Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 13, 2009

Human Rights Watch’s Curious Omission

Richard Landes asks an important question: Why doesn’t HRW’s white-flags report mention Hamas’s use of civilians and civilian infrastructure on the battlefield, when HRW has acknowledged the tactic elsewhere? This is a key point. If Hamas intentionally introduces civilians into combat, the claims of Israeli culpability for their deaths become a lot less credible. Indeed, people might start thinking that Hamas, not the IDF, bears the responsibility for them. And this is exactly why such tactics make no appearance in HRW’s report, whose claims are entirely sourced by Palestinians:

If Hamas will fire from the midst of civilians, hide behind white-flag toting refugees, and keep them cooped up in areas to which they draw fire, then surely they are not going to be very happy with Palestinians complaining about that behavior. Once HRW grants that such matters go on within the same report in which they present Palestinian evidence as their key source for their allegations, the epistemological house of cards begins to fall.

Read the whole thing.

Richard Landes asks an important question: Why doesn’t HRW’s white-flags report mention Hamas’s use of civilians and civilian infrastructure on the battlefield, when HRW has acknowledged the tactic elsewhere? This is a key point. If Hamas intentionally introduces civilians into combat, the claims of Israeli culpability for their deaths become a lot less credible. Indeed, people might start thinking that Hamas, not the IDF, bears the responsibility for them. And this is exactly why such tactics make no appearance in HRW’s report, whose claims are entirely sourced by Palestinians:

If Hamas will fire from the midst of civilians, hide behind white-flag toting refugees, and keep them cooped up in areas to which they draw fire, then surely they are not going to be very happy with Palestinians complaining about that behavior. Once HRW grants that such matters go on within the same report in which they present Palestinian evidence as their key source for their allegations, the epistemological house of cards begins to fall.

Read the whole thing.

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Yale Bows to Jihadists Over Muhammad Cartoons

Yale University Press is set to publish a new book on the 2005 controversy over the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper that satirically depicted the Prophet Muhammad. However, the New York Times reports today that the book, titled The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University, will lack one important element: the cartoons themselves.

According to the story in today’s Arts section, the university

consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante’s “Inferno” that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.

It is understandable that Yale would be afraid. When a Danish paper originally ran the cartoons, the result was a spate of bloody riots around the world that resulted in the loss of at least 200 lives. But rather than merely own up to a decision dictated by fear of terrorism, Yale tried to couch their cowardice in more defensible terms. After all, said John Donatich, director of Yale University Press, the cartoons are freely available on the Internet, which makes their publication “gratuitous.” But would they omit illustrations from any other book simply because the images might be available elsewhere?

As Yale had already decided to publish a book about the incident, does it seem a mite silly not to include the pictures around which the whole story revolved? Author Reza Aslan, a religious scholar who had contributed a supportive blurb for the book, thinks so. “Not to include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic,” said Aslan, who also asked, “What kind of publishing house doesn’t publish something that annoys some people?”

Interestingly, author Klausen said Yale insisted that she could read a 14-page summary of the consultants’ recommendations “only if she signed a confidentiality agreement that forbade her from talking about them.” Klausen told the Times, “I perceive it to be a gag order,” and rightly declined to sign.

Allowing fundamentalist Muslims to silence their critics again over this story is especially ironic since Klausen’s book takes the view that the “cartoon protests were not spontaneous but rather orchestrated demonstrations by extremists in Denmark and Egypt who were trying to influence elections there and by others hoping to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoons, she maintained, were a pretext, a way to mobilize dissent in the Muslim world.”

For a major university and a prestigious publishing house to bow to the dictates of Islamist murderers and those “diplomats” and “scholars” who believe in appeasing Islamism sets a new standard for Ivy League political correctness. But the rot goes deeper than that. Those who worry about a Europe where any criticism of Islamist extremism is treated as “Islamophobia” and racism should worry about the beachhead that school of thought has established in New Haven and other citadels of academia. A Western culture that is willing to censor scholarly work so as to avoid upsetting irrational extremists in the Arab and Muslim world is in serious danger of losing the will to defend itself.

Yale University Press is set to publish a new book on the 2005 controversy over the publication of 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper that satirically depicted the Prophet Muhammad. However, the New York Times reports today that the book, titled The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Jytte Klausen, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University, will lack one important element: the cartoons themselves.

According to the story in today’s Arts section, the university

consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam and counterterrorism, and the recommendation was unanimous: The book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September 2005. What’s more, they suggested that the Yale press also refrain from publishing any other illustrations of the prophet that were to be included, specifically, a drawing for a children’s book; an Ottoman print; and a sketch by the 19th-century artist Gustave Doré of Muhammad being tormented in Hell, an episode from Dante’s “Inferno” that has been depicted by Botticelli, Blake, Rodin and Dalí.

It is understandable that Yale would be afraid. When a Danish paper originally ran the cartoons, the result was a spate of bloody riots around the world that resulted in the loss of at least 200 lives. But rather than merely own up to a decision dictated by fear of terrorism, Yale tried to couch their cowardice in more defensible terms. After all, said John Donatich, director of Yale University Press, the cartoons are freely available on the Internet, which makes their publication “gratuitous.” But would they omit illustrations from any other book simply because the images might be available elsewhere?

As Yale had already decided to publish a book about the incident, does it seem a mite silly not to include the pictures around which the whole story revolved? Author Reza Aslan, a religious scholar who had contributed a supportive blurb for the book, thinks so. “Not to include the actual cartoons is to me, frankly, idiotic,” said Aslan, who also asked, “What kind of publishing house doesn’t publish something that annoys some people?”

Interestingly, author Klausen said Yale insisted that she could read a 14-page summary of the consultants’ recommendations “only if she signed a confidentiality agreement that forbade her from talking about them.” Klausen told the Times, “I perceive it to be a gag order,” and rightly declined to sign.

Allowing fundamentalist Muslims to silence their critics again over this story is especially ironic since Klausen’s book takes the view that the “cartoon protests were not spontaneous but rather orchestrated demonstrations by extremists in Denmark and Egypt who were trying to influence elections there and by others hoping to destabilize governments in Pakistan, Lebanon, Libya and Nigeria. The cartoons, she maintained, were a pretext, a way to mobilize dissent in the Muslim world.”

For a major university and a prestigious publishing house to bow to the dictates of Islamist murderers and those “diplomats” and “scholars” who believe in appeasing Islamism sets a new standard for Ivy League political correctness. But the rot goes deeper than that. Those who worry about a Europe where any criticism of Islamist extremism is treated as “Islamophobia” and racism should worry about the beachhead that school of thought has established in New Haven and other citadels of academia. A Western culture that is willing to censor scholarly work so as to avoid upsetting irrational extremists in the Arab and Muslim world is in serious danger of losing the will to defend itself.

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Re: “No Second Thoughts” on Robinson

Jonathan, I have a slightly different take on the Mary Robinson fiasco. Whether it becomes a “tipping point” for the American Jewish community in political allegiance is not yet clear. But it marked a sharp departure in the behavior and, I think, perception of mainstream Jewish organizations. A combination of support for Obama’s liberal domestic agenda, a desire to maintain access to the White House, and a heavy dose of wishful thinking had contributed to an almost total absence of sharp public criticism of the White House’s increasingly hostile stance toward Israel.

No more. The inhibition has been broken with the recognition now dawning on Jewish Democrats that this is a president lacking in affection and respect for Israel and for the sensibilities of pro-Israel voters. The aversion to conflict with the administration has been overcome, and I suspect the administration won’t face as pliant a Jewish community in the future.

And for those Democratic lawmakers who present themselves as friends of Israel but remain mute when outrage is piled upon outrage, they will find themselves in an increasingly perilous spot. If they claim to be friends and defenders of the Jewish state, they too will be expected to speak up. And if not, supporters of Israel will look to others who don’t place partisan politics above principle.

As for the president, he shows no sign of self-reflection. His worldview is certain and his determination to create that “daylight” between Israel and the U.S. won’t be lessened by this episode. But thanks to Mary Robinson, there is also daylight between Israel’s supporters and the White House.

Jonathan, I have a slightly different take on the Mary Robinson fiasco. Whether it becomes a “tipping point” for the American Jewish community in political allegiance is not yet clear. But it marked a sharp departure in the behavior and, I think, perception of mainstream Jewish organizations. A combination of support for Obama’s liberal domestic agenda, a desire to maintain access to the White House, and a heavy dose of wishful thinking had contributed to an almost total absence of sharp public criticism of the White House’s increasingly hostile stance toward Israel.

No more. The inhibition has been broken with the recognition now dawning on Jewish Democrats that this is a president lacking in affection and respect for Israel and for the sensibilities of pro-Israel voters. The aversion to conflict with the administration has been overcome, and I suspect the administration won’t face as pliant a Jewish community in the future.

And for those Democratic lawmakers who present themselves as friends of Israel but remain mute when outrage is piled upon outrage, they will find themselves in an increasingly perilous spot. If they claim to be friends and defenders of the Jewish state, they too will be expected to speak up. And if not, supporters of Israel will look to others who don’t place partisan politics above principle.

As for the president, he shows no sign of self-reflection. His worldview is certain and his determination to create that “daylight” between Israel and the U.S. won’t be lessened by this episode. But thanks to Mary Robinson, there is also daylight between Israel’s supporters and the White House.

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Should Venezuela Be on the List of Terror Sponsors?

Since the mid-1990s, the State Department has kept an official list of states that sponsor terror—a list that included, back then, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya, and Iraq. No new states have been added in some time; in fact, several have been taken off the list: Iraq, after the regime was changed; Libya, after Qaddafi cut a deal with the U.S. that included restitution for the victims of the terror attack over Lockerbie, Scotland; and most recently North Korea has been dropped, for no apparent reason. The list has teeth: in addition to various sanctions, states appearing on the list lose their sovereign immunity in American courts in terror cases, because a state engaging in terrorism, the reasoning goes, is no longer acting in its capacity as a state and should therefore be subject to the same criminal and civil proceedings as anyone else engaging in wanton violence.

One wonders whether it’s time for Venezuela to be added to the list. For many years, its neighbor and close American ally, Colombia, has suspected Venezuela of actively supporting the FARC rebels, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization. But according to at least one high-ranking Israeli military official, FARC is not the only such group enjoying the Venezuelan regime’s support: Hezbollah, it turns out, has established a major presence there as well, supported by the regime in “investing significant efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets and Jewish institutions in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru,” according to today’s YNet.

Obviously, the State Department should not take the Israelis’ or the Colombians’ word for it and must conduct a thorough inquiry before making any moves. Yet the failure to dig deeper suggests a dramatic shift in U.S. policy on international terror when compared with not only the Bush administration but the will of Congress as well. Since 9/11, U.S. policy and law have aimed at showing zero tolerance for terrorism, the centerpiece of which strategy has been to make sovereign states accountable for the terrorism they support—not just through the occasional military replacement of their regimes, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also through a wide range of legal and diplomatic sanctions.

So here’s a question someone should ask at Secretary of State Clinton’s next press conference: By ignoring the increasing accusations against Venezuela of actively helping multiple terrorist organizations, is the Obama administration signaling a change in policy toward terror-sponsoring states in general?

Since the mid-1990s, the State Department has kept an official list of states that sponsor terror—a list that included, back then, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Libya, and Iraq. No new states have been added in some time; in fact, several have been taken off the list: Iraq, after the regime was changed; Libya, after Qaddafi cut a deal with the U.S. that included restitution for the victims of the terror attack over Lockerbie, Scotland; and most recently North Korea has been dropped, for no apparent reason. The list has teeth: in addition to various sanctions, states appearing on the list lose their sovereign immunity in American courts in terror cases, because a state engaging in terrorism, the reasoning goes, is no longer acting in its capacity as a state and should therefore be subject to the same criminal and civil proceedings as anyone else engaging in wanton violence.

One wonders whether it’s time for Venezuela to be added to the list. For many years, its neighbor and close American ally, Colombia, has suspected Venezuela of actively supporting the FARC rebels, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization. But according to at least one high-ranking Israeli military official, FARC is not the only such group enjoying the Venezuelan regime’s support: Hezbollah, it turns out, has established a major presence there as well, supported by the regime in “investing significant efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets and Jewish institutions in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru,” according to today’s YNet.

Obviously, the State Department should not take the Israelis’ or the Colombians’ word for it and must conduct a thorough inquiry before making any moves. Yet the failure to dig deeper suggests a dramatic shift in U.S. policy on international terror when compared with not only the Bush administration but the will of Congress as well. Since 9/11, U.S. policy and law have aimed at showing zero tolerance for terrorism, the centerpiece of which strategy has been to make sovereign states accountable for the terrorism they support—not just through the occasional military replacement of their regimes, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also through a wide range of legal and diplomatic sanctions.

So here’s a question someone should ask at Secretary of State Clinton’s next press conference: By ignoring the increasing accusations against Venezuela of actively helping multiple terrorist organizations, is the Obama administration signaling a change in policy toward terror-sponsoring states in general?

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“No Second Thoughts” on Robinson May Give Obama License for Future Mischief

The New York Times noted today that the “White House said Mr. Obama had no second thoughts” about honoring Mary Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Indeed, the ceremony bestowing on the former Irish president the nation’s highest civilian award went off without a hitch and nary a discouraging word as Robinson and 15 other recipients received their medals amid a blizzard of presidential praise.

Obama lauded Robinson, the woman who presided over the United Nation’s anti-Semitic hatefest at the 2001 Durban Conference on racism, as “an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and the ignored,” and neglected the widespread criticism of the honoree from a wide range of Jewish groups as well as from some members of Congress. Robinson is a longtime foe of the Jewish state and even today holds the post of honorary president of Oxfam, an NGO that gained publicity last week for firing actress Kristin Davis of Sex and the City fame from her position as their spokeswoman because she also represents Ahava, whose Dead Sea cosmetics are considered off-limits by Israel-haters.

Though the dustup over Robinson cast something of a shadow on an event that is almost always noncontroversial (because presidential vetting teams generally eliminate questionable candidates), the dispute did not generate a great deal of publicity. Even Obama’s most virulent critics on the Right were too preoccupied with the debate on health-care reform for Robinson’s award to register much of an impact on the nation’s Richter scale. That’s understandable given the stakes involved in the administration’s push to expand government’s control of the health-care sector.

But friends of Israel, especially those Jewish Democrats who have been doing their best to ignore the White House’s increasingly belligerent tone toward the Jewish state, would do well to note what happened this week. Obama honored one of the most virulent enemies of Israel—someone who bears a great deal of responsibility for Durban, one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of an institution—the UN—which is no stranger to disgrace. He has gotten away with it with hardly a scratch on his reputation. Though some will dismiss this incident as a mere blunder that will soon be forgotten, I doubt that Obama and his advisers will forget how easily they were able to dismiss a nearly universal Jewish dismay.

The president and his foreign-policy team are preparing what we are told is a new Middle East peace plan and a peace conference that will attempt again to bludgeon Israel into making concessions to Palestinians that are uninterested in peace. The administration is also still committed to “engagement” with Iran’s despotic Islamist regime and continues to appear uninterested in any serious effort to stop Tehran from gaining nuclear capability.

If anyone thinks the administration can be deterred from taking future stances that are clearly invidious to the security of Israel, the Robinson episode may well have taught Obama that he can get away with anything when it comes to Jewish Democrats. There were some who may have thought Robinson’s award would prove to be Obama’s Bitburg moment—a symbolic episode that forever tarnished Ronald Reagan’s reputation even among his most ardent Jewish supporters. Instead, it may turn out to be a trial run for far worse outrages yet to come.

The New York Times noted today that the “White House said Mr. Obama had no second thoughts” about honoring Mary Robinson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Indeed, the ceremony bestowing on the former Irish president the nation’s highest civilian award went off without a hitch and nary a discouraging word as Robinson and 15 other recipients received their medals amid a blizzard of presidential praise.

Obama lauded Robinson, the woman who presided over the United Nation’s anti-Semitic hatefest at the 2001 Durban Conference on racism, as “an advocate for the hungry and the hunted, the forgotten and the ignored,” and neglected the widespread criticism of the honoree from a wide range of Jewish groups as well as from some members of Congress. Robinson is a longtime foe of the Jewish state and even today holds the post of honorary president of Oxfam, an NGO that gained publicity last week for firing actress Kristin Davis of Sex and the City fame from her position as their spokeswoman because she also represents Ahava, whose Dead Sea cosmetics are considered off-limits by Israel-haters.

Though the dustup over Robinson cast something of a shadow on an event that is almost always noncontroversial (because presidential vetting teams generally eliminate questionable candidates), the dispute did not generate a great deal of publicity. Even Obama’s most virulent critics on the Right were too preoccupied with the debate on health-care reform for Robinson’s award to register much of an impact on the nation’s Richter scale. That’s understandable given the stakes involved in the administration’s push to expand government’s control of the health-care sector.

But friends of Israel, especially those Jewish Democrats who have been doing their best to ignore the White House’s increasingly belligerent tone toward the Jewish state, would do well to note what happened this week. Obama honored one of the most virulent enemies of Israel—someone who bears a great deal of responsibility for Durban, one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of an institution—the UN—which is no stranger to disgrace. He has gotten away with it with hardly a scratch on his reputation. Though some will dismiss this incident as a mere blunder that will soon be forgotten, I doubt that Obama and his advisers will forget how easily they were able to dismiss a nearly universal Jewish dismay.

The president and his foreign-policy team are preparing what we are told is a new Middle East peace plan and a peace conference that will attempt again to bludgeon Israel into making concessions to Palestinians that are uninterested in peace. The administration is also still committed to “engagement” with Iran’s despotic Islamist regime and continues to appear uninterested in any serious effort to stop Tehran from gaining nuclear capability.

If anyone thinks the administration can be deterred from taking future stances that are clearly invidious to the security of Israel, the Robinson episode may well have taught Obama that he can get away with anything when it comes to Jewish Democrats. There were some who may have thought Robinson’s award would prove to be Obama’s Bitburg moment—a symbolic episode that forever tarnished Ronald Reagan’s reputation even among his most ardent Jewish supporters. Instead, it may turn out to be a trial run for far worse outrages yet to come.

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Use the DMV Example Next Time

At his town hall earlier this week, Obama uncorked this one when asked if a public option would supplant private insurers:

My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining . . . then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.

The president’s reply was unhelpful to his cause and the source of much guffawing from conservatives.

For starters, when you are trying to convince voters that government can be trusted, cost-efficient, and competent, the two words you might want to avoid are “post office.” Waiting in lines. Rising cost for increasingly bad service. No, not an image you want stuck in voters’ minds.

Nor do you want to have voters mulling over the fact that they rarely use the post office except for birthday cards and checks they aren’t in a hurry to see cashed. It’s not like the health-care system, which places a high premium on avoiding errors and delays.

So, was Obama saying that, like the post office, the public option will be something we should avoid? Or was he telling us that we’re going to subsidize the public option to keep it competitive with private insurers (which, according to House Democrats, require a public option in order to remain competitive)?

Like the blue/red pill and the tonsil-grabbing doctors’ comments, this is another off-script gaffe that leaves one wondering why the White House is convinced Obama is the best person to sell health-care reform. Once again, we have the sense the White House is spending too much time attacking its critics and not enough time thinking through the substance of the “reforms” it insists we need.

But most of all, this episode suggests that there is a reason the president stuck to platitudes and health-care photo-ops for so long. Making the case for government-run health care is harder than he expected.

At his town hall earlier this week, Obama uncorked this one when asked if a public option would supplant private insurers:

My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining . . . then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.

The president’s reply was unhelpful to his cause and the source of much guffawing from conservatives.

For starters, when you are trying to convince voters that government can be trusted, cost-efficient, and competent, the two words you might want to avoid are “post office.” Waiting in lines. Rising cost for increasingly bad service. No, not an image you want stuck in voters’ minds.

Nor do you want to have voters mulling over the fact that they rarely use the post office except for birthday cards and checks they aren’t in a hurry to see cashed. It’s not like the health-care system, which places a high premium on avoiding errors and delays.

So, was Obama saying that, like the post office, the public option will be something we should avoid? Or was he telling us that we’re going to subsidize the public option to keep it competitive with private insurers (which, according to House Democrats, require a public option in order to remain competitive)?

Like the blue/red pill and the tonsil-grabbing doctors’ comments, this is another off-script gaffe that leaves one wondering why the White House is convinced Obama is the best person to sell health-care reform. Once again, we have the sense the White House is spending too much time attacking its critics and not enough time thinking through the substance of the “reforms” it insists we need.

But most of all, this episode suggests that there is a reason the president stuck to platitudes and health-care photo-ops for so long. Making the case for government-run health care is harder than he expected.

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Human Rights Watch’s New Blood Libel

One must at least give credit to the Saudi-funded Human Rights Watch for its ambition. This morning, the group held a press conference to unveil its latest elucidation of Israeli sadism, entitled White Flag Deaths. (HRW’s reports on Israel usually have sensational, action-movie titles, such as Rain of Fire, Remote Control Death, or The Incendiary IDF, as opposed to the placid headlines on their very occasional criticisms of terrorist groups.)

Anyway, the new report claims that during the Gaza war, IDF soldiers went around blowing away Palestinian women and children who were waving white flags. How does HRW know this? Well, after the war they interviewed Palestinians who told them the IDF did this. Very credible. And who wrote the report? A charming fellow named Joe Stork, who is HRW’s deputy director for its Middle East programs, which in practice means the deputy director of HRW’s campaign to criminalize the Jewish state.

HRW would like to create the impression that Stork is part forensic specialist, part human-rights expert. But he is neither. He is among the harshest of anti-Israel partisans. Here is some information on Stork’s pre-HRW activities from a JCPA report:

[HRW executive director Kenneth] Roth, in turn, brought in Joe Stork, who served for many years as editor of the Middle East Report, which had (and still has) a very explicit political agenda strongly biased against Israeli (and U.S.) policies. Stork was a core member of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), described by B’nai B’rith as “a propaganda mill of the Far Left,” which openly called for Israel’s destruction. MERIP Reports carried laudatory interviews with terrorist leaders and other activists distributed literature (including PLO buttons, posters, and flags), and MERIP’s anti-Israeli assault reflected the standard Marxist anti-imperialist analysis.

Stork wrote repeatedly on “the origins of the State of Israel and its war with the people of the Middle East.” After the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, MERIP issued a flyer stating: “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement, but we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action. . . . It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.”

That HRW would hire someone with Stork’s résumé as a reporter on Israel tells you everything you need to know about HRW’s mission. And this is to say nothing of Stork’s boss, Sarah Leah Whitson, who also was a dedicated anti-Israel activist before being hired by HRW.

No, I don’t trust the reports these characters produce. I don’t trust the credibility of the interviews they conduct in Gaza, I don’t trust the farcical evidentiary standards they employ in their investigations, and I don’t trust their judgment on anything related to the Middle East, especially to Israel, whose vilification has been their careers’ goal.

But since we’re on the subject of white flags, it is worth posting the video below, which shows how Hamas used them during the Gaza war. It used them, and the civilians who waved them, as cover for their military operations. This is the real human-rights crime—the employment by terrorist groups of explicitly civilian props, such as ambulances, baby carriages, mosques, and white flags, to help them carry out murder. How about an HRW report on how Hamas converted dozens of mosques in Gaza into arms depots and military command centers, or about Hamas’s use of the Islamic University in Gaza as an explosives laboratory? This will never happen. If Human Rights Watch actually cared about protecting the sanctity of the white flag in combat, Hamas would be the target of its reports, not Israel.

Let’s go to the videotape.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJgfZ9_6miE[/youtube]

UPDATE: Omri at Mere Rhetoric has more.

One must at least give credit to the Saudi-funded Human Rights Watch for its ambition. This morning, the group held a press conference to unveil its latest elucidation of Israeli sadism, entitled White Flag Deaths. (HRW’s reports on Israel usually have sensational, action-movie titles, such as Rain of Fire, Remote Control Death, or The Incendiary IDF, as opposed to the placid headlines on their very occasional criticisms of terrorist groups.)

Anyway, the new report claims that during the Gaza war, IDF soldiers went around blowing away Palestinian women and children who were waving white flags. How does HRW know this? Well, after the war they interviewed Palestinians who told them the IDF did this. Very credible. And who wrote the report? A charming fellow named Joe Stork, who is HRW’s deputy director for its Middle East programs, which in practice means the deputy director of HRW’s campaign to criminalize the Jewish state.

HRW would like to create the impression that Stork is part forensic specialist, part human-rights expert. But he is neither. He is among the harshest of anti-Israel partisans. Here is some information on Stork’s pre-HRW activities from a JCPA report:

[HRW executive director Kenneth] Roth, in turn, brought in Joe Stork, who served for many years as editor of the Middle East Report, which had (and still has) a very explicit political agenda strongly biased against Israeli (and U.S.) policies. Stork was a core member of the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), described by B’nai B’rith as “a propaganda mill of the Far Left,” which openly called for Israel’s destruction. MERIP Reports carried laudatory interviews with terrorist leaders and other activists distributed literature (including PLO buttons, posters, and flags), and MERIP’s anti-Israeli assault reflected the standard Marxist anti-imperialist analysis.

Stork wrote repeatedly on “the origins of the State of Israel and its war with the people of the Middle East.” After the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, MERIP issued a flyer stating: “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement, but we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action. . . . It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.”

That HRW would hire someone with Stork’s résumé as a reporter on Israel tells you everything you need to know about HRW’s mission. And this is to say nothing of Stork’s boss, Sarah Leah Whitson, who also was a dedicated anti-Israel activist before being hired by HRW.

No, I don’t trust the reports these characters produce. I don’t trust the credibility of the interviews they conduct in Gaza, I don’t trust the farcical evidentiary standards they employ in their investigations, and I don’t trust their judgment on anything related to the Middle East, especially to Israel, whose vilification has been their careers’ goal.

But since we’re on the subject of white flags, it is worth posting the video below, which shows how Hamas used them during the Gaza war. It used them, and the civilians who waved them, as cover for their military operations. This is the real human-rights crime—the employment by terrorist groups of explicitly civilian props, such as ambulances, baby carriages, mosques, and white flags, to help them carry out murder. How about an HRW report on how Hamas converted dozens of mosques in Gaza into arms depots and military command centers, or about Hamas’s use of the Islamic University in Gaza as an explosives laboratory? This will never happen. If Human Rights Watch actually cared about protecting the sanctity of the white flag in combat, Hamas would be the target of its reports, not Israel.

Let’s go to the videotape.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJgfZ9_6miE[/youtube]

UPDATE: Omri at Mere Rhetoric has more.

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Recovery Woes

Nouriel Roubini writing in Forbes provides some useful analysis of recent job-loss figures and the prospects for recovery. He writes:

Looking at the recessions of the post-war period, average monthly job losses ranged between 150,000 and 260,000. Average monthly losses in this recession are still at 350,000. For the first four months of the year, the average was at 648,000. The improvement with respect to the first part of the year is clear. The improvement with respect to what we are used to seeing in recessionary periods is much less clear cut. The latest numbers are not exactly what you’d call good news, at least not in absolute terms. In relative terms, however—after skirting a near-depression—markets seem to consider 247,000 payroll losses a breath of fresh air.

[. . .]

For the labor market to stabilize, job losses need to slow to 100,000 to 150,000 per month, and jobless claims need to fall to around 400,000. Payrolls alone don’t reflect the strength of the household sector. Labor compensation and work hours also function as indicators, and both of these have slowed sharply in recent months. Even as borrowing conditions remain tight and home prices continue to fall, the dip in labor compensation will continue to constrain consumer spending, notwithstanding any fiscal stimulus.

In a severe, consumer-led recession like this one, the labor market is a leading (rather than lagging) indicator of economic recovery, and the consumer still drives the U.S. economy (private consumption still makes up over 70% of GDP). A slowdown in the pace of job losses from 650,000 to 250,000 is welcome, but in no way offers comfort about a prompt comeback of the U.S. consumer. This raises concerns about the strength and sustainability of any economic recovery that most people are expecting in the second half of 2009, and beyond.

And, he reminds us, so long as consumer spending remains weak, the recovery is likely to be sluggish, rendered even more anemic by “unsustainable public debt, higher structural unemployment, lower credit growth and higher taxes in the future.”

For states with double-digit unemployment, the prospect of persistent unemployment is now a fact of life. As a reader has pointed out to me, Ohio’s state-budget plans now assume a “baseline” unemployment rate of 11.6% in the first quarter of 2010 and a worst-case scenario of 12.4%. That is more than two years after the onset of the recession.

Certainly, “recovery” is in the eyes of the beholder, but if Roubini and state planners are correct, any recovery will be such in name only until we refocus our economic policies on promoting growth, investment, and hiring. That unfortunately is not on the Obama agenda.

Nouriel Roubini writing in Forbes provides some useful analysis of recent job-loss figures and the prospects for recovery. He writes:

Looking at the recessions of the post-war period, average monthly job losses ranged between 150,000 and 260,000. Average monthly losses in this recession are still at 350,000. For the first four months of the year, the average was at 648,000. The improvement with respect to the first part of the year is clear. The improvement with respect to what we are used to seeing in recessionary periods is much less clear cut. The latest numbers are not exactly what you’d call good news, at least not in absolute terms. In relative terms, however—after skirting a near-depression—markets seem to consider 247,000 payroll losses a breath of fresh air.

[. . .]

For the labor market to stabilize, job losses need to slow to 100,000 to 150,000 per month, and jobless claims need to fall to around 400,000. Payrolls alone don’t reflect the strength of the household sector. Labor compensation and work hours also function as indicators, and both of these have slowed sharply in recent months. Even as borrowing conditions remain tight and home prices continue to fall, the dip in labor compensation will continue to constrain consumer spending, notwithstanding any fiscal stimulus.

In a severe, consumer-led recession like this one, the labor market is a leading (rather than lagging) indicator of economic recovery, and the consumer still drives the U.S. economy (private consumption still makes up over 70% of GDP). A slowdown in the pace of job losses from 650,000 to 250,000 is welcome, but in no way offers comfort about a prompt comeback of the U.S. consumer. This raises concerns about the strength and sustainability of any economic recovery that most people are expecting in the second half of 2009, and beyond.

And, he reminds us, so long as consumer spending remains weak, the recovery is likely to be sluggish, rendered even more anemic by “unsustainable public debt, higher structural unemployment, lower credit growth and higher taxes in the future.”

For states with double-digit unemployment, the prospect of persistent unemployment is now a fact of life. As a reader has pointed out to me, Ohio’s state-budget plans now assume a “baseline” unemployment rate of 11.6% in the first quarter of 2010 and a worst-case scenario of 12.4%. That is more than two years after the onset of the recession.

Certainly, “recovery” is in the eyes of the beholder, but if Roubini and state planners are correct, any recovery will be such in name only until we refocus our economic policies on promoting growth, investment, and hiring. That unfortunately is not on the Obama agenda.

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Barack Obama’s Lèse Majesté

I’m really beginning to miss George W. Bush’s characteristic humility. All people who reach the White House have healthy egos and ambition to match. They wouldn’t want the world’s toughest job if they didn’t, or make it through the world’s toughest political obstacle course to get there. But Bush has always seemed to me like a genuinely religious man, humble before his God, aware of his own human fallibility and capacity for error.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, gives the strong impression that his religion is strictly of the photo-op variety, assumed for political purposes, and that he worships not at an altar but at a mirror. And if there is any humility whatever in his nature, he keeps it well out of sight. Even his jokes about himself tend to turn on the fact that he, unlike the rest of the human race, is president of the United States.

One way this attitude is expressed is through his my-way-or-the-highway approach to all who disagree with him, and his division of the body politic into good guys (those who agree with him and his programs) and bad guys (everybody else). Consider his statement last week in Virginia regarding health care: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking,” he said. “I want them just to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess.”

Who, exactly, are “the folks who created the mess”? The only honest answer is the American people and the politicians they elected to govern the country in their name. It can’t be just Republicans or conservatives. Health insurance began in this country in 1929. Over the next 80 years, the health-care “system” evolved the way it did thanks to rulings by the IRS and state insurance regulators, mandates from Congress, and federal and state programs meant to help the poor, the elderly, children, etc. In those 80 years, the White House was held by Republicans for 40 years and by Democrats for 40 years. The Senate was held by Republicans for 24 years and by Democrats for 56. The House had a Republican majority for 16 of those years, the Democrats for 64 years.

Democracy is a messy business. Politicians of the Left, Right, and Center are always in the re-election business first and foremost, so they tend to take the path of least resistance, whatever is most politically expedient at the moment, and let the future, even the easily foreseen future, take care of itself. The squeakiest wheels (i.e., those with the best lobbyists) will get the grease. Finally, matters will get out of hand—often after a disaster, such as last year’s financial crisis—and tough choices will become unavoidable. That is when, and only when, they get made in a democracy.

With the demographic group of highest voter turnout—seniors—showing up in droves at every congressional town-hall meeting and loudly voicing its opposition to ObamaCare, it is hard to see how the plan can survive politically. It will be interesting to see if and when Barack Obama figures out that he is only the president and that the sovereign in this country are the people. At the moment, he is telling the people to shut up and get out of the way.

I’m really beginning to miss George W. Bush’s characteristic humility. All people who reach the White House have healthy egos and ambition to match. They wouldn’t want the world’s toughest job if they didn’t, or make it through the world’s toughest political obstacle course to get there. But Bush has always seemed to me like a genuinely religious man, humble before his God, aware of his own human fallibility and capacity for error.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, gives the strong impression that his religion is strictly of the photo-op variety, assumed for political purposes, and that he worships not at an altar but at a mirror. And if there is any humility whatever in his nature, he keeps it well out of sight. Even his jokes about himself tend to turn on the fact that he, unlike the rest of the human race, is president of the United States.

One way this attitude is expressed is through his my-way-or-the-highway approach to all who disagree with him, and his division of the body politic into good guys (those who agree with him and his programs) and bad guys (everybody else). Consider his statement last week in Virginia regarding health care: “I don’t want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking,” he said. “I want them just to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess.”

Who, exactly, are “the folks who created the mess”? The only honest answer is the American people and the politicians they elected to govern the country in their name. It can’t be just Republicans or conservatives. Health insurance began in this country in 1929. Over the next 80 years, the health-care “system” evolved the way it did thanks to rulings by the IRS and state insurance regulators, mandates from Congress, and federal and state programs meant to help the poor, the elderly, children, etc. In those 80 years, the White House was held by Republicans for 40 years and by Democrats for 40 years. The Senate was held by Republicans for 24 years and by Democrats for 56. The House had a Republican majority for 16 of those years, the Democrats for 64 years.

Democracy is a messy business. Politicians of the Left, Right, and Center are always in the re-election business first and foremost, so they tend to take the path of least resistance, whatever is most politically expedient at the moment, and let the future, even the easily foreseen future, take care of itself. The squeakiest wheels (i.e., those with the best lobbyists) will get the grease. Finally, matters will get out of hand—often after a disaster, such as last year’s financial crisis—and tough choices will become unavoidable. That is when, and only when, they get made in a democracy.

With the demographic group of highest voter turnout—seniors—showing up in droves at every congressional town-hall meeting and loudly voicing its opposition to ObamaCare, it is hard to see how the plan can survive politically. It will be interesting to see if and when Barack Obama figures out that he is only the president and that the sovereign in this country are the people. At the moment, he is telling the people to shut up and get out of the way.

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What Would They Do if They Weren’t Campaigning?

Karl Rove details the litany of half-truths, exaggerations, and hardball attacks coming from the president’s team, and advises:

Team Obama is suffering from Extended Campaign Syndrome. In an election, campaign staffers are often just trying to survive until the next week or the next primary. They cut corners because they are fatigued or under pressure. They can be purposely combative and even portray critics as enemies.

Carrying this mindset into the White House can get you into trouble, a lesson the Obama administration is now learning the hard way.

All this is true, and equally so is that this is simply what Obama and his team do. In fact, it is all they do. Obama has no record and apparently no interest in devising complex legislation himself. He has no interest in modifying the liberal wish list so as to incorporate his opponents’ ideas or address their concerns. He doesn’t much care about bipartisanship. He’s been clear: he won, and he’s not about to let opponents or voters (or facts, for that matter) slow him down.

Since Inauguration Day he, more than any president in recent memory, has played a hyper-partisan brand of attack politics. George W. Bush is the object of perpetual scorn and blame. Robert Gibbs attacked media figures and attempted to “Limbaugh-ize” the GOP. The Republicans were labeled as obstructionists—even as their suggestions were given the back of the hand.

We elected a man whose greatest achievements were not legislative but campaigns. The Democrats selected someone who outmuscled the Clintons. We should therefore have expected a White House that treats citizens as stooges, opponents with contempt, and the Oval Office as just another war room. Some might have hoped Obama would grow while in office. But instead, he’s simply become more of who he has always been—a Chicago pol with some extraordinarily slick packaging.

Karl Rove details the litany of half-truths, exaggerations, and hardball attacks coming from the president’s team, and advises:

Team Obama is suffering from Extended Campaign Syndrome. In an election, campaign staffers are often just trying to survive until the next week or the next primary. They cut corners because they are fatigued or under pressure. They can be purposely combative and even portray critics as enemies.

Carrying this mindset into the White House can get you into trouble, a lesson the Obama administration is now learning the hard way.

All this is true, and equally so is that this is simply what Obama and his team do. In fact, it is all they do. Obama has no record and apparently no interest in devising complex legislation himself. He has no interest in modifying the liberal wish list so as to incorporate his opponents’ ideas or address their concerns. He doesn’t much care about bipartisanship. He’s been clear: he won, and he’s not about to let opponents or voters (or facts, for that matter) slow him down.

Since Inauguration Day he, more than any president in recent memory, has played a hyper-partisan brand of attack politics. George W. Bush is the object of perpetual scorn and blame. Robert Gibbs attacked media figures and attempted to “Limbaugh-ize” the GOP. The Republicans were labeled as obstructionists—even as their suggestions were given the back of the hand.

We elected a man whose greatest achievements were not legislative but campaigns. The Democrats selected someone who outmuscled the Clintons. We should therefore have expected a White House that treats citizens as stooges, opponents with contempt, and the Oval Office as just another war room. Some might have hoped Obama would grow while in office. But instead, he’s simply become more of who he has always been—a Chicago pol with some extraordinarily slick packaging.

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New Jersey Blues

Obama is facing the first serious challenge of his presidency. His polls numbers are tumbling, his health-care plan is on the rocks, and he faces the end of a honeymoon with the media and the public. If you had any doubts about the extent of his woes, you need look no further than New Jersey:

President Obama has a 56%-39% job approval rating in New Jersey, down from 61%-33% last month, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

“For President Barack Obama, the bloom is fading in the Garden State as his approval rating wilts,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. . . . Among independents voters, Obama has an upside-down 45%-48% approval rating.

And this is New Jersey. There are two noteworthy takeaways from this data.

First, if New Jersey, a deep-Blue state with 600,000 more Democrats than Republicans, shows this level of fall-off in Obama popularity, one can only imagine what the numbers look like in Ohio, Florida, and New Hampshire (just to pick three states with high-profile Senate or gubernatorial races in 2010).

Second, to the extent Obama can help Governor Jon Corzine in this year’s race by turning out the base of Democratic voters, he will probably hurt with independents and Republicans. He may be all Corzine has—but it isn’t nearly as much as Corzine will most likely need.

In short, if New Jersey is the best-case scenario for Obama’s political fortunes, then Obama faces some serious political challenges. New Jersey voters this November will provide an early-warning sign as to whether the election of Obama heralded a new era or only a brief spasm of liberal rule.

Obama is facing the first serious challenge of his presidency. His polls numbers are tumbling, his health-care plan is on the rocks, and he faces the end of a honeymoon with the media and the public. If you had any doubts about the extent of his woes, you need look no further than New Jersey:

President Obama has a 56%-39% job approval rating in New Jersey, down from 61%-33% last month, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

“For President Barack Obama, the bloom is fading in the Garden State as his approval rating wilts,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. . . . Among independents voters, Obama has an upside-down 45%-48% approval rating.

And this is New Jersey. There are two noteworthy takeaways from this data.

First, if New Jersey, a deep-Blue state with 600,000 more Democrats than Republicans, shows this level of fall-off in Obama popularity, one can only imagine what the numbers look like in Ohio, Florida, and New Hampshire (just to pick three states with high-profile Senate or gubernatorial races in 2010).

Second, to the extent Obama can help Governor Jon Corzine in this year’s race by turning out the base of Democratic voters, he will probably hurt with independents and Republicans. He may be all Corzine has—but it isn’t nearly as much as Corzine will most likely need.

In short, if New Jersey is the best-case scenario for Obama’s political fortunes, then Obama faces some serious political challenges. New Jersey voters this November will provide an early-warning sign as to whether the election of Obama heralded a new era or only a brief spasm of liberal rule.

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Nobody Here but Us Moderates

Who to believe in reportage of the Fatah conference: the New York Times‘s Isabel Kershner or Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post‘s veteran reporter on the Palestinians, himself an Arab Muslim?

Kershner:

The new leaders [elected at the conference] are considered more pragmatic than their predecessors and grew up locally, in contrast to the exile-dominated leadership they are replacing. . . . By the end, many of the participants seemed buoyant. They said that Fatah, led by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, had emerged from the conference energized and more unified than it had been in years.

The rest of her report is a litany of mostly self-serving quotes from Fatah leaders, interspersed with Kershner’s own credulous analysis.

Reading Toameh, one wonders if they attended the same event:

The assumption that [the newly-elected] Muhammad Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Marwan Barghouti and Tawfik Tirawi are more moderate than old-timers like Ahmed Qurei, Nabil Sha’ath and Hani al-Hassan is completely mistaken. . . .

In fact, all the newly-elected Central Committee members voted during the Fatah convention in Bethlehem last week in favor of a political platform that does not rule out the armed struggle option against Israel.

The kind of thing that might have been useful for Kershner to point out, no?

The young guard members also voted in favor of a series of hard-line resolutions that were brought before the conference, including one that endorses Fatah’s armed militia, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, as an official organ of the faction, and another that states that the Palestinians will never relinquish the “right of return” for refugees to Israel proper and that they are willing to make “sacrifices” to liberate Jerusalem. . . .

During the Fatah meetings in Bethlehem, most of the young guard activists appeared to be more radical than their older colleagues, especially with regards to the peace process with Israel.

The power struggle between the old and new guards in Fatah has never been over ideology or the future of the peace process. On these issues, there’s almost no difference between Barghouti’s views and those of Sha’ath and Qurei.

Rather, it’s a power struggle between a camp that for two decades denied young guard activists a larger say in decision-making and access to public funds and jobs, and those younger activists.

You’d know none of this reading the Times‘s coverage. But that sort of might be the point.

Who to believe in reportage of the Fatah conference: the New York Times‘s Isabel Kershner or Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post‘s veteran reporter on the Palestinians, himself an Arab Muslim?

Kershner:

The new leaders [elected at the conference] are considered more pragmatic than their predecessors and grew up locally, in contrast to the exile-dominated leadership they are replacing. . . . By the end, many of the participants seemed buoyant. They said that Fatah, led by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, had emerged from the conference energized and more unified than it had been in years.

The rest of her report is a litany of mostly self-serving quotes from Fatah leaders, interspersed with Kershner’s own credulous analysis.

Reading Toameh, one wonders if they attended the same event:

The assumption that [the newly-elected] Muhammad Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Marwan Barghouti and Tawfik Tirawi are more moderate than old-timers like Ahmed Qurei, Nabil Sha’ath and Hani al-Hassan is completely mistaken. . . .

In fact, all the newly-elected Central Committee members voted during the Fatah convention in Bethlehem last week in favor of a political platform that does not rule out the armed struggle option against Israel.

The kind of thing that might have been useful for Kershner to point out, no?

The young guard members also voted in favor of a series of hard-line resolutions that were brought before the conference, including one that endorses Fatah’s armed militia, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, as an official organ of the faction, and another that states that the Palestinians will never relinquish the “right of return” for refugees to Israel proper and that they are willing to make “sacrifices” to liberate Jerusalem. . . .

During the Fatah meetings in Bethlehem, most of the young guard activists appeared to be more radical than their older colleagues, especially with regards to the peace process with Israel.

The power struggle between the old and new guards in Fatah has never been over ideology or the future of the peace process. On these issues, there’s almost no difference between Barghouti’s views and those of Sha’ath and Qurei.

Rather, it’s a power struggle between a camp that for two decades denied young guard activists a larger say in decision-making and access to public funds and jobs, and those younger activists.

You’d know none of this reading the Times‘s coverage. But that sort of might be the point.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gallup tells us that Americans oppose Obama’s handling of health care by a 49-43 percent margin; only 35 percent of Independents approve (down from 55 percent just a month ago).

Sen. Diane Feinstein is miffed at the White House’s heavy-handed political organizing efforts.

Sen. Claire McCaskill doesn’t think it’s right to call the health-care protesters racists.

Those citizen protests at town halls are gaining admirers: 34 percent of respondents say they’ve made them more sympathetic to health-care opponents, 21 percent less so. Independents are more sympathetic by a 2-1 margin; 51 percent say “angry attacks” are “democracy,” while 41 percent say it is “abuse.” Why it’s almost as if Americans approve of voters taking matters into their own hands.

Could it be they are spending too much money? “The federal deficit climbed higher into record territory in July, hitting $1.27 trillion with two months remaining in the budget year.”

The New York Times is agitated that Karl Rove played a role in removing a U.S. attorney who was not prosecuting corruption and voter fraud cases in New Mexico. An outrage! But wait. It was a bad thing to insist prosecutors do their job? Pretty soon we’ll be demanding that the Justice Department throw the book at voter intimidation.

Mickey Kaus wants the president to just say no to rationing. Perhaps if Obama hadn’t spent trillions already this year, people might not be so cost-conscious. But now cost matters, and in a government-run plan without tort reform, rationing is the only way to control costs. So rationing is not just an uncomfortable subject of discussion; it’s the heart of ObamaCare.

Daniel Henninger observes that “to an independent voter or moderate Democrat, President Everyman is starting to look like a salesman for the superstate. One keeps waiting for the president to give this swath of his non-statist constituency something to hang onto. Instead, they see liberal Democrats pistol-whipping the Blue Dog dissenters with nary a peep of objection from the world’s most reasonable man.”

Alice Rivlin doesn’t think we should be popping champagne corks yet: “If you have lost your job, the worst may not be over for a long time. If you have a job, you may still lose it. The main reason for optimism is that the rapid deterioration of the economy has slowed down. Production and sales may even start increasing gradually in the next few months. For many businesses, the worst may be over. But don’t expect a bounce. Scared consumers are hanging on to their cash, bemoaning the lost value of their houses and trying to reduce their debts. They won’t rush back to the mall to buy things they don’t absolutely need. Employers will be cautious about hiring until they are sure the recovery is robust, so unemployment will remain high for several years.” Several years?

So maybe we should dump cap-and-trade once and for all. “The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) released a study Wednesday that found under a high-cost scenario the House global warming bill could reduce economic growth by 2.4 percent and cost 2 million jobs by 2030.”

Michael Barone on health care: “When a politician tries to stop debate, it’s a sign he’s losing the argument. Obama seems to have let the House Democrats overplay their hand. He ignored the fact that in our system neither party ever has all the advantages.”

Gallup tells us that Americans oppose Obama’s handling of health care by a 49-43 percent margin; only 35 percent of Independents approve (down from 55 percent just a month ago).

Sen. Diane Feinstein is miffed at the White House’s heavy-handed political organizing efforts.

Sen. Claire McCaskill doesn’t think it’s right to call the health-care protesters racists.

Those citizen protests at town halls are gaining admirers: 34 percent of respondents say they’ve made them more sympathetic to health-care opponents, 21 percent less so. Independents are more sympathetic by a 2-1 margin; 51 percent say “angry attacks” are “democracy,” while 41 percent say it is “abuse.” Why it’s almost as if Americans approve of voters taking matters into their own hands.

Could it be they are spending too much money? “The federal deficit climbed higher into record territory in July, hitting $1.27 trillion with two months remaining in the budget year.”

The New York Times is agitated that Karl Rove played a role in removing a U.S. attorney who was not prosecuting corruption and voter fraud cases in New Mexico. An outrage! But wait. It was a bad thing to insist prosecutors do their job? Pretty soon we’ll be demanding that the Justice Department throw the book at voter intimidation.

Mickey Kaus wants the president to just say no to rationing. Perhaps if Obama hadn’t spent trillions already this year, people might not be so cost-conscious. But now cost matters, and in a government-run plan without tort reform, rationing is the only way to control costs. So rationing is not just an uncomfortable subject of discussion; it’s the heart of ObamaCare.

Daniel Henninger observes that “to an independent voter or moderate Democrat, President Everyman is starting to look like a salesman for the superstate. One keeps waiting for the president to give this swath of his non-statist constituency something to hang onto. Instead, they see liberal Democrats pistol-whipping the Blue Dog dissenters with nary a peep of objection from the world’s most reasonable man.”

Alice Rivlin doesn’t think we should be popping champagne corks yet: “If you have lost your job, the worst may not be over for a long time. If you have a job, you may still lose it. The main reason for optimism is that the rapid deterioration of the economy has slowed down. Production and sales may even start increasing gradually in the next few months. For many businesses, the worst may be over. But don’t expect a bounce. Scared consumers are hanging on to their cash, bemoaning the lost value of their houses and trying to reduce their debts. They won’t rush back to the mall to buy things they don’t absolutely need. Employers will be cautious about hiring until they are sure the recovery is robust, so unemployment will remain high for several years.” Several years?

So maybe we should dump cap-and-trade once and for all. “The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) released a study Wednesday that found under a high-cost scenario the House global warming bill could reduce economic growth by 2.4 percent and cost 2 million jobs by 2030.”

Michael Barone on health care: “When a politician tries to stop debate, it’s a sign he’s losing the argument. Obama seems to have let the House Democrats overplay their hand. He ignored the fact that in our system neither party ever has all the advantages.”

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