Adam Serwer

"They Hate Us For Our Freedoms" Watch.

Spencer Ackerman reports on a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research looking to quantify the impact of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in producing new insurgents: “When ISAF units kill civilians,” the research team finds, referring to the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, “this increases the number of willing combatants, leading to an increase in insurgent attacks.” According to their model, every innocent civilian killed by ISAF predicts an “additional 0.03 attacks per 1,000 population in the next 6-week period.” In a district of 83,000 people, then, the average of two civilian casualties killed in ISAF-initiated military action leads to six additional insurgent attacks in the following six weeks. There hasn't been a similar study done on terrorism, but you can extrapolate the obvious from the findings, which is that the more people killed by the U.S., the more likely people are to think about returning the favor. That's not to discount the role of ideology in...

A Brief Note.

So we're still having a few problems with the RSS feed, but comments should be working fine now. Shoot me an e-mail if you're still having trouble accessing comments or the full RSS feed. Last week I received a number of very kind notes from readers congratulating me on the new blog, and I regret I haven't been able to respond to all of them, so I just wanted to say thank you in case you were one of the folks I didn't get back to.

Classic Steele.

From Christina Bellantoni comes a classic Michael Steele moment following the 2004 Republican convention, about a month after then-Senator Obama made his national debut at the Democratic convention: Mr. Steele last night said Mr. Obama stole his fire, saying in prepared remarks, "I had planned to give a moving defense of the conservative principles of the Republican Party tonight. But there was only one problem: Barack Obama gave it last month at the Democratic convention." Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane summed up his reaction to the speech: "The bottom line is, Barack who?" This single moment explains the entire Michael Steele-Republican Party relationship -- the party's half-hearted tokenism, Steele's genuine belief that he's locked in some kind of rivalry with Obama, the Republican anxieties about diversity that lead to him getting his current job and that also prevent him from being summarily dismissed. The intensity of the conservative reaction to his apostasy on...

The Obama Administration And Immigration Enforcement.

Greg Sargent has a statement from Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl , responding to the news that the Obama administration will sue Arizona over their draconian immigration law, SB 1070: "The American people must wonder whether the Obama Administration is really committed to securing the border when it sues a state that is simply trying to protect its people by enforcing immigration law. "Attorney General Holder speaks of the 'federal government's responsibility' to enforce immigration laws; but what are the people of Arizona left to do when the federal government fails in its responsibility? "The Obama Administration has not done everything it can do to protect the people of Arizona from the violence and crime illegal immigration brings to our state. Until it does, the federal government should not be suing Arizona on the grounds that immigration enforcement is solely a federal responsibility." In response, I offer this chart detailing the number of deportations over the past...

Suárez Cheated, It Was The Right Play.

Last week, Uruguay defeated Ghana in the World Cup quarterfinals after striker Luís Suárez deliberately blocked a Ghanian shot on goal with his hand. Suárez was summarily ejected, and Ghana's Asamoah Gyan subsequently choked on the awarded penalty kick. Uruguay then defeated Ghana 4-2 on penalties. This has led a number of people to argue that Suárez didn't cheat by deliberately blocking the goal with his hand. Daniel Alarcón : We have Luís Suárez and his handball to thank for the dramatic finish to what was already a dramatic and very entertaining match. I’ve read some criticism of Suárez, but anyone who’s ever played the game, or who understands the stakes, knows he had no choice. This is not cheating. It’s what a coach of mine once called “a professional foul.” Suárez committed an infraction, and the ref immediately and appropriately sent him off. Dave Brockington : So, did he cheat? No. He did the rational thing. It was perhaps not the sporting, moral, or ethical choice, and...

Flashback To The Bush Days At The DoJ.

J. Christian Adams , the conservative activist hired in the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department during an era of politicization, recently wrote that "The Bush Civil Rights Division was willing to protect all Americans from racial discrimination; during the Obama years, the Holder years, only some Americans will be protected." By the numbers, we know that this isn't true--civil rights enforcement, particularly voting rights protections designed to protect minorities, declined during the Bush years, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released last year. But let's take a look at what the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division was like under Bush. Here are a few highlights from the lawsuit filed by Joi Hyatte , a legal analyst who sued the Department of Justice in 2008 for refusing to promote her because she was black, despite consistently strong performance evaluations. Hyatte and the DoJ settled, and she was eventually promoted. Let's...

Almost Everything You Need To Know About The New Black Panther Party Case.

In the past few weeks, the New Black Panther Party case has re-emerged as a point of focus for the conservative media. Last year, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Decision dismissed most charges in a voter-suppression case against a group of New Black Panther Party members, two of whom were caught on tape by Fox News standing outside a Philadelphia polling place during the 2008 election. One of them, who was brandishing a baton, received an injunction. Conservatives have been using the Department's decision not to pursue further action to accuse the Obama administration of politicizing the Justice Department -- and yes, of hating white people. The Bush -appointee-dominated U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been demanding that the Department make someone from the Division available to explain what happened. While the head of the Division, Thomas Perez , testified months ago, the USCCR has been seeking the testimony of J. Christian Adams , an attorney who once worked on the case...

Coda On The NYT And Torture.

Bill Keller 's response to that study noting that American newspapers described waterboarding as torture when done in other countries but as something else when done by Americans is bizarre : Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times , said the newspaper had written so much about the issue of waterboarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious .” [...] “When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading the Times ’s coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we...

Fallout.

Uruguay blocks a Ghanian goal by cheating , then wins at penalty kicks after Ghana chokes three times. Rand Paul doesn't support an "underground electric fence" along the border. Your Friendly Low-Income Neighborhood Spider-Man . Where are the hack liberal economists ? Liberals hate each other, even when they're on Journolist . The jury begins to deliberate in the trial of Oscar Grant 's killer.

Working The Refs, Ctd.

Earlier this week, I argued that The New York Times ' refusal to refer to waterboarding as torture was the result of longstanding journalistic conventions, and had serious implications not just for torture but for climate change as well. Amanda Hess makes a few other observations : Remember that the next time the media calls intimate partner violence and sexual assault by any-other-name. When a publication calls rape “sex,” it is not reserving judgment before trial. When it describes an accused assailant as “a loose cannon” and a “bad boy,” it is not adding color. When it characterizes self-defense after sexual assault as a “bar fight,” it is not being fair. It’s taking sides. This isn't just a torture problem. It's a journalism problem. Until we recognize that what we consider journalistic "objectivity" is in fact a fairly specific social/economic/cultural outlook, it will continue to be a problem.

Bipartisan Agreement: War Must Not Be Criticized!

Rich Lowry , National Review , September 1, 2006: On Iraq, the Democrats are the party of defeat. That’s not a partisan smear, but a fact. The further we slide toward defeat, the higher the Democrats’ political fortunes rise. To the extent they offer any clear policy alternative for Iraq, it is either — depending on your point of view — to admit, or to guarantee, defeat with a rapid drawdown of American troops. So their political self-interest objectively coincides with a defeat, and the kind of pullout endorsed at times by high-profile leaders in the party would hasten it. [...] The Democrats don’t offer stirring rhetoric about the need for victory and for stalwartness in the face of setbacks, but instead a dreary recitation of mistakes in the war leavened with little hope or positive policy proposals. They don’t talk of the need of maintaining our national will or the need for patience in waging a difficult and irregular war, but emphasize our casualties and the fact that the Iraq...

Base Management.

The White House recently held a meeting with a group of LGBT reporters and bloggers in order to reassure them that the administration is prioritizing their concerns. Pam Spaulding was there : An answer that raised eyebrows at the table was why there wasn't a single, high-level policy point person who has LGBT issues as a responsibility. [ Melody ] Barnes said that she, Rahm Emanuel , Jim Messina , Valerie Jarrett care deeply about our issues (!) and that Emanuel was the one who pushed for hospital visitation. Well, I can say that since Obama's been in office, none of these people, or even Brian Bond , has had any roundtable discussions with LGBT media or citizen journalists to ensure your questions got in the queue. I'm more sympathetic than Pam to the idea that the administration faces serious institutional barriers to its LGBT-rights agenda -- we are, after all, still waiting for an unemployment-benefits extension -- and I think that the administration has taken some important steps...

On The New Spider-Man.

British Actor Andrew Garfield seems to have an impressive resume as an actor, but considering that the 2012 Spider-Man movie reboot was meant to place him back in high school, a 26-year-old seems like an odd choice. Like Spencer Ackerman , I was very sympathetic to Donald Glover 's campaign for the job. The thing about Spider-Man is that his major character distinctions have nothing to do with race -- they're primarily class- and urban-based. Spider-Man is probably the first really iconic working-class superhero -- his first real villain is arguably his boss, J. Jonah Jameson. While seeing his parents killed in front of him turned millionaire Bruce Wayne into Batman, Peter Parker's parents are so dead that it isn't even an afterthought, and when we first meet him, he's nothing more than a science nerd who can't get Gwen Stacy to give him the time of day. What teaches him that with great power comes great responsibility is the murder of his uncle -- a murder he could have prevented if...

Against Kagan, Conservatives Embrace Empathy Standard.

As Garret Epps has noted, the conservative case against Elena Kagan 's treatment of military recruiters at Harvard largely relies on empathy. During a legal challenge to the Solomon Amendment, which mandates that schools allow military recruiters full access or risk losing federal funding, Kagan applied Harvard's blanket employer anti-discrimination policy to the military because of its practice of excluding openly gay service members; they could recruit on campus, but they couldn't use the Office of Career Services. During the confirmation hearings, Sen. Jeff Sessions has implied that this decision was similar to enforcing Jim Crow segregation, but during yesterday's hearing, the comparison went full-bore. The first witness, Flagg Youngblood , attacked Kagan's behavior by saying, "Separate but equal is, quite simply, not equal." He referred to Kagan's policy as an "unlawful brand of segregation," offering this analogy: [I]magine Dean Kagan owned a lunch counter, what she said to the...

Fallout.

Is the "acting white phenomenon" what people think it is? Flying cars . Arizona's "anti-racial profiling" training video for law enforcement. The NRA comes out against Kagan. Bit late, no? Obama tries his sensible centrist routine on immigration. Greg Sargent doesn't buy the NYT 's explanation.

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