Commentary Magazine


Topic: Thanksgiving

Turkey with a Side of Propaganda

In 2007, with the fall holidays approaching, the Star-Ledger published a guide on how to handle uninvited guests. Do you tell the guest to get lost? How do you moderate their inappropriate behavior without making a scene? How do you adjust seating arrangements? Fortunately, you aren’t always obligated to confront the uninvited guest directly if someone else is responsible for bringing them to the party. According to one “conflict” expert quoted by the paper: “You find a way of saying, ‘The person who showed up is a jerk, how did you meet this person?’ You deal with it indirectly.”

The question the article didn’t address, but which many Americans may soon be wondering, is: what if it’s the president of the United States? Or the mayor of New York City? Though you may not have invited Barack Obama or Michael Bloomberg to your family holiday gatherings, they would like to be a presence at your table nonetheless. The president’s intrusion into your private family gatherings is due to, of course, ObamaCare. The health-care reform law is not only still broadly unpopular, but due to its disastrous rollout it’s also not getting much help from the media.

I wrote earlier this week about the limits of the administration’s ObamaCare propaganda efforts, but its supporters are poised to get more creative–and obnoxious. A portion of the website BarackObama.com has been set aside for what it is calling “Health Care for the Holidays.” It begins with a typically unfunny (the administration’s famous lack of a sense of humor really hamstrings such efforts) video depicting parents having “the talk” with their wayward son.

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In 2007, with the fall holidays approaching, the Star-Ledger published a guide on how to handle uninvited guests. Do you tell the guest to get lost? How do you moderate their inappropriate behavior without making a scene? How do you adjust seating arrangements? Fortunately, you aren’t always obligated to confront the uninvited guest directly if someone else is responsible for bringing them to the party. According to one “conflict” expert quoted by the paper: “You find a way of saying, ‘The person who showed up is a jerk, how did you meet this person?’ You deal with it indirectly.”

The question the article didn’t address, but which many Americans may soon be wondering, is: what if it’s the president of the United States? Or the mayor of New York City? Though you may not have invited Barack Obama or Michael Bloomberg to your family holiday gatherings, they would like to be a presence at your table nonetheless. The president’s intrusion into your private family gatherings is due to, of course, ObamaCare. The health-care reform law is not only still broadly unpopular, but due to its disastrous rollout it’s also not getting much help from the media.

I wrote earlier this week about the limits of the administration’s ObamaCare propaganda efforts, but its supporters are poised to get more creative–and obnoxious. A portion of the website BarackObama.com has been set aside for what it is calling “Health Care for the Holidays.” It begins with a typically unfunny (the administration’s famous lack of a sense of humor really hamstrings such efforts) video depicting parents having “the talk” with their wayward son.

The talk is about health insurance. The son seems to be old enough to be off his parents’ insurance plans but young and healthy enough to be exactly the kind of insurance consumer ObamaCare desperately needs to succeed in order to subsidize others. The video runs above the following tagline:

This holiday season, millions of Americans have a chance to get quality, affordable health insurance—many for the first time. If you have family members who are uninsured, you can play a big part in helping them find coverage that works for them. It might not always seem like it, but your family listens to you. So have the talk.

That is followed by the four steps to having the talk. The first is “Send a packing list”–tell your relatives that if they want to come home for the holidays, they really ought to bring their latest W-2 IRS form. Step two is “Planning Your Health Care Talk,” including the exhortation to “Be persistent.” Don’t take no for an answer, because coming from the government that message is never creepy or coercive.

The third step is “Conversation Tips.” Here is how the website instructs you to badger your family members into submission:

Start by asking: “Have you thought about signing up for health insurance on the new marketplace?”

Offer to walk them through it: “Would you like to take some time with me to sign up right now?”

Ask them to make a plan, and commit to it: “When do you plan on signing up?”

Don’t forget to follow up: “Have you signed up yet?”

No pressure, of course. And the final step is for the state’s dedicated servant: “Pledge to have the talk,” written above a form for you–the distinguished ambassador from the Ministry of the Best Interests of the People–to fill out to promise to use your time with your family to read the government’s talking points to them.

Though he cannot match that mobilization of resources, Michael Bloomberg wants in on the action. If you’re already planning to hector your family about the virtues of the benevolent state’s brave new programs, you might as well go all-in. The Washington Examiner reports:

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the liberal gun control group bankrolled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has sent out gun control talking points for supporters as they approach their friends and relatives.

“Everyone has friends and relatives with strong opinions and shaky facts,” the email informs supporters. “You can help set the table straight — all you need is this simple guide to Talking Turkey about guns!”

If you really want to give your family a memorable holiday season, give the gift of government-programmed self-righteousness. They won’t forget it. Because you won’t let them.

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A Disappointing Jobs Report

The recession officially ended 17 months ago. But the economy added only a net of 39,000 jobs last month, when 100,000 jobs a month is needed just to keep pace with population growth.

Indeed, the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in October. That, counterintuitively, is probably a good sign, the result of more people, encouraged by their prospects, now actively looking for work. The number of people who are unemployed, have settled for a part-time job, or are discouraged and not currently looking for a job remained unchanged (at a dismal 17 million).

A particularly nasty surprise was the loss of 28,000 retail jobs, which most economists, responding to fairly good news about holiday sales, etc., expected to increase. But more and more of those sales are happening online, which is a much less labor-intensive means of selling goods. Online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving were up a whopping 20 percent from last year.

This, of course, is just more evidence that the on-rolling digital revolution is causing unemployment to recover from recession much more slowly than the economy as a whole. After each of the four recessions since 1980, the number of months needed to bring unemployment back down to normal levels has been longer. Unemployment has been above 9 percent now for 19 months (all but two of them post-recession). That’s the longest period of such elevated unemployment since World War II.

I confess to being a hopeless sucker for interactive charts, and the Wall Street Journal has a cool one that tracks unemployment month by month since 1948.

The recession officially ended 17 months ago. But the economy added only a net of 39,000 jobs last month, when 100,000 jobs a month is needed just to keep pace with population growth.

Indeed, the unemployment rate ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in October. That, counterintuitively, is probably a good sign, the result of more people, encouraged by their prospects, now actively looking for work. The number of people who are unemployed, have settled for a part-time job, or are discouraged and not currently looking for a job remained unchanged (at a dismal 17 million).

A particularly nasty surprise was the loss of 28,000 retail jobs, which most economists, responding to fairly good news about holiday sales, etc., expected to increase. But more and more of those sales are happening online, which is a much less labor-intensive means of selling goods. Online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving were up a whopping 20 percent from last year.

This, of course, is just more evidence that the on-rolling digital revolution is causing unemployment to recover from recession much more slowly than the economy as a whole. After each of the four recessions since 1980, the number of months needed to bring unemployment back down to normal levels has been longer. Unemployment has been above 9 percent now for 19 months (all but two of them post-recession). That’s the longest period of such elevated unemployment since World War II.

I confess to being a hopeless sucker for interactive charts, and the Wall Street Journal has a cool one that tracks unemployment month by month since 1948.

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RE: So How’s the Bribe-a-thon Going?

Not all that well. For starters George Mitchell isn’t even in the region. I wondered why and e-mailed State Department spokesman PJ Crowley. He replied: “His deputy, David Hale, was in the region last week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We maintain continual contact with the parties and are prepared to send George or others to the region if and when needed. We have no announcements to make about travel at this moment.”

An experienced Israel hand translates: “He isn’t there this week because nothing’s happening, we’re stuck, there’s an impasse, and he doesn’t want yet again to travel and achieve nothing. So until there’s some breakthrough, he’s sitting it out.” You’d think this would be simple, no? Write up the bribe list settlement-freeze deal and hand it to Bibi to present to the cabinet. But wait, maybe asking for it in writing was the single most effective bit of diplomacy Bibi could muster. If the deal for the planes, for example, is conditioned or the administration really won’t exclude East Jerusalem from the freeze deal, then there is little chance the cabinet would approve it. And once again, the administration would be trapped by the gap between its private actions and its public comments. The administration is hemorrhaging credibility on multiple fronts. This won’t help. And as long as Mitchell stays home, you know the Obama team is “stuck.”

Not all that well. For starters George Mitchell isn’t even in the region. I wondered why and e-mailed State Department spokesman PJ Crowley. He replied: “His deputy, David Hale, was in the region last week prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We maintain continual contact with the parties and are prepared to send George or others to the region if and when needed. We have no announcements to make about travel at this moment.”

An experienced Israel hand translates: “He isn’t there this week because nothing’s happening, we’re stuck, there’s an impasse, and he doesn’t want yet again to travel and achieve nothing. So until there’s some breakthrough, he’s sitting it out.” You’d think this would be simple, no? Write up the bribe list settlement-freeze deal and hand it to Bibi to present to the cabinet. But wait, maybe asking for it in writing was the single most effective bit of diplomacy Bibi could muster. If the deal for the planes, for example, is conditioned or the administration really won’t exclude East Jerusalem from the freeze deal, then there is little chance the cabinet would approve it. And once again, the administration would be trapped by the gap between its private actions and its public comments. The administration is hemorrhaging credibility on multiple fronts. This won’t help. And as long as Mitchell stays home, you know the Obama team is “stuck.”

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Korea at Thanksgiving

Most veterans have spent a Thanksgiving on duty. Many have spent Thanksgiving overseas. Some — a growing number — have spent it on alert or in combat. Veterans the world over know what the troops in South Korea said to each other on Tuesday, when North Korea started shooting: “Well, there goes Thanksgiving.”

The timing is uncanny. On November 24, 1950, a month after the discovery of Chinese troops in the war, General Douglas MacArthur launched what became known as the “Home by Christmas” offensive with the U.S. Eighth Army and South Korean II Corps along the Ch’ongch’on River, deep in North Korea. In the previous months, U.S. forces had landed at Inchon and, with other coalition troops, recaptured Seoul. There had been some contact with the Chinese army in November, but the assessment was that the Chinese intended to demonstrate force and then withdraw across their border. MacArthur didn’t expect the fierce resistance his forces would encounter, nor was there any hint of it on the first day of the offensive. The Eighth Army troops had put together a Thanksgiving feast on November 23, and spirits were high.

Much of the battle lore of the Korean conflict comes from the bloody campaign that followed. It dragged into December and saw the fighting retreat of the Eighth Army and South Korean II Corps through North Korea, at the onset of the coldest winter in 100 years. U.S. troops were unprepared for the nights in which temperatures dropped to -30 degrees F. The carnage was punctuated by the slaughter of coalition troops in the “Gauntlet”: the valley through which ran the road to Sunchon. The Eighth Army lost more than 11,000 soldiers in the offensive, but an exact count could never be established. Records had been lost, and whole units destroyed, in the retreat.

On Thanksgiving Day 60 years later, I am thankful that America and South Korea came back from that retreat to fight again. There is a poignant oddity in a 57-year armistice; there are many things to say about failed policies, shaky political nerves, and wrong priorities. But as Kim Jong-il fires an artillery barrage at the South and issues hysterical threats, I am thankful that South Korea today is free, well-armed, and intensively drilled. I am thankful that we have 28,000 troops in South Korea, and plenty of Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps forces in Japan. These factors alone are Kim’s biggest deterrent. He knows they will perform well even if there is ambiguity in the policy governing their operations.

It’s Thanksgiving in Korea again, and our forces there are on alert. They are a dedicated volunteer force; they believe in their mission and purpose. They will keep faith with those who fought before them — and with all those who have missed many a Thanksgiving standing watch over American security in the years since the “Home for Christmas” campaign of 1950.

Most veterans have spent a Thanksgiving on duty. Many have spent Thanksgiving overseas. Some — a growing number — have spent it on alert or in combat. Veterans the world over know what the troops in South Korea said to each other on Tuesday, when North Korea started shooting: “Well, there goes Thanksgiving.”

The timing is uncanny. On November 24, 1950, a month after the discovery of Chinese troops in the war, General Douglas MacArthur launched what became known as the “Home by Christmas” offensive with the U.S. Eighth Army and South Korean II Corps along the Ch’ongch’on River, deep in North Korea. In the previous months, U.S. forces had landed at Inchon and, with other coalition troops, recaptured Seoul. There had been some contact with the Chinese army in November, but the assessment was that the Chinese intended to demonstrate force and then withdraw across their border. MacArthur didn’t expect the fierce resistance his forces would encounter, nor was there any hint of it on the first day of the offensive. The Eighth Army troops had put together a Thanksgiving feast on November 23, and spirits were high.

Much of the battle lore of the Korean conflict comes from the bloody campaign that followed. It dragged into December and saw the fighting retreat of the Eighth Army and South Korean II Corps through North Korea, at the onset of the coldest winter in 100 years. U.S. troops were unprepared for the nights in which temperatures dropped to -30 degrees F. The carnage was punctuated by the slaughter of coalition troops in the “Gauntlet”: the valley through which ran the road to Sunchon. The Eighth Army lost more than 11,000 soldiers in the offensive, but an exact count could never be established. Records had been lost, and whole units destroyed, in the retreat.

On Thanksgiving Day 60 years later, I am thankful that America and South Korea came back from that retreat to fight again. There is a poignant oddity in a 57-year armistice; there are many things to say about failed policies, shaky political nerves, and wrong priorities. But as Kim Jong-il fires an artillery barrage at the South and issues hysterical threats, I am thankful that South Korea today is free, well-armed, and intensively drilled. I am thankful that we have 28,000 troops in South Korea, and plenty of Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps forces in Japan. These factors alone are Kim’s biggest deterrent. He knows they will perform well even if there is ambiguity in the policy governing their operations.

It’s Thanksgiving in Korea again, and our forces there are on alert. They are a dedicated volunteer force; they believe in their mission and purpose. They will keep faith with those who fought before them — and with all those who have missed many a Thanksgiving standing watch over American security in the years since the “Home for Christmas” campaign of 1950.

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The Wondrous Comedy Stylings of Rabbi Michael Lerner

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

I must confess I get a thrill up my leg when I see I’ve received an e-mail from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun magazine, because I know I’m about to have a really good laugh. Today’s e-mail is a Thanksgiving missive:

No matter how difficult it may be in a world filled with pain and cruelty, there are moments when it is important to stop looking at all the problems and focus on all the good. And that’s part of what Thanksgiving could be about for you this year. Life is so amazing, and our universe so awesome, filled with realities that transcend our capacity to comprehend, and inviting us to awe and wonder and radical amazement! Give yourself and your friends a day dedicated to truly feeling those kinds of feelings!!!! …

It might start with a group of friends or family taking a walk to visit some part of nature that they really love. … It might continue with each family member, guest, or friend being asked to bring something (a book, a poem, a video, a movie, a song, a musical instrument to play some music, a cd or dvd) that they believe will give you an experience for which you are grateful. …

Then, you might consider asking each person to share something that they particularly appreciate in another person who is there at the
gathering. Or to tell about some other person who has been a special teacher, friend, or care-giver to you during the past year. Even if you are only a guest at someone else’s celebration, you can initiate or at least suggest this to the people you meet there! To prepare, you might even make a list of the things you are truly grateful for in your life before you go to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving. …

So at this point you’re probably wondering, what’s the joke? Ah, it’s all in the set-up, you see. Because here’s the punchline:

I think you will find that when you’ve followed some of these steps preparatory to the meal, that you can then turn the conversation to talk about the absurdity of the War in Afghanistan and the misguided nature of the War on Terror. … Or talk about the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East and the need for a progressive Middle Path which is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine, and refuses to play the “blame game” of which side is “really bad” and which side is “really good” but instead recognizes that both sides have co-created this mess. You might even want to discuss the misguided move by the US to offer military incentives to Israel to restart negotiations. … For all the “realists” at your table ask them how well they think things turned out for Obama and the Democrats these past two years by following the “realistic” path in D.C. rather than fighting for a more progressive or visionary alternative.

Yes, greet Thanksgiving with wonder and amazement by attacking the U.S. and Israel, and then attack people at your Thanksgiving table for having the temerity to think or have thought otherwise!!!! (Those four exclamation points courtesy of Rabbi Michael Lerner, who loves exclamation points almost as much as he likes to draw analogues between Israel and Nazi Germany!!!!)!!!!

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Strange Herring*

Social Security will take in less than it pays out this year, requests that more Americans die by October 31, please.

ObamaCare promises to stave off mutant plague. So we’ve got that going for us…

Oliver Stone’s celebration of left-wing fascist is a go in U.S. Will be in only 1D, as Chavez had other 2D shot. (H/T Big Hollywood)

“Most Influential Books” meme yields 24,000 votes for Everybody Poops.

Only 24% of Republicans think Obama is the Anti-Christ. Give it time.

Chinese mothers to be launched into space, initiating whole new era in family planning.

Radio’s decline may be slowing. Finally gaining traction against “that moving-picture box.”

If you can’t read this, it must be Earth Day.

Russian math genius turns down $1M prize for solving brainiac puzzler. Someone finally explains to him that the “M” does not stand for “Mallomars.”

California may legalize pot. Voters convinced only “drug-induced haze” holds hope for brighter economic future.

Prince Philip, who once asked some indigenous Australian businessmen if they still threw spears at each other, is worshiped as a godling on the island of Vanuatu. Man, some people get all the gigs …

DNA from ancient finger reveals new “hominid ancestor.” Great. One more deadbeat relative to pick up at the train this Thanksgiving. And exactly which finger was it, by the way?

British man hooks up flamethrower to his scooter. (They’ve just never been the same since Suez…)

Germans provide cover for terrorists. U.S. considers designating them “Scientologists” to gain cooperation from Berlin.

Bank robbers place order ahead of time, fear slow service will delay their arrival at Moron Convention.

Steve Jobs finally answers his e-mail. Learns the “Lisa” was a bust.

High-fructose corn syrup worse than heroin if weight loss is what you’re going for.

First Jeremy Piven, now Abraham Lincoln. Enough with the sushi.

* Derived from a 16th-century tract entitled A Most Strange and Wonderful Herring Taken Neere Drenton by Jan van Doetecum. It seems that freak members of the family Clupidae were interpreted as portents of the End of All Things.

Social Security will take in less than it pays out this year, requests that more Americans die by October 31, please.

ObamaCare promises to stave off mutant plague. So we’ve got that going for us…

Oliver Stone’s celebration of left-wing fascist is a go in U.S. Will be in only 1D, as Chavez had other 2D shot. (H/T Big Hollywood)

“Most Influential Books” meme yields 24,000 votes for Everybody Poops.

Only 24% of Republicans think Obama is the Anti-Christ. Give it time.

Chinese mothers to be launched into space, initiating whole new era in family planning.

Radio’s decline may be slowing. Finally gaining traction against “that moving-picture box.”

If you can’t read this, it must be Earth Day.

Russian math genius turns down $1M prize for solving brainiac puzzler. Someone finally explains to him that the “M” does not stand for “Mallomars.”

California may legalize pot. Voters convinced only “drug-induced haze” holds hope for brighter economic future.

Prince Philip, who once asked some indigenous Australian businessmen if they still threw spears at each other, is worshiped as a godling on the island of Vanuatu. Man, some people get all the gigs …

DNA from ancient finger reveals new “hominid ancestor.” Great. One more deadbeat relative to pick up at the train this Thanksgiving. And exactly which finger was it, by the way?

British man hooks up flamethrower to his scooter. (They’ve just never been the same since Suez…)

Germans provide cover for terrorists. U.S. considers designating them “Scientologists” to gain cooperation from Berlin.

Bank robbers place order ahead of time, fear slow service will delay their arrival at Moron Convention.

Steve Jobs finally answers his e-mail. Learns the “Lisa” was a bust.

High-fructose corn syrup worse than heroin if weight loss is what you’re going for.

First Jeremy Piven, now Abraham Lincoln. Enough with the sushi.

* Derived from a 16th-century tract entitled A Most Strange and Wonderful Herring Taken Neere Drenton by Jan van Doetecum. It seems that freak members of the family Clupidae were interpreted as portents of the End of All Things.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.'” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

What a difference less than a year of one-party liberal rule makes: “Republicans can take a bit of satisfaction from a new survey by Democracy Corps. … The survey found that voters now say, by a three-point margin (45% to 42%), that Republicans would do a better job on the economy than Democrats. That’s a change from the 16-point lead Democrats had in May on the question of managing the economy, and marks the first time since 2002 that Republicans have had a lead on the issue in Democracy Corps polling.”

The Afghans, I think, have reason to worry: “Afghan officials hope President Barack Obama’s address on Afghanistan won’t be weighted too heavily on an exit strategy — even though that’s the message many Americans and Democrats in Congress want to hear. If he talks extensively in his speech Tuesday night about winding down the war, Afghans fear the Taliban will simply bide their time until the Americans abandon the country much as Washington did after the Soviets left 20 years ago.”

The latest on radical jihadism at a taxpayer-supported college: “Siraj Wahhaj, a radical Muslim cleric who authorities in 1995 identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was last week invited to Queens College to speak on the subject ‘How Islam Perfected Thanksgiving.’ Wahhaj testified in 1996 for convicted terror plotter Omar Abdel Rahman, who was charged with attempting to bomb New York’s Lincoln Tunnel and the United Nations.” He was invited by the Muslim Student Association, a member of which was reported to have declared after the showing of a radical Muslim film: ‘If I had enough money I would be part of the jihad army, I would kill all the Jews.’ … Another spoke of getting a ‘bomb.'” Read the whole outrageous account.

The CBO’s latest: “Individual insurance premiums would increase by an average of 10 percent or more, according to an analysis of the Senate healthcare bill. The long-awaited report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) also concluded that subsidies provided by the legislation would make coverage cheaper for those who qualify.” And more expensive for everyone else.

The epidemic of BRIs (Bagel Related Injuries): “In 2008, according to an analysis of fingers cut by knives as reported in the government’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 1,979 people appeared in ERs with a BRI. Chicken-related injuries (3,463) led the category, but recorded bagel injuries were otherwise exceeded only by potato, apple and onion injuries. Bagels, in fact, were implicated in more finger cuts than pumpkins (1,195) or cheese (1,236). … (Of course, many BRI victims skip ERs and go to urgent-care offices. Or they stay home and eat breakfast anyway.)”

Jeffrey Goldberg acknowledges that in objecting to building in Gilo, within Jerusalem, Obama “doesn’t seem to understand that all settlements are not created equal. Palestinian negotiators have fairly consistently recognized that Gilo, a Jerusalem suburb built over the 1967 Green Line, but south, not east, of the city, would remain inside Israel in a final-status peace deal.” What’s worse is Obama’ justifying, or at the very least predicting, Palestinian violence. (“Obama’s statement reads almost as a kind of preemptive rationalization for violent Palestinian protest.”) Is there anyone who thinks the Obami haven’t made the Middle East “peace process” worse?

Not so fast: “Senators may have agreed to have the debate; but the parameters of the debate have not been set. The leaders have to agree on which amendments to consider when. The first two amendments were formally introduced Monday afternoon, but when votes will occur remains unclear.” One of those is an amendment by Sen. John McCain to strip out the Democrats’ draconian Medicare cuts: “Stripping the Medicare cost savings (cuts) would essentially kill the bill and send it back to committee.” Because the bill, you see, depends on hundreds of billions being slashed from Medicare. So don’t expect a vote too soon.

Well, he did say he was leaning against running: “The conservative blogosphere unleashed a torrent of criticism against Mike Huckabee Monday after a man whose sentence he commuted as Arkansas governor was suspected of gunning down four police officers in Washington state over the weekend.”

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Happy Thanksgiving…

…to you and yours from all of us here at COMMENTARY. Posting will be on the light side this weekend.

…to you and yours from all of us here at COMMENTARY. Posting will be on the light side this weekend.

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A New York Times Embarrassment That’s Not on the Front Page

One of the movie critics of the New York Times is named Manohla Dargis. She is … well, let’s just say she is already responsible for the most pretentious movie review ever published in a mainstream forum, and that’s saying a lot. But that was three years ago. What has she done for us lately? Today, she reviews the new Disney cartoon called The Princess and the Frog, and while I can’t say Dargis has outdone herself, she has set a 21st century standard for political correctness that will be hard to top.

I’ve seen The Princess and the Frog; it’s a wondrous piece of work (my review of it will appear in the Weekly Standard next week and on its website beginning on Saturday). Dargis doesn’t agree, which is her prerogative. (My wife didn’t either, by the way.) But note how she begins her review (Dargis, not my wife):

It’s not easy being green, the heroine of “The Princess and the Frog” discovers. But to judge from how this polished, hand-drawn movie addresses, or rather strenuously avoids, race, it is a lot more difficult to be black, particularly in a Disney animated feature. If you haven’t heard: Disney, the company that immortalized pale pretties like Snow White and the zip-a-dee-doo-dah of plantation living in “Song of the South,” has made a fairy tale about a black heroine, a character whose shoulders and story prove far too slight for all the hopes already weighing her down.

Are you getting this? Disney’s new cartoon “strenuously avoids race.” This is a bouncy fairy tale for children, with the first black heroine in the history of animated film — an admirable, hard-working girl, a kind of self-imposed Cinderella who needs to learn to cut a rug a little. Moreover, the heroine has her problems with race, thank you very much; two white bankers patronize her and tell her that a person of “her background” shouldn’t aim so high. This is exactly how a film of this sort should introduce these questions, with subtlety and tact, in a way that will allow children to ask questions rather than drilling the answers into them in a way that kills the magic of the story.

Has Dargis ever actually met a child?

It is, for Dargis, an especial shame, this refusal in a New Orleans version of “The Frog Prince” not to engage on the subject of race as she would wish the matter engaged, considering that Disney made Song of the South 63 years ago, in 1946, when the people who now run Disney were — how should I put this — not yet women’s rights to choose in their mother’s wombs.

The movie is not only improperly Dargisian on race, but also on feminist matters. “The prince, disappointingly if not surprisingly, becomes not only [the girl’s] salvation but also that of the movie…” This is actually an inaccurate depiction of the movie’s plot and the impression it leaves on the viewer, but never mind that. The film is a fairy tale about a girl, a prince, a kiss, and a frog. The reward for the girl in all such stories is the ascent to royalty, and in this movie, that reward is more cleverly rendered than in any previous Disney film.

It’s a princess movie. Has Dargis never met a little girl?

And is there no such thing as an editor at the New York Times who might read such an offering and respond with a simple, declarative, and profound three-word riposte: “Lighten up, Francis”? I bet it’s one fun Thanksgiving meal over at the Dargises. Somehow, I doubt there’s turkey.

One of the movie critics of the New York Times is named Manohla Dargis. She is … well, let’s just say she is already responsible for the most pretentious movie review ever published in a mainstream forum, and that’s saying a lot. But that was three years ago. What has she done for us lately? Today, she reviews the new Disney cartoon called The Princess and the Frog, and while I can’t say Dargis has outdone herself, she has set a 21st century standard for political correctness that will be hard to top.

I’ve seen The Princess and the Frog; it’s a wondrous piece of work (my review of it will appear in the Weekly Standard next week and on its website beginning on Saturday). Dargis doesn’t agree, which is her prerogative. (My wife didn’t either, by the way.) But note how she begins her review (Dargis, not my wife):

It’s not easy being green, the heroine of “The Princess and the Frog” discovers. But to judge from how this polished, hand-drawn movie addresses, or rather strenuously avoids, race, it is a lot more difficult to be black, particularly in a Disney animated feature. If you haven’t heard: Disney, the company that immortalized pale pretties like Snow White and the zip-a-dee-doo-dah of plantation living in “Song of the South,” has made a fairy tale about a black heroine, a character whose shoulders and story prove far too slight for all the hopes already weighing her down.

Are you getting this? Disney’s new cartoon “strenuously avoids race.” This is a bouncy fairy tale for children, with the first black heroine in the history of animated film — an admirable, hard-working girl, a kind of self-imposed Cinderella who needs to learn to cut a rug a little. Moreover, the heroine has her problems with race, thank you very much; two white bankers patronize her and tell her that a person of “her background” shouldn’t aim so high. This is exactly how a film of this sort should introduce these questions, with subtlety and tact, in a way that will allow children to ask questions rather than drilling the answers into them in a way that kills the magic of the story.

Has Dargis ever actually met a child?

It is, for Dargis, an especial shame, this refusal in a New Orleans version of “The Frog Prince” not to engage on the subject of race as she would wish the matter engaged, considering that Disney made Song of the South 63 years ago, in 1946, when the people who now run Disney were — how should I put this — not yet women’s rights to choose in their mother’s wombs.

The movie is not only improperly Dargisian on race, but also on feminist matters. “The prince, disappointingly if not surprisingly, becomes not only [the girl’s] salvation but also that of the movie…” This is actually an inaccurate depiction of the movie’s plot and the impression it leaves on the viewer, but never mind that. The film is a fairy tale about a girl, a prince, a kiss, and a frog. The reward for the girl in all such stories is the ascent to royalty, and in this movie, that reward is more cleverly rendered than in any previous Disney film.

It’s a princess movie. Has Dargis never met a little girl?

And is there no such thing as an editor at the New York Times who might read such an offering and respond with a simple, declarative, and profound three-word riposte: “Lighten up, Francis”? I bet it’s one fun Thanksgiving meal over at the Dargises. Somehow, I doubt there’s turkey.

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The End of the Beginning

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

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The Endless Seminar

Michael Gerson writes:

In the beginning, the Obama administration directed a spotlight toward its careful, thoughtful decision-making process on Afghanistan. National security meetings were announced, photographed and highlighted in background briefings to the media. President Obama would apply the methods of the academy to the art of war — the University of Chicago meets West Point — thus assuring a skittish public that deliberation had preceded decision.

Now the president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are desperately trying to jerk the spotlight away from a dysfunctional Afghan decision-making process in which chaos has preceded choice, complicating every possible outcome.

The president supposes he has endless time to meander through the reading list, consult with some visiting gurus, and send research assistants back for more data. He operates without regard to the real world — the troops in the field, his plummeting poll numbers, and the growing skittishness in his own party. Ironic, isn’t it, that he and his netroot cohorts loved to portray George W. Bush as impervious to and sealed off from the real world. Bush of course managed to wade through the Pentagon double-talk, fire the right people, hire better people, and turn the war in Iraq around. Obama? He’s still in blissful isolation, now at least until Thanksgiving, we are told.

It’s unnerving, to say the least, to observe a White House so entralled by its own process (or in thrall to it?) that it would delay implementation of a new war strategy and imperil the president’s own standing as commander in chief. Obama may be angry about the leaks, but he has only himself to blame.

Michael Gerson writes:

In the beginning, the Obama administration directed a spotlight toward its careful, thoughtful decision-making process on Afghanistan. National security meetings were announced, photographed and highlighted in background briefings to the media. President Obama would apply the methods of the academy to the art of war — the University of Chicago meets West Point — thus assuring a skittish public that deliberation had preceded decision.

Now the president and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are desperately trying to jerk the spotlight away from a dysfunctional Afghan decision-making process in which chaos has preceded choice, complicating every possible outcome.

The president supposes he has endless time to meander through the reading list, consult with some visiting gurus, and send research assistants back for more data. He operates without regard to the real world — the troops in the field, his plummeting poll numbers, and the growing skittishness in his own party. Ironic, isn’t it, that he and his netroot cohorts loved to portray George W. Bush as impervious to and sealed off from the real world. Bush of course managed to wade through the Pentagon double-talk, fire the right people, hire better people, and turn the war in Iraq around. Obama? He’s still in blissful isolation, now at least until Thanksgiving, we are told.

It’s unnerving, to say the least, to observe a White House so entralled by its own process (or in thrall to it?) that it would delay implementation of a new war strategy and imperil the president’s own standing as commander in chief. Obama may be angry about the leaks, but he has only himself to blame.

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“Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

Read More

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the “elimination” of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant “Death to Israel, Death to America!” That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that “the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.” And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.

The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.

That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel’s founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world’s great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved — a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today’s oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists’ vision and the injustice of their cause.

Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn’t mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.

This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America’s closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.

Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.

Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel’s independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar — the key to the Zion Gate — and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, “Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day.” Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: “I accept this key in the name of my people.”

Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless.

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Today’s Yeshiva Massacre in Jerusalem

In case you hadn’t heard, there has just been a terror attack in Jerusalem: a gunman infiltrated a yeshiva and opened fire on a crowd of teenagers in the dining hall:

Witnesses said that only one terrorist had entered the building and that he managed to fire 500-600 bullets over the course of 10 minutes before he was killed.

It is unclear at the moment which of the myriad Palestinian terror groups perpetrated the attack, but Hamas thought it would be a good idea to get its two cents into the news coverage post-haste:

“We bless the (Jerusalem) operation. It will not be the last,” Hamas said in a statement.

It is safe to say in this regard that many Gazans share Hamas’ sense of good fortune:

Gaza’s streets filled with joyous crowds of thousands on Thursday evening following the terror attack at a Jerusalem rabbinical seminary in which eight people were killed. In mosques in Gaza City and northern Gaza, many residents went to perform the prayers of thanksgiving. Armed men fired in the air in celebration and others passed out sweets to passersby.

Note that this is the terror group, implacably devoted to bloodshed and murder, that a number of American foreign policy elites have been lecturing the Bush administration and the Olmert government to “diplomatically engage.”

And now we have Mahmoud Abbas making his Arafat-esque perfunctory denunciation:

“President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of many Israelis and he reiterated his condemnation of all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis,” said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.

Abbas is a man in the habit of condemning specific acts of terrorism, but honoring and celebrating terrorism and terrorists generally–especially in Arabic. When George Habash died — the founder of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and an unapologetic celebrator of savagery against Jews — Abbas ordered the PA’s flags to half-mast for three days. Abbas’s state-run television station shows maps of “Palestine” with Israel eradicated, and he refers in speeches intended for domestic consumption to the glories of martyrdom. Abu Mazen has a long way to go before rivaling his predecessor in this kind of doublespeak, but he is certainly headed in the right direction.

In case you hadn’t heard, there has just been a terror attack in Jerusalem: a gunman infiltrated a yeshiva and opened fire on a crowd of teenagers in the dining hall:

Witnesses said that only one terrorist had entered the building and that he managed to fire 500-600 bullets over the course of 10 minutes before he was killed.

It is unclear at the moment which of the myriad Palestinian terror groups perpetrated the attack, but Hamas thought it would be a good idea to get its two cents into the news coverage post-haste:

“We bless the (Jerusalem) operation. It will not be the last,” Hamas said in a statement.

It is safe to say in this regard that many Gazans share Hamas’ sense of good fortune:

Gaza’s streets filled with joyous crowds of thousands on Thursday evening following the terror attack at a Jerusalem rabbinical seminary in which eight people were killed. In mosques in Gaza City and northern Gaza, many residents went to perform the prayers of thanksgiving. Armed men fired in the air in celebration and others passed out sweets to passersby.

Note that this is the terror group, implacably devoted to bloodshed and murder, that a number of American foreign policy elites have been lecturing the Bush administration and the Olmert government to “diplomatically engage.”

And now we have Mahmoud Abbas making his Arafat-esque perfunctory denunciation:

“President Mahmoud Abbas condemns the attack in Jerusalem that claimed the lives of many Israelis and he reiterated his condemnation of all attacks that target civilians, whether they are Palestinians or Israelis,” said Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.

Abbas is a man in the habit of condemning specific acts of terrorism, but honoring and celebrating terrorism and terrorists generally–especially in Arabic. When George Habash died — the founder of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and an unapologetic celebrator of savagery against Jews — Abbas ordered the PA’s flags to half-mast for three days. Abbas’s state-run television station shows maps of “Palestine” with Israel eradicated, and he refers in speeches intended for domestic consumption to the glories of martyrdom. Abu Mazen has a long way to go before rivaling his predecessor in this kind of doublespeak, but he is certainly headed in the right direction.

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Stemming the Tide

In today’s Guardian, we read:

The number of foreign jihadists entering Iraq has fallen by nearly half in recent months as a result of tougher action by the country’s neighbors and the rejection of the “al Qaeda brand” by ordinary Iraqis, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said yesterday. General David Petraeus told the Guardian in an interview that attacks in Iraq had fallen to levels not seen since early 2005, and that “ethno-sectarian violence” which had “surged off the charts” following the bombing of the Samara mosque in February 2006 had now “fallen dramatically.” “There is still a lot of hard work to be done,” Petraeus added by way of caution. Despite the damage inflicted on al Qaeda in Iraq, he said the group remained “a dangerous enemy.”

The sharp drop in foreign jihadists entering Iraq is one more data point to add to the progress we’ve seen in 2007, including a dramatic decrease in American combat casualties, Iraqi civilian casualties, suicide bombings, and roadside bombings; the increase in local population support for our efforts; the tremendous body blows al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has absorbed; the “Anbar Awakening” and the widespread rejection of bin Ladenism we are seeing among Sunni Iraqis; Shia in Baghdad turning against Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; the continuation of “bottom up” reconciliation efforts and the distribution of oil revenues (even absent laws mandating it); and early signs that the huge refugee flow out of Iraq has begun to reverse itself.

In light of this, it’s important to underscore two things. The first is that General Petraeus is surely right to say that there is still a lot of hard work to do in Iraq. Progress that’s been made can be stalled or even reversed. There are ebbs and flows to war—and in Iraq we have seen things change dramatically for the worse and change dramatically for the better. Those of us who have supported the surge, then, need to heed his counsel when he says, as he did to the New York Times

Nobody says anything about turning corners, seeing lights at the ends of tunnels, any of those phrases. And I think when you’ve been doing this as long as some of us have, you just keep your head down and keep moving.

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In today’s Guardian, we read:

The number of foreign jihadists entering Iraq has fallen by nearly half in recent months as a result of tougher action by the country’s neighbors and the rejection of the “al Qaeda brand” by ordinary Iraqis, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said yesterday. General David Petraeus told the Guardian in an interview that attacks in Iraq had fallen to levels not seen since early 2005, and that “ethno-sectarian violence” which had “surged off the charts” following the bombing of the Samara mosque in February 2006 had now “fallen dramatically.” “There is still a lot of hard work to be done,” Petraeus added by way of caution. Despite the damage inflicted on al Qaeda in Iraq, he said the group remained “a dangerous enemy.”

The sharp drop in foreign jihadists entering Iraq is one more data point to add to the progress we’ve seen in 2007, including a dramatic decrease in American combat casualties, Iraqi civilian casualties, suicide bombings, and roadside bombings; the increase in local population support for our efforts; the tremendous body blows al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has absorbed; the “Anbar Awakening” and the widespread rejection of bin Ladenism we are seeing among Sunni Iraqis; Shia in Baghdad turning against Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army; the continuation of “bottom up” reconciliation efforts and the distribution of oil revenues (even absent laws mandating it); and early signs that the huge refugee flow out of Iraq has begun to reverse itself.

In light of this, it’s important to underscore two things. The first is that General Petraeus is surely right to say that there is still a lot of hard work to do in Iraq. Progress that’s been made can be stalled or even reversed. There are ebbs and flows to war—and in Iraq we have seen things change dramatically for the worse and change dramatically for the better. Those of us who have supported the surge, then, need to heed his counsel when he says, as he did to the New York Times

Nobody says anything about turning corners, seeing lights at the ends of tunnels, any of those phrases. And I think when you’ve been doing this as long as some of us have, you just keep your head down and keep moving.

Iraq remains a fragile, traumatized, and in many respects a broken country. It is nowhere near where it needs to be. And the central government still needs to do more, much more, to advance political reconciliation. But across the board, repairs are being made. We should therefore take sober satisfaction for what General Petraeus, the American military, and the people of Iraq have achieved this year and continue building on it. We have, at long last, a formula for long-term success.

At the same time, leaders of the Democratic Party continue to act in a deeply irresponsible and politically reckless way. Earlier this week, for example, we read this on the Politico blog:

Democrats are increasingly bailing on their previously held view that the troop surge in Iraq has been a “failure,” but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t ready to jump on the bandwagon with other Democrats who say the surge has worked. The Senate re-opened for business on Monday after a two-week Thanksgiving break, during which key Democrats traveled to Iraq and declared that the surge is working, at least from a security and military perspective. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), one the top war critics, stunned fellow Democrats late last week with his statement that “the surge is working,” even though he added that political reconciliation has been lagging. Murtha’s view was backed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who also said the surge worked after he returned from Iraq. But Reid, in a Monday press conference, ceded no ground. “The surge hasn’t accomplished its goals,” Reid said. ” . . . We are involved, still, in an intractable civil war.”

So despite the extraordinary progress we’ve seen this year in Iraq, Majority Leader Reid still wants to deny it, in order to force a change in strategy that would have catastrophic consequences. More and more people, even in his own party, see how destructive, and self-destructive, this would be.

Soon Harry Reid may be standing alone.

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It Was Not A Misunderstanding

Last Wednesday, a White House spokesman said that the Chinese foreign minister had told President Bush it was all a “misunderstanding.” But according to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, the Chinese are saying that their foreign minister “did not tell President Bush on Wednesday that blocking the Thanksgiving Day port visit to Hong Kong by aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was the result of a misunderstanding.”

The incident followed Beijing’s refusal, a few days earlier, to permit two American minesweeping ships permission to take refuge in Hong Kong harbor from a storm.

Whether these incident were misunderstandings or not, the most disconcerting aspect of this affair is not Chinese behavior, which is becoming predictable in its unpredictability, but our government’s puzzled response.

“I’m aware of no hiccups at all in our efforts to increase military-to-military cooperation, exchanges with the Chinese,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell. “I think that’s why this incident is so baffling to us, because there was no indication at all prior to the Kitty Hawk being refused entry to the port of Hong Kong that there was any reason or any cause for concern.”

Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, says the Kitty Hawk incident “is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country that understands its obligations as a responsible nation.” True enough.

But why did Admiral Keating have to go on to say that the incidents are “perplexing”?

Why did he have to say “We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to work our way around some of these aggravations”?

Why did he have to say (in remarks summarized in the Thai press) that “he does not want to reduce military cooperation with China, but rather to increase dialogue and joint training in order to avoid misunderstandings”?

Even if these “aggravations” truly are “perplexing,” should the stance of the U.S. government be that of a disappointed supplicant expressing bafflement? Or at the very least should we be saying forcefully that China appears increasingly to be playing by different rules than we are, and it’s time to pay attention?

Last Wednesday, a White House spokesman said that the Chinese foreign minister had told President Bush it was all a “misunderstanding.” But according to Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, the Chinese are saying that their foreign minister “did not tell President Bush on Wednesday that blocking the Thanksgiving Day port visit to Hong Kong by aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk was the result of a misunderstanding.”

The incident followed Beijing’s refusal, a few days earlier, to permit two American minesweeping ships permission to take refuge in Hong Kong harbor from a storm.

Whether these incident were misunderstandings or not, the most disconcerting aspect of this affair is not Chinese behavior, which is becoming predictable in its unpredictability, but our government’s puzzled response.

“I’m aware of no hiccups at all in our efforts to increase military-to-military cooperation, exchanges with the Chinese,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell. “I think that’s why this incident is so baffling to us, because there was no indication at all prior to the Kitty Hawk being refused entry to the port of Hong Kong that there was any reason or any cause for concern.”

Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, says the Kitty Hawk incident “is not, in our view, conduct that is indicative of a country that understands its obligations as a responsible nation.” True enough.

But why did Admiral Keating have to go on to say that the incidents are “perplexing”?

Why did he have to say “We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to work our way around some of these aggravations”?

Why did he have to say (in remarks summarized in the Thai press) that “he does not want to reduce military cooperation with China, but rather to increase dialogue and joint training in order to avoid misunderstandings”?

Even if these “aggravations” truly are “perplexing,” should the stance of the U.S. government be that of a disappointed supplicant expressing bafflement? Or at the very least should we be saying forcefully that China appears increasingly to be playing by different rules than we are, and it’s time to pay attention?

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Something To Be Really Thankful For

If any more evidence were needed of how dramatically things have changed in Iraq, a senior military official sends along statistics that show snapshots of three dates: this Thanksgiving; last Thanksgiving, November 22, 2006; and the midway point between them, May 22, 2007.

On Thanksgiving 2006 there were 126 enemy attacks across Iraq and 26 of them were “effective,” meaning they caused injuries or damaged buildings, vehicles, or other infrastructure. Six months later, attack levels were virtually unchanged: May 22 saw 122 attacks, 35 of them effective. And then came the big turn: On Thursday, there were 53 attacks and only 18 of them were effective—drops from a year ago of 58 percent and 31 perecent respectively.

Baghdad, which had been the primary center of violence on November 22, 2006, and May 22, 2007, no longer had that distinction on Thursday: It saw only 10 attacks (half of them effective), compared with 37 in northern Iraq (less than a third of them effective). It’s still cause for concern that the violence level remains so high in the north, but it is cause for celebration that Baghdad is becoming so peaceful. Given that it is the capital of the country, improvements are more significant politically if they occur there than in the provinces.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping result was the change that occurred not in Baghdad, however, but in Anbar Province, which saw 28 attacks (seven of them effective) a year ago and none—repeat none—yesterday.

Those are the kinds of results that should make us grateful to the hard work of the soldiers in Iraq, not only Americans but Iraqis and other coalition partners, and to their commanders in Baghdad and Washington who had the wisdom to implement a new strategy after it became apparent that the old one was failing.

If any more evidence were needed of how dramatically things have changed in Iraq, a senior military official sends along statistics that show snapshots of three dates: this Thanksgiving; last Thanksgiving, November 22, 2006; and the midway point between them, May 22, 2007.

On Thanksgiving 2006 there were 126 enemy attacks across Iraq and 26 of them were “effective,” meaning they caused injuries or damaged buildings, vehicles, or other infrastructure. Six months later, attack levels were virtually unchanged: May 22 saw 122 attacks, 35 of them effective. And then came the big turn: On Thursday, there were 53 attacks and only 18 of them were effective—drops from a year ago of 58 percent and 31 perecent respectively.

Baghdad, which had been the primary center of violence on November 22, 2006, and May 22, 2007, no longer had that distinction on Thursday: It saw only 10 attacks (half of them effective), compared with 37 in northern Iraq (less than a third of them effective). It’s still cause for concern that the violence level remains so high in the north, but it is cause for celebration that Baghdad is becoming so peaceful. Given that it is the capital of the country, improvements are more significant politically if they occur there than in the provinces.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping result was the change that occurred not in Baghdad, however, but in Anbar Province, which saw 28 attacks (seven of them effective) a year ago and none—repeat none—yesterday.

Those are the kinds of results that should make us grateful to the hard work of the soldiers in Iraq, not only Americans but Iraqis and other coalition partners, and to their commanders in Baghdad and Washington who had the wisdom to implement a new strategy after it became apparent that the old one was failing.

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A Thanksgiving Insult

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry, reversing a previous decision, announced that it had given the U.S. Navy’s Kitty Hawk carrier group permission to dock in Hong Kong for a four-day Thanksgiving visit. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that China had, at the last moment, refused permission for the port call. The Navy had already flown hundreds of dependents to that city in anticipation of the long-planned visit, and the six ships of the carrier group had been idling in circles in the South China Sea pending Beijing’s expected approval. The Foreign Ministry gave no explanation for its earlier refusal. It said that its later approval was based on “humanitarian considerations.”

The 8,000 crewmembers of the Kitty Hawk and its fleet spent Thanksgiving steaming back to the carrier’s home port of Yokosuka in Japan. “The ships will not be coming back,” said a spokesman from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. “They are 300 miles out to sea and there is a storm in the area.”

Storm or no storm, the Consulate should have announced that, after Beijing’s petty behavior, the Kitty Hawk would not be returning to Hong Kong—and that the Navy will no longer ask for permission to dock in Hong Kong or other Chinese ports. Why should we try to go where we are treated so poorly?

In 2006, American military personnel spent about $32 million in Hong Kong. Let’s support our friends in the region by calling at their ports, instead of those of petulant autocrats. How about, for instance, docking in Taiwan?

The Chinese were obviously trying to make some point with their insult. There has been speculation as to what they were upset about, but it really does not matter. It’s about time we stopped acting so magnanimously and started to make some points of our own.

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry, reversing a previous decision, announced that it had given the U.S. Navy’s Kitty Hawk carrier group permission to dock in Hong Kong for a four-day Thanksgiving visit. On Wednesday, the State Department announced that China had, at the last moment, refused permission for the port call. The Navy had already flown hundreds of dependents to that city in anticipation of the long-planned visit, and the six ships of the carrier group had been idling in circles in the South China Sea pending Beijing’s expected approval. The Foreign Ministry gave no explanation for its earlier refusal. It said that its later approval was based on “humanitarian considerations.”

The 8,000 crewmembers of the Kitty Hawk and its fleet spent Thanksgiving steaming back to the carrier’s home port of Yokosuka in Japan. “The ships will not be coming back,” said a spokesman from the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong. “They are 300 miles out to sea and there is a storm in the area.”

Storm or no storm, the Consulate should have announced that, after Beijing’s petty behavior, the Kitty Hawk would not be returning to Hong Kong—and that the Navy will no longer ask for permission to dock in Hong Kong or other Chinese ports. Why should we try to go where we are treated so poorly?

In 2006, American military personnel spent about $32 million in Hong Kong. Let’s support our friends in the region by calling at their ports, instead of those of petulant autocrats. How about, for instance, docking in Taiwan?

The Chinese were obviously trying to make some point with their insult. There has been speculation as to what they were upset about, but it really does not matter. It’s about time we stopped acting so magnanimously and started to make some points of our own.

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Beowulf

Robert Zemeckis’s computer-animated adaptation of Beowulf led the box-office this weekend, and it will likely continue to perform well over the Thanksgiving holiday. The film utilizes a high-tech animation process some say portends the future of filmmaking (James Cameron’s next feature will employ the same technology).

Comparing it to its source material is of little use. It’s been streamlined and modernized, and now bears more resemblance to a computer game than an ancient epic. And despite a number of favorable reviews, the best that can be said about it is that it is an empty spectacle, devoid of substance and unconcerned with providing even the barest cinematic pleasure. There’s plenty of bloody fighting, and yet nothing much happens. The movie is not so much a real battle as a military parade—a carefully orchestrated show of arms more notable for the power and technology on display than for any real movement.

Shot using a process called motion capture, in which the performances of real actors are captured by computer sensors and then digitally rendered and presented in 3-D (you even get to keep the glasses), Beowulf shows off its digital wizardry at every opportunity. Mostly this means a parade of gory imagery pushing out from the screen, demanding attention in the way of a small child tugging on your shirt. There are flying 3-D arrows, thrusting 3-D swords, severed 3-D heads, and buckets of 3-D blood oozing out toward the audience. Like the cheap, crude 3-D films of the 1950’s, the presentation is pure gimmickry.

The technique seems intended to add weight and substance, to heighten the drama and add intensity to the action by making everything seem more real. But the computerized animation only serves to make everything seem hollow and fake. The detail on the animated humans is impressive—every hair and facial pore is visible—but such detail fails to impart a convincing sense of human presence. Instead, the people move awkwardly, like expensive toys controlled by remote.

In fact, the entire production has the disconnected feeling of watching a video game being played by someone else. It seems content to engage the audience solely through technology, and, as a result, lacks even the shallow visual pleasures of a bombastic Hollywood blockbuster. Perhaps more worrisome are the desires of the production team to attain an impossible standard of perfection and of the movie-going public to disengage from anything approaching reality. What does it say when even the face and figure of Angelina Jolie must be digitally nipped, tucked, smoothed, and polished? If this is the future of film, does that mean it will lose all touch with what is physical, human, imperfect, real?

Robert Zemeckis’s computer-animated adaptation of Beowulf led the box-office this weekend, and it will likely continue to perform well over the Thanksgiving holiday. The film utilizes a high-tech animation process some say portends the future of filmmaking (James Cameron’s next feature will employ the same technology).

Comparing it to its source material is of little use. It’s been streamlined and modernized, and now bears more resemblance to a computer game than an ancient epic. And despite a number of favorable reviews, the best that can be said about it is that it is an empty spectacle, devoid of substance and unconcerned with providing even the barest cinematic pleasure. There’s plenty of bloody fighting, and yet nothing much happens. The movie is not so much a real battle as a military parade—a carefully orchestrated show of arms more notable for the power and technology on display than for any real movement.

Shot using a process called motion capture, in which the performances of real actors are captured by computer sensors and then digitally rendered and presented in 3-D (you even get to keep the glasses), Beowulf shows off its digital wizardry at every opportunity. Mostly this means a parade of gory imagery pushing out from the screen, demanding attention in the way of a small child tugging on your shirt. There are flying 3-D arrows, thrusting 3-D swords, severed 3-D heads, and buckets of 3-D blood oozing out toward the audience. Like the cheap, crude 3-D films of the 1950’s, the presentation is pure gimmickry.

The technique seems intended to add weight and substance, to heighten the drama and add intensity to the action by making everything seem more real. But the computerized animation only serves to make everything seem hollow and fake. The detail on the animated humans is impressive—every hair and facial pore is visible—but such detail fails to impart a convincing sense of human presence. Instead, the people move awkwardly, like expensive toys controlled by remote.

In fact, the entire production has the disconnected feeling of watching a video game being played by someone else. It seems content to engage the audience solely through technology, and, as a result, lacks even the shallow visual pleasures of a bombastic Hollywood blockbuster. Perhaps more worrisome are the desires of the production team to attain an impossible standard of perfection and of the movie-going public to disengage from anything approaching reality. What does it say when even the face and figure of Angelina Jolie must be digitally nipped, tucked, smoothed, and polished? If this is the future of film, does that mean it will lose all touch with what is physical, human, imperfect, real?

Read Less




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