Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Michael Radu on the Gaza Crisis

Also found this interesting analysis on the Foreign Policy Research Institute website:
Certainly some women, and all infants, are innocent victims of the conflict. But Hamas successfully makes all women and all “children” victims, knowing that the sob sisters/brothers of the West accept this for their own reasons. Those reasons may vary, from cultural anti-Americanism, historic anti-Semitism, or the peculiar European adoration of everything Third World.

All this being said, and concentrated in the simple statement that Hamas is not deterrable and its supporters are seldom real “civilians,” why does anyone—especially the Israeli government, elected to protect its citizenry and territory—pretend otherwise?

The answer, and a disturbing one, is that Israel, or at least its elites, are more “Western” than is good for them or their people. The implicit message of the Israeli officials’ claim that “regime change” in Gaza is not an objective of Operation Cast Lead is problematic. If sincere, Tel Aviv is wasting lives—Jewish and Palestinian—for very short-term success. If not, the problem is worse, because it only creates confusion—in Israel, among Palestinians, and elsewhere.

Ultimately, the only solution—itself limited in time because of the permanency of dysfunctional Palestinian political culture—is the physical destruction of Hamas in Gaza, by killing most of its militants and leaders, be they “political” or “military” (is there a difference, outside Western artificial legalistic and emotional circles?)

As it is now, Israel’s claim that the goal is not Hamas’ removal from power in Gaza is either dishonest, a PR statement, or delusional. The destruction of Hamas’ military/terror capabilities would make it unattractive to Gazans, who like winners (if they kill Israelis). Anything else would convince most Gazans, who are always ready to be convinced, that Hamas is the way to go, electorally or practically.

Ultimately, the total physical destruction of Hamas in Gaza and the introduction of PA elements, even and especially if that means renewed intra-Palestinian conflict, is the only stable, if not permanent, solution. Since Hamas cannot be deterred, dealt or “negotiated” with it, a fact Hamas itself admits, is a lost cause—it simply has to be destroyed. Hence all Euro-pacifist demands or UN pseudo-solutions are inherently irrelevant.

The whole idea, or so-called principle, of total protection of undefined “civilians” promoted by leftists supporting Hamas without the courage to say so (the perennial Bianca Jagger, etc.), is not limited to Gaza’s conflict. That is just the latest pretext of a peculiarly irresponsible phenomenon. Thus the government and people of Sri Lanka are on the brink of finally winning their decades-long war against one of the world’s worst terrorist groups—the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the “inventors” of suicide bombings and responsible of some 70,000 fatalities since 1984. The reaction from Amnesty International and associates? “Too many civilians” are being killed or displaced—not the rational question of how many civilians, Tamil or others, would be saved by ending the war.

But no, self-proclaimed human rights or humanitarian NGOs, when not actively encouraging irregular forces by treating them equally with state actors, push for regulations on states, since they cannot do so on Hamas or similar non-state actors. The result is always that the conflict between state and non-state actors, whether in Gaza, Israel, Colombia, Sri Lanka, or elsewhere, is prolonged—with more “civilians” and innocents, whatever their definition, falling victim to violence.

It may appear cynical or brutal to say that in some circumstances—the Gaza conflict now being an obvious one—more violence, if correctly targeted, means fewer real civilian victims and better long-term chances of calm, if not peace. If Israel and those who truly seek calm in the Middle East in the long-term are serious, they should support the total military defeat of Hamas, rather than spill tears over the loss of “civilians.” This is a lesson that can be applied to conflicts far away from the Middle East. However, the prospects of this happening are not good, and the result is likely to be more and more “civilians” such as infants sleeping in their cribs being killed from Kyber to Mullaitivu to Gaza. Lack of clarity and reason truly kills.

James R. Kurth on Samuel Huntington

From the Foreign Policy Research Institute:
It is historically fitting that Samuel Huntington called upon Americans to conserve America. In the seventeenth century, the first Huntingtons arrived in America, as Puritans and as founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Huntington of Connecticut was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In the nineteenth century, Collis P. Huntington was a builder of the transcontinental railroad. In the twentieth century, Samuel P. Huntington was for half a century the most consistently brilliant and creative political scientist in the United States. Huntingtons had been present at the creation for most of the great events of American history, and Samuel Huntington knew intimately and believed intensely in what America was all about. His ideas about America and its role in the world were simultaneously original, conservative, and consequential. He was a splendid exemplar of American creative intelligence and intellectual courage.

Will Be Offline For A While...

Attending a family funeral in Florida...

Monday, January 26, 2009

I've Joined Facebook's "Dump Geithner - No Tax Cheat Treasury Secretaries Managing Bailouts"

68 members, so far...
Someone who didn't pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes until audited, and didn't pay in full until approached about this position, can not be trusted to honestly administer billions of bailout dollars...


IMHO Doubt deserves all the Oscars that Slumdog Millionaire is in line to receive. I just couldn't get over what a terrific job director John Patrick Shanley did in moving his stage play--which I saw in Los Angeles with Cherry Jones--to the screen. Meryl Streep is outstanding. She really has a Bronx (not Brooklyn, not Queens) accent. Phillip Seymour Hoffman also excellent. The sets are excellent, the costumes are excellent, the acting is excellent, the music is excellent. And the drama is likewise excellent. Thought-provoking, moving, and deep. The film is better than the play...best movie I've seen this year!

Happy Chinese New Year!


Today marks the start of the Year of the Ox in the Chinese Calendar...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Walked Out On Slumdog Millionaire

Not that it will stop the manipulative roman-a-clef about English boarding school sadism from winning a bunch of Oscars. Danny Boyle's direction reeks of British Imperialist Condescension. Surprised it wasn't called "You're a Better Man Than I Am, Gunga Din." No wonder some people in Mumbai are mad...it is indeed insulting. Better to read Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance (Oprah's Book Club)to which this film pays homage--uncredited, of course...the British apparently are still good at stealing from Indians.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Frost/Nixon's Piano Concerto

Finally saw Ron Howard's film adaptation of Peter Morgan's play Frost/Nixon yesterday afternoon. I was struck by the scene where Frank Langella plays Nixon's Piano Concerto Number One--best thing in the picture, IMHO. Plus the "drunk dialing" scene was very well done, plus the follow up "checking" familiar to AA and Alanon veterans.

Otherwise, a little bit cardboard cutout, by the numbers, Peter Morgan strikes this blogger as a British author who only knows Americans from the outside. Frost/Nixon is definitely not The Queen.

The Frost=Nixon doppelganger angle was taught to us as an obvious gimmick in my first screenwriting class at You See LA film school. Hey, the hero and the villain are two sides of the same person divided in two! That's deep. Get me the Joseph Campbell coverage!

Guess what, Peter Morgan? As Lloyd Bentsen would say, I wrote about David Frost and Richard Nixon for my PhD dissertation, and David Frost was no Nixon. And, Frost was no lightweight--he founded London Weekend Television, hosted That Was the Week That Was on NBC as well as British TV, as well as the David Frost Show and was known as the wittiest and most intelligent man on TV. Nixon wasn't going downmarket from Mike Wallace--he was going upmarket. But how could a Britisher be expected to know that (on the other hand, Ron Howard should know better)?

IMHO, Nixon was an Anglophile as well as a keen student of the snobbery and pretentions of Ivy League dopes, who no doubt correctly concluded that a confession to a big-shot Briton would redeem him...which it did. Plus the money was good. And he enjoyed being with big shots, which the film did capture. The self-pitying aspect played true. Checkers, You Won't Have Dick Nixon to Kick Around Anymore, Resignation, Frost/Nixon. The same act worked time after time...not that Morgan noticed.

Nixon wasn't finished by his on-air confession, he was just beginning another act--senior statesman. Doesn't anyone remember Bill Clinton asking Nixon's advice? So the storyline rang false. The acting was good, though. And some of the blubbery Checkers speech characterization from Langella worked, too. I couldn't get past Michael Sheen's Tony Blair to see him as Frost, though he's a good actor and gave it a try. I don't know how they could have made Frost look more different, but maybe someone could have thought of something. And where were the Hollywood feminists at Universal and Imagine entertainment on this one? The women--Pat Nixon, Diane Sawyer, and Caroline Cushing--have nothing to say or do except stand around and look pretty! Yet Pat Nixon, who studied acting and worked in the movie industry; Diane Sawyer, who went on to co-star with Mike Wallace; and Cushing, who went on to set up a marketing and PR firm are mere eye-candy. Before feminism, they would have had parts like Barbara Stanwyck's, Bettye Davis's, and Lauren Bacall's. Does Peter Morgan hate women?

In any case, thanks to google and YouTube, I quickly found this video of Nixon performing his composition on the Jack Paar show in 1963...thought it worth sharing:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

FOIABlog on Obama's New Freedom of Information Policy

Thoughts on FOIA Executive Order [NOTE: Corrected to "Presidential Memorandum"]

Now that I've had some time to digest President Obama's Executive Order on the FOIA, I have some thoughts on it.

The biggest implication, I believe, is the signal it sends. This Executive Order states that there is a presumption of disclosure of government records and it was sent on the first day of the new administration. It tells the Attorney General to issue guidelines consistent with the Executive Order. I believe it is an instruction to the Department of Justice and all agencies that past practices need to be revisited and the withholding for the sake of withholding days are past.

I think the Reno memorandum of October 1993 will be the place the Department of Justice will start in making the FOIA more open. However, I hope that Justice doesn't stop there and listens to open government groups that have circulated ideas about improving the FOIA.

My advice to the Department of Justice is to be bold and rethink underlying assumptions about why certain records should not be released pursuant to the FOIA. As an example, does the release of pre-decisional documents always chill the decisional process of the government? I don't think it is always true and the use of exemption 5 on every pre-decisional document should be rethought.

On the whole, I think yesterday was a great day for the FOIA, but there is much work to do in the months ahead.
You can read the complete text of the memorandum at this permalink.

Geithner's Record Raised Questions BEFORE Meltdown

It's not just unpaid taxes, statues of limitations, and Lehman Brothers. In a Bloomberg article about his appointment to the NY Fed from 2004, his regulatory (in)abilities were already raising hackles:
Other Fed watchers were disappointed that someone with an established reputation as a regulator didn't get the job.

``Geithner's appointment raises questions about the willingness of the New York Fed to aggressively supervise financial holding companies in its territory because there is very little in Geithner's resume that shows experience in regulatory issues,'' says Tom Schlesinger, 55, executive director of the Financial Markets Center, a Philomont, Virginia-based nonprofit group that monitors the Fed.

`Tough Cop'

``The New York Fed could have sent a message by appointing a well-known tough cop with regulatory experience and a professed willingness to crack down on financial crimes,'' says Schlesinger. ``Geithner may prove to be that kind of individual, but it is improbable at this time.''
Not the right guy to restore confidence, IMHO.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Find an Inauguration Event Near You

A couple of our friends have come from Chicago for the inauguration...they're at Union Station waiting for Barack Obama's Amtrak train right now...so this blog may not be a going concern till Wednesday. Meanwhile, you can find an inaugural event near you with this handy dandy website from Barack Obama's Presidential Inaugural Committee at http://events.pic2009.org/page/event/search_simple.

There's also a YouTube Inauguration Channel.

Friday, January 16, 2009

David Czerny's EU Art Unveiled in Brussels

Kelly Hutchinson v Hans Hoffman

Why pay more?
I stumbled into Kelly's Art and Frame while on my way to art class in Alexandria, VA. Not only does she own the gallery and do her own framing, Kelly is an artist from Buffalo, NY who paints abstractions that to my amateur eye seem just as nice as Hans Hoffman's. Can you tell which of these is by the famous German artist? Believe it or not, Hutchinson sells her original canvases for $150...sometimes in person at Eastern Market on weekends in DC...

You can find her gallery at: http://www.kellysartandframe.com/

BTW, Hoffman is on top, Hutchinson below.

Yes, He Could!

Yes, he did!
Maybe this event will give New York City back some of its mojo lost after 9/11....US Airways flight 1549 Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger not only deserves a tickertape parade and key to New York City, he's hopefully a harbinger of the Obama era...instead of everything going wrong, maybe things will go right.

How many times have we been told how to prepare for a water landing before takeoff? I never believed it was possible, thought it was only PR to reassure frightened passengers. Now--I believe. If Chesley Sullenberger can land a jet without engines in the Hudson river, without hitting a building, a bridge, or a boat, and if all those boats came to help rescue without worrying about liability or other excuses, my faith in America is restored. There is nothing Americans can't do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama Wants Your Ideas

Another email from the transition team:
Dear Laurence,

We wanted to tell you about a new feature on Change.gov which lets you bring your ideas directly to the President.

It's called the Citizen's Briefing Book, and it's an online forum where you can share your ideas, and rate or offer comments on the ideas of others.

The best-rated ones will rise to the top, and after the Inauguration, we'll print them out and gather them into a binder like the ones the President receives every day from experts and advisors. If you participate, your idea could be included in the Citizen's Briefing Book to be delivered to President Obama.

Visit the Citizen's Briefing Book now and share your ideas.

Throughout this Transition, a truly inspiring number of citizens have gotten involved. We hope that you remain involved through the Inauguration and beyond.

Thank you,


Valerie Jarrett
Obama-Biden Transition Project

Please note that replies to this email will not be answered.
I have only one idea to share:
Lead by example...

Latinos Protest Ken Burns' Inauguration Event

Got this in my email today:
Defend the Honor
January 14, 2009

To: Esther Foer Judith S. Goldstein
Executive Director Executive Director
Sixth & I Historic Synagogue Humanity in Action
600 I Street, N.W 1088 Park Avenue
Washington D.C. 20001 New York, NY 10128
1-202-266-3231 1-212-828-6874
Fax: 202/408-5124 FAX212.410.4969

And to Defenders of the Honor

On first hearing about plans to ask the poster boy of Latino and Latina public documentary film exclusion to share his "VISIONS OF RACE IN AMERICA," as part of the festivities surrounding President Elect-Barack Obama's historic inauguration on January 20, 2009, some thought it was simply a joke in poor taste. After all, there was a well-publicized national outcry in 2007 when Ken Burns left Latinos out of his 14.5-hour documentary about World War II.

But on further investigation (See: http://www.humanityinaction.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=879) , it appears to be a fact: Humanity in Action and the Washington D.C. Sixth and I Historic Synagogue have asked Ken Burns to speak about a topic on which he is an anti-authority. Ken Burns has demonstrated repeatedly a peculiar blindspot to Latinos, so his "Vision of Race" is not only incomplete, it is wildly inaccurate and a slap in the face to Latinos.

Hard to believe it escaped anyone who keeps up with the news that in 2007, Burns united Latinos and non-Latino supporters to decry the absence of Latinos in his WWII documentary. We knew that an estimated 500,000 Latino and Latina patriots fought, while other Latinos and Latinas supported the war effort on the homefront - and those contributions are too often left out of books, movies, etc. about WWII. But the issue was larger, than World War II -- it focused attention on the historic omission of Latino contributions to our nation. So when the Ken Burn documentary was set, Latinos reacted loudly and proudly: The voices of our community against Ken Burns and PBS were strong and included over thirty national Latino organizations, and thousands of individuals and elected officials from the country. In the end, Burns did add on two short Hispanic and one Native American film bits-- at the end of three episodes, after the screen went to black and the theme began. Many felt his addition was passive-aggressive; it was not the "seamless addition" he had promised in an April 2007 meeting in Washington with Latinos, including elected officials and representatives of major Latino organizations, as well as Defend the Honor. We came to know that Burns is a serial eraser of Latinos -- he did the same in previous documentaries on baseball and on Jazz.

That he would be chosen to discuss race in America is painful. Latinos made a difference in Obama winning the 2008 election and we are celebrating his inauguration enthusiastically. But news that Burns has been chosen as a major speaker on the topic of race in America is a bleak reminder that Latinos are not considered, by some, an important part of our own country.

The question we have for the event sponsors, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and Humanity in Action is simple: why was Ken Burns, of all people, chosen to speak on this topic at this event when there are many others who are knowledgeable and considered experts on the issues of "race" in America and the world?

Humanity in Action's mission statement reads, in part: "Humanity in Action believes that an important test of a genuine democracy is how it treats its racial, ethnic, and religious minorities..." Does that not include Latinos in our country? Inviting Ken Burns to speak about race raises doubts about Humanity in Action's respect for the Latino community.

We are deeply disappointed by the Washington D.C. Sixth and I Synagogue's involvement in co-sponsoring the "VISIONS OF RACE IN AMERICA" presentation. We express our concerns over what appears to be a lack of sensitivity on the part of the well-respected Historic Synagogue, representing a community that has been active in establishing a Latino-Jewish Dialogue. This inter-ethnic community effort has been advanced over the last seven years by the American Jewish and the Latino communities. In fact, the results of a "landmark survey" in Latino-Jewish Relations released in 2001 by The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding under the leadership of Rabbi Marc Schneier states the findings "provide a roadmap for Latinos and Jews to address of mutual cooperation and concern." The Ken Burns/Latino issue is important and must be addressed by all Latino-Jewish Dialogue groups in the country.
The San Diego Latino-Jewish Coalition is building relationships among and between our communities and was one of the first to expressed concern and dismay over Ken Burns exclusion of Latinos and Latinas in his PBS The War documentary.

Those of us involved in the Defend The Honor campaign and many others involved in building community relations between ethnic groups call on the Humanity in Action and Sixth and I Synagogue to reconsidered their invitation of Ken Burns to speak on "VISIONS OF RACE IN AMERICA." If Burns is provided a forum to speak about a matter that we consider sacred, then there should representation by Latinos who may address the continuing omission of Latinos in our nation's historical narrative. We will be glad to provide a list of knowledgable speakers.

We request that the Executive Directors of the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and the Humanity in Action organizations to reach out and invite representatives of Defend The Honor to meet and discuss our mutual concerns and interests. We also request all supporters of Defend The Honor to express their sentiments on this issue and their vision of race in America to the Executive Directors of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and Humanity in Action and to Defend the Honor. Please send us a copy of any correspondence. Constructive change requires constructive dialogue.

For additional information and perspective on Defend The Honor and the contributions of Latinos to the WWII effort, go to

Gus Chavez
Co-founder Defend The Honor & member of the San Diego Latino-Jewish Coalition

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Washington Post Jumps Off Hillary Bandwagon

IMHO, today's editorial signals weakening support...
The Senate's Advice
If she accepted it, Hillary Clinton would find it easier to manage questions about her husband's foreign fundraising.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009; A16

AT THE outset of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's otherwise gentle and uninformative confirmation hearing for Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday, Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) clearly spelled out the problem presented by foreign contributions to Bill Clinton's foundation. "The Clinton Foundation," he said, "exists as a temptation for any foreign entity or government that believes it could curry favor through a donation. It also sets up potential perception problems with any action taken by the secretary of state in relation to foreign givers or their countries."

"Every new foreign donation that is accepted by the foundation comes with the risk that it will be connected in the global media to a proximate State Department policy or decision," Mr. Lugar added. "Foreign perceptions are incredibly important to U.S. foreign policy, and mistaken impressions or suspicions can deeply affect the actions of foreign governments toward the United States." The senator concluded that "the only certain way to eliminate this risk" is for the Clinton Foundation to refuse new foreign donations while Ms. Clinton is secretary of state.

Mr. Lugar was only stating the obvious. The Clinton Foundation, which has pursued such worthy projects as combating HIV/AIDS and climate change, has collected millions in donations from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf governments, as well as from prominent supporters of Israel, Indian industrialists and the Blackwater security firm -- to name just a few of the potentially sensitive cases. Questions continue to arise about apparent conflicts between Ms. Clinton's actions as a senator and the foundation's fundraising: The Associated Press reported yesterday that Ms. Clinton intervened at least six times in government issues directly affecting firms or individuals tied to contributions to her husband's foundation.

Yet senators mostly shied away yesterday from probing this obvious minefield -- or, in the case of several Democrats, endorsed the loophole-ridden disclosure agreement the Clintons negotiated with President-elect Barack Obama. Ms. Clinton said nothing about the issue in her opening statement. When she was pressed for more disclosure by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), she stonewalled: "All the answers are in the record," and "there is no intention to amend" the memorandum negotiated with Mr. Obama.

To his credit, Mr. Lugar released a list of improvements that former president Clinton could make to the disclosure agreement. These are eminently sensible: For example, instead of disclosing new foreign contributions only once a year, the foundation would immediately report all gifts of $50,000 or more, and all such donations from foreigners at the time they are pledged. Also, a State Department ethics review would cover all donations above $50,000 from foreign sources -- and not just foreign governments. Ms. Clinton would be doing herself, and Mr. Obama, a favor by pressing her husband to accept greater disclosure or, better yet, to suspend foreign fundraising. Otherwise, the questions raised by senators yesterday will haunt her, and her president, throughout their tenure.
For goodness sake, Bill raised $109 million--why does he need to keep working?

Geithner's Tax Problems Disqualify Him For Treasury Post

So says Bizzy Blog (ht Michelle Malkin):
As I said last night:

Giethner’s personal self-employment “mistakes” have to do with his obligation to pay Social Security taxes on his income when he worked at the International Monetary Fund. The IMF is exempt from paying the employer’s share, and apparently doesn’t withhold any amounts for Social Security on employees’ behalf. It’s easy to see how non-financial administrative employees might get tripped up here, but the idea that Giethner wasn’t aware of his obligations makes him either evasive, negligent, or incompetent. The same possible adjectives apply to the fact that he took as long as he did to catch up on his assessments. These are usually not qualities one looks for in a Treasury Secretary.

The obvious question is why the IRS, and for that matter Giethner, didn’t look back at 2001 and 2002 after the 2003 and 2004 errors were caught. The answer may well be that by the time it found the 2003 and 2004 “discrepancies,” the IRS’s ordinary three-year statute of limitations for unpaid taxes from the date a return is filed had expired for 2001 and 2002.

But there’s an exception to that three-year rule: “The statute of limitations does not apply in the case of a false or fraudulent return with intent to evade any tax.” Intent can be difficult to determine, but Team Obama must have concluded, “brilliant” financial guy that he is, that Geither should have known, and indeed may have known, that he was required to pay self-employment tax at the time he filed his 2001 and 2002 returns. So they told him to pay up.

Second, Geithner has a 15-year history of issues relating to self-employment taxes, something Blackledge brought up in his report last night in this very damning paragraph:

The committee’s materials said Geithner “has experience with Social Security tax issues.” He filed the taxes late for his household employees in 1996 for years 1993 to 1995; he incorrectly calculated Medicare taxes for his household employees in 1998 and received an IRS notice; and he received notices from the Social Security Administration and the IRS after not filing 2003 and 2004 forms for his household employees, the report states.

Davis had nothing about the matters from the 1990s in her update.

It seems quite a stretch to believe that a guy with “experience in Social Security tax issues,” and who had also experienced the fact that these taxes have to be paid when employing domestic help, didn’t realize that he would have to pay those taxes himself if his employer wasn’t withholding them.

Finally, though they both did so at the very end of their reports, Blackledge and Davis quoted an expert who took strong exception to the “goof” argument:

Tom Ochsenschlager, vice president of tax for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said it would be difficult for someone preparing a tax return for a self-employed person to skip the Social Security and Medicare tax lines.

Of course, Ochsenschlager is right. You would expect any experienced tax preparer looking at a W-2 form showing no Social Security or Medicare tax withheld to follow up with his client and find out why. If that preparer did follow up, it seems that Geithner would have either told him or her that he was exempt from such taxation without verifying it, or that he fibbed.

All of this represents evidence that Geithner’s tax problems go well beyond the “goof” level. By putting such a “goofy” assertion into her second paragraph, Davis may be hoping that readers, including those who are preparing the teleprompter scripts for the morning TV newscasts and network news programs, don’t take the nominee’s checkered tax history as seriously as they should.

I also pointed out last night that there was no historical context in Blackledge’s report.

In 2001, Linda Chavez’s nomination as Labor Secretary went down in flames over matters relating to an illegal immigrant whom Chavez had sheltered in her home a decade earlier. Also, in 1993, Zoe Baird withdrew as Bill Clinton’s nominee for Attorney General over the employment of illegal-immigrant domestic help and her failure to pay the related employment taxes on a timely basis.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CIA Pays $350,000 in FOIA Case

To the National Security Archive, for attorney's fees, according to FOIA Blog:
CIA Pays Out $350,000 in Attorneys Fees

Recently, I reported on the National Security Archive's victory over the CIA in its attempt to be treated as a member of the news media.

Subsequently, the parties entered into an agreement in which the Archive's attorneys received $350,000 in attorney fees for work on the matter. Hopefully, agencies will think out their positions before forcing litigation that results in the payment of these fees, which now under the OPEN Government Act of 2007 come from agency budgets.

The stipulated agreeement can be found here.

Hillary's Dumb Testimony About "Smart Diplomacy"

I'm hearing a pained Senator Lugar on C-Span right now, trying to help Hillary sound more sensitive about the appearance of corruption--but she can't give a straight answer, just talking points and self-justification. Awful. Embarrassing. If the Senate consents to Hillary as Secretary of State, it looks like no end of problems in sight.

Hillary actually called the Clinton Global Initiative "a pass-through." She promised more "conflicts."

IMHO, grounds for her rejection. But I suppose no-one in the Senate is brave enough to stand up for what's right.

Poor Senator Lugar, apparently willing to sacrifice his reputation for honesty and sober judgement by running interference for the Clintons...

More on the hearings from Michelle Malkin

Politico story here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

President-Elect Obama's Plan

I just got this email from the Obama-Biden transition team, and so thought I'd share Obama's plan with my readers:
Dear Laurence,

Last Thursday, President-elect Barack Obama gave a major speech outlining his plan for getting us out of this economic slump we're in, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. It's a far-reaching and aggressive plan, and we think it's what the economy needs to get going again.

But it's going to take a lot of work to get the plan approved, and your involvement is essential. That's why we asked some of the leading members of the Transition's policy teams to sit down and talk a bit about it -- why it's necessary, how it will work, and how we'll make sure it's as efficient and effective as it is bold.

We compiled their responses into a short video, touching on each of the major elements of the plan. Watch the video now at http://change.gov/plan:

Some parts of the plan might already be familiar to you. The plans for rebuilding infrastructure, expanding renewable energy capacity, and overhauling health care and education all build upon promises that President-elect Obama made during the campaign.

We're committed to keeping those promises -- and now, given the challenges we face, they're more important than ever.

We're counting on your help and your support.



John D. Podesta
Obama-Biden Transition Project

Mark Steyn on the Gaza Crisis

From National Review Online:
Forget, for the moment, Gaza. Forget that the Palestinian people are the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the earth. For the past sixty years they have been entrusted to the care of the United Nations, the Arab League, the PLO, Hamas and the “global community” — and the results are pretty much what you’d expect. You would have to be very hardhearted not to weep at the sight of dead Palestinian children, but you would also have to accord a measure of blame to the Hamas officials who choose to use grade schools as launch pads for Israeli-bound rockets, and to the UN refugee agency that turns a blind eye to it. And, even if you don’t deplore Fatah and Hamas for marinating their infants in a sick death cult in which martyrdom in the course of Jew-killing is the greatest goal to which a citizen can aspire, any fair-minded visitor to the West Bank or Gaza in the decade and a half in which the “Palestinian Authority” has exercised sovereign powers roughly equivalent to those of the nascent Irish Free State in 1922 would have to concede that the Palestinian “nationalist movement” has a profound shortage of nationalists interested in running a nation, or indeed capable of doing so. There is fault on both sides, of course, and Israel has few good long-term options. But, if this was a conventional ethno-nationalist dispute, it would have been over long ago.

So, as I said, forget Gaza. And instead ponder the reaction to Gaza in Scandinavia, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and golly, even Florida. As the delegitimization of Israel has metastasized, we are assured that criticism of the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism. We are further assured that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, which is a wee bit more of a stretch. Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let’s take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift.

But, even allowing for that, what has a schoolgirl in Villiers-le-Bel to do with Israeli government policy? Just last month terrorists attacked Bombay, seized hostages, tortured them, killed them, and mutilated their bodies. The police intercepts of the phone conversations between the terrorists and their controllers make for lively reading:

“Pakistan caller 1: ‘Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire.’
“Mumbai terrorist 2: ‘We have three foreigners, including women. From Singapore and China.’
“Pakistan caller 1: ‘Kill them.’
“(Voices of gunmen can be heard directing hostages to stand in a line, and telling two Muslims to stand aside. Sound of gunfire. Sound of cheering voices.)”

“Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims.” Tough for those Singaporean women. Yet no mosques in Singapore have been attacked. The large Hindu populations in London, Toronto, and Fort Lauderdale have not shouted “Muslims must die!” or firebombed Halal butchers or attacked hijab-clad schoolgirls. CAIR and other Muslim lobby groups’ eternal bleating about “Islamophobia” is in inverse proportion to any examples of it. Meanwhile, “moderate Muslims” in London warn the government: “I’m a peaceful fellow myself, but I can’t speak for my excitable friends. Nice little G7 advanced western democracy you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.”

But why worry about European Muslims? The European political and media class essentially shares the same view of the situation — to the point where state TV stations are broadcasting fake Israeli “war crimes.” As I always say, the “oldest hatred” didn’t get that way without an ability to adapt: Once upon a time on the Continent, Jews were hated as rootless cosmopolitan figures who owed no national allegiance. So they became a conventional nation state, and now they’re hated for that. And, if Hamas get their way and destroy the Jewish state, the few who survive will be hated for something else. So it goes.

But Jew-hating has consequences for the Jew-hater, too. A few years ago the poet Nizar Qabbani wrote an ode to the intifada:

O mad people of Gaza,
a thousand greetings to the mad
The age of political reason
has long departed
so teach us madness

You can just about understand why living in Gaza would teach you madness. The enthusiastic adoption of the same pathologies by mainstream Europe is even more deranged — and in the end will prove just as self-destructive.

Irwin Cotler on the Gaza Crisis

From the Jerusalem Post:
While the rejection by Hamas of any peace with any Israel - or the existence of Israel itself - is a foundational root cause, there is a much more pernicious and sinister one that is all but ignored in the fog of war. This is the public call by Hamas, in its charter as well as its contemporary declarations, for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be.

Jews everywhere - not just in Israel - are referred to as inherently evil, as responsible for all the evils of the world, as defilers of Islam, and, repeatedly during these hostilities, as the "sons of apes and pigs." This genocidal anti-Semitism - and I do not use these words lightly or easily, but there are no other words to describe what is affirmed in these genocidal calls, covenants and declarations - this culture of hatred, this is where it all begins.

In the words of Prof. Fouad Ajami following the 2002 terrorist massacre of Israeli civilians in Netanya sitting down for their Passover meal: The suicide bomber of the Passover massacre did not descend from the sky; he walked straight out of the culture of incitement let loose on the land, a menace hovering over Israel, a great Palestinian and Arab refusal to let that country be, to cede it a place among the nations.

The bomber partook of the culture all around him: the glee that greets those brutal deeds of terror, the cult that rises around the martyrs and their families.

MOREOVER, Iran not only joins in these genocidal calls, but has become the epicenter of calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map." In Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, one finds the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes embedded in the most virulent of hatreds and propelled by the avowed intent of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons for that purpose. Iran is not just a bystander to the conflict, but an actor and choreographer involved in the training, supplying, financing, harboring and promoting of Hamas.

The Iran "connection" to the present hostilities is too often ignored or sanitized. As a senior commander of Hamas has said, "Iran is our mother. She gives us information, military supplies and financial support." It is all the more tragic that innocent civilians are dying in Gaza because of hostilities supported by Iran, whose criminal accountability is marginalized.

Bush's UN Security Council Blunder

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Bolton says the US made a mistake to abstain from a recent Security Council vote:
Abstaining allows a resolution to be adopted (assuming it enjoys at least nine affirmative votes) without explicit support from, in this case, the U.S.

All five of the permanent members of the Security Council abstain for various political reasons. The abstainer may conclude that threatening a veto carries too high a political price on the international stage, while a "yes" vote will haunt it later on.

But abstaining comes with its own costs. A permanent member's abstention invariably reflects that it failed to achieve its objectives. It also signals timidity.

Britain and France avoid vetoes for fear that if they are seen to be too hard-edged, they will be harried off of the Security Council and replaced by one European Union seat. Russia and China are motivated by other pressures. Russia is cautious because its influence is waning. China's influence is increasing, but it feels the need to tread lightly.

This is all the more reason why the U.S. can't afford to abdicate its international leadership role. For the U.S., abstentions have larger costs than for any other permanent member.

When the U.S. abstains, it cedes the field to others on the Security Council. And our global interests make losing the initiative unacceptably risky, especially on critical issues such as the Middle East.

Ms. Rice's abstention last Thursday, for example, neither mitigated the council's pressure on Israel, nor increased the likelihood of a cease-fire. As a display of weakness, it simply invites a diplomatic feeding frenzy. That will almost certainly happen now in regards to Gaza, where Resolution 1860 is having no effect.

Finally, abstaining encourages careless decision-making in Washington, especially for an administration seeking to avoid hard foreign-policy choices in order to focus on domestic issues. In short, abstaining passes the buck to those who do not have the U.S.'s interests at heart, while allowing those in Washington to feel like they are actively managing our interests.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

NY Times Apologizes for Publishing Fake Letter to the Editor

And they have the chutzpah to criticize bloggers...In today's paper, this note:
A few weeks ago, as many of you will recall, we published what turned out to be a fake letter over the name of the mayor of Paris, whose office later confirmed that he did not write it. We apologized to him, and to you, the readers. And since then, we have worked to tighten our verification system for letters and enforce it more rigorously.

We encourage our readers to keep writing letters, of course, and we are all for full and vigorous (but civil) debate. But we are asking for your help as we “trust but verify.”

From now on we will adhere unfailingly to our existing standards: we will consider only letters with full contact information — your name, address, current location and daytime and evening telephone numbers (not for publication). If your letter is being considered, we will call you and send back an edited version for your approval before publication.

And here is our contact information:

E-mail: letters@nytimes.com

Fax: (212) 556-3622

Telephone: (212) 556-1873

Postal address: Letters to the Editor, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018-1405

The readers of this page deserve to know that the letters we publish are legitimate. While no verification procedure involving strangers and operating on a degree of trust can be completely foolproof, we will work to ensure that an error like this doesn’t happen again.

An earlier note provides more detail:
Early this morning, we posted a letter that carried the name of Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, sharply criticizing Caroline Kennedy.

This letter was a fake. It should not have been published.

Doing so violated both our standards and our procedures in publishing signed letters from our readers.

We have already expressed our regrets to Mr. Delanoë's office and we are now doing the same to you, our readers.

This letter, like most Letters to the Editor these days, arrived by email. It is Times procedure to verify the authenticity of every letter. In this case, our staff sent an edited version of the letter to the sender of the email and did not hear back. At that point, we should have contacted Mr. Delanoë's office to verify that he had, in fact, written to us.

We did not do that. Without that verification, the letter should never have been printed.

We are reviewing our procedures for verifying letters to avoid such an incident in the future.

Kennedy, Seen From Paris (December 22, 2008)
Who wrote the letter?

Bernard Henry-Levy on the Gaza Crisis

From his New Republic article, "Liberate the Palestinians from Hamas:"
Quickly, let's hope, the fighting will cease. And very quickly, let us also hope, the commentators will regain their wits. They will discover, on that day, that Israel has committed many errors over the course of many years (missed opportunities, a long denial of the Palestinian national demands, unilateralism), but that Palestinians' worst enemies are the extremist leaders who have never wanted peace, have never wanted a State and never conceived of one for their people other than as an instrument and as a hostage. (Consider the sinister image of Hamas supreme leader Khaled Meshal who, on Saturday, Dec. 27, when the scale of the greatly desired Israeli response was becoming clear, only knew to declare a return to suicide missions--and this during his comfortable exile, his cushy job in Damascus ...)

From two choices, one. Either Hamas leaders re-establish the truce that they broke, and, while they're at it, declare null and void a charter founded on the pure rejection of the "Zionist Entity": In doing so, they will rejoin the vast party for compromise that has not ceased--God be praised--to make progress in the region, and peace will be established. Or they will only, obstinately, consider the suffering of Palestinian civilians in terms of its fueling of their annealed passions, their insane hate, nihilistic, beyond words. And if that is the case, it is not only the Israelis, but the Palestinians, who will need to be liberated from Hamas' somber shadow.


My cousin Savtadotty had a link on her Facebook page to Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist)...and he has a blog that looks interesting: cnewmark.com:
"White House illegally deleted Secret Service computer records"

Ellen Miller from the Sunlight Foundation tells us about a small but signficant victory for the good guys.

Turns out the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, CREW was investigating visits to the White House of nine conservative religious leaders. They also were checking up on. Stephen Payne, a lobbyist, caught in a video sting operation.

Come On People...

I thought the appearance of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint on Meet the Press this morning was interesting. Something seemed left unsaid. When I googled the book, it showed up on Thomas Nelson's website for Christian inspirational titles, COME ON PEOPLE: On the Path from Victims to Victors:
When you have people who tell you, "You can't get up, you're a victim," that's when you know that it's the devil you're hearing, no one else.

Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint have a powerful message for families and communities as they lay out their visions for strengthening America or, for that matter, the world. They address the crises of people who are stuck because of feelings of low self-esteem, abandonment, anger, fearfulness, sadness, and feelings of being used, undefended, and unprotected. These issues often impede their ability to move forward. The authors aim to help empower people make the daunting transition from victims to victors. Come On, People is always engaging and is loaded with heart-piercing stories of the problems facing many communities.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Picturing Florida at the Menello Museum of Art

Just a plug for a new exhibition at the Menello Museum of Art in Orlando, for those readers heading to Disneyworld...our friend Victor Bokas's work pictured here is featured....January 9th to February 28th.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Melanie Phillips on the Gaza Crisis

From The Spectator (UK):
What is also being almost totally obscured by the western media jihad against Israel is the murderous onslaught by Hamas against the Palestinians themselves. Here is another video apparently showing Hamas mowing down and murdering a Palestinian wedding party for no other reason than there was music and dancing at the wedding. The narrator asks repeatedly why, if Hamas murder their own people, they are so angry when the Israelis kill them in self-defence. There is no indication of who the narrator is – he describes himself merely as an Arab, but he is clearly a supporter of Israel – so you will need to draw your own conclusions. Such Arabs certainly exist, but for obvious reasons need to keep the lowest of profiles. Also obscured by the media jihad is the fact that Hamas are not parochial Palestinian terrorists but Islamists bent on global domination. On this MEMRI video, they say in terms that the wish to annihilate not just Israel but Europe and America and conquer the entire world for Islam.

Savtadotty on the Gaza Crisis

From Cousin Lucy's Spoon:
A good part of today so far was spent obsessing and discussing the current doings in Gaza. One of my friends regrets that Israel didn't send ground troops in at the very start to rout out Hamas terrorists more quickly, another focuses on the tragedy of civilian deaths, and now Joe the Plumber is coming to Israel to report on the situation first-hand as a citizen journalist.

To take a break, I had a refreshing conversation with my daughter-in-law Pippi Bluestocking, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance Drama back in the USA. And, not being able to control myself after the usual catch-up on my granddaughter's doings - actually make that my granddaughters' doings, because Mermaid Girl is visiting from Booland - I asked: Why are the English-language and European media so anti-Israel? To which Pippi replied, Because the Palestinian story is more dramatic.

Good heavens, she's not only a professor of Drama, she's also brilliant.

Arianna Huffington: Follow the Bailout Money

It's funny that I knew both Ann Coulter and Arianna Huffington...Yin and Yang commentators. Here's Arianna's latest:
On top of it, the bailout is a fascinating story. Not so much a whodunit as a who's-doing-it. This mystery is unfolding right in front of us, and the size of the victim pool could very well depend on whether we unravel the mystery in flashback or while it's still in progress.

Like most good mysteries, this one has a huge cast of characters -- like the Dickensianly named Neel Kashkari, the young Goldman banker put in charge of the bailout at the Treasury Department, the sharp-tongued Barney Frank, and the earnest and increasingly bewildered Hank Paulson, who started off the bailout process by romantically getting down on one knee in front of Nancy Pelosi and proposing to make the whole thing official.

But what we know is clearly dwarfed by what we don't know, because at every point in this story, the government has chosen to draw the curtains.

Just last week, four firms -- Goldman, Blackrock, Wellington and PIMCO -- were selected to manage the $500 billion account of mortgage-backed securities for the Fed. But how they were selected, what they're getting paid, and what they plan on doing with the money is all under wraps. "The selection of these managers seems incredibly opaque," Jeffrey Gundlach, an expert in mortgage-backed securities, told TPMmuckraker.

The head of one of the firms, Bill Gross of PIMCO, assured CNBC last month that "PIMCO would be the leader here in suggesting to the Treasury that we would work for no fee." So is Gross holding to his no fee pledge? We don't know - and the government isn't in any rush to tell us.

As a GAO report last month dryly concluded: "The rapid pace of implementation and evolving nature of the program have hampered efforts to put a comprehensive system of internal control in place. Until such a system is fully developed and implemented, there is heightened risk that the interests of the government and taxpayers may not be adequately protected and that the program objectives may not be achieved in an efficient and effective manner." In other words, the money is flying out the door but no one is watching where it's going.

Why I'm Supporting Dr. Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General

Opposition to Obama's nominee stems from his TV debate with Michael Moore, according to a report in The Hill. Years ago, Moore tried to get a small-circulation film journal called Montage to kill a critical article that had been assigned to me by my editor, titled "Will the Real Michael Moore Please Stand Up?" Despite a lot of pressure, the editor stood firm against Moore--he made the article tougher than my original draft. But the editor subsequently relocated to England. And that was the end of my career in documentary film. I'm not saying that Moore got me blacklisted...but he kept making pictures, won Academy Awards, even had a Fox TV show--and I didn't.

In any case, I support Dr. Gupta because of the Stalinist party-line thuggishness of his opponents' arguments against him. So, Dr. Gupta disagrees with Michael Moore that American health care is inferior to Cuba's. So, he made a few mistakes. Who doesn't?

IMHO (as a holder of a PhD in Film and Television) Dr. Gupta would make an excellent spokesperson to push Obama's health care reform plan through Congress. That he was critical of socialized medicine gives him more credibility, not less, whatever Paul Krugman and Congressman Conyers might say. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that given a choice between Michael Moore and Dr. Gupta, the American public are more likely to believe Dr. Gupta...

Obama's Plan for Middle East Peace?

Daniel Pipes has suggested it may be found in Richard Haass and Martin Indyk's book, Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President, published by Brookings. Pipes called it "pablum," but maybe that's what the world needs now...here's an excerpt from an interview on PBS's Charlie Rose show:
Charlie Rose: So what we have here is "restoring the balance", let's pick up on this title first.

Martin Indyk: Well, our thought was that the most important balance that needs to be restored is between the use of force and the use of diplomacy.

I think that fits very well with the whole attitude of President-elect Obama and his Secretary-designate Clinton – that there needs to be greater emphasis on diplomatic tools, and in particular in the Middle East, greater emphasis efforts to engage. And that is something that we go into detail in – how to engage Iran, which the President-elect has a mandate to do now; how to move the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward; and how also to bring Syria into the Arab-Israeli negotiations, so that there can be a comprehensive effort to achieve Arab-Israeli peace at the same time as we engage with Iran.

And to create some synergy between these three initiatives that we think can have some positive impact on the overall objective of trying to make the Middle East a more stable, peaceful, and free place. The critical thing here is that we have 3 huge diplomatic challenges, so it is going to be a very tall order for the next president.

Christopher Hitchens on the Gaza Crisis

From Slate:
So, that is why this nasty confrontation is taking place this time instead of at another time. But each miniature of the picture also implies its own enlargement, which in turn suggests that if the latest Gaza war hadn't come at this time, it would certainly have come at another. Again and as usual, Morris' work is instructive. As one of the most stern of the "revisionist" historians of Israel's founding who went deep into his own country's archives to show that Palestinians had been the victims of a deliberate ethnic cleansing in 1947-48, Morris is accustomed to looking disagreeable facts in the face. I strongly recommend a reading of his Dec. 29 op-ed in the New York Times. In it, he described not so much what he saw when he himself looked facts in the face as what Israelis see when they look outward and inward. To the north, Hezbollah local missiles backed by Syria and Iran, two dictatorships, one of which may soon possess nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. To the south and west, Hamas in Gaza. In the occupied territories of the West Bank, the same old colonial rule over the unwilling and the same mad confrontation with the Messianic Jewish settlers. Within Israel itself, an increasing tendency for Israeli Arabs to identify as Arabs or Palestinians rather than Israelis. Overarching everything, the sheer demographic fact that Israeli law, and Israeli power, governs or dominates more and more non-Jews, fewer and fewer of whom are interested in compromise. (It was this demographic imperative, if you remember, that made even Sharon give up the idea of "greater Israel," a scheme for which many state-subsidized Israeli settlers are still very much willing to die—and to kill.)

Compared with the threat to its very existence that had been posed in 1967, wrote Morris, the only changes that now favored Israel were the arrival of another 2 million or 3 million Israelis and the acquisition of a nuclear arsenal. But how reassuring, really, are those developments? Where are the new immigrants to go, unless onto disputed land? And on whom can the nukes be employed? On Gaza? In Hebron? These places would still be there, right next to the Jewish community, even if Damascus and Tehran were ashes. Only the messianic could even contemplate such an outcome. (What a pity there are so many of them locally.)

Confronted with this amazing concatenation of circumstances, and with some of the frightening blunders—such as the last invasion of Lebanon—that have resulted from it, some Israeli politicians appear to think that taking a tough line in Gaza might at least be good for short-term morale. This was the clear implication of the usually admirable Ethan Bronner's New York Times front-page reports on Dec. 28, 2008, and Jan. 4, 2009. So why not just come right out with it and say that one is bombing for votes?

It is only when one begins to grasp all the foregoing that one understands exactly how disgusting and squalid is the behavior of the Hamas gang. It knows very well that sanctions are injuring every Palestinian citizen, but—just like Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq—it declines to cease the indiscriminate violence and the racist and religious demagogy that led to the sanctions in the first place. Palestine is a common home for several religious and national groups, but Hamas dogmatically insists that the whole territory is instead an exclusively Muslim part of a future Islamic empire. At a time when democratic and reformist trends are observable in the region, from Lebanon to the Gulf, Hamas' leadership is physically and economically a part of the clientele of two of the area's worst dictatorships. (Should you ever be in need of a free laugh, look up those Western "intellectuals" who believe that a vote for an Islamist party and an Islamic state is a way to vote against corruption! They have not lately studied Iran and Saudi Arabia.) Gaza could have been a prefiguration of a future self-determined Palestinian state. Instead, it has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and made into a place of repression for its inhabitants and aggression for its neighbors. Once again, the Party of God has the whip hand. To read Benny Morris is to be quite able—and quite free—to doubt that there should ever have been an Israeli state to begin with. But to see Hamas at work is to resolve that whatever replaces or follows Zionism, it must not be the wasteland of Islamic theocracy.

Washington Post: "Insane" Secret Service Inaugruation Plan Cuts Virginia Off From DC

From today's Washington Post:
"First was the hysteria of announcing over 4 million people might be flooding the Mall. Later, they amend that number by half. Then they announce there will be no parking, few toilets and that everyone will be standing and waiting for hours. Then they tell people not to bring children and, finally, they close all the bridges," fumed Virginian Holly Kenney. "Do they think we're dense? Clearly, the public is no longer welcome."

But to some business and political leaders in the region, the plan represents more than a snub. They are concerned that the unprecedented closings and restrictions will turn away visitors, hurt businesses and employees, and tip the balance too far toward security over access.

The plan unveiled by the Secret Service and area transportation officials Wednesday closes all Virginia bridges across the Potomac and interstates 395 and 66 inside the Beltway to personal vehicles. It also cordons off a large section of downtown Washington to help manage the unprecedented crowds expected. Maryland, in contrast, has no planned road closures.

"The Secret Service, they're insane," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-Alexandria). "This is security on steroids. They are imposing major obstacles on people who have a right to be there for the inauguration..."

...Alexandria resident Phil Hocker, 64, is trying to figure out a way to get his family to the inauguration and was furious about the announced restrictions.

"The Secret Service's plan to keep the inauguration secret is succeeding," he said. He also blames the Obama transition team for not putting its foot down with security officials. "If the motto of the campaign was 'Yes we can!' the motto of the inauguration is 'No you can't.' "

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Richard Baehr on the Gaza Crisis

From the American Thinker:
In fact, contrary to what we see on television, Hamas does not grieve for children accidentally killed by Israel in the heat of battle. Rather, this is part of the Hamas war strategy. The Palestinian children who die in conflict with Israel are fodder for Hamas' propaganda machine. This is why Hamas uses civilians as shields -- both to protect their fighters and weapons caches, and to play the resulting civilian casualties for all they are worth.

Matt Lauer to Ann Coulter: "You're Not Banned For Life..."

(ht Huffington Post)

More Hillary Clinton Corruption Charges...

At Obamanoms (ht Michelle Malkin):
According to the New York times, a $100k donor to the Clinton Foundation, NY developer Robert Congel, made his donation in November 2004, around the same time Senator Clinton secured a $5 million earmark for Congel’s Destiny USA shopping center and pushed through legislation that helped Congel finance the project. The way the legislation was written, Congel’s Destiny USA shopping center was just one of four proposed projects that would qualify for the program.

Stephanie Miner, a member of the Syracuse City Council critical of the construction project, called Destiny USA a “boondoggle” that won tax breaks with dubious economic and environmental promises.

In another example of possible quid pro quo in the Clinton Foundation donor list, there is the $26 to 30 million total donations from a financier of mining ventures, Frank Giustra, who accompanied President Clinton to Kazakhstan in 2005 on the private jet of Giustra. On the trip, Clinton praised Kazakhstan’s authoritarian president, and Giustra later entered into agreements to invest in uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s government. Giustra donated $10 million to $25 million, and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative gave between $1 million and $5 million.

Finally, there is the odd $10-25 million donation from the Domican Republic’s AIDS agency, COPRESIDA (The President’s Commission on AIDS). COPRESIDA benefited from an Export-Import Bank loan at the 11th hour of the Clinton Administration. The Dominican Republic agency was the buyer in an insurance deal with connections to the state of New York ( the broker of the deal is Export Risk Management, Inc., New York, NY). Why would a cash-strapped AIDS agency accused of mismanagement in a country of 9.5 million give President Clinton one of his largest donations to do the same thing it is trying to do–collect money and redistribute for AIDS projects?

This “coincidence” between benefactors of Clinton’s earmarks/influence and donations to the Clinton apparatus, appears to be similar to another “coincidence” that took place in 2007. Senators Clinton and Schumer sponsored a $1 million earmark for a Woodstock museum that is part of a larger development plan of billionaire Alan Gerry. Days after the earmark was inserted into the legislation, Gerry donated $20,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, managed by Schumer, and $9,200 to Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Spectator (UK) on the Gaza Crisis

From a leader entitled The Right of Self Defence:
Those who criticise Israel’s actions should consider what Britain would have done if Sinn Fein had come to power in the Irish Republic during the Troubles and rockets had been regularly fired across the border. It is hard to imagine Her Majesty’s Government sitting idly by. Equally, it is hard to imagine that any Israeli government would have acted differently from the way this Kadima-led coalition has. Israeli elections are indeed imminent. But simply to interpret the military response as a cynical electoral ploy to shore up Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, and Ehud Barak, its defence minister, is to see the conflict through lazy Western eyes: from its foundation Israel has believed, correctly, that its very survival is at stake. Its leaders have acted accordingly, often in a fashion that baffles those fortunate enough not to live in nations encircled by foes that call for their extinction.

Hamas is radically different from the old PLO. First, it is Islamist, and second, it is largely dependent on Iran for funding and weapons. (The co-operation between Sunni Hamas and Shiite Iran should give pause to those who dismiss all reports of co-operation between terrorist groups and states across Islam’s confessional divide.) Moderate Arab states feel deep unease about Hamas, as they do about Hezbollah, another Iranian terror proxy force. It is indicative of their concerns that they are soft-pedalling their criticism of Israel — the Arab League meeting has been postponed for four days — as they did in 2006 when it launched a major assault against Hezbollah.

President-elect Obama would be well served to concentrate on the Iranian aspect of the problem, as Dennis Ross, Middle East peace envoy under President Bush Sr and Bill Clinton, and Martin Indyk, an ambassador to Israel under Clinton, are urging him to do. Attempts at direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be futile as long as the rejectionists of Hamas remain dominant in Gaza, pawns in Tehran’s chess game. The Camp David talks that came so close to securing a Middle East settlement at the tail end of the Clinton presidency mean that the outline of an eventual Middle East peace deal is already fairly clear. But no progress can be made until Hamas ceases firing rockets into Israel.

In the meantime, the incoming Obama administration should continue with the Bush administration’s efforts to improve governance in the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. It was, after all, the rank corruption of the PA that allowed Hamas to make its electoral breakthrough in the 2006 elections.

This has been a bleak and bloody week in the history of the Middle East, a horrible throwback to the slaughter of the Six Day War and the conflict of 1973. But nothing should detract from the fact that Israel, like every other sovereign state, has the inalienable right to defend its citizens and territory against attack. No progress can be made until the finger-waggers of the West acknowledge that right.

Is The New York Times Going Bust?

From Michael Hirschorn's article in The Atlantic Monthly (ht Huffington Post/Newser):
Specifically, what if The New York Times goes out of business—like, this May?

It’s certainly plausible. Earnings reports released by the New York Times Company in October indicate that drastic measures will have to be taken over the next five months or the paper will default on some $400million in debt. With more than $1billion in debt already on the books, only $46million in cash reserves as of October, and no clear way to tap into the capital markets (the company’s debt was recently reduced to junk status), the paper’s future doesn’t look good.

“As part of our analysis of our uses of cash, we are evaluating future financing arrangements,” the Times Company announced blandly in October, referring to the crunch it will face in May. “Based on the conversations we have had with lenders, we expect that we will be able to manage our debt and credit obligations as they mature.” This prompted Henry Blodget, whose Web site, Silicon Alley Insider, has offered the smartest ongoing analysis of the company’s travails, to write: “‘We expect that we will be able to manage’? Translation: There’s a possibility that we won’t be able to manage.”

The paper’s credit crisis comes against a backdrop of ongoing and accelerating drops in circulation, massive cutbacks in advertising revenue, and the worst economic climate in almost 80 years. As of December, its stock had fallen so far that the entire company could theoretically be had for about $1 billion. The former Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal often said he couldn’t imagine a world without The Times. Perhaps we should start.

Ophir Falk on the Gaza Crisis

From YNet:
Many Western leaders and columnists have embraced the obtuse notion that terrorism cannot be beaten by force and must be appeased or addressed by other means. Yet nothing can be further from the truth.

Israel's counter-terrorism measures were most effective when it applied significant force against terrorist strongholds. The 2002 operation Defensive Shield is a good example. Examples from abroad include the elimination of the Assassins in the 11th century, the Arab Revolt of '36-'39, the Red Brigades, The Shining Path, The Bader Meinhoff gang and others prove that force is the best method for victory.

More recent cases are the Russians’ relative success against Chechen rebels and Turkey's success against the PKK, where the wholesale elimination of the terrorists' leadership usually leading to terror's demise.

Years ago Benjamin Netanyahu noted in brief that the "… the guiding policy should be based on an disproportional response to terrorism. For example, in 1999, after Hizbullah launched Katyusha rockets on northern Israel, we responded with a massive bombing of key infrastructure in Lebanon, causing millions of dollars in damage. The result was a long and quiet period for northern Israel. The key in deterrence and prevention is that the response or perceived response to a terrorist attack will be disproportional to the attack itself."

Robert Spencer on the Gaza Crisis

From JihadWatch:
Many analysts continue to view Hamas (which name is an Arabic acronym for the “Islamic Resistance Movement”) as a nationalist group that will ultimately be pacified once a Palestinian state is set up. And to be sure, the Hamas Charter of August 1988 addresses nationalism, but not quite in those terms. It declares: “nothing is loftier or deeper in nationalism than waging Jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims.” When will this Jihad end? The Hamas Charter quotes Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.”

In saying that “Islam” will eliminate Israel, Hamas, which identifies itself in the Charter as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine chapter, echoes another Muslim Brotherhood document -- one in which the organization vows to work in America toward “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion” -- that is, Islam -- “is made victorious over all other religions.” That is a political statement, not solely a religious one: it is a declaration of intent to bring Islamic law, Sharia, to America, and enforce here its codified discrimination against women and non-Muslims, and its denial of the freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience.

Yet at the same time, it is a religious statement, like those in the Hamas Charter. The fact that those who are waging jihad warfare against Israel and the United States believe that they are carrying out divine commands ensures that neither jihad will end with changes in economic conditions, or with a negotiated settlement. While Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has indicated a willingness to enter into a long-term truce with Israel, he also told Iranian supremo Ali Khamenei in May 2008 that “the Palestinian nation will continue its resistance despite all pressures and will not under any circumstances stop its jihad.”

Was Meshaal, then, simply lying when he declared his openness to a truce? Not at all -- but his call must be understood in light of his own frame of reference, not a Western one to which he does not subscribe. In the West, nations enter into truces with one another because they are weary of war and value peace. No such concept of truce exists in the Islamic law that Hamas and Meshaal accept as their supreme guide. In traditional and authoritative Islamic law, a Muslim force may agree to a truce with a non-Muslim enemy only if the Muslims reasonably expect that their opponents are prepared to convert to Islam, or if the Muslims are weak and need time to gather their strength to fight again more effectively. It is the latter concept to which Hamas has been having recourse in its short-term truces with Israel: it uses the cessation of hostilities as an opportunity to get back on its feet, and then the rockets start once again raining down upon Israel.

The EU and the U.N., and all those calling upon Israel to enter into another truce, should take careful note of that fact. Hamas has never hidden its intention to destroy Israel. Israel should not be impeded in its necessary struggle to destroy Hamas.

Bosnians Protest Against Israel

Another Reuters report:
SARAJEVO, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims protested in front of the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo on Thursday to call on Washington to stop Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Didn't Israel support Bosnia during the Yugoslav war...even taking in a group of Bosnian refugees in 1993? Maybe US policy in the former Yugoslavia needs to be re-examined as well. Calling Leon Panetta!

Afghans Volunteer to Fight Israel

Not surprising, but how come the US and NATO permit recruiting to fight against an ally--much less calls for "Death to America"? Maybe someone could look into the Afghan operation, asap...perhaps Leon Panetta's first task? From Reuters:
KABUL, Jan 8 (Reuters) - More than a thousand Afghans signed up on Thursday to say they wanted to go and fight Israel in the Gaza Strip, many of them blaming the United States which has some 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, for supporting the Jewish state.

Accusations by Taliban militants and some Muslim clerics that Israel and its main ally, the United States, aim to destroy Islam have a strong impact on public opinion in Afghanistan, where Washington plans to almost double its troop numbers this year.

Scores of young men crowded into the library of Kabul's Milad ul-Nabi mosque, lined with banners reading "Death to Israel" and "Death to America", to sign up to fight Israel.

Ann Coulter v NBC

From AnnCoulter.com:
After NBC canceled me "for life" on Monday -- until seven or eight hours later when the ban was splashed across the top of The Drudge Report, forcing a red-faced NBC to withdraw the ban -- an NBC insider told The Drudge Report: "We are just not interested in anyone so highly critical of President-elect Obama, right now," explaining that "it's such a downer. It's just not the time, and it's not what our audience wants, either."

In point of fact, I'm not particularly critical of Obama in my new book. I'm critical of the media for behaving like a protection racket for Obama rather than the constitutionally protected guardians of our liberty that they claim to be. So I think what the NBC insider meant to say is that NBC is not interested in anyone so highly critical of NBC right now. It's such a downer, it's just not the time, and it's not what their audience wants right now, either.

In fact, I think my book is the downer America has been waiting for!

Bring Back the Hospital Laundry!

Doctors and Nurses are killing patients with their dirty clothing, says Betsy McCaughey, also in today's Wall Street Journal:
Dirty scrubs spread bacteria to patients in the hospital and allow hospital superbugs to escape into public places such as restaurants. Some hospitals now prohibit wearing scrubs outside the building, partly in response to the rapid increase in an infection called "C. diff." A national hospital survey released last November warns that Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections are sickening nearly half a million people a year in the U.S., more than six times previous estimates.

The problem is that some medical personnel wear the same unlaundered uniforms to work day after day. They start their shift already carrying germs such as C.diff, drug-resistant enterococcus or staphylococcus. Doctors' lab coats are probably the dirtiest. At the University of Maryland, 65% of medical personnel confess they change their lab coat less than once a week, though they know it's contaminated. Fifteen percent admit they change it less than once a month. Superbugs such as staph can live on these polyester coats for up to 56 days.

Do unclean uniforms endanger patients? Absolutely. Health-care workers habitually touch their own uniforms. Studies confirm that the more bacteria found on surfaces touched often by doctors and nurses, the higher the risk that these bacteria will be carried to the patient and cause infection.

Until about 20 years ago, nearly all hospitals laundered scrubs for their staff. A few hospitals are returning to that policy. St. Mary's Health Center in St. Louis, Mo., reduced infections after cesarean births by more than 50% by giving all caregivers hospital-laundered scrubs, as well as requiring them to wear two layers of gloves. Monroe Hospital in Bloomington, Ind., which has a near-zero rate of hospital-acquired infections, provides laundered scrubs for all staff and prohibits them from wearing scrubs outside the building. Stamford Hospital in Connecticut recently banned wearing scrubs outside the hospital.

Rabbi Marvin Hier on the Gaza Crisis

From today's Wall Street Journal:
There have been hundreds of articles and reports written from the Erez border crossing falsely accusing Israel of blocking humanitarian supplies from reaching beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza. (In fact, over 520 truck loads of humanitarian aid have been delivered through Israeli crossings since the beginning of the Israeli counterattack.) But how many news articles, NGO reports and special U.N. commissions have investigated Hamas's policy of deliberately placing rocket launchers near schools, mosques and homes in order to use innocent Palestinians as human shields?

Many people ask why there are so few Israeli casualties in comparison with the Palestinian death toll. It's because Israel's first priority is the safety of its citizens, which is why there are shelters and warning systems in Israeli towns. If Hamas can dig tunnels, it can certainly build shelters. Instead, it prefers to use women and children as human shields while its leaders rush into hiding.

And then there are the clarion calls for a cease-fire. These words, which come so easily, have proven to be a recipe for disaster. Hamas uses the cease-fire as a time-out to rearm and smuggle even more deadly weapons so the next time, instead of hitting Sderot and Ashkelon, they can target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The pattern is always the same. Following a cease-fire brought on by international pressure, there will be a call for a massive infusion of funds to help Palestinians recover from the devastation of the Israeli attack. The world will respond eagerly, handing over hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom does this money go? To Hamas, the same terrorist group that brought disaster to the Palestinians in the first place.

The world seems to have forgotten that at the end of World War II, President Harry Truman initiated the Marshall Plan, investing vast sums to rebuild Germany. But he did so only with the clear understanding that the money would build a new kind of Germany -- not a Fourth Reich that would continue the policies of Adolf Hitler. Yet that is precisely what the world will be doing if we once again entrust funds to Hamas terrorists and their Iranian puppet masters.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

An Israeli Soldier's Mother on the Gaza Crisis

From A Soldier's Mother (ht LGF):
It is so horrible, sometimes you forget to look behind the picture. It's so simple, really. A child should be able to go to school and be safe. I last spoke to my son days ago and in the background I could hear the sound of explosions. Through the phone, dozens of kilometers away from me, and quite a distance from Elie, I could hear another unit firing. Can you imagine how loud that would be up close?

Yesterday, mortars were fired FROM the school In Jebalya. This was a direct and intentional attack on Israel, on Israel's soldiers and population. Mortars are explosions. They are loud. You can't pretend you didn't hear them. Many months ago, I went to a ceremony on a base where Elie had completed his basic training. Part of the ceremony included Elie's group showing their parents what they had learned. After the awards and the talking, some of the soldiers ran to the armored personnel vehicles, while others, including Elie sat on the ground and watched. An officer came near me, as I stood watching with my youngest daughter. He told me to sit down with the girl "on your lap." So, we sat down, as the soldiers were doing. As another officer was explaining to the crowd about the types of explosives that would be fired, where they would be targeting (the hill a few kilometers in the distance), etc. I saw the soldiers stick their fingers in their ears.

I thought to myself - they've been doing this - they know. So I told my daughter to do the same...quickly. She did, and so did I. Except - then I couldn't hear the explanation and so I uncovered my ears. Now, I've lived in Israel more than 15 years, but there is still sometimes a delay factor in my Hebrew comprehension. Now they are going to fire...took me too long and so, I heard and felt the BOOM as the cannons fired.

Everyone in that building yesterday KNEW that the school was being used as a launching ground...and yet, apparently not one of those thought it would be a smart thing to leave. That seems strange to me, unnatural. I was once in Jerusalem, walking with by two daughters when something "exploded" ahead of me. Everyone around me stopped, as I did. It was a bus hitting something that went flying in the air and crashed loudly into something else. People began to move and yet I stood there, unsure what to do. It should be both human instinct and parental instinct to move away from danger.

And the people who now mourn the "innocents" who died in yesterday's attack on the United Nations school don't question why people remained in the building from which these weapons were fired. They don't question that this defies human instinct and certainly what should have been every parent's first reaction. The people in the school died for three simple reasons:

1. Palestinians decided to use the United Nations school as a launching base to attack innocent civilians. This wasn't the first time they had used the school. Months ago, Israel filed a formal complaint to the United Nations. Clearly, nothing was done to stop this abuse and so we come to reason # 2.

2. The United Nations did not stop the Palestinians from using their area. One might argue that they could not stop them - and the answer, the simple answer was that they should then have made it clear, publicly, that they could not offer a place of refuge in a firing range. They should not have allowed families to take refuge in such a place. And that brings me to # 3.

3. The families and parents. I heard a father mourning the death of his son. He blames the Israeli government, and I blame him. "Are you insane?" I want to ask him. "How could you allow your son to be near mortars being fired? What did you think Israel was going to do?" Why didn't you take your son? Why didn't you behave responsibly? It was YOUR job to protect him; to love him enough to keep him safe and it doesn't take a genious to figure out leaving your son in a building from which mortars are being fired in the middle of a war is negligent, stupid, insane, and so so wrong. How could Israel have known that there were people in the building? All they could know is that mortars were being fired from that location. My son is stationed far from the cities. Why? Because if he is a target, we don't want civilians nearby. We do not hide in hospitals, in schools, in homes. Why, why do the Palestinians? And if they do, why, why does the world blame Israel?

People will ask how it is that I don't blame Israel and the answer is simple. Fire came from that building. Call it what you want - a school, a refuge, a mosque, a home...if you shoot at an enemy...common sense would say the enemy will shoot back. Do it from inside a mosque, and the mosque becomes a target. Do it from inside a school, and the school becomes a target. Do it from behind your citizens and families, and you show the true nature of your society, your culture, your cause...

...And what they forget to tell you - is the people who allowed these many pictures to happen, the ones who posed these children with guns, painted their hands with "blood" and strapped "explosive belts" to their bodies, the ones who raise them to believe death should be attained for the glory of God and the more Jews and heathens and infidels you take with you, the higher your place in Heaven - they are the ones responsible for the horror that happened yesterday because they are the ones who put hundreds of people into a place that should have been a sanctuary and then they turned it into a launching ground.