I am not a Mike Huckabee fan and do not support his candidacy for president (I am a Romney guy), but I agree with Huckabee here. I know, I know, that places me outside the 30% minority of Republicans who vehemently disagree with him, but that's OK with me.
The Hedgehog Blog
Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Neoconservatives in general, and President George W. Bush in particular, are frequently criticized for putting idealism over realism in the conduct of American foreign policy. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, speaking at the 2007 B'nai Brith International Policy Conference yesterday, contrasted the records and accomplishments of the two schools of foreign policy, so-called idealists and so-called realists, since the 1930's. He suggests that we need to rethink who are the true realists.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Perhaps it's just the season for tall tales about headless corpses. Of course, thanks to Washington Irving, we have the perennial Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. And this year, thanks to the MSW, we have had two incidents of the 20 Headless Bodies of Baghdad, both equally works of fiction. Gateway Pundit exposes the continuing gullibility of our media outlets, who have now fallen for the same scary fairy tale twice. Could MSM be paying unwitting tribute to another work of American horror literature, Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales?
Or is it just that MSM is always willing to swallow any story, no matter how far-fetched, that casts the U.S. involvement in Iraq and President George W. Bush in a negative light. The fact that the false report frequently appeared in articles about U.S. troops turning over responsibility in Kabala to Iraqi security forces suggests that latter theory is the correct one. Typical is this gratuitious editorial statement, found in the AFP press account, "The discovery of bodies was a stark reminder that Iraq's brutal sectarian strife was far from over despite wideranging US and Iraqi military operations, including in the Diyala province of which Baquba is the capital." In other words, don't be fooled by reports of military progress, the surge isn't working, we are still stuck in a quagmire. MSM will stick to that story even if it has to circulate unsubstantiated false news reports to do so. Now that's really scary.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Don't tell Al Gore, but the warming climate is benefitting Greenland. As reported in the New York Times, " A Greenlandic supermarket is stocking locally grown cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage this year for the first time. Eight sheep farmers are growing potatoes commercially. Five more are experimenting with vegetables. And Kenneth Hoeg, the region’s chief agriculture adviser, says he does not see why southern Greenland cannot eventually be full of vegetable farms and viable forests."
In short, Greenland is beginning to look more like it did when discovered and named by Viking explorer Eric the Red, back in the 10th Century. As the New York Times article admits, back then, even without the burning of fossil fuels, "It was relatively green then, with forests and fertile soil, and the Vikings grew crops and raised sheep for hundreds of years. But temperatures dropped precipitously in the so-called Little Ice Age, which began in the 16th century, the Norse settlers died out and agriculture was no longer possible."
One might add that the polar bears and the walruses managed to live through the warmer climate of the 10th through 16th centuries.
Meanwhile, in the once-again warming Greenland, "Cod, which prefer warmer waters, have started appearing off the coast again. Ewes are having fatter lambs, and more of them every season. The growing season, such as it is, now lasts roughly from mid-May through mid-September, about three weeks longer than a decade ago. 'Now spring is coming earlier, and you can have earlier lambings and longer grazing periods,' said Eenoraq Frederiksen, 68, a sheep farmer whose farm, near Qassiarsuk, is accessible by a harrowing drive across a rudimentary road plowed in the hillside. 'Young people now have a lot of possibilities for the future.'"
Global warming bringing about a future with "lots of possibilities" for young people? Who knew? [HT: Instapundit]
Friday, October 26, 2007
As skilled and successful as he is on talk radio, Dennis Prager is at his best before a live audience, confronting and confounding his critics. Last night he appeared at UCSB, sponsored by the College Republicans, for IslamoFascism Awareness Week. Following his speech, he answered questions for almost an hour, including lefty and Muslim critics, whom he disarmed. Shane Borges, "Evrviglnt" at Political Vindication was there, and entitles his account IslamoFascism Awareness Week - Dennis Prager Stuns Them at UCSB [HT: Dennis Prager & LGF]
Thursday, October 25, 2007
David Klinghoffer, writing in the Forward, asks why the Democratic Presidential candidates get a pass from liberal Jewish organizations when they use religiously charged language that those organizations would condemn if the same words were uttered by a Republican. For example, let us imagine how the so-called Jewish defense organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, would react if Mitt Romney said the following in a campaign speech:
“We’re going to keep on praising together. I am confident that we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth. I want all of you to pray that I can be an instrument of God.”
Yet when Barack Obama said exactly that in a recent speech in a Greenville, S.C. church, his remarks occasioned no protests from the Jewish community. Klinghoffer cites similarly messianic declarations from Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
The answer to Klinghoffer's question, of course, is that the liberal Jewish national organizations so closely identify with the philosophy and policies of the Democratic Party that they practically function as its alter-egos. The Reform Jewish movement has been aptly described as the Democratic Party with holidays.
Please don't misunderstand my point. I welcome "God talk" from Democrats and Republicans, so long as the religious freedom enjoyed by all Americans, regardless of their faith or lack of it, is not threatened. I merely want my co-religionists to provide the candidates of both parties with a level playing field.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
From AP and the Jerusalem Post:
Commercial satellite images show construction in eastern Syria that resembles the early stages of a small, North Korean-model nuclear reactor, independent experts said in a report Wednesday, speculating that it was the site hit last month in an Israeli airstrike.Once again, as was the case with Israel's destruction of Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor, the U.S. and the Free World owe a debt of gratitude to the Israeli Air Force.
The photos, taken nearly a month before the Sept. 6 strike, show a tall box-like building near the Euphrates River that the report said was similar in shape to a North Korean 5-megawatt reactor building in Yongbyon.
Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette hilariously tracks 4 months of increasingly desperate attempts by Washington Post Op-Ed columnist David Ignatius to maintain the MSM party line that the U.S. is trapped in a quagmire in Iraq, with no hope of victory. Ignatius is gradually forced by the facts on the ground to move from his July 7, 2007 observation, "The Bush administration is groping toward a diplomatic firewall strategy that might help keep the inferno in Iraq from spreading in the Middle East," to the following begrudging comment on October 19:
Let's assume that the numbers from Iraq are right and that there has been a significant reduction in violence there. Let's even agree that the Bush administration's strategy is finally showing some success. Isn't that an argument for accelerating the transfer of security to the Iraqis -- and speeding up the withdrawal of some U.S. support troops?
To paraphrase the character in Love Story who is modeled after the man who invented the Internet, saved the planet from global warming and was recently recognized for achieving world peace; "Being a liberal means never having to say you're sorry."
Greyhawk's one-liners analysing the evolving thought process of Ignatius are a real kick. And while you are visiting Mudville Gazette, scroll down to Greyhawk's pronouncements on October 16 and 19, "We have won the war in Iraq."
As we watch the devastation that wild fires have wreaked on California, we also are awed by the dedication and heroism of our firefighters. This video shows how performance artist Mike Israel expresses his admiration for their brethren of the New York City Fire Department. Unfortunately, unlike Brother Lowell, I have not yet learned how to post the video in the blog.
Meanwhile, for those who want to consider Mitt Romney's actual qualifications to serve . . .
. . . rather than his religion, here's his latest campaign advertisement.
Most explorers searching for the philosophical roots of Mitt Romney begin the journey with his religion. Mormonism is a major factor in the campaign, even if it is rarely mentioned by Romney’s opponents. “I think the Mormon issue is a real problem in the South, and it’s a real problem in other parts of the country, but people are not going to say it,” Dan Bartlett, President Bush’s former counsellor, said in a recent speech. “People are not going to step out and say, ‘I have a problem with Romney because he’s Mormon.’ What they’re going to say is he is a flip-flopper.”(Emphasis added.)
My dear Evangelical friends: Is that really how you're going to approach this election?
Monday, October 22, 2007
I'm a Romney supporter, so of course I am going to be sensitive to perceived slights to my candidate. Even so, I am beginning to get the distinct impression that Mitt Romney is not Mr. York's cup of tea. Indeed, it seems that York's all but besotted with Rudy Giuliani.
For example, in this column York rhapsodizes about how well Giuliani did last week. As I note over at Article VI Blog, the first five paragraphs of the piece "are about Rudy; five more (including lengthy quotations) are on Huckabee; and one paragraph, at the end of the piece, grudgingly commends Romney for doing a "workmanlike" job in the debate Sunday night) Not one word about the evangelical endorsements."
York's free to write what he wants, of course, but I think his credibility as an analyst suffers when he does this.
To understand the significance of the endorsements Romney got from significant evangelical leaders, you'll have to go here. Again, I'm biased because that's my blog, but my co-blogger John Schroeder, understands the evangelical world and does an excellent job of putting the endorsers in context.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The Rocky Colavito Curse Lives On, to the Chagrin of Sports Fan Hugh Hewitt
All in all, it was a decidedly mixed weekend for Ohio and Notre Dame sports fan Hugh Hewitt. His Cleveland Indians concluded a three-game losing streak (LOSERS!), sending the Boston Red Sox to the World Series. The Curse of Rocky Colavito lives on! (In the spirit of full disclosure, throughout his Little League years, the Kosher Hedgehog used a black ash Rocky Colavito signature Louisville Slugger, to great effect far exceeding his poor athletic abilities.) Yes, sport fans, it was certainly was unwise and indeed historically disastrous for the Indians to trade Colavito, the then-reigning American League home run leader, to the Detroit Tigers in 1960. According to sports writer Terry Pluto, who first wrote of the curse in his 1994 book, The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a 33-Year Slump, the curse prevents the Indians from winning the American League Pennant or a World Series. Uh, Pluto, make that a 47-year slump.
Now Rocky Colavito himself tried to lift the curse on October 12, 2007, announcing, "I hereby rescind The Curse of Rocky Colavito which has for decades prevented the Cleveland Indians from winning a World Series." That seemed to work for a few days, as Cleveland shot out to a 3-1 series lead after losing the opening game. But Rocky had been sloppy in his incantation; he should have added that the curse had kept the Indians from even getting into a World Series, much less winning one. Or perhaps the Curse deliberately allowed the Indians to get within one game of an American Pennant and the World Series, before demonstrating its power and dashing the dreams of Indian fans. One can practically hear demonic laughter in the background.
Hugh is also a big fan of Notre Dame football, and a inveterate mocker of USC. USC had its revenge on Saturday, 38-0.
The only solace for poor Hugh now is his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, still sitting pretty at the top of the BCS rankings after eaking out a 24-17 win over Big 10 doormat Michigan State (5-3 overall, 1-3 in conference). Ohio State's other wins include lopsided victories against "powerhouses" such as Youngstown State, Akron, and Kent State. While that qualifies Ohio State to be football champion of the State of Ohio, it hardly justifies a number one national ranking. My own fond hope is that the BCS Number 5 ranked Arizona State University Sun Devils meet the Buckeyes in a national championship game, and avenge their 1997 Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State. I say that despite the likelihood that it will earn me a downstairs sleeping berth, since my wife is also an Ohio State fan.
Olmert Presses Negotiations With Fatah, Even While Fatah Plots to Assassinate Him
While we are on the subject of negotiating treaties in bad faith, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (photo left) has good reason to look so unhappy. One of Israel's most prominent investigative journalists, Yoav Yitzchak, has reported that the ongoing investigation into Olmert's involvement in a banking scandal is yielding damning evidence of crimes punishable by active jail time. Olmert may well feel that his only recourse is to take the path followed by his predecessor and mentor, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who co-opted the Israeli political left, which controls Israel's criminal justice system, by making unprecedented territorial concessions to the Palestinians in Gaza. That action resulted in the creation of Hamasitan in Gaza.
Too desperate to be deterred by that precedent, Olmert has been pressing forward with negotiations with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (now in power only in Yehuda and Shomron, the so-called "West Bank"), joining with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to promise a Palestinian State and territorial compromises exceeding those offered by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David and Taba, and refused by Yasser Arafat, in 2000.
Unfortunately, Fatah is not cooperating. Not only has it demanded even more concessions, including sovereignty over the Temple Mount and the Western Wall [see the Hedgehog Blog, October 12, 2007], but now its terrorist minions are trying to kill Olmert. Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin announced to Olmert's cabinet on Sunday morning that a group of gunmen affiliated with Fatah attempted to hit Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convoy as it made its way from Jerusalem to Jericho for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on August 6. The assassination plot was thwarted by the Shin Bet and the Palestinian Intelligence Service headed by Tawfik Tirawi. Typical of its past performance in dealing with terrorist suspects, the Palestinian authority arrested three suspects following the incident, and then released them. After a protest by Israeli security forces, they were re-arrested.
That much of the story was confirmed by Tawfik Tirawi and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday afternoon. However, also typically, Fatah spokesman Ahmed Abdul Rahman denied the earlier reports later on Sunday, despite the confirmations from Tirawi and Fayyad, declaring, "I call on all media outlets to disregard the false Israeli version, because there are clear political Israeli interests behind this falsification."
(Showing its usual regard for Palestinian disinformation campaigns, our own Los Angeles Times has yet to carry an online report of the Olmert assassination attempt. Or perhaps it considered a story about Palestinians attempting to murder Israelis to be "dog bites man" and not newsworthy enough to publish.)
Is North Korea Already Cheating on the Six-Party Nuclear Pact, in Syria?
The fallout continued (if you'll excuse the expression) this past week, from the Israeli airstrike on an alleged Syrian nuclear weapons development facility, apparently equipped and partially manned by North Koreans. First, Fox News reported that it had obtained a document in which a high-ranking Syrian official had admitted that Israel had struck a nuclear facility under construction. Syria disavowed the document.
Nonetheless, the Syrian official news agency reported today that a high-level North Korean delegation was visiting Damascus this week, to discuss ways of further developing relations between the two rogue nations. Since North Korea is bereft of money, agricultural exports (with much of its population suffering from malnutrition), any other non-military export goods, and indeed anything else that it could offer Syria other than expertise on weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems, it is hard to imagine what such cooperation could involve other than assistance in nuclear, biological and conventional weapons programs.
Throughout the weeks since the Israeli airstrike, the U.S. government has selectively leaked reports to U.S. media, indicating that the target of the Israeli raid indeed was a Syrian nuclear facility, which was under development with North Korean assistance. The Washington Post actually broke that story on September 13. The New York Times followed with a similar report on October 14, which it attributed to "American and foreign officials with access to the intelligence reports."
In a column unfortunately available only to subscribers, in the Wall Street Journal Online, two members of Congress, Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), urged the Bush Administration to be more forthcoming with the American people on what U.S. intelligence knows concerning the North Korean-Syrian nuclear relationship. Representative Hoekstra is the senior Republican member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, while Representative Ros-Lehtinen is the ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. They wrote that they were privy to information that they themselves could not disclose due to its classified nature.
David Wirtschafter, M.D., a personal friend who closely follows this story, speculated that what Hoekstra and Ros-Lehtinen were urging the White House to reveal is the full extent of North Korean violations of its non-proliferation treaty obligations. If the full story were known, he suggests, the Administration would lose political support for one of its few acknowledged foreign policy accomplishments, the October 3, 2007 "Agreement" reached with the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-il (pictured above left) to dismantle its nuclear facilities, produced by the Six-Party talks involving the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea and Japan. That political support is crucial to the Six-Party agreement, because part of the deal requires millions of dollars of energy, economic and humanitarian assistance to North Korea, the cost of which will have to be borne by U.S. taxpayers.
In a previous post on the Hedgehog Blog, I expressed concern that, under pressure to establish a positive foreign policy legacy in the waning days of the George W. Bush Presidency, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was morphing into Madeleine Albright, the Secrtary of State in the last years of the Bill Clinton Administration. That post concerned the delusions surrounding the regional conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace, originally slated for November in Annapolis, Maryland. However, what typified the Clinton-Albright approach to foreign policy, and the attitude that I fear has now been adopted by the George W. Bush Administration, is the quest for paper agreements that earn political points and international acclaim, but in truth have no substance, and are immediately violated by the "other side." That was the true nature of the Oslo Accords and the October 1994 North Korea-U.S. Joint Framework for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, both of which were touted with great hoopla by the Clinton Administration, and both of which turned out to be worthless due to the bad faith of the Palestinian Authority, in the former case, and North Korea in the latter.
The latter treaty is especially germane to the current situation, because in 2002 North Korea acknowledged that for years it had pursued a uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons purposes, in violation of its treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (to which it is a party), the 1992 North Korea-South Korea Denuclearization Declaration and the 1994 accord. Are Representatives Peter Hoekstra and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen trying to warn us that history is repeating itself?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Evelyn Gordon, writing in the Jerusalem Post, observes that in the leadup to the Annapolis peace conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert not only clings to, but promotes the false notion that the Palestinian leadership and the other Arab nations have accepted Israel's existence as a Jewish State. She explains why this is a dangerous delusion that Israel cannot afford to indulge.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
As confirmed by no less an authority than Lynne Cheney, the Vice President's wife, her husband is an eighth cousin of the Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate. Read all about it here. How will the Clinton campaign use this intelligence? Since Senator Obama is supported by many of Senator Clinton's critics on the Left, look for the Clintonistas to start a rumor campaign among the wingnuts, hinting that Senator Obama is actually Dick Cheney's Manchurian Candidate, through whom Cheney plans on continuing his secret rule of the United States through January 2017. Who will be the first to uncover Senator Obama's Halliburton connections? [HT: OMG]
“The fact that I’m seen as a Religious Right person would hopefully get others to step out for him,” Taylor said in an interview in Greenville, S.C., the university’s hometown.This should give pause to those pundits who opined that Romney could not garner support on the Christian Right. [HT: Hugh Hewitt]
Taylor’s endorsement, which he said he plans to announce in the near future, marks a stunning move for such a high-placed academic at Bob Jones University. In 2000, Bob Jones III, then president of the university, wrote a public letter that referred to Mormonism and Catholicism as “cults which call themselves Christian.”
Taylor acknowledged that endorsing a Mormon for president risked alienating the university’s conservative donors and alumni. But, he said, “we’re not electing a pastor — we’re electing a president.”
This afternoon, Bob Jones III, chancellor of the university, told the Greenville News that he, too, is endorsing Romney. “This is all about beating Hillary [Clinton],” Jones told the newspaper. “And I just believe that this man has the credentials both personally and ideologically in terms of his view about what American government should be to best represent the rank and file of conservative Americans,” he said. “If it turns out to be [Rudy] Giuliani and Hillary we’ve got two pro-choice candidates, and that would be a disaster.” Jones, when asked whether Romney’s Mormon faith was a problem for him, replied: “What is the alternative? Hillary’s lack of religion or an erroneous religion?”
...they ain't got nutin' on Israel's Prime Minister, and former Mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, on the issue of the unity of Jerusalem. Check out this video from One Jerusalem, and while you are there sign the petition to preserve the unity of Jerusalem, as Israel's capital.
Monday, October 15, 2007
The Kosher Hedgehog's loyal readership (all three of you, unless someone dropped out) no doubt is hanging on the edge of its collective chair to know what my reaction is to the latest "Le Scandal Coulter." Not surprisingly, Michael Medved has already written my opinion on this matter more artfully than I could have written it myself. Read his entire post here. This quote gives the reader a sense of his position:
This exchange [between Ann Coulter and CNBC host Donny Deutsch] drew condemnation from nearly all of the leading Jewish organizations in the United States, but the outrage provoked by her remarks – one typical columnist, Florie Brizel called her “a poison-filled hate monger” – seems utterly inappropriate for two reasons.
First, any American Jew who doesn’t already understand that sincere Christians want the whole world ultimately to come to Christ – including us – is an ignorant fool. Yes, Christianity believes in converting people: and most of us received that memo about 2000 years ago. The proper response to the declaration that Christians want all of humanity to become Christian shouldn't be outrage or indignation; it ought to be, "Duh!" If your friends or neighbors seek to share with you the greatest gift they've ever received, it's not usually a sign that they hate you; in fact, it's very likely an indication that they love you.
Second, the Jewish people face far more serious enemies today than those who seek to share the joy and fulfilment of their faith. Millions of Muslims want to kill us, Jimmy Carter wants to smear Israel as an “apartheid state,” and Professors Walt and Mearsheimer claim that a Jewish conspiracy dominates American policy. In this context, the rage against a pro-Israel, pro-American, anti-Jihad commentator like Coulter is wildly misguided. After all, in the same conversation on CNBC she allowed that in her view of "heaven" all Democrats would be "like Joe Lieberman" (the most famous religious Jew in America) and affirmed that she believes, with the late Jerry Falwell, that Jews certainly have our own place in heaven.
Interestingly, Michael nonetheless writes that Mr. Deutsch "bristled (understandably and appropriately) at that ill-considered, off-hand remark." Michael needs to explain himself further on that point.
As for me, I say that the best friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in the world today are Evangelical Christians, who nonetheless would love to see us convert to Christianity and would consider us perfected by doing so. So long as they don't condition their friendship on my conversion, that's OK with me. Since, unlike many of Ann Coulter's vocal Jewish critics, I am a seriously observant Jew, her desire to convert me is not a threat. It ain't gonna happen.
Although Evangelical Christians presumably would like to see all Moslems, Buddhists and Hindus convert as well, they express particular love and regard for the Jewish people. Apart from the fact that the person they hold to be the Messiah was Jewish, in my experience such Christians are also motivated by a verse in this week's Torah portion, "Lech Lecha," in which God tells our father Abraham, "And I will bless them that bless you, and him that curses you will I curse." (Genesis 12:3) Because Evangelical Christians take Biblical verses seriously, and because I wear my kippah (skullcap) in public, complete strangers occasionally walk up to me and say, "God bless you." Now that's not exactly anti-Semitism, even if every one of them also would like me to convert to Christianity.
One of the most heroic righteous gentiles during the Holocaust was Corrie ten Boom, (April 15, 1892 – April 15, 1983), of blessed and saintly memory, a Dutch Christian who, along with her family, at great personal risk, hid many Jews and helped them escape the murderous Nazis. Someone eventually informed on the ten Boom family to the Germans. Her family was arrested, and imprisoned. Her father died 10 days after his arrest. The surviving family members were transferred from prison camp to prison camp, eventually to the notorious Ravensbruch concentration camp, where Corrie's sister Betsie died. Corrie ten Boom told her story in her autobiography, The Hiding Place, which was made into a film in 1975 . In December 1967, Corrie ten Boom was honored by the State of Israel for her work in aid of the Jewish people. She was invited to plant a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem, the official Israeli Holocaust memorial, near Jerusalem.
Now I am sure that had one questioned Corrie ten Boom about whether she would like to see Jews convert to Christianity, and whether such converts are perfected by their conversion, she would have answered strongly in the affirmative. Does that make her an anti-Semite? If so, to paraphrase Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof, may God strike me a thousand times with such anti-Semitism, and may I never recover!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Opinion Journal has some worthy suggestions for next year's selection process. (Hint: No American liberal politicians are on the list.)
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The MItt Romney Family: "The Decision"
As a firm Mitt Romney supporter, I recommend this video to anyone who wants to understand who the Romneys really are.
I'd be worried about the problem this cartoon highlights.
But as a Republican, I worry that Sen. Clinton will get away with such doubletalk. She is, after all, a runaway leader in the national polls among Democrats; and her husband elevated the art of doubletalk to a new level during eight years as President-- and continues as perhaps the most accomplished practitioner of the art in U.S. history.
The MSM seemed to admire Bill Clinton's ability to prevaricate. They also don't seem to mind Hillary's skills in the same area. Bill didn't have to deal with the blogosphere, however, and she cannot match him in the skill of lying with a straight face. This is going to be fascinating to watch.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Palestinians Up the Ante: Demand Muslim Control of the Western Wall
Contrary to what most people assume, the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall, is not Judaism's holiest place. The holiest spot on earth, to a religious Jew, would be the site on Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, where once stood the Kadosh HaKadoshim, the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple, where the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark, once rested.
However, since the destruction of the Temple and the Roman exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel, the closest that Jews were permitted to come to the Holy of Holies was the Western Wall. Even today, forty years after God gave Israel the incredible victory in the Six-Day War, which returned the Temple Mount to Jewish sovereignty for the first time in almost 2000 years, the closest place to the Holy of Holies that a Jew may pray is the Western Wall. That is due to the cowardly refusal of successive governments of Israel to stand up for Jewish religious rights in the face of Muslim intimidation. Under an agreement with the Muslim Waqf, Jews and Christians may visit certain parts on the perimeter of the plaza at the top of the Temple Mount perimeter, but may not pray there. During the time period from 1948 until 1967, when the Old City of Jerusalem was last under Arab control, no Jew could pray at the Western Wall at all.
That is apparently the status quo ante to which the Palestinian Authority and the Muslim Waqf want to return. Not satisfied with promises by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israeli territorial compromises matching or exceeding the offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David and Taba in 2000, including Palestinian sovereignty over the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount itself, yesterday the Palestinian Authority upped the ante. According to the New York Sun:
"An aide to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said yesterday that the Palestinians will demand sole Arab control over Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem, the Western Wall.
Mr. Abbas's adviser on religious affairs, Adnan al-Husseini, made the new demand in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv ... ."
This is part and parcel with the longstanding Palestinian policy of denying that the Jewish people have any historical tie to Jerusalem or the Temple Mount. One blatant manisfestation of that policy has been the destruction by the Muslim Waqf of archaelogical artifacts on the Temple Mount, exposed by its construction activities.
Interestingly, although the Los Angeles Times ran a story today about the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading up to the Annapolis peace conference scheduled for November, it did not mention this latest PA demand. Perhaps the story broke too late (although the Times does not mention it on its online site either) or perhaps it simply did not fit into the Times' "blame Israel" script.
This may actually be a hopeful development, further proof that God watches over fools and the Jewish people. Previously on the Hedgehog Blog, I speculated that the Palestinians would save Israel from a disastrous, dangerous territorial concession, by demanding more than even Ehud Olmert could concede. [See "Will Palestinian Intransigence Once Again Save Israel From the Folly of Her Leaders?" The Hedgehog Blog, October 1, 2007.]
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Terri Schiavo Case Revisited: New Brain Scanning Techniques Show Responses of Vegetative Patients to Stimuli
The New Yorker is not a magazine that is normally thought of as a champion of the views of religious conservatives. Back in October 23, 2006, it published Adam Gopnick's "Reviewing Nature," an article about Darwin's The Origin of Species, in which Mr. Gopnick, a professed atheist, exuberantly rejected any notion that one might reconcile Darwinian evolutionary theory with the Biblical creation account. No matter to him that Nobel Laureate Francis Crick is only one of many religious scientists who have no problem doing exactly that. Who are you going to believe on matters of science, Professor Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize winning molecular biologist, or Adam Gopnick, the atheist writer?
More recently, The New Yorker has featured the semi-auto-biographical and undeniably humorous writings of Shalom Auslander, whose recently published memoir, Foreskin's Lament, is described by one reviewer as revealing "Auslander's youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox [Jewish] community," namely Monsey, New York. A chapter of the same book deals with the brief residency of Shalom and his wife Orli in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Folks, trust me, neither Monsey, nor Teaneck, is socially isolated. The Monsey Jewish community in which Auslander was raised, and Teaneck as well, are hardly isolationist Hasidic in nature. Rather, they are what is commonly referred to as "Modern Orthodox" or "Centrist Orthodox" communities, partaking of a religious philosophy that is very much involved in the secular world, while also very much remaining loyal to Jewish law and observance. [In the spirit of full disclosure, the Kosher Hedgehog is Modern Orthodox.] For example, Auslander's uncle, the brother of his mother, is Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, the Chancellor and former President of Yeshiva University. A prototypical Rabbi of Monsey is Rav Moshe Tendler, PhD, who at Yeshiva University holds the positions of Rosh Yeshiva (in secular terms, a Dean of Talmudic Studies) and Professor of Biology. These are not quite the primitive troglodytes who Auslander would have us believe are the sole inhabitants of Monsey and Teaneck.
So, as I was saying, when a religious conservative is looking for journalistic vindication of his point of view, he does not normally expect to find it in The New Yorker.
Therefore, I was quite pleasantly surprised to read in the October 15, 2007 issue an article by Jerome Groopman, entitled "Silent Minds--What Scanning Techniques Are Revealing About Vegetative Patients." The article describes the research conducted over the past decade by Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientist. Conducting brain scans of vegetative patients, he discovered that many showed normal patterns of brain activity in response to external stimuli, such as speech, photographs and music. His subsequent research suggested that some vegetative patients not only reacted to speech, but comprehended it, and could even perform a complex mental task on command. Conventional medical science had assumed for decades that these types of patients lacked any capacity for conscious thought.
Inspired by the finds of Owen and other researchers, neurosurgeons are now experimenting, with some cases of stunning success, with therapies involving deep brain stimulation of vegetative patients. One of those patients, Terry Wallis, had spontaneously recovered speech to a limited degree after almost 20 years in a vegetative state, has recovered speech. With further medical therapy, he has shown marked improvement. Nicholas Schiff, a Weill Cornell Medical College neurosurgeon, and one of the physicians who is treating Wallis, says "After 19 years, Terry spoke a few words, but within seventy-two hours he recovered fluent, expressive, and receptive language."
Which brings us back to the Terri Schiavo case. As the readers will recall, Ms. Schiavo died from thirst and starvation, at the order of her husband, despite the claims of her parents and caretakers that Ms. Schiavo reacted to their touch and voices. Her husband and his many vocal advocates argued that Ms. Schiavo had no "quality of life," and that she, on the rather skimpy evidence of one brief conversation with her husband, would not want to have had her life prolonged in a vegetative state. The supporters of preserving her life were roundly vilified as religious extremists.
We will never know what a brain scan examination by a scientist such as Dr. Owen would have revealed about Terri Schiavo Perhaps, as a brief discussion of her case in The New Yorker article concludes, her brain indeed was too damaged to exhibit the responses he found in other vegetative patients. Perhaps not.
Yet, one's conscience ought to be haunted by the words of Kate Bainbridge, the first vegetative patient that Adrian Owen studied in Cambridge. She has recovered the use of her arms and much of her mental function. She is still unable to walk, and has difficulty speaking, using a letter board to communicate with people not used to her speech. But she writes eloquently. In an e-mail to Jerome Goopman, she wrote:
"Most scans show what is wrong with your brain, which the doctors need to know, but Adrian Owen's scans show what is working. I say they found parts of my brain were working. It really scares me to think what might have happened to me if I had not had the scans. They show people it was worth carrying on even though my body was unresponsive."
When I read Ms. Bainbridge's words, I felt rather good about being a religious conservative troglodyte who opposed starving Terri Schiavo to death.
Last night, at a dinner discussion with some fellow Jewish Republicans, we cautiously agreed that if the GOP does not retain the White House in 2008, then from a national security perspective, Hillary Clinton is probably the least objectionable of the three Democratic leading contenders for the Presidential nomination. "However," my friend David Wirtschafter warned me, "if she is elected, hold on to your wallet."
David's warning is substantiated by the Republican National Committee, which is tracking Hillary's new spending proposals. As of today, they top $724 Billion. Follow her progress at GOP.com's Hillary Clinton Spend-o-Meter here. As RNC Chairman Mike Duncan asks, "Can she hit $1 trillion before Thanksgiving? Will she make it to the $2 trillion mark before the party conventions next summer?"
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Robert D. Kaplan, distinguished author of The Arabists, Imperial Grunts, and his just-published book, Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea and on the Ground, is the foremost chronicler of the 21st century American military. Hugh Hewitt has called him, "The Rudyard Kipling of our era." In last Thursday's WSJ.com OpinionJournal, Kaplan wrote a moving column, which begins:
I'm weary of seeing news stories about wounded soldiers and assertions of "support" for the troops mixed with suggestions of the futility of our military efforts in Iraq. Why aren't there more accounts of what the troops actually do? How about narrations of individual battles and skirmishes, of their ever-evolving interactions with Iraqi troops and locals in Baghdad and Anbar province, and of increasingly resourceful "patterning" of terrorist networks that goes on daily in tactical operations centers?
Kaplan quotes a battalion commander who rejects the media's attempt to confer victimhood on him and his troops. "Has anyone noticed that we now have a volunteer Army? I'm a warrior. It's my job to fight." He argues that our soldiers don't want to be pitied, or even to be loved, but rather to be respected for the job that they do. Read the entire column.
In the past I have been a fan and admirer of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Indeed, it is my fond hope that when the George W. Bush Administration ends, she will return to Stanford, and prepare for a U.S. Senate run to contest the seat now held by Barbara Boxer.
However, currently, Secretary of State Rice appears to be morphing into Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In a desperate effort to insulate the Bush foreign policy legacy from the Iraq controversy, she has flung herself into the Big Muddy River of Middle East diplomacy. As Irving Kristol once memorably remarked, "Whom the gods would destroy, they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict."
For the probable consequences of this late-game attempt by a U.S. President to bring peace to the Middle East, we need only look back to the July 2000 Camp David peace conference, the failure of which led to the eruption of the Second Intifada and almost constant violence ever since. Although Bill Clinton is not a person prone to reflection and self-criticism, in his memoirs, My Life, Clinton called Camp David "the failure of my life." He wrote:
"Right before I left office, Arafat thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. 'Mr Chairman,' I replied, 'I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me a failure.'"
Please read what Caroline Glick, the Senior Middle Eastern Fellow for Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, had to say about Secretary's Rice quixotic quest in last week in the Jerusalem Post. She notes that although the U.S. needs Egypt and Saudi Arabia to play an active positive role at the conference, those two nations are thwarting the U.S. policy of isolating Hamas, by encouraging a Hamas-Fatah reapproachment. Frustrated in that direction, Secretary Rice has predictably reacted by putting pressure for concessions on the only party over which the U.S. has leverage, Israel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in turn, sensing the desperation of the Bush Administration and the Olmert government in Israel, is expanding his pre-conference demands, despite his political inability to deliver on any agreement he might make:
Over the past week, Abbas announced his adherence to maximal Palestinian demands from Israel. These include the full transfer of sovereignty over the Temple Mount to the Palestinians; the complete surrender of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians; and an Israeli acceptance of the so-called "right of return" that would force Israel to accept millions of foreign Arabs as immigrants within its truncated borders. Abbas's stances are a reflection of his inability to make any concessions for peace.
The failure of Rice's summit will directly benefit Hamas, which will be able to say that as it had warned, diplomacy is pointless. Understanding this, Abbas himself has let it be known that he is negotiating with Hamas. Then too, ahead of his meeting this past Wednesday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas dispatched his representatives to threaten Israel with war.
For an appropriate metaphor for Secretary Rice's diplomatic fantasy, Glick is compelled to look to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:
Rice is dragging Israel with her in her madcap descent down the diplomatic rabbit hole - and not for the first time. Rice has a record of forcing Israel to sacrifice its security in the interest of her "peace" processes.
In November 2005, Rice coerced then-prime minister Ariel Sharon into accepting her agreement on the passages joining Gaza to Egypt and Israel. That agreement denied Israel the ability to prevent terrorists and arms from being smuggled into Gaza. This week's Egyptian agreement to allow some 90 Hamas terrorists - many of whom underwent military training in Iran and Syria - to enter Gaza was easily implemented in spite of Israeli objections in large part as a consequence of Rice's heavy-handed treatment of Israel.
So too, Rice forced Israel to agree to have US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton train and arm Fatah forces in Gaza. That disastrous plan led to the indirect US arming of Hamas when Fatah forces surrendered their weapons to Hamas without a fight in June. And of course, Rice was the architect of the cease-fire with Hizbullah last year that has enabled the Iranian terror group to rearm and to reassert its control over south Lebanon.
Apparently hoping to avoid an association with the failed Camp David peace conference, the Administration has chosen to locate its international Middle East peace conference, tentatively scheduled for November 2007, in Annapolis. Unfortunately, as Ms. Glick demonstrates, the conference not only remains in the same State as Camp David (Maryland), but also is trapped by the same state of mind--achievement of an agreement at all costs, and no matter what the ultimate cost to Israel.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
In his undaunting effort to control every aspect of Venezuelan life, President and despot Hugo Chavez found out that time had eluded his grasp, for the time being. El Tonto Grande had decreed that effective Monday, September 24, Venezuela would change its time to 4.5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, a half hour later than the present time. However, Chavez announced the time change only 8 days before it was supposed to take effect. Moreover, he added to the confusion in his announcement by instructing Venezuelans to turn their clocks foward one-half hour, when his policy actually required them to turn their closks back one-half hour. Admitting defeat amid mounting confusion, Chavez finally postponed implementation of the plan.
What was the rationale for the attempt by Chavez to put Venezuela in its very own time zone, shared by no other country? According to Reuters, "Chavez had said the shift would allow children to wake up for school in daylight instead of before sunrise, but acknowledged that some people might claim he was crazy." No kidding.
More fundamentally, this incident illustrates the effort of a fanatical despot to force every aspect of Venezuelan society and national life to conform to his personal whims. In the same speech as his announcement of the time change postponement, Chavez threatened to close or take over any private school that refuses to submit to the oversight of his socialist government as it develops a new curriculum and textbooks. He has suppressed opposition political parties and has closed down opposition newspapers and broadcasters. His rubber-stamp parliament has amended the nation's constitution to allow him to serve as President indefinitely. Yet this man has become a role model for those on the U.S. left who applaud any anti-American stance, no matter how ludicrous.
In the meantime, Chavez is functioning as a one-man wrecking crew, demolishing the Venezuelan economy. As reported in the International Herald Tribune in September:
While Venezuela earns record proceeds from oil exports, consumers face shortages of meat, flour and cooking oil. Annual inflation has risen to 16 percent, the highest in Latin America, as Chávez tripled government spending in four years.
Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips are pulling out after Chávez demanded that they cede control of joint venture projects.
The bolivar has tumbled 30 percent this year to 4,850 per dollar on the black market, the only place it trades freely because of government controls on foreign exchange. That compares with the official rate of 2,150 per dollar set in 2005. Chávez may have to devalue the bolivar to reduce the gap and increase oil proceeds, which make up half the government's revenue.
"This has been the worst-managed oil boom in Venezuela's history," said Ricardo Hausmann, a former government planning minister who now teaches economics at Harvard University. "A devaluation is a foregone conclusion. The only question is when."
And so Chavez has set out to do to the Venezuelan economy what his hero, Fidel Castro, has done for Cuba. Yet, astonishingly, his anti-American defiance has made him a role model in Latin America for a resurgent, authoritarian, anti-American left. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and his socialist allies won elections there this past Sunday. Correa has proposed a constitutional amendment there to allow the President to serve two four-year terms instead of one, and his opponents charge that this change is just the first step in his efforts to make himself President for life.
Monday, October 01, 2007
"Then it's agreed. The U.S. will sell out Israel at the November peace conference."
Many friends of Israel have looked forward to the U.S.-sponsored international Middle East Peace Conference, tentatively scheduled for this November, with foreboding. They are not so much afraid of the potential failure of such a conference, which could lead to renewed Arab-Israeli hostilities, as to its potential success, which likely would deprive Israel of the Temple Mount and the heart of the historical Jewish homeland in Yehuda and Shomron, as well as impose both indefensible borders that would threaten the security of Israel and refugee repatriation obligations that would threaten its Jewish character.
Because Israel's present "post-Zionist" leadership puts so little value on Jewish values and Jewish tradition, one can have but little faith that people such as Ehud Olmert recognize the true cost of the concessions they are prepared to make to secure an agreement from the Arabs. The Arabs, on the other hand, know exactly what they are about, which is why the Muslim Waqf and the Palestinian Authority spend so much effort denying and erasing every trace of Jewish historical ties to the Land of Israel. They understand, as Israel's secular leaders do not, that the real key to destroying Israel is to undermine the reason for its creation, the national aspirations of the Jewish people.
Even so, painful concessions might be bearable if they came in return for true peace and recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State. However, many friends of Israel fear and expect that the promises of peace from the Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab States would turn out to be prevarications, just as the Oslo Accords proved to be. Fatah leaders have described the Oslo Accords as a "trojan horse," designed to allow Yassir Arafat and armed Fatah militias to return to the Land of Israel and obtain control over a part of its territory, the first phase of a strategic plan to weaken and ulitimately destroy Israel by stages. A peace agreement at the November international conference would be the next stage in that process.
Indeed, many of us have wondered at, and have been grateful for, the refusal of Yassir Arafat to accept the deal offered by President Bill Clinton and Israeli Premier Ehud Barak at Camp David summit conference in September 2000. Had he accepted the offer, he would have become the first President of a Palestinian State, which in all likelihood would have shortly thereafter repudiated its peace treaty with Israel and "continued the struggle to liberate all of Palestine," i.e., extinguish the State of Israel. It was one more example of how the Palestinian Arabs, in the words of Henry Kissinger, "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," thank God.
Once again Palestinian overreaching may save Israel from the recklessness of her leaders. Tuesday's Jerusalem Post [it is already Tuesday in Israel] reports that the Palestinian Authority will only participate in the November conference if prior to the conference Israel makes a sweeping deal with the Palestinians, covering not only territorial concessions, but also refugees, settlements, security (or for Israel the loss of security) and water rights. As the Book of Psalms tells us, God watches over fools.
More Good News from Iraq; U.S. Troop and Iraqi Civilian Deaths Down by 50%. How will the Democrats React?