Thursday, January 31, 2008

Israel Adopts Ethiopian Jewish Festival of Sigd as National Holiday

Any visitor to Israel quickly reaslizes that the equating of Zionism with racism is a "Big Lie" worthy of the creators of the Nazi "Big Lie" technique, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Perhaps only the United States boasts a more racially diverse society. The prophetic ingathering of the exiles has brought Asian Jews, Russian Jews, Polish Jews, French Jews, North African Jews, Greek and Turkish Jews, Anglo-American Jews, Latin American Jews, Persian Jews, Indian Jews, and, yes, even Arab Jews, among many other diverse Jewish communities, back to the Holy Land. In recent decades they were joined by the Ethiopian Jewish community of "Beta Israel," adding a distinctly African coloring to the marvelous stew that is the reborn State of Israel. Symbolizing the integration of Ethiopian Jewry into the Jewish People of Israel, the Knesset today gave preliminary approval of legislation to recognize the Ethiopian Jewish festival of Sigd as a national holiday. The bill is expected to receive quick final approval, as its co-sponsors include parties from the full spectrum of the Israeli body politic, left, right and center, secular and religious.

As recounted by Israel National News:
Sigd takes place on the 29th of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, exactly fifty days after Yom Kippur. The holiday is pronounced Sigd (one syllable), which means prostration in Amharic and shares its root with the word for temple. The ceremony resembles the one held for the renewal of the Divine covenant by Ezra the Scribe during the Second Commonwealth, described in the Book of Nechemia. "All the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel" (Nehemiah 8:1)

UN High Commissioner Backtracks on Endorsement of Arab Charter on Human Rights

Lois Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was forced to backtrack on her prior endorsement of the Arab League's Arab Charter On Human Rights. The Charter, originally passed in 1994 by the Arab League, officially came into force this month with its ratification by seven Arab League Members, all stout defenders of human rights [readers, please recognize sarcasm], namely United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Syria, Libya, and the Palestinian Authority. High Commissioner Arbour lauded the ratification, saying:

“In this celebratory year of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I welcome the 7th ratification required to bring the Arab Charter on Human Rights into force."

Apparently, certain, shall we say, idiosynchratic aspects of the Arab Charter were subsequently pointed out to High Commissioner Arbour. The text of the Arab Charter appears here. The opening recitals include the declaration that the Governments of the Arab Nations, in enacting the Charter, are "Rejecting racism and zionism, which constitute a violation of human rights and pose a threat to world peace." Article I(b) then states, "Racism, zionism, occupation and foreign domination pose a challenge to human dignity and constitute a fundamental obstacle to the realization of the basic rights of peoples. There is a need to condemn and endeavour to eliminate all such practices." In other words, the Arab Charter for Human Rights expressly rejects the principle of national self-determination for the Jewish people, which is the foundation of Zionism and the basis for the existence of the State of Israel, a member state of the United Nations.

Yesterday, the High Commissioner issued a clarification of her earlier statement of endorsement. The new statement acknowledges that certain provisions of the Arab Charter are "not in conformance with international norms and standards," such as "the approach to death penalty for children and the rights of women and non-citizens." She then continued, "Moreover, to the extent that it equates Zionism with racism, we reiterated that the Arab Charter is not in conformity with General Assembly Resolution 46/86, which rejects that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination. OHCHR [Office of the High Commmissioner for Human Rights] does not endorse these inconsistencies."

In perhaps related news, Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier and the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, Jason Kenney, issued a statement on January 23 in which they announced that their country would not be taking part in the UN's 2009 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa. The reason for their decision, they said, was the prospect that the conference would again degenerate into a festival of anti-Semitism, as occurred in 2001.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Glenn Beck on Gordon B. Hinckley

Amid the tumult of a presidential campaign, messages like this one are a reminder of what is important about how people live their lives:

The Kotel--Western Wall--Plaza Draped in Snow

The plaza in front of the Kotel--the Western Wall--Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, at 9:46 p.m. on Yom Chamishi b'erev, 24 Shevat, 5768 (Wednesday night, Jan. 30, 2008). A lone figure is engaged in prayer in a nearly deserted square. The photo was taken from Aish HaTorah's Live Western Wall Camera.

If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.
If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my tongue cling to the the roof of my mouth.
If I do not raise Jerusalem above my highest joy!

Psalms 137:5-6.

A Point Mitt Romney Needs to Make Repeatedly Over The Next Week

He made it on Good Morning America today:
"I think what will happen across the country is that conservatives will give a good thought to whether or not they want to hand the party's nomination over to Senator McCain. He has not been their champion over the last several years," Romney said in an interview Wednesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"I think there will be a movement within the Republican party to coalesce around a conservative candidate. Mike Huckabee, of course, might stay in, and that might be one of the reasons he does so - is to try and split that conservative vote."
I think that's the plain truth, and Republican voters will have to decide how they respond to it.

(HT: Hugh Hewitt.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Some Thoughts on Florida

What Lies Ahead?

I agree 100% with Ralph's comments below, and will add only this: Romney really has only one way to turn this around: Focusing Republicans on the choice before them.

McCain is now the national front-runner. That will bring an entirely different kind of scrutiny to him. Republicans will be forced to ask: Is this really the man we want to put forward as our nominee?

I have no idea what their answer will be. Romney has to go to them and say, "Here I am. I am a traditional Republican, strong on the three 'legs of the GOP stool:' (1) national defense, (2) the economy, and (3) traditional values. If you want a Reagan Republican who will take those principles to Washington, I am your man."

Will that work? Who knows. It depends on whether there are enough Republicans out there who care about those basic principles.

And What About That Mormon Question?

I shared these thoughts tonight on Article VI Blog:

But back to The Question: I’ll ask it a little differently this

Imagine Mitt Romney were the same in every respect as he is right
now, same family, same personal story, same accomplishments, but a life-long
Evangelical Presbyterian, like my co-blogger John or Hugh Hewitt.

Would we be watching the same outcome in Florida? Would Huckabee
be hanging on still, out of money and carrying his own bags through hotel
lobbies, even after not winning a single real primary and scoring a series of
third- and fourth-place finishes?

Yes, you can say Romney would still be in the same position because of
his “flip-flopping.” And you might be right. But what if
“flip-flopping” is really code for something else, as this study concluded?

I wonder. I really wonder.

What do you think?
I think I may be wondering for a long, long time.

Giuliani Finishes Weak Third In Florida; Will Reportedly Endorse McCain

So much for his brilliant innovative primary campaign strategy. Rudy Giuliani's high-stakes gamble on a strong showing in the Florida Republican Presidential Primary came up a cropper today. The former New York City Mayor finished a weak third behind winner Senator John McCain and runner-up former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. AP and Time Magazine are reporting that Giuliani is dropping out of the race and will endorse his personal friend, John McCain, on Wednesday in California.

This development poses a triple dilemma for the Romney Campaign. First, Senator McCain has gained additional momemtum rolling into the February 5 Uber-Super Tuesday primary elections. He has won a GOP primary where the voters were limited to registered Republicans, mooting the criticism that his success to date has been due to the support of independents and Democrats who might well abandon him in the general election.

Second, an endorsement by Rudy Giuliani will cement McCain's status as the Center-Right favorite in the Republican race, and should have significant impact in New York, New Jersey and California.

Third, while Giuliani is exiting the race, apparently Mike Huckabee is not. That means that Huckabee will continue to draw off votes of Christian evangelicals and social conservatives who otherwise would presumably vote for Mitt Romney. While the proposition is arguable, in my view the continuing presence of Mike Huckabee in this contest hurts Mitt Romney more than it hurts John McCain.

It will be interesting to see what the Romney campaign can do, and will do, to counter these considerations. Frankly, all that can be done is to redouble one's efforts, and one's media expenditures, to try to capture as many delegates as possible on February 5th.

Another point to keep in mind--it is very likely that no single candidate will go into the convention with enough delegates to clinch the GOP Presidential nomination. In that context, Senator McCain's unpopularity with the Republican party faithful may work against him.

One hopes that both of the candidates in what now amounts to a two horse race will take the high road. The Republican Party cannot afford a contest that is so bruising, divisive and ill-willed that the partisans of the loser cannot wholeheartedly and enthusiastically back the winner come November. Indeed, the only winner of such a debacle would be the Democratic nominee.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some McCain Cluelessness That The News Media Didn't Notice

From The Bulletin, of Philadelphia:

A few months ago, John McCain was asked what qualities he would seek in a
potential running mate. He responded, "You ... look for people who maybe have
talents you don't, or experience or knowledge you don't, as well." Mr. McCain
was then pressed by a New York Times reporter as to what qualities a vice
president would need to complement Mr. McCain, and the senator responded, "Uh,
maybe I shouldn't say this, but, somebody who's really well grounded in

Confused? Just watch this:

The Final SOTU

I am live-blogging the last State of the Union address of President George W. Bush. Boy, oh boy, if the Democrats were expecting a meek, tired, beleaguered lame-duck President who would surrender quietly to their agenda, they are being sorely disappointed. President Bush came out swinging from the outset and didn't let up. He is still the Republican partisan who champions a conservative agenda, damn the torpedos and full speed ahead. Send me a tax increase, he said, and I will veto it. Send me approrpriations bills that do not cut Congressional earmarks in half, and I will veto them. Oh, and in case you didn't get the message, here comes an executive order that will instruct all federal agencies to ignore earmarks that are inserted into committee reports without having been passed by Congress. (I noticed that even some Republican legislators sat on their hands for that one.)

President Bush also took some shots at the Democratic Presidential candidates. The proper approach to expanding availability of health care and health insurance is to empower consumers, not government bureaucracy. Senators Clinton and Obama both looked sour in reaction to that remark.

As for immigration, President Bush refused to pander to extremists, even those of his own party. Any solution to illegal immigration must provide a means for immigrants to legally enter the country and work, in order to support our economy. A solution must show regard not only for the rule of law, but to our highest ideals.

Now he is recounting the undeniable facts about progress in Iraq. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is staring down at her hands and frankly looks rather sick. The progress of the surge will allow us in the coming year to pursue a program of withdrawal upon success. (No, Speaker Pelosi and Senator Obama, that is not the same as immediate withdrawal and cut and run.)

Except for those moments when he speaks about grim subjects, such as the war against terrorism, President Bush is showing open enjoyment throughout the speech. He is (to use a label once given Senator Hubert Humphrey) the Happy Warrior. You think I am beaten, Democrats, he seems to be saying, you think that you will just stroll on into the White House a year from now. Don't count on it.

God, I love this guy.

Senator Obama Holds News Conference Call for Jewish Media Reporters

Given the predominant loyalty of Jewish Americans to the Democratic Party (which, to my regret, remains overwhelmingly the case), as the campaign of Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic Presidential nomination grows stronger, American Jews are increasingly interested in his views on issues of concern to them. Today Senator Obama held a conference call today for reporters from Jewish newspapers and media, the reporters were eager to hear his views. Senator Obama was just as eager to put to bed false rumors that have been circulating that he is secretly a Muslim and took his Senatorial oath on a Koran. You can listen to the entire conference call at the JTA website. A JTA news brief on the conference call appears here.

The more substantive and difficult questions for Senator Obama concerned his actual Christian affiliation, not the false Moslem one. Richard Cohen, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post, recently had this to say about Senator Obama's true religious affiliation:

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Its minister, and Obama's spiritual adviser, is the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. In 1982, the church launched Trumpet Newsmagazine; Wright's daughters serve as publisher and executive editor. Every year, the magazine makes awards in various categories. Last year, it gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to a man it said "truly epitomized greatness." That man is Louis Farrahkan.

Maybe for Wright and some others, Farrakhan "epitomized greatness." For most Americans, though, Farrakhan epitomizes racism, particularly in the form of anti-Semitism. Over the years, he has compiled an awesome record of offensive statements, even denigrating the Holocaust by falsely attributing it to Jewish cooperation with Hitler -- "They helped him get the Third Reich on the road." His history is a rancid stew of lies.

It's important to state right off that nothing in Obama's record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan. Instead, as Obama's top campaign aide, David Axelrod, points out, Obama often has said that he and his minister sometimes disagree. Farrakhan, Axelrod told me, is one of those instances.

Fine. But where I differ with Axelrod and, I assume, Obama is that praise for an anti-Semitic demagogue is not a minor difference or an intrachurch issue. The Obama camp takes the view that its candidate, now that he has been told about the award, is under no obligation to speak out on the Farrakhan matter. It was not Obama's church that made the award but a magazine. This is a distinction without much of a difference. And given who the parishioner is, the obligation to speak out is all the greater. He could be the next American president. Where is his sense of outrage?

At the press conference today, when asked why it was sufficient for him to denounce his church’s recent praise for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan but not resign from the church itself, Obama repeated his condemnation of Farrakhan’s “reprehensible” anti-Semitic views. Then he added, "My church has never issued anti-Semitic statements, nor have I heard my pastor utter anything anti-Semitic. If I have, I would have left the church.”

Obama also took questions on the peace process, the situation in Gaza, and how he would deal with Iranian nukes.

McCain's Tarnished Honor

As a follow-up to my post yesterday, here's Rich Lowry at National Review:
McCain may feel entitled to this cheap shot given his own courage on the surge. He also might think that his press coverage is so adoring that he can get away with anything, and Romney is so firmly branded as a "flip-flopper" that any charge will stick. But I think something else is going on. McCain has always given the impression of reserving his true scorn for his enemies within his own party. I have a hard time imagining McCain making this kind of dishonest accusation against a Democrat—it would be uncivil and dishonorable. But making it against a fellow Republican running to his right? No problem. On top of this, there's the personal animosity McCain feels toward Romney. Indeed, in one of those debates in New Hampshire, McCain spoke warmly of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at the same time he was giving off waves of hatred toward Romney.

How will this play? If there's one thing we know about late-breaking events in this primary season, it's that it's impossible to know how they'll play. But I wouldn't be surprised if it back-fires on McCain. The attack succeeded in the sense that it tipped the conversation back toward Iraq, but at a potential cost to McCain. His most important political asset is his political character, his reputation for truth-telling and honorable politics. This dishonest low-blow—if it continues to get attention in the closing hours—could chip away at that asset.
Unfortunately, I fear voters are not all that thoughtful about these things. Recent polling indicates that McCain's last-minute gambit is working. I'm afraid what we are seeing is terrible ethics, but good politics.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gaza Hoaxes: Hamas Staged Power Outage Photos; Reuters Willingly Participates. And Where is All That Money Coming From?

Palestinian journalists reported that on at least two occasions last week, Hamas staged scenes of government ministers and legislators working by candlelight. As reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post:

In the first case, journalists who were invited to cover the Hamas government meeting were surprised to see Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his ministers sitting around a table with burning candles.

In the second case on Tuesday, journalists noticed that Hamas legislators who were meeting in Gaza City also sat in front of burning candles.

But some of the journalists noticed that there was actually no need for the candles because both meetings were being held in daylight.

To create the dramatic effect of darkness requiring candlelight, Hamas had closed the curtains in the rooms. Unlike the Palestinian journalists who reported this story, Reuters (surprise) willingly played along with the Hamas hoax and published photos of the Palestinian government ministers and legislators working by candlelight. Here is one of the photos that Reuters published:

The caption for the photo read:

Palestinian lawmakers attend a parliament session in candlelight during a power cut in Gaza January 22, 2008. Israel agreed to allow some fuel, medicine and food into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Tuesday, at least temporarily easing a blockade that has plunged much of the territory into darkness and sparked international protests. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

Other Reuters hoax photos can be seen here at the Reuters website and here at StandWithUs. Reuters, of course, is the same news service that was compelled by alert bloggers to confess that it had published "Photoshopped" bogus photographs during the Summer 2006 Lebanon War, as recounted here. It seems that Reuters continues to enthusiastically offer itself as a tool of Arab Islamofacist propaganda.

And while we are on the subject of Gazan hoaxes widely carried by the news media, remember all those stories about how the Israel blockage was impoverishing Gazans. This article by the Associated Press, carried online in the International Tribune in August 2007, was typical. "Gaza faces economic disaster if blockade continues, U.N. official warns," read the headline, and the article went on to say that the Israeli blockage was "exacerbating poverty among the 1.4 million residents of the already impoverished territory."

So if things were so bad and everyone was so impoverished, how does one explain the shopping spree in El Arish, Egypt by an estimated 350,000-500,000 Gazans (one-fifth to one-third of the total population of Gaza) this past week, all of whom were paying for their goods in cash? Typical was this Los Angeles Times story from January 25, recounting how "Palestinians by the tens of thousands continued to flow across in a mass, joyous shopping binge given urgency by months of isolation." The following day, the L.A. Times recounted the touching story of a 25-year old Gazan merchant who had paid $5000 for five Chinese-made motorcycles, which he intended to resell in Gaza at a 10% markup. Keep in mind that these people were paying cash for their purchases, at premium prices and despite exploitative currency exchange rates. Neither the L.A. Times, nor Time Magazine, in its similar report, thought to ask from where all these Gazans, allegedly so imporverished by the Israeli economic blockage, were getting their cash hoards.

Senator McCain Needs to Remember Honor and Rectitude

With Rasmussen showing Romney ahead in Florida, 32% to 27%, it's not hard to see why John McCain is doing his best to change the subject and reverse what looks like a pro-Romney trend there. (The Rasmussen poll was taken before Governor Crist endorsed McCain; it's unclear what the impact of that will be, but getting the endorsement certainly was one of McCain's last-ditch gambits.)

Both Mitt Romney and John McCain need desperately to win in Florida. Whichever of the two of them wins there is probably headed to the nomination. So it's interesting to see how each candidate is bearing up under the pressure. Of the two, I think McCain is showing the least grace.

According to the Washington Post, McCain's latest tactic has been to dredge up comments Romney made a year ago and characterize them as favoring American withdrawal from Iraq:

"If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher."
Romney responded angrily with a summary of his public statements that support the surge in Iraq, and demanded an apology from McCain, saying the Senator's statement is "simply wrong and it's dishonest, and he should apologize."

McCain pressed his message by not responding to Romney's demand and, in effect, restating his original attack:

"The apology is owed to the young men and women serving this nation in uniform, that we will not let them down in hard times or good. That is who the apology is owed to."

McCain's charge against Romney is simply false. There is no doubt about it. Bill Bennett called McCain's attack "below the belt." But McCain can't afford to allow the discussion to continue to focus on the economy, about which he is admittedly an ignoramus, while the electorate shifts Romney's way.

I am a Romney partisan, but you need not take my word for it on McCain's mendacity. Paul Mirengoff of Power Line offers a down-the middle analysis:

I don't think Romney's statement fairly can be construed as advocating setting a date for our withdrawal. . . .

On the other hand, there’s little doubt that Romney was less resolute on Iraq than McCain. . . .

So McCain has the better record, but that doesn't justify trying to make Romney’s record sound worse than it is. . . .

Lindsey Graham was on with Sean Hannity this evening and misrepresented Romney's statement. Par for the course for this reprehensible politician.

How can it be that McCain, Mr. Straight Talk, can engage in such dishonesty? It reminds me of a recent post by Scott Johnson, also of Power Line, which offers one of the most insightful observations about McCain's character that I have seen:
John McCain seems rarely to differentiate issues of constitutional principle from issues of practical politics. He is unbending both when he is right and when he is wrong on these issues. To say that McCain is not a party man does not do justice to the case; he tends to subsume practical political questions into matters of personal honor, and occasionally to miss applicable constitutional principles in the process. One might call the tendency Caesarist, except that Senator McCain apparently aspires to be seen exceeding the purity of Caesar’s wife.
IN OTHER WORDS, McCain is devoted to principles of honor and rectitude, and is very convinced of his own. That's why he becomes angry when others disagree with him on policy issues: They do not share his honor. They must therefore be corrupt.

Meanwhile, Romney wants to talk about the economy and about the future. He is not digging up old McCain statements and mis representing them.

Oh John, where is thine honor?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jonah Goldberg - A Good Laugh

Regardless of whom you support in the presidential race, this little squib from Jonah Goldberg will probably make you laugh. It did that for me.

And this one's fun to watch too . . . McCain singing Mitt Romney's Praises

John McCain apparently thought a lot of Mitt Romney:

This is from Romney's 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

Hillary Clinton Confronted With Rezko Photo on "Today"

This is both fun and interesting to watch:

My favorite part is when Sen Clinton takes on the victim role. Poor Bill and Hillary! All those mean people with the gall the challenge them!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Released Palestinian Terrorists Attack Israeli High School; Are Killed. Fatah Gunmen Kill Border Guard.

Two Palestinian terrorists killed in an attack on an Israeli yeshiva high school on Thursday turned out to be recently released prisoners, YNet reports. Although releases of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government are supposedly limited to those with "no blood on their hands" (despite urging by the U.S. State Department and the Palestinian Authority to release prisoners convicted of murderous attacks), these two released terrorists apparently decided to get blooded quickly.

The 20-year old terrorists were both Hamas members from the town of Beit Omer, near Hebron. Dressed in uniform, and armed with a gun and a knife, according to a report from JTA, the terrorists disabled a security system in the perimeter fence of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, broke into Mekor Hayim yeshiva high school, and threatened teachers and students. However, they apparently were unprepared for the reaction from two armed counselors, who overpowered and killed the terrorists, suffering minor stab wounds in the process.

As Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev of the National Religious Party aptly stated, “(Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert now has proof written in blood that a terrorist remains a terrorist. The attempted murder in Gush Etzion is another warning to the government that if it releases Palestinian terrorists, the result will be Jewish blood.”

Mekov Hayim high school is run by famed Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Rabbi Steinsaltz should be commended for the training and character of his guidance couselors, in addition to his innumerable other merits.

Ominously, another attack occurred almost simultaneously in north Jerusalem. A shooting attack on two Israeli Border guards near the entrance of the Shoafat refugee camp took the life of one victim, Rami Zuhari of Beersheva, and seriously wounded another, Shoshana Shomadayev, who is recovering from her wounds in a hospital. The attackers apparently stole the weapons of the killed and wounded Israelis--Fatah terrorist groups claimed credit for the attacks and stated that they held the weapons.

The Shoafat refugee camp exists almost 60 years after the Israeli War of Independence because the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose sole mission is the care and feeding of Palestinian refugees; the Arab nations; and the Palestinians themselves have refused to resettle the refugees and three or more generations of their descendents into new lives outside the camps. That is not the result of mere neglect and incompetence, but rather a deliberate policy designed to preserve the Palestinian refugees as a weapon to use to destroy Israel.

Fatah, of course, is the supposedly moderate organization headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with which the Olmert government is engaged in "peace negotiations." This is the second fatal attack by Fatah-aligned terrorists in a matter of weeks. Last month, two Fatah militia members attacked and killed two off-duty soldier out on a hike near Hebron, and wounded their female companion. Their weapons were stolen as well. As YNet reports here, this past Tuesday a Palestinian Authority military court sentenced the murderers of David Rubin and Ahikam Amitai to 15 years in prison. Based on past experience, it is unlikely that they will serve more than a fraction of even that light sentence for a double murder. Last year, prior to the Annapolis conference, members of Abbas' own security force attempted to assasinate Olmert himself. Yet the farce of conducting peace negotiations with terrorists actively engaged in murderous attacks continues.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

U2's "Beautfiul Day"

This is a bit of a departure for this blog, but I'm posting this U2 video in honor of my son Andrew, who turned 18 last week:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One View of Mitt Romney's Religious Troubles

From Michael Ramirez.

GOP Presidential Race: Mitt Romney Must Go All In, and All Out, to Win in Florida

Fred Thompson bowed out of the race for the GOP Presidential nomination today, as many speculated would happen after his poor third-place showing in South Carolina. However, of at least as much significance is the news reported here: Mike Huckabee announced today that his campaign is facing financial difficulties, with his top advisors foregoing their salaries and some aides quitting.

As Hugh Hewitt noted yesterday, Mike Huckabee is running short of cash; Rudy Giuliani is running short of cash; and, for all of his virtual coronation by MSM as the GOP front-runner, John McCain has always been short of cash. (I guess that all of those independent voters for McCain do not back up their votes with campaign donations. That is why you need the support of the party core.)

Only one of the leading candidates has the both the organization and the cash to mount a full-court press in Florida and still have the fuel to surge into Super Tuesday on February 5th, and that is Mitt Romney. (And that's not just his own cash; he's raised tons of money as well.) A poor showing in Florida won't ruin him; he is around until the convention, come what may. But a victory might well give him the momentum going into Super Tuesday to clinch the nomination.

However, February 5th won't break decisively for Mitt unless he either wins or finishes very close in Florida. The polls show that he is could win with a burst of effort. Florida is a Republican members-only primary. John McCain will be bereft of his independents. This is no time for Mitt to hold back. He need to go all in, and all out, to earn a convincing win in Florida.

John Stewart: Adios, Lonesome Picker Update

I guesss there are a lot more of us Stewartnistas out there than I thought. The post below entitled "John Stewart, the Lonesome Picker, Rides Into the Sunset," has received more comments from readers than any I can remember on "The Hedgehog Blog." Our daily traffic is up from a monthly average of 165 visitors to 209, and while my co-blogger, Lowell, the Hedgehog, probably will attribute the burst of new attention to his posts on the race for the GOP Presidential nomination, I suspect that the credit goes to the Daydream Believer.

Please read the comments about John, which, to risk understatement. are both longer and more moving than the typical blog comment. This man touched people's lives. Thank you to all who have and will share a comment about John. And thank you, big fella, for inspiring all this outpouring of emotion from us jaded middle-aged baby boomers. I hope that your beautiful soul is aware of all the tributes to your memory, and more importantly, to the tears that are being shed, not merely out of grief, but at the passing of an important part of our lives, and in joyful gratitude for what you gave us.

It amazes me how many people saw John at The Cellar in Los Altos. I wish I had met more of you folks back then. "But you can't look back, when you're moving on."

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Huckabee-Romney Ticket?

A respected friend asked me if I thought Mitt Romney should offer the vice presidential slot to Mike Huckabee. I found the idea startling, and said so. Then, on further reflection, e-mailed these thoughts to him:

"I suspect McCain has already reached out to Huck about the VP slot. That would explain Huck's refusal to speak a negative word about McCain and their (unsuccessful) tag-team attempt against Romney in the second debate before New Hampshire.

"For Huck and Mitt to team up would require them both to overcome certain obstacles, including:

  • Huck's apparent personal animosity toward Mitt. Most politicians can get over such things, but I do not have much of a feel for Huck's temperament. What I've seen so far doesn't give me much confidence.
  • The "religious" aura of such a team. A devout Mormon and a Baptist pastor? I love it from the standpoint of addressing and bridging the religious divide, but in the general election the MSM would have a field day painting Romney-Huckabee as the coming of the American Taliban.
  • Huck's ideology. He's not a conservative. I'm not sure Romney is either, at heart, but he at least has taken conservative positions and actions as an officeholder and would do so as president.
  • Huck's "policy competence.". Romney, the "Brain of Bain," loves to surround himself with competent people. Would Huck fit into a Romney-style management team? He's clever and cunning, but does he have the kind of smarts Romney prizes? I don't know, and his policy positions (e.g., on Iran) reflect a certain "shoot from the lip" approach that is very foreign to Romney's own style.
"I think a Romney-Thompson deal makes more sense and frankly seems more likely, but I don't know if Fred would turn on John McCain that way. Although McCain loves to talk about honor (especially his own), I think Thompson actually is the real deal in that regard.

"Just a few thoughts. I hope there's no McCain-Huck deal, but I fear there is. Maybe Giuliani will pull moderates from McCain, Fred will drop out, and Mitt can pick up enough votes to eke out a win in Florida. A Jeb Bush endorsement for Mitt would be great too, but I can't see why Jeb would risk making enemies that way."

Jonathan Martin also thinks a McCain-Huckabee deal may have been made. Feel free to submit your own comments below.

Romney's "Thunderbolt" Commentary

Watch this clip and listen carefully for the thunder. Romney's response is a nice bit of light-heartedness:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dry Bones Sounds Off On The "Core Issues" Discussions Between Israel and the Palestinian Authority

John Stewart, the Lonesome Picker, Rides Into the Sunset

A part of my past died Saturday, with the death at age 68 of John Stewart, a former member of the Kingston Trio and the composer of "Daydream Believer," "Never Goin' Back (to Nashville)" and "July, You're a Woman." My intense connection with John's music came about during my college years, the late 60s and early 70s, when he emerged as a solo artist with the album "California Bloodlines." John's work gave rise to a genre of California country-folk rock that influenced artists such as the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Emmy Lou Harris and Fleetwood Mac.

As a solo artist, John never achieved the popular success of the many performers he influenced. There was one exception, and that was with the City of Phoenix, Arizona, my hometown. There a disc jockey named William Edward Compton championed Stewart's work on a local "underground" station, and Stewart became hugely popular. Stewart's cowboy-flavored rocking ballads, filled with a love of the country and its people based on enduring turn-of-the century American values, rather than jingoism, played well with Phoenix audiences.

The love affair of Phoenix with John Stewart culminated when John recorded "The Phoenix Concerts," an album taped live over three nights of concerts in a packed Phoenix auditorium to an enthusiastic and adoring crowd. John's music was cross-generational enough that I attended one concert with my new girlfriend (her first exposure) and one with my parents, and they all enjoyed the shows. Well, the girl broke up with me soon afterward (which was all for the best, because the following Fall I met my wife of 31 years ), and the album was no great success either, much to the disappointment of John and his record label, who had hoped for a breakthrough album. I suspect that 75% of the total sales were to residents of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Nonetheless, it is still available, and may be the best comprehensive introduction to John's classic solo work of that period.

When I went to Stanford, I turned on my dorm mates to John's music, which had the effect of creating a small but dedicated group of fans in Toyon Hall on the Stanford campus. I remember one incident when John, who lived in the Bay Area, was playing a small club near Palo Alto, and was somewhat astonished when I and a group of my mates showed up at the gig, and knew all of his songs by heart. A mention of Phoenix and William Edward Compton resolved the mystery for him.

Another anecdote: John lived, toured and performed for many years with composer and singer Buffy Ford. In one of his songs, he referred to Buffy's formidable mother as his "mother-out-law," a wonderful lyric. Buffy would usually join John onstage at his concerts, to sing one of the songs their fans most loved, "Cody," about an elderly, infirm former cowboy living in his memories of his Montana youth. One concert, in response to calls from his fans for Buffy to come onstage to sing "Cody," John announced to the fans' heartbreak that they had broken up. Fortunately, the breakup was temporary. John eventually acceded to his mother-out-law's demand that he "marry the girl" and their marriage continued until John's death this past Saturday.

For a news account of John's death, see here. For a description of John's life and musical career, please go here. For a short critical review of his music, please read here. And here, as a farewell to the Lonesome Picker, and an introduction to the narrative, sentimental flavor and poetry of his best work, are the words to "Mother Country":

There was a story in the San Francisco Chronicle that of course I forgot to save.
But it was about a lady who lived in the 'good old days'
When a century was born and a century had died
And about these 'good old days' the old lady replied
"Why they were just a lot of people doing the best they could"
"Just a lot of people doing the best they could"
And then the lady said that they did it, "pretty up and walking good."

What ever happened to those faces in the old photographs.
I mean, the little boys…….
Boys? . . . . . Hell they were men
Who stood knee deep in the Johnstown mud
In the time of that terrible flood
And they listened to the water, that awful noise,
And then they put away the dreams that belonged to little boys.

And the sun is going down for Mister Bouie
As he's singing with his class of nineteen-two,
"Oh, mother country, I do love you.
Oh, mother country, I do love you."

I knew a man named E.A.Stuart, spelled S.T.U.A.R.T.
And he owned some of the finest horses that I think I've ever seen.
And he had one favorite, a champion, the old Campaigner.
And he called her "Sweetheart On Parade."
And she was easily the finest horse that the good Lord ever made.
But old E.A.Stuart, he was going blind.
And he said "Before I go, I gotta drive her one more time."
So people came from miles around, and they stood around the ring.
No one said a word.
You know, no one said a thing.
Then here they come,
E.A. Stuart in the wagon right behind
Sitting straight and proud and he's driving her stone blind.
And would you look at her
Oh, she never looked finer or went better than today.
It's E.A. Stuart and the old Campaigner, "Sweetheart On Parade."
And the people cheered.
Why I even saw a grown man break right down and cry.
And you know it was just a little while later that old E.A. Stuart died.

And the sun it is going down for Mister Bouie
As he's singing with his class of nineteen-two,
"Oh mother country, I do love you.
Oh mother country, I do love you."

Vaya con Dios, John. The news of your death even made a grown man break down and cry.

Fred Thompson Should Drop Out

If he cannot do better than third in South Carolina, he will not do well anywhere (except his home state of Tennessee). The Florida primary is coming up January 29, and the race there is fairly evenly divided among McCain, Romney, Giuliani and Huckabee. As Hugh Hewitt observes, whoever comes out of Florida the winner will take considerable momentum into Super Tuesday.

Thompson has only 8.5%. He is a true conservative, by most appearances, and should let his voters go to other conservatives who can win. Otherwise he is pulling conservative voters from those candidates and enabling a McCain or a Huckabee to win. The polls there are so close that the 8.5% could make a difference. I am a Romney supporter, and think that the majority of Fred's people would go to Mitt before they would go to McCain or Huck.

Of course, it would be nice of Jeb Bush, who reportedly is Romney-friendly, would endorse Mitt, but I don't see that happening.

MSM Downplays Romney Nevada Win; Boosts McCain

Yesterday Mitt Romney convincingly won the Nevada Republican caucuses, with over 50% of the vote. He earned 17 of Nevada's 34 delegates. His nearest competitors were McCain and Paul with 4 each; Huckabee only garnered 4 each. He now leads the GOP race in total delegates, 59 to 40 for Huckabee and 36 for McCain.

However, if you missed that report on the television news last night, you are not to blame. Unlike Hillary Clinton's win over Obama in Nevada, the Romney win received almost no attention from the network news. They fawned all of their attention over their obvious GOP favorite, John McCain. And that becaue McCain eeked out a narrow victory over Mike Huckabee in the South Carolina GOP primary, 33% to 30%. Mind you, there were more delegates at stake in Nevada, but no matter.

Admittedly, it was a compelling story. McCain won a primary that had finished his presidential hopes 8 years ago. Also, the South Carolina system gave him 19 of that State's 24 delegates for getting only one-third of the vote. Therefore, when combined with his 4 Nevada delegates, he earned 23 total delegates yesterday to Romney's 17. Still, the studied disregard and attitude of dismissal on the part of MSM toward Romney is obvious and frustrating.

Clearly, the biggest loser yesterday was Fred Thompson. He had staked a great deal on a strong showing in the first Southern primary. He finished a weak third, with 16% of the vote, just one point ahead of Romney, who pulled his ads from the State. The question has to be asked, even by his wife Jeri, if Fred cannot compete in South Carolina, where can he? I suspect that he will stay in until after Feb. 5, but he cannot be terribly hopeful.

Rudy's Florida firewall strategy is looking increasingly dicey. According to the polls, it is a close 4-candidate race, with McCain slightly ahead of Giuliani. Romney is in striking distance, and ought to try to make a good showing there, as a lead-up to the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday. I would think he has a real shot, because Giuliani and McCain are likely to split the centrist vote. Romney has to fight Huckabee for the conservative GOP vote, on the sound grounds that he, and not Huckabee, is the genuine conservative candidate.

Back in Nevada, a Republican can note with some schadenfreude that the Clinton-Obama fight became increasingly ugly in Nevada. The gloves are off and some feelings are definitely going to be hurt, which can only help the GOP in November 2008.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Mitt Romney -Glen Johnson Exchange: What The News Media Are Ignoring

There's been lots of attention to this story, about Mitt Romney's on-camera exchange with Glen Johnson. The video is here. This is the only part of the discussion that matters:

I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign,” Romney said. “I don’t have
lobbyists that are tied to my … ”

“That’s not true, governor!” Johnson suddenly interjected. “That is not
true. Ron Kaufman is a lobbyist.”

This is the fact that the MSM coverage is obscuring: McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, is a former lobbyist. Mike Allen documents that here.

So: The man running John McCain's campaign is a lobbyist. On the Romney side, Ron Kaufman is an unpaid advisor to Romney's campaign.

Do you see the difference? I hope someone does. So Romney's statement was absolutely correct and a good dig at McCain's campaign. It seems the MSM doesn't like that.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Canadian Doctors Try to Cut Off Life Support of Elderly Patient Against Wishes of Him and His Family

Those who worship at the altar of socialized medicine, as typified by the Canadian national health care system, may want to consider the case of Samuel Golubchuk, an 84-year old Orthodox Jewish patient. Doctors at Winnipeg Grace General Hospital sought to disconnect Mr. Golubchuk from his respirator in order to hasten his death. The doctors insisted upon this action, which violates halacha (Jewish law), against the express wishes of Mr. Golubchuk's family and apparently against the previously stated wishes of the patient himself. The doctors and the hospital insisted that they were not bound by the family's wishes, because Mr. Golubchuck was "imminently dying." When the family went to court to obtain a temporary restraining order against the disconnection of the respirator, the hospital's attorney argued that the doctors "have the sole right to make decisions about treatment - even if it goes against a patient's religious beliefs." Moreover, Grace General Hospital received the backing of the Canadian Medical Association in its efforts to take a course of "treatment" that, if not active euthanasia, is very, very much like it.

A Canadian judge was to determine this week whether to renew the temporary injunction against removing Mr. Golubchuk's respirator. However, it was learned Sunday that, hopefully to the shameful embarrassment (if not the civil and criminal prosecution) of the hospital and its doctors, Mr. Golubchuk had regained consciousness several days ago and appears to be improving, facts which the hospital apparently deliberately concealed from the court. Although a hospital doctor treating Golubchuk wrote "Awoke" on his chart, the hospital did not disclose this to the court. The family said the hospital had been trying to make the patient appear to be dying and with minimal brain function. According to the chart, which the judge was apparently not shown, the supposedly "imminently dying" Golubchuk is not only awake but has interacted with people and made purposeful movements. Jonathan Rosenblum, in a post at the Cross-Currents website, quotes reports that Mr. Golubchuk is now described as “awake, alert, has returned back to his baseline, sitting up in a chair at times, more interactive, and shaking hands purposively.”

Mr. Rosenblum writes further:

"Nevertheless his doctors still seek to kill him, and are contesting the matter in court, including moving to exclude the affidavits of experts on the grounds that they arrived too late. Apparently winning to them is more important than Mr. Golubchuk’s life. Indeed in a similar case recently in Calgary, involving an elderly Chinese man, whose family contested the doctors’ decision to cut off life support, and won, the patient eventually improved so much that he was able to walk out of the hospital and return home. Nevertheless the doctors continued to pursue an appeal. Presumably they wanted to bring him back to the hospital and kill him."

Is this what we have to look forward to from "HillaryCare." "ObamaCare" or "EdwardsCare?"

UPDATE--It can Happen Here: David Kopel discusses the Golubchuk case at The Volokh Conspiracy, and makes a cogent argument about how socialized medicine encourages these sorts of ethical conflicts. However, as the comments to his post rather chillingly demonstrate, the assertion by doctors of a right to terminate care against the wishes of a patient's family is not limited to Canada; indeed, a Texas statute, the "Advance Directive Act," signed into law by George W. Bush when he was the Governor of the Lone Star State, "authorizes physicians to refuse to honor a patient's advance directive, or the wishes of a patient's guardian, and discontinue life-sustaining medical care, including ventilators and feeding tubes. The Act was used March 15, 2005, to remove 6-month-old Sun Hudson from a ventilator at Texas Children's Hospital, his parents' wishes to the contrary notwithstanding. Hudson died is his mother's arms moments later. Under the Act, a physician, with the approval of an ethics committee, may override an advance directive or a parent's wishes in so-called 'futility cases' where continued treatment is not deemed medically beneficial."

I guess the real question is what is considered medically beneficial. Samuel Golubchuk regained consciousness and sat up in a chair. Perhaps, God forbid, even as I write this, he has lapsed back into a coma or perhaps even has died. His life may have been extended only for a few days or a few hours. But to Torah-observant Jews, and many religious Christians and people of other faiths as well, human life is of infinite value, and therefore even a few hours of additonal life of a patient who is unconscious and unresponsive are of inestimable value.

Olmert Coalition Shaken, but not Broken, by Departure of Israel Beiteinu

The forecast of the departure of the right-wing Israel Beiteinu ("Israel our Home") party from the coalition government headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, reported on this blog on Monday, was accurate. As reported this morning in the Los Angeles Times, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman has resigned, and withdrawn his 11-member Knesset faction from the Olmert coalition government. That leaves Olmert and his Kadima party with a still-stable majority of 67 votes (out of 120 members of the Knesset), provided that neither the Labor Party, on the left, or Shas (Hebrew acronym for "Sephardic Torah Guardians"), on the right, decides to abandon Olmert to his fate, leading to new elections.

Olmert is desperately courting Shas. He has incurred a great deal of criticism from Israeli secularists by resurrecting the previously abolished Religious Affairs ministry and handing it to Shas. He is promising generous support for Shas-sponsored schools and seminaries. And, according to a report in the Jersusalem Post, he is about to give in to a demand by Shas that the question of the status of Jerusalem be deferred until the very end of negotiations with the Palestinians over core issues. The unity of Jerusalem has been a redline for Shas's participation in the coalition government, and Shas is betting, foolishly in my view, that by deferring the issue until the end of negotiations, discussion of splitting control over the city will never take place.

Olmert is also courting two other Ashkenazi (descendents of Eastern European Jews) Haredi (fervently religious) parties, United Torah Judaism and Degel HaTorah ("Flag of the Torah"), to try to bolster his shaky coalition. However, those parties will just as adamantly oppose negotiations over Jerusalem as Shas. Contrary to the impression one gets from secular pundits in the media, this opposition from the Hareid religious parties is not based on the holiness or sanctity of Jerusalem, but rather on the very practical, sensible and rational concern that giving the Palestinian Arabs control over Jersualem neighborhoods will expose Jewish neighborhoods to terrorist attacks, just as the abandonment of Gaza led to constant rocket, mortar and sniper attacks on Sderot and the Western Negev.

Regardless of his political machinations, the days of Olmert's government may be numbered. Looming immediately on the horizon is the report of the Winograd Commission on the 2006 South Lebanon War. Depending on how harsh its criticism of Olmert's wartime leadership turns out to be, he may be compelled to resign. Nonetheless, given Olmert's ability to maintain power over the 18 months since the end of that disastrous war, despite single-digit public approval ratings, one can never count him out.

Seal From First Temple Discovered in Jerusalem

While the Palestinian Arabs continue to deny Jewish historical ties to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, the ground continues to offer testimony to refute them, and testify as well to the accuracy of the Bible. This week Israeli archaelogist Dr. Eilat Mazar announced the discovery of a stone seal from the First Temple, bearing the name of a family of servants in the Temple, Temah, which the Book of Nehemiah (7:6-7, 55) identifies as among the people that went into captivity in Babylon following the destruction of the Temple, and later returned to the Land of Israel with Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. According to the Book of Nehemiah:

"These are the inhabitants of the province that went up out of the capitivity of those that had beencarried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had carried away, and that returned to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one to his city. ...The Nephidim: ... the descendents of Temah."

The seal, shown at left, shows two bearded priests worshipping at an incense altar. Above them is a crescent moon, which Dr. Mazar described as a symbol of the Babylonian god Sin. The presence of an idolotrous symbol on a seal from the first Temple should not surprise us; after all, the Bible tells us that the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile were punishment for idol worship by the Children of Israel.

Indeed, based on my own limited amateur research, I might offer a competing explanation of the crescent moon above the altar on the seal. The family of Temah is named among a group of families who were servants in the Temple, called the Nethinim. According to this entry in Wickipedia, the Talmud speaks very disparagingly of the Nethinim, forbidding their marriage with the general Jewish population, and classifying them with the offspring of adulterous relationships (mamzerim). At least one modern scholar, Joseph Jacobs, has explained this attitude by suggesting that the Nethinim were the descendents of the Kedishoth, women (and ritual prostitutes) dedicated to the worship of the goddess Astarte, whom the rulers of Israel shamefully and sinfully permitted to practice their idolotrous worship in the Temple before the Babylonian Exile. According to Wickipedia, "There is evidence of these practices from the time of Solomon (1 Kings xi. 5) down to Josiah (2 Kings xiii. 4-6), and even as late as Ezekiel (Ezek. xxiii. 36-48)." Keep in mind that the seal of the family of Temah dates to before the Babylonian exile, when this Astarte worship would have been rampant. (Apparently the Nethinim cleaned up their act by the time that they returned with Nehemiah from Babylon.) Moreover, according to Wickipedia, Astarte was a lunar goddess. Hence the Temah family seal may have been advertising their idolotrous allegiance.

Of course, the Palestinians will claim that the presence of the lunar crescent proves that the Temah family was Moslem, even if they lived 1000 years before Mohammed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jeri Thompson Unloads on Huckabee

Fred should use his wife more:


Well-done, Mrs. Thompson.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Opens Jerusalem Status Talks. Olmert Government Coalition Crisis Looms

An Israeli negotiating team led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni today opened discussions with their Palestinian Authority counterparts on the so-called "core issues" of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and in the process may have triggered the coalition crisis that will finally bring down the government led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party. Those core issues include settlements, refugees, borders, security, water resources and, most importantly, the status of Jerusalem.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, initiation of the core issues negotiations poses a clear challenge to Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (pictured above left with U.S. Secetary of State Condoleeza Rice), who heads the 11-member Israel Beiteinu ("Israel our home") party faction in the Olmert coalition government. Lieberman had previously said that he would leave the government if the core issues were discussed. Israel National News reports that two of Lieberman's faction members, Tourism Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich and MK Yisrael Hasson, have already said that Yisrael Beiteinu would have to leave the coalition. A more recent Israel National News analysis states that Lieberman is scheduled to meet with Prime Minster Olmert on Tuesday, and is likely to resign on Wednesday.

Olmert's government depends on the 11-member Israel Beiteinu and the 12-member Shas (Sephardic Torah Guardians) factions for its majority in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Both parties had previously threatened to resign if the Olmert government opened discussions on the status of Jerusalem. Without their votes to stave off no-confidence motions, Olmert will have no choice but to call for new elections.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu, head of the opposition Likud Party, criticized both Israeli Beiteinu and Shas for remaining in the government after the opening of core issues discussions. "The parties in the coalition from the nationalist camp, Shas and Israel Beiteinu, our friends, understand the dangers. I call upon them to reach the necessary conclusions and stop these processes by leaving the government immediately," Netanyahu said.

He added that "these concessions will harm Israel's security and future, and this lays a grave responsibility on the shoulders of those parties which remain in the coalition."

"Until now the unilateral negotiations were tactical. But from today, [they're] not tactical, they are strategic and they affect our national security," he added.

The fall of the Olmert government while President Bush continues his Middle East visit would be a profound embarrassment to the Bush Administration, which has spared no effort to prop up Prime Minister Olmert, whose unpopularity in Israeli public opinion polls makes President Bush's approval ratings look robust by comparison. As the above photo suggests, the Bush Administration had tried to woo Lieberman. Israel National News reported that as soon as President Bush disembared from Air Force One in Israel, Olmert introduced him to Shas party chairman Eli Yishai. "So I understand that you are the one I have to convince not to leave the coalition?" Bush reportedly said to Yishai: "Tomorrow we will have a long, intensive talk in the course of which I will try to convince you not to leave the government, despite the planned evacuation of the outposts in the Territories."

Although obviously briefed on the importance of Shas to the Olmert government, his mission had little assurance of success. Israel National News reports:

Shas spiritual leader and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef told Yishai earlier in the week not to participate in negotiations with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas “since Abbas has lost control over the territory.” Rabbi Yosef referred to recent attacks by PA “security police officers” who murdered three Israeli citizens in two separate incidents. “What good will the talks do when Kassams are falling in Sderot and Israelis are being murdered by Palestinian security officers in the West Bank?” said the former chief rabbi.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Olmert made clear this week that he would amply reward Shas loyalty to the coalition. In a move widely criticized by secular-minded Israelis, Olmert's cabinet voted a week ago Sunday to recreate a Religious Affairs portfolio, to be held by Shas Knesset Member Yitzhak Cohen, who is currently a minister-without-portfolio responsible for religious services in the Prime Minister's Office. That action requires Knesset approval, and is opposed not only by the left-wing secular Labor party and the right-wing secular Israel Beiteinu party, but also by some Likud and National Union/National Religious Party MKs also announced they would vote against the cabinet decision.

Critics of the move claimed that reestablishing the ministry and placing it under Shas's control could lead to corruption. Cohen, who would be given the power to appoint neighborhood rabbis, heads of religious councils and other religious council employees, might be tempted to hire according to political affiliation instead of skills, they said.

Those of us who oppose further movement toward the creation of a Palestinian terrorist state in Yehuda and Shomron (the so-called "West Bank"), to match "Hamasistan" in Gaza, hope that new elections will bring to power a right-wing coalition under Bibi Netanyahu, ending the "long national nightmare" of Kadima Party rule.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Romney Leading In Michigan! Or Is He?

Based on today's poll in the Detroit Free Press, Mitt Romney's strategy of cutting back on his advertising in Florida and South Carolina, and going all in for a win in Michigan, may be paying off. The poll gives Romney a 5% lead, 27% to 22%, over John McCain. (HT: Powerline.) However, a poll Saturday by Detroit News/WXYZ Action News showed McCain with 27 percent, Romney at 26 percent; and Huckabee at 19 percent. In point of fact, as shown by Real Clear Politics, the Michigan polls on the GOP Primary are all over the place, with one giving McCain a 7% lead over Romney, while another says Romney has an 8% lead over McCain. The RCP average of all polls would give Romney an almost meaningless 0.9% lead. In any event, since it is obvious that some of these polls are wildly inaccurate, why would one think that averaging them gives a more accurate picture? Romney partisans can only hope that his organization outdoes the McCain and Huckabee campaigns in getting the vote out on Tuesday, January 15.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Mike Huckabee: Is This The Temperament We Want in A President?

Jim Geraghty relates the story of how, after Fred Thompson hit Mike Huckabee hard in the South Carolina Republican presidential debate, Huck responded the next day with "a juvenile personal insult." (Hint: Huck's insult involves the product at left.)

UPDATE: Dan Riehl has much, much more. It looks like Huck can't remember the first rule of holes. And Fred's not letting up.

I am a Romney guy, but I sure do like Fred and the way he is taking Huckabee on. It's about time someone did.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton Proves There Is Crying In Politics, At Least For Women

Do you remember that wonderful scene from "A League of Their Own?" Manager Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, scolds player Evelyn Gardner, played by Betty Shram, until she bursts into tears. Dugan memorably shouts at her, "Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!"

At one time we thought that there also was no crying in presidential politics, especially in the New Hampshire primary. Back in February 1972, Senator Ed Muskie of Maine was the Democratic favorite, and leading the polls in the New Hamshire Democratic Primary. Then the Manchester Guardian, the leading newspaper in New Hampshire, owned by conservative publisher William Loeb, ran two articles about Muskie, one alleging that he had referred to French Canadians as "Canucks," and the other accusing Muskie's wife of telling off-color jokes and engaging in drunkeness. Muskie angrily responded to the newspaper's stories, at a rally held in front of the offices of the Manchester Guardian. Some claimed to have seen tears in the eyes of the emotionally charged Senator from Maine. (See the photo at the right.) Muskie was roundly ridiculed by hostile pundits for his show of emotion. Some questioned whether he had the emotional toughness to be President. When he lost the New Hampshire primary to George McGovern (much to the delight of President Richard Nixon's Commmittee to Re-Elect the President, which hoped to face McGovern rather than Muskie in the November 1972 election), many observers attributed his defeat to his teary-eyed display.

Flash forward to February 2008. One day after an emotional, teary-eyed response to a question to Senator Hillary Clinton about how she bears up under the stress of a presidential campaign, Senator Clinton defies the polls and shocks even her own campaign staff by beating favorite Senator Barack Obama. Why the different result? Mark Daniels in Newsweek speculates that Hillary's comeback may have been an unforeseen consequence of the reaction of trailing candidate Senator John Edwards to Hillary's tears; falling back on the conventional wisdom of 1972, Edwards suggested that Senator Clinton's crying indicated that she lacked the emotional toughness to be President of the United States. Daniels speculates that the Edward's remark caused Senator Clinton's core demographic support base, women over 60, to turn out to the polls in droves and vote Senator Clinton to victory.

Pundits and historians may long debate whether Senator Clinton's tears were sincere or pre-planned, rehearsed and calculated, with Hillary waiting for the opportune moment to show her human side to the electorate. Others will debate whether Senator Edwards blundered by walking into a trap baited with Hillary's tears, which then sprung not only on him but on Senator Obama as well. One thing is for certain, however: at least for Hillary Clinton, there is crying in presidential politics.

Friday Funnies: McCain's Problem

From K-Lo at The Corner. Click on the cartoon to enlarge.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ignoring the Big Issue of the Israeli-Arab Conflict, Dennis Ross is Still Preoccupied With Baby Steps

Although it might not be evident from the overall news coverage, President George W. Bush is visiting Israel to give a boost to Israeli-Palestininan negotiations. In a column appropriately titled "Baby Steps," at The New Republic Online, Dennis Ross urges President Bush that the way to break the current stalemate and achieve progress is to concentrate on small, achievable objectives.

Dennis Ross (pictured above right with Yassir Arafat, may his name be erased) served as an advisor and negotiator on the Israeli-Arab conflict three U.S. administrations, those of President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. His tenure covered the initiation of Israeli-Arab direct negotiations in Madrid in 1991, the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994, the Wye Accord of 1998 and the failed Camp David summit in the year 2000. His book about the Israeli-Arab conflict, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, is a valuable historical record, if only because it so totally refutes the revisionist writings of people such as former President Jimmy Carter, who try to remove the onus of the failed Camp David negotiations from Yassir Arafat and the Palestinians and place it on Bill Clinton, the U.S., Ehud Barak and Israel. For example, it totally debunks Carter's arguments that the West Bank territories Israel offered for the new Palestinian state consisted of non-contiguous "cantons." (Of course Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous, because Israel within its pre-1967 borders separates them.)

However, Dennis Ross suffered then and suffers now from the occcupational disease of diplomats, a myopia that focuses on the use of vague or ambiguous language to create an illusion of agreement, while ignoring the fundamental differences that separate the parties. Progress on minor issues may reduce tension temporarily, but there never can be peace between Israel and the Arabs, including Palestinian Arabs, until the Arabs accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State within secure and recognized borders. Had the Arabs done so at any time since the U.N. Partition of the Palestinian Mandate in 1947, peace and a Palestinian state would have been the immediate result. So long as the ultimate Arab objective remains the destruction of Israel, or its metamorphosis into a binational secular state, there will be no Middle East peace.

The photograph above also illustrates the other malodorous result of the Camp David Accords and the negotiations that followed. They rehabilitated Yassir Arafat. At the beginning of 1993, Arafat and his PLO cohorts languished in Tunesia, having been expelled from Lebanon in 1982. Arafat's backing of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had turned him into a diplomatic pariah among the conservative Arab States. Camp David rescued him from all that and gave him renewed legitimacy. He was received at the Clinton White House more often than any foreign head of state, even though he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis, and may have personally given the order for the murder of American diplomats Cleo Noel and George Curtis Moore by Black September terrorists in Khartoum in 1973.

How sad that President Clinton and Dennis Ross concluded that affairs of state demanded that such a person be given an honored reception at the White House, rather than the arrest and imprisonment or execution that he so richly deserved. Much more appropriate was the "welcome" that then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave Arafat on October 23, 1995. When Giuliani spotted Arafat and his entourage making their way to their seats for a concert of the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the Mayor ordered Arafat to leave the premises. Read about the incident here.

Keep in mind that Giuliani acted at the height of Arafat's post-Oslo popularity, while the leaders of the U.S. and Israel were pointedly ignoring how Arafat had time and again spoken to Arab audiences about his dreams of jihad for Jerusalem and about how Oslo was simply the implementation of the PLO’s long stated goal of destroying Israel in stages. Buses were exploding in Jerusalem, but the American Jewish community was fawning over Arafat, and many of its leaders shamefully condemned Giuliani for refusing to welcome to Lincoln Center the man responsible for the murder of more Jews than anyone since Hitler and Stalin.

The United States needs less of the diplomacy of Dennis Ross and more leadership of the type displayed by Rudy Giuliani on October 23, 1995.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Mit Romney's fina New Hampshire TV Ad

Here it is. He's emphasizing change and "getting America ready for the future:"

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The New Hampshire ABC Debate: Did McCain Help Himself Or Hurt Himself?

Here's some very interesting polling video from last night's debate:

Read the analysis by Michael Goldfarb here. Excerpt:

If the Senator wanted to remind GOP voters of seven years of off-puttingly testy behavior, he brilliantly accomplished this goal last night. According to the assembled focus group, the “change” barb was the worst moment for any candidate during the entire debate. Brit Hume said of McCain’s effort, “I think what they saw was John McCain perhaps at his least attractive. He was scornful. He seemed almost an occasional moment even petty. That's not the John McCain people have come to admire and like.”
Watch the debate tonight. It's going to be important.

One More Thought on McCain and The GOP Debate

The one important item I didn't mention in the post below is the
impact of McCain's performance on the voters. Those who already have
a candidate will be unmoved; they are all generally happy with their
guy's performance. (See, for example, the commenter to the post just
below, which exemplifies the McCainiacs' approach to matters involving
class and grace.)

What really matters is how the 44% of voters who were still undecided
yesterday respond. Is McCain's snideness and general nastiness of
temperament going to draw those voters to him? I have my doubts, but
we shall see.

UPDATE: Looks like Brit Hume feels the same way:

And John Hinderaker of the very objective and reliably conservative Power Line agrees too:

McCain: McCain did all right, but I don't think he helped himself with his jabs at Romney. At one point he delivered a planned one-liner, agreeing that Romney is the "candidate of change." I thought it was extremely lame; at first, no one but McCain laughed. Romney came off looking, I thought, like the grown-up, something that shouldn't happen to McCain. While McCain was strong on national security issues, as always, I thought he was generally less prominent in the debate than he should have been. . . .

Romney: I thought Romney was the clear winner, most of all in demeanor and general impact. I've been critical of Mitt's television communication skills in the past, but last night he was Presidential and effective. A viewer who knew nothing about the status of the race would have assumed, I think, that Romney was the front-runner and perhaps the candidate with the most stature. Headlines suggest that the other candidates were ganging up on Romney. I think that is overblown; it happened on only a couple of occasions. On those occasions, I thought Romney came across as the candidate who is trying to rise above pettiness and focus on policy. McCain's anger toward Romney backfired, I thought. On a number of issues--health care and energy, and even national defense--Romney showed impressive command.
UPDATE 2: One of our commenters at Article VI Blog makes this interesting point:

What has apparently happened is Mitt’s message has been dulled by his inability to successfully navigate the school yard bullies who look to the presidency as a completion of personal ambition. He is ill equipped for that battle. He fights back the only way he knows. But intellectual jousts and battles of ideas do not win out when it comes to the ways of the world. We still love the guy who can slap the daylights out of the other guy and make him cry like a girl. To much of America it is hard to relate to the uber technocrat especially when he embodies everything your parents wanted you to be. There is no other candidate in either party who has achieved the things Mitt Romney has and that intimidates the hell out them. They automatically hate the guy who achieved by forty what they couldn’t. So they fight back the only way they know. In fact they gang up on him. The intellectually average rely on fear and ridicule as a tools. This is especially true with Huckabee and McCain. This behavior plays to baser instincts of survival. In a world where we should be discussing ideas we are faced with force and, for now, verbal violence. But we all know that people who use violence will rely on it again and again because it is successful. But it is a pedestrian value.

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A Letter to Stephen F. Hayes of The Weekly Standard

This morning I sent the following e-mail to Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard, in response to his amazing review of the ABC News Republican debate in New Hampshire last evening:


Dear Stephen:

One fascinating aspect of last night's ABC News Republican debate is that people are seeing that slugfest pretty much according to their feelings about the candidates. Romneyites (of which I am one) think he clearly won on substance and class. If you like Fred Thompson, you think his performance was terrific. If you are part of the Huckaboom, you think he showed his "Pied Piper" skills to the max.

Similarly, McCainiacs think the old Senator from Arizona was just super. Of course, those who do not trust McCain, or who dislike him, think his worst side was on display.

Stephen, it sure does seem that you are in the former category. For example, you state:

"Even in the squabbles in the group [McCain] seemed like the adult in the

This statement beggars belief and is truly breath-taking. I do not know how anyone can watch the video clips from last night (e.g., McCain chortling away-- see photo above-- after delivering a non-substantive one-liner, looking like the smart-ass kid in the high school cafeteria) and still call McCain's behavior "adult." But you go on:

McCain . . . dinged Romney with several very effective one-liners,
including a couple in which the cutaway shots had Romney looking nonplussed.
Among them: On Romney's claims that McCain supported Social Security benefits
for illegal immigrants: "You can spend your whole fortune on those attack ads,
my friend, but it still won't be true." On Romney's claims that he is the
candidate of change, McCain took a shot at his flip-flops: "We disagree on many
issues but I agree that you are the candidate of change." And on Romney's claim
that he was misquoted in an AP story: "When you change your positions as often
as you do, you will get misquoted from time to time." He did these things with a
smile on his face, which kept him from appearing nasty.

He did these things with a smile on his face, which kept him from appearing nasty. That one makes me wonder if you and I even watched the same debate.

It is passing strange to me why so many people dislike Mitt Romney so. Pieces like yours display such a blindness to McCain's abuse of a good and decent man that I wonder whether you are among those whose personal animus blinds them to McCain's truly repulsive display of classlessness, contrasted with Romney's iron-willed effort to show some class. (I am among those who wish Romney would have busted McCain's chops; heaven knows there is plenty of material with which to do that.) Even Dick Morris, who rarely has anything positive to say about Romney, says Romney won last nght's debate.

Anyway, I urge you to take a second look at what you've said. Yes, I am a partisan Romney supporter, but even I can see his flaws and very occasional missteps. You, on the other hand, are supposed to be a distinguished analyst of political matters. Your review of McCain's performance last night makes me wonder just how well you are doing in that role.

Lowell Brown