Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 29, 2008

Samantha Power Returns

According to reports, Samantha Power has made her triumphant – not to mention entirely predictable (h/t Ed Lasky) – return to the Obama fold. Indeed, almost nine months after she called then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a “monster” and had to resign her post as an Obama campaign foreign policy adviser, Power is now serving on Obama’s State Department transition team. This announcement will likely upset many in the blogosphere – including some of my Contentions colleagues – who previously exposed Power for her foolish statements and writings on Iran, Israel, and Iraq.

Back in March, I shared these concerns completely. But, since what’s done is done, perhaps it’s important to point to a silver lining in Samantha Power’s sudden reemergence: Power is an expert on genocide, and her writings on Rwanda – which drew from her personal travels in that country – powerfully critiqued the Clinton administration’s failure during the 1994 massacre of the Tutsis. In turn, as the international community has consistently failed to redress the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Power can serve as a key adviser in constructing a diplomatic strategy for providing relief.

Still, a major caveat is in order: much like any other foreign policy expert, Power will only be useful if she is put in charge of something that she knows – such as matters pertinent to genocide and humanitarian disasters – rather than something that she doesn’t know – namely, any other foreign affairs issue. Frankly, I’m not too optimistic that the Obama team will appoint Power so judiciously – the very appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State suggests that experience isn’t much of a premium to the incoming administration.

So, rather than assessing whether or not Power is a “friend of Israel” as some bloggers are already doing, we should be primarily focused on whether Power is qualified for whatever position she is given at Foggy Bottom. If she is given substantial authority within a limited purview, she can be extremely effective and play a deeply important role in the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts worldwide. But if she’s given any sort of position through which her flighty instant analyses might have an impact, she will be an embarrassment – both to herself and to us.

According to reports, Samantha Power has made her triumphant – not to mention entirely predictable (h/t Ed Lasky) – return to the Obama fold. Indeed, almost nine months after she called then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a “monster” and had to resign her post as an Obama campaign foreign policy adviser, Power is now serving on Obama’s State Department transition team. This announcement will likely upset many in the blogosphere – including some of my Contentions colleagues – who previously exposed Power for her foolish statements and writings on Iran, Israel, and Iraq.

Back in March, I shared these concerns completely. But, since what’s done is done, perhaps it’s important to point to a silver lining in Samantha Power’s sudden reemergence: Power is an expert on genocide, and her writings on Rwanda – which drew from her personal travels in that country – powerfully critiqued the Clinton administration’s failure during the 1994 massacre of the Tutsis. In turn, as the international community has consistently failed to redress the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Power can serve as a key adviser in constructing a diplomatic strategy for providing relief.

Still, a major caveat is in order: much like any other foreign policy expert, Power will only be useful if she is put in charge of something that she knows – such as matters pertinent to genocide and humanitarian disasters – rather than something that she doesn’t know – namely, any other foreign affairs issue. Frankly, I’m not too optimistic that the Obama team will appoint Power so judiciously – the very appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State suggests that experience isn’t much of a premium to the incoming administration.

So, rather than assessing whether or not Power is a “friend of Israel” as some bloggers are already doing, we should be primarily focused on whether Power is qualified for whatever position she is given at Foggy Bottom. If she is given substantial authority within a limited purview, she can be extremely effective and play a deeply important role in the U.S.’s humanitarian efforts worldwide. But if she’s given any sort of position through which her flighty instant analyses might have an impact, she will be an embarrassment – both to herself and to us.

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An “Untold Story”

Mere hours into the horrific attacks in Mumbai, CNN/Newsweek bloviator Fareed Zakaria inaugurated the typical “root causes” debate by “explaining” away the terrorists’ motivation:

One of the untold stories of India is that the Muslim population has not shared in the boom the country has enjoyed over the last ten years. There is still a lot of institutional discrimination, and many remain persecuted. There’s enough alienation out there that there are locals who can be drawn in to plots.

Of course, there’s a lot that stinks about Zakaria’s so-called “explanation.” As Abe noted, early reports indicate that some of the attackers were British citizens of Pakistani descent – i.e., not “persecuted” Indian Muslims. Moreover, a Chabad house was among the targets – i.e., an institution not frequented by “discriminating” Indian officials. In short, the empirics don’t point to “institutional discrimination” as a “root cause” of the Mumbai attacks.

Yet Zakaria’s instant analysis of the attacks is pernicious for a second reason: if “institutional discrimination” against Indian Muslims is truly an “untold story,” Zakaria deserves a good deal of the blame. After all, Zakaria is one of the most prominent foreign policy journalists in the world – he is the former editor of Foreign Affairs, the editor of Newsweek International, and host of CNN’s weekly Fareed Zakaria GPS. He is also, arguably, the most prominent Muslim of Indian descent in America, and his father was a prominent Indian Muslim politician.

So check out Zakaria’s archive: how many of his articles have addressed the plight of Indian Muslims? How often has he told the story of their apparent exclusion from India’s economic development? More specifically, where are Muslims’ ostracism mentioned in this Newsweek cover story that Zakaria wrote on India’s boom? At what point did Zakaria reference India’s Muslims during his CNN interviews with Condoleezza Rice, Pakistani politician Imran Khan, or fellow India-jet-setter Thomas Friedman, among others?

Indeed, if “institutional discrimination” against Indian Muslims is truly a “root cause” of the Mumbai attacks, we should ask Zakaria how he managed to neglect this “untold story” for so long. He is either a shamefully unobservant journalist or a blatant apologist for terrorists.

Mere hours into the horrific attacks in Mumbai, CNN/Newsweek bloviator Fareed Zakaria inaugurated the typical “root causes” debate by “explaining” away the terrorists’ motivation:

One of the untold stories of India is that the Muslim population has not shared in the boom the country has enjoyed over the last ten years. There is still a lot of institutional discrimination, and many remain persecuted. There’s enough alienation out there that there are locals who can be drawn in to plots.

Of course, there’s a lot that stinks about Zakaria’s so-called “explanation.” As Abe noted, early reports indicate that some of the attackers were British citizens of Pakistani descent – i.e., not “persecuted” Indian Muslims. Moreover, a Chabad house was among the targets – i.e., an institution not frequented by “discriminating” Indian officials. In short, the empirics don’t point to “institutional discrimination” as a “root cause” of the Mumbai attacks.

Yet Zakaria’s instant analysis of the attacks is pernicious for a second reason: if “institutional discrimination” against Indian Muslims is truly an “untold story,” Zakaria deserves a good deal of the blame. After all, Zakaria is one of the most prominent foreign policy journalists in the world – he is the former editor of Foreign Affairs, the editor of Newsweek International, and host of CNN’s weekly Fareed Zakaria GPS. He is also, arguably, the most prominent Muslim of Indian descent in America, and his father was a prominent Indian Muslim politician.

So check out Zakaria’s archive: how many of his articles have addressed the plight of Indian Muslims? How often has he told the story of their apparent exclusion from India’s economic development? More specifically, where are Muslims’ ostracism mentioned in this Newsweek cover story that Zakaria wrote on India’s boom? At what point did Zakaria reference India’s Muslims during his CNN interviews with Condoleezza Rice, Pakistani politician Imran Khan, or fellow India-jet-setter Thomas Friedman, among others?

Indeed, if “institutional discrimination” against Indian Muslims is truly a “root cause” of the Mumbai attacks, we should ask Zakaria how he managed to neglect this “untold story” for so long. He is either a shamefully unobservant journalist or a blatant apologist for terrorists.

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Let’s Break OPEC Now

In an interview published today, Saudi King Abdullah said that oil should be priced at $75 a barrel, more than $20 above the current price.  We generally care what he thinks because OPEC dominates the global oil market and Saudi Arabia dominates OPEC.

Now, however, it may not matter what King Abdullah believes.  The price of oil has slid from over $147 a barrel in mid July to about a third of that level now.  The decline occurred even though the cartel cut production in October at an emergency meeting.  Oil ministers conferred today in Cairo at a hastily arranged conclave, and this gathering will be followed by a regular meeting next month in Algeria.  “There is total confusion,” said  one New York-based oil analyst, referring to discussions among OPEC’s 13 members.

The organization’s members are a bit dazed because they know energy prices will continue to fall.  The global downturn is only in its initial stages, and recovery could be years away.  OPEC, fortunately, will be in disarray, especially because some of its members will not be able to make ends meet with oil at current prices.  The Associated Press estimates that ailing Iran and Venezuela, for instance, need oil at $90 a barrel to meet current spending requirements.  The IMF says Saudi Arabia needs $50 oil.

So OPEC’s weakness raises a question:  Why doesn’t the United States try to break the cartel now while it and other consuming nations are gaining bargaining power?  With the organization as fragile as it is now, a dozen little strategies-from conservation to development of alternative energy to legal action to outright geopolitical intimidation-might end the organization’s cohesion and result in its dissolution.

For too long we have accepted the fact of OPEC’s existence and accorded it legitimacy.  Yet why should we?  If other governments can act in their own interests, why can’t ours act in America’s?  Everyone tells us to eliminate our current account deficit.  So let’s start doing that by lowering our gigantic tab for oil.  It’s time to destroy OPEC.

In an interview published today, Saudi King Abdullah said that oil should be priced at $75 a barrel, more than $20 above the current price.  We generally care what he thinks because OPEC dominates the global oil market and Saudi Arabia dominates OPEC.

Now, however, it may not matter what King Abdullah believes.  The price of oil has slid from over $147 a barrel in mid July to about a third of that level now.  The decline occurred even though the cartel cut production in October at an emergency meeting.  Oil ministers conferred today in Cairo at a hastily arranged conclave, and this gathering will be followed by a regular meeting next month in Algeria.  “There is total confusion,” said  one New York-based oil analyst, referring to discussions among OPEC’s 13 members.

The organization’s members are a bit dazed because they know energy prices will continue to fall.  The global downturn is only in its initial stages, and recovery could be years away.  OPEC, fortunately, will be in disarray, especially because some of its members will not be able to make ends meet with oil at current prices.  The Associated Press estimates that ailing Iran and Venezuela, for instance, need oil at $90 a barrel to meet current spending requirements.  The IMF says Saudi Arabia needs $50 oil.

So OPEC’s weakness raises a question:  Why doesn’t the United States try to break the cartel now while it and other consuming nations are gaining bargaining power?  With the organization as fragile as it is now, a dozen little strategies-from conservation to development of alternative energy to legal action to outright geopolitical intimidation-might end the organization’s cohesion and result in its dissolution.

For too long we have accepted the fact of OPEC’s existence and accorded it legitimacy.  Yet why should we?  If other governments can act in their own interests, why can’t ours act in America’s?  Everyone tells us to eliminate our current account deficit.  So let’s start doing that by lowering our gigantic tab for oil.  It’s time to destroy OPEC.

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Terrorism Made Easy

To be effective, terrorism has to be shocking. For better or worse, bombing attacks, except when they occur in major Western metropolises, have lost much of their power to shock Western audiences. There have simply been too many of them in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan in recent years for another one to make much of an impact. The fiends behind the Mumbai attack no doubt realized this. They therefore staged a different kind of atrocity that has managed to rivet the entire world’s attention for the past several days. Mission accomplished.

What makes the Mumbai attacks particularly scary is that they are so easy to replicate. Bomb-making requires a certain amount of technical know-how. Much less knowledge is required to slaughter people at random using assault weapons. The guns are readily available through the legal marketplace; they do not even have to be fully automatic, although automatic weapons aren’t hard to procure either. Then all it takes is assembling a dozen or two fanatics willing to die for their misguided cause. Send them with weapons into a major hotel, train station, or other gathering spot, and watch havoc ensue.

After 9/11, many observers, including me, expected that we would see such attacks in American malls and other areas where security is negligible. That did not occur for reasons that remain unclear: speculation ranges from the effectiveness of U.S. counterterrorist efforts to the weakness of the Al Qaeda network in North America. But we need to be concerned that some jihadists watching what has just unfolded in Mumbai will be tempted to stage a copycat attacks. Our increasing complacency – many dare not even call the war on terror a war anymore – only increases the danger.

To be effective, terrorism has to be shocking. For better or worse, bombing attacks, except when they occur in major Western metropolises, have lost much of their power to shock Western audiences. There have simply been too many of them in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan in recent years for another one to make much of an impact. The fiends behind the Mumbai attack no doubt realized this. They therefore staged a different kind of atrocity that has managed to rivet the entire world’s attention for the past several days. Mission accomplished.

What makes the Mumbai attacks particularly scary is that they are so easy to replicate. Bomb-making requires a certain amount of technical know-how. Much less knowledge is required to slaughter people at random using assault weapons. The guns are readily available through the legal marketplace; they do not even have to be fully automatic, although automatic weapons aren’t hard to procure either. Then all it takes is assembling a dozen or two fanatics willing to die for their misguided cause. Send them with weapons into a major hotel, train station, or other gathering spot, and watch havoc ensue.

After 9/11, many observers, including me, expected that we would see such attacks in American malls and other areas where security is negligible. That did not occur for reasons that remain unclear: speculation ranges from the effectiveness of U.S. counterterrorist efforts to the weakness of the Al Qaeda network in North America. But we need to be concerned that some jihadists watching what has just unfolded in Mumbai will be tempted to stage a copycat attacks. Our increasing complacency – many dare not even call the war on terror a war anymore – only increases the danger.

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How Many Ethical Violations Does An Attorney General Get?

Recognizing that there is no getting around the egregious behavior of Eric Holder in the Marc Rich affair, Obama transition chief Tony Podesta offers the “one mistake rule” in defense of the unofficial nominee for Attorney General. Podesta concedes, unlike many other Democratic flacks, that Holder made “a mistake.” Nevertheless Podesta claims that “if we’re all held up to a one-mistake rule, I think probably no one would be serving in government.”

Hmm. Did we ever hear of this “rule” before? Not in any Republican confirmation hearing. And one wonder how severe a mistake it must be to be a disqualify one for a cabinet post. Does a breach of ethics count? Does fudging — that would be misleading — Congress about the extent of your inappropriate advice to a pardon applicant’s attorney count? Does currying favor with someone who might give you a job at the expense of fulfilling your own legal obligations? I suppose not — at least if you are a Democrat.

But of course the Marc Rich affair isn’t the only problem for Holder, which Podesta surely must know. There are, for starters, the other pardon scandals. Nevertheless Podesta, as a savvy political operative, knows that the Rich matter is the most problematic — easily understood, recollected by many voters and utterly indefensible. So if they can deflect criticism of that one with the “everyone gets a mistake” invention, they are that much closer to confirmation. (One imagines that they must be feeling some heat, perhaps unexpectedly so, to have already dreamed up this defense.)

Republicans should be clear. Not everyone deserves to be Attorney General. This is not just “serving in government.” This is the chief law enforcement officer in the country. Someone who committed multiple acts of dishonesty and unethical behavior (even if within the context of one pardon) simply should not be elevated to that high office. And if they want to get into the rest of Holder’s supposedly “stellar” record, where should we start – the FALN terrorist pardons or Elian Gonzales?

Recognizing that there is no getting around the egregious behavior of Eric Holder in the Marc Rich affair, Obama transition chief Tony Podesta offers the “one mistake rule” in defense of the unofficial nominee for Attorney General. Podesta concedes, unlike many other Democratic flacks, that Holder made “a mistake.” Nevertheless Podesta claims that “if we’re all held up to a one-mistake rule, I think probably no one would be serving in government.”

Hmm. Did we ever hear of this “rule” before? Not in any Republican confirmation hearing. And one wonder how severe a mistake it must be to be a disqualify one for a cabinet post. Does a breach of ethics count? Does fudging — that would be misleading — Congress about the extent of your inappropriate advice to a pardon applicant’s attorney count? Does currying favor with someone who might give you a job at the expense of fulfilling your own legal obligations? I suppose not — at least if you are a Democrat.

But of course the Marc Rich affair isn’t the only problem for Holder, which Podesta surely must know. There are, for starters, the other pardon scandals. Nevertheless Podesta, as a savvy political operative, knows that the Rich matter is the most problematic — easily understood, recollected by many voters and utterly indefensible. So if they can deflect criticism of that one with the “everyone gets a mistake” invention, they are that much closer to confirmation. (One imagines that they must be feeling some heat, perhaps unexpectedly so, to have already dreamed up this defense.)

Republicans should be clear. Not everyone deserves to be Attorney General. This is not just “serving in government.” This is the chief law enforcement officer in the country. Someone who committed multiple acts of dishonesty and unethical behavior (even if within the context of one pardon) simply should not be elevated to that high office. And if they want to get into the rest of Holder’s supposedly “stellar” record, where should we start – the FALN terrorist pardons or Elian Gonzales?

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Re: The Horror In India

Jen, the problem is that the proper post-9/11 stance has been labeled the “politics of fear,” and the U.S. has elected a President who’s promised to deliver the country from all that divisive scare-mongering. But the “politics of fear” accurately reflects a world of terrorism, and is in fact not “politics” at all – but just plain old fear. Like the fear that must have coursed through 150-plus innocent victims in Mumbai, or the fear that must have paralyzed European, Israeli and American relatives waiting to hear from traveling loved ones.

Legitimate fear has its place in this world. You recognize danger and eliminate its source. Yet Obama ran on the premise that fear is something birthed in Karl Rove’s laboratory, a canard designed to scare Americans away from Democrats. President Obama will govern in a climate that’s sure to prove him wrong. The cheapest, most dangerous partisan stunt of the whole election was Obama’s setting up “hope” as the curative to “fear.” If we all just let a little hope into our hearts, we wouldn’t have to fear so very much. Somehow, I don’t see the word “hope” appearing once in all the contingencies his advisors are now laying out for him. Operation Hope can help you win an election, but you better have a Plan B if you don’t want jihadists to seize a city in your own free democracy.

Jen, the problem is that the proper post-9/11 stance has been labeled the “politics of fear,” and the U.S. has elected a President who’s promised to deliver the country from all that divisive scare-mongering. But the “politics of fear” accurately reflects a world of terrorism, and is in fact not “politics” at all – but just plain old fear. Like the fear that must have coursed through 150-plus innocent victims in Mumbai, or the fear that must have paralyzed European, Israeli and American relatives waiting to hear from traveling loved ones.

Legitimate fear has its place in this world. You recognize danger and eliminate its source. Yet Obama ran on the premise that fear is something birthed in Karl Rove’s laboratory, a canard designed to scare Americans away from Democrats. President Obama will govern in a climate that’s sure to prove him wrong. The cheapest, most dangerous partisan stunt of the whole election was Obama’s setting up “hope” as the curative to “fear.” If we all just let a little hope into our hearts, we wouldn’t have to fear so very much. Somehow, I don’t see the word “hope” appearing once in all the contingencies his advisors are now laying out for him. Operation Hope can help you win an election, but you better have a Plan B if you don’t want jihadists to seize a city in your own free democracy.

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“There’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked.”

The horrific killings in India leave one at a loss for words. The murders of 29 year-old Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka along with three others at the Chabad House are reverberating in New York and among Jews everywhere. The story of their 2 year-old son’s rescue by their nanny/cook has yet to be fully told. It will no doubt be one of many heroic tales to come out of the monumental acts of evil that have  killed more than 150 innocent souls.

The most insightful remarks to date come not from any American leader, but from Israel. The New York Times reports:

In a news conference broadcast Friday on Israeli radio, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister said: “We know that the targets there that were sought out by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets as well as targets that are perceived as Western targets — American and British.”

She added: “We need to understand that there’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked. And it doesn’t matter if it’s happened in India or somewhere else. We have here radical Islamic elements who do not accept either our existence or the values of the Western world. And only when incidents of this sort occur is it suddenly understood from conversations with leaders from around the entire world that we are actually party to the same battle.”

That is the core of the issue. The lack of similar moral clarity from the U.S. is troubling and deeply disappointing. One hopes that Livni’s words will not go unnoticed, and will jar both our current President and our President-elect into specific and meaningful statements evidencing a grasp of the event’s significance.

The horrific killings in India leave one at a loss for words. The murders of 29 year-old Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka along with three others at the Chabad House are reverberating in New York and among Jews everywhere. The story of their 2 year-old son’s rescue by their nanny/cook has yet to be fully told. It will no doubt be one of many heroic tales to come out of the monumental acts of evil that have  killed more than 150 innocent souls.

The most insightful remarks to date come not from any American leader, but from Israel. The New York Times reports:

In a news conference broadcast Friday on Israeli radio, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister said: “We know that the targets there that were sought out by the terrorists were Jewish and Israeli targets as well as targets that are perceived as Western targets — American and British.”

She added: “We need to understand that there’s a world here, our world, that has been attacked. And it doesn’t matter if it’s happened in India or somewhere else. We have here radical Islamic elements who do not accept either our existence or the values of the Western world. And only when incidents of this sort occur is it suddenly understood from conversations with leaders from around the entire world that we are actually party to the same battle.”

That is the core of the issue. The lack of similar moral clarity from the U.S. is troubling and deeply disappointing. One hopes that Livni’s words will not go unnoticed, and will jar both our current President and our President-elect into specific and meaningful statements evidencing a grasp of the event’s significance.

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Oh, Grow Up!

Once again, a horrific atrocity has been committed by a group of committed, determined Muslims willing and eager to die in the name of their faith. And, as usual, the Islamic groups have pulled out their standard boilerplate responses:

Disclaimer #1: “These people do not represent True Islam.”

Disclaimer #2: “You must not blame all Muslims for the deeds of these misguided few (who we embraced as brothers right up until they started killing).”

Disclaimer #3: “What they did was terrible, but they were provoked by the oppression and attacks on Muslims around the world, mostly by Israel and the West.”

Disclaimer #4: “We fear a terrible backlash from non-Muslims, and demand that you protect us from those who would threaten us or say mean things or do things to insult us.”

It looks like we’re somewhere between #2 and #3, but we can be quite certain that within a week or two they’ll get around to the fourth point.

It would make a fascinating study to compare two numbers: the number of people killed every year by Muslims for the offense of not being Muslim, and the number of Muslims killed every year by non-Muslims for the offense of being Muslim.

And, maybe, a third number: the number of Muslims killed every year by other Muslims for the offense of not being good enough Muslims, or the wrong type of Muslim.

My completely uneducated guess would be that the first number would be far, far greater than the second — and the third would dwarf the first two combined.

Other religions have had their aggressive, expansionist, conquering phase, but they grew out of it. Islam is still in its aggressive, conquering phase. It’s been often noted that “Islam has bloody borders.” One can only hope that it, too, will grow and mature past it.

And soon — or that backlash that they whine about just might happen some day.

Once again, a horrific atrocity has been committed by a group of committed, determined Muslims willing and eager to die in the name of their faith. And, as usual, the Islamic groups have pulled out their standard boilerplate responses:

Disclaimer #1: “These people do not represent True Islam.”

Disclaimer #2: “You must not blame all Muslims for the deeds of these misguided few (who we embraced as brothers right up until they started killing).”

Disclaimer #3: “What they did was terrible, but they were provoked by the oppression and attacks on Muslims around the world, mostly by Israel and the West.”

Disclaimer #4: “We fear a terrible backlash from non-Muslims, and demand that you protect us from those who would threaten us or say mean things or do things to insult us.”

It looks like we’re somewhere between #2 and #3, but we can be quite certain that within a week or two they’ll get around to the fourth point.

It would make a fascinating study to compare two numbers: the number of people killed every year by Muslims for the offense of not being Muslim, and the number of Muslims killed every year by non-Muslims for the offense of being Muslim.

And, maybe, a third number: the number of Muslims killed every year by other Muslims for the offense of not being good enough Muslims, or the wrong type of Muslim.

My completely uneducated guess would be that the first number would be far, far greater than the second — and the third would dwarf the first two combined.

Other religions have had their aggressive, expansionist, conquering phase, but they grew out of it. Islam is still in its aggressive, conquering phase. It’s been often noted that “Islam has bloody borders.” One can only hope that it, too, will grow and mature past it.

And soon — or that backlash that they whine about just might happen some day.

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The Risk Of Repeating The Past

Republicans have been mute or inconsistent, meandering about really, in voicing concern about the jumbo stimulus plan and other agenda items from the soon-to-be Obama administration. Amity Shlaes, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, an informed and persistent voice inveighing against New Deal policies can show them the way out of their political and intellectual slump.

Today she takes on Paul Krugman and President-elect Obama. Both are intoxicated with New Deal policies and both, according to Shlaes, ignore the historical failure of mega-spending to bring us out of a depression:

The New Deal is Mr. Obama’s context for the giant infrastructure plan his new team is developing. If he proposes FDR-style recovery programs, then it is useful to establish whether those original programs actually brought recovery. The answer is, they didn’t. New Deal spending provided jobs but did not get the country back to where it was before.

She takes us through the statistics compiled at the time by a young economist, Stanley Lebergott:

The result is what we today call the Lebergott/Bureau of Labor Statistics series. They show one man in four was unemployed when Roosevelt took office. They show joblessness overall always above the 14% line from 1931 to 1940. Six years into the New Deal and its programs to create jobs or help organized labor, two in 10 men were unemployed. Mr. Lebergott went on to become one of America’s premier economic historians at Wesleyan University. His data are what I cite. So do others, including our president-elect in the “60 Minutes” interview.

Later, Lee Ohanian of UCLA studied New Deal unemployment by the number of hours worked. His picture was similar to Mr. Lebergott’s. Even late in 1939, total hours worked by the adult population was down by a fifth from the 1929 level. To be sure, Michael Darby of UCLA has argued that make-work jobs should be counted. Even so, his chart shows that from 1931 to 1940, New Deal joblessness ranges as high as 16% (1934) but never gets below 9%. Nine percent or above is hardly a jobless target to which the Obama administration would aspire.

Why do we care about all this?

Because lawmakers are considering new labor legislation containing “card check,” which would strengthen organized labor and so its wage demands. Because employees continue to pressure firms to spend on health care, without considering they may be making the company unable to hire an unemployed friend. Piling on public-sector jobs or raising wages may take away jobs in the private sector, directly or indirectly.

What the new administration decides about marginal tax rates also matters. Mr. Obama said in a Thanksgiving talk that he wanted to “create or save 2.5 million new jobs.” People who talk about saving new jobs are usually talking about the private-sector’s capacity to generate jobs in the future — not about the public sector alone. We know that the new administration is going to spend. But how? It can try to figure out a way to do that without hurting the private sector. Or it can just spend, Krugman-wise, and risk repeating the very depression we seek to avoid.

This seems the model for the conservatie’s opposition to Obama’s economic approach. Review the facts, address the myth of the New Deal, draw conclusions about the ineffectiveness of that approach and oppose policies that have proven faulty in the past. It is not too complicated or so esoteric for public consumption. And it is consistent with Conservative principles — the private sector is the source of wealth, government spending at a massive level is ineffective and ultimately harmful, low taxes and free trade are key to maintaining our economic health, and measures that burden business (e.g. health care mandates, card check) will retard job creation.

Rather than dwell on the identities of Obama’s appointees, Republicans should use the confirmation hearings of those subject to the Senate’s approval to begin the long and difficult process of educating the American people. Republicans will need to win back their political reputations on the strength of their ideas. They are fortunate to have the facts on their side. But there’s little time to waste.

Republicans have been mute or inconsistent, meandering about really, in voicing concern about the jumbo stimulus plan and other agenda items from the soon-to-be Obama administration. Amity Shlaes, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, an informed and persistent voice inveighing against New Deal policies can show them the way out of their political and intellectual slump.

Today she takes on Paul Krugman and President-elect Obama. Both are intoxicated with New Deal policies and both, according to Shlaes, ignore the historical failure of mega-spending to bring us out of a depression:

The New Deal is Mr. Obama’s context for the giant infrastructure plan his new team is developing. If he proposes FDR-style recovery programs, then it is useful to establish whether those original programs actually brought recovery. The answer is, they didn’t. New Deal spending provided jobs but did not get the country back to where it was before.

She takes us through the statistics compiled at the time by a young economist, Stanley Lebergott:

The result is what we today call the Lebergott/Bureau of Labor Statistics series. They show one man in four was unemployed when Roosevelt took office. They show joblessness overall always above the 14% line from 1931 to 1940. Six years into the New Deal and its programs to create jobs or help organized labor, two in 10 men were unemployed. Mr. Lebergott went on to become one of America’s premier economic historians at Wesleyan University. His data are what I cite. So do others, including our president-elect in the “60 Minutes” interview.

Later, Lee Ohanian of UCLA studied New Deal unemployment by the number of hours worked. His picture was similar to Mr. Lebergott’s. Even late in 1939, total hours worked by the adult population was down by a fifth from the 1929 level. To be sure, Michael Darby of UCLA has argued that make-work jobs should be counted. Even so, his chart shows that from 1931 to 1940, New Deal joblessness ranges as high as 16% (1934) but never gets below 9%. Nine percent or above is hardly a jobless target to which the Obama administration would aspire.

Why do we care about all this?

Because lawmakers are considering new labor legislation containing “card check,” which would strengthen organized labor and so its wage demands. Because employees continue to pressure firms to spend on health care, without considering they may be making the company unable to hire an unemployed friend. Piling on public-sector jobs or raising wages may take away jobs in the private sector, directly or indirectly.

What the new administration decides about marginal tax rates also matters. Mr. Obama said in a Thanksgiving talk that he wanted to “create or save 2.5 million new jobs.” People who talk about saving new jobs are usually talking about the private-sector’s capacity to generate jobs in the future — not about the public sector alone. We know that the new administration is going to spend. But how? It can try to figure out a way to do that without hurting the private sector. Or it can just spend, Krugman-wise, and risk repeating the very depression we seek to avoid.

This seems the model for the conservatie’s opposition to Obama’s economic approach. Review the facts, address the myth of the New Deal, draw conclusions about the ineffectiveness of that approach and oppose policies that have proven faulty in the past. It is not too complicated or so esoteric for public consumption. And it is consistent with Conservative principles — the private sector is the source of wealth, government spending at a massive level is ineffective and ultimately harmful, low taxes and free trade are key to maintaining our economic health, and measures that burden business (e.g. health care mandates, card check) will retard job creation.

Rather than dwell on the identities of Obama’s appointees, Republicans should use the confirmation hearings of those subject to the Senate’s approval to begin the long and difficult process of educating the American people. Republicans will need to win back their political reputations on the strength of their ideas. They are fortunate to have the facts on their side. But there’s little time to waste.

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The Laws Of The World

There are many types of laws that govern us. There are the laws of the universe: the laws that cover things like physics and chemistry and mathematics. There are the laws of Man, which we make and unmake as we see fit, to govern us. And there are the laws of the world, which are often capricious, brutal, and divorced from anything we would consider justice.

For the laws of the world there is no appeal process, and often the smallest offense is a capital crime. For example, foolish risk-taking. No, it is not just when a child plays on a trampoline and dies in a fall. It is not fair. But it is simply the way of the world.

Other laws of the world are influenced by man, and are also just as capricious. Witness the recent atrocities committed in Mumbai, India.

The terrorists — in a large-scale, carefully-planned, very deliberate, and monstrous plot — focused their attacks on three aspects of the city. First, the financial district, to cause the most disruption to the city’s economic infrastructure — and its role as a global player in the financial markets. Second, the big luxury hotels, where wealthy and prominent foreigners — especially Westerners — could be found to draw the world’s attention on the attacks. Finally, the Jewish center, because that was where they could find Jews.

The Chabad in Mumbai was no great player on the world stage. It represented no concentration of wealth or power or prominence. It was simply a place where Jews in Mumbai (either temporarily or for extended stays) could find a little piece of home, of kinship, a way to reassert their bond with their fellows.

And for that, they were attacked and killed. The mighty, noble warriors killed the 29-year-old rabbi, his 28-year-old wife, and at least one of their children.

Their crime: they broke a long-standing law of the world — being Jewish.
For as long as there have been Jews, there has been an unwritten law: being Jewish is enough to get you killed. This has risen and fallen in severit through the centuries, but it has never completely faded away.

The terrorists in Mumbai targeted the hotels because that was where they knew they could find Westerners, especially Americans and British, and get the world’s attention. They attacked a railway station and a cinema to cause the most casualties. They attacked a police station to foil attempts by authorities to stop them. They attacked a hospital to wreak the most terror and chaos.

And they attacked the Chabad to kill Jews.

Amid the general targets was this one very specific one. One specific place where they could be most certain of finding Jews to kill.

Because, to them, someone simply being Jewish is enough to merit killing.

There’s an old observation that Jews are like canaries in a coal mine. Observe how they are treated, how they live, and you will see the future of the culture in which they are living. When they are thriving, the culture will thrive. And when things start getting bad for the Jews, it’s almost always a harbinger that things will start getting bad for a lot of other people very soon.

There are forces that want to make India inhospitable for Jews, as part of their overall desire to institute a Muslim theocracy. The Indians have so far shown that they will not submit quietly.

We need to do all we can to support India, the world’s largest democracy and a major player in the global economy. But not just because some Jews got killed — but because those that killed those Jews will not stop with the Jews.

That, too, is another law of the world.

There are many types of laws that govern us. There are the laws of the universe: the laws that cover things like physics and chemistry and mathematics. There are the laws of Man, which we make and unmake as we see fit, to govern us. And there are the laws of the world, which are often capricious, brutal, and divorced from anything we would consider justice.

For the laws of the world there is no appeal process, and often the smallest offense is a capital crime. For example, foolish risk-taking. No, it is not just when a child plays on a trampoline and dies in a fall. It is not fair. But it is simply the way of the world.

Other laws of the world are influenced by man, and are also just as capricious. Witness the recent atrocities committed in Mumbai, India.

The terrorists — in a large-scale, carefully-planned, very deliberate, and monstrous plot — focused their attacks on three aspects of the city. First, the financial district, to cause the most disruption to the city’s economic infrastructure — and its role as a global player in the financial markets. Second, the big luxury hotels, where wealthy and prominent foreigners — especially Westerners — could be found to draw the world’s attention on the attacks. Finally, the Jewish center, because that was where they could find Jews.

The Chabad in Mumbai was no great player on the world stage. It represented no concentration of wealth or power or prominence. It was simply a place where Jews in Mumbai (either temporarily or for extended stays) could find a little piece of home, of kinship, a way to reassert their bond with their fellows.

And for that, they were attacked and killed. The mighty, noble warriors killed the 29-year-old rabbi, his 28-year-old wife, and at least one of their children.

Their crime: they broke a long-standing law of the world — being Jewish.
For as long as there have been Jews, there has been an unwritten law: being Jewish is enough to get you killed. This has risen and fallen in severit through the centuries, but it has never completely faded away.

The terrorists in Mumbai targeted the hotels because that was where they knew they could find Westerners, especially Americans and British, and get the world’s attention. They attacked a railway station and a cinema to cause the most casualties. They attacked a police station to foil attempts by authorities to stop them. They attacked a hospital to wreak the most terror and chaos.

And they attacked the Chabad to kill Jews.

Amid the general targets was this one very specific one. One specific place where they could be most certain of finding Jews to kill.

Because, to them, someone simply being Jewish is enough to merit killing.

There’s an old observation that Jews are like canaries in a coal mine. Observe how they are treated, how they live, and you will see the future of the culture in which they are living. When they are thriving, the culture will thrive. And when things start getting bad for the Jews, it’s almost always a harbinger that things will start getting bad for a lot of other people very soon.

There are forces that want to make India inhospitable for Jews, as part of their overall desire to institute a Muslim theocracy. The Indians have so far shown that they will not submit quietly.

We need to do all we can to support India, the world’s largest democracy and a major player in the global economy. But not just because some Jews got killed — but because those that killed those Jews will not stop with the Jews.

That, too, is another law of the world.

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Another Election

Tuesday is a rather important election: the runoff in Georgia between incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss and challenger Jim Martin. Polls show Chambliss with a small lead. The race has taken on added significance in the wake of Ted Stevens’s loss and the sure-to-come legal battles in Minnesota’s Coleman-Franken race. A Chambliss loss coupled with a Franken victory would give the Democrats their precious 60th filibuster-proof majority. (Truth be told, on many votes they will have their 60 with some Republican defectors, but the numerical milestone will be hugely significant.) But aside from the potential 60th vote, does the race hold any greater meaning?

Each side will certainly claim it does, provided its guy wins. For the Democrats, they assuredly would tell us that a Martin win would be proof “certain” (as if there is such a thing) that even in the South, Republicans are in disrepute. A Chambliss loss, they will tell us, shows that the November election was not only a personal one for President-elect Obama but a realignment for the parties.

Conversely, the Republicans will say that a Chambliss win shows that not much has changed. Without an historic election with the first African American party nominee and a horrendously unpopular incumbent Republican President, we may find that turnout, party identification and election results look pretty much as they did in the pre-Bush era. Individual Republicans who helped Chambliss’s campaign (Palin and to a lesser extent Romney) will claim a measure of credit.

Sure it is just one race, one somewhat lost in the shuffle of the holiday, the Presidential transition and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. (Turnout is certain to be much lighter than in the November race.) And yet it does loom large, more so for the Republicans than the Democrats. The Republicans need a boost and some confirmation that they haven’t lost their appeal everywhere. There is a point at which demoralization becomes despondency and embarrassment becomes humiliation. Republicans just can’t afford another loss.

So you can expect the MSM to crow wildly if Martin wins — and relegate the news to the back pages if Chambliss pulls it out. Regardless of the MSM spin, Republican voters and party insiders will be watching carefully — and hoping that this is the first step out of the ditch for the Republicans.

Tuesday is a rather important election: the runoff in Georgia between incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss and challenger Jim Martin. Polls show Chambliss with a small lead. The race has taken on added significance in the wake of Ted Stevens’s loss and the sure-to-come legal battles in Minnesota’s Coleman-Franken race. A Chambliss loss coupled with a Franken victory would give the Democrats their precious 60th filibuster-proof majority. (Truth be told, on many votes they will have their 60 with some Republican defectors, but the numerical milestone will be hugely significant.) But aside from the potential 60th vote, does the race hold any greater meaning?

Each side will certainly claim it does, provided its guy wins. For the Democrats, they assuredly would tell us that a Martin win would be proof “certain” (as if there is such a thing) that even in the South, Republicans are in disrepute. A Chambliss loss, they will tell us, shows that the November election was not only a personal one for President-elect Obama but a realignment for the parties.

Conversely, the Republicans will say that a Chambliss win shows that not much has changed. Without an historic election with the first African American party nominee and a horrendously unpopular incumbent Republican President, we may find that turnout, party identification and election results look pretty much as they did in the pre-Bush era. Individual Republicans who helped Chambliss’s campaign (Palin and to a lesser extent Romney) will claim a measure of credit.

Sure it is just one race, one somewhat lost in the shuffle of the holiday, the Presidential transition and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. (Turnout is certain to be much lighter than in the November race.) And yet it does loom large, more so for the Republicans than the Democrats. The Republicans need a boost and some confirmation that they haven’t lost their appeal everywhere. There is a point at which demoralization becomes despondency and embarrassment becomes humiliation. Republicans just can’t afford another loss.

So you can expect the MSM to crow wildly if Martin wins — and relegate the news to the back pages if Chambliss pulls it out. Regardless of the MSM spin, Republican voters and party insiders will be watching carefully — and hoping that this is the first step out of the ditch for the Republicans.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Two Brookings Fellows make a convincing case that it’s too late for bankruptcy for the Big Three Auto companies. Sell of the assets, they say. Indeed, if you are making something no one wants to buy no amount of reorganization will help.

Fresh from decrying Michelle Obama’s “mom-in-chief” declaration, Ruth Marcus now goes after the President-elect for expressing distaste for a “girly dog.” Enough already. If this is what liberal feminism has brought us to — vilifying moms and whining about men’s preference for more masculine pets? It’s a good thing there are no real issues out there to worry about.

Peter Beinart is convinced (based on no proffered evidence) that President-elect Obama is hiring hawks in order to proceed with his Left-wing national security agenda. Hiring people disposed to do the opposite of what you secretly want them to do (if that is really what Obama is up to) is a recipe for disappointment. I think “personnel is policy” remains a reliable political adage.

The New York Times describes the RNC’s constant criticism of the Obama picks as “feisty.” Perhaps, but daily sniping at each and every one of the Obama appointments seems designed to annoy all but the most partisan Republicans and only highlights the Republicans’ irrelevance. Why not mount a substantive response to stimulus-mania? A debate on the merits (with some policy alternatives) might convince Americans that the GOP isn’t really brain-dead after all.

In observations on Mumbai, Marty Peretz includes this salient point: ” I know that General Scowcroft, Zbig Brzezinski and James Baker (who, wise man that he is, armed Saddam Hussein) believe that Palestine is at the core of the world’s troubles. But even if Palestine could somehow be invented and made whole, become prosperous and take revenge on the Jews, nothing in the world would be pacified. Not even Palestine.” (Read the whole thing as they say.) Let’s hope that someone of importance in the Obama administration, underneath all the feel-good language about pursuing a Middle East “deal,” grasps this.

Steven Calabresi wisely advises the President-elect to come out more forcefully and more specifically on the Mumbai killings. The world is watching and taking the measure of the next U.S. President.

On the slayings at the Chabad House in Mumbai, Phyllis Chesler writes: “But really, did anyone doubt for a moment that, in addition to Americans, Europeans, and wealthy Indians (both Hindu and Muslim), that these barbarians would kill all the known and unarmed Jews they could find? ” And commenting on the West’s refusal to acknowledge that this is indeed a religious war by Islamic fundamentalists against the West, she relates from an American living in India: “It’s a metastatic cancer that needs surgery and chemo, but the world still thinks some meditation and deep breathing will make it go away.”

Norm Coleman now seems more likely than not to win the recount in the Minnesota Senate race. As for the inevitable litigation, it’s anyone’s guess.

In this excessively premature poll on GOP 2012 prospects, we learn that voters have already had enough of Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal already has significant name recognition.

Two Brookings Fellows make a convincing case that it’s too late for bankruptcy for the Big Three Auto companies. Sell of the assets, they say. Indeed, if you are making something no one wants to buy no amount of reorganization will help.

Fresh from decrying Michelle Obama’s “mom-in-chief” declaration, Ruth Marcus now goes after the President-elect for expressing distaste for a “girly dog.” Enough already. If this is what liberal feminism has brought us to — vilifying moms and whining about men’s preference for more masculine pets? It’s a good thing there are no real issues out there to worry about.

Peter Beinart is convinced (based on no proffered evidence) that President-elect Obama is hiring hawks in order to proceed with his Left-wing national security agenda. Hiring people disposed to do the opposite of what you secretly want them to do (if that is really what Obama is up to) is a recipe for disappointment. I think “personnel is policy” remains a reliable political adage.

The New York Times describes the RNC’s constant criticism of the Obama picks as “feisty.” Perhaps, but daily sniping at each and every one of the Obama appointments seems designed to annoy all but the most partisan Republicans and only highlights the Republicans’ irrelevance. Why not mount a substantive response to stimulus-mania? A debate on the merits (with some policy alternatives) might convince Americans that the GOP isn’t really brain-dead after all.

In observations on Mumbai, Marty Peretz includes this salient point: ” I know that General Scowcroft, Zbig Brzezinski and James Baker (who, wise man that he is, armed Saddam Hussein) believe that Palestine is at the core of the world’s troubles. But even if Palestine could somehow be invented and made whole, become prosperous and take revenge on the Jews, nothing in the world would be pacified. Not even Palestine.” (Read the whole thing as they say.) Let’s hope that someone of importance in the Obama administration, underneath all the feel-good language about pursuing a Middle East “deal,” grasps this.

Steven Calabresi wisely advises the President-elect to come out more forcefully and more specifically on the Mumbai killings. The world is watching and taking the measure of the next U.S. President.

On the slayings at the Chabad House in Mumbai, Phyllis Chesler writes: “But really, did anyone doubt for a moment that, in addition to Americans, Europeans, and wealthy Indians (both Hindu and Muslim), that these barbarians would kill all the known and unarmed Jews they could find? ” And commenting on the West’s refusal to acknowledge that this is indeed a religious war by Islamic fundamentalists against the West, she relates from an American living in India: “It’s a metastatic cancer that needs surgery and chemo, but the world still thinks some meditation and deep breathing will make it go away.”

Norm Coleman now seems more likely than not to win the recount in the Minnesota Senate race. As for the inevitable litigation, it’s anyone’s guess.

In this excessively premature poll on GOP 2012 prospects, we learn that voters have already had enough of Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal already has significant name recognition.

Read Less




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