Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 8, 2010

Olbermann Pitches Fit Over Obama’s Tax-Cut Deal

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is really, really mad at President Obama for his deal with Republicans on taxes. Set aside, if you can, the melodrama, the ad hominem attacks on the GOP (“treacherous and traitorous”), and the reliance on Bartlett’s Quotations; Olbermann — like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman and  Frank Rich — reflects the sentiments of Mr. Obama’s hard-core liberal base. And it’s now on the warpath against him. See for yourself.

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is really, really mad at President Obama for his deal with Republicans on taxes. Set aside, if you can, the melodrama, the ad hominem attacks on the GOP (“treacherous and traitorous”), and the reliance on Bartlett’s Quotations; Olbermann — like the New York Times’s Paul Krugman and  Frank Rich — reflects the sentiments of Mr. Obama’s hard-core liberal base. And it’s now on the warpath against him. See for yourself.

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Goldberg Was Right About Israel’s Problems but Wrong About the JNF

Last week, Jeffrey Goldberg stirred up a minor hornet’s nest by writing in his Goldblog at the Atlantic that the proper reaction to the fire that devastated northern Israel was to stop contributing to the Jewish National Fund. His reasoning was that since the extent of the damage was due to the Israeli government’s decision not to adequately fund the fire service as well as its general incompetence, it would be wrong to donate funds to a charity that is best known for planting trees. As he wrote in a later post, since “There is no reasonable guarantee that the tree I donate will be adequately protected by the JNF or the State of Israel,” JNF won’t be getting any money from him.

Predictably, Goldberg has been torched by many readers who have wrongly interpreted his stance as one of turning his back on Israel. Equally predictably, Goldberg has been whining about his critics on his blog and telling them that “the Leon Uris phase of Jewish history is over,” which I suppose means we are no longer supposed to see all Israelis as carbon copies of Ari Ben Canaan, the superJew hero of Exodus. That’s fair enough, though I find it hard to believe in this era, in which Jewish Israel-bashing is a common phenomenon, that there was ever much doubt about that.

To further bolster his defense, Goldberg today quotes COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis, who excoriated Israel’s current government (and its predecessors) in the Jerusalem Post for both its lack of planning for such a fire and the general lack of interest in thinking about the future that seems to characterize the Israeli bureaucracy as well as the political class. Gordis is, of course, dead right about all this. The 61-year-old Arab siege of the country has bred a crisis mentality in which non-military threats are often ignored. Its political system has failed to breed a sense of accountability, and the hangover from decades of socialist economics has created a corruption problem that has retarded efforts to improve governance on many levels.

But as much as foreign supporters of the Jewish state ought to share the frustration of Israelis about all this, Goldberg is still wrong about boycotting the JNF. The fund cannot guarantee that the trees Americans pay for won’t burn in a future fire, but that doesn’t mean that Israel’s forests shouldn’t be replanted. To punish the JNF because of governmental failures would be no different from a call to stop funding charities that served the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because of the colossal failures of local government to protect their citizens as well as for the mistakes the Army Corps of Engineers made in estimating the damage that a storm might do to the city’s levees. Giving to the JNF is not, as Goldberg says, co-opting Diaspora Jews into supporting a cover-up of governmental failures. To the contrary, such donations will help fund the cleanup and recovery.

Goldberg is right when he says Israel should fully fund its fire-fighting capability, but the country’s mistakes on this issue will be rectified for the same reason that New Orleans’s flood prevention has been improved: it took a disaster and a bitter public backlash to force the government to prioritize this issue. This is the way with all democracies. Just as the defeats suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Lebanon War prompted army reform in Israel, you can bet that Israel’s fire service will never be shorted again, or at least not anytime soon. This proves that for all its specific problems, Israeli democracy is not much different from the kind we practice here, where our leaders are just as guilty of fighting the last war rather than planning for the next one as they are in Jerusalem.

Last week, Jeffrey Goldberg stirred up a minor hornet’s nest by writing in his Goldblog at the Atlantic that the proper reaction to the fire that devastated northern Israel was to stop contributing to the Jewish National Fund. His reasoning was that since the extent of the damage was due to the Israeli government’s decision not to adequately fund the fire service as well as its general incompetence, it would be wrong to donate funds to a charity that is best known for planting trees. As he wrote in a later post, since “There is no reasonable guarantee that the tree I donate will be adequately protected by the JNF or the State of Israel,” JNF won’t be getting any money from him.

Predictably, Goldberg has been torched by many readers who have wrongly interpreted his stance as one of turning his back on Israel. Equally predictably, Goldberg has been whining about his critics on his blog and telling them that “the Leon Uris phase of Jewish history is over,” which I suppose means we are no longer supposed to see all Israelis as carbon copies of Ari Ben Canaan, the superJew hero of Exodus. That’s fair enough, though I find it hard to believe in this era, in which Jewish Israel-bashing is a common phenomenon, that there was ever much doubt about that.

To further bolster his defense, Goldberg today quotes COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Gordis, who excoriated Israel’s current government (and its predecessors) in the Jerusalem Post for both its lack of planning for such a fire and the general lack of interest in thinking about the future that seems to characterize the Israeli bureaucracy as well as the political class. Gordis is, of course, dead right about all this. The 61-year-old Arab siege of the country has bred a crisis mentality in which non-military threats are often ignored. Its political system has failed to breed a sense of accountability, and the hangover from decades of socialist economics has created a corruption problem that has retarded efforts to improve governance on many levels.

But as much as foreign supporters of the Jewish state ought to share the frustration of Israelis about all this, Goldberg is still wrong about boycotting the JNF. The fund cannot guarantee that the trees Americans pay for won’t burn in a future fire, but that doesn’t mean that Israel’s forests shouldn’t be replanted. To punish the JNF because of governmental failures would be no different from a call to stop funding charities that served the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina because of the colossal failures of local government to protect their citizens as well as for the mistakes the Army Corps of Engineers made in estimating the damage that a storm might do to the city’s levees. Giving to the JNF is not, as Goldberg says, co-opting Diaspora Jews into supporting a cover-up of governmental failures. To the contrary, such donations will help fund the cleanup and recovery.

Goldberg is right when he says Israel should fully fund its fire-fighting capability, but the country’s mistakes on this issue will be rectified for the same reason that New Orleans’s flood prevention has been improved: it took a disaster and a bitter public backlash to force the government to prioritize this issue. This is the way with all democracies. Just as the defeats suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Lebanon War prompted army reform in Israel, you can bet that Israel’s fire service will never be shorted again, or at least not anytime soon. This proves that for all its specific problems, Israeli democracy is not much different from the kind we practice here, where our leaders are just as guilty of fighting the last war rather than planning for the next one as they are in Jerusalem.

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Dems Feel Betrayed by Their Leader

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

According to Politico:

Relations between President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have never been worse, but it’s a feud that many in the White House quietly welcome.

Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.

Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.

“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” the official said.

Methinks the Obama White House is engaging in self-delusion again.

For one thing, the president did not look “mature and pragmatic” at yesterday’s press conference. Rather, he looked petulant, agitated, and at some points seething with anger.

For another, the president, in calling both Republicans (“hostage takers”) and Democrats (“sanctimonious”) names, came across as a political hack. He almost sounded like Robert Gibbs. This all cuts against what was once one of Obama’s chief virtues — his coolness and detachment, his steadiness and “first-rate temperament,” and his perceived ability to place himself above petty politics. Mr. Obama — the heir to Lincoln, we were told — now comes across as a mix between a faux populist and a temperamental elitist.

I understand the need for a president to distance himself from his party. But there are ways good and bad, careful and reckless, to do that. Provoking a full-scale uprising among one’s core constituency is never wise.

Beyond all that, Obama has decided to attack and enrage Democrats at precisely the moment he needs them to pass a deal with Republicans on tax cuts. Right now, thanks in good measure to how Obama has handled things, passage of that deal is threatened. “I’m going to argue forcefully for the nonsensicalness and the almost, you know, moral corruptness of that particular policy. … This is beyond politics,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. She is speaking for many Democrats at the moment. And if Obama fails in this effort, it will be a crushing political defeat.

Because of that, it’s hard to imagine that Obama won’t eventually get the Democratic votes he needs (probably fewer than four dozen in the House). On the other hand, the Democratic anger directed toward Obama right now is difficult to overstate. They believe they, and their cause, have been betrayed by the president. And a feeling of betrayal among one’s key supporters has a way of undoing a presidency.

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Just a Reminder: Iranian Nukes Mean Egyptian Nukes, African and Middle East Instability

Courtesy of WikiLeaks, something to chew on as the latest Iran talks collapse and, per J.E. Dyer’s prediction, we prepare to let Tehran drag the process into 2011. Egypt — perennially a bullet and a disgruntled general away from being the most dangerous country in the region — is not going to cope well with Iranian nuclearization:

President Hosni Mubarak warned U.S. officials that Egypt might develop nuclear arms if Iran obtained atomic weapons, cables made public by Wikileaks showed. A U.S. ambassador described Egypt, recipient of billions of dollars of American aid since making peace with Israel in 1979, as a “stubborn and recalcitrant ally” in a February 2009 cable. … A May 2008 cable quoted Mubarak, whose country does not have diplomatic ties with Iran, telling a group of U.S. officials that “we are all terrified” about a possible nuclear Iran.

Now, of course, the reason weapons are pursued doesn’t really determine how they eventually get used. That’s where arms races really get fun.

Egypt could very well point to Iran as a pretext for going nuclear, and realists could very well insist that parity between Shiite, Sunni, and Jewish rivals enhances regional stability. It’s questionable whether that stays true in the context of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover and a nervous Israeli air force — or even during an inevitably troubled Mubarak succession, to be conducted against the backdrop of an uneasy cold peace — but at least there’s a theory as to why Egyptian nuclearization might not throw the region into chaos. And who knows: maybe the transition to Gamal Mubarak will be smooth. It could happen.

But none of that accounts for how Egypt will throw its newfound nuclear weight around regionally. There’s little doubt that Cairo would take to bullying neighbors over how the Nile is divvied up, for instance. Regional hegemons will be regional hegemons, after all, and the Egyptians really want that water. The way weaker states might respond, up to and including asymmetrical warfare, doesn’t bode particularly well for peace.

And none of it accounts for what will be happening to already persecuted Jews and Christians inside Egypt. Muslim radicals will run roughshod over religious minorities, correctly guessing that no one will pressure the fragile Egyptian regime to stop them. The fragile Egyptian regime will in turn conclude that it’s better to have wannabe jihadists beating up on religious minorities than on the government. Christians are already getting burned alive in the streets, and the Obama White House has already been loath to lean on Mubarak over it. Wait until Cairo gets nukes and every iota of pressure elicits a “Well, would you prefer the Muslim Brotherhood” response.

No worries, though. Egypt might get a few nukes, but they’re never going to complete their nuclear triad and secure a second-strike capability. Know why? Zionist sharks.

Courtesy of WikiLeaks, something to chew on as the latest Iran talks collapse and, per J.E. Dyer’s prediction, we prepare to let Tehran drag the process into 2011. Egypt — perennially a bullet and a disgruntled general away from being the most dangerous country in the region — is not going to cope well with Iranian nuclearization:

President Hosni Mubarak warned U.S. officials that Egypt might develop nuclear arms if Iran obtained atomic weapons, cables made public by Wikileaks showed. A U.S. ambassador described Egypt, recipient of billions of dollars of American aid since making peace with Israel in 1979, as a “stubborn and recalcitrant ally” in a February 2009 cable. … A May 2008 cable quoted Mubarak, whose country does not have diplomatic ties with Iran, telling a group of U.S. officials that “we are all terrified” about a possible nuclear Iran.

Now, of course, the reason weapons are pursued doesn’t really determine how they eventually get used. That’s where arms races really get fun.

Egypt could very well point to Iran as a pretext for going nuclear, and realists could very well insist that parity between Shiite, Sunni, and Jewish rivals enhances regional stability. It’s questionable whether that stays true in the context of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover and a nervous Israeli air force — or even during an inevitably troubled Mubarak succession, to be conducted against the backdrop of an uneasy cold peace — but at least there’s a theory as to why Egyptian nuclearization might not throw the region into chaos. And who knows: maybe the transition to Gamal Mubarak will be smooth. It could happen.

But none of that accounts for how Egypt will throw its newfound nuclear weight around regionally. There’s little doubt that Cairo would take to bullying neighbors over how the Nile is divvied up, for instance. Regional hegemons will be regional hegemons, after all, and the Egyptians really want that water. The way weaker states might respond, up to and including asymmetrical warfare, doesn’t bode particularly well for peace.

And none of it accounts for what will be happening to already persecuted Jews and Christians inside Egypt. Muslim radicals will run roughshod over religious minorities, correctly guessing that no one will pressure the fragile Egyptian regime to stop them. The fragile Egyptian regime will in turn conclude that it’s better to have wannabe jihadists beating up on religious minorities than on the government. Christians are already getting burned alive in the streets, and the Obama White House has already been loath to lean on Mubarak over it. Wait until Cairo gets nukes and every iota of pressure elicits a “Well, would you prefer the Muslim Brotherhood” response.

No worries, though. Egypt might get a few nukes, but they’re never going to complete their nuclear triad and secure a second-strike capability. Know why? Zionist sharks.

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Beware a Thrill Going Up Your Leg

How’s this for a profiling debate?

The Czech government has rejected EU criticism of its use of a rare test of the credibility of gay asylum seekers.

The Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights says the Czech Republic is the only known EU country to use so-called “phallometric testing.” The method tests whether men seeking asylum on the grounds of homosexuality are sexually aroused by heterosexual pornographic material.

The Czech Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that testing is conducted only after written consent and when it was not possible to use a different method.

The EU agency said in a report last month that the reliability of such tests is questionable, and that the practice violates the EU convention on human rights.

The stimulus, it seems, remains controversial.

How’s this for a profiling debate?

The Czech government has rejected EU criticism of its use of a rare test of the credibility of gay asylum seekers.

The Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights says the Czech Republic is the only known EU country to use so-called “phallometric testing.” The method tests whether men seeking asylum on the grounds of homosexuality are sexually aroused by heterosexual pornographic material.

The Czech Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that testing is conducted only after written consent and when it was not possible to use a different method.

The EU agency said in a report last month that the reliability of such tests is questionable, and that the practice violates the EU convention on human rights.

The stimulus, it seems, remains controversial.

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A Most Curious Country It Is

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

Over at the Huffington Post, Sam Stein reports this:

Hoping to build support for the tax-cut deal that the president reached with Congressional Republicans, the White House has begun pressing Hill Democrats with polling data showing that extending the tax rates for the rich is politically popular.

A Senate aide sent over a copy of the email that an administration aide sent to offices on Wednesday morning. In it, the aide touts Gallup polling data showing that “Two-thirds of Americans (66%) favor extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts for all Americans for two years, and an identical number support extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.”

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics — “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years,” Obama said on Tuesday — his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

“We are making the argument for them,” said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. “The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts.”

We have officially entered Looking-Glass Land, and a most curious country it is.

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Can’t Anybody in the Obama Administration Talk Without Saying Embarrassing and Revealing Things This Week?

This morning, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to a question on Fox News about the new administration report on how, to quote Tom Joscelyn on the Weekly Standard website, “150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday.” That’s one of every 4 detainees at the base. Quoth Crowley: “We actually expected this would happen.”

Crowley is not making an unsophisticated or illogical case here. What’s interesting is how he slips into the standard spokesman trick of downplaying the significance of something by saying it had been foreseen, anticipated. In fact, such foresight and anticipation only make the fact that more than 80 Gitmo detainees have disappeared back into jihad (with another 13 killed and 34 recaptured) seem all that much more horrifying.

This morning, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to a question on Fox News about the new administration report on how, to quote Tom Joscelyn on the Weekly Standard website, “150 former Guantanamo detainees are either “confirmed or suspected of reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities,” according to a new intelligence assessment released by the Director of National Intelligence’s office on Tuesday.” That’s one of every 4 detainees at the base. Quoth Crowley: “We actually expected this would happen.”

Crowley is not making an unsophisticated or illogical case here. What’s interesting is how he slips into the standard spokesman trick of downplaying the significance of something by saying it had been foreseen, anticipated. In fact, such foresight and anticipation only make the fact that more than 80 Gitmo detainees have disappeared back into jihad (with another 13 killed and 34 recaptured) seem all that much more horrifying.

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Everyone Knows Why Clinton Wouldn’t Put Her Promises in Writing

A day after the news of the Obama administration’s decision to abandon efforts to force Israel to agree to another freeze on building in Jewish settlements became known, we’re starting to learn a bit more about the way events unfolded. Though the Palestinians are predictably blaming it all on Israeli intransigence, it’s interesting to note that the “senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations,” admitted to the New York Times that “even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought.”

Which is to say that even with Israel making a unilateral concession, there was little or no hope that the Palestinians would negotiate in good faith, let alone be willing to exhibit the sort of flexibility that an actual agreement would require. But then again, why did anyone in Washington think they would? The Palestinians had several months during which a freeze was put in place to demonstrate their willingness to negotiate, but they pointedly refused to do so until the temporary freeze expired. This was no surprise to observers of Palestinian politics who remembered that the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had already rejected Israel’s offer in 2008 of a state that included virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem.

Though Times reporter Mark Landler uses his interview with the “senior” official to repeat the usual mainstream-media mantra about Netanyahu being inflexible and to sow doubt about his capacity to negotiate a final deal, he also mentions the fact that the prime minister actually did agree to a freeze in direct consultations with Secretary of State Clinton after she made various promises to the Israelis. But, as Landler notes in passing, Clinton wouldn’t put her promises in writing so as to allow Netanyahu to sell the deal to his cabinet.

Why were Obama and Clinton reluctant to do so? The reason ought to be obvious even to a child: they had no intention of keeping their promises and wanted to avoid producing a document that would enable the Israelis to cry foul. At the very least, there’s little doubt that once the freeze was put in place, Clinton would have reinterpreted the terms of the agreement to Israel’s disadvantage, if not to repudiate it altogether in the way they have reneged on previous U.S. commitments to Israel, such as George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon recognizing Israel’s claim to hold on to parts of the West Bank in a peace settlement. Regardless of whether the Obama peace initiative was a good idea in the first place, this episode provides yet another example of this administration’s inept diplomacy, which has made the already remote chances of achieving peace even more unlikely.

A day after the news of the Obama administration’s decision to abandon efforts to force Israel to agree to another freeze on building in Jewish settlements became known, we’re starting to learn a bit more about the way events unfolded. Though the Palestinians are predictably blaming it all on Israeli intransigence, it’s interesting to note that the “senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations,” admitted to the New York Times that “even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought.”

Which is to say that even with Israel making a unilateral concession, there was little or no hope that the Palestinians would negotiate in good faith, let alone be willing to exhibit the sort of flexibility that an actual agreement would require. But then again, why did anyone in Washington think they would? The Palestinians had several months during which a freeze was put in place to demonstrate their willingness to negotiate, but they pointedly refused to do so until the temporary freeze expired. This was no surprise to observers of Palestinian politics who remembered that the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, had already rejected Israel’s offer in 2008 of a state that included virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem.

Though Times reporter Mark Landler uses his interview with the “senior” official to repeat the usual mainstream-media mantra about Netanyahu being inflexible and to sow doubt about his capacity to negotiate a final deal, he also mentions the fact that the prime minister actually did agree to a freeze in direct consultations with Secretary of State Clinton after she made various promises to the Israelis. But, as Landler notes in passing, Clinton wouldn’t put her promises in writing so as to allow Netanyahu to sell the deal to his cabinet.

Why were Obama and Clinton reluctant to do so? The reason ought to be obvious even to a child: they had no intention of keeping their promises and wanted to avoid producing a document that would enable the Israelis to cry foul. At the very least, there’s little doubt that once the freeze was put in place, Clinton would have reinterpreted the terms of the agreement to Israel’s disadvantage, if not to repudiate it altogether in the way they have reneged on previous U.S. commitments to Israel, such as George W. Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon recognizing Israel’s claim to hold on to parts of the West Bank in a peace settlement. Regardless of whether the Obama peace initiative was a good idea in the first place, this episode provides yet another example of this administration’s inept diplomacy, which has made the already remote chances of achieving peace even more unlikely.

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State Sends Ambassador to Terror-Promoting London Mosque

As part of the White House’s public-diplomacy push, we sent Ambassador Louis Susman to an al-Qaeda-supporting mosque a few days ago. CBN’s Erick Stakelbeck has a report on the inspired act of “outreach to the Muslim world,” along with video of East London Mosque and a rundown of some of the radicals it’s hosted. Prominently featured is Anwar al-Awlaki, who couldn’t speak to assembled worshipers last year except by video link, on account of how we’re currently trying to kill him.

This is the same line of reasoning that has State dispatching President Obama to pro-Ahmadinejad mosques, sending pro-Iran apologists to Saudi Arabia, and funding domestic “dialogue” panels run by implacable Israel-haters. Hearts and minds have to be won, after all. And if you can’t do that, then pantomiming “listening” in a particularly obsequious way is apparently the second-best option.

It doesn’t work — in the case of Iran outreach, it’s actually been known to backfire spectacularly — but at least you’re doing something.

On the other hand, you kind of have to sympathize with our public-diplomacy people. They’ve been given the task of boosting our image in the Muslim world by “spreading the truth about American values.” That’s a huge problem if you accept the vaguely neoconservative point that Muslim anti-Western animosity comes not from understanding us too little but from understanding very clearly that we let women vote, Jews worship, gays not be murdered, etc.

And say what you will about that theory, it at least has the benefit of explaining why our public-diplomacy efforts have failed so spectacularly.

On a day-to-day level, there’s also the double bind of having to “speak the language” of audiences soaked in conspiracy theories and anti-Western animus. It’s no wonder that State’s Arab TV outlet, Al Hurra, ended up airing hour-long Nasrallah rants, whitewashing Iran’s Holocaust-denial conference, and accusing Israel of conducting an anti-Palestinian “holocaust.” Or that U.S. director of Near East Public Diplomacy, Alberto Fernandez, went on Al Jazeera and trashed American policy as “arrogant” and “stupid.” Or that Bush public-diplomacy chief Karen Hughes went to Malaysia and denigrated Israel’s efforts to defend itself from jihadists. Persuasion 101, after all, is that you have to connect with your audience.

All of which might be understandable if our outreach efforts weren’t also total failures. But they are.

Getting back to Britain specifically, just think: in a few years time, after Buckingham Palace is transformed into Buckingham Mosque, our diplomats will be able to take care of their ceremonial state duties and their goodwill Muslim outreach in the same place. How convenient will that be? The only catch is that the royal family will probably be disbanded under a Sharia regime, or at the very least evicted from Buckingham, so that might not work.

Although, you never know.

As part of the White House’s public-diplomacy push, we sent Ambassador Louis Susman to an al-Qaeda-supporting mosque a few days ago. CBN’s Erick Stakelbeck has a report on the inspired act of “outreach to the Muslim world,” along with video of East London Mosque and a rundown of some of the radicals it’s hosted. Prominently featured is Anwar al-Awlaki, who couldn’t speak to assembled worshipers last year except by video link, on account of how we’re currently trying to kill him.

This is the same line of reasoning that has State dispatching President Obama to pro-Ahmadinejad mosques, sending pro-Iran apologists to Saudi Arabia, and funding domestic “dialogue” panels run by implacable Israel-haters. Hearts and minds have to be won, after all. And if you can’t do that, then pantomiming “listening” in a particularly obsequious way is apparently the second-best option.

It doesn’t work — in the case of Iran outreach, it’s actually been known to backfire spectacularly — but at least you’re doing something.

On the other hand, you kind of have to sympathize with our public-diplomacy people. They’ve been given the task of boosting our image in the Muslim world by “spreading the truth about American values.” That’s a huge problem if you accept the vaguely neoconservative point that Muslim anti-Western animosity comes not from understanding us too little but from understanding very clearly that we let women vote, Jews worship, gays not be murdered, etc.

And say what you will about that theory, it at least has the benefit of explaining why our public-diplomacy efforts have failed so spectacularly.

On a day-to-day level, there’s also the double bind of having to “speak the language” of audiences soaked in conspiracy theories and anti-Western animus. It’s no wonder that State’s Arab TV outlet, Al Hurra, ended up airing hour-long Nasrallah rants, whitewashing Iran’s Holocaust-denial conference, and accusing Israel of conducting an anti-Palestinian “holocaust.” Or that U.S. director of Near East Public Diplomacy, Alberto Fernandez, went on Al Jazeera and trashed American policy as “arrogant” and “stupid.” Or that Bush public-diplomacy chief Karen Hughes went to Malaysia and denigrated Israel’s efforts to defend itself from jihadists. Persuasion 101, after all, is that you have to connect with your audience.

All of which might be understandable if our outreach efforts weren’t also total failures. But they are.

Getting back to Britain specifically, just think: in a few years time, after Buckingham Palace is transformed into Buckingham Mosque, our diplomats will be able to take care of their ceremonial state duties and their goodwill Muslim outreach in the same place. How convenient will that be? The only catch is that the royal family will probably be disbanded under a Sharia regime, or at the very least evicted from Buckingham, so that might not work.

Although, you never know.

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Responding to John Derbyshire (Again)

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose. Read More

John Derbyshire has responded to my post in which I took him to task for his criticisms of President Bush’s initiative to fight AIDS in Africa. Here are a few reactions to what Derbyshire writes:

1. One way to judge a debate is by how much ground the other party concedes. With that in mind, Derbyshire began by saying this:

The subsidizing of expensive medications (the biggest part of our AIDS-relief effort, though not all of it) in fact has long-term consequences more likely to be negative than positive. The high incidence of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by customary practices there. What is needed is for people to change those customary practices. Instead, at a cost of billions to the U.S. taxpayer, we have made it possible for Africans to continue in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits.

He is now saying this:

“22 countries in Africa have had a greater than 25 percent decline in infections in the past 10 years.” Possibly so; but does this have anything to do with PEPFAR, which is the subject under discussion?

So Derbyshire has shifted from saying that thanks to the generous efforts of America, Africans are “continu[ing] in their unhealthy, disease-spreading habits,” to conceding that, as UNAIDS reports, HIV infections have significantly declined in the past decade. Derbyshire is now arguing whether PEPFAR deserves credit for the decline. That’s progress of a sort, I suppose.

(For those interested in the most relevant findings of the UNAIDS report, I would recommend page 11 [Figure 1.3], which shows drops in people aged 15–25 years who had sex before age 15 years and who had multiple partners in the past 12 months; page 22, which shows AIDS-related deaths by region, 1990-2009; page 27 [Figure 2.8], which shows the number of people newly infected with HIV as well as adult and child deaths due to AIDS; and page 28, which reports, “With an estimated 5.6 million … people living with HIV in 2009, South Africa’s epidemic remains the largest in the world. New indications show a slowing of HIV incidence amid some signs of a shift towards safer sex among young people. The annual HIV incidence among 18-year-olds declined sharply from 1.8% in 2005 to 0.8% in 2008, and among women 15–24 years old it dropped from 5.5% in 2003–2005 to 2.2% in 2005–2008.”)

So did PEPFAR have measurable effects? Drs. Eran Bendavid and Jayanta Bhattacharya evaluated the program’s outcomes in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year. They found that the program was responsible for a decrease of more than 10 percent in “deaths due to HIV or AIDS.” Millions of lives were saved thanks to “improved treatment and care of HIV-infected persons,” especially “the greater availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy,” which was an important focus of the program.

Admittedly, the prevalence of HIV infection in the population did not decline — precisely because people who would have died because of the virus were instead still living thanks to the drugs they received. But in the long run (as Drs. Julio Montaner, Viviane Lima, and Brian Williams note, also in the Annals), there is good reason to believe that “expanded antiretroviral therapy coverage may play a significant role in curbing the spread of HIV.”

More research will be necessary to fully determine the effects of PEPFAR, especially over the long term. But surveying the scientific literature to date, we can now reasonably conclude, I think, that while PEPFAR certainly isn’t solely responsible for the positive changes we’ve seen in Africa, it has contributed to them. And it has certainly not, as Derbyshire originally contended, made things worse.

2. Mr. Derbyshire writes:

There is then some argument that PEPFAR helps promote orderliness in poor nations. On this, I don’t have anything to add to what I said in my December 2 post. Mr. Wehner’s remarks are anyway just a chain of unjustified, unreferenced assertions. Some of them are contradicted by the much more knowledgeable Princeton N. Lyman and Stephen B. Wittels in the Foreign Affairs paper that was the hinge of my original post.

Mr. Wehner has nothing to say about that paper.

I thought my original piece was plenty long enough, but since Derbyshire insists on raising the topic: I have indeed read the essay by Lyman and Wittels that Derbyshire calls the “hinge” of his original post. The authors argue that, among other things, the U.S.’s commitment to helping treat HIV patients is limiting Washington’s leverage over recipient countries. But what I will tell you, which Derbyshire does not, is that Lyman and Wittels strongly support PEPFAR. But let them speak for themselves:

None of these issues [raised in the essay] should be allowed to undermine the commitment to treat all HIV/AIDS patients. This undertaking [PEPFAR and associated international programs] is one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history and a statement by the developed countries that they refuse to deny life-saving treatments readily available in rich states to the millions elsewhere who need them. But the full implications of this commitment need to be addressed before they become a more serious problem.

Messrs. Lyman and Wittels are in fact offering steps that will “help sustain this major undertaking.” So the very essay on which Derbyshire rests his anti-PEPFAR case describes PEPFAR as “one of the greatest humanitarian gestures in history.” How inconvenient for Derbyshire.

3. Derbyshire writes, “If [Wehner] has read [the Lyman and Wittels essay] he will know how spurious is his comparison of PEPFAR — an ever-increasing permanent welfare commitment — to the 2004 tsunami relief effort, a one-off rescue mission.”

Actually, my comparison is not at all spurious. Remember, in his original post, Derbyshire wrote, “There is, however, no virtue in a government official spending your money and mine unless for some reason demonstrably connected to our national interest.”

My point is a simple one: even if you don’t believe that helping the victims of the tsunami was in the “national interest,” it still might be a good thing to do. Derbyshire’s argument, taken literally, denies such a thing. But when pressed on this, Derbyshire backs away from his original position. In fact, he now seems to favor “one-off disaster relief efforts in remote places.” Again, this is progress of a sort.

4. Derbyshire can’t seem to comprehend why I quoted Lincoln. Let me see if I can help him out. The quote articulates Lincoln’s view about the inherent dignity of all human beings, a belief that is relevant to this discussion since it touches on why we should care about people from other continents and other cultures — a sentiment that Derbyshire’s writings are arrestingly free of. Speaking of which: in reaction to my citing his 2006 comment that “I don’t care about Egyptians,” made after learning that around 1,000 Egyptians had perished in a tragic ferry accident at sea, Derbyshire writes this:

The rest is just more low ad hominem sneering. Goodness, how the man does sneer! He says that I am “eager to celebrate [my] callousness,” and quotes in support something I wrote in early 2006. Since I write roughly a hundred thousand words of fugitive journalism a year, that is around half a million words ago. I don’t see much “eagerness” there. If I were to mention, say, Brussels sprouts once every five years, would Mr. Wehner accuse me of being obsessed with that vegetable?

Let’s set aside the obvious irony — obvious to everyone but Derbyshire, that is — of having Derbyshire lecture anyone about sneering. I never said Derbyshire was “obsessed” with this matter — but clearly he was eager to express his views about his utter indifference to the death of many innocent people. Derbyshire now implies that his lack of compassion for Egyptians was because citizens like him were “so busy working for a living, caring for their families and friends, and worrying about the condition of their country that they have nothing to spare for the misfortunes of people in remote, unimportant places.”

Of course he was. Derbyshire’s empathy and mercy tank is empty; there is nothing to spare. Compassion fatigue takes a toll on us all.

5. Then there’s the matter of the Derbyshire put-downs like (but not limited to) this one:

Then there are some impertinent speculations concerning what I do and do not care about. I shall surrender here to the temptation that always comes over me when I am the target of sanctimonious bullying by self-congratulating prigs: Bite me, pal.

Perhaps at some point, Derbyshire will learn to distinguish crude, adolescent insults from witty ones. I would simply point out that Kathryn Lopez, Derbyshire’s colleague at National Review Online, rendered this carefully understated verdict on Derbyshire’s pieces: “I think the thread on President Bush, AIDS, and Africa took another unfortunate and unnecessary tonal turn this morning.”

John Derbyshire seems to have settled on a pattern. He makes bad arguments in callous ways and calls it conservatism. There are many things that might explain why Derbyshire says what he says; conservatism is not one of them.

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Obama Goes Wild

In the New York Post today, I elaborate on the live-blogging I did yesterday:

At his press conference yesterday afternoon, President Obama took himself off in a little boat and went to where the Wild Things are. Like Max, the protagonist of Maurice Sendak’s illustrated book for children, he shouted “Be still!” at the Democrats who are roaring their terrible roars about his tax-cut compromise with the GOP and at the Republicans who are gnashing their terrible teeth about his refusal to make all Bush tax cuts permanent. Max’s shout, and the trick of looking his antagonists straight in the eyes, cause the Wild Things to make them his king. But that’s unlikely to be the effect of Obama’s press conference, which was one of the most bizarre political events of my lifetime.

wild-things-are-sendak1

In the New York Post today, I elaborate on the live-blogging I did yesterday:

At his press conference yesterday afternoon, President Obama took himself off in a little boat and went to where the Wild Things are. Like Max, the protagonist of Maurice Sendak’s illustrated book for children, he shouted “Be still!” at the Democrats who are roaring their terrible roars about his tax-cut compromise with the GOP and at the Republicans who are gnashing their terrible teeth about his refusal to make all Bush tax cuts permanent. Max’s shout, and the trick of looking his antagonists straight in the eyes, cause the Wild Things to make them his king. But that’s unlikely to be the effect of Obama’s press conference, which was one of the most bizarre political events of my lifetime.

wild-things-are-sendak1

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That Ominous Haze Over Kabul

I’m in Kabul now where two facts are evident every time you step outside.

First, security here is good — most days go by without a single insurgent attack in the capital, knock on wood. The streets are bustling. Movement is pretty unrestricted. This is nothing like Baghdad during the dark days of the Iraq war. Even Baghdad today remains less secure.

Second, the air quality is beyond terrible. I grew up in Southern California in the 1970s-80s, when smog was a fact of life. But seldom have I seen smog as bad as it is here. An ominous haze hovers over the city, and many people go around with a hacking cough. Turns out this is not just a quality-of-life problem — it’s a life or death issue.

Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Office (who knew that such a thing even existed?) claims that 3,000 people die annually from air pollution in Kabul — more than are killed in insurgent violence in the entire country. That’s not counting, of course, the dubious air quality in other parts of the country, which no doubt takes a serious toll as well. I have no idea if this statistic is accurate or not, but it’s clear that Afghanistan needs to act not just on the security front but on the environmental front as well.

Back home, I’m hardly a green activist, but spending time breathing the fumes of Kabul is enough to turn me into a fan of the EPA.

I’m in Kabul now where two facts are evident every time you step outside.

First, security here is good — most days go by without a single insurgent attack in the capital, knock on wood. The streets are bustling. Movement is pretty unrestricted. This is nothing like Baghdad during the dark days of the Iraq war. Even Baghdad today remains less secure.

Second, the air quality is beyond terrible. I grew up in Southern California in the 1970s-80s, when smog was a fact of life. But seldom have I seen smog as bad as it is here. An ominous haze hovers over the city, and many people go around with a hacking cough. Turns out this is not just a quality-of-life problem — it’s a life or death issue.

Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Office (who knew that such a thing even existed?) claims that 3,000 people die annually from air pollution in Kabul — more than are killed in insurgent violence in the entire country. That’s not counting, of course, the dubious air quality in other parts of the country, which no doubt takes a serious toll as well. I have no idea if this statistic is accurate or not, but it’s clear that Afghanistan needs to act not just on the security front but on the environmental front as well.

Back home, I’m hardly a green activist, but spending time breathing the fumes of Kabul is enough to turn me into a fan of the EPA.

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Morning Commentary

It’s “back to reality” week at the White House, where the Obama administration has finally given up on asking Israelis to freeze settlement construction.

And, in a Cheney-esque decision, a D.C. federal judge has dismissed any challenge to the president’s authority to kill an American citizen without due process.

Bill Gertz reports that 25 percent of terrorists released from Gitmo have gone back to the battlefield, according to a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Jonah Goldberg delivers some sharp analysis on the West’s turning a blind eye to North Korea’s human rights situation: “Eventually this dynasty of misery will end and North Koreans, starved, stunted and beaten, will crawl back into the light of civilization. My hunch is that it will not be easy to meet their gaze, nor history’s. No one will be able to claim they didn’t know what was happening, and very few of us will be able to say we did anything at all to help.”

Pundits have likened Julian Assange to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, but the two bear no comparison, says Todd Gitlin at the New Republic: “Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was a great democratic act that helped clarify for the American public how its leaders had misled it for years, to the immense detriment of the nation’s honor. By contrast, Wikileaks’s huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate. Assange slashes and burns with impunity. He is a minister of chaos fighting for a world of total transparency. We have enough problems without that.”

And speaking of WikiLeaks, who wrote that story circling mainstream liberal blogs that the Swedish woman accusing Assange of rape has connections to the CIA? The author was Counterpunch’s Israel Shamir — a raving Holocaust-denier and conspiracy theorist, reports Reason magazine.

It’s “back to reality” week at the White House, where the Obama administration has finally given up on asking Israelis to freeze settlement construction.

And, in a Cheney-esque decision, a D.C. federal judge has dismissed any challenge to the president’s authority to kill an American citizen without due process.

Bill Gertz reports that 25 percent of terrorists released from Gitmo have gone back to the battlefield, according to a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Jonah Goldberg delivers some sharp analysis on the West’s turning a blind eye to North Korea’s human rights situation: “Eventually this dynasty of misery will end and North Koreans, starved, stunted and beaten, will crawl back into the light of civilization. My hunch is that it will not be easy to meet their gaze, nor history’s. No one will be able to claim they didn’t know what was happening, and very few of us will be able to say we did anything at all to help.”

Pundits have likened Julian Assange to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, but the two bear no comparison, says Todd Gitlin at the New Republic: “Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers was a great democratic act that helped clarify for the American public how its leaders had misled it for years, to the immense detriment of the nation’s honor. By contrast, Wikileaks’s huge data dump, including the names of agents and recent diplomatic cables, is indiscriminate. Assange slashes and burns with impunity. He is a minister of chaos fighting for a world of total transparency. We have enough problems without that.”

And speaking of WikiLeaks, who wrote that story circling mainstream liberal blogs that the Swedish woman accusing Assange of rape has connections to the CIA? The author was Counterpunch’s Israel Shamir — a raving Holocaust-denier and conspiracy theorist, reports Reason magazine.

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Barack Obama’s “Read My Lips” Moment

The sheer incompetence of the Obama White House is quite a thing to behold. The president appears to have cut a deal with Republicans on taxes without consulting his party in advance. Then the president held a news conference yesterday in which he not only attacked Republicans (nothing unusual there) but also lectured and lashed out at Democrats for their “sanctimonious” outrage.

The fury of Democrats is nearly off the scales, threatening passage of the bill. And the New York Times is now writing about a possible primary challenge to Obama.

It may be that Obama’s decision to cut a deal with Republicans on tax cuts is similar to George H.W. Bush’s decision to cut a deal with Democrats on tax increases. This may end up being Barack Obama’s “Read My Lips” moment.

The sheer incompetence of the Obama White House is quite a thing to behold. The president appears to have cut a deal with Republicans on taxes without consulting his party in advance. Then the president held a news conference yesterday in which he not only attacked Republicans (nothing unusual there) but also lectured and lashed out at Democrats for their “sanctimonious” outrage.

The fury of Democrats is nearly off the scales, threatening passage of the bill. And the New York Times is now writing about a possible primary challenge to Obama.

It may be that Obama’s decision to cut a deal with Republicans on tax cuts is similar to George H.W. Bush’s decision to cut a deal with Democrats on tax increases. This may end up being Barack Obama’s “Read My Lips” moment.

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The Administration’s Feckless Response to WikiLeaks

The Obama administration’s response to the WikiLeaks fiasco is going from inadequate to farcical. Prosecutors have had months to prepare a case against Julian Assange for the harm he is doing to U.S. national security by posting online stolen military and diplomatic documents. It was back in July, after all, that WikiLeaks released nearly 80,000 documents relating to the Afghan war. But instead of throwing the book at Assange and his online collaborators, what has the administration done? It has issued a laughable directive “forbidding unauthorized federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLeaks and other websites.” Talk about shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Granted, there are a lot of problems with potential prosecution under the Espionage Act or other statutes, but if those barriers are insuperable, why hasn’t the administration proposed legislation to Congress that would allow the prosecution of cyber-vandals like Assange? Given the diplomatic damage that WikiLeaks continues to cause, the administration’s inaction so far signals a dangerous ineffectuality that will come back to haunt the U.S. We can’t rely on the Swedish courts to lock up Assange for rape — not when the apparent facts of the case appear to be as bizarre as they are. (For a rundown, see this Daily Mail article. H/T to Gabe Schoenfeld, who has been out front on this story.)

The Obama administration’s response to the WikiLeaks fiasco is going from inadequate to farcical. Prosecutors have had months to prepare a case against Julian Assange for the harm he is doing to U.S. national security by posting online stolen military and diplomatic documents. It was back in July, after all, that WikiLeaks released nearly 80,000 documents relating to the Afghan war. But instead of throwing the book at Assange and his online collaborators, what has the administration done? It has issued a laughable directive “forbidding unauthorized federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLeaks and other websites.” Talk about shutting the barn door after the horse has bolted.

Granted, there are a lot of problems with potential prosecution under the Espionage Act or other statutes, but if those barriers are insuperable, why hasn’t the administration proposed legislation to Congress that would allow the prosecution of cyber-vandals like Assange? Given the diplomatic damage that WikiLeaks continues to cause, the administration’s inaction so far signals a dangerous ineffectuality that will come back to haunt the U.S. We can’t rely on the Swedish courts to lock up Assange for rape — not when the apparent facts of the case appear to be as bizarre as they are. (For a rundown, see this Daily Mail article. H/T to Gabe Schoenfeld, who has been out front on this story.)

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University of Toronto Thesis Argues Jews Exploit the Holocaust

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

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Hamas Returns to Executing Opponents, UN Returns to Boosting Hamas Aid

Fresh from praising Allah for the scores of Israelis who died trying to save Palestinian prisoners from the fires ravaging Israel, Hamas is indulging in some old-fashioned “collaborator” killing:

A Gaza military court has convicted three men of collaborating with Israel, sentencing one to death and two more to prison terms, the Hamas interior ministry said on Monday. … In April, Gaza’s Hamas rulers executed two alleged “collaborators” in the first executions to be carried out since the Islamist movement seized power in June 2007… Human Rights Watch says Hamas killed at least 32 alleged informers and political opponents during and after the 2008-2009 Gaza war with Israel and maimed dozens of others.

It’s been known since October that Hamas was going to step up collaborator executions, if only because it’s been a while since there has been a really satisfying political purge. The 32 executions immediately after Cast Lead were also political, with the organization using the post-war calm to charge and execute Fatah supporters. During the war, they settled for more perfunctory methods like blowing out opponents’ kneecaps and throwing them off buildings, but if you’ve got the time to stage a really good show trial, then why not?

Other Hamas activities from the last few months: co-sponsoring an Islamic Jihad rally, firing rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians, raiding the Gaza journalistic union, destroying a mixed-gender pool park, and importing anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza. The Sunni group has also taken to distributing theo-political tracts justifying its status as an Iranian proxy and Shiite partner, which is weird because we were told by Arab and Muslim foreign policy experts that Shiite and Sunni jihadists never, ever cooperate.

Naturally the UN is currently seeking another $575 million for Gaza, on top of the White House’s billion-dollar stimulus from last year and the piles of cash that the EU and UN tirelessly dump into the area. Because, as Barry Rubin recently pointed out, more aid will only moderate and secularize the Hamas regime insofar as it will do the exact opposite.

Hamas’s response to all that largess, by the by? “The West has no right to tell Hamas how to govern Gaza,” in part because Europe “promotes promiscuity and political hypocrisy.” Which might be true, but it doesn’t really address the “why are we giving these monsters money?” thing.

Fresh from praising Allah for the scores of Israelis who died trying to save Palestinian prisoners from the fires ravaging Israel, Hamas is indulging in some old-fashioned “collaborator” killing:

A Gaza military court has convicted three men of collaborating with Israel, sentencing one to death and two more to prison terms, the Hamas interior ministry said on Monday. … In April, Gaza’s Hamas rulers executed two alleged “collaborators” in the first executions to be carried out since the Islamist movement seized power in June 2007… Human Rights Watch says Hamas killed at least 32 alleged informers and political opponents during and after the 2008-2009 Gaza war with Israel and maimed dozens of others.

It’s been known since October that Hamas was going to step up collaborator executions, if only because it’s been a while since there has been a really satisfying political purge. The 32 executions immediately after Cast Lead were also political, with the organization using the post-war calm to charge and execute Fatah supporters. During the war, they settled for more perfunctory methods like blowing out opponents’ kneecaps and throwing them off buildings, but if you’ve got the time to stage a really good show trial, then why not?

Other Hamas activities from the last few months: co-sponsoring an Islamic Jihad rally, firing rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians, raiding the Gaza journalistic union, destroying a mixed-gender pool park, and importing anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza. The Sunni group has also taken to distributing theo-political tracts justifying its status as an Iranian proxy and Shiite partner, which is weird because we were told by Arab and Muslim foreign policy experts that Shiite and Sunni jihadists never, ever cooperate.

Naturally the UN is currently seeking another $575 million for Gaza, on top of the White House’s billion-dollar stimulus from last year and the piles of cash that the EU and UN tirelessly dump into the area. Because, as Barry Rubin recently pointed out, more aid will only moderate and secularize the Hamas regime insofar as it will do the exact opposite.

Hamas’s response to all that largess, by the by? “The West has no right to tell Hamas how to govern Gaza,” in part because Europe “promotes promiscuity and political hypocrisy.” Which might be true, but it doesn’t really address the “why are we giving these monsters money?” thing.

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