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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

TIME Lists Yair Lapid as One of Top 100 Influential Leaders

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

TIME magazine has selected Israel’s new superstar politician Yair Lapid as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. The magazine placed him alongside people such as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Pope Francis in the group of top leaders.

Lapid is the son of the late secular party leader Tomy Lapid, a Holocaust survivor whose Shinui (Change) party won 15 seats in the Knesset and then fell into the long history of failed one-man and one-issue parties.

The younger Lapid turned to politics last year after making a name for himself as a left-wing secular journalist who formed his Yesh Atid (Future) party and then advertised himself as a tolerant centrist. Yesh Atid is the second largest party in the Knesset, earning him the position of Finance Minister, probably the first person to hold that position without having even a high school diploma.

“If the world at large views Israel through its conflict with the Palestinians, Lapid personifies the nation’s determinedly inward focus, TIME’s Israeli correspondent Karl Vick wrote.

Lapid is becoming the center-left media’s Great Hope to oust Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Lapid himself has said he expects to become Prime Minister. It might have been more than a coincidence that the name of Netanyahu, who was on the list last year, was missing from this year’s roster.

Vick correctly concluded in his short description of Lapid, “He already has the swagger.”

Better or Worse: Politics and Conceptions of Change

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

All politics are the politics of the future. The one cause that we all champion, regardless of our political orientation, is the cause of the future. All that we fight for is the ability to shape the future.

The fundamental political question is, “Do you believe things are getting better or worse?” Ruling parties tend to answer, “Better”, opposition parties tend to answer, “Worse”. The deeper answer to that question though lies in our perceptions of the past and the future.

The left tends to view the past negatively and future shock positively. It wants change to disrupt the old order of things in order to make way for a new order. It hews to a progressive understanding of history in which we have been getting better with the advance of time, the march of progress mimics evolution as a means of lifting humanity out of the muck and raising it up on ivory towers of reason through a ceaseless process of change.

The right often views the past positively, it sees change as a destroyer that undermines civilization’s accomplishments and threatens to usher in anarchy. It fights to conserve that which is threatened by the entropic winds of change. The conservative worldview is progressive in its own way, but it is the progress of the established order. It sees progress emerging from the accretion of civilization, rather than from the disruption of revolution.

Where the left tends to be unrealistically optimistic about the future, acting like a child running to the edge and jumping off, without remembering all the bumps and bruises before, the right tends to be pessimistic about the future. It tends to be wary of change because it is all too aware of how dangerous change can be.

Youth who do not understand the value of what is around them rush to the left. As they achieve a sense of worth, of the world around them and of their labors, they drift slowly to the right. Age also brings with it a sense of vulnerability. Knowing how you can be hurt, how fragile the thin skin of the body, the fleshy connections and organs dangling within, brings with it a different view of the world. Once you understand that you can lose and that you will lose, then you also understand how important it is to defend what you have left.

The vital mantra of the left is do something for the sake of doing something. Change for the sake of novelty. Action for the sake of action. This carnival drumbeat loses its appeal when you come to understand how dangerous change can be. Personal history becomes national history becomes personal history again as you live through it. Seeing what a mistake change can be as you watch politicians disgraced, causes revealed as fool’s errands and crusades fall apart, is a great teacher of the folly of change for the sake of change.

Reagan’s question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is the fundamental challenge of the conservative that asks whether the change was really worth it. It is the question at the heart of the struggle between the right and the left.

Are you better off than you were twenty years ago or forty years ago? It’s an uncomfortable question because it has no simple answer. In some ways we are better off and in some ways we are worse off. Examining the question points us to the sources of the problem. The places where the tree has grown wrong, the branches that have to be pruned so that it may live.

The power of this question is that it challenges the narrative of change. It asks us to examine that most basic premise that change is good. But beyond the narrative tangles of those in power and those out of power, is the larger echo of that question which asks whether the world overall is becoming a better or worse place.

This question has deeper resonances. Is history a wheel or a rocket shooting up to the stars? Are we on an inevitable evolutionary trajectory rising up or are we doomed to repeat dark ages, progress and then dark ages again? Beneath all the speculations and theorizing is the grim question, what becomes of us? Not us individually, but our societies, our nations, our civilizations, our accomplishments and our way of life.

If I Were Prime Minister: the Gov’t of an Anarcho-Capitalist

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Note: This is satire, but does accurately reflect my feelings towards the Israeli government.

While I do not believe in the legitimacy of any government to exist at all, if I were forced to be Israel’s prime minister at gunpoint (it could happen any day now) and I had to name ministers, what would my government look like, and who would be in it?

I started thinking about this for more than a fraction of a second when I saw who got what in the divvying up of ministerial positions. So-and-so is minister of “strategic affairs.” Some other guy is minister of “agriculture.” Another idiot is in charge of “water,” because after all, if some politician who knows nothing about water supplies is not in charge of all of our water, we’ll all thirst to death and the Kinneret will turn into sewage overnight. This has already happened twice back before politicians were in charge of water.

And agriculture. Thank goodness a politician who knows absolutely nothing about how to grow food is in charge of the entire agriculture sector so he can tell us what we can import, export, buy, sell, when and where and how. Otherwise no one would be able to grow any food and we’d all starve.

But, OK, let’s assume I had to build a government and name ministers. Who would they be? First of all, I’d build a coalition of 120 MK’s and include everyone in my government by promising everyone a ministerial position. First, I would name Yair Lapid Minister of Male Grooming. He will be responsible for training all men in the state who can’t groom themselves and look like shlubs, how to look decent, improve their smiles, and generally look kempt. I will pay him $500 a month and give him a budget of $20 all out of my own pocket, and if he goes over that amount, I will fire him and give his job to Ahmed Tibi.

Instead of only one agriculture minister, there will be 5 ministers of one lima bean plant. These 5 people will be Liberman, Silvan Shalom, Tzipi Livni, and two of the smartest apes I can find in the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. They will all fight over how to regulate the lima bean plant and can pass whatever ministerial orders they want on how to restrict, tax, and at what age to draft the lima bean plant into the army, but nothing else. If they start fighting, they’re all fired, except for the apes, who can continue regulating at will.

There will be an Interior Minister, but he will only be in charge of regulating the interior of his Knesset office. In fact, everyone in my government can be an Interior Minister. They can all decorate them with lima beans they get from the Lima Bean Plant ministers on the off chance that the 5 lima bean plant ministers haven’t regulated and taxed the lima bean plant to death. I’ll give them each a shekel to buy some gum for their offices from my own pocket.

There will also be a Culture and Sport minister. (Yes, in Israel, there actually is a politician in charge of “culture and sport”. Because without politicians, we’d forget how to play soccer and be cultural.) The culture and sport minister will be Gidon Sa’ar, who word has it likes to go to night clubs. His job will be going to night clubs once a week and writing a report about the number of flies on the ceiling of the night club. If he doesn’t write the report every single week and submit it to my desk (This Week: Eight Flies), he will be fired and his position will not be filled.

The foreign minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in talking to other state leaders.

The education minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling parents how to educate their kids.

The housing minister will be nobody, as I’m not interested in telling people where they can and can’t build and live.

The communications minister will be nobody, as I am not interested in telling people how they can communicate and what cell phones they can buy for how much.

Will the Writer of the Fake Gideon Sa’ar Letter be Caught?

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Being a public figure isn’t easy on one’s personal life.  Israel’s Minister of Education Gidon Sa’ar just got a very painful lesson in that subject.

One of his enemies decided to knock him down a few levels and/or boot him out of politics by accusing him of sexual misconduct.  It was pretty easy.  The person just wrote a letter, signing with someone else’s “initials” and then sent it off so the public could hear about it.

After innumerable headlines and articles and television news time spent on the subject of the “evil Gidon Sa’ar,” communicating that the previously squeaky clean Likud politician was just like the others,  it has finally been revealed by the police that the letter is a forgery.

Now, I wonder if the police will devote the same time and energy to investigate, discover and prosecute the forger or forgers? People should know that if they try to destroy a person and that person’s career that they will be destroyed instead.

There’s so much internal fighting and intrigue in high places, whether politics, academia, finance, media and more.  It’s really frightening to think how easy it is for someone to just write one of these “letters” or notes which can totally destroy a person, his/her family, reputation, career and worse.

I really hope that the Israeli Police won’t rest until they discover, try and convict the guilty in this real scandal.

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France in a State of National Depression

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

France is the sick man of Europe — at least, that is how the French themselves apparently see it. Last month, a survey published in the leading newspaper, Le Monde, found that a large majority of the French believe that France’s economic power and cultural influence have declined over the past decade. One in every two Frenchmen seems to have lost hope, evidently convinced that the decline of France — economic as well as cultural — is “inevitable.”

The French also seem to have lost faith in democracy. Le Monde described the survey’s findings as “alarming.” Three-quarters believe that French democracy is not working well. 62% believe that their politicians are corrupt. The survey indicated that authoritarianism is widely supported, by the Left as well as the Right. More than 70% of the French want a strong leader – a “real chef” – to restore order. So do, obviously, not only 97% of the right-wing Front National party voters, but also an astonishing 98% of the voters of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and 70% of the voters of the governing Socialist Party of President François Hollande.

A quarter of the French want to withdraw from the European Union; two-thirds want to limit the E.U.’s power and take a stronger stand in favor of France’s own interests. A majority of the French favor economic protectionism; 70% are convinced there are too many foreigners in the country, and 62% no longer feel as at home in their own country as they used to. Front National party leader Marine Le Pen said the survey shows that “The French agree with us.”

Dominique Reynié, a professor of political science at the renowned Paris Institute of Political Studies [Sciences Po], describes the general sentiment, visible in the survey, as “ethno-Socialism.” This is a Socialism that strives for Keynesian full employment and an elaborate social security system, underpinned by nationalist policies.

The survey also showed that 74% of the French consider Islam incompatible with French society, and 25% say that Judaism is incompatible with French society. Among the latter there might be a significant number of Muslims. Nevertheless, the figure is disconcertingly high. 11% consider Catholicism incompatible with French society.

According to the historian Michel Winock, another professor at Sciences Po, “the French are afraid.” They are afraid of unemployment, economic decline, globalization, the E.U., immigrants, Islam. They are suffering from a “profound despair,” which makes them long for strong leadership. In 2007, they voted for Sarkozy in the hope that he would be this strong leader. Last year, they voted for Hollande who promised a national resurgence. In both cases, they were sorely disappointed.

The national malaise also visible in the survey can be seen elsewhere in French society as well. The French are depressed: they are the world’s largest consumers of anti-depressants — twice as much as their English neighbors and three times as much as their German neighbors.

The feelings of national depression were not eased when two weeks ago Michel Sapin, the French Minister of Labor, said in a radio interview that the French state was “totally bankrupt.” Though technically not officially bankrupt yet, France has five major financial headaches.

First, there is the rising government debt. Between 1974, when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing became President of France, and today, France’s national debt rose from 21% to 90% of GDP. This year, interest payments on government debt amount to €45 billion, the largest item in government expenditure, and higher than the total education budget.

Second, there is the pension problem. France has a pay-as-you-go pension system. In order to keep future pensions payable, the French government either has to raise the working population’s pension contributions by 1.1%, cut actual pensions by 5%, or raise the retirement age, currently at 60, by 9 months. Last June, President Hollande cut the retirement age from 62 to 60, reversing the raise introduced by his predecessor Sarkozy in 2010. Minister Sapin, a pragmatic Socialist, opposed this move, but Hollande felt compelled to fulfill his electoral promises.

Third, there is the labor market. 18% of France’s active population is unemployed. Over half a million people have been out of work for more than three years. Three years ago, fewer than 300.000 people were in this situation. Wage costs are too high, productivity is dropping, and talented people are leaving France to work abroad.

Jewish Home to Likud: Ball in Bibi’s Court

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The criticism leveled by senior Likud officials against Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, accusing him of violating his promises to his own voters, have received this a quick response from Bennet’s people.

“Netanyahu is the one who cheated his constituents,” said a senior official in the party that won 12 seats in the elections, insisting it is inconceivable that Bennett would compromise his principles. “Anyone who thinks that Bennett will fold just doesn’t know him. He has nerves of steel. There is no chance he will blink first.”

Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked on Sunday attacked the conduct of the Likud party in the coalition negotiations, saying that “If Netanyahu wanted to – he could quickly form a government with us in it.”

According to Shaked, “the Likud statements, as if our understandings with Yair Lapid constitutes a deception of voters, shows contempt for the public’s intelligence.”

Shaked added that “despite the mudslinging campaign against us before the elections, we recommended Netanyahu to form the next government. The campaign is over, stop attacking the Jewish home and just form a government.”

Meanwhile, another senior Jewish Home official has told Arutz 7 that the Religious Zionist movement is not Netanyahu’s pet.

“Since the elections, Likud has been pushing us away and excluding us. Initially, there were those devastating attacks against our rabbis, then Netanyahu’s whole conduct was an attempt to humiliate us. He preferred to meet with Tzipi Livni, Yacimovich and Zahava Gal’on before getting to the Jewish Home.”

Bennett’s relationship with Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid, another spot the Likud has been attacking, was described by Jewish Home officials as a strong alliance. “The person who should take pride in forging the relationship between us and Lapid is none other than Netanyahu. He has pushed us there. His actions will keep closer and his actions will push us away. The way they’ve been pulling the rope, they’re just bringing us even closer to Lapid.”

The same sources have estimated that “Netanyahu wanted a leftist government with Livni, Kadima and the Haredim. But the election results forced on him a different government. We have principles, and as long as they’re not met, we will not accept and not even discuss government portfolios. Their entire attitude is derogatory. Not only to Jewish Home, but to the entire National Religious public which has followed Netanyahu for years.”

Winning the Minority Vote

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

After the 2012 Waterloo, Republican consultants retreated to some party boats and hotels, and began planning their comeback. Bereft of ideas, they took the media’s explanations for why they lost at face values. What they have delivered is a liberal’s eye diagnosis of why they lost and so they debuted a plan to win over Latinos with amnesty and to end their negative image with a new gentler look.

Mostly what they have proven is that they are even more clueless than they were a year ago.

Senator Marco Rubio seems like a nice guy, but if the Republicans are counting on him to deliver the Latino vote, they might want to take a closer look at his Senate win. While Rubio did indeed win the Cuban Latino vote, he only won 39 percent of the non-Cuban Latino vote. That’s the same Latino margin of victory as Rick Perry got. It’s the usual best score that Republicans get among Latinos.

Marco Rubio could be a guy named Mark Richardson for all the impact that he made among Latino voters. But that’s because the “Latino” vote is a ridiculous oversimplification. Latinos consist of Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, to name just a few. And they don’t necessarily align.

Mayor Bloomberg ran against a Puerto Rican candidate and won the Mexican vote. Bloomberg may speak Spanish about as well as your Aunt Sally, but that didn’t really matter because he didn’t waste a lot of time telling stories about growing up poor in the slums of San Juan. Instead he worked with Mexican community leaders who were tired of being sidelined by Puerto Ricans, and advertised heavily on their radio stations and in their papers.

Race is certainly a factor, but it’s not the only factor. Most Black voters initially supported Hillary Clinton. If Herman Cain ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Clinton would beat him by a high margin. A Zogby poll shows Rubio beating Clinton among Latino voters, but how well that poll would hold up after Latino leaders have spent enough time getting the word out is another matter. Clinton beat Obama among Latino voters on Super Tuesday. Assuming that she won’t do the same to Rubio only because of his race is a risky bet.

There are two types of minority groups in the United States. Segregated and integrated. The more integrated a group becomes, the less of a bloc vote it is. A bloc vote is not simply a consistent pattern, it is the result of a segregated community that interfaces with the rest of the country through its leaders and local media. And those two interfaces are key.

It doesn’t really matter how many Latinos speak at the Republican National Convention or how many Republican senators sign on to Amnesty. These events will, for the most part, be processed through the filter of those community leaders and their associated newspapers and radio stations. Republicans imagine that they’re addressing Latinos, but aside from Univision appearances they mostly don’t even have access to them.

The percentage of the Latino vote that is accessible to Republicans largely comes from those Latinos who have integrated and are in the Middle Class. That is why the Republicans did so much better with the Latino vote in Ohio than Virginia. Median income and English language skills remain a fairly reliable predictor of the Republican vote.

Winning the minority vote is not simply about policy or diversity. That is an elementary lesson of the urban political machine that the Republican Party has bizarrely forgotten, even though it’s a lesson that goes back a century and a half in American politics. Diversity is not about finding binders of qualified candidates, but about elevating community leaders from minority groups who can deliver a share of the vote from their community.

It’s not pretty, but it is practical politics. Lincoln understood it and applied that methodology right down to the appointment of generals. The Democrats built an entire network of votes in every state by taking their urban political machine national. But the Republicans seem to think that it’s enough to have someone out there speaking Spanish. It’s a nice touch and the urban political machines used it. Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr., the son of General MacClellan, spoke a bewildering number of the languages that his constituents did. Mayor LaGuardia also juggled languages. But those are campaign tricks. They are not how the vote is delivered.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/winning-the-minority-vote/2013/02/12/

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