Saturday, August 06, 2011

AT&T Pulls a Comcast

I had been a happy AT&T customer for this year -- in part on the theory that anything is better than Comcast, but in part because they had been decently reliable for the year we had used them. So when Jill called to tell them we were moving and ask if they had service in Champaign, we were happy to find out that they did. And even better -- they said that the service would not be DSL but fiber-optic, at the same price for what we're paying now. Hurray! They just had to ship us some equipment (which would arrive at our current apartment), and then we had an installation appointment on Tuesday at the new place.

Today, Jill calls AT&T back to check on the status of the equipment that was being shipped. Turns out, it's not coming. In fact, everything in the entire last paragraph was apparently a complete fabrication. They have no service in Champaign. There is no equipment being sent. There is no installation appointment. It was all a lie. I have no idea what motivated them to create such an elaborate concoction (I mean, it was pretty intricate), but alas.

So thanks, AT&T. If you had just told us originally you didn't provide internet in our new building, then we'd have been unhappy because we'd have been satisfied customers who happened to be moving out of your service area. Instead, in the space of 15 minutes you've turned us into angry customers who have learned not to trust your customer service representatives. An excellent day's work, in my book.

This also means we apparently have to go back to Comcast. It's just one nightmare to another here....

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Kadima Line

Jeffrey Goldberg has a wonderful interview up with Tzipi Livni, leader of the largest opposition party in Israel. As usual, she makes it clear that she "gets it" in a way that Bibi simply doesn't. And, notably, she was very much in favor of Obama's pressure on Netanyahu, which, she claims, caused him to take necessary steps towards peace that he wouldn't have done on his own.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

I Can't Wait To Hear What Else About the Holocaust the NYT Thinks is "Disputed"

New York Times: American Family Association's Bryan Fischer "trumpets the disputed theory that Adolph Hitler was a homosexual and that the Nazi Party was largely created by 'homosexual thugs.'"

Put That In Your Ad and Smoke 'Em

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Medicare: "promises have been made that frankly are not going to be kept."

Oh for the love of God, he just lobbed that one right in the wheelhouse. That should be on every single ad Democrats run from now until 2012.

Who Even Needs Enemies?

When I first saw this Ha'aretz article, on a new Knesset bill which would drop Arabic as one of the state languages of Israel and, more disturbingly, officially subordinate "democracy" to Jewishness in Israel's basic law, I mentally located the bill as part of the aforementioned right-wing crackup -- the new "Russian right" against old-school Likudniks like Reuven Rivlin.

It is so much worse than I thought.

The initiators of the bill include a member from Likud (Zeev Elkin), Yisrael Beiteinu (David Rotem), and Kadima (Avi Dichter). Elkin and Rotem have been the devil's pair responsible for much of the recent anti-democratic legislation floating through the Knesset, including the infamous anti-boycott law (which passed) and the anti-NGO committee (which didn't). But Kadima! And it's not just one rogue member, either: Ha'aretz claims twenty of Kadima's twenty-eight MKs have signed on as supporters (I'm assuming Livni isn't one of them, since you'd think that'd be mentioned). The law has supporters from a range of Israeli political parties, and not just the right-wing ones: Labor and Atzamaut have members who have expressed support, and Ha'aretz has sources in the Knesset who think it is likely to pass this Winter.

Okay, but surely the Israeli Supreme Court will strike it down? Doubtful: the law is actually cast as an amendment to Israel's "Basic Law", the equivalent to the Israeli constitution. The basic law sets out the basic principles which govern the Israeli state -- it is what the courts use to strike down other, offending pieces of legislation. Let's repeat that: If this bill passes, the basic law of Israel -- it's fundamental organizing precept -- will now explicitly label democracy as a subordinate value. As Elkin puts it (in support of the law!): the goal is for the judiciary to support "the state as the Jewish nation state in ruling in situations in which the Jewish character of the state clashes with its democratic character." The "only democracy in the Middle East" may be about to vote to put itself out of business.

I'm sitting here in shock. Kadima's roots are primarily Likudniks who "recognized reality", that is, who recognized the long-term untenability of maintaining Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But I guess I had convinced myself that their flight from Likud also signaled that they weren't part of the extremist anti-Arab, anti-democratic wing of that party (I figured the hardliners in that camp would have never left). Apparently not. That a reported two-thirds of Kadima's caucus supports this law is nauseating.

Meanwhile, Elkin confidently is declaring that "today the world is ready to accept this." I have no idea what he is smoking. There is precisely one country I can think of which might have an affinity for this law, because there is one prominent nation which also maintains a quasi-democratic superstructure but explicitly subordinates democratic values to those of the dominant religious faith. That would be Iran. This law, if it passes, would be a giant leap towards an Iranian-style theocracy.

Honestly -- half the time it seems like Israel doesn't even need enemies. Its own MKs are perfectly capable of taking the democratic Zionist dream and slashing it to ribbons on their own.

Somebody, please tell me I'm missing something here, because I am sick to my stomach right now.

UPDATE: It appears that most of the Kadima supporters of the bill (but not Dichter) are retreating. Dichter, for his part, appears to cast this proposed law as an alternative to demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state (to wit: "[W]ith the Basic Law we can finally denote Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and not need the Palestinians' favors and recognition of us as a Jewish state.").

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Wealth Circles

One of the interesting factoids about race in American life is the degree to which even relatively well-off Black and Hispanic Americans are still deeply tied into structures and neighborhoods we associate with poverty. Some new census data helps paint the picture:
The average affluent black and Hispanic household -- defined in the study as earning more than $75,000 a year -- lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average lower-income non-Hispanic white household that makes less than $40,000 a year.

"Separate translates to unequal even for the most successful black and Hispanic minorities," says sociologist John Logan, director of US2010 Project at Brown University, which studies trends in American society.

"Blacks are segregated and even affluent blacks are pretty segregated," says Logan, who analyzed 2005-09 data for the nation's 384 metropolitan areas. "African Americans who really succeeded live in neighborhoods where people around them have not succeeded to the same extent."

Ta-Nehisi Coates has some great analysis.

On the one hand, this is obviously pertinent to the typical "it's not race, it's class!" rejoinder deployed against those who still think that racial injustice is a serious problem in America. I've already explained the most basic flaw in this analysis -- that race is not an independent source of disadvantage in American life -- but the continuing fact of segregation also reminds us that part of the benefit of wealth is being surrounded by wealth.

My family was quite well off. And that was very advantageous for me! But a goodly portion of that advantage also came from the fact that we lived in a wealthy, well-connected neighborhood. The fact that the whole area was well off meant that the schools had a larger than average tax base. The fact that families had considerable disposable income meant that there were more resources to support extra-curriculars. The fact that I was surrounded by high-performing individuals meant I had potential role models for virtually any high-end career I possibly could have imagined. And so on and so forth. Wealth is good on its own, but its utility multiplies dramatically when it isn't lonely. That many people of color, even those who are well off, still live in much poorer neighborhoods, with much worse services, and much fewer connections, is a detriment.

But Ta-Nehisi also points out the need not to pathologize everything. There are benefits to growing up and being able to walk in more than one world. And even if life circumstances aren't ideal, people value where they came from. I don't have much to say about that side of his post, other than recognizing its import and not wanting it to get lost.

Migron Settlement Ordered Dismantled

The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered that the Migron settlement in the West Bank be dismantled by April 2012. This is interesting, though it is also a dance we've seen before. Indeed, part of the reason the Court is so upset with the Israeli government is that they've promised to take down Migron before and have yet to do so (indeed, the settlement has expanded). Their earlier reticence, of course, makes it more difficult to take it down now -- an argument the Court was appropriately unsympathetic to.

Migron is one of those settlements without even a figleaf to hide behind. It's unauthorized by the Israeli government. It's very close to Ramallah, making it an unlikely candidate for eventually being absorbed into Israel as part of a land swap deal. And, most importantly, it's built on privately-owned Palestinian land (making it nothing more than a blatant theft).

This does, apparently, mark the first time the Court has directly ordered a specific settlement dismantled. So it will be interesting to see how the government responds (the settler leaders themselves are expected to pitch a fit). Various Likud hardliners are already speaking out against the decision.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Hidden Fraternity

New polling finds massive overlap between American Jews and Muslims on issues important to the two communities. Some highlights:

* 81% of Muslims and 78% of Jews support a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

* Jews and Muslims are the only two religious groups currently supportive of Barack Obama.

* Jews are the group least likely (after Muslims) to question Muslim loyalty to the United States.

* Jews are actually slightly more likely than Muslims to believe that Muslims face significant prejudice in the United States.

Good news all around.

Cleanup Roundup

We're moving next week, and so the slow process of cleaning and organizing our apartment begins.

* * *

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) may be one of my all-time favorite Republican crazies. Here, he frets that women who have access to free birth control will never birth again. Ain't no pregnancy like an involuntary pregnancy!

Lithuanian mayor runs over luxury car parked in a bike lane with a tank. Bring him stateside.

FYI: Black family life in the antebellum south really sucked.

The other day, Jon Chait raised a specter of hope regarding the debt compromise, arguing that the "default" cuts in defense spending will cause lobbyists to work feverishly to avert them via revenue increases. Today, Matt Yglesias puts the kiboosh on it.

Eating while Black.

Frankly, I think Jennifer Rubin's Norway post scarcely makes the top ten reasons she should be axed from the WaPo. Alas, the ombudsman disagrees.

Recall Madness

Is there any chance that the Wisconsin electoral system won't be permanently rejiggered so that recall elections are always happening one year after someone is elected? I'm not saying the challengers will always win, but it's just not that hard to muster the signatures to get a recall race on the ballot.

Anyway, we're reaching the home stretch of the Wisconsin State Senate recall elections. Democrats need to win a net three seats to take back the chamber; my original prediction was that they'd get two. Dan Kapanke has been a dead man walking since the race started, and Randy Hopper is scandal-plagued and thus unusually vulnerable. The question is who would get them over the hump.

If internal polls are to be believed, the answer is Luther Olsen. Along with Kapanke and Hopper, reports are the Democrats polls have the good guys ahead against him as well. The same story also indicates that things are razor-thin against Robert Cowles, Sheila Harsdorf, and Alberta Darling. I don't have the specific numbers in front me, so I don't know how close is close, but unlike many of her peers Darling started off the recall campaign with her head above water, topping her hypothetical challenger 52/44. But she's been shooting herself in the foot with statements like claiming that people making over $250,000 "aren't wealthy people".

It's definitely the case that Republicans are nervous, as they've been hard at work trying to suppress the vote by sending out false information to Democratic voters about voting absentee while posing as a government agency. Sounds like a decent place for the DOJ to throw an elbow to me.

Monday, August 01, 2011

I Can't Look

I can't even bring myself to look at the details of the debt ceiling "compromise". It infuriates me that we had to give into a bunch of immature thugs who decided holding the country's economy hostage was the best way to secure draconian cuts to government while the working class continues to struggle.

And it could have been avoided if we simply were willing to realize that one major political party is not comprised of members fit to govern. As Paul Krugman points out, the reason the President didn't get a debt ceiling extension in December was because he was convinced Republicans would act responsibly. Hind-sight may be 20-20, but it is rapidly becoming apparent that that's always the wrong answer.

The debt ceiling scandal (and frankly, that's what this is -- a scandal) has revealed a Republican Party split into three branches:

(1) Those who knew that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would be a catastrophe but were too spineless to stand up to the rest of their party. Exemplified by Rep. John Boehner (R-OH).

(2) Those who knew that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would be a catastrophe and who relished the idea of exploiting that fact for their own political gain. Exemplified by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA).

(3) Those who really didn't grasp that voluntarily defaulting on our debt would be the economic equivalent of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Exemplified by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

The cowardly, the avaricious, and the delusional. Ladies and gentlemen, your modern GOP.

Boehner is bragging at the massive success Republicans reaped for these tactics -- and he's right. When one party cares about the economic future of the country, and one party made it abundantly clear they're willing to shoot the hostage if it comes to that, what can you do? How do you stop yourself from getting rolled again?

The only thing I can think of is for Obama to start throwing elbows. The Senate can't do squat with McConnell's auto-filibuster policy, so it has to come from the White House. And I don't mean Oval Office speeches with a slightly raised voice. I mean the force of the executive branch. Recess appointments, new agency regulations designed to piss of the right, and take the leash off the DOJ on politically sensitive topics like corruption and the VRA. The minute this deal is signed -- because, horrible as I'm sure it is (any deal that isn't "a clean increase" is horrible to me), it has to be signed -- it's time to send a message back. You pull a knife on the American economy, we pull a gun on Republican priorities.

No more mister nice President.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Different Places

Physically, I'm flying back to Chicago tomorrow, and moving down to Champaign the following week. Virtually, I'll be visiting at Concurring Opinions for the next month. I don't anticipate any reduced blogging over here, since I have a very specific agenda for my time at Co-Op (the secret inner workings of the law review process, mostly), but if there is a drop off, that might explain it.