Saturday, August 18, 2012

Settler Terrorism is Terrorism

The US State Department has begun grouping in settler "price tag" attacks as a form of terrorism committed in Israel and Palestine. This is, of course, exactly right. And furthermore, when someone -- I don't care who -- commits a terrorist strike in territory under Israeli jurisdiction -- I don't care against whom -- they're threatening the security and stability of the Israeli state. They are threats to Israeli national security, and ought properly be seen as such.

In related news, a 19-year old suspect has been arrested in the "lynch" attack in Jerusalem that injured four Palestinians, one critically.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lie Extermination

Garance Franke-Ruta has three suggestions for how the media can handle repeated campaign lies (such as Mitt Romney's claim that Obama has eliminated the work requirements from welfare).

1) Add boilerplate to every story indicating it is a lie (similar to how stories about "Obama is a Muslim" always included language informing the reader that this was false).

2) Always attribute the charge to campaign partisans, and immediately quote rebuttal from opposing partisans.

3) Turn repeated lying into its own story.

Of these, I dislike the second, because it's identical to he said/she said journalism, which actually allows the lie to get traction because independents will assume the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But the other two proposals are spot on. Franke-Ruta expects us to start seeing "repeated liar" stories, which would surprise me. It's hardly unprecedented -- remember Election 2000? -- but it seems like it takes balls the media tends to lack.

I'd be particularly intrigued if such a story didn't just attack the credibility of the instigating campaign, but also took on the think tanks providing a "source" for the charge (in the case of the "Obama gutted work requirements" lie, that would be the Heritage Foundation). Such organizations depend, in large part, on their ability to be taken as credible currency by the media -- providing an "independent" veneer to whatever claim they're making. I'd love to see some consequences when they abuse that privilege and act as simple hacks.

Sacramento Makes Ashkelon a "Sister City"

The Sacramento City Council unanimously voted to make Ashkelon, Israel one of its "sister cities". Ashkelon joins nine other Sacramento sister cities, including Bethlehem in the Palestinian Authority (Bethlehem was added in 2009, under a deal that would see an Israeli city added later).

There was some controversy from the usual suspects (including Jewish Voice for Peace, which totally opposes only the occupation and not Israel-qua-Israel). The claim was that adding Ashkelon was unfair given Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians; some argued against Ashkelon specifically because it has a jail which holds Palestinian prisoners and because Ashkelon was formerly the site of a Palestinian village (the village had been the site of fierce fighting between Israeli and Egyptian forces during Israel's war of independence, forcing many of its residents to flee). Today, Ashkelon's most well-known relationship to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is its status as a constant target for Palestinian shelling emanating from the Gaza Strip.

I'm disinclined to credit the claim that the opposition's problem is with Ashkleon, rather than with Israel -- the arguments they make against Ashkelon are exceptionally thin and could, with minor shifts, be applied against virtually any city in the world). Which inspired me to take a look at the other cities Sacramento has partnered with.

* Manila: Capital of the Philippines, which is currently engaged in a brutal counter-insurgency against Islamic separatists in the southern parts of the country. The Philippines has resorted to extrajudicial killings, vigilantism, disappearances, torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention.

* Matsuyama, Japan: Japan has a long-standing practice of discrimination against the indigenous Ainu people, with de jure discriminatory laws repealed only in 1997.

* Jinan, China: Yeah, I'm not even going to bother with this one. From the occupation of Tibet to one-party rule to government censorship and crackdowns on dissent, this is too easy.

* Hamilton, New Zealand: Built on the site of Maori villages prior to British colonization. New Zealand's treatment of its indigenous minority continues to be of concern.

* Liestel, Switzerland: Switzerland has recently come under fire for banning the building of minarets in Mosques. Liestal is the seat of Basel County, where over 55% of voters approved the ban.

* Chisinau: The capital of Moldova, another country with a spotty human rights record, including many restrictions on independent media and reports of widespread torture by police forces.

* Yongsan-gu, South Korea: Imperialist swine. In all seriousness, though, non-Korean minorities face considerable discrimination, particularly among non-documented workers from elsewhere in Asia. The country also has many anti-gay discriminatory laws.

* San Juan de Oriente, Nicarauga: Also built in the vicinity of native villages by European colonizers, Nicaragua has also experienced significant problems with police abuse, and President Ortega has been accused of using state apparatuses to squelch dissent while enabling regime-friendly groups free reign to violently terrorize opponents.

* Bethlehem: Palestinian security forces stand accused of violence against Christian residents, who have accelerated emigration from the city. Israeli citizens are forbidden from entering Bethlehem, including the Solomon's Pools, while Palestinians require a permit to enter Rachel's Tomb, a Jewish holy site. Military and paramilitary forces linked to the Palestinian Authority have been implicated in numerous terrorist attacks against Jewish targets.

The point isn't that any of these cities shouldn't be "sister cities". The point is that the claim that Ashkelon or Israel is somehow distinct in form from other cities that Sacramento has paired with (or indeed, most cities around the world) are essentially spurious. They're cover for a fundamental objection that Israel is there and doesn't roll over and die.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Suppressive Cycles

I confess to having similar thoughts to Harold Meyerson:
If voter suppression goes forward and Romney narrowly prevails, consider the consequences. An overwhelmingly and increasingly white Republican Party, based in the South, will owe its power to discrimination against black and Latino voters, much like the old segregationist Dixiecrats. It’s not that Republicans haven’t run voter suppression operations before, but they’ve been under-the-table dirty tricks, such as calling minority voters with misinformation about polling-place locations and hours. By contrast, this year’s suppression would be the intended outcome of laws that Republicans publicly supported, just as the denial of the franchise to Southern blacks before 1965 was the intended result of laws such as poll taxes. More ominous still, by further estranging minority voters, even as minorities constitute a steadily larger share of the electorate, Republicans will be putting themselves in a position where they increasingly rely on only white voters and where their only path to victory will be the continued suppression of minority votes. A cycle more vicious is hard to imagine.

This does not strike me as a negligible risk. The voter suppression tactics of today are "justified" by reference to a non-existent phenomenon, so its not like Republicans have to worry about a fig leaf jarring loose. And if GOP's only path to competitiveness is in each year blocking more and more minority voters from reaching the polls, there's a real chance that's the strategy that they'll adopt.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Ryan Effect

There are different schools of thought when it comes to choosing a Vice President. One can pick to reinforce a narrative ("this election is all about the economy"), or to balance the ticket (the nominee is strong on domestic issues but has little foreign policy experience, so pick a VP who is know to be an IR maven). One can pick based on electoral calculation or based on who is ready to take the reins of the presidency if disaster strikes. One can go for geographic diversity, or break barriers by selecting a woman or sexual minority.

But the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Mitt Romney's VP nominee has raised a new criteria -- effectively shifting blame for a loss. Already I'm seeing a bunch of different reports arguing over whether and how Ryan reallocates blame for a Republican defeat in November. Some say Ryan's presence on the ticket pins the loss on the far-right slash-and-burners that Ryan represents. Others vehemently disagree, saying this is still the "moderate" Mitt Romney's baby.

I'm not really sure what I believe. But I do know that if the first reaction to the VP pick by one's base is "how does this impact our upcoming November defeat", well, that's not exactly the sign of a healthy and confident campaign.

This is a Secret Message

Testing from behind the wall. If you aren't an approved reader, you shouldn't be able to see this. If you can see this, either the wall isn't working or welcome to the club!