Thursday, July 31, 2003

Earthly Politics

I read two articles in the Wall Street Journal over the past two days that left me feeling somewhat bi-polar on the Bush administration and the environment. Yesterday's article (you'll need a WSJ.com subscription to get this) on Karl Rove and Klamath River dispute gave me that same depressed, creepy feeling after watching the "Parallex View" with Warren Beatty at 3 in the morning. Rove, after extensive polling and strategic research on the farming political base in the West, got the Interior Dept. to change its policy on the regulation of water levels so that meaningful amounts of water could be diverted to farmers in that region of Oregon. The results: a political pick-up among farmers and 30,000 dead salmon (the picture of thousands of dead fish in inch deep water said it all). The Interior's own scientists had warned against this, but the politics prevailed. Now, I never expected this President to be particularly good on the environment, and I will continue to support him because on the issues of national defense (among others), he is lights out compared to the choices. But it's very dissappointing. When choices are made as between stark human needs and the environment, decisions have to be made. You hope that all factors are weighed and the long term impact studied. But this was about one thing only: politics. All in the effort to appease a group that would unlikely have ever turned to a Democratic party far more focused on environmental issues. Yes, these political choices are made everyday; nothing new here. But this one has an ugly result that at least to me seems so unnecessary and cruel.

And then...instant Prozac. Today's WSJ op-ed, by the environmental correspondent for The Economist, talks of the creation of an integrated fact gathering system developed with the assistance of 30 other countries. The purpose is to gather data over 10 years in order to establish a baseline state of the ecosystems today in order to understand how natural and human factors effect these ecosystems. Oddly enough, despite lots of work, the state of global environmental data is "pitiful." Rich countries have pretty good information on their own environment, but that is not the case at all for poor countries. And so far, the various countries of the world have not worked together to change this. Why? Politics.:
So why haven't we done more? A decade or two ago, the answer might have been the lack of technology. Now there is no shortage of sophisticated satellites, oceanic sensors, or supercomputers. Nor is funding the main issue. Just last week, the Bush administration announced over $100 million more for observation as part of its new climate science policy. The real problem has been politics. Developing countries like Brazil never trusted the spy satellites of the rich world. They feared that the prying eyes in the sky would humiliate local governments by exposing the true state of their forests or, worse, would somehow help multinationals steal their natural resources. Europe has always been suspicious of the role played by America's military in running the country's satellite systems for civilian earth observation, communications and global positioning. In turn, the U.S. has tried to bully Europe into abandoning or at least modifying its ambitious Galileo satellite system.
Bush, here at least, is changing the political reality. This is about overcoming politics to find out information that will help us globally to make the right decisions. At the very least we will have the data with which to try.

I will never accuse this president about being all politics. On terrorism, among other things, it is clear that he is serious (deadly so) and will make decisions that are extraordinary. There is no comparison between him and his predecessor, a man so fluid in his principles that the choice of bathroom may very well have been the subject of extensive polling. But while Bush is capable of making, and does in fact make, great decisions, it is clear he is not above being bought when convenient. And for him, the envirnoment may be fair game. I just hope, that the good he does here greatly outweighs the bad.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

UN Petition on Suicide Bombings. Why bother?

Susan, one of this site's would be bloggers, as well as a person of great moral and intellectual clarity, had this to say in response to an internet petition to the United Nations to treat suicide bombings as war crimes:
Even though it's for a facially good cause, it really bothers me to do anything that implies that the United Nations has any legitimacy. If I petition them to issue a resolution with respect to suicide bombings, aren't I saying that their resolutions deserve respect? And if that's true, then am I giving credence to any of the gazillion anti-Israel resolutions that they, in their idiocy, have passed over the years?
Stuart, another of this site's would be bloggers, husband of Susan, and a man of such strong convictions that he would rather make three right turns than ever turn left, had this unusually short but pointed endorsement of Susan's email:
"Absolutely!!!"
= )

Although I have some mixed feelings about the whole thing, I have to agree with Susan and Stuey (as of course I do, on many things). The U.N. is morally corrupt in so many ways, with its treatment of Israel as the most obvious example, that appealing to it in any way clearly implies credibility. Where I have some ambivalence is the idea of getting things out in the record, so to speak. Having an institution, even as odious as the UN, call suicide bombing a war crime would be a remarkable victory of sorts. Yet we all know it wouldn't happen... couldn't; the fiasco of the Durban Conference on rascism tells us as much. And when has getting something in the record done anything to combat a thing such as anti-semitism. Bottom line: it is only when there is a UN that would call suicide bombing racism would such a petition be desirable.

Update:
Food for thought was provided by my sister and her husband, both of whom signed the petition. Although charges of 'multilateralism' and 'undue Belgian influence' went flying around, calmer heads prevailed and a good point was raised: a weak turn-out on voting may provide those who support suicide bombing against Israel with a kind of victory. I guess that is right. But then, how much value is this thing in either case? I tend to reject ALL internet polling or petitions out of hand --- I think of them as useless. But I make exceptions. Will need to think about this one a bit more. But for what it is worth, Susan checked out the group that launched this petition and it is from a pro-Israeli group that has Daniel Pipes on its Board. So, seems like a meaningful organization.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Objective Journalism Duex

I like to click on the nytimes.com just for the fun of seeing how they will represent things. There's a lot of headlines that could have come out of today's meeting between Bush and Sharon. Fox said "Bush Sites Mideast 'Progress', ... mentions Israel's positive steps". CNN said "Bush, Sharon focus on terror groups". But not the Times. It's headline:
"Israel to Continue Building Security Fence Criticized by Bush"
Bush's reaction to the fence was far more nuanced than that and the tone of the conference, including Bush's praise of Sharon's steps, are so different than that headline comes close to representing. Now to be fair, Reuters said roughly the same thing. I didn't have the stomach to go check out BBC; might as well look at Al Jeezara. Question: was there ever a NYTimes headline that read:
"Abbas Refuses to Dismantle Terror Organizations; PA in Violation of Roadmap"
I don't think so. And we'll never see it.

Monday, July 28, 2003

A Case For Israel

Alan Dershowitz has written a new book. An exclusive excerpt can be found in Jewsweek. Looks spectacular and necessary. But will anyone other than those who already support Israel notice? Thanks to Roger Simon for pointing the excerpt out. An opening quote:
The time has come for a proactive defense of Israel to be offered in the court of public opinion. In this book, I offer such a defense -- not of every Israeli policy or action but of Israel's basic right to exist, to protect its citizens from terrorism, and to defend its borders from hostile enemies. I show that Israel has long been willing to accept the kind of two-state solution that is now on the proposed "road map" to peace, and that it was the Arab leadership that persistently refused to accept any Jewish state -- no matter how small -- in those areas of Palestine with a Jewish majority. I also try to present a realistic picture of Israel, warts and all, as a flourishing multiethnic democracy, similar in many ways to the United States, that affords all of its citizens -- Jews, Muslims, and Christians -- far better lives and opportunities than those afforded by any Arab or Muslim nation. Most important, I argue that those who single out Israel for unique criticism not directed against countries with far worse human rights records are themselves guilty of international bigotry. This is a serious accusation and I back it up. Let me be clear that I am not charging all critics of Israel with anti-Semitism. I myself have been quite critical of specific Israeli policies and actions over the years, as have most Israel supporters, virtually every Israeli citizen, and many American Jews. But I am also critical of other countries, including my own, as well as European, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries. So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semitic.
Read it. Buy the book!

What we can learn from history...

A lot. It is of course an inexact science... no two experiences are alike. But it can provide great insight. And certainly, the reckless and arguably willful abandonment of historical examination is a recipe for disaster. So why has there been so little examination of the ONLY other two examples of US-led post-war 'occupation' and nation-building? Why is the only thing we ever hear about Vietnam? Well, obviously because many in the media have a point to make or at least an ugly story to help create. But it still is amazing that there is almost nothing in the papers about post-WWII Germany and Japan. Andrew Sullivan did find one site that has some fascinating links to books on the Werewolves (the Nazi 'resistance'-guerilla group that troubled our efforts in Germany): one to a 1998 review of a book called "Werewolf! The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944-1946", another to an Oct. 2000 article called Minutemen of the Third Reich.(history of the Nazi Werewolf guerilla movement). My brief glimpse tells me that we shouldn't have been too surprised at what we are seeing in Iraq; and that the analogies to the Vietnam quagmire are totally misplaced (and probably not completely by accident or ignorance).

Time to read up on this and post-war Japan, I would think.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Reuters Redux -- Media Anti-War Bias

On Tuesday I noted a story by Reuters about Jessica Lynch and how slanted the coverage was of her homecoming. The whole thing focused not on the facts -- Jessica or her homecoming or even that there was controversy about the facts of her rescue, etc. -- but rather on specific conclusions the reporter had come to: government propoganda and the media fiction. It was an opinion BADLY disguised as reporting. Well, amazingly enough, the reporter is furious since this wasn't the article she had written and submitted to Reuters... they asked her to use her byline, she agreed, and then they changed it to reflect their views!! You can't make this stuff up. Today, the reporter, Deanna Wren, sets the record straight on wsj.com.

Is the truth discernable?

When you look at the polarization of not just politics these days, but also of the rendition facts (and the observations that come from those facts), you have to wonder whether people's bias' get the best of them --- making objectivity generally elusive. I like to think that is not the case, and not all things are relative. I know I have certain leanings and dispositions, but I like to believe that I can be objective not only about impressions and judgements but also about the basic facts. Yet listening to many of those who have opposed Bush and the war in Iraq, and the convictions with which they hold to their 'facts', I can't help but wonder if we are doomed to disagree about the essentials of this president, this war and the fight against terrorism. Randy Barnett (subbing for Glenn Reynolds) had a very interesting piece on MSNBC about this -- if you haven't read it, you should. It does get me concerned... I generally believe in the 80/20 rule. 80% of people with common backgrounds generally agree on things and the other 20% don't. But now it feels a lot closer to 50/50. This doesn't in one bit change my convictions, but it gets me concerned that as a country, we will be hampered by a fundamental divide. For example, right now I believe we need to be together on pulling for our troops to succeed and to stay the course and get it as close to right as possible in Iraq. That the Democratic leadership is politicizing this pisses me off but doesn't surprise me. Yet, that the left generally (excluding classical, eg 'hawkish' liberals) believes the crap that is being thrown out there is, however, very alarming. By the way, check out Lileks very, very funny bit yesterday on the immediate mind games he goes through anticipating the anti-war reaction to good news on Iraq ... he is so right; I do that every time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Objective Journalism

Hard to find, isn't it? Check out these headlines from the NYTimes. First this one:
"Bush Again Accuses Iran and Syria of Harboring Terrorists"
What is it with the "Again Accuses"? Like, are they saying... "here he goes again, accusing people of yada yada yada...". Why not let the reader decide if this is an accusation. Unless you believe that Islamic Jihad, Hamas, etc. -- all who have open offices in Damascus -- are not terrorists, then it is NOT an accusation. But fine... maybe people have different opinions about that. But why then is the Times voicing their's? And here is another in the same vein:
"Syria Brushes Off Bush 'Terrorism' Charges"
Again... why the quotes? It's not like they are quoting him. Rather, it is that they are saying clearly that they (the Times) do not necessarily subscribe to this view.

And you have got to love Reuters take on Jessica Lynch's homecoming.
"Jessica Lynch, the wounded Army private whose ordeal in Iraq was hyped into a media fiction of U.S. heroism...But when the 20-year-old supply clerk arrives by Blackhawk helicopter to the embrace of family and friends, media critics say the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality-TV drama co-produced by U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters."
That's their lead-in. I particularly liked this "objective" quote and lead in to the "response" from the administration (emphasis is mine):
""The failure here was that the news media got to thinking the government could be trusted to reflect reality," said Carolyn Marvin, professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Florida had no comment when asked about assertions that the heroism tale was government propaganda."
It takes a certain level of distrust and hatred to publish a piece as one sided as that. There is no balance.

Who is Joseph Wilson, anyway?

Part of never-ending non-story (in my humble opinion) uranium-Africa connection is the analysis and views of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who the CIA sent over to Niger to check out possible link before the war. Wilson has said that there is no evidence of any sale from Niger and has offered his views on such unbiased mediums as the New York Times and Bill Moyers' show. Casper Weinberger had a good piece on Wilson, which if true, shows just how partisan this issue is:
Mr. Wilson was an outspoken opponent of our invasion of Iraq; he thought "a strict containment regime, backed by a threat of force" was enough to deal with a Saddam Hussein who had already violated all his surrender pledges to us at the end of the Gulf War and had violated 16 United Nations resolutions.

Mr. Wilson's "investigation" is a classic case of a man whose mind had been made up using any opportunity to refute the justifications for our ever going to war.

By his own admission he first consulted with our ambassador to Niger, who felt "she had already debunked" the report of Niger's attempted sale. Mr. Wilson then spent eight days "drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people." His conclusion: "It did not take long to conclude it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place."

Because Mr. Wilson, by his own admission, never wrote a report, we only have his self-serving op-ed article in the New York Times to go by. He also noted that "Niger formally denied the charges." He said there "should be" documents reporting on his unwritten briefings and that there should be a written summary of his views to the vice president ("which may have been delivered orally"), but that he has never seen any of these reports."
I for one would like to hear more about Mr. Wilson.

Paul Krugman has a doozy of an article today (wonderfully entitled "Who's Unpatriotic Now?"... does he really want us to answer that?), in which he talks of the administration's attempts to discredit Wilson. Shockingly, Wilson's pre-war positions are not noted by Krugman. =)

I actually don't know if the administration is being too hard or not (and I am not going to trust Krugman to give me unbiased "facts"). But I will say that it seems that Wilson went on the offensive first and has gone out of his way to discredit the administration. He clearly went public with his opinions in print and on TV. So is it okay for him to do that and must the administration just sit around and take it? Let me cut to the chase... Wilson obvioiusly had a view about the war, it may have greatly influenced his review of the Niger situation and is going around telling us that the administration lied and he should be trusted. Well, some might believe him and some might not, but anyone who hears him or about him by reporters or writers (and that includes Krugman) ought to at least know the facts about him and his views.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Mom blogs! (Sort of.)

Well, my mother (Susan in "Our Cast") finally had something she wanted to blog about but was bewildered by Blogger (she's an email whiz, though)... So, on Mom's behalf:

From opinionjournal.com's Best of the Web:

Great Moments in Public Education
Daniel Lipsman, a retired schoolteacher in New York City, is in trouble with the law--for sending his daughter to school. The Daily News reports 15-year-old Angela "has earned her associate's degree and is on her way to a bachelor's--but she can't have the sheepskins because she never got a high school diploma."

It gets worse: "The gifted girl's proud dad is being investigated by child protective services for alleged educational neglect--for letting his daughter go to college." A judge in Albany ruled that "Angela was not legally free to skip high school" and upheld a state Education Department diktat that imprisons children in high school until they turn 16 and doesn't allow them to get an equivalency diploma until age 17. Angela's father says he'll "go to prison before my daughter goes to a city high school."

Why this caught my eye was that I began my high school career at Jamaica High School, a NYC high school, but I left after my junior year. If I had continued as a student at Jamaica High School, I would have been [apparently illegally] graduated at age 15 (or 15-1/2 at the latest). I had skipped the 4th grade and was in the 2 year SP (7th, 8th and 9th grades in 2 years). I started 10th grade at 12-1/2 (usual age for a high school sophomore is 15). My mother was pushing me to graduate midway through my senior year, just following what would have been my 15th birthday (in December), and then had plans for me to do college in 3 years and go on to medical school. (My thought at the time, which was the late 50's - "Who would go to a 22 year old lady doctor?" Remember, this was pre-Doogie Howser.) Anyway, after a year or so being a social outcast at Jamaica on account of my age, I was totally miserable, so, after completing my junior year at Jamaica, I went to a private boarding school for two years, essentially repeating 11th grade and then finishing 12th grade, so that I didn't end up starting college until I had reached the ripe old age of 16-1/2.

Well - we know what Shakespeare would have said: "If this, Sir, be the law, Sir, then the law, Sir, is an ass!"

Am I missing something?

Was it just me or did anyone else find it hard to get coverage of Blair's visit yesterday? His speech and other oral remarks were remarkable, but I had to dig hard to find it. How often do we have the PM of Britain speak to a joint session of Congress or deliver a joint press conference with the President? And given the relentless attention to Uranium-gate, and Blair's continual defense of his country's intelligence, wouldn't you think it would be a hot topic?

Anyway, the New York Times, of all papers, does have a transcript of both the speech and the press conference. A must read.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Ingrams Redux

I've often said "Thank G-d for Andrew Sullivan" when reading his work, and I feel that way more then ever now. Among many other things, his sensitivity to anti-semitism has been remarkable. Today, he followed up with his entry on Ingrams with some more information. Ingrams' remark the other day (which both David and I picked up from various sources) was more than just a casual aside. He's got the whole "Blame the Jews/Israel for everything" down pat. Sullivan caught Ingrams article after 9/11. You guessed it... the real cause of it all was Israel. And as for jewish opinions, Ingrams favors a law requiring Jews to state their religious affiliations when writing to the editors. You can't make this stuff up.

But Andrew Sullivan isn't the only one watching and writing about this. Michael Totten, Sean LeFreniere and other traditional liberals, are noticing so many instances of this lately (and particularly from the Left) and have been outstanding on this issue. Thanks guys... you'll probably be accused of having your brains warped by the Jewish cabal (the same cabal that has taken over Bush's and Blair's brains... ya know, that one), but I have a hunch you don't care much about that. Anyway, in what can be a very ugly world... you provide hope. So thank you.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Why The Arrow Is So Good...

The Jerusalem Post has an article today about the Ten Greatest Israeli Inventions.

They've got good ones listed, like the Uzi submachine gun, drip irrigation, the swallowable camera (for looking at the GI tract), and the Internet firewall. But there's quite a quote from the inventor of the Arrow anti-missile defense system. See, the way the Arrow works is by zooming up near the incoming bad-guy's missile and exploding, sending shrapnel into the bad-guy's missile and destroying it. This method of defense is especially effective as a deterrent against non-conventional weapons:
The idea is that the explosion takes out the enemy missile and any nonconventional payload it carries; if nuclear, chemical, or biological substances remain, the physics are such that it would land on enemy states. "The shit will go back to the Arabs. This is a very nice feature of the system. We didn't create it, but it's very nice," Raviv says. (emphasis added)

One reason, perhaps, for the reticence of Saddam Hussein to lob missiles at Israel this time around...

Great minds...

...think alike...

It's the ease with which they say these things that's scary....: European Anti-Semitism

Note this nice catch by Andrew Sullivan of some casual editorializing by Richard Ingrams in The Guardian:
"I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it."

He justifies this by a comparison to supporters of gay bishops (emphasis added is mine):
"Too few people in this modern world are prepared to declare an interest when it comes to this kind of thing. It would be enormously helpful, for example, if those clerics and journalists who have been defending Canon Jeffrey John, the so-called gay bishop, were to tell us whether they themselves are gay. Some do, but more don't. The issue arises partly because, in both cases, these people are often accusing the other side of being prejudiced and biased - we are either homophobes or anti-Semites."

He goes on to provide an example of Barbara Amiel, who wrote a letter arguing that the BBC has an anti-Israeli bias (a shocking allegation, isn't it?). He points out that Amiel is "not only Jewish" but that her husband's company has an ownership interest in the Jerusalem Post. So, her comments don't really count. As Ingrams goes on to conclude: "In other words, when it comes to accusing people of bias on the Middle East, she is not ideally qualified for the role."

Wow. Where does one begin. Perhaps first with a look a parallelism. Will Ingrams put the same onus on Arab or Palestinian writers? Or does he deem them unbiased as a group? Or how about Muslim's generally? Does their religion preclude rational thought and is that information relevant to the reader in terms of understanding the argument? Or is it just Jews who are incapable of being un-biased? What if Noam Chomsky wrote Ingrams? Does his jewishness matter, or do his opinions sufficiently diverge from the "Jewish opinion" that he might be exempted.

Let's cut to the chase. Yes Mr. Ingrams, you are an anti-semite. Disliking or even hating Israel doesn't make you an anti-semite, but devaluing the opinions and doubting the integrity of every Jew because they are Jewish does indeed make you one. To you, the opinions of a Jewish person, at least with respect to Israel (that's all you've admitted so far), are not to be judged on the basis of their individual merit, but on the basis of the fact that they are Jewish -- and as such, immediately discounted. To you, Jews are incapable of independent opinions ... "they're all the same". And what scary is the casual way you discuss this. It's just so obvious to you. And you feel so comfortable talking about it. And if you ever read what I just wrote, I doubt that you would have any idea what I am getting at.

Oh, and by the way Ingrams, it strikes me that you are probably a homophobe as well.

Wow. Anti-Semitism in a British newspaper.

(sarcasm) Hard to believe. (/sarcasm)

Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Professor Volokh notes some disturbingly casual anti-semitism on the part of Richard Ingrams in the Observer.

Ingrams writes:
I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it.


As Prof. Volokh notes,
Let me see: Has the writer "developed a habit" of "not . . . read[ing]" letters by men that relate to relations between the sexes? Or letters by women? Or does he ignore letters by blacks, whites, and Asians on race relations? Does he ignore letters on the subject of homosexuality by people whom he knows to be anti-gay, or whom he suspects of belonging to mostly anti-gay religious groups? After all, each must have their own axe to grind, so their positions are worthless, no?


Volokh goes on to thank "reader George Vardalos for the pointer, which I would never have followed if I thought the article was about Cyprus."

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The Left's Anti-Semitism

Today's Jewish World Review included a column by Fiamma Nirenstein which is one of the strongest condemnations I've read in a long time of the anti-semitism to be found in modern leftist ideology. I encourage you to read the entire column, but here are some excerpts:

The Left blessed the Jews as the victim "par excellence," always a great partner in the struggle for the rights of the weak against the wicked. In return for being coddled, published, filmed, considered artists, intellectuals and moral judges, Jews, even during the Soviet anti-Semitic persecutions, gave the Left moral support and invited it to cry with them at Holocaust memorials. Today the game is clearly over. The left has proved itself the real cradle of contemporary anti-Semitism.

. . .

On the front pages of European newspapers Sharon munches Palestinian children and little Jesuses in cradles are threatened by Israeli soldiers. This new anti-Semitism has materialized in unprecedented physical violence towards Jewish persons and symbols, coming from organizations officially devoted to human rights. Its peak occurred at the United Nations summit in Durban when anti-Semitism officially became the banner of the new secular religion of human rights, and Israel and Jews became its official enemy.

. . .

Why is the war on terrorism often looked upon as a strategic problem that the world still must solve (look at the US war against Afghanistan and Iraq) and Israel is treated like a guilty defendant for fighting it? Is it not anti-Semitism, when you act as if Jews must die quietly? Why is Israel officially accused by the human rights commission in Geneva of violating human rights, while, China, Libya, Sudan, have never ever been accused? Why has Israel been denied a fixed place in regional groups in the UN while Syria sits in the Security Council? Why can everybody join a war against Iraq except Israel, despite the fact that Saddam has always threatened Israel with complete destruction? When sovereign states and organizations threaten death to Israel, why does nobody raise the question at the UN? Has Italy been threatened by France or Spain like those Iranian leaders who openly say that they will destroy Israel with an atomic bomb? And what is said when a large part of the world newspapers, TV, radio and school textbooks recommend kicking the Jews out of Israel and killing them all over the world using terrorist bombers? The international community doesn't consider this a problem. Israel is an "unterstate", denied the basic rights of every other state, to exist in honor and peace. The Jewish state is not equal.

. . .

Another document, this time a letter by a group of professors at the University of Bologna "to their Jewish friends", was published with a very large number of signatures.

Here is an excerpt: "We have always considered the Jewish people an intelligent and sensitive one because they have been selected (that's right, selected!) by the suffering of persecution and humiliation. We have school friends and some Jewish students whom we have helped and educated, taking them to high academic levels, and today many of them teach in Israeli universities. We are writing because we feel that our love and appreciation for you is being transformed into a burning rage… we think that many people, also outside the university, feel the same. You have to realize that what was done to you in the past, you are now doing to the Palestinians… if you continue on this path, hatred for you will grow throughout the world".

The letter is an excellent summary of all the characteristics of the new anti-Semitism. There is the pre-Zionist definition of the Jewish people as one that suffers, has to suffer by nature, a people bound to bear the worst persecutions without even lifting a finger, and is, therefore, worthy of compassion and solidarity.

. . .

The Jews became indispensable for the left: look at the passionate and paternalistic tone of the Bologna professors, as they seem to plead: "Come back, our dear Jews. Be ours again. Let us curse Israel together and than take a trip together to the Holocaust memorials."


Very strong stuff. But true.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Ode to blogging...

Kathleen Parker sings the praises of blogging in her column today.
If not for blogs, Howell Raines might still be editor of The New York Times; Trent Lott might still be majority leader of the U.S. Senate. And we might never have learned the name of "whatshername," Blue-Dress Girl, Lewinsky.


Thank you. Thank you very much.

Howard Dean's gonna blog...

Well, personally, I think Howard Dean is the greatest thing to happen to the Republican party since George McGovern. But in a testament to blogging, he will be guest blogging on Stanford Professor Lessig's blog beginning today.
He still hasn't posted yet, but I actually think that's kind of cool. Anyone want to take bets on whether or not Dean himself is actually doing the blogging?

Flypaper

One of the defenses of Bush's comment "Bring 'em on" is that part of the Iraq strategy is to draw terrorists to that area and have our troops deal with them. I tend to agree with that. It is a truely horrible business for our troops; yet their role is to defend us. And in such an unconventional war, is there a better way. Andrew Sullivan called this a kind of flypaper effect on July 7. And this article today from ABC news suggests that this strategy is working.

More 'Un-biased' Reporting from CNN

Nice 'headline' on CNN:

UK praises Sharon's 'peace work'

I guess they wanted to make it clear that the British government's opinions do not necessarily represent their own....

Friday, July 11, 2003

Cost of Government Day

Hey, whaddaya know! Today was Cost of Government Day! The average American worked the whole year up to today to pay taxes.

That's horrifying -- more than half the year!

What a difference a few years make....

Andrew Apostolou catches some remarkable changes in conviction by Robin Cook, Tony Blair's ex-cabinet member and Foreign Secretary. In 1998, Robin had this to say about Iraq and WMD:

"On the first point, there is no room for doubt over the scale of Saddam's chemical or biological capability, nor over his repeated attempts to conceal it."

But now, in 2003, he has a slightly different view:

"Mr Cook restated his belief that Iraq probably had no weapons of mass destruction.
He said: "Such weapons require substantial industrial plant and a large workforce. It is inconceivable that both could have been kept concealed for the two months we have been in occupation of Iraq. "

Now to be fair, he followed with this:

"I have never ruled out the possibility that we may unearth some old stock of biological toxins or chemical agents and it is possible that we may yet find some battlefield shells."

But then followed with this doozy:

"Nevertheless, this would not constitute weapons of mass destruction and would not justify the claim before the war that Iraq posed what the prime minister described as a 'current and serious threat'."

Read the whole thing.

Interesting Reading on Liberia

Michael Totten has some good thoughts (as usual) on why we should get involved in Liberia and points to an important article from the New Republic (if you can't access it, see Michael's excerpt). But I was particularly taken with this article about Pat Robinson's displeasure with Bush's emerging policy on Liberia. The quote of the day goes to Pat for this brilliant objection:

"How dare the president of the United States say to the duly elected president of another country, 'You've got to step down,'"

Someone might want to remind Pat what the US did with the duly elected president of Iraq. At least this time, we were kind enough to ask first. But Pat was only getting started.... he has a more fundamental problem with outing Taylor:

"So we're undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country,"

But ya know... maybe his real problem with our involvement is this little fact:

"Robertson told The Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that he has "written off in my own mind" an $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mining venture he made four years ago, under an agreement with Taylor's government. "Once the dust has cleared on this thing, chances are there will be some investors from someplace who want to invest. If I could find some people to sell it to, I'd be more than delighted," he said in the article."

Pat is largely irrelevant these days, so maybe this isn't that interesting. But it is kinda fun when supposedly pious and principled folk (who love meddling in other people's lives) show how much they are really full of it.

So What Exactly is the Point About Uranium and Africa?

I have to admit -- I haven't paid much attention to all the latest scandal about how Bush "lied" to the nation. It all seemed so ridiculously partisan to me, and with a new charge surfacing every week (and the previous week's scandal generally forgotten), I just basically ignored it. But with the Africa trip this week being largely trumped in favor of the "uranium" story, I started looking into it a bit. Andrew Sullivan caught this article by Clifford May that seems to put this one in its proper place. Reading this, it is amazing the latest story gets any coverage at all. But I suppose we shouldn't be surprised....

Sinking was an accident.

During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel bombed an American spy ship called the USS Liberty, sinking it, and killing a number of American servicemen.

Israel apologized almost immediately, stating that they believed the ship to be Egyptian, and paid compensation to the families of the servicemen, but conspiracy theorists have, for years, insisted that Israel knowingly attacked a U.S. ship.

The United States National Security Agency this week released transcripts of conversations between the Israeli pilots and their base, which were recorded by an NSA spy plane at the time. The transcripts bear out Israel's version of the story.

Only at 3:07 were the pilots first informed that the ship might not have been Egyptian at all: Hatzor told them that if they found Arabic-speaking survivors, they should be taken to El-Arish, but if they found English-speaking survivors, they should be taken to Lod. "Clarify by the first man that you bring up, what nationality he is, and report to me immediately," the supervisor instructed, according to the transcript. "It's important to know."


Thanks to Bernsteinblog for the pointer.

Update: The NSA has released the audio and transcripts on their website.

Their Hogs Are Kosher...

Check this out! The Star Of Davidson Motorcycle Club for Jewish bikers.

From their website:
Star of Davidson is a group of mostly Jewish Harley Davidson Motorcycle Enthusiasts. Put another way: If you run into legal, medical, or financial problems on your Harley, we are a good group to have around.


Update: I also just found the Chai Riders.

"Hulk Take Viagra!"

Heh.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

New Blogger Says Hi ... and some random musings on Krugman and Coulter

Hi all. I'm one of the infamous new bloggers --- Peter Braffman. First, a thank you to David for inviting me to blog here. I am a huge fan of numerous blogs (more to follow) and I think this will be a great experience ... I will do my best to keep up with interesting posts as often as possible. Second, a wee bit about me: a native New Yorker who has been fortunate enough to travel around the world a few times, an ex-lawyer who works in finance, and a proud and devoted husband and father. As for my politics, I'll let people make their own conclusions. But I do subscribe to the efforts by bloggers like Michael Totten, Roger Simon, Sean LeFreniere and others who have found traditional labels way too misleading and confining. I am also heavily influenced by the late Christopher Lasch, a truly great intellectual who I was lucky enough to study under. Lasch started as a Marxist and became an espouser of Civic Republicanism, but was foremost a thinker and a critic who never let ideological affiliations obscure his analysis and search for the objective truth. I try, not always successfully, to practice that approach.

Lasch, in fact, is a bit of the antidote to the current state of political dialogue. He is like the anti-Paul Krugman. Or the anti-Ann Coulter, for that matter. Krugman, let me just say, is ridiculous. He is obviously intelligent, and when he stuck to economics, was, at times, compelling. But now, he just is a rabid Bush and Republican hater. I think I finally gave up on him last year (I actually lasted that long) when he complained about nepotism in politics ... among conservatives... but that among progressive legacies, it was just fine (so the Kennedy's were cool). What? I mean, does he just think we are idiots or does he really believe stuff like this (and if so, how?).

Coulter, with Treason, seems to be heading that direction. Whatever one thinks of communist infiltration in the US government in the 1950s (and there clearly was some), defending Joe McCarthy as a defender of liberty and an unfairly maligned patriot is nuts. Actually, it's worse ... it's the willing abdication of history. McCarthy was a horror. And he didn't even find communists in government (the FBI had done that already) ... so, he settled on actors! His was a promotional stunt, and a very dangerous one. And no one should be buying into her historical distortion. The same is true for her view that liberals and Democrats are treasonous. Again ... what? Does she really mean that? All of them, ... really? Will she even make exceptions for Scoop Jackson, Harry Truman, etc? And what of the Democrats that supported of McCarthy (given that she thinks he was such a great guy). What of Bobby Kennedy? She can't have it both ways. And it's a bit of a bummer. She can be fun to watch and she is obviously smart. And she may make some good observations ... but they get undercut by gross-overreaching and fabrication. Her rabid dislike of all things liberal is debilitating her ability to make otherwise thoughtful arguments that might add value. It is good to see that some thoughtful conservatives -- Andrew Sullivan, Dorothy Rabinowitz and David Horowitz -- have taken her to task.

Finally, we need to be careful with using the word treason so loosely. It's a very bad road to go down. Having a different view on foreign policy (or whatever), doesn't make it treasonous, even if one believes that the opposing view weakens us as a country. Both sides of the debate can claim it (i.e., that the other side is "functionally treasonous") and it gets the conversation nowhere. At the very least, it dilutes the word to something meaningless. At the worst, it creates so much divisiveness, that political and civil discourse becomes impossible. And in whose interest is that? Far better to drop the labels and stick to the facts. You can prove or at least persuade people that a given position is not desirable -- without calling it treason.

Anyway, a bit of an introduction and some random thoughts. Later.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I may be crazy, but so are you.

Some of you may recall my angst over throwing out an old computer. Well, it turns out I'm not the only crazy one.

And another one!

We have yet another blogger joining us today -- Saul Safdieh, who will also be introducing himself (hopefully) will be blogging here as his busy school schedule (ahem.) allows...

Capitalism doesn't mean government helps business.

Bruce Bartlett has a good column today, noting, in a review of Raghuram G. Rajan's new book the very true observation of Adam Smith, that "businessmen could often be the free market's worst enemies, because they will sacrifice it in a minute for the sake of profits. Often, they enlist government as a co-conspirator, getting it to enact laws that restrain competition and raise prices, which benefits them, but hurts everyone else."

Bush's biggest blunder so far was the steel tariff. You want to kill an economy? Nothing quicker than increasing the price of steel. Another clever idea is to pay farmers not to grow food, because, as we all know, it's really good policy to make food more expensive.

What always bugs me is this basic misunderstanding of the fight. The fight isn't business against the consumer. The fight is capitalism and freedom against government interference in the market and socialism.

Milestone reached!


Yes, it's true. Today, The Born Loser published it's 1500th straight comic strip that wasn't funny!

A New Blogger Joins Us!



A new blogger will be joining KaufmaNet shortly -- Peter Braffman. I'll let him introduce himself, but he's a Kaufman family associate...

That sounds a bit like the Kaufmans are Cosa Nostra. That'd be interesting...

[Fade in on Stuart at the club, speaking to David over a fruit salad.]

DAVID

So it was Kotler, huh, Pop?

STUART

No, I knew it wasn't Kotler -- he never could have outfought Saul Safdieh, but I didn't know until today that it was Klapper the whole time...

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Stupid Summer Associate Tricks.


The New Yorker has a little blurb about the Dumb Summer Associate of 2003 (at least so far) who managed to send an email to the entire underwriting department at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom saying that "I’m busy doing jack shit."

Whoops.

It's bad, and all, but, as the article notes, nowhere near as bad as the Dumb Summer Associate of 2001, the guy at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft who, after he was advised that he would not be receiving a permanent offer, wrote an email I fondly call the "I Never Want To Work as a Lawyer Anywhere Email." (I kept a copy of the original email as forwarded to me (and every other lawyer in New York) a couple of years ago, and re-reviewed it after reading this column. Boy, it's bad!)

Good thing he didn't tear the tag off his mattress, too.


An Oklahoma man was sentenced by what must be the most pissed off judge in existence to life in prison for spitting on a cop.

This is the flip side of the stupidity of "three strikes and you're out" which requires judges to sentence people to life in prison, regardless of the circumstances of the offenses.

Both are terrible results; I hope the governor of Oklahoma acts properly and commutes the sentence appropriately.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Sigh...


You know, I'm not normally one to rub it in, but I LOVE MY NEW CAR!!!!!!!!!!

Ahem. Back to your regularly scheduled blog.