Friday, March 09, 2012

Long Live the King

Chris Hughes, looking to spend some of the megabucks he's earned as co-founder of Facebook, has bought a majority share in The New Republic and installed himself as the new editor-in-chief. You can read his introductory letter here.

Count me in as a supporter. The New Republic still has, I think, quite a bit to give to the progressive political community. But the increasingly misanthropic rantings of Marty Peretz were holding it back. Hughes is not only a break from the old guard, he is obviously well tied-in to modern media platforms, making him more than just a rich dude playing publisher. He has a real chance to make TNR into an opinion leader again.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Bell and Obama

Despite calls from my adoring fan base, I do not plan on providing a lengthy defense of Derrick Bell in the wake of the "revelation" that Barack Obama hugged him. The simple reason is that I don't have the energy to respond to the GOP faux-scandal d'jour, and it feels like only yesterday that I wrote Bell's obituary. Bell's status as a warrior for racial justice, and one of the most important writers on race relations in America should be beyond question, and I'd rather just make believe that we're not so stunted as a society that we can be deluded into thinking Bell is the bad guy in our anti-racism saga.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The BDS Campaign, All Wrapped in a Little Bow

Who would have thought one little tweet could sum up the entire BDS movement in a tidy little package? The tweet, posted on Monday, brags about an Alitalia Pilot who announced "Welcome To Palestine" after landing at Tel Aviv Airport, linking to this story.

Now, right off the bat this gives us two of the most noteworthy attributes of the BDS campaign -- its incredible ability to hyperventilate regarding the most minute of "victories" (a pilot said a phrase!), and its inability to mask its agenda of eliminating Israel (Tel Aviv, of course, is well on the Israeli side of the Green Line). The latter part is quite important to stress, because it is something the BDSers like to obfuscate -- they are notoriously evasive regarding whether they view all of Israel as "occupied Palestinian land", mostly because they believe the answer is yes but know that position is (a) a complete non-starter and (b) would effectively negate any claims they have that they're pushing -- however inelegantly -- for a just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. What they want is a situation where Jews are once again a minority everywhere -- where the horror of Jews exercising self-determination and directing their own affairs is no more.

That's a little heavy, and I meant this post to be light. What can bring it back -- oh how's this? This story? It's from 2003. That's right -- it's a tweet praising a random person calling Tel Aviv part of Palestine from nine years ago.

Classic. (Via).

You've Lost It

The National Review demands Republicans cut ties with Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio. The instigating event is Arpaio's birtherism (it could have as easily been issuing indictments aimed at suppressing opponents, or his propensity towards racial profiling).

So, on the one hand, a belated good-for-you to the National Review. And one could query just how nuts one has to be in order to lose the website that publishes Andrew "Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Obama's book" McCarthy. But the most important thing to remember is that the effect of this column will be approximately nothing. The National Review can stoke the fears of the GOP base, but it can't put out any fires. When it seeks to stand athwart the runaway train of the conservative id and yell "stop", it will be flattened like a pancake -- assuming anyone even notices at all.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ralph Reed Accepts Rush's Apology

Remember Ralph Reed? Sure you do! The disgraced prince of the Christian right, he was famous for bilking his followers while basically following the Jack Abramhoff model of corruption to a T. He's basically a dick, and, more importantly for the purpose of this post, possesses one as well (as far as I know, anyway).

Today, Reed decided to weigh in on the Rush Limbaugh "slut" controversy. To disprove my claim that Republicans, by and large, can't condemn Limbaugh's repulsive behavior? Of course not! He's here to accept Limbaugh's apology and move on:
Rush: apology accepted. Let's move on and talk about the issues. We're with you.

Why, exactly, Reed thinks he gets to "accept" Rush's apology is not altogether clear. As a suspected penis-bearer, the insult wasn't exactly directed at him, so one would think absolution was not his to give.

But this whole "viewing women as human" thing is distracting me, as usual. The important thing is that Reed is ready to move on and get back to standing with Rush. Who's with him? I'm sure we'll find out in the weeks to come that it's "the majority of the GOP".

Tip Off

Last week, I noted the most amazing thing about the Rush Limbaugh "slut" saga is that the GOP could barely manage a peep against him. Now TPM is advertising a "tipping point", as "GOPers Start To Turn On Rush Limbaugh." Forgive me, but I just don't see it.

The only two politicians they cite who really can be said to have "condemned" Limbaugh are Carly Fiorina (who I already mentioned) and Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) (locked in a tight battle with Elizabeth Warren). Beyond that? It's basically nothing. John Boehner murmers that Limbaugh's comments were "inappropriate" -- roughly as offensive as a Democratic fundraising letter. Rick Santorum called the statement "absurd" but observed that "an entertainer can be absurd". Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) (who in a sense is responsible for this whole mess) barely managed to sneak in a word against Limbaugh as he tried desperately to play the victim. And Mitt Romney? "It's not the language I would have used." Feel the outrage!

No, there's no tipping going on amongst the GOP. They're still as much in thrall of Rush as ever.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Insular Cases

I just read an interesting empirical study on Jewish feelings of outsiderness in the United States.* The good news is that most Jews don't feel like outsiders in the United States. So yay for that! But the interesting part of the study, to me, was what accounted for the sentiment. In general, Jews who lived in areas with many other Jews and who had many Jewish friends and acquaintances were far more likely to say they felt included as Americans. By contrast, Jews who were more isolated from other Jews and had fewer Jewish contacts were more likely to feel that they were outsiders in America. Since most Jews live in areas with relatively large Jewish populations, that means most Jews feel relatively included in America.

To me, this finding is quite intuitive. But it does clash with a narrative some forward, that insularity and particularism amongst minority group "ghettoizes" them and prevents their integration into the American mainstream. It turns out that story seems to be wrong. Rather, when a member of a minority group has surrounding structures demonstrating the normalcy of their peers (that they're average, non-exceptional members of the community), it is likely to reinforce the message that there is no conflict between being a member of the minority group and being an American.

The upshot is pluralist. If what we're going for is a polity in which people of all backgrounds feel welcome and included as Americans, the right strategy isn't to try and breakdown particularistic group affiliations. Rather, these groups are essential to the mainstreaming process, because they promote feelings of normalcy and non-exceptionalism amongst the minority group, which in turn renders the surrounding culture less alienating.

* Becka A. Alper & Daniel V.A. Olson, Do Jews Feel Like Outsiders in America?: The Impact of Anti-Semitism, Friendships, and Religious Geography 50 J. Sci. Stud. Religion 822 (2011).