Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

At the risk of trodding in the Hedgehog's territory, as Lowell normally posts the quote of the day, here is a gem from Hugh Hewitt, this afternoon. I am forced to paraphrase Hugh, for lack of a recording:

"Barack Obama always talks about the guilt of America, and rarely talks about its greatness. John McCain always talks about the greatness of America. The outcome of this election will determine whether over the next four years we are governed out of a sense of guilt or out of a sense of greatness."

At Last! Olmert to Resign in September

At last, and not a moment too soon for Israel's wellbeing, an outraged and defensive Ehud Olmert announced today that he will resign as Prime Minister following his Kadima Party's primary election, scheduled for September 17. Whoever is elected party leader at that primary will have an opportunity to form a new government. Should coalition negotiations fail, new elections will follow, and (gulp) Olmert would continue as Prime Minister of a caretaker government until a new Prime Minister is chosen based on the results of the elections.

Marking the occassion, and in some fear and trepidation of the consequences of even an interim government headed by Ehud Olmert, we reprise one of my favorite Dry Bones cartoons of the Olmert era, at left.

By the way, the AP story linked here and in the title of this post, written by one Mark Lavie, shows the cluelessness of the author and, if his views are typical of his colleagues, of the mainstream media at large. His opening line states that Olmert's resignation "is throwing his country into political turmoil and raising doubts about progress for U.S.-backed Mideast peace efforts." Any knowledgable observer of the Israeli scene knows that it was Olmert's continuing tenure in office, following the debacle of the summer 2006 Lebanon War and the continuing corruption scandals that yet threaten to put him in the dock, if not in prison, that were the causes of political turmoil in Israel.

As for progress toward Mideast peace, no person has done more single-handedly to damage prospects for peace than Ehud Olmert. He was the architect of the Gaza disengagement, which created "Hamasistan" in Gaza and exposed all of southern Israel to continuous rocket and artillery attack. The rise of Hamas has weakened the hands of less fanatic Palestinians and made productive negotiations virtually impossible. Olmert's incompetent, disastrous prosecution of the Lebanon war strengthened Hezbollah both politically and militarily, to the point where Hezbollah essentially controls Lebanon and poises a greater military threat to Israel than it did prior to the summer of 2006. His recent negotiations, culminating in the "corpses for prisoners" exchange, which included the release of the odious child-killer Kuntar, have further weakened Israel in Arab eyes. Peace in the Middle East requires that Israel's enemies fear her military might, and be deterred by it. Olmert, by acting as if his nation is a pitiful, helpless giant, made the prospects for peace ever more remote.

What Olmert ought to do, if he cared more for the country than for his personal well-being, would be to resign regardless of whether his Kadima party is able to form a new coalition government. If there is to be a caretaker Prime Minister, let it be someone other than Ehud Olmert. My personal preference, if I have to select a Kadima party leader, would be Shaul Mofaz, who did a credible job as Defense Minister and, in his military career, as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces. In the longer term, I hope for the return as Prime Minister of an older and hopefully wiser Benyamin Netanyahu, heading a Likud-led coalition. And please God, let Natan Sharansky have a significant role in any such Likud government.

President Obama Continues to Avoid Pride and Despair

Dana Milbank in today's Washington Post:
But there are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.

In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign.

Even Bush hasn't tried that.
Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Stolen Obama Kvitel (Note) at the Western Wall--Sacrilege, Publicity Stunt, or Both?

In the face of a storm of criticism for publishing the contents of the kvitel (note to God) left by Senator Barack Obama at the Kotel Maaravi (the Western Wall) in Jerusalem, the Israeli newspaper Maariv is fighting back. A spokesperson for the Israeli evening daily, quoted in The Jerusalem Post and numerous other sources as well, suggested that the whole leak was in effect staged by the Obama campaign. The spokesperson said, "Barack Obama's note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem."

If one believes Maariv, and I don't trust it any more than I do any other newspaper, the international media were given copies of the note, or at least the text of the note, before Senator Obama placed it in the Kotel. If so, how does one deal with this story by Jake Trapper of ABC News, that on his plane Thursday morning Obama declined to tell reporters what he had asked of God in his note. The press corps that accompanied Obama, who reported that he had declined to reveal the contents of the note, certainly would already have known its contents if the text of the note had already been leaked. Either Maariv is lying to cover its embarrassment and deflect the torrent of criticism now raining down on it, or the press corps covering the Obama campaign conspired in, or at least tolerated, a false story regarding the supposed principled refusal of the Senator to reveal the message he had left for God at the Kotel.

Should it turn out that Maariv is telling the truth, Senator Obama's visit to the Kotel is revealed to be just one more cynical campaign photo opportunity, of a piece with the cancellation of his scheduled trip to visit with wounded U.S. troops hospitalized in Germany. According to charges by the McCain campaign, Obama cancelled the event because the Pentagon would not allow cameras to record his visit.

He Has Returned! Thank Obama, Obama Has Returned!

He has returned to us! Obama has returned to our shores, in triumph! Hosanna, in the highest, he has returned!

He has conquered Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, for verily, his oracle, the Los Angeles Times hath said so! He has brought peace to the Holy Land, for verily, his oracle, the New York Times Times hath said so! He even has conquered Europe, for verily, his oracles, NBC, CBS and ABC have said so! He now rules over an empire larger than that of Alexander or Caesar. What remains, but for him to ride his chariot down Pennsylvania Avenue in triumph, followed by his defeated enemies, bound in chains, McCain, Clinton, Bush and Cheney, who shall fall at his knees and beg in supplication for his mercy and forgiveness!

As for the question of his Vice Presidential nominee, why is one needed? Surely he is immortal and shall rule over us forever!

One would thank the gods, but that would be presumptuous, for he is very like a god himself. Therefore, let us only say, Thank Obama, Obama has returned!

[Photo credit: Icalzada,]

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quote of the week: On the surprising impact of Obama's speech in Germany

"There were so many Germans screaming, France just surrendered, just in case."

--Craig Ferguson

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Carly Fiorina as McCain's Veep Choice--I Don't Buy It

To be fair, no one has asked my advice, least of all Senator McCain, but for the record, I don't see former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as a good choice for McCain's running mate. The Democrats would no doubt come up with this campaign slogan or some close variation in a microsecond: "What She Did for [to] HP, She'll Do for [to] the USA."

Look, there are no perfect choices--every candidate has drawbacks, including my own favorite, Mitt Romney. But why choose a running mate who is publicly known almost entirely due to her failures?

Choosing Fiorina, who was fired by the HP Board primarily over dissatisfaction with the HP-Compaq merger, would also stir up the right-wing conspiracy theorists--they'll argue that she is on board in order to negotiate a merger of the U.S. with Canada and Mexico.

Obama in the Holy Land: "Look at my deeds," which I did not do

Jim Geraghty reports at the Campaign Spot at National Review Online that Senator Barack Obama is following in the footsteps of another Democratic Party messiah figure, Al Gore, in claiming credit for the achievements others. Obama grandiloquently declared in Israel:

"Now, in terms of knowing my commitments, you don't have to just look at my words, you can look at my deeds. Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don't obtain a nuclear weapon."

Well, Senator Obama is not even on the Senate Banking Committee, and he therefore did not vote on the bill in question when it passed through that committee. He has had no role in the passage of that legislation. His campaign has now clarified that what Obama meant is that the bill includes provisions that match legislation he introduced last year. So it was just bad syntax, again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Israeli-Hezbollah "Prisoner Exchange"--Was It Sanctioned by the Torah?

A little over a week has passed since the funerals of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, may their blood be avenged. They were the kidnapped Israeli soldiers whose bodies were returned by Hezbollah in exchange for the release of five living Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons, and the return of the bodies of hundreds of Hezbollah fighters who had been killed in action by Israel. Although Hezbollah cruelly withheld all information as to the fate of the kidnapped soldiers, and although their families therefore retained hope until the day of the exchange that they would return alive, their hopes were dashed when Hezbollah returned only their corpses. The bodies were positively identified to be Goldwasser and Regev, the nation of Israel was plunged into mourning, and they were buried.

Much has been written about the exchange since it occurred. One commentator, Phil Chernofsky, head of the Orthodox Union's Israel Center, noted that some people were totally in favor of the exchange, others were totally against it, and still others were ambivalent, but in an usual way. It was not that the ambivalent ones were lukewarm as to both the merits and the flaws of the exchange; rather their ambivilence arose from being both strongly for and strongly against the exchange at the same time.

Although a number of posts on the Hedgehog Blog protested the prospective deal with Hezbollah before it took place, I have not written about it since. I do so now primarily to illustrate how our holy Torah is relevant to current issues facing Israel and the Jewish people, and how we err when we fail to follow its guidance.

Sadly, the ransom of the bodies of the two soldiers did not present a new or novel question of halachah, Jewish law. The history of the Jewish people is such that questions concerning the ransom of Jews being held as hostages have risen frequently over the centuries. Those common situations were particularly poignant when the Jewish people lived as persecuted, relatively helpless minority communities in Christian Europe and Moslem lands.

There is no question but that the contribution of money to redeem a Jewish hostage is a positive mitzvah, a commandment and a meritorious deed. Rabbi Berel Wein has written (posted at

The issue of the redemption of Jewish hostages and captives from enemy hands is unfortunately a very old and painful one. The mishna in Gittin already recorded for us that even though the commandment of redeeming captured Jews is one of top priority in Jewish life, demanding that even holy artifacts be sold to raise funds for such a purpose, nevertheless we are forbidden to pay an exorbitant price to secure the freedom of such a captive.

The reasons for the prohibition against exorbitant ransom are straitforward. Not only would the payment of exorbitant ransoms impoverish the Jewish community; it would encourage future kidnappings for ransom.

I believe that one famous application of this prohibition bears particular relevance to current events. In the 13th century, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg was one of the leaders of the Jewish people. He was the leading Talmudic scholar and decisor of halachah of his day, one of only three figures in Jewish history to have earned the title Me'or haGolah, "Light of the Exile," from his people. Universally acknowldged as the leading Ashkenazi authority on Talmud and Jewish law, many communities in France, Italy, and Germany frequently turned to him for instruction and guidance in all religious matters and on various points of law. In 1286, King Rudolf I, the "Holy Roman Emperor" (although he was neither holy, nor Roman) instituted a new persecution of the Jews, declaring them servi camerae ("serfs of the treasury"), which had the effect of negating their political freedoms. Along with many others, Meir left Germany with family and followers, but was captured in Lombardy and imprisoned by his captor, an Alsatian duke, in a fortress in Alsace. (Some historians believe that the duke was acting on behalf of and in connivance with Rudolf I.) Again turning to Rabbi Wein:

The duke demanded a great ransom for the release of Rabbi Meir. The Jewish communities of the area, out of their great love and respect for Rabbi Meir and their loyalty and honor to Torah scholars, were prepared to pay this exorbitant ransom. However, Rabbi Meir himself forbade the Jews from so doing [emphasis added], arguing, undoubtedly correctly, that payment of the ransom would only encourage the duke to repeat his evil deed with even Rabbi Meir himself becoming the victim a second time.

The duke did not relent on his extortionist demands and eventually Rabbi Meir passed away in the prison of the castle of the duke. The duke then demanded the very same exorbitant ransom for the release of the body of Rabbi Meir for Jewish burial, also a cardinal principle and commandment in Jewish life and law. Again, according to the wishes of Rabbi Meir as he expressed them during his last years of life, the ransom was not paid.

The duke held the body for ransom for thirteen years. Eventually, a very wealthy Jew from Mainz came to a settlement with the duke and Rabbi Meir was buried. ... Next to his grave lies the body of the wealthy Jew who obtained the release of Rabbi Meir’s remains. These two graves in the Jewish cemetery remained a place of Jewish visitation and veneration even until our very day.

The name of the Jew who ransomed the body of Rabbi Meir was Alexander ben Shlomo (Susskind) Wimpfen. A photograph of the headstones of Rabbi Meir and Reb Shlomo in the ancient Jewish cemetery of Worms, Germany appears above. The graves are Jewish pilgrimage sites, as shown by the kvitelach (prayer notes containing requests for divine assistance) on the tombstones.

It is far from me, a person of no significant Jewish learning, to venture a halachic opinion on such a difficult issue as whether the ransom paid for the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was so exorbitant as to be prohibited. One factor favoring the exchange is that had the death of Ehud Goldwasser not been confirmed, under halachah his wife Karnit would have been unable to remarry and start a new life. I will say, however, that in light of the release of five terrorists, who have vowed to continue their fight to destroy Israel, the celebrations of Israel's enemies, the subsequent declaration by the head of Hamas that the ransom price for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit has now gone up, and the likelihood that the exchange will encourage more hostage taking, with no particular care to safeguard the lives and well-being of the Jewish hostages, the cost of this exchange seems very high indeed.

More important is that Israel's leaders, who were charged with the responsibility for making such a fateful decision, did not see fit to speak with the Torah authorities of our day.

Taliban Dealt Stunning Blows In Afghanistan--It Must Be Super Obama!

Reuters reports, "A senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan surrendered to Pakistani authorities and British forces killed another leader, dealing a 'shattering blow' to the militant group's leadership, the British army said on Tuesday."

How can one explain this startling turnaround in the military situation in Afghanistan? Why, it must be Super Obama!

Consider the evidence: Earlier today, according to this news report, the Illinois senator stressed in a news conference that the "situation in Afghanistan is perilous and urgent" and that "we should not wait any longer" to provide additional troops. [Incidentally, the news story notes, that stance angered antiwar activists in Obama's base, who want the U.S. to retreat militarily everywhere, not just in Iraq.] No sooner are the words out of Obama's mouth than the Taliban suffers major losses to its leadership.

This of course follows the pattern in Iraq. In an interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric that will air on tonight's CBS News, Obama repeated that he was correct to oppose the surge in U.S. troop numbers in Iraq, even though violence has declined. Some cynics may suggest that the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops that the Iraq government said this week that it favors is only possible because of the results of the surge. Obama will not acknowledge that is the case. What other explanation can there be? Why, of course, it is the mere presence of Super Obama in Iraq that has brought about this change!

For that reason I was disappointed to read that Senator Obama, speaking in Amman, Jordan about the prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace, said that it is "unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers and bring about peace in this region."

Why not? If Senator Obama, as a mere presidential candidate, was able to pull off such dazzling achievements in Afghanistan and Iraq, merely by snapping his fingers, why not in the Holy Land as well?

Quote of the day

Tom Smith:
I'm just hoping BO is a faux lefty who will run to the center when he realizes that's where the most power is. So, just a classier version of Bill Clinton. That's my hope. If he turns out to take the things he is saying seriously, then it won't be funny at all.

Taking oneself too seriously is something the young and inexperienced are especially good at. Obama has not been around long enough to have it handed to him in anything he really cared about. He is a very peculiar candidate for the White House. I think maybe the closest parallel is JFK but instead of Irish Catholic it's (sort of) African American. One hopes Obama will not get a Cuban Missile Crisis sort of test.

Shelby Steele on Barack Obama

Shelby Steele crystallizes the Obama strategy:
[Obama's campaign is more cultural than political. He sells himself more as a cultural breakthrough than as a candidate for office. To be a projection screen for the cultural aspirations of both blacks and whites one must be an invisible man politically. Real world politics, in their mundanity, interrupt cultural projections. And so Mr. Obama's political invisibility -- a charm that can only derive from a lack of deep political convictions -- may well serve his cultural appeal, but it also makes him something of a political mess.

Already he has flip-flopped on campaign financing, wire-tapping, gun control, faith-based initiatives, and the terms of withdrawal from Iraq. Those enamored of his cultural potential may say these reversals are an indication of thoughtfulness, or even open-mindedness. But could it be that this is a man who trusted so much in his cultural appeal that the struggles of principle and conscience never seemed quite real to him? His flip-flops belie an almost existential callowness toward principle, as if the very idea of permanent truth is passé, a form of bad taste.

John McCain is simply a man of considerable character, poor guy. He is utterly bereft of cultural cachet. Against an animating message of cultural "change," he is retrogression itself. Worse, Mr. Obama's trick is to take politics off the table by moving so politically close to his opponent that only culture is left to separate them. And, unencumbered as he is by deep attachment to principle, he can be both far-left and center-right. He can steal much of Mr. McCain's territory.
It will be fascinating to watch this unfold. It seems to me that Obama's entire campaign is a house of cards. One major mistake by the candidate, or a successful thrust by McCain, could cause the whole thing to come down.

I am not optimistic. Both the news media and the stars do seem to be aligned for Obama. But we thought the same thing about Hillary Clinton, didn't we?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Will It Take an Armed Attack to Stop Iran's Nuclear Program--and By Whom, the U.S. or Israel?

My good friend, and Lieberman Democrat, Paul Kujawsky, is ready for the United States to go to war to stop Iran's nuclear program. He has written a column explaining why, which we are publishing below. However, for reasons that I will explain in my commentary following his article, a U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will not happen. What may well happen instead is described in my comments. With that teaser of an introduction, here is Paul's column:

by Paul Kujawsky

What could possibly be wrong with the idea of "war only as a last resort"? Who would be so militaristic, so fiendishly bloodthirsty as to disagree? Actually, it turns out that there are at least two good reasons to quibble with this formulation.
First, at least some of the people who deploy this expression don't really mean it. For them, the time for last resorts never arrives. Another round of negotiations, back to the Security Council, more time for sanctions to work—the answer to the question, "Are we there yet?" is always, "No." It's an exercise in disingenuousness by wolves in sheep's clothing—that is, pacifists in realists' clothing.

Second, it's said that timing is everything in comedy. The same is true in war. It's possible to wait too long to resort to the "last resort." After all, the other side generally is not standing around idly shooting the breeze—they're preparing for combat.

Iran is the urgent example. As the West quarrels about watered-down Security Council resolutions while offering more and more political and economic incentives to the mullahs, they press ahead with their decades-old aim of acquiring nuclear weapons. They are close—very close. A war to prevent the Islamists of Tehran from getting nuclear missiles would be quite different (and more favorable for us) than armed conflict after Iran becomes a nuclear power.

Of course, there are objections. The decision to strike Iran would be divisive at home and condemned abroad. Some will decry the lack of domestic support. Others will say that the United States must not initiate military action without U.N. approval. Europe will be horrified; Russia and China will scowl.

All these points are true. But these are just different ways of expressing the paralysis of "last resortism." In an ideal world we could take more time to persuade the American people, convince or cajole the rest of the world. But in an ideal world implacably hostile, genocidal/suicidal Islamists would not be stretching out their hands to grasp the most destructive weapons in the history of humanity. In our non-ideal, actual world, we can’t wait too long.

Iran will fight back. They can do a lot of damage. Through its leading role in the international Islamist conspiracy, it will try to damage our interests throughout the world, no doubt with some success. Again, timing matters. The mullahs are somewhat constrained by the threat of American or Israeli military action against their nuclear and other facilities. If we wait and they get nuclear weapons, what will constrain them?

War is unutterably, incalculably dismal. But the time for last resorts has probably come. Remember: Iran is already waging war against America and its allies. Iran supplies the insurgents who are killing American soldiers in Iraq. It plays a central role in the Islamist war against liberalism and democracy. The reason this isn’t actually a "war" is simply because "war" requires fighting back. What we have now, basically, is more-or-less unopposed Iranian aggression. How much worse will our position be, facing a nuclear-armed, bellicose Iran?

The Kosher Hedgehog comments: I am not certain that I disagree with Paul over the necessity of armed confrontation with Iran to stop its nuclear program; so much as I believe that the United States will not act on that necessity. It will not do so for the following reasons:

1. The George W. Bush Administration has neither the time, nor the political power to order an attack on Iran. Only some five months remain before the inaugeration of a new President. The initiation of armed conflict with Iraq would result immediately in the introduction of impeachment articles in the House of Representatives. President Bush does not want to spend the rest of his term in office defending against impeachment, or engaged in a new armed conflict. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said as much today when she gave Iran two weeks to respond to the latest European offer in the negotiations to halt Iran's nuclear program, or else the U.S. would ... seek new sanctions. It is Secretary Rice and her faction in favor of diplomacy that currently have the ear of the White House, not the more hawkish advisors lead by Vice President Cheney.

2. There is no possibility of any significant international support for an attack on Iran. Russia and China would block any Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force. Indeed, in the event of an actual attack, they would exert every means short of a military confrontation with the U.S. to actively support Iran. France and Italy, which both have large investments in Iran, have been reluctant to support even meaningful sanctions, much less military action. As mentioned in the Martin Peretz column described below, Italy, led by a stalwart friend of the U.S., Silvio Berlusconi, just announced the construction of a major Fiat plant in Iran. The negative political reaction in Great Britain, now led by Gordon Brown, rather than Tony Blair, would probably lead to the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan at a time when they are most sorely needed. Of course, the reaction of the Islamic world to another American armed attack on a Moslem nation can be predicted.

3. The U.S. military is overstretched. War with Iran would not only require the the forces directly engaged in military action against Iran; it would worsen the situation in the Afghan and Iraqi theaters as well. Iran is in a geographical and strategic position to cause a great deal of trouble in both places. According to the reports that I have seen, our joint chiefs of staff have warned the Bush Administration about the dire consequences of an armed conflict with Iran.

4. The oil markets, just showing signs of stabilizing, would be thrown into chaos. Iran would try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke-point through which oil tankers not only from Iran, but from Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bharan, Qatar and even some Saudi fields must pass. The mere threat of such a closure would send oil prices spiraling wildly upward, and deal yet another blow to the already reeling U.S. economy.

5. If the next President is Barack Obama, there is no doubt that the U.S. will concentrate on diplomacy rather than armed force to try to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Even if John McCain is the next President, he first will have to take some months to organize his administration, and he then probably will try to show a "new direction" from the Bush Administration by pursuing diplomatic alternatives first. He will not risk being parodied as a President eager to bring into fruition his joke of "Bomb bomb bomb, Bomb bomb Iran."

So there will be no attack by the U.S. Our leaders will determine that we cannot afford war with Iran, even though it may well be true that we can't afford to put off that war either. More time will pass. Iran will come ever closer to realizing its ambitions to have nuclear weapons. And then, the one nation that does not have the luxury of waiting and seeing, the one country to whom Iran poses an existential threat--and to whom the Iranians have expressly declared that they pose an existential threat--will act because it believes that it has no choice but to act.

That nation is Israel, as Martin Peretz recently observed in his blog column at The New Republic online. If Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities, my friends, all bets are off. All of the chaos that I have previously described will occur, and more. Iran has already declared that it will retaliate on European and American targets, not just against Israel. All of Europe, Russia, China, and the Islamic nations will join in condemnation of Israel, and it will be an open question whether the United States will go along as well. (Let us not forget that the Reagan Administration joined in the condemnation of Israel's destruction of the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, under development by Saddam Hussein, in 1981.) It would not be entirely surprising to see the U.S. support, or at least not veto, a United Nations Security Counsel resolution condemning. Iran and its surrogates--Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria--would probably launch military strikes of one sort or another at Israel. Indeed, it might well be the entire world against Israel.

(I leave it to our readers to ask themselves if such a scenario sounds at all familiar to them; if they may have read about something like it somewhere.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

California Boasts, "We're Number 1--in Taxes"

California has lost its national leadership role in most things, but it is about to claim the dubious distinction of being El Primero Numero Uno El Jefe in one category, the highest tax jurisdiction in the United States. Until now, New York City has been the leader, but its government at least delivers first class services, under the leadership of Mayor Rudy Guiliani and the incumbent Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

However, our Democratic-controlled State Legislature has taken dead aim at the taxation crown, as described in today's Wall Street Journal. The Spendocrats are proposing an increase in the top marginal tax rate from 10.3% to 12%, which would be the highest in the nation and twice the national average. They are also planning to eliminate inflation indexing, which means that our increasing rate of inflation annually will throw more and more taxpayers into the higher tax brackets, without any increase in their real income. As a final coup d'grace, the Democrats favor increasing the corporate tax rate (by definition a double tax on income, once at the corporate level and once when paid to shareholders as dividends) from 8.4% to 9.3%.

Of course, as the Wall Street Journal observes, the natural result of these measures, if adopted, would be to drive out of California every high-income individual and every business that can move, taking with them the salaries and payrolls needed to keep the state solvent. Already AAA has announced that it is closing its national call centers in California, a loss of 900 jobs. Toyota has canceled plans to construct its new hybrid Prius plant in the Bay Area, opting instead for Mississippi, a loss of 1000 potential jobs. Somehow the low local taxes of Mississippi outweighed the unavailability of gay marriage.

Actually, the comparison of California to New York City is unfair. After all, New York City is a city, in a State that assesses its own income tax. The State of California managed to seize first place in taxation rates without even taking into account the local city taxes assessed by jurisdictions such as the City of Los Angeles, which taxes the GROSS INCOME of every business within its boundaries.

Unfortunately, unlike AAA and Toyota, some of us are stuck here. I have heard some conservative Republicans suggest that rather than compromise it is better to let the Democrats win, govern, tax, spend and ruin. That has been the result, if not the intention, in California, where the Democratic-controlled legislature and its fellow-traveler GOP governor have allowed spending to increase by 44% over the past 5 years, spending money even faster than Congress. Maybe that strategy will prove fruitful in the long run, if the State survives--the Democrats are certainly cooperating by spending and taxing the State into ruin--but it is going to be a painful tribulation for those of us who can't rapture out of here and will be left behind to witness the economic apocalypse.

The MSM and Obama: Have They No Shame?

Howard Kurtz tells the story in the Washington Post ("Anchors to Follow Obama's Trek Abroad"):
The three network anchors will travel to Europe and the Middle East next week for Barack Obama's trip, adding their high-wattage spotlight to what is already shaping up as a major media extravaganza. Lured by an offer of interviews with the Democratic presidential candidate, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric will make the overseas trek, meaning that the NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts will originate from stops along the route and undoubtedly give it big play. ...

The plan is for Williams, Gibson and Couric interviews to be parceled out on successive nights in different countries, giving each anchor a one-day exclusive. (Correspondents could have done the interviews instead, but a certain competitiveness sets in once one or two anchors agree to go.) ... Some 200 journalists have asked to accompany Obama on the costly trip, which will include stops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the campaign will be able to accommodate only one-fifth that number.
The New York Times manages to point out a pitfall for Obama:

The large news media contingent that will travel with Mr. Obama will be a help if the trip goes wonderfully. But any gaffes will take place before a larger megaphone.
But I wonder if they'll even notice any gaffes. I heard an MSM type tell Charlie Rose last night that he hoped Obama would pick "a really stupid vice presidential nominee" so that the MSM would have someone to pick on and parody, because they just can't find anything about Obama himself to parody.


Kurtz quotes NRO's Jim Geraghty:
Jim Geraghty, a columnist for National Review Online, said Obama's paucity of foreign travel as a presidential candidate makes the trip a natural draw for news organizations, while "McCain has been around forever, and he's probably been to all these places before." But, he says, "the networks will be acting as a PR wing for the Obama campaign if they treat any of these photo ops as truly newsworthy breakthroughs."

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Sort of Society Would Celebrate the Brutal Killing of a 4-Year Old Child?

Possibly as early as tomorrow, Israel will release multible murderer Samir Kuntar as part of a "prisoner exchange" for the bodies of Israeli kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. On April 22, 1979, when Israeli police cornered Kuntar and three other terrorists on the beach at Nahariya, Kuntar shot one of his hostages, Danny Haran, in front of Haran's four-year old daughter, Einat. He then proceeded to crush Einat's head on the rocks of the beach with the butt of his rifle.

Smadar Haran Kaiser is the widow of Danny Haran. (She has since remarried.) She is the mother of Einat. She is also the mother of another victim of Kuntar, two-year old Anat Haran. When Haran and his fellow terrorists entered the Nahariya apartment building where the Harans lived, Smadar and Anat hid in a crawl space above the bedroom in their apartment. Trying to muffle the cries of her small child, to avoid detection by the terrorists, Smadar accidentally smothered Anat.

Recently, Smadar wrote in the Washington Post:

"It is hard for anyone with normal sensibilities to comprehend how someone can feel joy and hatred while smashing in the head of a four-year-old child. What kind of pathology can cause a society to celebrate such evil?"

We will soon find out. The Jerusalem Post reports:

According to the Lebanese media, Kuntar will be given a festive reception by Hizbullah at its headquarters in southern Beirut, and welcomed personally by its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. He will then travel to Aabey, the mountain village where he was born on July 20, 1962, and, according to village leader Nazih Hamza, there will be a huge celebration for him there.

Lebanon has just formed a national unity government under a Qatar-brokered deal, in which Hizbullah has two ministers and veto power. Lebanon's prime minister, Fuad Saniora, has indicated that his government supports the festivities planned for Kuntar. A recent statement issued by Saniora's office said he shared with the Lebanese people the joy of the upcoming release of prisoners by Israel, including that of Kuntar.

If "Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate" is the God that I worship, He will someday call these evil people to account for their celebrations in honor of the release of the cruel, brutal, merciless murderer of a four-year old child.

Obama Gives Final Burial to 'Undivided Jerusalem' Statement

From Israel National News-Arutz Sheva: In an interview with CNN, Senator Obama described his statement in a June speech to AIPAC, advocating that Jerusalem remain "the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided," as an example of "poor phrasing" and carelessness in "syntax." It makes one wonder if his declaration in the same speech, that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must preserve "the identity of Israel as a Jewish State with secure, recognized and defensible borders," also represented poor phrasing and careless syntax.

LGBT and now Q: How Many Letters Will the Alternative Sexuality Activists Appropriate?

My issue of Stanford Magazine arrived today, and in the letters column one correspondent had written on behalf of the "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer-identified (LGBTQ) students" at my alma mater. I had not previously come across the phrase "queer-identified" and was curious as to its meaning. Were these students who are neither gay, nor lesbian, but have either identified themselves as such, or been so identified by others?

I was also amused that the previously familiar acronyms of LGB, and later LGBT, had once again undergone extension. Would there be no end to this, before the advocates of alternative sexuality had appropriated the entire alphabet? ("A" is for animal-lovers, "I" is for incest-rights," etc.) Is it not enough that these activists have already sexualized once perfectly useful words such as "gay" and "queer?"

As any modern investigator might do, I turned to the world-wide web, and found that even the activist community does not seem to have settled on a single definition of "queer-identified." The catch-phrase “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified” suggests that "queer-identified" is distinct from the prior four categories. Also, there were posts where people identified themselves as, for example, a “queer-identified lesbian” or a “queer-identified gay man,” which suggests that one could be a lesbian or gay and not be “queer-identified.” Elsewhere I have seen the word “queer-identified” used apparently as a collective term, embracing persons who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or even asexual.

Wikipedia contributed this paragraph from its entry on "Queer," which could only have been written by someone with an advanced university degree, probably a PhD, in English or the social sciences, no doubt in a discipline that frequently employs the term "deconstruct":

For some queer-identified people, part of the point of the term 'queer' is that it simultaneously builds up and tears down boundaries of identity. For instance, among genderqueer people, who do not solidly identify with one particular gender, once solid gender roles have been torn down, it becomes difficult to situate sexual identity. For some people, the non-specificity of the term is liberating. Queerness becomes a way to simultaneously make a political move against heteronormativity while simultaneously refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics.

As Woody Allen once wrote after quoting a particularly murky passage from Kierkegaard, "The concept brought tears to my eyes. My word, I thought, how clever!" I was particularly intrigued by the idea of queerness as a way of "refusing to engage in traditional essentialist identity politics." Does that mean that they refuse to be Democrats?

If any of our readers can provide some illumination on the meaning of the term "queer-identified," please comment. Better yet, keep it to yourself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Help Stop British Islamists From Silencing Blog Critic; Defend Harry's Place!

As reported by One Jerusalem:

Douglas Murray is a brilliant British writer and advocate for truth and justice. Being very effective at what he does he has been branded an enemy of British Muslims who want to impose Sharia Law on British society.

Murray has established a record of being willing to debate his opponents in public forums. You may remember that he partnered with Daniel Pipes in a debate with then London Mayor and Sharia apologist Ken Livingstone and a Muslim partner. So when he received an invitation to attend London's Islamic Expo which is sponsored by Muslim Brotherhood types he accepted (even though the deck was sacked against him.)

Now Murray has decided to withdraw because some of the Muslims involved in the Expo are trying to shut down Murray's blog, called Harry's Place, which has reported the truth about the radical Muslim community in the United Kingdom. They are using the British courts to silence their critics. If you are a blogger, you can help defend Harry's Place here.

This link takes you to Neoconstant [no relation]/Journal of Politics and Foreign Affairs, which is organizing a "blogburst" in defense of Harry's Place. Here is Neoconstant's explanation of the lawsuit against Doug Murray and the "Defend Harry's Place" project:

Harry’s Place, a UK blog dedicated to promoting the ideals of freedom and democracy, is being sued by Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative, which has been linked to Hamas and the Islamic Brotherhood, both terrorist organizations. The blog reports that Mr. Sawalha, according to the BBC…

“master minded much of Hamas’ political and military strategy” and in London “is alleged to have directed funds, both for Hamas’ armed wing, and for spreading its missionary dawah”.

In their revelation of the impending lawsuit against them leveled by Mohammed Sawalha, they write:

Mr Sawalha claims that we have “chosen a malevolent interpretation of a meaningless word”. In fact, we did no more than translate a phrase which appeared in an Al Jazeera report of Mr Sawalha’s speech. When Al Jazeera changed that phrase from “Evil Jew” to “Jewish Lobby”, we reported that fact, along with the statement that it had been a typographical error.

Mr Sawalha has been the prime mover in a number of Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood associated projects. He is President of the British Muslim Initiative. He is the past President of the Muslim Association of Britain. He was the founder of IslamExpo, and is registered as the holder of the IslamExpo domain name. He is also a trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque….

…Mr Sawalha says that the attribution of the phrase “Evil Jew” to him implies that he is “anti-semitic and hateful”. Notably, he does not take issue with our reporting of the revelation, made in a Panorama documentary in 2006, that he is a senior activist in the clerical fascist terrorist organisation, Hamas.

It looks like Harry’s Place is going up against some pretty top-notch lawyers on this one, and they’ve got guts, but as the post goes on to say:

If Mr Sawalha persists in attempting to silence us with this desperate legal suit, we will need your help.

We won’t be able to stand up to them alone.

This is why we’ve started this blogburst, to get the word out that we won’t let members of Hamas or any radical terrorist group censor us or any of our fellow bloggers.

If you’d like to add your site to the blogroll, simply email us at, and include your site’s URL.

Then copy and paste this (or write your own) entry into one of your posts. Future posts will be emailed to you. Thanks, and don’t forget to head over to Harry’s Place to show your support of their freedom of speech!

If you love freedom of speech and hate anti-Semitism and its radical Islamic propagators, join the fight to defend Harry's Place!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Israeli Justice Ministry Announces New Fraud and Corruption Allegations Against Olmert

As reported in The Jerusalem Post, Israel's Justice Ministry today announced stuning new allegations of fraud and corruption by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Justice Ministry accused Olmert of soliciting multiple sources to pay for identical trips abroad for him and his family, and then pocketing the excess funds. Morever, the Post reports, citing Israel Broadcasting's Channel 2, police investigating those charges have incriminating evidence, including multiple fictitious tax receipts and the testimony of at least one witness, probably an employee of the Rishon Tours travel agency.

The good news is that this should make it even more difficult for Olmert to remain Prime Minister. One only regrets that these scandals broke only after his government did so much damage to Israel, such as the Gaza withdrawal, the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, the shelling of Sderot, Ashkelon and other southern communities, the botched war in Lebanon, and the disastrous exchange agreement with Hezbollah to trade live captured Arab terrorist murderers for corpses.

The even better news actually comes from the Mishnah, Tractate Sotah, Chapter 9, Mishnah 15, which said that when the coming of Mashiach [the Messiah] is imminent, "the face of this generation will be as the face of a dog." Our Rabbis have taught that the "face" of a generation" means its leaders. With a Prime Minister like Ehud Olmert, Mashiach will surely reveal himself soon and in our day.

Columbian Commandos Rescue Betancourt and American Hostages; Doing What Israel Used to Do!

The Hedgehog Blog has been remiss in not previously offering a hearty "Well Done!" to the Columbian commandos, and the Columbian government of President Alvero Uribe, which last week pulled off without a hitch the spectacular rescue of Ingrid Betancourt (photo right) and 14 other hostages, not incidentally including three American defense contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Keith Stansell and Thomas Howes, all longtime hostages of FARC, the Columbian pseudo-Marxist terrorist group. Well done, Columbia; as we say in Hebrew, "kol hakvod" [all honor to you]. To the extent that the United States government and military may have played a supporting role (reportedly supplying the technology for jamming FARC communications and helping to locate the prisoners), kol hakvod to them as well.

So what explains this tardy recognition by the Kosher Hedgehog of such a daring exploit, which has struck a stunning blow for freedom and against international terrorism? Perhaps a little wistfulness. Caroline Glick explains it well in a column in the Jerusalem Post:

Exalting at her liberation by the Colombian military last week, former hostage Ingrid Betancourt exclaimed, "This is a miracle, a miracle! We have an amazing military. I think only the Israelis can possibly pull off something like this."

Betancourt's statement made thousands of Israelis wince.

Held hostage in the Colombian jungles for six years by the narco-terror group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Betancourt, a dual Colombian-French citizen who was a Colombian senator and presidential candidate at the time she was abducted, obviously had not heard the news about the "new Israel."

Her statements were based on her memories of the "old Israel." She didn't know that the "new Israel" doesn't fight terrorists. The "new Israel" views fighting terrorists as an exercise in futility. Its leaders and military chiefs alike repeat endlessly the mantra that there is no military victory to be had, only a political accommodation.

She didn't know that the week before she was rescued, the "new Israel" made a deal with Hizbullah to release five senior Lebanese terrorists, an unknown number of Palestinian terrorists and hundreds of bodies of dead terrorists in exchange for the bodies of IDF reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were murdered by Hizbullah two years ago.

The "new Israel" is the Israel that maintains one-sided "cease-fires" with Hamas and is poised to make a deal with Hamas by which it will release up to a thousand Palestinian terrorists in exchange for IDF hostage Gilad Schalit.

Glick describes exactly how I felt. She goes on to note how the government of Columbian President Uribe, in contrast to Israel's abdication to terrorism under Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, "has never veered from its single-minded goal of defeating FARC both militarily and politically." The irony is that both Sharon and Olmert thought that their policy of going soft on terrorism was politically expedient. Yet today, Olmert's public approval hovers within the statistical margin of error of zero, and his government does everything to avoid new parliamentary elections, while Uribe, who won a landslide re-election victory in May 2006, the first re-election of a sitting Columbian President in more than a century, has seen his public approval rating jump from an already robust 73% to 91%. He is toying with proposing a change to the Columbian constitution to allow him to seek a third term. [Source: The Christian Science Monitor.]

It should be noted, and Ms. Glick does note, that Uribe has unswervingly pursued his campaign to defeat FARC militarily [who says there is no military solution to terrorism?] in the face of the fervent opposition of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the anti-American left-wing government in Ecuador and, of course, Cuba, to round out the list of usual suspects. Ecuador provides sanctuary for FARC bases and, after a Columbian cross-border raid that killed FARC deputy commander Raul Reyes, Ecuador cut off diplomatic relations with Columbia, and Chavez massed Venezuelan troops on the Venezuelan-Columbian border. After last week's display of Columbian military prowess, Mr. Chavez may think twice about deploying those troops.

It also should be noted that the Democrat-led U.S. Congress has rewarded President Uribe's stalwart defiance of terrorism by rejecting a free-trade pact with Columbia. Senators Obama and Hillary Clinton voted against the pact, to the embarrassment of former President Bill Clinton. The Democrats thus displayed the feckless attitude that will dominate U.S. foreign and defense policy should Senator Obama capture the White House. Unfortunately, the present Israeli regime displays it as well.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Barack Obama: You Should Be Embarrassed if You Speak Only English

I happen to speak fairly fluent Spanish, so I guess I don't need to be "embarrassed" by Senator Obama's standards. Ralph speaks Hebrew, so he's safe too.

(HT: Hugh Hewitt.) Obama's comment strikes me as the kind of offhand remark my liberal friends would make over lunch, among elite company. It is also typical of the lightweight thinking Obama often displays. (Another example: Saying he'd call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff for consultations on Iraq strategy, when someone who wants to be Commander in Chief should know it is the Commander of CENTCOM he would be consulting with.)

This guy will be hard to take for eight years. Let's hope that is not necessary.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Why Israel Will Not Attack Iranian Nukes This Year

The news has been full of threats by the Iranian government to massively retaliate against the United States, Israel and even European nations if Israel or the United States attacks Iranian nuclear facilities. Last Thursday, July 3, Omar Fadhil, the creator of the "Iraq the Model" blog, posted a column at Pajamas Media, entitled "Iran and the Coming War." Noting the increasing likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program, Fadhil wrote, "The strange thing is that Iran has been directing most of its recent rhetoric not against the most likely attacker — Israel — but against the United States."

Fadhil is of the opinion --and I think that he is correct--that Iran is first using threats against the United States to try to persuade the U.S. to restrain Israel from attacking Iran. If that fails, Iran's goal is to drag the United States into an expanded regional war. Portraying to the world that its opponent in the war is not tiny Israel, but the Great Satan itself, would be an essential means of saving face for the Iranian regime, whose image to its people would be severely damaged if a small state such as Israel were to deal severe blows to its war machine.

The Iranians would therefore allege that U.S. warplanes or missiles participated in the attack, or that the U.S. had provided logistical support to the Israelis. Those allegations would not be groundless. While I believe that Israel has reserved to itself the right to act unilaterally against Iran, if it believes it has no alternative in the face of the existential threat posed by Iranian nuclear weapons, I also believe that it is highly unlikely that Israel would proceed with an attack against Iran without at least the tacit approval, if not the active assistance, of the United States. A glance at a map of the Middle East demonstrates why.

As the viewer will note, any airstrike on Iranian targets launched by Israel almost certainly must pass through Iraqi airspace, and Iraqi airspace is controlled by the United States. It would be folly for Israel to send fighter-bombers into Iraq without first notifying the U.S. that they were coming. To do otherwise would risk an accidental confrontation between Israeli and American warplanes, when the Americans scrambled to intercept unidentified aircraft entering Iraq from Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

Those facts also persuade me that Fadhil is wrong in one major respect--an Israeli airstrike is unlikely this year. The Administration of George W. Bush does not have the political capital to withstand the storm of Democratic Party protest that would erupt in the event of an attack on Iran. The few remaining months of the Bush Administration would be spent fending off impeachment resolutions in Congress. The resulting political and military chaos would rock the oil markets and further destabilize the U.S. economy. The chance of John McCain being elected President would evaporate. For all of those reasons, the Bush Administration would reject any Israeli plan to strike at Iran this year. That is not my view alone--a leading American defense analyst at ABC News, speaking to Israeli defense experts, recently concurred that the U.S. would not give the go-ahead to an Israeli attack plan against Iran.

Looking to the future, if Senator Obama is elected President, he is most likely going to put the kabosh on any Israeli request for approval or support of an attack on Iranian nuclear sites. Only if John McCain is the next President is there any likelihood that the U.S. would go along with an Israeli attack. For better or, probably, for worse, the United States and even Israel will reconcile themselves to the realty of a nuclear-armed Iran, and endeavor to use deterrence and diplomacy to protect the Jewish State and the United States from atomic attack.

Obama's Secret Plan to End the War in Iraq

Bret Stephens, in today's Wall Street Journal online, engages in some insightful speculation on what Senator Obama's plan to end the war in Iraq may entail. He bases his prognostication on a March 2008 paper entitled "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," which was written for a center-left think tank, the Center for a New American Security, by by Colin H. Kahl, who runs Senator's Obama's working group on Iraq, and on the Senator's own remarks. The salient points of Senator Obama's policy would include, in his own words: (1) "[making] sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable" (Stephen's emphasis), and (2) the opinion of "the commanders on the ground." His plan would also include a "residual force" of U.S. troops remaining in Iraq after the withdrawal of the bulk of American forces.

Mr. Kahl's paper is useful in assessing the size of the residual force that Senator Obama may envision. Mr. Kahl suggests that what is needed is an "overwatch group" of between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers. As Bret Stephens points out, Mr. Kahl's own preferences track closely with those of none other than Gen. David Petraeus, who introduced the phrase "overwatch" in congressional testimony last September.

If Mr. Kahl's views reflect the current "refined thinking"on Iraq of Senator Obama, then the Obama secret plan to end the war differs little if any from the current policy, developed by General Petraeus, backed by Senator John McCain, and adopted at the time of the "surge" by the George W. Bush Administration.

I don't know whether to feel relief that Senator Obama, if elected, will not do anything rash and reckless; or suspicious and concerned, because what Sentaor Obama in fact may really have in mind is the "unconditional deployment" that his own advisor, Mr. Kahl rejects as inadequate and likely to lead to a resurgent Sunni insurgency; or just puzzled and exasperated over what all the hoopla over Senator Obama's "policy of change" for Iraq has been about. If Stephens is right, then poor Senator Clinton, as well as the Left Wing of the Democratic Party, have been the victim of a smooth-talking, three-card Monte dealer from Chicago.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Flying 200 miles in a lawn chair

This is a guy I'd like to meet:

Man Flies To Idaho … In Lawn Chair

America - what a country.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Independence Day

A reminder for us all of what the day means:

You can find a nice readable copy of the Declaration of Independence here.

John Adams said he hoped future generations would read it aloud every Fourth of July. We've been doing that, and once the kids got used to the archaic usage and spelling, it became a fun tradition. Try it!

Print out a few copies and leave them around during your barbecues. It'll help people remember why we celebrate the day.

How Californians See The USA

Sadly, this is true of many of my fellow Golden State residents, primarily those who live in certain parts of Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why Do Financially Well-Off Elites Support Obama?

Victor Davis Hanson wonders why so many upper-income liberals are enthusiastic Obama supporters, and suggests an answer:
Many enjoying the good life worry that their own privilege in some sort of way comes at the expense of someone else, or they fret that their present lifestyle in ecological terms is hardly sustainable. That concern does not translate into much concrete action. SUVs (Mercedes rather than Yukons) are no rarer in Palo Alto than in Fresno, while such progressives are just as likely, or more so, to abandon the public schools, to keep their children out of East Palo Alto or away from the Redwood City hoi polloi, and sent off to and on their way at elite prep and public schools. To sum up, Obama offers a reassuring sense of self-image: one can still maintain all the current mechanisms one is accustomed to in ensuring privilege, but visible support for Obama offers a sense of atonement and alleviation of guilt at rather modest cost. (We shall see whether a President Obama really ups the top rates, takes off FICA caps, raises capital gains, and so in fact takes a $50-70,000 greater annual cut from top yuppie joint incomes.)

Somehow an Obama sticker, sign on the lawn, or a lapel button has become the equivalent of a crucifix around the neck of a prosperous 16th-century burgher: easy fides of inner good and a valuable totem in reconciling the apparent irreconcilable.
Hard-hitting, but has the ring of truth.

Israeli Medic On Tour Saves Arab Girl in Morocco

On the day of another horrific terrorist attack in Jerusalem, which took 3 innocent lives and injured 66 people, it is refreshing to read of a more hope-filled incident. The Jerusalem Post recounts how, in Morocco, Rachamim Amos, an Israeli medic on a desert tour left his bus when a turban-wrapped figure approached the tour group, begging for help. The Israeli, who speaks fluent Arabic, ignored the warnings of his tour guide and fellow tourists that this might be a ruse to rob or murder him, grabbed his medic kit, and followed the man hundreds of meters into the desert, where he came upon the scene of a collision of two jeeps, and a badly injured young girl. Quickly diagnosing that the girl had suffered a fracture of the femur, complicated by a rupture of her femoral artery, he staunched the flow of blood, stabilized the fracture, and gave the girl's father instructions on how to keep pressure on the ruptured artery for the four-hour ride to the nearest hospital.

The following day, Amos decided to visit the hospital to see how his young charge was faring. When he appeared, he was greeted with shouts of "Here is the Jewish doctor" (although he is only a medic for United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency response agency, not a doctor) and received the hugs and kisses of the girl's father. A doctor at the hospital confirmed that his prompt first aid had saved the girl's life, and the girl's family conferred on him the title of "the Jewish Doctor Angel from Israel." You would probably have a difficult time todayconvincing that Arab girl and her family that the Zionists are devils who bear only ill will toward Arabs and Moslems.

How fitting that the medic's first name, Rachamim, means merciful!

What a contrast with the Palestinian Arab terrorist who used a bulldozer to reap havoc on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem. His victims included a wounded 6-month old girl, whose mother was crushed to death in her car.

United Hatzalah is a volunteer, non-profit organization of "first responders" to road accidents; rocket, artillery and bomb attacks and other terrorist incidents. "Hatzalah" means deliverance in Hebrew. Its volunteers were on the job today in Jerusalem, rendering first aid to the injured. (See the photo below.) Any one wishing to make a donation in honor of Rachamim Amos, or in memory of the slain victims of today's attack in Jerusalem, or for the merit of the recovery of the injured victims, may do so here.

An Iraqi Expatriate's View

This is an interesting and hopeful piece by an Iraqi living in Cairo.

I have always been pretty skeptical about the feasiblility of planting democracy in Iraq. Even so, it is touching to see how these Iraqis view that question.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama, "Pretzel Logic," and the News Media

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media columnist:
Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I'm sorry. He didn't change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

That, at least, is what his campaign is saying. The same campaign that tried to spin his flip-flop in rejecting public financing as embracing the spirit of reform, if not the actual position he had once promised to embrace.

Is this becoming a pattern? Wouldn't it be better for Obama to say he had thought more about such-and-such an issue and simply changed his mind? Is that verboten in American politics?

Is it better to engage in linguistic pretzel-twisting in an effort to prove that you didn't change your mind?
I saw a lot of this in the Mitt Romney campaign. He said he changed his mind on abortion. Regardless of what you think of Romney, he should be able to announce a change of position, like Al Gore did in the other direction (from anti-abortion on demand to pro-choice). One change is allowable, I think; it only becomes a problem if the politician keeps changing on the same issue.

I don't think this will hurt Obama in terms of votes. I do think those on the left who thought he was their guy and was a different kind of politician should feel like they have been used. I still don't think most of them will care. I don't blame them. It's been eight long years, as far as they are concerned.

Obama, "Pretzel Logic," and the News Media

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media columnist:
Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I'm sorry. He didn't change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

That, at least, is what his campaign is saying. The same campaign that tried to spin his flip-flop in rejecting public financing as embracing the spirit of reform, if not the actual position he had once promised to embrace.

Is this becoming a pattern? Wouldn't it be better for Obama to say he had thought more about such-and-such an issue and simply changed his mind? Is that verboten in American politics?

Is it better to engage in linguistic pretzel-twisting in an effort to prove that you didn't change your mind?
I saw a lot of this in the Mitt Romney campaign. He said he changed his mind on abortion. Regardless of what you think of Romney, he should be able to announce a change of position, like Al Gore did in the other direction (from anti-abortion on demand to pro-choice). One change is allowable, I think; it only becomes a problem if the politician keeps changing on the same issue.

I don't think this will hurt Obama in terms of votes. I do think those on the left who thought he was their guy and was a different kind of politician should feel like they have been used. I still don't think most of them will care. I don't blame them. It's been eight long years, as far as they are concerned.