Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 13, 2007

An Interview with Terry Teachout

In our December interview with Terry Teachout, the veteran contributor to COMMENTARY and horizon regular discusses the New York Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea and Peter Gay’s new book Modernism: The Lure of Heresy. He also takes readers on an absorbing outing to New York City’s historic Knoedler & Company, one of Manhattan’s premiere art galleries, to explore a show of paintings by the late Jules Olitski, one of the founders of the Color Field movement in American abstraction (and a longtime subscriber to COMMENTARY).

In our December interview with Terry Teachout, the veteran contributor to COMMENTARY and horizon regular discusses the New York Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea and Peter Gay’s new book Modernism: The Lure of Heresy. He also takes readers on an absorbing outing to New York City’s historic Knoedler & Company, one of Manhattan’s premiere art galleries, to explore a show of paintings by the late Jules Olitski, one of the founders of the Color Field movement in American abstraction (and a longtime subscriber to COMMENTARY).

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The (Moderately) Rich Get Richer

Harvard’s financial aid “reforms,” announced Monday, are great news for anyone who thinks that what Harvard needs is not a revived core curriculum, but more students from the upper class. Under Harvard’s new policy, families with incomes between $60,000 and $180,000 will have to pay no more than 10 percent of their incomes in tuition. Since the 2006 median income in the U.S. was about $48,000, the benefits of these “reforms” will go to the rich.

Yes, $180,000 isn’t as much as it seems if you live in New York City. But Harvard already has lots of kids from New York City: that’s not the kind of diversity it’s lacking. And yes, Harvard is “need-blind,” and it gives generous support to students from families below the median. But there are only so many spots to go around. Making it easier for the rich to accept an offer from Harvard will increase their matriculation rate. To compensate, Harvard will have to make fewer offers to the poor.

By coincidence, Harvard’s announcement came less than three months after the Senate Finance Committee expressed interest in forcing large university endowments to pay out 5 percent per year. But then the entire question of financial aid at Harvard (and Yale) is a farce: it would cost only $238 million—about 1 percent of an endowment that gained $5 billion in fiscal 2007—to pay tuition, room, and board for all Yale College students this year. Financial aid is about increasing the size of the applicant pool so you can turn more of them down, and win the prestige that comes with enhanced selectivity.

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Harvard’s financial aid “reforms,” announced Monday, are great news for anyone who thinks that what Harvard needs is not a revived core curriculum, but more students from the upper class. Under Harvard’s new policy, families with incomes between $60,000 and $180,000 will have to pay no more than 10 percent of their incomes in tuition. Since the 2006 median income in the U.S. was about $48,000, the benefits of these “reforms” will go to the rich.

Yes, $180,000 isn’t as much as it seems if you live in New York City. But Harvard already has lots of kids from New York City: that’s not the kind of diversity it’s lacking. And yes, Harvard is “need-blind,” and it gives generous support to students from families below the median. But there are only so many spots to go around. Making it easier for the rich to accept an offer from Harvard will increase their matriculation rate. To compensate, Harvard will have to make fewer offers to the poor.

By coincidence, Harvard’s announcement came less than three months after the Senate Finance Committee expressed interest in forcing large university endowments to pay out 5 percent per year. But then the entire question of financial aid at Harvard (and Yale) is a farce: it would cost only $238 million—about 1 percent of an endowment that gained $5 billion in fiscal 2007—to pay tuition, room, and board for all Yale College students this year. Financial aid is about increasing the size of the applicant pool so you can turn more of them down, and win the prestige that comes with enhanced selectivity.

By design, what stops students from attending Harvard isn’t the cost: it’s Harvard’s Admissions Office, which, like Yale’s, turns down nine out of ten applicants. And here those on the fringes of the system—which is not quite the same thing as being poor—are at a serious disadvantage, because simply being smart is not enough to get in. You need to demonstrate your social conscience, and to develop as many weird interests as possible. The latest fad, Alex Williams reported in the New York Times over the weekend, is squash, which, as one parent put it, “just helps your admissions chances.”

The last thing the Senate should do is to try to fix Harvard: the unintended consequences are bound to be catastrophic. But Harvard’s “reforms,” and its admissions policies, are of a piece with our national obsession: helping the well-off. From preserving Social Security, which transfers wealth from the young to the old; to expanding SCHIP into the upper-middle class by raising taxes on tobacco, a vice of the poor; to providing relief for homeowners who sought out the loans that got them into the subprime mortgage “crisis,” the Left (and all too frequently the Right) panders to the rich while arguing that what it seeks is social justice for the poor.

There are lots of good arguments for small government. But the best one is that the bigger government gets, the more favors it does for the elite, and the more harm it does to the American promise of opportunity and equal treatment under law. In a recent opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Like the rest of us, Harvard needs to remember that the best way to help the poor is to stop helping the rich.

The Glass Jaw

The Democratic National Committee has nicknamed Huckabee “glass jaw.” They’re convinced that he would be “roadkill” in the general election. I agree. But a column by Jim Pinkerton, one of our best political writers, forced me to take a second look at my thinking.

Pinkerton, who worked in the 1980 GOP general election campaign, rightly remembers Democratic “politicos insisting that Reagan was the weakest Republican opponent that Jimmy Carter could face as he sought re-election that year.” Pinkerton also notes that candidates from the landlocked heartland—such as Huckabee of Arkansas—are generally far stronger in November than are candidates from the coasts or Great Lakes states, such as Hillary and Obama. This too is true.

But Jim goes on to argue that Huckabee could carry all the states that Bush won in 2004. And that’s where the case for Huckabee goes awry. The national trends are moving strongly against the Republican Party, which is losing ground with increasingly libertarian younger voters, Latinos, independents, and moderate and fiscally conservative Republicans. In 2004 Bush carried six states—Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico—with 52 percent or less of the electorate, which equaled 73 electoral votes. Add in Virginia, which Bush carried with 54 percent but is currently trending blue, and you get 86 electoral votes. If you add these to the 252 electoral votes Kerry received, none of which are in jeopardy from a Huckabee candidacy, you get an outcome in 2008 in which the Democrats win handily 338 to the Republicans’ 200 electoral votes, taking scores of state and local Republicans down with them.

Or to put it in different terms, a Huckabee candidacy would mean that the GOP had failed to learn the lessons of 2006. In that year, the base came out for the Republicans who lost badly anyway, because swing voters and GOP moderates deserted them in droves. Nothing since then has pushed these voters back into the Republican column. I predict that if the GOP insists on nominating yet another religiously-oriented “compassionate conservative” in 2008, it can expect to turn over a sizable majority of the House and a possibly veto-proof majority in the Senate to the new Democratic President.

The Democratic National Committee has nicknamed Huckabee “glass jaw.” They’re convinced that he would be “roadkill” in the general election. I agree. But a column by Jim Pinkerton, one of our best political writers, forced me to take a second look at my thinking.

Pinkerton, who worked in the 1980 GOP general election campaign, rightly remembers Democratic “politicos insisting that Reagan was the weakest Republican opponent that Jimmy Carter could face as he sought re-election that year.” Pinkerton also notes that candidates from the landlocked heartland—such as Huckabee of Arkansas—are generally far stronger in November than are candidates from the coasts or Great Lakes states, such as Hillary and Obama. This too is true.

But Jim goes on to argue that Huckabee could carry all the states that Bush won in 2004. And that’s where the case for Huckabee goes awry. The national trends are moving strongly against the Republican Party, which is losing ground with increasingly libertarian younger voters, Latinos, independents, and moderate and fiscally conservative Republicans. In 2004 Bush carried six states—Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico—with 52 percent or less of the electorate, which equaled 73 electoral votes. Add in Virginia, which Bush carried with 54 percent but is currently trending blue, and you get 86 electoral votes. If you add these to the 252 electoral votes Kerry received, none of which are in jeopardy from a Huckabee candidacy, you get an outcome in 2008 in which the Democrats win handily 338 to the Republicans’ 200 electoral votes, taking scores of state and local Republicans down with them.

Or to put it in different terms, a Huckabee candidacy would mean that the GOP had failed to learn the lessons of 2006. In that year, the base came out for the Republicans who lost badly anyway, because swing voters and GOP moderates deserted them in droves. Nothing since then has pushed these voters back into the Republican column. I predict that if the GOP insists on nominating yet another religiously-oriented “compassionate conservative” in 2008, it can expect to turn over a sizable majority of the House and a possibly veto-proof majority in the Senate to the new Democratic President.

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The Price of Engaging Syria

After the Annapolis conference, there was a brief burst of optimism about the prospects of “engaging” rather than confronting Syria. Advocates of this approach pointed to the fact that Syria agreed to send its deputy foreign minister to this meeting as a great triumph. They also pointed to more ambiguous evidence of a reduction in the number of jihadists crossing from Syria into Iraq, although it’s unclear whether this is due to action on the part of the Syrian government or by American and Iraqi security forces, or whether it is due simply to an overall decline in the number of terrorists willing to kill themselves in a losing cause.

A further cause for optimism was said to be the agreement reached between Syrian-backed forces in Lebanon and their Franco-American-backed adversaries for the army commander, General Michel Suleiman, to take over as the country’s President, thus breaking a long impasse.

Then this week a car bomb rubs out Brigadier General Francois Hajj, one of Suleiman’s top officers and a leading candidate to succeed him as army chief of staff. No one knows who planted the bomb, but suspicions naturally focus on Syria, which has a long history of using such weapons to kill and intimidate its opponents in Lebanese politics. Indeed, a special UN tribunal has found Syrian fingerprints all over the car bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Syria seems plainly intent on reestablishing Lebanon firmly within its sphere of influence, using Hizballah and Sunni terrorist groups as proxies. The price of “engagement” is to let the Syrians have their way, thus betraying Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution. That’s a high price to pay, especially since it’s far from clear what, if anything, Syria will do for us in return.

After the Annapolis conference, there was a brief burst of optimism about the prospects of “engaging” rather than confronting Syria. Advocates of this approach pointed to the fact that Syria agreed to send its deputy foreign minister to this meeting as a great triumph. They also pointed to more ambiguous evidence of a reduction in the number of jihadists crossing from Syria into Iraq, although it’s unclear whether this is due to action on the part of the Syrian government or by American and Iraqi security forces, or whether it is due simply to an overall decline in the number of terrorists willing to kill themselves in a losing cause.

A further cause for optimism was said to be the agreement reached between Syrian-backed forces in Lebanon and their Franco-American-backed adversaries for the army commander, General Michel Suleiman, to take over as the country’s President, thus breaking a long impasse.

Then this week a car bomb rubs out Brigadier General Francois Hajj, one of Suleiman’s top officers and a leading candidate to succeed him as army chief of staff. No one knows who planted the bomb, but suspicions naturally focus on Syria, which has a long history of using such weapons to kill and intimidate its opponents in Lebanese politics. Indeed, a special UN tribunal has found Syrian fingerprints all over the car bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Syria seems plainly intent on reestablishing Lebanon firmly within its sphere of influence, using Hizballah and Sunni terrorist groups as proxies. The price of “engagement” is to let the Syrians have their way, thus betraying Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution. That’s a high price to pay, especially since it’s far from clear what, if anything, Syria will do for us in return.

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Palestinian Poetry

For those wondering whether the UN is going to continue to serve as a global platform for anti-Semitism—webcast around the world, free for all Internet users, and archived so that it may be accessed for a long, long time—the mystery is over. The UN Human Rights Council today broadcast uninterrupted hate speech—in the name of “human rights.” Palestinian UN representative Muhammad Abu-Koash had this to say on December 12, 2007 in the middle of the Council’s current session:

The Israeli creeping geography has been countered . . . as the victims of Aryan purity have been transformed into the proponents of Jewish purity . . . .

I will revert to poetry to deliver the message clearly to the Ambassador of Israel

Mr. Jail Man, do you not understand

Scars of concentration camps mark your hand . . .

Draw your lesson from France and Deutschland . . .

Washington, Mandela and Arafat stand so grand

Though called terrorists by occupiers in command

Mr. Jail man, you do not want to understand

You gave occupation new attire with Semitic brand. . .

{T]hose who suffered in Europe, those who came from concentration camps, those who came from the ghettos, they should not act as our masters. They should know the meaning of suffering.”

The hatred marking the delivery of the Palestinian “peace-partner’s” speech is hard to miss. So is the goal of branding Israelis as Nazi equivalents—and it doesn’t have much to do with “peace.”

For those wondering whether the UN is going to continue to serve as a global platform for anti-Semitism—webcast around the world, free for all Internet users, and archived so that it may be accessed for a long, long time—the mystery is over. The UN Human Rights Council today broadcast uninterrupted hate speech—in the name of “human rights.” Palestinian UN representative Muhammad Abu-Koash had this to say on December 12, 2007 in the middle of the Council’s current session:

The Israeli creeping geography has been countered . . . as the victims of Aryan purity have been transformed into the proponents of Jewish purity . . . .

I will revert to poetry to deliver the message clearly to the Ambassador of Israel

Mr. Jail Man, do you not understand

Scars of concentration camps mark your hand . . .

Draw your lesson from France and Deutschland . . .

Washington, Mandela and Arafat stand so grand

Though called terrorists by occupiers in command

Mr. Jail man, you do not want to understand

You gave occupation new attire with Semitic brand. . .

{T]hose who suffered in Europe, those who came from concentration camps, those who came from the ghettos, they should not act as our masters. They should know the meaning of suffering.”

The hatred marking the delivery of the Palestinian “peace-partner’s” speech is hard to miss. So is the goal of branding Israelis as Nazi equivalents—and it doesn’t have much to do with “peace.”

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The $40 Billion Autocrat?

How much is Vladimir Putin worth? Perhaps as much as $40 billion, according to recent reports. Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, writes in the Washington Post that the Russian president has allegedly amassed great wealth in the “velvet reprivatization” of his nation’s larger companies.

The Kremlin has essentially renationalized large industry, which has ended up in the hands of Putin’s close associates—and perhaps those of the President himself. “Putin is also a big businessman,” said Stanislav Belkovsky, a political observer with ties to the Moscow leadership. Belkovsky alleges that Putin owns a $20 billion stake in Surgutneftegaz, Russia’s fourth largest oil producer; 4.5 percent of the country’s natural gas monopoly, Gazprom; and half of oil-seller Gunvor, which had $8 billion in profits in 2006.

Do we care that Vlad may have become a one-man energy empire? For starters, if you are a Russian citizen, he has essentially stolen from you (if the allegations are true). Yet the rest of us are also affected by grand thievery on this scale. Putin knows that, like Marcos of the Philippines or Mobutu of Zaire, ill-gotten wealth can be taken from him once he no longer exercises power. So he will, in all likelihood, continue in the Kremlin, and this means Russia will maintain its increasingly hostile policies toward the West.

Last month Belkovsky argued that the Russian President would cede power and accept some minor role that will protect him from critics both at home and abroad. Now, however, we are seeing indications that Putin intends to stay at the pinnacle of power. On Monday, for instance, the autocrat announced his support for Dmitry Medvedev, a loyalist with no independent political base, to succeed him as President. On Tuesday, Medvedev suggested that Putin serve as prime minister in his administration. Moreover, the proposed union of Russia and Belarus, if consummated, could end up causing a change in the Russian constitution, and such change could create a position for Vladimir the Rich as the leader of the merged state.

There is one small consolation for the Russian people from this unfolding tragedy. There’s no such thing as tranquil retirement for kleptocrats. They remain in power or suffer at the hands of their enemies. For Putin, there will never be peace.

How much is Vladimir Putin worth? Perhaps as much as $40 billion, according to recent reports. Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, writes in the Washington Post that the Russian president has allegedly amassed great wealth in the “velvet reprivatization” of his nation’s larger companies.

The Kremlin has essentially renationalized large industry, which has ended up in the hands of Putin’s close associates—and perhaps those of the President himself. “Putin is also a big businessman,” said Stanislav Belkovsky, a political observer with ties to the Moscow leadership. Belkovsky alleges that Putin owns a $20 billion stake in Surgutneftegaz, Russia’s fourth largest oil producer; 4.5 percent of the country’s natural gas monopoly, Gazprom; and half of oil-seller Gunvor, which had $8 billion in profits in 2006.

Do we care that Vlad may have become a one-man energy empire? For starters, if you are a Russian citizen, he has essentially stolen from you (if the allegations are true). Yet the rest of us are also affected by grand thievery on this scale. Putin knows that, like Marcos of the Philippines or Mobutu of Zaire, ill-gotten wealth can be taken from him once he no longer exercises power. So he will, in all likelihood, continue in the Kremlin, and this means Russia will maintain its increasingly hostile policies toward the West.

Last month Belkovsky argued that the Russian President would cede power and accept some minor role that will protect him from critics both at home and abroad. Now, however, we are seeing indications that Putin intends to stay at the pinnacle of power. On Monday, for instance, the autocrat announced his support for Dmitry Medvedev, a loyalist with no independent political base, to succeed him as President. On Tuesday, Medvedev suggested that Putin serve as prime minister in his administration. Moreover, the proposed union of Russia and Belarus, if consummated, could end up causing a change in the Russian constitution, and such change could create a position for Vladimir the Rich as the leader of the merged state.

There is one small consolation for the Russian people from this unfolding tragedy. There’s no such thing as tranquil retirement for kleptocrats. They remain in power or suffer at the hands of their enemies. For Putin, there will never be peace.

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Extreme Prejudice

“I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch,” Henry Kissinger writes in today’s Washington Post. “When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates.” In this instance, they created the “extraordinary spectacle of the president’s national security adviser obliged to defend the president’s Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate.”

Scott Johnson over at powerline is absolutely right: when someone of Henry Kissinger’s stature joins in in denouncing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE something significant is going on.

What exactly is it? Perhaps it is the fact that the intelligence failures of the last seven years have impressed upon all Americans the price of lapses in this vital area. This explains why voices on both the Right and the Left — even the New York Times has tepidly joined in — are criticizing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE. All this gives rise to the hope that after the presidential elections a bipartisan coalition will emerge that could find some radical way to address a problem that has become apparent to all.

But I am not holding my breath. American intelligence agencies, the CIA foremost among them, have proved themselves to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to reform. And the agencies are not the only problem. In today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius, a long-time observer of the intelligence world, takes a look at the other end of the snake.

Intelligence oversight by Congress is in a “free fall,” Ignatius writes. And the problem is not the standard liberal complaint that the CIA is withholding vital information from congressional oversight panels. Rather, right now

we are getting the worst possible mix — a dearth of adequate congressional scrutiny on the front end that could improve performance and check abuses, and a flood of second-guessing at the back end, after each flap, that further demoralizes and enfeebles the spies. Congress silently blesses the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics, for example, and then denounces the practices when they become public.

Ignatius’s column opens the door to some thoughts that have hitherto been unthinkable in Washington D.C.. Perhaps the time has come to ask whether an experiment embarked upon in 1975 in response to genuine abuses of intelligence is appropriate for our own time. To judge by the picture painted by Ignatius, the experiment clearly has failed:

The intelligence committees have become politicized. Members and staffers encourage political vendettas against intelligence officers they don’t like, as happened when [CIA Director Porter] Goss brought his congressional aides with him to the CIA. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has become a political football; so has negotiation over legal rules on intercepting foreign communications, one of the nation’s most sensitive activities. The bickering has turned the intelligence world into a nonstop political circus, to the point that foreign governments have become increasingly wary of sharing secrets.

Congressional oversight was a “radical idea” when it was introduced in response to the abuses of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years. Back then, Ignatius notes, “[s]ome experts questioned whether it was realistic to ask elected officials to sign off on the work of intelligence agencies — which, when you strip away all the high-minded language, basically involves the systematic violation of other countries’ laws. Intelligence agencies steal other nations’ secrets, bribe their officials into committing treason, intercept their most private conversations.”

Those skeptics seem to have been proved right. At a time when our intelligence agencies are the crucial front in the war we are facing, we cannot afford to have it managed by a “political circus.” The time has come to bring an end this state of affairs — with extreme prejudice.

“I am extremely concerned about the tendency of the intelligence community to turn itself into a kind of check on, instead of a part of, the executive branch,” Henry Kissinger writes in today’s Washington Post. “When intelligence personnel expect their work to become the subject of public debate, they are tempted into the roles of surrogate policymakers and advocates.” In this instance, they created the “extraordinary spectacle of the president’s national security adviser obliged to defend the president’s Iran policy against a National Intelligence Estimate.”

Scott Johnson over at powerline is absolutely right: when someone of Henry Kissinger’s stature joins in in denouncing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE something significant is going on.

What exactly is it? Perhaps it is the fact that the intelligence failures of the last seven years have impressed upon all Americans the price of lapses in this vital area. This explains why voices on both the Right and the Left — even the New York Times has tepidly joined in — are criticizing the intelligence community for its handling of the Iran NIE. All this gives rise to the hope that after the presidential elections a bipartisan coalition will emerge that could find some radical way to address a problem that has become apparent to all.

But I am not holding my breath. American intelligence agencies, the CIA foremost among them, have proved themselves to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to reform. And the agencies are not the only problem. In today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius, a long-time observer of the intelligence world, takes a look at the other end of the snake.

Intelligence oversight by Congress is in a “free fall,” Ignatius writes. And the problem is not the standard liberal complaint that the CIA is withholding vital information from congressional oversight panels. Rather, right now

we are getting the worst possible mix — a dearth of adequate congressional scrutiny on the front end that could improve performance and check abuses, and a flood of second-guessing at the back end, after each flap, that further demoralizes and enfeebles the spies. Congress silently blesses the CIA’s harsh interrogation tactics, for example, and then denounces the practices when they become public.

Ignatius’s column opens the door to some thoughts that have hitherto been unthinkable in Washington D.C.. Perhaps the time has come to ask whether an experiment embarked upon in 1975 in response to genuine abuses of intelligence is appropriate for our own time. To judge by the picture painted by Ignatius, the experiment clearly has failed:

The intelligence committees have become politicized. Members and staffers encourage political vendettas against intelligence officers they don’t like, as happened when [CIA Director Porter] Goss brought his congressional aides with him to the CIA. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran has become a political football; so has negotiation over legal rules on intercepting foreign communications, one of the nation’s most sensitive activities. The bickering has turned the intelligence world into a nonstop political circus, to the point that foreign governments have become increasingly wary of sharing secrets.

Congressional oversight was a “radical idea” when it was introduced in response to the abuses of the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon years. Back then, Ignatius notes, “[s]ome experts questioned whether it was realistic to ask elected officials to sign off on the work of intelligence agencies — which, when you strip away all the high-minded language, basically involves the systematic violation of other countries’ laws. Intelligence agencies steal other nations’ secrets, bribe their officials into committing treason, intercept their most private conversations.”

Those skeptics seem to have been proved right. At a time when our intelligence agencies are the crucial front in the war we are facing, we cannot afford to have it managed by a “political circus.” The time has come to bring an end this state of affairs — with extreme prejudice.

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Polling Jews

The American Jewish Committee has just released its annual survey of Jewish opinion. A few surprises:

1. Whereas it is commonly believed that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, the survey shows a more complex picture, with only 43 percent describing themselves as liberal; 25 percent calling themselves conservative, and fully 31 percent describing themselves as “moderate, middle of the road.” They still vote overwhelmingly Democrat, though (58 percent, vs. 15 percent Republican). So either voting is out of kilter with beliefs—or something has clearly happened to the L-word.

2. We have been hearing for years about the thriving of Orthodox Judaism, with its high fertility and low intermarriage rates, at the expense of the Conservative and Reform movements. According to the survey, however, only 8 percent of American Jews describe themselves as Orthodox. The vast majority divide evenly between Reform (30 percent), Conservative (29 percent) and “just Jewish” (29 percent). Chabad, take note.

3. American Jewish support for Israel does not really seem to be waning, or at least not seriously. In 2007, fully 69 percent were willing to say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” (Haaretz disagrees.) Post-Zionism hasn’t really caught on, has it?

4. American Jews are said to side overwhelmingly with Israel’s peace camp when it comes to dealings with the Palestinians. Yet only a slim plurality support a Palestinian state (46 percent, compared with 43 percent who oppose it). And they certainly seem pessimistic when it comes to long-term prospects of peace: Fully 55 percent do not believe that there will ever come a time when Israel and the Arabs will live in peace (as opposed to 37 percent who believe they will one day).

You can read the full report here.

The American Jewish Committee has just released its annual survey of Jewish opinion. A few surprises:

1. Whereas it is commonly believed that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, the survey shows a more complex picture, with only 43 percent describing themselves as liberal; 25 percent calling themselves conservative, and fully 31 percent describing themselves as “moderate, middle of the road.” They still vote overwhelmingly Democrat, though (58 percent, vs. 15 percent Republican). So either voting is out of kilter with beliefs—or something has clearly happened to the L-word.

2. We have been hearing for years about the thriving of Orthodox Judaism, with its high fertility and low intermarriage rates, at the expense of the Conservative and Reform movements. According to the survey, however, only 8 percent of American Jews describe themselves as Orthodox. The vast majority divide evenly between Reform (30 percent), Conservative (29 percent) and “just Jewish” (29 percent). Chabad, take note.

3. American Jewish support for Israel does not really seem to be waning, or at least not seriously. In 2007, fully 69 percent were willing to say that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” (Haaretz disagrees.) Post-Zionism hasn’t really caught on, has it?

4. American Jews are said to side overwhelmingly with Israel’s peace camp when it comes to dealings with the Palestinians. Yet only a slim plurality support a Palestinian state (46 percent, compared with 43 percent who oppose it). And they certainly seem pessimistic when it comes to long-term prospects of peace: Fully 55 percent do not believe that there will ever come a time when Israel and the Arabs will live in peace (as opposed to 37 percent who believe they will one day).

You can read the full report here.

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America’s New CEO’s

As the Republican presidential candidates compete to see who can bash immigrants the hardest, Citigroup has just appointed Vikram Pandit, a super-smart financier born in India, to be its CEO. As this New York Times article notes, he joins thirteen other CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies who were not born in this country: “The head of the Altria Group was born in Egypt, for example. PepsiCo’s is from India, the Liberty Mutual Group’s is a native of Ireland, and Alcoa’s was born in Morocco.”

Perhaps one of the GOP candidates can cut a TV spot bemoaning lost jobs for American plutocrats and promising that in his administration WASP’s will regain their rightful places atop the corporate hierarchy.

Actually, the fact that the top management jobs are no longer the exclusive preserve of the proverbial man in the gray flannel suit is good news. It means that American companies are doing a great job of drawing on talent from all around the world. In the short term, of course, that can be disorienting and aggravating for the clubby golfing types who had come to look on top-level corporate jobs as theirs almost by divine right. In the long term, however, it means that American companies will be more competitive than insular rivals in other countries, thereby making this country even more prosperous and vital. Something similar is happening on lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder: the short-term pain of immigration is generally offset by long-term gains.

That’s easy to lose sight of amid all this immigrant bashing. To be sure, Republicans claim to be all in favor legal immigration; it is only illegal immigration they claim to oppose. But the reality is that a lot of undocumented immigrants are also making a positive contribution to this country. In any case, the distinction between legal and illegal quickly gets lost in the debate, when a lot of the leading Republicans sound like they’re simply aggravated by too many foreigners coming here.

Keep it up, guys, if you want to lose the votes of Latinos—and those of our newest CEO’s.

As the Republican presidential candidates compete to see who can bash immigrants the hardest, Citigroup has just appointed Vikram Pandit, a super-smart financier born in India, to be its CEO. As this New York Times article notes, he joins thirteen other CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies who were not born in this country: “The head of the Altria Group was born in Egypt, for example. PepsiCo’s is from India, the Liberty Mutual Group’s is a native of Ireland, and Alcoa’s was born in Morocco.”

Perhaps one of the GOP candidates can cut a TV spot bemoaning lost jobs for American plutocrats and promising that in his administration WASP’s will regain their rightful places atop the corporate hierarchy.

Actually, the fact that the top management jobs are no longer the exclusive preserve of the proverbial man in the gray flannel suit is good news. It means that American companies are doing a great job of drawing on talent from all around the world. In the short term, of course, that can be disorienting and aggravating for the clubby golfing types who had come to look on top-level corporate jobs as theirs almost by divine right. In the long term, however, it means that American companies will be more competitive than insular rivals in other countries, thereby making this country even more prosperous and vital. Something similar is happening on lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder: the short-term pain of immigration is generally offset by long-term gains.

That’s easy to lose sight of amid all this immigrant bashing. To be sure, Republicans claim to be all in favor legal immigration; it is only illegal immigration they claim to oppose. But the reality is that a lot of undocumented immigrants are also making a positive contribution to this country. In any case, the distinction between legal and illegal quickly gets lost in the debate, when a lot of the leading Republicans sound like they’re simply aggravated by too many foreigners coming here.

Keep it up, guys, if you want to lose the votes of Latinos—and those of our newest CEO’s.

Read Less




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