Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 18, 2008

Stallone, Rambo, and Islamofascism

Sylvester Stallone has made a fourth Rambo movie, which will be released later this month, in which Rambo helps Burmese rebels. This would be a matter of no interest — Stallone is 60 years old, after all, the scandalously successful second Rambo was released 22 years ago, and an afterthought Rambo III came out in 1988 — except that Stallone’s sixth Rocky movie, released last year, was surprisingly decent. The movie-idolator audience of the website Aint It Cool News interviewed Stallone in connection with the new film, and he gave a quite remarkable answer to a quite remarkable question.

The question:

In the eighties, John Rambo took on villains who were the real villains of the day: ruthless, invading Russian commie b—-rds hellbent on global communism. So I always assumed that if Rambo returned he’d be taking on the real villain of this day: extreme, radical Islamist b—rds hellbent on worldwide jihad. It seems like all of today’s movies have [wimped] out on making Islamofacists the bad guys even though they are clearly the bad guys in the real world right now. Why is Rambo [wimping] out on this mission? Has he become politically correct?

Stallone’s answer:

I thought the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President’s lap declaring “The world is now safe, Chief” would be a bit insulting. We’ve seen today every film that deals with the Middle Eastern situation has failed because it is a subject people find incredibly painful to sit through while it is ongoing. Maybe ten years in the future a good film will be produced on the subject. Right now I believe revealing a situation like the ongoing genocide in Burma provides a compelling story simply because it is true and is the longest running civil war in the world.

Sylvester Stallone has made a fourth Rambo movie, which will be released later this month, in which Rambo helps Burmese rebels. This would be a matter of no interest — Stallone is 60 years old, after all, the scandalously successful second Rambo was released 22 years ago, and an afterthought Rambo III came out in 1988 — except that Stallone’s sixth Rocky movie, released last year, was surprisingly decent. The movie-idolator audience of the website Aint It Cool News interviewed Stallone in connection with the new film, and he gave a quite remarkable answer to a quite remarkable question.

The question:

In the eighties, John Rambo took on villains who were the real villains of the day: ruthless, invading Russian commie b—-rds hellbent on global communism. So I always assumed that if Rambo returned he’d be taking on the real villain of this day: extreme, radical Islamist b—rds hellbent on worldwide jihad. It seems like all of today’s movies have [wimped] out on making Islamofacists the bad guys even though they are clearly the bad guys in the real world right now. Why is Rambo [wimping] out on this mission? Has he become politically correct?

Stallone’s answer:

I thought the idea of Rambo dealing with Al-Qaeda, etc. would be an insult to our American forces that are actually dying trying to rid the world of this cancer. To have at the end of a 90 minute movie the character of Rambo seizing Osama bin Laden in a choke hold then dragging him into the Oval Office then tossing him in the President’s lap declaring “The world is now safe, Chief” would be a bit insulting. We’ve seen today every film that deals with the Middle Eastern situation has failed because it is a subject people find incredibly painful to sit through while it is ongoing. Maybe ten years in the future a good film will be produced on the subject. Right now I believe revealing a situation like the ongoing genocide in Burma provides a compelling story simply because it is true and is the longest running civil war in the world.

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What Iran Truly Fears

Yesterday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the “criminal regime” of Israel “would not dare attack Iran.” Why? “It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response.” Ahmadinejad also says he is not worried about the United States. Hostile talk, the fiery leader noted, is just campaign rhetoric “aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections.”

Why are we hearing war talk from Tehran at this moment? After all, the United States is merely pursuing a peaceful course of action, pushing the Security Council to enact a third set of sanctions for Iran’s failure to stop the enrichment of uranium. Washington can count on Germany’s support, but it is meeting increasingly stiff resistance where it counts.

Russia, by giving the cold shoulder to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Moscow yesterday, signaled that it will not vote in favor of a new round of coercive measures. For its part, China hosted Americans and Iranians in Beijing in the last few days and ended up siding with the latter. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “We hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the deadlock for an early resumption of talks so that the issue will be solved in a comprehensive, lasting and proper manner.” Today, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was more direct. “On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and Iran have a similar stance,” he crowed after meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding members will meet in Berlin to discuss new sanctions, but there will be no satisfactory outcome, especially because Chinese and Russian diplomats are repeating their almost word-for-word calls for more useless talks. These cynical pleas for additional negotiations, which would give the mullahs more time to develop their weapons, show that the Iranians have now neutralized the United Nations. Even if the Security Council should come up with new sanctions in the months ahead, we can be sure that they will be totally ineffective.

So let’s start connecting the dots, if I may borrow a phrase from Gabriel Schoenfeld. The Iranians are not worried about Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. They must realize that the only thing that can stop their nuclear program at this moment is military action. That’s why Iranian fast boats challenged the U.S. Navy earlier this month in the Strait of Hormuz—to remind Washington and the international community of the price of war. And that’s why Ahmadinejad said that neither Israel nor the United States would attack. The Iranians, I believe, wish to prevent the one thing they cannot control and truly fear.

Yesterday, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the “criminal regime” of Israel “would not dare attack Iran.” Why? “It knows that any attack on Iranian territories would prompt a fierce response.” Ahmadinejad also says he is not worried about the United States. Hostile talk, the fiery leader noted, is just campaign rhetoric “aimed at American domestic consumption as they need it in the upcoming presidential elections.”

Why are we hearing war talk from Tehran at this moment? After all, the United States is merely pursuing a peaceful course of action, pushing the Security Council to enact a third set of sanctions for Iran’s failure to stop the enrichment of uranium. Washington can count on Germany’s support, but it is meeting increasingly stiff resistance where it counts.

Russia, by giving the cold shoulder to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Moscow yesterday, signaled that it will not vote in favor of a new round of coercive measures. For its part, China hosted Americans and Iranians in Beijing in the last few days and ended up siding with the latter. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, “We hope that the international community will intensify diplomatic efforts to break the deadlock for an early resumption of talks so that the issue will be solved in a comprehensive, lasting and proper manner.” Today, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, was more direct. “On the Iranian nuclear issue, China and Iran have a similar stance,” he crowed after meeting with his Chinese counterparts.

On Tuesday, the five veto-wielding members will meet in Berlin to discuss new sanctions, but there will be no satisfactory outcome, especially because Chinese and Russian diplomats are repeating their almost word-for-word calls for more useless talks. These cynical pleas for additional negotiations, which would give the mullahs more time to develop their weapons, show that the Iranians have now neutralized the United Nations. Even if the Security Council should come up with new sanctions in the months ahead, we can be sure that they will be totally ineffective.

So let’s start connecting the dots, if I may borrow a phrase from Gabriel Schoenfeld. The Iranians are not worried about Washington’s diplomatic initiatives. They must realize that the only thing that can stop their nuclear program at this moment is military action. That’s why Iranian fast boats challenged the U.S. Navy earlier this month in the Strait of Hormuz—to remind Washington and the international community of the price of war. And that’s why Ahmadinejad said that neither Israel nor the United States would attack. The Iranians, I believe, wish to prevent the one thing they cannot control and truly fear.

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Kitty Hawk Confrontation?

Alarming reports in the Navy Times and the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun state that the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk battle group was confronted by Chinese warships as it transited the Taiwan Strait after being turned away from Hong Kong in November. According to the Navy Times:

The carrier strike group encountered Chinese destroyer Shenzhen and a Song-class sub in the strait on Nov. 23, causing the group to halt and ready for battle, as the Chinese vessels also stopped amid the 28-hour confrontation.

The Yomiuri account gives more detail:

The Kitty Hawk observed the Chinese submarine, and after a U.S. antisubmarine patrol aircraft confirmed the Chinese submarine was keeping pace with the U.S. carrier by reducing speed and stopping, the U.S. vessel launched an aircraft to watch for possible hostile behavior by the Chinese Navy.

The ultimate source of both accounts is the China Times, a respectable Taipei newspaper. The more detailed Chinese language version, written by three reporters, quotes one unidentified authoritative source. and another source for the story, and speculates on the origins and significance of the encounter.

What are we to make of this? If the report is true then we have a very serious problem. Rather than becoming friendly in response to American friendliness, the Chinese are (mis)-reading us as weak and trying to frighten us. But we also have an explanation for the sudden four day trip to Beijing by Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, just completed. The meeting was reportedly amicable, but shed no new light at all on the mysterious closure of Hong Kong last year.

Afterwards, the Admiral had some uncharacteristically feisty words for the Chinese. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait. It is international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose.” If the story is completely false, we have to ask who falsified it and for what reason. The China Times takes a pro-Beijing editorial stance. How this story would help Beijing is difficult to see.

My own reading is this: the story probably has some basis. I say this because it fits into a worrying pattern of increasingly erratic and hostile Chinese behavior towards American forces in Asia. I don’t pretend to know what the origins of this pattern are. But it represents a clear shift and a worrying one–and instead of making nice, we should be paying attention.

Alarming reports in the Navy Times and the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun state that the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk battle group was confronted by Chinese warships as it transited the Taiwan Strait after being turned away from Hong Kong in November. According to the Navy Times:

The carrier strike group encountered Chinese destroyer Shenzhen and a Song-class sub in the strait on Nov. 23, causing the group to halt and ready for battle, as the Chinese vessels also stopped amid the 28-hour confrontation.

The Yomiuri account gives more detail:

The Kitty Hawk observed the Chinese submarine, and after a U.S. antisubmarine patrol aircraft confirmed the Chinese submarine was keeping pace with the U.S. carrier by reducing speed and stopping, the U.S. vessel launched an aircraft to watch for possible hostile behavior by the Chinese Navy.

The ultimate source of both accounts is the China Times, a respectable Taipei newspaper. The more detailed Chinese language version, written by three reporters, quotes one unidentified authoritative source. and another source for the story, and speculates on the origins and significance of the encounter.

What are we to make of this? If the report is true then we have a very serious problem. Rather than becoming friendly in response to American friendliness, the Chinese are (mis)-reading us as weak and trying to frighten us. But we also have an explanation for the sudden four day trip to Beijing by Admiral Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, just completed. The meeting was reportedly amicable, but shed no new light at all on the mysterious closure of Hong Kong last year.

Afterwards, the Admiral had some uncharacteristically feisty words for the Chinese. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait. It is international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose.” If the story is completely false, we have to ask who falsified it and for what reason. The China Times takes a pro-Beijing editorial stance. How this story would help Beijing is difficult to see.

My own reading is this: the story probably has some basis. I say this because it fits into a worrying pattern of increasingly erratic and hostile Chinese behavior towards American forces in Asia. I don’t pretend to know what the origins of this pattern are. But it represents a clear shift and a worrying one–and instead of making nice, we should be paying attention.

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Bloody Lies!

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

Joel Pollak (no relation) reports on his blog that Charles Enderlin, the France 2 television reporter implicated in the Mohammed al-Dura fabrication, admitted at a talk at Harvard last night that the famous scenes of Yasser Arafat donating blood after the 9/11 attacks were, like the footage of the IDF killing al-Dura, staged:

Enderlin said the event had been staged for the media to counteract the embarrassing television images of Palestinians celebrating in the streets after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The blood donation story made headlines around the world. It was reported by esteemed news agencies like the BBC, and photographs of Arafat lying with an outstretched arm ran on many front pages. But the whole scene was staged, Enderlin said. Arafat didn’t like needles, and so the doctor put a needle near his arm and agitated a bag of blood. The reporters took the requisite photographs.

Arafat, it’s worth noting, died in 2005 of AIDS, and it is thus a good thing that he didn’t actually donate blood. Is it possible that the reputation of the international press corps in Israel, especially its European members, could get any worse?

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Romney’s Rageless Bull

Yesterday during a South Carolina press conference, a reporter took Mitt Romney to task for claiming he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign and Romney returned fire with . . . something.

AP reporter Glenn Johnson  interrupted Romney and said, “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman’s a lobbyist. How can you say that you don’t have lobbyists?” It is true that Kaufman is both a lobbyist and involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Romney went on the defense: “I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign and he’s not running my campaign.”

The unconvincing renunciation of lobbyists is neither new nor interesting. So, the media has tried to make something of Mitt Romney’s supposed outrage in response. But, as this clip of the incident demonstrates, Romney doesn’t do outrage very convincingly either. As the video reveals, he scolds the reporter with all the ferocity of a commercial airline pilot reporting on wind condition and ETA. Romney is a good face man, and a talented fixer, but this is no time for a smooth, safe, and comfortable presidency. When Bill Clinton flips he resembles a child having a tantrum and John McCain is capable of white-hot fury. Mitt Romney’s placid mien and financial and organizational know-how might make him, say, an excellent secretary of the treasury. But not a president.

Yesterday during a South Carolina press conference, a reporter took Mitt Romney to task for claiming he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign and Romney returned fire with . . . something.

AP reporter Glenn Johnson  interrupted Romney and said, “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman’s a lobbyist. How can you say that you don’t have lobbyists?” It is true that Kaufman is both a lobbyist and involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Romney went on the defense: “I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign and he’s not running my campaign.”

The unconvincing renunciation of lobbyists is neither new nor interesting. So, the media has tried to make something of Mitt Romney’s supposed outrage in response. But, as this clip of the incident demonstrates, Romney doesn’t do outrage very convincingly either. As the video reveals, he scolds the reporter with all the ferocity of a commercial airline pilot reporting on wind condition and ETA. Romney is a good face man, and a talented fixer, but this is no time for a smooth, safe, and comfortable presidency. When Bill Clinton flips he resembles a child having a tantrum and John McCain is capable of white-hot fury. Mitt Romney’s placid mien and financial and organizational know-how might make him, say, an excellent secretary of the treasury. But not a president.

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Trouble in Afghanistan

Wretchard at the Belmont Club runs a long, insightful piece today on the Robert Gates/NATO fracas. Wretchard’s closing paragraphs make an excellent point:

Robert Gates’ remarks ripped have the lid off a simmering disagreement between NATO allies and the US over Afghan strategy. The differences are not simply over troop levels and counterinsurgency competencies but at the level of basic national interest. For some NATO countries there is nothing in Afghanistan worth fighting at all for except the maintenance of good diplomatic relationships with America and the preservation of the Atlantic Alliance. But that will only go so far; and at any rate America can be counted on to carry the load alone because in contrast, the United States which directly suffered the September 11 attacks, sees a victory in the Afghan/Pakistani theater as a matter of vital interest. Therefore the US will carry on regardless. Even Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama periodically declare their commitment to winning in that theater. The US and the European NATO countries may differ even in their conception of victory. For the US, victory is defined as creating and maintaining friendly governments in both Kabul and Islamabad by defeating al-Qaeda and its allies. For the Europeans it may mean bringing the Taliban to power in exchange for giving up its support of al-Qaeda.

Which side of the debate is correct I leave the reader to decide. But so far as I can tell this is what the debate is about.

You can read the whole thing here.

Wretchard at the Belmont Club runs a long, insightful piece today on the Robert Gates/NATO fracas. Wretchard’s closing paragraphs make an excellent point:

Robert Gates’ remarks ripped have the lid off a simmering disagreement between NATO allies and the US over Afghan strategy. The differences are not simply over troop levels and counterinsurgency competencies but at the level of basic national interest. For some NATO countries there is nothing in Afghanistan worth fighting at all for except the maintenance of good diplomatic relationships with America and the preservation of the Atlantic Alliance. But that will only go so far; and at any rate America can be counted on to carry the load alone because in contrast, the United States which directly suffered the September 11 attacks, sees a victory in the Afghan/Pakistani theater as a matter of vital interest. Therefore the US will carry on regardless. Even Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama periodically declare their commitment to winning in that theater. The US and the European NATO countries may differ even in their conception of victory. For the US, victory is defined as creating and maintaining friendly governments in both Kabul and Islamabad by defeating al-Qaeda and its allies. For the Europeans it may mean bringing the Taliban to power in exchange for giving up its support of al-Qaeda.

Which side of the debate is correct I leave the reader to decide. But so far as I can tell this is what the debate is about.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Bobby Fischer’s Perfect Death

Bobby Fischer is dead, at 64, a young but perfect age for a chess genius to die: there are of course 64 squares on the chessboard. Fischer was certainly one of the greatest chessplayers in history, eclipsed perhaps only by Garry Kasparov. But his life was tragic, and for all the interest in chess he generated here in the U.S., his net contribution has to be counted in the negative column.

The problem, of course, was his madness, which began to manifest itself quite early in his career. Signs of trouble were already visible in 1962, when at age nineteen and already a giant on the chess stage, he encountered “personal problems” and dropped out of high-level competition for a period of years, falling under the spell of various radio-preachers. His semi-retirement ended in 1968 and he began his quest for the world championship, which ended in his celebrated victory over Boris Spassky in 1972. From there, a long spiral downhill began.

In 1982, he published a pamphlet, “I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!,”  the consequence of a mistaken arrest as a bank-robbery suspect. Two years later, he wrote to the Encylopedia Judaica asking for his entry to be removed (the underlinings are as in the original):

Gentlemen:

Knowing what I do about Judaism, I was naturally distressed to see that you have erroneously featured me as a Jew in ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA. Please do not make this mistake again in any future editions of your voluminous, pseudo-authoritative publication. I am not today, nor have I ever been a Jew, and as a matter of fact, I am uncircumcised.

I suggest rather than fraudulently misrepresenting me to be a Jew, and dishonestly abusing my name and reputation as a kind of advertising gimmick to improve the image of your religion (Judaism), you try to promote your religion on its own merits — if indeed it has any!

In closing, I trust that I am not being unrealistically optimistic, in thanking you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Truly yours,
Bobby Fischer
The World Chess Champion

A passionate hatred of Jews was to stay with Fischer for the rest of his life.

Anti-Semitism has been likened to a disease in the way it sometimes infects entire societies, and it is indeed a suitable metaphor to describe that phenomenon. But when applied to individual anti-Semites, the disease metaphor has the defect of removing responsibility for evil words and actions. But in Fischer’s case, as was made plain by so much else about him, his anti-Semitism truly was the consequence of disease.

Thanks to Bobby Fischer’s illness, the public has absorbed the idea that great chessplayers tend to be madmen. And while there have been several deranged grandmasters, it is doubtful that the frequency of mental illness in this group is higher than the average rate among geniuses. In the end, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for his contributions, even if those contributions were seriously marred by the disrepute he brought upon the game of chess.

Bobby Fischer is dead, at 64, a young but perfect age for a chess genius to die: there are of course 64 squares on the chessboard. Fischer was certainly one of the greatest chessplayers in history, eclipsed perhaps only by Garry Kasparov. But his life was tragic, and for all the interest in chess he generated here in the U.S., his net contribution has to be counted in the negative column.

The problem, of course, was his madness, which began to manifest itself quite early in his career. Signs of trouble were already visible in 1962, when at age nineteen and already a giant on the chess stage, he encountered “personal problems” and dropped out of high-level competition for a period of years, falling under the spell of various radio-preachers. His semi-retirement ended in 1968 and he began his quest for the world championship, which ended in his celebrated victory over Boris Spassky in 1972. From there, a long spiral downhill began.

In 1982, he published a pamphlet, “I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!,”  the consequence of a mistaken arrest as a bank-robbery suspect. Two years later, he wrote to the Encylopedia Judaica asking for his entry to be removed (the underlinings are as in the original):

Gentlemen:

Knowing what I do about Judaism, I was naturally distressed to see that you have erroneously featured me as a Jew in ENCYCLOPAEDIA JUDAICA. Please do not make this mistake again in any future editions of your voluminous, pseudo-authoritative publication. I am not today, nor have I ever been a Jew, and as a matter of fact, I am uncircumcised.

I suggest rather than fraudulently misrepresenting me to be a Jew, and dishonestly abusing my name and reputation as a kind of advertising gimmick to improve the image of your religion (Judaism), you try to promote your religion on its own merits — if indeed it has any!

In closing, I trust that I am not being unrealistically optimistic, in thanking you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

Truly yours,
Bobby Fischer
The World Chess Champion

A passionate hatred of Jews was to stay with Fischer for the rest of his life.

Anti-Semitism has been likened to a disease in the way it sometimes infects entire societies, and it is indeed a suitable metaphor to describe that phenomenon. But when applied to individual anti-Semites, the disease metaphor has the defect of removing responsibility for evil words and actions. But in Fischer’s case, as was made plain by so much else about him, his anti-Semitism truly was the consequence of disease.

Thanks to Bobby Fischer’s illness, the public has absorbed the idea that great chessplayers tend to be madmen. And while there have been several deranged grandmasters, it is doubtful that the frequency of mental illness in this group is higher than the average rate among geniuses. In the end, Bobby Fischer deserves to be remembered for his contributions, even if those contributions were seriously marred by the disrepute he brought upon the game of chess.

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The Shiny Shekel

A few economics-related items today: Fox Business has a glowing piece on the booming Israeli hi-tech market, entitled “Israel’s Technology Creates an Investment Goliath.”

[Israel] is third only to America and Canada in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq, ahead of economic powerhouses like Germany, England and China. …
“Israel is the Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean,” said David Anthony, a partner in 21 Ventures, a venture capital company that has invested $75 million in Israeli companies.

A few days previously, CNN noted the story:

The country’s economy grew more than five percent last year — faster than the U.S., Europe, UK and Japan. …

“Our strength on the food chain is usually in the very early stages where you have to come with ideas, innovation and take great risks,” Yossi Vardi says.

“The hi-tech industry is not a monolithic thing. In China, they do manufacturing. In India, they do coding. We are very good in the early stages, like Silicon Valley. And this is what the world is looking for in Israel.”

And wine news:

According to the 2008 edition of Rogov’s Guide to Israel Wines, written by Ha’aretz newspaper wine critic Daniel Rogov, the number of wineries in Israel has grown dramatically, particularly since 2001. In a country about the size of New Jersey, there are now about 130 wineries. Sales of Israeli wines reached about $140 million in 2007. According to the Israel Export Institute, wine exports hit $21 million in 2007, up 42% from 2006.

Another good reason to keep the Golan, as if any were needed.

The amazing thing about all of this growth is that it is taking place in an economy that the just-released Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom ranks as only the 46th freest in the world — less free than a good number of the most sclerotic and torpid socialist leftovers in the western world.

A few economics-related items today: Fox Business has a glowing piece on the booming Israeli hi-tech market, entitled “Israel’s Technology Creates an Investment Goliath.”

[Israel] is third only to America and Canada in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq, ahead of economic powerhouses like Germany, England and China. …
“Israel is the Silicon Valley of the Mediterranean,” said David Anthony, a partner in 21 Ventures, a venture capital company that has invested $75 million in Israeli companies.

A few days previously, CNN noted the story:

The country’s economy grew more than five percent last year — faster than the U.S., Europe, UK and Japan. …

“Our strength on the food chain is usually in the very early stages where you have to come with ideas, innovation and take great risks,” Yossi Vardi says.

“The hi-tech industry is not a monolithic thing. In China, they do manufacturing. In India, they do coding. We are very good in the early stages, like Silicon Valley. And this is what the world is looking for in Israel.”

And wine news:

According to the 2008 edition of Rogov’s Guide to Israel Wines, written by Ha’aretz newspaper wine critic Daniel Rogov, the number of wineries in Israel has grown dramatically, particularly since 2001. In a country about the size of New Jersey, there are now about 130 wineries. Sales of Israeli wines reached about $140 million in 2007. According to the Israel Export Institute, wine exports hit $21 million in 2007, up 42% from 2006.

Another good reason to keep the Golan, as if any were needed.

The amazing thing about all of this growth is that it is taking place in an economy that the just-released Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom ranks as only the 46th freest in the world — less free than a good number of the most sclerotic and torpid socialist leftovers in the western world.

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Another World Bank Triumph

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports:

The World Bank on Wednesday announced the resignation of Suzanne Rich Folsom as director of its anticorruption unit, or INT. “She was not forced out, she was not asked to leave,” said external relations chief Marwan Muasher.”

After detailing “$569 million worth of corrupted bank projects in India” Ms. Folsom was indeed forced out, and she should wear her ejection as a badge of honor. She’s the latest in a string of World Bank employees made to pay for the mortal sin of being honorable and the venial sin of being American. As head of the INT, Ms. Folsom had her hands full. (Imagine someone trying to expose the oil-for-food scandal from inside the UN in real-time, and you’ll get some idea.) The Journal piece details the sundry attempts to block her efforts and malign her character, and notes:

All of this might seem farcical were the stakes not so high. If the India report and others we’ve disclosed are anything to go by, at least some of these loans will go to projects in which nine of 10 dollars are either squandered or stolen by corrupt officials and middlemen, and where filthy, half-built hospitals are certified as completed to project specifications. That ought to matter to a “bank” that purports to have the interests of the world’s poor at heart and whose annual lending portfolio tops $30 billion.

Through the railroading of former Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, senior officer Shaha Riza, and now Susan Folsom, the World Bank has achieved something akin to, say, the NYPD purging its own internal affairs unit. Time and again the international community that decries American unilateralism squashes American cooperation in attempts to help strengthen and improve the institutions of multilateral policy. It seems the World Bank’s doors are now open and ready for business.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports:

The World Bank on Wednesday announced the resignation of Suzanne Rich Folsom as director of its anticorruption unit, or INT. “She was not forced out, she was not asked to leave,” said external relations chief Marwan Muasher.”

After detailing “$569 million worth of corrupted bank projects in India” Ms. Folsom was indeed forced out, and she should wear her ejection as a badge of honor. She’s the latest in a string of World Bank employees made to pay for the mortal sin of being honorable and the venial sin of being American. As head of the INT, Ms. Folsom had her hands full. (Imagine someone trying to expose the oil-for-food scandal from inside the UN in real-time, and you’ll get some idea.) The Journal piece details the sundry attempts to block her efforts and malign her character, and notes:

All of this might seem farcical were the stakes not so high. If the India report and others we’ve disclosed are anything to go by, at least some of these loans will go to projects in which nine of 10 dollars are either squandered or stolen by corrupt officials and middlemen, and where filthy, half-built hospitals are certified as completed to project specifications. That ought to matter to a “bank” that purports to have the interests of the world’s poor at heart and whose annual lending portfolio tops $30 billion.

Through the railroading of former Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, senior officer Shaha Riza, and now Susan Folsom, the World Bank has achieved something akin to, say, the NYPD purging its own internal affairs unit. Time and again the international community that decries American unilateralism squashes American cooperation in attempts to help strengthen and improve the institutions of multilateral policy. It seems the World Bank’s doors are now open and ready for business.

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Thank You, Bill Press

Bill Press is a run-of-the-mill Democratic Party hack. But that doesn’t mean from time to time he doesn’t just come out and say what needs to be said.

Bill Press is a run-of-the-mill Democratic Party hack. But that doesn’t mean from time to time he doesn’t just come out and say what needs to be said.

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