Commentary Magazine


Topic: High Court

Palestinian Authority Announces ‘Surprise’ Elections

The Associated Press reports that, in a “surprise move,” Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad’s cabinet said it would set dates for local elections soon. The AP says the announcement reflects fears that Egypt-like protests could inspire unrest in the West Bank.

You can understand the thinking. Hosni Mubarak got protests while he was still serving his term of office; Mahmoud Abbas is about to begin the 74th month of his 48-month one. Mubarak at least had a presidential election scheduled for September, even if he (or his son) would have run — like Abbas in 2005 — effectively unopposed. Abbas has no election scheduled, nor any prospect of scheduling one, since he cannot campaign in half his territory and might not win in the other half, as his standing has been damaged by disclosures that he made minimal private concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Nor will elections be scheduled for the non-functioning Palestinian parliament, because its principal factions cannot co-exist with each other in a single state, ever since one of them threw members of the other off the top of buildings, and the other started arresting its opponents in the West Bank as part of efforts to build a security state much like … Egypt.

At least elections for local councils may now be held, even though they will result from fear rather than compliance with last year’s order of the Palestinian “High Court,” which the formerly fearless Abbas/Fayyad government ignored as it headed into the final months of its two-year plan to build a state.

The Associated Press reports that, in a “surprise move,” Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad’s cabinet said it would set dates for local elections soon. The AP says the announcement reflects fears that Egypt-like protests could inspire unrest in the West Bank.

You can understand the thinking. Hosni Mubarak got protests while he was still serving his term of office; Mahmoud Abbas is about to begin the 74th month of his 48-month one. Mubarak at least had a presidential election scheduled for September, even if he (or his son) would have run — like Abbas in 2005 — effectively unopposed. Abbas has no election scheduled, nor any prospect of scheduling one, since he cannot campaign in half his territory and might not win in the other half, as his standing has been damaged by disclosures that he made minimal private concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Nor will elections be scheduled for the non-functioning Palestinian parliament, because its principal factions cannot co-exist with each other in a single state, ever since one of them threw members of the other off the top of buildings, and the other started arresting its opponents in the West Bank as part of efforts to build a security state much like … Egypt.

At least elections for local councils may now be held, even though they will result from fear rather than compliance with last year’s order of the Palestinian “High Court,” which the formerly fearless Abbas/Fayyad government ignored as it headed into the final months of its two-year plan to build a state.

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Other Than That …

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

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Citizens United Protected Free Speech, Not the GOP

The one-year anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is being treated in some quarters as a Republican triumph. According to this reading, the ruling that invalidated legislation that unconstitutionally attempted to restrict the political speech of groups was strictly a partisan affair. In this version of reality, the upshot of the 2010 election was that Republican and conservative organizations were freed up by the High Court’s spiking of provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill and therefore coasted to victory last November. Thus the spin today is that since the Democrats have no chance of undoing the Court’s decision via legislation, they must now retool their fundraising operations to adjust to the post–Citizens United world.

But this interpretation is entirely fallacious. Conservatives have historically opposed restrictive campaign-finance laws because they believed that attempts to silence political speech, such as the documentary film about Hilary Clinton that was at the heart of Citizens United, was inherently illegitimate. Campaign-finance “reform” laws have never, as their authors claim, eliminated the role of money in politics. But they did play favorites as to which kind of money was legal. Such good laws are good for incumbent politicians because they stifle challengers, and great for media companies, which are free to spout their views about candidates on their editorial pages and, alas, in their news columns as well, while restricting the right of others to purchase the same freedom.

But the main point here is that the focus on Citizens United allows liberals to engage in conspiracy theories about why they lost the last election rather than face up to the fact that the grassroots uprising against the policies of the Obama administration is what accounted for the GOP landslide victory in the congressional elections, not the money that some conservative groups were allowed to spend last year.

While Citizens United overturned regulations that were more likely to handicap conservative pro-business groups rather than liberal ones such as unions, the free flow of money in campaigns doesn’t necessarily mean either side will have an advantage in the future. Just as the Obama campaign broke records in 2008 by harnessing the enthusiasm of liberals, the lack of draconian regulations intended to silence free speech in the future will be no hindrance to the Democrats if they can manage to appear as the party with the answers again. That’s the thing about free speech: it allows the sentiments of the people, whether the pendulum has swung to the left or to the right, to be heard.

The Court’s verdict one year ago will continue to be felt not in terms of who wins the election in 2012 or any other year but in the ability of ordinary Americans to band together to speak out on the issues and the candidates. While at the moment that does not appear to appeal to many Democrats, it is the essence of democracy.

The one-year anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is being treated in some quarters as a Republican triumph. According to this reading, the ruling that invalidated legislation that unconstitutionally attempted to restrict the political speech of groups was strictly a partisan affair. In this version of reality, the upshot of the 2010 election was that Republican and conservative organizations were freed up by the High Court’s spiking of provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill and therefore coasted to victory last November. Thus the spin today is that since the Democrats have no chance of undoing the Court’s decision via legislation, they must now retool their fundraising operations to adjust to the post–Citizens United world.

But this interpretation is entirely fallacious. Conservatives have historically opposed restrictive campaign-finance laws because they believed that attempts to silence political speech, such as the documentary film about Hilary Clinton that was at the heart of Citizens United, was inherently illegitimate. Campaign-finance “reform” laws have never, as their authors claim, eliminated the role of money in politics. But they did play favorites as to which kind of money was legal. Such good laws are good for incumbent politicians because they stifle challengers, and great for media companies, which are free to spout their views about candidates on their editorial pages and, alas, in their news columns as well, while restricting the right of others to purchase the same freedom.

But the main point here is that the focus on Citizens United allows liberals to engage in conspiracy theories about why they lost the last election rather than face up to the fact that the grassroots uprising against the policies of the Obama administration is what accounted for the GOP landslide victory in the congressional elections, not the money that some conservative groups were allowed to spend last year.

While Citizens United overturned regulations that were more likely to handicap conservative pro-business groups rather than liberal ones such as unions, the free flow of money in campaigns doesn’t necessarily mean either side will have an advantage in the future. Just as the Obama campaign broke records in 2008 by harnessing the enthusiasm of liberals, the lack of draconian regulations intended to silence free speech in the future will be no hindrance to the Democrats if they can manage to appear as the party with the answers again. That’s the thing about free speech: it allows the sentiments of the people, whether the pendulum has swung to the left or to the right, to be heard.

The Court’s verdict one year ago will continue to be felt not in terms of who wins the election in 2012 or any other year but in the ability of ordinary Americans to band together to speak out on the issues and the candidates. While at the moment that does not appear to appeal to many Democrats, it is the essence of democracy.

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The Tragedy of Palestinian Democracy

Today is the second anniversary of the end of Mahmoud Abbas’s four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. He continues to play the role of “president” but is simply an unelected holdover, lacking the legitimacy to make the compromises necessary to produce a Palestinian state, even assuming he were willing to make them. It may be an appropriate day to reflect on the results of Palestinian democracy.

Abbas ran essentially unopposed in 2005, in an election held less than seven weeks after Yasir Arafat’s death. Hamas boycotted the election and Abbas’s principal Fatah opponent was unavailable, serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. The seven-week electoral process merely put someone quickly in office whom the U.S. hoped would implement Phase I of the Roadmap by dismantling the terrorist groups and infrastructure — particularly since Israel had announced it would remove 21 settlements from Gaza and four from the West Bank.

Condoleezza Rice said in 2005 that she raised the dismantlement obligation in every conversation with Abbas but understood his need to do it at the right time: “You don’t want him to go to dismantle Hamas and fail.” He assured her he would convince Hamas there should be only “one gun,” and she intimated that he told her privately he would dismantle Hamas with force if necessary. But it did not happen. In September 2005, a settlementrein Gaza was handed over to the Palestinian Authority and was transformed into Hamastan virtually from day one; four months later, elections were held for the Palestinian legislature, and the Palestinians elected Hamas, which later took over Gaza in a coup.

These days, an unelected West Bank “prime minister” is busy “building the institutions of a state.” He expects to be done by August. But the institutions do not include elections, which were canceled in July even for local councils on the West Bank. His principal activity consists of spending international aid for its intended purpose (contrary to what used to happen); he is essentially an official appointed by the international community to watch over the use of their funds, and is continually praised for his “transparency” — the basic job requirement for someone in that role. But an appointed person with no political party or electoral base, assigned to distribute funds, is hardly a “prime minister.”

We are not likely to see Palestinian elections in the foreseeable future: Hamas lacks a tradition honoring the peaceful transfer of power, and Fatah does not like elections held before their outcome is fixed. A month ago, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the cancellation of the West Bank elections was illegal, and the vast majority of Palestinians want them held. But the court lacks the power to enforce its decision, and the “prime minister” has not yet responded to the letter sent to him about holding elections in light of it. A recent poll found that Palestinians view both Gaza and the West Bank as an increasingly police state. The “institutions of a state” the prime minister is building do not include an empowered judiciary or a free electorate.

When the U.S. endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002, the endorsement was conditional: it depended on the Palestinians first building “a practicing democracy.” Nine years later, half the putative state is a terrorist enclave functioning as an Iranian proxy; the other half is a Potemkin democracy unable even to stage elections. The tragedy of Palestinian democracy is that the obstacle to a Palestinian state turned out to be the Palestinians themselves.

Today is the second anniversary of the end of Mahmoud Abbas’s four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. He continues to play the role of “president” but is simply an unelected holdover, lacking the legitimacy to make the compromises necessary to produce a Palestinian state, even assuming he were willing to make them. It may be an appropriate day to reflect on the results of Palestinian democracy.

Abbas ran essentially unopposed in 2005, in an election held less than seven weeks after Yasir Arafat’s death. Hamas boycotted the election and Abbas’s principal Fatah opponent was unavailable, serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. The seven-week electoral process merely put someone quickly in office whom the U.S. hoped would implement Phase I of the Roadmap by dismantling the terrorist groups and infrastructure — particularly since Israel had announced it would remove 21 settlements from Gaza and four from the West Bank.

Condoleezza Rice said in 2005 that she raised the dismantlement obligation in every conversation with Abbas but understood his need to do it at the right time: “You don’t want him to go to dismantle Hamas and fail.” He assured her he would convince Hamas there should be only “one gun,” and she intimated that he told her privately he would dismantle Hamas with force if necessary. But it did not happen. In September 2005, a settlementrein Gaza was handed over to the Palestinian Authority and was transformed into Hamastan virtually from day one; four months later, elections were held for the Palestinian legislature, and the Palestinians elected Hamas, which later took over Gaza in a coup.

These days, an unelected West Bank “prime minister” is busy “building the institutions of a state.” He expects to be done by August. But the institutions do not include elections, which were canceled in July even for local councils on the West Bank. His principal activity consists of spending international aid for its intended purpose (contrary to what used to happen); he is essentially an official appointed by the international community to watch over the use of their funds, and is continually praised for his “transparency” — the basic job requirement for someone in that role. But an appointed person with no political party or electoral base, assigned to distribute funds, is hardly a “prime minister.”

We are not likely to see Palestinian elections in the foreseeable future: Hamas lacks a tradition honoring the peaceful transfer of power, and Fatah does not like elections held before their outcome is fixed. A month ago, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the cancellation of the West Bank elections was illegal, and the vast majority of Palestinians want them held. But the court lacks the power to enforce its decision, and the “prime minister” has not yet responded to the letter sent to him about holding elections in light of it. A recent poll found that Palestinians view both Gaza and the West Bank as an increasingly police state. The “institutions of a state” the prime minister is building do not include an empowered judiciary or a free electorate.

When the U.S. endorsed a Palestinian state in 2002, the endorsement was conditional: it depended on the Palestinians first building “a practicing democracy.” Nine years later, half the putative state is a terrorist enclave functioning as an Iranian proxy; the other half is a Potemkin democracy unable even to stage elections. The tragedy of Palestinian democracy is that the obstacle to a Palestinian state turned out to be the Palestinians themselves.

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Wanted: Female Justice with Small Children (Pets a Plus)

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

Another Supreme Court nomination is in the works, so it’s time for another round of inanity on court appointments. The latest dose of condescension comes from Peter Beinart, who thinks it’s time for not just a woman but “a mom with kids.” (Is three better than two? What about a single mom? A divorced dad with sole custody?) Why does this matter — so they can decide cases in favor of women? No, really: he wants a woman justice “because female justices, on average, will be more sensitive to the problems women face. Since they will have likely encountered gender bias themselves, they will be more likely to support government action to remedy it.” In other words, they will violate their oath of office and give the gals a break. And then there is the old standby: we need more tokenism:

It’s not just that they may alleviate gender injustice through their rulings; they may alleviate it through their example as well. Just as Barack Obama empowers African-American kids to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve, female Supreme Court justices send the same message to young women. As anyone who has ever watched their daughter eye a Barbie Doll can attest, role models matter.

Not Sarah Palin as VP, mind you. And Madeleine Albright, Condi Rice, and Hillary Clinton don’t suffice. Neither do the two women currently on the Court. More role models! But what’s with the kids? Beinart explains it’s the role models (again):

It’s important because otherwise, the message you’re sending young women is that they can achieve professionally, or they can have a family, but they can’t do both. And without quite realizing it, that is the message our government has been sending. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of American women over the age of 40 have children. But look at the women who have held Cabinet posts in the last three presidential administrations. Only two of the Clinton administration’s five female Cabinet secretaries had kids. (Attorney General Janet Reno got her job only after two women with children, Zoë Baird and Kimba Wood, were dinged for hiring illegal immigrants as nannies). In the Bush administration, the figure was two of seven. In the Obama administration, so far, it is two of four. And if Obama chooses Elena Kagan for the High Court, the figure there will be one of three.

There’s nothing wrong, of course, with appointing childless women (or men, for that matter) to high office. But our government is actually doing a pretty good job of providing role models for the 20 percent of American women who don’t want kids. Where it’s failing is in providing role models for the 80 percent that do.

But Sandra Day O’Connor had three children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has two children. Don’t they count? Well, maybe they have to be young. So what we need is  a woman justice with at least two children under the age of 10 so that other women with children under the age of 10 will know that they too can be on the Supreme Court. Thunk.

Beinart is a smart fellow. So maybe this is a sly parody of the rampant racial and gender preferences that have overtaken Supreme Court selections. They have turned these into embarrassing “diversity” rackets in which the White House searches for the person most likely to tip the scales for this or that interest group or to bolster the self-esteem of some key demographic. So if Beinart meant to show up all that and urge us to get back to the old-fashioned notion of merit, then bravo! If not, he should be embarrassed.

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Strange Herring

That light you’re supposed to walk into when you’re dying will probably fade if you breathe into a paper bag. Or not.

Tech companies don’t steal each other’s employees. So Justice wants to investigate. Because stealing is … oh I don’t get it either …

Mitt Romney wins straw poll. Now has the most straw of, like, anybody. I mean, an incredible amount of straw. If you’re out and about, and find yourself with a Coke, and you need a straw, I’m telling you — call this guy.

Google knows you’re weird. Now we know you’re weird. Please stop being weird. It’s scaring the children. (And please don’t Google “Does being weird scare the children?”)

Net no longer neutral, decidedly supralapsarian.

What’s the difference between Jack Kevorkian and Josef Mengele? One of them’s dead.

Nachos and Pop-Tarts no longer part of Chicago school menu, consigned to dustbin along with civics, ethics, and penmanship.

Hopefully you didn’t eat during this Ramadan or you would have found yourself bowing before the porcelain god.

You Googled “Does being weird scare the children?” didn’t you? And I asked you nice …

Pizza Hut flying out of Iceland like kids from the Neverland Ranch.

Among the candidates for Justice Stevens’s seat on the High Court are Janet Napolitano, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland. Which one of these is not like the other — or is that a rude question?

If you can’t pay your taxes by April 15, you may be able to pay later. But you’ll have to pay a penalty. And if you can’t afford to pay the penalty, a large man in a mildewy worsted suit will come to your home and cut off your head with a rusty straight razor, seal it in a Zip-lock bag, and force your youngest child to carry it around in a Hello Kitty knapsack until your traumatized family pays up. (OK, I could be mistaken about that knapsack part. Damn Fox News…)

Cirque de Soleil does Elvis. Oh like you don’t want to hear “A Big Hunk o’ Love” as interpreted by a trapeze artist and a contortionist named Capucine.

If you have asthma, stay out of the South. And the Pollen and Spore Collection of the Museum of Natural History.

And finally, the Brat Pack will never die, despite proposed legislation.

That light you’re supposed to walk into when you’re dying will probably fade if you breathe into a paper bag. Or not.

Tech companies don’t steal each other’s employees. So Justice wants to investigate. Because stealing is … oh I don’t get it either …

Mitt Romney wins straw poll. Now has the most straw of, like, anybody. I mean, an incredible amount of straw. If you’re out and about, and find yourself with a Coke, and you need a straw, I’m telling you — call this guy.

Google knows you’re weird. Now we know you’re weird. Please stop being weird. It’s scaring the children. (And please don’t Google “Does being weird scare the children?”)

Net no longer neutral, decidedly supralapsarian.

What’s the difference between Jack Kevorkian and Josef Mengele? One of them’s dead.

Nachos and Pop-Tarts no longer part of Chicago school menu, consigned to dustbin along with civics, ethics, and penmanship.

Hopefully you didn’t eat during this Ramadan or you would have found yourself bowing before the porcelain god.

You Googled “Does being weird scare the children?” didn’t you? And I asked you nice …

Pizza Hut flying out of Iceland like kids from the Neverland Ranch.

Among the candidates for Justice Stevens’s seat on the High Court are Janet Napolitano, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland. Which one of these is not like the other — or is that a rude question?

If you can’t pay your taxes by April 15, you may be able to pay later. But you’ll have to pay a penalty. And if you can’t afford to pay the penalty, a large man in a mildewy worsted suit will come to your home and cut off your head with a rusty straight razor, seal it in a Zip-lock bag, and force your youngest child to carry it around in a Hello Kitty knapsack until your traumatized family pays up. (OK, I could be mistaken about that knapsack part. Damn Fox News…)

Cirque de Soleil does Elvis. Oh like you don’t want to hear “A Big Hunk o’ Love” as interpreted by a trapeze artist and a contortionist named Capucine.

If you have asthma, stay out of the South. And the Pollen and Spore Collection of the Museum of Natural History.

And finally, the Brat Pack will never die, despite proposed legislation.

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