September 2010 Archives

Sestak's record on Israel

Joe Sestak just can't climb out of the hole he's dug for himself.  He and his supporters keep trying, though, with all sorts of misleading claims about his "dedicated and unrelenting commitment to Israel's security."  Why, to read his description, you'd think that when,

[a]s an Admiral in command of the USS George Washington Carrier Battle Group, Joe deployed one of his Aegis cruiser [sic] off the coast of Israel in 2003 to integrate its radar system into Israel's air defense system in order to provide for early warning against missiles that might have been launched by Iraq during the early phases of the Iraq War ...
he did so on his own initiative.  I'm told that's not how it works.

Now Sestak has an ad that claims

According to AIPAC, Joe Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record
But according to AIPAC (on the record), that's just not true.

"Joe Sestak does not have a 100% voting record on Israel issues according to AIPAC. It couldn't be true, we don't rate or endorse candidates," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block of the ad, which ran in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
More Sestak supporters race to the rescue, claiming this is just semantics.  It's not.  Either AIPAC has reported that Sestak has a 100% pro-Israel voting record, or it hasn't.  We're not talking about the meaning of "is" here.

And that's going to be wrap for this week.

Chag Sameach! 

Lieberman makes at least some sense

Unlike almost anyone else any more.  And of course the few people who are actually listening aren't paying attention and/or are totally distorting the message.

Said Lieberman to the UN GA:

A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations. ...

We are not talking about population transfer but about defining borders so as best to reflect the demographic reality.
Reports the same JTA:

Bibi backs away from Lieberman population exchange plan

But, please, let's just continue on down this road of proven failure and repeat the same mistakes with ever-more-devastating consequences for decades to come.  If we last that long.

Actually, a much more coherent version, with the message that the world doesn't want to hear but should, is here.

According to the foreign minister, reaching a comprehensive peace agreement in the coming years is unrealistic. He said a long-term intermediate agreement would allow the Palestinians economic growth and freedom of movement while giving both sides ample time to "raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages."

Lieberman added that "the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory.

 "Let me be very clear: I am not speaking about moving populations, but rather about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities," he said.

And on Iran, as well, Lieberman made a crucial point that has been missing from the discussion for too long.

Addressing the Iranian threat, Lieberman said, "Just as the Khomeini Revolution had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue, so too is the Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons unrelated.

"In truth, the connection between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely reversed. Iran can exist without Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, but the terrorist organizations cannot exist without Iran. Relying on these proxies, Iran can at any given time foil any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians or with Lebanon," the FM said.

 "Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians, one which will deal with the true roots of the conflict and which will endure for many years, one must understand that first, the Iranian issue must be resolved," he said.

Lieberman is not "causing Israel damage."  Not this time.  Lieberman is saying what needs to be said.  It's about time someone did.

Sukkah city

On an up note, this is a project that I didn't take too seriously at first, as it appeared to be so far out as to have no connection to any actual observance of Sukkot.  But on delving further, I discovered that it's quite serious indeed, and very interesting.  And next year, it will be expanding beyond New York to many other cities all over the globe.  Rather cool.

Ostensibly the sukkah's religious function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but it is also about universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed in architecture. The sukkah is a means of ceremonially practicing homelessness, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted. It calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to take a moment to dwell on--and dwell in--impermanence.

[ ... ]

'Sukkah City' is an international design competition to re-imagine this ancient phenomenon, develop new methods of material practice and parametric design, and propose radical possibilities for traditional design constraints in a contemporary urban site. Twelve finalists were selected by a panel of celebrated architects, designers, and critics to be constructed in a visionary village in Union Square Park from September 19-20, 2010.

One structure will be chosen by New Yorkers to stand and delight throughout the week-long festival of Sukkot as the People's Choice Sukkah of New York City. The process and results of the competition, along with construction documentation and critical essays, will be published in the forthcoming book "Sukkah City: Radically Temporary Architecture for the Next Three Thousand Years."

Selected entries will also be displayed in an exhibit at the Center for Architecture in New York City during September 2010.

More at the JPost, here.

Chag sameach!


Chalk up another one.  The thrill is gone, apparently, for Margaret Carlson.  But has she gone over the edge?  I mean, this truly smacks of desperation.

I'm not one of these people who think Obama should be getting down with the people, or getting emotional. A Slick Willie he isn't, nor should he try to be.

But he's being hammered in polls that ask Americans whether he cares about people like them. Where did Mr. Hope and Change go? Even if that was inauthentic, he should bring it back.

Dear Mr. President: Please lie to us?  Yikes.  Just ... yikes.

It's a long time now since Obama was a community organizer. Even then, he might have been more comfortable dealing with communities than with individuals. Democrats are best with groups. If I break down on the side of the road, I hope a Republican stops -- he'll fix my flat and offer me a drink. A Democrat will get busy forming a Committee to Protect Women Who Own Vulnerable Cars.

Uh oh ...

No deal!

This is, I sincerely hope, the last word on ... one of the worst ideas I've heard in a very long time.  It seems to me that Mr. Besser has got this one, at least, pretty much right.  Please click through, though I'm going to post the whole thing here until and unless I'm asked to remove or truncate it.

Pollard for a settlement moratorium? Don't count on it.

Submitted by James Besser on Wed, 09/22/2010 - 10:57

I was intrigued by this week's Internet buzz about reports talks are underway about a possible trade: convicted spy Jonathan Pollard for a three month extension of Israel's West Bank settlement moratorium. Mostly, I was intrigued because people actually believe this silliness.

The New york Times, citing an Israel reported on Monday that the idea was one of many floated by officials in Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, but some Internet news and blog sites immediately began churning out copy suggesting the "deal" was under serious consideration.

Anti-Obama forces are arguing that the proposal is a cynical ploy by an anti-Israel administration to use the hapless Pollard to put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into a position where he would have no choice but to sign off on another settlement building freeze.

Nobody in the administration takes such ideas seriously, and I suspect almost nobody in Netanyahu's office does, either. Ain't gonna happen.

Netanyahu, far as I can tell, isn't particularly interested in winning the release of a spy who's had nothing good to say about this government. Nor is he stupid enough to think such a trade would buy him breathing room with an Israeli right that wants Pollard released - but not nearly as much as they want to hold on to the West Bank and fight creation of a Palestinian state.

Of course Obama is interested in a settlement freeze, but not at the cost of stirring up an intelligence establishment in this country that is determined to keep Pollard in jail - out of sheer bias, out of a sense of outrage that his "contrition" seems limited and his supporters regard his actions as heroic, out of motives I can't even begin to fathom.

With congressional elections in the offing, the last thing the president needs is a major war with the entire defense and intelligence establishment.

The administration does believe an extension of the settlement moratorium is important, but what they want is some kind of real compromise between Israel and the Palestinians on the issue that is likely to stick throughout a long and arduous negotiating process, not a three-month reprieve that would almost certainly end with a vengeance after Pollard goes to Israel and the three months are up.

And then there's Pollard, who quickly disavowed the "proposed" deal on his official Justice for Jonathan Pollard Web site, saying "Jonathan Pollard's opposition to gaining his freedom at the expense of more Jewish blood being spilled (by the release of terrorist murderers or by the uprooting of Jews from the Land in any form) is well known."

I'm not so sure about that disavowal (no link intended).  It sounds pretty dilute to me.  The so-called "logic" behind the floating of this proposal is that it would show American "seriousness" about and willingness to make "sacrifices" for the peace process (huh?) and that Israel could not possibly turn it down.  I totally reject both premises.

Long time readers of this blog know my position on Pollard and I have no interest in going into that again.  But attempting to drag him into these negotiations at this time is simply brain-dead stupidity and contrary to all of Israel's best interests, and I'm deeply disappointed that it was raised and is being promoted by someone for whom I otherwise have a great deal of respect.

You get Coons

In "Two Cathedrals," one of the most gut-wrenching episodes of The West Wing (especially when it re-ran the week after 9-11), President Bartlett is berating God for his secretary's tragic death and after enumerating a few of his more notable accomplishments in office, he decides (momentarily) not to run for re-election.  "You get Hoynes," he tells God, referring to his egotistical, ineffective VP.  Of course, by the end of the episode, we know that he's changed his mind.

No such dramatic turnaround is in the offing for Delaware's Senate race.  24 hours ago, the GOP had a solid (moderate) R pick-up in the bag, all the polls showing Joe Biden's seat an easy win for popular nine-term Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle against relatively unknown Democrat Chris Coons.  But the Republican voters of Delaware nominated Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell instead, and now the predictions for that seat have flipped to a safe, blue D.  I rarely find myself in agreement with much at Salon, but they got this right.

Republicans in Delaware faced a very simple choice in Tuesday's primary: Did they want to win Joe Biden's old Senate seat in November, or did they want to lose it?

They went with the latter option, and if that really surprises you, then you haven't been paying close enough attention to Republican Party politics in the age of Obama.

(After that, it gets silly, but point made.)  Conservatives are understandably fond of pointing out how Obama's fetish of ideological purity continually trumps his political sense and his commitment to the success of his party.  It's safe to say that finger is now pointing squarely back at them.

There is great joy and, yes, hope, among Democrats today.  Sometimes, it only takes a small shift in momentum to turn the whole game around.  It remains to be seen how much play they'll get out of this one.

One thing is a virtual certainty.  The Republicans in Delaware have thrown away a seat in the the U.S. Senate.  Delaware gets Coons.

Still here

A few thoughts about that non-Koran burning.

Jeff Jacoby has some good ones, here.  He first affirms the assortment of disparate voices that were raised in chorus against it, then points to the historically confirmed dire consequences of book burning, but finally concludes:

Jones's threat to burn the Koran was ugly and offensive. It deserved to be reviled as an affront to civility, to American values, and to the millions of good Muslims who stand with us in the war against the radicals. But it is never right for the president or his aides to pressure US citizens into silencing themselves or stifling their liberties in order to conciliate violent zealots. If the years since 9/11 have taught us anything, it is that jihadists must be resisted, not appeased.

Richard Cohen comes to a sort of similar conclusion, albeit via a different and somewhat more provocative route.

Jones is neither a great man nor the leader of a great cause. But what he wanted to do was both permissible under our system and, in a sense, valued. He was attempting to make a statement. It was chaotic and bigoted, but it was a political statement nonetheless, and he had every right to make it. Still, President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Afghanistan War commander Gen. David Petraeus urged him to stand down -- the lives of American soldiers were at stake. Jones stood down.

[ ... ]

Barack Obama did as he had to. His first obligation is to protect American lives -- especially troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, somehow in the back of his mind he must have acknowledged a competing obligation to protect American values and not, as too many people did with Rushdie and Westergaard, consent to ones antithetical to our own. Jones is a jerk, a Warholian concoction who used his allotted 15 minutes of fame to trigger concern at home and riots abroad. He is ugly in aspect and message, yet if a line were drawn and I had to choose a side, I would have no choice. I stand with him.
Supreme Court Justice Breyer supposedly disagrees.  According to George Stephanopoulos,

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor - with 30 members in his church - threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans.  But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on "GMA" that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

"Holmes said it doesn't mean you can shout 'fire' in a crowded theater," Breyer told me. "Well, what is it?  Why?  Because people will be trampled to death.  And what is the crowded theater today?  What is the being trampled to death?"

Yeah, I'm not so sure Breyer was saying what Stephanopoulos thinks he was saying.  At least, I sure hope not, because, well, short of the connective tissue of "fire," the two examples have very little in common.  The first analogy that occurred to me (and I'm glad to see I'm in good company), was ... how would one make a Constitutional distinction between burning a Koran and burning a flag?  Based solely on the nature of the (voluntary) reaction of those offended?  Really slippery slope there.  Really steep slippery slope.

My own thoughts, however irrelevant: stupid publicity stunt that shouldn't have been given publicity.  Glad it didn't happen because it was obnoxious and offensive to a great many people, lots of them non-Muslims.  Now about that mosque ...

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