Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mort Zuckerman on Obama: "He's Done Everything Wrong"

Just how disillusioned are many of President Obama's supporters with his first year in office? Mort Zuckerman is chairman, editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. In 2008, he endorsed and entusiastically supported Barack Obama for the Presidency. On January 19, he published this column in The Daily Beast, which is well-summarized by its title, "He's done everything wrong."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Obama Hectors the U.S. Supreme Court - to the Justices' Faces

Here we have the President of the United States, in his State of the Union address, hectoring the Supreme Court over a decision with which he disagrees, and urging Congress to help him circumvent the effect of that decision. This may be unprecedented.

You can see Justice Samuel Alito shaking his head and mouthing the words, "Not true," in response to the president.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, we have this from Georgetown law professor Professor Randy Barnett:
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds [of] Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
Instapundit has a collection of additional comments on this latest episode of arrogance.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Now it's Jon Stewart who is mocking Obama's TelePrompter

This is devastating. What surprises me is that the president insists on using the TelePrompter even as it is becoming more and more embarrassing fodder for comedians.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Help Haiti

If you haven't felt a desire to donate to the Haitian relief efforts yet, you probably will after watching this privately-produced video:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The latest reaction to the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Coakley Concedes; Scott Brown is the [Republican!] Senator from Massachusetts

The Boston Globe reports that Democrat Martha Coakely has called Republican Scott Brown to concede the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy. Brown becomes the first Republican to hold the seat for nearly a half century. More importantly, the Democratic filibuster-proof majority is broken!

Hugh Hewitt is referring to this election as the most unbelievable in his lifetime. Once pundit joked, "This puts in play every congressional seat in any state less liberal than Massachusetts." Mark Steyn predicts that this election puts the California Senate seat of Barbara Boxer in play. (Please God, let it be true.)

The Kosher Hedgehog is pleased to have contributed to the Scott Brown campaign. The Massachusetts electorate has truly delivered "the Scott heard 'round the world!"

CNN: Israel First to Set Up Field Hospital in Haiti

If one regularly listens to the BBC and CNN, one might well conclude that Israel is the most evil nation on earth and the source of all of the world's problems.

Well, as none other than CNN reports, the only fully equipped field hospital in operation in Haiti as of yesterday was set up by the evil Israelis. The Israeli team running the highly mobile tent hospital had it up and running within 8 hours of arriving on scene, from the other side of the world. The facility includes an imaging center and surgery facilities. It has a capacity to treat 500 persons per day.

According to the CNN report, injured Haitians who were taken to poorly equipped hospitals and first aid centers are dying of gangrene-infected wounds for lack of medical supplies and advanced care. Jennifer Furin, an Harvard Medical Center volunteer physician at one of those centers told the CNN reporter that "No one other than the Israelis has taken any of our patients" that required greater care. CNN reports that the Israeli field hospital had already given care to over 300 patients sent by other hospitals and treatment centers.

In addition, Israel has sent experienced search and rescue teams, including search dogs, to Haiti, and they have located and rescued several people from the rubble. On a grimmer note, they have dispatched a forensic team to assist in the identification of victims.

On Sunday, one of the first Israeli medical aid teams on site delivered a baby at the field hospital. The grateful mother joyfully named her newborn boy--"Israel."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unfortunate politicall comment of the week - Massachusetts Edition

"Why would you hand the keys to the car back to the same guys whose policies drove the economy into the ditch and then walked away from the scene of the accident?"

--Chris Van Hollen, chairman, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, urging voters to vote for Martha Coakley in the race for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

(HT: Ann Althouse.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Earliest Known Hebrew Inscription Bolsters Biblical Account of David's Kingdom

Israeli archaeologists have confirmed that an inscribed pottery shard, reliably dated by Carbon 14 testing of organic material found with it to the 10th century BCE--the time of King David-- is in fact written in Hebrew, making the shard the oldest known Hebrew inscription. Moreover, both the location where the shard was discovered --the Valley of Elah, well to the west of the Judaen hills--and the translation of the ancient Hebrew text bolster the case of the "traditionalist school" of Biblical archaeologists against the "revisionist school," who have challenged the authenticity of the Biblical account of the history of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah. An account of the discovery and translation of the shard appears online in Science Daily, among other sites.

Another chapter now opens in a sometimes bitterly contested scholarly debate, which has raged at least since the birth of biblical criticism in the 19th century. As played out in the field of archaeology, the generation of traditional Biblical archaeologists, exemplified by Kathleen Kenyon and Yigdal Yadin, contended that their discoveries bolstered the historical accuracy of the Biblical narrative. Kenyon believed that she had discovered the ruins of the City of David in her Jerusalem dig. Yadin argued that his discovery of nearly identical six-chambered gates in the excavations of Gezer, Megiddo and Hazor authenticated the description of King Solomon's city building in First Kings 9:15:
“And this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer.”

However, a later generation of Israeli archaeologists challenged the interpretations of Kenyon and Yadin, arguing that their predecessors were influenced by a pro-Bible and Zionist bias. These revisionists argued that the archaeological record actually proved the opposite of what the traditionalists had held. The discoveries at Jerusalem, Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer, according to the revisionists, belonged to a much later era, the 7th century BCE, long after the supposed time of Kings David and Solomon. In their book "The Bible Unearthed," Professors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, insisted that if Kings David and Solomon existed at all in the 10th century BCE, they were "little more than hill country chieftains." There was no golden age of a united kingdom under Kings David and Solomon, no magnificent capital of Jerusalem or Temple of Solomon, and no extensive empire that split into two rival kingdoms, Judah and Israel, after the death of King Solomon. The Biblical narrative, from Genesis through the Books of Kings, according to "The Bible Unearthed," was a myth, the product of a propaganda campaign launched by King Josiah of Judah in the 7th century BCE to further his geopolitical goal of absorbing the rival northern Semitic Kingdom of Israel.

Readers who want to delve more into this debate, as it stood prior to the discovery of the Elah shard inscription, can read "God's Ghostwriters," a New York Times review of "The Bible Unearthed" by Phyllis Trible, Professor of Biblical Studies at the Wake Forest University Divinity School; and "Did David and Solomon Exist?", by Eric H. Cline, Chair of the Department of Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures at The George Washington University.

The Elah shard strikes a blow for the traditionalists. The revisionist school, exemplified by Professor Finkelstein, contended that the hill-country village tribes of David and Solomon would not have boasted literate scribes who could have written the biblical accounts of Kings David and Solomon and their successors found in the Books of Samuel and Kings. Also, as noted above, they challenged the very existence of a Davidic kingdom that had controlled extensive territories in the land of Israel beyond poor villages in the Judaen hills.

As noted in an editorial in the Jerusalem Post, the Elah shard would appear to prove that, contrary to the revisionist thesis:

• There was an expansive Kingdom of David which extended well beyond the hill country, out to the Valley of Elah.

• The Hebrew language was sufficiently developed in the 10th century. It reinforces what many scholars have long appreciated - that parts of the Bible are very, very old.

• During the reign of King David there were scribes who were able to compose complex literary texts such as the books of Judges and Samuel.

• The find establishes that scholarship was taking place away from kingdom's hub, implying that even greater learning was going on at its heart.
Why, the reader may ask, does an archaeological discovery become the subject of a newspaper editorial. Well, the Jerusalem Post is an Israeli newspaper and many Israelis, both religious and secular, Zionist and anti-Zionist, take biblical archaeology very seriously. But beyond that, the archaeological debate between the traditionalists and the revisionists has serious political implications. Past Israeli leaders such as Professor Yadin, David Ben Gurion and Moshe Dayan, although arch-secularists, believed that biblical archaeology testified that the Zionist enterprise and the establishment of the State of Israel represented the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland. Conversely, the writings of the latter day revisionists, such as Professor Finkelstein, have provided scholarly ammunition for the anti-Zionist viewpoint that seeks to portray Zionism as an European colonial venture foisted on the indigenous Palestinian Arabs.

Most striking to me, however, is not the political significance of the Elah shard, but rather the moral message of its text. The translation of the text of the shard echoes the ethical message of Moses, Samuel and the other prophets of Israel:
"You shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
[and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger."
Already in the 10th century BCE, the people of Israel were busy publishing their moral message to the world.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Does the CIA Know What is the Capital of Nigeria? Or Yemen?

Chris Matthews made a good point last night on Hardball, about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the terrorist who attempted to bomb a Delta Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on December 25. Matthews noted that well prior to the attempted plane bombing, the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had met with the CIA station chief in Lagos, Nigeria, to report that his son was involved with Islamic extremists in Yemen and posed a terrorist risk. Moreover, also prior to the attempted terrorist attack, the CIA station in Sana, Yemen had received reports that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had recruited someone known as "the Nigerian" for a terrorist strike against the West.

Forget about failure to share information across security and law enforcement agency lines. How about the failure to share information within the CIA? Didn't the CIA station chief in Lagos, Nigeria think that a phone call to his Sana, Yemen counterpart might be warranted, to pass on the tip from Abdulmutallab's father, since the information was that Abdulmutallab had established his ties to Al Qaeda while studying in Sana? Didn't it occur to the CIA station chief in Sana, Yemen that a report of a terrorist suspect known within Al Qaeda as "the Nigerian" might merit a call to his counterpart in Lagos, Nigeria, to see if that information matched any intelligence that the Lagos station had received? Or failing cross-station phone communications, wasn't there some common CIA analyst to whom such tips were to be passed, who might connect the dots?

Veterans of U.S. Army Intelligence have been heard to joke that "Army Intelligence" is an oxymoron. Unfortunately, it appears that "Central Intelligence Agency" may be both an oxymoron and a misnomer; in this incident, the agency's officers displayed little intelligence and any notion of centrality and coordination was utterly lacking.

Israeli Arab Team Recaptures Hummus Record

Operating out of the Israeli Arab town of Abu Ghosh, a team of Israeli Arab chefs has recaptured the Guinness Book of Records title for the world's biggest serving of hummus. Indeed, the Israeli team not only exceeded the mark set only three months ago by a Lebanese group; they smashed it like a hummus chickpea, more than doubling the previous record with a precisely measured total of 4,090 kilograms of the tasty paste.

Reports the Jerusalem Post, "Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish in the village of Abu Ghosh, many of them dancing as a singer performed an Arabic love song to the beige chickpea paste."

The driving force behind the Israeli record-breaking team, Israeli Arab restauranteur Jawdat Ibrahim, remarked, "Today we have the hummus. Hopefully, we will have the talks for peace in our region." The Kosher Hedgehog thinks that Mr. Ibrahim may be on to something. Secretary of State Clinton, perhaps the key to re-starting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is an invitation to Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas to a table laden with hummus, tahina, pita and shwarma. [Photo: DailyMail online].

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Does Andre Dawson Belong in the Hall of Fame?

In his ninth year on the sportwriter's ballot, Andre Dawson has been elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. Should he be there?

Don't get me wrong. I hold no ill will against Mr. Dawson. I wish him well and congratulate him on his selection to Cooperstown. I would have loved to root for him had he been a Dodger. Yet I can't help but asking, did he really have a Hall of Fame career?

His .279 lifetime batting average is respectable, but its not .300, the criterion for a truly great hitter. He had 478 home runs over a 21-year major league career. That is very good, but it's not 500 home runs, the usual measure of greatness for a slugger. Likewise, Dawson's 2774 career hits falls short of the magic number of 3000. He ranks 45th all time in hits, 36th in home runs, 34th in RBIs and 25th in total bases. Those numbers testify to a very good career. But was it a Hall of Fame career?

Perhaps Dawson's greatest claim to fame is that he joins Barry Bonds and Willie Mays as the only players with more than 400 home runs and more than 300 stolen bases. We will leave Barry aside--his dalliance with chemicals throws his future admission to the Hall of Fame very much in doubt. The tragedy is that Barry Bonds would have been a great player in any era of the game, even without performance-enhancing drugs.

But Willie Mays's numbers show the gap between a good player such as Andre Dawson and greatness. The Say Hey Kid hit 660 home runs, to go along with his 338 stolen bases. He had 3283 hits. His lifetime batting average was .302.

I know--it's unfair to compare anyone to Willie Mays. Nonetheless, the comparison makes my point. Willie Mays was a great player. Ted Williams was a great player. Mantle, Cobb, Ruth, Clemente were great. Andre Dawson was merely a very good player.

Admittedly, there are already many players in the Hall of Fame who were just good, not great. I suppose it comes down to what the Hall of Fame is supposed to be. Is it a shrine of baseball immortals, or a roster of good players? If it's the latter, then no question, Andre Dawson belongs there. But it started out as more.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The New American Isolationism

Fouad Ajami, in a column on the Wall Street Journal opinion page for Dec. 30, 2009, entitled "A Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy," presents a withering critique of the Obama Administration's approach to world affairs, and how it adversely affects the aspirations for freedom in nations ruled by despotic regimes or threatened by despotic neighbors. Here are some excerpts to whet the readers's appetite:

"With year one drawing to a close, the truth of the Obama presidency is laid bare: retrenchment abroad, and redistribution and the intrusive regulatory state at home. This is the genuine calling of Barack Obama, and of the "progressives" holding him to account. The false dichotomy has taken hold—either we care for our own, or we go abroad in search of monsters to destroy or of broken nations to build. The decision to withdraw missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic was of a piece with that retreat in American power. "

"What a difference three or four years make. The despots have waited out that burst of American power and optimism. No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue."