Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 11, 2008

Re: We’re Doomed

Noah, it’s worse than that. Really.

Noah, it’s worse than that. Really.

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We’re Doomed.

Now the Iranians have giant house cats.

Now the Iranians have giant house cats.

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B.O. and A.O.

Spike Lee on the inevitable election of Barack Obama:

“When that happens, it will change everything. … You’ll have to measure time by `Before Obama’ and `After Obama,'”

Now, I’m trying to think: who else has split recorded history in such a way. . . hmm . . . 

Spike Lee on the inevitable election of Barack Obama:

“When that happens, it will change everything. … You’ll have to measure time by `Before Obama’ and `After Obama,'”

Now, I’m trying to think: who else has split recorded history in such a way. . . hmm . . . 

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Already Making Friends

Barack Obama’s scattershot approach to foreign policy has already provoked a certain amount of consternation among our international friends. But the Brandenburg Gate episode is proving to be a telling instance in which egotism and inexperience collide with international diplomacy. From Politico:

Barack Obama’s planned visit to Europe later this month has thrust him into a diplomatic kerfuffle that threatens to undercut one of the cornerstones of his foreign policy—the notion that, unlike President Bush, he will listen to and work harmoniously with governments allied with the United States.

And then there is this unintentional confirmation from within Obama’s camp that his cluelessness has created a problem:

“Obviously Brandenburg is the sexiest option,” the official said, but it would “undermine the message that Obama can work with U.S. allies and offers McCain evidence of Obama’s diplomatic inexperience.”

Well, that’s sort of what happened, right?

There is an unmistakable irony here. George W. Bush’s second term has been characterized by a determination to embrace multilateralism — deferring to the Europeans on Iranian negotiations, insisting on Six Party (rather than bilateral) talks with North Korea, trying to push through free trade agreements and a nuclear agreement with India. Many, if not all of these, were opposed by Congressional Democrats and/or Obama. One can debate the efficacy and wisdom of some of these moves, but they certainly were not evidence of a go-it-alone, “cowboy” approach to foreign affairs.

Obama, by contrast, seems intent on doing in foreign policy what he has done in the domestic political campaign — painting a picture of disarray and failure while elevating himself as the one person to set us (in this case, the world) on a better footing through the sheer force of his brilliance and empathy. He has assured us “I know more and understand the world better” than his opponent and that he possesses superior judgment based, in large part, on his vast experience overseas as a child. And, of course, we are assured by Obama supporters that his racial identity will bring international approval and acclaim. Perhaps that is why he places inordinate faith in unilateral discussion with our adversaries: he’s convinced they can’t help but be bowled over by the sheer wonderfulness of the Great Man.

But back in the real world, success in foreign affairs usually requires discipline, knowledge (of history and “code words” for example), respect for allies and for existing agreements, consistency, and strength of purpose. As he has bounced around from protectionism to free trade, from withdrawal in Iraq to (maybe) something else, and from multilateralism to disparagement of our allies, he has broken nearly every guideline for successfully managing our international relationships.

So maybe the trip abroad will be a useful learning experience for him. For starters, he might come to appreciate that sometimes it is not and should not be about him.


Barack Obama’s scattershot approach to foreign policy has already provoked a certain amount of consternation among our international friends. But the Brandenburg Gate episode is proving to be a telling instance in which egotism and inexperience collide with international diplomacy. From Politico:

Barack Obama’s planned visit to Europe later this month has thrust him into a diplomatic kerfuffle that threatens to undercut one of the cornerstones of his foreign policy—the notion that, unlike President Bush, he will listen to and work harmoniously with governments allied with the United States.

And then there is this unintentional confirmation from within Obama’s camp that his cluelessness has created a problem:

“Obviously Brandenburg is the sexiest option,” the official said, but it would “undermine the message that Obama can work with U.S. allies and offers McCain evidence of Obama’s diplomatic inexperience.”

Well, that’s sort of what happened, right?

There is an unmistakable irony here. George W. Bush’s second term has been characterized by a determination to embrace multilateralism — deferring to the Europeans on Iranian negotiations, insisting on Six Party (rather than bilateral) talks with North Korea, trying to push through free trade agreements and a nuclear agreement with India. Many, if not all of these, were opposed by Congressional Democrats and/or Obama. One can debate the efficacy and wisdom of some of these moves, but they certainly were not evidence of a go-it-alone, “cowboy” approach to foreign affairs.

Obama, by contrast, seems intent on doing in foreign policy what he has done in the domestic political campaign — painting a picture of disarray and failure while elevating himself as the one person to set us (in this case, the world) on a better footing through the sheer force of his brilliance and empathy. He has assured us “I know more and understand the world better” than his opponent and that he possesses superior judgment based, in large part, on his vast experience overseas as a child. And, of course, we are assured by Obama supporters that his racial identity will bring international approval and acclaim. Perhaps that is why he places inordinate faith in unilateral discussion with our adversaries: he’s convinced they can’t help but be bowled over by the sheer wonderfulness of the Great Man.

But back in the real world, success in foreign affairs usually requires discipline, knowledge (of history and “code words” for example), respect for allies and for existing agreements, consistency, and strength of purpose. As he has bounced around from protectionism to free trade, from withdrawal in Iraq to (maybe) something else, and from multilateralism to disparagement of our allies, he has broken nearly every guideline for successfully managing our international relationships.

So maybe the trip abroad will be a useful learning experience for him. For starters, he might come to appreciate that sometimes it is not and should not be about him.


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Re: He’s Not The Barack Obama

Abe, I would like to think the cold, hard world opened Barack Obama’s eyes to the realities which escaped him heretofore, but I remain unconvinced. None of these revelations occurred before he sewed up the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t until after the Xcel speech that he realized his Iraq policy needed a make-over. He didn’t understand the benefits of free trade and the dangers of protectionism until June? Hmmm. A number of changes in positions that he has executed don’t seem related to any new information or real-world dilemmas other than the need to get get elected (e.g. abortion). There is more evidence, I think, to support the theory that the “real” Obama was the one during the primary (who matched his Left-wing roots and his Senate voting record) while the new Obama is an artifice.

And would running as a Left-wing dove really be easier than running as a flip-flopper? We can’t know for certain, but it is fair to surmise that he never expected this much resistance from the media fan club. After all, he had a virtually free ride until now. He likely figured there were more Gail Collins’ than Bob Herberts out there. He is constantly “baffled” or “shocked” or “surprised” when the media and voters react adversely to his words. It stands to reason he thought he could pull this off rather easily.

Now should conservatives be pleased? I think all voters should be highly suspicious. The flexibility of his positions and the ease with which he asserts that there have been no changes at all suggest there is little to moor him to the latest stances. Unlike Mitt Romney who moved Right and would presumably have been anchored to conservative views by those who brought him to the dance (e.g. conservatives), Obama would have every incentive to migrate back to the Left once in office. Indeed his party and the Congressional majorities would demand it.

Yes, hypocrisy is the compliment virtue pays to vice. So I suppose policy reversals are the homage that liberals pay to a right/center country. But count me as utterly unconvinced by the sincerity and permanence of Obama’s lurches.

Abe, I would like to think the cold, hard world opened Barack Obama’s eyes to the realities which escaped him heretofore, but I remain unconvinced. None of these revelations occurred before he sewed up the Democratic nomination. It wasn’t until after the Xcel speech that he realized his Iraq policy needed a make-over. He didn’t understand the benefits of free trade and the dangers of protectionism until June? Hmmm. A number of changes in positions that he has executed don’t seem related to any new information or real-world dilemmas other than the need to get get elected (e.g. abortion). There is more evidence, I think, to support the theory that the “real” Obama was the one during the primary (who matched his Left-wing roots and his Senate voting record) while the new Obama is an artifice.

And would running as a Left-wing dove really be easier than running as a flip-flopper? We can’t know for certain, but it is fair to surmise that he never expected this much resistance from the media fan club. After all, he had a virtually free ride until now. He likely figured there were more Gail Collins’ than Bob Herberts out there. He is constantly “baffled” or “shocked” or “surprised” when the media and voters react adversely to his words. It stands to reason he thought he could pull this off rather easily.

Now should conservatives be pleased? I think all voters should be highly suspicious. The flexibility of his positions and the ease with which he asserts that there have been no changes at all suggest there is little to moor him to the latest stances. Unlike Mitt Romney who moved Right and would presumably have been anchored to conservative views by those who brought him to the dance (e.g. conservatives), Obama would have every incentive to migrate back to the Left once in office. Indeed his party and the Congressional majorities would demand it.

Yes, hypocrisy is the compliment virtue pays to vice. So I suppose policy reversals are the homage that liberals pay to a right/center country. But count me as utterly unconvinced by the sincerity and permanence of Obama’s lurches.

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Grand China, Drab Taiwan

Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan on the inaugural cross-strait weekend tour seem to be unimpressed by the island’s capital city. “I thought Taipei should be comparable to, if not more developed than, Beijing and Shanghai,” said Ying Jiming, a disappointed businessman who arrived with 759 other Mainlanders last Friday by plane.

Ying, quoted in Singapore’s Straits Times, is right. My wife and I were in Taiwan that Friday and also thought that the city appeared drab in comparison with China’s capital and its largest metropolis, both of which we visited a few days before. The Chinese, with their new-found wealth, have built hundreds of magnificent structures in Beijing and Shanghai. Taipei, in contrast, has perhaps two architectural landmarks. It boasts the delightful Taipei 101, which until last July was the world’s tallest building, but the remainder of the city is comprised of mostly low-rise utilitarian structures of no particular design merit.

I could happily be an architecture critic, so I thought a lot about the buildings we saw on our Asia trip. A little more than a week ago, for instance, we rode past the gargantuan Great Hall of the People in Beijing, which anchors the west side of Tiananmen Square, the spiritual center of China. Later, we stood across the street from the series of rundown buildings that house Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Yet I was in awe of this ramshackle compound because inside works one of the most interesting democratic bodies in the world. Young legislatures are always inspiring, and none more so than Taiwan’s. On the other hand, the rubberstamp National People’s Congress convenes in its majestic setting every March in the Great Hall, and virtually nothing of significance has occurred there in five decades. And this leads me to something I had heard long ago and believe to be true-the grand structures in Beijing were designed to intimidate the individual.

So Mr. Ying should look past the drab architecture of Taiwan and realize that he is visiting a society far better than the one he will go back to in a few days. And while we’re on the subject of returning to China, Mr. Ying should think about this: three Chinese tourists from another group left their luggage in their hotel in a Taipei suburb late Tuesday and disappeared into the evening. Looks like they figured out which society, drab buildings and all, is better.

Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan on the inaugural cross-strait weekend tour seem to be unimpressed by the island’s capital city. “I thought Taipei should be comparable to, if not more developed than, Beijing and Shanghai,” said Ying Jiming, a disappointed businessman who arrived with 759 other Mainlanders last Friday by plane.

Ying, quoted in Singapore’s Straits Times, is right. My wife and I were in Taiwan that Friday and also thought that the city appeared drab in comparison with China’s capital and its largest metropolis, both of which we visited a few days before. The Chinese, with their new-found wealth, have built hundreds of magnificent structures in Beijing and Shanghai. Taipei, in contrast, has perhaps two architectural landmarks. It boasts the delightful Taipei 101, which until last July was the world’s tallest building, but the remainder of the city is comprised of mostly low-rise utilitarian structures of no particular design merit.

I could happily be an architecture critic, so I thought a lot about the buildings we saw on our Asia trip. A little more than a week ago, for instance, we rode past the gargantuan Great Hall of the People in Beijing, which anchors the west side of Tiananmen Square, the spiritual center of China. Later, we stood across the street from the series of rundown buildings that house Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan. Yet I was in awe of this ramshackle compound because inside works one of the most interesting democratic bodies in the world. Young legislatures are always inspiring, and none more so than Taiwan’s. On the other hand, the rubberstamp National People’s Congress convenes in its majestic setting every March in the Great Hall, and virtually nothing of significance has occurred there in five decades. And this leads me to something I had heard long ago and believe to be true-the grand structures in Beijing were designed to intimidate the individual.

So Mr. Ying should look past the drab architecture of Taiwan and realize that he is visiting a society far better than the one he will go back to in a few days. And while we’re on the subject of returning to China, Mr. Ying should think about this: three Chinese tourists from another group left their luggage in their hotel in a Taipei suburb late Tuesday and disappeared into the evening. Looks like they figured out which society, drab buildings and all, is better.

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Does It Matter?

This candid take on Barack Obama disappointing his fan base by being pretty much as craven as every politician raises the question: but does it matter?

On one hand, where are liberals going to go in the election? (Somehow the media answer for conservatives is always “They’ll stay home!” and for liberals is “They’ll vote for him anyway.”) One can query whether new, younger voters who were hyped up by all the Obama hoopla might in fact drift away and adhere more to traditional iffy-turnout patterns of the past. Still, most of these voters will — like grumbly conservatives — turn out to vote for the candidate who gives them at least half a loaf.

On the other hand, Obama was supposed to be different. When he’s proven not to be and lots of formerly enthusiastic people say so publicly and angrily it can depress fundraising, volunteerism and that “enthusiasm gap” which Obama has enjoyed. Generally, if you are going to create a mass movement based on cultish adoration of the leader, the leader  better not let his followers down.

What all of this has done to a great extent is to level the media playing field. (“If he loses in November, this will be remembered as the turning point in the race. . .”) The press is now aggressively and skeptically covering Obama as they never have before. Whether that persists, and whether the media really has any impact on voters’ perceptions, remains to be seen.

This candid take on Barack Obama disappointing his fan base by being pretty much as craven as every politician raises the question: but does it matter?

On one hand, where are liberals going to go in the election? (Somehow the media answer for conservatives is always “They’ll stay home!” and for liberals is “They’ll vote for him anyway.”) One can query whether new, younger voters who were hyped up by all the Obama hoopla might in fact drift away and adhere more to traditional iffy-turnout patterns of the past. Still, most of these voters will — like grumbly conservatives — turn out to vote for the candidate who gives them at least half a loaf.

On the other hand, Obama was supposed to be different. When he’s proven not to be and lots of formerly enthusiastic people say so publicly and angrily it can depress fundraising, volunteerism and that “enthusiasm gap” which Obama has enjoyed. Generally, if you are going to create a mass movement based on cultish adoration of the leader, the leader  better not let his followers down.

What all of this has done to a great extent is to level the media playing field. (“If he loses in November, this will be remembered as the turning point in the race. . .”) The press is now aggressively and skeptically covering Obama as they never have before. Whether that persists, and whether the media really has any impact on voters’ perceptions, remains to be seen.

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He’s Not The Barack Obama Barack Obama Knew

The famous quote goes, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 30, you have no brain.”

If you embrace gun rights, proactive military policy, and stricter abortion requirements while pushing for crippling taxes and universal healthcare at 46, you’re Barack Obama–and the question of your deficiencies remains an open one.

Obama’s move to the right is not a tactical ploy designed to siphon off McCain voters or undecided independents. Opening up the general election with a 12-point lead over John McCain (including an 8-point lead among registered independents), the safe advice would have Obama in a holding pattern in hopes that McCain starts making bad moves. And even if some tacking to the center was in order, it would not have required the across-the-board conversion we’ve witnessed these past few weeks. A mere acknowledgment of success in Iraq would have gone a long way.

Nor is Obama’s move to the right an attempt to draw fire as a flip-flopper instead of as a far-left liberal. Obama stumbles and falls in the realm of specific data. He does better defending a liberal stance on broad ideological grounds than in detailing the reasons for this or that policy change. His worst moments of the primary came when Hillary, armed with an encyclopedic grasp of figures, went to-to-toe with him on policy disputes.

Obama’s tack to the center is simply what happens when the Senate’s most liberal member ventures off Capitol Hill and faces intractable reality. It’s what happens when a community organizer with radical friends becomes a global player with deadly enemies. You can talk about the failures of Iraq until your face turns blue, but can’t very well tell David Petraeus to pack it in because his efforts were for naught. You can talk about sitting down with Mahmoud Amadinejad in a CNN studio, but you can’t tell EU leaders that you’re going to undermine their Tehran incentives by offering unconditional dialogue. You can rant about the abuse of executive powers, but then again, in Obama’s own words, “Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise.”

From the recognition of Jeremiah Wright as a poisonous backstabber to the support of necessary intelligence laws, we’re witnessing a very green political mind come of age. What is troubling is that it’s the kind of change one usually goes through before making it to the homestretch for office of the president of the United States. Some have asked if conservatives should not happily welcome the converted Obama into the fold. The answer is complicated. On all these issues, he’s moving in a direction that vindicates the rightness of a conservative worldview and that, one hopes, makes the world a better, freer place. But most conservative shifts are born of a love of principles, a recognition of the promise of freer society, a solidified realization of right and wrong. Obama’s shift was functional or utilitarian. He’s embracing more conservative positions because not to do so would have rendered him ineffective. This kind of rightward shift should be welcomed with caution.

The famous quote goes, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 20, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 30, you have no brain.”

If you embrace gun rights, proactive military policy, and stricter abortion requirements while pushing for crippling taxes and universal healthcare at 46, you’re Barack Obama–and the question of your deficiencies remains an open one.

Obama’s move to the right is not a tactical ploy designed to siphon off McCain voters or undecided independents. Opening up the general election with a 12-point lead over John McCain (including an 8-point lead among registered independents), the safe advice would have Obama in a holding pattern in hopes that McCain starts making bad moves. And even if some tacking to the center was in order, it would not have required the across-the-board conversion we’ve witnessed these past few weeks. A mere acknowledgment of success in Iraq would have gone a long way.

Nor is Obama’s move to the right an attempt to draw fire as a flip-flopper instead of as a far-left liberal. Obama stumbles and falls in the realm of specific data. He does better defending a liberal stance on broad ideological grounds than in detailing the reasons for this or that policy change. His worst moments of the primary came when Hillary, armed with an encyclopedic grasp of figures, went to-to-toe with him on policy disputes.

Obama’s tack to the center is simply what happens when the Senate’s most liberal member ventures off Capitol Hill and faces intractable reality. It’s what happens when a community organizer with radical friends becomes a global player with deadly enemies. You can talk about the failures of Iraq until your face turns blue, but can’t very well tell David Petraeus to pack it in because his efforts were for naught. You can talk about sitting down with Mahmoud Amadinejad in a CNN studio, but you can’t tell EU leaders that you’re going to undermine their Tehran incentives by offering unconditional dialogue. You can rant about the abuse of executive powers, but then again, in Obama’s own words, “Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise.”

From the recognition of Jeremiah Wright as a poisonous backstabber to the support of necessary intelligence laws, we’re witnessing a very green political mind come of age. What is troubling is that it’s the kind of change one usually goes through before making it to the homestretch for office of the president of the United States. Some have asked if conservatives should not happily welcome the converted Obama into the fold. The answer is complicated. On all these issues, he’s moving in a direction that vindicates the rightness of a conservative worldview and that, one hopes, makes the world a better, freer place. But most conservative shifts are born of a love of principles, a recognition of the promise of freer society, a solidified realization of right and wrong. Obama’s shift was functional or utilitarian. He’s embracing more conservative positions because not to do so would have rendered him ineffective. This kind of rightward shift should be welcomed with caution.

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CAFE? Oy Vey!

With gas at $4.00 a gallon, there is, once again, much talk of tightening CAFE standards for automobile mileage that have been around since 1975, when there were gas lines that were blocks long. The acronym stands for Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency. According to Wikipedia it is “the sales-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon . . . of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks.”

Translating that into English, it means that the “fleet” of cars and light trucks manufactured by an automobile company has to meet a certain average standard of miles per gallon. The trouble, of course, is that people don’t buy fleets, they buy individual vehicles, which ones depending on their individual needs, predilections, and pocketbooks. So if too many people opt for low-mileage vehicles, the company, in theory, would have to raise the prices on those vehicles and/or lower the price on high-mileage cars in order to get customers to buy the right mix of cars and thus sustain the average fuel efficiency required by the law.

To paraphrase George Orwell, this is a method of raising average vehicle gas mileage so idiotic that only a politician could have conceived it. It has been singularly ineffective (European and Japanese car fleets average twice the gas mileage of American cars and SUV’s). It is subject to endless lobbying. What, after all, is a “light truck”? Write the definition one way and–presto!–millions of vehicles are exempt from CAFE standards.

If Congress were serious about improving the average miles per gallon of the American automobile fleet, here’s how to do it cheaply, efficiently, and very effectively. 1) Set a standard for miles per gallon, say 25 MPG at first. 2) Pass an excise tax of, say, $500, for every mile per gallon a model falls below the standard. 3) Give people a tax credit of, say, $500 for every mile per gallon the vehicle they buy is rated above 25 MPG. 5) Raise the standard one MPG per year until it reached, say, 40 MPG.

Under this system a car that got only 20 MPG would cost a whacking $5000 more than its competitor that got 30 MPG, a huge incentive to buy an efficient car instead of a speedy/sexy/humongous one, while leaving people free to buy the car they want if they’re willing to pay for it. More, it would unleash a torrent of innovation from the automobile companies that would increase fuel efficiency in ways that minimally impacted other desirable traits. Instead of spending their energies lobbying, they would spend them designing better, and much more fuel efficient, cars. No new bureaucracy would be needed to implement the policy.

This would be a perfect example of the power of the law of self interest–“make it in people’s self interest to do something and they will do it”–to effectuate good policy. Don’t hold your breath, however. The self-interests of politicians always come first.

With gas at $4.00 a gallon, there is, once again, much talk of tightening CAFE standards for automobile mileage that have been around since 1975, when there were gas lines that were blocks long. The acronym stands for Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency. According to Wikipedia it is “the sales-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per gallon . . . of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks.”

Translating that into English, it means that the “fleet” of cars and light trucks manufactured by an automobile company has to meet a certain average standard of miles per gallon. The trouble, of course, is that people don’t buy fleets, they buy individual vehicles, which ones depending on their individual needs, predilections, and pocketbooks. So if too many people opt for low-mileage vehicles, the company, in theory, would have to raise the prices on those vehicles and/or lower the price on high-mileage cars in order to get customers to buy the right mix of cars and thus sustain the average fuel efficiency required by the law.

To paraphrase George Orwell, this is a method of raising average vehicle gas mileage so idiotic that only a politician could have conceived it. It has been singularly ineffective (European and Japanese car fleets average twice the gas mileage of American cars and SUV’s). It is subject to endless lobbying. What, after all, is a “light truck”? Write the definition one way and–presto!–millions of vehicles are exempt from CAFE standards.

If Congress were serious about improving the average miles per gallon of the American automobile fleet, here’s how to do it cheaply, efficiently, and very effectively. 1) Set a standard for miles per gallon, say 25 MPG at first. 2) Pass an excise tax of, say, $500, for every mile per gallon a model falls below the standard. 3) Give people a tax credit of, say, $500 for every mile per gallon the vehicle they buy is rated above 25 MPG. 5) Raise the standard one MPG per year until it reached, say, 40 MPG.

Under this system a car that got only 20 MPG would cost a whacking $5000 more than its competitor that got 30 MPG, a huge incentive to buy an efficient car instead of a speedy/sexy/humongous one, while leaving people free to buy the car they want if they’re willing to pay for it. More, it would unleash a torrent of innovation from the automobile companies that would increase fuel efficiency in ways that minimally impacted other desirable traits. Instead of spending their energies lobbying, they would spend them designing better, and much more fuel efficient, cars. No new bureaucracy would be needed to implement the policy.

This would be a perfect example of the power of the law of self interest–“make it in people’s self interest to do something and they will do it”–to effectuate good policy. Don’t hold your breath, however. The self-interests of politicians always come first.

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Pretty Rational, Actually

Ira Forman, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, thinks it’s irrational and unfair to bring up Barack Obama’s vote on Kyl-Lieberman, his past statements and interactions with Palestinian activists, and presumably his choice of advisors in evaluating Obama’s views on Israel.

As to Kyl-Lieberman, the facts are the facts. On the only available opportunity to vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization Obama made his opposition very clear and used it as a pretext to attack Hillary Clinton. If he wants to change views now that’s his prerogative. But it seems odd not to “count” that vote.

As to the “guilt by association” defense, it is a convenient slogan to deflect responsibility for a troubling record. But what a candidate has said, his failure to object to anti-Israel slurs, his toleration and celebration of hate-mongers like Reverend Wright, and his choice of advisors (from whom Obama has at times tried to distance himself ) are entirely relevant to figuring out who a candidate is, what he thinks, and how he might act. That seems particularly true when a candidate’s record is so thin and his national security record so slight.

But I do understand why defenders of Obama would want to rule out all these considerations. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean voters should. One final point: Forman seems to think that I am accusing voters of being uninformed or dupes. To the contrary, it is Obama who accuses Jews of being snookered by viral emails and being cowed by his middle name. I am the one who has suggested that Jews and other voters are highly informed about and concerned about the details of Obama’s comments, positions, and affiliations regarding Israel and that he would do well to confront these issues head on. But the Obama camp appears increasingly unwilling or unable to respond to these concerns.

So once again, they seem to have settled on the strategy of attempting to de-legitimize those concerns or disparage those who raise them. Whether that tactic works remains to be seen.

Ira Forman, head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, thinks it’s irrational and unfair to bring up Barack Obama’s vote on Kyl-Lieberman, his past statements and interactions with Palestinian activists, and presumably his choice of advisors in evaluating Obama’s views on Israel.

As to Kyl-Lieberman, the facts are the facts. On the only available opportunity to vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization Obama made his opposition very clear and used it as a pretext to attack Hillary Clinton. If he wants to change views now that’s his prerogative. But it seems odd not to “count” that vote.

As to the “guilt by association” defense, it is a convenient slogan to deflect responsibility for a troubling record. But what a candidate has said, his failure to object to anti-Israel slurs, his toleration and celebration of hate-mongers like Reverend Wright, and his choice of advisors (from whom Obama has at times tried to distance himself ) are entirely relevant to figuring out who a candidate is, what he thinks, and how he might act. That seems particularly true when a candidate’s record is so thin and his national security record so slight.

But I do understand why defenders of Obama would want to rule out all these considerations. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean voters should. One final point: Forman seems to think that I am accusing voters of being uninformed or dupes. To the contrary, it is Obama who accuses Jews of being snookered by viral emails and being cowed by his middle name. I am the one who has suggested that Jews and other voters are highly informed about and concerned about the details of Obama’s comments, positions, and affiliations regarding Israel and that he would do well to confront these issues head on. But the Obama camp appears increasingly unwilling or unable to respond to these concerns.

So once again, they seem to have settled on the strategy of attempting to de-legitimize those concerns or disparage those who raise them. Whether that tactic works remains to be seen.

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Arab Support Against Iran?

Haaretz is reporting that an unnamed Arab state has declared that it “won’t oppose” an Israeli military strike against Iran. According to the article, this state fears growing Iranian influence in the region, particularly among its Shiite communities. (My guess is that it’s Saudi Arabia, which has a sizable-and increasingly restless-Shiite underclass.) Meanwhile, Israeli sources say that other Arab states are echoing this support.

Yet Israelis would be foolish to take any confidence from this bizarrely vague news. After all, Arab support for Israeli foreign policy aims-on the rare occasions that it even exists-is pathetically ephemeral. In this vein, consider the Arab response to the 2006 Lebanon war. Initially, Israel’s swift response to Hezbollah’s cross-border raid drew the support of moderate (read: loosely pro-western) Arab states, particularly Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. However, when Arab publics held massive demonstrations in support of Hezbollah, these governments quickly retreated, accusing Israel of war crimes.

These states are equally unreliable when it comes to supporting peace initiatives. Indeed, not long after sending high-ranking representatives to the November Annapolis peace conference, Egypt and Saudi Arabia invited Hamas officials to their respective capitals, pushing a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement in an unambiguous snub to U.S.-led peace efforts. Then, on New Year’s day, Iranian official Ali Larijani visited Cairo-the first major Egyptian-Iranian diplomatic exchange in decades and yet another snub.

Moreover, Israel should harbor no fantasies regarding how a strike on Iran would play out on the Arab street. Make no mistake: despite everything that one reads about the Sunni-Shiite divide, such an attack will enflame the entire region in massive demonstrations. This doesn’t mean that Iran is particularly popular–in Egypt, Iran is actually facing a major public relations challenge after an Iranian documentary glorified the assassination of Anwar Sadat. It’s just that Israel is profoundly unpopular, and its confrontation with Iran will be interpreted as part of a larger, evil pattern of the Jewish state attacking a Muslim one. Arab states are well aware of this-which is why even their tepid support against Iran will only come off-the-record.

Of course, this hardly means that Israel shouldn’t attack Iran if its vital interests require it. It only means that the support of Arab states shouldn’t be factored into the equation.

Haaretz is reporting that an unnamed Arab state has declared that it “won’t oppose” an Israeli military strike against Iran. According to the article, this state fears growing Iranian influence in the region, particularly among its Shiite communities. (My guess is that it’s Saudi Arabia, which has a sizable-and increasingly restless-Shiite underclass.) Meanwhile, Israeli sources say that other Arab states are echoing this support.

Yet Israelis would be foolish to take any confidence from this bizarrely vague news. After all, Arab support for Israeli foreign policy aims-on the rare occasions that it even exists-is pathetically ephemeral. In this vein, consider the Arab response to the 2006 Lebanon war. Initially, Israel’s swift response to Hezbollah’s cross-border raid drew the support of moderate (read: loosely pro-western) Arab states, particularly Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. However, when Arab publics held massive demonstrations in support of Hezbollah, these governments quickly retreated, accusing Israel of war crimes.

These states are equally unreliable when it comes to supporting peace initiatives. Indeed, not long after sending high-ranking representatives to the November Annapolis peace conference, Egypt and Saudi Arabia invited Hamas officials to their respective capitals, pushing a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement in an unambiguous snub to U.S.-led peace efforts. Then, on New Year’s day, Iranian official Ali Larijani visited Cairo-the first major Egyptian-Iranian diplomatic exchange in decades and yet another snub.

Moreover, Israel should harbor no fantasies regarding how a strike on Iran would play out on the Arab street. Make no mistake: despite everything that one reads about the Sunni-Shiite divide, such an attack will enflame the entire region in massive demonstrations. This doesn’t mean that Iran is particularly popular–in Egypt, Iran is actually facing a major public relations challenge after an Iranian documentary glorified the assassination of Anwar Sadat. It’s just that Israel is profoundly unpopular, and its confrontation with Iran will be interpreted as part of a larger, evil pattern of the Jewish state attacking a Muslim one. Arab states are well aware of this-which is why even their tepid support against Iran will only come off-the-record.

Of course, this hardly means that Israel shouldn’t attack Iran if its vital interests require it. It only means that the support of Arab states shouldn’t be factored into the equation.

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Obama’s Iraq Plans

ABC reports that, hey, Barack Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plan (the one that’s still on his website, but maybe not the one he’ll have in a few weeks) is unworkable and dangerous:

Asked if he considered it dangerous to pull out if the withdrawal is not based on “conditions,” [Maj. General Jeffrey]Hammond said, “It’s very dangerous. I’ll speak for the coalition forces, men and women of character and moral courage; we have a mission, and it’s not until the mission is done that I can look my leader in the eye and say, ‘Sir, Ma’am, mission accomplished,’ and I think it is dangerous to leave anything a little early.”

Read the whole thing. It sure would have been nice if we had more of these reports while the oh-so-skeptical Democrats were grilling General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker at their hearings a few months ago (and, perhaps more importantly, while Democratic primary voters were still choosing their nominee). And it raises again the question: why hasn’t Obama known (or did he and he wasn’t telling?) the data and conclusions of all these military officials and many other independent observers? On the most critical national foreign policy decision facing us, he seems to be the last to know.

ABC reports that, hey, Barack Obama’s Iraq withdrawal plan (the one that’s still on his website, but maybe not the one he’ll have in a few weeks) is unworkable and dangerous:

Asked if he considered it dangerous to pull out if the withdrawal is not based on “conditions,” [Maj. General Jeffrey]Hammond said, “It’s very dangerous. I’ll speak for the coalition forces, men and women of character and moral courage; we have a mission, and it’s not until the mission is done that I can look my leader in the eye and say, ‘Sir, Ma’am, mission accomplished,’ and I think it is dangerous to leave anything a little early.”

Read the whole thing. It sure would have been nice if we had more of these reports while the oh-so-skeptical Democrats were grilling General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker at their hearings a few months ago (and, perhaps more importantly, while Democratic primary voters were still choosing their nominee). And it raises again the question: why hasn’t Obama known (or did he and he wasn’t telling?) the data and conclusions of all these military officials and many other independent observers? On the most critical national foreign policy decision facing us, he seems to be the last to know.

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Islamist Lawfare in England

Freedom of speech is considered to be the mother of democratic freedoms. And England is considered the mother of democracy. Nevertheless, in recent times, British libel laws have been used and abused not so much to protect reputable individuals from calumny but to silence critics of questionable figures and to cover up questionable practices.

In a recent comment, Nick Cohen, Observer columnist and author of the book What’s Left?, denounces the latest fashion in libel suits in the UK–something people like Rachel Ehrenfeld are painfully familiar with. The trigger for Cohen’s comments was a libel suit launched a few days ago by Mohammad Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, against the British blog Harry’s Place, arguably one of the best English language blogs.

The ostensible reason for the lawsuit is explained here. Harry’s Place made the mistake of raising an eyebrow at remarks Mr. Sawalha made commenting on a recent anti-Israel demonstration in London, where he reportedly referred to the “Jewish evil” in Britain. Harry’s Place drew the information from Al-Jazeera, and when Al-Jazeera amended the term to “Jewish lobby,” Harry’s Place reported the change in an update. And though Harry’s Place did not refer to Mr. Sawalha as an anti-Semite for having reportedly used such language, they are now being sued for having done so.

It bears mentioning, as Harry’s Place documents, that the individuals involved in the British Muslim Initiative are all linked in some way to Hamas–according to a recent BBC documentary, Sawalha is a Hamas pointman who coordinated funding for the terror organization from London. And given the views that Hamas espouses on Jews and the kind of education about Jews it gives to the next generation of Palestinians, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that the association of Sawalha with Hamas, with or without the words he reportedly uttered, is enough to make him a candidate for that sort of epithet.

This is the latest chapter in the efforts by enemies of freedom (in this case, by people who are linked to an EU-designated terror organization) to exploit the laws and protections granted by Europe’s open society to subvert it from within. Kudos, then, to all those who can support Harry’s Place and to several British pundits, journalists, analysts ,and intellectuals, who have decided–because of Mr. Sawalha’s lawsuit–have decided to withdraw from participation in debates alongside British Muslim Initiative spokesmen.

Freedom of speech is considered to be the mother of democratic freedoms. And England is considered the mother of democracy. Nevertheless, in recent times, British libel laws have been used and abused not so much to protect reputable individuals from calumny but to silence critics of questionable figures and to cover up questionable practices.

In a recent comment, Nick Cohen, Observer columnist and author of the book What’s Left?, denounces the latest fashion in libel suits in the UK–something people like Rachel Ehrenfeld are painfully familiar with. The trigger for Cohen’s comments was a libel suit launched a few days ago by Mohammad Sawalha, president of the British Muslim Initiative, against the British blog Harry’s Place, arguably one of the best English language blogs.

The ostensible reason for the lawsuit is explained here. Harry’s Place made the mistake of raising an eyebrow at remarks Mr. Sawalha made commenting on a recent anti-Israel demonstration in London, where he reportedly referred to the “Jewish evil” in Britain. Harry’s Place drew the information from Al-Jazeera, and when Al-Jazeera amended the term to “Jewish lobby,” Harry’s Place reported the change in an update. And though Harry’s Place did not refer to Mr. Sawalha as an anti-Semite for having reportedly used such language, they are now being sued for having done so.

It bears mentioning, as Harry’s Place documents, that the individuals involved in the British Muslim Initiative are all linked in some way to Hamas–according to a recent BBC documentary, Sawalha is a Hamas pointman who coordinated funding for the terror organization from London. And given the views that Hamas espouses on Jews and the kind of education about Jews it gives to the next generation of Palestinians, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that the association of Sawalha with Hamas, with or without the words he reportedly uttered, is enough to make him a candidate for that sort of epithet.

This is the latest chapter in the efforts by enemies of freedom (in this case, by people who are linked to an EU-designated terror organization) to exploit the laws and protections granted by Europe’s open society to subvert it from within. Kudos, then, to all those who can support Harry’s Place and to several British pundits, journalists, analysts ,and intellectuals, who have decided–because of Mr. Sawalha’s lawsuit–have decided to withdraw from participation in debates alongside British Muslim Initiative spokesmen.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Barack Obama’s ad (actually his Big Labor backers’ ad) is so misleading even Newsweek says so.

Nancy Pelosi slams the door on off-shore drilling, showing once again why Congress is as popular as a Chinese Crested. (And how happy is the McCain camp that the Democrats are blocking domestic oil development?)

And Pelosi should go ahead with this one – I’m sure Secretary of State John Bolton in the (albeit brief) Cheney administration would have some interesting things to say about Iran.

Marty Peretz calls attention to removal of 600 tons of uranium from Iraq, “so as to remind readers that Saddam Hussein did, indeed, have materials that in the wrong hands . . . well, you all know that, even if some of you want to forget the bitter truth.”

Obama doesn’t speak Spanish and his math isn’t very good either. (By the way, why should he lie about the number of years in public service if experience doesn’t matter? )

Hillary Clinton is reduced to hawking t-shirts. Who can blame her if Obama can’t remember to ask for money for her? If he pulls that again the shirts will get a redesign like this. Perfect for campaigning together.

This VP analysis sounds right. Besides, what better way for John McCain to step on his “Obama the flip-flopper” attack than to put one his own ticket.

The McCain camp wasn’t prescient in predicting Obama would flip-flop on Iraq — they just listened to Hillary Clinton. She is the gift that will keep on giving, according to a prominent McCain surrogate.

I’m not the only one who spots an eerie resemblance between Obama and Clinton — call it “hyper-triangulation” or an effort to “rebrand liberal goals.” What it isn’t is New Politics.

Echoing Peter’s thoughts is a reminder from Charles Krauthammer that “hard power” is often the only savior of those repressed and abused by tyrants. If there were the slightest indication that Obama and the Democrats understood this, they might have far more credibility on national security.

Barack Obama’s ad (actually his Big Labor backers’ ad) is so misleading even Newsweek says so.

Nancy Pelosi slams the door on off-shore drilling, showing once again why Congress is as popular as a Chinese Crested. (And how happy is the McCain camp that the Democrats are blocking domestic oil development?)

And Pelosi should go ahead with this one – I’m sure Secretary of State John Bolton in the (albeit brief) Cheney administration would have some interesting things to say about Iran.

Marty Peretz calls attention to removal of 600 tons of uranium from Iraq, “so as to remind readers that Saddam Hussein did, indeed, have materials that in the wrong hands . . . well, you all know that, even if some of you want to forget the bitter truth.”

Obama doesn’t speak Spanish and his math isn’t very good either. (By the way, why should he lie about the number of years in public service if experience doesn’t matter? )

Hillary Clinton is reduced to hawking t-shirts. Who can blame her if Obama can’t remember to ask for money for her? If he pulls that again the shirts will get a redesign like this. Perfect for campaigning together.

This VP analysis sounds right. Besides, what better way for John McCain to step on his “Obama the flip-flopper” attack than to put one his own ticket.

The McCain camp wasn’t prescient in predicting Obama would flip-flop on Iraq — they just listened to Hillary Clinton. She is the gift that will keep on giving, according to a prominent McCain surrogate.

I’m not the only one who spots an eerie resemblance between Obama and Clinton — call it “hyper-triangulation” or an effort to “rebrand liberal goals.” What it isn’t is New Politics.

Echoing Peter’s thoughts is a reminder from Charles Krauthammer that “hard power” is often the only savior of those repressed and abused by tyrants. If there were the slightest indication that Obama and the Democrats understood this, they might have far more credibility on national security.

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How’s That Sunni Coalition against Iran Doing?

Not so well, it seems.

Not so well, it seems.

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They Want Humble?

I resisted writing anything about Jesse Jackson’s off-microphone comments about Barack Obama because his resentment toward Obama is uninteresting to me, and the entire episode strikes me as another nonsensical media-created story.

However, Mickey Kaus’ take — that Jackson was right about Obama condescending to black audiences — got me thinking. Kaus asks whether Obama could have phrased his remarks in a way that “doesn’t set up Obama as a commanding know-it-all.”

I don’t think, actually, that he is capable of such a thing. Obama is in the business of talking down to his audiences, telling them what to do and elevating himself to the status of messianic leader. That’s what he is all about. I thought this was obvious from the cult iconography, his grandiose rhetoric, the chanting the Obama girls, the mindless catch-phrases, the seal, the prospect of “volunteer” boot camp, his premature designs on the White House, the digs at Hillary Clinton, the directives on lifestyles and foreign language instruction, the annoucement that he has more foreign policy experience than his opponents, Bittergate, his attempt to co-opt the Bradenburg Gate as a PR backdrop, the dressing down of his grandmother’s alleged racism, the indignation over being labeled a mere politician, and his wife’s comments that there was no reason pre-Obama to be proud of the country (and there will be no rest for us in the future).

His entire campaign is an exercise in egotism. So he should be humble now that he has the nomination? Hardly.

Mysteriously, it wasn’t until he won the nomination and grabbed the cold, hard cash–despite high-minded promises to the contrary–that the media figured out he might be, you know, a bit arrogant. (And yes, Abe, I guess sometimes the most devoted admirers must reach a tipping point over something seemingly inconsequential before the scales drop finally from their eyes.)

But if voters (and pundits) wanted a humble, self-effacing fellow who appreciated how much he has to learn and how little he knows about subjects ranging from history to constitutional law, they picked the wrong candidate.

I resisted writing anything about Jesse Jackson’s off-microphone comments about Barack Obama because his resentment toward Obama is uninteresting to me, and the entire episode strikes me as another nonsensical media-created story.

However, Mickey Kaus’ take — that Jackson was right about Obama condescending to black audiences — got me thinking. Kaus asks whether Obama could have phrased his remarks in a way that “doesn’t set up Obama as a commanding know-it-all.”

I don’t think, actually, that he is capable of such a thing. Obama is in the business of talking down to his audiences, telling them what to do and elevating himself to the status of messianic leader. That’s what he is all about. I thought this was obvious from the cult iconography, his grandiose rhetoric, the chanting the Obama girls, the mindless catch-phrases, the seal, the prospect of “volunteer” boot camp, his premature designs on the White House, the digs at Hillary Clinton, the directives on lifestyles and foreign language instruction, the annoucement that he has more foreign policy experience than his opponents, Bittergate, his attempt to co-opt the Bradenburg Gate as a PR backdrop, the dressing down of his grandmother’s alleged racism, the indignation over being labeled a mere politician, and his wife’s comments that there was no reason pre-Obama to be proud of the country (and there will be no rest for us in the future).

His entire campaign is an exercise in egotism. So he should be humble now that he has the nomination? Hardly.

Mysteriously, it wasn’t until he won the nomination and grabbed the cold, hard cash–despite high-minded promises to the contrary–that the media figured out he might be, you know, a bit arrogant. (And yes, Abe, I guess sometimes the most devoted admirers must reach a tipping point over something seemingly inconsequential before the scales drop finally from their eyes.)

But if voters (and pundits) wanted a humble, self-effacing fellow who appreciated how much he has to learn and how little he knows about subjects ranging from history to constitutional law, they picked the wrong candidate.

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How Far The Nation Has Fallen

One of the gems in the latest issue of World Affairs Journal–a long-dormant quarterly revived by Lawrence Kaplan and a fantastic little publication–is this article by the historians Ronald and Allis Radosh about The Nation magazine’s former affinity for the state of Israel. Entitled “Righteous Among the Editors: When the Left Loved Israel,” the piece traces how an ardently Zionist publication has now become anti-Zionist, all the while maintaining its place in the intellectual firmament of the American Left.

The Nation didn’t just polemicize on behalf of the Zionist cause–it organized for it, the Radoshes tell us. In May 1947, The Nation Associates, a lobbying group affiliated with the magazine, presented a memorandum compiling the pro-Axis activities of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, which it presented to the United Nations. Members of Congress and the White House as evidence of Arab attitudes towards Jewish immigrants. The magazine and its supporters understood then, as any sentient follower of events in the Middle East still understands today, that there was and is nothing to “justify confidence in the attitude of the Arab states towards minorities in their population,” as the magazine’s then-editor and publisher Freda Kirchwey wrote. (The Nation Associates is still around, by the way, but with Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal among their more prominent members. I have the sneaking suspicion that this fellowship doesn’t quite share Ms. Kirchwey’s passion for Zion).

And where is The Nation today? The Radoshes cite the contributions of Richard Falk, 9/11 conspiracy theorist and recently appointed United Nations “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967″, who writes articles alleging that Israeli “state terrorism” is worse than anything perpetrated by the Palestinians and that Israel’s “treatment of the Palestinians” is comparable to the “criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity. “No journal of opinion or media outlet campaigned more vigorously and vocally for Israel’s creation,” the Radoshes write of The Nation. That may be hard to believe today, But it wasn’t unusual for leftists, even for people on the far left, to be pro-Israel in the 1940’s. Indeed, the position of most right-thinking, progressive people was to support the creation of the Jewish state. After all, Zionism has always has been a “progressive” cause in the truest sense of the word. Democratic, pluralist welcoming of immigrants and the oppressed: Israel stood for all the things that leftists of the day considered to be part of their agenda, and that the contemporary left ostensibly considers part of its agenda. The article is masterful in showing how some liberals not only abandoned a liberal cause, but by doing so allied themselves with some of the most reactionary elements in the world.

What must Katrina vanden Heuvel and her crew think of this illustrious period in their institution’s history? I don’t know. But the magazine seems to have spent the past four decades atoning for the sin of supporting the nascent Jewish state.

One of the gems in the latest issue of World Affairs Journal–a long-dormant quarterly revived by Lawrence Kaplan and a fantastic little publication–is this article by the historians Ronald and Allis Radosh about The Nation magazine’s former affinity for the state of Israel. Entitled “Righteous Among the Editors: When the Left Loved Israel,” the piece traces how an ardently Zionist publication has now become anti-Zionist, all the while maintaining its place in the intellectual firmament of the American Left.

The Nation didn’t just polemicize on behalf of the Zionist cause–it organized for it, the Radoshes tell us. In May 1947, The Nation Associates, a lobbying group affiliated with the magazine, presented a memorandum compiling the pro-Axis activities of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, which it presented to the United Nations. Members of Congress and the White House as evidence of Arab attitudes towards Jewish immigrants. The magazine and its supporters understood then, as any sentient follower of events in the Middle East still understands today, that there was and is nothing to “justify confidence in the attitude of the Arab states towards minorities in their population,” as the magazine’s then-editor and publisher Freda Kirchwey wrote. (The Nation Associates is still around, by the way, but with Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal among their more prominent members. I have the sneaking suspicion that this fellowship doesn’t quite share Ms. Kirchwey’s passion for Zion).

And where is The Nation today? The Radoshes cite the contributions of Richard Falk, 9/11 conspiracy theorist and recently appointed United Nations “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967″, who writes articles alleging that Israeli “state terrorism” is worse than anything perpetrated by the Palestinians and that Israel’s “treatment of the Palestinians” is comparable to the “criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity. “No journal of opinion or media outlet campaigned more vigorously and vocally for Israel’s creation,” the Radoshes write of The Nation. That may be hard to believe today, But it wasn’t unusual for leftists, even for people on the far left, to be pro-Israel in the 1940’s. Indeed, the position of most right-thinking, progressive people was to support the creation of the Jewish state. After all, Zionism has always has been a “progressive” cause in the truest sense of the word. Democratic, pluralist welcoming of immigrants and the oppressed: Israel stood for all the things that leftists of the day considered to be part of their agenda, and that the contemporary left ostensibly considers part of its agenda. The article is masterful in showing how some liberals not only abandoned a liberal cause, but by doing so allied themselves with some of the most reactionary elements in the world.

What must Katrina vanden Heuvel and her crew think of this illustrious period in their institution’s history? I don’t know. But the magazine seems to have spent the past four decades atoning for the sin of supporting the nascent Jewish state.

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McCain’s Challenges

Barack Obama supposedly had several factors going for him in the general election, at least according to his supporters’ narrative. Obama had a huge monetary advantage, a huge polling advantage and a huge image advantage. But if you add up all the money (including the DNC/RNC funds), the money advantage isn’t so great (in part because the McCain camp is spending so much less at this stage). And if you look at recent national polling and remarkably dead-even electoral polling the race is close — the latter, really close. As for the media landscape, it is far more even-handed than anyone would have imagined at this stage in the race.

That is not to overlook McCain’s challenges — organizationally and in terms of message and oratory — or the political environment which is giving Democrats up and down the ticket a big boost. And yes, there will be a whole lot more Demcorats voting in November. But the McCain camp has found issues (e.g. energy, Iraq) with which to club Obama and Obama isn’t exactly bowling over the pundit gallery or former Hillary Clinton supporters with his brilliance.

In other words, the race is still Obama’s to lose, but there is some evidence that he might find a way to lose it.

Barack Obama supposedly had several factors going for him in the general election, at least according to his supporters’ narrative. Obama had a huge monetary advantage, a huge polling advantage and a huge image advantage. But if you add up all the money (including the DNC/RNC funds), the money advantage isn’t so great (in part because the McCain camp is spending so much less at this stage). And if you look at recent national polling and remarkably dead-even electoral polling the race is close — the latter, really close. As for the media landscape, it is far more even-handed than anyone would have imagined at this stage in the race.

That is not to overlook McCain’s challenges — organizationally and in terms of message and oratory — or the political environment which is giving Democrats up and down the ticket a big boost. And yes, there will be a whole lot more Demcorats voting in November. But the McCain camp has found issues (e.g. energy, Iraq) with which to club Obama and Obama isn’t exactly bowling over the pundit gallery or former Hillary Clinton supporters with his brilliance.

In other words, the race is still Obama’s to lose, but there is some evidence that he might find a way to lose it.

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“. . . According to Palestinian hospital officials.”

How many times have you read news stories in which information about a violent incident was sourced to anonymous Palestinian “medical officials” or “hospital workers”? Such sourcing is standard journalistic practice in reporting from the territories, and as I’ve noted before, it is one of the most dubious.

Here’s an amazing case in point: Mohammed Omer, a Gaza-based “journalist.” (Read his bio here, and his personal website, and decide for yourself what his actual profession is.) Anyway, Omer is a hero/celebrity in certain enlightened political quarters, and so he traveled to Europe for three weeks to receive a journalism award and bask in the adulation of the righteous.

Before returning to relentless victimization in Gaza, he had to pass from Jordan to Israel, which required a trip through customs. It is here that Omer appears to have gone crazy. He says that:

the policeman ordered him to strip naked. Omer said in a 10-page statement that after he refused repeatedly, the officer unholstered his weapon, “pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear.”

Omer said he was later allowed to get dressed again, but then was insulted and ridiculed by Israel agents, to the point of tears. He said he eventually vomited and fainted.

He claims that when he came to, an Israeli scratched his face deeply under his eyes, then someone gouged his head, clawed at his eyes and tore his skin. An Israeli pressed his neck to the floor with a boot, he charges, saying he suffered beating, scratching and assaults before Israelis summoned an ambulance that took him to a hospital in Jericho.

What did the hospital in Jericho say? Omer “had no signs of physical injury.” And the Israelis say they have no idea what Omer is talking about. Dutch diplomats — oh, the kindhearted Dutch — whisked him away to Gaza, where Omer now protests his abuse from a hospital, which has magically discovered — wait for it — that he has broken ribs. Keep this in mind the next time you hear journalists, the UN, and human-rights groups cite their “medical sources” to corroborate their reportage.

The great irony is that the honor bestowed upon Omer during his trip to Europe is the Martha Gellhorn Prize, which is awarded for journalists who expose “establishment propaganda.” I propose a new award: let’s call it the Mohammed Omer Prize, for journalists who are propagandists.

How many times have you read news stories in which information about a violent incident was sourced to anonymous Palestinian “medical officials” or “hospital workers”? Such sourcing is standard journalistic practice in reporting from the territories, and as I’ve noted before, it is one of the most dubious.

Here’s an amazing case in point: Mohammed Omer, a Gaza-based “journalist.” (Read his bio here, and his personal website, and decide for yourself what his actual profession is.) Anyway, Omer is a hero/celebrity in certain enlightened political quarters, and so he traveled to Europe for three weeks to receive a journalism award and bask in the adulation of the righteous.

Before returning to relentless victimization in Gaza, he had to pass from Jordan to Israel, which required a trip through customs. It is here that Omer appears to have gone crazy. He says that:

the policeman ordered him to strip naked. Omer said in a 10-page statement that after he refused repeatedly, the officer unholstered his weapon, “pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear.”

Omer said he was later allowed to get dressed again, but then was insulted and ridiculed by Israel agents, to the point of tears. He said he eventually vomited and fainted.

He claims that when he came to, an Israeli scratched his face deeply under his eyes, then someone gouged his head, clawed at his eyes and tore his skin. An Israeli pressed his neck to the floor with a boot, he charges, saying he suffered beating, scratching and assaults before Israelis summoned an ambulance that took him to a hospital in Jericho.

What did the hospital in Jericho say? Omer “had no signs of physical injury.” And the Israelis say they have no idea what Omer is talking about. Dutch diplomats — oh, the kindhearted Dutch — whisked him away to Gaza, where Omer now protests his abuse from a hospital, which has magically discovered — wait for it — that he has broken ribs. Keep this in mind the next time you hear journalists, the UN, and human-rights groups cite their “medical sources” to corroborate their reportage.

The great irony is that the honor bestowed upon Omer during his trip to Europe is the Martha Gellhorn Prize, which is awarded for journalists who expose “establishment propaganda.” I propose a new award: let’s call it the Mohammed Omer Prize, for journalists who are propagandists.

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