Adam Serwer

Outlawing Speech

The Israeli Knesset is taking an ill-advised path in trying to tamp down domestic dissent: The Israeli Parliament on Monday passed contentious legislation that effectively bans any public call for a boycott against the state of Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense. Critics and civil rights groups denounced the new law as antidemocratic and a flagrant assault on the freedom of expression and protest. The law’s defenders said it was a necessary tool in Israel’s fight against what they called its global delegitimization. [...] Offenders could face lawsuits and monetary penalties. Companies or organizations supporting a boycott could be disqualified from participating in bids for government work. Nonprofit organizations issuing boycott calls risk losing tax benefits. Laws like this will accelerate, rather than halt the attempts by Israel's international critics to delegitimize the country. Matt Duss notes that such a law would have made it so that...

Gitmo In Somalia

Jeremy Scahill has a must-read piece on the CIA's operations in Somalia, which may peripherally shed some light on why and how alleged al Shabab member Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was captured. According to Scahill, the U.S., through the CIA, has been running a local detention operation there under the auspices of Somali intelligence: A Somali who was arrested in Mogadishu and taken to the prison told The Nation that he was held in a windowless underground cell. Among the prisoners he met during his time there was a man who held a Western passport (he declined to identify the man’s nationality). Some of the prisoners told him they were picked up in Nairobi and rendered on small aircraft to Mogadishu, where they were handed over to Somali intelligence agents. Once in custody, according to the senior Somali intelligence official and former prisoners, some detainees are freely interrogated by US and French agents. “Our goal is to please our partners, so we get more [out] of them, like any...

Barry's Plan To "Save" Chocolate City

Yesterday former DC Mayor and current Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry proposed the world's worst solution to poverty in his ward, which is "encouraging homeownership" by banning new apartment buildings: "The American dream is to own a home. And black people have not gotten the American dream as much as they need to," Barry says. "Somebody can rent for 20 years, and has no equity in their unit at all." "I've thought about this," Barry finishes. "It's not a kneejerk reaction." As Matthew Yglesias notes , he hasn't thought about it very well. The impact of this policy would be the speedy gentrification of Ward 8, since reducing the availability of affordable housing would mean that only those best positioned to become homeowners would move in. Those would be the influx of white professionals Barry proclaimed he was going to "save" Chocolate City from. "The Plan" is an old conspiracy DC conspiracy theory that alleges there's a secret plot to wrest control of the city from its black...

Anti-Sharia Republicans Still Don't Know What Sharia Is

Justin Elliott interviews Bob Vander Plaats , the Iowa social conservative who authored the pledge that suggested black families were better off during slavery: There's one section in the pledge that says the candidate has to reject -- the phrase used is "Sharia Islam" -- can you describe what you mean by that phrase and what you want the candidates to reject in that? Well, Sharia Islam -- and I'm not an expert on Sharia Islam -- but I think just in the brief knowledge [I have] of Sharia Islam, one you can have multiple wives, and two is you can have temporary wives, and three is I think it disrespects women as a whole. And so we see Sharia Islam as being an issue. And you see that as something that is a dominant thing in Islamic cultures and societies, or more of a historical idea? No, there's a lot of American Muslims who reject Sharia. And we believe the president of the United States needs to be aware of some of the threats to our culture, and one of them is Sharia Islam in our...

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

At National Review , Brian J. Pawlowski summarizes the current Republican consensus on counterterrorism: This irrational approach needs to be fixed. There are commonsense criteria that should apply to all individuals, American citizen or not: If you actively aid, or attempt to aid, any terrorist or terrorist group whose goal is to attack American or allied targets anywhere in the world, no matter whether they succeed or fail, or if you are inspired by jihadist propaganda to perpetrate violence in any manner on American soil (the so called “lone wolf” syndrome), you will be considered an enemy combatant. Only so many “lone wolves” can strike before they need to be considered part of the pack. You will not be Mirandized. You will not have access to the civilian court system. You will be held at Guantanamo Bay, where you will be questioned to the fullest extent for as long as is deemed necessary in order to glean all intelligence information you possess. And you will then have your day...

Fallout

Good interview with George R. R. Martin . The rhetoric and reality of "college for all." Laws named after dead children are a bad idea. Pretty amusing contrast of Roger Cohen 's very different reactions to Rupert Murdoch and Julian Assange .

Nixonland Forever

I'm finally reading Rick Perlstein 's Nixonland , and I laughed out loud when I read this passage about the vulnerability of Jerry Voorhis , the California Democrat who was the first victim of Richard Nixon 's red-baiting: Voohris possessed an added vulnerability: He had once been a member of the Socialist Party. Not a Communist, but for the upright burghers of Southern California's suburbs, to whom property was as sacred as anything in the Bible, the distinction was sufficiently arcane to be moot. This remains true of modern American conservatism, although I'd argue that today conservatives' failure to distinguish between Obama's moderate liberalism and communism, or socialism is willful . It's less that they don't know the difference than that they don't care.

Why We Don't Call It Terrorism

Hard to disagree with the spirit of what Amanda Marcotte writes here on the squeamishness in referring to anti-abortion violence as terrorism: I'm trying to imagine what would happen if a Muslim terrorist killed a specific target, and a local Muslim group said, "While we don't think he should have shot the target, we're glad the target is dead and hope that anyone else who intends to do the work the target was doing thinks twice about it. If they persist, we will ensure they are unable to continue in this work." Not only would they be called, bare minimum, "terrorist sympathizers," the FBI would be all over them and there would probably be some arrests made in short order. Especially if, as has happened in the case of Dr. Means, the members of the group started showing up at the second target's house, researching and publicizing her movements amongst the group, and sending death threats to the second target. If the government shrugged its shoulders and said there was nothing it could...

Michelle Obama Eats Something Fattening

We've got a new genre of "hypocrisy journalism," courtesy of the Washington Post : A Washington Post journalist on the scene confirmed the first lady, who’s made a cause out of child nutrition, ordered a ShackBurger, fries, chocolate shake and a Diet Coke while the street and sidewalk in front of the usually-packed Shake Shack were closed by security during her visit. According to nutritional information on Shake Shack’s Web site, the meal amounted to 1,556 calories. Obama, who launched the “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity last year, has previously admitted to having an “obsession with french fries,” which she says are fine to indulge in occasionally. “It’s all about moderation,” Obama told reporters. On the scene! Yes, this is incredibly dumb--but it's a symptom of a journalistic culture that values catching a political figure in an act of hypocrisy far more valuable than evaluating the impact of their actual political views. The former, as Jay Rosen might put it,...

Dept. Of Precedent

Rep. Allan West has invited sharia panic organization Citizens for National Security to the Hill for a policy briefing, during which a list of known Communists Mutants members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be produced: A highlight of the briefing will be an announcement by Dr. Leitner of CFNS’s development of an unprecedented list of individual members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S., and the people and organizations with which they are associated. Obviously this pitch has other problems, notably that its faith in the Muslim Brotherhood's ability to take over the U.S. likely exceeds that of the organization itself, but I'm pretty sure Senators Joseph McCarthy and Robert Kelly have already set the precedent here.

This Mitch McConnell Quote Is Not From The Onion

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell , who has emerged as the GOP's preeminent culture war counterterrorist , ascends to heretofore unreached levels of self-parody by arguing that the not guilty verdict for Casey Anthony proves that terrorists shouldn't be tried in federal court: "These are not American citizens. We just found with the Caylee Anthony case how difficult it is to get a conviction in a U.S. court," McConnell told "Fox News Sunday." "I don't think a foreigner is entitled to all the protection in the Bill of Rights. They should not be in U.S. courts and before military commissions." I'm looking forward to McConnell introducing legislation that would force parents suspected of killing their children into the military commissions system. When will the Democrats understand that we're at war with child abuse? What's remarkable is that McConnell's stated objection to the use of federal courts for terrorism suspects is based on the possibility that they might be acquitted...

The Perils Of "Decapitating" Al Qaeda

Spencer Ackerman analyzes incoming Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta 's assertion that we're only twenty or so kills away from neutralizing al Qaeda: Panetta has to know he’s flirting with an epic fail. The U.S. doesn’t have a great track record at judging progress against al-Qaida by pointing to terror leaders taken off the board. Somehow al-Qaida soldiers on even after the U.S. repeatedly kills whomever becomes its number-three leader. If Navy SEALs do another 20 double-taps and there’s another al-Qaida strike afterward, Panetta’s getting his face Photoshopped onto George W. Bush aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner. But here’s a theory for what Panetta’s on about. (Yes, I’m being cheeky in calling this a “doctrine.”) Remember two of the most important aspects of his resume that got him his new job. As White House budget chief under Bill Clinton , he learned how to cut a budget, and as CIA director under Barack Obama, he learned how to hunt...

Cornel West's Telepathy

Jesse Washington has a new piece exploring the uneven impact of the recession on the black middle class, with some really startling information on just how profoundly black homeowners have been impacted, noting that, “In 2009, for every dollar of wealth the average white household had, black households only had two cents.” That's in part because black people were disproportionately likely to have their wealth tied up in their homes, and so were particularly devastated by the foreclosure crisis. Nearly 8 percent of African Americans who bought homes from 2005 to 2008 have lost them to foreclosure, compared with 4.5 percent of whites, according to an estimate by the Center for Responsible Lending. So far, so miserable. So who does Washington look to for a possible explanation for why the president has failed to provide adequate support to black folks losing their homes and jobs? Why, Cornel West : “I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone,”...

Fallout

It's really hard for white people to get arrested for smoking weed. A political solution to the Afghan war. Illegal immigration is down in part because life in Mexico is less miserable . I really didn't know who Casey Anthony was until earlier this week and I'm happy about it.

Some Perspective On "Catch And Release"

Following up on Marc Thiessen 's bogus claim that the Obama administration's policy with terrorism suspects is now "catch and release," this is a chart I made of Gitmo detainees released or transferred based on the numbers from McClatchy: Now, I think we should release people when we have no basis for holding them. But remember, according to Thiessen, everyone accused of terrorism is automatically guilty. So Bush let more than 500 terrorists go.

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