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This Alliance Will Not Last Until the End of Days

[ 47 ] June 8, 2008 |

I remain genuinely befuddled by this:

In an interview this week, David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, elaborated to me on a widespread reluctance among Jewish leaders to completely disassociate themselves from Hagee. Describing the feelings of Reform rabbis and leaders as “paradoxical,” Saperstein said that on the one hand, they have an “appreciation of [Hagee’s] financial, cultural, and political support for Israel in broadest sense,” but are simultaneously experiencing “alarming concern about his vision of the world, comments about gays, Catholics, Katrina, Muslims, the Holocaust.” Saperstein added that the “repugnance” Jews feel towards Hagee’s views has “only intensified in the past month or two,” but that “we often find common ground with groups whose views . . . are deeply troubling to us or that we are deeply opposed to.”

Here the question remains: What is that common ground, exactly? That Hagee believes that the Bible foretells a world-ending showdown that will swallow a Muslim holy site, decimate an army of Arabs, and lead the Christianization of the Middle East?

Listen; it’s not just that Evangelicals value Israel in a strictly utilitarian sense, rather than as a country full of human beings. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not the only part, and obviously alliances based on a pragmatism can work. But not to put too fine a point on it, RADICAL APOCALYPTIC EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTISM IS NOT GOOD FOR THE JEWS. Pragmatic calculations change, and when it comes time for Hagee and his crew to sell the Jews down the river, they will do so without a twinge of conscience, and in utter confidence that they are doing God’s work. Alliances with people who view your destruction as a stepping stone to Armageddon and who, moreover, hate everything else that you represent (loathing of “latte sipping elitist intellectuals” is recognizable as anti-semitism to anyone with eyes open) will not, in the fullness of time, prove sensible.

…a couple of people in comments have brought up the “end of days, which is long enough” argument, which suggests that Evangelicals can be relied upon to support Israel until the Apocalypse, and since that’s never going to come, why worry? As I tried to suggest above, I think that this is exceptionally misguided. Evangelical support for Israel won’t, actually, last until the End of Days. When the alliance breaks (some new revelation by some new figure in the movement) the essential hostility towards Jews and all that they represent will remain, probably abetted by a sense of grievance. It doesn’t take a genius to see that it’s going to end badly…

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As Always, It’s All About the Heritage

[ 34 ] June 7, 2008 |

St. Paul, Minnesota:

Three high school seniors were barred from Bloomington Kennedy High School’s graduation ceremony Wednesday night at Target Center because of what the school district called a prank involving Confederate flags.

Rick Kaufman, a spokesman for the Bloomington School District, said three male students brought the flags onto school property Tuesday morning. Kaufman said they were suspended after “carrying and waving” the flags in the parking lot as parents and students arrived at the school.

Rezac said the flags were on the boys’ cars and that her friends aren’t racists. She said they’ve flown the Confederate flag before and simply admire the “Southern lifestyle” and TV shows such as “The Dukes of Hazzard.” A male character from the popular 1980s show would slide across the hood of a now iconic two-door muscle car featuring a Confederate flag decal.

There are a couple of issues here. First, the suspension of their graduation attendance rights may or may not be appropriate; I tend to think that the Confederate flag is the rough equivalent of the swastika and should be treated as such, but it’s fair to say that we’re really talking about social understandings in a case like this, and the symbolic meaning of the former is not equivalent to the latter. In general I’m pretty wary about restrictions on political speech in or near the classroom, but there are obviously cases that will fall on either side.

What I quibble with is the idea that the flag is just about “the Southern lifestyle” and that consequently its display doesn’t constitute political speech. I suppose it’s possible that these young men didn’t understand that the flag evokes not “the Southern lifestyle”, but rather the tradition of white supremacy, but I don’t think it’s very likely. The same correspondent who sent the article points out:

A little background. Bloomington is a predominantly white suburb, but Minnesota is an open enrollment state and Kennedy High School, located on a major bus line, has attracted a significant African American presence in the last ten years. An outside observer might not catch the undercurrent of race-baiting.

Right, and the journalist writing the above linked article would have better served his readers if he’d taken the time to investigate the state of race relations at the high school and, having investigated, to report on them.

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Motor City

[ 82 ] June 7, 2008 |

I have been criticized in comments for not properly acknowledging the Red Wings’ Stanley Cup victory, so consider it acknowledged. As Kaufman says, the series didn’t quite become a classic due to the inability of the Pens to win one of the first two in Detroit (or Game 6), but there were some exciting moments and Game 5 was great. Special kudos to Lidstrom, whose greatness I think is still underappreciated. And I also extend heartfelt thanks to the Dallas Stars for knocking the Ducks out of the playoffs.

Since I’m behind on trip blogging, I should mention that my trip to weekends ago to lovely metroplitan Detroit included a trip to Comerica Field. I liked it (probably moreso than if I had seen Tiger Stadium). The inner was a nice mallpark, but what I really liked was the team history displayed in the concourse and the outfield walkways. I wish I had a picture to capture two guys in Willie Horton jerseys getting their pictures taken in front of the Willie Horton jersey. The crowd wasn’t especially lively but it was a packed house despite the Red Wings and Pistons playoff games happening simultaneously and the game was over after the 4th inning (reminding at least one person in attendance how dumb they were to draft Boof Bonser.)

I guess that djw and I both neglected to blog about our first trip to Wrigley Field last month. I’m disposed to by cynical to all things Cub-related, but I admit: it was fantastic. It has the upper-deck proximity and unique charm of a really old park but was considerably more comfortable than Fenway, and a crowd that if not quite Fenway or Yankee caliber was very good. Just for fun, let’s rank the stadiums I’ve visited (with number of visits, so I can;t judge some as well, in parenthesis):

1. Wrigley (1)


2. Pac Bell (1)
3. Safeco (Dozens)
4. Comerica (1)
5. Fenway (3)

6. Yankee Stadium (3)
7. Shea (dozens)
8. Anaheim (1, in 1983, so not really relevant to the current stadium)

9. SkyDome (3)
10. Stade Olympique (hundreds)
11. Joe Robbie (4)
12. Exhibition Stadium (15 or so)
13. Kingdome (30ish)

With respect to the second tier, the ranking really depends on a couple factors. If it was just one game, I’d prefer Fenway to any of those except maybe Pac Bell, but if I went with any regularity the cramped seating, interminable trips to the bathroom, etc. of Fenway would start to get a little wearisome. On the other hand, the mallparks are only good if you’re not stuck in the upper deck that angles away from the field. SkyDome kinda sucked; just as Safeco feels outdoors even with the roof on it feels indoors even with the roof off. I really want to see Chavez Ravine and the new park in Pittsburgh…

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Kiss Cam

[ 111 ] June 7, 2008 |

I’m surprised that this has come up in Seattle…

Most of the time, a kiss is just a kiss in the stands at Seattle Mariners games. The crowd hardly even pays attention when fans smooch.

But last week, a lesbian complained that an usher at Safeco Field asked her to stop kissing her date because it was making another fan uncomfortable.

The incident has exploded on local TV, on talk radio and in the blogosphere and has touched off a debate over public displays of affection in generally gay-friendly Seattle.

See also Savage. I’m forcibly reminded that the Cincinnati Reds employ a “Kiss Cam”; in the middle of inning 6 or 8, they focus on a series of (invariably heterosexual) couples and the crowd cheers for them to kiss. I don’t recall if they have one at Safeco, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Do you think they’d discontinue if I complained that the kissing made me feel uncomfortable?

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The Age Thing

[ 0 ] June 6, 2008 |

What Eric said.

The fact that John McCain is older than nachos and chocolate chip cookies is a lot less relevant than the fact that he’d be rubbish as president. Vaclav Havel, for instance — also born in 1936 — would make a fine substitute for John McCain. As would Jim Henson, were he still alive. And don’t forget Zombie Wilt Chamberlain.

I see also that Don DeLillo was born in 1936. I don’t know if he’d be a decent president or not, but I suspect the SOTU addresses would be absolutely spectacular.

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Is Roberts/Alito Optimism Justified?

[ 8 ] June 6, 2008 |

Publius has a more optimistic take on last week’s civil rights enforcement decisions, in which (unusually in a major case) Alito and Roberts broke with Thomas and Scalia and (with Kennedy) joined the Court’s more liberal bloc, than I did. His case is, as always, worth reading.

However, I note a recent case that contained a split that I would still predict as being more likely. Earlier in the week, Thomas and Scalia joined with the three more liberal members of the Court to throw out a money laundering conviction, while Alito and Roberts joined with Kennedy and (the relatively statist) Breyer to uphold it. The case involved a classic use of prosecutors using money laundering statutes to apply more draconian sentences as part of the largely futile Wars on Gambling and (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs than are otherwise called for. In this case, the feds argued that the ordinary activities of an illegal gambling ring — paying runners and customers — also constituted money laundering. The case turned on whether the word “proceeds” in the statute should be read to mean “receipts” or “profits.” As Justice Scalia persuasively concludes, however, given the ambiguity of the statute and lack of federal precedent the state’s position “turns the rule of lenity upside-down. We interpret ambiguous criminal statutes in favor of defendants, not prosecutors.” This case provides another example of a civil libertarian streak in Scalia and Thomas than seems almost entirely non-existent in Bush’s two new appointments. And I also note that in this case Scalia and Thomas actually cast decisive votes, whereas in last week’s cases Alito and Roberts just made a 5-4 decision 7-2.

The rest of Publius’s argument probably merits a separate response. The short version of my reply would be here. It’s true that Roberts and Alito are more formally “minimalist” and less likely to explicitly overturn precedents than Thomas and Scalia. But this only matters if there’s some substantive difference in how they actually apply these precedents, and don’t see any evidence of this. What difference does it make if Carhart isn’t explicitly overturned if in applying the case the Court votes to uphold a virtually identical statute? If anything, the Roberts/Alito approach is worse, not only for progressive constitutionalism but for democracy.

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More Probems With Porkbusting

[ 6 ] June 6, 2008 |

Via Ezra, Michael Pollan has a good example of the problems that Matt discusses here. Evidently, it would be good if subsidies to wealthy agricultural conglomerates could just be eliminated (or severely curtailed.) But the structure of American institutions and policy path dependencies make simply eliminating these kind of subsidies entirely politically impossible. So the better course is to think about how this money could be used more effectively — such as, say, subsidizing nutritious vegetables rather than corn — and who can be bought off to make American food policy more sensible rather than daydream believing about simply eliminating agricultural pork altogether.

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Emulation is the Highest Form of Flattery

See, e.g.

(via Pandagon)

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"It Was At Trinity Church! OK, But A Place Only 7 Zip Code Digits Away! With Sister Souljah! OK, But I’m Sure Stokely Carmichael Was! He’s What?"

[ 36 ] June 6, 2008 |

It may not be literally true that Larry Johnson is the biggest clown in the internets, but close enough.

Or at least I believed that until he was vindicated by exclusive video footage!

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 0 ] June 6, 2008 |

Woodrow Wilson, speaking about the recent US occupation of Vera Cruz during his commencement address at the US Naval Academy, 5 June 1914:

What do you think is the most lasting impression that those boys down at Vera Cruz are going to leave? They have had to use some force—I pray God it may not be necessary for them to use any more—but do you think that the way they fought is going to be the most lasting impression? Have men not fought ever since the world began? Is there anything new in using force? The new things in the world are the things that are divorced from force. The things that show the moral compulsions of the human conscience, those are the things by which we have been building up civilization, not by force. And the lasting impression that those boys are going to leave is this, that they exercise self-control; that they are ready and diligent to make the place where they went fitter to live in than they found it; that they regarded other people’s rights; that they did not strut and bluster, but went quietly, like self-respecting gentlemen, about their legitimate work. And the people of Vera Cruz, who feared the Americans and despised the Americans, are going to get a very different taste in their mouths about the whole thing when the boys of the Navy and the Army come away. Is that not something to be proud of, that you know how to use force like men of conscience and like gentlemen, serving your fellow-men and not trying to overcome them?

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Winner Pays?

[ 39 ] June 5, 2008 |


Geraldine Ferraro has a plan for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) to recoup her sizable campaign debt: Have Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) fundraisers pick up the tab.

After a long primary season, the Clinton campaign’s expenditures have far exceeded the amount of donations it has received so far, and the campaign has accumulated debt of more than $19 million, according to campaign finance reports. Much of that debt consists of unpaid salaries and bills to vendors. . . .

This election, losing candidates have asked for contributions to retire their campaigns debt. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) are engaged in such campaigns and have found help from other candidates.

For starters, I can’t imagine that Dodd’s or Giuliani’s debts approach anything like the sums drawn up by the Clinton campaign. That said, I’ll leave it to others to critique or defend the suggestion on its merits. The fact that this is being suggested by the second most loathsome ex-Vice Presidential candidate in recent history, however, gives me pause. Oh, hell. At this point, if Ferraro recommended that we all spay or neuter our pets, I’d assume she had something against kittens.

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Clinton Disowns the VP Pressure Campaign

[ 4 ] June 5, 2008 |

I’m not surprised to see this. The fact that it was Robert Johnson and Lanny Davis making the public pitch made it pretty clear that Clinton was not interested in mounting a public campaign for the veep slot at this time (what she’s communicating privately to Obama I don’t know.) If you were really trying to get the position, it seems pretty clear that you’d choose a surrogate widely respected by Obama supporters as opposed to the someone who brought up Obama’s brief youthful drug use on the stump or a walking-punchline hack if making your case through a third party.

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