The Bottom Line on Jerusalem

France 24: “Israel’s Netanyahu Says US Embassy Could Move to Jerusalem within a Year.”

Reuters: “Trump Denies US Embassy to be Moved Within a Year.”

CNN: “US to Move Embassy by Year’s End, Netanyahu Says.”

Ha’aretz: “Trump Denies Netanyahu’s Claims that US Embassy Will Move to Jerusalem within Year.”

Calgary Herald: “Netanyahu Says US Embassy to Move to Jerusalem this Year.”

Jewish Press: “Trump Curbs Netanyahu’s Enthusiasm: No Embassy Move Any Time Soon.”

The New York Times: “U.S. Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019” (print version: “Trump Administration Presses to Relocate Embassy to Jerusalem by 2019.”)

NHK World: “Abbas: Jerusalem Could Be Gate to War.”

Zyrtec-D and “Express” Consent

So I go to CVS with a stuffy nose, hoping to land something strong to clean it all out–some good shit, like Zyrtec-D. I know I’m going to have to run the regulatory gauntlet, but I need a hit. So I go.

When I get there, there’s a line three deep in front of me, and within minutes, three deep behind. Finally, I get to the counter.

Khawaja: Hi, I need some Zyrtec-D. That’s available behind the counter, right?

Pharmacist: Yes. I need to see your driver’s license.

Khawaja (handing it over): Here.

Pharmacist (scanning it): Thanks. I’ll go get it.

A few minutes pass.

Pharmacist: That’ll be $19.99. But first you’ll need to sign this agreement on the screen. Once you click “agree,” and sign it, you can pay.

I glance at the long agreement on-screen, browse through it without understanding it, look nervously over my shoulder at the line behind me, click “agree,” sign it, and hand over $20.  Continue reading

The Truth is Hard, But Kinda Funny

Two views of William F. Buckley from the Op-Ed page of today’s New York Times, visible at exactly the same level on the same page of the print edition:

 But most of the world — including most of the Jewish diaspora — will have a hard time coming up with a decent justification for opposing a Palestinian campaign for equal rights. Israel’s apologists will be left mimicking the argument that William F. Buckley once made about the Jim Crow South. In 1957, he asked rhetorically whether the white South was entitled to prevail “politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” The “sobering answer,” he concluded, was yes, given the white community’s superior civilization.

–Michelle Goldberg, “Is Liberal Zionism Dead?”

Same page, five inches away:

Continue reading

The Color of Rights: Malheur, Standing Rock, Palestine

About a year and a half ago, having spent a summer in Palestine and a week on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I ventured the observation on Facebook that three political disputes I’d “recently encountered” (in a loose sense of “encountered”) struck me as fundamentally similar in nature, and yet attracted fundamentally different constituencies. For brevity’s sake, let’s call them “Malheur,” “Standing Rock,” and “Palestine,” taking those as  shorthand designations for more complex things. Continue reading

Heading Out to the Highway (with David Brooks)

The ethics of driving is a topic dear to my heart, having lost my two closest childhood friends (and the wife of one of those friends, who was also a friend) to traffic accidents, and living as I do in north Jersey, where every day’s commute is a near-death experience. I hate cars, I hate driving, and above all, I hate driving in New Jersey, so I’m always open to anyone who’s willing to trash the way “we” drive, ascribe it to “our” moral failings, and demand that “we” do better. (I hijacked a presentation on the Aristotelian virtue of eubolia at the Felician Ethics Conference this past fall to insist that in the modern world, eubolia is a virtue best exemplified by virtuous drivers.)

This anti-driving (or anti-bad-driving, or anti-ubiquitously-bad-driving) attitude competes with another downer sentiment of mine: I can’t stand David Brooks. Just to be clear: I can’t fucking stand David Brooks.

So I opened up this morning’s New York Times, turned to the Op-Ed page, and faced a bit of a dilemma. Here was David Brooks trashing the way “we” drive, describing Jersey drivers as people who “treat driving as if it were foreplay to genocide,” acknowledging that “driving means making a thousand small decisions” (internalized eubolia, anyone?), and getting a few things right. But like so many so-called dilemmas, this one wasn’t an instance of that fabled entity, the irresolvable ontologically-based moral dilemma, and collapsed before long. Because as per usual, Brooks managed to snatch polemical failure from the jaws of success, re-confirming my hate for everything he writes.   Continue reading

Law Enforcement, Philosophy, and the Ethics of Belief

From an article on the recent “swatting” case in Wichita, Kansas:

The law allows the police to use deadly force when an officer reasonably believes, given the information at the time he pulls the trigger, that his life or someone else’s life is in imminent danger. The Wichita officers had been told, wrongly, that they were encountering an armed hostage-taker who had already killed one person and was threatening to burn the house down.

“Nine-one-one is based on the premise of believing the caller: When you call for help, you’re going to get help,” Chief Livingston said. The prank call, he added, “only heightened the awareness of the officers and, we think, led to this deadly encounter.”

The antinomies of legalistic reason: The first paragraph tells us that the 911 caller made an accusation of criminal activity. But according to one prominent line of legal reasoning, an anonymous telephone-based accusation at best establishes reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime–and usually requires a “totality of circumstances” test that conjoins the claims made in the call with facts observed or gathered independently of the call (see Lippmann, Criminal Procedure, pp. 107-109, 139-40, 2nd ed.). Continue reading


Remember this gem from Fernando Teson, Tobias Simon Eminent Scholar at Florida State University’s College of Law?

Almost everyone has by now accepted the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

What a difference a few years makes, right? From “almost everyone has by now accepted” to “almost no one of consequence now accepts” in two short years. A fine day’s work. Almost makes you wonder what kind of knowledge the original claim was based on.

JERUSALEM — An emboldened Israeli right wing is moving quickly in the new year to make it far more difficult to create a Palestinian state, signaling its intention to doom hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict.

The actions have come on multiple fronts, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party for the first time has urged the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the nation’s top legal officers pressed to extend Israeli law into occupied territory.

In addition, the Israeli Parliament, after a late-night debate, voted early Tuesday to enact stiff new obstacles to any potential land-for-peace deal involving Jerusalem, while abandoning at the last minute a measure that would have eased the way to rid the city of several overwhelmingly Palestinian neighborhoods.

Coming on the heels of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in defiance of decades-old United States policy and international consensus, the moves showed that the Israeli right senses a new opening to pursue its goal of a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.

“We are telling the world that it doesn’t matter what the nations of the world say,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told more than 1,000 members of Likud’s central committee on Sunday. “The time has come to express our biblical right to the land.”

If you think my title is in bad taste, what do you think of the calm serenity of Teson’s unretracted expression of blank ignorance masquerading as impartial, scholarly expertise? I guess there’s always the standard-issue Bleeding Heart Libertarian expedient of re-writing the original post and pretending not to have said what you did say.

No one has ever accused me of being calm, serene, impartial, scholarly, or an expert of any kind. But you’d be hard pressed to argue that I was wrong.

Closer to the Heart

In the Greektown area of Detroit in the vicinity of my office, I often pass homeless people— prone on the sidewalk in tattered, filthy sleeping bags, surrounded by refuse, or unkempt and begging for change. A week before Christmas the temperatures started heading down below 32°F (0°C), and were predicted to go far lower. Late one afternoon, I passed by an older black man in a wheelchair. I only glimpsed the lower half of his face. He had parked over a sidewalk manhole cover emitting a small blast of moist warmer air. Although he wore a seemingly decent quality blue nylon-shell jacket, he was hunched over, shivering a little.

A couple of days later, I visited a Salvation Army store. I bought as many comforters as I could stuff into my cart. My idea was to take them downtown and give them to the shivering homeless out on the sidewalks. It was only after I got them home that I realized I could only carry one at a time as they are large and bulky. Solution? Space-saver bags! (The ones you remove the air from with your vacuum.) The next day I purchased six from Meijer and went about trying to stuff the first comforter into a bag. Ugh. The comforter was too big and the bag would not seal. So back out I went, to Target this time. They had ZipLock “Jumbo” bags. The bigger comforters fit inside! Continue reading

Grand Theft Rear View Mirror

Somebody tried to steal my car the other night in New York City. He (or she, but more likely a he) didn’t manage to pull it off, but having put that much time and energy into the job, I guess he decided to steal my driver’s side rear-view mirror while he was at it.

This gives me a lifetime 0-3 (or maybe 3-0) record on car thefts: 3 attempts to steal cars of mine, all failures. (Well, one of them was my Mom’s car, but I used it to deliver newspapers, so I thought of it as partly mine.)

Actually to be perfectly candid, I once drove by a car-jacking-in-progress, also in New York City, but I don’t know how it turned out: I was looking for parking en route to a Joe Satriani concert, and didn’t pause to see the outcome. (I didn’t call the cops, either; we were already late to the show. So much for the Parable of the Good Samaritan!) Continue reading

How Not to Cover Coverage

From an article in yesterday’s New York Times, about the closing of the enrollment period for Obamacare health insurance policies in New Jersey. The couple, Ana Gonzalez and Celso Morales, had earlier been described as coming to a health center in Plainfield, New Jersey in order to “sign up for a subsidized health plan.”

Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Morales, who moved to New Jersey from Puerto Rico, came to sign up for coverage on the advice of one of his co-workers after Mr. Morales was told he has diabetes. The couple — she is 54 and he is 58 — qualified for Medicaid in Puerto Rico, but in New Jersey, their income is too high. They earn about $35,000 a year between her job at Target and his work laying stones for a construction company. With the Affordable Care Act tax credit, they will pay just under $200 a month to cover the two of them, a sum that seemed to please Ms. Gonzalez.

How useful is this information if we don’t know how high their deductible is or what their coverage is like? No middle- or upper-middle class person that I know would be content to know that their health insurance premium was $200/month without knowing anything else about their policy or coverage. But for some reason, seasoned reporters for The New York Times seem to think that we’re to judge this couple’s insurance situation knowing just that. Continue reading