|the talking dog|
December 2002 Archives
Happy New Year's Eve (and Happy New Year to some of our readers, in time zones further along...). Your TD is pretty sure he's not sorry to see 2002 behind us; on the other hand, 2003 promises more death and violence between Israelis and Palestinians, probable conventional war with Iraq (whether or not that nation is in compliance with international requirements that it no longer possess WMDs), possible war (potentially NUCLEAR war) involving North Korea, death and destruction at the hands of al-Qaeda SOMEWHERE in the world, and the commencement of economic effects that get to (finally) be OFFICIALLY blamed on the current Bush Administration.
Let's also wish a happy anniversary to the Fatah movement, which was founded today in 1965 (or thereabouts). Amidst celebrations of same in Ramallah, a PLO official stated that current Israeli policy is to increase violence before the election. The stated reason is to scuttle the "peace process"; the actual reason is, of course, to ensure reelection. Of course, the most important politician in either or Israel or Palestine is probably Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual head of Hamas. The Israeli election will likely turn (quite literally) on how many murders he commissions in the next month or so.
In the calm world of Israeli electoral politics, Israel's Central Elections Committee yesterday rejected a request to disqualify the Hadash-Ta'al party from the Knesset race, but approved the disqualification of the party's No. 3 candidate, MK Ahmed Tibi, who will now appeal to Israel's High Court of Justice against the decision to ban him from the race, and which must decide by January 9th. This is a troubling development, as Mr. Tibi, though a controversial figure, is a leading Israeli Arab representative in government. It is troubling that the atmosphere has become so poisoned that he can arbitrarily be excluded from running for the Knesset. The decision will likely be reversed, but again, this is troubling for a country that considers itself a liberal democracy. (See that? I got in troubling THREE times, four counting this.)
Finally, kudos to our friends at Unqualified Offerings for this item called "Unmixed Signals" in which UO notes that the Bush Administration's endless harpings on "regime change" in Iraq and "Axes of Evil" led North Korea to ONE rational conclusion: build nukes as fast as possible to ensure that the United States DOES NOT put North Korea on its "regime change" list. While I have mused that the Bush Administration's (successful, according to November's election) politically motivated warmongering over the summer and fall months only allowed IRAQ to gear up to increase the blood and treasure costs of an American led invasion, North Korea was ALSO listening carefully, and acted accordingly.
Happy new year, everybody!!!
Thank God itís Monday, the last Monday of what is really shaping up to be quite a year. Not so thankful are the families of three dead American humanitarian workers at a hospital in Southern Yemen, killed by (naturally) Islamic extremists. A thoughtful analysis on the strategy behind such murders is provided by our new featured link LeanLeft, here. The analysis is that not only does such an atrocity undermine the specific do-gooder project (which undermines the general anti-American feelings in the region), it quite naturally deters future projects, as Americans and sponsoring organizations have to think twice about the additional dangers of being specifically targeted. Nice.
This comes almost immediately after the assassination in Yemen (ancestral home of the bin Laden family) of politician Jarallah Omar (naturally, as he was calling for "non-vilence"). Are you all still wondering what Yemen means to do with a bunch of North Korean missile parts? I am... On the subject of North Korea, we can all breath easier: Secretary of State Powell tells us that as North Korea "plays with the foolís gold of nuclear weapons", the fiasco -- er, situation -- is "not a crisis". Wheeeeewww. I was so afraid that American refusal to negotiate with the PDRK and placing it in the "Axis of EvilTM" may have caused the Pyongyang regime to step up its nuclear program realizing that this was its primary leverage against later American calls for "regime change" against IT and that the current American belligerent posture was only making things worse. Thank you, Secretary Powell, for putting my mind at ease...
Finally, back to that calm part of the world where we get to watch democracy in action, unaffected by external events, the only Middle Eastern country with openly gay members of the government. PM Sharon has announced that he will fire MK and Deputy Infrastructure Minister Naomi Blumenthal if she does not promptly talk to police re: the latest Likud electoral scandal. Oy.
Meanwhile, Labor and Likud have gotten together on something. No, not plans for another national unity government to battle Hamas and Hizbullah, but plans to battle their REAL enemy: those bastards in the centrist Shinui party. As both Labor and Likud deal with their own electoral scandals, nothing like throwing dirt at the common enemy. The issue apparently concerns the distribution of diskettes with campaign information on it by Shinui, an overly literal interpretation of an Israeli prohibition on giving things with value during a campaign (hats, tee shirts, pens...) But, any port in a storm, if it will reduce the influence of the number three party and help you pick up its seats! (By the way, featured link Head Heeb offers excellent detailed coverage of some "inside baseball" aspects of the Israeli campaign, especially coverage of activities of the smaller parties, for those of you interested in that sort of thing; it goes without saying that Israeli bloggers (such as Imshin's Not a Fish, and Brian Blum's This Normal Life and The View from Here obviously offer their own perspectives on this as well.)
Meanwhile, Israeli officials report that our old buddies in Syria are stockpiling chemical weapons, and have around 100 warheads worth, though it is "unlikely" to use them against (likely nuclear armed) Israel. Just part of the fun building up to the possible (probable?) Iraqi campaign. We still seem to live in interesting times.
The mirth and merriment of the Likud corruption scandals meanders on: it includes questioning by police of Deputy Insfrastructure Minister Naomi Blumenthal (and the same article notes that Musa Alperon has decided to REMAIN in Likud). PM Sharon has hinted that Likud members who refuse to answer police questioning regarding their election standing will be ousted by the party (in apparent response to Blumenthal's apparent reticence). Meanwhile, the Labor Party has said it will appeal a decision to allow Baruch Marzel of the Herut Party, for his purported involvment in the "Kach" movement, which was outlawed when one of its adherants, Baruch Goldstein, killed 29 in a shooting rampage in Hebron. Marzel was, at one time, an adherent of the late Meir Kahane. Labor, of course, is not up against merely Likud (which polls show it is not all that far behind), but its likely coalition partners (which polls show it is well behind).
Honestly, this will all shift out in interesting ways. When all is said and done, I'm predicting between 65-70 additional Israeli dead in suicide bombings and other attacks between now and January 28th, with the Likud Party and its likely coalition partners winning approximately that many seats (65-70) in the 120-seat Knesset. Pretty grisly.
Speaking of Grisly, for whatever reason, reader Bruce Moomaw has vouchsafed a lengthy missive on North Korea; he has ALSO let in some (ahem) more well read bloggers on this issue (all of whom happen to be featured on the Dog Run, the best damned links section on the InternetTM). Matt Yglesias has already taken Bruce up on this issue, with limited disagreement. Here is Bruce's missive in its entirety:
The Bush Administration, I see, has now decided to try to deal with North Korea by an approach of "gradually increased pressure", starting with more economic sanctions. They seem to be thinking about how JFK dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis. The trouble is that this situation is entirely different -- N. Korea is likely to respond to increased economic pressure by either speeding up any plans they have to try to stick up another country (probably Japan) for economic aid, or by selling nukes (once they have that new assembly line cranking them out at a rate of half a dozen a year, as predicted) to Al Qaida, Saddam, or God knows who else. And if we wait any longer, they'll start doing one or the other anyway.
The key to all this is that NK's leadership is not
"insane" -- they're desperate. They know perfectly well
that their regime is teetering on the verge of collapse
-- and that they will very likely be massacred by their
What the US should be negotiating right now -- loudly and publicly -- is the terms of their peaceful surrender, promising that if they do so, not only will we give them amnesty from any human-rights trials, but that we will actually protect them from their own people. The Bush Administration is making the same mistake, from the opposite end, where Saddam is concerned -- we're threatening an imminent invasion to overthrow him, WITHOUT publicly promising him and all his officials that if he does lose power we'll save them from being slaughtered by their own citizens. He and they, too, have nothing to lose by threatening to hold out for an apocalyptic end -- which, in his case, would consist of using his huge bio-weapon arsenal against us (and/or giving it to Al Qaida). And if we delay in his case, within a few years (at most) he too will have nukes.
As Sun-tzu and Clausewitz emphasized: if it's at all possible, always give your enemy a way to surrender without being killed. Both Kim and Saddam, and their officials, are well aware that they're riding tigers Ė and currently they don't have any way to climb off without getting eaten. The crucial task of the US (and the rest of the world) now is to give them a way to do so. And we will have to do the same thing over and over in the future where other vicious dictatorships are concerned, to dismantle them before they can acquire (or enlarge their stock of) WMDs. (Indeed, if the Soviet Union hadn't drawn someone as sensible and humane as Gorbachev as its last leader, we would have had to make exactly the same offer to the Soviet government during its last days to keep it from going out with a bang.)
And, as I say, we can't wait any longer to do all this. Right now, if the US underwent an attack with a smuggled nuke, we wouldn't know whether it came from North Korea or Pakistan -- or whether Al Qaida had managed to steal some nukes from Russia. Our only choices would be either to not retaliate at all (and thus set ourselves up for a whole parade of such attacks) or to retaliate against everyone who MIGHT have done it (in which case the innocent nations we devastated would of course feel the obligation to try to retaliate against us). Multiply this situation tenfold Ė and throw steadily deadlier new genetically engineered bio-weapons into the mix -- and you have the kind of world everyone will be living in within two or three decades, unless the world nips it in the bud NOW.
Comments on any holes in my reasoning are, of course, welcome.
Well, Bruce, I'd love to comment on the holes in your reasoning, but I just can't find any! Our friends at Unqualified Offerings have long pointed out that the Bush Iraq policy is, no matter what, kill Saddam. The result of a lack of positive incentives for good behavior (and in Iraq's case, bad outcomes no matter what!) is national action not necessarily to our liking. In the case of North Korea, it looks like "here we go again". All the incentives are the wrong way, there's no incentive to do what we want them to do! Many of you are familiar with my "Club Med for Dictators" solution: allowing dictators willing to go without a fight to have permanent, international asylum at glamorous resorts under American military protection with limited asset preservation ($1 billion per dictator). Kim Jong Il is the perfect candidate: he LOVES the good life (Danish hookers and Remy Martin).
I, of course, have harped on the PDRK leadership's "instability" -- which I allude to as MENTAL INSTABILITY -- and I am more inclined than Bruce is to believe is true, at least to a degree. BUT, he is right, it is also POLITICALLY unstable. Desperate, actually, as it sits on a powder-keg of starving people, economic desperation, a million-man army, and a tough geography surrounded by enemies, or at best fair-weather friends in China. So, North Korea wisely plays up its assets: arms sales for hard currency, and WMD development for blackmail purposes for...hard currency. A military assault against North Korea would kill thousands (perhaps tens of thousands), and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. North Korea knows that a couple billion in blackmail seems preferable. It also knows it will ALWAYS be likely to be preferable; what has changed is that Osama is out there, who has ALREADY sought this type of weapon for use on the United States. And the only way to deal with THAT is enforced non-proliferation.
The problem is, rationally, it would certainly make perfect economic AND MILITARY sense for us to just say -- we'll BUY your nuclear apparatus -- scientists, fissionable material, facilities, EVERYTHING, name the fair market price. This would have some incentive effect on other tinhorn dictators to play the same game, later. Of course, we could say "sell us this or we'll kill you", which also seems fair under the circumstances. Then again, there's Club Med for Dictators...
Folks, THIS is the ballgame: not Iraq, not even al-Qaeda. North Korea CAN be handled, and without starting World War III or destroying South Korea (and North Korea) in the process. It just requires a bit of finesse and skill. And I don't think for a minute that the Bushies are even close to up to it. But they HAVE to be. They just do.
I'd like to welcome a number of blogs to the dog run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM): some have actually been on the dog run for a while (Sketch and Haggai's Place), and others are just joining us (Alisa In Wonderland, Beautiful Horizons, OxBlog and LeanLeft). All are worth your attention.
I am saddened to hear that Islamic Jihad gunmen infiltrated the West Bank Israeli settlement of Otniel, killing four (and both gunmen were promptly killed by the IDF). Retaliatory activities are apparently underway in the Bethlehem area. There was a seeming lull in PA-supported (like there's another kind there?) violence since before the Christmas season so that the Palestinian media machine could portray the horrors of Christmas in Bethlehem under Israeli occupation. That phase over, as today marks thirty days until the IMPORTANT day -- the day that Israelis must be convinced that their safety and security lies in reelecting the Sharon government Ė itís time to go back to business as usual. Hence, four Israelis dead at Otniel (at least three of them were seminary students there.)
Meanwhile, to keep tensions nice and stoked, IDF forces blew up houses of suspected Islamic Jihad militants, and PA officials recite that Sharon intends to fully reoccupy the Palestinian territories (it looks like somehow the PA forgot to mention the Sabra and Shatila massacres -- I'm disappointed! Where's Robert Fisk when we need him!)
Here is an extremely ominous analysis from the Star of Lebanon opining that the near month of "calm" (i.e. no major attacks on Israeli civilians) has now come to an end under Hamas' call (at a recent 15th anniversary rally for itself in Gaza) for jihad, the Islamic Jihad movement stepped up to the plate. Further, this seems to undermine Egyptian efforts for some sort of a power-sharing arrangement between Fatah and Hamas, which was predicated on the thought that a CESSATION of Palestinian violence would INCREASE pressure on Israel to make concessions (you think?). Obviously, there is much to this analysis.
Unfortunately, I think there is ONE thing that ALL Palestinian factions -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Fatah, the PA, ALL OF THEM, can agree on: their pita bread is buttered with Sharon's reelection.
The Unseen Editor once again kindly refers me to this article in the New York Sun documenting a half million dollar gift to Philips Andover Academy to create the George H.W. Bush Scholarship fund from none other than our old friend Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. You will recall that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani made headlines by refusing a $10 million disaster relief gift from this same fellow, Rudy being duly upset by the Prince's writings and musings critical of American policy, especially towards Israel, which more than hinted that this policy was responsible for the events of 9-11.
So, either we can look for yet another Saudi hook into our President (at a key moment, perhaps, intended to alter our Middle Eastern or Iraq policy in some way); or perhaps there is a small child in the Prince's life that he needs to get into a good school, and all the seats were taken in the Little Red Madrassa.
Thank God itís Friday; actually, it feels like the second Friday of the week, and one week has the feel of two -- and repeat next week!!!
So, can anyone tell us why Israel's interior ministry is so worried about Sawt al Haq Wal Hurrieh ("The Voice of Freedom and Justice"), a weekly published by the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, or with Al-Mithaq ("The Covenant"), that a closure order was issued against that paper?
Obviously, there is some level of fear of incitement, as Israel battles its own quite literal daily war on terror; on the other hand, as Zvi Ba'rel asks in that article, can incitements in a newspaper really match the daily incitements in mosques, schools and on the streets, or for that matter, generated from the resentment of every day life for Arabs in and around Israel? Maybe there IS something uniquely inciteful going on there; then again, maybe all right wing governments think alike...
Speaking of generating resentments, the Likudniks are playing with fire (if you ask me) by restoring civilian services in the West Bank and Gaza UNDER ISRAELI AUSPICES. In other words, shutting out the PA (which is good), but also shutting out some alternative "home-spun" arrangement (which is bad). You all know the level of cynicism you get on this site (which is why most of you are still reading it!!!), so look carefully at other developments affecting Likud, such as the resignation of Moshe "Musa" Alperon from the Likud Party; as you will recall, Mr. Alperon has reputedly been involved in criminal activities, and has been involved in questionable campaign activities leading to an investigation that involves high ranking Likud figures; there is also an investigation of MK Haim Katz on Likud vote buying allegations. And there is this story of a general malaise in the Likud Party. Man, if the LOYALISTS are not so sure about Likud, what about the rank and file citizenry? Well, nothing like a nasty round of violence and even harsher countermeasures to prop up the Likud's prospects right around election time!
Meanwhile, the IDF killed nine Palestinian people. While this is not "the same" as Israelis being killed in, say, a bus bombing (and "moral equivalence" reporting, usually from Europeans, drives me up a wall), I WILL say that ominously, the greatly increased levels of IDF activity (and resulting casualties) is not getting the press coverage here in the USA you would think it entitled. Maybe itís a precursor to Iraq, or just a reflection of the OBSESSION with Iraq (that has, for example, reduced coverage of the REAL threat, which seems to be stepped up by the day: North Korea, which today announced it was kicking out atomic weapons inspectors.)
Meanwhile, Mitzna remains vibrant with an exciting and bold campaign (and the support of well, me, who votes exactly zero times in Israeli elections!), and promises to give Labor a much more decent showing than anyone expected just weeks ago. Itís too bad that so many innocent people will almost certainly be killed by the efforts of the Palestinian crime bosses to see to it that Mitzna and Labor don't do even better.
Welcome back to this most odd work week. New York had a White Christmas, which snarled traffic; romantic, but a hazard to navigation!
In our search for fresh perspectives on old problems, with the Christmas web rush over, we are able to access our friends at China's People's Daily, who give us this impressively even-handed account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like you know who, the People's Daily does not believe Ariel Sharon, although an almost certain winner in the coming election, has what it takes to make an ultimate political resolution; they don't have nice things to say about Arafat, either, by the way (and, I am pleased to report, the phrase "imperial sword" has made it in there!)
Still, we get a succinct discussion of the current "quartet's roadmap", and its problems in implementation:
The US role and influence in the Middle East peace process are incomparable, but previously it had an exclusive monopoly of this matter and for quite a long period of time it even excluded the involvement of the European Union (EU); it has cooperative partners and friends in the Arab world, but at the same time, it has made many enemies, therefore it has got the bad name of "being partial to Israel". It seems some strategic change emerged in the stance of the Bush administration in handling the Palestine-Israel issue in the second half of this year, planning to present a new program for Middle East peace. This new program promises that Palestine will be finally granted the status of being an independent state possessing all sovereign rights, it requires Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories and guarantee that Palestine possesses the right to subsistence and security. These are to be achieved in three steps, including the reconstruction of Palestine security troops, the pull-out of Israeli troops and the suspension of the construction of settlements, the founding of a provisional Palestinian state at the end of 2003, and a thorough solution to the Palestine-Israel issue at the end of 2005. Beginning from September, US Congress, together with the United Nations, Russia and EU, canvassed and absorbed their opinions in the process of formulating the plan which then came out in a "quartet" form, therefore, the new program appears fairly just at least superficially. But because the United States was busy preparing "toppling Saddam Hussein", the quadripartite conference of the UN, EU, Russia and the United States held in Washington on December 20, failed to produce a "route chart" plan.
Then, we get a PRC take on democracy, that I daresay can ONLY be phrased in this matter by a Communist Party house organ:
Israel will hold general election at the end of January next year. A recent poll shows that the Likud clique is almost sure to win, the next government will possibly still be a right-wing regime led by Ariel Sharon, the opportunity for Amram Mitzna's Labor Party to win is slim. This indicates that the over two-year-long violence conflicts have inflicted unprecedented attack on and weakened Israel's domestic peace forces, the basis for mutual trust between Palestine and Israel has been basically destroyed in Israel.
And from the same news source, this piece on Libya's decision to leave the 22-member Arab league (perhaps now that Moammar Qadaffi is the UN human rights maven, he realizes that the Arab world lags in that department!)
So, what else is happening, Bubbelah? Your TD is shocked -- SHOCKED I tell you -- to learn that the Palestinian Authority has uncovered corruption (involving the theft of tens of millions of dollars) by its top officials.
Finally, Labor leader Mitzna urged Israeli voters that he wanted to "separate religion from politics", by, among other things, closing the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Good luck, Amram.
James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web, gives us a round up of various grinches throughout the world, starting with the Saudis (just TRY to have a Christmas Party in Riyadh!) and the Palestinians (carting off much of the ground around the Temple Mount).
While your TD has no idea if he is too controversial to be blocked in China, and some blogs report they are, our link to China's People's Daily just doesn't work very often (such as right now). Hence, for a fresh perspective on things, I turn to our friends at Pravda, for inimitable reports such as this commentary on a Blue Christmas in Bethlehem, and an outright statement that the recent Netanyahu charm offensive throughout Europe was an unequivocal failure. SOMEBODY's gotta tell it like it is: 15 or 20 years ago, who could imagine it would be PRAVDA?
And since they're telling like it is, they tell us that Mullah Omar and the Taliban not only ain't dead (thank you, General; shall we get ANOTHER legal opinion?), but they are likely to reemerge as the governing force somewhere, like Kashmir, perhaps. Among the locals, the Taliban's nasty-looking means of keeping order are, well, POPULAR. Go figure. Merry Christmas.
A merry Christmas Eve to all.
Did you ever wonder what the 9-11 terrorists learned in school? The Unseen Editor was kind enough to refer me to the New York Sun, and the Sun obliges us with glimpses of the Saudi curriculum:
ďWith what types of weapons should Muslims arm themselves against the Jews?Ē That question is part of an official textbook for 8th grade students which also emphasizes that ďJews and Christians were cursed by Allah and turned into apes and pigs,Ē and that ďThe hour [the Day of Judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.Ē
Well, at least the Jews get to be apes.
As IDF troops pull back from Bethlehem (around 200 meters of pullback!), I say to all, Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Man and Woman-Kind. Your TD sends his best wishes to all, and to all, a good night.
Oy, itís Monday. While I noted last week that Syria's President Bashar Assad was going on a charm offensive through Europe, the Likud government sent ITS most charming official, Foreign Minister Bibi Netanyahu throughout Europe in an attempt to gather support for Israel's position of "isolating" PA Chairman Yasir Arafat. Bibi is now in Moscow, and expects as much success there on this as he has had in Paris, London and Rome (i.e., little to none).
I've thought about this in a troubling, gestalt sort of way (Meandering Off-Message Post Alert) as I think (for example) about what kind of a world Baby TD will grow up into (assuming the President doesn't misstep into having our buddies in Pyongyang destroy it before next summer -- by no means a foregoing conclusion).
Recently, blogger-extraordinaire (and Hahvahd senior) Matthew Yglesias referred to a recent Weekly Standard article by David Brooks on the author's experiences at various colleges, including high end Ivy League campuses. (Matt, God bless him, highlighted the sex part!) The part that got my attention was a discussion of the "achievement factory" mentality that now comes into play in the selection of members of the elite school's classes. Not so much intelligence, as energy is rewarded, as each student balances a course-load on top of innumerable extra-curricular activities selected not so much for their intrinsic appeal as their rťsumť values.
Here is the money paragraph (plus one sentence):
There is a dark side to the meritocratic system, however. One of the most destructive forces in American life today is the tyranny of the grade point average. Everyone argues about whether SATs are an unjust measure of student ability, but the GPA does far more harm. To get into top schools, students need to get straight A's or close. That means that students are not rewarded for developing a passion for a subject and following their curiosity wherever it takes them. They are rewarded if they can carefully budget their mental energies and demonstrate proficiency across all academic disciplines. They are rewarded, as Joseph Epstein put it, for their ability to take whatever their teachers throw out at them, in whatever field, and return it back in their warm little mouths. Idiosyncrasy is punished. Students are rewarded for having a lukewarm enthusiasm for all fields in general and none in particular. They are rewarded for mastering the method of being a good student, not for their passion for the content of any particular area of learning. They are rewarded for their ability to mindlessly defer to their professors' wishes, and never strike out on their own or follow a contradictory path.
This meritocratic system punishes eccentricity.
IN OTHER WORDS, assuming that our next generation of "leaders" emerges from the elite schools (which have never, actually, been MORE elite than they are right now!), that generation will be a group of people that has brilliantly mastered the art of being good bureaucrats: able to properly recite policy, and not stray too far from it in its enforcement. EXCUSE ME PEOPLE, but doesn't this sound an AWFUL lot like the way the European Union and Japan are run? Brilliant bureaucrats capable of towing the party line wonderfully, and because they are brilliant, "knowing" the right answer (so they can impose it on everyone else). The EU and Japan HAVE brilliant (though not always effective) bureaucrats; they have pretty good scientists and technicians; they have lousy entrepreneurs. Bill Gates dropped out of Hahvahd; Fred Smith of Fed Ex got a "C" in Yale Business School on the presentation that eventually became the Fed Ex business plan; Thomas Edison, of course, didn't go to college, and the list goes on.
As we become a more and more prosperous society (we have been the world's most prosperous in raw terms for quite a while, though we really should envy the Europeans their 5 and 6 week annual mandated vacations), as a society, we are taking troublesome steps to PUNISH RISK-TAKING. Obviously, in academic terms, the "tyranny of the 4.0" as discussed in Brooks' article speaks for itself. Students taking TOO demanding a course load for the "love of learning", or for some other tactically mistaken reason, may be foreclosing themselves from the "top schools" (though, fortunately, a "top school" is still only helpful towards, and not yet required for, advancement in the upper realms of business, public life and society!) Risk taking: punished.
Hey, this sounds a lot like my bÍte noire (bankruptcy "reform").
Entrepreneurialism will be punished, because NOW, if you take an incredible business chance and fail, you will be paying it back FOREVER, under the proposed new system.
It even goes to foreign policy, where, as tragically as having lost sixteen servicemen in combat in Afghanistan is, the number is so small because the PRIMARY concern of the military is NOT the "mission", but...American casualty avoidance. Hence, we love high-flying bombers, which lowers individual troop risk. The higher tech, the better. Alas, sometimes this impedes missions where ground troops would be better, but, well, you get the idea.
We live in a nation where people ALREADY sue over maladies brought on entirely by themselves (tobacco, McDonaldís, for example), and no one claims responsibility for their own actions, though everyone claims entitlement to everything. It just smacks me that this is all so, Euro-cratic. What it doesn't seem to be is AMERICAN in the greatest tradition of that word.
And now, back to your regularly scheduled blog.
Continuing my theme of "warnings" PM Sharon warned Likud members he would exclude opponents of Palestinian statehood from his next government. And unannounced presidential candidate Joe Lieberman warned Israel that, after the coming Iraq war, it can expect pressure to dismantle settlements. Thanks guys!!!
As I write this, I am listening to one of my favorite programs on National Palestine Radio (NPR), Ira Glass's This American Life, devoted to the coming Iraq War. One point is that Saddam is a monster, as recounted by some of the over 100,000 refugees now huddling together in Amman, Jordan who are interviewed; indeed, he is SUCH a monster, between the inhuman tortures arbitrarily meted out on the whim of the dictator and the thousands upon thousands summarily killed, that if THIS were the stated and ONLY reason for removing the Baathist regime in Iraq, then the coming war would probably have my support. (I'm one of those "the reasons matter" kind of guys.) Of course, in poker news, Saddam has called our "intelligence reports", and raised them with an invitation to have the CIA join the inspection teams. Either Saddam is incredibly confident that he can hide these things from American intelligence ad nauseam, or Iraq is actually in compliance (as a general matter) with UN requirements (wouldn't that be funny?!)
So, what's the national priorities issue? Oh, I almost forgot. NORTH KOREA has just removed international seals and monitoring cameras from its PLUTONIUM generation facilities. If left unchecked, the mad men in Pyongyang, who ALREADY have ballistic missiles capable of reaching ALL points in South Korea and Japan, Eastern Russia and China, Alaska and possibly Hawaii, WILL HAVE SEVERAL NUCLEAR WEAPONS BEFORE THE SUMMER. Got that? Secretary Powell is "discussing the situation with our East Asian allies".
With all due respect to the Secretary (who is at least an intelligent and sincere man, making him a unique combination in this administration), I say, WRONG! The only appropriate "discussion" is cruise missiles or bombing runs, backed with naval landings and ground war over the 38th parallel (or certainly, showing Pyongyang we mean to do this unless it backs down FAST). This has now gone too far, and "distractions" over Iraq ain't a good enough excuse. Bill Clinton merrily "deferred" the problem; Jimmy Carter (again) was delighted to trust the world's most ruthless dictators and take them at their word, as envoy. This Bush Administration has been no better, ignoring North Korea until well, NOW.
Pyongyang is, of course, holding out for a better bribe, and the game goes on. NOPE! It has just raised the stakes TOO HIGH. Several nuclear weapons in the hands of one of the world's most insane regimes WITHIN MONTHS? NOTHING Saddam does, hell, NOTHING OSAMA BIN LADEN DOES (unless it involves the North Koreans!) is as pressing. NOTHING.
Mr. President, DO YOUR FRIGGING JOB. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT MATTERS.
With Al Gore out, polls show Hillary Rodham Clinton as the new Dem frontrunner.
Winter technically commenced at 20:14 EST last night, but though dreary, New York's weather is balmier than usual, with a high expected in the 50's (F) this afternoon, with possible sunshine coming out.
In the sunshine department, I give you this essay from perennial anti-Semite and Israel Basher (and tenured professor at MY alma mater) Edward Said from Egypt's Al Ahram. Said recognizes the perpetual futility of expecting EITHER Yasir and the gang OR the crazy Islamist parties to effectively make life better for the Palestinian people. He cites a "middle ground" -- a group of moderate Palestinians capable of making peace. Here, in Said's own words:
I am speaking here of an impressive formation of Palestinians in the occupied territories who in June of this year announced a new Palestinian national initiative (moubadara wataniya). Among its leaders are Dr Mustafa Barghouti and Dr Haidar Abdel-Shafi, Rawia Al-Shawa, and many more independents who understand that in its weakened state Palestinian society is being targeted for "reform" by parties whose real interest is to liquidate Palestine as a political and moral force for years to come. Idle talk of elections by Arafat and his lieutenants is meant to reassure outsiders that democracy is on the way. Far from it -- these people simply want to continue their corrupt and bankrupt ways by any means possible, including outright fraud. The 1996 elections, it should be remembered, were conducted on the basis of the Oslo process, the main aim of which was to continue Israeli occupation under a different title. The Legislative Assembly (al majlis al-tashri'i) was in reality powerless before both Arafat's edict and the Israeli veto. What Sharon and the Quartet now propose is an extension of the same unacceptable regime. This is why the National Initiative has become the inevitable choice for Palestinians everywhere.
Considering the source, it is a bizarrely optimistic assessment, and reasonably accurate. I think the "independents" cited by Said can be counted on one hand -- and Said hasn't even used all five fingers to do so. Palestinian consensus these days is poisoned by the Islamist parties or by Fatah. While SOMEONE sees an alternative to having to deal with one or the other, I do not. And the relational, secular and hopelessly corrupt Fatah is less than useless, which leaves the crazy but honest Islamists by default. I think Mitzna sees this coming, by the way. Sharon does too, but he has a vested interest in the status quo.
Here is Hassan Nafaa (like Said, writing in Al Ahram from Egypt) more or less endorsing MItzna, BECAUSE of Sharon's commitments to the insane status quo, and Mitzna's commitments to negotiate.
And finally, despite U.S. desires to suppress the "Quartet's road map for peace" (a stitch in time saves nine...a rolling stone gathers no moss), it got leaked anyway and reflects the Bush Administration's insistences regarding Palestinian democracy (to the dismay of 3/4 of the quartet).
Your TD believes it is a road map to Sharon reelection, as if he needed one.
A belated welcome to the Dog Run (the best damned links section on the internetTM) to MYDD.Com (a site that has been on the Dog Run for a bit) and to Brad DeLong's blog. Both are great blogs. Read them (after you have read your talking dog's musings, of course).
Man, I'm still crying about that Trent Lott thing. Not. Actually, as I have said, and as my doctrinaire liberal streak and political instincts tell me that once again, the Democrats have utterly failed to seize an opportunity here to have a damaged GOP leadership remain in place. Somehow, some "m-m-m--misunderstanding" should have been seized upon, instead of the classic Clintonian tactic of looking at everything Trent ever said and did, which, of course, is MORE consistent with his statement than less, and MORE likely to make him go. What ultimately forced Trent out was when he started (1) kvetching about how he was now IN FAVOR of GOP bÍte noires affirmative action and a national Martin Luther King holiday, and (2) going into "permanent campaign" mode; thus, not the "offended" forced him out for their indignancy, but his fellow "offenders" who wanted him off the front page.) Now the Democrats will have to deal with the far more intelligent and likely more effective Bill Frist. Good move.
Israeli blogger of The View From Here gives us a nice sum up of the basic problems as to the Labor Party's current positions, and why he opposes them. I'm not too worried, as I have every confidence that despite a recent LIKUD electoral scandal (which is costing it support), some well-timed bus bombings coming in January, and various other factors will ensure a victory for parties that Likud can build a coalition with. Harry does, of course, note the significance of Sari Nusseibeh and his ouster from official PA function: Palestinian "moderates" are really hard to find! Dumping the most prominent sends a pretty clear message about what's coming from Yasir and the gang (I think). Still, while I respect Harry's position, I repeat what I have said about Mitzna's negotiating and withdrawal proposals: they are so crazy, they might just work, but ONLY if Yasir and Fatah are removed. Negotiations even with Hamas and Hizbullah are possible (they are crazy and probably even evil, but not universally regarded as totally corrupt); negotiations with Yasir and Fatah are hopeless and pointless. If Mitzna will NOT take that step, by the way (and I believe, in part, PA endorsement of him is intended to take that off the table), then his plans will be, ahem, less than fully effective. Still, as I said, he's going to be more interesting THIS ROUND as an opposition leader, and the issue will become merely how formidable a bloc he commands.
From the Syria Times is an interesting perspective on the likely delayed "Quartet" talks regarding the "road map" for Middle East peace, suggesting that Israeli voters be presented with the peace proposals that the world wants to impose on them, and then vote. (It reminds me, of course, of a campaign slogan in college for student government, "Vote O__. Then Decide". But we're all familiar with democratic traditions in Syria, I suppose, seeing as there aren't any.) The remainder of the piece provides quite an interesting perspective.
As per the Chinese curse, we live in interesting times...
As I write this around 1100 hours EST, Trent Lott appears to have stepped down as Senate Majority Leader (no links yet available); Bill Frist (R-Tenn) seems poised for the job. Senator Frist, a heart surgeon by training, I understand, finished around an hour ahead of me in the (now legendary, to me, anyway) 2001 New York City Marathon, and thus, I resent him. Query what kind of a deal was made with Trenty-poo to not resign his Senate seat as well, to keep GOP control of the Senate? We'll all find out, I guess! Man, this is NO WAY to treat a direct descendant of Sally Hemmings!
IDF forces uncovered a rather large Palestinian bomb factory in the Nablus area, and also apparently averted a large attack on Netanya, Israel. I'd like to think this is an isolated instance, but we all know better.
Meanwhile, while one Palestinian official announced that PA elections would be postponed for three to four months, officially becauase of IDF occupation of Palestinian controlled territory (except when itís occupied by the IDF, of course), but actually to see how the Israeli elections turn out, Yasir and the gang are moving against those Palestinian elements most likely to engage in productive peace-making activities, such as the announced purge of Sari Nusseibah, a prominent Palestinian academic and peace activist, widely regarded as someone with whom the Israelis could do business; Arafat himself will now take over the Palestinian Jerusalem portfolio (which he will manage from Ramallah, which he pretty much can't leave!)
In an interesting development in the poker game that is the UN Iraq arms inspection regime, Chief Inspector Clousseau...er, Hans Blix, asked the United States and United Kingdom to supply the UN team with intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq has caches of WMD's it has not disclosed in its weapons disclosure. Hello! What the &^%$ is going on here? George W. Bush (1) refuses to attack Iraq in 2001 when he had absolute political cover and moral authority to do so, instead (2) electing to wait until 2002, when Iraq could be used as a (successfully deployed) issue to retake the Senate, in the course of which he (3) sought (successfully) Congressional authorization and (4) sought (successfully) the re-imposition of a United Nations weapons inspection regime, to ensure that Iraq is "WMD-free", failing which (5) another UN resolution will be sought to authorize the use of force to ensure that Iraq is WMD free.
That takes us to (4), which cannot be credibly skipped to get to (5); if the goal was to remove Saddam Hussein "because he tried to kill my Dad", the time to do so was in November, or December of 2001 (when Senator Frist was kicking my ass in the race to Central Park). NOT NOW. The inspection regime is in motion. It HAS to play out. If we (or the inspection teams) can credibly show that Saddam has buried warehouses full of stockpiled nuclear weapons and germ warfare which he has hidden from the UN teams, AND likely has more that we DON'T know about, then OUT WITH IT!!! If under those circumstances, France, Russia and China (and Norway and Syria and Cameroon and Ireland) refuse to IMMEDIATELY authorize military force, without further debate, then we can act unilaterally at that point, perhaps withdrawing from the UN for good measure. Otherwise, this rhetorical game is really counterproductive. And stupid. And waiting to invade Iraq until 2004 to help Dubya get reelected will get thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people killed needlessly.
I think I'm going to be sick. Again.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of Muslim men have been arrested during the course of registering with the Immigration and Naturalization Service under new anti-terrorism legislation. The law set a registration deadline of December 16th for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria. (As I recall, none of those countries provided a single 9-11 hijacker, though all are unpopular in Washington these days.) Of the thousands of men who registered, the INS detained hundreds of Muslim men, mostly from Iran, "for suspected visa violations and other offences" as they complied with the registration law.
Remember back when I promised that if I broke out of the naval brig after being declared an unlawful combatant I promised that I would make my way to Maryland to buy Unqualified Offerings a drink with my deposit bottle money, because HE TOLD YOU your liberty is under attack, when few others would? Well, your liberty is under attack.
This LA thing is a political "feel-good" moment -- what could be better than to arrest a bunch of Iranians on technicalities! Itís also a slippery slope, and a bad one. Citizens are ALREADY in in camera detention, on (at present) no showing of cause for same. Note that I had to go to a foreign news source to get this story that occurred IN LOS ANGELES. Note it well.
Thanks to the technical wizardry of our own Unseen Editor, we are pleased to present a new category in the Dog Run (the best damned links section on the InternetTM), "Bigger Than Blogs" (the best just gets better!). This category includes such Dog Run mainstays as the Drudge Report, The New Republic, National Review, etc., as well as our favorite news sources (CNN, The Jerusalem Post), and we now add a plethora of additional news sources from around the world, with a particular focus on the Middle East.
So, jumping right in with a story from The Daily Star from Lebanon, reports that Amram Mitzna, as he kicks off his full-time campaign for the premiership, warned the Palestinians that like the late PM Rabin, he will pursue both peace negotiations and military action to contain Palestinian violence, simultaneously, as necessary; the article cites a number of clashes between IDF forces and Palestinians, that interestingly, aren't generally reported here, but seem to be ongoing. Unfortunately, despite their rhetorical support for him, your TD remains convinced that the shakedown artists in charge of the Palestinian territories (and the terrorists therein) will increase the violence to PREVENT Mitzna's election -- and God help us if Mitzna and Labor start to improve in opinion polls.
That same news source tells us of Syrian President Bashar Assad's lovefest getting acquainted tour in Europe; after meeting with British PM Blair (and Queen Elizabeth), Assad is to meet with French President Chirac. Assad, who holds a revolving UN Security Council seat, is seeking an unexpurgated copy of Iraq's arms declaration -- only the permanent 5 members (USA, UK, France, Russia and China) have been given complete sets. It certainly seems a reasonable request -- if the other UNSC members are to be asked to vote on military action based on Iraqi non-compliance... Of course, if they're NOT...
And from the Jerusalem TIMES (a Palestinian source), PA officials express their disappointment at United States blocking of the "roadmap to peace": until after the Israeli elections. Of course, the PA itself canceled its OWN elections until after the Israeli elections, though for different stated grounds.
New selections, same old directions... Read The Talking Dog! That's an Order!
Just as the government conveniently announced mail fraud and tax charges against fellow bigot David Duke, and Senate heavyweight Ted Stevens (R- Alaska) came to Lott's defense, the embattled Mississippi lawmaker may have finally resolved the controversy surrounding his remarks at retiring Senator Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration by making the following announcement:
"Thanks to the able assistance of Senator Hatch and the genealogy department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have determined that I, Trent Lott, am in fact a direct descendant of Sally Hemmings, an African-American slave and reputed mistress of President Thomas Jefferson. As such, I repudiate Jefferson's slave-holding and hypocrisy, and I repudiate my own remarks. As an African-American myself, I am outraged by my own statements. However, as the nation's first African-American Senate Majority Leader, we cannot allow the racists to prevail, yet again, and drive me from office. We shall overcome."
Itís a day of grand unveilings: new World Trade Center plans, grand and glorious missile defense plans (the Russians be damned! and deployed by 2004 -- probably 5, maybe 6 months before the North Koreans can destroy San Francisco!!!), and of course, big IRAQ plans, such as a unilateral American declaration that Iraq is not in compliance with UN obligations (even if the INSPECTION TEAM doesn't seem willing to say this quite yet!) (and of course, even THIS does not mean imminent military action!) Itís enough to make a talking dog's head explode. So I will revert back to my favorite subject, a place where things are always peaceful and calm: Israel.
Ariel Sharon has promised to expel anyone involved in a purported vote buying scandal from the Likud Party; interestingly, Sharon denies that his son Omri (on the Likud ballot for the 27th seat -- a likely winner of a Knesset seat given Likud's standing in opinion polls) has any involvement in this. On an amusing side note, Israel's Alperon family is threatening to sue the Labor Party for its slogan "Vote Sharon Get Alperon", signifying Musa Alperon, rather than the rest of the (Labor leaning) family; Musa Alperon is apparently involved in the Likud vote buying scandal, and the Alperon family is reputed to have a history of criminal activities, according to the Jerusalem Post's report.
British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles expressed regret Tuesday for saying at a high-level conference in Berlin "we can all think of times in history when the use of terrorism has been justified." The Ambassador's statements, made in Berlin, (he said) related to resistance to the Nazis, and were absolutely not meant to justify Palestinian suicide bomber attacks on Israeli civilians. Of course, recall that no less a figure than Cherie Blair was forced to apologize for her expressions of sympathy for a female suicide bomber who killed 19 people (including children, of course). These apologies remind one of Trent Lott, who is coming up with some of the most creative apologies yet seen, seemingly a new variant every 24 hours! Needless to say, it looks like Israel has finally put, for the moment, a kibosh on the convenient European belief in "moral equivalence" &^%$, that somehow, a terrorist intentionally blowing up a school bus full of children is "the same" as children killed in an exchange of gunfire when terrorists retreat into civilian areas during a battle. Both incidents are "unfortunate", and both result in civilian deaths and casualties. But they are not "moral equivalents". Ever.
And while we're on the subject of the British, PM Blair has proposed an international conference on Palestinian Authority reform for January; there are mixed reactions from the Israelis. Frankly, I am not sure how productive this would be before Israel's election, unless it is, of course, a back door way of trying to help Labor by suggesting that the PA CAN be reformed, at least, absent a grand purge of its current leadership (a proposition rejected by many Likud members, and of course, myself). Conference or no conference, shortly after Christmas (if not sooner), I am expecting a crescendo in Palestinian terrorist violence, picking up as the election nears. No reason. Just policy.
While I must confess my delight that my liberal colleagues in the blogosphere have taken up the cause of vilifying one of my least favorite legislators, the junior senator from Mississippi, in the end, lest we forget, the Supreme Court of the United States STAYED OUT of the New Jersey Senate-candidate switcheroo, wisely realizing that its immense, but jealously guarded power, should be used only for REALLY important things. Like selecting the President. Selecting a senator -- even where it might tip the balance of the entire Upper House, just ain't good enough.
In short, the Supreme Court of the United States has told us, point blank: Trent Lott is not the issue. George W. Bush -- HE'S the issue. And so, at the risk of testing the limits of whether this is really a free country, I will continue to MAKE DUBYA THE ISSUE. (By the way, this is kind of why, much as I think of him as a cipher and a stuffed shirt, and indeed, don't like him much at all, the Dems would do well to simply coronate Southerner John Edwards as their candidate, and get on with the business at hand -- i.e., unseating Dubya.) Sorry, John, Joe, Tom, Dick and Howard, itís just what has to be done. And remember, a Democratic victory in '04 means Hillary can't run until AT LEAST 2012, and by then, she may grow bored of it all...
So where was I? Well, yesterday's extra gave us some of the wilder Internet reporting out there (some links inconsistent with other posts; one referred to Salem bin Laden as OBL's brother, another as his father... I'm pretty sure SBL was OBL's brother...as sure as Neil Bush is Dubya's brother!!! The bin Laden father/patriarch is the late Sheikh Muhammed bin Laden). So now, having had the benefit of his party's accusing his predecessor as a draft dodger, and trouncing the sainted Senator McCain in the primaries via the vilest of race baiting, the President himself is the subject of substantial accusations concerning his own record of military service. This site devoted to the subject (AWOLBush.com) accuses the President of having deserted his air national guard service for over a year.
While the Unseen Editor notes that my compilations on the subject at hand tend not to include Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, at least this piece concerning political string-pulling to get INTO the Texas Air National Guard (and, ergo, avoid Vietnam service) is from The Washington Post (so there). Lloyd Bentsen's son also benefited, as did many other politically well-connected Texans. Similarly auspicious is Bush's DENIAL of a one year gap in his service record, reported here by CNN, and noting that he denied the story as picked up in The Boston Globe, reported here.
There's further discussion of Dubya's service record in The Dubya Report and this article alleges a connection between Bush's entry into the Guard and favors to and from a former Texas Lieutenant Governor.
Once again: all of these goodies are out there. There is no pending investigation into any of it, no one is calling for a special prosecutor. The President has skated by these allegations before, and maybe they are unjustified. I don't know. But as we ponder military deployments of various degrees of necessity, itís certainly fair game to examine the Commander-in-Chief, and in an allegedly free society and open polity, OUR DUTY to do so. Two years, one month and three days to go. Or, if he gets a pass on all of this AGAIN, six years, one month and three days to go.
Thank God itís Tuesday -- and no transit strike in the City, as talks appear to have successfully resolved the issues. The rank and file must still ratify the pact, and there does seem to be an issue as to the extent that employee contributions to their health packages will offset the wage increases, but passage looks likely nonetheless. A transit strike before Christmas was just one more thing New York doesn't need right now.
In the "things you don't see every day" department, newly-minted civil rights advocate Trent Lott has told BET television audiences that he would support affirmative action and a national Martin Luther King Day holiday, both of which he opposed. Query: while Lott may retain his Senate Majority post, will he retain his Senate seat, the next time he is up for reelection? Time will tell... For extensive discussion of all matters Trent, Unqualified Offerings is on the job, particularly here and here.
And now, back to our USUAL concerns, 5,000 miles away!!! In the "ain't democracy great" department, Israel's Attorney General investigates charges of "irregularities" during the Labor Party primary last week, such as, oh, voter fraud among other things. Similar allegations were made regarding the Likud primary. All politics seems to be local.
In the "are the rats leaving the sinking ship? department", Muhammed Rashid, a key economic adviser to Yasir Arafat, amidst charges of his (Rashid, that is) having, well, stolen millions of dollars in aid money, has apparently left Palestinian territory, and apparently, plans on staying out! Tick tock, Yasir... Again, time will tell.
TD "Al Gore Was
Afraid He Couldn't Beat THIS GUY" Extra
As I sit here in Brooklyn waiting for news of a transit strike TOMORROW, on this, the day we learned for sure that Al Gore decided to not run, rather than have a re-match against the formidable George W. Bush, I thought, hey TD, wouldn't it be great if George W. Bush himself, back when he had that cockamamie business called Arbusto (Spanish for Shrub -- er, BUSH) could be shown as having ties to...the bin Laden family? Wayne Madsen tells us exactly that, noting that one of the Harken investors, James Bath of Houston, TX (5% stakeholder) was the sole USA agent for one Salem bin Laden (one of 17 brothers of you-know-who). Bath's interests (and/or bin Laden's) in turn went through various incarnations, and other Saudi players in Bush oil deals, who also have ties to the notorious BCCI of banking scandal fame, include Khalid bin Mahfouz (whose sister is married to...Osama bin Laden); Gaith Pharaon, BCCI's frontman in Houston's Main Bank, and Saudi Sheik Abdullah Taha Bakhsh purchased a 17.6 percent stake in the Harken company Bush was later involved in. No wonder these guys are always welcome at the Crawford Ranch!
This piece by Roger Miller tells us of Salem bin Laden's bizarre death in Texas in 1988 (after having co-founded Arbusto with Dubya, later merged into Harken), which involved the very same combination of unsavory Saudi investors and unsavory Reagan-Bush supporters we have come to know and love. The Miller piece further details the bin Laden family holdings, and how tiny, inexperienced Harken (thanks to apparent Saudi help) managed to secure a key exploration concession from Bahrain, and how the future Prez (now famously) dumped his Harken stock for a nice profit just before it tanked in the market.
This piece in SF Indymedia recites many of the troubling Harken-Bahrain-Dubya connections, and gives us William DeWitt and Mercer Reynolds (two big-time GOP donors) and Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, the 17.6% owner of Harken we already know about...
This piece by Rick Wiles, among numerous other unsavory dealings of the Bush family, introduces us to many of the same players described above, and notes that bin Laden family patriarch Mohammed bin Laden died in...a...plane crash...in 1968. (Perhaps THIS explains bin Laden's obsession with that particular method of terrorism?)
Here is a Christopher Caldwell story in the New York Press that I believe I once posted -- and if I didn't, I SHOULD HAVE, concerning, among other things, the buy-out of Dubya's interest in Harken, and introduces us to investor and James Baker buddy Philip Uzzielli. It also notes the opportunity the Dems COULD have had with corporate scandal-mongering -- an opportunity squandered, of course, lest anyone tarnish the image of our national hero and imperious leader.
Just for fun, this piece notes ties of the elder President Bush to other bin Laden family members, via his interest in the Carlyle Group, as well as telling us more details of the younger Bush and HIS Saudi oil-buddies. Quite the family ties, I daresay!
This Bob Fitrakis piece details Dubya's use of Al Qaeda and the bin Laden family's favorite bank, the aforementioned BCCI, among other yummy details. OK, a handy recap of Dubya's financial career is given to us by our friends at Pravda, here.
Well, it's all out there. So far, Dubya has lived it all down. There seem to be no special prosecutors, and no one is suggesting (I wonder why?) that the 9-11 commission look into the Bush family connections. But as we ponder why American policy seems to be so closely aligned to the SAUDI national interests, just keep all of this in mind. (And if you find me in a naval brig as an unlawful combatant, send lawyers, guns and money -- and chocolate. Thanks.)
Thank God it's Monday. Here in New York, a major-league hassle transit strike appears to have been averted, for the moment, while the parties continue to negotiate. I personally got up throughout the night to hear if there WAS a strike (ironically, to determine what time to wake up!). We hope that the negotiators do the near impossible: providing a fair package for the transit workers, while still not grossly adding to the City's fiscal woes. Let's hope... (Many of my readers wonder why I would discuss a transit strike if it wasn't happening in Tel Aviv or Haifa, to which I say, I go "off message" every now and again.)
Speaking of off-message, we give you former Vice President Al Gore, and his surprise (to me) decision to withdraw from the 2004 presidential sweepstakes, which has now created an opening for several others, notably Senator Joseph Lieberman. It comes as a surprise to no one that I liked Gore, and personally hoped he would run again in '04. The Unseen Editor and I have a disagreement on whether the timing of his announcement, right after Gore's Saturday Night Live appearance, is more self-indulgent or endearing, but we both agree that Gore is fundamentally a good man. I'm particularly sorry if this means his political career is over. Perhaps it means we'll see him again seek higher office LATER. Who knows?
In the "be careful what you wish for, TD" department, it seems that many in the current Israeli cabinet believe that the "move" is to expel Arafat followed by dismantling settlements in Gaza (and elsewhere?). I take NO RESPONSIBILITY for that brilliant suggestion. Similarly, I take no responsibility for Hamas apparently positioning itself to take over from a possibly-soon-to-be-ousted PA, as alleged by a PA Minister. Well, well.
Just as Arafat says to bin Laden "not in my name", in an attempt to distance himself from al-Qaeda's brand of terrorism, the British Ambassador to Israel seemingly endorsed the "good kind" of terrorism, the kind directed against Israel. Oy vay 'smir.
Well, Mitzna's presence in this election has made things interesting. We'll see how they develop...
As we approach year-end, many of us will attempt to sum up the events of the year in various forms of compilation. In the case of the IDF, itís getting off to an early start, compiling grim statistics. IDF statistics showing that nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed attempting to infiltrate Israel from Gaza, over 100 homes destroyed, etc.
For those of you who do NOT believe my assertion that the Palestinian Authority is principally a criminal enterprise (rather than a "national liberation movement") we give you this offer of the PA to return thousands of stolen cars to Israel (stealing cars from Israel into the PA territories is a major problem) for around $900 each! Israeli insurance companies have thus far refused. Rewarding terrorism is one thing; rewarding car theft, is quite another!
PM Sharon has asked Likud ministers not to make any new appointments, until the election. Who knows why this guy does anything?
What do you all make of this story? For the first time since the Gulf War, direct telephone links between Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been restored, ostensibly so businessmen can talk to each other. But does this sound like a sensible move, if the area is going to get the crap blown out of it in a few weeks? It certainly does if the area is NOT going to get the crap blown out of it in a few weeks...
And what do you all make of THIS story? Massive anti-U.S. protests in South Korea, ostensibly over the acquittal by a US military court of two servicemen who killed South Korean children in a vehicular accident of negligent homicide charges. While not quite as heinous as the cowboys in Italy who killed 20 by cutting a cable in a ski resort, or the rapists in Okinawa, U.S. servicemen are often lousy guests in their host countries (whom we are there to protect). In the case of the Koreans, I suppose we can leave, and they can deal with Kim Jong Il on their own. This is not the first anti-U.S. sentiment expressed in South Korea, and one wonders, if the locals don't want us there, why are we there? Oh yes: Japan. Well, we can certainly consider reducing our deployment there. The fact is, North Korea remains our number one problem. We really don't need distractions like this. Financial compensation to South Korea to follow... Absolutely NOTHING of consequence to deter North Korea ALSO to follow...
Turnabout being fair play, many of you are aware of your TD's view that the Palestinian Authority is little more than an organized crime ring siphoning off aid money and terrorizing Palestinian Arabs in a massive shakedown and protective racket (and therefore DO NOT WANT "PEACE", as it would end their lucrative rackets), Caroline Glick lets us in on the rampant corruption intrinsic in the "peace process" on the ISRAELI side of the ledger.
Glick describes conflicts of interest, kickback schemes and intentional encouragement of corruption on the ISRAELI side that would make Henry Kissinger proud. (By the way, we are pleased to see Henry the K. wisely realize that service on the 9-11 Whitewash Commission might actually COST HIM MONEY, by forcing him to disclose just exactly WHICH corrupt regimes and corrupt businesses seeking to do business with said corrupt regimes he represents, on his government disclosure form. Rather than do this, Henry the K. duly and promptly resigned, when this realization sank in to his cold heart.)
In the Sour Concord Grapes department, we give you former Labor Party leader Binyamin Ben Eliezer and his criticism of that party's campaign, that seems to emphasize its leader (Amram Mitzna) at the expense of the party itself. Hey Binyamin: your party on its own is a loser. YOU were going nowhere! Itís a long-shot, but if you get anywhere, it'll be because of Mitzna!
North Korea's party newspaper promised that that shithole will deliver bitter pain and death to the United States amidst its severe hatred (it already has the missiles, and is rapidly moving toward the nukes to load on them). It makes me upset that the President's telephone call on how to deal will this will NOT be to Don Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney or even George Tenet or George H.W. Bush, but will be to Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. (Sorry inside baseball fans, even though North Korea represents BY FAR, THE GRAVEST THREAT TO THIS NATION'S SECURITY ON THE PLANET RIGHT NOW, the President remains obsessed with how his actions will be perceived in swing states). Fortunately for your TD, North Korea's missiles can barely reach the West Coast, and I live on the EAST Coast. The President, meanwhile, obsesses with relative irrelevancies like small pox vaccines and warmongering with Iraq, even as its looking more and more like there will be a clean UN inspection report (though one that will take months to compile).
Look for the President to tone it down a bit, and schedule an Iraq invasion (possibly on DIFFERENT grounds than WMDs) in early 2004, to coincide with upstaging the Democratic primaries.
Finally, check out The Raving Atheist today: he's taking on an EASY one today: abortion.
Well, a second Friday the 13th this year, and welcome to it. Pope John Paul II welcomed Israel's State President Moshe Katsav to the Vatican, during which Katsav promised the pontiff IDF forces would try to withdraw from Bethlehem by Christmas. The Pope took time out from exchanging pleasantries from President Katsav to accept the long overdue resignation of Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law. Law may face ongoing civil and possibly criminal actions, resulting from his apparent protection (via "reassigning") of priests he KNEW were serial sexual predators of children. Whoever advised Law to stay on in the first place (assuming it wasn't Law himself) should have realized that an earlier resignation from Mr. Law might have helped alleviate what will likely be a complete financial meltdown of his Archdiocese, including a likely bankruptcy. Everyone involved in this sorry matter should be ashamed of themselves.
Meanwhile, North Korea refers to the interception of its ship by American and Spanish naval forces (the ship was carrying Scuds to Yemen, and again I ask, what does YEMEN WANT scuds for?) as an act of piracy. Pyongyang thus plays off this to proceed with its nuclear program, of course. North Korea, which unlike Saddam's Hussein's Iraq strikes me as having leadership far less stable and rational, seems to be a much more pressing problem. That's just me, though, I guess.
And while the United States calls Iraq's 11,000 plus page disclosure "far short", the issue remains: what happens if Hans Blix and the rest of the Keystone Kops decide that Iraq is in full compliance with its obligations not to have WMDs? We can criticize the inspection regime as a joke all we like, but who would vote to go to war to punish a country for complying with the regime that we set in motion in the first place, particularly when the AMERICAN government is never forthcoming with exactly what it is Iraq is hiding?
In Trent Lott news, the President called Lott's remarks offensive, though he didn't ask for his resignation (which, if he resigned his seat might lead to a Democratic governor replacing him...and Lincoln Chafee...switching parties... So, we've cast our Lott!!!) This, by the way, from a President who benefited greatly from his campaign in the South Carolina primary which used a push poll accusing the sainted John McCain of fathering an illegitimate child of color, as duly noted by Electrolite.
The Palestinian Authority delayed its own elections (now scheduled for January 20th ), because of IDF occupation of much PA-controlled territory. Makes sense to me from a number of standpoints, such as seeing what kind of Israeli government is elected on January 28th. Strangely, as in Iran, there seems to be a functioning democracy (not perfect, by any means, but functioning) in the Palestinian territories, though the democratically elected part wields little if any power. Go figure.
Notwithstanding my own view that Jimmy Carter wasn't a very good president, the Unseen Editor feels that this is not nearly strong enough, and that Carter was a HORRIBLE president and an AWFUL ex-president. Well, I think there's room for disagreement, though, Mr. Carter's statements that the Bush Administration has "reversed policy" on Iraq, and now recognizes the usefulness of United Nations participation, weapons inspections, and the like are exactly right. While it makes the namby pamby Carter happy, it honestly makes me sick, and all the more pissed at the President (the current one) for having played the Saddam card to re-take Congress, with absolutely no intention of ultimately using military force against Saddam (sorry, Kurds and Shiites -- and everybody else in Iraq and the Middle East). Because we had absolute cover to remove Saddam at this time last year. And Arafat. And any other major terrorist or terrorist supporter we felt like. But it wasn't about making a safer world, or even a safer United States. It was about perceived political benefit to the President's actions, and in swing states no less. In other words, business as usual. Somehow it just seemed crasser to do this with thousands of dead Americans in the miasma, and lower Manhattan still on fire. Whatever you think of Carter, his current statement is correct: George W. Bush has surrendered (I like that word in this context) the initiative of the United States to remove Saddam to Paris, Beijing and Moscow, and possibly to heavyweights like Syria, Cameroon and Seychelles (also on the Security Council now). We can all join hands and sing Kum-ba-ya now.
Meanwhile... I wonder what The Raving Atheist thinks of this agreement between the Mormon Church and Jewish leaders to expunge from Mormon baptismal records the names of thousands of Jews murdered in the Holocaust (you know, that thing where 6,000,000 of us were murdered that Pat Buchanan keeps saying didn't happen) that the LDS (that's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) decided to posthumously baptize into their church on their own as a sign of their "love"; such posthumous baptisms include Anne Frank and her family, along with such other historical luminaries as (I'm not making this up, though I wish I were): Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Ghengis Khan, Joan of Arc, and Buddha. I'll tell you what I think of it: I think itís a good move by the Mormons. Holocaust victims, denied it in life, are entitled to dignity and respect in their deaths. This is one step in that direction.
Hey, TD, what's with burying the BIG STORY? What, you mean that North Korea has decided to give a big F-you to the United States and the rest of the world -- and re-start its nuclear reactor program ANYWAY? Yeah, that's big (note the timing, coming after the embarrassing seizure of a North Korean shipload of Scud missiles -- doubtless purchased off eBay -- headed for Yemen (missiles which would be aimed at, where, again?) Obviously, diplomatic efforts with China have been unavailing, and the Butchers of Beijing are perfectly welcome to permit a Nuclear-Armed Nut Job in North Korea. Are we? I think I'm going to be sick some more. (By the way, your TD had read a memo inadvertently posted on the White House web page Ė itís gone now-- which said : "Stated policy toward North Korea nuclear program: Invade Iraq. Cut Taxes for the Rich.")
Meanwhile...key Israeli Labor Party peace camp members Yossi Beilin and Yael Dayan have left that party after being snubbed by Labor on its election list, and joined the Meretz Party, where they may be in a good position to pick up seats in the Knesset (and, depending on how well both parties do in the election, may even end up as part of a governing coalition -- good luck on that one TD!)
And in key "yada yada yada" news, Canada finally outright bans the entire Hizbullah terorrist "movement"; Fatah promises to continue the jihad until the liberation of Palestine and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (jeez, I haven't mentioned HIM for quite a while! Colin, baby, where have you been? Oh, RIGHT, there was an ELECTION, and parading YOU out would have been bad news for the crackers in the Trent Lott branch of the party -- sorry!) Ahem. Secretary Powell is expected to give a major speech on democracy in the Arab world at the Heritage Foundation. Given the subject, I expect it to be a rather short speech.
As part of your TD's continuing obsession with Israel and the Middle East, we are pleased to welcome the following blogs from Israel: Harry R. and The View from Here, Brian Blum's This Normal Life, Joel Orr's The Truth About Israel and Adrian's Expat Egghead Dribble to the dog run (the best damned links section on the internetTM). We are also pleased to permanently welcome the Head Heeb, a fellow New York Jewish attorney (haven't seen one of THOSE for a while!) who now happens to blog as well. Shalom, and Todah M'Od for your outstanding work in the blog realm.
Saddam Hussein seems to be sending greetings to at least one prominent world figure: Yasir Arafat. Saddam belatedly congratulates the Palestinian Authority Chairman on Palestinian "independence day", which is usually "celebrated" on November 15th (a date relating to a document prepared during Arafat's sojourn in North Africa in the late 1980's). Arafat sided with Saddam in the LAST Gulf War. One wonders if in the Dubya world view ("Saddam tried to kill my Dad") if the mutual admiration society that is the Saddam-Yasir relationship is a factor -- maybe THE factor -- in Dubya's refusal to meet with Arafat and his general vilification of him. Just a thought. An INTERESTING thought as we ponder Dubya's reminder to Saddam, er, everyone except Saudi Arabia, that the United States' stated policy is to respond massively to an attack on the US with weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. OK, we'll keep that in mind.
Taking a page from somewhere, the Labor Party submitted its electoral slate for the upcoming general election, and its top 12 candidates include 5 former generals, and is decidedly more moderate (or at least less dovish) than previous party slates have been. In short, Labor is seriously making a pitch toward the center of the electorate, and is hoping for a much stronger showing than earlier predicted (indeed, at least one blogosphere commentator, Matthew Yglesias, has actually questioned the continuing viability of the Labor Party). Not that I think Labor is going anywhere, and Mitzna has made it more interesting. Still, given the expected ramp up in violence as the elections approach, it seems hard to imagine that Israelis won't turn to the right, as they usually do in that situation (as apparently, AMERICANS have done).
Israel's Shin Beth Security Service has documents showing "misuse" of UNRWA facilities (or, as I like to call them, UN sponsored terrorist training camps). I'm shocked -- shocked, I say -- to learn that the UNRWA training camps (in which Palestinian school children to this day learn geography on maps showing the mythical State of "Palestine" as located between the Jordan River and Mediterranean, and the not mythical State of Israel nowhere on the map, at largely American taxpayer expense) have been...misused...by...terrorists. I firmly believe that one of the "final elements" of a political settlement is the closing down of these hotbeds of terrorism. Certainly, closing them down (and more importantly, kicking out the damned UN) should be an element of any "unilateral pullouts". Maybe even a more important element than kicking out Arafat himself.
Let me be among the first hundred to welcome back the great Ted Barlow from his blogging hiatus. You have been missed, big guy. Welcome back.
At the same time, it saddens me to learn that the Blogger of Baghdad, Salam Pax of Where is Raed? has, apparently, according to Letter from Gotham's Diana Moon, folded his blog tent, as it were, for FEAR FOR HIS OWN SAFETY, after he was apparently reported on by Reuters. What a world. Like Diana, this blog will keep up his link in tribute to this brave blogger.
And now, your TD is pleased to add the following PALESTINIAN bloggers to the Dog Run (the best damned links section on the internetTM) Electronic Intifada, Arjen El Fassed and Farid Lancheros who, technically, lives pretty damned close to me here in Brooklyn, but counts as a Palestinian blogger anyway (with thanks to Head Heeb for the links). Check 'em out!
Jimmy Carter gave his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway today noting that the world has become a more dangerous place, and that preemptive war strategies are dangerous, but Iraq should comply with the UN. Way to sit on the fence, big guy! No wonder former President Carter is sent on so many diplomatic missions: he has mastered the art of talking a lot without saying anything. I guess this is a result of his saying a lot while he was President, but not getting anywhere while doing it. Honestly, I'm kind of saddened to see Carter sullied by the Prize of Kissinger and Arafat -- as much as I recognized he was somewhere between ineffectual and awful as President, at least he was sincerely so. And he has been a model EX-president. Why can't we just convince Bill Clinton to build houses? Oh well. Carter will consider the Prize an honor. So be it.
Meanwhile, back at the plantation -- er, Senate -- Trent Lott offered an apology for his pinings for picanninnies and jonesing for Jim Crow, by saying "that's not what I meant". Stop it Trent: that is PRECISELY what you meant. You're just the only ones with the balls of sufficiently pure brass to have actually SAID it (and at an event honoring a 100-year-old man at that!). Because if the people of the Deep South don't believe you MEANT IT, not only is YOUR CAREER OVER, but GOP dominance of White Southerners is probably over too. (I know I'm being harsh here, and most, if not all, of my Southern readers probably find Lott's comments as offensive as I do, but the GOP has been courting the worst and most stereotypical elements of the South as its calling card, and thanks to Trent's candid comments, NOW WE GET TO TALK ABOUT IT IN POLITE CONVERSATION.)
Back to our hobby horse, as Labor Party leader Mitzna predicts Labor will pick up 35 Knesset seats in the January 28 election. He called Likud's candidate slate a "gang of extremists". YES! Let the fur fly! At 35 seats, while it seems unlikely that Labor itself would be in a position to cobble together a government in the 120 seat parliament, it MIGHT force a victorious Likud Party, assuming (as likely) it also failed to obtain an absolute majority, into another variant of a "national unity" government -- something thought unthinkable a month ago, when whoever Labor designated was expected to be handily trounced by the Sharon juggernaut. I KNEW Amram Mitzna would make this interesting!
Now that Ramadan and Eid-al-Fatr are over, itís time to talk about that OTHER major holiday celebrated by Palestinians: Christmas. As is consistent with the holiday spirit, Yasir Arafat has asked the international community to let Yasir celebrate the Yuletide spirit in Bethlehem. Even without an election looming, one would expect the Sharon government's answer to be: when kosher pigs learn to fly!!!
Vice-President Cheney successfully convinced a court to dismiss a suit brought against him by the General Accounting Office. The court relied primarily on separation of powers' concepts, ostensibly saying that Congress itself (via its committees) might have been able to subpoena documents pertaining to the Veep's energy task force (and which Enron employees attended), the GAO, could not.
Well, chalk one up to the Vice President, and count this as a huge loss to openness in government (and each such act emboldens this creepy Administration into further assaults on our liberties). Way to go, Mr. Vice-President.
Another massive missive from our friends at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) (unedited and unexpurgated, by me):
ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be POLITE.)
ISRAEL COST U.S. TAXPAYERS $1.6 TRILLION SINCE 1973
ECONOMIST TALLIES SWELLING COST OF ISRAEL TO US
Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person. This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.
For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.
And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country's recession-bound economy.
Considering Israel's deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don't pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Other US help includes:
q US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is "a net drain" on the United States economy, says Stauffer.
q The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 billion in "housing loans." Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.
q The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel's Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.
q Israel buys discounted, serviceable "excess" US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to "several billion dollars" over recent years.
q Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.
q US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel's manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.
q US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.
q Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.
Well, this all sounds serious! I shudder to think how much the substantial cost of American support of Israel cost in comparison to rescuing the UNGRATEFUL KUWAITI bastards in the interest of PROTECTING THE SAUDIS WHO LAUNCHED AIRLINES AT OUR CITIES MURDERING 3,000 OF OUR COUNTRYMEN? People are often astounded to realize that American foreign aid -- not just to Israel, but to every other country on Earth combined -- comes out to less than 1% -- not of GDP-- but less than 1% of the FEDERAL BUDGET!!! The decision on what percentage cost of living allowance to add to social security is far more important economically than ANYTHING our government has EVER done with respect to Israel.
If the darlings of CAIR in the neighboring Arab countries would stop their hell-bent (and hopeless) fantasy of trying to destroy the Jewish State and murder its inhabitants, then Israel wouldn't have to spend so much on its defense, and the American taxpayer could reduce its subsidy! Speaking of which, our friends at CAIR, though kindly providing the link to the Christian Science Monitor, forgot to give us some fine print from the David Francis article on the economist's conclusions:
"One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.
In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon re-supplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.
That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion."
In other words, CAIR is asserting that economic losses resulting from the embargo IMPOSED ON THE UNITED STATES BY THE ARABS AFTER THEIR UNILATERAL ATTACKS ON ISRAEL FAILED TO DESTROY THE JEWISH STATE represents the vast majority of the $1.6 trillion tab that CAIR is supposedly blaming on Israel.
So, shall we call CAIR for lying with statistics? Or just for lying? There is a case (made by, among others, ME) that Israel should not be receiving the kind of subsidies from the American government it receives while it pursues policies (such as settlement expansion) inconsistent with the American national interest.
Of course, thanks to groups like CAIR, one's conclusion is that whatever subsidies we provide to Israel are just not high enough.
What do y' all think of Trent Lott's recent troublesome statement that the country would have been better off had it voted for President Strom Thurmond in '48 (as Mississippi and a couple of other Deep South states did) instead of Harry S. Truman?
I think Trent should stay and serve as THE national poster child for Black Democratic voter registration (and frankly, ALL people of conscience who find his remarks deeply troubling). Trent Lott has long been one of the more offensive elements of the GOP (he and the Bush family, of course), so I say, let him serve as a reminder to what GOP policies have become FUNDAMENTALLY about: overwhelmingly benefiting the superrich and well connected at the expense of everyone else, with a nice, healthy tinge of good old Dixie racism and religious fundamentalism.
If the Democrats (who, to paraprahase the late, great Abba Eban, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity) amidst the Terry McAuliffe/Bill Clinton pursuit of Hollywood and Silicon Valley money, instead of making Trent THE backbone of a major grassroots fundraising and voter registration drive, then the Party of Jefferson, Jackson and FDR will DESERVE to continue to lose to the party of Lincoln-spinning-in-his-grave.
Thank God itís Monday. Well, Eran Lerman has this to say in the Jerusalem Post about Saddam's extensive disclosure (which he acknowledges is "full", but hardly "frank"). He suggests an American strategy to use this disclosure to actually make Iraq to document its compliance, backed by force in the event of further recalcitrance or gamesmanship. Sadly, Lerman misses the point, as I see it. George W. Bush couldn't be happier than how things are now: the games can go on and on, with rhetorical force threatened, but no actual force used.
In a similar vein, the Bush Administration can pretend we have a new economic team, but, as Forbes (doubtless Steve is pissed that HE was passed over!!!) tells us, what's old is new again, as Treasury Secretary-designate John Snow is chairman of CSX, an even fuddier duddier company (and less successful) than O'Neill's Alcoa; Snow is also a retread from an earlier GOP Administration: in short -- what's new? Well, Bill Simon (the former Treasury Secretary, not the California loser) is dead. There are other ex-Republicans out there, but many have talk shows (Ollie North comes to mind!) So Snow will have to do!
Finally, al Qaeda, apparently, now intends to pursue Jewish targets around the world. Well, itís not as if this is a surprise, to anyone, is it?
Well, not too much free ice cream today, as we get ready for Baby TD's birthday bash here at Maison TD.
The Jerusalem Post reports that in the 11,000 plus page arms declaration, Saddam Hussein apologized to the people of Kuwait for invading them (though he does note that they have been under foreign occupation since that time, and other random swipes). As predicted, Saddam is making it interesting: this seems so detailed that any "discrepancies" can well be argued (by French and Russian diplomats, in whom we have now placed this matter through the domestic political poll-driven gambit of going to the UN in 2002, instead of blowing Saddam's ass off in 2001) should be able to avert GWII/WWIII.
What? No regime change in Iraq? What next, TD, you'll tell us Big Foot was all a hoax, the creation of a wise ass named Ray Wallace who died recently? Man, stop shattering our illusions, you bastard!
Just as the United States more or less acknowledges that the "peace road map" (query: is that like the timetable for the peace-train? or more like the schematic for the peace process? I'm betting on the second one), the Palestinian Authority rejects Sharon's version of it as a "mere election gimmick". You think?
Actually, I continue to have to hand it to the PA psy-ops guys. SO MANY terrorists have come out of the woodwork opposing Sharon and in support of MITZNA, that you begin to think that maybe they are SERIOUS in stating that Mitzna and his plans will help them in their quest to conquer Israel and murder its inhabitants. But, as regular readers of this column know, the terrorists, to a man, want the Likud government to stay in place, continuing to spew its hard-line policy positions and arbitrary retaliations with NO progress toward anything resembling peace (or even a cease fire) because this keeps the collection of Palestinian Arab protection rackets in place. Oy.
Somewhere, someone will commemorate the fact that 61 years ago, the forces of Imperial Japan attacked American forces in Hawaii. So Happy Pearl Harbor Day, and to our Muslim readers (if we have any), a Happy Eid al Fatr. On those notes, Iraq has just released its "weapons declarations", 11,000 pages and 12 CD-roms. That seems a lot if they mean to deny having any "WMDs" at all, doesn't it? I'm sure that we have some sort of extensive disclosure -- that is good enough to (ultimately) prevent military action. In the end, if Saddam has to make a decision between trying to hide major WMDs and being ousted and/or killed, or disclosing and remaining in power, he will chose the latter. And THEN he can resume WMD development!
In the "democracy works the same way everywhere" department, Labor Party leader Mitzna is being urged to campaign to his right to attract centrist voters; the Labor MKs feel that Mitzna is indistinguishable from far left parties like Peace Now -- and they feel his proposals of unilateral withdrawal take away Palestinian negotiation incentives. Picky, picky, picky. Let me say this: as I write this, Mitzna has NO CHANCE. He is a principled maniac whose proposals are so crazy they might just work. And as I have said, Israel NEEDS a man of principle right now, something Likud does not have in ITS candidate. I suppose minor moves right to pick up more Knesset seats will make him a more effective opposition leader, and if that's the game, then maybe they have a point. But core compromises to "win" when that ain't gonna happen? Don't do it Amram. Be your own man.
Just to show that fair is fair, PM Sharon's speech outlining HIS plan for ultimate creation of a Palestinian state was universally slammed from the RIGHT, as a sell-out to the Palestinians and a reward for terror (among other things). Tough crowd.
I now have a 5th item to add to my list of things we can always count on: the sunrise, death, taxes, Robert Fisk's ability to blame the victim for Islamist violence (made famous by doing so even when the victim was himself), and OF COURSE, the condemnation of the EU and UN for ANY Israeli action, defensive/retaliatory nature of same notwithstanding. The UN and EU oblige us over the recent Gaza raid. There you go!
My personal criticism of this type of military operation is that its only a half-measure; it doesn't fundamentally ELIMINATE the Hamas threat, and itís not exactly consistent with "moral authority" Ė itís more a bear-baiting kind of thing, which will inevitably be followed by atrocities committed by Palestinians "in the name of their slain comrades". And I understand why Israel can't go all the way -- in which case, why is it going as far as its going? Besides, given enough of a chance, it appears that Fatah may ALREADY have declared war on Hamas -- in what I would perceive as a battle for intra-mural supremacy, given recent discovery of documents showing that Hamas may be setting itself up as "Palestinian spokesgroup" with foreign intermediaries. My interpretation is that we are watching the makings of a mob war between La Cosa Nostra di Ramallah and La Cosa Nostra di Gaza. OyÖ
Yoel Marcus has this advice for traveling Israelis. The money line is: "So, nation of Israel, to sum up: Instead of getting some rest and relaxation abroad, BE S-C-A-R-E-D." That seems vaguely similar to the weekly advice Americans get from A.G. Ashcroft and H.S.D. Ridge (Code...Orange...no Yellow...just be worried, damn it!).
Well, in a reason to be a little less scared, your TD understands that just as unemployment figures go to about 6% (historically not that high, but high for recent years) Treasury Secretary O'Neill is about to tender his resignation to President Bush as is Chief Economic Advisor Lindsey. The President should be proud of his subordinates, who are far more loyal to him than they are to the nation they are paid to actually serve, and be it Pitt, Webster, O'Neill, or Lindsey, safely committed acts of gross incompetence in their jobs just long enough to allow the President's party to re-take the Senate, hold the House, and keep JEB's sinecure safe for four more years.
UN Refugee worker is rapidly becoming as dangerous a job as "Israeli bus driver" (or, perhaps, to paraphrase Saturday Night Live, crack whore) as two more of UNRWA workers were allegedly killed by IDF forces in a raid in a Gaza UN-sponsored terrorist training camp (there's really no other way to describe these facilities without lying) in which at least 10 were killed, including 5 suspected Hamas operatives. Your TD has seen it suggested that Israel should actually launch an all-out invasion of Gaza before ANY formal peace can be completed, to finally root out and capture or eradicate all Hamas members (I shudder at the casualty count on both sides from such an adventure). I would submit that Arafat is a less trustworthy peace partner than Hamas (WHAT? TD, have you lost your mind?). As a practical matter, Yasir is CERTAINLY EASIER TO DISPLACE THAN HAMAS would be, and has demonstrated that he is ABSOLUTELY UNTRUSTWORTHY, and less than useless as a negotiating partner.
I don't know the answer, obviously, but I do think that Sharon's current half-assed tit for tat strategy, which has gotten hundreds of Israelis killed and thousands more wounded, is nuts. Either go all the way, as suggested, or try something different. (You all know that I kind of like Mitzna's proposals, so take my views for what they're worth).
Belated birthday greetings to retiring South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who turned 100. I could write volumes about the senator, but I'll just wish him a happy centenary, and hope that he remains in relatively good health.
One thing Strom "Sperm" Thurmond will always be is an American original. In that category of American originals, I am proud to welcome to the Dog Run (the best damned links section on the internetTM) , the following American originals (and great blogs): Diana Moon's Letter from Gotham, Mac Thomason's WarLiberal and Mike Finley's MFinley.com.
Prime Minister Sharon has tepidly endorsed the "road map for peace" sent by the Bush Administration, although he wants some unstated conditions, such as the removal of Arafat (in your TD's humble condition, the necessary but not sufficient condition, by definition, of ANY peace plan). But even Sharon states that "concessions are inevitable".
At issue: shall we believe him? Yes, there's the "only Nixon could go to China bit" -- it takes a hard-ass like Sharon to FINALLY make peace. Of course Mitzna also happens to be an ex-Army general, I understand, and he seems to have his own plans. Of course, as to "only Nixon could go to China", this was used by Ten Most Evil Men of Twentieth CenturyTM member, war criminal and 9-11 Commission Chairman Henry Kissinger to justify selling out the Awami League in then-East Pakistan, resulting in the needless slaughter of hundreds of thousands in the early '70's in Bangladesh (the West Pakistanis "arranged" the Nixon and China thing, not that non-war criminals elsewhere couldn't have made it happen).
We will see: I think Sharon has no particular plan other than to remain in office.
Meanwhile, Democratic candidate for president and Vermont Governor Howard Dean endorsed Israel's request for $10 billion in loan guarantees. Well, I don't know what to say? This doesn't change my opinion about either Dean (who I like) or the loan guarantees (which I kind of don't like, though I can see their necessity). But itís interesting.
Manhattan U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mukasey has come forth with a ruling in the case of Padilla v. Bush (as you will recall, Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen who was alleged to be an unlawful combatant by the President, has been held without counsel or charge in a navy brig in South Carolina since the summer). Those gluttons who want to see the insanely long 105 page decision may do so here.
Extensive discussion of the case comes from expert commentator (and our featured link) Professor Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School on the Volokh Conspiracy, particularly here. Scroll around for further portions of the discussion. (Professor Volokh also notes some procedural developments in the Pledge of Allegiance case, for those interested.)
Among the highlights are the court's determination that Padilla has a right to counsel (though with limitations), and rejected procedural arguments of the government (such as the commander of the navy brig is the only proper defendant), or further restrictions on counsel urged by the government. However, the government, upon a showing of SOME EVIDENCE that Padilla is acting as an enemy soldier, may hold him as an unlawful combatant pursuant to the President's broad authority as commander in chief. The Congressional open-ended declaration passed in the aftermath of 9-11 (to use "all means" to go after al-Qaeda) was used as part of the authority relied on by Judge Mukasey.
We can expect both sides to appeal; I'm sure Ashcroft and Rummy will be particularly upset that a U.S. citizen will get the right to counsel where they don't want him to. Damned Constitution!
An undisclosed source forwarded your TD the following mass e-mail from the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), which I reproduce to you here, unexpurgated and unedited:
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
CAIR ACTION ALERT #354
ISRAEL GETS PAY INCREASE, GOVERNMENT WORKERS DON'T
Contact your representatives to demand that tax dollars be used to support Americans, not a brutal foreign occupation
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/3/02) - CAIR is calling on people of conscience to contact their elected representatives to protest plans to provide an additional $14 billion in grants and loan guarantees that will offer economic support for Israel's brutal occupation of the Palestinian people.
Israel is today expected to submit a request for that aid to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. President George Bush is likely to approve the request. Congress could finalize the aid package within 3-6 months.
"It is unconscionable for any elected representative of the American people to contemplate taking hard-earned taxpayer dollars that are desperately needed in this country, and sending them to support the brutal military occupation of a foreign country," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad added that the aid increase would be doubly harmful in that the perception of American one-sided support for Israel harms America's image and interests worldwide.
The request for increased aid to Israel comes after President Bush said budget constraints forced him to reduce the pay increase for government workers. On Friday, the president announced he was using his authority to change workers' pay structure in times of "national emergency or serious economic conditions" to limit raises to 3.1 percent.
"A national emergency has existed since Sept. 11, 2001. Such cost increases would threaten our efforts against terrorism or force deep cuts in discretionary spending or federal employment to stay within budget. Neither outcome is acceptable," wrote the president in a letter to congressional leaders. (Associated Press, 11/30/02)
Israel's request for more tax-payer dollars, on top of the billions that already go to that country, also comes as citizens in many American states face service reductions due to massive budget deficits.
According to the Dec. 9 issue of Time magazine: "The states are running an aggregate deficit that is expected to reach $ 68 billion by June 30. In the meantime, the states have pressed Washington for money to pay for things it has demanded--among them, homeland-security initiatives, election reform and broader Medicaid benefits for the poor. Beset by federal deficits, the Bush Administration is unlikely to provide much help at a time when it is focused on tax cuts and a possible war with Iraq."
Any additional funds for Israel, a nation with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, could be used to offset economic loses from the Palestinian uprising against the occupation.
Over just the past two weeks, those killed by Israeli occupation soldiers included a number of Palestinian children, the drummer who wakes people up for the morning Ramadan meal, an elderly woman taking a taxi home after a medical check-up, a 68-year-old father crushed to death in his demolished home, and a British United Nations worker shot in the Jenin refugee camp.
In addition, olive trees uprooted from Palestinian orchards were sold illegally to Israelis, Israeli soldiers forced a Palestinian man to strip naked at gunpoint and walk like a dog, Israeli occupation authorities said they plan to demolish many Palestinian homes in the city of Hebron, a group of U.N. workers demanded that Israel stop the harassment of United Nations staff, and a World Food Program warehouse in a Palestinian refugee camp was demolished.
ACTION REQUESTED: (As always, be POLITE.)
GO TO http://capwiz.com/cair/home/ to send a pre-formatted message to your elected representatives.
- PLEASE POST, COPY AND DISTRIBUTE -
This still being a free country as I write this (I think) , those of you who wish to take the enumerated action may do so. My first comment, is as always, to consider the source: CAIR has been accused from time to time of condoning terrorism. Certainly, we understand that CAIR is not sending this message out of budgetary concerns for our state or federal governments, but because itís taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (LIKE I'M NOT!) Some of the aforementioned hostilities against Palestinian-Arabs (notice the bold mention of hostilities and atrocities committed BY Palestinian-Arabs. What -- you don't see it? Really?)
What troubles me, as you might imagine, is that I was thinking about making the same point! Israel, though a close ally deserving of our support (it receives our monetary and military support in abundance, in many cases it could use more of the immense diplomatic and rhetorical support it already receives from us), has some level of "chutzpah" coming to us for over $14 billion right now, largely to close budget gaps so that its Likud government can sail through to reelection (like it wasn't going to anyway!). Israel is spending billions of dollars on its defense, of course (we can't help that its neighbors are hostile and heavily armed, oh wait, WE are heavily arming some of them!) However, amidst a screwed up socialist style welfare state and hopeless quagmire of regulations (Israel would be at home in the EU!), Israel spends billions of dollars expanding its settlements, and other programs we would have a hard time calling "productive". From an economic point of view, we have been far tougher re: demanding economic reforms on places like Uruguay and Brazil, that are not geo-political flashpoints to boot.
Of course, the CAIR missive is misleading in the sense that what Israel is (currently) seeking are loan guarantees -- the grants are, as I understand it, either already budgeted, or a very small part of the package. Thus, the American taxpayer will only be on the hook in the extremely unlikely event Israel defaults on its loans. But the basic point, why are we subsidizing an Israeli government that is pursuing policies that are not necessarily in the American national interest is well taken. A point I have made before is that Israel's principal asset is its moral authority. It is understood that defending itself from the current intifada is expensive in blood and treasure terms, and will inflict many Palestinian casualties, combatants and regrettably non-combatants.
But there is an argument that the hard-line longstanding Likud-nik policies (not necessarily countered by Labor governments, either) of expanding and fortifying settlements as much for avoiding the costs of having to deal with the issues of public housing and a soft-economy inside Israel proper (kind of the way the United States avoids the costs of more responsible use of petroleum by building and deploying aircraft carriers) UNDERMINE THAT MORAL AUTHORITY.
In the end, what this tells your TD is that the United States seems to have a lot more leverage vis a vis the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" than the already immense amount everyone thinks it does. Maybe we should figure out how to use that influence in a positive way -- such as imposing an ultimate (Arafat-free and Fatah-free) political settlement on the players whether they like it or not? Just a thought...
To the surprise of exactly no one, al-Qaeda, at least according to an Islamist web-site, has claimed credit for the twin attacks in Mombasa, Kenya. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Mofaz reports that the IDF foiled an al-Qaeda plot to actually infiltrate Israel proper. So let the recriminations begin. Is there now any CONCEIVABLE way for the United States government to separate OUR War on TerrorTM from Israel's never ending battle against the forces of Islamist terror? I mean, itís now the SAME PERPS! Somehow, I have every confidence that the Bush (League) Administration -- hey, maybe I will use that regularly, like "Saudi bastards" and "ELITE Republican Guard" -- will find a way. Even as I write this, I understand that somewhere, somehow, Israel is being urged to "show restraint".
In the "extremely grim statistics" department, the oldest victim of the current Intifada violence, a 95-year-old Palestinian woman, was killed by IDF gunfire when the car she was in sped along on a prohibited road near Ramallah. Hey, this is all part of why life sucks in the West Bank. Having settlements and checkpoints in between leads to *&^% like this, and puts all concerned in VERY uncomfortable situations. If Mitzna has a plan to end this *&^% by pulling out, I say, let's hear it! The current situation will NOT get better on its own.
So...our friends in the Bush (League) Administration have declared the PA/PLO to be "not in compliance with their commitments" (such as, oh, recognizing Israel's right to exist, or renouncing terrorism), but despite a legal requirement to impose sanctions and cut off aid, the Bush (League) Administration waived this! No further comment needed...except...the only question I have about that is WHO IS HAPPIER? The Saudis? Or the Sharon government? Look for the "cycle of violence" to continue, building to a crescendo right near the general elections in late January. You heard it here (sadly).
Welcome back to the regular workweek after the Thanksgiving holiday (a/k/a thank God its Monday.)
Some people didn't rest this weekend: the Likud Party held its convention, amidst controversy, as (if you can believe this) party leader and PM Sharon used his position of authority to ram through his platform, agenda and favorite candidates, at the expense of Netanyahu and his people. Can you believe that he would do such a thing? Shocking.
A key Palestinian spokesman suggests that the Bush Administration delaying its "Middle East roadmap" will benefit the Sharon government. Further, Egypt is accused of trying to influence the election, the other way, by meeting directly with envoys of Labor-leader Mitzna. Can you believe that foreign governments might want to influence the Israeli election? Shocking.
Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz warns that al-Qaeda was probably behind the Kenya attacks. You think? Finally, we have to ask DM Mofaz where his Christmas spirit is: apparently, IDF forces will not be pulling out of Bethlehem before Christmas. Obviously, Bethlehem has been a hotbed of terrorist activity from time to time. Still, can you believe that the Israeli government would put clamping down on terrorists ahead of their Christmas spirit? Shocking.
Here's to a happy birthday to Baby TD/Loquacious Pup. Let's all hope that the world she grows up into is a nicer, more peaceful world than the one we all find ourselves in now.
In the "seems like a war to me" department, as UN inspectors searched crop dusting facilities, US-UK air forces attacked air defense facilities in southern Iraq, killing three people. Other war preparations are, certainly, afoot. The President really WOULD prefer a "peaceful resolution", i.e., one that makes the Saudis happy. But with all of the mobilizing and preparation and just how badly Cheney and Rummy want to commit to a war (and given Saddam's tendencies to go all "in your face" on hiding his WMD programs), this may be a hard one to stop. We'll see...
In that same department, Israeli forces killed two in Gaza during operations to among other things, level the homes of suicide bombers. Reprisals and counter-reprisals will be forthcoming, I'm sure. Meanwhile, the Mossad has been ordered to wake up "sleeper agents" to track down the Kenya terrorists. I have speculated that a terror attack of that magnitude, coordination and venue was almost certainly ultimately traceable to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
My assumption is that OBL did this primarily as a fundraiser: killing some Israeli Jews will surely get the Saudi purse strings loosened. OBL is also aware of the risk in doing so; Mossad will not rest until the perpetrators are captured and/or killed. The Munich Olympics terrorists were all hunted down and killed -- it took years -- but it happened. So if this IS OBL, we can safely assume he feels his kidney disease will likely kill him before the Mossad does. Whichever proves to be OBL's cause of death, let us hope it works quickly, and painfully.
Iraq seems to be actively concealing weapons of mass destruction, and rubbing same in the face of UN inspectors. al-Qaeda seems to be alive and well, and doesn't seem to care less how many innocent non-combatant Africans it murders in the course of its campaigns of evil-in-the-name-of-Islam. So what is Kofi Annan of the UN concerned with? RIGHT! What the UN has been concerned with to the exclusion of virtually all else for decades: finding an excuse to condemn Israel! In this case, Kofi is demanding that Israel investigate and punish those responsible for the death of Iain Hook, a UK national and UNRWA employee killed at the Jenin UN-sponsored terrorist training camp.
I have bad news for Kofi: Israel will NOT punish the party responsible (Yasir Arafat) because the United States, amidst the house of cards it calls its "Middle East policy", is afraid to do so.
Kenyan officials just released the USA national and her Spainish national husband, picked up for the offense of trying to check out of the Hotel Paradise about two hours after the explosion there on Thursday. They do not appear related to the attack, as the focus of the investigation seems to be- surprise, surprise: al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, in the "see, we can ALWAYS find an excuse to
attack and kill Jews" department,
the IDF apparently shot and killed a 16-year old
Palestinian. The IDF is investigating. Oy.
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