Adam Serwer

West Explains Nothing

Cornel West offers the New York Times a non-explanation for his complaint that Obama “feels most comfortable with upper-middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart.” It’s in no way an attempt to devalue white or Jewish brothers. It’s an objective fact. In his administration, he’s got a significant number of very smart white brothers and very smart Jewish brothers. You think that’s unimportant? Let's start with the fact that West's recommendations were that Obama listen to Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, two more rather smart Jewish brothers. West asks incredulously, "you don't think that's important?" As though the burden is on the interviewer to explain why the fact that some of Obama's advisers are Jewish isn't relevant, and not on Cornel West to explain what that has to do with anything. The uncharitable interpretation here is that this is Matt Drudge school of race baiting--it's not that you're saying anything racist, you're just making the observation that...

Norway

I don't have any particular insight on the attacks on government buildings in Norway this morning, but just last week, Thomas Hegghammer and Dominic Tierney wrote a piece in the aftermath of a recently foiled terrorist plot that offered some speculation on how and why Norway became a target of Islamic extremists. UPDATE: The suspect in custody is "Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year old with right-wing extremist and anti-Muslim views."

Obama As Conservative President

Bruce Bartlett* looks at Barack Obama and sees Richard Nixon: Thus Obama took office under roughly the same political and economic circumstances that Nixon did in 1968 except in a mirror opposite way. Instead of being forced to manage a slew of new liberal spending programs, as Nixon did, Obama had to cope with a revenue structure that had been decimated by Republicans. Liberals hoped that Obama would overturn conservative policies and launch a new era of government activism. Although Republicans routinely accuse him of being a socialist, an honest examination of his presidency must conclude that he has in fact been moderately conservative to exactly the same degree that Nixon was moderately liberal. Conservatives understood, even before Nixon was nominated, that he wasn't a true believer. An attempted coup in favor of Ronald Reagan didn't materialize, and Nixon managed to assuage critics to his right with conservative rhetoric on law and order, personal responsibility, and...

Judicial Vacancy Crisis Only Getting Worse

Nan Aron of the Alliance For Justice notes that officially, because judges are retiring faster than Obama is nominating them and the Senate is confirming them, the number of judicial vacancies is higher than it was at the beginning of the year. To make matters worse, there are 115 vacancies (114 at the beginning of the year), but only 57 nominees pending before the Senate. Obama's confirmation rate for judges is 62 percent, far lower than his two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who had confirmations rates of 84 percent and 72 percent respectively. Now Republican obstruction is largely to blame here, but when was the last time you heard Obama or anyone else from the administration use the phrase "up or down vote?"

Stop Using Moozlem Words!

Yet more evidence of a sinister Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy afoot: The blinding waves of brown particles, the most recent of which hit Phoenix on Monday, are caused by thunderstorms that emit gusts of wind, roiling the desert landscape. Use of the term “haboob,” which is what such storms have long been called in the Middle East, has rubbed some Arizona residents the wrong way. “I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic after a particularly fierce, mile-high dust storm swept through the state on July 5. “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?” Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such. “Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While...

Fallout

Study finds the abortion pill is safe and effective. Scary: Ghana's regional minister has " ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the country’s west." This deal is getting worse all the time. Looks like Maryland is going to take another shot at marriage equality.

Judicial Override In Death Penalty Cases: Another Reason Why Electing Judges Is A Bad Idea

Sherrilyn Ifill has an interesting piece up on the Equal Justice Initiative's new report on the death penalty in Alabama. Unlike other states, Alabama has a policy of judicial override which allows judges to impose the death penalty in cases where the jury has decided on a sentence of life in prison. Delaware and Florida also allow this, but they have restrictions that make overrides much rarer whereas Alabama has none at all. Ifill writes that the report is a "devastating indictment of judicial elections" and that "if judges are condemning convicts to death and overriding the judgment of the jury to improve their chances for re-election, we are looking at a system that can no longer rightly use the word "justice" to describe itself." There are two key findings from the study I want to highlight. The first is that judicial elections impact the frequency of judicial overrides in death penalty cases: Override rates fluctuate wildly from year to year. The proportion of death sentences...

Superheroes And The Jews

Jacob Silverman, observing that the American superhero genre is largely is highly informed by Jewish history, argues that the problem with today's superhero blockbusters is that they've gotten away from their Heeb roots: Perhaps because their creators were forced to reckon with their sense of identity (Stan Lee and many of his peers anglicized their names), comics have been better than their filmic descendants at pushing their protagonists to extremes. In 1941, the now-famous cover of Captain America No. 1 showed the Cap fighting Nazis. A nebbishy, desperately patriotic Brooklyn boy (read: Jew) who, with the help of a Jewish scientist, was turned into a physical specimen, Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both Jewish. But even though he began as a Nazi-busting macho, he was never out of touch with the ambivalence with which so many Jews approach power. By 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, Captain America has had a crisis of conscience, calling himself “an...

The Strange Politics Of The American Immigration Debate

So Campus Progress has a well done infographic contrasting the deportation numbers in a given month with president Obama's rhetoric on immigration policy. The administration has said it is focused on deporting undocumented immigrants who are a threat to public safety, but in practice there are far more non-criminal removals than criminal ones: Sandra Khalifa and Eddie Garcia observe that: So far this year, deportations continue to be inexcusably equal for non-criminal and criminal immigrants alike [ PDF ]—and in fact, in the last three months more non-criminal immigrants have been deported than immigrants convicted of serious crimes. In the months of March, April and May this year, ICE deported 11,639 more non-criminal immigrants than those with actual criminal records, bringing the total number of non-criminal removals to 55,000. Yet, the current status of our immigration debate is that Obama insists he's prioritizing the deportation of criminals while actually deporting far more non...

Civilian Courts Can Handle Terrorism, Part One Million

Spencer Ackerman makes an observation that can't be repeated enough: So I asked Karen Greenberg, director of NYU's Center on Law and Security to help me out here. According to Karen, if you count dismissals by either the judge or the government, the conviction rate in terrorism cases is 87 percent. If you don't, the rate is 95 percent. That's compared to a 91 percent conviction rate (.pdf) for all criminal cases. Initially, I asked about this wondering if the stats wouldn't be something like 98 percent or something -- in other words, an indication that maybe we counterintuitively have akangaroo court system for civilian terrorism convictions. But the stats don't really bear it out. If the rate hovers around the 91 percent all-convictions rate, then if we have a problem with the fairness of convictions at all, it's hardly limited to terrorism. Score one for getting the data. This is so much better in chart form! Using the data from Greenberg's 2010 report that is, which has the number...

Pew: Muslims And Westerners Don't Like Each Other Much

Pew has a fascinating and grim new poll out on how Muslims and Westerners view each other. The poll concludes that "Muslim and Western publics continue to see relations between them as generally bad, with both sides holding negative stereotypes of the other." Anti-Semitism is also prevalent, as citizens of Muslim countries have particularly negative views of Jews, whose favorable ratings remain in the single digits among all the countries surveyed. September 11 denialism is also very prevalent in Muslim countries, with majorities in all the countries surveyed denying that Arabs were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. That might explain a finding from a Zogby poll a few weeks ago that showed widespread disapproval of the U.S. killing Osama bin Laden -- although that poll shares only a few of the same countries surveyed with this one. Here's the Pew chart on stereotypes Muslims and Westerners hold of each other -- each side agrees that the other is "fanatical." There's also significant...

Florida Embracing Private Prisons

When then-candidate Rick Scott and the police unions were butting heads over Scott's plans to reduce prison costs, I pointed out that neither side was particularly sympathetic. The police unions were accusing Scott of wanting to release dangerous criminals and Scott was arguing that forcing inmates to grow their own food was going to save money. Now that he's governor, Scott has settled on privatizing Florida's prison system, which isn't a particularly good idea either. Sara Mayeux writes that the Florida Police Benevolent Association is suing to stop 30 prisons from being privatized: Some context: First, according to a recent analysis by finance blogger Mike Konczal at Rortybomb, Florida is not currently a high user of private prisons relative to other states, with under 10% of its prisoners in private facilities. But Konczal hypothesizes that “once a state flips to using private contractors, they use them a lot” — so the Florida PBA is probably not wrong to worry that flipping 30...

Al-Qaeda Covering Up Its Anthony Weiner Conspiracy

Midway through the Anthony Weiner scandal, folks on the Islamophobic right decided that a Democratic Congressman sending pictures of his penis wasn't humiliating enough and concluded that Weiner was part of an Islamist plot to take over America, because his wife Huma Abedin is a Muslim. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, perhaps worried that their plot had been uncovered, devoted a section to mocking Weiner in the latest issue of their magazine Inspire. A faux full-page ad in the summer issue bears a photo of a feisty Weiner speaking before the House of Representatives under the banner, "An angry Weiner head." It goes on to quote Weiner in one of his early, deceitful explanations about how a picture of his crotch was sent to a Seattle college student. "This was a prank to make fun of my name!" a readout next to the photo blares. Obviously, this just proves that the original conspiracy is true and that Weiner's uncritical support for Israel was just part of the coverup. Why make fun of...

Fallout

Most anti-LGBT murder victims are people of color. Worst Congress ever. The hunger strike at Pelican Bay prison continues . Dana Goldstein on fighting unemployment.

Obama Is Weak On Terrorism Because He Doesn't Say Certain Words Enough

Maybe you heard that the Obama administration has been engaged in a large, unaccountable, covert shadow war against terrorist groups using special forces and armed drones. Perhaps you've heard about its vastly expanded targeted killing program and the civilian casualties associated with it, or the administration's embrace of broad surveillance powers the president once promised to reform as a candidate. You might have heard about some guy who used to run a terrorist group getting killed by special forces a few months ago. All this might lead you to believe that the administration has been pursuing a rather aggressive counterterrorism strategy, one that's largely come together in secret. But you'd be wrong. As Jennifer Rubin explains , these efforts are all "feeble" because Obama doesn't say "jihadism" enough. Dutifully reprinting the views of a recently created right-wing Muslim group, the The American Islamic Leadership Coalition, which for right now consists of a Tumblr warning...

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