Commentary Magazine


Topic: Facebook

The Internet Battle over Israel-Palestine

Despite a stalled peace process and a recent Arab Peace Initative that has no hope of achieving its stated goal (as Jonathan and Seth discussed yesterday), there have been interesting developments in the region this week, albeit in cyberspace. The Google main search page for those searching within the West Bank and Gaza has been changed from “Palestinian Territories” to simply “Palestine.” Foreign Policy’s blog reported on the change and indicated it may have been inspired by the somewhat recent vote to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the UN. 

This isn’t the first time an online giant has become involved in the conflict. Last year it was noted by many Israelis that the location of their postings from within Israel were tagged “Palestine” and “East Jerusalem” on Facebook. One blogger for the Times of Israel noted:

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Despite a stalled peace process and a recent Arab Peace Initative that has no hope of achieving its stated goal (as Jonathan and Seth discussed yesterday), there have been interesting developments in the region this week, albeit in cyberspace. The Google main search page for those searching within the West Bank and Gaza has been changed from “Palestinian Territories” to simply “Palestine.” Foreign Policy’s blog reported on the change and indicated it may have been inspired by the somewhat recent vote to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the UN. 

This isn’t the first time an online giant has become involved in the conflict. Last year it was noted by many Israelis that the location of their postings from within Israel were tagged “Palestine” and “East Jerusalem” on Facebook. One blogger for the Times of Israel noted:

Apparently Facebook no longer lists my town of ‘Neve Daniel’ as ‘Israel’, but rather as a city in ‘Palestine.’ Truthfully, this type of geographical blundering isn’t a particularly new development. In fact, I remember a time when I could ‘choose’ to tag my location either ‘Neve Daniel, Israel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ Since 2010, Bing Maps have powered Facebook’s Places and locations. Frankly I don’t hold much stock in Bing Maps. A simple search in Bing could not even find Neve Daniel at all, in any country. I don’t know the back end of these programs, or how they work or fail to work. I can say that I successfully tagged the location on a photo, as I’ve done many times, as ‘Neve Daniel, Israel.’ Though what I saw, depending on where I was viewing it, was either only ‘Neve Daniel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ What other people saw, and what they rushed to tell me and send me screen shots of, was ‘Neve Daniel, Palestine.’

Apple, a company which has enough cash on hand to “acquire Facebook, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo… [or] buy every office building and retail space in New York, according to city estimates,” has also weighed in, as the Jewish Week reported last fall:

Apple’s new operating system, iOS6, does not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel although every other country on the map has its capital listed. Further, when iPhone users go to the built-in World Clock app that is included in iOS6 they will see that Jerusalem is the only city to be listed without an affiliated country. Some users of the new operating system also noticed an inability to locate Jerusalem hotels using Apple Maps, while finding hotels in other Israeli cities like Tel Aviv was possible.

Despite an absolute lack of resolution of the conflict, Google, Apple and Facebook seem content to move forward with company-wide recognition of a state that does not yet exist. While this seems like a minor issue in the scope of the entire conflict, it is a significant one. The Internet is increasingly becoming a major battleground in 21st-century warfare. As tension begins to rise in the region, Israel and its allies should be concerned that the those behind the controls at the Internet’s three biggest companies, which have gained an incredible amount of strategic value in recent conflicts, have already picked the winners and losers. 

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Turkey’s Facebook Arrests

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s transformation of Turkey into a police state grew a little more complete earlier this week with the arrest of the mayor and two other officials in Van, a predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey. Turkish authorities charged the three with being members of a terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Let’s put aside the fact that Erdoğan argues that Hamas isn’t really a terrorist group because its members are elected. The root of the case to unseat and arrest the mayor should send chills down the spine of anyone who believed Erdoğan’s reforms were about making Turkey more democratic. The detainees’ crime? They “liked” articles on Facebook:

Van Mayor Bekir Kaya, along with the [Peace and Democracy Party] BDP’s Van provincial head, Cüneyt Caniş, and the former mayor of the province’s Başkale district, İhsan Güler, were arrested June 10 on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization. BDP  officials in the northwestern province of Bursa and the southeastern province of Hakkari were also detained in a KCK raid yesterday morning. Sixteen people were detained by Hakkari police yesterday in the early morning. Police raided houses of BDP members and detained 28 people, including the BDP’s deputy provincial head, Sait Gezer. Thirteen people were also detained in Bursa. The Human Rights Association’s (İHD) Hakkari branch head, Sait Çağlayan, and a reporter from Dicle News Agency (DİHA) were among the detainees. The BDP said the detainees had been charged with being members of the KCK via the articles they had “liked” on Facebook.

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s transformation of Turkey into a police state grew a little more complete earlier this week with the arrest of the mayor and two other officials in Van, a predominantly Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey. Turkish authorities charged the three with being members of a terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). Let’s put aside the fact that Erdoğan argues that Hamas isn’t really a terrorist group because its members are elected. The root of the case to unseat and arrest the mayor should send chills down the spine of anyone who believed Erdoğan’s reforms were about making Turkey more democratic. The detainees’ crime? They “liked” articles on Facebook:

Van Mayor Bekir Kaya, along with the [Peace and Democracy Party] BDP’s Van provincial head, Cüneyt Caniş, and the former mayor of the province’s Başkale district, İhsan Güler, were arrested June 10 on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization. BDP  officials in the northwestern province of Bursa and the southeastern province of Hakkari were also detained in a KCK raid yesterday morning. Sixteen people were detained by Hakkari police yesterday in the early morning. Police raided houses of BDP members and detained 28 people, including the BDP’s deputy provincial head, Sait Gezer. Thirteen people were also detained in Bursa. The Human Rights Association’s (İHD) Hakkari branch head, Sait Çağlayan, and a reporter from Dicle News Agency (DİHA) were among the detainees. The BDP said the detainees had been charged with being members of the KCK via the articles they had “liked” on Facebook.

Turkey, whatever its flaws, had a trajectory that was once moving in the right direction. That clearly is not the case anymore. Perhaps it’s time for members of the Turkey Caucus within the U.S. Congress to reconsider for what they stand.

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The Liberal Parrot Squawks Again

There is an op-ed in today’’s New York Times of truly surpassing nuttiness. It is called “”The Zuckerberg Tax,”” in reference to Mark Zuckerberg’’s impending multi-billion-dollar capital gain from Facebook’’s IPO. The author, David S. Miller, is upset that Zuckerberg will not have to pay any taxes on his vast capital gains until he sells the stock, if he ever does.

He writes, “So he recommends an annual tax on unrealized capital gains of 15 percent: For individuals and married couples who earn, say, more than $2.2 million in income, or own $5.7 million or more in publicly traded securities (representing the top 0.1 percent of families), the appreciation in their publicly traded stock and securities would be “marked to market” and taxed annually as if they had sold their positions at year’’s end, regardless of whether the
securities were actually sold. The tax could be imposed at long-term capital gains rates so tax rates would stay as they were.”

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There is an op-ed in today’’s New York Times of truly surpassing nuttiness. It is called “”The Zuckerberg Tax,”” in reference to Mark Zuckerberg’’s impending multi-billion-dollar capital gain from Facebook’’s IPO. The author, David S. Miller, is upset that Zuckerberg will not have to pay any taxes on his vast capital gains until he sells the stock, if he ever does.

He writes, “So he recommends an annual tax on unrealized capital gains of 15 percent: For individuals and married couples who earn, say, more than $2.2 million in income, or own $5.7 million or more in publicly traded securities (representing the top 0.1 percent of families), the appreciation in their publicly traded stock and securities would be “marked to market” and taxed annually as if they had sold their positions at year’’s end, regardless of whether the
securities were actually sold. The tax could be imposed at long-term capital gains rates so tax rates would stay as they were.”

Naturally (cue the liberal parrot—“ Arrrwk! Tax the rich!”), it would apply only to the very rich. But only to the very rich whose assets are in the stock of publicly-traded companies, where the capital gains can be easily and exactly calculated. If someone owned a very successful sub-chapter S corporation, however, the
tax would not apply. Nor would it apply to someone who owned, say, the King Ranch in Texas, all 1 million acres of it, or a Greenwich, Connecticut, waterfront mansion.

First, how long do you suppose it would be before the liberal parrot was demanding this tax be applied to the millionaires and billionaires who earn only $250,000 a year, and then to all capital gains in publicly held corporations? Arrrwk! Tax the Rich!

Second, the perverse economic consequences of this would be almost without end. Just for starters, if a stock subject to the tax doubled in a year— by no means unheard of for a successful company in a bull market–the owner would have to sell 7.5 percent of it to pay the tax, or sell other assets, or, as David Miller
suggests with an airy wave of his rhetorical hand, borrow against it. All of these could have very adverse business consequences for the owner.

Moreover, he says that should the stock go down the next year, then the government should pay him 15 percent of the unrealized capital loss. It’ is not unheard of for the stock market to lose 50 percent of its value in a calendar year. (It lost that much between October 2008, and the following March, in the wake of the
financial crisis). In that case, in the teeth of a terrible economy, the government would have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to reimburse the rich for their paper losses.

It is well established that a tax system dependent on taxing the rich causes government revenues to soar in good times and plunge in bad times. Just ask California, the poster child of this approach to taxation. The Miller plan would be California on steroids.

Naturally, Miller’’s argument for this tax is “fairness.” He writes that Lady Gaga (a singer, I’’m told) has to pay 35 percent on her enormous income, so why shouldn’’t Mark Zuckerberg have to pay 15 percent on his enormous capital gains? Well, for one thing, Lady Gaga’’s income is not subject to a 35 percent
tax at the corporate level.

He writes, “if  Zuckerberg never sells his shares, he can avoid all income tax and then, on his death, pass on his shares to his heirs. When they sell them, they will be taxed only on any appreciation in value since his death.”

Yeah, except that his heirs will have had to pay a 35 percent estate tax first. In 2013, the estate tax is scheduled to rise to 55 percent. Even in 2010 when, for one glorious year, there was no death tax, the heirs acquired the decedent’s cost basis along with the stock. So they have to pay the full capital gains when they sell the stock, not just the capital gains since the date of death.

Is David S. Miller, a tax lawyer, unaware of the revived estate tax? Or is he and the New York Times so intellectually dishonest as to ignore it in pursuit of their agenda? I vote for the latter.

Could anything be more relevatory of the utter intellectual bankruptcy of latter-day liberalism then this  proposal?

 

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The Palestinian Facebook Police

Some staffers and diplomats at the State Department with time on their hands are, no doubt, working hard right now to come up with a legal rationale for continuing U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. The consummation of the Fatah-Hamas unity pact earlier this week and the impending ouster of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad ought to make any further assistance to Mahmoud Abbas’s rogue regime legally and morally untenable. But in case apologists for keeping U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing to terrorists pledged to Israel’s destruction are paying attention, even before the new unity government takes office there are plenty of reasons to think seriously about American subsidies for the corrupt and tyrannical PA.

While many Americans are obsessing about human rights elsewhere in the Arab world, it appears the American-funded PA is practicing its own brand of tyranny. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports the Palestinian security forces are now monitoring Facebook posts by residents of the West Bank and taking those who make critical remarks about the PA’s leadership in for questioning. Because Palestinians know all too well the armed gunmen who report to Abbas and his underlings are Fatah thugs and not genuine law enforcement officers, the upshot of is only nice things are going to be said there about Abbas.

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Some staffers and diplomats at the State Department with time on their hands are, no doubt, working hard right now to come up with a legal rationale for continuing U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority. The consummation of the Fatah-Hamas unity pact earlier this week and the impending ouster of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad ought to make any further assistance to Mahmoud Abbas’s rogue regime legally and morally untenable. But in case apologists for keeping U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing to terrorists pledged to Israel’s destruction are paying attention, even before the new unity government takes office there are plenty of reasons to think seriously about American subsidies for the corrupt and tyrannical PA.

While many Americans are obsessing about human rights elsewhere in the Arab world, it appears the American-funded PA is practicing its own brand of tyranny. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reports the Palestinian security forces are now monitoring Facebook posts by residents of the West Bank and taking those who make critical remarks about the PA’s leadership in for questioning. Because Palestinians know all too well the armed gunmen who report to Abbas and his underlings are Fatah thugs and not genuine law enforcement officers, the upshot of is only nice things are going to be said there about Abbas.

The idea that the PA respected the human rights of those Palestinians who were placed under its care by the Oslo Accords was always something of a fantasy. But since the death of Yasir Arafat, many here have clung to the notion that Abbas was an improvement. But that was always more a matter of apparel than anything else, because Americans find it hard to believe a man who wears a suit to work like Abbas can be just as much of a despot as one who wore fatigues like Arafat.

Given the low standards set for human rights and governance by Abbas’s predecessor one might think Internet censorship is the least of the problems of ordinary Palestinians. But in the absence of a PA government that respects the rule of law, peace with Israel or even a civil Palestinian society will remain a distant dream.

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‘Spontaneous Eruption of Pro-Mubarak Sentiment’

Here’s America’s best satirist, Jon Stewart, on the “spontaneous eruption of pro-Mubarak sentiment from everyday Egyptians trained in the art of whip-based crowd control.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mess O’Slightly-to-the-Left O’Potamia – Pro-Mubarak Demonstrators
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Here’s America’s best satirist, Jon Stewart, on the “spontaneous eruption of pro-Mubarak sentiment from everyday Egyptians trained in the art of whip-based crowd control.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mess O’Slightly-to-the-Left O’Potamia – Pro-Mubarak Demonstrators
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

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LIVE BLOG: Obama on American Exceptionalism

President Obama is still talking American greatness: “What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Bill Kristol first noted this change in Obama’s references to America in early January.

President Obama is still talking American greatness: “What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

Bill Kristol first noted this change in Obama’s references to America in early January.

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The Culture War Against Israel

In 2010, the hard-core left married pro-Islamic and pro-Palestinian organizations and gave birth to an entertainment-boycott campaign aimed at Israel. Cultural-boycott efforts have spilled over into 2011, as American soul singer Macy Gray is now the target of hysterical attacks for her slated Tel Aviv concerts in February. She appears to have defied the Israel-bashers, saying, “I like coming to Israel.”

She used some intemperate and unsavory language, however, when describing Israeli security policies. Gray wrote on Facebook that “I’m getting a lot of letters from activists urging and begging me to boycott by not performing in protest of apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I want to go. I have a lot of fans there that I don’t want to cancel on, and I don’t know how my not going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?”

After roughly 4,000 fans responded, she tweeted that she plans to perform in Israel. To her credit, she defied the Arab lobby’s campaign to silence artistic free speech, which appears to be intimidating some. According to a Reuters news item: “Earlier this month, French singer Vanessa Paradis, who is married to actor Johnny Depp, canceled a February 10 concert in Israel. She said it clashed with an important meeting, but the Israeli media have speculated that is was a political decision.”

Last year, Grammy winner Carlos Santana, the alternative band the Pixies, and British singer Elvis Costello pulled the plug on their Israel concerts, a sign of mass artistic cowardice. In sharp contrast, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Rotten of the now-defunct punk band the Sex Pistols all performed last year in Israel.

Rotten, who now goes by his birth name, John Lydon, summed up, in a flash of neoconservative punkism, the misguided Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against the region’s only real democracy: “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews [sic]. If Elvis-f-ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated. ”

The lesson here? Go on the offensive, as did Lydon, when engaged in combating the BDS campaign to block entertainers from performing in Israel.

In 2010, the hard-core left married pro-Islamic and pro-Palestinian organizations and gave birth to an entertainment-boycott campaign aimed at Israel. Cultural-boycott efforts have spilled over into 2011, as American soul singer Macy Gray is now the target of hysterical attacks for her slated Tel Aviv concerts in February. She appears to have defied the Israel-bashers, saying, “I like coming to Israel.”

She used some intemperate and unsavory language, however, when describing Israeli security policies. Gray wrote on Facebook that “I’m getting a lot of letters from activists urging and begging me to boycott by not performing in protest of apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I want to go. I have a lot of fans there that I don’t want to cancel on, and I don’t know how my not going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?”

After roughly 4,000 fans responded, she tweeted that she plans to perform in Israel. To her credit, she defied the Arab lobby’s campaign to silence artistic free speech, which appears to be intimidating some. According to a Reuters news item: “Earlier this month, French singer Vanessa Paradis, who is married to actor Johnny Depp, canceled a February 10 concert in Israel. She said it clashed with an important meeting, but the Israeli media have speculated that is was a political decision.”

Last year, Grammy winner Carlos Santana, the alternative band the Pixies, and British singer Elvis Costello pulled the plug on their Israel concerts, a sign of mass artistic cowardice. In sharp contrast, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Rotten of the now-defunct punk band the Sex Pistols all performed last year in Israel.

Rotten, who now goes by his birth name, John Lydon, summed up, in a flash of neoconservative punkism, the misguided Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign against the region’s only real democracy: “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews [sic]. If Elvis-f-ing-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated. ”

The lesson here? Go on the offensive, as did Lydon, when engaged in combating the BDS campaign to block entertainers from performing in Israel.

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On the Persistence of Palin and the Possibility of Pence

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

Quayle was gone after one misspelled word. Howard Dean was finished after a single yell. Gingrich was not the same after a complaint about his seat on a plane. Edmund Muskie was done after a solitary tear.

These men were either the vice president of the United States, or leading presidential candidates, or the Speaker of the House. But they were down for the count after one punch — labeled (and libeled) as ignorant, out-of-control, petulant, and unmanly. Sarah Palin has been spared only the fourth adjective, but only because she has been criticized as too manly: shooting caribou, beating fish, describing animals as meat, riding a souped-up motorcycle.

Her degree from the University of Idaho could only be worse if it were from Eureka College, and her betters are constantly schooling her (“So you see, Sarah, the words ‘death panel’ don’t appear in the bill” and “So you see, Sarah, the phrase ‘blood libel’ refers to the Jews”). But her points were valid, made in a way that focused public discussion. For someone whose career was supposedly over once she made the supposedly disastrous decision to resign as governor, she continues to dominate political discussion — from her Facebook page. She even gets thoughtful columns written about her by people who think fewer columns should be written about her.

And if truth be told, her book was substantially better than Hillary’s. She is not Ronald Reagan, nor Menachem Begin, but the continual advice to her from the right not to run may reflect a certain fear that she might get the nomination if she did; she has certainly demonstrated she can take a punch.

She may nonetheless conclude that her candidacy would be a distraction from the issues she champions, and that another candidate might be better positioned to present them. If so, she might open up the Pence Possibility — a candidacy by someone whose Hillsdale College speech last September was remarkable in my view and came considerably closer to Lincoln than another recent one.

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Wise Words on the Palin Obsession

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has written a very intelligent column on the very odd, and in some respects co-dependent, relationship between the media and Sarah Palin.

Here is how Douthat concludes his column:

To the media: Cover Sarah Palin if you want, but stop acting as if she’s the most important conservative politician in America. Stop pretending that she has a plausible path to the presidency in 2012. (She doesn’t.) Stop suggesting that she’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination. (She isn’t.) And every time you’re tempted to parse her tweets for some secret code or crucial dog whistle, stop and think, this woman has fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, and then go write about something else instead.

To Palin: You were an actual politician once (remember that?), but you’re becoming the kind of caricature that your enemies have always tried to make of you. So maybe it’s time to turn off your iPad for a while, and take a break from Facebook and Fox News. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to every criticism, and you might even win a few more admirers if you cultivated a lighter touch and a more above-the-fray persona. Oh, and when that reality-TV producer sends you a pitch for “Sarah Plus Five Plus Kate Plus Eight,” just say no.

Breaking up is hard to do, of course. But for the majority of Americans who are neither Palinoiacs nor Palinistas, here’s the good news: If the press (including this columnist!) and Sarah Palin can’t quit each other, you can still quit us.

These are wise words all the way around.

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has written a very intelligent column on the very odd, and in some respects co-dependent, relationship between the media and Sarah Palin.

Here is how Douthat concludes his column:

To the media: Cover Sarah Palin if you want, but stop acting as if she’s the most important conservative politician in America. Stop pretending that she has a plausible path to the presidency in 2012. (She doesn’t.) Stop suggesting that she’s the front-runner for the Republican nomination. (She isn’t.) And every time you’re tempted to parse her tweets for some secret code or crucial dog whistle, stop and think, this woman has fewer Twitter followers than Ben Stiller, and then go write about something else instead.

To Palin: You were an actual politician once (remember that?), but you’re becoming the kind of caricature that your enemies have always tried to make of you. So maybe it’s time to turn off your iPad for a while, and take a break from Facebook and Fox News. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to every criticism, and you might even win a few more admirers if you cultivated a lighter touch and a more above-the-fray persona. Oh, and when that reality-TV producer sends you a pitch for “Sarah Plus Five Plus Kate Plus Eight,” just say no.

Breaking up is hard to do, of course. But for the majority of Americans who are neither Palinoiacs nor Palinistas, here’s the good news: If the press (including this columnist!) and Sarah Palin can’t quit each other, you can still quit us.

These are wise words all the way around.

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Loughner

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

And so the story appears to grow more and more murky and complicated. A high-school friend tells Mother Jones that Loughner’s mother is/was Jewish; he acted in ways that terrified people in his immediate vicinity in the months before the shootings; he had obsessions with grammar and lucid dreaming and the notion that the world around us is an illusion.

He may, in other words, have found his intellectual solace not in political ideology of any sort but rather in the false-reality fantasies of writers like Philip K. Dick, who all but invented a science-fiction genre about how the powerful have the rest of us living in a dream world in which we are manipulated. The most commercially popular version of this worldview is The Matrix, the 1999 film with Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who discovers that he and all of humanity are actually trapped in a gigantic machine in which they are serving as energy sources for other machines.

The Dick view was, it turns out, quite literally out of the brain of a paranoid schizophrenic, as biographies of the writer himself reveal. But given that tens of millions have read Dick’s work and probably hundreds of millions of people have seen The Matrix and its sequels, not one frame of The Matrix nor one word in Dick’s hand can be blamed for the fact that they may have deepened one singular individual’s madness. As was true Saturday and as is true today, the villain is not “violent rhetoric” but the diseased and evil brain of Jared Loughner.

I offer some more perspective in today’s New York Post:

His apprehension means we will eventually have a definitive explanation for this act — that it won’t be left to ideologically interested parties to stitch together a politically convenient explanation from a diary entry, a MySpace page, a YouTube video…. Alas, that fact is insufficient or unsatisfying for the chattering classes. Our compulsive hunger always to know first, speak first and decide first has only been amplified by the fact that we can now all participate instantly in a virtual version of a national cocktail-party conversation on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. We must say something, even when we know nothing.

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RE: Left Shamelessly Seeks to Exploit Arizona Tragedy

Less than 24 hours after the story of the Arizona shooting first broke, Americans woke up to Responsible-Rhetoric Sunday. Every newspaper and news-analysis show piously raised questions about the country’s overheated political rhetoric and its relationship to yesterday’s massacre. This was nothing short of the immediate and seamless political hijacking of a senseless tragedy.

That the alleged shooter has left a long and florid  multimedia trail detailing what looks like a chaotic battle with paranoid psychosis has led, of course, to this obvious  conclusion: Sarah Palin is, at least partially, to blame: “During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election,” write Marc Lacey and David Herszenhorn in the New York Times. “Those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.”

And what about 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green? Was the little girl killed in yesterday’s shooting also “among those on Ms. Palin’s map”? Were the other 16 victims? The scrambled mind behind yesterday’s unspeakable rampage is obviously not organized enough to act on any real-world motivations, let alone political ones. But never mind, the media will take it from there.

A responsible pundit class would have explored the issues most relevant to the shooting: severe mental illness and its warning signs; social networks and the responsibilities of participants; the challenges posed to the security of American officials. Instead, we got the latest installment in what has become a liberal-media pastime: shaping apolitical tragedies into left-wing talking points. Violent crimes are ripe for this treatment. Michael Moore squeezed an entire anti-Balkan intervention movie out of the Columbine shooting. Natural disasters work too: a tornado devastates Greensburg, Kansas? Then-governor Kathleen Sebelius blamed Iraq policy, naturally. A hurricane overwhelms New Orleans? Well, that’s Bush for you. Everything from the Duke-lacrosse case to the BP spill to the earthquake in Haiti can be trumped out as evidence of conservatism’s evils. By the time history puts these things in perspective, we’ve all become a little dumber and more than a little dirtier.

Today, with a nation awash in personal tragedy and people in hospital beds fighting for their lives, the political spin of yesterday’s horror marks a new low. Indeed it is no small indignity for conservatives to have to join this unseemly debate in order to refute liberal analysis. The preposterous George Packer writes, “for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale.” And so it feels frankly indecent to point out that it was President Obama who called Republicans “enemies” in the run-up to the November elections.  If the shapeless massacre in Arizona devolves into nothing but another round of sound-bite ping-pong, then all the hopes of 2011 being a fresh start with a new Congress are for naught. For even as our elected leaders now act with a somewhat restored sense of dignity and unity, talking heads have waged a civil war.

Less than 24 hours after the story of the Arizona shooting first broke, Americans woke up to Responsible-Rhetoric Sunday. Every newspaper and news-analysis show piously raised questions about the country’s overheated political rhetoric and its relationship to yesterday’s massacre. This was nothing short of the immediate and seamless political hijacking of a senseless tragedy.

That the alleged shooter has left a long and florid  multimedia trail detailing what looks like a chaotic battle with paranoid psychosis has led, of course, to this obvious  conclusion: Sarah Palin is, at least partially, to blame: “During the fall campaign, Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, posted a controversial map on her Facebook page depicting spots where Democrats were running for re-election,” write Marc Lacey and David Herszenhorn in the New York Times. “Those Democrats were noted by crosshairs symbols like those seen through the scope of a gun. Ms. Giffords was among those on Ms. Palin’s map.”

And what about 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green? Was the little girl killed in yesterday’s shooting also “among those on Ms. Palin’s map”? Were the other 16 victims? The scrambled mind behind yesterday’s unspeakable rampage is obviously not organized enough to act on any real-world motivations, let alone political ones. But never mind, the media will take it from there.

A responsible pundit class would have explored the issues most relevant to the shooting: severe mental illness and its warning signs; social networks and the responsibilities of participants; the challenges posed to the security of American officials. Instead, we got the latest installment in what has become a liberal-media pastime: shaping apolitical tragedies into left-wing talking points. Violent crimes are ripe for this treatment. Michael Moore squeezed an entire anti-Balkan intervention movie out of the Columbine shooting. Natural disasters work too: a tornado devastates Greensburg, Kansas? Then-governor Kathleen Sebelius blamed Iraq policy, naturally. A hurricane overwhelms New Orleans? Well, that’s Bush for you. Everything from the Duke-lacrosse case to the BP spill to the earthquake in Haiti can be trumped out as evidence of conservatism’s evils. By the time history puts these things in perspective, we’ve all become a little dumber and more than a little dirtier.

Today, with a nation awash in personal tragedy and people in hospital beds fighting for their lives, the political spin of yesterday’s horror marks a new low. Indeed it is no small indignity for conservatives to have to join this unseemly debate in order to refute liberal analysis. The preposterous George Packer writes, “for the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents. Not just arguing against their opponents, but doing everything possible to turn them into enemies of the country and cast them out beyond the pale.” And so it feels frankly indecent to point out that it was President Obama who called Republicans “enemies” in the run-up to the November elections.  If the shapeless massacre in Arizona devolves into nothing but another round of sound-bite ping-pong, then all the hopes of 2011 being a fresh start with a new Congress are for naught. For even as our elected leaders now act with a somewhat restored sense of dignity and unity, talking heads have waged a civil war.

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Investing in Assange

Julian Assange, out of jail on bail in England and last seen, deliciously, complaining that someone was unfairly leaking details of his rape case in Sweden, has now made news for another reason: He has reportedly received $1.3 million from Random House and a British publishing company, Canongate, to write his memoirs. He has pledged to use the money “to keep Wikileaks afloat.” That means that Canongate (an independenet publisher) and Random House (a division of the German giant Bertelesmann) are helping to subsidize WikiLeaks, an organization that traffics in stolen documents designed to hurt American foreign policy and anyone who cooperates with American officials–including British and German officials.

Their actions stand in sharp distinction to more responsible corporations such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Facebook and Twitter that have cut off WikiLeaks because they do not want to be associated with its irresponsible and possibly criminal activities.

Where is the outrage? These publishers deserve, at the very least, considerable opprobrium for throwing a lifeline to the odious Julian Assange, an Internet vandal pursuing, by his own admission, an anti-American agenda. They should certainly be in the sights of the Justice Department as it contemplates legal action against Assange. At the very least prosecutors should plan to freeze and seize any payments to him. I wonder if there might not be a civil suit possible by one of Assange’s victims–someone who has been hurt by the publication of these confidential communications–who might be able to go after the publishers for a substantial award? That may only be wishful thinking on my part but certainly it would be nice if these publishing houses did not get away with their amoral decision to try to make money out of this scandal and in the process to enrich one of the world’s most disgusting cyber-preeners and -saboteurs.

Julian Assange, out of jail on bail in England and last seen, deliciously, complaining that someone was unfairly leaking details of his rape case in Sweden, has now made news for another reason: He has reportedly received $1.3 million from Random House and a British publishing company, Canongate, to write his memoirs. He has pledged to use the money “to keep Wikileaks afloat.” That means that Canongate (an independenet publisher) and Random House (a division of the German giant Bertelesmann) are helping to subsidize WikiLeaks, an organization that traffics in stolen documents designed to hurt American foreign policy and anyone who cooperates with American officials–including British and German officials.

Their actions stand in sharp distinction to more responsible corporations such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Facebook and Twitter that have cut off WikiLeaks because they do not want to be associated with its irresponsible and possibly criminal activities.

Where is the outrage? These publishers deserve, at the very least, considerable opprobrium for throwing a lifeline to the odious Julian Assange, an Internet vandal pursuing, by his own admission, an anti-American agenda. They should certainly be in the sights of the Justice Department as it contemplates legal action against Assange. At the very least prosecutors should plan to freeze and seize any payments to him. I wonder if there might not be a civil suit possible by one of Assange’s victims–someone who has been hurt by the publication of these confidential communications–who might be able to go after the publishers for a substantial award? That may only be wishful thinking on my part but certainly it would be nice if these publishing houses did not get away with their amoral decision to try to make money out of this scandal and in the process to enrich one of the world’s most disgusting cyber-preeners and -saboteurs.

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Mark Zuckerberg as Time‘s ‘Person of the Year’: A Brilliant Choice

As is always the case, it seems, Time magazine’s selection of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year is generating scorn and outrage from people who had their own candidates — the Tea Partier, for example, or Julian Assange, or Kim Kardashian (my choice). This is silly (yes, so is my choice). As is often the case, the true Person of the Year is the president of the United States, and Time picked Obama two years ago; it doesn’t want to get boring. In any case, the magazine rarely makes its choice based solely on whom it thinks is the dominant news or power figure. (When it makes a selection based on newsworthiness without paying heed to the sense people have that it is a kind of news Oscar, Time courts a kind of controversy its editors and business side generally don’t like at all. The magazine received tens of thousands of letters protesting its choice in 1979 of Ayatollah Khomeini, for example.)

In point of fact, Zuckerberg is a brilliant selection. He has changed the daily habits and practices of hundreds of millions of people in a shockingly short time (Facebook is all of five years old). Despite the claims that Facebook endangers marriages and encourages bullying and all that — all of which simply represents an adaptation of pre-Facebook human failings to a new technology rather than a wholly new form of destructive interaction — it seems to me to be far more benign than malign. In any case, its creation and success are significant events in the history of capitalism, communications, and social relations, and Zuckerberg is more likely than most leaders alive today to be remembered 100 years from now as a hinge figure in history. He may, in other words, be something more than simply Person of the Year.

As is always the case, it seems, Time magazine’s selection of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year is generating scorn and outrage from people who had their own candidates — the Tea Partier, for example, or Julian Assange, or Kim Kardashian (my choice). This is silly (yes, so is my choice). As is often the case, the true Person of the Year is the president of the United States, and Time picked Obama two years ago; it doesn’t want to get boring. In any case, the magazine rarely makes its choice based solely on whom it thinks is the dominant news or power figure. (When it makes a selection based on newsworthiness without paying heed to the sense people have that it is a kind of news Oscar, Time courts a kind of controversy its editors and business side generally don’t like at all. The magazine received tens of thousands of letters protesting its choice in 1979 of Ayatollah Khomeini, for example.)

In point of fact, Zuckerberg is a brilliant selection. He has changed the daily habits and practices of hundreds of millions of people in a shockingly short time (Facebook is all of five years old). Despite the claims that Facebook endangers marriages and encourages bullying and all that — all of which simply represents an adaptation of pre-Facebook human failings to a new technology rather than a wholly new form of destructive interaction — it seems to me to be far more benign than malign. In any case, its creation and success are significant events in the history of capitalism, communications, and social relations, and Zuckerberg is more likely than most leaders alive today to be remembered 100 years from now as a hinge figure in history. He may, in other words, be something more than simply Person of the Year.

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So Long — Until Tomorrow

As most all of you know, today is my last day at COMMENTARY. It has been a joy and a source of great pride to work for the publication that I began reading as a teenager and that remains one of the premiere intellectual institutions in America. My writing career began as a lark and has become a passion, the most satisfying and engrossing occupation I could have imagined. The opportunity to write in COMMENTARY’S pages and on this website  — and throw some elbows, take the barbs (from those whom I’m delighted to have enraged), and report what the mainstream media refused to — has allowed me to contribute to the political debate and, along the way, break news. I owe COMMENTARY’s editors, staff, and writers an immense debt of gratitude. I am thankful for the encouragement and fine editorial advice they have provided me, without which I could not have accomplished what I did or have been ready for the next chapter in my career. And as for John’s most generous parting words, I am deeply touched. I hope to be worthy of his praise.

Then there are all of you — the readers. I have received the benefit of my readers’ extraordinary wisdom, occasional corrections and objections, and good humor. (I’ve often thought that many of you should be writing rather than just reading.) And after all, that is what a great magazine is all about — an intellectual community that stimulates, spars, consoles, incites, and makes common cause to promote values and principles that must be defended if they are to survive. I want to thank all of you for the hundreds of e-mails, calls, Facebook entries, and tweets (OK, I finally broke down and got with the 21st century@JRubinBlogger) cheering me as I move to the Washington Post.

At the Post I will launch a new blog, Right Turn (CONTENTIONS readers can get a sneak preview by clicking on the link), where I will continue to report and opine, just as I have for the past three years. Rest assured that I intend to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. I want all of you to come along for the ride — to read, comment, and debate with the Post readers (respectfully, of course). Together we can explain who we are and what we believe to a wide and diverse audience. I will continue to make CONTENTIONS an integral part of my daily reading, and I hope you will as well. Its writers’ wealth of knowledge and wit are an indispensible part of the national debate.

And to my loved ones: your unflagging support, patience, and confidence in my abilities have sustained me. Without you, none of this would be possible.

As most all of you know, today is my last day at COMMENTARY. It has been a joy and a source of great pride to work for the publication that I began reading as a teenager and that remains one of the premiere intellectual institutions in America. My writing career began as a lark and has become a passion, the most satisfying and engrossing occupation I could have imagined. The opportunity to write in COMMENTARY’S pages and on this website  — and throw some elbows, take the barbs (from those whom I’m delighted to have enraged), and report what the mainstream media refused to — has allowed me to contribute to the political debate and, along the way, break news. I owe COMMENTARY’s editors, staff, and writers an immense debt of gratitude. I am thankful for the encouragement and fine editorial advice they have provided me, without which I could not have accomplished what I did or have been ready for the next chapter in my career. And as for John’s most generous parting words, I am deeply touched. I hope to be worthy of his praise.

Then there are all of you — the readers. I have received the benefit of my readers’ extraordinary wisdom, occasional corrections and objections, and good humor. (I’ve often thought that many of you should be writing rather than just reading.) And after all, that is what a great magazine is all about — an intellectual community that stimulates, spars, consoles, incites, and makes common cause to promote values and principles that must be defended if they are to survive. I want to thank all of you for the hundreds of e-mails, calls, Facebook entries, and tweets (OK, I finally broke down and got with the 21st century@JRubinBlogger) cheering me as I move to the Washington Post.

At the Post I will launch a new blog, Right Turn (CONTENTIONS readers can get a sneak preview by clicking on the link), where I will continue to report and opine, just as I have for the past three years. Rest assured that I intend to make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. I want all of you to come along for the ride — to read, comment, and debate with the Post readers (respectfully, of course). Together we can explain who we are and what we believe to a wide and diverse audience. I will continue to make CONTENTIONS an integral part of my daily reading, and I hope you will as well. Its writers’ wealth of knowledge and wit are an indispensible part of the national debate.

And to my loved ones: your unflagging support, patience, and confidence in my abilities have sustained me. Without you, none of this would be possible.

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The BDS Movement’s War on Hummus

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

As I wrote last week, the U.S. version of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been a resounding failure since its inception. Even the most radical college campuses have ignored its calls to divest from Israel.

Apparently realizing that traditional boycotts haven’t caught on, some BDS activists at Princeton University have launched a new campaign to increase “consumer choice” in the college food court. They say they want to expand the number of hummus brands sold on campus, arguing that the current product, Sabra, supports “crimes” against Palestinians:

The Princeton Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum in next week’s USG elections that asks Dining Services to sell an alternative to Sabra hummus in all its retail locations on campus.

PCP started a petition in support of the referendum last Thursday. More than 200 students have signed it, the threshold for getting a referendum on the ballot.

“The Princeton Committee on Palestine objects to the fact that Sabra is the only hummus brand that is offered in most University stores and that students who wish to eat this traditional Arab food are forced to buy a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians,” [PCP President Yoel] Bitran wrote in a statement concerning the issue.

“This lack of choice is particularly egregious and violent for Princetonians of Arab descent, who cannot eat the food that is quintessential to their culture unless they are willing to support crimes against their own people,” the statement continued.

According to BDS activists, Sabra contributes to “human rights violations” against Palestinians, since it is partially owned by a company that supports the IDF.

I see no problem with increasing the options of hummus brands at a university, but that’s not what this campaign is about — it’s about creating the false impression that Princeton students support the de-legitimization of Israel. Students voting on the referendum may not even realize that it has anything to do with the divestment movement, since its vague wording contains no hint of a political motive. The referendum reads that, “On behalf of the student body, the USG will make a formal recommendation to University Dining Services that it offer an alternative to Sabra hummus in all University retail locations.”

Despite the deceptive language, it looks like there is still a pretty sizable campus opposition to the referendum. A pro-Israel group called the Tigers for Israel has created a Facebook group opposing it, which had nearly 2,000 members as of last week.

And even though this campaign isn’t an actual boycott, expect BDS activists to make overblown claims about Princeton’s successful “divestment” from Israel if the referendum actually passes. Over at MondoWeiss, Adam Horowitz has already declared “another win” for the BDS movement, after DuPaul University announced that it would stop selling Sabra two weeks ago. (Alas, his enthusiasm was premature, as the school reinstated the sale of the hummus a few days later).

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Blasphemous Blogger Case Shows Hypocrisy of Palestinian Supporters

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

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Another Brilliant Idea of the Left

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

Call it the Backlash Midterms. Obama pushed through ObamaCare to pump up the base; it pumped up conservatives and angered independents. Obama took to the campaign trail; his peevishness and attacks on his own base further depressed liberals and reminded other voters why they were upset. Jack Conway runs an attack ad on Rand Paul; liberals and conservatives alike are appalled. Even NPR gets in on the backlash act — firing Juan Williams and thereby unleashing a furious attack on their funding and journalistic standards.

Then caustic liberals decide to have a rally on the mall. Bad idea. As this report explains:

Jon Stewart has tried to paint the “million moderate march” he will hold on the Mall this Saturday as a live-action version of his comedy show, a satirical take on political demonstrations. But some liberal groups are doing their best to adopt the rally as their own. … [G]roups ranging from PETA to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws are preparing props and making snarky signs in preparation for the event, and more than 200,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend.

Many conservatives have watched smugly as liberal activists have become caught up in a gathering that will probably resemble a circus more than it does a serious political event and that is taking place on a prime day for campaign volunteers to help get out the vote.

Really — have these people learned nothing? Stephen Colbert’s performance on Capitol Hill seemed to personify Democrats’  fundamental unseriousness and disregard for the public’s concerns. Now the same comic, with Jon Stewart in tow, is going to mock and sneer at his fellow citizens as “snarky” (read: obnoxious) signs display the views of the liberal “cool” crowd. It is a disaster waiting to happen — and will fill the cable and network news shows on the weekend before the election. Great going, fellas.

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RE: NPR: Shut Up and Get Out, Juan

I suspect NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for a long time and decided this would do. It will, I think, backfire big time on NPR, which is in the middle of one of its periodic, unendurable begathons to raise money. The comments, even on NPR’s own websites and Facebook page, are overwhelmingly negative, and many make the connection: “This morning, as I listened to pleas for funding support, I made a mental note to write a check and send it in to NPR. This afternoon, I changed my mind.”

NPR states that Williams was fired because what he said on The O’Reilly Factor was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” OK. But then these comments that Nina Totenberg made 15 years ago about the late Jesse Helms must have been consistent with them, because she still works for NPR.

So let’s recap. Admitting to feeling a whiff of fear at the sight of ethnically dressed Muslims on a plane he’s about to fly on, a fear Williams himself thinks is irrational but no less real for that, is beyond the pale. At the same time, effectively calling upon God to strike down with AIDS someone Totenberg disagrees with is hunky-dory with NPR. So, apparently, is calling upon God to have one of that man’s innocent grandchildren develop AIDS so that the grandfather could suffer. The grandchild’s suffering, I guess, would just be collateral damage in a worthy cause.

The death of a once-great political movement — American liberalism — sure is painful to watch.

I suspect NPR has been looking for an excuse to fire Juan Williams for a long time and decided this would do. It will, I think, backfire big time on NPR, which is in the middle of one of its periodic, unendurable begathons to raise money. The comments, even on NPR’s own websites and Facebook page, are overwhelmingly negative, and many make the connection: “This morning, as I listened to pleas for funding support, I made a mental note to write a check and send it in to NPR. This afternoon, I changed my mind.”

NPR states that Williams was fired because what he said on The O’Reilly Factor was “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR.” OK. But then these comments that Nina Totenberg made 15 years ago about the late Jesse Helms must have been consistent with them, because she still works for NPR.

So let’s recap. Admitting to feeling a whiff of fear at the sight of ethnically dressed Muslims on a plane he’s about to fly on, a fear Williams himself thinks is irrational but no less real for that, is beyond the pale. At the same time, effectively calling upon God to strike down with AIDS someone Totenberg disagrees with is hunky-dory with NPR. So, apparently, is calling upon God to have one of that man’s innocent grandchildren develop AIDS so that the grandfather could suffer. The grandchild’s suffering, I guess, would just be collateral damage in a worthy cause.

The death of a once-great political movement — American liberalism — sure is painful to watch.

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Palin in Ascendance, Liberals Admit Defeat

She certainly has them on the run. At the National Mall rally on Saturday, Sarah Palin delivered an eloquent and moving tribute to servicemen and a nonpartisan call to restore — not transform — America. The complete text should be read in full. (If you are not moved to tears by the stories of three heroic military men, you have a heart of stone.)

I admit that I had some serious reservations about the Glenn Beck rally. To put it mildly, I’m no fan of Beck’s, and his rhetoric has given liberals plenty of fodder to paint the right as extreme and incendiary. But both he and certainly Palin conducted themselves well — sticking to general themes of faith and service. That the media could not find a single controversial statement is a tribute to the good judgment and restraint that was exercised.

Meanwhile, Palin clearly has the left in a tizzy. They have finally gotten it: she is redefining feminism. In the New York Times, two liberal feminists exhibit more than a little anxiety over the Palin juggernaut. To put it bluntly, they have Palin envy:

In the 24 months since her appearance onstage in Dayton, Ohio, Ms. Palin has enthralled pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update, while provoking outrage and exasperation from the left. …

The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin’s ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

You betcha. You see, Palin has proved by example that a woman politician need not spout the pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-welfare-state line. “Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to ‘take back’ America with ‘common-sense’ solutions.” She sure did, and she proved herself to be the most effective female politician in the country. Sorry, Hillary — while you have been playing errand girl for the Obama foreign-policy train wreck, Palin has ascended to the throne. (Nancy Pelosi’s days are numbered.) The left is waving the white flag of surrender:

It’s easy of course, for liberals to laugh off Ms. Palin’s “you go, girl!” ethos and increasingly aggressive co-optation of feminist symbols. We progressives discount her references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle. …

If Sarah Palin and her acolytes successfully redefine what it means to be a groundbreaking political woman, it will be because progressives let it happen — and in doing so, ensured that when it comes to making history, there will be no one but Mama Grizzlies to do the job.

Wow.

And it’s really worse than the New York Times worriers admit. Palin not only trumped the left on style but she also managed to connect on nearly every issue — ObamaCare, bailouts, Israel, taxes, American exceptionalism, and the stimulus plan — in a way the president and his liberal supporters could not. For all of her supposed lack of “policy muscle,” it was she who defined the debate on ObamaCare and she who synced up with the Tea Party’s small-government, personal-responsibility, anti-tax-hike message. Who’s short on policy muscle — the White House or Palin? Does “engagement” of despots, Israel-bashing, and capitulation to Russia make for a meaty foreign-policy agenda? Go read a Palin foreign-policy address or two. Plenty of meat and common sense there.

But I give the Times gals credit — they know they are losing the battle to discredit Palin. Now they need to figure out what to do about it. They might start with examining whether their agenda has as much sell as hers.

She certainly has them on the run. At the National Mall rally on Saturday, Sarah Palin delivered an eloquent and moving tribute to servicemen and a nonpartisan call to restore — not transform — America. The complete text should be read in full. (If you are not moved to tears by the stories of three heroic military men, you have a heart of stone.)

I admit that I had some serious reservations about the Glenn Beck rally. To put it mildly, I’m no fan of Beck’s, and his rhetoric has given liberals plenty of fodder to paint the right as extreme and incendiary. But both he and certainly Palin conducted themselves well — sticking to general themes of faith and service. That the media could not find a single controversial statement is a tribute to the good judgment and restraint that was exercised.

Meanwhile, Palin clearly has the left in a tizzy. They have finally gotten it: she is redefining feminism. In the New York Times, two liberal feminists exhibit more than a little anxiety over the Palin juggernaut. To put it bluntly, they have Palin envy:

In the 24 months since her appearance onstage in Dayton, Ohio, Ms. Palin has enthralled pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update, while provoking outrage and exasperation from the left. …

The left should be outraged and exasperated by all this — but at their own failings as much as Ms. Palin’s ascension. Since the 2008 election, progressive leaders have done little to address the obvious national appetite for female leadership. And despite (or because of) their continuing obsession with Ms. Palin, they have done nothing to stop an anti-choice, pro-abstinence, socialist-bashing Tea Party enthusiast from becoming the 21st century symbol of American women in politics.

You betcha. You see, Palin has proved by example that a woman politician need not spout the pro-big government, pro-abortion, pro-welfare-state line. “Ms. Palin has spent much of 2010 burnishing her political bona fides and extending her influence by way of the Mama Grizzlies, a gang of Sarah- approved, maverick-y female politicians looking to ‘take back’ America with ‘common-sense’ solutions.” She sure did, and she proved herself to be the most effective female politician in the country. Sorry, Hillary — while you have been playing errand girl for the Obama foreign-policy train wreck, Palin has ascended to the throne. (Nancy Pelosi’s days are numbered.) The left is waving the white flag of surrender:

It’s easy of course, for liberals to laugh off Ms. Palin’s “you go, girl!” ethos and increasingly aggressive co-optation of feminist symbols. We progressives discount her references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle. …

If Sarah Palin and her acolytes successfully redefine what it means to be a groundbreaking political woman, it will be because progressives let it happen — and in doing so, ensured that when it comes to making history, there will be no one but Mama Grizzlies to do the job.

Wow.

And it’s really worse than the New York Times worriers admit. Palin not only trumped the left on style but she also managed to connect on nearly every issue — ObamaCare, bailouts, Israel, taxes, American exceptionalism, and the stimulus plan — in a way the president and his liberal supporters could not. For all of her supposed lack of “policy muscle,” it was she who defined the debate on ObamaCare and she who synced up with the Tea Party’s small-government, personal-responsibility, anti-tax-hike message. Who’s short on policy muscle — the White House or Palin? Does “engagement” of despots, Israel-bashing, and capitulation to Russia make for a meaty foreign-policy agenda? Go read a Palin foreign-policy address or two. Plenty of meat and common sense there.

But I give the Times gals credit — they know they are losing the battle to discredit Palin. Now they need to figure out what to do about it. They might start with examining whether their agenda has as much sell as hers.

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Let Me Clarify My Clarification of My Clear Remarks

Barack Obama’s clarification of his “let me be clear” statement on the Ground Zero mosque (and subsequent clarification of his clarification) is reminiscent of his 2008 “let me be clear” statement on Jerusalem — when he told 7,000 people at AIPAC that the city “must remain undivided” and then repeatedly clarified his “poor phrasing,” finally endorsing a divided Jerusalem while claiming he had not backtracked from his initial statement.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed to see this happening again. In both cases, Obama’s statements were prepared remarks on an important issue with foreign-policy implications, followed by retreats in the face of criticism, followed by denials that they were retreats, amid widespread recognition that they were, in fact, retreats. It was not an attractive quality in a candidate, and it is a dangerous one in a president.

Sarah Palin noted on her Facebook page that we “all know they have the right to do it [build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people], but should they?” She suggested the president endorse the New York governor’s offer of assistance for finding an alternative location. The New York Sun editorialized that she had made a practical proposal while speaking more forthrightly than the famously eloquent president, raising this question:

How did one of the most intellectual presidents in history, a constitutional law professor with a government-provided staff of legal experts and policy geniuses and an ability, rarely if ever matched, to speak in lofty tones, manage to get himself in a position where he will end up following the lead of an ex-governor who has been constantly set down by the left as but a one-time beauty queen without brains and who has been watching the whole fracas from a lake-side camp at Alaska?

Possibly one of them was overrated and the other underrated back in 2008, particularly in light of the respective offices for which they were running. It may have had something to do with a media organizing itself to push a misleading narrative. I want to go on record as supporting the constitutional right to build the Ground Zero mosque while clarifying that I do not necessarily mean it is a wise use of rights. Is there an award for courageous blogging?

Barack Obama’s clarification of his “let me be clear” statement on the Ground Zero mosque (and subsequent clarification of his clarification) is reminiscent of his 2008 “let me be clear” statement on Jerusalem — when he told 7,000 people at AIPAC that the city “must remain undivided” and then repeatedly clarified his “poor phrasing,” finally endorsing a divided Jerusalem while claiming he had not backtracked from his initial statement.

Students of foreign policy may be bemused and somewhat alarmed to see this happening again. In both cases, Obama’s statements were prepared remarks on an important issue with foreign-policy implications, followed by retreats in the face of criticism, followed by denials that they were retreats, amid widespread recognition that they were, in fact, retreats. It was not an attractive quality in a candidate, and it is a dangerous one in a president.

Sarah Palin noted on her Facebook page that we “all know they have the right to do it [build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3,000 people], but should they?” She suggested the president endorse the New York governor’s offer of assistance for finding an alternative location. The New York Sun editorialized that she had made a practical proposal while speaking more forthrightly than the famously eloquent president, raising this question:

How did one of the most intellectual presidents in history, a constitutional law professor with a government-provided staff of legal experts and policy geniuses and an ability, rarely if ever matched, to speak in lofty tones, manage to get himself in a position where he will end up following the lead of an ex-governor who has been constantly set down by the left as but a one-time beauty queen without brains and who has been watching the whole fracas from a lake-side camp at Alaska?

Possibly one of them was overrated and the other underrated back in 2008, particularly in light of the respective offices for which they were running. It may have had something to do with a media organizing itself to push a misleading narrative. I want to go on record as supporting the constitutional right to build the Ground Zero mosque while clarifying that I do not necessarily mean it is a wise use of rights. Is there an award for courageous blogging?

Read Less