Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 24, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Barry Meislin, on Rick Richman:

This explains, precisely, the central, in-built flaw of Oslo (which I, at the time, despite misgivings, felt had to be attempted and supported) and the reason why there can be no negotiated peace:

1. Israel cannot (at least in theory) give the Palestinians what the Palestinians want (viz., the destruction of Israel);
and
2. The Palestinians cannot give the Israelis what the Israelis want (viz., the acceptance of the Israeli state and a pledge not to destroy Israel).

(This is also the reason why there can be no negotiated peace with Syria.)

Oh, and by the way, the Palestinians believe that time is on their side; and since they have been, and continue to be, heavily subsidized for waging their attempt to diminish and ultimately erase Israel, who’s to say that they’re wrong?

Barry Meislin, on Rick Richman:

This explains, precisely, the central, in-built flaw of Oslo (which I, at the time, despite misgivings, felt had to be attempted and supported) and the reason why there can be no negotiated peace:

1. Israel cannot (at least in theory) give the Palestinians what the Palestinians want (viz., the destruction of Israel);
and
2. The Palestinians cannot give the Israelis what the Israelis want (viz., the acceptance of the Israeli state and a pledge not to destroy Israel).

(This is also the reason why there can be no negotiated peace with Syria.)

Oh, and by the way, the Palestinians believe that time is on their side; and since they have been, and continue to be, heavily subsidized for waging their attempt to diminish and ultimately erase Israel, who’s to say that they’re wrong?

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Re: A Governor or A Mouse?

Over the past week, there has been an air of inevitability regarding Caroline Kennedy’s nervy bid to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.  After all, Kennedy drew immediate support from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; toured upstate New York with the mayors of Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse by her side; had her requisite, catered sit-down with self-appointed New York kingmaker Al Sharpton; and was starting to draw support from local Democratic leaders thirsting for campaign funds.

Yet New York’s Democratic establishment is starting to wonder whether Kennedy could possibly live up to the hype.  Naturally, Kennedy’s nepotistic line cutting has outraged non-Camelot contenders for the open Senate seat – including those whose claims to the seat are only slightly less nepotistic (see Cuomo, Andrew).  But even Democrats who seem wholly uninterested in the appointment are starting to question Kennedy’s ultimate contribution to the party.  In particular, Kennedy’s waffling over whether she would support a Democratic mayoral candidate against Bloomberg in the 2009 election has miffed statewide leaders.

Still, so long as this Democratic anti-Kennedy backlash remains at its present murmur, Governor David Paterson possesses a golden opportunity for demonstrating his supposedly unpredictable, independent leadership.  However, he must do two things: appoint someone other than Caroline Kennedy, and announce that person immediately.  Indeed, insofar as Paterson has tried to keep away from “lobbying, coercion, and distracting information,” appointing Kennedy would demonstrate weakness and – considering Kennedy’s vague political positions and non-existent experience – miserable judgment.  Meanwhile, if Paterson waits too long, mounting resistance from within the Democratic establishment will make his ultimate decision – even if it’s not Kennedy – also look like the product of political pressure.

At the moment, there is reason for optimism: according to reports, Paterson is losing his patience with Kennedy’s posturing.  But if Paterson truly hopes to emerge from this episode politically strengthened, he will have to do something about it now.

Over the past week, there has been an air of inevitability regarding Caroline Kennedy’s nervy bid to replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate.  After all, Kennedy drew immediate support from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg; toured upstate New York with the mayors of Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse by her side; had her requisite, catered sit-down with self-appointed New York kingmaker Al Sharpton; and was starting to draw support from local Democratic leaders thirsting for campaign funds.

Yet New York’s Democratic establishment is starting to wonder whether Kennedy could possibly live up to the hype.  Naturally, Kennedy’s nepotistic line cutting has outraged non-Camelot contenders for the open Senate seat – including those whose claims to the seat are only slightly less nepotistic (see Cuomo, Andrew).  But even Democrats who seem wholly uninterested in the appointment are starting to question Kennedy’s ultimate contribution to the party.  In particular, Kennedy’s waffling over whether she would support a Democratic mayoral candidate against Bloomberg in the 2009 election has miffed statewide leaders.

Still, so long as this Democratic anti-Kennedy backlash remains at its present murmur, Governor David Paterson possesses a golden opportunity for demonstrating his supposedly unpredictable, independent leadership.  However, he must do two things: appoint someone other than Caroline Kennedy, and announce that person immediately.  Indeed, insofar as Paterson has tried to keep away from “lobbying, coercion, and distracting information,” appointing Kennedy would demonstrate weakness and – considering Kennedy’s vague political positions and non-existent experience – miserable judgment.  Meanwhile, if Paterson waits too long, mounting resistance from within the Democratic establishment will make his ultimate decision – even if it’s not Kennedy – also look like the product of political pressure.

At the moment, there is reason for optimism: according to reports, Paterson is losing his patience with Kennedy’s posturing.  But if Paterson truly hopes to emerge from this episode politically strengthened, he will have to do something about it now.

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Can’t Stand Pat

Pat Buchanan can always be counted on to be tough on crime and criminals. Unless, of course, those “criminals” are either accused Nazis or his old cronies.

And it is that second exception that prompted Pat to dedicate his latest column to trashing Mark Felt on the occasion of his passing. Felt was a top FBI official at the time of Watergate, and revealed himself as “Deep Throat,”the primary source for Woodward and Bernstein’s stories. He kept his identity silent for 30 years, only stepping forward toward the end of his life. And now he has passed on.

Felt had multiple reasons betraying confidences. In one of Tom Clancy’s novels, the author summed up the motivations of such people with the acronym “MICE”: Money, Ideology, Conscience, and Ego. Felt claimed that it was conscience that motivated him, but many believe  that Felt’s Ego was involved because Nixon had passed him over for the FBI directorship.

Regardless of why Felt did what he did, Buchanan does a poor job in denigrating Felt’s deeds. As Buchanan sees it, Felt should have tried to work within the system to expose the petty misdeeds of the Watergate conspirators.

To achieve this remarkable position, Buchanan has to take certain liberties with reality. For example, he downplays the actual “original sins” of Watergate, up to and including the actual break-in and attempted phone tapping that gave the whole corrosive episode its name. Buchanan needs to sidestep the inconvenient reality of the situation: Felt was out of favor with the administration, and directly in his chain of command — the people Buchanan thinks he should have reported to — were FBI Director L. Patrick Gray and Attorney General John Mitchell. Gray was an outsider, a Nixon crony brought in from the Justice Department to head up the FBI, who recused himself from the investigation when the ties to the White House became apparent. And Mitchell was involved in the cover-up all the way to his eyeballs.

No, Felt was no saint. But Pat Buchanan needs to just go away.

Pat Buchanan can always be counted on to be tough on crime and criminals. Unless, of course, those “criminals” are either accused Nazis or his old cronies.

And it is that second exception that prompted Pat to dedicate his latest column to trashing Mark Felt on the occasion of his passing. Felt was a top FBI official at the time of Watergate, and revealed himself as “Deep Throat,”the primary source for Woodward and Bernstein’s stories. He kept his identity silent for 30 years, only stepping forward toward the end of his life. And now he has passed on.

Felt had multiple reasons betraying confidences. In one of Tom Clancy’s novels, the author summed up the motivations of such people with the acronym “MICE”: Money, Ideology, Conscience, and Ego. Felt claimed that it was conscience that motivated him, but many believe  that Felt’s Ego was involved because Nixon had passed him over for the FBI directorship.

Regardless of why Felt did what he did, Buchanan does a poor job in denigrating Felt’s deeds. As Buchanan sees it, Felt should have tried to work within the system to expose the petty misdeeds of the Watergate conspirators.

To achieve this remarkable position, Buchanan has to take certain liberties with reality. For example, he downplays the actual “original sins” of Watergate, up to and including the actual break-in and attempted phone tapping that gave the whole corrosive episode its name. Buchanan needs to sidestep the inconvenient reality of the situation: Felt was out of favor with the administration, and directly in his chain of command — the people Buchanan thinks he should have reported to — were FBI Director L. Patrick Gray and Attorney General John Mitchell. Gray was an outsider, a Nixon crony brought in from the Justice Department to head up the FBI, who recused himself from the investigation when the ties to the White House became apparent. And Mitchell was involved in the cover-up all the way to his eyeballs.

No, Felt was no saint. But Pat Buchanan needs to just go away.

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Not Exactly the Crime of the Century

Today, the U.S. embassy in Moscow denied Russian charges, made yesterday, that American volunteers fought alongside Georgian troops in the war this August.

And what if mercenaries from the United States took part in the fighting?  As an initial matter, American citizens are generally free to roam the world and do what they want, even oppose the army of a large authoritarian state.  More important, it’s not as if defending an endangered democracy is the crime of the century.

So here is my message to any gringos who were with the Georgians this summer: “Thank you for helping a small country.”

By the way, why can’t the State Department say that?

Today, the U.S. embassy in Moscow denied Russian charges, made yesterday, that American volunteers fought alongside Georgian troops in the war this August.

And what if mercenaries from the United States took part in the fighting?  As an initial matter, American citizens are generally free to roam the world and do what they want, even oppose the army of a large authoritarian state.  More important, it’s not as if defending an endangered democracy is the crime of the century.

So here is my message to any gringos who were with the Georgians this summer: “Thank you for helping a small country.”

By the way, why can’t the State Department say that?

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A Governor or A Mouse?

Did Princess Caroline overplay her hand? Perhaps. The New York Times reports:

The governor is frustrated and chagrined, the advisers said, because he believes that he extended Ms. Kennedy the chance to demonstrate her qualifications but that her operatives have exploited the opportunity to convey a sense that she is all but appointed already. He views this as an attempt to box him in, the advisers said.
“You have people going around saying, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a done deal,’ ” said one of the advisers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the selection process and did not want to anger the governor. “The quickest way to not get something you want is to step into somebody’s face.”

But how could someone so sophisticated, so filled with political smarts stumble? Well, it was the fault of the “handlers and strategists,” you see. ( Handlers? A Kennedy needs handlers?) This sounds like an excuse that was rejected  by the elite establishment earlier this year when another female newcomer fared poorly in the glare of the media spotlight.

Really, Governor Paterson is now in the unenviable spot of either disappointing one of the more powerful political families in America or demonstrating that he’s a pawn of one of the more powerful political families in America. And Andrew Cuomo is likely feeling better. Either he’s back in the hunt for the senate seat or he can mount a primary challenge for governor in 2010 against an incumbent who lets himself be pushed around.

Did Princess Caroline overplay her hand? Perhaps. The New York Times reports:

The governor is frustrated and chagrined, the advisers said, because he believes that he extended Ms. Kennedy the chance to demonstrate her qualifications but that her operatives have exploited the opportunity to convey a sense that she is all but appointed already. He views this as an attempt to box him in, the advisers said.
“You have people going around saying, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a done deal,’ ” said one of the advisers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the selection process and did not want to anger the governor. “The quickest way to not get something you want is to step into somebody’s face.”

But how could someone so sophisticated, so filled with political smarts stumble? Well, it was the fault of the “handlers and strategists,” you see. ( Handlers? A Kennedy needs handlers?) This sounds like an excuse that was rejected  by the elite establishment earlier this year when another female newcomer fared poorly in the glare of the media spotlight.

Really, Governor Paterson is now in the unenviable spot of either disappointing one of the more powerful political families in America or demonstrating that he’s a pawn of one of the more powerful political families in America. And Andrew Cuomo is likely feeling better. Either he’s back in the hunt for the senate seat or he can mount a primary challenge for governor in 2010 against an incumbent who lets himself be pushed around.

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Re: Selling Out Lebanon?

David Ignatius interviewed Syria’s President Bashar Assad, and heard some interesting things from the man now immersed in negotiations with the Israeli government. However, when it came to Lebanon, the lion of Damascus chose to remain vague and insincere:

Asked whether Syria was prepared to restrain Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon, Assad said this was a matter the Israelis should sort out in separate negotiations with the Lebanese. Indeed, he promoted the idea of the other negotiating tracks — which would draw in, at least indirectly, Hezbollah and Hamas.

“The longer the border, the bigger the peace,” Assad said. “Hezbollah is on the Lebanese border, not Syrian. Hamas is on the Palestinian border. . . . They should look at those other tracks. They should be comprehensive. If you want peace, you need three peace treaties, on three tracks.”

Assad wants to hold the Lebanese stick on both ends: he doesn’t want the responsibility (to tame Hezbollah), but does want the influence in Lebanon (of course, this is something he would not tell an American interviewe), as Danielle Pletka has pointedly remarked earlier this week:

It is not inconceivable that the regime in Damascus might throw its supporters in Tehran under the bus in exchange for prestige, cash and a free hand in Lebanon. But it is unrealistic to expect President Assad to dispose of Hezbollah and Hamas in the same way. Mr. Assad – broadly disliked at home, a member of a mistrusted Alawite minority, comically inept at managing his country’s resources – can maintain his grip on power only as long as he is seen as a vital instrument of Israel’s defeat.

But for Israel, peace with Syria is appealing for two reasons: first, it allows Syria to move away from Iranian influence, and, second, it may lead Syria to make the Hezbollah problem go away. If Assad can’t promise to do these things – the incentive for Israelis might disappear. And while some experts believe that the Syrian-Iranian relations are no more than a bargaining chip for Assad – the Syrian interest in Lebanon is one that Damascus sees as a strategic goal.

That’s why it is more than plausible that Assad is just playing a game with Ignatius. Rather than expressing his willingness to tame Hezbollah – thus giving ammunition to those claiming that what he really wants from “engagement” with Israel and the U.S. is the big prize of Lebanon – Assad plays hard to get. He wants Israel, and later the U.S., to ask for Syria’s intervention in Lebanon. The Bush administration clearly understands this game – and that’s why it has recently warned Israel to remain cautious as far as Lebanon is concerned:

The diplomatic messages asked Israel to remain committed to Lebanese sovereignty at all costs, stating “Israel must not sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of peace with Syria.” A senior Foreign Ministry official said the U.S. even asked Israel for “guarantees” on the matter. However, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday “the matter is not even on the table.”

However (as I’ve written in the past), the Syrian track is an issue on which both Israelis and Syrians weirdly share an interest: they both wait for Obama in the hope that he will be the one willing to change American priorities and abandon Lebanon in search of stability and success in the peace process. No wonder the Lebanese themselves seem less than enthusiastic about the prospect of peace with Israel.

David Ignatius interviewed Syria’s President Bashar Assad, and heard some interesting things from the man now immersed in negotiations with the Israeli government. However, when it came to Lebanon, the lion of Damascus chose to remain vague and insincere:

Asked whether Syria was prepared to restrain Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Lebanon, Assad said this was a matter the Israelis should sort out in separate negotiations with the Lebanese. Indeed, he promoted the idea of the other negotiating tracks — which would draw in, at least indirectly, Hezbollah and Hamas.

“The longer the border, the bigger the peace,” Assad said. “Hezbollah is on the Lebanese border, not Syrian. Hamas is on the Palestinian border. . . . They should look at those other tracks. They should be comprehensive. If you want peace, you need three peace treaties, on three tracks.”

Assad wants to hold the Lebanese stick on both ends: he doesn’t want the responsibility (to tame Hezbollah), but does want the influence in Lebanon (of course, this is something he would not tell an American interviewe), as Danielle Pletka has pointedly remarked earlier this week:

It is not inconceivable that the regime in Damascus might throw its supporters in Tehran under the bus in exchange for prestige, cash and a free hand in Lebanon. But it is unrealistic to expect President Assad to dispose of Hezbollah and Hamas in the same way. Mr. Assad – broadly disliked at home, a member of a mistrusted Alawite minority, comically inept at managing his country’s resources – can maintain his grip on power only as long as he is seen as a vital instrument of Israel’s defeat.

But for Israel, peace with Syria is appealing for two reasons: first, it allows Syria to move away from Iranian influence, and, second, it may lead Syria to make the Hezbollah problem go away. If Assad can’t promise to do these things – the incentive for Israelis might disappear. And while some experts believe that the Syrian-Iranian relations are no more than a bargaining chip for Assad – the Syrian interest in Lebanon is one that Damascus sees as a strategic goal.

That’s why it is more than plausible that Assad is just playing a game with Ignatius. Rather than expressing his willingness to tame Hezbollah – thus giving ammunition to those claiming that what he really wants from “engagement” with Israel and the U.S. is the big prize of Lebanon – Assad plays hard to get. He wants Israel, and later the U.S., to ask for Syria’s intervention in Lebanon. The Bush administration clearly understands this game – and that’s why it has recently warned Israel to remain cautious as far as Lebanon is concerned:

The diplomatic messages asked Israel to remain committed to Lebanese sovereignty at all costs, stating “Israel must not sacrifice Lebanon for the sake of peace with Syria.” A senior Foreign Ministry official said the U.S. even asked Israel for “guarantees” on the matter. However, a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday “the matter is not even on the table.”

However (as I’ve written in the past), the Syrian track is an issue on which both Israelis and Syrians weirdly share an interest: they both wait for Obama in the hope that he will be the one willing to change American priorities and abandon Lebanon in search of stability and success in the peace process. No wonder the Lebanese themselves seem less than enthusiastic about the prospect of peace with Israel.

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Worst Headline Ever

Courtesy of the AP: “Christmastime is Nazi time at the movie theater

Courtesy of the AP: “Christmastime is Nazi time at the movie theater

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Selling Out Lebanon?

Any politician in as desperate straits  as Ehud Olmert can be counted on to do the wrong thing. Trying to avoid being despised as the worst prime minister in Israeli history, and lacking any light at the end of the Palestinian tunnel, Olmert is trying to pull off some kind of breakthrough with Syria.

There are many bad ways to do this, including continuing to tolerate Syria’s connections to Iran and coddling of Hamas. But possibly the worst would be by selling out Lebanon. Israel’s beleaguered neighbor to the north is a hodgepodge of pro- and anti-Western forces, and has struggled for decades to rid itself of Syria and its proxies. The only real hope for Lebanon not being swallowed wholly by Arab radicalism is for some way to be found to expunge both Syria and Hezbollah. Instead, there are signs that Israel is considering a deal that would do the opposite, accepting and recognizing Syria’s domination of the country. According to Haaretz, U.S. State Department officials recently sent a harsh warning to Israel against selling out Lebanon, and asking for Israeli guarantees on the matter. And the chief of staff of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Michael Herzog, recently said that “in the framework of a peace deal, Israel has to recognize Syria’s unique position in Lebanon.”

Let’s hope it’s just bluster.

Any politician in as desperate straits  as Ehud Olmert can be counted on to do the wrong thing. Trying to avoid being despised as the worst prime minister in Israeli history, and lacking any light at the end of the Palestinian tunnel, Olmert is trying to pull off some kind of breakthrough with Syria.

There are many bad ways to do this, including continuing to tolerate Syria’s connections to Iran and coddling of Hamas. But possibly the worst would be by selling out Lebanon. Israel’s beleaguered neighbor to the north is a hodgepodge of pro- and anti-Western forces, and has struggled for decades to rid itself of Syria and its proxies. The only real hope for Lebanon not being swallowed wholly by Arab radicalism is for some way to be found to expunge both Syria and Hezbollah. Instead, there are signs that Israel is considering a deal that would do the opposite, accepting and recognizing Syria’s domination of the country. According to Haaretz, U.S. State Department officials recently sent a harsh warning to Israel against selling out Lebanon, and asking for Israeli guarantees on the matter. And the chief of staff of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Michael Herzog, recently said that “in the framework of a peace deal, Israel has to recognize Syria’s unique position in Lebanon.”

Let’s hope it’s just bluster.

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Why is Hamas Fighting?

The crisis in Gaza is related to the fundamental problem Hamas has faced since it took power in Gaza: It is very difficult to rule over a territory simultaneously as a resistance group and as a political party. Each ambition interferes with the other, and for Hamas, resistance has always been the fundamental interest. The cease-fire with Israel required Hamas to stop its offensive, which it only did partially — throughout the calm there were sporadic mortar and rocket attacks on Israel — and to cease weapons smuggling and negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit. The first requirement was workable because it took external pressure off Hamas, allowing it to focus on solidifying its control over Gaza. But the latter two were tantamount to Hamas repudiating the reason for its existence and the ideological platform on which it rose to power.

For Hamas, the absence of open conflict could not continue for long, because living conditions in Gaza have been worsening and Hamas has never been interested in or capable of governing outside the context of war. At various times over the past six months, Hamas attacked transfer points between Israel and Gaza. This was done in order to force their closure and exacerbate the food and fuel shortages that encourage the narrative, so popular in international quarters and among journalists covering the crisis, of Gaza’s victimization not at Hamas’ hands, but at Israel’s. The cultivation of this narrative is doubly useful, because victimhood also justifies resuming open war against Israel.

The paradoxical bottom line for Hamas is that crisis, both humanitarian and military, is necessary for legitimacy and survival. So far, Hamas has survived on this razor’s edge. Should an Israeli invasion or major air campaign seem likely, Hamas will probably accede quickly to another hudna. Israel should not take the bait. Instead, a sustained campaign of targeted killings of Hamas leaders and the destruction of Hamas assets, such as smuggling tunnels, should be instituted. The national elections in Israel (among other reasons) make this a bad time to commence a ground campaign. If the IDF can make Hamas fear for its ability to maintain institutional cohesion and governing power while limiting civilian casualties — dead Gazans are a major international lifeline for Hamas — Israel could push Hamas into a position in which it would either have to resume the hudna on unfavorable, even humiliating, terms, or go down in a blaze of martyrdom. This is a dilemma Hamas hopes it won’t have to face.

The crisis in Gaza is related to the fundamental problem Hamas has faced since it took power in Gaza: It is very difficult to rule over a territory simultaneously as a resistance group and as a political party. Each ambition interferes with the other, and for Hamas, resistance has always been the fundamental interest. The cease-fire with Israel required Hamas to stop its offensive, which it only did partially — throughout the calm there were sporadic mortar and rocket attacks on Israel — and to cease weapons smuggling and negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit. The first requirement was workable because it took external pressure off Hamas, allowing it to focus on solidifying its control over Gaza. But the latter two were tantamount to Hamas repudiating the reason for its existence and the ideological platform on which it rose to power.

For Hamas, the absence of open conflict could not continue for long, because living conditions in Gaza have been worsening and Hamas has never been interested in or capable of governing outside the context of war. At various times over the past six months, Hamas attacked transfer points between Israel and Gaza. This was done in order to force their closure and exacerbate the food and fuel shortages that encourage the narrative, so popular in international quarters and among journalists covering the crisis, of Gaza’s victimization not at Hamas’ hands, but at Israel’s. The cultivation of this narrative is doubly useful, because victimhood also justifies resuming open war against Israel.

The paradoxical bottom line for Hamas is that crisis, both humanitarian and military, is necessary for legitimacy and survival. So far, Hamas has survived on this razor’s edge. Should an Israeli invasion or major air campaign seem likely, Hamas will probably accede quickly to another hudna. Israel should not take the bait. Instead, a sustained campaign of targeted killings of Hamas leaders and the destruction of Hamas assets, such as smuggling tunnels, should be instituted. The national elections in Israel (among other reasons) make this a bad time to commence a ground campaign. If the IDF can make Hamas fear for its ability to maintain institutional cohesion and governing power while limiting civilian casualties — dead Gazans are a major international lifeline for Hamas — Israel could push Hamas into a position in which it would either have to resume the hudna on unfavorable, even humiliating, terms, or go down in a blaze of martyrdom. This is a dilemma Hamas hopes it won’t have to face.

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Hack to the Future

For a man who’s obsessed with progress, Thomas Friedman has a decidedly Cold War era grasp on “the future.” Here, from today’s New York Times, are his thought on The Jetsons, bullet trains, and “ultramodern” airports:

I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train – with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

Maybe if he cured himself of his evident Web and cellphone addictions, he’d have the time to do research instead of travel writing. But as things stand, Friedman’s dropped calls drive him to this eureka moment: “All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us?”

The Chinese live better than us? That’s insulting. No, not to us – to the poor Chinese! With their industrial slaves, toxic red seas, multicolored air, ethnic warfare, human trafficking, forced population relocations, birth fines, and dam collapses, Thomas Friedman gives them an A+ on the Super Sci-Fi Cellular Network Global Connectivity Scale and calls it a day.

Even if we were to rate quality of life by the number of bars on one’s cellphone, just how does Friedman suppose China has achieved this communications paradise? Forget Somalia, the Chinese are the most accomplished pirates the world has ever seen. The country is one booming and unrestrained intellectual property black market. Which is great for jet-setting journalists trying to meet a deadline, but not so great for the cardiac patient whose Chinese-made beta-blocker turns out to be a plastic pellet.

To get a sense of what Friedman is so taken in by, go look at images from an old World’s Fair site. The representations of possible futures turn into embarrassing historical artifacts in about a decade, once the real future has charted its unforeseen course. China’s moving sidewalks and sci-fi bubbles are good fun, but Friedman fails to mention that in the most important up and coming industries America is way ahead of the pack. The United States has issued more nanotechnology patents than the rest of the world combined. And American biotechnology revenue dwarfs that of any of its nearest competitors. But, look, he’s right. Penn Station’s escalators are too narrow.

For a man who’s obsessed with progress, Thomas Friedman has a decidedly Cold War era grasp on “the future.” Here, from today’s New York Times, are his thought on The Jetsons, bullet trains, and “ultramodern” airports:

I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train – with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

Maybe if he cured himself of his evident Web and cellphone addictions, he’d have the time to do research instead of travel writing. But as things stand, Friedman’s dropped calls drive him to this eureka moment: “All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us?”

The Chinese live better than us? That’s insulting. No, not to us – to the poor Chinese! With their industrial slaves, toxic red seas, multicolored air, ethnic warfare, human trafficking, forced population relocations, birth fines, and dam collapses, Thomas Friedman gives them an A+ on the Super Sci-Fi Cellular Network Global Connectivity Scale and calls it a day.

Even if we were to rate quality of life by the number of bars on one’s cellphone, just how does Friedman suppose China has achieved this communications paradise? Forget Somalia, the Chinese are the most accomplished pirates the world has ever seen. The country is one booming and unrestrained intellectual property black market. Which is great for jet-setting journalists trying to meet a deadline, but not so great for the cardiac patient whose Chinese-made beta-blocker turns out to be a plastic pellet.

To get a sense of what Friedman is so taken in by, go look at images from an old World’s Fair site. The representations of possible futures turn into embarrassing historical artifacts in about a decade, once the real future has charted its unforeseen course. China’s moving sidewalks and sci-fi bubbles are good fun, but Friedman fails to mention that in the most important up and coming industries America is way ahead of the pack. The United States has issued more nanotechnology patents than the rest of the world combined. And American biotechnology revenue dwarfs that of any of its nearest competitors. But, look, he’s right. Penn Station’s escalators are too narrow.

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Stimulate Through Defense

Economist Marty Feldstein of Harvard makes a good case in today’s Wall Street Journal for increasing – rather than decreasing – defense spending in the current downturn as an economic stimulus package:

A 10% increase in defense outlays for procurement and for research would contribute about $20 billion a year to the overall stimulus budget. A 5% rise in spending on operations and maintenance would add an additional $10 billion. That spending could create about 300,000 additional jobs. And raising the military’s annual recruitment goal by 15% would provide jobs for an additional 30,000 young men and women in the first year.

Indeed it is hard to think of any jobs program half as useful as expanding the ranks of the armed services. We actually need more soldiers; we don’t necessarily need a bunch of people doing WPA-style make-work.

To Feldstein’s point about economics, I would also add a point about politics. President-elect Obama seems intent on reversing the Democrats’ reputation as being soft on defense. Thus he has appointed retired General Jim Jones to run his NSC and kept Bob Gates on to run Defense. The impact of those appointments will be undercut, however, if he then turns around and cuts defense spending at a time when the nation is waging two-plus wars. Especially at a time when the army desperately needs to be expanded in size, the navy needs more ships, the air force needs to purchase new tankers to replace an aging fleet, and all the services need more unmanned aerial vehicles and other ISR (intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance) assets.

Somehow I think Obama is aware of all this, and thus won’t make the Department of Defense cut back. I hope I am not being overly optimistic.

Economist Marty Feldstein of Harvard makes a good case in today’s Wall Street Journal for increasing – rather than decreasing – defense spending in the current downturn as an economic stimulus package:

A 10% increase in defense outlays for procurement and for research would contribute about $20 billion a year to the overall stimulus budget. A 5% rise in spending on operations and maintenance would add an additional $10 billion. That spending could create about 300,000 additional jobs. And raising the military’s annual recruitment goal by 15% would provide jobs for an additional 30,000 young men and women in the first year.

Indeed it is hard to think of any jobs program half as useful as expanding the ranks of the armed services. We actually need more soldiers; we don’t necessarily need a bunch of people doing WPA-style make-work.

To Feldstein’s point about economics, I would also add a point about politics. President-elect Obama seems intent on reversing the Democrats’ reputation as being soft on defense. Thus he has appointed retired General Jim Jones to run his NSC and kept Bob Gates on to run Defense. The impact of those appointments will be undercut, however, if he then turns around and cuts defense spending at a time when the nation is waging two-plus wars. Especially at a time when the army desperately needs to be expanded in size, the navy needs more ships, the air force needs to purchase new tankers to replace an aging fleet, and all the services need more unmanned aerial vehicles and other ISR (intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance) assets.

Somehow I think Obama is aware of all this, and thus won’t make the Department of Defense cut back. I hope I am not being overly optimistic.

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Oh, So THAT’S What They Mean…

The other day, I discussed the rather unique definition of “truce” put forth by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that is also the government of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. Well, they’ve elaborated a bit, with an announcement that they would entertain a resumption of the “truce” with Israel.

We now have enough data points correlating Hamas’s use of certain terms with their  deeds, and can begin constructing a lexicon:

Truce: A period during which Hamas limits its offensive actions to rockets and mortar shells, smuggles in more and more weapons, and Israel is not allowed to hit back.

This is most likely based on the Islamic concept of a “hudna,” which is a temporary cease-fire while the Muslims re-arm and prepare to fight again. It is based on the time Mohammed was facing defeat at the hands of the tribes who held Mecca. He declared a ten-year cessation of hostilities, withdrew, marshaled his forces, then returned and conquered Mecca two years later.

Resumption of hostilities: Hamas increases the rocket and mortar attacks, resumes suicide bombings, and other attacks. Israel is still not allowed to hit back.

War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Atrocities: Israel hits back.

Innocent Civilians: Anyone killed or wounded by Israel.

Legitimate Military Targets: Anyone within Israel. Also, any thing within Israel, including pizza parlors, buses, and Passover celebrations.

Occupation: What Hamas is resisting, even though there is not a single Israeli within the Gaza Strip.

Humanitarian Relief: Bombs, explosives, and other weapons.

The trick to dealing with groups like Hamas is to remember that they don’t speak the same language. As long as you can keep a running translation of propaganda-to-English going, it’s fairly easy to follow.

The problem is that so many people — especially the press — don’t register the language barrier.

The other day, I discussed the rather unique definition of “truce” put forth by Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that is also the government of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. Well, they’ve elaborated a bit, with an announcement that they would entertain a resumption of the “truce” with Israel.

We now have enough data points correlating Hamas’s use of certain terms with their  deeds, and can begin constructing a lexicon:

Truce: A period during which Hamas limits its offensive actions to rockets and mortar shells, smuggles in more and more weapons, and Israel is not allowed to hit back.

This is most likely based on the Islamic concept of a “hudna,” which is a temporary cease-fire while the Muslims re-arm and prepare to fight again. It is based on the time Mohammed was facing defeat at the hands of the tribes who held Mecca. He declared a ten-year cessation of hostilities, withdrew, marshaled his forces, then returned and conquered Mecca two years later.

Resumption of hostilities: Hamas increases the rocket and mortar attacks, resumes suicide bombings, and other attacks. Israel is still not allowed to hit back.

War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Atrocities: Israel hits back.

Innocent Civilians: Anyone killed or wounded by Israel.

Legitimate Military Targets: Anyone within Israel. Also, any thing within Israel, including pizza parlors, buses, and Passover celebrations.

Occupation: What Hamas is resisting, even though there is not a single Israeli within the Gaza Strip.

Humanitarian Relief: Bombs, explosives, and other weapons.

The trick to dealing with groups like Hamas is to remember that they don’t speak the same language. As long as you can keep a running translation of propaganda-to-English going, it’s fairly easy to follow.

The problem is that so many people — especially the press — don’t register the language barrier.

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Not Yet the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

The nub of the Obama internal report on Blago-gate is this:

Messrs. Obama and Emanuel, as well as top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, were interviewed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on Dec. 18, 19 and 20 — an extraordinary outreach from law enforcement during a presidential transition. The Obama audit of contacts between aides and Mr. Blagojevich’s staff revealed considerably more discussions between the two camps than previously divulged, and it described an apparently concerted effort by the governor to crack the Obama circle. One effort apparently involved the head of the Service Employees International Union in Illinois, Tom Balanoff. He approached a close Obama friend and aide, Valerie Jarrett, and related the governor’s desire to be named Health and Human Services secretary, according to the Obama memo. Mr. Balanoff didn’t say Mr. Blagojevich wanted anything in return, the memo said. Both Mr. Balanoff and Ms. Jarrett dismissed the governor’s suggestion.

.    .    .

By his recollections, Mr. Emanuel had one or two phone conversations with Mr. Blagojevich between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8, as Mr. Emanuel was deliberating whether to resign his House seat, representing Chicago’s North Side. Soon after, Mr. Emanuel called the Illinois governor again to say he would leave Congress to take a White House post. The conversation included talk about the merits of candidates for the Senate seat, especially those of Ms. Jarrett, whom Mr. Emanuel believed the president-elect favored, according to the memo.

The two men didn’t discuss any potential appointment for Mr. Blagojevich — either to the cabinet, a political nonprofit organization or “any other personal benefit for the governor,” according to the memo. The federal arrest affidavit alleged the governor had talked about such a trade with his aides and advisers.

In subsequent conversations with Mr. Harris — after Ms. Jarrett took herself out of the running to take a White House job — Mr. Emanuel produced a slate of favored candidates with the president-elect’s authorization. The names included Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

In later telephone conversations, Mr. Emanuel added Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson.

What we don’t have from the report — access to the witnesses, verbatim accounts of the calls, and an explanation for Jarrett’s withdrawal from the Senate race — makes it hard to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the summary. Interestingly, there is no mention of the leaked “all you get is appreciation” comment allegedly made in the Harris-Emanuel call. To the contrary the report says, “There was no discussion of a cabinet position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the Governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.” An SEIU official and Blago’s chief of staff were supposedly trying to make a deal with the Obama team, but the Obama team had no clue a deal was in the works, we’re told. Perhaps Blago’s team weren’t very good at the pay-to-play game.

What we do know is that Fitzgerald is very interested in these conversations and nailed down the Obama team’s stories early in the case. But he has the tapes as well — which will ultimately tell us who said what to whom.

For now, what we know is that the blanket initial denial by President-elect Obama was in all likelihood technically correct, but rather misleading. At his direction, and with his full knowledge, his closest aides were in fact talking to Blago’s team and conveying the President-elect’s wishes about the open senate seat. Even the New York Times concedes:

The report suggested that Mr. Obama had been more involved in thinking about his Senate successor than his public statements about the topic had indicated.

President-elect Obama might have been better served with a less sweeping effort to distance himself from the Blago team. It’s not illegal to exaggerate separation from a troubled pol, but it’s not exactly a model of “transparency.” And it really isn’t New Politics.

The nub of the Obama internal report on Blago-gate is this:

Messrs. Obama and Emanuel, as well as top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, were interviewed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on Dec. 18, 19 and 20 — an extraordinary outreach from law enforcement during a presidential transition. The Obama audit of contacts between aides and Mr. Blagojevich’s staff revealed considerably more discussions between the two camps than previously divulged, and it described an apparently concerted effort by the governor to crack the Obama circle. One effort apparently involved the head of the Service Employees International Union in Illinois, Tom Balanoff. He approached a close Obama friend and aide, Valerie Jarrett, and related the governor’s desire to be named Health and Human Services secretary, according to the Obama memo. Mr. Balanoff didn’t say Mr. Blagojevich wanted anything in return, the memo said. Both Mr. Balanoff and Ms. Jarrett dismissed the governor’s suggestion.

.    .    .

By his recollections, Mr. Emanuel had one or two phone conversations with Mr. Blagojevich between Nov. 6 and Nov. 8, as Mr. Emanuel was deliberating whether to resign his House seat, representing Chicago’s North Side. Soon after, Mr. Emanuel called the Illinois governor again to say he would leave Congress to take a White House post. The conversation included talk about the merits of candidates for the Senate seat, especially those of Ms. Jarrett, whom Mr. Emanuel believed the president-elect favored, according to the memo.

The two men didn’t discuss any potential appointment for Mr. Blagojevich — either to the cabinet, a political nonprofit organization or “any other personal benefit for the governor,” according to the memo. The federal arrest affidavit alleged the governor had talked about such a trade with his aides and advisers.

In subsequent conversations with Mr. Harris — after Ms. Jarrett took herself out of the running to take a White House job — Mr. Emanuel produced a slate of favored candidates with the president-elect’s authorization. The names included Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

In later telephone conversations, Mr. Emanuel added Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson.

What we don’t have from the report — access to the witnesses, verbatim accounts of the calls, and an explanation for Jarrett’s withdrawal from the Senate race — makes it hard to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the summary. Interestingly, there is no mention of the leaked “all you get is appreciation” comment allegedly made in the Harris-Emanuel call. To the contrary the report says, “There was no discussion of a cabinet position, of 501c(4), of a private sector position or of any other personal benefit to the Governor in exchange for the Senate appointment.” An SEIU official and Blago’s chief of staff were supposedly trying to make a deal with the Obama team, but the Obama team had no clue a deal was in the works, we’re told. Perhaps Blago’s team weren’t very good at the pay-to-play game.

What we do know is that Fitzgerald is very interested in these conversations and nailed down the Obama team’s stories early in the case. But he has the tapes as well — which will ultimately tell us who said what to whom.

For now, what we know is that the blanket initial denial by President-elect Obama was in all likelihood technically correct, but rather misleading. At his direction, and with his full knowledge, his closest aides were in fact talking to Blago’s team and conveying the President-elect’s wishes about the open senate seat. Even the New York Times concedes:

The report suggested that Mr. Obama had been more involved in thinking about his Senate successor than his public statements about the topic had indicated.

President-elect Obama might have been better served with a less sweeping effort to distance himself from the Blago team. It’s not illegal to exaggerate separation from a troubled pol, but it’s not exactly a model of “transparency.” And it really isn’t New Politics.

Read Less

Rethinking a Palestinian State

In Walter Russell Mead’s article in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs (ably analyzed by Shmuel Rosner), there is a paragraph that inadvertently captures the problem in the current Middle East peace process. Mead writes that it may be difficult for outsiders to understand the Palestinians’ “yearning for the villages and landscapes lost during the birth of Israel in 1948,” but that American policymakers should recognize that the unconditional right to return is the “central demand” of the Palestinian movement:

The Palestinians’ national identity took shape in the course of their struggle with Zionism, and the mass displacement of Palestinians resulting from Israel’s War of Independence, or the nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), was the fiery crucible out of which the modern Palestinian consciousness emerged. The dispossessed Palestinians, especially refugees living in camps, are seen as the bearers of the most authentic form of Palestinian identity. The unconditional right of Palestinians to return to the land and homes lost in the nakba is the nation’s central demand.

There are three important points in that paragraph, although they are not likely the ones Mead intended.

First, the observation that the Palestinians’ “national identity” is something that “took shape in the course of their struggle with Zionism” is an implicit recognition that a national identity was not there before.  The Palestinian “national identity” is neither pre-existing nor positive, but rather one defined by its opposition to something.  That something is Israel.

Second, the assertion that the “displacement of Palestinians” was something “resulting from Israel’s War of Independence” starts the story in the middle.  Israel’s War of Independence was itself the result of something before that:  the Arab rejection of UN Resolution 181, which would have created a Palestinian state, and a sliver of a Jewish state.  The root cause of the displacement was the war the Arabs brought against the Jewish state.

Third, the statement that the refugees in camps are viewed as “the most authentic form of Palestinian identity,” and that the Palestinians’ “central demand” is the unconditional right of return demonstrates the “peace process” is a contradiction in terms.  The Palestinians cannot give up the “right of return” without giving up their “national identity”; but as long as they cling to an anti-Israel identity and a “right of return,” they cannot achieve a state.

The Obama administration has been urged to make the peace process a priority, with an American plan and a high-powered Middle East envoy.  But the problem with the peace process has never been the absence of plans or the authority of envoys.  The fundamental problem is a Palestinian identity fashioned from an anti-Israel narrative, with a central demand inconsistent with a Jewish state.

Before rushing in where Clinton and Bush failed, the Obama team should start “Rethinking the Two-State Solution.”

In Walter Russell Mead’s article in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs (ably analyzed by Shmuel Rosner), there is a paragraph that inadvertently captures the problem in the current Middle East peace process. Mead writes that it may be difficult for outsiders to understand the Palestinians’ “yearning for the villages and landscapes lost during the birth of Israel in 1948,” but that American policymakers should recognize that the unconditional right to return is the “central demand” of the Palestinian movement:

The Palestinians’ national identity took shape in the course of their struggle with Zionism, and the mass displacement of Palestinians resulting from Israel’s War of Independence, or the nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic), was the fiery crucible out of which the modern Palestinian consciousness emerged. The dispossessed Palestinians, especially refugees living in camps, are seen as the bearers of the most authentic form of Palestinian identity. The unconditional right of Palestinians to return to the land and homes lost in the nakba is the nation’s central demand.

There are three important points in that paragraph, although they are not likely the ones Mead intended.

First, the observation that the Palestinians’ “national identity” is something that “took shape in the course of their struggle with Zionism” is an implicit recognition that a national identity was not there before.  The Palestinian “national identity” is neither pre-existing nor positive, but rather one defined by its opposition to something.  That something is Israel.

Second, the assertion that the “displacement of Palestinians” was something “resulting from Israel’s War of Independence” starts the story in the middle.  Israel’s War of Independence was itself the result of something before that:  the Arab rejection of UN Resolution 181, which would have created a Palestinian state, and a sliver of a Jewish state.  The root cause of the displacement was the war the Arabs brought against the Jewish state.

Third, the statement that the refugees in camps are viewed as “the most authentic form of Palestinian identity,” and that the Palestinians’ “central demand” is the unconditional right of return demonstrates the “peace process” is a contradiction in terms.  The Palestinians cannot give up the “right of return” without giving up their “national identity”; but as long as they cling to an anti-Israel identity and a “right of return,” they cannot achieve a state.

The Obama administration has been urged to make the peace process a priority, with an American plan and a high-powered Middle East envoy.  But the problem with the peace process has never been the absence of plans or the authority of envoys.  The fundamental problem is a Palestinian identity fashioned from an anti-Israel narrative, with a central demand inconsistent with a Jewish state.

Before rushing in where Clinton and Bush failed, the Obama team should start “Rethinking the Two-State Solution.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Mickey Kaus reminds us that the Left’s flacks aren’t very polite and don’t really believe in free expression by liberal bloggers. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, Leftist internal politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

Megan McArdle finds the idea of Caroline Kennedy as Senator “embarrassing.” More than that really: “But this goes beyond that into a zone previously occupied only by the inventors of Pepsi Clear.  We fought a whole war and everything to get away from political dynasties.  Why are so many brain dead boomers avid to reinstall the talentless byblows of their bygone youth?” I guess because they are brain dead boomers.

Her colleague Ross Douthat lands a low blow: ” It’s not the safest seat in the country, but it’s safe enough that almost any Democrat, once appointed, could expect to be “elected again and again,” with or without the Kennedy mystique. Which is all the more reason to pick somebody more impressive than America’s Princess for what’s probably a long-term job – to look for the next Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in other words, rather than the next Lincoln Chafee.”

Patrick Fitzgerald puts a crimp in Blago’s impeachment proceedings. Blago might be in office for quite some time. And Illinois isn’t getting a second senator any time soon.

And neither is Minnesota.

An interesting interview with John McCain. Apparently the highlight of his campaign overseas was his concession speech. Here too. And he finally gets awfully steamed about Sarah Palin’s treatment.

I’m reminded that Ted Kennedy has already let it be known that he wants his wife to take his seat should he pass away during his term. Listen, I think one hereditary seat per dynasty is quite enough — Massachusetts or New York, but not both! (Yeah, they can keep the Rhode Island House seat because Patrick actually ran for office and won the it.)

The New York Times focuses on the Valerie Jarrett conversation with SEIU official Tom Balanoff. Aside from questions of criminal exposure, what’s a labor union doing trying to broker a deal for a senate seat? Not a good vignette if you are attempting to make the case that Big Labor needs more power and influence in government.

Next time you start complaining about holiday traffic or crowded malls, remember this beautiful Christmas story.

Thomas Friedman hopes for the best on the trillion dollar bailout: “It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.” But I thought billions and billions of bailout money is going to “shovel-ready” projects– lots and lots and lots of them. I suspect Friedman isn’t going to get the high-tech, pro-green bailout he’s wishing for.

And sure enough the Washington Post reports: “In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create ‘green-collar’ jobs.” I’m betting on the less useful “shovel-ready” ones. Why? “The largest beneficiary of the shovel-ready construction projects are labor unions.” Well, that answers that.

Speaking of which, the UAW doesn’t want to give up anything to save GM and Chrysler. Yeah, not one red cent to help restore their employers’ viability! I wonder why the UAW chieftan didn’t make that clear before President Bush caved on a toothless bailout. Hmm. We’ll see if President Obama has the nerve to stare down his Big Labor patrons.

Mickey Kaus reminds us that the Left’s flacks aren’t very polite and don’t really believe in free expression by liberal bloggers. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, Leftist internal politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.

Megan McArdle finds the idea of Caroline Kennedy as Senator “embarrassing.” More than that really: “But this goes beyond that into a zone previously occupied only by the inventors of Pepsi Clear.  We fought a whole war and everything to get away from political dynasties.  Why are so many brain dead boomers avid to reinstall the talentless byblows of their bygone youth?” I guess because they are brain dead boomers.

Her colleague Ross Douthat lands a low blow: ” It’s not the safest seat in the country, but it’s safe enough that almost any Democrat, once appointed, could expect to be “elected again and again,” with or without the Kennedy mystique. Which is all the more reason to pick somebody more impressive than America’s Princess for what’s probably a long-term job – to look for the next Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in other words, rather than the next Lincoln Chafee.”

Patrick Fitzgerald puts a crimp in Blago’s impeachment proceedings. Blago might be in office for quite some time. And Illinois isn’t getting a second senator any time soon.

And neither is Minnesota.

An interesting interview with John McCain. Apparently the highlight of his campaign overseas was his concession speech. Here too. And he finally gets awfully steamed about Sarah Palin’s treatment.

I’m reminded that Ted Kennedy has already let it be known that he wants his wife to take his seat should he pass away during his term. Listen, I think one hereditary seat per dynasty is quite enough — Massachusetts or New York, but not both! (Yeah, they can keep the Rhode Island House seat because Patrick actually ran for office and won the it.)

The New York Times focuses on the Valerie Jarrett conversation with SEIU official Tom Balanoff. Aside from questions of criminal exposure, what’s a labor union doing trying to broker a deal for a senate seat? Not a good vignette if you are attempting to make the case that Big Labor needs more power and influence in government.

Next time you start complaining about holiday traffic or crowded malls, remember this beautiful Christmas story.

Thomas Friedman hopes for the best on the trillion dollar bailout: “It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure — without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.” But I thought billions and billions of bailout money is going to “shovel-ready” projects– lots and lots and lots of them. I suspect Friedman isn’t going to get the high-tech, pro-green bailout he’s wishing for.

And sure enough the Washington Post reports: “In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create ‘green-collar’ jobs.” I’m betting on the less useful “shovel-ready” ones. Why? “The largest beneficiary of the shovel-ready construction projects are labor unions.” Well, that answers that.

Speaking of which, the UAW doesn’t want to give up anything to save GM and Chrysler. Yeah, not one red cent to help restore their employers’ viability! I wonder why the UAW chieftan didn’t make that clear before President Bush caved on a toothless bailout. Hmm. We’ll see if President Obama has the nerve to stare down his Big Labor patrons.

Read Less

UK Dhimmitude Watch

What would be an appropriate way for a national television channel to observe Christmas? One thing of which I am certain is that such an observance would not involve airing a message from the president of an Islamic terrorist theocracy whose most recent relations with your country involved the abduction in international waters of 15 members of your Navy and parading them on state television.

The UK’s Channel 4 television has decided that a Christmastime message of international tolerance and goodwill would best be sent by turning the airwaves over to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will deliver an “Alternative Christmas Message.” Click here, if you have a strong stomach. One wonders whether Ahmadinejad will repeat what he said in 2005, after an Iranian convert to Christianity was abducted and stabbed to death in Iran: “I will stop Christianity in this country.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if after the passage of a few more years, Channel 4 television formalized its abject self-hatred and cowardice by inviting Ahmadinejad to stop Christianity in the UK, as well.

What would be an appropriate way for a national television channel to observe Christmas? One thing of which I am certain is that such an observance would not involve airing a message from the president of an Islamic terrorist theocracy whose most recent relations with your country involved the abduction in international waters of 15 members of your Navy and parading them on state television.

The UK’s Channel 4 television has decided that a Christmastime message of international tolerance and goodwill would best be sent by turning the airwaves over to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He will deliver an “Alternative Christmas Message.” Click here, if you have a strong stomach. One wonders whether Ahmadinejad will repeat what he said in 2005, after an Iranian convert to Christianity was abducted and stabbed to death in Iran: “I will stop Christianity in this country.”

It wouldn’t be surprising if after the passage of a few more years, Channel 4 television formalized its abject self-hatred and cowardice by inviting Ahmadinejad to stop Christianity in the UK, as well.

Read Less




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