Saturday, April 02, 2011

Goldstone Reassesses

The blogosphere is abuzz over Judge Richard Goldstone's reconsideration of his commission's report on Operation Cast Lead. Judge Goldstone, more or less, states that he's satisfied with the results of Israel's investigation into the accusations, that he no longer believes Israel can fairly be accused of targeting civilians as a matter of policy, and that he regrets that Israel did not cooperate with his commission's inquiry, as the evidence they have mustered would have substantially changed their conclusions. I had wondered what Judge Goldstone thought of Israel's ongoing investigations, and now we have our answers.

Jeffrey Goldberg calls this admission "as shocking as it is unexpected". I'm not sure I agree. I actually think it coheres pretty well to my read on Judge Goldstone as an arch-formalist. One of the things Judge Goldstone reemphasized in his reappraisal was that his investigation was not and was not meant to be "judicial" (in that it wasn't meant to offer definitive conclusions, only raise issues worthy of investigation). I observed that, technically true or not, Judge Goldstone was "the only person on the planet who hasn't taken the report as a definitive pronouncement of guilt and innocence." Ditto Judge Goldstone's clear disappointment that Hamas has not investigated the war crimes accusations against it, and the UNHRC's marked unwillingness to hold human rights violations against Israelis accountable. I remarked at the time that Judge Goldstone's surprise at these omissions is genuine if incredibly naive, and I think that's still accurate.

My line on Goldstone had always been that the problems in his report were structural, not the result of a malignant heart. It was Goldstone's determination to play a straight hand in a marked deck that was his undoing. Judge Goldstone was trying his level best, but there was no way to have a full and fair investigation -- no matter how diligent one is at crossing t's and dotting i's -- when the propagating party is the UNHRC and the investigation occurs within a context (the international legal community) that is shot through with bias and prejudice. There seems to be some belated realization by Judge Goldstone that this is true, but I fear it is for naught. Like his original report, his mea culpa is too legalistic to have much of an impact -- it is, shall we say, unlikely that the UN will accede to PM Netanyahu's demand that the original report be retracted in the wake of Judge Goldstone's recantation. We are, and always were, in the realm of politics, not law. Judge Goldstone tried as hard as he could to imagine that was not so, but there is no way to extract oneself in cases such as this. His colleagues in the system understood the game, and he got rolled.

I imagine some will question the reliability of Judge Goldstone's change of heart. We are, after all, dealing with the full weight and fury of the global Zionist monster -- Judge Goldstone could have simply finally cracked under the pressure. This strikes me as extremely unlikely. The Goldstone report had, frankly, fallen out of the news. It wasn't a story anymore, and the Jewish and pro-Israel community had moved on. This op-ed came out of the blue, and it is hard to imagine what leverage the Israel Lobby had over Judge Goldstone yesterday that outweighed the incredible fire he took in the immediate aftermath of the report's release. It's also difficult to imagine that Judge Goldstone's reputation or place in history will change all that much even with this op-ed. His legacy, for better or for worse, is tied to that report.

And even beyond what we think of Judge Goldstone, there is a larger sense in which this all doesn't matter. Nobody expects the folks who were Goldstone's greatest cheerleaders to reassess their evaluation of Israel's conduct. The people who excoriated may have an extra rhetorical arrow in their quiver, but they don't really need him either -- he's simply belatedly affirming the position they took all along. The world will spin on as normal. When the system is as badly broken as the UN's human rights apparatus is, it takes a far more herculean effort to see real change than what we see here.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Wisconsin Woman Charged with Bomb Threats

A Wisconsin woman who allegedly sent messages to GOP lawmakers threatening to bomb them and their families has been arrested.

Utterly unacceptable, thuggish behavior that deserves the full legal sanction available.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iron Range

Ohio is about to pass a Wisconsin-like union-busting bill. And Democrats, who can force a referendum on the law before it goes into effect, are spitting for a fight.

The referendum will be held in November of 2011. And while some folks aren't thrilled about that (a few more days and the contest would be in November of 2012 -- alongside a likely more Democrat-friendly electorate aided by President Obama), the Daily Kos is stoked at the early race.

And while I agree with the particulars of their analysis (strike while the iron is hot, clear attention to this one issue, forces GOP presidential contenders to take a stand during the primaries), what I'm more hyped about is the enthusiasm. After a demoralizing 2010, the Democratic base is fired up. And that sort of enthusiasm, more than anything else, is symbolic of a political movement making a comeback.

Village Idiot

Michelle Bachmann posing next to a sign which reads: "Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its idiot."

Alas, somewhere in Anoka, Minnesota, they still have theirs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Numbered Days

After Israeli police responded in force to violent settlers stoning officers sent to arrest a resident of Givat Ronen, Israeli MK Michael Ben Ari of the far-right National Union party compared the Israeli government to that of Muammar Gaddafi (a comparison I doubt either party appreciates):
Following the West Bank clashes Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said: "Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch must remember he's not Gaddafi and that any regime that acts violently towards its citizens, beating, humiliating and punishing them collectively – his days are numbered."

Can we get over the illusion that Ben Ari is anything but an enemy of the state? It's the sort of statement that I almost wish Ben Ari would try to back up -- the folks Ben Ari represents are an existential threat to the long-term security of the state of Israel, and there needs to be (dare I say) a "price tag" put upon their thuggish, illiberal, and frankly seditious activities.

Meme Alert

"With notably rare exceptions (the Holocaust, for example), Europe has been very friendly to the Jews."

Alan Greenspan, defending the system of unrestrained capitalism:
Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.

Henry Farrell proclaims the birth of a new meme.
It’s best not to interpret this as an empirical claim, but a carefully-thought-out bid for Internet immortality. It has the sublime combination of supreme self-confidence and utter cluelessness of previously successful memes such as “I am aware of all Internet traditions” and the “argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care,” but with added Greenspanny goodness. I tried to think of useful variations on the way in to work this morning – “With notably rare exceptions, Russian Roulette is a fun, safe game for all the family to play,” and “With notably rare exceptions, (the Third Punic War for example), the Carthaginian war machine was extremely successful,” but none do proper justice to the magnificence of the original. But then, that’s why we have commenters. Have at it.

The commenters, indeed, come through (with varying degrees of success). Contribute your own!

I think, incidentally, that the essence of this meme lies in the existence of a catastrophic exception to the "rule" being forwarded, which is waved away as something "notably rare" and thus irrelevant in our overall assessment, when, obviously, it shouldn't be. The proximity we came in 2008 to a global financial meltdown is hardly something that can just be shrugged off as exceptional just because there where many more years where we weren't on the brink of economic anarchy. That's like complaining that using the Holocaust to indict German anti-Semitism ignores all those years Jews weren't being put in gas chambers.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

It's been awhile since I took high school civics, but I think I recall the basics: The House and the Senate both have to pass it, and then the President signs it. There are some wrinkles involving vetoes and conference negotiations and whatnot, but the basics aren't too difficult.

Unless, apparently, you're the GOP Majority Leader in the House. Then a bill becomes a law solely upon action by the House, regardless of whether the Senate and President like it or not:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said at a press conference that Republicans would consider the Government Shutdown Prevention Act on Friday. The bill would make H.R. 1 law if the Senate fails to pass a measure “before April 6” to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. H.R. 1, which passed the House but has gone nowhere in the Senate, would fund the government through the end of September and seeks to cut $61 billion in spending.

Despite GOP claims to the contrary, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would not become law unless the Senate also approves it and the president signs it into law, neither of which is expected to occur.

In other basic checks-and-balances news, the Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General says that the state's new anti-union law is "absolutely" still in effect despite a state judge's restraining order blocking the law from going into effect (a temporary measure while the judge determines whether the passage of the law violated the state's open meetings requirement).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Liberation Transmissions

Herman Cain is telling conservative audiences exactly what they want to here, to wit, the ol' "Democrats are the true racists" game:
Cain then went on to say he thought liberals were upset with him "because I won't stay on the Democrat plantation like I'm supposed to."

"It may shock you but some black people can think for themselves," he added.

As Adam Serwer notes, the one audience whom this statement would go over like a stone is an audience of Black people. As Serwer observes:
Again, it's hard to imagine Cain talking like this to the average black audience, because the average black person doesn't really enjoy being compared to a slave. But it's the sort of thing white conservatives really eat up, which is why black conservatives often draw these kinds of comparisons.

Black people, I imagine, also don't like being told they mostly can't "think for themselves."

I have no doubt that Cain's conservatism is genuine. But if the idea behind promoting someone like Herman Cain is to show that the GOP is an inclusive place for Black people -- a place where their issues and concerns and beliefs will be taken seriously -- it's going to be an obvious failure. If the goal is to reassure the GOP's overwhelmingly White voting base that they're not racist, on the other hand, he's very useful.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Birth of a Monster

I'm really just thrilled that Donald Trump is (a) apparently serious about running for President under the GOP banner and (b) is going the full birther (and not just because he can't even manage to grandstand on it effectively). Trump is not a serious figure, but he has enough money to at least command attention in a GOP primary (and enough delusion to actually throw it away). Which means birtherism stays in the news as Republicans debate, and the Party can't dodge that it's a thing for them.

Anything that emphasizes to America that, hey, we're dealing with a Party that collectively has gone off the rails, is something good for not just Obama, but that entire Democratic Party in 2012.

UPDATE: Dave Weigel basically concurs.


The law review board officially turned over today. As of 12 noon, I am officially an ex-Articles Editor. Unofficially, we still have some work to do. But it's a milestone all the same.

Congratulations to the incoming board, all of whom will do a fabulous job I'm sure. And congratulations to the outgoing folks from Volume 78 -- I think, all in all, we did a fine job we can be proud of.