Saturday, December 01, 2012

Beautiful Scenic Vistas are Just the Gift-Wrapping

This might actually be the dumbest thing I ever read:
Bryan Fischer, the director of issues analysis of the conservative fundamentalist American Family Association, on Thursday told a so-called “expert” who denies climate change that not using God’s fossil fuels would be like “crushing” someone’s feelings by rejecting their birthday present.

The Cornwall Alliance’s Calvin Beisner, who has previously said that believing in climate change “is an insult to God,” explained on Thursday that the Bible said it was also very rude to not use oil, coal and natural gas.

Fischer likened the situation to a birthday present he was given at the age of six. “I opened up a birthday present that I didn’t like, and I said it right out, ‘Oh, I don’t like those,’” the radio host recalled. “And it just crushed — and the person that gave me gift was there. You know, I just kind of blurted it out, ‘I don’t like those.’ And it just crushed that person. It was enormously insensitive of me to do that.”

“And you think, that’s kind of how we’re treating God when he’s given us these gifts of abundant and inexpensive and effective fuel sources,” Fischer added. “And we don’t thank him for it and we don’t use it.”

“You know, God has buried those treasures there because he loves to see us find them.”
Oh my goodness. Although I have to say if you had asked me to predict who would say the dumbest thing I'd ever read, Bryan Fischer would have been a top candidate, right alongside Steve King.

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Central [If Unstated]...."

Edward Goldstein opens his column on the UNGA Palestine vote by asserting that:
A central component of Israeli diplomacy and Jewish thinking has long been the assumption, asserted as necessary, that the Holocaust confers permanent, unassailable virtue on Israel and Jews. In light of the Holocaust, whatever Israel does is justified, especially if declared to be security related. Whatever and however Jews argue in support of Israel is correct. The obverse is also assumed and frequently asserted: in light of the Holocaust, no one has the right to criticize Israel, especially Europeans, and anyone who does may be suspected of anti-Semitism.
This is, of course, a rather gross statement to make. But what can be said in respond to it? Obviously, I could say that nobody (much less the entirety of "Jewish thinking"), in fact, claims that "the Holocaust confers permanent, unassailable virtue on Israel and Jews." Nor does anyone assert that everything Israel does is inherently justified, nor that all criticism of Israel is verboten and signifies anti-Semitism. But if I made that obviously true retort, Goldstein would just say "sure, nobody comes out and says those precise words, but it is the clear implication" -- a counter-argument with the convenient advantage of being completely unfalsifiable.

Indeed, I think this paradigm of moral purity is far more likely to be imposed on Jews from without than claimed from within. The fact of the Holocaust and other acts of anti-Semitism doesn't establish that Jews are unassailably virtuous. Why would it? There's nothing about oppression that purifies its victims -- imperfect people can be victims too. What it establishes is that non-Jews are not perfect; it destabilizes the hegemonic presence of non-Jewish voices and thus creates space for Jewish voices to be heard. To the casual observer that looks like a claim that Jews are "perfect", but that's only because Jews are claiming the right to speak on equal terms with a non-Jewish presence that had previously arrogated to itself a label of universal transcendence.

The frame that oppression makes the oppressed "perfect" is really more of a reactionary step. The framework sets up for Jews (and other minorities) a standard they can't possibly meet. And once they fail to meet it, it justifies stripping the label of "victim" and returning to the status quo where they can safely be ignored. It obviates the need to problematize the non-Jew in favor of providing a temporary elevation of the Jew to non-Jew status, contingent on the Jew maintaining a standard of conduct that nobody else can or is expected to meet. "From now on, Israel's cause will have to stand strictly on its merits"--"merits", here, defined wholly from a non-Jewish perspective and free from the distortive effect of a Jewish presence.

Goldstein is a Jewish writer, and he has the right to say what he wants. But this is really just evidence of how Jewish people can present anti-Semitic themes. I don't claim to know what is in Goldstein's heart, but the way he presents Jewish agency and Jewish contributions bears far less in common with how Jews typically conceive of ourselves, and more in common with what others typically say about us.

Maybe Try Zigging When They Expect You To Zag?

Yesterday, the UN General Assembly voted 138-9-41 to grant Palestine status as a non-member observer state. Israel and the United States were among the nine "no" votes, arguing that it was a symbolic distraction from the necessity of bilateral negotiations.

On the merits of this vote, I'm indifferent. I don't think UN votes accomplish anything useful, and it is already pretty well-known that the UN will happily pass any resolution that comes before it that is framed as pro-Palestine and/or anti-Israel. This resolution could have stated that Israel killed Roger Rabbit and the vote tally wouldn't have meaningfully differed. As for the ICC, I do think this is probably a red herring. The prosecutor would be exceptionally unlikely to take these cases, and if it did it may well start with prosecuting Hamas terrorism. I'd add that if the prosecutor (quite plausibly) declines to open a case on the grounds of complementarity (that Israeli courts can and do investigate these sorts of allegations effectively), that would actually be a pretty rare endorsement of Israel from an international legal body.

But nonetheless, I don't really fault Palestine for seeking even symbolic victories that antagonize their Israeli adversary. I don't like it either, but that's what happens when you're in an antagonistic relationship -- you seize opportunities to humiliate and piss off your opponent. Neither side is really innocent of this sort of behavior, and here at least I can respect why the symbolism is genuinely meaningful. And hey, if it allows Abbas to return to negotiations on the claim that he's now in a position of strength, so much the better.

My real question is why Israel didn't just go ahead and support the bid on purely tactical grounds. Look, Israel knew this resolution was going to pass. There was no doubt about that, which is why Israel began dialing back its threats of diplomatic retaliation and instead began mumbling about how this was all symbolic and didn't mean anything. Which -- maybe! But -- aside from the fact that if Israel had endorsed the bid I'd have given greater than 50/50 odds that Palestine would have pulled it -- if passage is inevitable and the substantive effect is negligible, why not vote in favor and gain some free credibility?

The answer, as usual, is probably nothing more than that the current Israeli government is comprised of idiots. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Sanctified Institution

Immigrant to America? Want citizenship? Forget things like the pesky DREAM Act! Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has a better recommendation: just marry an American! After all, if marriage is kind of like buying a cow (which I'm given to understand that it is), why not buy American?

In reality, Jezebel pretty much says what I want to say:
if Kyl actually encouraging marriages for citizenship someone should let him know that's a Federal felony. So much for the sanctity of marriage, hypocrites. And even if marriage is a good option for someone, it isn't a totally safe bet, anyway — there are plenty of couples where one of the partners is found guilty of something like an expired visa and are given penalties that range from years to a lifetime. There are just so many issues here, and I have a feeling I'm not even scratching the surface.
I would add that -- criminal liability aside -- there is something rather bloodless about telling someone they should marry, not for love, not because of true connection, but in order to access a legislative privilege. If this is the GOP's big plan to win back Latinos, well, best of luck.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Record Skip

It was said by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about Susan Rice's handling of Benghazi, but it might as well be any Republican on any issue: "I blame the president above all others."

The electoral honeymoon is over, I see.