November 2010 Archives

Same old

West Bank train line plan draws Palestinian ire
So what doesn't these days?

Shabbat Shalom.

Farewell to Soccer Dad

I didn't want to let the week end without mentioning SoccerDad's retirement from the blogosphere.  He'll be sorely missed.

I'm pretty much at a loss for words, actually.  But Elder of Ziyon has a great tribute up chronicling SD's blogging career and the many valuable contributions he made.  It's just not going to be the same without him.

Shabbat Shalom.


Could Ehud Barak be playing Ehud Olmert to Bibi's Sharon?

And look who might be playing Bibi in this scenario.

Tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his deputy Moshe (Bogi) Yaalon are "on the verge of explosion," Likud sources say.

Yaalon, who serves as Minister for Strategic Affairs, has recently escalated his statements against the PM and in conversations with other ministers charged that "Bibi has been taken captive by Ehud (Barak)".

The rift between the two figures had grown against the backdrop of Yaalon's objection to extending the settlement construction freeze. The deputy PM slammed Netanyahu for "capitulating" to American demands.

Yaalon is also holding Defense Minister Barak accountable for the extended moratorium, charging that most understanding with the US on this front were secured by Barak during his trip to America a few weeks ago.
On the analogy ... I'm kidding, of course.  Sort of.


Jonathan Tobin had one of his wonderfully sensible, reasonable, cogent columns up at Contentions yesterday, defending Bibi's anticipated capitulation to Obama's pressure to "extend" the "moratorium" on building in Judea and Samaria for another 90 days.  It's an odd sort of defense, especially when he starts out conceding so much.

The debate over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to renew a settlement-building freeze in the West Bank has been rightly characterized by my colleagues Jennifer Rubin, Evelyn Gordon, and J.E. Dyer as a measure that will not advance the basic interests of the United States or Israel and that will undermine the slim chances for a genuine peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Others are also correct when they point out that this decision, like virtually every other concession made by Israel since the start of the Oslo process in 1993, strengthens the incorrect perception that the Palestinians are the only lawful owners of all of the West Bank.
You know a but is coming, and it does, but then the concessions continue.

But as much as Oslo has been completely discredited by the Palestinians' refusal to make peace, Netanyahu cannot afford to act as if the desire of the United States to pursue another round of peace talks is irrelevant. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be among the last people on Planet Earth to fail to understand [sic] that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has neither the will nor the interest in signing a peace accord, no matter where Israel's borders are drawn. Their decision -- to hound Netanyahu to renew the freeze for 90 days even after a 10-month freeze was ignored by the Palestinians -- is an absurd policy that mires the administration in a dead-end process that can win them no laurels and few thanks from a Muslim world that Obama is still clearly interested in appeasing.
Indeed.  And yet ... ?

Yet would it have been prudent of Netanyahu to simply say no indefinitely? Another three months of a freeze won't do more to undermine Israel's rights or security than the previous 17 years of fruitless negotiations have done, whereas another spat with the White House that could have been blamed on Israel would worsen the country's position.
Prudent?  I guess it depends upon whom you ask.  Couples waiting to move out of their parents' cramped apartments might think it prudent.  Hospitals needing more surgeries and beds and schools needing more classrooms might think it prudent.  Even day laborers, many of them Arabs, who need the construction work to feed their families might think it prudent.  But obviously, Jonathan Tobin doesn't.  He doesn't want Israel to come off as obstinate, obstructionist or insensitive to the needs of ... President Obama.  That could worsen the country's position.  

What could a few more months of a freeze hurt?  It's not as if the Arabs in the territories are busy creating their own facts on the ground, busy building themselves and laying claim to more land that they can never be removed from.  (Actually, it is.)  It's not as if, in the coming negotiations that Obama envisions, both Israeli and U.S. interests in peace might benefit from raising the stakes of failure and the price of obstructionism by the other side.  (Actually, it is.)  It's not as if, every time Israel makes one of these concessions, both the palestinians and the "international community" up the ante, the rhetoric and the scope of their demands.  (Actually, it is.)

And then there's this.  A(nother) split in the Likud would not be a positive development right now.  Not to mention this refreshingly candid assessment from an Arab League spokesman.

"If the news is true about there being a settlement freeze that excludes Jerusalem and that takes the criticism off Israel, I cannot imagine that would be acceptable to the Palestinian side or the Arab side," said Hesham Youssef, an official with the office of the secretary general of the Arab League.
There is a point at which Israel is going to have to just say no.  Maybe this isn't it, but if not now, when?  Those of us who opposed the first freeze had little doubt it would come to this.  Nor can there be much doubt that at the end of these 90 days, there will be one more sacrifice required in order to prove that Israel is "serious."  And another after that, and another after that.  Perhaps in two years, Obama will be preparing to move back to Chicago and we'll be looking forward to a mending of the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House.  But perhaps not.  Then what?

Jennifer Rubin and Evelyn Gordon and J.E. Dyer are all absolutely right.  And there's just no merit to the argument that Israel needs to keep bowing and scraping and backing up and that somehow this appeasement, if it doesn't exactly endear her to the "international community," will stop them from hating her more.  Will it?  How has that worked out so far?  And yet ...

And yet, it seems that Bibi is going to go for it.  Again.  Given the chance.

More pushback

Westboro Bus Tires Flattened in Okla.

McALESTER, Okla. -- Kansas church members who travel the region to protest at military funerals have been given less than a rousing welcome at McAlester, Okla.

The Tulsa World reports that a half-dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., showed up Saturday in McAlester at the funeral of Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey. After coping with what police said was more than a thousand counterprotesters, the church members found their minivan had flat tires on both the front and rear wheels on the passenger side.

Police said the tires had been slashed.

Officers said the church members were unable to find anyone to fix the flats in McAlester, and had to call a flatbed service truck to transport the van to a Walmart several miles away.

It's a movement.

WASHINGTON - Area protesters Monday aimed to drown out demonstrations in Maryland and Virginia by a Kansas church known for its anti-gay speech at military funerals.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. were drowned out by counter-demonstrators shouting and honking horns during the church's planned protest at Woodbridge High School in Virginia.

"I didn't want to have hatred without it being countered," one counter-protester tells WTOP.

And it's spreading.  In Omaha, the Phelps-bots tried to target the funeral of a high school teacher who had been struck by a car.

The counter protesters set up outside St. Anthony Methodist Church near 150th Street and West Maple Road and said they planned to stay until the funeral come to an end. They said they brought sheets and planned to shield Klinger's family from seeing the Westboro group.

Police said the Westboro protesters came but set up at a gas station 300 feet away, so many of the counter protesters didn't know they had arrived. The Westboro protesters left quickly, police said, and no incidents were reported.
Rock on!

Thousands showed up to pay their last respects to Marine Staff Sergeant Jordan Emrick in Hoyleton Saturday.  However, some unwelcome visitors from the Westboro Baptist Church were a no show

An estimated 850 filled the Trinity Lutheran Church while more watched the service from the gym next door.  About 250 Patriot Guard, Leatherneck and American Legion motorcycle riders were in attendance.  Others lined the streets holding flags and signs remembering Emrick and countering the expected protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church.

That's a very moving tribute, BTW, to a fallen hero, killed while trying to dismantle an IED in Afghanistan.  Here's another one.

The not-so-odd neo-prohibitionist/union union

Strange bedfellows?  Not necessarily.

One of the side stories of last Tuesday's election was the rejection by Washington voters of two alternate propositions designed to get the state government out of the business of selling alcoholic beverages.  Washington is one of only nine states that, to some degree or other, still participate directly in the sale of beer, wine and/or alcohol at the retail level (the others are Alabama, Idaho, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia).  And since those states all operate the retail stores from which some or all of such beverages are sold, the clerks and managers working at those stores are government employees.

Neo-prohibitionists and temperance activists like the idea of state monopolies on the sale of alcohol for a number of reasons.  First, if they can't stop such sales altogether, they'd rather have the government managing it, which pretty much guarantees poor and/or surly service, limited selection and higher prices.  These folks consider such conditions beneficial, as they supposedly discourage alcohol consumption (as opposed to, say, just forcing consumers to purchase products of lesser quality).  Then there's the argument that gevernment employees are somehow better able than private entrepreneurs to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors and intoxicated people.  This is, of course, utter nonsense.  Finally, limiting or prohibiting the sale of alcohol as a private enterprise lends it a whiff of stigma, in addition to discouraging the kind of broader public participation in the industry that might result in more informed and politically active advocates.

The agenda of the unions, on the other hand, is somewhat more straightforward.  State controlled liquor store employees are members of the state employees' association (and, in Washington and Pennsylvania, at least, of the United Food & Commercial Workers' Union), and the unions want to keep it that way.  This suits the neo-prohibitionists as well, because those employees can command higher salaries and better benefits than could private liquor store employees, thus raising the cost of a bottle.  The unions' most vocal opposition to privatization of state liquor monopolies tends to be based on "loss of jobs."  Of course, privatization would likely actually result in more jobs.  They just wouldn't be union jobs.

Privatization, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.  The original Washington ballot initiative, Prop 1100, was designed to do more.  It would, for example, have permitted retailers to offer volume discounts (e.g., to restaurants and warehouse clubs) and to buy directly from producers, thus bypassing the wholesalers and distributors whose pieces of the action so sharply increase the cost of wine, beer and liquor at the retail level (and add no value).  Cue up the neo-prohibs again on the cost-cutting, although on these issues the store employees' unions don't much care.  But that's where the other set of big guns come in.  The middle-men (who were for the alternative ballot initiative, Prop 1105, before they were against it) have powerful lobbies and although they make all their money from the sale of intoxicating beverages, they're not above joining forces with the anti-alcohol crowd to keep it coming.

Even if you don't live in a control state, you're likely to be hearing more from this unholy alliance in the near future.  Since 2005, when the Supreme Court held unconstitutional the laws of New York and Michigan restricting direct shipping of wine to consumers (Granholm v. Heald), that area of commerce has expanded, with more states permitting it to one degree or another, and internet sales booming.  Direct shipping threatens both the state store employees' unions and the middle-men and it drives the neo-prohibs absolutely nuts. 

Not surprising, then, that they've combined to try to legislatively overrule Granholm through a federal bill championing states' rights to place onerous restrictions on interstate commerce when it comes to the sale of alcoholic beverages.  The Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness (CARE) Act of 2010 currently has 152 sponsors in the House, attracting a spectrum of support from Michele Bachmann to Chaka Fattah.  Even before the election, it was looking unlikely that any action would be forthcoming in this Congress, and now at least 40 of those sponsors (including the primary sponsor) will be retiring in January.  But they'll likely be replaced and the bill will most certainly be back next year.

The issue will also continue to pop up on state ballots and executive agendas.  Conservatives who continue to support state liquor monopolies and bans on direct shipping can try to hang their hats on temperance, states' rights and Section 2 of the 21st amendment.  But they face a serious conflict there with the principles of small government and promotion of free enterprise.  Not to mention crawling into bed with the powerful public employees' unions.  Voters should hold them to account on this.

Honor our Vets

Today is Veterans' Day.  Today and every day, let's remember to thank them for their service.

honor our vets.jpg

So how about that Tea Party?

Of Buckley and Beatles is a new blog that offers some unusual and refreshing slants on all sorts of things (along with lots of interesting music).  And amidst the plethora of post-mortems on the mid-term elections and particularly the role of the Tea Party, this analysis especially stands out, partly because it identifies issues I think others have missed.  Also because it's one of the few with which I pretty much entirely agree. 

But don't take my word for it.  Go read.  There isn't an excerpt that does it justice.

The people speak

Ok, this is so much cooler than a lawsuit.

People in Weston, Missouri banded together on Saturday. They wanted to protect loved ones who were saying goodbye to a fallen soldier and stood up to members of the Westboro Baptist Church who planned to protest at Sgt. First Class C.J. Sadell's funeral.
And protect them they did.  The Phelps-bots gave up and went home.  Yeah, maybe they'll be better prepared next time, but this just goes to show what a community can accomplish when it bands together.  Kudos to Weston, MO!

And watch the video.

Hope fades

Cluelessness, not so much.

(AP) ISTANBUL -- Euphoria swept the world after the election of President Obama, a symbol of hope and yearning for compromise after years of war and resentment toward his predecessor's style and policies. Today, after an electoral rebuke at home, Obama is still popular among America's traditional allies, but his star power among Muslims -- a focus of his international outreach -- is fading.
That's not news.  And it's not clear which of those "traditional allies" he's still popular among.  Certainly not this one.  Or even ... this one.


By a little after noon today, one-third of the registered voters in my precinct had already been to the polls.  The parking lot was full and the line was out the door.  Turnout is high for a midterm election.

Make your voice heard.  Please vote!

Hope and change 2010 version


Scott Rasmussen in today's WSJ:

Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.

In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn't win, the other team lost. Heading into 2012, voters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.

Elected politicians also should leave their ideological baggage behind because voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.

I think he's got it.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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