Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 1, 2011

Did Paul Ryan Just Okay RomneyCare?

This Weekly Standard interview with Paul Ryan is going to break a lot of hearts among the anti-Romney conservative holdouts. Ryan is one of the great independent thinkers in politics today, but at the end of the day, he’s also a pragmatist – and a Republican. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to picture a scenario where Mitt Romney doesn’t get the nomination, and Ryan seems to be trying to give conservatives a way to come to terms with that:

But what about Romneycare? Ryan has said Romneycare is “not that dissimilar to Obamacare.” Is Ryan “intellectually dishonest,” as New Jersey governor Chris Christie said of those who claim the two programs are similar?

“Well, I guess from a federalism standpoint, I understand that point,” Ryan says with a laugh. He doesn’t back off of his judgment about Romneycare, but says the issue is irrelevant. “I don’t think this question matters that much anymore because Romney’s been very clear that he’s against Obamacare and he’s going to repeal it. So I for a second don’t worry about whether he’s going to shy away from repealing the president’s health care law.”

Read More

This Weekly Standard interview with Paul Ryan is going to break a lot of hearts among the anti-Romney conservative holdouts. Ryan is one of the great independent thinkers in politics today, but at the end of the day, he’s also a pragmatist – and a Republican. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to picture a scenario where Mitt Romney doesn’t get the nomination, and Ryan seems to be trying to give conservatives a way to come to terms with that:

But what about Romneycare? Ryan has said Romneycare is “not that dissimilar to Obamacare.” Is Ryan “intellectually dishonest,” as New Jersey governor Chris Christie said of those who claim the two programs are similar?

“Well, I guess from a federalism standpoint, I understand that point,” Ryan says with a laugh. He doesn’t back off of his judgment about Romneycare, but says the issue is irrelevant. “I don’t think this question matters that much anymore because Romney’s been very clear that he’s against Obamacare and he’s going to repeal it. So I for a second don’t worry about whether he’s going to shy away from repealing the president’s health care law.”

First Christie, and now Ryan. All Romney needs is Mitch Daniels’s blessing, and he’ll have the whole trifecta. This really complicates things for the stalwart anti-Romneys. Groups unaffiliated with the GOP, like FreedomWorks will still be there to bash him from the entitlements/health care angle. But as Romney gets closer to the finish line, there will likely be a lot more Republicans willing to overlook his past if it’s the only path to repealing ObamaCare.

Read Less

Corzine: Poster Child for Liberal Hypocrisy

As Seth noted earlier, the collapse of former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Jon Corzine’s latest financial venture is the end of his hopes for higher office. But it is more than that. The discovery that $700 million of the money investors put into his MF Global firm is missing is a shocking scandal that highlights liberal hypocrisy as much as it does the excesses of the world of Wall Street high finance.

Corzine is not just another high-flying investment ace that was shot down by bad bets — in this case by his firm’s decision to put customers’ money in European sovereign debt. Such figures are generally associated with the fat cats whom popular culture tells us are all Republicans who finance conservative causes. Corzine was, after all, not just a Democrat but one of the party’s bright hopes just a few years ago and a leading liberal advocate for bigger government as well as, in a touch dripping with irony, for reining in excessive compensation for Wall Street executives. More than just a stereotypical “limousine liberal,” Corzine was a major figure in mobilizing financial support for the Democratic Party, a role that he continued to play even after losing his try for re-election in 2009 to Chris Christie. The White House will try to distance itself from Corzine, but the disgrace of one of his leading bundlers will make it a little harder for Obama to spend the next year wandering the countryside complaining about Republican responsibility for Wall Street greed and income inequality.

Read More

As Seth noted earlier, the collapse of former New Jersey Governor and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Jon Corzine’s latest financial venture is the end of his hopes for higher office. But it is more than that. The discovery that $700 million of the money investors put into his MF Global firm is missing is a shocking scandal that highlights liberal hypocrisy as much as it does the excesses of the world of Wall Street high finance.

Corzine is not just another high-flying investment ace that was shot down by bad bets — in this case by his firm’s decision to put customers’ money in European sovereign debt. Such figures are generally associated with the fat cats whom popular culture tells us are all Republicans who finance conservative causes. Corzine was, after all, not just a Democrat but one of the party’s bright hopes just a few years ago and a leading liberal advocate for bigger government as well as, in a touch dripping with irony, for reining in excessive compensation for Wall Street executives. More than just a stereotypical “limousine liberal,” Corzine was a major figure in mobilizing financial support for the Democratic Party, a role that he continued to play even after losing his try for re-election in 2009 to Chris Christie. The White House will try to distance itself from Corzine, but the disgrace of one of his leading bundlers will make it a little harder for Obama to spend the next year wandering the countryside complaining about Republican responsibility for Wall Street greed and income inequality.

Seasoned observers of both politics and finance already understood that scoundrels could be found in every political camp. But that’s not the song being sung by the president and his Democratic choir. Obama has sought to piggyback on the Occupy Wall Street protests and their inchoate demands for punishing the wealthy. The president has been inveighing against the avarice of financiers as well as the willingness of Republicans to oppose efforts to confiscate more of their income in the name of a loosely defined belief in lessening income inequality. But the fact that one of the leading pillars of his campaign appears to be guilty of all the sins generally associated by Democrats with the 2008 financial meltdown that helped elect Obama in the first place ought to cut the legs out from under the president’s populist pose.

The fact that Corzine’s financial skullduggery is linked with the impending default of Greece is also telling. Corzine’s reign of error in New Jersey was marked by fiscal profligacy that mirrors the breakdown in Athens and forced his successor to go to war with state unions in order to start the state back down the road to solvency. Like the Greek politicians who complain about the impact of austerity policies needed to pay for past spending sprees, Democrats now indulge in demagoguery aimed at portraying their opponents as the party of the rich while opposing genuine reform of government spending habits. That they do so while raking in contributions from Wall Street malefactors like Corzine just adds to their hypocrisy.

When Obama speaks about the political influence of a corrupt Wall Street establishment that victimized investors and ordinary Americans while reaping profits he will want us to associate those vices with his opponents. But Corzine proves that this self-serving sermon would be better served up to his own wealthy supporters than anyone else.

Read Less

Syria Mining Lebanese Border

According to this press report, Syria is mining its border with Lebanon in order to prevent Syrians fleeing Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown to flee to safety.

It will be interesting to see whether the United Nations and various New York-based human rights organizations can take time away from bashing Israel in order to condemn—and perhaps reverse—this latest Syrian atrocity against innocent Syrian citizens.

According to this press report, Syria is mining its border with Lebanon in order to prevent Syrians fleeing Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown to flee to safety.

It will be interesting to see whether the United Nations and various New York-based human rights organizations can take time away from bashing Israel in order to condemn—and perhaps reverse—this latest Syrian atrocity against innocent Syrian citizens.

Read Less

“Death to Israel” and Other Forms of Legitimate Debate

You might think that, however foolish many of the assumptions that govern the modern university’s take on Israel might be, it would be easy to find broad agreement that a professor publicly shouting “death to Israel” is beyond the pale of legitimate debate. Unfortunately, when it comes to Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors, you would be wrong.

In an article published yesterday by Inside Higher Ed on Kent State Professor Julio Pino shouting “death to Israel” at a public event on campus with an Israeli diplomat, Nelson is quoted saying:

Calling out a political slogan during a question period falls well within the speech rights of any member of a university community… Expressive outbursts do not substitute for rational analysis, but they have long played a role in our national political life. More surprising, to be sure, is President Lefton’s invention of an absurd form of hospitality: you must not question the moral legitimacy or the right to exist of a guest’s home country. Awareness of history would suggest such challenges are routine elements of international life.

Read More

You might think that, however foolish many of the assumptions that govern the modern university’s take on Israel might be, it would be easy to find broad agreement that a professor publicly shouting “death to Israel” is beyond the pale of legitimate debate. Unfortunately, when it comes to Cary Nelson, the president of the American Association of University Professors, you would be wrong.

In an article published yesterday by Inside Higher Ed on Kent State Professor Julio Pino shouting “death to Israel” at a public event on campus with an Israeli diplomat, Nelson is quoted saying:

Calling out a political slogan during a question period falls well within the speech rights of any member of a university community… Expressive outbursts do not substitute for rational analysis, but they have long played a role in our national political life. More surprising, to be sure, is President Lefton’s invention of an absurd form of hospitality: you must not question the moral legitimacy or the right to exist of a guest’s home country. Awareness of history would suggest such challenges are routine elements of international life.

In this episode we find for its clarity a rare expression of the assumptions about the discussion of Israel underlying university life that make it so difficult to appreciably move campus discourse.

The first and most important is that no matter how outrageous or blatant a form anti-Israelist rhetoric may take, it is almost certain to find well-placed defenders. That is because anti-Israelism is not seen as a form of bigotry by most people on nearly any campus. Even when expressed in its most direct and chilling form, many will shrug. Not because they agree with the view per se, or because they see it as “rational,” but because they think it is the kind of thing that is socially acceptable for a person to think.

It’s also telling because a statement issued by Kent State president Lester A. Lefton was, in its moral clarity, about all an Israel supporter could hope for. (“A guest lecturer at our campus was treated in a way which I find reprehensible, and an embarrassment to our university.”) But at least this public statement by a person of influence and authority seems unable to move the elaborate taboos that surround campus speech.

This points to the most difficult task before the Israel advocate: to convince the broad majority that anti-Israelism is a socially unacceptable form of bigotry. Only once we have done that will we be able to demand and see that a reprehensible figure like Pino finds the social ostracism he so richly deserves. And only then will enablers like Nelson learn to think differently, or otherwise keep their comments to themselves.

Read Less

The Real Reason Huntsman Flopped

It will be a shame when the media’s inevitable postmortem of the Jon Huntsman campaign pushes the meme that he was just too moderate and reasonable for the GOP. That’s because his more “liberal” policies are not the reason he never caught on with primary voters.

On the major issues, Huntsman is a fairly conservative candidate. It’s true that he has deviated on foreign policy, calling for a steep withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In past cycles, however, this would have been more salient than this year, when other candidates have at least hinted at what Huntsman has made a key component of his platform. His belief in anthropogenic global warming isn’t nearly as offensive to conservatives as the media likes to pretend it is. Regardless of where the majority of GOP primary voters stand on the issue, global warming simply isn’t going to decide who gets the nomination. So why, then, do voters find Huntsman so distasteful?

Read More

It will be a shame when the media’s inevitable postmortem of the Jon Huntsman campaign pushes the meme that he was just too moderate and reasonable for the GOP. That’s because his more “liberal” policies are not the reason he never caught on with primary voters.

On the major issues, Huntsman is a fairly conservative candidate. It’s true that he has deviated on foreign policy, calling for a steep withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In past cycles, however, this would have been more salient than this year, when other candidates have at least hinted at what Huntsman has made a key component of his platform. His belief in anthropogenic global warming isn’t nearly as offensive to conservatives as the media likes to pretend it is. Regardless of where the majority of GOP primary voters stand on the issue, global warming simply isn’t going to decide who gets the nomination. So why, then, do voters find Huntsman so distasteful?

It has more to do with attitude than anything else. For example, here’s Huntsman’s latest ad:

Romney’s flip-flops? Fair game–and something conservatives have been vocally uneasy about since the beginning of the campaign (actually since the beginning of the 2008 campaign). But the backflipping monkey toy as a visual representation of his party’s leading candidate for president was just a bit juvenile—especially for the candidate whose conservative supporters told us he was the mature candidate.

And then came his daughters’ web video mocking the eminently mockable Herman Cain ad in which campaign manager Mark Block speaks earnestly to a camera close-up about his admiration for Cain and then takes a much-talked about puff of a cigarette. Huntsman’s three older daughters then released their parody of it–in which they are all wearing fake mustaches and blowing bubbles instead of smoke. Here’s a screen shot from it, released by the campaign:

Funny, right? But also kind of… strange. One of the Huntsman daughters told the Washington Post that when her father saw it he “couldn’t stop laughing.” Kevin Williamson’s most recent article for National Review is on the subject of Huntsman’s obsessive quest for cool, and how it somehow keeps eluding him. Williamson writes of Huntsman’s reference to “Stairway to Heaven” at a speech in New Hampshire, which fell flat–much like his reference to Kurt Cobain at a GOP candidates’ debate. Here’s Williamson:

Governor Huntsman is trying really, really hard to ingratiate himself with the cool kids, declaring at every opportunity that when it comes to the cultural fault line that separates Manhattan from Mayberry, Austin from Amarillo, and Berkeley from Bakersfield, Jon Huntsman is more a half-caff soy latte than a bottle of Bud. Even his experience in China, which ought to be his trump card in a field not exactly thick with foreign-policy expertise, loses its luster when refracted through the prism of his vanity: He bragged that he looked forward to addressing the Chinese people in Chinese, he answered one question about China with “Would you like the answer in Chinese or English?” and he basically never passes up an opportunity to affirm that he knows some foreign languages, accepts the standard scientific accounts of evolution and global warming, and is not, you know, a rube.

This gets it exactly right. Huntsman’s problem with GOP voters is that he constantly comes off as the parent who, trying to look cool to his teenage children and their friends, mocks everyone else’s parents. But a presidential election needs the parent, not the overgrown teenager or the 51-year-old trying to recapture his youth. Huntsman is free to use Twitter to taunt his opponents and then not show up for actual face-to-face debates with them, only to taunt them again from a distance to reporters the next day. But GOP voters are clearly not responding to it. And it’s not surprising at all.

Read Less

Obama’s New Middle East Map

Many of Obama’s supporters are applauding the President’s decision to walk away from negotiations to cement a long-term relationship between Iraq and the United States. All it takes is a quick glance at any number of left-wing or Democratic Party organs to see the deeply embedded belief that Iraq’s liberation was born in original sin, and that the best course of U.S. action was simply to sever links and put the memory of the Iraq campaign behind us.

This is unfortunate. The United States has made many mistakes in Iraq, though the decisions to oust Saddam and liberate Iraqis were not among them. Still, despite all the errors, Iraq and the United States should have enjoyed a partnership for decades to come, much like the United States enjoys with South Korea. Alas, for too many progressives, Iraqis have become chits to play in a Washington-based political game. Too many on the left would rather see Iraqis fall victim to Islamist insurgents or pro-Iranian militias than do anything to prevent that outcome, all so that they can condemn Bush’s actions.

Read More

Many of Obama’s supporters are applauding the President’s decision to walk away from negotiations to cement a long-term relationship between Iraq and the United States. All it takes is a quick glance at any number of left-wing or Democratic Party organs to see the deeply embedded belief that Iraq’s liberation was born in original sin, and that the best course of U.S. action was simply to sever links and put the memory of the Iraq campaign behind us.

This is unfortunate. The United States has made many mistakes in Iraq, though the decisions to oust Saddam and liberate Iraqis were not among them. Still, despite all the errors, Iraq and the United States should have enjoyed a partnership for decades to come, much like the United States enjoys with South Korea. Alas, for too many progressives, Iraqis have become chits to play in a Washington-based political game. Too many on the left would rather see Iraqis fall victim to Islamist insurgents or pro-Iranian militias than do anything to prevent that outcome, all so that they can condemn Bush’s actions.

By pulling out of Iraq, Obama has fundamentally changed the map of the Middle East. The Islamic Republic of Iran has long battled its isolation. Syria, its only ally in the Middle East, teeters on the brink of regime collapse. Should Syria collapse, then the difficulties of resupply for Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, will be increased exponentially. Simply put, Iran was on the ropes.

Obama, however, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Iraqi Shi‘ites are not fifth columnists. Muqtada al-Sadr is more anathema to them than representative of them. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi Shi‘ites fought loyally for Iraq against their Iranian co-religionists. They may have despised Saddam, but they loved their homeland. While American forces long ago relocated from the cities, and remained largely out-of-sight and out-of-mind of Iraqis, their presence nevertheless reassured Iraqis that they could act independently. The American encampments were wires that the Iranians dared not trip. Alas, after December, there will be no such check on Iranian ambitions. No longer will Prime Minister Maliki be able to play Americans and Iranians off each other to preserve Iraq’s independence of action, an independence that is both in Iraqi and American interests.

So, with one fell swoop, Obama has redrawn the strategic map of the Middle East. Iran will have unfettered access from its own territory, across Iraq and Syria, all the way to Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. The leaders in Iran could never have imagined such a comprehensive reversal. If in April 2010, the transfer of SCUD missiles across the Syrian frontier into Lebanon was big news, next year such actions should become commonplace. Not even Jimmy Carter engaged in such strategic malpractice. It would behoove Governor Romney, Mr. Cain, and other serious Republican contenders to explain what they will do upon taking office to prevent this redrawing of the Middle East’s geopolitical map. It is an issue they cannot duck, for President Obama has set the stage for the first major crisis of the new presidency.

Read Less

RE: The Herman Cain Charges

I’ll leave it to Herman Cain to get his story straight. His campaign and he personally have not handled this incident well at all and obviously the Cain campaign is still largely an amateur affair. They badly need a crash course in political public relations 101.

But one thing should be pointed out: the fact that a settlement was made in no way indicates anything about the guilt or innocence of the accused party, especially if it’s for a small amount, effectively severance pay, such as Cain says was the case here.
Read More

I’ll leave it to Herman Cain to get his story straight. His campaign and he personally have not handled this incident well at all and obviously the Cain campaign is still largely an amateur affair. They badly need a crash course in political public relations 101.

But one thing should be pointed out: the fact that a settlement was made in no way indicates anything about the guilt or innocence of the accused party, especially if it’s for a small amount, effectively severance pay, such as Cain says was the case here.

The truth of the matter is that the American justice system practically begs people to use it as an attack weapon. It is easy to accuse a man of sexual harassment and very difficult to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Almost always it is a matter of she said, he said.

Years ago, such an accusation could be dismissed with a pro forma denial, confident that even if true, it would be treated as a case of “boys will be boys.”

But today such an accusation is poisonous for a public figure such as a presidential candidate or even a corporate CEO, as Cain was at the time. And the longer it goes on, the more poisonous it becomes. Just ask Bob Packwood, hounded from the Senate by these charges, or John Edwards, now under indictment for trying to cover up an affair.

So the public figure is faced with what amounts to Hobson’s choice. He can pay a relatively small sum now, in return for a confidentiality agreement, and get the story out of the papers. Or he can fight it, pay perhaps fifty or a hundred times as much in legal fees doing so, and have it drag out for months in the media before the case is dismissed. The accusations get pounded into the public mind over and over, the dismissal is a one-day story.

The only logical thing to do is pay up and get the accuser to shut up. It’s another example of how the American rule, by which both sides pay their own court costs regardless of outcome, is an open invitation, frequently accepted, to legal extortion.

Read Less

Occupiers Target Iowa Caucuses

Occupy Iowa activists are apparently irritated that politicians don’t seem to be taking their opinions seriously. And so they’re calling on their supporters to flood all 99 districts counties of Iowa during the upcoming caucuses.

No, not to participate – instead they’re planning to “shut down” the local headquarters of the presidential candidates.  Democracy: You’re doing it wrong.

Read More

Occupy Iowa activists are apparently irritated that politicians don’t seem to be taking their opinions seriously. And so they’re calling on their supporters to flood all 99 districts counties of Iowa during the upcoming caucuses.

No, not to participate – instead they’re planning to “shut down” the local headquarters of the presidential candidates.  Democracy: You’re doing it wrong.

Iowa activists are inviting caravans of protesters from across the country to help them “occupy” all the presidential campaign headquarters in Iowa – and to shut the offices down if they feel their message about corporate greed is not being heard.

“You go inside or if they won’t let you in, you shut ‘em down. You sit in front of their doors,” said Des Moines’ Frank Cordaro, who came up with the idea that Occupy Iowa’s “general assembly” approved at their 6 p.m. meeting tonight. …

“It could be inside, it could be outside — the idea is to basically take over until we get response to our satisfaction or we are forcibly removed,” said Fallon, a Des Moines Democrat and former state lawmaker. 

If Occupiers think that images of them protesting outside of Republican candidate headquarters will sway the conservative voting base, they’re living on another planet. GOP candidates will likely have no qualms about calling in the police if the protests get out of hand. But it will be interesting to see whether the Obama campaign headquarters tolerates it. About 100 protesters swarmed the president’s office in Des Moines a couple of weeks ago, and Obama staffers ended up filming the activists’ complaints and offering them coffee and donuts. Occupy Iowa sounds like it wants to be much more aggressive in its caucus protests, so we’ll see if the Obama campaign is able to keep up the friendliness in all 99 districts counties.

Read Less

Will Congress Stop Arms Sale to Turkey?

Over the past several months, the Turkish government has become increasingly antagonistic to the United States and its allies, most notably redoubling its embrace of Hamas, and threatening to use military force against both Israel and Cyprus. Turkey refuses to accept a universal definition of terrorism, and instead argues that terrorism perpetrated against the Jewish state is legitimate. Egemen Bağış, a minister and close aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has gone so far as to suggest that Al Qaeda is not Turkey’s concern.

Rather than let Erdoğan know that incitement, anti-American rhetoric, embrace of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and legitimization of terrorist groups has a cost, President Obama has instead decided to provide our most advanced military technology to Turkey. Late last week, the White House formally notified Congress of the Obama administration’s intention to supply Turkey with cutting edge military technology. Turkey says it wants Super Cobra Helicopters and Predators to fight Kurdish terrorists, but given Turkey’s threats to Israel and Cyprus, Congress must exercise its oversight.

Read More

Over the past several months, the Turkish government has become increasingly antagonistic to the United States and its allies, most notably redoubling its embrace of Hamas, and threatening to use military force against both Israel and Cyprus. Turkey refuses to accept a universal definition of terrorism, and instead argues that terrorism perpetrated against the Jewish state is legitimate. Egemen Bağış, a minister and close aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has gone so far as to suggest that Al Qaeda is not Turkey’s concern.

Rather than let Erdoğan know that incitement, anti-American rhetoric, embrace of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and legitimization of terrorist groups has a cost, President Obama has instead decided to provide our most advanced military technology to Turkey. Late last week, the White House formally notified Congress of the Obama administration’s intention to supply Turkey with cutting edge military technology. Turkey says it wants Super Cobra Helicopters and Predators to fight Kurdish terrorists, but given Turkey’s threats to Israel and Cyprus, Congress must exercise its oversight.

If Turkey wants American weaponry to fight terrorism, Congress should demand Turkey first:

  • Acknowledge that sympathy to a terrorist group’s cause does not legitimize its terrorism.
  • State clearly that Hamas, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah are terrorist groups
  • Repair its relationship with Israel and Cyrpus and explain Minister Bağış’s threats to use Turkish weaponry against America’s Middle Eastern and European allies.

Read Less

Only 22 Percent Favor Obama’s Teacher Funding Bill

The solution most Americans want to see to prevent teacher layoffs? Cutting state and local spending, not an additional infusion of federal money:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of Americans think the federal government should give states and localities $35 billion to prevent such layoffs. Nearly three times as many adults (64%) believe that the best way for state and local governments to avoid these layoffs is to cut back on other spending. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

This is a sign that Americans aren’t buying the way Democrats have disingenuously framed the debate.

Read More

The solution most Americans want to see to prevent teacher layoffs? Cutting state and local spending, not an additional infusion of federal money:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% of Americans think the federal government should give states and localities $35 billion to prevent such layoffs. Nearly three times as many adults (64%) believe that the best way for state and local governments to avoid these layoffs is to cut back on other spending. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.

This is a sign that Americans aren’t buying the way Democrats have disingenuously framed the debate.

The trade-off isn’t between federal stimulus funding and teaching jobs. If communities want to avoid layoffs, then they have the option to do so by cutting spending in other areas, or raising taxes. But why should all Americans pay for the fact that some local and state governments have mismanaged their budgets and racked up tremendous debt?

Speaking of jobs for teachers, researchers from the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation released a report today that found that teachers are actually significantly overpayed compared to similar workers in the private sector, when benefits, pension programs, and job security are factored into the equation:

We conclude that public-school teacher salaries are comparable to those paid to similarly skilled private sector workers, but that more generous fringe benefits for public-school teachers, including greater job security, make total compensation 52 percent greater than fair market levels, equivalent to more than $120 billion overcharged to taxpayers each year. Teacher compensation could therefore be reduced with only minor effects on recruitment and retention. Alternatively, teachers who are more effective at raising student achievement might be hired at comparable cost.

The study provides some compelling evidence that the argument that teachers are underpaid is faulty. That’s not to say teaching salaries should all be cut, but making systematic changes – like reforming tenure– would allow room for a fairer, performance-based compensation model. It’s just wrong that bad teachers are paid the same rate as good teachers, but rewarding the high achievers also means that the low achievers may have to get cuts.

Read Less

Iran Admits Its Nuclear Negotiating Strategy is to Run Down the Clock

If the Islamic Republic of Iran has one trait that worries me, it is overconfidence. After all, wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or water, but rather by one side fundamentally underestimating the capacity of its adversary to respond. That was the case, for example, with the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. After that conflict, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commented that had he known how Israel would have reacted, he never would have launched the cross border operation to kidnap the Israelis in the first place.

Sometimes that overconfidence can have a silver-lining, however.

Read More

If the Islamic Republic of Iran has one trait that worries me, it is overconfidence. After all, wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or water, but rather by one side fundamentally underestimating the capacity of its adversary to respond. That was the case, for example, with the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. After that conflict, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah commented that had he known how Israel would have reacted, he never would have launched the cross border operation to kidnap the Israelis in the first place.

Sometimes that overconfidence can have a silver-lining, however.

Last week, former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani gave an interview in which he bragged about Iran’s negotiating strategy:

We did not decide the nuclear goals of the country; they were decided by the regime. When I was trusted with the responsibility of the nuclear team, two goals became our priorities: The first goal was to safeguard the national security, and the second goal was to support and help the nuclear achievements…

When I was entrusted with this portfolio, we had no production in Isfahan. We couldn’t produce UF4 or UF6. Had Natanz been filled with centrifuges, we did not have the material which needed to be injected. There was a small amount of UF6 which we had previously procured from certain countries and this was what we had at our disposal. But the Isfahan facilities had to be completed before it could remake yellow cake to UF4 and UF6. We used the opportunity [provided by talks] to do so and completed the Isfahan facilities… In Arak we continued our efforts and achieved heavy water…

The reason for inviting the three European foreign ministers to Tehran and for the Saadabad negotiations was to make Europe oppose the United States so that the issue was not submitted to the Security Council.

Several years ago, I penned a piece for The Wall Street Journal highlighting other revealing instances in which Iranian officials acknowledged their own insincerity. Alas, neither Iranian statements nor actions appear enough to force the State Department to face reality. Talk will not resolve the Iranian nuclear challenge. Rather, talk is a tactic the Iranians use—and now admit using—to run down the clock.

Read Less

The End of Corzine’s Disastrous Career?

Jon Corzine has made a career of risky bets, but it turns out his riskiest move was betting on himself. In August, Corzine–then chief of the commodities giant MF Global–sold investors debt, the interest on which Corzine promised would be raised one point if President Obama appointed him to a federal job.

It’s exactly the kind of arrogance mixed with recklessness that got Corzine and his investors in the trouble that was revealed over the course of last week. First we learned that under Corzine’s directorship, MF Global was going bankrupt because it purchased Europe’s risky debt. Then several companies each expressed interest in buying parts of MF Global–only to find that the books were worse than they looked, and that no part of the company was salvageable. But yesterday’s news was far worse. It turns out that $700 million of MF Global investors’ money is missing, and the firm is being investigated to find out if Corzine skimmed investors’ own money to cover his bets:

Read More

Jon Corzine has made a career of risky bets, but it turns out his riskiest move was betting on himself. In August, Corzine–then chief of the commodities giant MF Global–sold investors debt, the interest on which Corzine promised would be raised one point if President Obama appointed him to a federal job.

It’s exactly the kind of arrogance mixed with recklessness that got Corzine and his investors in the trouble that was revealed over the course of last week. First we learned that under Corzine’s directorship, MF Global was going bankrupt because it purchased Europe’s risky debt. Then several companies each expressed interest in buying parts of MF Global–only to find that the books were worse than they looked, and that no part of the company was salvageable. But yesterday’s news was far worse. It turns out that $700 million of MF Global investors’ money is missing, and the firm is being investigated to find out if Corzine skimmed investors’ own money to cover his bets:

For now, there is confusion surrounding the missing MF Global funds. It is likely, one person briefed on the matter said, that some of the money may be “stuck in the system” as banks holding the customer funds hesitated last week to send MF Global the money.

But the firm has yet to produce evidence that all of the $600 million or $700 million outstanding is deposited with the banks, according to the people briefed on the matter. Regulators are looking into whether the customer funds were misallocated.

Stanford business professor Darrell Duffie told Bloomberg: “It’s kind of considered the third rail of the brokerage industry that when you’re holding your customers’ funds in their names, you don’t touch them — even in an emergency situation when you’re running short of cash.”

It’s not only the third rail, it’s common sense. But an executive who has already bet many millions of his firm’s dollars on the prospect that President Obama was going to toss him a cushy federal appointment is probably not being too careful about other people’s money.

Corzine is one of the Obama re-election campaign’s major “bundlers,” and he hosted a fundraiser to shower the Obama campaign with Wall Street cash several months ago. One expects his federal appointment to be abandoned rather quickly now, and Corzine’s political future is probably over as well. Residents of New Jersey now have yet another reason to be happy they voted Corzine out of office in favor of Chris Christie in 2009. Corzine’s political career was devastating for the state.

Having no interest in politics other than the power it granted him, Corzine’s gubernatorial term was marked by the state raiding taxpayers to reward Democratic interest groups. Businesses fled the state, as did residents who couldn’t afford the property taxes that are required to fund union bosses’ lavish benefits. The state’s educational institutions are a mess, since the recipients of Corzine’s contract negotiations–the teachers unions–were awarded the funds that should have gone to textbooks, computers, and after-school programs.

Corzine’s lack of policy understanding led to his giving every single proposed liberal regulation the green light, creating a situation in which the state’s red tape began devouring itself and making it impossible to do such things as build affordable housing for police officers and other safety officials. The state had actually ceased functioning on any meaningful level.

This latest scandal, however, may herald the end of Corzine’s career in politics and business. On the political front, at least, it’s about time.

Read Less

The Chilling Candor of Mahmoud Abbas

Thanks to the invaluable work of MEMRI, we can watch Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declare, in an October 23 interview with Egyptian television, a clarifying statement: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Abbas said. “I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.’”

We’re repeatedly told that the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are enormously complicated, solvable only by diplomats of unusual skill and ability, and that Israel, always Israel, must take a “chance for peace.” But in its most important respects this conflict, at its core,  is quite simple: the Palestinians have yet to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state. Every failed effort at peace, beginning before Oslo and to this very day, can be traced back to this fundamental truth. Because it is an unpleasant one, many people in the West have simply refused to accept it. It is too unsettling to their premises and presuppositions. And so they proceed in self-deception, demanding that Israel make concessions with a “peace partner” that is, in fact, an implacable and lethal enemy.

Read More

Thanks to the invaluable work of MEMRI, we can watch Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declare, in an October 23 interview with Egyptian television, a clarifying statement: “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Abbas said. “I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.’”

We’re repeatedly told that the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are enormously complicated, solvable only by diplomats of unusual skill and ability, and that Israel, always Israel, must take a “chance for peace.” But in its most important respects this conflict, at its core,  is quite simple: the Palestinians have yet to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state. Every failed effort at peace, beginning before Oslo and to this very day, can be traced back to this fundamental truth. Because it is an unpleasant one, many people in the West have simply refused to accept it. It is too unsettling to their premises and presuppositions. And so they proceed in self-deception, demanding that Israel make concessions with a “peace partner” that is, in fact, an implacable and lethal enemy.

Tactically “we may win or lose,” Faisal Husseini, a supposedly moderate figure in Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority, said a decade ago. “But our yes will continue to aspire to the strategic goal, namely, to Palestine from the [Jordan] rive to the [Mediterranean] sea.”

“Whatever we get now,” he added, “cannot make us forget this supreme truth.”

That remains, now as ever, the “supreme truth” guiding the Palestinian leadership. As long as it does–as long as the malignant and murderous pathologies that afflict the Palestinian and Arab world remain–it is folly to pretend real peace is possible. Illusions, even soothing illusions, are never a substitute for reality. We have seen time and time again that basing diplomatic hopes on false assumptions is not a road to peace; it is, rather, the surest road to failure, to tragedy, and to war. I understand that this is an unpopular thing to say; but that doesn’t make it any less true or any less obvious.


Read Less

The Hysterical Defense of “Harry Potter”

Yesterday I challenged the view that J. K. Rowling’s series of Harry Potter books could be considered “public novels,” the first “Zeitgeist-defining cultural objects” (to borrow a phrase from my friend Mark Athitakis) in a quarter century. I also admitted that I hadn’t read the whole series. (I gave up after the first volume, which did not leave me wanting more.) And I ended by saying the literary greatness of Rowling’s novels, where greatness is defined by Joseph Bottum as “deep explorations of the human condition,” is open to question.

Not, apparently, for the legions of Rowling’s fans, who have risen up in hysterical defense of her reputation. Although I didn’t mean to suggest the novels are bad, the heat generated by the merest criticism of Harry Potter makes me wonder. To describe the books as “children’s supernatural fantasy of sorcery and witchcraft,” as I did, is not at all to condemn them. That’s simply what they are: audience (children), genre (fantasy), subject-matter (sorcery and witchcraft). Nor does anyone need to have read all seven of the novels to know that much about them. What does it say about them, though, that their passionate readers cannot even admit these basic facts about them without angry protest?

Some of the best novels ever written were written for children (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, John R. Tunis’s sports novels for boys). As a literary classification, “children’s literature” is not an insult.

It’s true that I have a mild allergy to fantasy, although C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is, in my opinion, one of the fifty best works of English-language fiction written since 1880. (So is Wilder’s Little House, for that matter.) But it was not the genre to which Harry Potter belongs that disappointed me in the first volume of the series, and those of her defenders who overhear a disdain for fantasy in what I have written are only hearing what they want to hear.

What I wonder is this. If the hysterical defenders of Harry Potter are right that it really is a multi-volume public novel — a literary event that defines the literary age — and if Rowling’s books are fantasies (obviously), then hasn’t an epochal change occurred while no one was watching? Harry Potter would be the first work of fantasy since, say, the Odyssey to occupy the center of culture. Along with the increasing reliance upon the supernatural in Hollywood, this might suggest many things (the devaluation of realism, the loss of moral structure in human experience that is subject to physical law), but one thing it does not suggest is that J. K. Rowling is the lineal descendant of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and James Joyce.

Yesterday I challenged the view that J. K. Rowling’s series of Harry Potter books could be considered “public novels,” the first “Zeitgeist-defining cultural objects” (to borrow a phrase from my friend Mark Athitakis) in a quarter century. I also admitted that I hadn’t read the whole series. (I gave up after the first volume, which did not leave me wanting more.) And I ended by saying the literary greatness of Rowling’s novels, where greatness is defined by Joseph Bottum as “deep explorations of the human condition,” is open to question.

Not, apparently, for the legions of Rowling’s fans, who have risen up in hysterical defense of her reputation. Although I didn’t mean to suggest the novels are bad, the heat generated by the merest criticism of Harry Potter makes me wonder. To describe the books as “children’s supernatural fantasy of sorcery and witchcraft,” as I did, is not at all to condemn them. That’s simply what they are: audience (children), genre (fantasy), subject-matter (sorcery and witchcraft). Nor does anyone need to have read all seven of the novels to know that much about them. What does it say about them, though, that their passionate readers cannot even admit these basic facts about them without angry protest?

Some of the best novels ever written were written for children (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, John R. Tunis’s sports novels for boys). As a literary classification, “children’s literature” is not an insult.

It’s true that I have a mild allergy to fantasy, although C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is, in my opinion, one of the fifty best works of English-language fiction written since 1880. (So is Wilder’s Little House, for that matter.) But it was not the genre to which Harry Potter belongs that disappointed me in the first volume of the series, and those of her defenders who overhear a disdain for fantasy in what I have written are only hearing what they want to hear.

What I wonder is this. If the hysterical defenders of Harry Potter are right that it really is a multi-volume public novel — a literary event that defines the literary age — and if Rowling’s books are fantasies (obviously), then hasn’t an epochal change occurred while no one was watching? Harry Potter would be the first work of fantasy since, say, the Odyssey to occupy the center of culture. Along with the increasing reliance upon the supernatural in Hollywood, this might suggest many things (the devaluation of realism, the loss of moral structure in human experience that is subject to physical law), but one thing it does not suggest is that J. K. Rowling is the lineal descendant of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and James Joyce.

Read Less

Optimistic or Pessimistic About America: Kay S. Hymowitz

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

If there’s one domestic problem that should be keeping us believers in American exceptionalism up at night, it’s the ailing middle class. Labor economists sometimes call ours an hourglass economy. The top bulge of the hourglass refers to a large population of educated workers earning good money, accumulating significant wealth, and living comfortable, optimistic lives. The bottom bulge holds another large group, living paycheck to paycheck, whose houses, if they have them, are under water and whose children’s futures look as dim as their own. Meanwhile, the middle, the once dominant, stolid, quintessentially American class, is wasting away.

There are two related causes for this, and neither of them suggests an easy—or for that matter, any—answer. The first cause, itself the consequence of technology and globalization, is the earnings gap between knowledge-based jobs and everything else. Clichés about the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs are true as far as they go, but any routine work is at risk of being automated or outsourced. That means the spoils now go to the specialized and the educated. Over the past 50 years, wages and wealth have risen markedly for those with a college diploma and even more dramatically for those with a graduate or professional degree. Whereas the college-educated earned 40 percent more than those with a high school degree in 1980, today they earn 75 percent more. It goes without saying that the gap for those without a high school degree—and remember, more than half of high school students drop out in many of our largest cities—is even worse. The current economic crisis is intensifying the problem. Unemployment rates are triple for those with only a high school degree compared with the college-educated and six times that of dropouts. Edward Wolff, of New York University, estimates that the net worth of the middle fifth of the country declined 26 percent over the past two years alone.

The other reason for the wasting away of the American middle class is the breakdown of families. Not so long ago, middle-class family life was defined by stability and child-centeredness. No more. According to the National Marriage Project, there’s been a sharp rise in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing among the less-educated middle class, those with a high school diploma and perhaps a year or two of college. Only 58 percent of the 14-year-old daughters of moderately educated mothers are living with both parents. Not only is that down significantly from 1982, when the number was 74 percent; it is appreciably closer to the 52 percent of the daughters of the least educated than it is to the 81 percent of the girls of the college-educated. Forty percent of American children are born to unmarried mothers, almost all of them with little or no college education. Read More

The following is from our November issue. Forty-one symposium contributors were asked to respond to the question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future?

_____________

If there’s one domestic problem that should be keeping us believers in American exceptionalism up at night, it’s the ailing middle class. Labor economists sometimes call ours an hourglass economy. The top bulge of the hourglass refers to a large population of educated workers earning good money, accumulating significant wealth, and living comfortable, optimistic lives. The bottom bulge holds another large group, living paycheck to paycheck, whose houses, if they have them, are under water and whose children’s futures look as dim as their own. Meanwhile, the middle, the once dominant, stolid, quintessentially American class, is wasting away.

There are two related causes for this, and neither of them suggests an easy—or for that matter, any—answer. The first cause, itself the consequence of technology and globalization, is the earnings gap between knowledge-based jobs and everything else. Clichés about the loss of well-paying manufacturing jobs are true as far as they go, but any routine work is at risk of being automated or outsourced. That means the spoils now go to the specialized and the educated. Over the past 50 years, wages and wealth have risen markedly for those with a college diploma and even more dramatically for those with a graduate or professional degree. Whereas the college-educated earned 40 percent more than those with a high school degree in 1980, today they earn 75 percent more. It goes without saying that the gap for those without a high school degree—and remember, more than half of high school students drop out in many of our largest cities—is even worse. The current economic crisis is intensifying the problem. Unemployment rates are triple for those with only a high school degree compared with the college-educated and six times that of dropouts. Edward Wolff, of New York University, estimates that the net worth of the middle fifth of the country declined 26 percent over the past two years alone.

The other reason for the wasting away of the American middle class is the breakdown of families. Not so long ago, middle-class family life was defined by stability and child-centeredness. No more. According to the National Marriage Project, there’s been a sharp rise in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing among the less-educated middle class, those with a high school diploma and perhaps a year or two of college. Only 58 percent of the 14-year-old daughters of moderately educated mothers are living with both parents. Not only is that down significantly from 1982, when the number was 74 percent; it is appreciably closer to the 52 percent of the daughters of the least educated than it is to the 81 percent of the girls of the college-educated. Forty percent of American children are born to unmarried mothers, almost all of them with little or no college education.

These two forces—the knowledge economy and the loss of stable family life among the less educated—create a negative-feedback loop. Children are far less likely to succeed in school if they don’t grow up in stable, child-focused families. Yet a college education is now a necessity for achieving upward mobility. In sum, the loss of a middle class threatens to turn America into a rigid and cynical caste society, the very opposite of its dynamic and optimistic self.

_____________

Kay S. Hymowitz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is the author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys (Basic Books).

Read Less

Cain Charges Aren’t Sign of “Media Bias”

Conservatives are used to getting unfairly maligned by the media, so it’s understandable that some would want to jump to Herman Cain’s defense over the sexual harassment allegations. But some of the media bias defenses are starting to become incoherent.

Initially, the complaint was that Politico’s story was too thinly sourced to publish. That may have been the case. But now that Cain has pretty much confirmed everything that Politico wrote, the bias argument is irrelevant.

Read More

Conservatives are used to getting unfairly maligned by the media, so it’s understandable that some would want to jump to Herman Cain’s defense over the sexual harassment allegations. But some of the media bias defenses are starting to become incoherent.

Initially, the complaint was that Politico’s story was too thinly sourced to publish. That may have been the case. But now that Cain has pretty much confirmed everything that Politico wrote, the bias argument is irrelevant.

Cain admits that he was accused of sexual harassment and that there was a financial settlement. He denies that the allegations are true. But he’s noticeably hazy–and inconsistent–about the details.

The fact that many in the media aren’t simply taking Cain at his word that the charges were “baseless” isn’t an unfair attack on him. It’s not a sign of racism, or anti-conservative bias. It’s a sign that reporters are doing their job–the job they should be doing, but sometimes don’t, when the accused party is a liberal Democrat.

The thing is, Cain is acting like he has something to hide. That doesn’t mean he actually does, but it should at least warrant some more scrutiny. Cain spent yesterday making contradictory statements about the facts of the case, and ducking reporters whenever possible:

9 a.m. – ABC’s Jon Karl questions Herman Cain about the sexual harassment allegations at an American Enterprise Institute discussion, only to have his mic cut off.

“I’ll take all of the arrows later [at the National Press Club lunch],” Cain promised, citing AEI’s “ground rules” as the reason he couldn’t speak freely about anything other than tax policy.

11:20 a.m. – Cain appears on Fox News, and tells anchor Jenna Lee that he has never sexually harassed anybody, but was falsely accused of sexual harassment during his time at the National Restaurant Association. He maintains that he had no recollection of a settlement.

“If the restaurant association did a settlement, I wasn’t even aware of it and I hope it wasn’t for much,” Cain said. “If there was a settlement, it was handled by some of the other officers at the restaurant association.”

12:30 p.m. – At the National Press Club lunch, Cain managed to dodge a lot of relevant questions because of the format of the event. Only the moderator could ask questions, and all inquiries had to be submitted earlier in the day. When asked about the charges, Cain repeated that he was “unaware of any sort of settlement.”

“[W]hen the charges were brought, as the leader of the organization I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation,” said Cain. “And it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis.”

At the end of the event, NPC staff allegedly barred reporters from confronting Cain with more questions, according to the Washington City Paper. 

Afternoon – After the NPC lunch, Cain tells the Associated Press that he has no memory of specific allegations. “That was 12 years ago ago. So no, I don’t remember,” he said.

6:00 p.m. – A PBS NewsHour interview with Cain airs, where he seems to change his story. He admits that he remembers there being a settlement, and gives some of the details of one of the allegations. “The only one that I could recall after a day of trying to remember specifics, was once I referenced this lady’s height and I was standing near her, and I did this saying, you’re the same height of my wife, because my wife is five feet tall and she comes up to my chin,” said Cain.

10 p.m. – Cain repeats most of what he said on NewsHour to Greta Van Susteren, saying that the settlement was “maybe three months’ salary. I don’t remember. It might have been two months. I do remember my general counsel saying we didn’t pay all of the money they demanded.”

He flip-flopped on at least two major facts within 12 hours–his knowledge of the settlements and his knowledge of the allegation details. Even if nothing else trickles out about the case, that’s more than enough to raise red flags.

Read Less

Kurds May Be Barometers of Obama’s Iraq Defeat

The Iraqi Kurds have prided themselves on being America’s allies throughout the Iraq war and its aftermath. Repeatedly, regional leader Masud Barzani told visiting American generals and dignitaries that the Kurdish region was the most pro-American in Iraq.

The Kurdish authorities, however, have never made ideological alliances, but are the ultimate realists: Barzani forms partnerships with whomever he believes can most fulfill his own interests. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is clear that anyone with an ounce of self-preservation is rushing to cut deals with the Iran. After all, the most common Iranian influence theme, Iraqi politicians say, is that “You may like the Americans better, but we will always be your neighbors.” Hence, on October 29, Barzani traveled to Iran where, on Sunday, he warmly embraced both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to press reports, Barzani declared, “We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq. To preserve our victory we need Iranian assistance and guidance….”

Read More

The Iraqi Kurds have prided themselves on being America’s allies throughout the Iraq war and its aftermath. Repeatedly, regional leader Masud Barzani told visiting American generals and dignitaries that the Kurdish region was the most pro-American in Iraq.

The Kurdish authorities, however, have never made ideological alliances, but are the ultimate realists: Barzani forms partnerships with whomever he believes can most fulfill his own interests. With the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, it is clear that anyone with an ounce of self-preservation is rushing to cut deals with the Iran. After all, the most common Iranian influence theme, Iraqi politicians say, is that “You may like the Americans better, but we will always be your neighbors.” Hence, on October 29, Barzani traveled to Iran where, on Sunday, he warmly embraced both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to press reports, Barzani declared, “We will not forget the assistance of the Iranian people and government during the hard times passed by Iraq. To preserve our victory we need Iranian assistance and guidance….”

Everyone in the region knows that the way Iraqis negotiate is to state extreme positions as a deadline approaches, and then go behind closed doors in a smoke-filled room to hash out agreements. The Iranians often quip that they play chess while the Americans play checkers. No one expected Obama to forfeit before the game actually began. But, alas, now that he has done so, he will discover just how deeply he has lost Iraq and Iraqis.

Read Less

Goldstone Knocks Down Apartheid Charge

South African Judge Richard Goldstone did a great deal of damage to Israel by lending his name to a bias United Nations commission that put forth a litany of slanders aimed at Israel last year. But the reaction to that UN effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense against Gaza-based terrorists sobered him up and he publicly recanted his support for the report that bore his name earlier this year. That was a bitter blow to the left that had been happy to use him as a shield against charges of anti-Semitism and he was widely accused of having given in to pressure from a Jewish community that had lambasted him for his actions.

Even the most earnest apology couldn’t have undone all the harm his UN report filled with false accusations of war crimes had done. But, to his credit, Goldstone is using the notoriety that he has to make up for his past lapses. In today’s New York Times Goldstone is able to use his standing, as a South African to shoot down the pernicious slander that Israel is an apartheid state.

Read More

South African Judge Richard Goldstone did a great deal of damage to Israel by lending his name to a bias United Nations commission that put forth a litany of slanders aimed at Israel last year. But the reaction to that UN effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to self-defense against Gaza-based terrorists sobered him up and he publicly recanted his support for the report that bore his name earlier this year. That was a bitter blow to the left that had been happy to use him as a shield against charges of anti-Semitism and he was widely accused of having given in to pressure from a Jewish community that had lambasted him for his actions.

Even the most earnest apology couldn’t have undone all the harm his UN report filled with false accusations of war crimes had done. But, to his credit, Goldstone is using the notoriety that he has to make up for his past lapses. In today’s New York Times Goldstone is able to use his standing, as a South African to shoot down the pernicious slander that Israel is an apartheid state.

Goldstone was prompted to write the piece as a way to denounce the so-called Russell Tribunal on Palestine which will be meeting in Cape Town this week to determine whether Israel is guilty of apartheid. He writes of it:

It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

Of course that was also an apt description of his own Goldstone Commission with the one difference being that the Russell Tribunal is not chaired by a well-known Jew who was supposed to be a supporter of Israel.

That said, it must be admitted that Goldstone does an excellent job punching holes in the claim that Israel is a racist society where Arabs are treated as legal inferiors as was the case in apartheid-era South Africa. As he rightly states, Israel itself is a democracy with full minority rights that does not bear the slightest resemble to the old South Africa. While the West Bank is not quite the same thing, as he points out, the security measures that Palestinians find oppressive are not racist impositions but the natural result of terrorist attacks. Israel has a right to defend its citizens and until the Palestinians are ready to make peace, they are going to have to live with the byproducts of their war against the Jews.

The use of the term apartheid to describe Israel is, as Goldstone rightly points out, a slander that retards the chances of peace rather than advancing them.

While friends of Israel may see this piece and others he may write as acts of repentance, it must be acknowledged that Judge Goldstone occupies a unique niche in the world. Having once betrayed his people in an unscrupulous attack on Israel, he now finds himself in a position where his defense of the Jewish state may be given a hearing that is denied to others. Let’s hope he continues to take advantage of this opportunity.

Read Less

Is the Fate of Israelis Under Fire a Story?

It seems only a year or so ago it was treated like a big deal when rockets from Gaza reached the major southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, or Beersheba. Today, it’s more like the weather, and treated as such by the international press. This presents both challenges and opportunities for Israel advocates.

It may be comforting to trot out the old anti-Israelist stereotypes (in this case, chiefly that attacks on Israeli civilians are an understandable form of “resistance”). While they play at least some role, it must also be acknowledged that the repetition of these kinds of attacks deadens the world’s attention span.

Read More

It seems only a year or so ago it was treated like a big deal when rockets from Gaza reached the major southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, or Beersheba. Today, it’s more like the weather, and treated as such by the international press. This presents both challenges and opportunities for Israel advocates.

It may be comforting to trot out the old anti-Israelist stereotypes (in this case, chiefly that attacks on Israeli civilians are an understandable form of “resistance”). While they play at least some role, it must also be acknowledged that the repetition of these kinds of attacks deadens the world’s attention span.

After all, seventeen were killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan on Saturday. Another five were killed in another suicide attack today, and the coverage that these attacks receive doesn’t penetrate American consciousness, even though nine of those seventeen were American soldiers. In a quest for eyeballs, the luckless souls tasked with filing and editing these kinds of reports for an uncaring citizenry glued to the latest great game by a man twice accused of sexual assault inevitably frame coverage in terms of last week’s compelling national security story.

So where rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel are concerned (so 2007!) reporters and editors will have to look elsewhere for the hook for today’s news cycle. Since efforts to create a “truce” aren’t likely to challenge the worldview of a journalistic tribe and (at least some) readership largely committed to the pure liberal faith that all conflicts are amenable to reasonable agreement, it’s an easy choice. Considering whether or not these attacks are an indication that the Palestinians just might not be on the verge of reconciling themselves to Israel’s permanent existence, or that the Arab “spring” might just end up fostering more hatred and bloodshed than love and harmony would upset far too many people not willing to be upset over such matters.

Israel advocates have had some success in dealing with this climate to date by focusing on the human story of Sderot, the small southern Israeli town that has borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket attacks over the years. Like a once-unknown young solider named Gilad Shalit, Sderot has become world famous in its way. And that, like the fame that kept Natan Sharansky alive during his struggle in the Soviet gulag, has a power that should not be underestimated.

Can we get the world to care about the fate of hundreds of thousands of Israelis forced to live under constant threat of death from maniacal religious fundamentalists with a chilling stockpile of weapons? Probably not more than they care about the taste of their coffee. But we can get them to know the names – Ashdod, Ashkelon, Beersheba – of those cities next on the jihadists’ target list and, by so doing, ensure that the fate of their citizens remains at least a point on the agenda.

Read Less

UNESCO Funding Sob Story Won’t Work

Diplomats and international officials are wringing their hands now that the United States has, as mandated by U.S. law, cut off funding to UNESCO because it admitted Palestine as a full member. On October 24, Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, published a letter in The Washington Post speaking about how the Washington’s actions would imperil UNESCO’s work:

UNESCO supports many causes in line with U.S. security interests. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we are helping governments and communities prepare for life after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces. We are bolstering the literacy of the Afghan National Police and are leading the country’s largest education program, reaching some 600,000 learners in 18 provinces. We work with the United States to advance democratic freedoms. Mandated to promote freedom of expression, UNESCO stands up for every journalist attacked or killed across the world. In Tunisia and Egypt, we are leading education reform and training journalists. We target the causes of violent extremism by training teachers in human rights and Holocaust remembrance.

Predictably, many on the Left are seizing upon UNESCO’s self-affirmation to suggest that the end does not justify the means, and that the U.S. government should not hold UNESCO accountable for its actions. The problem with these arguments is the woeful inefficiency of UN programs, regardless of their noble aims.

Read More

Diplomats and international officials are wringing their hands now that the United States has, as mandated by U.S. law, cut off funding to UNESCO because it admitted Palestine as a full member. On October 24, Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, published a letter in The Washington Post speaking about how the Washington’s actions would imperil UNESCO’s work:

UNESCO supports many causes in line with U.S. security interests. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we are helping governments and communities prepare for life after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces. We are bolstering the literacy of the Afghan National Police and are leading the country’s largest education program, reaching some 600,000 learners in 18 provinces. We work with the United States to advance democratic freedoms. Mandated to promote freedom of expression, UNESCO stands up for every journalist attacked or killed across the world. In Tunisia and Egypt, we are leading education reform and training journalists. We target the causes of violent extremism by training teachers in human rights and Holocaust remembrance.

Predictably, many on the Left are seizing upon UNESCO’s self-affirmation to suggest that the end does not justify the means, and that the U.S. government should not hold UNESCO accountable for its actions. The problem with these arguments is the woeful inefficiency of UN programs, regardless of their noble aims.

UN subsidiaries like UNESCO, UNICEF, and UNEP replicate what many smaller, leaner NGOs do, but the UN agencies have a much higher overhead. Anyone who has worked in the Third World will hear local governments complain about how UN agencies skew the local economy. When I first went to Iraq in 2000, local officials complained how the salary for a UN driver, for example, was up to  45 times that of a college professor. The result?  Competent professionals left their jobs to become drivers. Many UN officials live high on the hog. Like USAID employees, UN officials rent the choicest mansions, driving up rents for locals. For a fraction of the price, smaller NGOs can often accomplish far more.

The UN is a noble institution and provides a valuable space where adversaries can talk. But the alphabet soup of UN spin-off agencies drains billions of dollars of funds which would be better spent elsewhere. Cutting funding to UNESCO is right and, at any rate, is U.S. law. It’s time to hold UNESCO accountable, instead of taking Bokova’s sob story at face value, for UNESCO is far less essential than she imagines it to be.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.