The Times Video Guy

As you doubtless know, the LA Times is sitting on a video of Obama at a Palestinian event honoring Rashid Khalidi, who I now believe has Edward Said’s chair at Columbia. Their journalistic integrity precludes them from releasing the video. Yes, I’m being ironic, and yes, I will do something on journalism in light of this and the Nir Rosen story.

But for now, I did a tiny bit of digging around, and found a Eric Martin post at American Footprints which included a Juan Cole post which – shockingly! – calls ‘racism’ in the attacks on Khalidi, and extols this article in the Nation as an example of the kind of good influence he could be on the Middle East.

So let’s go look at it.

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It is considered by some to be a slur on Israel and Zionism, and indeed even tantamount to anti-Semitism, to suggest that these events sixty years ago should be the subject of anything but unmitigated joy. Commemoration, or even analysis, of what Palestinians call their national catastrophe, al-Nakba–the expulsion, flight and loss of their homes by a majority of their people sixty years ago–is thus considered not in terms of this seminal event’s meaning to at least 8 million Palestinians today (some estimates are over 10 million) but only because it is directly related to the founding of Israel. Palestinians presumably do not have the right to recall, much less mourn, their national disaster if this would rain on the parade of celebrating Zionists everywhere.


A few things seem clear sixty years after 1948. One is that if the Jewish question has lost its saliency, perhaps more as a consequence of the enormity of the atrocities of the Nazis than for any other reason, the creation of Israel has raised different questions and problems for its supporters and others. To the extent that Zionism has succeeded in winning acceptance of its assertion that all Jews are part of a national body whose nation-state is Israel, it has linked the status and circumstances of Jews everywhere not only to the fate of that state but to every facet of that state’s policies and actions. Insofar as some of those policies and actions may be unacceptable, their very existence must be denied or elided, and reality bent to suit the tender sensibilities of supporters of Israel: for example, the rank discrimination against the 1.4 million Arab citizens of Israel who are not part of the Jewish ethnicity in whose name and for whose interests the state was created and exists; or the collective punishment inflicted on the 1.5 million people of the Gaza Strip imprisoned for months on end; or the systematic torture and humiliation inflicted on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have passed through the Israeli prison system. We see the results of this bending of reality in the travesty that passes for news coverage of Israel and Palestine in the American media.

And then there’s this gem:

In particular, Palestinians lacked clarity about the moral, legal and political disadvantages in the use of violence against an Israeli polity able to mobilize in defense of its actions, however unspeakable, the most powerful tropes of victimhood in modern Western culture.

Notice that the moral issues involved in using violence inherently aren’t at issue. It’s the tactical disadvantages inherent in the use of violence against Jews who can, “mobilize in defense of its actions, however unspeakable, the most powerful tropes of victimhood in modern Western culture.”

Now, when a Palestinian leader or thinker shows up who says, “You know – this whole killing Jews thing hasn’t worked so well for us so far. What would it take for us to stop trying to kill them, stop talking about killing them, stop raising our children in the deep belief that killing them is the most noble thing that can be done?” I’ll gte all excited about supporting them, and I’ll be willing to engage strenuously with them in an effort to start a discussion on the question that Israel needs to seriously think about what kind of state it wants to be.

But this kind of apologist, racebaiting crap needs to be called out for exactly what it is – crap.

And if I’m wobbly on Obama, it’s for two reasons – because I’m unconvinced that he believes in free speech, and because I worry that he’ll inadvertently push Israel to the decision that thye’d rather deal with a pissed-off UN and a lot of dead Arabs than a morally dead UN and a lot of pissed-off Arabs, let be unlike comfortable Western academics who think that genocide is cool.

EMP, Again

There’s a lot of chatter about Iranian EMP again (it seems to come back periodically). here’s Walid Phares over at the Counterterrorism Blog:

Over the past seven months I have been interacting with US Homeland Security and European defense officials and experts on a the potential next threat to the West, more particularly against mainland America. The signature of that strategic menace is EMP: Electro Magnetic Pulse; a weapon of the future, already available in design, construction and possible deployment. As eyes are focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, and as we began recently to understand that the missile advances are as important then the fissile material development, attention is now being drawn by private sector projects and some in the defense world to what can cause a wider circle of damages and thus more deterrence against US national security.

In short, and I borrow from the Project “Shield,” an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could be triggered by a nuclear warhead detonated at high altitude over America. The resulting blast would create an EMP, a shockwave that could “cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure.” Even if a high-altitude EMP kills nobody at first, it would paralyze a large section of the United States. The lingering practical and economic effects would take anywhere from hours to years to resolve: when secondary effects are considered, an EMP could be even deadlier than a direct nuclear strike against the mainland. Indeed, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has written: “Where the terrorist airliner attacks of 9/11 killed thousands, a terrorist EMP attack could indirectly kill millions and conceivably cause the permanent collapse of our entire society.”

I’ve written about that before, and done a little bit of math on it. I’m certainly no arms control wonk, but what I came away with was the belief that it would take a 1 MT weapon detonated about 19 – 20 miles up to have a meaningful impact as opposed to a relatively local impact.

I’ve gotta believe that no new nuclear power is likely to come out of the box with a 1 MT weapon, and that the technology to get it 20 miles above New Jersey isn’t something that Iran will be able to do soon enough – reliably enough (remember, no do-overs on something like this) to risk their national survival on a prototype.

Calm Down, People

First of all, the race is still wide open.If I was a more passionate Obama supporter, or if I wasn’t putting my tiny bit of energy into a) passing Prop 11, b) defeating Prop 8, and c) passing local Props X and Y here in Torrance – badly-needed school bonds for our local schools which have all passed the date at which they should have been rebuilt – I’d be worried and trying to figure out what I can do.

I still believe both that he will and that he should win; but I hear the people who are deeply convinced that he’s really Emma Goldman in drag and dark makeup.
First, I don’t think he is. I think that he’s a deeply careerist politician who was brought up by people on the left and used them like Kleenex to advance his career. He’s never in his career done anything outlandish, brave, or deeply controversial, and I just don’t see it that anyone is that good a deep-cover agent as to be able to cover it up.

Next, I believe deeply in the homeostasis of the American system. As reassurance, let me offer this AP article:

Conservative Democrats who’ve been a thorn in the side of liberal party leaders could grow into a major obstacle to Barack Obama’s agenda if he is elected president.

Majority Democrats are positioned for big gains in next week’s congressional election. But many of the new faces would join a growing chorus of “Blue Dogs” who often part from the party base on big issues like taxes and increasing federal spending.

That could set up a roadblock for Obama, who has promised to broaden health insurance coverage, start a new round of public works projects and improve early childhood education, among other things — all initiatives that would require substantial government spending at a time of soaring deficits.

The 49 House Blue Dogs – about one in every four House Democrats – could grow by as many as 10 in Tuesday’s election with wins in mainly Southern, conservative-leaning districts. Overall, Democrats are expected to pick up 20 or more House seats.

Look, it’s simple to me. Even given a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, the Democrats Congressmen who will be up in 2010 know that if they step too far to the left, they will be ex-Democratic Congressmen, and if there’s anything a Congressman hates, it’s having to pick up his own lunch tab. And I believe Obama would like to be a two-term President. And he knows what will happen if he goes all Dennis Kuchinich on us.

So everybody take a deep breath here. Go get out the Republican (or Democratic vote rather than hanging out here and bickering. Jan 20 will be here soon enough, andI’m deeply confident that no matter what color the hand that’s raised in oath will be, in the long run the Republic will do just fine.

Bob Kerry On Obama

In the NY Daily News, former Senator and all-around Good Guy Bob Kerry explains exactly what the model is for an Obama presidency that would make me very happy and comfortable.

By my lights, the primary threat to the success of a President Obama will come from some Democrats who, emboldened by the size of their congressional majority, may try to kill trade agreements, raise taxes in ways that will destroy jobs, repeal the Patriot Act and spend and regulate to high heaven.

This is where Obama’s persona is invaluable. He can withstand the arguments and pressure of the liberal wing in the Democratic caucus if, once elected, he is guided by the best instincts he has displayed on the campaign trail.

I believe this is likely because Obama will surround himself with professionals, not ideologues or acolytes. An unprecedented number of patriotic, politically savvy and centrist men and women have been part of his campaign team – and are therefore likely to make up President Obama’s governing team.

I believe this is likely because of who Obama is. Republicans have tried desperately to paint the man as a secret radical. But the imagery just doesn’t connect; Americans see a man who is calm, respectful, considerate and careful. That is just what the doctor ordered for our politics.

Last, I believe this is likely because Obama understands that to succeed, he must make peace with John McCain just as he has done with Hillary Clinton. When this historic election concludes, I expect the two to sit down, without precondition, and negotiate an agenda of reform.

But that will only be the beginning. To build up the political capital for the kinds of changes needed in these difficult times, Obama will need to communicate the following to Congress, in no uncertain terms: The Democrats have not won a mandate for all their policies. Rather, the American people have resoundingly registered their frustration with a failed status quo, and the next President must chart a new, less partisan course.

That’s what I’ve been talking about. If Obama can do this – can govern as someone whose values come from the left side of the Democratic party, but whose governing style comes from the kind of inclusive, conciliatory positions he took early in his campaign – then I’ll have made a good bet in supporting him.

Because that’s what I’m betting on, in the face of a mixed bag of evidence.

Your Politics Or Your Job

So here’s something that caught my eye.

Dan Cooper makes beautiful hunting rifles in Montana. Like most gun people, he’s been a Republican most of his life, but in 2004 he became enamored with Barack Obama, after his Democratic Convention speech, and donated to his Senatorial campaign. He maxed out donating to Obama’s presidential campaign.

When a story about this appeared in USA Today, the gun folks were – unhappy.

In response, he appears to have been fired from his own company.

When I heard about it, I shared this thought with some shooting friends:

I’m gonna stick my unarmored rear out on this a bit and say that the reaction I’m seeing here kinda creeps me out. Agree or disagree with the man’s politics, choose to buy his goods or not – but there’s something about the idea of someone being fired for taking a political stand that doesn’t involve liquidating kulaks or Jews which doesn’t fit with my notion of American freedom.

Maybe I’m sensitive to it, given the fact that as liberal as I am, I’m massively conservative by the standards of many of the people I do business with. I’ve actually lost business because of my blog and politics – which is “good riddance” to me. But the idea that my boss or my Board might get to vet my political views isn’t something that I’ll cheer, and I hope that on a moment’s more thoughtful reflection many of you will reconsider.

Their reaction has been pretty stiff – they (not unreasonably) think that Obama will be horrible on gun policy. from my point of view, it will be an interesting – and probably first – test of how Obama will govern domestically. Will he push for aggressive gun restriction, or accept that the recent court decisions and the run of American politics are such that the issue isn’t a winning one?

From my point of view, I’ll be becoming a Life Member (or EPL Life Member – $25 at a time) of the NRA this month.

But it still creeps me out that – no matter how strong the reaction – someone would lose their job for their political beliefs. It’s the kind of think I bust Hollywood and the media for, and it seems like a basic American value that we all ought to be able to agree on.

Vets For Freedom and John Murtha

Vets For Freedom has been running ads hammering John Murtha for his ongoing willingness to believe – and speak – the worst of our troops.

Murtha’s commentaries about Haditha alone were despicable – simply because they rushed to judgment and showed that with very little information, he accepted the worst possible narrative about the tragedy.

Murtha is also a pork baron, and a classic example of the sense of entitlement that’s destroying our Congress.

That’s why I was happy to donate to his opponent, and to sign the Vets For Freedom petition – and ask you to click over and sign as well – asking that he apologize for his flatly false claims about the solders who – like him – stood in harm’s way, and then – unlike him – came home to find themselves unjustly charged as criminals. They need to get their reputations back, and Murtha’s colleagues needs to learn that there are limits to what outrages they can commit on-mike.

When VFF contacted me, I realized that I needed to go over and donate to Bill Russell – Murtha’s opponent – and did. You should too – because integrity matters more than party.

A Thought Experiment

Patterico and I are having a debate about American attitudes toward the law. We’ve settled on a hypothetical, and disagree about what people’s reactions to it will be.

Ground rules: This is a hypothetical, a gedanken experiment like Schrodinger’s cat. Yes, I acknowledge that it couldn’t be true. But don’t comment here on this topic if you cannot literally accept the assumptions.

Stipulate that there is a small machine that I could put into your home or workplace that with absolute accuracy – I mean 100% accuracy – would send an alarm in the specific case that a person who had the true intent to commit murder was close to it. Yes, it’s Minority Report territory. But accept it as true.

Would you – as an American – be comfortable having something like that in your house?

Update: So let’s explain where this came from.

Patterico and I were having a long discussion on voting, and on some ideas I have to test whether there is in fact meaningful voting fraud of certain types. He explained that he was far less concerned about voting methodology, and far more concerned about the risk that non-citizens were registering and voting in significant numbers. He was unhappy that we did not require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

I explained that there were two reasons for it, one good and one much less so. The less good reason is obvious; there are political factions who believe they gain support from the presence of the group of voters who can’t prove they are citizens. The good reason is more complex – it goes to the nature of our relationship as Americans with the law.

I started by explaining why America doesn’t like speed cameras, and why we feel it’s important that the law by arms-length away from us. We debated, and I raised the stakes to the idea expressed above.

We don’t like the direct intrusion of control – even when it’s for as important a purpose as preventing murder. We don’t like “showing our papers.” That’s a good thing, in my view, and something to protect.

It seems like a lot of you agree.

Someone Tell Me Why We Are Using These Things?

Miscalibrated voting machines in North Carolina

Several early voters have called into WFMY News 2 with concerns about a voting machine glitch.

All callers reported that they touched their finger to the screen for the person/party they wanted to vote for, but the wrong person/party was marked.

One person reported trying to check the McCain/Palin ticket, but Obama/Biden was highlighted.

Another person reported the exact opposite. They tried to check the Obama/Biden ticket and McCain/Palin was highlighted.

George Gilbert, the director of the Guilford County Board of Elections says, “If the machine was out of calibration, it could do that and that’s when the precinct officials need to stop, and put them on another machine or go back and try again.”

Fortunately – in these cases alert voters caught the mistake before walking away. If you live someplace where they use touchscreen voting equipment, ask to see if you can vote on a paper ballot. If not, be sure to check the voter-verifiable paper trail. Do not automatically assume that these machines will count your vote as intended.

And I don’t say that because I think there’s some vast conspiracy to steal votes (yet). I say it because the machines are POS’s that shouldn’t be allowed to count the quarters in your kid’s piggy bank much less help determine who will be president next year…

No On 5 and No On 6

Prop 5 is an extension of Prop 36 a few years ago, which diverted many drug offenders out of the criminal justice system into rehab. But 36 made rehab enforceable – judges could put people who walked out of rehab into prison. Prop 5 takes this protection away. Personally, I could see legalizing and taxing drugs and spending a lot of money on rehab. I think that overall, the benefits would outweigh the costs. And I believe in “evolution in action.”

But this pastiche is just bad policy and bad law. So I’ll vote No on 5.

Similarly, Prop 6 is a tough-on-crime bill that in several points looks unconstitutional – it allows hearsay, weakens the right of the accused to have witnesses testify, expands the financial penalties (including seizure, which I detest) for property used in crimes even without the owner’s knowledge or consent. Some good criticism of 6 can be found here.

Plus it will cost a boatload. So, also – No on 6.