Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 19, 2011

The Health-Care Repeal Effort

So why bother? That seems to be the general question. The Republican-controlled House can pass it, but it won’t get through the Senate, and even if it did, the president will veto it. Why cast an unnecessary vote? Why have this debate now?

Simple: Where you stand on ObamaCare is now the bright line in American politics, the single issue that defines the difference between the two major voting camps in the United States. There hasn’t been as stark a dividing line since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it could be found between those who generally favored confrontation with the Soviet Union (and Communist countries) and those who believed in a greater degree of conciliation.

Those who support repeal have a felt need not only to state their opposition but also to demonstrate it formally. Once that is done, all the secondary aspects of that opposition — defunding certain parts of the law, offering proposals to reform others — can follow relentlessly. But the bright line must first be drawn.

So why bother? That seems to be the general question. The Republican-controlled House can pass it, but it won’t get through the Senate, and even if it did, the president will veto it. Why cast an unnecessary vote? Why have this debate now?

Simple: Where you stand on ObamaCare is now the bright line in American politics, the single issue that defines the difference between the two major voting camps in the United States. There hasn’t been as stark a dividing line since the late 1970s and early 1980s, when it could be found between those who generally favored confrontation with the Soviet Union (and Communist countries) and those who believed in a greater degree of conciliation.

Those who support repeal have a felt need not only to state their opposition but also to demonstrate it formally. Once that is done, all the secondary aspects of that opposition — defunding certain parts of the law, offering proposals to reform others — can follow relentlessly. But the bright line must first be drawn.

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J Street Launches Campaign Against Ros-Lehtinen

J Street is calling on Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to return campaign contributions that she received from Irving Moskowitz, the financier behind the new construction at the Shepherd’s Hotel site. Yes, the George Soros–funded J Street is criticizing someone for taking money from a controversial philanthropist. This is too easy:

With the two-state solution hanging by a thread, what a terrible signal it sends for an American political leader to be so cozy with a far-right political funder whose actions undermine the foreign policy of the United States and makes a two-state solution harder to achieve.

Ros-Lehtinen, the new Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly accepted $4,800 from both Moskowitz and his wife during her campaign. Moskowitz’s wife also gave $5,000 to a pro-Israel PAC that donated $10,000 to Ros-Lehtinen.

According to J Street, Moskowitz “actively works to derail the chances for a two-state solution by funding Jewish settler housing in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods.”

First of all, Moskowitz isn’t funding “Jewish” housing. He’s constructing an apartment building for Israelis of all religions and ethnicities, in a largely Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The housing complex is being built on land he already owned for decades. So J Street is now the arbiter of what an Israeli can build on his own property?

This whole campaign comes down to one thing. Ros-Lehtinen is one of the strongest friends of Israel in Congress, and her new, prominent position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is terrifying to J Street. Expect more petty attacks like this in the future.

J Street is calling on Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to return campaign contributions that she received from Irving Moskowitz, the financier behind the new construction at the Shepherd’s Hotel site. Yes, the George Soros–funded J Street is criticizing someone for taking money from a controversial philanthropist. This is too easy:

With the two-state solution hanging by a thread, what a terrible signal it sends for an American political leader to be so cozy with a far-right political funder whose actions undermine the foreign policy of the United States and makes a two-state solution harder to achieve.

Ros-Lehtinen, the new Republican chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly accepted $4,800 from both Moskowitz and his wife during her campaign. Moskowitz’s wife also gave $5,000 to a pro-Israel PAC that donated $10,000 to Ros-Lehtinen.

According to J Street, Moskowitz “actively works to derail the chances for a two-state solution by funding Jewish settler housing in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods.”

First of all, Moskowitz isn’t funding “Jewish” housing. He’s constructing an apartment building for Israelis of all religions and ethnicities, in a largely Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The housing complex is being built on land he already owned for decades. So J Street is now the arbiter of what an Israeli can build on his own property?

This whole campaign comes down to one thing. Ros-Lehtinen is one of the strongest friends of Israel in Congress, and her new, prominent position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee is terrifying to J Street. Expect more petty attacks like this in the future.

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The Beginning of the End of Swiss ‘Active Neutrality’?

Since the introduction of global sanctions against Iran last year, encompassing 33 countries, Switzerland has defied the West, including the Obama administration and the EU, by touting its “active neutrality” position, whatever that means.

Today, however, the Swiss government relented and announced that it will fall into line with EU sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector.

WikiLeaks cables have documented the tensions between the U.S. government and the Swiss government over the latter’s overly cordial relations with Iran. Yet WikiLeaks did not ambush any of the seasoned observers of Swiss-U.S. and Swiss-Israeli relations. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to maximize their gas and other economic deals with the mullah regime. One need only recall Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister who in 2008 enthusiastically embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

The purpose of her Tehran visit was to sign off on the estimated 18-22 billion euro EGL gas deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC). The gas revenues from the deal with NIGEC, whose parent company, National Iranian Gas Company, was placed on Britain’s Proliferation Concerns List in February 2009, would end up funding Iran’s nuclear-weapons program as well as its wholly owned subsidiaries, Hamas and Hezbollah.

EGL is a Swiss state-owned gas giant, and the Bush administration and Israel protested vehemently and publicly against the deal back in 2008. WikiLeaks simply reiterated the U.S. anger that was already out there. Israel summoned the new Swiss ambassador at the time to bitterly complain about the Swiss jeopardizing the security of the Mideast region.

Calmy-Rey, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, has a troubling record on Iran. In 2006, while meeting with an Iranian delegation on the nuclear crisis, she proposed seminars on different perspectives of the Holocaust. That helps to explain why Roger Köppel, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, wrote a Wall Street Journal Europe piece entitled, “Somebody Stop Calmy-Rey.”

Roger Köppel neatly captured the alliance of the loony Swiss left and fanatical Iranian Holocaust deniers. “One must understand the enormity of this: Ms. Calmy-Rey suggested a debate in Switzerland with Iranian Holocaust deniers on whether the murder of 6 million Jews actually happened. Fortunately, nothing came of this idea. It would not only have been outrageous, but also illegal, since genocide denial is a crime in Switzerland.”

While the statement that Switzerland’s “active neutrality” on the Iranian nuclear threat is welcome, the true test of its intentions will be the termination of the EGL-Iran gas deal.

Since the introduction of global sanctions against Iran last year, encompassing 33 countries, Switzerland has defied the West, including the Obama administration and the EU, by touting its “active neutrality” position, whatever that means.

Today, however, the Swiss government relented and announced that it will fall into line with EU sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector.

WikiLeaks cables have documented the tensions between the U.S. government and the Swiss government over the latter’s overly cordial relations with Iran. Yet WikiLeaks did not ambush any of the seasoned observers of Swiss-U.S. and Swiss-Israeli relations. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to maximize their gas and other economic deals with the mullah regime. One need only recall Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister who in 2008 enthusiastically embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

The purpose of her Tehran visit was to sign off on the estimated 18-22 billion euro EGL gas deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC). The gas revenues from the deal with NIGEC, whose parent company, National Iranian Gas Company, was placed on Britain’s Proliferation Concerns List in February 2009, would end up funding Iran’s nuclear-weapons program as well as its wholly owned subsidiaries, Hamas and Hezbollah.

EGL is a Swiss state-owned gas giant, and the Bush administration and Israel protested vehemently and publicly against the deal back in 2008. WikiLeaks simply reiterated the U.S. anger that was already out there. Israel summoned the new Swiss ambassador at the time to bitterly complain about the Swiss jeopardizing the security of the Mideast region.

Calmy-Rey, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, has a troubling record on Iran. In 2006, while meeting with an Iranian delegation on the nuclear crisis, she proposed seminars on different perspectives of the Holocaust. That helps to explain why Roger Köppel, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, wrote a Wall Street Journal Europe piece entitled, “Somebody Stop Calmy-Rey.”

Roger Köppel neatly captured the alliance of the loony Swiss left and fanatical Iranian Holocaust deniers. “One must understand the enormity of this: Ms. Calmy-Rey suggested a debate in Switzerland with Iranian Holocaust deniers on whether the murder of 6 million Jews actually happened. Fortunately, nothing came of this idea. It would not only have been outrageous, but also illegal, since genocide denial is a crime in Switzerland.”

While the statement that Switzerland’s “active neutrality” on the Iranian nuclear threat is welcome, the true test of its intentions will be the termination of the EGL-Iran gas deal.

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Liberals’ Civility Test

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

A week after President Obama’s stirring remarks at the Tucson memorial service comes an important Civility Test for liberals.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports that Democratic Representative Steve Cohen went to the well of the House and compared what Republicans are saying on health care to the work of the infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,” Cohen said. “You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like ‘blood libel.’ That’s the same kind of thing. The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care.”

In our post-Tucson world, I’m eager to see people like E.J. Dionne Jr., Dana Milbank, and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post; George Packer of the New Yorker; James Fallows of the Atlantic; Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, and the editorial page of the New York Times; Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Ed Schultz of MSNBC, and scores of other commentators and reporters all across America both publicize and condemn Representative Cohen’s slander.

Each of them will have plenty of opportunities to do so. I hope they take advantage of it. I hope, too, that reporters ask White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs what his reaction is. And I trust President Obama, who spoke so eloquently last week about the importance of civility in our national life, has something to say about this ugly episode as well. If the president were to repudiate Mr. Cohen quickly and publicly, it would be good for him, good for politics, and good for the nation.

But if the president and his liberal allies remain silent or criticize Cohen in the gentlest way possible, it’s only reasonable to conclude that their expressions of concern about incivility in public discourse are partisan rather than genuine, that what they care about isn’t public discourse but gamesmanship, not restoring civility but gaining power.

I’m sure conservatives will face similar tests in the months ahead — and they should be held to the same standard.

For now, though — in light of the libel by Representative Cohen — it is liberals who have the opportunity to take a stand on the matter of civility in public discourse, and in the process, to clarify their intentions and demonstrate the seriousness of their commitments.

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Group that Recruits Pro-Palestinian ‘Martyrs’ Gets Okay from Bard

Compiling a list of the most egregious uses of the shootings in Arizona this month to stifle legitimate debate would be a herculean task. But surely among the worst is a statement issued by Bard College president Leon Botstein, who invoked the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an attempt to shut up those who are asking questions about his institution’s decision to give the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the status of an authorized student club with full access to campus facilities.

ISM is, of course, more than just another left-wing group that agitates against Israel. It is an avowedly anti-Zionist organization that has as its mission the task of sending activists into the Arab-Israeli conflict as non-combatant auxiliaries for Palestinian terror groups and their political fronts. The ISM gained fame a few years ago as the group that sent Rachel Corrie, an American college student from Washington State, into Gaza to act as a human shield for the Hamas terrorist organization. Corrie became an anti-Zionist martyr when an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing a home that housed a Hamas arms-smuggling tunnel crushed her while she was defending it with her body.

Bard, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, is well known for its summer music festival, but it has now also apparently earned the distinction of being the only American college campus with an active ISM chapter. Given the extremism of this organization and its penchant for placing its volunteers in harm’s way, there are, understandably, some who question the decision to treat it as the moral equivalent of a chess club. A good argument can be made that it is not the college’s job to decide which political groups students can or cannot join. But it is slightly disingenuous to claim, as Botstein does, that the issue here is whether students should be allow to debate or express their opinions about the Middle East. Bard students certainly have the right to denounce the existence of a Jewish state, oppose its right to self-defense, and defend those who advocate and carry out terrorism in order to further that cause. But it is not unreasonable to assert that groups that exist in order to literally facilitate such actions might be considered as falling outside the bounds of even the most freewheeling campus debates.

Botstein urges critics of the ISM to keep the Arizona shooting in mind and thus lower their voices. But rather than acting as if the group’s critics are conducting some kind of a witch hunt, he would do better to worry about the consequences of allowing a group that is prepared to sacrifice the lives of students to further the cause of anti-Zionism. And instead of worrying that Bard’s Israel-haters will get their feelings hurt by those who question the propriety of their presence on campus, he might also spare a thought for the question of whether facilitating ISM’s rabid bias against Israel and its supporters might be creating a hostile environment for Jewish students there, as turned out to be the case when anti-Israel activism ran amok at the University of California’s Irvine campus a few years ago.

Compiling a list of the most egregious uses of the shootings in Arizona this month to stifle legitimate debate would be a herculean task. But surely among the worst is a statement issued by Bard College president Leon Botstein, who invoked the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in an attempt to shut up those who are asking questions about his institution’s decision to give the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) the status of an authorized student club with full access to campus facilities.

ISM is, of course, more than just another left-wing group that agitates against Israel. It is an avowedly anti-Zionist organization that has as its mission the task of sending activists into the Arab-Israeli conflict as non-combatant auxiliaries for Palestinian terror groups and their political fronts. The ISM gained fame a few years ago as the group that sent Rachel Corrie, an American college student from Washington State, into Gaza to act as a human shield for the Hamas terrorist organization. Corrie became an anti-Zionist martyr when an Israeli bulldozer that was demolishing a home that housed a Hamas arms-smuggling tunnel crushed her while she was defending it with her body.

Bard, a liberal arts school in New York’s Hudson Valley, is well known for its summer music festival, but it has now also apparently earned the distinction of being the only American college campus with an active ISM chapter. Given the extremism of this organization and its penchant for placing its volunteers in harm’s way, there are, understandably, some who question the decision to treat it as the moral equivalent of a chess club. A good argument can be made that it is not the college’s job to decide which political groups students can or cannot join. But it is slightly disingenuous to claim, as Botstein does, that the issue here is whether students should be allow to debate or express their opinions about the Middle East. Bard students certainly have the right to denounce the existence of a Jewish state, oppose its right to self-defense, and defend those who advocate and carry out terrorism in order to further that cause. But it is not unreasonable to assert that groups that exist in order to literally facilitate such actions might be considered as falling outside the bounds of even the most freewheeling campus debates.

Botstein urges critics of the ISM to keep the Arizona shooting in mind and thus lower their voices. But rather than acting as if the group’s critics are conducting some kind of a witch hunt, he would do better to worry about the consequences of allowing a group that is prepared to sacrifice the lives of students to further the cause of anti-Zionism. And instead of worrying that Bard’s Israel-haters will get their feelings hurt by those who question the propriety of their presence on campus, he might also spare a thought for the question of whether facilitating ISM’s rabid bias against Israel and its supporters might be creating a hostile environment for Jewish students there, as turned out to be the case when anti-Israel activism ran amok at the University of California’s Irvine campus a few years ago.

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Chipping Away at Global Security

Abe Greenwald unerringly fingers the new U.S.-Chinese nuclear-security center, announced by President Obama today, as a problematic idea. The proposed “Center of Excellence” (a 1990s-speak expression from the “reinventing government” era) will reportedly be opened to other countries in Asia, in the hope that “China can use its influence to improve nuclear security in the region.” A review of the other countries in the region suggests that this is, frankly, just silly. Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea: these countries, whether nuclear armed or merely users of nuclear power, are hardly candidates for having their practices squared away by a “center of excellence” in China.

On the other hand, a nuclear-security center in China could well be opened to North Korea, Iran, Burma, or a host of Arab, Latin American, or sub-Saharan African nations, all in the name of engagement and responsibility. Besides giving China greater access to U.S. information, the joint venture will make China the potential middleman for technology transfers superior to those Russia can offer.

The idea for the center was reportedly suggested by Hu Jintao at Obama’s nuclear-security summit in April. The center of excellence is perfectly emblematic of the bureaucratic-engagement style of security policy that Team Obama likes to call “smart power.” The nuclear accord with China is supposed to mirror the one we have had with Russia for some years — but its superficial similarities on paper are overwhelmed by the profound differences in circumstances. Proliferation, not a superpower standoff, is the main security problem today. The past 40 years should have taught us that there is no nation — none — whose motivation to prevent dangerous nuclear proliferation is of the same order as ours. If there is any such nation, it certainly isn’t China.

But the Obama administration has a big appetite for paper activism in foreign policy, regardless of the consequences. The Center of Excellence in China has been announced on the heels of last week’s vote in the Russian Duma to advance the New START treaty to its third and final reading, which should assure ratification. The problem with this good-news story is that the Duma, like the U.S. Senate, has attached its own understandings to the instrument of ratification — and the Russians’ understandings directly contradict those of the U.S. Senate. The Senate specifies that New START does not constrain any U.S. missile-defense plans or any U.S. use of strategic delivery platforms for non-nuclear warheads. The Duma understands the opposite, characterizing its legislative understandings as a restoration of the treaty’s original, intended meaning.

On such shoals, “agreements” founder. New START represents no benefit to national security if neither side interprets the treaty to mean the same thing. (At NRO today, Keith B. Payne has another reason why it’s not a boon to U.S. security.) But, like the nuclear-security center in China, New START will have consequences. Treaties and nuclear-security centers shouldn’t be agreed to as if they are items on a peppy “good ideas” checklist. Team Obama too often comes off like a student seminar putting on a mock inter-agency working group. In the real world, poorly conceived joint ventures turn into throbbing security toothaches with alarming frequency.

Abe Greenwald unerringly fingers the new U.S.-Chinese nuclear-security center, announced by President Obama today, as a problematic idea. The proposed “Center of Excellence” (a 1990s-speak expression from the “reinventing government” era) will reportedly be opened to other countries in Asia, in the hope that “China can use its influence to improve nuclear security in the region.” A review of the other countries in the region suggests that this is, frankly, just silly. Russia, India, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea: these countries, whether nuclear armed or merely users of nuclear power, are hardly candidates for having their practices squared away by a “center of excellence” in China.

On the other hand, a nuclear-security center in China could well be opened to North Korea, Iran, Burma, or a host of Arab, Latin American, or sub-Saharan African nations, all in the name of engagement and responsibility. Besides giving China greater access to U.S. information, the joint venture will make China the potential middleman for technology transfers superior to those Russia can offer.

The idea for the center was reportedly suggested by Hu Jintao at Obama’s nuclear-security summit in April. The center of excellence is perfectly emblematic of the bureaucratic-engagement style of security policy that Team Obama likes to call “smart power.” The nuclear accord with China is supposed to mirror the one we have had with Russia for some years — but its superficial similarities on paper are overwhelmed by the profound differences in circumstances. Proliferation, not a superpower standoff, is the main security problem today. The past 40 years should have taught us that there is no nation — none — whose motivation to prevent dangerous nuclear proliferation is of the same order as ours. If there is any such nation, it certainly isn’t China.

But the Obama administration has a big appetite for paper activism in foreign policy, regardless of the consequences. The Center of Excellence in China has been announced on the heels of last week’s vote in the Russian Duma to advance the New START treaty to its third and final reading, which should assure ratification. The problem with this good-news story is that the Duma, like the U.S. Senate, has attached its own understandings to the instrument of ratification — and the Russians’ understandings directly contradict those of the U.S. Senate. The Senate specifies that New START does not constrain any U.S. missile-defense plans or any U.S. use of strategic delivery platforms for non-nuclear warheads. The Duma understands the opposite, characterizing its legislative understandings as a restoration of the treaty’s original, intended meaning.

On such shoals, “agreements” founder. New START represents no benefit to national security if neither side interprets the treaty to mean the same thing. (At NRO today, Keith B. Payne has another reason why it’s not a boon to U.S. security.) But, like the nuclear-security center in China, New START will have consequences. Treaties and nuclear-security centers shouldn’t be agreed to as if they are items on a peppy “good ideas” checklist. Team Obama too often comes off like a student seminar putting on a mock inter-agency working group. In the real world, poorly conceived joint ventures turn into throbbing security toothaches with alarming frequency.

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Why Not Blame Slipknot?

If the following gets around, watch how quickly those who blamed the Arizona massacre on Sarah Palin will embrace the schizophrenia explanation:

“Loughner, now 22, would come over several times a week from 2007 to 2008, the Oslers said,” The Associated Press reported. “The boys listened to the heavy metal band Slipknot and progressive rockers The Mars Volta, studied the form of meditative movement called tai chi, and watched and discussed movies.”

Slipknot is known for referring to its band members by numbers instead of names and for wearing what the New York Times has described as “gruesome masks.”

In a Feb. 6, 2000, feature article in its Sunday Arts section, the Washington Post said: “Slipknot’s lyrics articulate isolation and frustration. Mostly, though, they articulate rage. ‘(Expletive) it all! (Expletive) the world! (Expletive) everything that you stand for!’ chants vocalist Number 8 in ‘Surfacing,’ while ‘Eyeless’ asks, ‘How many times have you wanted to kill/ Everything and everyone — say you’ll do it but never will.’”

“But there’s no question,” the Post reported, “that Slipknot is tapping into something very dark in the mixed-up, muddled minds of thousands of angst-ridden young people, fans the band members refer to affectionately as ‘maggots.’”

If the following gets around, watch how quickly those who blamed the Arizona massacre on Sarah Palin will embrace the schizophrenia explanation:

“Loughner, now 22, would come over several times a week from 2007 to 2008, the Oslers said,” The Associated Press reported. “The boys listened to the heavy metal band Slipknot and progressive rockers The Mars Volta, studied the form of meditative movement called tai chi, and watched and discussed movies.”

Slipknot is known for referring to its band members by numbers instead of names and for wearing what the New York Times has described as “gruesome masks.”

In a Feb. 6, 2000, feature article in its Sunday Arts section, the Washington Post said: “Slipknot’s lyrics articulate isolation and frustration. Mostly, though, they articulate rage. ‘(Expletive) it all! (Expletive) the world! (Expletive) everything that you stand for!’ chants vocalist Number 8 in ‘Surfacing,’ while ‘Eyeless’ asks, ‘How many times have you wanted to kill/ Everything and everyone — say you’ll do it but never will.’”

“But there’s no question,” the Post reported, “that Slipknot is tapping into something very dark in the mixed-up, muddled minds of thousands of angst-ridden young people, fans the band members refer to affectionately as ‘maggots.’”

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Amazing Hypocrisy Alert on the Upper West Side

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

This story tells of a demonstration staged by Democratic politicians on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on the issue of homelessness. In attendance: Rep. Charlie Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Councilwoman Gail Brewer, and others. What they’re all doing, though, is protesting against the creation of a homeless shelter.

In one of the craziest acts of regulatory silliness in recent history, members of the New York state legislatures took it in their heads to get all riled up about the fact that “residential hotels” in Manhattan were increasingly being used not as places to live but as places to rent rooms by the day or week to travelers and tourists. A tenant pays $400-$500 per month. A transient will pay $100 a night. You do the math.

The conversion of these residential hotels (which, in the context of permanent housing, refers to facilities with tenants living in rooms without kitchens) into tourist hotels was for some reason deemed a great evil and unfair to the residents. Some of the buildings are not zoned for transience; others do not have the right permits. Nobody seems to care about all this except “housing advocates,” a category of activist all but unique to New York City, whose hunger for more affordable housing would seem to be in conflict with their hatred of everybody who actually owns a building and dares to rent out an apartment.

An assemblywoman named Linda Rosenthal explained how mean the use of residential-hotel space for transient payers is: “They lose a lot by having people stay there who don’t feel a responsibility to keep it clean and nice. When there are transients there, they feel like they can do whatever they want.” And so it was time for a state law to layer on top of other laws to prevent such horrible transience — for what particular reason is not clear. But it was passed, and then-Governor Paterson signed it, and it goes into effect soon.

So what some of those who own these hotels have decided to do is lease them to the New York City Department of Homeless Services, which will pay them a generous room rate to house homeless people comparable to what they would get from Europeans looking for a cheap room. That this is what would have happened if the law had passed originally was clear at the time; the landlords themselves said it’s what they would do; and the city needs the shelter space.

But … but … not in my affluent and ostensibly caring (70 percent Obama) neighborhood! So gasp these very liberal Democratic politicians, who are not ordinarily known for taking a stand against the notion that the city and state should be responsible for housing the homeless. In particular, Rangel has long claimed the mantle of homeless advocate, but evidently not when he’s still mindful he might be out of a job in two years owing to his legal troubles.

New York City has had a demented housing policy for six decades, and this is just the latest iteration. By the way, one of those residential hotels is right across the street from my apartment building. And the people who seem to be staying there all look very nice, rolling their bags up and down the block. If it becomes a homeless shelter, those nicely packed bags will soon become grocery carts, and the people pushing them won’t be quite so nice.

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The FBI Thought AIPAC’s Rosen Was a Spy for Israel

The Washington Times reported today that the FBI believed that former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was a spy for Israel when it got a warrant to search his office in 2004. The evidence? Rosen was allegedly taking notes during meetings with U.S. officials and then passing the information along to other officials. So basically, he was being a lobbyist. Which makes sense, since that was his job.

But that logic didn’t seem to faze the FBI, which used the information to portray Rosen as an Israeli agent in order to embark on what sounds like a fishing expedition. “Based upon my training and experience as an counterintelligence investigator, I believe Rosen is collecting U.S. government sensitive and classified information, not only as part of his employment at AIPAC, but as an agent of [Israel],” FBI agent Eric Lurie wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.

Of course, FBI officials never actually found any evidence of spying during their searches, and Rosen was never charged with espionage.

“The FBI followed me around for five years, they searched my office and searched my home, and they never found any classified documents, because there were none to find,” Rosen told the Times.

Which raises a troubling question — why was the FBI so eager to go after an AIPAC official for activities that seem typical for the job description of a lobbyist?

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told the Times that some segments of the intelligence community are still highly suspicious of Israeli intelligence-gathering, even decades after the convicted of Jonathan Pollard.

“I believe this goes back to this notion that there was a second Pollard and it was bigger than Pollard,” Foxman said. “I would rather they pursue this, come up with nothing, rather than not be given the opportunity to pursue it and saying, ‘if only they let us, we would find something.’”

I agree with Foxman that the officials should have the opportunity to carry on these searches, because it may help debunk this illogical suspicion. But I also find it concerning that the FBI can harass someone for years based on flimsy evidence simply because of a connection to Israel.

The Washington Times reported today that the FBI believed that former AIPAC lobbyist Steven Rosen was a spy for Israel when it got a warrant to search his office in 2004. The evidence? Rosen was allegedly taking notes during meetings with U.S. officials and then passing the information along to other officials. So basically, he was being a lobbyist. Which makes sense, since that was his job.

But that logic didn’t seem to faze the FBI, which used the information to portray Rosen as an Israeli agent in order to embark on what sounds like a fishing expedition. “Based upon my training and experience as an counterintelligence investigator, I believe Rosen is collecting U.S. government sensitive and classified information, not only as part of his employment at AIPAC, but as an agent of [Israel],” FBI agent Eric Lurie wrote in the affidavit for the warrant.

Of course, FBI officials never actually found any evidence of spying during their searches, and Rosen was never charged with espionage.

“The FBI followed me around for five years, they searched my office and searched my home, and they never found any classified documents, because there were none to find,” Rosen told the Times.

Which raises a troubling question — why was the FBI so eager to go after an AIPAC official for activities that seem typical for the job description of a lobbyist?

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told the Times that some segments of the intelligence community are still highly suspicious of Israeli intelligence-gathering, even decades after the convicted of Jonathan Pollard.

“I believe this goes back to this notion that there was a second Pollard and it was bigger than Pollard,” Foxman said. “I would rather they pursue this, come up with nothing, rather than not be given the opportunity to pursue it and saying, ‘if only they let us, we would find something.’”

I agree with Foxman that the officials should have the opportunity to carry on these searches, because it may help debunk this illogical suspicion. But I also find it concerning that the FBI can harass someone for years based on flimsy evidence simply because of a connection to Israel.

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Netanyahu’s Office Responds to Anti-Israel Time Article

If there was a bright side to Karl Vick’s Time magazine piece on Israel last week, it’s that it finally pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to issue a forceful response to the unhinged anti-Israel alarmists who’ve been claiming that the country is sliding toward fascism.

In a blunt and unapologetic letter to Time, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer called the allegations in the article “outrageous” and proceeded to tear apart the misleading and factually inaccurate statements in an expert manner. There’s too much information there to go through a blow-by-blow analysis, but check out Dermer’s letter in full here.

Dermer also gave a strong defense of Israel’s controversial new NGO law, which allows the Knesset to investigate whether certain NGOs are being funded by foreign governments. I’ve been critical of the law, but Dermer was able to skillfully convey the challenges Israel faces in addressing the growing number of foreign-funded NGOs that are working ceaselessly to undermine the country.

”What would Britain do if the French government was actively funding a British NGO that sought to eliminate the monarchy? What would the United States do if the Iranian government was funding American NGOs pressing for a withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East?” wrote Dermer.

And he noted that the NGO law might not be the perfect solution, and there is still a “vigorous public debate in Israel, including within the Likud party, over the best means to address the problem.”

“Israel has upheld its democratic values despite being threatened like no country on earth,” Dermer wrote in conclusion.

It’s sad that Israel still needs to be on the defensive on this subject. And even sadder that it has to point out that it’s worthy of being called a democracy.

But the letter was definitely necessary. Part of the reason the anti-Israel misinformation campaign has been so successful in the past few months is because Netanyahu’s office has not been quick enough to correct false reports and outright lies about controversial legislation. I hope this stronger public-relations effort continues.

If there was a bright side to Karl Vick’s Time magazine piece on Israel last week, it’s that it finally pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to issue a forceful response to the unhinged anti-Israel alarmists who’ve been claiming that the country is sliding toward fascism.

In a blunt and unapologetic letter to Time, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer called the allegations in the article “outrageous” and proceeded to tear apart the misleading and factually inaccurate statements in an expert manner. There’s too much information there to go through a blow-by-blow analysis, but check out Dermer’s letter in full here.

Dermer also gave a strong defense of Israel’s controversial new NGO law, which allows the Knesset to investigate whether certain NGOs are being funded by foreign governments. I’ve been critical of the law, but Dermer was able to skillfully convey the challenges Israel faces in addressing the growing number of foreign-funded NGOs that are working ceaselessly to undermine the country.

”What would Britain do if the French government was actively funding a British NGO that sought to eliminate the monarchy? What would the United States do if the Iranian government was funding American NGOs pressing for a withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East?” wrote Dermer.

And he noted that the NGO law might not be the perfect solution, and there is still a “vigorous public debate in Israel, including within the Likud party, over the best means to address the problem.”

“Israel has upheld its democratic values despite being threatened like no country on earth,” Dermer wrote in conclusion.

It’s sad that Israel still needs to be on the defensive on this subject. And even sadder that it has to point out that it’s worthy of being called a democracy.

But the letter was definitely necessary. Part of the reason the anti-Israel misinformation campaign has been so successful in the past few months is because Netanyahu’s office has not been quick enough to correct false reports and outright lies about controversial legislation. I hope this stronger public-relations effort continues.

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PRESS MAN: R U Tweeting 2 Much?

I had most of the week in a far country, where the cell-phone coverage is poor. When I arrived at dawn on Saturday to make the only weekend flight home, I was glad to find, in the lounge of the tiny regional airport, a free Wi-Fi signal. Hungrily, I linked up to the wired world. I pressed the tiny Twitter icon. And the tweets rushed in like river water through a breached dam. I was back.

To read the rest of this article from the January 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

I had most of the week in a far country, where the cell-phone coverage is poor. When I arrived at dawn on Saturday to make the only weekend flight home, I was glad to find, in the lounge of the tiny regional airport, a free Wi-Fi signal. Hungrily, I linked up to the wired world. I pressed the tiny Twitter icon. And the tweets rushed in like river water through a breached dam. I was back.

To read the rest of this article from the January 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

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The Health-Care Bill: A Millstone Around the President’s Neck

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

While President Obama’s overall standing with the public is increasing, his standing on health care is not.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll, by a margin of 48-43 percent, the public wants Congress to repeal his health-care overhaul.

According to Quinnipiac’s analysis, the key to the public support for repealing the new health-care law is among independent voters. They want it taken off the books by a margin of 54 percent v. 37 percent. (Republicans favor repeal by a margin of 83 percent vs. 12 percent, while Democrats support the health-care reform 76 percent vs. 16 percent.)

“The Republicans pushing repeal of the health care law have more American people on their side. They may not have the votes in the Senate, but they have many on Main Street,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “While President Obama’s poll rating has improved in recent weeks, the coalition against his health care plan remains and is quite similar to the one that existed when his numbers were at their nadir.”

According to a Resurgent Republic poll, a plurality of registered voters (49 to 44 percent) supports Republican plans to repeal and replace the health-care reform bill, including a majority of independents (54 to 36 percent support). While overall intensity is balanced (37 percent strongly support and 34 percent strongly oppose), independents are more intense in their preference for repeal (39 percent strongly support and 24 percent strongly oppose).

And the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that public approval of the president’s handling of health care is 43 percent, while the percentage of people who say they trust Obama rather than the Republicans on health care stands at 42 percent — nine points lower than it was only a month ago.

“This is the first Post-ABC poll in which Obama has not led the GOP on health-care reform,” according to the Post story.

What these polls show is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act remains a political millstone around the neck of Democrats. Republicans are right to push for its repeal, on both substantive and policy grounds. In the unfolding entitlement debate, ObamaCare should be front and center. Conservative lawmakers should make a very simply argument: if President Obama is serious about getting America’s fiscal house in order, he needs to repeal last year’s health-care bill and start over again. It’s a budget buster, as this op-ed makes clear. Until Obama himself admits as much, until he undoes the enormous damage of his own making, his credibility on fiscal matters is shattered beyond repair.

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Center of Obedience

Jake Tapper has the latest on what’s starting to look like a “reset” China policy:

Obama administration sources tell ABC News that President Obama later today announced an agreement between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China to establish a “Center of Excellence” in China to promote effective nuclear security and safeguards.

The Center of Excellence, to be jointly financed, will be a place where technical information can be shared, training courses can be offered, and collaborations can be promoted to “enhance nuclear security in China and throughout Asia,” the White House says. “It will also help meet the training needs for China’s expanding nuclear sector, and promote nuclear security best practices throughout the region.”

This deal is as creepy as the name “Center of Excellence.” Yesterday the press went on about how the administration was going to get tough on Beijing regarding trade, human rights, currency, and military aggression. Today the White House pledged to “jointly finance” a facility to train this non-democratic country — which is already violating sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program — in nuclear know-how. That’s showing them who’s boss.

Jake Tapper has the latest on what’s starting to look like a “reset” China policy:

Obama administration sources tell ABC News that President Obama later today announced an agreement between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China to establish a “Center of Excellence” in China to promote effective nuclear security and safeguards.

The Center of Excellence, to be jointly financed, will be a place where technical information can be shared, training courses can be offered, and collaborations can be promoted to “enhance nuclear security in China and throughout Asia,” the White House says. “It will also help meet the training needs for China’s expanding nuclear sector, and promote nuclear security best practices throughout the region.”

This deal is as creepy as the name “Center of Excellence.” Yesterday the press went on about how the administration was going to get tough on Beijing regarding trade, human rights, currency, and military aggression. Today the White House pledged to “jointly finance” a facility to train this non-democratic country — which is already violating sanctions aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program — in nuclear know-how. That’s showing them who’s boss.

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Newt Gingrich’s Advice to Palin

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Newt Gingrich had some unsolicited words of advice for Sarah Palin, whose poll numbers have been dropping after the Tucson tragedy.

“I think that she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she’s saying and how she’s saying it,” said Gingrich, who will likely challenge Palin for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

And while that’s a good recommendation for any politician — something Gingrich should probably work on himself — will it do any good for Palin?

Her political troubles over the past few weeks weren’t caused by a failure to slow down and think carefully. In fact, a lot of her most controversial remarks have been well thought out. Those gun references from last spring? She used them repeatedly in her statements, especially after she saw the furious reaction they elicited from the media and Democrats. Her “target” map was designed by a professional graphic artist, probably with a good deal of input from her PAC’s communications staff. And her recent comment about blood libel was part of a pre-written speech crafted with the help of PR experts.

Again, Gingrich’s words were good advice for any politician. But at this point, is there any indication that Palin has any interest in being a politician (as opposed to just running for political office)? Her increasingly eye-popping statements can only be looked at in two ways. Either she’s a “media-manipulation genius” (as that old meme goes) interested in a career as a professional conservative pundit, or she’s a serious politician who is breathtakingly clueless about media strategy.

The latter one seems unlikely. Not only is Palin incredibly savvy; so are the strategists around her. But in the past year, as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, she’s continued to make pre-planned comments that even the greenest City Hall candidate would have good sense to avoid. Promoting a map with crosshairs over Democratic districts during a debate as heated as the one last spring on health care? And writing the term “blood libel” into a speech? Yes, these controversies were blown way out of proportion by the media, but they were also completely unnecessary, avoidable scandals.

Conservatives who have seen how much potential Palin has as a candidate have advised her to get serious for almost two years. But is the problem that she hasn’t heard what they are saying? Or is it that she doesn’t want to hear it?

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Der Spiegel Is Worried About Jewish Revenge

This week’s Der Spiegel magazine cover story is titled “Israel’s secret killer commandos. David’s avengers.” Photos of alleged Israeli intelligence agents involved in last year’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official involved in Iranian arms smuggling, are on the cover and imposed over a Star of David.

Der Spiegel is widely considered to be Germany’s most important weekly newsmagazine and carries the weight of an opinion-making publication for the chattering classes. And the magazine, like most German media, has a peculiar obsession with Jews and Israel.

German journalism’s exploitation of Jewish religious symbols coupled with worries about Jews seeking to create disorder and secure revenge has a long history in post-Holocaust Germany. The Spiegel cover deliberately conjures up not only German angst about Israel and fabricated Jewish revenge fantasies but also the clichés use of language when writing about Israel in the Federal Republic.

Take as an example the headline of the article in the current issue documenting a chronology of the planned hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his posh Dubai hotel: it screams out “An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.” The cheap wordplay on a section from the Hebrew Bible further reinforces widespread European prejudices against Jews. Der Spiegel’s editors know they are playing with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. But expanding circulation counts, and preaching to the choir of resentments in Germany takes priority over fact-based reporting.

This week’s Der Spiegel magazine cover story is titled “Israel’s secret killer commandos. David’s avengers.” Photos of alleged Israeli intelligence agents involved in last year’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official involved in Iranian arms smuggling, are on the cover and imposed over a Star of David.

Der Spiegel is widely considered to be Germany’s most important weekly newsmagazine and carries the weight of an opinion-making publication for the chattering classes. And the magazine, like most German media, has a peculiar obsession with Jews and Israel.

German journalism’s exploitation of Jewish religious symbols coupled with worries about Jews seeking to create disorder and secure revenge has a long history in post-Holocaust Germany. The Spiegel cover deliberately conjures up not only German angst about Israel and fabricated Jewish revenge fantasies but also the clichés use of language when writing about Israel in the Federal Republic.

Take as an example the headline of the article in the current issue documenting a chronology of the planned hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his posh Dubai hotel: it screams out “An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.” The cheap wordplay on a section from the Hebrew Bible further reinforces widespread European prejudices against Jews. Der Spiegel’s editors know they are playing with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. But expanding circulation counts, and preaching to the choir of resentments in Germany takes priority over fact-based reporting.

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Loughner’s Conspiracy-Theory Obsession

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

Byron York has a fascinating analysis of Jared Loughner’s obsession with the conspiracy-theory-themed Internet movie Zeitgeist, which friends say the accused shooter watched continually.

The movie is apparently made up of three parts. The first “debunks” organized religion, which is allegedly used as mind-control for the masses. The second claims that the Sept. 11 attacks were staged, in order to create an excuse to wage “constant global warfare.” And the third part alleges that greedy bankers were behind the Sept. 11 attacks:

The third and final part of the documentary is titled “Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain.” Those men are central bankers and currency manipulators, the “invisible government” that controls our lives.

In the early 20th century, according to “Zeitgeist,” “ruthless banking interests” held a secret meeting to create the Federal Reserve system. The goal, beyond enriching themselves, was to debase American currency and reduce the United States to the “slavery” of ever-increasing debt. Anyone who has even sampled kooky speculations about the Fed will recognize this as very old stuff, repackaged with amateurish digital effects.

This is, indeed, repackaged old stuff. The same paranoid ramblings that have been found in anti-Semitic “New World Order” conspiracy theories for over a century.

And while you’d guess that a film like this would be popular only with the fringes of society, it actually seems to have made inroads as a political movement with some fairly mainstream progressives. The “Zeitgeist Movement,” which was created in 2007 and marketed as a progressive “sustainable living” campaign, had reportedly garnered over 300,000 registered followers as of last March. At the time, Travis Walter Donovan, the associate green editor of the Huffington Post, wrote a laudatory article about the movement that made it sound positively utopian.

According to Donovan, the Zeitgeist Movement promotes a “resource-based economy,” which means that “the world’s resources would be considered as the equal inheritance of all the world’s peoples, and would be managed as efficiently and carefully as possible through focusing on the technological potential of sustainable development.”

Donovan concluded his article with this glowing paragraph:

The members of The Zeitgeist Movement seem to face an intimidating wall of those who decree their goals as unattainable. But with 250 international chapters forming in just one year and the membership count rapidly growing, it’s undeniable that many easily identify with the message. The evidence shows that our current system is leading us on a collision course; our present model of society cannot sustain itself. While some deny this, others ignore it, and there are those who still try to profit off of it. The Zeitgeist Movement highlights that there are individuals who believe in a sustainable future where humanity is not united by religious or political ideology, but by the scientific method, venerated as the savior that can develop a system of human equality, thriving from the cooperation and balance of technology and nature.

So, basically, it’s socialism with a couple of “green” words thrown in. And also that New World Order stuff. Sounds like a safe combination to me.

And since this subject has been so hotly politicized, I just want to add that I’m not accusing the Zeitgeist Movement, progressives, the Huffington Post, or any other group of having any sort of influence on the shooting. Despite the misguided and troubling politics of Zeitgeist, it’s clear that the movement is not one that preaches violence, so it would be unfair and erroneous to blame it for the attack.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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The Ninth Step

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all. Read More

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all.

QUESTION: So it’s not the contents that you’re opposed to; it’s simply the idea of a resolution.

MR. CROWLEY: We do not think that the UN Security Council is the best place to address these issues.

QUESTION: Can I ask why? Because, I mean, the UN is where Israel was created, basically. Why is the UN not the place to deal with these issues?

MR. CROWLEY: These are complex issues, and we think they’re best resolved through direct negotiations, not through the unilateral declarations, even if those unilateral declarations come in the form of a multilateral setting.

Asked to specify a productive step forward, Crowley repeated the goal of a framework agreement produced by direct negotiations and said the administration was working on it:

QUESTION: But that’s been going on for the past two years.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: And if you’re talking about productive steps –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s been going on for longer than that if — (laughter)

QUESTION: Well, this Administration, it’s been going on for the last two years. And if you’re talking about productive steps, certainly that process hasn’t produced anything.

MR. CROWLEY: You’re leading to a kind of a glass half full, glass half empty kind of discussion.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, except that the glass doesn’t have any water in it at all. (Laughter)

There are two possible explanations for the administration’s position: (1) a tactical and temporary move to the center, by a shellacked president anxious to avoid a confrontation with Israel before the 2012 presidential election; (2) a realization that focusing on Israeli settlements, without comparable concessions from either Palestinians or Arab states, is a failed strategy — and a UN resolution is not going to put any water in the glass.

The Palestinians, with their two-year strategy of avoiding negotiations (even after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech; even after the settlement moratorium; even after repeated U.S. attempts to drag them to the table), have driven the peace process into a ditch. Unwilling to recognize a Jewish state or make the concessions necessary to get a Palestinian one, they want others to act while they stand by drinking slurpees.

Whether because of politics or policy, or both, the administration seems to realize this.

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