want things like self-determination. Schmucks.

More Jewish than the Jews, Take 43

The legal questions in this case (via), involving a restraining order preventing a Catholic father from exposing his daughter to non-Jewish religious influences (the mother is Jewish), are extremely complex, and raise a number of tough issues from both a moral and doctrinal point of view. That being said, I feel perfectly free in calling the father a dick for his snotty supersessionist view of the Christian-Jewish relationship.
"Catholicism falls right under the umbrella of Judaism."

A court is scheduled to rule today on whether or not Reyes violated the temporary restraining order barring him from "exposing his daughter to any other religion than the Jewish religion" for 30 days. While the restraining order is highly unusual, Reyes obviously knew he wasn't supposed to take her to church, even if he was, "taking her to hear the teachings of perhaps the most prominent Jewish rabbi in the history of this great planet of ours."

Seriously -- can Christians stop doing this? Catholicism is not "under the umbrella of Judaism" -- a particularly obnoxious claim given the centuries we have spent under the jackboot of Catholicism (and Protestantism, to be fair).

We're separate religions. There are some commonalities of tradition. But Judaism and Christianity are, at this point, quite distinct. And more importantly, given the degree to which Christian anti-Semitic oppression has historically flowed from supersessionist ideology, it's really important for Christians who purport to be interested in egalitarian interfaith dynamics to back off this appropriation, and let us have our independent space.

Palin's a Partisan? No!

The CNN link currently reads as "Ticker: Palin gives surprising advice". But the advice itself really isn't that surprising:
"Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party," Palin said at an Arkansas GOP fundraising event Tuesday, according to CBS News.

"Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they're going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: 'R' or 'D'."

Trying to get the tea party movement to integrate itself in the Republican Party makes perfect sense for someone who is trying to be the new leader of the Republican Party. More people makes the GOP more powerful. More people who are specifically and notably sympathetic to Gov. Palin in the Republican Party is clearly in Palin's interest. What on earth could possibly be surprising about this?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Like Living in a Dadaist Hell

For someone who really thinks policy discussions and political deliberations, this exemplifies why I have so much trouble following the path of debate anymore. I mean, what's the point? It's so utterly disconnected from reality -- or even the day before -- that I'd go insane even trying.

It's Just Not Coming To Me

I have a terrible case of writer's block. I'm sorry -- I'm really at a loss. I'm not even seeing roundup material.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ron Paul Mourns Loss of Great Anti-Semite

Adam Holland has the story. Paul has always attracted fringe figures in American politics -- some because they're just strange, some because they're genuinely dangerous. Suffice to say, the pro-Paul movement comes at the expense of Jewish safety in the United States.

Bayh Retires

I have a speechwriter friend who I guess is now out of a job. Senator Bayh is blaming excessive partisanship as his reason for departure. Kos calls bullshit, but I don't know -- I think that Bayh simply didn't know how to adjust to the current legislative climate where Republicans are willing to block everything, and didn't really care to learn. Regardless, this sets up a very tough hold for the Big D Machine.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Your Parts Seem To Check Out. Marry Me?

After being turned down in her effort to marry her long-time partner, Kitty Lambert turned to the crowd and asked any willing man to step forward and marry her. A gay man agreed, they presented the proper documentation, and voila! Marriage.

I'm pretty sure this was staged, but it's still a pretty vivid demonstration of the sex discrimination element latent in anti-gay marriage laws.