Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes was the best Pelosi could do for the House Intelligence Committee? When I heard that he was a frequent traveling companion of soon-to-be-former Rep. Crazy Curt Weldon (R-PA), I was a little worried, but decided to try and give him the benefit of the doubt. But this?

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball. That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Houston, we have a problem. Let’s get this man a tutor, asap.

(Via TPM Muckracker)


At Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux distills the argument against originalism (raised in the context of the desegregation cases heard earlier this week at the Supreme Court):

[I]f all originalism means is that principles must be applied at a high level of abstraction, I’m not sure why we can ignore 19th century conceptions of education and distinctions between social and civil rights, but we have to remain bound to 19th century conceptions of “commerce.” To the extent that originalism has any content at all, the choice is between Brown and originalism; myself, I’m going with the former. But once you’ve reduced originalism to these kinds of broad abstraction, there’s simply no good reason to treat racial classifications used to ossify apartheid and racial classifications used to dismantle segregation as being equivalent.


Catch this article before it disappears behind the pay-wall. It’s ostensibly about South Africa’s literary scene, but it’s more a quick (but well done) tour through the issues facing South Africa:

Since the end of apartheid, Mda’s old comrades have become the country’s political and business elite. “People I was in the struggle with are billionaires,” Mda said. “But I’ve chosen to be a writer and be poor.” In his novels and other writings, Mda has been outspoken in his criticism of the new ruling class and what he calls “the cronyism networks” that have led to the enrichment of a select black minority, leaving the majority in poverty.

[ . . . ]

Like many South Africans, Mda says he wishes there were a stronger opposition to keep the African National Congress accountable. “The A.N.C. is winning on the economy,” he maintained, “but losing on security and AIDS.” Yet the opposition parties — white nationalists, religious parties — offer no viable alternative. “They’d take that country down the drain,” he insisted. “It would be like Zimbabwe.”

It’s a fascinating country that the rest of the world should be paying close attention to. (Which reminds me that I ought to clean up and post my write up of my own trip there, soon.)


M.J. Rosenberg touches on an issue that I’ve done a lot of talking, but very little writing, about – Jimmy Carter’s use the the word “apartheid” in the title of his latest book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. As Rosenberg points out:

Carter does not say that Israel is an apartheid state. He says explicitly that it is not and that, when he uses the term apartheid, he is not referring to Israel. “I am,” he says, “referring to Palestine and not to Israel….Arabs living in Israel are citizens of Israel and have full citizenship, voting, and legal rights, and so forth. “

The American media, for the most part, has savaged him over it:

Martin Peretz and Alan Dershowitz both say that Carter specifically calls Israel an “apartheid state,” which Carter does not do. Alan Dershowitz says Carter is “simply wrong.” In Israel, Dershowitz says, “majority rules; it is a vibrant secular democracy, which just recognized gay marriages performed abroad. Arabs serve in the Knesset, on the Supreme Court and get to vote for their representatives, many of whom strongly oppose Israeli policies.”

All that is absolutely correct. And Carter agrees with every word. His argument is that Arabs in the West Bank do not have those rights. That isn’t so much an argument as a fact. West Bank Palestinians are not citizens of any country and do not have the rights of citizenship anywhere.

It is nigh impossible to find a fair and intelligent discussion of most any Israel-Palestine issue in mainstream American media. Earlier this week, Terry Gross spend a significant part, if not the majority, of her time hammering Jimmy Carter over the use of the word apartheid in the title – all at the expense of talking about one of the root issues behind one of the most important conflicts in the world. Gross’ approach, as with Peretz and Dershowitz, is part of what Rosenberg calls:

a disturbing trend in the pro-Israel community in which the usual suspects — Peretz, Dershowitz, and a host of Likud camp followers — react to any and all criticism of Israeli policies by assaulting the critics, demanding that they either shut up or be prohibited from speaking at a particular venue. This has to stop.

I’m not so sure that I agree that it’s a “trend” so much as a well-established tradition. But Rosenberg is right – it has to stop. For better or worse, the US has enormous influence over the resolution (or non-resolution) of the conflict. Unless we can have an honest and open conversation about it, very little good can come from exercise of that influence.