October 1, 2014
How Israel Silences Dissent

Mairav Zonzsein, an American-Israeli journalist, writes:

Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.


This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock.  For most of Israel’s existence, the majority of Israelis have allowed the state, in the name of Jewish sovereignty and security, to violate Palestinians’ basic human rights — including access to water and the freedom of movement and assembly. The state has killed unarmed protesters and then failed to carry out investigations; it has allowed settlers and soldiers to act with impunity; and it has systematically discriminated against non-Jewish citizens. After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting “one of your own” isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies.

Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist and an expert on fascism, believes that “radical nationalism” and the “erosion of Enlightenment values” have reached new heights in Israel. “To grieve for the loss of life on both sides is already a subversive act, treason,” he told Haaretz. Mr. Sternhell has experienced Jewish extremist violence firsthand; in 2008, a settler planted a bomb in his home that wounded him.

Israelis increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family. Not only are they not willing to listen, they are trying to silence it before it can even be voiced. With a family like that, I would rather be considered one of “them.”

October 1, 2014
An Israeli soldier walks for Palestinians

From the article:

On Thursday afternoon, a sun-burnt and probably  blistered former Israeli soldier will arrive at  Federal Parliament to deliver a petition in support of the Boycott, Divestment and  Sanctions  movement  for the right of Palestinians  to self determination.

University of Wollongong academic Marcelo Svirsky will have  walked for 10 days over 300 gruelling kilometres from Sydney to Canberra   with a petition to draw the attention of federal MPs  to the critical predicament of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The petition asks the Australian Government to honour  its obligations under international law through boycott, divestment and sanctions of states, institutions and companies which facilitate Israel’s illegal, discriminatory  and cruel policies towards Palestinians.  

Marcelo explains his campaigning as  ”using my love of walking for one of the world’s most socially just causes.  Only international pressure by civil society, based on non-violent means of boycott can change the balance of power and eventually bring Israel to compromise.

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October 1, 2014
"This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments….We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent."

Adam Smith (via azspot)

(via azspot)

1:07am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnx1S51weB
Filed under: politics adam smith 
September 29, 2014
"There has been no more ridiculous sight over the past week than pundits suggesting the crisis in Iraq happened because the United States withdrew its troops too soon."

September 29, 2014
In case you missed it, Hong Kong is blowing up with civil unrest as tens of thousands took to the streets over the weekend to protest for greater Democracy and transparency in elections.
(Photo via NBC / Xaume Olleros / AFP - Getty Images at link above)

In case you missed it, Hong Kong is blowing up with civil unrest as tens of thousands took to the streets over the weekend to protest for greater Democracy and transparency in elections.

(Photo via NBC / Xaume Olleros / AFP - Getty Images at link above)

1:53am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZMMjnx1RxOleP
Filed under: politics hong kong 
September 28, 2014



LTMC: This chart doesn’t really demonstrate anything useful in terms of the effect of gun control on violent crime rates in Europe.  Many of the countries listed here have very similar gun laws to the UK.   According to GunPolicy.org, France (the lowest on the chart) has banned private handgun ownership with “very narrow exceptions.”  In Luxembourg (2nd lowest on the chart), private possession of handguns is outright “prohibited.”  Also relevant is Sweden, where handgun ownership is not permitted for “protection of person or property,” yet still has a violent crime rate nearly half that of the UK.  

The Skeptical Libertarian (hereinafter TSL) wrote an excellent post discussing the related claim that UK has a higher violent crime rate than the U.S.  American authors often draw mistaken conclusions from European data on violent crime because European authorities measure violent crime differently than in America.  TSL focused on a TV segment hosted by popular Libertarian journalist Ben Swann which discussed UK crime data from the Daily Mail:

Due to fundamental differences in how crime is recorded and categorized, it’s impossible to compute exactly what the British violent crime rate would be if it were calculated the way the FBI does it, but if we must compare the two, my best estimate‡ would be something like 776 violent crimes per 100,000 people. While this is still substantially higher than the rate in the United States, it’s nowhere near the 2,034 cited by Swann and the Mail.

TSL continues:

it’s also worth noting that while Swann implied that the UK is more violent than the US because of its handgun ban, violent crime has been declining in Britain since the mid-1990s, and it continued to do so without interruption after the 1997 Firearms Amendment went into effect. Meanwhile, in the United States, gun ownership has been falling steadily, even as the US experienced the same sharp decline in violence beginning in early ‘90s.

None of this disproves the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis (though the statistical evidence on whether gun ownership directly affects local crime rates, up or down, appears to be a wash), nor does it make any of the gun control proposals currently being debated any more attractive. What it does mean is that Swann’s argument here is disingenuous, factually inaccurate, and fundamentally flawed. At best, he is giving gun enthusiasts bad reasons to support the Second Amendment when perfectly good reasons are already available

In other words, Hawkins’ chart actually does more to damage the case of gun advocates than to make it, because many of the countries on the list have successfully implemented restrictive gun control laws and kept violent crime rates low relative to other jurisdictions.  It’s always important to make sure you try to predict these types of issues if you’re going to rely on a data set like this, because if you don’t, you wind up proving the “other side’s” point.

(via priceofliberty)

September 28, 2014
Why "Good Cops" Stay Silent: The Persecution of Officer Adam Basford

From the article:

[Adam] Basford, an Air Force veteran who regarded himself to be a peace officer rather than a law enforcer, had patrolled a violent neighborhood riven with gang-related violence. On many occasions prior to August 18, he had called for backup, only to find – as he did that night – that no help was forthcoming. This wasn’t just because Basford’s fellow officers were afraid, but because he had violated the unwritten but binding rules of police solidarity by speaking out against routine misconduct and abuse within the department.

Basford had just finished an administrative call when he heard gunshots and saw an armed man later identified as Cardenas racing through the neighborhood. Basford pursued Cardenas into a nearby yard, overtaking him when the suspect failed to clear a fence.
“I didn’t want to draw my gun, because there was a young girl just a few feet away,” Basford recalled to Pro Libertate. “Cardenas took a swing at me, and missed. I took his back while the two of us were still on our feet. He reached for my lapel microphone and broke it, then said he was going to kill me and that nobody would find my body.”
“[The other cops] heard me get shot,” Basford recounted to me. “They heard me scream for assistance. They were just two blocks away – but they were fifteen minutes from the end of their shift, and they went back to the station instead of coming to my aid.” Basford would find out later that the bike patrol officers “didn’t think the overtime would be approved.”

September 28, 2014
"It’s acceptable for men to consent to get repeatedly punched in the head for money, but I can’t consent to sex [for money]?"

Emily J

September 26, 2014
My escape from North Korea

Hyeonseo Lee had to learn two languages, lie to immigration officials, bribe border police in Laos, beg officials at a South Korean embassy, and rely on the kindness of strangers to finally free herself and her family from North Korea.  This twelve minute TED talk is worth your time.

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Filed under: politics north korea 
September 26, 2014
"Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress."

Erick Erickson

I could not disagree more, Erick.

Comments like this are part of the reason I was never able to relate to modern American Conservatism as a political ideology.  The idea that the President shouldn’t need to consult Congress on foreign policy matters strikes me as a subplot of the “Strong Leader” paradigm that many Conservative opinion leaders talk about.  And this obsession with the President being a “Strong Leader” is toxic.  It is even more toxic when a “Strong Leader” is defined as a person who dictates U.S. foreign policy unilaterally.  It’s an idea that is as scary as it is incoherent from a legal standpoint.

What is strange about Erickson’s comment is that he criticized Obama elsewhere for exceeding the Constitutional limits of Executive Power.  He has railed against the Obama administration taking unilateral action under the Affordable Care Act.  But apparently Erickson has no concern about the President unilaterally sending American troops to other countries without Congressional authorization.  

It’s possible that Erickson was using “foreign policy” to refer strictly to diplomatic relations with other countries.  But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  The term “foreign policy” encompasses military action.  That necessarily includes things like dropping bombs on countries the U.S. government doesn’t like.  And given that Erickson made this statement in the same paragraph that he mentions ISIS, it sure seems like he’s not just talking about diplomacy here.  To wit, here is the whole paragraph I took the above quote from:

The past six years have seen the undoing of almost seventy years of gains abroad. Foreign policy is the one area the President does not have to rely on Congress. The inter-party fighting should not matter. But China is rattling its sabers, Russia has crossed into Ukraine, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, ISIS is cutting off American heads, commercial airliners are missing in Libya, and the list goes on.

What exactly is the U.S. President supposed to do about all this?  The President realistically only has three coercive foreign policy tools at his disposal: the bully pulpit, economic sanctions, and war.  The Obama administration has already declared economic sanctions against Russia.  What else should it do?  The Ukraine is an independent state where many of the residents are sympathetic to Russia and welcome Russia’s involvement in the region.    There is little the Obama Administration can realistically do here unless they want to start a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine—a war in which a number of Ukrainians would probably fight against the U.S.  

The Obama administrations options with China are also few in number.  There is basically nothing that can be done against China because (a) they have a large, capable military, (b) the U.S. economy benefits handsomely from Chinese commerce, and (c) the Chinese government is a sizable creditor of the U.S. treasury.  Any drastic measures taken against the Chinese government would inevitably double back and bite the U.S. in the ass, because both countries are, at this point, heavily invested in one another’s future.

Here is the bottom line: the President cannot Constitutionally declare a war.  Only Congress can.  It is unfortunately true that Congress has not actually declared war on another country for a long time.  It is also true that numerous Presidents of both parties have deployed U.S. military forces into war zones without Congressional approval.  But that does not change the fact that under Article I, § 8, cl. 11 of the U.S. Constitution, not a single American soldier ought to be anywhere near the middle east without Congressional authorization.  Erick Erickson’s fear of ISIS does not change the wording of the Constitution he claims to revere.  Nor does it make his tacit approval of the atrocious piece of legislation known as the AUMF any more coherent when measured against Article I of that same Constitution.

Erick Erickson wants a President who will “keep him safe and get out of his way.”  Fair enough.  But from where I stand, the “Strong Leader” Erick Erickson wants in the White House is someone who will ignore Congress on foreign policy, and isn’t afraid to start wars—and not just with powerless third-world nations and isolated dictators—but wars with countries that are large and powerful enough that a large-scale armed conflict would be a catastrophic event (e.g. China, Russia).  

That makes me feel less safe.  I want a leader who is extraordinarily hesitant to go to war.  I’m tired of the U.S. leaking blood and treasure from its pores to bomb other countries.  I’m also tired of the boondoggles and unintended consequences that seem to accompany every recent attempt by the U.S. to militarily intervene in other countries’ affairs.  And none of this is to suggest that I think the Democratic party or the Obama administration are angels.  But if Erick Erickson’s version of the President is any indication of what the modern American Conservative movement deems to be a competent leader, I want no part of it.

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