Commentary Magazine


Topic: cellular telephone

Snowing the Voters? Good Luck With That

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

Just like attacking an opponent’s religion (as Jack Conway did), cheating during a televised debate is never a good move. Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink “was caught breaking the debate’s ‘no notes’ rule during a commercial break when she read on stage a text message from a senior advisor that a makeup artist delivered to her on a cell phone.” The GOP has pounced with an ad that strikes a properly contemptuous tone:

“Did you see Alex Sink get caught cheating?” one woman asks in the add, adding, “Cheating. Hilarious.”

To make matters worse, she then seems to have made up a story to explain her cheating:

CNN’s John King on Tuesday pointed out that Sink’s suggestion that she thought the text message might have been from her daughter did not hold water. “We listened very closely to the audio, and the makeup artist, when she approached Alex Sink, said I have a message from the staff,” King said. “And at that point they looked, it was on a cell phone, it was two sentences. It was essentially advice after the last segment of the debate telling her if that question comes up again, remember this, and be more aggressive when Rick Scott questions you.”

Oops. Now, in this election, we’ve had candidates lying about their military record (Richard Blumenthal) and their job record (Joe Miller). These incidents may not determine the outcome of these races. Blumenthal is comfortably ahead; Sink was losing steam even before this debate incident. But they do serve as a reminder and a warning to the politician who thinks she or he can flim-flam the public or conceal embarrassing incidents. Getting away with it is not only unrealistic but indicative of an all-too-familiar arrogance we see in politics, an assumption that the public isn’t very bright and that a cleverly delivered excuse can snow the voters. The voters are paying a lot of attention these days; politicians should be forewarned.

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Obama Is Borrrring!

Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: “Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.” Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: “How did the first president of color become so colorless?” Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times:

“How have you changed Washington?” [Chuck] Todd asked.

The president answered that he is trying to help “ordinary families” and not special interests, before conceding that he, too, is frustrated by his inability to create “a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington.”

“You know, are there, you know, things that I might have done during the course of 18 months that would, you know, at the margins have improved some of the tone in Washington?” Obama asked. “Probably.” Uncharacteristically valley girl, the usually eloquent president must have, you know, had a hard time acknowledging that.

Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work.

First, style — that “superior temperament” and the coolness — was what attracted many urban liberals to him in the first place. Obama was in essence the latest trend, equivalent to this season’s fashion or the newest cell phone, which they had to have. But trends by definition come and go, and surface impressions and infatuation don’t last long.

Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)

Third, Obama just doesn’t wear well. Having never stepped out of his campaign mode or put aside his contempt for the Bible and gun clingers (that would be a large segment of America), he’s grating on the nerves. Dowd quotes a “Peggy” (that Peggy? who knows if there is a Peggy at all):

I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things. I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.

And finally, Obama thought we could never get enough of him. He has been omnipresent — everywhere from the all-star game  to People magazine. Former White House officials warned that the presidency is a commodity that should be jealously guarded. But Obama has insisted on splattering himself on every publication and appearing on virtually every cable TV station. (He might have missed Food Network, although his wife did show up there.) Even someone with something interesting to say can’t say it for two years without losing his freshness.

I’m doubtful Obama can reinvent himself, either intellectually or personally. He’s not struck us as one willing to moderate his ideology or to reflect on his own weaknesses. And it may be that just as bored as liberals are of him, he’s bored with the job and tired of the incessant criticism, fed up with unappreciative Americans, and frustrated that the country and world do not fall at his feet. Maybe one term really is enough for him — and for his disenchanted supporters.

Obama’s public persona is so predictable and his image so overexposed that even the left is over him. He’s gone from fascinating and cool to a crashing bore in less than two years. Greg Sargent: “Seems the consensus is that Obama’s presser [Friday] was way too boring, substantive and unemotional to produce an abrupt and massive enough turnaround in the polls to guarantee in advance that Dems hold their majority.” Ditto, hisses Maureen Dowd: “How did the first president of color become so colorless?” Well, he ran out of catchphrases and revealed himself to be less articulate than George Bush. Dowd admits he sounds downright loopy at times:

“How have you changed Washington?” [Chuck] Todd asked.

The president answered that he is trying to help “ordinary families” and not special interests, before conceding that he, too, is frustrated by his inability to create “a greater spirit of cooperation in Washington.”

“You know, are there, you know, things that I might have done during the course of 18 months that would, you know, at the margins have improved some of the tone in Washington?” Obama asked. “Probably.” Uncharacteristically valley girl, the usually eloquent president must have, you know, had a hard time acknowledging that.

Why are liberals so bored all of a sudden? Conservatives, of course, rolled their eyes over his New Age-like campaign rhetoric and have begun to pine for Bill Clinton, who, at least, was intellectually creative and amusing. There are, I think, several things at work.

First, style — that “superior temperament” and the coolness — was what attracted many urban liberals to him in the first place. Obama was in essence the latest trend, equivalent to this season’s fashion or the newest cell phone, which they had to have. But trends by definition come and go, and surface impressions and infatuation don’t last long.

Second, it is easier to admit that the candidate they swooned for is boring than it is to say he’s incompetent (or an empty suit). The former implies that Obama has lost his charm, the latter suggests that their own judgment was faulty. This also neatly sidesteps the troubling matter that Obama’s policies have tanked. (If he could only be more eloquent about the trillions spent, the public wouldn’t dessert him, the thinking goes.)

Third, Obama just doesn’t wear well. Having never stepped out of his campaign mode or put aside his contempt for the Bible and gun clingers (that would be a large segment of America), he’s grating on the nerves. Dowd quotes a “Peggy” (that Peggy? who knows if there is a Peggy at all):

I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things. I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.

And finally, Obama thought we could never get enough of him. He has been omnipresent — everywhere from the all-star game  to People magazine. Former White House officials warned that the presidency is a commodity that should be jealously guarded. But Obama has insisted on splattering himself on every publication and appearing on virtually every cable TV station. (He might have missed Food Network, although his wife did show up there.) Even someone with something interesting to say can’t say it for two years without losing his freshness.

I’m doubtful Obama can reinvent himself, either intellectually or personally. He’s not struck us as one willing to moderate his ideology or to reflect on his own weaknesses. And it may be that just as bored as liberals are of him, he’s bored with the job and tired of the incessant criticism, fed up with unappreciative Americans, and frustrated that the country and world do not fall at his feet. Maybe one term really is enough for him — and for his disenchanted supporters.

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Sestak Can’t Keep Quiet, Plot Thickens

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

Joe Sestak, who felt compelled to blab — truthfully or not, we don’t know — about a White House job offer to get out of the primary race, now suggests that everyone is in the process of getting their story straight. He explained “that his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary”:

Richard Sestak, the congressman’s brother, who has served as his top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.

“They got a hold of my brother on his cell phone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with Richard.

If you weren’t suspicious before Obama’s refusal on Thursday to say anything about the allegations, the apparent gag order imposed on Sestak and the brother-lawyer getting directions from the White House might do it. In any case Obama and Sestak seemed to have reinforced the rap on politicians these day — they are not transparent, play fast and loose with the truth, and don’t follow the same code of ethics that most voters follow. As they say, the cover-up is always worse than the crime — even more so when there may not be a crime.

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How Do You Impose Peace?

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this — naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

This report explains the latest Palestinian celebration of terrorism:

The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist, Channel 10 reported on Wednesday.

The Ramallah street was named for notorious Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, also known as the “engineer,” who was the architect of multiple attacks, including a 1994 bombing of a Tel Aviv bus, which killed 20 people, and injured dozens.

Ayyash was killed in 1996 in what was most likely an Israeli assassination, after his cell phone exploded in his Beit Lahia home, in the Gaza Strip.

Last time, the Palestinians pulled this — naming a square in Ramallah for terrorist Dalal al-Mughrabi, who killed 38 Israelis — Hillary Clinton tried to pass it off as the doing of Hamas, despite ample evidence that the PA joined in the festivities. It’s going to be even harder for the Obami to make excuses for the PA this time:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the naming, saying it was an “outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority.”

“Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children,” the statement said, adding that “the world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace.”

So does the Obama team manage to get out a simple declaratory sentence this time — “We condemn this behavior,” for example? But more important, given this is the behavior and mentality of the PA — the supposedly reasonable Palestinian party to negotiations — how do the Obami intend to impose a peace deal? If one party is still caught in the grip of the cult of death, what reason is there to suppose that it is prepared to sign and then live up to an agreement by which they disarm and renounce terrorism?

At the AIPAC conference, Tony Blair laid out the challenge:

Until the year 2000, and with the heroic attempts of President Clinton, we attempted to achieve an agreement first and then shape reality around it. But it was not to be. After that came the Intifada. Thousands died. Then came the withdrawal from Gaza. Israel got out. It took 7000 settlers with it. In Israeli eyes, it received violence and terror in return.

The occupation deepened. Gaza was isolated. Faith in peace collapsed.

Ten years on, that faith has to be restored.

It can’t be done in a summit.

It has to be done patiently, and over time on the ground.

It can’t only be negotiated top-down.

It has also to be built bottom up.

Peace now will not come simply through an agreement negotiated; it must come through a reality created and sustained.

It means building institutions of Palestinian Government: not just well equipped, loyal security forces, but civil police, courts, prisons, prosecutors, the whole infrastructure of the rule of law.

It means treating those who commit acts of terror not only as enemies of Israel but enemies of Palestine.

Obviously, we are not remotely at that juncture – a point utterly lost or ignored by the Obami. So they imagine a pristine paper agreement will create peace — a  notion so divorced from experience and so blind to the realities occurring daily that one is tempted to conclude, “They can’t be serious!”  Blair got it when he declared: “The mentality has to move from resistance to governance. There can be no ambiguity, no wavering, no half heart towards terrorism. It is totally and completely without justification and we will never compromise in our opposition to it or those that practice it.” The Obami don’t.

It therefore follows that the Obami’s indifference to that fundamental requirement for peace disqualifies them as competent interlocutors. They are neither “honest” nor “brokering” — they have become henchmen for the Palestinians who await deliverance of the Jewish state — or what remains of it — without need to root out and renounce violence, without cultivation of the Palestinian institutions that can sustain peace. Israel and its supporters should be clear: there is no role for this administration in any peace process — they are, in fact merely, establishing incentives for violence and Palestinian rejectionism.

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Dowd Goes Around the Bend

Goodness knows whether Maureen Dowd’s latest column — a noxious propaganda brew on behalf of the Kingdom of Saud and its foreign minister’s ludicrous moral relativism — was born of abject ignorance or whether she was sent trolling for Saudi money to help her employer’s bottom line. Or maybe she’s trying to out-Friedman her colleague when it comes to ingratiating herself with despotic abusers of human rights. Doesn’t really matter. From Dowd we hear unfiltered this argument:

The Middle Eastern foreign minister was talking about enlightened “liberal” trends in his country, contrasting that with the benighted “extreme” conservative religious movement in a neighboring state.

But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia — an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth — and the country he deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.

“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said, sitting in his sprawling, glinting ranch house with its stable of Arabian horses and one oversized white bunny. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”

She gets in her swipe at Israel, sniffing that it is “growing less secular with religious militants and the chief rabbinate that would like to impose a harsh and exclusive interpretation of Judaism upon the entire society” and hissing that in “Orthodox synagogues, some men still say a morning prayer thanking God for not making them a woman.” And then she proceeds to assure us that while Gloria Steinem wouldn’t applaud Saudi Arabia as a feminist paradise, “I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression.”

Oh really? Perhaps she had not heard about or was not permitted a peak at the real Saudi Arabia. From a more discerning eye, another perspective is in order:

Saudi Arabia, modern-day: A man finds his daughter exchanging messages with a male friend on Facebook and murders her. A young woman caught sitting in a car with a man who is not her relative gets gang-raped, is then sentenced to 90 lashes (or 200, depending on which news report you read) for having appeared thus in public, and is later beaten by her brother for bringing shame on the family.

Same place, same time: The marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is upheld by a judge despite her mother’s attempts to have the marriage annulled. A death-row inmate sells his 15-year-old daughter in marriage to a fellow prisoner to pay off some debts. The marriage is consummated. “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” says Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”

Dowd’s hosts seem not to have given her the full story. There was much more to learn if she had strayed from her handlers or picked up a news account or two. She might then have asked:

Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering “justice” to the Saudi distaff side are protecting—and from what?  When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for “having sex outside marriage,” or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in “prohibited mingling” by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes—to be delivered in front of her classmates—for bringing a cell phone to school—what do they believe they are doing?

Any of that going on in Israel? Which is the “regressive” locale — the nation with women political leaders and a functioning court system that protects women and girls from abuse or the land of child brides and lashings? It boggles the mind that Dowd would entertain and abet the attempt to equate the two. But then again, Dowd was never one to get bogged down in facts or let reality interfere with a column or, for that matter, a swank sojourn on someone else’s dime.

Goodness knows whether Maureen Dowd’s latest column — a noxious propaganda brew on behalf of the Kingdom of Saud and its foreign minister’s ludicrous moral relativism — was born of abject ignorance or whether she was sent trolling for Saudi money to help her employer’s bottom line. Or maybe she’s trying to out-Friedman her colleague when it comes to ingratiating herself with despotic abusers of human rights. Doesn’t really matter. From Dowd we hear unfiltered this argument:

The Middle Eastern foreign minister was talking about enlightened “liberal” trends in his country, contrasting that with the benighted “extreme” conservative religious movement in a neighboring state.

But the wild thing was that the minister was Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia — an absolute Muslim monarchy ruling over one of the most religiously and socially intolerant places on earth — and the country he deemed too “religiously determined” and regressive was the democracy of Israel.

“We are breaking away from the shackles of the past,” the prince said, sitting in his sprawling, glinting ranch house with its stable of Arabian horses and one oversized white bunny. “We are moving in the direction of a liberal society. What is happening in Israel is the opposite; you are moving into a more religiously oriented culture and into a more religiously determined politics and to a very extreme sense of nationhood,” which was coming “to a boiling point.”

She gets in her swipe at Israel, sniffing that it is “growing less secular with religious militants and the chief rabbinate that would like to impose a harsh and exclusive interpretation of Judaism upon the entire society” and hissing that in “Orthodox synagogues, some men still say a morning prayer thanking God for not making them a woman.” And then she proceeds to assure us that while Gloria Steinem wouldn’t applaud Saudi Arabia as a feminist paradise, “I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression.”

Oh really? Perhaps she had not heard about or was not permitted a peak at the real Saudi Arabia. From a more discerning eye, another perspective is in order:

Saudi Arabia, modern-day: A man finds his daughter exchanging messages with a male friend on Facebook and murders her. A young woman caught sitting in a car with a man who is not her relative gets gang-raped, is then sentenced to 90 lashes (or 200, depending on which news report you read) for having appeared thus in public, and is later beaten by her brother for bringing shame on the family.

Same place, same time: The marriage of an eight-year-old girl to a 48-year-old man is upheld by a judge despite her mother’s attempts to have the marriage annulled. A death-row inmate sells his 15-year-old daughter in marriage to a fellow prisoner to pay off some debts. The marriage is consummated. “It is incorrect to say that it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” says Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the kingdom’s grand mufti. “A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she’s too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her.”

Dowd’s hosts seem not to have given her the full story. There was much more to learn if she had strayed from her handlers or picked up a news account or two. She might then have asked:

Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering “justice” to the Saudi distaff side are protecting—and from what?  When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for “having sex outside marriage,” or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in “prohibited mingling” by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes—to be delivered in front of her classmates—for bringing a cell phone to school—what do they believe they are doing?

Any of that going on in Israel? Which is the “regressive” locale — the nation with women political leaders and a functioning court system that protects women and girls from abuse or the land of child brides and lashings? It boggles the mind that Dowd would entertain and abet the attempt to equate the two. But then again, Dowd was never one to get bogged down in facts or let reality interfere with a column or, for that matter, a swank sojourn on someone else’s dime.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It seems that some human rights organization (or perhaps our secretary of state of 19-million-glass-ceiling-cracks fame) should care about all this: “Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering ‘justice’ to the Saudi distaff side are protecting — and from what? When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for ‘having sex outside marriage,’ or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in ‘prohibited mingling’ by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes — to be delivered in front of her classmates — for bringing a cell phone to school — what do they believe they are doing?”

Meanwhile, Cliff May reminds us that “in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities. Where non-Muslim minorities already have been ‘cleansed’ — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example. … In response to all this, Western journalists, academics, diplomats, and politicians mainly avert their eyes and hold their tongues. They pretend there are no stories to be written, no social pathologies to be documented, no actions to be taken. They focus instead on Switzerland’s vote against minarets and anything Israel might be doing to prevent terrorists from claiming additional victims.”

Marc Thiessen dismantles Christiane Amanpour and her misrepresentations of waterboarding. Notice that when an informed conservative goes up against a liberal on terrorism issues (e.g., Cliff May vs. Jon Stewart, John Yoo vs. Jon Stewart), the liberal is never quite prepared. Almost like they all live in an echo chamber, with no one to challenge their firmly held and factually unsupported views.

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Arkansas Senate seat to “leans takeover”: “Multiple independent polls now show Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) losing or running even in ballot tests against any number of lower-tier GOP challengers.”

As if Arlen Specter didn’t have enough problems (including picking the exact wrong year to switch parties): “The deeply odd couple of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appeared together on a Philly radio station yesterday — and things got ugly in short order.” Specter, it seems, told Bachmann to “act like a lady.”

And Specter certainly does have problems: “Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent Senator Arlen Specter 49% to 40% in Pennsylvania’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Pennsylvania voters also finds Toomey with a 43% to 35% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.” As goes Massachusetts, so goes Pennsylvania?

Quin Hillyer writes a smart column: you don’t win upset political races unless you compete. “Too many professional pols and pollsters, consultants and consiglieres, allow their assessment of political potential to be hamstrung by conventional wisdom and by past results. Especially on the right of center, the political class in Washington consistently underestimates what can be achieved by solid principles well communicated. Washington Republicans especially act too often as if they expect to lose and are resigned to losing, just a little more slowly.”

It seems that some human rights organization (or perhaps our secretary of state of 19-million-glass-ceiling-cracks fame) should care about all this: “Who, exactly, is it the misogyny-frenzied brutes in charge of administering ‘justice’ to the Saudi distaff side are protecting — and from what? When they condemn a woman who’s been gang-raped to 200 lashes for ‘having sex outside marriage,’ or give a destitute 75-year-old widow 40 lashes for engaging in ‘prohibited mingling’ by receiving charity from two young male relatives, or, in the most recent (known) instance, sentence a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes — to be delivered in front of her classmates — for bringing a cell phone to school — what do they believe they are doing?”

Meanwhile, Cliff May reminds us that “in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities. Where non-Muslim minorities already have been ‘cleansed’ — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example. … In response to all this, Western journalists, academics, diplomats, and politicians mainly avert their eyes and hold their tongues. They pretend there are no stories to be written, no social pathologies to be documented, no actions to be taken. They focus instead on Switzerland’s vote against minarets and anything Israel might be doing to prevent terrorists from claiming additional victims.”

Marc Thiessen dismantles Christiane Amanpour and her misrepresentations of waterboarding. Notice that when an informed conservative goes up against a liberal on terrorism issues (e.g., Cliff May vs. Jon Stewart, John Yoo vs. Jon Stewart), the liberal is never quite prepared. Almost like they all live in an echo chamber, with no one to challenge their firmly held and factually unsupported views.

Stuart Rothenberg moves the Arkansas Senate seat to “leans takeover”: “Multiple independent polls now show Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) losing or running even in ballot tests against any number of lower-tier GOP challengers.”

As if Arlen Specter didn’t have enough problems (including picking the exact wrong year to switch parties): “The deeply odd couple of Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) appeared together on a Philly radio station yesterday — and things got ugly in short order.” Specter, it seems, told Bachmann to “act like a lady.”

And Specter certainly does have problems: “Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent Senator Arlen Specter 49% to 40% in Pennsylvania’s race for the U.S. Senate. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Pennsylvania voters also finds Toomey with a 43% to 35% lead over Democratic challenger Joe Sestak.” As goes Massachusetts, so goes Pennsylvania?

Quin Hillyer writes a smart column: you don’t win upset political races unless you compete. “Too many professional pols and pollsters, consultants and consiglieres, allow their assessment of political potential to be hamstrung by conventional wisdom and by past results. Especially on the right of center, the political class in Washington consistently underestimates what can be achieved by solid principles well communicated. Washington Republicans especially act too often as if they expect to lose and are resigned to losing, just a little more slowly.”

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Handshakes with the Enemy

Abe already blogged about this, but I wanted to follow up on Diana West’s fretting in the Washington Times about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to Iraq, where he was supposedly given a warm reception by the Baghdad government. “[O]ur Iraqi allies have welcomed our Iranian enemies right into it.” Not so fast. Iraq and Iran are two Shia-majority countries. They share a long border and a terrible history, as Abe pointed out. They should be expected to have relations of some kind, and the more civil the better considering the depth of hatred Iranian Persians and Iraqi Arabs have for each other. Another full-blown war between Iraq and Iran is in the interests of no one.

In any case, a meeting, a few agreements, and a photo op don’t make these two countries an axis. Iran supports insurgents that for years have been trying to destroy the Baghdad government using terrorism, guerilla warfare, assassination, and sabotage. Who can seriously believe after all this–not to mention the centuries of conflict that preceded it–that the two governments actually like each other? Baghdad may formally welcome Ahmadinejad, but certainly not his proxy armies.

But let’s put that aside for the sake or argument and assume Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be a quiet Iranian sympathizer. What about Iraq’s president?

“Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with multiple kisses from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,” West notes before saying “Blech.” Talabani is not only Iraq’s president. He is also the political leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the staunchly secular leftist political party with its home base in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya. The PUK provides funds and materials to at least two exiled Kurdish Iranian political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan whose explicit goal is the destruction of the Islamic Republic regime in Tehran. Each of these parties has their own private army. One crossed into Iran recently and fought the regime in the streets during an uprising in the city of Mahabad. The idea that the secular, leftist, and Kurdish Jalal Talabani supports the theocratic, rightist, and Persian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while at the same time funding and supplying revolutionaries who cross the border, doesn’t make sense.

If you want to know the truth, pay close attention to what Middle Easterners do, not what they say. At least some elements in each of these governments hope to remove the other from power by force. Their making nice in front of the cameras is no more meaningful than Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shaking Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn.

Middle Eastern leaders go through the motions of being nice to each other all the time when what they’d really like to do is pull out a dagger. Last May, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the international tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is not directed at “sister Syria.” Of course he doesn’t believe that, but that’s diplomacy for you. Almost everyone in Lebanon knows the Syrian regime was complicit in Hariri’s murder, as well as the murders that have picked off Siniora’s allies in parliament and the media one by one ever since.

I rented an apartment just around the corner from Siniora’s residence in Beirut, and I couldn’t walk anywhere near his house while using my cell phone. The signals are jammed. Cell phones can detonate car bombs. Siniora knows very well that he might be next and doesn’t think of Syria as anything like a brother or sister–at least not while the murderous Assad regime is in power.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman tells the story of Christian militia leader Camille Chamoun receiving flowers from his arch enemy Yasser Arafat while he was laid up in the hospital. During this time they both hoped to kill each other. “These two men,” Friedman wrote, “had sent so many young men to die in defense of their own personal power and status, and now they were sending bouquets. That was Beirut.”

It is not just Beirut. It is the whole Middle East where smoke, mirrors, and false friendships are normal.

Diana West correctly notes that some Middle Eastern leaders claim to be American allies while fomenting jihad. Well, yes. Of course. They do the same thing to each other.

Abe already blogged about this, but I wanted to follow up on Diana West’s fretting in the Washington Times about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent trip to Iraq, where he was supposedly given a warm reception by the Baghdad government. “[O]ur Iraqi allies have welcomed our Iranian enemies right into it.” Not so fast. Iraq and Iran are two Shia-majority countries. They share a long border and a terrible history, as Abe pointed out. They should be expected to have relations of some kind, and the more civil the better considering the depth of hatred Iranian Persians and Iraqi Arabs have for each other. Another full-blown war between Iraq and Iran is in the interests of no one.

In any case, a meeting, a few agreements, and a photo op don’t make these two countries an axis. Iran supports insurgents that for years have been trying to destroy the Baghdad government using terrorism, guerilla warfare, assassination, and sabotage. Who can seriously believe after all this–not to mention the centuries of conflict that preceded it–that the two governments actually like each other? Baghdad may formally welcome Ahmadinejad, but certainly not his proxy armies.

But let’s put that aside for the sake or argument and assume Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may be a quiet Iranian sympathizer. What about Iraq’s president?

“Mr. Ahmadinejad was greeted with multiple kisses from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani,” West notes before saying “Blech.” Talabani is not only Iraq’s president. He is also the political leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the staunchly secular leftist political party with its home base in the Kurdish city of Suleimaniya. The PUK provides funds and materials to at least two exiled Kurdish Iranian political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan whose explicit goal is the destruction of the Islamic Republic regime in Tehran. Each of these parties has their own private army. One crossed into Iran recently and fought the regime in the streets during an uprising in the city of Mahabad. The idea that the secular, leftist, and Kurdish Jalal Talabani supports the theocratic, rightist, and Persian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while at the same time funding and supplying revolutionaries who cross the border, doesn’t make sense.

If you want to know the truth, pay close attention to what Middle Easterners do, not what they say. At least some elements in each of these governments hope to remove the other from power by force. Their making nice in front of the cameras is no more meaningful than Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat shaking Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s hand on the White House lawn.

Middle Eastern leaders go through the motions of being nice to each other all the time when what they’d really like to do is pull out a dagger. Last May, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the international tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is not directed at “sister Syria.” Of course he doesn’t believe that, but that’s diplomacy for you. Almost everyone in Lebanon knows the Syrian regime was complicit in Hariri’s murder, as well as the murders that have picked off Siniora’s allies in parliament and the media one by one ever since.

I rented an apartment just around the corner from Siniora’s residence in Beirut, and I couldn’t walk anywhere near his house while using my cell phone. The signals are jammed. Cell phones can detonate car bombs. Siniora knows very well that he might be next and doesn’t think of Syria as anything like a brother or sister–at least not while the murderous Assad regime is in power.

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, Thomas Friedman tells the story of Christian militia leader Camille Chamoun receiving flowers from his arch enemy Yasser Arafat while he was laid up in the hospital. During this time they both hoped to kill each other. “These two men,” Friedman wrote, “had sent so many young men to die in defense of their own personal power and status, and now they were sending bouquets. That was Beirut.”

It is not just Beirut. It is the whole Middle East where smoke, mirrors, and false friendships are normal.

Diana West correctly notes that some Middle Eastern leaders claim to be American allies while fomenting jihad. Well, yes. Of course. They do the same thing to each other.

Read Less

Google and America’s Defense

With a market cap of $215 billion, Google has become the second-most valuable technology company after Microsoft. An article in the New York Times provides a fascinating glimpse of how Google has pulled off that feat in less than ten years.

“Conventional software is typically built, tested and shipped in two- or three-year product cycles,” the article notes. “Inside Google, Mr. [Eric] Schmidt [the CEO] says, there are no two-year plans. Its product road maps look ahead only four or five months at most. And, Mr. Schmidt says, the only plans ‘anybody believes in go through the end of this quarter.’”

As an example of how this “quicksilver” culture works in practice, the article offers the story of a new Google product:

Early this month, Google released new cellphone software, with the code-name Grand Prix. A project that took just six weeks to complete, Grand Prix allows for fast and easy access to Google services like search, Gmail, and calendars through a stripped-down mobile phone browser. (For now, it is tailored for iPhone browsers, but the plan is to make it work on other mobile browsers as well.)

Grand Prix was born when a Google engineer, tinkering on his own one weekend, came up with prototype code and e-mailed it to Vic Gundotra, a Google executive who oversees mobile products. Mr. Gundotra then showed the prototype to Mr. Schmidt, who in turn mentioned it to Mr. [Sergey] Brin [Google co-founder]. In about an hour, Mr. Brin came to look at the prototype.

“Sergey was really supportive,” recalls Mr. Gundotra, saying that Mr. Brin was most intrigued by the “engineering tricks” employed. After that, Mr. Gundotra posted a message on Google’s internal network, asking employees who owned iPhones to test the prototype. Such peer review is common at Google, which has an engineering culture in which a favorite mantra is “nothing speaks louder than code.”

As co-workers dug in, testing Grand Prix’s performance speed, memory use and other features, “the feedback started pouring in,” Mr. Gundotra recalls. The comments amounted to a thumbs-up, and after a few weeks of fine-tuning and fixing bugs, Grand Prix was released. In the brief development, there were no formal product reviews or formal approval processes.

Read More

With a market cap of $215 billion, Google has become the second-most valuable technology company after Microsoft. An article in the New York Times provides a fascinating glimpse of how Google has pulled off that feat in less than ten years.

“Conventional software is typically built, tested and shipped in two- or three-year product cycles,” the article notes. “Inside Google, Mr. [Eric] Schmidt [the CEO] says, there are no two-year plans. Its product road maps look ahead only four or five months at most. And, Mr. Schmidt says, the only plans ‘anybody believes in go through the end of this quarter.’”

As an example of how this “quicksilver” culture works in practice, the article offers the story of a new Google product:

Early this month, Google released new cellphone software, with the code-name Grand Prix. A project that took just six weeks to complete, Grand Prix allows for fast and easy access to Google services like search, Gmail, and calendars through a stripped-down mobile phone browser. (For now, it is tailored for iPhone browsers, but the plan is to make it work on other mobile browsers as well.)

Grand Prix was born when a Google engineer, tinkering on his own one weekend, came up with prototype code and e-mailed it to Vic Gundotra, a Google executive who oversees mobile products. Mr. Gundotra then showed the prototype to Mr. Schmidt, who in turn mentioned it to Mr. [Sergey] Brin [Google co-founder]. In about an hour, Mr. Brin came to look at the prototype.

“Sergey was really supportive,” recalls Mr. Gundotra, saying that Mr. Brin was most intrigued by the “engineering tricks” employed. After that, Mr. Gundotra posted a message on Google’s internal network, asking employees who owned iPhones to test the prototype. Such peer review is common at Google, which has an engineering culture in which a favorite mantra is “nothing speaks louder than code.”

As co-workers dug in, testing Grand Prix’s performance speed, memory use and other features, “the feedback started pouring in,” Mr. Gundotra recalls. The comments amounted to a thumbs-up, and after a few weeks of fine-tuning and fixing bugs, Grand Prix was released. In the brief development, there were no formal product reviews or formal approval processes.

No formal reviews, no formal approval process—and just six weeks from conception to market. Now that’s speed!

Obviously other companies can learn from Google. But so can any other large organization, in particular the Department of Defense. America’s enemies are showing a dismaying ability to quickly adapt their tactics, techniques, and procedures on battlefields such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. armed forces have had trouble moving as fast, in part because they are saddled with an antiquated, Industrial Age bureaucracy. It is doubtful that they ever could or should become as bureaucracy-free as Google. More checks and safeguards are needed when people’s lives are at stake, not just profits. But it would make sense for the armed forces to study corporations like Google to figure out how to speed up their own bureaucratic metabolism, because our decentralized foes, such as al Qaeda, are organized more along the lines of Google than of the Pentagon’s elaborate hierarchy.

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