Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

July 14, 2006

Mid-East Double Standards

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:33 pm

The Iranian-sponsored group Hezbollah has, as of the time of this report, fired 150 missiles into northern Israel from Lebanon. An estimated 220,000 Israelis are living in bomb shelters. Two Israeli civilians have been killed, and 50 wounded, plus eight Israeli soldiers have been killed and two kidnapped in a cross-border raid (i.e., Hezbollah attacked within Israel’s borders). This is on top of the cross-border raid by Hamas from Gaza earlier, in which six Israeli soldiers were killed and one kidnapped, and the rockets fired earlier from Gaza, from which Israel voluntarily withdrew (and whose Jewish population it expelled) back in August.

So, Israel is responding, by attacking Hamas in Gaza and attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Naturally, the world diplomatic community is outraged — at Israel, for daring to respond to deadly attacks on itself:

Major US allies condemned the ferocity of Israel’s military attack on Lebanon, revealing a clear split with Washington’s moderate call for restraint.

Cries of alarm mounted worldwide after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered armed forces to intensify the offensive in response to rockets hitting towns in northern Israel, killing two and wounding 50.

“I find honestly — as all Europeans do — that the current reactions are totally disproportionate,” [French President Jacques Chirac] said in a live television interview on France’s national Bastille Day.

“In my view, Israel is making a mistake,” said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. “It will only lead to an escalation of the violence.”

In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he recognized Israel’s legitimate concerns and condemning the kidnapping of the soldiers.

But “we deplore the escalation in the use of force, the serious damage to Lebanese infrastructure and the civilian casualties of the raids,” the Italian leader added.

The Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, said: “The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign country,” adding that he felt for the people “who had already suffered in defence of their independence.”

“On the one hand, Israel has the internationally recognised right to self defence. But at the same time we ask our Israeli friends and partners not to lose sight of the long-term consequences when they exercise this right,” German deputy government spokesman Jens Ploetner said.

Iran, which with Syria is a sponsor of Hezbollah, called on the United Nations to step in. “The international community and the UN must intervene to stop this crime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Greece.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted by the state news agency Antara as saying: “Indonesia repeats its call for Israel to stop its military action.”

“I consider that all sides implicated in this conflict should immediately stop military action,” [Russian President Vladimir] Putin said.

It seems the world is divided between those countries that claim Israel has no right to self-defense, and those that concede they have it but don’t want them to actually exercise it. So far, only the U.S. and Britain have acknowledged that Israel actually has any business defending itself — and only they and Russia have bothered to note that Hamas and Hezbollah are wrong to be attacking Israel in the first place.

Of those who claim the Israeli response is “disproportionate” — what response would be “proprotionate” to hundreds of missiles launched at civilian targets? How would Germany or Italy respond to a similar attack?

Do they want Israel to appeal to the UN? That wouldn’t work, since the UN Security Council voted 10-1 (with 4 abstentions!) to condem Israel for defending itself!

That’s right: of the 15 countries on the UN security council, only one — the United States — was willing to say that Israel does not have to sit back and allow Hamas and Hezbollah to shoot missiles at their towns and kidnap their soldiers to their hearts’ content.

This is not surprising — this is the same UN that displayed a map showing Israel removed. Naturally, they cannot condemn violent attacks on a country that is not supposed to exist in the first place.

And of course, the press and the diplomats and “world leaders” are referring to the deaths of Hezbollah and Hamas fighters as “civilian deaths.” I suppose technically this is correct since they are not members of any legal military force. But they are shooting missiles, attacking soldiers, and killing random, peaceful citizens of another country — so in what sense, exactly, is it informative to call them “civilians”?

Intolerance in Provincetown

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:09 pm

Adrienne P. Samuels of the Boston Globe reports:

Police say they logged numerous complaints of straight people being called “breeders” by gays over the July Fourth holiday weekend. Jamaican workers reported being the target of racial slurs. And a woman was verbally accosted after signing a petition that opposed same-sex marriage, they said.

The town, which prizes its reputation for openness and tolerance, is taking the concerns seriously, though police say they do not consider the incidents hate crimes.

(… as they no doubt would if the roles were reversed.)

Winsome Karr, 45, originally from Jamaica, has worked in town since 2002. Lately, she said, the off-color comments stem from gay visitors who mistakenly believe that all Jamaicans share the views of an island religious sect that disagrees with homosexuality.

A group that supports gay marriage, knowthyneighbor, has created a website displaying the names of more than 100,000 signers of a petition that calls for the state Constitution to be amended to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Knowthyneighbor’s tactics are controversial, with critics alleging that knowthyneighbor is making the names of same-sex marriage opponents public in an effort to expose or intimidate them. The group’s founders say they are simply promoting civic discourse.

The names of 43 Provincetown residents are listed on the website. Most of the petition signers attend St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, which serves the Portuguese community and others in town.

Does this remind anyone of that list of abortionists somebody once posted? That led to a federal investigation. Anyone see that happening here?

The Constitution is Constitional (#3)

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:55 pm

Clayton Cramer has an extensive analysis of the decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which “ruled that Nebraska’s constitutional amendment, approved by 70% of the voters in November 2000, is not a violation of equal protection.” This overrules a federal district court decision, which I reviewed here.

This is not quite is ridiculous as the Colorado decision or the Georgia decision (overruled), since those decisions held that a state constitutional amendment violated the state constitution, which is clearly preposterous. In the Nebraska case, the ruling was that the state constitutional amendment violated the federal constitution, which is at least possible in theory, though it was a real stretch in this particular case — if the logic of the district court was accepted, it was unconstitutional to prohibit slavery (as I wrote) or to prohibit establishment of religion (as Clayton wrote).

There seems to be a spate of new respect for the right of voters to vote on things. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow a vote, and even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that they don’t have the right to declare constitutional amendments unconstitutional.

However, this ruling was not unanimous, and Eugene Volokh did a pretty good job of skewering the dissenters. The dissenters wrote:

If the initiative is approved by the Legislature and ultimately adopted, there will be time enough, if an appropriate lawsuit is brought, for this court to resolve the question whether our Constitution can be home to provisions that are apparently mutually inconsistent and irreconcilable. We may then give careful consideration, in view of what has been said above, to the legal tenability and implications of embodying a provision into our Constitution that would look so starkly out of place in the Adams Constitution, when compared with the document’s elegantly stated, and constitutionally defined, protections of liberty, equality, tolerance, and the access of all citizens to equal rights and benefits.

Professor Volokh — who would probably oppose the amendment, given his past statements, said:

This strikes me as deeply wrong: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is saying that its judgments about equality and fairness under the Massachusetts Constitution trump not only the judgment of the legislature, but the judgment of the people amending the constitution itself.

And this, it seems to me, goes to the heart of sovereignty. Judicial review has pluses and minuses, but its premise (which I believe generally justifies it) is that the people have ordained a Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Judges must therefore enforce this supreme law as against any legislative enactments, or even the enactments of the people voting as ordinary legislators. The judges are thus acting as servants of the sovereign people, carrying out the people’s instructions. …

But here the two judges are suggesting that the ultimate decisions are to be made by judges, and the people have no right to the final say on the subject. Under this theory, the judges end up being the ones who are sovereign, with the legal principles that they set forth being immune from control by the people. That, I think, would be a very bad result. Even if one thinks that sometimes judges may use this sovereign power in fairer ways than the people do, the same can be said about dictatorship or monarchy (or even dictatorship or monarchy limited to particular topics). The premise of democracy, including of constitutional liberal democracy, is that the best — not the perfect, and often not even very good (consider Churchill’s famous line about democracy), but the best — place to repose sovereign power is in the people, not in Philosopher-Kings.

Blog Carnivals

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:26 pm

Recent blog carnivals:

Hometown is burning

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:14 pm

Well, it’s not literally my hometown, but an area that holds a lot of special memories for me is literally under fire. The Los Angeles Times has a map and an excellent photo series.

They also have a lousy article, which blames the lightning-sparked fire on global warming. The theory, according to the article, is that global warming causes an increase in precipitation, which causes lots of grass to grow — and global warming also causes a decrease in precipitation, so the plants dry out. It doesn’t seem to occur to the intrepid reporter that these two can’t possibly be true. But then again, everything that happens is because of global warming, as LuboÅ¡ and I have pointed out before.

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