Monday, December 31, 2007

10 Things That Hopefully Will Not Happen In 2008

Five serious ones:
  1. Mike Bloomberg, New York City's billionaire mayor, should not run for president as an independent, not even with Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as his running mate. He wouldn't win, and would only spoil it for the Democrats.
  2. Iran shouldn't be attacked as long as we don't have enough information about the state of their nuclear program, but neither should Iran's word be trusted without meticulous inspections.
  3. Ehud Olmert shouldn't stick around as Israel's prime minister, but neither should early elections be held, which would only result in Benjamin Netanyahu returning to office.
  4. The Israeli Knesset should not continue the current trend of introducing bills mainly according to what events are in the news.
  5. Meretz should not forget to return to its liberal roots and fill in the gap left by Shinui.

Five silly ones:

  1. Britney Spears should not have any more babies.
  2. The media should stop talking so much about Britney, her sister and their babies. The same applies to all other celebrities (yes, Israeli media, that includes Ninette Tayeb).
  3. Hopefully, no Republican candidate will offer to send illegal immigrants to Iraq and Afghanistan, thus solving two problems at once.
  4. After he'll drop out of the race for president, hopefully Joe Biden will not become too verbose again.
  5. On Israel's 60th birthday this spring nobody should call it an old hag.

Top 10 Things That Didn't Happen in 2007

Just like Time's Person of the Year, this list comes with a "for better or for worse" attached to it. You can decide for yourselves which is for better and which is for worse. Here it is, in no particular order:

  • Vice President Cheney did not invoke martial law.
  • Former Vice President Al Gore did not enter the race for the presidency.
  • A final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, establishing a democratic, moderate, non-hostile State of Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, was not reached.
  • Former President George H. W. Bush did not apologize to Americans and the whole world for how his son and namesake turned out.
  • "I screwed up the war and pretty much everything else I've done since, therefore I step down", said not Ehud Olmert (nor did George W. Bush).
  • Hugo Chavez did not win his bid to change Venezuela's constitution so he could remain in office all his life.
  • The Israeli Knesset didn't do its job - which is to supervise the government and pass laws that make Israelis' lives better.
  • Joe Biden did not talk too much.
  • Iran was not attacked.
  • Israel has not been nuked, nor has any other country.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vladimir Vladimirovitch, 2007 Person of the Year

For some reason I thought Time Magazine would announce its choice for Person of the Year only on Friday, so I planned to write a post today about who I'd pick for the title. Vladimir Putin was my choice, but since Time already named him as POY today, you'll have to believe me that I really did think of him before the announcement.

Putin is as close as you can get to a natural choice. He has made more of an impact than just about anyone this year, flexing his international muscle on various issues: Iran, missile defense, Kosovo, etc., as well as fortifying his position in the Kremlin even as he prepares to leave the presidency. His heir presumptive, Dmitry Medvedev, will appoint him as Russia's next prime minister.

Time named four runners up: Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Hu Jintao and Gen. David Petraeus. Of all of these, Hu Jintao is the only one I'd also pick as a runner up. The Chinese leader is changing his very important country. The others, on the other hand, have not had a great impact this year.

Al Gore was the rightful winner of the Nobel Prize, but most of what he did was in 2006. Thanks to him, most of the presidential candidates have addressed environmental issues, but again - this is the result of what he did last year.

J. K. Rowling wrote a series of books that got young people to read again. Her main impact came when she published the first books, not when she wrote the final novel or outed Dumbledore.

Gen. Petraeus has a tough job, but the war in Iraq is still a quagmire and he hasn't created such a sea change.

There are three others I would have chosen as runners-up, if I were a Time editor: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been a positive and influential leader at the national, European and International levels; Nikolas Sarkozy, the new French president who seems very different from anything we've seen in that country and who was able to stand up to striking workers protesting his plan to roll back some of their wasteful privileges; and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, who has been able to drive the world crazy. Hugo Chavez would have made it into my list too, had his constitutional amendments been approved by Venezuelan voters.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

200,000 Dead Terrorists

Photo: Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the AP photo above of 200,000 Gazans at a rally to mark Hamas's 20th anniversary was "why the hell didn't we bomb that rally?!?". That's just a gut reaction. Doing such a thing would have terrible consequences. While thousands of dead Hamasniks is never a bad thing in and of itself, it would bring about a new intifada and a bombardment of international condemnations for attacking a civilian rally (though, in reality, it's a terrorist rally).

This little fantasy of mine about 200,000 dead terrorists in Gaza brings me to something less fantastical and closer to reality. It seems we are preparing for a big military operation in Gaza, to be carried out in case anyone in Sderot or the nearby area gets killed by Kassam rockets. The reason for such an operation? You would expect the goal to be stopping the Kassams, or at least drastically reducing their numbers, but that isn't it. The army isn't sure going into Gaza would actually be very effective in stopping the rockets from firing at Israeli towns in the Western Negev. The real goal is to raise Israeli public morale. Minister of Defense Ehud Barak wants citizens to feel that something is being done.

If the Gaza incursion won't be effective, it should not take place. Why risk the lives of our soldiers and of Palestinian civilians if the number of Kassam rockets hitting our people will be the same before, during and after the operation?

The job of the government and the army is not to create a false sense of security. Their duty is to create a reality of security. If the latter is impossible, they should not turn their attention to the former.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Long Lost High School Friends

I lost touch with my high school friends not long after graduating. Recently I ran into one of them and it turns out that most of them have not only kept in touch but get together on a regular basis and go on trips together.

On the one hand, since then I have made new friends that I keep in touch with and who are much better friends than my high school friends ever were. I always felt that the people who were my friends in high school weren't my type of people, but they were the best I could find among my peers.

On the other hand, I do feel I might have missed out by not keeping in touch with these guys. From the stories the friend I met told me, it sounds like they're still great friends and have a lot of fun together. But then again, if they're incompatible with me, maybe I wouldn't have enjoyed my time with them even if I kept hanging out with "the old crowd".

Perhaps I'd just like to have old high school friends like there are in American movies and TV shows - best friends for life. Maybe it usually doesn't happen that way. My father's best friend has been his best friend since high school, but other than that one person, his oldest friends are from college. My mother is no longer in touch with any of her high school friends, except for one who works with her.

Anyway, no reason to be sorry. What is gone is gone. I've been pretty good about keeping in touch with a few of my friends from the army and college. I should remember to keep in touch with them and with the friends I currently study with, so 10 years from now I won't write a blog post about missing out on these other old friends.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

So Iran Ain't Going Nuclear?!?

Bombing Iran is off the table. With the latest National Intelligence Estimate saying there is no evidence that Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons, I don't see President Bush or anyone else going to war against Iran anytime soon. The world should still keep an eye on it and demand inspections, but it shouldn't go to war.

It seems to me that the West doesn't really know what's going on in Iran. Going after the country without any real evidence isn't only morally wrong, it is also just stupid and ineffective. If we don't know if they have a nuclear program at all, then if they do have one, we can't be sure we know where the hell all the facilities are.

Knowing what we know now (or rather, knowing what we don't know), I think the risks of attacking Iran are greater than the risks of not doing so.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Fox, HuffPo and the Wrong Crazy Person

In my previous post I chastised Fox News's premature identification of the wrong man as the hostage taker in the Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. I mentioned the Huffington Post as one news source that declared that Leland Eisenberg is the suspect rather than Troy Stanley before Fox News did. As Doug Fisher at the Common Sense Journalism blog points out, the HuffPo was actually just as bad as Fox News.

Read his post here.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Fox News Botches Hostage Coverage

Earlier today Fox News was quick to declare that the person who took hostages at the Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire is Troy Stanley. They detailed his history of mental illness and problems with police. Even after the Huffington Post reported Stanley isn't the suspect, and after police confirmed the suspect's name as Lee Eisenberg, Fox News kept saying something about Troy Stanley and Leeland Eisenberg possibly being the same man. "He may have several aliases", said one anchor.

This is a major journalistic screw-up. I only noticed Fox News reporting the wrong name, but of course other news outlets might have made the same unprofessional mistake. Even during live coverage there is certain information you must confirm before you report it.