Saturday, April 09, 2011

Learning a Valuable Lesson

After an anti-tank rocket struck an Israeli school bus, Hamas is now claiming it didn't mean to hit a civilian target. They claim the road is often used by military vehicles (Israel points out the bus was bright yellow).

This reminds me of the brief period when Hamas was claiming that its rocket attacks during Cast Lead were also only hitting civilian targets accidentally. In response to Matt Yglesias' argument that this demonstrated at least a superficial belief that human rights norms were important -- a salutary step towards putting Hamas in dialogue with the broader human rights community -- I argued that this was better understood as an attempt to blur the "human rights" waters by accessing forms of discourse with proven legitimating force.

All forms of warfare cause civilian casualties. One of the critical distinctions Israel draws between itself and the terrorist groups it fights is that its civilian casualties are unintentional. So, Hamas thinks, why don't we just assert ours are unintentional too? Voila: moral parity!

The question isn't whether Hamas is serious in making this claim -- as Matt agreed last time around, their claims of accident are "transparent nonsense". I doubt even Hamas privately believes its rhetoric here (at best, they think they're just countering supposed Israeli disingenuous regarding their claims of non-intention). The problem is that bad-faith participation in human rights discourse is a proven successful tactic. The predecessor to Human Rights Watch was known as "Helsinki Watch", and its point wasn't to get the Soviet Union to sign human rights accords, but to try and create enforcement pressure on agreements already signed. If one looks at the body of human rights treaties floating around, nearly every country has signed them, because signing them is free credibility.

In any event, what I do see is Hamas taking another step forward in its abilities as a player in the global "lawfare" (in the broad sense) game. And that is most certainly not a good thing.

Apple of My Eye Roundup

In NYC for my cousin's wedding. Big weekend for her, and decently large one for me -- this is Jill's roll out to my dad's side of the family. Wish us luck!

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I don't care whether they're actually happy or not, if I were the Tea Party, I would have declared victory on the budget battle.

Former top NOMer comes out in favor of full marriage equality.

The first Democrat officially jumps into the recall race, taking on highly endangered state Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse).

I don't know whether anyone was thinking of reading Schools for Misrule based on David Bernstein's recommendation, but allow me to say: don't. It joins a Michael Moore volume as tied for the worst (and most nakedly hackish) non-fiction book I've ever read. And I'm someone who supports increased conservative representation in legal academia.

Can someone tell me what race-selective abortion even is? "Evidence shows that minorities are targeted for abortion" -- what, do they think African-American couples are getting pregnant, find out their baby will be Black, and are hoping for better luck next time? I find this utterly baffling.

Black student group condemns Israel-as-apartheid analogies. It's a group I haven't heard of -- it appears to be a grassroots organization centered on HBCUs, and has been strongly supported by AIPAC.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Prosser Retakes Lead, Waukesha County to the Rescue

After posting a tiny lead in the first count, Democrat JoAnne Kloppenburg has fallen behind incumbent David Prosser after 14,000 additional votes were found in conservative Waukesha County, netting him a gain of 7,000 (quite a lot, given that the margin between the two was hanging in the low triple digits).

Some folks have been having a lot of fun observing how the inevitable GOP cries of "fraud" have magically disappeared since Prosser retook the lead. Of course, hypocrisy tends to be a double-edged sword -- are Democrats who were formerly poo-pooing the fraud allegations now ready to storm the ramparts about the stolen election? To Daily Kos, responding to an announced state-level probe into the circumstances surrounding the newly discovered ballots:
[I]t's probably best not to get your hopes up about Kloppenburg potentially winning the campaign as a result of this probe. There are, as I noted earlier today, good reasons to believe that this was gross incompetence rather than fraud, even if the clerk and circumstances involved are extremely sketchy.

Hmm. That sounds ... amazingly mature. Imagine that. And I'm inclined to agree, incidentally -- rank incompetence strikes me as a far more likely explanation for these new votes than anything sinister.

In any event, since it looks extremely likely that Judge Prosser has retained his seat, I congratulate him on his hard-fought victory -- as well as to the Democratic and union organizers who managed to close a thirty point gap in the space of two months. This wasn't just Madison -- throughout the state of Wisconsin, there was strong and definitive movement in the blue direction that provides ample room to build upon as the recall races heat up.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Blog of Ratings: Women Don Draper Has Slept With

The Book of Ratings may be no more, but this blog carries on its spirit. Earlier, we did a series rating state mottoes. Today, we examine a more popular focus -- the women Don Draper of Mad Men has slept with. Tuck in, folks -- this will be a long one (even without including some of the more random obscure ones, like that flight attendant).


The first of Don's dames we're introduced to, even before his wife Betty, which is very appropriate. Midge represents the Beatnik world, and immediately provides a fun and whimsical counterpoise to Don's grim seriousness. She's in control of herself, and she's a carbon copy (in looks and attitude) of every Mary Louise Parker character ever (that's a major, major plus). Tragically, she makes her return to the show as a drug addict -- but the whole reason that has so much emotional punch is because we all love her so much and remember her happiness. Here's hoping she lands on her feet. B+.


Oh Betty. Chaotic evil personified, Betty Draper (now Francis) starts off as a very sympathetic character, given that Don treats her like a child and given, um, the topic of this list. But it soon becomes apparent that Betty basically is a child -- a malevolent, uncontrolled, petty, spiteful child (the actual child in the picture, Sally, on the other hand, is all manner of awesome). She doesn't know what she wants, but boy is she upset when she doesn't get it. I don't fault her for leaving Don -- who could? -- but I do find it baffling that she did so seemingly precisely as their relationship seemed to be improving dramatically. And poor Henry Francis -- you can tell he's only just realizing what he's gotten himself into. D.

Rachel Menken

Now we're talking. The Jew Power in me loves that the woman who easily the most all-around badass on the show -- yes, I'm including Joanie -- is a Jew. And not just in the "I ended up marrying someone named Katz" way, but an out-and-proud Jew who doesn't apologize for it. Rachel is smart, accomplished, in charge, smoking hot, and self-aware enough to cut Don loose when he's about to throw his entire life away. When Betty left Don, I was kind of hoping that Tilden Katz would get hit by a bus so they could get back together. Alas, no dice. A+.

Bobbie Barrett

If you took all of Don's evil qualities and added breast implants, you'd have Bobbie Barrett. Utterly amoral, her relationship with Don is basically paired sexual assaults mixed with self-destructive alcoholism. Yes, show, we get the symbolism of that. Anyway, Bobbie's relationship with Don has no redeeming qualities, though forcing her to stay with Peggy for awhile -- whose blinding light of earnest niceness manages to pierce even Bobbie's cynicism -- was fun to watch. But Bobbie herself has basically no redeeming qualities. The only things that prevents her from sinking below Betty are (a) she has a mind of her own and (b) we give at least grudging admiration to Don's negative qualities, so why not hers? D.


Okay, let's get one thing out the way: Joy is 21 in the same way that I'm 30. Alright, so Joy basically isn't a person so much as she is the incarnation of Don's sexual id -- unrestrained wealthy hedonism with no responsibilities or meaning. Joy is also perhaps the most prominent member of the club of women who basically demand Don sleep with them based on no more interaction than across-the-room eye contact. And her family probably smuggles drugs. This is precisely why Don was wise not ask questions, and eventually get the hell out of there. B-.

Ms. Farrell

There are many pluses to Ms. Farrell. Sally loves her, and she's a good teacher. She went to Bowdoin, which competes with Bates and Colby for the title "Carleton of Maine." And, oh yeah, she's basically a living saint. Which raises the question -- why does she fall for Don in the first place? It's established very early that she knows his game and knows it won't end well for her. And she actually manages to turn him down flat a few times. But then he gives her a full blast of Don-stare, and it's off with her dress. Ugh. I had such high hopes that you'd play a starring role in the (much smaller) "Blog of Ratings: Women Don Draper Hasn't Slept With" list. Alas. B.


It takes awhile, but Don finally dips into the secretarial pool. And I always liked Allison. She's competent, professional, understanding -- she's probably the best secretary qua secretary Don's ever had. So of course he treats her more cruelly than probably any of his other damsels, and she justifiably breaks one of his knick-knacks in fury. Serves him right. A-.

Dr. Faye Miller

Finally, another blond. Dr. Miller is certainly a step up from Betty. And I do like that her mob connections may see Don killed -- it's about time he actually suffered some consequences for his inability to form meaningful relationships. The main problem I have with Dr. Miller is that her introduction stymied a perfectly good opportunity to bring back that Austrian doctor who was so badass in Season 1. Also, I admit it's been awhile since I've seen Season 4, and my memory of the new doctor is a bit fuzzy. B+.


Megan's ... okay. She comes into the picture because of Allison's departure, and Allison is much cooler than Megan is. The best thing you can say about Megan is that Don's marriage proposal appears motivated by his belief that she'd make a good stepmom for his children, which is surprisingly noble of him (and fortunate, given that his original attraction to her was the standard commtiment-phobia thing against Dr. Faye). I don't have anything against Megan per se, it's just that when I make my list of "who should Don be married to, since Betty is a raging sociopath", she ranks pretty far down. B-.

Don Draper

Obviously, Don Draper is not a woman Don Draper has slept with. But it felt unfair to be grading all these women and yet let Don escape the critical gaze. For the main character of a show that prides itself on its verisimilitude, Don's ... kind of a parody, when you think about it. He's not just mysterious, he's got a back story that makes Harry Potter look plausible. He's not just sexy, women basically toss themselves into his bed approximately every 6 hours. He's smart, but he's benefited by being surrounded by idiots -- when Jill and I encounter a decent idea that's being promoted way above its candle power, one of us inevitably mumbles "It's called the Carousel." And that doesn't even go into his "mainstream" character flaws, like serial adultery. Still, he is dashingly handsome, and has some ability with words, I concede. B.

Twitter Debunks the "Israeli" Libyan Munitions

See here (keep clicking "load more" to read the whole story). Some munitions were found with an image of an umbrella (at first folks were saying a crescent) and a six-pointed star. The latter symbol had folks saying the weapons were Israeli-manufactured. Turns out, the umbrella is a parachute icon and the star is a symbol predating the existence of Israel indicating a flare round. The weapon itself was identified as an 81 mm illumination round, probably of Indian or British manufacture.

Alas, the story that Israel is supplying Qaddafi with weaponry has been making the rounds on al-Jazeera and PressTV.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Madison Versus the World

All ballots (minus absentees, I believe) have been tallied, and JoAnne Kloppenburg has pulled out an exceptionally tight, 200-vote-margin victory over incumbent David Prosser. The election was widely considered the first salvo in the recall fight sparked by Gov. Scott Walker's radical anti-union agenda, and Walker was eager to downplay what it all means for those races.
Gov. Scott Walker said this afternoon that the spring election results show there are "two very different worlds in this state."

"You've got a world driven by Madison, and a world driven by everybody else out across the majority of the rest of the state of Wisconsin," Walker said at a press conference in the Capitol.
Walker added that Justice Prosser's performance in many parts of the state bodes well for GOP senators who may face recall elections later this year.

"For those who believe it's a referendum, while it might have a statewide impact that we may lean one way or the other, it's largely driven by Madison, and to a lesser extent Milwaukee," the governor said. "But those Senate recall elections on both the Democrat and Republican side aren't being held in Madison, they aren't being held in Milwaukee."

The problem is that this doesn't actually tell the story of yesterday's contest at all. While Madison and (to a lesser extent) Milwaukee are key Democratic strongholds, it is not those two cities versus the rest of the state. Much the opposite: it's those two cities versus Milwaukee's suburbs, with the rest of the state being far more swingy than one might expect.

Look at this results map. Obviously, large chunks of Kloppenburg's margins came from Milwaukee and Madison (Dane County), though actually the bluest parts of the state are in the northwest corner. Meanwhile, the darkest red swaths are Ozaukee, Washington, and Waukesha counties -- the Milwaukee suburbs. Beyond that, the divide is not Madison versus the rest of the state, but east and west -- the eastern part of the state being more conservative, the western portions more liberal.

And while Walker's right that the recall elections aren't occurring in Madison, they're not occurring in Waukesha either. None of the five most vulnerable Republican state senators -- the five with re-elects under 50% -- are anywhere near Milwaukee. Dan Kapanke's district is in southwest Wisconsin, anchored in LaCrosse -- a pretty blue area. Self-inflicted wounds notwithstanding, Randy Hopper's geographically in good shape, with the help of the GOP stronghold of Fond du Lac. Luther Olson is right on the border of where red meets blue, with conservative Waushara and Waupaca counties alongside more liberal climes in Columbia and Sauk counties. Shawano, Outagamie, and Brown counties are all red, which is good news for Rob Cowles, but Sheila Harsdorf is like Olson in that her district straddles a red/blue divide (here, where Pierce and Dunn counties meet St. Croix and Polk, plus Burnett).

This isn't to say this is terrible terrain for the GOP (except for Kapanke, who may well be toast). But just as Democrats aren't operating out of their home base in Madison, Republicans aren't on their strongest Milwaukee metro turf either. If Walker thinks he can chalk this race up to Madison saving the liberal day, he's got another thing coming.

Hard-Earned Money

Bristol Palin, who received a $262,000 salary for her efforts to combat teen pregnancy, remarked "If I can prevent even one girl from getting pregnant, I will feel a sense of accomplishment." Jon Chait retorts "One prevented pregnancy at a cost of $262,000 would not be a terribly effective investment."

I'll go further -- if becoming a teen mother qualifies you to pull in $262,000, it's preventing the pregnancy that would be the tragedy.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Wisconsin Nightmares

I'm following the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, widely seen as a preview of the emerging Democratic recall threat. Unfortunately, I don't know the state well enough to offer much independent analysis -- I'm reliant on Swing State Project for that (and the AP for up to date results). One thing I do know is that the vote patterns seem to be tracking the 2004 Presidential election very closely. For those of you who don't remember, Kerry beat Bush in Wisconsin ... by .4%. Yeah, this is going to be a long night.

One thing that intrigues me about Wisconsin -- Minnesota is the same way -- is that the suburbs are, far and away, the most conservative parts of the state. Prosser is racking up massive margins in Waukesha County, outside Milwaukee. Why is that? In Maryland, Montgomery and PG County are huge Democratic strongholds, and the inner-ring NoVa suburbs are key blue regions in Virginia as well. Are we the weirdos, or is it a Midwest thing?

UPDATE: Dave Weigel has been doing some good 2004 vs. 2012 side-by-sides. Kloppenberg (D) appears to be barely outperforming Kerry in the counties measured. But all these counties are ones that Kerry ended up winning -- no word if Prosser is outperforming in more conservative regions.

UPDATE #2: SSP has also been observing the huge numbers coming in from Waukesha County and other Milwaukee suburbs. But it observes that something seems off about them -- the turnout is monstrous; not "we're really excited about this race" high, more "it's illegal not to vote" high. And while, hey, maybe that's what's up, another option is that the numbers are overstated (not because of fraud or anything, just the denser precincts have already reported, and the more sparsely populated ones are yet to come). If that's not the case -- well, we might just be screwed.

Yay Precedent

I read today that recall organizers can collect signatures outside the polling sites for today's Wisconsin Supreme Court election contest. Incumbent David Prosser is locked in a tooth and nail battle to keep his seat after tying himself to the highly unpopular Scott Walker administration (and after calling the chief justice of his own court a "bitch").

Wisconsin law prohibits "electioneering" outside polling places, but the decision was that this did not apply to political work for contests unrelated that day's election. And I read that, and I thought "here comes a controversy". Because while that's a perfectly plausible interpretation, the contrary one would be perfectly plausible too.

But then I read that this decision didn't come today, but rather four years ago, in a totally unrelated matter involving the recall of a Milwaukee alderman. It's just settled precedent that is being cross-applied to the current case. It's nice when precedent works that way -- defusing a potentially explosive controversy because the relevant rule had already been decided in a much more low-profile situation.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Bar None Roundup

There's a feeling of freedom in the air, but it will dissipate as soon as I start working on my bar application in earnest.

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Israeli and Iranian relief workers join together in Japan. Unfortunately, as Harry's Place notes it is likely that one of the two countries will force out a denial that any cooperation occurred at all (remember this?).

I really like the cartoon at the bottom of this post.

Ahmadinejad predicts that the Arab revolutions will destroy Israel. Of course, he seems to say everything from the sun setting to the birds chirping will have that effect, so forgive my skepticism of his savvy geopolitical analysis.

Dahlia Lithwick describes Connick v. Thompson as "one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever."

More minimalism from the Roberts Court! (see my older post on the subject).