Israel broke off peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a reconciliation between his majority Fatah party and the militant Hamas faction, which does not recognize Israel as a legitimate country.
Israel’s announcement of the rupture effectively ends more than a year of U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate a deal that would establish an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Neither Israel nor the United States has declared the process dead, but the talks are due to expire next week unless both sides agree to an extension.

We should be honest about a few things here:
These were “peace talks” in name only; they hadn’t been leading anywhere and they weren’t going to lead anywhere. It’s easy for both sides to claim they’re working toward a peaceful resolutions to this conflict, but what they say and what they do line up about 1% of the time.
This reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas could actually be a good thing for Israel and for the peace process if it forces Hamas to actually work on politics rather than militancy for a little while. Negotiating with Hamas as a political party puts the ball in their court; ignoring Hamas or pretending it’s impossible to negotiate with them (despite having done so already) is just bluster for its own sake or for the sake of delaying. This was, I think, the very opportunity that Israel and the U.S. missed back when Hamas was first elected in Gaza … but, unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be another missed opportunity now.
Israel’s policy of expanding settlements while the peace process stagnates is a long-term loser for the country, though the Netanyahu government either doesn’t understand this or is pretending not to. Acquiring additional territory today means less territory for a Palestinian state in the future, which means it’s less and less likely that any Palestinian government (reconciled with Hamas or not) will be able to reach a peace deal that satisfies its constituency. And it’s hard to imagine that Israel wants to keep taking territory and leaving Palestinians with less ground to stand on, especially since the prospect of a resolution other than a two-state solution is completely anathema to Israel.

Israel broke off peace talks with the Palestinians on Thursday, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a reconciliation between his majority Fatah party and the militant Hamas faction, which does not recognize Israel as a legitimate country.

Israel’s announcement of the rupture effectively ends more than a year of U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate a deal that would establish an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Neither Israel nor the United States has declared the process dead, but the talks are due to expire next week unless both sides agree to an extension.

We should be honest about a few things here:

  1. These were “peace talks” in name only; they hadn’t been leading anywhere and they weren’t going to lead anywhere. It’s easy for both sides to claim they’re working toward a peaceful resolutions to this conflict, but what they say and what they do line up about 1% of the time.
  2. This reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas could actually be a good thing for Israel and for the peace process if it forces Hamas to actually work on politics rather than militancy for a little while. Negotiating with Hamas as a political party puts the ball in their court; ignoring Hamas or pretending it’s impossible to negotiate with them (despite having done so already) is just bluster for its own sake or for the sake of delaying. This was, I think, the very opportunity that Israel and the U.S. missed back when Hamas was first elected in Gaza … but, unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be another missed opportunity now.
  3. Israel’s policy of expanding settlements while the peace process stagnates is a long-term loser for the country, though the Netanyahu government either doesn’t understand this or is pretending not to. Acquiring additional territory today means less territory for a Palestinian state in the future, which means it’s less and less likely that any Palestinian government (reconciled with Hamas or not) will be able to reach a peace deal that satisfies its constituency. And it’s hard to imagine that Israel wants to keep taking territory and leaving Palestinians with less ground to stand on, especially since the prospect of a resolution other than a two-state solution is completely anathema to Israel.

# Israel # Palestinians # global affairs # politics # Hamas # news

As uncomfortable as this matter makes us, we refuse to violate our oaths of office and to leave the appellants with no access to the courts.

That’s the Oklahoma Supreme Court, issuing a stay of execution to Clayton Lockett as a result of his challenge (along with another inmate, Charles Warner) to the secrecy surrounding the drugs which the state intends to use to poison him to death.

Here’s a little peek into the macabre and Kafkaesque death penalty system we’ve got going in this country:

Last month, a state district court ruled in the men’s favor on the drug issue, declaring that a 2011 supplier-secrecy law was unconstitutional. The state appealed and has refused to divulge the sources of the three drugs, in a new combination, it intends to use to execute the men. The legal battle over secrecy continues, but the attorney general wanted to proceed with the executions.

The men appealed to the criminal appeals court for a stay, but it refused on the grounds that the men had no pending cases before the court. They then turned to the State Supreme Court, which asserted that it has the ultimate say over jurisdiction issues and was transferring the request back to the criminal court. Last Friday, the criminal appeals court again refused to consider the appeal and pointedly rejected the instruction from the Supreme Court.

But wait there’s more:

The attorney general, Scott Pruitt, filed a motion on Tuesday asking the State Supreme Court to remove the stay, saying it had no jurisdiction over executions and calling the separate case over lethal injection drugs a diversionary tactic by the condemned men ….

Within hours, the Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 to 3, rejected that motion, which called into question the court’s ultimate authority. But then Governor Fallin, a Republican, issued an executive order asserting that Monday’s stay was “outside the constitutional authority” of the Supreme Court. She said she was exercising her own constitutional authority to delay the execution of Mr. Lockett, originally scheduled for Tuesday, by one week.

If anyone has a good reason a) why Lockett and Warner shouldn’t have access to information about the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them, given that a court has already sided with them on the issue, and b) why Oklahoma’s Governor and Attorney General believe the Oklahoma Supreme Court can’t grant a stay of execution while this legal challenge remains unresolved, boy, I’d really like to hear it.

# death penalty # criminal justice # Oklahoma # news # politics

Just sayin’…

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has publicly apologized after ordering one of his aides to rape a pregnant journalist.
Zhirinovsky said he had “spoken out of turn” when addressing the female reporter at a press conference on Friday, and claimed he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade.
"I apologize to her and to everyone in general that I may have offended," Zhirinovsky said on Vladimir Solovyov’s Sunday evening talk show on the Rossia-1 channel.

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that I think this is a particularly terrible apology.
"[E]veryone … that I may have offended" is always a bad way to go because it suggests the offender thinks a fair number of people weren’t or wouldn’t be offended; it’s an especially bad choice of words in this case because everyone who saw or heard about this man’s insane tirade was offended.
Worse, though, was his attempt to minimize his offense, saying only that he’d “spoken out of turn.” In fact, what he said was that one female reporter should be raped, that a second female reporter who refused to stand idly by during the tirade was a lesbian, and that pregnant women in general should remain home where they belong.
That he attempts to excuse himself by claiming “he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade” compounds his repugnant behavior by implying that none of this would have been seen as a problem if he’d said these things to or about a woman who wasn’t pregnant. In other words, he seems to believe that telling his aides to rape a female reporter who asked a question he didn’t like is only offensive if that reporter turns out to be pregnant. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t realize she was pregnant” might be something to say if you fail to offer your seat to a woman on the subway. Given what Zhirinovsky said, whether or not the reporter was pregnant isn’t an issue.
It’s pretty stunning and horrible to have to write any of this, but certainly not more stunning or horrible than Zhirinovsky’s behavior.

Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has publicly apologized after ordering one of his aides to rape a pregnant journalist.

Zhirinovsky said he had “spoken out of turn” when addressing the female reporter at a press conference on Friday, and claimed he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade.

"I apologize to her and to everyone in general that I may have offended," Zhirinovsky said on Vladimir Solovyov’s Sunday evening talk show on the Rossia-1 channel.

I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that I think this is a particularly terrible apology.

"[E]veryone … that I may have offended" is always a bad way to go because it suggests the offender thinks a fair number of people weren’t or wouldn’t be offended; it’s an especially bad choice of words in this case because everyone who saw or heard about this man’s insane tirade was offended.

Worse, though, was his attempt to minimize his offense, saying only that he’d “spoken out of turn.” In fact, what he said was that one female reporter should be raped, that a second female reporter who refused to stand idly by during the tirade was a lesbian, and that pregnant women in general should remain home where they belong.

That he attempts to excuse himself by claiming “he did not know that she was pregnant when he began his tirade” compounds his repugnant behavior by implying that none of this would have been seen as a problem if he’d said these things to or about a woman who wasn’t pregnant. In other words, he seems to believe that telling his aides to rape a female reporter who asked a question he didn’t like is only offensive if that reporter turns out to be pregnant. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t realize she was pregnant” might be something to say if you fail to offer your seat to a woman on the subway. Given what Zhirinovsky said, whether or not the reporter was pregnant isn’t an issue.

It’s pretty stunning and horrible to have to write any of this, but certainly not more stunning or horrible than Zhirinovsky’s behavior.

(Source: themoscowtimes.com)

# Russia # terrible apologies # apology # women # media # politics # global affairs # sexism

Tax, Taxes, and Taxation (on Tax Day)

It’s Tax Day, which is an annual holiday where 20 year old white kids complain about how much our goverment spends on “entitlement programs” or defense or public education … or whatever else Ron Paul says we shouldn’t be paying for.

Is there some stuff I don’t want to pay for? You bet. Do I get to decry all taxation because some of my money goes to things I don’t support? No, I don’t think so.

Could we find ways to make things function with less waste? Surely. Could we find ways for the super-rich to pay a little more rather than consistently helping them to pay less? I would think so.

All of these issues are serious ones; I don’t mean to make light of them. But they don’t suggest that we ought not to help people who don’t have enough to eat or that we ought to leave the elderly high and dry.

As it turns out, in the real world having an enormous society that functions at all is very expensive. Being a part of society means pitching in; it also means benefiting from being a part of society.

Would I be happier if we lived in a utopia where no one ever needed a helping hand from the rest of us, where private charity was sufficient to provide for all the needs of the least well off in our society, and/or where we could just melt down all of our weapons instead of buying more of them? I guess so. Most people would.

And yet, all the wishing and hoping and complaining about taxation won’t turn our current society into a tax-free libertopia. So here’s to another year of taxes. Go out there and enjoy driving on the roads, check out a book from the library, and be glad that millions of kids have access to public education. You paid for it.

# politics # libertarians


Last month, when Glenn Ford was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the state of Louisiana “gave him a $20 debit card for his troubles.” That, plus the four cents he had left in his prison account, was all he had.
How do you build up the material accumulations of a lifetime overnight? How do you do it with no money? Where do you even begin?
Ford’s friend John Thompson had a clever idea: Do what millions of Americans do when they are hoping that other people will buy them a whole bunch of stuff. Build an Amazon registry.

The Amazon Wish List is here.
Read the whole piece here.

Last month, when Glenn Ford was released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the state of Louisiana “gave him a $20 debit card for his troubles.” That, plus the four cents he had left in his prison account, was all he had.

How do you build up the material accumulations of a lifetime overnight? How do you do it with no money? Where do you even begin?

Ford’s friend John Thompson had a clever idea: Do what millions of Americans do when they are hoping that other people will buy them a whole bunch of stuff. Build an Amazon registry.

The Amazon Wish List is here.

Read the whole piece here.

# Louisiana # Amazon # politics # criminal justice

Sometimes people ask me whether I’m just making up the pro-gun position that I occasionally discuss on this blog (and that I tend to refer to as wingnuttery). I assure you I am not.
The above is the tail end of a conversation with someone who found my blog via the Washington Post and wanted to argue with me about whether or not Florida’s Stand Your Ground law constitutes an example of self-defense as an inalienable right found all the way back in the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone. [You can find the whole discussion here if you want to see how he arrives at this nonsensical position.]
Does Locke think you are justified in defending yourself if someone attacks you and there’s no other way for you to preserve yourself? He does. But, if at all possible, it would be better to let the proper authorities handle the matter; one of the main points of having a civil society is that it precludes every man from being judge, jury, and executioner. Locke suggests this over and over again.
Does Locke think you have a right to wander around with a weapon looking for trouble and then claim self-defense when you kill someone you’ve been following around for no good reason? No, sir; that’s utter madness. The only ones who think this way are people who like the idea of waving guns around to make themselves feel like big men.

Sometimes people ask me whether I’m just making up the pro-gun position that I occasionally discuss on this blog (and that I tend to refer to as wingnuttery). I assure you I am not.

The above is the tail end of a conversation with someone who found my blog via the Washington Post and wanted to argue with me about whether or not Florida’s Stand Your Ground law constitutes an example of self-defense as an inalienable right found all the way back in the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone. [You can find the whole discussion here if you want to see how he arrives at this nonsensical position.]

Does Locke think you are justified in defending yourself if someone attacks you and there’s no other way for you to preserve yourself? He does. But, if at all possible, it would be better to let the proper authorities handle the matter; one of the main points of having a civil society is that it precludes every man from being judge, jury, and executioner. Locke suggests this over and over again.

Does Locke think you have a right to wander around with a weapon looking for trouble and then claim self-defense when you kill someone you’ve been following around for no good reason? No, sir; that’s utter madness. The only ones who think this way are people who like the idea of waving guns around to make themselves feel like big men.

# Locke # Blackstone # philosophy # guns # politics

So all of you who’ve been frustrated by your inability to give away more than $123,200 in each election cycle, your day of liberation has arrived.

That’s Alec MacGillis, in his piece “The Stunning Chutzpah of the Supreme Court’s New Elimination of Campaign Contribution Limits.”

All I can say is, “Finally, a Supreme Court ruling for me, the little guy.”

# politics # Supreme Court # corporations # news

reblogged from The New Republic
As many of my friends who left the Republican party in the past decade can attest, George Bush Lost an Entire Generation for the Republican Party:

[F]or the past 40 years voting patterns haven’t differed much by age. In fact, there’s virtually no difference between generations at all until you get to the George Bush era. At that point, young voters suddenly leave the Republican Party en masse. Millennials may be far less likely than older generations to say there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but their actual voting record belies that.
Whatever it was that Karl Rove and George Bush did—and there are plenty of possibilities, ranging from Iraq to gays to religion—they massively alienated an entire generation of voters. Sure, they managed to squeak out a couple of presidential victories, but they did it at the cost of losing millions of voters who will probably never fully return. This chart is their legacy in a nutshell.

As many of my friends who left the Republican party in the past decade can attest, George Bush Lost an Entire Generation for the Republican Party:

[F]or the past 40 years voting patterns haven’t differed much by age. In fact, there’s virtually no difference between generations at all until you get to the George Bush era. At that point, young voters suddenly leave the Republican Party en masse. Millennials may be far less likely than older generations to say there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but their actual voting record belies that.

Whatever it was that Karl Rove and George Bush did—and there are plenty of possibilities, ranging from Iraq to gays to religion—they massively alienated an entire generation of voters. Sure, they managed to squeak out a couple of presidential victories, but they did it at the cost of losing millions of voters who will probably never fully return. This chart is their legacy in a nutshell.

# Bush # politics

Jonathan Pollard, an American who admitted to spying for Israel in the mid-1980s, would be eligible for parole at the end of 2015. But it’s possible that he could get out of prison sooner if the Israeli government agrees to a series of concessions needed to keep negotiations open with the Palestinians.

There’s a major debate about whether spying for an ally is actually a crime and, of course, a major debate about exactly how damaging to U.S. interests was the information that Pollard passed to Israel. The side on which you find yourself in these debates determines whether you think Pollard should have been imprisoned at all, whether you think he should ever be released, and whether you think he’s some sort of hero or an obvious criminal.

The whole thing is a confusing ordeal until you remember that, when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the one thing on which everyone agrees is that they love finding new ways to free prisoners while accomplishing little else.

Personally, I’m pretty curious to see the discussion this post generates amongst readers of my blog since writing about Jonathan Pollard is generally akin to touching the third rail.

For more information, here is Haaretz’s guide to the perplexed.

# Israel # Palestinians # Pollard # politics # news

reblogged from

Regarding my earlier post about the case of Robert H. Richards IV, who was sentenced by a Delaware judge to probation rather than incarceration for his heinous crimes, I should clarify that I think the punishments meted out to other offenders are symptomatic of our narrow way of thinking about justice and that our criminal justice system has a wide variety of blemishes (that I’ve written about on this blog for years; peruse the “criminal justice” tag to find hundreds of such posts).

Should poor people spend their lives in terrible conditions in our prisons? They should not. Should minorities? They should not. Should the rich get all the breaks? Clearly, no.

The fact that Richards was not sentenced to spend his life in terrible conditions in a prison doesn’t somehow suggest that it’s right that anyone should. Nor is it right to say that he ought to be made to suffer more since others from different backgrounds and walks of life have been sentenced to do so.

The point of my original post was not to laud the light sentence that was handed down in Richards’ case or to applaud the lenient treatment afforded to the wealthy and/or white offenders in our society at the expense of the poor and people of color. It was instead to argue against the notion that justice can only be served by doling out suffering.

I’m also not arguing that this case is an example of restorative justice; I don’t believe this was a restorative sentence and I don’t believe that we’re anywhere near a place where offenders are being successfully rehabilitated or getting proper treatment or reintegrated into society. The point of the post was merely to suggest that calling for a long and suffering-filled prison sentence for offenders doesn’t accomplish anything and keeps us far away from even approaching a more restorative understanding of justice.

As I wrote at the end of my post:

Restorative justice isn’t about leniency for offenders; it’s about discovering and attempting to meet the needs of victims while encouraging offender accountability. It’s just not clear that lengthy prison sentences under the worst possible conditions accomplishes either of those things.

I completely understand the gut feeling that something terrible ought to happen to a person who harms a child; as a father myself, I’m disgusted and outraged by this man and what he did to his children. But that doesn’t mean we ought to turn that feeling into policy, especially if doing so accomplishes nothing more than making the public feel good about getting vengeance. Taking out our collective wrath on offenders doesn’t necessarily do anything to help their victims, nor does it automatically lead to offender accountability. Working to accomplish those things, rather than to sate our desire for vengeance, would likely result in a radical change in the way we think about justice and punishment, and the way we respond to crime.

# Delaware # politics # justice # restorative justice # criminal justice

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