Friday, August 19, 2011

Thanks! Oh, Wait, That Was an Insult?

The Syrian people continue to brave brutal and violent crackdowns, but seem on the verge of overthrowing the dictatorial rule of Bashar al-Assad. I, personally, salute the Syrian people for their courage and perseverance. But one Australian blogger credits Israel for the "sustained attack" on Assad.

Wait, did I say "credit"? I meant blame. The blogger blames Israel for Assad's troubles.

Personally, I don't think the Syrian revolution has much to do with Israel at all. But it's extra weird acting like the Syrian quest for freedom is a bad thing.

UPDATE: More on the whole Syrian peace marchers are just tools of Israel meme.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Miss Katie is the Best

After Hours on is one of my all-time favorite things. Katie Willert, a comedian who is on the cast of After Hours is, by extension, also one of my favorite people.

Unfortunately, some people are dicks (and specifically, sexist dicks) to her online, in the comments section. And yes, comments sections are typically chock full of assholes -- that's a universal truism of the internet. But still, it's sad.

Anyway, there's no mega-point to be made here. Only that Katie Willert is awesome, and that she'll remain awesome no matter what some obscure no-name commenter frat ape has to say about it. So keep on keeping on, Katie.

Call Him Crazy

TPM and I had the exact same reaction to Jon Huntsman's "call me crazy" tweet ("To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."). Specifically: He's running for the GOP nod, and he just tweeted that. If the shoe fits....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gaza Students Prevented from Studying in the US

A group of Gaza students with scholarships to study in America were prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip. This is part of a larger effort by the governing authority to crack down on academic freedom and independent civil society in the Palestinian territories, and just another minor indignity and human rights violation Palestinian children must endure ....

Oh, wait -- it was Hamas' decision. Well, never mind.

(But, to be clear, the part about it being one piece of a larger effort to crackdown on independent civil society is absolutely true. Hamas has recently taken several steps to tighten its grip on all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip, with independent NGOs and aid groups being the primary targets).

UPDATE: Speak of the devil, Hamas also has been notably sanguine about Syria's shelling of Palestinian civilians in refugee camps as part of the anti-uprising crackdown.

How Many GOPers Does It Take To Recognize a Collective Action Problem?

Warren Buffet recently took to the New York Times to argue that the very rich -- like himself -- were under-taxed. It's not even that bold of an argument -- tax rates for the ultra-wealthy are exceptionally low, and the American government needs revenue. But obviously, for the death-before-taxes wing of the GOP (i.e., all of it), this was heresy.

My former co-blogger Michael Van Der Galien was the first person I saw to snidely comment that Buffet was free to donate as much money as he wanted to charity (or the IRS), of his own volition. I thought about responding to point out that the question of tax rates for the rich is a collective action problem -- Buffet obviously was not declaring that he alone could solve America's budget crisis if only he were allowed -- but I figured it was a one-off, and decided to let it lie.

But alas, as usual, I can't set my expectations low enough. Jon Chait collects the same argument being made by Michele Bachmann and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to making the obvious collective-action point, Chait also notes that -- between the "why don't you just donate" then argument made against folks like Buffet, and the "class warfare" charge made against everyone else -- it turns out that nobody has standing to argue against raising a top marginal rate that currently is 15 points lower than where it was for the majority of the Reagan administration. Neat trick, that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Take Two

Some might have forgotten that there were two recall elections in Wisconsin today as well, both targeting Democrats. The AP has called both races for the incumbents (one won by a 58/42 margin with all precincts reporting, another is up 54/46 with 79% in). The net result is that Democrats gained a total of two seats in the state Senate, winning 2/6 of their recall attempts while Republicans went 0/3 (there was another failed recall attempt against a Democrat earlier in the cycle).

Republicans still maintain a one seat edge in the state senate. All eyes are currently on Sen. Dale Schultz (R), easily the most moderate member of the GOP caucus (and a "nay" vote on Governor Walker's union busting plan). Schultz has already declared he won't switch parties, but the possibility he might defect on individual votes may be enough to stem some of the worse abuses of the Wisconsin Republican leadership.

Monday, August 15, 2011

One Decade On, One Decade Off

Ex.-Rep. Bob Shamansky (D-OH) died last week. He only served one term in Congress, during the 1980s, so he wasn't that notable for his political accomplishments. Rather, what is fascinating about him is the temporal range of his career. Shamansky ran for Congress in 1966, in 1980 (when he won), 1982 (when he lost the seat he won), and 2006. In other words, he ran in three separate decades, with an "off" decade in between each.

I have to think that's unique. Condolences to Rep. Shamansky's loved ones.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Self-Loving Jews

The Forward has an interesting column up discussing the case of folks like Richard Falk, Noam Chomsky, Jacqueline Rose, and others of their ilk. They are often labeled "self-hating Jews", but this isn't quite right. The appellation "self-hating Jew" was originally quite literal -- it referred to Jews who were literally filled with shame and self-loathing over the fact that they were Jewish. This doesn't seem like an accurate description of someone like Falk, who hardly seems to suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Rather:
What they’re enamored by is their image of themselves as Jews who have the moral courage to attack a Jewish state and the moral impunity to do so, which their Jewishness gives them. (“What, me anti-Jewish? I’m a Jew myself!”) Far from being self-hating Jews, they are self-loving Jews of the I’m-not-one-of-you variety.

Not very catchy, as the author admits, but more accurate. A related concept might be the "asajew", named for those persons whose Jewishness only manifests when prefacing a statement attacking other Jews or Jewish institutions with "as a Jew...." Obviously, there are plenty of Jews with minority opinions who nonetheless identify clearly with the Jewish community writ large even as they dissent on particular matters. But there also most certainly is a subset of Jews who are Jewish only insofar as it is an effective cudgel for bashing other Jews (and shield against their protestations).