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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Politics’

Visiting a Friend

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

A lot of people are trying to spin President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel this week in their own image. People on both sides of the divide see this trip designed to re-start the peace process.

The left that think settlements are an impediment to peace and know the President shares that view. So they are hopeful that he will somehow use his personal charm and considerable influence to halt settlement construction with an eye towards re-starting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Those on the right see the same thing, only instead of supporting it, they are vehemently opposed to it – believing that settlements are not the real issue. They instead see the President’s mission as forcing Israel to stop settlement construction at a time when they need it most (because of natural growth and the perceived (by the right) value of outlying settlements as bulwarks against terrorism).

I think they are both wrong. I don’t see any plan. I see an impasse. I think the President sees that too. If he had any kind of plan that he thinks would have even the slightest chance at success at re-kindling the peace process he would have suggested it by now.

The President doesn’t need face time with Israeli leadership to make these kinds of suggestions. Israeli leaders know full well how important the relationship with the United States is. Even the current Prime Minister bends over backwards to accommodate the President’s wishes whenever he can if he doesn’t see it as compromising their security or other national interests.

I have always maintained that the President is sincere in his attempts to convince both Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate peace in the form of a two state solution believing it to be the best of all possible worlds for all concerned. Whether settlements are an issue on any level can be debated by people of good will. But I don’t think any fair minded observer (and I emphasize fair minded) on either side of the issue can dispute the President’s noble intent.

My view on this issue is somewhere between these two extremes. I do not support settlement building at this time because the gain does not outweigh the loss of good will generated by acceding to the President’s wishes. But I don’t believe they are the main impediment to peace either. With little exception, I would therefore prefer if Israel does not move forward with expansion of settlements at this time. There is no advantage to spitting in the face of the leader of a country that is your biggest supporter. Especially while he’s there. That would be a major mistake.

That said, I do not believe that the President will press Israel to stop settlement during this trip. Not that he has changed his mind. But that he doesn’t want to waste the opportunity to build on the relationship between the two countries.

Unlike some of his biggest detractors, I believe that the President actually likes Israel and values the friendship of the Israeli people. I doubt that he buys into all the anti-Israel rhetoric one hears so frequently from Israel’s enemies. Like accusations that they are guilty of Apartheid for instance. I’m not saying he doesn’t see Palestinian suffering. I’m sure he does. But like me, he understands that their suffering is due in large part from security measures Israel takes because of a history of being attacked by their own people through terrorist organizations like Hamas.

Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. The President never suggested for a moment that Hamas be removed from the State Department list of terrorist organizations. Same thing Hezbollah. Although he may feel that Israel could do better I also believe that he understands Israel’s position and for the most part does not blame them for the suffering of the Palestinians.

I also believe that he values Israel as an important ally as well as a friend. That’s why he approved scarce budget dollars to be spent on the very successful ‘Iron Dome’ anti missile defense system. And why military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries has never been closer! He sees a Israel as a country of shared values and its people much like those of his own country.

The problem is with the way he started off his Presidency with respect to his Middle East foreign policy. Although that too was well intentioned, it was a mistake. He made overtures to the Arab nations by going over there intending to reset the U.S. relationship with them while at the same time being highly critical of their their anti Israel attitude and their revisionist attitude about the Holocaust. But he erred by not visiting Israel as well. Although he did not intend it that way – he in effect snubbed his closest ally in the Middle East.

That began a cycle of mistrust of the President by the Israeli people. He was initially seen as tilting towards the Arabs. He has not fully recovered from that perception. Israel and many of its supporters felt that once he was in the neighborhood he should have at least stopped off and paid his friend a visit. The perception of being snubbed set the tone.

The second thing that further caused a perceived rift was when Israel’s Prime Minister showed poor judgement on his first visit to the White House by publicly lecturing the President. That did not help matters cooling off of the relationship even further– at least publicly. Especially when the President was caught off guard telling the French President what a hard time he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Some pundits characterized the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister as one where the two leaders hate each other. I don’t think that is accurate. I’m not saying that they are kindred spirits. But I don’t think ‘hate’ is the right word. I think that the two actually respect each other even while they disagree on some key issues. I do not think Netanyahu is his enemy by any stretch of the imagination – any more than House Speaker John Boehner is.

So why is he going to Israel? I believe that this trip is to repair the negative image he has in Israel. I doubt that he will do or say anything to them about the peace process or settlements – except to perhaps pay some lip service to it.

It is therefore my considered opinion that Israel should put on an unprecedented charm offensive – and treat him like he was – well… the President of the United States and their best friend. They should go out of their way to thank him for the considerable amount of things he has done for them . They ought to make sure that they talk as much as possible about the special relationship between the two countries; their shared democratic principles; and their commitment to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

There certainly ought not to be any demonstrations against him by any dissident extremists like the die-hard price-taggers. Although there may be some. As well as demonstrations about Jonathan Pollard – not that it will help him one iota. If any demonstrations do happen I’m sure that the President will see it as an example of the great freedom of expression that Israel grants its citizens – just like the United States does.

The Israeli public’s real concern right now is not the Palestinians. If the last election showed anything it showed that their main concern is how to solve the problem of “sharing the burden.” Meaning what to do about Haredim who insist on remaining exempt from the draft. If the fractious new coalition government has any one thing in common – it is that. To the chagrin of all the Haredi parties, they will have little to say about it having been left out of the coalition. They are now in the opposition.

But I don’t think this will influence any part of the President’s visit to Israel. I doubt that Haredim will be making an issue of this to the President. So after all is said and done I think this trip should be a resounding success that will enhance the relationship between Israel and the United States to an unprecedented level.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

The Shadow of the Gun

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Every day another one of the stories comes in. A teacher panicked by a plastic gun, an army man on a cupcake, a t-shirt, a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun or a finger gun hits the panic button. Suspensions and lectures quickly follow as the latest threat to the gun-free zone, usually in the form of a little boy, is tackled to the ground and lectured to within an inch of his life.

Tellingly these incidents rarely take place in the inner city schools where teenage gang members walk through metal detectors at the start of the day. The safety officers in those schools, big weary men with eyes that look everywhere at once, don’t waste their time on toys. Not unless those toys are full-size, painted black and filed down to look like real guns.

It’s usually the schools where a shooting is wholly unlikely; where gun violence is not a daily reality, but an unlikely convergence of horror, that institutional vigilance hits an irrational peak as every school imagines that it could be the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook.

The NRA’s initial proposal of armed school guards was met with an irrational chorus of protests. More guns aren’t the answer, was the cry. And the leading crier was the White House’s expert skeet shooter. In a country where law enforcement is heavily armed and gunmen are stopped by gunmen in uniforms, a strange Swedenization had set in. The problem was not the man, it was the gun. Get rid of the guns and you stop the killing. Schools across the country are banning not the gun, but the idea of the gun. It is a conceptual prohibition that is meant to push away the threat of gun violence by eliminating any mention of the G word. Gun-free zones mean places where guns cannot be mentioned, depicted or even symbolized as if the refusal to concede the existence of a firearm will eliminate the threat of it being used on the premises.

This isn’t a precautionary attitude, but a pacifist one. Gun horror is not a productive emotion, but learned helplessness disguised as moral superiority. Rather than teaching children to hate killers, schools are instead teaching them to hate guns. And reducing murders to instruments rather than morals, children are left with no sense of right and wrong, only an instinctive horror of violence.

Pacifists have always demonized armies rather than invaders. During WWI they obsessed over gas. During WWII, it was the bomber and the tank. During the Cold War they demonized nuclear weapons. In the War on Terror, they target the drone. By dealing with the object rather than the subject, they are able to avoid the question of moral responsibility. Rather than hold the Nazis, Communists or Islamists accountable for their actions, they extended a blanket condemnation over the weapons-wielders.

The American G.I. was just as bad as the S.S. man or the Kamikaze pilot or the Political Commissar. The only difference was in who had the bigger guns. And the one with the bigger guns, was also the most to blame.

That same attitude can be seen today when Israel is blamed for every battle with Islamic terrorists because it has the bigger guns. Rather than evaluating the nature of a conflict and the values of both sides, the pacifists score every war based on firepower.

While the left likes to indulge in stereotypes of gun-toting rednecks and bomb-brandishing generals, the only people who judge the worth of a man by his weapon are the pacifists, the gun-fearers and gun-hiders who mythologize weapons as black agents of evil.

To believe that there is no such thing as constructive violence is to reject free will. Without accepting the necessity of constructive violence, there is no good and evil, only armed men and unarmed men. Without constructive violence, two boys playing cops and robbers in the schoolyard are not acting out a childish morality play, they are becoming desensitized to murder, and without it a child with a pop tart chewed into the shape of a gun is on the way to being a school shooter.

If there is no such thing as constructive violence, then the police officer is not the solution to crime, he is part of the cycle of violence. And if that cycle of violence does not begin with a man choosing to use a gun for good or evil, then it must begin with the gun. The man becomes the object and the gun becomes the subject. American ICBMs become just as bad as Russian ballistic missiles. An Israeli soldier killing a suicide bomber is just as bad as the terrorist. There are no good guys with guns. To have a gun is to be the bad guy.

For decades the gun-control lobby has brandished assault rifles at press conferences and spent more time describing their killing power than their manufacturers have. The rifle has been upgraded to the assault rifle and now, in the latest Orwellian vernacular used by the White House and the entire media pyramid beneath it, weapons of war.

The dreaded assault rifle or weapon of war or killing machine of mass death actually kills rather few Americans. The average shooter doesn’t bring an AR-15 to a Chicago gangland dispute. Despite the number of these weapons in private hands, most of the killing takes place with handguns in the same parts of the country where large amounts of illegal drugs are sold, women trafficked and stores robbed.

Shootings in America are not caused by guns, they are caused by crime. Guns really do not walk off store shelves and go on killing sprees. That’s what criminals are for. But the trouble with that discussion is that it takes us into moral territory. Talking about guns is easy, talking about souls is not. If guns don’t kill people, then we have to ask the difficult question of what does kill people.

It’s a bigger question than just Adam Lanza pulling the trigger in a classroom full of children. It is a big question that encompasses the Nazi gas chambers and the Soviet gulags, the Rape of Nanking and September 11. It is a question as big as all of human history.

Pacifists once used to be able to address such questions, but they have become obsessed with the technology of violence, rather than the spiritual origin of violence. And the technology of violence is largely beside the point. Guns do not motivate people to kill. Nor do they represent that much of a quantum increase in death.

Some of history’s worst massacres happened long before firearms became useful for more than scaring off peasants. The heavily armed Americans of the 50s had lower per capita murder rates than medieval London. It isn’t the gun that makes the killer. It’s not the hand that kills, but the mind.

The gun-free society has little interest in individuals. Its technocratic philosopher-kings want big and comprehensive solutions. Their answer to gun violence is to feed a horror of guns. Their answer to obesity is to ban sodas. Their solutions invariably miss the point by treating people like objects and objects like people.

In the Middle Ages, rats were put on trial for eating crops. Today we put guns on trial for killing people. The left has tried to reduce people to economics, to class and then race, gender and sexual orientation. It has done its best to reduce people to the sum of their parts and then to tinker with those parts and it has failed badly. The best testimony of its profound spiritual failure is that the worst pockets of gun violence are in urban areas that have been under the influence of their sociologists, urban planners, psychologists, social justice activists, community organizers and political rope-pullers for generations. And what have those areas brought forth except malaise, despair, blight and murder?

Banning guns will do as much for those areas as banning drugs did. It is not the shadow of the gun that has fallen over Chicago, but an occlusion of the spirit. Social services have had generations to save the city and they have failed because the technocracy can reach the body, but it cannot reach the soul.

The gun-control activists drew the wrong lesson from Newtown as they drew the wrong lessons from WWII and September 11. The lesson is not that weapons are bad, the lesson is that people in the grip of evil ideas are capable of unimaginable horrors regardless of the tools at their disposal. A single man can kill a classroom full of children with a gun and a few men can kill thousands with a few box cutters. It isn’t the tool that matters. It’s the man.

Unwishing the gun brings us back to the sword. Unwishing the sword brings us back to the spear. Unwishing the spear brings us back to the stone club. And what then? When every weapon that ever existed or will exist is undone, all that remains is the deadliest weapon of all. The mind of man.

The gun, the sword, the spear and the club took countless lives and saved countless lives. Civilization has always balanced on a future made possible by little boys playing cops and robbers and playing with little green army men. They can either grow up to be the protectors of the future or the frightened men who will stand aside and do nothing when they hear the screams begin to come because they have been told that all violence is evil.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Unanswered Questions About Susan Rice

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

President Obama reportedly has decided to appoint U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser. Since the national security adviser is a member of the president’s executive staff, Ambassador Rice would not need to be confirmed by the Senate, as would a nominee for a cabinet-level office such as secretary of state. (It will be recalled that worries over her prospects at being confirmed by the Senate derailed her widely expected nomination as secretary of state).

Given that the national security adviser has the ear of the president and in most administrations is an enormously significant member of the foreign policy team, salient parts of Ambassador Rice’s record warrant scrutiny.

There still are serious, unanswered questions concerning Ms. Rice’s role in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Since that time it has been learned that the administration knew almost at the outset that the attack was a well-planned operation of Islamist terrorists. Yet officials initially claimed the attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. Indeed, Ambassador Rice touted the notion of a spontaneous mob action for several days after the event despite the evidence to the contrary.

On what basis did Ms. Rice promote the false storyline? Did she knowingly mislead the public or was she duped? These are important questions about someone who would advise the leader of the free world on a daily basis.

In terms of Israel, we continue to be dismayed by her performance at the U.N. Security Council in February 2011, when she cast the U.S. veto of an Arab-initiated resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion. President Obama had said early on that the U.S. would not go along with it and if necessary, block the measure by voting against it. (Because the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council, this meant the measure could not pass no matter how many affirmative votes were cast by others.)

A video of that Security Council session shows a visibly upset Ambassador Rice as she cast the negative vote. Her body language and facial expressions strongly suggest she was doing something she really didn’t want to. And most of her speech was characterized by a lambasting of Israel for its settlement activity.

One excerpt:

[W]e reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region. Continued settlement activity violates Israel’s international commitments, devastates trust between the parties, and threatens the prospects for peace….

While we agree with our fellow Council members – and indeed, with the wider world – about the folly and illegitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity, we think it unwise for this Council to attempt to resolve the core issues that divide Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore regrettably have opposed this draft resolution.

And then there were the instances when she snubbed Israel. She skipped Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N. in September 2012. She was not present during the UN debate over the Goldstone Report and left it to her deputy to read a statement from the Obama administration opposing it. She was also absent from the UN Security Council in 2011 when the U.S. opposed Palestinian efforts to declare statehood at the United Nations, again relying on a deputy to read an administration statement.

To be sure, Ambassador Rice has her defenders in the pro-Israel community who cite her many efforts defending Israel against the institutionalized demonization that is part of everyday life at the U.N. But that doesn’t quite alleviate our concern over her apparent embrace of the Palestinian narrative on the core issues of the Arab-Israel conflict – even when the president seems to be leaning the other way.

Pour the Concrete and Build the Houses

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Sometimes I feel my passion for Israel exceeds even that of my Jewish friends. As I tell people, it is impossible to be a Christian and not believe that Israel is God’s Chosen Land and that, as God promises in the Bible, nations that bless Israel will be blessed and those that curse Israel will be cursed.

My first trip to Israel occurred nearly forty years ago, in July 1973, just a couple of months before the Yom Kippur War when I was a teenager. I’ve been going back to Israel ever since.

Whenever I visit Israel I venture into the Old City. I go into some of the shops where one can purchase a Palestinian map. In February I had two hundred people I took with me, most of whom were Christians and had never been there before. I wanted them to understand what is unique about this situation.

I got one of these maps and said, “By the way, open the map and show me where Israel is.” And they opened it up and didn’t see it. And I said, “Interesting isn’t it? Somehow Israelis are asked to make peace with a people who even in their published maps refuse to acknowledge even so much as the existence of the Jewish state.”

Israel often gets criticized for the actions it takes to protect its citizens. For example, Israel was and still is pilloried for its construction of the security wall (or fence) but until that security wall was erected it was a common occurrence for people to strap bombs to their bellies and board a bus and kill innocent men, women and children. With the construction of that wall, those acts of terror virtually stopped.

Shall we be critical of those who wish to protect their babies? Shall we condemn those who wish for peace in their neighborhoods, for their children to play in a park, for their wives to visit to a café or supermarket without the fear of being blown up by a terrorist?

We would never tolerate in our own cities what the people of Sderot have been asked to tolerate. I have been to Sderot and have seen the thousands of Katyusha rockets stacked up behind the police station. I can tell you that it is an absolutely sobering experience to understand that people have fear every day that a Katyusha rocket might land on their children’s bedroom, the park where they play, the schools they attend, the synagogues where they worship.

I would ask my fellow Americans, how many Katyusha rockets fired from Toronto into Buffalo do you think it would take before we would demand that our government did something to stop it? Five thousand? Four Thousand? Three Thousand? One hundred? No – just one Katyusha rocket is all it would take. And the Israelis have been asked to let it go after thousands of them.

I say one is enough, and Israelis must quit apologizing to the world and say, “We have a right to a secure and safe homeland – not just for us but for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren; a place that is a safe place, a haven.”

And if anybody wonders why a safe haven for Jews is necessary, they should talk to me. I’ll tell them what I’ve learned from my many visits to Yad Vashem and my experience this past January when my wife and I traveled to Poland. We went to Schindler’s factory and then to Auschwitz and Birkenau. As I stood in the very place where 1.1 million Jews were murdered in cold blood, chills came over me as I realized what had happened there. I prayed, “May the world never forget what happened.”

When I visited the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, it was a brutal reminder of what happens when politicians make decisions that don’t involve their brains. When you demand that people abandon their homes because you somehow believe you can trust radical Islamic fascists to keep their word and make nice if you’ll make nice, it shows a level of naiveté that makes a Chamberlain look like a Churchill.

It is time we recognize you don’t negotiate with people who do not believe you have a right to exist.

Giuliani Still Being Slighted by Media Elites

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The last time we gathered here the topic of discussion was the hypocrisy of the late Ed Koch on racial matters, particularly in his constant berating of Rudy Giuliani for treating the city’s race hustlers with the skepticism they deserved – an approach actually pioneered by Koch himself during his own mayoralty.

But Giuliani never did get much love from the city’s permanent political establishment and its prestige media, as evidenced most recently by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, who in the wake of Koch’s passing called Koch, Fiorella La Guardia and Michael Bloomberg the city’s “three greatest mayors.”

La Guardia certainly belongs in the top three, and a strong case can be made for Koch, but Bloomberg? The only reason Bloomberg was elected mayor in the first place was the endorsement he received from Giuliani shortly after 9/11, when Giuliani had seized the nation’s imagination with his courageous leadership and Bloomberg was essentially running in political drag, having donned Republican vestments after a lifetime of dressing in liberal Democratic garb.

That’s not to say Bloomberg has been a bad mayor, just that listing him at the top of the heap with La Guardia and Koch ignores the unprecedented challenges Giuliani faced on assuming office and the way he went about transforming the city.

Put it this way: imagine that Michael Bloomberg rather than Rudy Giuliani had succeeded David Dinkins in January 1994. Would political reporter Andrew Kirtzman have been able to describe Bloomberg’s tenure the way he wrote of Giuliani in Emperor of the City, his gripping account of the Giuliani years:

“This is the story of a defiant man whose strength, resolve, and vision helped bring a city back from a state of bedlam. It’s an account of how a person with no experience in municipal government outsmarted its political leaders, union chiefs, and media lords and ended up changing the face of New York…. It’s about a leader whose accomplishments rank among the most dramatic in urban history.”

Giuliani succeeded the inept David Dinkins at a time most observers had given up on New York as a governable city. Bloomberg, on the other hand, succeeded Giuliani at a time when, to quote Kirtzman, “crime had plunged so low that that the FBI was calling New York the safest large city in America. Unemployment was down, and 400,000 fewer people were on the welfare rolls.”

Getting back to The New York Times, though it endorsed Giuliani for reelection in 1997 (he faced an uninspiring Democratic challenger and even Manhattan liberals found it hard not to give him his due), over the years the mouthpiece of New York liberalism generally treated him with varying degrees of skepticism, condescension and moral outrage.

Even as he left office in January 2002 on a note of unprecedented triumph and popularity, the tone of the paper’s editorials and most of its news coverage was startlingly jaundiced (a notable exception was an analysis piece by reporter Sam Roberts who mused that Giuliani would go down in history as a greater mayor than even La Guardia).

An editorial that appeared the Sunday before Giuliani’s departure was particularly churlish, claiming that “Even his staunchest supporters know that much of his success was due in part to good timing. His greatest achievements – the drop in crime, the reduction in welfare cases, the economic boom – were mirrored in other cities that had milder-mannered chief executives.”

Nonsense, responded historian Fred Siegel. “No other city has made comparable gains…. In the closing years of the Dinkins administration, tourists stayed away in droves, while businesses and residents were racing for the exits in what seemed like an evacuation. Had Mr. Dinkins been reelected, the flight from fear would have become a flood.”

As to the assertion that crime had dropped everywhere and Giuliani merely happened to have been in the right place at the right time, it just wasn’t true.

“None of these critics,” Siegel pointed out, “supplies specifics – with good reason. Crime didn’t fall everywhere, as anyone from Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit or a host of other big cities could have explained.”

A Cup of Soda in Hell

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The great theme of every overrated writer in the past twenty years has been the interconnectedness of things. Butterflies flap their wings in China and famine kicks off in Africa. A man gets on a plane in Sydney and another man jumps off a balcony in Paris.

You can get your interconnectedness fix from Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column as he marvels at the flattening of the world or any one of an endless number of fictional tomes in which strangers from around the world collide and influence each other’s lives.

The interconnectedness of things is not just the theme of the next TED talk you’ll watch or the next Wired article you’ll read. It’s the theme of policy as well. Pull one string and everything changes. Policy is no longer about making things happen by doing them, it’s about finding the precursor to them and doing that and when that doesn’t work, finding the precursor to that.

The growth of government means that everything is interconnected and instead of trying to cut the cost of health care by trimming back the bureaucracy, you ban sodas to fight obesity in the hopes of eventually cutting the cost of health care. It’s the sort of thing that sounds smart when it’s made into the theme of a book that discusses how connected everything else is to everything.

It’s stupid in real life, but who pays attention to real anyway?

Public policy is wired into the next great insight into interconnectedness and the one after that. Doing things to do them is stupid. It’s the sort of thing that Bush, poor dumb ape man, would do. The smart set, the Obama set, do the things that they don’t want to do to do the things that they want to do. It’s the sort of thing that sounds stupid if you try to explain it to a cab driver, but sounds like absolute genius when explained to an audience consisting of dot com people and people who wish they were dot com people.

And sometimes it even works. Most of the time though it makes things confusing and miserable.

The opening premise of interconnectedness theory is that trying to do what you want to do is futile. You don’t make a hurricane by turning on a fan and aiming it as a cloud, you do it by getting on a plane to China and then irritating a butterfly so that it flaps its wings. And then the hurricane comes or it doesn’t.  But while you’re there you’ll probably meet a monk or a street urchin who will go you a deeper insight into life or steal your wallet which will inspire you to write the next bestselling book about how everything in life is really connected to everything else.

Wars? Naturally we don’t do them. Only dumb brute apes think that you win a war by killing the enemy. That’s a positively medieval point of view. Even Bush knew better than that. No, you win a war by dealing with the root causes of the war. You find all the links to all the events, you win over the natives with candy bars and briefcases full of infrastructure money and then it all converges together and the war is over. Or it’s not. But either way you write a book about it.

Interconnectedness is the search for causes. It’s never a mismanagement problem, because that’s not a revelation.

Tell Mayor Bloomberg that health care costs are high because it takes four administrators to a doctor to get a patient through the system and he’ll look bored. That’s obvious. Tell him that recreating every new government building so that visitors are forced to use the stairs and those cold black marbles in his head will come awake.

Tell Obama that we’re losing the war because we’re not killing the enemy and he’ll hand you a pen and excuse himself, but tell him that the war is being lost because we need to get more Muslims into space and he’ll hand you a czarship.

We are becoming a subtle and stupid society, obsessed with nuance and a mystical search for the hidden social engines of life. And while that may seem advanced when you’re reading through the latest New York Times bestseller that explains how fishermen in Southeast Asia are influenced by sales of cotton candy in Michigan and the price of coffee in Brazil, it’s actually quite debilitating.

JStreet’s Hagel ‘Victory’ is on American Jewry

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The Jerusalem Post reports today that JStreet, the only lobby dedicated to opposing and putting pressure on Israel, is claiming Hagel’s confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Defense a “victory.”

That’s funny, because JStreet is probably one of the Jewish organizations whose stance mattered least of all, and Hagel is a Secretary of Defense who’s approval was filibustered and who received the most nay votes in all of American history. If this is a show of JStreet power, then those of us who are actually pro-Israel have something to be thankful for.

And what was the battle that was won? JStreet lobbied for the President’s policy. Opposing the president in foreign policy is always an uphill battle. It doesn’t take an Israel lobby to get the president’s nomination through, especially when his party controls the Senate. (Though I admit, it’s useful to have Jews telling Americans to override their natural moral perspective on Israel-related issues).

But there is a victory in there somewhere – perhaps for clarity.

JStreet supported the president in his Israel policy, just as most of American Jewry has done since the days of FDR, when the American government did nothing to save millions of Jews, took part in an informal global conspiracy not to grant fleeing Jews refuge, and by acquiescing in British requests not to do anything which would force the British to let Jews into Palestine.

Jews like then ZOA president Stephen Wise did their best to defend Roosevelt against the “extremists.” Today those extremists include, ironically, the Zionist Organization of America, as well as the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel. Even more ironically, those whom the respectable Jews tried to silence were the Jabotinskyite Hillel Kook & Co., a group which included Irgun commander Yitzchak Ben Ami, the father of JStreet head Jeremy Ben Ami.

Take U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s support for Hagel. A word from Schumer, a senior Democratic senator, could have forced Obama to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. A word from AIPAC, which remained silent, could have forced Schumer to oppose the nomination or at least not publicly announce that all of his fears had been calmed in a short meeting with Hagel. AIPAC was silent because they need to work with the government – the classic Diaspora Jewish explanation for going along with anti-Zionist policies. Schumer put up no opposition – who knows why? Because he too wanted the President’s support for something? Because of party loyalty? Because he was duped with assurances that from now on Obama would leave Israel alone.

What should be clear now is that while JStreet may be a minor group, it is only doing what most American Jewish leaders already agree to, putting the president’s policy ahead of what common sense and Israel’s obvious interests dictate. American Jews support Democratic presidents. American Jews support Palestinian statehood. American Jews support all other sorts of Israeli concessions because they would rather have the moral high ground than the actual high ground. American Jews criticize Israel to show they are fair observers.

So congratulations, JStreet, you won before you even started! Perhaps you can save your breath, energy and George Soros’ and God knows who else’s money and go home.

The Left: Getting Rich by Fighting for the Poor

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Hugo Chavez’s death was met with tributes from Iran, Bolivia, China and El Salvador. The Western left did not waste much time adding their withered roses to El Comandante’s coffin. George Galloway called him another Spartacus. Jimmy Carter described him as a leader who fought for the “neglected and trampled.” Michael Moore praised him for declaring that the oil belongs to the people.

Whether or not the oil belongs to the people is a matter of some debate considering how much of it seemed to end up in Chavez’s pocket.

Chavez died with an estimated net worth of two billion dollars making him the fourth richest man in Venezuela and the 49th richest man in Latin America. For a while, Chavez weathered attacks from the media empire of Gustavo A. Cisneros, the richest man in Venezuela. Then before the 2004 election, their mutual friend Jimmy Carter brokered an agreement between them. Cisneros’ media stopped criticizing Chavez and both men bent to the task of getting even richer.

While the Bolivarian Spartacus lined his pockets with oil money, Venezuela’s middle-class was struggling to get by in a country where the private sector had imploded. Income increased on paper, but decreased in reality as inflation increases ate the difference. Around the same time that Comrade Hugo was launching the third phase of his Bolivarian Revolution, inflation had decreased household income 8.8 percent while consumer goods prices increased 27 percent.

On his deathbed, Hugo Chavez devalued his country’s currency for the fifth time by 32 percent, after tripling the deficit during his previous term when the national debt had increased by 90 percent. From 2008 to 2011, Chavez’s oil-rich government increased the debt by nearly 50 billion in a country of less than 30 million. That same year, The Economist speculated that Venezuela might go bankrupt.

Chavez had swollen the ranks of Venezuela’s public employees to 2.5 million in a country where the 15-64 population numbered only 18 million. With 1 public employee to every 7 working adults, the entire mess was subsidized by oil exports and debt. When the price of oil fell, only debt was left.

Those public employees became Chavez’s campaign staff with no choice but to vote for him or see their positions wiped out to keep the economy from crashing. And they won him one last election.

The dead tyrant leaves behind the lowest GDP growth rate and highest inflation rate in Latin America. He leaves behind an economy where more than half the population depends on government benefits or government jobs. He leaves behind a giant pile of debt for the people and 2 billion dollars in misappropriated oil money for his heirs.

But we don’t need to look to a leftist banana republic south of the border to see how profitable fighting for the poor can be.

Seven of the 10 richest counties in America are now in the Washington D.C. area. Arlington County alone added $6,000 to its average income in one year alone. D.C. and its bedroom communities got rich at twice the rate of the rest of the country and in the last election; Obama won eight of the 10 richest counties in the country.

Washington D.C. is richer than Silicon Valley. Median income in the D.C. area has hit $84,523 despite the city itself having horrendous unemployment and poverty statistics. The top five percent in D.C. earns 60 percent more than the top 5 percent in other cities and 54 times what the bottom fifth earns in that same city.

This wealth of government money isn’t a rising tide that lifts all boats. Income inequality in Washington D.C. is one of the worst in the nation. For families with children, the income inequality level in D.C. is double the average for the rest of the country.

But when you concentrate the wealth of the land in a single imperial city, then you end up with a sharp gap between the poor and the fighters for the poor. Mid-level jobs are disappearing, but high-level jobs continue to grow. Small businesses are going out of business, but lawyers and consultants are being hired at a breathtaking rate.

Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of lawyers in the country. One out of every 12 city residents is a lawyer. One in 25 of the country’s lawyers lives in Washington D.C. In 2009, the Office of Personnel Management reported that there were 31,797 practicing lawyers in the Federal government earning an average salary of $127,500 a year. Or to put it another way, the taxpayers were spending double Hugo Chavez’s two billion dollar net worth each year just to pay the lawyers.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/the-left-getting-rich-by-fighting-for-the-poor/2013/03/10/

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