Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 22, 2009

No Meddling?

There is a compelling interview by John Roberts and Kiran Chetry of CNN’s American Morning with an Iranian protester which you should be able to find here. The key portion for anyone still up in the air about whether America should or could make a difference:

Mohammad: Yes. Let me tell you something. For about three decades our nation has been humiliated and insulted by this regime. Now Iranians are united again one more time after 1979 Revolution. We are a peaceful nation. We don’t hate anybody. We want to be an active member of the international community. We don’t want to be isolated… We don’t deny the Holocaust. We do accept Israel’s rights. And actually, we want — we want severe reform on this structure. This structure is not going to be tolerated by the majority of Iranians. We need severe reform, as much as possible.

Roberts: Interesting perspective this morning from Mohammad, a student demonstrator there in Tehran.

Mohammad: Excuse me, sir. I have a message for the international community. Would you please let me tell it?

Roberts: Yes, go ahead.

Mohammad: Americans, European Union, international community, this government is not definitely — is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it’s illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message…to the international community, especially I’m addressing President Obama directly – how can a government that doesn’t recognize its people’s rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don’t leave us alone.

Chetry: Mohammad, what do you think the international community should do besides sanctions?

Mohammad: Actually, this regime is really dependent on importing gasoline. More than 85% of Iran’s gasoline is imported from foreign countries. I think international communities must sanction exporting gasoline to Iran and that might shut down the government.

This young man obviously didn’t get the “no meddling” memo or the spin that America’s hands are tied because our help will only delegitimize the protesters. The administration is still talking engagement. One senses the president and his advisors really aren’t up for an Iranian revolution. As Jake Tapper explains:

President Obama continued to keep arm’s length from the protestors themselves, concerned that too tight an embrace of their cause would hurt their credibility and potentially lead to even more bloodshed. The president made clear that his concern focused on the violence, not the legitimacy of the elections. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected,” the president said, “and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.”

One final note: the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act now has a filibuster-proof level of support. Perhaps someone will bring it to the floor.

There is a compelling interview by John Roberts and Kiran Chetry of CNN’s American Morning with an Iranian protester which you should be able to find here. The key portion for anyone still up in the air about whether America should or could make a difference:

Mohammad: Yes. Let me tell you something. For about three decades our nation has been humiliated and insulted by this regime. Now Iranians are united again one more time after 1979 Revolution. We are a peaceful nation. We don’t hate anybody. We want to be an active member of the international community. We don’t want to be isolated… We don’t deny the Holocaust. We do accept Israel’s rights. And actually, we want — we want severe reform on this structure. This structure is not going to be tolerated by the majority of Iranians. We need severe reform, as much as possible.

Roberts: Interesting perspective this morning from Mohammad, a student demonstrator there in Tehran.

Mohammad: Excuse me, sir. I have a message for the international community. Would you please let me tell it?

Roberts: Yes, go ahead.

Mohammad: Americans, European Union, international community, this government is not definitely — is definitely not elected by the majority of Iranians. So it’s illegal. Do not recognize it. Stop trading with them. Impose much more sanctions against them. My message…to the international community, especially I’m addressing President Obama directly – how can a government that doesn’t recognize its people’s rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don’t leave us alone.

Chetry: Mohammad, what do you think the international community should do besides sanctions?

Mohammad: Actually, this regime is really dependent on importing gasoline. More than 85% of Iran’s gasoline is imported from foreign countries. I think international communities must sanction exporting gasoline to Iran and that might shut down the government.

This young man obviously didn’t get the “no meddling” memo or the spin that America’s hands are tied because our help will only delegitimize the protesters. The administration is still talking engagement. One senses the president and his advisors really aren’t up for an Iranian revolution. As Jake Tapper explains:

President Obama continued to keep arm’s length from the protestors themselves, concerned that too tight an embrace of their cause would hurt their credibility and potentially lead to even more bloodshed. The president made clear that his concern focused on the violence, not the legitimacy of the elections. “The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected,” the president said, “and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.”

One final note: the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act now has a filibuster-proof level of support. Perhaps someone will bring it to the floor.

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Commentary of the Day

David S. Mazel, on John Steele Gordon:

It’s been said before and it merits repeating: The pace of technology is tremendous. It should give us all a wonderful feeling about the future and how much our lives have changed as well as how much our children’s lives will change and, of course, who can say how our grandchildren’s lives will be lived.

As other fine people have noted, it’s not just technology that has progressed so much but health care as well. I might add that our nation has come far socially with the integration and assimilation of a multitude of peoples on our shores.

As we ponder the current problems of the world on this blog, it is refreshing to look at the immediate past and realize how far we have come. To look back only a few short years and see such progress allows us to look forward and realize that our predictions, while worthwhile for discussions and planning, can never take account of unseen technological changes that, for the most part, will improve our lives.

This doesn’t solve our problems, but it does allow us to give perspective to our sometimes gloomy predictions and to see that what we often worry about does not come to pass.

John, thanks for the lovely reminder.

David S. Mazel, on John Steele Gordon:

It’s been said before and it merits repeating: The pace of technology is tremendous. It should give us all a wonderful feeling about the future and how much our lives have changed as well as how much our children’s lives will change and, of course, who can say how our grandchildren’s lives will be lived.

As other fine people have noted, it’s not just technology that has progressed so much but health care as well. I might add that our nation has come far socially with the integration and assimilation of a multitude of peoples on our shores.

As we ponder the current problems of the world on this blog, it is refreshing to look at the immediate past and realize how far we have come. To look back only a few short years and see such progress allows us to look forward and realize that our predictions, while worthwhile for discussions and planning, can never take account of unseen technological changes that, for the most part, will improve our lives.

This doesn’t solve our problems, but it does allow us to give perspective to our sometimes gloomy predictions and to see that what we often worry about does not come to pass.

John, thanks for the lovely reminder.

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A Bigger Showdown

Writing in the New Yorker on Iran’s current predicament, Laura Secor notes that

of the two sides in this confrontation only one has an army of special forces, known as white shirts, willing to extract a price for defiance in blood. There is something vertiginous now about the display of all that courage under the lengthening shadow of Tiananmen Square, in a nation whose government has long appeared to view China’s as a model. President Obama has so far struck the right notes by upholding the human and civil rights of the protesters without interfering in Iran’s internal politics. But a bigger showdown is coming. If the Islamic Republic dares to mow down those ebullient crowds, it will write itself a villainous chapter in history and offend the conscience of the world.

Two points are worth noting.

First: the conscience of the world — it’s been offended before, and it gets over the offense, usually. I would not assume the regime is wholly concerned with its global approval ratings right now. Had they been, they would not have taken the trouble to rig the election results in such an “in your face” way.

Second: the bigger showdown. Whether this is the Prague Spring or the Velvet Revolution remains to be seen. I am inclined to agree with Secor — a regime that so blatantly disregarded popular will is not going to retreat. The real question is: will the army of special forces balk at the violence as their hands get soaked in the blood of their compatriots? In Tienanmen they clearly had no compunction. Across Eastern Europe they did. But violence there will be — what we’ve seen is nothing compared to what a paranoid regime is prepared to do to ensure having its way.

Writing in the New Yorker on Iran’s current predicament, Laura Secor notes that

of the two sides in this confrontation only one has an army of special forces, known as white shirts, willing to extract a price for defiance in blood. There is something vertiginous now about the display of all that courage under the lengthening shadow of Tiananmen Square, in a nation whose government has long appeared to view China’s as a model. President Obama has so far struck the right notes by upholding the human and civil rights of the protesters without interfering in Iran’s internal politics. But a bigger showdown is coming. If the Islamic Republic dares to mow down those ebullient crowds, it will write itself a villainous chapter in history and offend the conscience of the world.

Two points are worth noting.

First: the conscience of the world — it’s been offended before, and it gets over the offense, usually. I would not assume the regime is wholly concerned with its global approval ratings right now. Had they been, they would not have taken the trouble to rig the election results in such an “in your face” way.

Second: the bigger showdown. Whether this is the Prague Spring or the Velvet Revolution remains to be seen. I am inclined to agree with Secor — a regime that so blatantly disregarded popular will is not going to retreat. The real question is: will the army of special forces balk at the violence as their hands get soaked in the blood of their compatriots? In Tienanmen they clearly had no compunction. Across Eastern Europe they did. But violence there will be — what we’ve seen is nothing compared to what a paranoid regime is prepared to do to ensure having its way.

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Memo to the Times: The Whole Country is Illegal to Tony

Tony Judt is a very influential New York intellectual. From his perch at New York University, he sends forth books and lengthy articles that appear in influential forums. When Judt writes lengthy essays, the New York Times frees up room on the op-ed page while guys like Roger Cohen and Ross Douthat have to make do with being published in the on-line version only.

But all you really need to know about the 1,600+ word essay that appears in the Times today is that Judt couldn’t be more disingenuous if he tried. The piece, titled “Fictions on the Ground,” leads with his memories of being a kibbutz volunteer in the early 1960s. With that, Judt attempts to establish himself as someone who is – or used to be – a supporter of the pre-1967 Jewish State. That’s an important distinction for him to try and make since the point of the piece is to demonize the country for its supposedly illegal settlements on the West Bank. Mind you, he doesn’t make a case for their illegality. He merely asserts it as if there were no argument about their legal status. After all, from what sovereign nation did Israel “steal” the West Bank when it took control of it during a defensive war in 1967? Not Jordan, since almost no one recognized its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967, after its British-led army invaded the former Mandate of Palestine. Not from a sovereign Palestinian Arab state, since none has ever existed (in no small measure because the Palestinian Arabs rejected the United Nation’s offer of a partition of the country in 1947).

Equally absurd is Judt’s assertion that Israel “needs settlements” because it conforms to a pioneer image of the country that sells to the world. In fact, Israel is doing everything possible to market itself to the world as the opposite of the settler stereotype, instead focusing on its attractive beaches, attractive Israelis (paging Bar Rafael, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit covergirl), high tech industries, and medical innovations. In other words, Judt hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s talking about when he tries to explain anything about the country.

But far worse is the thing that Judt doesn’t mention in this lengthy diatribe about illegal settlements and Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategies. For all of his attempts to treat Jewish communities over the green line as illegal (including the Jerusalem suburbs where most “settlers” live), anyone who’s read Judt’s previous writings about the country knows very well that he considers the existence of the entire state to be immoral if not illegal. That’s right. As he explained in an even lengthier essay in The New York Review of Books in October 2003, he’s not a Zionist of any sort but someone who believes Israel needs to be dismantled and replaced by a “binational” state in which Zionism will be extirpated.

There are those who will argue that someone can advocate for such a thing to happen without understanding that it would almost certainly involve the destruction of the Jewish population of the country along with the Zionism. But that’s beside the point. Anyone who supports bi-nationalism and considers Zionism a sort of crime is in no position to be an arbiter of the legality of anything that Israel does. All of which leads us to wonder about the egregious lack of judgment on the part of the Times’s editors in allowing Judt to pontificate on this subject without mentioning his assertion that Tel Aviv, and yes, that kibbutz where he once volunteered, is more or less illegal too.

Tony Judt is a very influential New York intellectual. From his perch at New York University, he sends forth books and lengthy articles that appear in influential forums. When Judt writes lengthy essays, the New York Times frees up room on the op-ed page while guys like Roger Cohen and Ross Douthat have to make do with being published in the on-line version only.

But all you really need to know about the 1,600+ word essay that appears in the Times today is that Judt couldn’t be more disingenuous if he tried. The piece, titled “Fictions on the Ground,” leads with his memories of being a kibbutz volunteer in the early 1960s. With that, Judt attempts to establish himself as someone who is – or used to be – a supporter of the pre-1967 Jewish State. That’s an important distinction for him to try and make since the point of the piece is to demonize the country for its supposedly illegal settlements on the West Bank. Mind you, he doesn’t make a case for their illegality. He merely asserts it as if there were no argument about their legal status. After all, from what sovereign nation did Israel “steal” the West Bank when it took control of it during a defensive war in 1967? Not Jordan, since almost no one recognized its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967, after its British-led army invaded the former Mandate of Palestine. Not from a sovereign Palestinian Arab state, since none has ever existed (in no small measure because the Palestinian Arabs rejected the United Nation’s offer of a partition of the country in 1947).

Equally absurd is Judt’s assertion that Israel “needs settlements” because it conforms to a pioneer image of the country that sells to the world. In fact, Israel is doing everything possible to market itself to the world as the opposite of the settler stereotype, instead focusing on its attractive beaches, attractive Israelis (paging Bar Rafael, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit covergirl), high tech industries, and medical innovations. In other words, Judt hasn’t the faintest idea what he’s talking about when he tries to explain anything about the country.

But far worse is the thing that Judt doesn’t mention in this lengthy diatribe about illegal settlements and Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategies. For all of his attempts to treat Jewish communities over the green line as illegal (including the Jerusalem suburbs where most “settlers” live), anyone who’s read Judt’s previous writings about the country knows very well that he considers the existence of the entire state to be immoral if not illegal. That’s right. As he explained in an even lengthier essay in The New York Review of Books in October 2003, he’s not a Zionist of any sort but someone who believes Israel needs to be dismantled and replaced by a “binational” state in which Zionism will be extirpated.

There are those who will argue that someone can advocate for such a thing to happen without understanding that it would almost certainly involve the destruction of the Jewish population of the country along with the Zionism. But that’s beside the point. Anyone who supports bi-nationalism and considers Zionism a sort of crime is in no position to be an arbiter of the legality of anything that Israel does. All of which leads us to wonder about the egregious lack of judgment on the part of the Times’s editors in allowing Judt to pontificate on this subject without mentioning his assertion that Tel Aviv, and yes, that kibbutz where he once volunteered, is more or less illegal too.

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Deification in Context

Over at Newsweek, Evan Thomas, in a piece titled “The Perils of Punditry,” is unhappy because he thinks he’s being treated unfairly. According to Thomas, “Appearing on Hardball With Chris Matthews on June 5, I compared President Obama with God. Or at least that’s how it seemed to some bloggers [I was the one quoted by Thomas; my original post is here] and talk-show hosts [Rush Limbaugh], who made me a poster child for the argument that the liberal press is hopelessly in love with Obama.”

Maybe the reason it “seemed” Thomas was comparing Obama to God is because, well, he did exactly that. Thomas, in speaking to Matthews about Obama’s speech in Cairo, said, “In a way, Obama’s standing above the country, above-above the world, a sort of god.”

Ah, but Thomas avers, “I was not being literal.” To which one might ask: Does it help Thomas’s case a great deal if he was being figurative? I would add that if you listen to Thomas throughout the interview, he was definitely being worshipful.

Thomas then writes, “I could complain about being ‘taken out of context’ this time, but I scoff when politicians do that.” So Thomas is complaining about being taken out of context while at the same time trying to get credit for not doing so.

There’s a story in which William Simon, Treasury Secretary in the Nixon Administration, called the Shah of Iran a “nut.” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was not happy and spoke to Simon, who told Kissinger that his comments had been taken “out of context.” To which Kissinger is reported to have said: “Mr. Secretary, in what context can you call the head of state of an American ally ‘a nut’?”

So I would ask: Mr. Thomas, in what context can you call Barack Obama a “sort of God”?

Over at Newsweek, Evan Thomas, in a piece titled “The Perils of Punditry,” is unhappy because he thinks he’s being treated unfairly. According to Thomas, “Appearing on Hardball With Chris Matthews on June 5, I compared President Obama with God. Or at least that’s how it seemed to some bloggers [I was the one quoted by Thomas; my original post is here] and talk-show hosts [Rush Limbaugh], who made me a poster child for the argument that the liberal press is hopelessly in love with Obama.”

Maybe the reason it “seemed” Thomas was comparing Obama to God is because, well, he did exactly that. Thomas, in speaking to Matthews about Obama’s speech in Cairo, said, “In a way, Obama’s standing above the country, above-above the world, a sort of god.”

Ah, but Thomas avers, “I was not being literal.” To which one might ask: Does it help Thomas’s case a great deal if he was being figurative? I would add that if you listen to Thomas throughout the interview, he was definitely being worshipful.

Thomas then writes, “I could complain about being ‘taken out of context’ this time, but I scoff when politicians do that.” So Thomas is complaining about being taken out of context while at the same time trying to get credit for not doing so.

There’s a story in which William Simon, Treasury Secretary in the Nixon Administration, called the Shah of Iran a “nut.” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was not happy and spoke to Simon, who told Kissinger that his comments had been taken “out of context.” To which Kissinger is reported to have said: “Mr. Secretary, in what context can you call the head of state of an American ally ‘a nut’?”

So I would ask: Mr. Thomas, in what context can you call Barack Obama a “sort of God”?

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Voting Right Act Survives — Sort of

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act but held that any subdivision or state can elect a “bailout” from its provisions. Although the Court did not, as many conservatives hoped, strike down Section 5, all the justices found “serious constitutional concerns” — or in the case of Justice Thomas, actual ones — which could, in future litigation, invalidate the entire pre-clearance regime. All justices rejected the notion that discriminatory conditions at the time of the Act’s original passage in 1965 are sufficient to insulate it from challenge. Lyle Denniston at Scotusblog had this take:

In the next few years, either a local government that tries but fails to get out from under Section 5’s controls, or a state government covered by the law but convinced it should not be any more, would have quite a good chance of renewing the constitutional controversy that the Court did not decide.  The main opinion, in fact, provides what could easily be read as a roadmap for such a future constitutional complaint.

Perhaps one of the main ways to read the Court’s ruling, then, is that it it a warning to Congress that it needs to reconsider Section 5, and shore it up, if it can, with a new formula for coverage, and provide some assurance that it will no longer single out some states to bear Section 5’s obligations in ways that the Court suggested were now unequal.

Todd Gaziano, of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Heritage, writes:

All justices also agreed that its prior decisions upholding the pre-clearance provision are no longer valid today and that the renewal of this provision, which constitutes a unique intrusion on the states, must be justified by current needs and conditions. Eight justices also agreed that the differentiation between covered and non-covered jurisdictions “may no longer be justified.” Justice Thomas, the only justice who did not join Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, would go further. He wrote that the Act not only was unconstitutional but that the Court should have so held.

It would have been a very big deal indeed to invalidate the Voting Rights Act. Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts, who chose to write the majority opinion himself, wanted to avoid a controversial 5-4 decision in favor of a more united roadmap that would give direction to both Congress and future litigants. In any event, it will be up to future Supreme Courts and new justices to determine whether the federal government can still micromanage a select group of states and jurisdictions more than forty years after passage of the Voting Right Act, and after the country has elected its first African American president.

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act but held that any subdivision or state can elect a “bailout” from its provisions. Although the Court did not, as many conservatives hoped, strike down Section 5, all the justices found “serious constitutional concerns” — or in the case of Justice Thomas, actual ones — which could, in future litigation, invalidate the entire pre-clearance regime. All justices rejected the notion that discriminatory conditions at the time of the Act’s original passage in 1965 are sufficient to insulate it from challenge. Lyle Denniston at Scotusblog had this take:

In the next few years, either a local government that tries but fails to get out from under Section 5’s controls, or a state government covered by the law but convinced it should not be any more, would have quite a good chance of renewing the constitutional controversy that the Court did not decide.  The main opinion, in fact, provides what could easily be read as a roadmap for such a future constitutional complaint.

Perhaps one of the main ways to read the Court’s ruling, then, is that it it a warning to Congress that it needs to reconsider Section 5, and shore it up, if it can, with a new formula for coverage, and provide some assurance that it will no longer single out some states to bear Section 5’s obligations in ways that the Court suggested were now unequal.

Todd Gaziano, of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Heritage, writes:

All justices also agreed that its prior decisions upholding the pre-clearance provision are no longer valid today and that the renewal of this provision, which constitutes a unique intrusion on the states, must be justified by current needs and conditions. Eight justices also agreed that the differentiation between covered and non-covered jurisdictions “may no longer be justified.” Justice Thomas, the only justice who did not join Chief Justice Robert’s opinion, would go further. He wrote that the Act not only was unconstitutional but that the Court should have so held.

It would have been a very big deal indeed to invalidate the Voting Rights Act. Perhaps Chief Justice Roberts, who chose to write the majority opinion himself, wanted to avoid a controversial 5-4 decision in favor of a more united roadmap that would give direction to both Congress and future litigants. In any event, it will be up to future Supreme Courts and new justices to determine whether the federal government can still micromanage a select group of states and jurisdictions more than forty years after passage of the Voting Right Act, and after the country has elected its first African American president.

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Secularizing the Mullahs

I can’t say I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg on this one:

Yesterday, on Meet the Press, Netanyahu told David Gregory that recent events have “unmasked” the true nature of the regime, and this is undoubtedly true: No one, not even the regime’s apologists, believes that these men are secret moderates interested in seeing Iran rejoin the civilized world. So in one way, the regime’s murderous response to dissent helps Netanyahu make his case that this is indeed a fanatic regime. But recent events also cut against Netanyahu’s analysis, I think: The Iranian regime has exposed itself as interested mainly in self-preservation. Netanyahu told me earlier this spring that Iran is run by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult.” But I think there’s an argument to be made that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are grubby men mainly interested in perpetuating their power. In other words, they seem to behave like rather quotidian dictators, not religious fanatics. A confrontation with Israel would certainly threaten the stability of their regime, and the stability of their regime is something they quite obviously cherish.

This is like saying a novelist who lives to write may be “exposed” as interested mainly in self-preservation once diagnosed with cancer. The Ayatollahs can’t very well hasten their eschatological aims if they’re rousted from power. It’s unclear what sort of response Goldberg would interpret as credibly fanatical. Khamenei has declared the elections to be the will of God, added the United Kingdom to the “Death to” iterations, blamed the riots on infidels, and announced plans to incorporate the Basij militia into this Friday’s prayers. If there is a more efficient symbol of this dictatorship’s non-quotidian nature than this last development, I’m unaware of it.

A confrontation with Israel may or may not threaten the regime, but what’s more critical is whether the mullahs think it will bolster the regime. They are of the Iran-Iraq mindset, which dictates that war is the surest path to national unity.

I can’t say I agree with Jeffrey Goldberg on this one:

Yesterday, on Meet the Press, Netanyahu told David Gregory that recent events have “unmasked” the true nature of the regime, and this is undoubtedly true: No one, not even the regime’s apologists, believes that these men are secret moderates interested in seeing Iran rejoin the civilized world. So in one way, the regime’s murderous response to dissent helps Netanyahu make his case that this is indeed a fanatic regime. But recent events also cut against Netanyahu’s analysis, I think: The Iranian regime has exposed itself as interested mainly in self-preservation. Netanyahu told me earlier this spring that Iran is run by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult.” But I think there’s an argument to be made that Khamenei and Ahmadinejad are grubby men mainly interested in perpetuating their power. In other words, they seem to behave like rather quotidian dictators, not religious fanatics. A confrontation with Israel would certainly threaten the stability of their regime, and the stability of their regime is something they quite obviously cherish.

This is like saying a novelist who lives to write may be “exposed” as interested mainly in self-preservation once diagnosed with cancer. The Ayatollahs can’t very well hasten their eschatological aims if they’re rousted from power. It’s unclear what sort of response Goldberg would interpret as credibly fanatical. Khamenei has declared the elections to be the will of God, added the United Kingdom to the “Death to” iterations, blamed the riots on infidels, and announced plans to incorporate the Basij militia into this Friday’s prayers. If there is a more efficient symbol of this dictatorship’s non-quotidian nature than this last development, I’m unaware of it.

A confrontation with Israel may or may not threaten the regime, but what’s more critical is whether the mullahs think it will bolster the regime. They are of the Iran-Iraq mindset, which dictates that war is the surest path to national unity.

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Poetic Justice for a Murderer

For those who wondered about the fate of Palestinian murderers living in protected exile in Europe, it turns out life in the Emerald Isle for Jihad Jaara isn’t exactly a remake of “The Quiet Man.”

That’s the upshot of Joshua Hammer’s article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that gives us an update on the man who masterminded the murder of an American immigrant to Israel who worked with Palestinians in Bethlehem back in 2002. Along with other Palestinian killers from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Jaara took refuge from Israeli forces in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (or to be more accurate, he was one of the terrorists who hijacked the place). After a long siege, international pressure forced Israel to let the terrorists go free with some going to Spain and others to Ireland.

Hammer subsequently interviewed Jaara in Dublin in 2002 for a book about the siege and published his confession of responsibility for the killing. As the victim was an American citizen,  Hammer was later asked to testify about the confession before a federal grand jury.

Hammer goes on at length about his agonizing over whether to testify. This is as pointless as it is self-indulgent. There was no question of revealing sources since all the Justice Department asked of him was to verify in person the facts about the confession that he had already published. Unfortunately, nothing concrete came from the grand jury proceedings. Hammer leads his piece though with an account of a subsequent offer from the FBI, aimed at make him a government informant about Jaara. This gave Hammer a chance to show off his unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

Without too much trouble, Hammer again tracked down Jaara in Ireland. What he found was a sad remnant of a man living in fear of retribution from Israel and perhaps the United States. He and a Palestinian doctor both beg Hammer to tell them how he found them. Hammer refused them as he did the FBI and left the formerly brazen killer “sweating, sucking on a Marlboro, his eyes wide with fear.”

Hammer goes on:

I supposed he spent most of his exile holed up like this, watching bad movies and smoking Marlboros, waiting for the day when Mossad or the C.I.A. burst through the door … Jaara was trembling; the Palestinian physician placed two hands on his shoulders to steady him. He was still shaking when I slipped out the door …

Decent people everywhere can take some satisfaction from the fact that a man who got away with murder is now a sniveling coward in a living hell. There is nothing left for him but to wait for the inevitable day he gets his just desserts.

But there’s more to Hammer’s piece than this illustration of poetic, if not actual, justice. Hammer’s pose of journalistic integrity is especially tough to take because his portrait of the conflict between Israelis and terrorists like Jaara is based on a false moral equivalence. In discussing the outbreak of the second intifada, Hammer buys into the myth that it was a reaction to Ariel Sharon’s “provocative visit to the Al Aksa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest shrines in Jerusalem.” Of course, Sharon didn’t go into the mosque but just went for a stroll on the site of the Temple Mount (the original name of the place, which Hammer’s text doesn’t mention). Rather than place the outbreak of this campaign in the context of Yasser Arafat’s need to change the subject after he rejected an Israeli Peace offer months earlier, he chooses to falsely blame it all on the Israelis.

Interestingly, one fact that Hammer doesn’t conceal is that before Jaara killed Avi Boaz and took part in other terrorist shootings, he was an “officer in the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service.” This group was funded and trained by the West in order to maintain law and order and prevent terrorism. Instead, Jaara turned his rifle (no doubt given to him by Israel) on the Israelis and became part of Al Aksa, an organization that was financed by Arafat and his Fatah Party, the same group that is considered Israel’s ideal partner for peace today. There are  some who believe that those Fatah-supported Palestinians who are currently undergoing similar training by the United States will become an effective counter-terrorism force. Anyone who buys into that hope needs to learn more about why previous efforts to appease terrorists produced Jihad Jaara rather than peace. Despite its fractured portrayal of history, in this limited sense Hammer’s article is of some value.

For those who wondered about the fate of Palestinian murderers living in protected exile in Europe, it turns out life in the Emerald Isle for Jihad Jaara isn’t exactly a remake of “The Quiet Man.”

That’s the upshot of Joshua Hammer’s article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that gives us an update on the man who masterminded the murder of an American immigrant to Israel who worked with Palestinians in Bethlehem back in 2002. Along with other Palestinian killers from the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Jaara took refuge from Israeli forces in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (or to be more accurate, he was one of the terrorists who hijacked the place). After a long siege, international pressure forced Israel to let the terrorists go free with some going to Spain and others to Ireland.

Hammer subsequently interviewed Jaara in Dublin in 2002 for a book about the siege and published his confession of responsibility for the killing. As the victim was an American citizen,  Hammer was later asked to testify about the confession before a federal grand jury.

Hammer goes on at length about his agonizing over whether to testify. This is as pointless as it is self-indulgent. There was no question of revealing sources since all the Justice Department asked of him was to verify in person the facts about the confession that he had already published. Unfortunately, nothing concrete came from the grand jury proceedings. Hammer leads his piece though with an account of a subsequent offer from the FBI, aimed at make him a government informant about Jaara. This gave Hammer a chance to show off his unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities.

Without too much trouble, Hammer again tracked down Jaara in Ireland. What he found was a sad remnant of a man living in fear of retribution from Israel and perhaps the United States. He and a Palestinian doctor both beg Hammer to tell them how he found them. Hammer refused them as he did the FBI and left the formerly brazen killer “sweating, sucking on a Marlboro, his eyes wide with fear.”

Hammer goes on:

I supposed he spent most of his exile holed up like this, watching bad movies and smoking Marlboros, waiting for the day when Mossad or the C.I.A. burst through the door … Jaara was trembling; the Palestinian physician placed two hands on his shoulders to steady him. He was still shaking when I slipped out the door …

Decent people everywhere can take some satisfaction from the fact that a man who got away with murder is now a sniveling coward in a living hell. There is nothing left for him but to wait for the inevitable day he gets his just desserts.

But there’s more to Hammer’s piece than this illustration of poetic, if not actual, justice. Hammer’s pose of journalistic integrity is especially tough to take because his portrait of the conflict between Israelis and terrorists like Jaara is based on a false moral equivalence. In discussing the outbreak of the second intifada, Hammer buys into the myth that it was a reaction to Ariel Sharon’s “provocative visit to the Al Aksa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest shrines in Jerusalem.” Of course, Sharon didn’t go into the mosque but just went for a stroll on the site of the Temple Mount (the original name of the place, which Hammer’s text doesn’t mention). Rather than place the outbreak of this campaign in the context of Yasser Arafat’s need to change the subject after he rejected an Israeli Peace offer months earlier, he chooses to falsely blame it all on the Israelis.

Interestingly, one fact that Hammer doesn’t conceal is that before Jaara killed Avi Boaz and took part in other terrorist shootings, he was an “officer in the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Service.” This group was funded and trained by the West in order to maintain law and order and prevent terrorism. Instead, Jaara turned his rifle (no doubt given to him by Israel) on the Israelis and became part of Al Aksa, an organization that was financed by Arafat and his Fatah Party, the same group that is considered Israel’s ideal partner for peace today. There are  some who believe that those Fatah-supported Palestinians who are currently undergoing similar training by the United States will become an effective counter-terrorism force. Anyone who buys into that hope needs to learn more about why previous efforts to appease terrorists produced Jihad Jaara rather than peace. Despite its fractured portrayal of history, in this limited sense Hammer’s article is of some value.

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What’s Happening with ObamaCare?

ABC, perhaps trying to compensate for becoming the ObamaCare PR network, has an interesting report on what the “public option” the president favors actually entails:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 23 million Americans would migrate from employer-based health care plans or other plans to a government public health care plan if one were offered. A study by health consulting firm the Lewin Group found that if a government-run plan paid at the same rate as Medicare, 70 percent of consumers currently with private insurers would jump ship for the public program.

“A government plan, no matter what you call it, will increase costs. It will reduce choices and essentially it will not allow you to keep what you have, and that is the essence of what the health care system in this country is about,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoing the sentiment of his fellow Republican congress members. “We ought to allow for more competition so that people can have choice.”

So much for the notion that everyone will get to keep his or her own healthcare plan. And the cost?

Republicans have seized on a CBO report that estimates the plan proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Senate Democrats will cost upward of $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave 36 million uninsured. Democrats on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee say they are revising the plan to cut that high price tag, and other committees of the Senate are also working on different bills.

Yes, they have “seized” on the nonpartisan analysis of the budget office of Congress to finally tell the American people how much this is all going to cost. (Democrats don’t “seize”; they only provide information to the public, you see.)

But the real battle is not between Republicans and Democrats — it is between competing committees and groups of Senate Democrats. Roll Call tells us:

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions No. 2 Democrat Chris Dodd (Conn.) — who is pinch-hitting for Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — both contend that marrying their two health care bills into a single vehicle will be seamless. But last week, it was increasingly apparent that these two Senate committees are working on separate, and conflicting, tracks.

HELP on Wednesday began marking up expensive legislation that appeared geared toward satisfying liberal health care reform goals. Meanwhile, the markup of the Finance bill was delayed from its original start date of Tuesday so that Baucus could continue to pursue a bipartisan agreement on legislation that costs less than $1 trillion and is deficit-neutral.

Dodd declares that his “goal is not bipartisanship,” while Baucus says, “I think it’s very important to get a good, bipartisan bill.” So a deal is plainly within grasp, right? Maybe not.

The question remains: what does the president want – and how does he expect to pay for it? Right now he’s laying low, as he does whenever hard decisions present themselves. There is no consensus in his own party. But pretty soon he’ll have to step forward and provide direction on his top legislative priority — or see it go down the tubes.

ABC, perhaps trying to compensate for becoming the ObamaCare PR network, has an interesting report on what the “public option” the president favors actually entails:

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 23 million Americans would migrate from employer-based health care plans or other plans to a government public health care plan if one were offered. A study by health consulting firm the Lewin Group found that if a government-run plan paid at the same rate as Medicare, 70 percent of consumers currently with private insurers would jump ship for the public program.

“A government plan, no matter what you call it, will increase costs. It will reduce choices and essentially it will not allow you to keep what you have, and that is the essence of what the health care system in this country is about,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., echoing the sentiment of his fellow Republican congress members. “We ought to allow for more competition so that people can have choice.”

So much for the notion that everyone will get to keep his or her own healthcare plan. And the cost?

Republicans have seized on a CBO report that estimates the plan proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Senate Democrats will cost upward of $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave 36 million uninsured. Democrats on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee say they are revising the plan to cut that high price tag, and other committees of the Senate are also working on different bills.

Yes, they have “seized” on the nonpartisan analysis of the budget office of Congress to finally tell the American people how much this is all going to cost. (Democrats don’t “seize”; they only provide information to the public, you see.)

But the real battle is not between Republicans and Democrats — it is between competing committees and groups of Senate Democrats. Roll Call tells us:

Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions No. 2 Democrat Chris Dodd (Conn.) — who is pinch-hitting for Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) — both contend that marrying their two health care bills into a single vehicle will be seamless. But last week, it was increasingly apparent that these two Senate committees are working on separate, and conflicting, tracks.

HELP on Wednesday began marking up expensive legislation that appeared geared toward satisfying liberal health care reform goals. Meanwhile, the markup of the Finance bill was delayed from its original start date of Tuesday so that Baucus could continue to pursue a bipartisan agreement on legislation that costs less than $1 trillion and is deficit-neutral.

Dodd declares that his “goal is not bipartisanship,” while Baucus says, “I think it’s very important to get a good, bipartisan bill.” So a deal is plainly within grasp, right? Maybe not.

The question remains: what does the president want – and how does he expect to pay for it? Right now he’s laying low, as he does whenever hard decisions present themselves. There is no consensus in his own party. But pretty soon he’ll have to step forward and provide direction on his top legislative priority — or see it go down the tubes.

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“Momma, Don’t Take My Kodachrome Away”

Kodachrome film will soon be no more. It’s been around since 1935 and Paul Simon wrote a song about it in 1973. But it’s been dying along with film photography in general for nearly a generation now, as digital replaces George Eastman’s once wondrous technology.

I was thinking the other day of my grandmother, who died thirty years ago this month, and for some reason began to draw up a list of the technology she never knew because she died in 1979. My grandmother was hardly a technophile but neither was she intimidated by technology (or by anything or anybody else for that matter, but that’s another story). She was more than happy to adopt things (radio, TV, automatic transmission, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, Waring blenders, etc. etc.) as they came along and made life easier and more fun.

What has come along since her death at 89 and is now found in many, if not most, American households is a remarkable list. It’s a measure of how fast the world is changing thanks to what the microprocessor (introduced to the commercial world in 1971, with the digital calculator) has made possible. Just consider some of the stuff we couldn’t get along without and which she never encountered: flat-screen TVs, microwave ovens, cordless phones, ice makers, personal computers, laptops, fax machines, home copiers and printers, GPS, cell phones, Blackberries, Ipods, CDs, DVDs, Tivo, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, e-mail, Kindle. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Some technologies have already come and gone (VHS, for instance).

I can readily imagine my grandmother reading on a Kindle or using a Blackberry (although I shudder to contemplate the fate of someone who tried surreptitiously to check his e-mail at her dinner table) and she would have loved having a GPS in her car, although I can easily see her ignoring its instructions because she thought she knew better. The Ayatollahs took over Iran just about the time my grandmother’s life ended. They must now be regretting the new technology that has made their tyranny so much harder to sustain.

Kodachrome film will soon be no more. It’s been around since 1935 and Paul Simon wrote a song about it in 1973. But it’s been dying along with film photography in general for nearly a generation now, as digital replaces George Eastman’s once wondrous technology.

I was thinking the other day of my grandmother, who died thirty years ago this month, and for some reason began to draw up a list of the technology she never knew because she died in 1979. My grandmother was hardly a technophile but neither was she intimidated by technology (or by anything or anybody else for that matter, but that’s another story). She was more than happy to adopt things (radio, TV, automatic transmission, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, Waring blenders, etc. etc.) as they came along and made life easier and more fun.

What has come along since her death at 89 and is now found in many, if not most, American households is a remarkable list. It’s a measure of how fast the world is changing thanks to what the microprocessor (introduced to the commercial world in 1971, with the digital calculator) has made possible. Just consider some of the stuff we couldn’t get along without and which she never encountered: flat-screen TVs, microwave ovens, cordless phones, ice makers, personal computers, laptops, fax machines, home copiers and printers, GPS, cell phones, Blackberries, Ipods, CDs, DVDs, Tivo, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, e-mail, Kindle. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Some technologies have already come and gone (VHS, for instance).

I can readily imagine my grandmother reading on a Kindle or using a Blackberry (although I shudder to contemplate the fate of someone who tried surreptitiously to check his e-mail at her dinner table) and she would have loved having a GPS in her car, although I can easily see her ignoring its instructions because she thought she knew better. The Ayatollahs took over Iran just about the time my grandmother’s life ended. They must now be regretting the new technology that has made their tyranny so much harder to sustain.

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Public Diplomacy Is Easier When the Facts Are on Your Side

Bibi Netanyahu has refined his diplomatic skills since his last time in office. His speech offering a two-state solution was widely praised in Israel, triggered the predictable rejectionist language from the Palestinians, and forced the White House to cough up some praise.

Sunday, he went on Meet The Press and quite effectively continued his public diplomacy campaign. First, he resisted the urge to criticize the president’s relative muteness on Iran:

I’m not going to second-guess the president of the United States.  I know President Obama wants the people of Iran to be free. He said as much in his seminal speech in Cairo before the Muslim world. I’ve spoken to him a number of times on this subject, there’s no question we’d all like to see a different, a different Iran with different policies.

Quite politic and respectful – the way one would expect an ally to treat us in public. Too bad the courtesy has not been returned. But Bibi, after all, has the high ground on Iran — a perfect display of the regime’s despotic nature is unfolding, although it has until now been generally shrugged off by the U.S. and world elite opinion. He explained:

Obviously, you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide. It is a, a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it’s been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran’s citizens.  hey, they go into the streets, they face bullets. And I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy, that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work. And I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.

On the notion that Iran just wants nuclear weapons in order to be recognized as “a world power,” he commented:

First of all, I, I don’t subscribe to the view that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a status symbol. It’s not. These are people who are sending thousands and thousands of missiles to their terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas with the specific instruction to bomb civilians in Israel. They’re supporting terrorists in the world. This is not a status symbol. To have such a regime acquire nuclear weapons is to risk the fact that they might give it to terrorists or give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. That is a departure in the security of the Middle East and the world, certainly in the security of my country, and so I wouldn’t treat the subject so lightly.  Would a regime change be a game changer? A policy change would be a game changer.

It is getting harder to stick to the fiction that the greatest problem in the Middle East is bubbe’s add-on bedroom in East Jerusalem, It is also getting harder to dispute the Iranian theocratic regime’s mortal threat to Israel and to the entire region. Facts matter. And Netanyahu has them on his side. He also, it seems, has learned how to deploy them.

Bibi Netanyahu has refined his diplomatic skills since his last time in office. His speech offering a two-state solution was widely praised in Israel, triggered the predictable rejectionist language from the Palestinians, and forced the White House to cough up some praise.

Sunday, he went on Meet The Press and quite effectively continued his public diplomacy campaign. First, he resisted the urge to criticize the president’s relative muteness on Iran:

I’m not going to second-guess the president of the United States.  I know President Obama wants the people of Iran to be free. He said as much in his seminal speech in Cairo before the Muslim world. I’ve spoken to him a number of times on this subject, there’s no question we’d all like to see a different, a different Iran with different policies.

Quite politic and respectful – the way one would expect an ally to treat us in public. Too bad the courtesy has not been returned. But Bibi, after all, has the high ground on Iran — a perfect display of the regime’s despotic nature is unfolding, although it has until now been generally shrugged off by the U.S. and world elite opinion. He explained:

Obviously, you see a regime that represses its own people and spreads terror far and wide. It is a, a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it’s been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran’s citizens.  hey, they go into the streets, they face bullets. And I tell you, as somebody who believes deeply in democracy, that you see the Iranian lack of democracy at work. And I think this better explains and best explains to the entire world what this regime is truly about.

On the notion that Iran just wants nuclear weapons in order to be recognized as “a world power,” he commented:

First of all, I, I don’t subscribe to the view that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a status symbol. It’s not. These are people who are sending thousands and thousands of missiles to their terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas with the specific instruction to bomb civilians in Israel. They’re supporting terrorists in the world. This is not a status symbol. To have such a regime acquire nuclear weapons is to risk the fact that they might give it to terrorists or give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. That is a departure in the security of the Middle East and the world, certainly in the security of my country, and so I wouldn’t treat the subject so lightly.  Would a regime change be a game changer? A policy change would be a game changer.

It is getting harder to stick to the fiction that the greatest problem in the Middle East is bubbe’s add-on bedroom in East Jerusalem, It is also getting harder to dispute the Iranian theocratic regime’s mortal threat to Israel and to the entire region. Facts matter. And Netanyahu has them on his side. He also, it seems, has learned how to deploy them.

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Real Genius

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) has often been called “the smartest guy in Congress.” That he is very intelligent is clear — but his actions show that simple brainpower is rarely an indicator of wisdom.

Congressman Frank, it should be recalled, was one of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s staunchest defenders, shielding them from scrutiny and oversight right up until they collapsed. And at that point he had the audacity to blame their failure not on those who had enabled the misconduct, but on those who had tried — and failed, thanks to Frank and his allies — to rein those bodies in.

Well, Frank is back to his old games. He’s leaning on Fannie and Freddie to ease restrictions on new condominium mortgages. The two had recently announced changes to their rules on when they would guarantee mortgages on condominium complexes showing signs of financial trouble. Frank wants them to assume greater risk and shift the exposure from developers and buyers onto the federal government.

Stop me if you’ve heard that line of argument before.

And recently, as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, GM announced that it was closing facilities around the nation. This was somewhat buried amid a flurry of larger developments, such as the demise of entire brand lines and the shuttering of dealerships, but still held some significance to a lot of people — including 80 people in a to-be-closed GM parts distribution center in Norton, Massachusetts. More specifically, 80 constituents of Congressman Barney Frank.

Frank immediately leaned on GM (at that point firmly in the hands of the federal government) to spare the Norton plant and its 80 jobs (which, apparently, hasn’t hired anyone new since the mid-1980′s). The GM execs, with this new calculus  (“one of our new CEOs likes this plant”), reconsidered and realized that it does make sense to keep this warehouse open for at least another year.

As noted, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more intelligent member of Congress. It takes a tremendous intellect to be so colossally, consistently wrong — and cause such harm.

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) has often been called “the smartest guy in Congress.” That he is very intelligent is clear — but his actions show that simple brainpower is rarely an indicator of wisdom.

Congressman Frank, it should be recalled, was one of Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s staunchest defenders, shielding them from scrutiny and oversight right up until they collapsed. And at that point he had the audacity to blame their failure not on those who had enabled the misconduct, but on those who had tried — and failed, thanks to Frank and his allies — to rein those bodies in.

Well, Frank is back to his old games. He’s leaning on Fannie and Freddie to ease restrictions on new condominium mortgages. The two had recently announced changes to their rules on when they would guarantee mortgages on condominium complexes showing signs of financial trouble. Frank wants them to assume greater risk and shift the exposure from developers and buyers onto the federal government.

Stop me if you’ve heard that line of argument before.

And recently, as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, GM announced that it was closing facilities around the nation. This was somewhat buried amid a flurry of larger developments, such as the demise of entire brand lines and the shuttering of dealerships, but still held some significance to a lot of people — including 80 people in a to-be-closed GM parts distribution center in Norton, Massachusetts. More specifically, 80 constituents of Congressman Barney Frank.

Frank immediately leaned on GM (at that point firmly in the hands of the federal government) to spare the Norton plant and its 80 jobs (which, apparently, hasn’t hired anyone new since the mid-1980′s). The GM execs, with this new calculus  (“one of our new CEOs likes this plant”), reconsidered and realized that it does make sense to keep this warehouse open for at least another year.

As noted, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more intelligent member of Congress. It takes a tremendous intellect to be so colossally, consistently wrong — and cause such harm.

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Pivoting?

In an interview with a Pakastani newspaper, reported by the Hill, Obama says:

We respect Iran’s sovereignty, but we also are witnessing peaceful demonstrations, people expressing themselves, and I stand for that universal principle that people should have a voice in their own lives and their own destiny. . And I hope that the international community recognizes that we need to stand behind peaceful protests and be opposed to violence or repression.

So perhaps, step-by-step, the “no meddling” rule is becoming non-operative. We now know Obama didn’t have double-secret information from Mousavi cautioning him to be quiet. He was just slow in recognizing what was going on, not unlike how he reacted to the invasion of Georgia during the campaign. What happened?

Perhaps more sensible voices in the White House have been reading advice like this from Dan Senor and Christian Whiton:

As for the notion that American action is unhelpful to reformers, this simply contradicts historical experience. Successful movements to alter authoritarian and totalitarian regimes almost always depend on internal dissent backed by strong international support. Those key factors are often required to get a regime’s enablers — including domestic security forces — to lose confidence and eventually succumb. Time and again and around the world — from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 — the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.

Or perhaps those in the White House who keep tabs so closely on the polls and the New York Times op-ed pages saw the winds of popular and elite opinion shifting, and recognized the president was painfully out of step. When you trail even the French in moral indignation something is clearly wrong.

Whatever the reason, the change of heart — if real — is welcome. Let’s see now if Obama can use some of that “smart diplomacy” to rally world opinion and exert pressure on the Iranian regime. At the very least, it seems Plan A — ingratiate himself with the mullahs — is kaput.

In an interview with a Pakastani newspaper, reported by the Hill, Obama says:

We respect Iran’s sovereignty, but we also are witnessing peaceful demonstrations, people expressing themselves, and I stand for that universal principle that people should have a voice in their own lives and their own destiny. . And I hope that the international community recognizes that we need to stand behind peaceful protests and be opposed to violence or repression.

So perhaps, step-by-step, the “no meddling” rule is becoming non-operative. We now know Obama didn’t have double-secret information from Mousavi cautioning him to be quiet. He was just slow in recognizing what was going on, not unlike how he reacted to the invasion of Georgia during the campaign. What happened?

Perhaps more sensible voices in the White House have been reading advice like this from Dan Senor and Christian Whiton:

As for the notion that American action is unhelpful to reformers, this simply contradicts historical experience. Successful movements to alter authoritarian and totalitarian regimes almost always depend on internal dissent backed by strong international support. Those key factors are often required to get a regime’s enablers — including domestic security forces — to lose confidence and eventually succumb. Time and again and around the world — from as recently as Tibet in 2008, to Egypt in 2005, to Tiananmen in 1989 — the prospects of reform dim considerably without international support. In fact, we know of no modern democratic evolution or revolution that has succeeded without some support and pressure from the west.

Or perhaps those in the White House who keep tabs so closely on the polls and the New York Times op-ed pages saw the winds of popular and elite opinion shifting, and recognized the president was painfully out of step. When you trail even the French in moral indignation something is clearly wrong.

Whatever the reason, the change of heart — if real — is welcome. Let’s see now if Obama can use some of that “smart diplomacy” to rally world opinion and exert pressure on the Iranian regime. At the very least, it seems Plan A — ingratiate himself with the mullahs — is kaput.

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“He’s Not Being Treated as a Politician”

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams, hardly a conservative, took the media to task for their Obama worship:

So you know, the problem here is he’s not being treated as a politician. The press is not being sufficiently adversarial, which is its role, to hold him accountable. And part of this, I think, goes back to the campaign.

I think a lot of people think, “Well, he’s a black man. He’s the president of the United States. This is unbelievable. This is historic. We better get on the bandwagon. We better get on the right side of history.”

But that’s not the role that the press should play. And just the way that you can condemn someone because of their race or because of difference, I fear that they’re now celebrating him and hold him — holding him and Michelle up to unreasonable standards and that they will jump off.

He also suggested that there is an element of “greed” which drives the fawning coverage – Obama-mania is good business. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the media has simply ceased to be the independent, critical watchdogs which they once aspired to be. At times it becomes downright embarrassing — ABC moves into the White House, Brian Williams and Obama drive around like two fraternity brothers out on the town.

In the end, however, it won’t entirely insulate Obama from the normal hits politicians suffer when they make mistakes and stumble in trying to enact their legislative agenda. That, in a sense, is what is so remarkable about Obama’s recent poll slippage. In spite of the most reverential media treatment ever accorded a president, the public is already souring on his agenda and finding him just a bit less dreamy. As Mara Liasson put it, “I think the honeymoon is probably going to wind down some time this fall. If he was — if the media was in charge of everything, why has the public plan, you know, hit a road block? Why isn’t his health care plan sailing through?”

The fact that the sycophantic coverage won’t entirely “work” doesn’t excuse it, of course. The press utterly failed in its obligations to vet candidate Obama and is equally delinquent in its failure to cover President Obama in a tough, critical and impartial manner. The only counterweight for that is a loss of public confidence in and reliance on the mainstream media — which, come to think of it, is pretty much what is happening.

On Fox News Sunday, Juan Williams, hardly a conservative, took the media to task for their Obama worship:

So you know, the problem here is he’s not being treated as a politician. The press is not being sufficiently adversarial, which is its role, to hold him accountable. And part of this, I think, goes back to the campaign.

I think a lot of people think, “Well, he’s a black man. He’s the president of the United States. This is unbelievable. This is historic. We better get on the bandwagon. We better get on the right side of history.”

But that’s not the role that the press should play. And just the way that you can condemn someone because of their race or because of difference, I fear that they’re now celebrating him and hold him — holding him and Michelle up to unreasonable standards and that they will jump off.

He also suggested that there is an element of “greed” which drives the fawning coverage – Obama-mania is good business. But it is hard to escape the conclusion that the media has simply ceased to be the independent, critical watchdogs which they once aspired to be. At times it becomes downright embarrassing — ABC moves into the White House, Brian Williams and Obama drive around like two fraternity brothers out on the town.

In the end, however, it won’t entirely insulate Obama from the normal hits politicians suffer when they make mistakes and stumble in trying to enact their legislative agenda. That, in a sense, is what is so remarkable about Obama’s recent poll slippage. In spite of the most reverential media treatment ever accorded a president, the public is already souring on his agenda and finding him just a bit less dreamy. As Mara Liasson put it, “I think the honeymoon is probably going to wind down some time this fall. If he was — if the media was in charge of everything, why has the public plan, you know, hit a road block? Why isn’t his health care plan sailing through?”

The fact that the sycophantic coverage won’t entirely “work” doesn’t excuse it, of course. The press utterly failed in its obligations to vet candidate Obama and is equally delinquent in its failure to cover President Obama in a tough, critical and impartial manner. The only counterweight for that is a loss of public confidence in and reliance on the mainstream media — which, come to think of it, is pretty much what is happening.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The “sort of God” sort of doesn’t believe in transparency. “Since Obama pledged on his first day in office to usher in a ‘new era’ of openness, ‘nothing has changed,’ says David -Sobel, a lawyer who litigates FOIA cases. ‘For a president who said he was going to bring unprecedented transparency to government, you would certainly expect more than the recycling of old Bush secrecy policies.”

Eye-opening: “The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale. Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.” How many Iranians will die or be imprisoned as a result? Shameful. UPDATE: It seems the Washington Times had this identical story months ago.

What does the president do now? “Iranian government media Sunday launched a campaign against Mir Hussein Mousavi and his supporters, calling the leader of the protests over Iran’s disputed election a ‘criminal’ and comparing demonstrators to members of a hated terrorist group. . . Iranian state television reported that 10 people died and more than 100 were injured Saturday when clashes broke out between security forces and protesters assembling for a pro-Mousavi rally that authorities had banned.”

Fouad Ajami explains that Obama’s straddling hasn’t worked: “That ambivalence at the heart of the Obama diplomacy about freedom has not served American policy well in this crisis. We had tried to ‘cheat’ — an opening to the regime with an obligatory wink to those who took to the streets appalled by their rulers’ cynicism and utter disregard for their people’s intelligence and common sense — and we were caught at it.”

North Korea appears not to be taking the UN sanctions seriously:”A North Korean cargo ship shadowed by a United States Navy destroyer was reportedly steaming toward Myanmar on Sunday, posing what could be the first test of how far the United States and its allies will go under a new United Nations resolution to stop the North’s military shipments.”

John McCain says we should board the ship if we have evidence it has missiles or other material banned by UN resolutions. Is there any possible reason not to?

After reviewing the results of the independent evaluation of the D.C. school voucher program (which found the program “has met a tough standard for efficacy in serving low-income inner-city students”), Joe Lieberman argues: “Support for the voucher program does not hamper the efforts of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and [Chancellor Michelle] Rhee to improve the public schools, and it may help by promoting choice and innovation. We should continue our strategy of meeting the District’s educational challenges on three fronts: by funding public schools, public charter schools and opportunity scholarships.” It’s up to Congress — will those indebted to the teacher’s union nix full re-authorization of a successful program for inner city kids?

Card check isn’t dead yet, but when Sen. Diane Feinstein is iffy it’s not a good sign for its proponents. And what about the White House? “’Nobody’s being called to the White House,’ one congressional aide said. One labor analyst said he believes the Democratic president simply has higher priorities.” Well, he’s not lifting a finger on climate change either, but he’d certainly sign just about anything on these issues which his Democratic Congressional allies passed.

The mainstream media realizes unemployment is at 9.4% and going higher: “Despite signs that the recession gripping the nation’s economy may be easing, the unemployment rate is projected to continue rising for another year before topping out in double digits, a prospect that threatens to slow growth, increase poverty and further complicate the Obama administration’s message of optimism about the economic outlook.” Really? Good thing he didn’t promise to keep unemployment below 8% with a trillion dollar stimulus plan. Oh, wait.

George Will on This Week on the president’s obsession with Fox News: “Well, it’s the discordant note in an otherwise harmonious chorus, I suppose that’s why. But three great love affairs in world history are Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, and the American media and this president at the moment. But this doesn’t matter over time. Reality will impinge. If his programs work, he’s fine. If it doesn’t work, all the adulation of journalists in the world won’t help.”

The “sort of God” sort of doesn’t believe in transparency. “Since Obama pledged on his first day in office to usher in a ‘new era’ of openness, ‘nothing has changed,’ says David -Sobel, a lawyer who litigates FOIA cases. ‘For a president who said he was going to bring unprecedented transparency to government, you would certainly expect more than the recycling of old Bush secrecy policies.”

Eye-opening: “The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world’s most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale. Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.” How many Iranians will die or be imprisoned as a result? Shameful. UPDATE: It seems the Washington Times had this identical story months ago.

What does the president do now? “Iranian government media Sunday launched a campaign against Mir Hussein Mousavi and his supporters, calling the leader of the protests over Iran’s disputed election a ‘criminal’ and comparing demonstrators to members of a hated terrorist group. . . Iranian state television reported that 10 people died and more than 100 were injured Saturday when clashes broke out between security forces and protesters assembling for a pro-Mousavi rally that authorities had banned.”

Fouad Ajami explains that Obama’s straddling hasn’t worked: “That ambivalence at the heart of the Obama diplomacy about freedom has not served American policy well in this crisis. We had tried to ‘cheat’ — an opening to the regime with an obligatory wink to those who took to the streets appalled by their rulers’ cynicism and utter disregard for their people’s intelligence and common sense — and we were caught at it.”

North Korea appears not to be taking the UN sanctions seriously:”A North Korean cargo ship shadowed by a United States Navy destroyer was reportedly steaming toward Myanmar on Sunday, posing what could be the first test of how far the United States and its allies will go under a new United Nations resolution to stop the North’s military shipments.”

John McCain says we should board the ship if we have evidence it has missiles or other material banned by UN resolutions. Is there any possible reason not to?

After reviewing the results of the independent evaluation of the D.C. school voucher program (which found the program “has met a tough standard for efficacy in serving low-income inner-city students”), Joe Lieberman argues: “Support for the voucher program does not hamper the efforts of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and [Chancellor Michelle] Rhee to improve the public schools, and it may help by promoting choice and innovation. We should continue our strategy of meeting the District’s educational challenges on three fronts: by funding public schools, public charter schools and opportunity scholarships.” It’s up to Congress — will those indebted to the teacher’s union nix full re-authorization of a successful program for inner city kids?

Card check isn’t dead yet, but when Sen. Diane Feinstein is iffy it’s not a good sign for its proponents. And what about the White House? “’Nobody’s being called to the White House,’ one congressional aide said. One labor analyst said he believes the Democratic president simply has higher priorities.” Well, he’s not lifting a finger on climate change either, but he’d certainly sign just about anything on these issues which his Democratic Congressional allies passed.

The mainstream media realizes unemployment is at 9.4% and going higher: “Despite signs that the recession gripping the nation’s economy may be easing, the unemployment rate is projected to continue rising for another year before topping out in double digits, a prospect that threatens to slow growth, increase poverty and further complicate the Obama administration’s message of optimism about the economic outlook.” Really? Good thing he didn’t promise to keep unemployment below 8% with a trillion dollar stimulus plan. Oh, wait.

George Will on This Week on the president’s obsession with Fox News: “Well, it’s the discordant note in an otherwise harmonious chorus, I suppose that’s why. But three great love affairs in world history are Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, and the American media and this president at the moment. But this doesn’t matter over time. Reality will impinge. If his programs work, he’s fine. If it doesn’t work, all the adulation of journalists in the world won’t help.”

Read Less




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