A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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Book Recommendations?

Vacation starts today. Which means maybe I should bring some books to plan to read? And maybe actually read?

Past reading has included epic fantasy (GRRM, Jordan, Sanderson, etc.) and post-modern fiction (Barthelme, Coover, O’Brien, etc). So I’m basically looking for something to read for entertainment rather than edification. Guilty Secret Pulpy1 is okay—but Self Injury Pulpy is maybe not.

What should I be reading?

  1. We generally have bookshelves in at least three rooms. One room gets the books that are displayed so we can intimidate impress on visitors how impressive we are. Think of Facsimile Edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio shelved next to Black’s Law Dictionary. Then there’s a room full of fiction which we can be in to feel good about and to impress upon guests that we own a great quantity of books for sophisticated and literary people. Then there’s another room—which is usually a basement or a closet—full of Dan’s Other Books. This one is not shown to visitors at all. Unless one of the visitors says something like, “I’m a huge nerd.” In which case do not worry you are not alone. And also, this is my Kingdom and if you want to stare into the abyss of who is a bigger nerd you will find me staring back at you. I own a rapier

[F]rom now on, The Times will use the word “torture” to describe incidents in which we know for sure that interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information.

The Executive Editor on the Word ‘Torture’ - NYTimes.com

So I guess score one for pokey but inexorable moral progress.

Eviction blockade rallies around retired Springfield firefighter and Upper Hill neigborhood resident Alex Richardson; eviction delayed by no-show locksmith | masslive.com

Maybe some of the lenders should adopt a “one vacant home at a time” policy. If there is already a boarded up, vacant home owned by a bank on the same block, maybe stop trying to evict another guy until you find somebody willing to live in the first home?

Isn’t this the basic rule you learn in kindergarten? You have to put away one toy before you get to play with another? Clean up your first mess before making another.

kohenari asked: With regard to Palestinian shelters, it should be noted that tens of millions of dolalrs and tons and tons of concrete have been given to the government in Gaza. The vast majority of those resources went into building tunnels.

Perhaps we should apply the same standard and hold off on the Iron Dome money until Israel certifies that its past military aid has not been spent in a way that has exacerbated this conflict? Or maybe ensure that the Palestinians have the remainder of the $225 million headed toward the IDF so we’re funding both sides of the conflict equally?

As you know (and hopefully others can infer), I wouldn’t seriously support either of these proposals. I also don’t understand how sending $225 million to subsidize the IDF is a good use of our money. I understand why, politically, it is happening. But if we’re going to spend $225 million toward some nominally humanitarian end we could do a lot better, dollar for dollar. And, given the existing effectiveness of Iron Dome and the one-sided nature of the conflict, I’m not persuaded that subsidizing the IDF in any manner is a humanitarian end at all. It seems a bit like shipping advanced body armor to Gaza and hoping for the best.

Israel’s supporters often claim that Israel is being held to a double standard. After all, a lot of countries do bad things. But we don’t provide anywhere near this level of military assistance to those other countries. We generally consider them enemies. I just think that Israel’s recent behavior is more than enough reason to reevaluate Best Buds status.

Obama Signs Law Providing $225 Million for Israel's Iron Dome



I’ve seen a bunch of negative comments about continued U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome system and I find this curious. They mostly take the form of “Israel is terrible” and thus don’t provide a lot by way of specific arguments against the bill that President Obama signed. 

What exactly is the complaint against the U.S. providing funding to Israel for a system that is designed to defend against rocket attacks on civilians?

Also, relatedly, is there any chance that this will finally put an end to the ongoing nonsense about how much Obama hates Israel?

LTMC: I wouldn’t hold my breath on Obama.  Ironically, Netanyahu is probably the only world leader whom right-leaning Israel supporters wouldn’t have a problem with Obama bowing in front of.  Even then, they would presumably argue that he didn’t bow low enough.

With respect to U.S. appropriations for the Iron Dome project, I think Jakke's response is on point here:

jakke said: Dollars spent on Iron Dome are perfectly substitutable for dollars spent on the Israeli military, so subsidizing Iron Dome lets the Israeli government keep financing huge military operations without its finances going in a Greece type direction.

Precisely this.  What the Israeli government receives from outside sources it need not spend from its own budget.  U.S. funding for the Iron Dome defense system allows Israel to take funds it would have spent on Iron Dome and spend them elsewhere in its defense budget (e.g. financing military incursions into Gaza).  Wars cost money, and what the Israeli government doesn’t spend on Iron Dome, it can spend on the tank shells, missiles, bombs, and bullets it brings with it into Gaza.  

In addition to this, I think outside financing of Israel’s defense systems has the indirect effect of making Israeli citizens more enthusiastic about supporting the Occupation—and periodic military incursions into the Occupied Territories—than it otherwise would be.  When the U.S. sponsors a piece of Israel’s defense budget, Israeli citizens aren’t actually bearing the full cost of Israel’s foreign policy.  I think the Israeli electorate might be less hawkish if they had to pay the full cost of their defense budget themselves, since scarce public resources come out of taxpayer’s pockets.

Lastly, since U.S. financing of Israel’s defense systems indirectly helps Israel to spend its remaining resources on military missions which I believe are unnecessary, counter-productive, and in many cases inhumane, I feel that as a U.S. citizen, I have a duty to oppose any U.S. appropriation that makes it easier for the Israeli government to engage in those activities.  

For the record, I think the Iron Dome system is a fantastic idea, and its implementation has saved countless Israeli lives.  I just don’t think that the U.S. should be funding it for the reasons stated above.  Bearing the full cost of their defense budget might have the laudable effect of encouraging the Israeli electorate to be less enthusiastic about expending limited public resources on military incursions into the Occupied Territories.

My question is whether we can also kick in $225 million to fund some civilian bb shelters in Gaza. And if the answer is, “Of course not,” why subsidize Israel’s military to that extent? It’s clearly not an even-handed concern for human life.

Steve King: Obama immigration move should spark impeachment talks - POLITICO.com

If I may summarize what brought us here:

  1. Pretty much everybody agrees that there is a legitimate moral and humanitarian crisis on the border.
  2. Obama asked Congress to do something.
  3. The House attempted to pass an immigration bill that everybody in the House knew would never pass the Senate, primarily in order to allow Republicans to have something to say when their constituents asked them why they were drawing a salary to dick around and be a national embarrassment.
  4. The Senate attempted to pass an immigration bill that everybody in the Senate knew would never pass the House, primarily in order to allow Democrats to have something to say when their constituents asked them why they were drawing a salary to dick around and be a national embarrassment.
  5. Both of these attempts failed. Neither chamber managed to pass even a waste of time face-saving bill.
  6. Republican leaders released a statement saying, “There are numerous steps the President can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” In other words, “The President should do something because we’re totally defective.”
  7. Steve King—and doubtlessly a boatload of other Republicans—are now mad that Obama is acting without Congress.

Can somebody build me a browser extension that replaces the word “Congress” with “an unruly mob of children”? That way headlines will read, “Obama to circumvent an unruly mob of children on minimum wage for federal contractors.” Yes. I’m glad Obama gave a wide berth to those unruly children. One of the children could have been hurt. Or, “Obama introduces legislation to an unruly mob of children.” Well … it’s nice that he’s treating those children with dignity. But I won’t hold my breath that these unruly children will accomplish some sort of legislative purpose.

Bottom line? The branches of government are supposed to be coequal, not codependent.

The U.S. Congress on Thursday is set to debate “emergency” border security legislation that lawmakers acknowledge will not be enacted but will enable them to campaign for re-election by arguing they worked to address a humanitarian crisis.


Maybe vote everybody out at this point.