Wednesday, September 30, 2009
News From Israel
Sometimes the news from Israel is encouraging. For example, I was delighted when Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke at the UN:
UN Photo/Marco Castro
Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.
But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?
Read the whole thing. It's an amazing speech.
On the other hand, I read the front page of today's Jerusalem Post, and how can I help but be discouraged?
Most of the headlines have to do with Corporal Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas over three years ago (and who has not been seen by anyone other than Hamas since).
One headline reminds us that negotiations for Cpl. Shalit's release are ongoing. Another explains, heartbreakingly, just how lame those negotiations are -- Israel is planning to release twenty Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, not in return for just one man, but in return for the promise of a videotape of that man.
Just to underscore the point, another headline quotes Shalit's family as 'yearning for signs of life' from him; for all they know, the videotape will be of a coffin. And then there's the photo of Palestinian youths, cheerfully waving flags and smiling for the camera, in front of a wall mural boasting of Shalit's kidnapping. (Note the "2006" sign and the hourglass.)
Hamas operatives speak to the press during a
press conference in Gaza City, Wednesday. (AP)
What sort of monsters are these Hamas kidnappers, who have kept a prisoner incommunicado for over 1,200 days? And what sort of insanity is it to give them anything they want?
Finally, do Palestinians realize what this says about them, and about how their cowardly leaders feel about them? A rate of exchange has been proposed -- that twenty Palestinians are worth a videotape.
How can they possibly feel about that? Or have they truly bought their leaders' propaganda that their lives are worth nothing, to be thrown away in search of a tiny political advantage?
As I say, it's depressing.
UPDATE: The more things change, the more things stay the same. In today's Jerusalem Post, PM Netanyahu has some harsh comments about the UN, saying that if the UN Human Rights Council adopts the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead, it will deal a deathblow to the war on terror, to the peace process (because "Israel will not be willing to take risks for peace if stripped of its right to self-defense"), and to the credibility of the UN itself.
(I haven't blogged about the execrable Goldstone Report; Solomonia.com has done a far better job of that than I could. Check him out; he's on a roll.)
From the same front page, however, it seems that the first of 20 Palestinian prisoners has already been released, in return for the promise of information about Cpl. Shalit. (Sigh.) This first prisoner was in jail for attempted manslaughter, for what it's worth, and was due to be released anyway in November.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Fundraising: An Interesting Update
Some interesting links, all courtesy of Instapundit:
From the Washington Post:
Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.
And from the L.A. Times:
Now, the guns of August have produced a surge in the fortunes of Republican causes. According to an analysis by USA Today, GOP campaign committees out-raised Democrats by $1.7 million in August.
"Republicans have been able to tap into some of the anger against Democrats in power and translate that into fundraising," Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report told the paper. "There are a lot of Republicans who wish the election were this November, not November 2010, because they feel like the momentum is on their side now."
Do I attach any importance to these figures? No. Fundraising figures for one month do not a trend make; the Democrats have plenty of time to surge ahead, and the Republicans have plenty of time to shoot themselves in both feet, before November 2010. Having more funds, too, is certainly no guarantee of victory.
I do think it's interesting, though, particularly in light of the many overly-confident pundits who, very recently, were announcing the Death of Conservatism.
I attach more importance, frankly, to the fact that the poll numbers for President Obama's health-care-reform agenda have not moved, in spite of an unprecedented Presidential effort to address the people.
In the succinct words of one blogger:
At this point, it seems safe to say that the public has heard the president. They simply do not believe him.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When It's Confrontational To Use The Dictionary
What do you call a person who redefines a word to suit himself -- and who, when called on it with a precise dictionary definition, complains that using a dictionary was unreasonable?
For now, you could call such a person President of the United States.
Mr. Obama: "No, but—but, George, you—you can't just make up that language and decide that that's called a tax increase."
"I don't think I'm making it up," Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He then had the temerity to challenge the Philologist in Chief, with an assist from Merriam-Webster. He cited that dictionary's definition of "tax"—"a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes."
Mr. Obama: "George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. . . ."
Read the whole thing.
In all fairness, there can be (and is) serious debate on whether requiring people to buy health insurance constitutes a tax. Check this out, for example (and read the serious debate in the comments). Note, however, that the Associated Press -- which is certainly not known for pushing a conservative agenda -- has weighed in on the issue:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Memo to President Barack Obama: It's a tax. Obama insisted this weekend on national television that requiring people to carry health insurance -- and fining them if they don't -- isn't the same thing as a tax increase. But the language of Democratic bills to revamp the nation's health care system doesn't quibble. Both the House bill and the Senate Finance Committee proposal clearly state that the fines would be a tax.All this is interesting, and important, but irrelevant to my original point. My point was that President Obama, for purely political reasons, argued over the definition of a word -- and, when confronted with a dictionary definition, called the very act of using the dictionary into question.
That's not responsible, and that's not leadership. (Isn't this the same President who, only weeks ago, was exhorting students to do their homework? Isn't that exactly what Mr. Stephanopoulos did?)
The Presidential thing to do, in my opinion, would have been to accept the definition -- and the person who took the trouble to look it up -- and then explain, calmly, why the dictionary definition of "tax" doesn't apply to his proposal.
(If he could, that is. When the government requires you to buy something, whether you want it or not, that sounds a lot like a tax to me. It's also a nasty precedent; read up sometime on Prussia's Frederick II and his 'porcelain tax'.)
You gave a good speech to the kids, Mr. President. I'd hate to think that, when you said you wanted people to study and work hard, you meant "as long as they don't work against me".
By the way: it's interesting to note that Mr. Stephanopoulos was not afraid of pushing the matter. The man's liberal leanings are well known, as are those of his network. Are we seeing the beginning of the end of a Mainstream Media in President Obama's pocket? Let's hope so.
UPDATE: Apparently, that was quite the interview.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Neo-neocon has an interesting discussion going on the subject of 'racers'. (Her use of the word, and her perception of the need for it, are interesting. First we had the 9/11 'truthers', who were convinced of a Bush Administration complicity in 9/11; then we had the Obama 'birthers', who believe President Obama may not have been born in the United States, and thus should have been disqualified to run for President; and now there are the 'racers', those who view everything through the perspective of racial tension, and cannot understand how anyone can criticize President Obama for reasons that are not racist.)
The examples of racers abound. Maureen Dowd, hearing Rep. Joe Wilson shout "you lie!" to President Obama during the recent address to Congress, heard something the rest of us did not -- and claims that the racial slur she heard in her head was real, and something Rep. Wilson should be castigated for. Former President Jimmy Carter agreed, and added that a lot of criticism of President Obama is racist (an assertion he backed up with nothing at all -- and which sounds strange, coming from someone who is no stranger to racist politics himself). Rep. Charlie Rangel has entered the fray as well, claiming that when people object to President Obama's health-care proposals, "then you know there's just a misunderstanding, a bias, a prejudice, an emotional feeling"... adding, "Some Americans have not gotten over the fact that Obama is president of the United States. They go to sleep wondering, 'How did this happen?' ".
The implication one gets from all this is that racism is the only logical explanation for criticism of the President. (Funny, that -- I remember, not too long ago, when criticism of the President was considered "the highest form of patriotism".
Neo's latest discussion is here. See also her argument that the truthers and the birthers are by no means on an equal footing. (She doesn't support the birthers; come to think of it, neither do I. But that doesn't mean that the two groups are equally off base, or deserve ridicule the same way.)
Have a look; it's well worth it.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Let's hear it for playing politics with the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Mind you, I'm not a big fan of the man, for a variety of reasons. But if it's wrong to exploit his death for cynical political purposes, then it's equally wrong for Democrats as for Republicans.
Yet now there's a bill before the Massachusetts Legislature, which would give the Governor (Deval Patrick, Democrat) the right to appoint an interim Senator, to fill Sen. Kennedy's seat, just for the next few months. (A special election is scheduled for January 19.) Kennedy himself asked that this be done, shortly before he died.
What's wrong with that? Doesn't it make sense for the Governor to appoint a Senator to fill a vacant seat? Yes, it does, except that that right was stripped from the Massachusetts governor, by this same Massachusetts legislature, back in 2004 (with Kennedy leading the charge). We had a Republican governor then -- Mitt Romney, in fact -- and there was concern that, if Sen. John Kerry won the Presidency that year, Gov. Romney would appoint a Republican to replace him.
Now that there's no fear of such things -- Gov. Patrick is about as likely to appoint a Republican as he is to become one himself -- the Legislature wants to reverse itself. But they're not taking chances; there's even talk of wording the bill to require the Governor to appoint a member of the same party.
Folks, it doesn't work that way. You hold your Senate seat, or House seat, or Governorship, or whatever, so long as you continue to get elected; if you die, that seat is up for grabs. This is an unexpected opportunity for the people to choose someone new, to their liking, not a ploy to let the party in power stay in power without additional elections.
Of course, the Massachusetts legislature is lobbying hard already. I heard a radio ad this morning, for example, on my way to work, from WeNeedTwo.org -- a site insisting that we can't be without two Massachusetts senators, even for a short while, during this "critical time". (Of course, it didn't bother them while Sen. Kennedy was alive but unable to show up for Senate votes, which was true for several months.)
Folks, if President Obama's phone book of a health-care bill can't pass without a filibuster-proof majority, then it bloody well doesn't deserve to pass.
And Massachusetts could suffer the blow of being represented in Washington by a Republican. (It's happened before; of the state's 53 Senators to date, 14 were Republicans and 9 were Democrats, serving a total of 160 years vs. 119.5 years. We think of Massachusetts as having Democrat-only Senators because our last Republican Senator left in January 1979. Don't take my word for it, look it up.)
By the way, WeNeedTwo.org makes the following claim:
WeNeedTwo.org is a project of MassVOTE, a non-partisan voting rights organization. We work with community-based non-profit organizations to increase voter education and turnout across Massachusetts.Sounds nice, doesn't it? They then go on to list their sponsors:
Yup, that sounds pretty non-partisan to me -- in the sense of "we're non-partisan here. We all vote Democrat".
Supporting Massachusetts Groups
Cambridge-Somerville for Change
Chinese Progressive Association
Health Care for All Massachusetts
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
Massachusetts Senior Action Council
National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts
UFCW Local 1445
United for a Fair Economy
Follow the links; every single one is a 'progressive' organization, devoted to the causes of the Democratic Party. (Heck, the first item on the list sports an Obama logo. And I shouldn't need to say anything about MassACORN, should I?)
I've already signed the petition, thanks; I reminded Beacon Hill that, if they think the voters aren't paying attention, they're sadly mistaken.
If you're a Massachusetts resident, you might want to click the link at the top of this post and offer your own opinion.
UPDATE: Sorry, I wasn't able to find an online copy of the bill itself. I did find support for the bill from Gov. Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, President Obama, the Boston Globe, and others I'd expect to line up behind this cynical move.
Kudos to a Massachusetts Democrat who actually does stand up for what's right, whether it helps his party or not.
UPDATE 2: As of Friday, Sept. 18 2009, The Massachusetts House has voted in favor of the bill, 95-58. The Massachusetts Senate will debate it next week, and presumably vote on it then.
It's a good thing that Ted Kennedy isn't alive to hear the charges of hypocrisy that would be leveled against him; after all, he led the charge in 2004 of denying Gov. Romney the precise right he insisted Gov. Patrick must have now.
On the other hand, this being Massachusetts, it probably doesn't matter; Sen. Kennedy weathered much worse storms than that, to the point that some people doubted anything short of death could remove him from office. As I heard someone say last week, it doesn't matter who runs in the special election in January; Ted Kennedy will probably win anyway.
UPDATE 3: Yup, it's official.