Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Faith In Arms"

Recently the Los Angeles Times, following the lead of Ha'Aretz, a left-wing Israeli daily, and Maariv, a centrist newspaper that should know better, published two libelous stories about the Israel Defense Forces. The first claimed that IDF soldiers had deliberately shot down civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The second, a follow-up story based on the same "sources", attributed the alleged atrocities to the influence of right-wing rabbinical chaplains on the soldiers.

Although both Los Angeles Times stories sought to leave the reader with the impression that the sources were first-hand accounts by Israeli soldiers who had fought in Gaza, that was not the case. The stories were based on second-hand accounts, little more than rumors. The stories were spoon-fed to gullible, nay, enthusiastic, reporters by soldiers attendng a forum orgnanized by a pre-army academy with a far-left "post-Zionist" philosophy. This is an institution whose head had served a jail term for refusing to serve on the West Bank. It has a thoroughly anti-Zionist, anti-religious and anti-settler perspective. None of those details were considered worthy of mention by the Los Angeles Times.

A thorough IDF investigation totally discredited the atrocity stories, and the soldiers who were the source of the allegations admitted during the course of the investigation that they had no direct evidence of any war crimes, they had not witnessed any war crimes, and were only reporting "rumors" to the journalists.

Here as reported in is the the Jerusalem Post is the result of the army's investigation of one of the most horrifying of the atrocity stories--that an Israeli sharpshooter had deliberately killed a mother and her two children:

"In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction... The marksman's commander ran up the stairs of a Palestinian home, got up on the roof, and asked the marksman why he shot at the civilians. The marksman said he did not fire on the civilians. But the soldiers on the first floor of that house heard the commander's question being shouted. And from that point, the rumor began to spread. We can say with absolute certainty that the marksman did not fire on the woman and her children... We know with certainty that this incident never took place."

The Los Angeles Times apparently concluded that this information also was not newsworthy. It has not reported any of those details.

As for the real influence of Orthodox Jewish rabbis and Torah on the soldiers of the IDF, I recommend to our readers an op-ed column that appeared Sunday in the Jersusalem Post, called "Faith in Arms." It is written by "Sgt. S," a soldier whose real name could not be published because of the high-security special forces unit in which he serves. He movingly describes the humanizing influence of the rabbis who were slandered by the Los Angeles Times. Here are his concluding words (although I beg you all to read the entire column):

"The physical battlefield is a place where one meets his Creator pretty often. There are those who lose their humanity there, and there are those who can generate humanity even on the battlefield. If the rabbis were not strengthening soldiers spiritually, if they were not giving some meaning and direction to those teens who hold the power of death in their hands, I would be dismayed. "

I am very proud of the conduct of the Israeli Defense Forces during the Gaza campaign. No army in history, in my view, has made a greater effort during urban, house-to-house warfare to avoid unnecessary civilian casualities. I am especially proud of the role played by Torah-observant soldiers and army rabbis in upholding the highest ethical standards of Torah Judaism under difficult combat conditions. They have shown immense integrity. I only wish the Los Angeles Times exhibited one iota of the same integrity.

Palestinian Authority Disbands Arab Youth Orchestra Because of Concert for Holocaust Survivors

It was a news story that actually gave one hope for the future--a Palestinian youth orchestra, based in a West Bank refugee camp, gave a concert for elderly Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Israeli town of Holon. It was a welcome change from the usual Holocaust denial and provocation of Jew hatred that fills the Palestinian school curricula. One might even have thought that allowing the children to give a concert at the Holocaust Survivor's Center could be peace feeler, a small gesture of good will from the Palestinian Authority, an indicator that peace negotiations might actually bear fruit.

Well, dampen those optimistic hopes my friends. Apparently the concert excursion for the Arab teenagers from the Jenin refugee camp simply had escaped the notice of the Palestininan Authority (PA), and when the PA found out it, there were consequences. According the AP and the Jerusalem Post, the PA has disbanded the 13-member Strings of Freedom orchestra and boarded up the apartment in the Jenin refugee camp where the orchestra held its rehearsals. The conductor of the group, an Israeli Arab woman named Wafa Younis, has been banned from the Jenin refugee camp. The actions followed a flurry of strong condemnations of the concert from refugee camp leaders and political activists.

One official, Adnan al-Hinda, director of the Popular Committee for Services in the Jenin refugee camp, said that the participation of the children in the concert was a "dangerous matter" because it was directed against the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians. Apparently, then, giving a few moments of musical entertainment to elderly Jews who survived the German attempt at the physical destruction of the Jewish people threatens the cultural and national identity of the Palestinians.

Perhaps this attitude reflects the true outlook of the leadership of the Palestinian Authority toward peaceful co-existence with Israel. Perhaps, contrary to the enunciations of Western media, it is the Palestinians, not future Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, and not the outgoing Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Israel, that rejects the so-called "two-state solution," which envisions a Palestinian Arab state covering Gaza and most of the West Bank living side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel.

The available evidence would certainly suggest that is the case. Last week, Prime Minister Olmert revealed in a speech to a conference in Herziliya, Israel that his September 2008 "final offer" to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas included the following terms:
  • Return of 93% of the West Bank;
  • Removal of some 60,000 Israelis who now reside in settlements east of the current barrier fence dividing the West Bank from Israel, and the dismantling of all settlements east of the barrier;
  • Ceding by Israel of lands within its pre-June 1967 borders to the new Palestinian state, to compensate for West Bank areas to be retained by Israel;
  • Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neigborhoods of Jerusalem; and
  • International oversight of holy sites within the Old City of Jersusalem.

Prime Minister Olmert never received a response from President Abbas to this offer, because it would have required the Palestinians to give up a right of Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendents to return to areas within the boundaries of the State of Israel. Israel requires that concession from the Palestinians in any peace agreement, because it is necessary to assure the future existence of Israel as a Jewish State. The continuing refusal by the Palestinians to make that concession proves that the essential condition for Arab-Israeli peace--the recognition by the Arabs of the legitimate existence of Israel as a Jewish State--does not exist. And that is not the fault of Israel.

Mohammed Dahlan, the former Fatah security commander, and still a Fatah leader, is often cited as an example of a Palestinian moderate, the kind of Palestinian leader with whom Israel supposedly can do business. On March 18, he stated that Fatah has never recognized Israel's right to exist, although he acknowledged that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had done so. "We acknowledge that the PLO did recognize Israel's right to exist, but we are not bound by it as a resistance faction," he said.

Now Fatah is the largest faction within the PLO, and has always dominated it. Fatah was the party of Yassir Arafat, who as Chairman of the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, in which the PLO recognized Israel. It was only on the basis of the Oslo Accords that Arafat Abbas and their PLO and Fatah cohorts were allowed in 1994 to return from exile in Tunisia and establish the Palestinian Authority. What kind of double-talk is this, that Dahlan can now state publicly that Fatah, as a "resistance faction" does not recognize Israel's right to exist?

It is the type of double-talk that would disband a Palestinian youth orchestra because it played a few songs for elderly Jewish holocaust survivors, and perhaps recognized their history of suffering and their mutual humanity.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

STORIES YOU WILL NOT READ IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: "Charges of Civilian Shootings by Israeli Soldiers are False"

The Los Angeles Times and media throughout the world recently trumpeted charges of deliberate shootings of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, supposedly based on eye-witness accounts by Israeli soliders who had served in the "Operation Cast Lead" campaign there. The stories were initially reported by the left-wing Israeli paper Ha'Aretz.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post today, a source in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) has told the Jerusalem Post that the charges have been investigated by the IDF and found to be categorically untrue. The Post reports:

All of the soldiers who were involved in the conference were questioned - not as a punishment - but in order to understand whether they had witnessed these things. From all of the testimonies we collected, we can safely conclude that the soldiers who made the claims did not witness the events they describe," the source said.

"All of it was based on rumors. In the incident of the alleged shooting of the mother and her children, what really happened was that a marksman fired a warning shot to let them know that they were entering a no-entry zone. The shot was not even fired in their general direction," the source said.

In another story in the Jerusalem Post, Major General Yoav Galant, the Commanding Officer of the IDF Southern Command, stated that the actual casualty figures for Operation Cast Lead were about 800 terrorists and 300 civilians killed. The number of civilian deaths, of course, is far less than the number of deaths initially reported by the hysterical Western media, based solely on Palestinian and Arab media sources. The Post reports:

"A feeling of pride washes over me because we have a moral army that adheres to international law," Galant said at a conference honoring Health Corps troops serving in the Southern Command in Ashkelon.

"800 terrorists and 300 civilians, who we did not want to harm, were killed in the last operation," Galant said. "This ratio of almost a quarter [of the individuals] uninvolved [in the fighting] is an achievement unmatched in the history of this kind of combat," he added.

It is indeed ironic that the world calls out for international war crimes trials for Israel's soldiers and leaders, following a military campaign in which unprecedented care was employed to keep civilian casualties to a minimum.

As one would expect, the Los Angeles Times does not carry either of the two stories reported in the Jerusalem Post. Instead, its Jerusalem Bureau Chief Richard Boudreaux has contributed a story about how "soldiers now going public with allegations of misconduct in Gaza portray the military rabbinate as a corps of self-appointed holy warriors whose sermons and writings demonized Palestinians." Forget about Hamas and Islamic extremism. It's those crazy rabbis who are preventing Middle East peace.

Mr. President, Iran's Mullahs Kill Bloggers

Last Friday, March 20, President Barack Obama sent the leaders of Iran a warm message of greetings on the occasion of Nowuz, the Iranian New Year. He said, "We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world. "

Two days earlier, Iranian blogger Omid-Reza Mirsayafi died in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. In the Wall Street Journal online yesterday, Bret Stephens observed that the death of Mr. Mirsayafi probably was not one of the accomplishments that President Obama had in mind.

Mr. Stephens writes:
The most telling indicator of what we can expect from Mr. Obama's overture is Mirsayafi's death, a fitting emblem of everything the Islamic Revolution stands for on its 30th anniversary.

What was a blogger doing in prison in the first place? Ask 26-year-old Kianoosh Sanjari [pictured above right--picture credit Zina Saunders in the Wall Street Journal], another Iranian blogger and Evin Prison alumnus who fled the country in 2007 and is now in the U.S. seeking asylum.

Mr. Sanjari was first arrested at 17 for joining a procession commemorating the first anniversary of the violently suppressed 1999 student protests at Tehran University. Over the next seven years he was arrested nine times, imprisoned six, flipped between "official" and secret prisons, surveilled and harassed by the secret police, subjected to endless interrogations, held both in overcrowded cells and incommunicado in solitary confinement (for a total of nine months), beaten while blindfolded and subjected to extreme sensory deprivation.

"When you express your dissatisfaction in a civil way and you're faced with physical violence and cruelty, you realize the baseness of the equation," Mr. Sanjari tells me, explaining the impulses that animated his dissent. "The moment you go to prison is when you realize you are in the right. And when you see what nefarious people the regime has to break you is when you feel the need to fight back."

Between prison terms Mr. Sanjari headed the Association of Political Prisoners, which follows more than 500 known cases in Iran.

On March 18, 1983, President Ronald Reagan, speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida, famously described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." For his remarks, the President was ferociously attacked by press elites and diplomats in the United States and Western Europe, and pilloried, in the style later employed against President George W. Bush, as a primitive cowboy.

However, a very special audience, with much in common with Mr. Sanjari and the late Mr. Mirsayafi, of blessed memory, reacted very differently. Here is how Natan Sharansky, then a prisoner in the Siberian gulags, described the reaction of his fellow prisoners of conscience to news of President Reagan's speech:
It was the great brilliant moment when we learned that Ronald Reagan had proclaimed the Soviet Union an Evil Empire before the entire world. There was a long list of all the Western leaders who had lined up to condemn the evil Reagan for daring to call the great Soviet Union an evil empire right next to the front-page story about this dangerous, terrible man who wanted to take the world back to the dark days of the Cold War. This was the moment. It was the brightest, most glorious day. Finally a spade had been called a spade. Finally, Orwell's Newspeak was dead. President Reagan had from that moment made it impossible for anyone in the West to continue closing their eyes to the real nature of the Soviet Union. [The Weekly Standard, "The View From the Gulag," June 21, 2004]

President Obama, please read Sharansky's account of the hope and encouragement that President Reagan's words gave him and his fellow prisoners of conscience in the Soviet gulag on that "brightest, most glorious day." Then think about how your own words of engagement with Tehran's Mullahs will affect those prisoners of conscience still languishing in Evian Prison and other hell holes in Iran. For shame, Mr. President, for shame!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is the Obama Administration Seeking Better U.S. Relations with Iran and Syria at the Expense of Israel?

New York Times columnist Roger Cohen thinks so, and he's delighted. In case you are unfamiliar with Mr. Cohen, he recently enraged the Iranian-American community when he wrote that Jews in Iran are well-treated and have no fear of its Islamic government. In taking his public interviews of Iranian Jews, in a totalitarian state, at face value, Cohen was following the New York Times tradition established in the 1930s by Walter Duranty. Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize by reporting that allegations that Josef Stalin had engineered the mass starvation of as many as 12 million Ukranian peasants were no more than anti-communist propaganda. Roger Cohen is just the latest "useful idiot" for totalitarian regimes to be featured in the New York Times.

So Mr. Cohen applauds President Obama's recent overtures, without pre-conditions, to the Iranian Islamist regime. Not just because he favors improvement in Iranian-U.S. relations, but for a special bonus of this diplomatic initiative: "Still, this much is clear to me: Obama’s new Middle Eastern diplomacy and engagement will involve reining in Israeli bellicosity and a probable cooling of U.S.-Israeli relations. It’s about time. America’s Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy has been disastrous, not least for Israel’s long-term security."

Victor Davis Hanson concurs that the Obama Administration is seekinon g improved relations with Iran, and its ally Syria to boot, and that American-Israeli relations will suffer as a result. However, he is decidedly less pleased by the prospect, as he indicated in an interview with Hugh Hewitt on March 19, 2009:

HH: Last question, Victor Davis Hanson, we have an obvious change of government in Israel upon us this week or so. Is this going to be, with a conservative government led by Netanyahu, good for world stability or destabilizing?
VDH: You know, I’m worried. I think that he would be good for Israel, but I’m very worried because I think that we’re looking at the most insidiously constant estrangement between Israel and the United States we’ve seen in our lifetime. When you start to see the Samantha Power appointment, the would-be Charles Freeman appointment, the $1 billion dollar rebuilding program for Hamas-controlled Gaza, the efforts to speak with the Iranians and the Syrians without preconditions, sort of some rhetoric, I just think that Netanyahu is going to give the Obamaites the reason they need to distance ourselves from Israel. I really believe that.

These developments are not good for Israel. More importantly, they are not good for the United States. [HT: Rick Richman, Jewish Current Issues.]

Friday, March 20, 2009

President Obama's Teleprompter Speaks

Apparently President Obama's teleprompter now has a Twitter feed; You can read it here. The device calls itself TeleprompterOne. Some excerpts:
Good Evening My Fellow Americans! The interview with Jay went great. I got to meet Jay's Teleprompter. She's cute. . . .

Every morning I do a "pre-scroll" basically it's an allotment of "Uh's" that the President is allowed to use throughout the day. . . .

Someone tripped over my plug - I was offline for several hours. How did President Obama do without me?
Peggy Noonan has thoughts on why this meme has become so popular:
Such impressions—coolness, slightness—can come to matter only if they capture or express some larger or more meaningful truth. At the moment they connect, for me, to something insubstantial and weightless in the administration's economic pronouncements and policies. The president seems everywhere and nowhere, not fully focused on the matters at hand. He's trying to keep up with the news cycle with less and less to say. "I am angry" about AIG's bonuses. The administration seems buffeted, ad hoc. Policy seems makeshift, provisional. James K. Galbraith captures some of this in The Washington Monthly: "The president has an economic program. But there is, so far, no clear statement of the thinking behind the program."

This in part is why the teleprompter trope is taking off. Mr. Obama uses it more than previous presidents. No one would care about this or much notice it as long as he showed competence, and the promise of success. Reagan, if memory serves, once took his cards out of his suit and began to read them at a welcoming ceremony, only to realize a minute or so in that they were last week's cards from last week's ceremony. He caught himself and made a joke of it. One was reminded of this the other day when Mr. Obama's speech got mixed up with the Irish prime minister's. Things happen. But the teleprompter trope has taken off: Why does he always have to depend on that thing?
Why, indeed?


So writes Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal [surprisingly with no reference or link to this blog]. However, the style of governing she describes strikes me as fox-like, in the style of President William Jefferson Clinton: "In the face of [the two great issues, the economic crisis and our safety,] what strikes one is the weightlessness of the Obama administration, the jumping from issue to issue and venue to venue from day to day."

Lowell adds: I liked this paragraph:
Isaiah Berlin famously suggested a leader is a fox or a hedgehog. The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In political leadership the hedgehog has certain significant advantages, focus and clarity of vision among them. Most presidents are one or the other. So far Mr. Obama seems neither.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Jim Cramer: "President Obama's team, unlike Bush's team, demonstrates a thinness of skin that shocks me . . . ."

From CNBC's Jim Cramer, who happens to be a Democrat:
President Obama’s team, unlike Bush’s team, demonstrates a thinness of skin that shocks me. . . . Are they really that blind to the Great Wealth Destruction they are causing with their decisions to demonize the bankers, raise taxes for the wealthy, advocate draconian cap-and-trade policies and upend the health care system? Do they really believe that only the rich own stocks? What do they think we have our retirement accounts in, CDs? Where did they think that the money saved for college went, our mattresses?
Read the whole thing!

Quote of the day: Obama's stock market

From Robert Goodwin of the Daily News:
The President dismisses the growing perception he is adding to the economic pain. Asked about the markets, Obama waved them off as like a "tracking poll in politics" that "bobs up and down day to day."

It was a telling moment, for the markets on his watch have moved almost exclusively down. And the 55 million households that hold mutual funds are watching their savings and retirements vanish in great gobs.

Most are decidedly middle class, making them collateral damage of this war.
The President remains popular. I honestly don't know whether or not that will last. It might, and if it does I think we are in for a very rough ride.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Secretary of State Clinton: Keep Your Thumb Out of Jerusalem Municipal Business

Imagine if the City of San Diego, California decided to demolish illegally constructed homes, all built without building permits in an area that the City had set aside for parkland. Imagine that the City proceeded entirely in accordance with California law, through the court system, and even offered compensation to any of the homeowners who could prove that they held title to the land where their illegally constructed homes were located. Imagine further that the homes in question all belonged to persons of Mexican descent, some of them American citizens, some of them Mexican nationals living in the United States. Now imagine if the Mexican Foreign Minister were to criticize the demolitions, warning that if the City of San Diego proceeded with them it would hurt Mexic0-U.S. relations. How would the U.S. State Deparment react to that criticism?

Well, substitute U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Mexican Foreign Minister, and the City of Jerusalem for the City of San Diego, and that is what occurred this past week during Secretary Clinton's visit to Israel. She publicly criticized the Jerusalem Municipality's efforts to demolish some 80 buildings illegally constructed by Arabs on land earmarked for an archeological park. Her excuse--the action would violate Israel's "obligations entered into under the road map," and would be "unhelpful" in furthering peace prospects.

Actually, the Municipality's actions have nothing to do with the so-called "Road Map to Peace in the Middle East." The reader is invited to read the text of the Road Map, found at this BBC News site. The only arguably relevant passage is an obligation on the part of the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activity in occupied territories. However, the demolition of illegally constructed houses on public land is hardly settlement activity. Moreover, no government of Israel, including the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that accepted the Road Map, has ever accepted that the City of Jerusalem is occupied territory.

Moreover, the Palestinians have never made any gesture at fulfilling their first obligation in the first phase of the Road Map: "Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel." In its May 27, 2003 acceptance with reservations of the Road Map, the Sharon government stated:
"In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure; collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed; cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority; activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. ...
"The first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement."

Aside from all that, the Secretary of State might have familiarized herself with some basic facts about the lands in question. As an editorial in the Jerusalem Post notes:

The Jerusalem Municipality, moreover, has acted with utmost care and in legally airtight fashion. It has, if anything, conducted this affair with greater circumspection, moderation, tolerance and restraint than would any American municipality given similar circumstances. ... The municipality, furthermore, went out of its way to offer brazen offenders compensation and substitute holdings, as if their claim to the archeological site was bona fide.

And mind you, this is not just any archaeological site. Quoting again from the Jerusalem Post editorial:

Not that the circumstances anywhere else can compare to those of Emek Hamelech (King's Valley or Silwan). This area, part of a First Temple royal enclave, perhaps King David's own, is of matchless historical significance and includes sites holy to all three monotheistic religions.

"Because of its importance to three billion people of faith around the world," observed a municipal spokesman, "Emek Hamelech is not intended for residential development but as an open public space. This position is concurrent with positions taken during the British Mandate and going back to Ottoman control of the area."

In other words, the King's Valley was slated for an archaelogical park, comprising one of the most important sites in Biblical archaeology, before any of the illegal structures were built. In 1967, when Israel took possession of the land in fighting with the Kingdom of Jordan during the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, there were no structures there. Regular flooding of the area every winter prevented construction, and it was only some 20 years ago, when the Jerusalem Municipality so criticized by Secretary Clinton implemented a flood control project, that the area became buildable. Since then, Arab squatters flocked to the reclaimed land and illegally constructed a variety of structures on what was earmarked as an archeological park.

What is really a municipal matter became an internatinal issue when Hamas sympathizer Sheikh Raed Sallah of the Northern Branch Islamic Movement organized protests against the demolitions. It is not hard to understand the motives of Sheikh Sallah, Hamas and like-minded Palestinians. It has long been the policy of the Palestinians to deny Jewish historical links to the land of Israel, especially Jerusalem. The late and unlamented arch-terrorits Yassir Arafat, may his name be erased, drove President Bill Clinton nearly to distraction at Camp David in 1992, with his insistence that a Jewish Temple never stood on the Temple Mount in Jersulem. The illegal Arab squatters in the King's Valley already have wrought considerable, often irreversible damage to some of the world's most unique biblical-era relics. Now Mr. Clinton's wife seems to be offering moral support for the Palestinians' decidedly immoral effort to erase Jewish history, both ancient and recent.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

President Obama and "the rich"

Victor Davis Hanson, as usual, addresses the President and says what many of us (including me) are thinking:
Your plan might work for a while given the incineration of trillions in stock and home equity and the need for replacement cash, but its revenue-raising component is not just aimed at the miniscule number of “rich”, which you imply to the American people are flying the skies of America in private jets while being unpatriotic in avoiding taxes and violating regulations.

In fact, for your plan to succeed, you must go after the upper, upper middle-class, those making between $250,000 and $600,000 who are restaurant owners, home builders, labor contactors, architects, surgeons, engineers, hospital executives, college administrators, Ivy-League law professors, and many dentists.

These households are wealthy, yes; but they don’t own or even fly on $50 million private jets or host private Super Bowl parties. Their income is all reported, and with such good salaries come high insurance and, in the case of business, constant reinvestment and expensive inventories. They are not greedy, but the bulwark of the United States’ productive classes who in aggregate pay over 40% of the collective income taxes, and provide most of the jobs in the country. Under your plan many in these high-tax states will pay nearly 70% of their incomes in FICA, Medicare, federal income, and state income taxes. Why gratuitously mislead the American people that those for whom you will lift FICA ceilings or up their IRS bites to 40% are in any way synonymous with the super-rich? Remember the very, very wealthy voted overwhelmingly in your favor precisely because their riches gave them immunity from high taxes, and in many cases they were far removed from the everyday risk and worry of owning a hardware store or trying to keep together a family-owned construction firm. George Clooney is a world away from a paving contractor, just as making $400,000 a year on call 24/7 is not quite making $40 million investing or $2 million for a cameo.
I've noticed, among my more liberal friends who fall into the categories Hanson describes, a great uneasiness about what Obama plans to do to them. It will be interesting to see what happens in the 2010 mid-term elections.

The cynicism underlying plans like the Obama "tax the (sort-of) rich" scheme is that there are not enough voters in that category to make a difference. After all, 35-40% of American wage earners pay no taxes at all. Still, I wonder how people really feel about the government socking it to an income category that most people aspire to join, even if they are not quite there yet.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Oh-oh, a "moderate conservative" has second thoughts about President Obama

Writes David Brooks, a Republican who proudly voted for Barack Obama:

Those of us who consider ourselves moderates — moderate-conservative, in my case — are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget “contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal’s dream of a new New Deal.”

Read the whole thing. Brooks describes an interesting "moderate conservative" vision of the U.S. that may seem appealing to many, but will never motivate any substantial voter bloc.

The Stock Market Does Not Like What President Obama Is Doing

It has plummeted in the last two months. This article answers the question, what is new during that time period?
What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance. Every new President has a finite stock of capital -- financial and political -- to deploy, and amid recession Mr. Obama has more than most. But one negative revelation has been the way he has chosen to spend his scarce resources on income transfers rather than growth promotion. Most of his "stimulus" spending was devoted to social programs, rather than public works, and nearly all of the tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than to improving incentives to work or invest.
Yes, the article appears in the Wall Street Journal, and to some people that means it isn't worth reading. The arguments require a response nonetheless. I think the White House is making inexplicable decisions. Instead of targeting certain aspects of the economy that need help, the President is letting the more liberal people in Congress act like kids in a candy store with Mom and Dad's credit card.

Here's a graph (courtesy of Instapundit) that shows what the market has done since the "stimulus" bill passed:

This blog (not mine) links to some market analysis. Here's a graph that shows how the market has reacted since the "stimulus" was passed:

I think the market is right to be nervous. We should all be very worried about whether President Obama and his team have any idea about what to do.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Where Are We In Iraq?

Christian Brose, writing at Shadow Government, suggests that President Obama owes some measure of gratitude to G.W. Bush:
Today begins the leap in the dark. For six years we've known that the Iraq
war must end and that at some point U.S. forces would leave. The question that
always hung out there was -- and then what? President Bush chose not to learn
the answer to that question. He could have, especially in January 2007, but he
left that decision to his successor -- and left it in better shape than at any
point since the invasion. If there was ever a time to begin withdrawing U.S.
troops from Iraq, it is now. And Obama, in large part, has George W. Bush to
thank for that.

Still looming is the uncertainty of, and then what? And the only answer is, we'll see.
Read the whole thing. The authors of Shadow Government describe it as "a blog about U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration, written by experienced policy makers from the loyal opposition." It's worth a bookmark.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Not So Funny Truth About President Obama's Tax Plan

While I have enjoyed some success in parenting, one of my serious failings has been in passing on my political values to my children. To a certain extent this is payback. My parents of blessed memory were both liberal Democrats, and my sister, who is of that same political persuasion, has been heard occasionally to mourn that Mom and Dad, were they alive, would be aghast at their son's conservatism.

In any event, it saddens me to admit that least three of my four children voted for Barack Obama, and I have suspicions about the fourth. My son Nathan is the most outspoken lefty of the bunch, and today he sent me this transcript of a call to the "progressive" radio talk show of Stephanie Miller:

A caller into Stephanie Miller's show the other day had a counter for the popular Republican catch-phrase "I have never been hired by a poor person" which supposedly refers to their theory that taxing wealthy business owners will discourage them to create jobs and allowing the top 1% of the population to do well at everyone else's expense is somehow good for the economy, because of the magical idea of "trickle-down" wealth:-"I have never been laid off by a poor person. I have never been laid off by a poor person who packed up his company and moved it to China for cheap labor. I have never had my life savings wiped out by a poor person who fraudulently mismanaged a company and hid the losses. I have never had my life savings wiped out by a poor person running a Ponzi scheme. I have never had to pay to bailout a poor person who mismanaged an auto company and begged for money while still traveling in a private jet. And finally, I have never been hired by a poor person, and a rich person never gave me a raise until I joined a union."

Here is the response I wrote to my son:

Dear Nathan:

Was the caller really suggesting that he has never received a raise in a non-union job? I suppose that may be true for that particular caller, but to suggest that only unionized employees ever receive pay raises is absurd.

As for the rest of the caller’s remarks, well, they are very clever and funny like most of the humor on Stephanie Miller’s show, and also like most of that humor, mostly empty of substance.

Currently 80% of the individual income tax paid in this country is paid by only the top 20% of wage-earners. The bottom 40% of wage earners pay no income tax at all. The top five percent of income earners pay over half of all income taxes, even though their earnings represent only about 31% of all income. That was already a pretty progressive system—those making the most money were paying most of the taxes and more than their proportional share of total income taxes based on their share of income.

Under the Obama Administration’s tax plan, 90% of income tax revenues would be paid by the top 20% of wage earners, and 50% of wage earners would pay no income tax at all. Does that really strike you as fair and equitable?

Well, some people would respond, “So screw the rich people. What do I care?” But please keep a couple of things in mind:

(1) Under President Obama’s tax plan, the maximum marginal tax rate, increasing from 35% to 39.6%, kicks in at $200,000 for a single person and $250,000 for a married couple. That’s already “the wealthy” according to the President. So the rich people getting screwed include your parents. If we pay more in taxes we will have to cut back somewhere. Maybe on “child support.”

(2) Despite the really clever humor on the Stephanie Miller show, the fact is that most new jobs are created by small to medium size businesses. Under the higher federal rate and the soon-to-be-higher State of California income tax rates, the owners of those businesses will be facing a marginal tax rate of over 50% of their net income above $250,000. So please honestly consider: If someone is trying to decide whether to expand his business, or put in more hours at the office, or take more risk, or hire more employees (including perhaps you), and he knows that he will pay perhaps 55 cents of every additional dollar he earns through this effort in income taxes, do you think that might encourage or discourage him? As someone who is in that position, it certainly discourages me.

Moreover, the Obama tax plan also limits the tax deductions of those married couples earning more than $250,000 to 28% of the item (such as charitable giving or home mortgage interest), even though their tax rate is 39.6%. That means that those taxpayers will pay 11.6% more in taxes on deductible items For example, a person who donated $1000 to charity, and previously would have received a $396 tax deduction on account of the donation, now will only receive a $280 tax deduction, and will pay $116 dollars more in federal income taxes on account of the $1000 in income that he donated. By devaluing tax deductions in this manner, the effective marginal tax rate on these taxpayers goes above 40%. Charities are going to feel the impact. Also, because the limit on deductions also applies to the home mortgage interest deduction, it will discourage people in those tax brackets from buying more expensive homes, or refinancing to meet other expenses, all of which of course will be a great stimulus to the economy.

I know that those considerations are not cute or witty enough to make it onto the Stephanie Miller show. Serious matters seldom are.

Love DAD

Well that was my best effort. Readers, your offerings of a better response would be greatly appreciated.

Lowell the Hedeghog has a thought: Ralph, I was struck by the reference in Nathan's comment to
the popular Republican catch-phrase "I have never been hired by a poor person" which supposedly refers to their theory that taxing wealthy business owners will discourage them to create jobs and allowing the top 1% of the population to do well at everyone else's expense is somehow good for the economy.
(Emphasis added.) I love that unintentional but revealing admission: In the liberal view, tax policy is about the extent to which the government "allows" people to do well. I really do think the Democrats are handing the GOP a huge and powerful issue for 2010. I just hope the damage done to the economy by then will be reversible without the passage of too many years.