Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 6, 2010

Iranian Nuclear Threat: Plan A Might Not Be Working

The hope harbored for talks with Iran continues to baffle me. This weekend, on the eve of the new round of talks in Geneva, Iran once again made a provocative announcement about its nuclear accomplishments, reporting that its uranium-processing facility had taken delivery of the nation’s first locally produced yellowcake. The West has been aware of the Iranians’ indigenous uranium-mining effort for at least two years (I wrote about it here in March); U.S. officials could not have been surprised by the declaration. But all its implications point to one melancholy truth: the current process of negotiation and inspection is worse than irrelevant. It is counterproductive — because it gives Iran time.

The use Iran has made of that time promises to make the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection regime pointless. Western analysts have known since 2008 that Iran was trying to produce its own yellowcake — and that once it could, accountability on the Iranian stockpile of uranium might quickly be lost. The IAEA doesn’t inspect uranium ore at the mining or milling sites. The agency’s first look at stocks of uranium occurs at Esfahan, where yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride. To inspect the milling process or the raw ore as it is mined, the UN would have to get Iran to honor the “Additional Protocol” to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, something the Islamic Republic has repeatedly declined to do.

With the vast tunneling projects at both Esfahan and Natanz, to which inspectors have not been admitted since 2005, Iran has the underground space to potentially process uranium outside IAEA supervision. If Iran can mill its own yellowcake, it doesn’t even have to divert portions of the known uranium stockpile to a separate, unsupervised processing cycle: it can circumvent the IAEA inspection regime entirely.

The news media have focused on the fact that Iran’s indigenous uranium is scarce and less pure than is cost-effective for commercial use. These factors mean that indigenous uranium won’t support a network of nuclear power plants. Therefore, pressing forward with local yellowcake production is probably a means of pursuing nuclear weapons. But frankly, we knew that already. The real “news” here is that Iran is on the threshold of circumventing IAEA inspection accountability altogether — and that the Iranians thought it was in their interest to announce that rather than keeping it a secret.

The move looks like Iran is pulling a “North Korea”: hoping to increase the stakes and buy a fresh round of time-wasters from the West. It is foolish at this point to keep giving this adversary the one thing it wants most: time. There’s no time like the present to recognize a reality we should have confronted years ago. Giving ourselves time gives Iran time, too, and every extra month imposes a cost on us. Today that cost includes Iran’s posting all its biggest weapons-program triumphs after UN sanctions were first imposed in 2006. Ultimately, the cost is likely to be much higher.

The hope harbored for talks with Iran continues to baffle me. This weekend, on the eve of the new round of talks in Geneva, Iran once again made a provocative announcement about its nuclear accomplishments, reporting that its uranium-processing facility had taken delivery of the nation’s first locally produced yellowcake. The West has been aware of the Iranians’ indigenous uranium-mining effort for at least two years (I wrote about it here in March); U.S. officials could not have been surprised by the declaration. But all its implications point to one melancholy truth: the current process of negotiation and inspection is worse than irrelevant. It is counterproductive — because it gives Iran time.

The use Iran has made of that time promises to make the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection regime pointless. Western analysts have known since 2008 that Iran was trying to produce its own yellowcake — and that once it could, accountability on the Iranian stockpile of uranium might quickly be lost. The IAEA doesn’t inspect uranium ore at the mining or milling sites. The agency’s first look at stocks of uranium occurs at Esfahan, where yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride. To inspect the milling process or the raw ore as it is mined, the UN would have to get Iran to honor the “Additional Protocol” to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, something the Islamic Republic has repeatedly declined to do.

With the vast tunneling projects at both Esfahan and Natanz, to which inspectors have not been admitted since 2005, Iran has the underground space to potentially process uranium outside IAEA supervision. If Iran can mill its own yellowcake, it doesn’t even have to divert portions of the known uranium stockpile to a separate, unsupervised processing cycle: it can circumvent the IAEA inspection regime entirely.

The news media have focused on the fact that Iran’s indigenous uranium is scarce and less pure than is cost-effective for commercial use. These factors mean that indigenous uranium won’t support a network of nuclear power plants. Therefore, pressing forward with local yellowcake production is probably a means of pursuing nuclear weapons. But frankly, we knew that already. The real “news” here is that Iran is on the threshold of circumventing IAEA inspection accountability altogether — and that the Iranians thought it was in their interest to announce that rather than keeping it a secret.

The move looks like Iran is pulling a “North Korea”: hoping to increase the stakes and buy a fresh round of time-wasters from the West. It is foolish at this point to keep giving this adversary the one thing it wants most: time. There’s no time like the present to recognize a reality we should have confronted years ago. Giving ourselves time gives Iran time, too, and every extra month imposes a cost on us. Today that cost includes Iran’s posting all its biggest weapons-program triumphs after UN sanctions were first imposed in 2006. Ultimately, the cost is likely to be much higher.

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The Three-Front Political War on ObamaCare

In an interview with Elizabeth Drew, Vin Weber, one of the brightest lights in the GOP, points out that repeal of President Obama’s health-care plan “was a central feature of almost every Republican who ran.”

Weber further observes that “they don’t want to stop fighting about it until the battle is over. The left base loves it even though they think it was inadequate; they, too, think it will take them to a single-payer system. It’s going to be trench warfare, as in World War I.”

Weber goes on to say (according to Drew’s characterization of his comments) that the Republicans’ plan is to

fight the health care bill on three fronts: in Washington, to cripple it by stripping away the funds to implement it; in the state capitols, where governors are resisting implementation on fiscal grounds; and in suits against it by state attorney generals, about twenty thus far, who have challenged in court, on constitutional grounds, the requirement that people buy insurance.

It is quite remarkable that an achievement of this magnitude, which after all is now encoded in law, is the subject of such a fierce, protracted political struggle. The reason is fairly simple, though: the GOP sees opposition to ObamaCare as not only merited on substance but also as a clear political winner — and based on the results of the 2010 midterm elections, that’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw.

In an interview with Elizabeth Drew, Vin Weber, one of the brightest lights in the GOP, points out that repeal of President Obama’s health-care plan “was a central feature of almost every Republican who ran.”

Weber further observes that “they don’t want to stop fighting about it until the battle is over. The left base loves it even though they think it was inadequate; they, too, think it will take them to a single-payer system. It’s going to be trench warfare, as in World War I.”

Weber goes on to say (according to Drew’s characterization of his comments) that the Republicans’ plan is to

fight the health care bill on three fronts: in Washington, to cripple it by stripping away the funds to implement it; in the state capitols, where governors are resisting implementation on fiscal grounds; and in suits against it by state attorney generals, about twenty thus far, who have challenged in court, on constitutional grounds, the requirement that people buy insurance.

It is quite remarkable that an achievement of this magnitude, which after all is now encoded in law, is the subject of such a fierce, protracted political struggle. The reason is fairly simple, though: the GOP sees opposition to ObamaCare as not only merited on substance but also as a clear political winner — and based on the results of the 2010 midterm elections, that’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion to draw.

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“No Labels” Is Also a Label

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

My friend COMMENTARY contributor David Frum (who has a piece in our upcoming January issue) is a writer both tough and fearless in his judgments. It’s one of the many reasons he’s always worth reading, disagree or no: he does not prevaricate or trim his sails. He says what he says. He is a believer in intellectual honesty, and his brief against the right over the past two years is that it is in danger of sacrificing that honesty in pursuit of a populist politics he thinks is both wrongheaded and self-defeating.

He says so in unvarnished prose and takes no prisoners, going after Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck and others with a clear-eyed ferocity — just as he did at the onset of the Iraq war in a National Review piece that effectively wrote paleoconservative critics of the war out of the movement: “They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.”

It is a matter of no small intellectual interest that David has now decided to embrace the concept that American politics should move beyond ideological camps. He joined the distinguished liberal political scientist William Galston in an op-ed piece describing and advocating a new movement called “No Labels” that is to be brought into existence next week with Michael Bloomberg and Joe Scarborough as its major lead figures. They write:

Our political system does not work if politicians treat the process as a war in which the overriding goal is to thwart the adversary. … Nor does the political system work if politicians treat members of the other party as enemies to be destroyed. Labeling legitimate policy differences as “socialist” or “racist” undermines democratic discourse.

Over the next 12 months, No Labels plans to organize citizens’ groups in every state and congressional district. Among other activities, these citizens will carefully monitor the conduct of their elected representatives. They will highlight those officials who reach across the aisle to help solve the country’s problems and criticize those who do not. They will call out politicians whose rhetoric exacerbates those problems, and they will establish lines that no one should cross. Politicians, media personalities and opinion leaders who recklessly demonize their opponents should be on notice that they can no longer do so with impunity.

In the name of broadening the political discussion, a group called No Labels will come into being with the purpose of … labeling. If you “recklessly demonize” your “opponents,” you will “no longer” be able to “do so with impunity.” They will “establish bright lines no one should cross.” In other words, cross the line and we will label you a “reckless demonizer.” Dare to call Barack Obama a socialist and stand accused of exacerbating problems rather than solving them.

Nobody should be for reckless demonization, but one man’s reckless demonization is another man’s truth-telling, as the design of No Labels itself would seem to suggest. Does the No Labels style mean that, should you find Rush Limbaugh abhorrent, it is therefore acceptable to discuss his views in relation to his past prescription-drug addiction? Or Glenn Beck’s alcoholism? That would seem to be the idea, and you can see how the incivility required by the No Labels concept deconstructs it like a Rube Goldberg machine.

The drawing of bright lines is something David Frum does surpassingly well. But a group called No Labels would seem by definition to stand for the opposite — for an entirely freewheeling public conversation, which should be the opposite of a bright-line-drawing exercise. Instead, No Labels would appear to be a movement designed to give politicians space and room to hammer out compromises with each other in pursuit of the common good. That sounds nice, but it’s actually the abnegation of what a movement — an intellectual movement, a political movement, a partisan movement, or an ideological movement — actually is.

Movements arise because people believe in something in common, believe in it wholeheartedly, and want their ideas to prevail. They don’t believe in swapping out some of them for others in order to make nice to the other side. They want the other side to lose and their side to win because they believe their ideas are good and the other side’s ideas are bad.

That is why it is an oxymoron to talk about movements of the middle, or of the radical center, or whatever you want to call it, and why No Labels will never work. In the end, such movements are primarily defined by distaste. That is a powerful emotion. But in the end, distaste is primarily an aesthetic feeling, not a moral or political or ideological one. An aesthetic is not an organizing principle, because it is a principle of exclusion, not of inclusion — those bright lines are designed to keep things out, not bring them in.

David Frum, you stand accused of being an aesthete!

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Helen Thomas Loses Some Awards, Wins Others

After Helen Thomas’s “go back to Germany” rant ended her career last June, there were still some left-wing journalists who twisted themselves into pretzels trying to argue that Thomas’s remarks weren’t anti-Semitic, per say, but simply “anti-Zionist.”

But Thomas’s recent statements remove any doubt as to where she stands. Jonathan Chait, who defended Thomas’s remarks in June, has begrudgingly acknowledged that her newest tirade probably crossed the line into anti-Semitism. “I prefer to hold off on imputing motives of bigotry without strong proof,” writes Chait. “[B]ut there’s not a whole lot of doubt remaining here.”

In response to Thomas’s latest, the Anti-Defamation League called on organizations to revoke any awards given to her in the past. This prompted her alma mater, Wayne State University, to nix an award it had been giving in her name:

Wayne State University, the Detroit, Michigan, institution that Thomas graduated from in 1942, said in a statement Friday that the school will no longer give out the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award.

“Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints,” the school’s statement said. “However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”

But Thomas’s controversial outburst last June actually won her accolades from some Arab-American organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations presented her with a lifetime achievement award in September. And the Arab American National Museum played host to Thomas’s most recent anti-Semitic speech, which received a standing ovation from the audience.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee also presented Thomas with the “Mehdi Courage in Journalism” award last month. The namesake of the award, the late M.T. Mehdi, served as an adviser to the Blind Sheik, who famously noted that “most Jews are sick people and would benefit from Dr. Freud’s couch,” called Hitler “the real father of Israel,” and wrote a book arguing that Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy was morally defensible because the senator had grown sympathetic to Zionism.

So the ADL may be wrong on this one. Let Thomas keep the awards — the tributes sound pretty fitting.

After Helen Thomas’s “go back to Germany” rant ended her career last June, there were still some left-wing journalists who twisted themselves into pretzels trying to argue that Thomas’s remarks weren’t anti-Semitic, per say, but simply “anti-Zionist.”

But Thomas’s recent statements remove any doubt as to where she stands. Jonathan Chait, who defended Thomas’s remarks in June, has begrudgingly acknowledged that her newest tirade probably crossed the line into anti-Semitism. “I prefer to hold off on imputing motives of bigotry without strong proof,” writes Chait. “[B]ut there’s not a whole lot of doubt remaining here.”

In response to Thomas’s latest, the Anti-Defamation League called on organizations to revoke any awards given to her in the past. This prompted her alma mater, Wayne State University, to nix an award it had been giving in her name:

Wayne State University, the Detroit, Michigan, institution that Thomas graduated from in 1942, said in a statement Friday that the school will no longer give out the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity in the Media Award.

“Wayne State encourages free speech and open dialogue, and respects diverse viewpoints,” the school’s statement said. “However, the university strongly condemns the anti-Semitic remarks made by Helen Thomas during a conference yesterday.”

But Thomas’s controversial outburst last June actually won her accolades from some Arab-American organizations. The Council on American Islamic Relations presented her with a lifetime achievement award in September. And the Arab American National Museum played host to Thomas’s most recent anti-Semitic speech, which received a standing ovation from the audience.

The Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee also presented Thomas with the “Mehdi Courage in Journalism” award last month. The namesake of the award, the late M.T. Mehdi, served as an adviser to the Blind Sheik, who famously noted that “most Jews are sick people and would benefit from Dr. Freud’s couch,” called Hitler “the real father of Israel,” and wrote a book arguing that Sirhan Sirhan’s assassination of Robert Kennedy was morally defensible because the senator had grown sympathetic to Zionism.

So the ADL may be wrong on this one. Let Thomas keep the awards — the tributes sound pretty fitting.

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Assange Now Blackmailing the U.S. Government

Some Julian Assange supporters have dismissed the potential national-security risk of WikiLeaks as an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of the fight for more government transparency. But now Assange has taken his “crusade” a step further, by threatening to release even more dangerous documents if government leaders make any attempt to shut down his website or detain him. This is essentially blackmail:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted “poison pill” cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times — called the “insurance” file — has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia.

Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.

There’s a reason why this batch of information is being used as a bargaining chip:

[Assange] has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.

If Assange were merely a proponent of open government, as he has portrayed himself, he would have released all the documents at the same time — including the “insurance file” — along with the necessary redactions. What is the point of leaking the files so strategically if there wasn’t a broader strategy to inflict as much destruction on the U.S. as possible?

Assange may not share al-Qaeda’s tactics, but his intent is similar. All his fans who believe he’s a crusader for government transparency are fooling themselves. In fact, Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell are already calling Assange a terrorist: “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” said Gingrich. “He should be treated as an enemy combatant.”

I understand where Gingrich is coming from, but I don’t think Assange’s actions warrant the terrorism label just yet. He hasn’t purposely targeted specific groups of individuals with violence. However, WikiLeaks is making it easier for terror groups to target civilians, so terrorist abettor may be a better description.

Some Julian Assange supporters have dismissed the potential national-security risk of WikiLeaks as an unfortunate, but unavoidable, consequence of the fight for more government transparency. But now Assange has taken his “crusade” a step further, by threatening to release even more dangerous documents if government leaders make any attempt to shut down his website or detain him. This is essentially blackmail:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has circulated across the internet an encrypted “poison pill” cache of uncensored documents suspected to include files on BP and Guantanamo Bay.

One of the files identified this weekend by The Sunday Times — called the “insurance” file — has been downloaded from the WikiLeaks website by tens of thousands of supporters, from America to Australia.

Assange warns that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.

There’s a reason why this batch of information is being used as a bargaining chip:

[Assange] has suggested the contents are unredacted, posing a possible security risk for coalition partners around the world.

If Assange were merely a proponent of open government, as he has portrayed himself, he would have released all the documents at the same time — including the “insurance file” — along with the necessary redactions. What is the point of leaking the files so strategically if there wasn’t a broader strategy to inflict as much destruction on the U.S. as possible?

Assange may not share al-Qaeda’s tactics, but his intent is similar. All his fans who believe he’s a crusader for government transparency are fooling themselves. In fact, Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell are already calling Assange a terrorist: “Information warfare is warfare, and Julian Assange is engaged in warfare. Information terrorism, which leads to people getting killed, is terrorism, and Julian Assange is engaged in terrorism,” said Gingrich. “He should be treated as an enemy combatant.”

I understand where Gingrich is coming from, but I don’t think Assange’s actions warrant the terrorism label just yet. He hasn’t purposely targeted specific groups of individuals with violence. However, WikiLeaks is making it easier for terror groups to target civilians, so terrorist abettor may be a better description.

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Morning Commentary

Chas Freeman’s New York Times column “Why Iran Loves WikiLeaks” is as scary as it sounds.

Obama finally speaks with China about North Korea, nearly two weeks after the North’s attack on South Korea. Some experts see this as a sign of strained relations between the U.S. and China.

New WikiLeaks dump reveals list of international facilities vital to U.S. security. There are concerns that these locations may become targets of terrorist attacks.

The New York Times’s public editor on why he’s glad the paper published WikiLeaks: “The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information — most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it’s about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.”

The Iranian foreign minister snubs Hilary Clinton in Bahrain as the heat turns up on Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Tehran and P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear ambitions begin today.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about John Boehner can be found in an extensive New Yorker profile out today. The congressman takes over as speaker of the House on January 5.

Afghani confidence with the U.S. is faltering, according to a new poll: “[T]he results … lay bare the challenge that remains in encouraging more Afghans to repudiate the insurgency and cast their lot with the government.”

Chas Freeman’s New York Times column “Why Iran Loves WikiLeaks” is as scary as it sounds.

Obama finally speaks with China about North Korea, nearly two weeks after the North’s attack on South Korea. Some experts see this as a sign of strained relations between the U.S. and China.

New WikiLeaks dump reveals list of international facilities vital to U.S. security. There are concerns that these locations may become targets of terrorist attacks.

The New York Times’s public editor on why he’s glad the paper published WikiLeaks: “The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information — most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it’s about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.”

The Iranian foreign minister snubs Hilary Clinton in Bahrain as the heat turns up on Iran’s nuclear program. Talks between Tehran and P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear ambitions begin today.

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about John Boehner can be found in an extensive New Yorker profile out today. The congressman takes over as speaker of the House on January 5.

Afghani confidence with the U.S. is faltering, according to a new poll: “[T]he results … lay bare the challenge that remains in encouraging more Afghans to repudiate the insurgency and cast their lot with the government.”

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Time for the Fed to Back Off

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed by CBS News’s 60 Minutes. Over at e21 (with which I am affiliated), David Malpass does a careful fisking of Bernanke on the issue of the second round of quantitative easing (QE2) — a rather esoteric monetary issue but one that has significant economic ramifications.

In Malpass’s words, “Having the Fed buy bonds in the absence of a crisis is unprecedented and raises many risks — it manipulates markets, creates a bigger overhang when the Fed tries to unload the bonds, risks capital losses at the Fed if interest rates rise, and puts taxpayers and the dollar at risk by shortening the maturity of the outstanding national debt.”

My concern is that given the dismal jobs report on Friday, in which we learned that unemployment increased to 9.8 percent and private-sector job creation was anemic, the Fed will be tempted to get more, not less, aggressive. It shouldn’t, for reasons laid out by Mr. Malpass.

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed by CBS News’s 60 Minutes. Over at e21 (with which I am affiliated), David Malpass does a careful fisking of Bernanke on the issue of the second round of quantitative easing (QE2) — a rather esoteric monetary issue but one that has significant economic ramifications.

In Malpass’s words, “Having the Fed buy bonds in the absence of a crisis is unprecedented and raises many risks — it manipulates markets, creates a bigger overhang when the Fed tries to unload the bonds, risks capital losses at the Fed if interest rates rise, and puts taxpayers and the dollar at risk by shortening the maturity of the outstanding national debt.”

My concern is that given the dismal jobs report on Friday, in which we learned that unemployment increased to 9.8 percent and private-sector job creation was anemic, the Fed will be tempted to get more, not less, aggressive. It shouldn’t, for reasons laid out by Mr. Malpass.

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Those Christian Zionists Are at It Again

So the evangelicals are planting trees in Israel to help with the Carmel-fire disaster-relief effort? Clearly this is some sort of Christian Zionist ploy to entice more Jews into making aliyah so that the End of Days comes faster and we can finally get to the part when the Jewish people are condemned to an eternity of hellfire. Or at least I imagine that’s how Tikkun would frame it.

From the Jewish National Fund’s press release:

Representatives of the Ministry of Tourism KKL-JNF USA have begun to work together to recruit leaders and heads of the U.S. Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities for the rehabilitation of the Carmel forest region. Already in the coming days, fundraising campaigns aimed at forest restoration will begin among the American Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities with a view to planting trees to rehabilitate the Carmel forest area during the New Year for Trees (Tu Bishvat) which falls on 20.1.11.

The Carmel blaze destroyed more than 5 million trees, so this is a welcome effort. Israel is fortunate to have the support of the Christian Zionists, especially when some other groups — such as the New Israel Fund, an organization that purports to be “pro-Israel” — spend much of their funds and energy supporting those trying to get Tzipi Livni arrested in Europe.

So the evangelicals are planting trees in Israel to help with the Carmel-fire disaster-relief effort? Clearly this is some sort of Christian Zionist ploy to entice more Jews into making aliyah so that the End of Days comes faster and we can finally get to the part when the Jewish people are condemned to an eternity of hellfire. Or at least I imagine that’s how Tikkun would frame it.

From the Jewish National Fund’s press release:

Representatives of the Ministry of Tourism KKL-JNF USA have begun to work together to recruit leaders and heads of the U.S. Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities for the rehabilitation of the Carmel forest region. Already in the coming days, fundraising campaigns aimed at forest restoration will begin among the American Jewish and Evangelical Christian communities with a view to planting trees to rehabilitate the Carmel forest area during the New Year for Trees (Tu Bishvat) which falls on 20.1.11.

The Carmel blaze destroyed more than 5 million trees, so this is a welcome effort. Israel is fortunate to have the support of the Christian Zionists, especially when some other groups — such as the New Israel Fund, an organization that purports to be “pro-Israel” — spend much of their funds and energy supporting those trying to get Tzipi Livni arrested in Europe.

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Will Gingrich Influence Palin?

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, former House speaker Newt Gingrich said he is “much more inclined to run” for president in 2012 than not run.

I’m curious about the effect, if any at all, Gingrich’s words may have on Sarah Palin. Of those Republicans considered the most likely to run for president, Gingrich is perhaps the one individual who can compete with Palin when it comes to exciting the GOP base and its core conservative supporters. He can send a jolt of electricity through GOP audiences that is quite impressive and unmatched by anyone, with the exception of Palin and Governor Chris Christie (who continues to rule out a race in 2012).

I continue to believe that Ms. Palin will not run for president in 2012. She has structured a very impressive and profitable post-2008 campaign life for herself. She’s influential but not fully in the arena. If she decides to run, however, her limitations (which are considerable) will overwhelm her candidacy. She will not be president of the United States. Hopefully, she’s self-aware enough to know that.

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