Friday, October 30, 2009

Mortal Fear in Israel

Everyone has their own personal goblins, I suppose. For me, ghosties, ghoulies, zombies, werewolves, vampires and things that go bump in the night have never been as frightening as other human beings, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Yossi Klein Halevi, in today's Wall Street Journal, recounts how many Israelis share that existential fear, and see no happy ending. If Israel refrains from attacking Iran, within a few years Israel will live under a constant threat of nuclear annihilation. However, if Israel were to attack Iran, it may not be able to do much more than delay Iran's nuclear weapons program, it would face immediate retaliation from the missile arsenals of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah (both of which now have missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv), and it would suffer even greater diplomatic isolation. Of particular interest to U.S. readers should be Halevi's description of the uneasiness that Israelis feel regarding the Obama Administration:
In the past few months, Israelis have begun asking themselves a new question: Has the Obama administration's engagement with Iran effectively ended the possibility of a military strike?

Few Israelis took seriously the recent call by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to shoot down Israeli planes if they take off for Iran. But American attempts to reassure the Israeli public of its commitment to Israel's security have largely backfired. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent threat to "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel only reinforced Israeli fears that the U.S. would prefer to contain a nuclear Iran rather than pre-empt it militarily.

Israelis are also understandably skeptical about the ongoing negotiations over Iran's uranium assets:

In fact, Israelis from the right and the left have reacted with heightened anxiety. "Kosher Uranium," read the mocking headline of Israel's largest daily, Yediot Aharonot. Media commentators noted that easing world pressure on Iran will simply enable it to cheat more easily. If Iranian leaders are prepared to sign an agreement, Israelis argue, that's because they know something the rest of us don't.

Perhaps it is intended that Israel face this existential fear, feeling weak and helpless, without hope of aid from other nations, and having only one place to turn . As one of her prophetic sons said, (Isaiah 41:14): "Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel, says the Lord, for I am with you."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fixing Global Warming With a Helium Balloon and a Couple of Miles of Garden Hose

What if global warming, whatever its source and whatever its potential effects, could be fixed on the cheap? What if the recent warming trend in our planet's climate could be reversed, say, by using a helium balloon and a couple of miles of rubber hose to pump harmless sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere? If you are Al Gore or a member of his camp, you would be delighted, right? I mean, it's a win-win, right?

If that is your reaction, then you totally misunderstand the motivating forces and objectives of the anti-global warming movement. That movement has very little to do with finding a scientifically sound solution to an environmental threat, and a great deal to do with increasing public spending, asserting greater federal control over the U.S. economy, and imposing greater international regulatory control over the economies of all developed nations, especically the democratic, capitalist West. In short, it is a green Trojan horse.

As proof of that proposition, witness the reaction to a chapter on global warming in SuperFreakonomics, the new book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and writer Stephen Dubner, the authors of the 2005 runaway best seller Freakonomics. As recounted by Bret Stephens in today's Wall Street Journal, the new book champions an idea conceived by Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm founded by former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold. As described by Mr. Stephens, "The basic idea is to engineer effects similar to those of the 1991 mega-eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which spewed so much sulfuric ash into the stratosphere that it cooled the earth by about one degree Fahrenheit for a couple of years."

One would think that a rational and scientific response to this novel idea would be study and research into its feasibility and efficacy. One would think that anti-global warming activists would strongly advocate such study and research.

Wrong. The reaction from anti-global warming advocates has been ferociously hostile--they are resorting to language normally reserved for attacking former President George W. Bush. Mr. Stephens notes:
Mr. Gore, for instance, tells Messrs. Levitt and Dubner that the stratospheric sulfur solution is "nuts." Former Clinton administration official Joe Romm, who edits the Climate Progress blog, accuses the authors of "[pushing] global cooling myths" and "sheer illogic." The Union of Concerned Scientists faults the book for its "faulty statistics." Never to be outdone, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman scores "SuperFreakonomics" for "grossly [misrepresenting] other peoples' research, in both climate science and economics."
You see, for these people, nothing less than an unprecedented allocation of financial resources and international regulation of the world economy will do for a global-warming solution, even if it doesn't work.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Los Angeles: The Deli Capital of the USA?

That's what the author of a New Book, Save the Deli, says:
It's a very difficult business to be in," Sax says, "but the [delis] that are most inspiring, the ones that people cling to, the ones that people enshrine for years and years are the traditional Jewish delis. And Los Angeles just happens to have more of them than any city I've been to."

To die-hard deli aficionados and sandwich fans, this assertion is heresy. It certainly wasn't what Sax, a Toronto native who now lives in Brooklyn, expected to discover. But in "Save the Deli," a book that traces the rise and fall of Jewish delicatessens from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the suburbs of middle America, he makes that very claim. . . .

On a two-month cross-country trip, Sax hit all the major deli hubs: Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and, of course, New York, even working for an evening as a counterman at the legendary Katz's deli on Manhattan's Lower East Side. But he also fanned out across North America to Denver; Detroit; Scottsdale, Ariz.; St. Louis; Cleveland; Las Vegas; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Montreal; Toronto; and a dozen other cities. He even made a trip across the Atlantic to visit delis in London, Brussels, Paris and Krakow, Poland, one of the birthplaces of the modern Jewish deli.
Well, that's one of many things we Angelenos have over Yankee fans: better delis.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MSM Reacts Mildly to Obama White House Enemies List--It's a Matter of Whose Fox is Being Schorred!

Those of us old enough and politically savvy enough to remember the Nixon White House cannot help but compare the Obama Administration's war on Fox News to the Nixon White House campaign against Daniel Schorr (photo at left) and other journalists who had earned its ire. It was a great career boost for Schorr, who became a featured speaker on the civil liberties banquet tour and may well in part owe his present "Senior News Analyst" position at NPR to the ill-advised persecution campaign initiated by President Nixon.

Charles Krauthammer has written one of the best columns I have seen regarding the foolishness of the Obama Administration's attempt to discredit Fox News in order to discourage criticism of the President's policies and performance. That column may be read at among other places.

While there have been some lukewarm and unduly respectful attempts by other media outlets to question or criticize the Obama Admnistration's anti-Fox campaign, generally the reaction of the news media has been shameful. One can only imagine the media reaction that would have ensued had the George W. Bush Administration conducted a similar campaign against MNBC, whose criticisms of President Bush more than matched those of the Obama Administration by Fox News, both in viciousness and lack of respect.

The media community's reaction to the heavy-handed Obama Administration tactics has been muted and mild. MNBC stars such as the odious Keith Obermann and Rachel Maddow have actually applauded it.

NPR political commentator Ken Rudin felt compelled to make a public apology for merely comparing the Obama Administration's anti-Fox News campaign to the attacks on the media by President Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew. To his credit, Mr. Rudin had made the following observation on NPR's Talk of the Nation:

"Well, it's not only aggressive, it's almost Nixonesque. I mean, you think of what Nixon and Agnew did with their enemies list and their attacks on the media; certainly Vice President Agnew's constant denunciation of the media. Of course, then it was a conservative president denouncing a liberal media, and of course, a lot of good liberals said, 'Oh, that's ridiculous. That's an infringement on the freedom of press.' And now you see a lot of liberals almost kind of applauding what the White House is doing to Fox News, which I think is distressing."

Stung and chastened by the flood of criticism of his remarks from the outraged politically correct left, Mr. Rudin made the sort of public confession of error that one normally expects from a purged Chinese Communist Party official rather than an American political analyst. He described his comparison as a "boneheaded mistake" and said that his comparison was "foolish, facile, ridiculous and, ultimately, embarrassing to me." It probably cost him invitations to some reallly good White House holiday parties as well.

To my knowledge, NPR's Daniel Schorr has been absolutely silent on the subject.

While it is certainly true that the Nixon Administration went far beyond what the Obama Adminstration has so far attempted, to the point of employing illegal wiretaps and FBI investigations of its media critics, if the press continues to be cowed by the Obama White House, we can expect more of the same bully boy tactics, and even more objectionable ones.

I guess that with the liberal media, it is a question of whose Fox is being Schorred.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mitt Romney on America Standing With Its Allies - Including Israel

Romney's op-ed in today's Manchester Union Leader (an interesting place for him to be writing) is a must-read. I imagine Ralph will want to comment on this one; Romney prominently mentions Israel as an ally who's been getting the short shrift from the USA recently.

My co-blogger John Schroeder comments extensively too, at Article VI Blog.

Some excerpts:

Keeping our word to our allies is a matter of honor, but it is also a matter of self-interest. The United States needs allies for economic, political and national security reasons. Good allies and strong alliances allow us to share the burdens we carry, complement and supplement our efforts and present a united front against those who wish us harm.

When we treat any ally in a desultory manner -- and especially if we act in a way that causes them to question our reliability, our resolve, our commitment and staying power -- then they as well as our other allies, all of whom are watching closely, will turn to others for their security.

When Poland and the Czech Republic are humiliated by us, they lose confidence in America's support for them, and they may decide that they must incline more toward Russia.

If our friends in Latin America like Colombia become convinced that we are turning our back on them, they may feel compelled to become more accommodating to Hugo Chavez.

If Japan believes the United States is weakening its commitment in the Pacific, it may distance itself from America and draw closer to China.

When defenders of democracy and the rule of constitution and law in Honduras find that we have sided with their pro-Chavez illegal opposition, freedom fighters across the world, recalculate their chances for success.

And if Arab nations believe that we will accommodate Iran's ambition to dominate the Middle East with nuclear weapons, they will move closer to that very nation.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy Naivete and Uncertainty Produce Predictable Results

President Barack Obama may have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but American foreign policy interests are taking a pounding, as Charles Krauthammer, in the Jerusalem Post, and John R. Bolton, in the Los Angeles Times, recount.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Read on the Web: What Joe Wilson Should Have Shouted

"Joe Wilson should have said 'God Damn America!' because then Obama wouldn't have heard it."--Annika's Journal, Sept. 13, 2009.

For those readers with poor memories, here's a YouTube reminder of a speech by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, President Obama's former pastor, exemplifying what then Senator Obama claimed never to have heard during his years of attendance at Reverend Wright's church.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Obama's Peace Prize: It's More About Europe Than America

Joel Kotkin is a well-respected and perceptive observer of American socio-political matters. In New Geography today, he suggests that "Barack Obama's seemingly inexplicable winning of the Nobel Peace Prize says less about him than about the current mentality of Europe's leadership class. " Kotkin's opening comments:
Lacking any strong, compelling voices of their own, the Europeans are now trying to hijack our president as their spokesman.

There's a catch, of course. In their mind, Obama deserves the award because he seems to think, and sound, like a European. In everything from global warming to anti-suburbanism to pacifism, Obama reflects the basic agenda of the continent's leading citizens--in sharp contrast to former President George W. Bush.

Indeed it's likely that if Obama wanted to run for presidency of the E.U., he could mail it in. Unfortunately for him, he presides over a country that faces a very different future from that of Europe.

Read the whole thing.

Obama Wobbliness Discomforts Our Allies and Encourages Our Foes in Afghanistan and Pakistan

So writes Robert J. Kaplan in the Atlantic, as quoted by the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday Night Live Poking Fun at Obama - Again

Knowing how thick-skinned the president is, I am sure this won't bother him at all.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ancient Egyptian Coins Reportedly Found Bearing Name and Image of Joseph

Count me as a cautious skeptic until further verification, but if this story is accurate, this is one of the biggest archaelogical discoveries ever. The fact that the discovery was made by Egyptian archaeologists (who preumably would have no political incentive to provide evidence of ancient Jewish ties to the Middle East--quite to the contrary, actually) bolsters the reliability of the report. According to an article in the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, those scientists, while examining the hordes of unsorted artifacts at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, came across ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of Joseph.

The biblical story of Joseph, found in Genesis, relates how his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, where he rose to become the Viceroy, after God gave him the ability to interpret the Pharoah's dreams as a prophecy of seven years of plentiful harvests followed by seven years of famine. He proposes that Pharoah appoint an overseer to collect the surplus harvest in storehouses during the years of plenty, to feed the population during the famine that will follow. Pharoah immediately appoints him as the overseer. During Joseph's rule, his father Israel, his brothers and their families, the Children of Israel, immigrate to Egypt to escape the famine in the land of Canaan. After the death of Israel, Joseph and his brothers, the Bible relates that a new Pharoah "who knew not Joseph" enslaves the Children of Israel, settng the stage for the Exodus led by Moses. (Interestingly, Jewish sages differed on whether the enslaving Pharoah was a new Pharoah who actually did not know Joseph, or the same Pharoah, who in a display of collosal ingratitude, acts as if he did not know Joseph.)

Muslims also revere Joseph as a prophet, and he is discussed in the Koran.

According to the news story Al Ahram, "A thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait." The scientist noted that along with Joseph’s image the coins bore his two names: Saba Sabani, the Egyptian name Pharaoh gave him when he became Egypt’s treasurer; and his “original name, Joseph.” Some of the Joseph coins have an image of a cow, possibly alluding to Pharoah's dream of seven fat cows who are devoured by seven lean cows.

In addition to verification that Joseph is a historical figure, not merely a creation of the human authors of Genesis, the discovery lends credence to the historical accuracy of the Biblical narrative of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt. Many historians, archaeologists and Biblical scholars, and one prominent Conservative Rabbi in Los Angeles, have cast doubt on the historicity of the Biblical narrative of the Exodus, due to the absence of archaelogical evidence. However, as author Nassim Nicholas Taleb has taught us in his book "The Black Swan, the Impact of the Highly Improbable," the absence of proof is never proof of absence.

These coins may also may resolve the question of the identity of the Pharoah of the Exodus. If the coins attributable to Joseph's time identify the Pharoah he served, then either that Pharoah or the next one is the Pharoah who enslaved the Children of Israel after the death of Joseph and his brothers, and the one after that is the Pharoah of the Exodus.

Interestingly enough, the Al Ahram story did not focus on the evidence of the truth of the biblical narrative, perhaps because believing Moslems would never doubt it. Rather, the news article relates that the significance of the find is that archeologists have found scientific evidence countering the claim held by some historians that coins were not used for trade in ancient Egypt, and that this was done through barter instead.

Here are links to the a news report about the discovery in the Jerusalem Post, and at the online service of the Weekly Blitz (an anti-jihadist news service based in Bangladesh, which promotes interfaith harmony). My account above draws from both sources. And here is a link to a MEMRI report that translates excerpts from the Al Ahram news story.

Hat Tip to my friend and Mishna study partner Vic Marmon for alerting me to this story.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Going Dutch: The Netherlands Alternative of Using Private Insurers to Provide Universal Healthcare Coverage

The Netherlands provides its citizens with affordable universal healthcare coverage, without any disqualifications for prior conditions, without any threat of the loss of coverage upon a change of employment, and without a public option. Jonathan Chait describes how it is done in this column in the New Republic. Lowell and Hedgehog Readers, is this an viable alternative for the U.S.?

Happy Sukkot from Dry Bones and the Hedgehog Blog

["Hag Sameah" or "Chag Sameach" are alternative tranliterations of the Hebrew greeting "Happy Holiday!" For more information about the Sukkot festival, here is a link to a "golden oldie" post from two years ago. Dry Bones has additional cartoons about Sukkot as well.]

"When France Chides You for Appeasement, You Know That You Have Hit Rock Bottom."

On September 24, 2009, for the first time in history, the President of the United States presided over a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. As recounted by Charles Krauthammer in his current column at, "Unknown to the world, Obama had in his pocket explosive revelations about an illegal uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom. The French and the British were urging him to use this most dramatic of settings to stun the world with the revelation and to call for immediate action." Indeed, French President Nicolas Sarkozy had included a discussion of the grave implications of the Qom discovery in his own address to the Security Council, assuming that he would be able to demonstrate support for an Obama call to action.

However, President Obama remained silent. He delayed disclosure of the discovery of the secret Iranian nuclear facility until the following day at the G-20 summit. President Sarkozy was forced to scrap the Qom portion of his U.N. speech.

Why didn't President Obama take advantage of the high-profile setting of the U.N. Security Council meeting to make the explosive disclosure, and perhaps even urge a Security Council resolution? Mr. Krauthammer reports:
Because Obama wanted the Security Council meeting to be about his own dream of a nuclear-free world. The president, reports The New York Times citing "White House officials," did not want to "dilute" his disarmament resolution "by diverting to Iran."... "The administration told the French," reports The Wall Street Journal, "that it didn't want to 'spoil the image of success' for Mr. Obama's debut at the U.N."

In other words, to President Obama, chairing a meeting of the U.N. Security Council wasn't about stopping the Iranian nuclear weapons development program; it was all about President Obama and enhancing the Obama international image. To actually initiate action to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, real ones, would have tarnished the pristine beauty of President Obama's declaration of his dream of a nuclear-free Planet Earth.

President Sarkozy reportedly was incredulous, as evidenced by his own comments at and following the meeting. While he did not himself mention the Qom plant, Sarkozy remarked at the council table, with Obama at the chair, that "we live in a real world, not a virtual world." He explained: "President Obama has even said, 'I dream of a world without (nuclear weapons).' Yet before our very eyes, two countries are currently doing the exact opposite." And the clincher: "President Obama, I support the Americans' outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing."

As Mr. Krauthammer notes, when the President of France accuses the President of the United States of appeasement, it is time to recalibrate American foreign policy.