Friday, December 16, 2011

Wake Up Call

Two good columns went up yesterday regarding the state of Israel's belated awareness of the danger it has created via the settlement monster. Lara Friedman of APN takes on a slightly more lecturing tone, noting that prescient individuals had been warning of this outcome -- a radicalized group of religious fanatics with no loyalty to the state and no regard for either Jewish or democratic values -- for quite some time. Only now, after years of coddling the settlement project and dismissing its violence as isolated or aberrational, are Israelis finally realizing what is before their eyes.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg hopes that the settler's attack on the army -- far and away, the most venerated institution in Israel -- will finally mark a sea change in how the state treats these homegrown terrorist agents. In fact, Goldberg has a recommendation on just where these thugs can settler if they're so bent on filling the land -- Ketziot, in the Negev, which has the twin advantages of being near a Biblically significant location and also being the home of Israel's largest prison camp for violent terrorists.

UPDATE: Whoops -- posted an update to this article rather than the one before. My bad!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tikvah Scrubs False Claim Against J Street

Reporting on the J Street/Berkeley controversy, and specifically the opposition of a possibly-pro-Israel, possibly-not group called Tikvah, I noted that they claimed that J Street had hosted BDS chieftain Omar Barghouti. This was a key part of their claim that J Street was secretly pro-BDS and thus beyond the pale. The claim that J Street would have hosted Barghouti rang false to me, as they are of radically different political persuasions, so I looked into it. And unfortunately for Tikvah, it turns out there is no record of any such hosting -- indeed, googling "J Street" and "Omar Barghouti" reveals a story where Barghouti was actively spurned by J Street. I dropped them a comment asking for documentation of this claim, since as best I can tell it appeared to be made out of whole cloth (it never made it past moderation).

Well, the good news is that Tikvah changed their post and deleted that claim. The bad news is that they left no indication that the post had been modified or that a significant factual statement they had made turned out to be erroneous and was deleted.

Not to go all blogger ethics panel, but there is a pretty commonly accepted norm of behavior in the situation: You put the retracted claim in strike-out form (like this) and then post an update explaining the correction. See here for an example. That's the difference between admitting a mistake and transparently correcting it, and trying to play cover-up and pretend like nothing had been wrong in the first place. It's unbecoming (and dare I say unjewish) behavior, but given what limited experience I have with this particular group, I can't say I'm surprised that their standards of professional conduct are as lax as their support for Israel's status as a Jewish, democratic state.

UPDATE: A Berkeley J Street organizer contacted me regarding a similar piece posted up on the Hasbara Fellowship website, which also apparently originally had the false Barghouti claim and also has been scrubbed without comment. More interestingly, to me anyway, is what replaced it: a link to a "a list of additional questionable actions taken by JStreet." The piece is authored by Lenny Ben-David, and for the most part it is an incoherent mess of innuendo and hand-waving, with a fair bit of guilt-by-association-by-association thrown in (Tikvah, being in quite the glass house on this score, may not wish to throw stones). But you may recall Ben-David from an earlier anti-J Street hit piece arguing that the organization can't be trusted because it receives support from Arabs. He returns to that theme in this article, and it is as racist and counterproductive now as it was then.

To repeat: Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors means Jews and Arabs are going to have to agree on things. If the fact that an Arab person agrees with a position is enough to per se discredit it, that's another way of saying peace is definitionally impossible (since any position an Arab agrees to -- even if 20 minutes ago it was precisely what Israel claimed to want -- is now rendered suspect). People like Ben-David and, it seems, Tikvah, are not primarily concerned with Israel's security, or its longevity, or its democracy, or the safety of the Jewish people. What seems to scare them most, and motivate them the most, is the possibility that they might have to agree with an Arab. Just like the "pro-Palestinian" protesters I saw who booed the proposal for a Palestinian state because it meant having to agree with a Zionist, Tikvah and Ben-David are fearful of an Israel at peace with its neighbors because it means having to agree with Arabs. They're manifestations of the same disease, and one that neither Israel nor Palestine can afford right now.

Military Courts To Try Violent Settler Extremists

Among several measures aimed at combating a spike in extremist "price tag" settler activity, Bibi Netanyahu has announced that settlers arrested for these sorts of crimes will be tried in military courts, same as violent Palestinian militants (one measure Bibi rejected, over the protests of quite a few members of his cabinet, was officially charging the extremists with terrorism). This created an amusing strange-bedfellows scenario between far-right settler nationalist parties like National Union, and left-wing human rights groups like B'Tselem, both of which are uncomfortable with the usage of military courts (though for the former, of course, it's only a problem when the settlers are subjected to it).

My own position on this is somewhat similar to the stance I took when Iran sentenced a man who had blinded a woman with acid to be himself blinded. As I said then, clearly I think putting out someone's eye as a punishment is barbaric. But there are plenty of attributes of Iran's judicial system I find barbaric, and certainly I don't find it any worse when they're used to punish crimes against women as opposed to punishing women themselves. And in general one of the ways one sees reforms of unjust practices is by ensuring they're enforced against the majority as well as the minority. Here, I'm generally uncomfortable with over-reliance on military courts and am sympathetic to the notion that they do not provide fully fair trials. But if they're going to be the forum by which violent Palestinian attacks against the IDF are tried, then I see no reason to treat violent Israeli settlers any differently.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chinese Village of Wukan Revolts

A small fishing village of about 20,000 in southern China has effectively revolted, chasing out its Communist Party leadership and resisting efforts by riot police to reassert control. Tensions originally started when the local Communist Party began selling off their land to developers, and escalated once the local police kidnapped village representatives who had been invited to help mediate the dispute (one later died in police custody).

The village has food and water for 10 days, as well as a pharmacy, but it is effectively being blockaded (including along its harbor). While I wish them the best of luck, I'm dubious this ends well for them. But perhaps some sort of flotilla like thing could be organized to relieve them? Thinking outside the box here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Post-Travel Mini-Roundup

Settled into Maryland. I'm thinking of staying for awhile, then going directly to Minnesota (instead of flying back to Champaign in the interim). I just can't handle all this travel.

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The IDF is thinking of expelling "price tag" settlers from the West Bank (they apparently are having difficulty mustering up enough evidence to charge them with crimes).

Meanwhile, the Jersualem Post notes that if it had been 50 Palestinians who infiltrated and attacked an army base, the outcome would have been far different (and far bloodier). The fact is, these "price tag" thugs are terrorists and should be treated accordingly.

If I were a poor Black kid, I'd magically become insanely technologically literate through sheer force of will. I'd also simply think away all the other constraints upon my life chances -- hunger, gangs, health care.... whatever. I'd basically be Superman. It'd be awesome. Damn it, now it's all I want to do. Where do I sign up?

Speaking of the above, the Onion beat them to it. Seriously, the parallels are scary (Via).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mega Travel Roundup

I'm going to Maryland, and then to Illinois, and then to Minnesota, then back to Illinois, then to Nevada, then back to Illinois, then to New York! Yeaargh. (This is over the next month and a half, starting tomorrow).

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Do teachers dislike creativity?

Poor Mitt Romney. Every time he has to converse with actual human beings, the threat of disaster looms.

Fascinating article about the Black QB at a private Virginia school that was founded as part of massive Southern resistance to school integration.

Jeffrey Goldberg explains why the support of Christian "Zionists" won't sustain an US-Israeli alliance in the event American Jews are permanently alienated from the Jewish state.

Israelis look on nervously as GOP candidates race to be further right-wing than the Israeli right.

Russell Simmons urges Americans of all stripes to protest Lowes' decision to give in to anti-Muslim bigotry and pull their advertising from "All-American Muslim". Also, Adam Serwer points out that the attack on shows like "All-American Muslim" demonstrates that -- shock of shock -- Islamophobes have a problem with Muslims, not "radical Muslims".

I hate having to link to Commentary, but there is a point that "Israel-firster" (used by some CAP folk as well as M.J. Rosenberg) has uncomfortable anti-Semitic overtones. Of course, this from the magazine that posted Jennifer Rubin's anti-Semitic article on why Jews dislike Palin, so, you know, pot and kettle (it only adds to the irony that Rubin herself has been at the forefront of attacking CAP).

Good post on False Dichotomies regarding how the nature of anti-Zionist rhetoric poisons any possibility of a one-state solution where Jewish citizens are viewed as equal. Simply put, if you view essentially all of Israel's Jews as colonialist Nazi interlopers, the odds that you're going to tolerate them wielding any sort of substantial political power or autonomy is relatively small. Which, come to think of it, characterizes a lot of anti-Zionist rhetoric towards Jews worldwide now.

Alabama discovers some foreigners aren't Latino -- indeed, some are executives at factories employing countless Alabamans -- panics about its anti-immigrant law.

We Have Always Been At War with, er, "Asia"

A local news channel is aghast that Sidwell Friends school (where Sasha and Malia Obama attend) served (gasp) Asian food on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor:
What are President Obama's kids eating at school on Pearl Harbor day? Japanese food and other Asian items.
Here are the options for Malia Obama and her sister, Sasha on the "Day that will live in Infamy:"

Asian Mushroom Soup
Oriental Noodle Salad
Classic Spinach Salad
Teriyaki Marinated Chicken Strips
Szechuan Tofu & Veggies
Garlic Roasted Edamame
Vegetable Fried Rice
Fortune Cookies

One might note that while Teriyaki chicken is Japanese, Szechuan Tofu is in fact Chinese. And while yes, one can lump them all together as "Asian" cuisine, believe it or not Pearl Harbor was not an attack on America by the entire Asian continent. It's true. In fact, I have credible sources that tell me we were allied with the folks who gave us Szechuan Tofu & Veggies in that very conflict! True story.

(Via, with the original pointer from my former history Professor, Harry Williams).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peterson/Khan Recap

Last night, Lamont Peterson won a close split-decision victory over titlist Amir Khan in Peterson's hometown of Washington, DC, lifting two belts in a massive upset and a beautiful fight. There was some controversy over the refereeing, and that has some validity, as I'll discuss below. But the first thing that has to be said is that it was a great fight, and a career-defining performance by Peterson, who was a massive underdog going in. I told my girlfriend before the match started that "one of my favorite fighters is on tonight, and he's going to lose." Boy, did he prove me wrong.

Unfortunately, there are questions about the referee. What I think is clear is that he didn't seem ready for a fight of this magnitude. He seemed jumpy, was often out of position, and was extremely unclear about when he was breaking the fighters. But the controversy stems from deducting two points from Khan for pushing off -- which is a foul, but one that is rarely penalized. Rarely isn't never -- Mayweather was penalized against Castillo for much the same infraction -- but it isn't common. I'm not wild about the deductions, but that comes with a ton of caveats. "Not wild" isn't the same as outraged. Khan committed a foul, he was warned about it, he kept doing it, and eventually he got penalized. Then he did it some more, and got penalized again. The point Max Kellerman made about the lack of a "hard warning" I see, but only for the first deduction (I think deduction #1 counts as the quintessential "hard warning" before deduction #2). There's no disputing that Khan was pushing off, and there was no disputing he was warned about it. This isn't a case where there was a phantom low-blow or anything like that.

The other thing this wasn't, despite Khan's incessant attempts to claim otherwise, was a fight where Peterson's infractions were ignored while Khan's were jumped on. Did Peterson come in with his head low? Yeah, sometimes, but never in a way that led to any headbutts. And plenty of times Khan was holding his head down entirely of his own volition. Those, to me, washout. And while Khan claimed he "had to" push off because Peterson's head was low is simply bogus -- Khan was pushing Peterson off because Peterson was effectively ripping him up in close. A low head doesn't require pushing.

Meanwhile, Khan was the beneficiary of a borderline knockdown call in the first round. The first time Peterson tasted canvas in the first was ruled a slip because he was caught in the referee's legs. Bad positioning by Joe Cooper, but the right call. The second time, which was scored a knockdown, Peterson's legs were tangled with Khan's. Was it a blown call? I don't think so, not the least because tangled feet are very hard to spot, but it may have been the wrong one (Max Kellerman tried to sneak in that observation in the midst of several righteous tirades by Jim Lampley, mostly without success). Take away the two point deductions, and Khan wins by UD. Take away the two deductions and the knockdown, and it's a majority draw.

And speaking of that, let's talk about the scores. The two judges who gave it to Peterson scored in 113-112, which translates to each fighter getting six rounds apiece. That sounds about right to me (I had it 114-112 Peterson, or 6-5-1). The one judge who gave the fight to Khan had it 115-110. All the points shenanigans make that deceptive, so let me break that out for you -- that's a 9-3 Khan advantage. Does anyone think Amir Khan won nine rounds in that fight? 7-5 in either direction I can absolutely see, but 9-3? Come on. (Some folks made hay about the time it took to add up the cards. I don't think that signifies anything -- I can tell you what 7 rounds to 5 adds up to in my sleep, when there are no knockdowns or point deductions. When those come into play, then I actually have to do the addition. And when it's as close as this fight was, I do the addition slowly).

Hopefully, that dispenses with the refereeing section of the discussion, because I would really we rather focus on the fight itself. The story was actually pretty simple: Khan won on his front foot, Peterson won when he could force Khan on his back foot. And how did Peterson create the latter situation? Body work. Virtually everything good Peterson did started with the same thing -- a ripping one-two combination to the body which I found myself yelling at the TV for Peterson to throw more. Those two body shots -- which always seemed to land with wicked force -- force Khan up, allowing Peterson to get in his grill and hammer him on the inside until Khan was able to scamper (or push) off. The rounds where Peterson was able to do that for any significant portion of time were the rounds Peterson won, and the rounds he won clean.

It's easy to say Peterson could have put this fight beyond doubt by being more willing to press the action in that vein in some of the slower rounds. It is true what Max was saying, that Peterson has a tendency to keep his hands in his pocket until he thinks everything is lined up perfectly, and I think it's equally true that the special moments in last night's fight occurred because Peterson was able to overcome that instinct and throw with more abandon. But I also think it doesn't give Khan enough credit. He was genuinely elusive moving around the ring, and those four punch combinations he'd stop and throw, though mostly caught on the gloves, did have the effect of stopping Peterson from coming in. It's also worth noting that in the last round, where Peterson really did get a little reckless trying to rush Khan, Khan was mostly able to pick him off and move away. While aggression is the order of the day against Khan, he's a good enough fighter to force you to be intelligent about it.

The final thing I want to say is that I absolutely understand why Khan is upset. It was a close fight that went against him, in his opponent's hometown. My conspiracy-o-tron is not buzzing too loudly, because Khan had the money behind him, which counterbalances the hometown edge, but in the heat of the moment that's going to rankle. I'm sympathetic. But I don't think he was robbed, and I think acting as if that was the story of the fight doesn't give due credit to an outstanding performance by Lamont Peterson, who turned in the fight of his life.

Congrats, champ.

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I couldn't figure out where to add this in, but another congrats is due to Maryland heavyweight Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell, who made a huge impression with a second round TKO of Timor Ibragimov. Mitchell, a converted football player, looks like he may have the goods. He had been getting along on natural athleticism, and there was a question about how he would handle someone who really did know his way around the ring. Ibragimov, an amateur standout and a solid pro, was a legitimate test. And boy did Mitchell ever pass -- hammering Ibragimov (who'd never previously been stopped) with right hands until the ref stepped in at the close of round two.

Mitchell looked outstanding to me, throwing in combinations beyond the classic heavyweight 1-2, and showing a good finishing instinct when he had Ibragimov hurt. He reminds me a bit of Chris Arreola, except unlike Arreola Mitchell is in impeccable condition. I'm excited to see more. We had a great card tonight featuring "Havoc" (Peterson) and "Mayhem" (Mitchell), and I think few DC fight fans would say no to more cards featuring them in the future.