Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 14, 2010

Re: Goldstoned

Readers of David’s post on Goldstone Commission member Desmond Travers’ ridiculous assertion — that “the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding” last year’s war in Gaza “was something like two” — could erroneously conclude that Travers was correct about that month; his mistake was in “blithely ignoring the thousands of rockets Israelis endured in the years leading up to the operation.” That was certainly not David’s intention, but to eliminate all doubt, here are the actual figures, as compiled by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

The war began on December 27, 2008. During 2008 as a whole, the number of rockets and mortar shells launched at Israel from Gaza was 3,278, more than double the number that landed in 2007.

More importantly, however, there was a significant escalation in November and December, 2008, after Hamas withdrew from the truce that had been in place during the previous months. Thus the number of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel totaled 125 in November and 361 in December, compared with only 11 in the four preceding months (July through October) put together. The number of mortars totaled 68 in November and 241 in December, compared with only 15 in the four preceding months put together. The number of rockets and mortars combined totaled 193 in November and 602 in December, compared with only 26 in the four preceding months put together.

Needless to say, these figures are a good deal higher than “something like two.” But the more important fact to be derived from this data is that Hamas could have avoided the war simply by continuing the truce. Instead, it opted for a major escalation in the volume of fire. And it was that escalation that finally provoked Israel into responding, after three and a half years of trying and failing to end the bombardment by methods short of war.

Readers of David’s post on Goldstone Commission member Desmond Travers’ ridiculous assertion — that “the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding” last year’s war in Gaza “was something like two” — could erroneously conclude that Travers was correct about that month; his mistake was in “blithely ignoring the thousands of rockets Israelis endured in the years leading up to the operation.” That was certainly not David’s intention, but to eliminate all doubt, here are the actual figures, as compiled by Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center:

The war began on December 27, 2008. During 2008 as a whole, the number of rockets and mortar shells launched at Israel from Gaza was 3,278, more than double the number that landed in 2007.

More importantly, however, there was a significant escalation in November and December, 2008, after Hamas withdrew from the truce that had been in place during the previous months. Thus the number of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel totaled 125 in November and 361 in December, compared with only 11 in the four preceding months (July through October) put together. The number of mortars totaled 68 in November and 241 in December, compared with only 15 in the four preceding months put together. The number of rockets and mortars combined totaled 193 in November and 602 in December, compared with only 26 in the four preceding months put together.

Needless to say, these figures are a good deal higher than “something like two.” But the more important fact to be derived from this data is that Hamas could have avoided the war simply by continuing the truce. Instead, it opted for a major escalation in the volume of fire. And it was that escalation that finally provoked Israel into responding, after three and a half years of trying and failing to end the bombardment by methods short of war.

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The Voiceless Victims

In Friday’s post, I noted that due to their warped focus, Israeli human-rights organizations are increasingly leaving real victims voiceless. But the damage is incomparably greater when major international organizations do the same. To appreciate just how badly groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have betrayed those who need them most, everyone should read Nicholas Kristof’s devastating recent articles on Congo in the New York Times (see, for instance, here and here).

The civil war in Congo, Kristof writes, has claimed almost seven million lives over the last dozen years. It has also created a whole new vocabulary to describe the other horrific abuses it has generated – such as “autocannibalism,” which is when militiamen cut flesh from living victims and force the victims to eat it, or “re-rape,” which applies to women and girls who are raped anew every time militiamen visit their town.

Yet the world rarely hears about Congo — because groups such as Amnesty and HRW have left the victims largely voiceless, preferring instead to focus on far less serious abuses in developed countries, where gathering information is easier.

Neither Amnesty nor HRW has issued a single press release or report on Congo so far this year, according to their web sites. Yet HRW found time to issue two statements criticizing Israel and 12 criticizing the U.S.; Amnesty issued 11 on Israel and 15 on the U.S. To its credit, HRW did cover Congo fairly extensively in 2009. But Amnesty’s imbalance was egregious: For all of 2009, its web site lists exactly one statement on Congo — even as the group found time and energy to issue 62 statements critical of Israel.

By any objective standard, of course, there is no comparison in the scope of the violations. Even if you accept all the Goldstone Report’s worst slanders against Israel as gospel truth, none of them remotely compares to the kind of atrocities Congo’s victims describe – such as experienced by the young woman who told Kristof that after Hutu militiamen tied up her uncle, “they cut off his hands, gouged out his eyes, cut off his feet, cut off his sex organs and left him like that.” Nor is this exceptional: such stories are routine.

The same holds for the death toll. The highest estimate of Palestinian fatalities in last year’s Gaza war is just over 1,400; for the rest of the year combined, Palestinian fatalities numbered around 115, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs. By contrast, the death toll in Congo is around 45,000 a month — every month.

Human-rights organizations clearly should not ignore genuine violations in developed countries, but they do need to maintain a sense of proportion. Instead, the relative frequency of their press releases paints countries such as Israel and the U.S. as the world’s worst human rights violators. The result is that the real worst abuses, like those in Congo, remain largely below the public’s radar. And so the victims continue to suffer in unheard agony.

In Friday’s post, I noted that due to their warped focus, Israeli human-rights organizations are increasingly leaving real victims voiceless. But the damage is incomparably greater when major international organizations do the same. To appreciate just how badly groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have betrayed those who need them most, everyone should read Nicholas Kristof’s devastating recent articles on Congo in the New York Times (see, for instance, here and here).

The civil war in Congo, Kristof writes, has claimed almost seven million lives over the last dozen years. It has also created a whole new vocabulary to describe the other horrific abuses it has generated – such as “autocannibalism,” which is when militiamen cut flesh from living victims and force the victims to eat it, or “re-rape,” which applies to women and girls who are raped anew every time militiamen visit their town.

Yet the world rarely hears about Congo — because groups such as Amnesty and HRW have left the victims largely voiceless, preferring instead to focus on far less serious abuses in developed countries, where gathering information is easier.

Neither Amnesty nor HRW has issued a single press release or report on Congo so far this year, according to their web sites. Yet HRW found time to issue two statements criticizing Israel and 12 criticizing the U.S.; Amnesty issued 11 on Israel and 15 on the U.S. To its credit, HRW did cover Congo fairly extensively in 2009. But Amnesty’s imbalance was egregious: For all of 2009, its web site lists exactly one statement on Congo — even as the group found time and energy to issue 62 statements critical of Israel.

By any objective standard, of course, there is no comparison in the scope of the violations. Even if you accept all the Goldstone Report’s worst slanders against Israel as gospel truth, none of them remotely compares to the kind of atrocities Congo’s victims describe – such as experienced by the young woman who told Kristof that after Hutu militiamen tied up her uncle, “they cut off his hands, gouged out his eyes, cut off his feet, cut off his sex organs and left him like that.” Nor is this exceptional: such stories are routine.

The same holds for the death toll. The highest estimate of Palestinian fatalities in last year’s Gaza war is just over 1,400; for the rest of the year combined, Palestinian fatalities numbered around 115, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs. By contrast, the death toll in Congo is around 45,000 a month — every month.

Human-rights organizations clearly should not ignore genuine violations in developed countries, but they do need to maintain a sense of proportion. Instead, the relative frequency of their press releases paints countries such as Israel and the U.S. as the world’s worst human rights violators. The result is that the real worst abuses, like those in Congo, remain largely below the public’s radar. And so the victims continue to suffer in unheard agony.

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The Odd Lies About Sarah Palin

Frank Rich, today, goes after Sarah Palin’s populism and calls it like it isn’t:

“This is about the people,” as Palin repeatedly put it last weekend while pocketing $100,000 of the Tea Partiers’ money.

Incredibly enough, this message is gaining traction.

But the only thing that’s incredible — as in lacking credibility — is Rich’s claim. Palin isn’t “pocketing” anything. She’s already explained:

“I will not benefit financially from speaking at this event. My only goal is to support the grassroots activists who are fighting for responsible, limited government — and our Constitution,” she wrote. “In that spirit, any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause.”

According to Rich’s logic, Barack Obama “pocketed” $1.4million dollars in Nobel Prize money. After all, giving it away doesn’t count.

What’s astounding about the Left’s penchant for Palin-sliming is the recycled nature of their fibs. Isn’t this more or less the same smear we heard about her wardrobe during the campaign? Then again, maybe Rich didn’t have his facts straight and made an innocent mistake. He might want to keep a little crib sheet handy, like, on his palm or something.

Frank Rich, today, goes after Sarah Palin’s populism and calls it like it isn’t:

“This is about the people,” as Palin repeatedly put it last weekend while pocketing $100,000 of the Tea Partiers’ money.

Incredibly enough, this message is gaining traction.

But the only thing that’s incredible — as in lacking credibility — is Rich’s claim. Palin isn’t “pocketing” anything. She’s already explained:

“I will not benefit financially from speaking at this event. My only goal is to support the grassroots activists who are fighting for responsible, limited government — and our Constitution,” she wrote. “In that spirit, any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause.”

According to Rich’s logic, Barack Obama “pocketed” $1.4million dollars in Nobel Prize money. After all, giving it away doesn’t count.

What’s astounding about the Left’s penchant for Palin-sliming is the recycled nature of their fibs. Isn’t this more or less the same smear we heard about her wardrobe during the campaign? Then again, maybe Rich didn’t have his facts straight and made an innocent mistake. He might want to keep a little crib sheet handy, like, on his palm or something.

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Zuckerman Candidacy Would Change Everything in New York Senate Race

Well-heeled New York Democrats dismayed at the prospect of even another two years of Kirsten Gillibrand in the United States Senate have been floating the candidacy of former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. But the floundering candidacy of Ford may be bolstered by the appearance of a new Republican candidate for the seat: publisher and real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman.

According to the New York Times, the 72-year-old Zuckerman is considering a run for the Senate this year. It is assumed that if he  throws his hat in the ring, the 72-year-old billionaire will have the GOP nomination for the asking. But if Zuckerman runs, it will also have an impact on the Democrats.

Until Ford’s boomlet appeared last month, Gillibrand appeared to be cruising to an easy primary victory simply because Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, has very much enjoyed his last year in office. That’s because Gillibrand, unlike her predecessor Hillary Clinton, not only does whatever Schumer asks her to do, but is also content to let the legendary Brooklyn publicity hound hog have all the media attention. So Schumer has used his considerable fund-raising power to not only help build Gillibrand’s campaign account, but to also intimidate possible foes such as Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from pursuing the race. But the problem with this scheme is that Gillibrand has made such a poor impression in the Senate that despite Schumer’s best efforts, some Democrats still think that not only can they do better but also that she is potentially vulnerable in November. Gillibrand’s weakness is accentuated by the possibility that the mid-term election this fall will feature a Republican tide sweeping the country.

So far, Ford’s tryout in the media hasn’t gone that well. His initial interview with the Times was almost as disastrous as a similar encounter with the press, in which Caroline Kennedy’s putative candidacy for the appointment that eventually went to Gillibrand went down in flames. Back in December 2008, Kennedy set new indoor records for a would-be politician saying “You know” and “um” when speaking to reporters. Last month Ford was more articulate but he probably would have done just as well saying “you know” and “um” rather than admitting that, as a vice president for Merrill Lynch, he rarely takes the subway, had only flown over the outer boroughs of New York, and likes pedicures and breakfast at swank hotels.

When the only Republicans considering a run for the Senate were unknowns with little chances of victory in November, Gillibrand’s cipher-like profile wasn’t an obstacle to a Democratic victory. But against a candidate like Zuckerman, whose vast fortune would make her considerable war chest look like a pittance, a safe Democratic seat might become a tossup. Indeed, given Zuckerman’s impeccable pro-Israel credentials (he’s a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and his command of both economic issues and foreign affairs has been demonstrated in the columns he has written and in appearances on talk shows); his candidacy has the potential to put a sizable percentage of the Jewish vote in question. It is true that Democrats will dismiss this possibility because the vast majority of Jews are liberals and loyal Democrats (see former COMMENTARY editor Norman Podhoretz’s insightful book Why Are Jews Liberal?). But in New York there is a larger percentage than in the rest of the country of Orthodox Jews and of those who care deeply about Israel. Though it should be conceded that even a weak Democrat could do well against a strong pro-Israel Jewish Republican in New York, there is little question that Zuckerman could cut into the expected huge Democratic majority in the Jewish vote. In a state where Jews still make up about 9 percent of the population (and a much larger percentage of those who actually vote) even a small shift in the Jewish vote could make the difference for a massively financed Zuckerman campaign.

It’s not clear yet that Ford could poll any better against Zuckerman than Gillibrand could, or that he can beat her in a primary even if he raises all the money he needs. Nor do we know yet whether Zuckerman is really interested in running. But with a billionaire GOP candidate looming in the wings, you’d have to expect that some Democrats who are reluctantly backing Gillibrand would re-examine their options.

Well-heeled New York Democrats dismayed at the prospect of even another two years of Kirsten Gillibrand in the United States Senate have been floating the candidacy of former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. But the floundering candidacy of Ford may be bolstered by the appearance of a new Republican candidate for the seat: publisher and real-estate magnate Mortimer Zuckerman.

According to the New York Times, the 72-year-old Zuckerman is considering a run for the Senate this year. It is assumed that if he  throws his hat in the ring, the 72-year-old billionaire will have the GOP nomination for the asking. But if Zuckerman runs, it will also have an impact on the Democrats.

Until Ford’s boomlet appeared last month, Gillibrand appeared to be cruising to an easy primary victory simply because Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, has very much enjoyed his last year in office. That’s because Gillibrand, unlike her predecessor Hillary Clinton, not only does whatever Schumer asks her to do, but is also content to let the legendary Brooklyn publicity hound hog have all the media attention. So Schumer has used his considerable fund-raising power to not only help build Gillibrand’s campaign account, but to also intimidate possible foes such as Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from pursuing the race. But the problem with this scheme is that Gillibrand has made such a poor impression in the Senate that despite Schumer’s best efforts, some Democrats still think that not only can they do better but also that she is potentially vulnerable in November. Gillibrand’s weakness is accentuated by the possibility that the mid-term election this fall will feature a Republican tide sweeping the country.

So far, Ford’s tryout in the media hasn’t gone that well. His initial interview with the Times was almost as disastrous as a similar encounter with the press, in which Caroline Kennedy’s putative candidacy for the appointment that eventually went to Gillibrand went down in flames. Back in December 2008, Kennedy set new indoor records for a would-be politician saying “You know” and “um” when speaking to reporters. Last month Ford was more articulate but he probably would have done just as well saying “you know” and “um” rather than admitting that, as a vice president for Merrill Lynch, he rarely takes the subway, had only flown over the outer boroughs of New York, and likes pedicures and breakfast at swank hotels.

When the only Republicans considering a run for the Senate were unknowns with little chances of victory in November, Gillibrand’s cipher-like profile wasn’t an obstacle to a Democratic victory. But against a candidate like Zuckerman, whose vast fortune would make her considerable war chest look like a pittance, a safe Democratic seat might become a tossup. Indeed, given Zuckerman’s impeccable pro-Israel credentials (he’s a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and his command of both economic issues and foreign affairs has been demonstrated in the columns he has written and in appearances on talk shows); his candidacy has the potential to put a sizable percentage of the Jewish vote in question. It is true that Democrats will dismiss this possibility because the vast majority of Jews are liberals and loyal Democrats (see former COMMENTARY editor Norman Podhoretz’s insightful book Why Are Jews Liberal?). But in New York there is a larger percentage than in the rest of the country of Orthodox Jews and of those who care deeply about Israel. Though it should be conceded that even a weak Democrat could do well against a strong pro-Israel Jewish Republican in New York, there is little question that Zuckerman could cut into the expected huge Democratic majority in the Jewish vote. In a state where Jews still make up about 9 percent of the population (and a much larger percentage of those who actually vote) even a small shift in the Jewish vote could make the difference for a massively financed Zuckerman campaign.

It’s not clear yet that Ford could poll any better against Zuckerman than Gillibrand could, or that he can beat her in a primary even if he raises all the money he needs. Nor do we know yet whether Zuckerman is really interested in running. But with a billionaire GOP candidate looming in the wings, you’d have to expect that some Democrats who are reluctantly backing Gillibrand would re-examine their options.

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Bad Salesman, Rotten Product

Mickey Kaus, who has been rooting for ObamaCare to pass, writes:

Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. There’s something to this of course–the Framers went overboard in making it hard for the government to act, for example. But in this case there’s a simpler explanation:  Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed. He didn’t fail because 55% of Americans can never be convinced of anything. Happens all the time. He just failed. He tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducer. Voters didn’t believe him and worried that they would pay the bill in some unadvertised way (through Medicare reductions or future tax increases, mainly). That’s not constitutional paralysis or Web-enabled mob rule. It’s just bad salesmanship.

There really is a lot to that. Kaus, unlike those still snared in the Obama thrall, isn’t afraid to come out and say just how horribly inept Obama has been in persuading Americans of the merits of the bill. There were the lame press conferences (the red-pill/blue-pill inanity was a classic), the redundant speeches, and the media stunts (recall ABC flacking for ObamaCare for a day at the White House?) Part of the reason he was so bad at selling his bill is that he was unwilling to recognize the real concerns of critics and hence to address them head on. He never explained how he was going to cut Medicare by $500B while not impacting care. He didn’t offer a rationale for why young, healthy twenty-and-thirty-something year-old Americans couldn’t be allowed to have low cost, high deductible insurance plans but instead should be forced to purchase really expensive, ObamaCare-approved ones.

Now if Obama did not adequately rebut the criticisms of the bill because there weren’t good answers to the critics’ charges, well, that goes beyond salesmanship to the product’s defectiveness. Couldn’t it have been that voters stubbornly resisted a large tax-and-spend plan that was going to disrupt a flawed, but basically satisfactory system for the vast majority of voters who already have insurance? It seems as though Obama wasn’t all that candid about what was in the bill and what it was going to do because at some level the bill’s proponents understood just how unpopular much of  it was.

In short, it’s like saying the problem with the stimulus bill was that Obama didn’t sell it well enough. No, the problem with the stimulus bill is that it was a bust and no amount of salesmanship was going to convince the voters otherwise. The difference with ObamaCare is that widespread revulsion, Scott Brown’s election, and belated cold feet by Democrats prevented (so far) the bad bill from being passed. And for that we can be thankful.

Mickey Kaus, who has been rooting for ObamaCare to pass, writes:

Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. There’s something to this of course–the Framers went overboard in making it hard for the government to act, for example. But in this case there’s a simpler explanation:  Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed. He didn’t fail because 55% of Americans can never be convinced of anything. Happens all the time. He just failed. He tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducer. Voters didn’t believe him and worried that they would pay the bill in some unadvertised way (through Medicare reductions or future tax increases, mainly). That’s not constitutional paralysis or Web-enabled mob rule. It’s just bad salesmanship.

There really is a lot to that. Kaus, unlike those still snared in the Obama thrall, isn’t afraid to come out and say just how horribly inept Obama has been in persuading Americans of the merits of the bill. There were the lame press conferences (the red-pill/blue-pill inanity was a classic), the redundant speeches, and the media stunts (recall ABC flacking for ObamaCare for a day at the White House?) Part of the reason he was so bad at selling his bill is that he was unwilling to recognize the real concerns of critics and hence to address them head on. He never explained how he was going to cut Medicare by $500B while not impacting care. He didn’t offer a rationale for why young, healthy twenty-and-thirty-something year-old Americans couldn’t be allowed to have low cost, high deductible insurance plans but instead should be forced to purchase really expensive, ObamaCare-approved ones.

Now if Obama did not adequately rebut the criticisms of the bill because there weren’t good answers to the critics’ charges, well, that goes beyond salesmanship to the product’s defectiveness. Couldn’t it have been that voters stubbornly resisted a large tax-and-spend plan that was going to disrupt a flawed, but basically satisfactory system for the vast majority of voters who already have insurance? It seems as though Obama wasn’t all that candid about what was in the bill and what it was going to do because at some level the bill’s proponents understood just how unpopular much of  it was.

In short, it’s like saying the problem with the stimulus bill was that Obama didn’t sell it well enough. No, the problem with the stimulus bill is that it was a bust and no amount of salesmanship was going to convince the voters otherwise. The difference with ObamaCare is that widespread revulsion, Scott Brown’s election, and belated cold feet by Democrats prevented (so far) the bad bill from being passed. And for that we can be thankful.

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Goldstoned

One of the big questions surrounding the Goldstone report is whether the Israeli government made a mistake by refusing to cooperate with the mission. It was, admittedly, a serious gamble: If Goldstone’s “fact-finding” commission were in any way sincere in its efforts to present a balanced view, Israel would be giving up on a real opportunity to make its case to the world; on the other hand, if the commission had already decided from the outset to blast Israel and accuse it of atrocities, then to cooperate with the commission would have been to grant it a legitimacy it might not otherwise have had.

Part of an answer came in recent weeks from the mouth of none other than Desmond Travers, a retired Irish army colonel who was one of the commission’s members (h/t, JCPA and Haaretz). In an interview with the Middle East Monitor, Travers unleashes a pile of telling quotes. First, he points out that “the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding their operations was something like two.” For this reason, he “reject[s]… entirely” Israel’s excuse for the whole operation, since Hamas had anyway stopped terrorizing. This statement, blithely ignoring the thousands of rockets Israelis endured in the years leading up to the operation, or the fact that Hamas continued shooting rockets at Israeli civilians despite many warnings and more limited retaliations, is infuriating to anyone who watched as Israelis in Sederot and other communities suffered repeated barrages, and should alone be enough to call Travers’s objectivity, or at least his judgment, into question.

Second, he dismisses Israel’s claims that Hamas hid its missile stockpiles in Gaza mosques as “spurious.” What about the photographs? “Unless they can give me absolute forensic proof, I do not believe the photographs.” Well, we do have to wonder: If incriminating photos of missile stockpiles do not meet the threshold of “facts” that the commission was meant to find, why the head-spinning gullibility in repeating all those accusations of Israeli war crimes, which were almost entirely based on unverified hearsay?

Third, he makes the claim that when the IDF was in Lebanon, “a significant number” of Irish peacekeepers had been “taken out deliberately and shot” by Israeli forces. This of course would be a grave accusation if it could be taken even slightly seriously. Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I confess I’ve never heard this one before, although it’s true that some of these rumors rise and fall so quickly that it’s hard to follow them all. But I couldn’t find a trace of it in a Google search. Could it be that he’s heard a rumor and repeated it to justify his evident bias? Or that he made it up himself? Either way, it has nothing to do with Gaza, and therefore can only add to our sense that this man was anything but objective from the outset.

There is so much more, and it’s worth reading the interview in full. Not least, for example, is the evident glee with which he watches as Israeli officials have difficulty traveling in European countries because of accusations like those in the Goldstone report. Or the telling revelation that Goldstone himself was responsible for the one-sided mandate of the mission, which was supposed to look into Israeli violations but not those of Hamas. Or his flat-out denial of any of the mission’s members having ever made statements that might suggest their anti-Israel bias in advance of the inquiry — even though Goldstone himself has been a notorious basher of Israeli security measures for many years now, and other members of the mission made their bias about the Gaza war well known before the commission was appointed. (For a few examples, see this report by the European Center for Law and Justice, scroll down to p. 26.)

If Travers is in any way representative of Goldstone’s commission, we can all feel a little more comfortable with Israel’s decision not to cooperate.

One of the big questions surrounding the Goldstone report is whether the Israeli government made a mistake by refusing to cooperate with the mission. It was, admittedly, a serious gamble: If Goldstone’s “fact-finding” commission were in any way sincere in its efforts to present a balanced view, Israel would be giving up on a real opportunity to make its case to the world; on the other hand, if the commission had already decided from the outset to blast Israel and accuse it of atrocities, then to cooperate with the commission would have been to grant it a legitimacy it might not otherwise have had.

Part of an answer came in recent weeks from the mouth of none other than Desmond Travers, a retired Irish army colonel who was one of the commission’s members (h/t, JCPA and Haaretz). In an interview with the Middle East Monitor, Travers unleashes a pile of telling quotes. First, he points out that “the number of rockets that had been fired into Israel in the month preceding their operations was something like two.” For this reason, he “reject[s]… entirely” Israel’s excuse for the whole operation, since Hamas had anyway stopped terrorizing. This statement, blithely ignoring the thousands of rockets Israelis endured in the years leading up to the operation, or the fact that Hamas continued shooting rockets at Israeli civilians despite many warnings and more limited retaliations, is infuriating to anyone who watched as Israelis in Sederot and other communities suffered repeated barrages, and should alone be enough to call Travers’s objectivity, or at least his judgment, into question.

Second, he dismisses Israel’s claims that Hamas hid its missile stockpiles in Gaza mosques as “spurious.” What about the photographs? “Unless they can give me absolute forensic proof, I do not believe the photographs.” Well, we do have to wonder: If incriminating photos of missile stockpiles do not meet the threshold of “facts” that the commission was meant to find, why the head-spinning gullibility in repeating all those accusations of Israeli war crimes, which were almost entirely based on unverified hearsay?

Third, he makes the claim that when the IDF was in Lebanon, “a significant number” of Irish peacekeepers had been “taken out deliberately and shot” by Israeli forces. This of course would be a grave accusation if it could be taken even slightly seriously. Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I confess I’ve never heard this one before, although it’s true that some of these rumors rise and fall so quickly that it’s hard to follow them all. But I couldn’t find a trace of it in a Google search. Could it be that he’s heard a rumor and repeated it to justify his evident bias? Or that he made it up himself? Either way, it has nothing to do with Gaza, and therefore can only add to our sense that this man was anything but objective from the outset.

There is so much more, and it’s worth reading the interview in full. Not least, for example, is the evident glee with which he watches as Israeli officials have difficulty traveling in European countries because of accusations like those in the Goldstone report. Or the telling revelation that Goldstone himself was responsible for the one-sided mandate of the mission, which was supposed to look into Israeli violations but not those of Hamas. Or his flat-out denial of any of the mission’s members having ever made statements that might suggest their anti-Israel bias in advance of the inquiry — even though Goldstone himself has been a notorious basher of Israeli security measures for many years now, and other members of the mission made their bias about the Gaza war well known before the commission was appointed. (For a few examples, see this report by the European Center for Law and Justice, scroll down to p. 26.)

If Travers is in any way representative of Goldstone’s commission, we can all feel a little more comfortable with Israel’s decision not to cooperate.

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Breaking Up Isn’t Really Hard to Do

Ed Kilgore delivers the news that liberals and libertarians have broken up. This reminds one of an ill-fated romance in which none of the friends of either half of the couple could figure out what the pair was doing together. Kilgore seems reluctant to admit that libertarians, who fancy self-reliance, limited government, and free markets, are coming to their senses now that they see that the Obami and the Democratic Congress believe in none of these things. He seems to imagine it is all the tea party protesters’ fault. (“This phenomenon has pulled libertarianism rightward: Despite some expressed concerns about the crudeness and cultural conservatism of many Tea Party activists, it has become clear that most self-conscious libertarians are willing to participate in, and cheerlead for, the Tea Party movement as though their political futures depend on it.”) He then loses it entirely in a blast of venom at the tea partiers (“After all, it is only a few steps from the Tea Party movement’s founding ‘rant’ — in which self-described Randian business commentator Rick Santelli blasted ‘losers’ who couldn’t pay their mortgages — to populist backlash against all transfer payments of any type, complaints about people ‘voting for a living’ instead of ‘working for a living,’ and paranoid conspiracy theories about groups like ACORN.”) Enough said.

Kilgore imagines that libertarians are defined by secularism or urban coolness. But perhaps libertarians actually believe in all that stuff about freedom. Maybe they, like many other voters (e.g., pro-Israel hawks, fiscal moderates), were taken in by Obama’s rhetoric and failed to perceive that he and his ilk were simply a slickly-packaged version of statist liberals, devoted to growing the public sector, contemptuous of average Americans and ignorant of the workings of market capitalism.

So maybe it was not the rise of nefarious tea party protests that undid the libertarian-liberal relationship, but rather a realization by libertarians that the Democratic Left really offers very little to them. True, libertarians do not embrace social conservatism nor do many favor a robust national-security policy. But libertarians above all are devoted to freedom and faith in the individuals’ ability to control their own lives. And that is simply not going to mesh with the dogma of liberals, who aren’t interested in either. Love may be blind, but libertarians are not.

Ed Kilgore delivers the news that liberals and libertarians have broken up. This reminds one of an ill-fated romance in which none of the friends of either half of the couple could figure out what the pair was doing together. Kilgore seems reluctant to admit that libertarians, who fancy self-reliance, limited government, and free markets, are coming to their senses now that they see that the Obami and the Democratic Congress believe in none of these things. He seems to imagine it is all the tea party protesters’ fault. (“This phenomenon has pulled libertarianism rightward: Despite some expressed concerns about the crudeness and cultural conservatism of many Tea Party activists, it has become clear that most self-conscious libertarians are willing to participate in, and cheerlead for, the Tea Party movement as though their political futures depend on it.”) He then loses it entirely in a blast of venom at the tea partiers (“After all, it is only a few steps from the Tea Party movement’s founding ‘rant’ — in which self-described Randian business commentator Rick Santelli blasted ‘losers’ who couldn’t pay their mortgages — to populist backlash against all transfer payments of any type, complaints about people ‘voting for a living’ instead of ‘working for a living,’ and paranoid conspiracy theories about groups like ACORN.”) Enough said.

Kilgore imagines that libertarians are defined by secularism or urban coolness. But perhaps libertarians actually believe in all that stuff about freedom. Maybe they, like many other voters (e.g., pro-Israel hawks, fiscal moderates), were taken in by Obama’s rhetoric and failed to perceive that he and his ilk were simply a slickly-packaged version of statist liberals, devoted to growing the public sector, contemptuous of average Americans and ignorant of the workings of market capitalism.

So maybe it was not the rise of nefarious tea party protests that undid the libertarian-liberal relationship, but rather a realization by libertarians that the Democratic Left really offers very little to them. True, libertarians do not embrace social conservatism nor do many favor a robust national-security policy. But libertarians above all are devoted to freedom and faith in the individuals’ ability to control their own lives. And that is simply not going to mesh with the dogma of liberals, who aren’t interested in either. Love may be blind, but libertarians are not.

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What Will They Run On?

This is from Hotline, not the Onion: “House Dems will spend the Pres. Day recess marking the one-year anniversary of the $787B stimulus act, embracing a bill that has them in some political hot water.” Perhaps Nancy Pelosi has a wry sense of humor. She’s sent a memo to her fellow Democrats telling them to pull out all the stops: “Pelosi’s memo offers suggestions for events highlighting the stimulus’s impact, talking points issued by VP Biden’s office and information on jobs, small business benefits and infrastructure projects by district.” Then again, she might be completely out to lunch.

It seems impossible that Pelosi would still imagine that the stimulus bill is a winning issue. After all the polling showing the overwhelming majority of voters dubious about the merits of the bill and the unemployment rate well in excess of 8 percent, which the Obami promised would be the ceiling for unemployment if we only spent another $787B we didn’t have to begin with, how can she send her troops out to tout this much derided non-accomplishment?

Well, let’s face it: the Democrats haven’t done anything else. It’s not as if the Lilly Ledbetter law is going to get the crowds on their feet. It’s not as if House Democrats can brag of having walked the plank on cap-and-trade only to have it stall in the Senate. The stimulus bill is all they have, you see.

In that respect the liberal bloggers and the double-down-on-ObamaCare contingent have a point: without some other significant accomplishment, the Democrats will have a measly record to run on in November. Passing a monstrous health-care bill that everyone hates may not be the solution, of course. The opposition is riled up enough and independents are wary enough of the Democrats’ big-government power grabs.

However, the need to have some accomplishment on which to campaign does suggest that the Democrats would be wise to come up with a popular version of health-care reform, along the lines which the Republicans have been touting. Jeffrey Anderson suggests: “The president would stand a better chance of success if he could bring himself to consider sensible, targeted solutions designed to achieve incremental but tangible gains.” Changing the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance plans and “ending runaway malpractice lawsuits, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, and allowing companies to offer lower premiums for healthier lifestyles” are a few measures that would likely gain bipartisan support and give the Democrats something real to crow about.

But the Democrats are locked into an all-or-nothing approach to health care, at least for now. Maybe it will require some of Pelosi’s members getting hooted down in derision back home before the the Democrats realize they can’t win on a failed stimulus plan and a scary, unpassed health-care bill.

This is from Hotline, not the Onion: “House Dems will spend the Pres. Day recess marking the one-year anniversary of the $787B stimulus act, embracing a bill that has them in some political hot water.” Perhaps Nancy Pelosi has a wry sense of humor. She’s sent a memo to her fellow Democrats telling them to pull out all the stops: “Pelosi’s memo offers suggestions for events highlighting the stimulus’s impact, talking points issued by VP Biden’s office and information on jobs, small business benefits and infrastructure projects by district.” Then again, she might be completely out to lunch.

It seems impossible that Pelosi would still imagine that the stimulus bill is a winning issue. After all the polling showing the overwhelming majority of voters dubious about the merits of the bill and the unemployment rate well in excess of 8 percent, which the Obami promised would be the ceiling for unemployment if we only spent another $787B we didn’t have to begin with, how can she send her troops out to tout this much derided non-accomplishment?

Well, let’s face it: the Democrats haven’t done anything else. It’s not as if the Lilly Ledbetter law is going to get the crowds on their feet. It’s not as if House Democrats can brag of having walked the plank on cap-and-trade only to have it stall in the Senate. The stimulus bill is all they have, you see.

In that respect the liberal bloggers and the double-down-on-ObamaCare contingent have a point: without some other significant accomplishment, the Democrats will have a measly record to run on in November. Passing a monstrous health-care bill that everyone hates may not be the solution, of course. The opposition is riled up enough and independents are wary enough of the Democrats’ big-government power grabs.

However, the need to have some accomplishment on which to campaign does suggest that the Democrats would be wise to come up with a popular version of health-care reform, along the lines which the Republicans have been touting. Jeffrey Anderson suggests: “The president would stand a better chance of success if he could bring himself to consider sensible, targeted solutions designed to achieve incremental but tangible gains.” Changing the tax treatment of individually purchased insurance plans and “ending runaway malpractice lawsuits, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, and allowing companies to offer lower premiums for healthier lifestyles” are a few measures that would likely gain bipartisan support and give the Democrats something real to crow about.

But the Democrats are locked into an all-or-nothing approach to health care, at least for now. Maybe it will require some of Pelosi’s members getting hooted down in derision back home before the the Democrats realize they can’t win on a failed stimulus plan and a scary, unpassed health-care bill.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez – as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

If you thought Obama was talking “We are the World” gibberish again to the “Muslim World,” you were right. He sort of seemed to be saying (if you get the plain English translation): “We’ll pull out of Iraq, soon and responsibly (is there any other way?); also, we’ll close our eyes and click our heels together three times and wish upon a star over and over again until Israelis and Palestinians reach Peace; in return you, in Afghanistan and beyond, will become modern, woman-respecting democrats because of our forged partnerships (and a few troops? Oh, never mind them!).” Read the whole thing, as they say.

Mickey Kaus reads the typically aggressive and hyper-partisan Obami’s invitation to Republicans to the health-care summit and finds: “Unsubtle subtext: We like our bill and the purpose of this meeting is to set things up so it can pass. … But what if, as a Republican, you don’t think we are ‘the closest … to resolving this issue in … nearly 100 years’? Maybe you don’t think the bill will resolve the issue at all! (I disagree, but I’m not a Republican.) … Even if Obama’s only trying to appear bipartisan, his aides are doing a mighty poor job of conveying that impression.”

Even Dana Milbank can figure out that the Washington blizzards were “an inconvenient meteorological phenomenon for Al Gore.” He writes: “In Washington’s blizzards, the greens were hoisted by their own petard. For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles, and disease.” He even concedes, “The scientific case has been further undermined by high-profile screw-ups. First there were the hacked e-mails of a British research center that suggested the scientists were stacking the deck to overstate the threat. Now comes word of numerous errors in a 2007 report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear in 25 years.” Maybe Al Gore should give back the Oscar.

I suppose it’s not news when Harry Reid screws up a potential bipartisan deal and blindsides the White House. But, on his sinking down the bipartisan Senate bill, even the New York Times acknowledges that “it was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats.” And another reason why Reid’s defeat might be a very welcome development by his party.

There is an alternative to civilian trials for terrorists. And it’s legal and everything: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) repeated his call Saturday for the Obama administration to try suspected terrorists in military tribunals. A former military lawyer himself, Graham said the tribunal system was well-equipped to handle delicate terrorism cases. . . . Graham was a main author of the Military Commission Act of 2009, which modified the tribunal system to align with a Supreme Court ruling.” Funny how none of the Obama spinners defending their handling of terrorist even mention the 2009 statute.

Politico asks “Why Cheney attacks?” The insiderish Beltway outlet can’t really be that dense, right? For starters, Cheney has been right and is in sync with the American people. And then the former VP does manage to get under the skin of the Obami and send them scrambling. (Politico might want to cut out the Stephen Walt and Keith Olbermann quotes — jeez – as well as the Beagle Blogger psychobabble if it wants to be taken seriously on these sorts of stories.)

Gov. Chris Christie earns plaudits: “As politicians spend America into the fiscal abyss, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has a novel idea: Freeze spending. For such statesmanship, watch him be demonized like no one before. . . New Jersey’s new governor, the successor of so many corrupt chief executives, is taking action that will make him, like Reagan, the focus of pure hate from those who think what taxpayers earn is Monopoly money to be treated according to the whims and desires of politicians, bureaucrats, union bosses and other power players.”

Not everyone (anyone?) is buying the itsy-bitsy-sanctions approach. (“Sanctions on the accounts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in WESTERN banks?”) Amitai Etzioni writes: ” You can fool some people some of the time, but the Obama Administration credibility is melting faster than the snow in Washington.”

Read Less




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