Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why Israelis Feel Threatened

Historian Benny Morris (of "Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem" fame) has an excellent op-ed piece in today's New York Times about why Israel feels threatened. He outlines two general sources and four specific causes of Jewish Israelis' anxieties.

The first general source is the fact that the Arab and Muslim world have never accepted Israel and still oppose its existence. Generally, he's right about this, but the Saudi Initiative is a glimmer of hope in this regard. On the other hand, the Arabs don't seem to be willing to give up the right of return, so I'm not very optimistic.

The second general source is the deminishing Western public support for Israel. I think this can be countered at least in part by taking steps toward a peace deal that would end the occupation, but there are many bleeding hearts in Europe, and to a lesser extent in the United States, that will always blame Israel for everything, and as long as the right of return isn't implemented, they'll still see Israel as owing the Palestinians something.

The four specific causes of Israel's sense of threat are Iran's nuclear program coupled with their leaders' desire to see a world without a Zionist state, Hezbullah's large arsenal of long-range weaponry and control of South Lebanon, Hamas's control of Gaza and the radicalisation of the Arab citizens of Israel.

As Morris points out, these are all unconventional threats. The first one is a potentially nuclear armed country, two are radical Islamist terrorist groups who reject the existence of Israel, and the fourth is one fifth of our own citizens.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Office Pool, 2009

In my previous post I checked out how well I predicted the events of 2008. Now, I'll predict the events of 2009, again using William Safire's annual column in the New York Times. My reasons for making these choices are in italics.

1. In Demo-dominated D.C., post-postpartisan tension will pit:
(c) Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, a Zbigniew Brzezinski acolyte, over Mideast policy (Emanuel, the son of an Israeli, is likely to clash with the not-so-Israel-friendly Brzezinski school of thought).

2. Springtime for G.M. will lead to: none of the above. (I'm no expert, but I dare say that excessive industrial bailouts and mergers with Toyota or any other foreign car company won't happen. The third option won't happen either).

3. Toughest foreign affairs challenge will come if:
(a) Afghanistan becomes “Obama’s War” or “Obama’s Retreat” (I doubt the US will retreat from Iraq during 2009. It can still be quite a quagmire, but the trouble won't come from a withdrawal. Ukraine is no Georgia, so Russia won't mess with it, even if Putin needs something to distract Russians from the economic depression. An India-Pakistan war is a serious danger, too, but there is a good chance it can be avoided. Which leaves Afghanistan as the toughest challenge. I'd also add the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the list).

4. Oil selling below $50 a barrel will:
(a) threaten President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s June election in Iran (he ain't that popular as it is, but with the economy in the toilet he's even worse off, and hopefully, he'll lose in June. Oil prices have nothing to do with popular support for Hamas, though it may reduce the money Hamas gets from oil producing countries. Anyway, if Tzippi Livni defeats Netanyahu in Feb., it won't be the indirect result of oil prices, but the direct result of the current operation in Gaza).

5. Best-picture Oscar goes to:
(d) “Gran Torino” (I haven't seen any of these films, but I know the Academy loves Clint Eastwood. I'd put my money on two other films not on Safire's list: WALL-E, which I haven't seen yet, or "The Dark Knight", which I've seen and liked, but don't think deserves the honor).

6. The non-fiction sleeper will be:
(e) “Ponzi Shmonzi: The Bernie Madoff Story,” crash-published by a dozen houses (Just a guess, but I think some of those who lost all their savings because of the son of a bitch can regain some of their money by writing books about him).

7. The don’t-ask deficit at year’s end will be:
(c) $1,393,665,042,198 and no cents. (Or more generally, I think the deficit will grow and be more than a trillion, but less than 2 trillion. I say this, of course, despite my complete ignorance of economic affairs, so I'm probably very wrong).

8. In Congress:
(c) among Senate Democrats, Judiciary chairman Pat Leahy’s influence will rise because Supreme Court nominations will take center stage, while Harry Reid’s clout dissipates because of home-state weakness (I suppose Supreme Court nominations are coming up, so Leahy's clout will grow. I'm not sure it will come at the expense of Harry Reid, though).

9. Post-honeymoon journalists and bloody-minded bloggers will dig into:
(a) the jailhouse singing by Chicago’s felonious fixer, Tony (“Who You Callin’ ‘Boneheaded’?”) Rezko, to Dewey-eyed prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to reduce his six-year sentence (Naturally, the guy who has some kind of connection to the new president, as weak as the connection is, is bound to interest the media. Besides, Chicago's corruption has always been fascinating).

10. The Supreme Court will decide:
(a) in nipple exposure or “fleeting expletives” on live TV, that the F.C.C. exceeded its authority in fining Fox for indecency
(b) that the Federal Election Commission was wrong to censure a moviemaker whose “biopic” was hostile to Hillary Clinton during her campaign
(c) that the appearance of impropriety in financial dealings of a West Virginia judge disqualified him from sitting in a coal-company dispute
(d) that Attorney General John Ashcroft and F.B.I. director Robert Mueller had a “qualified immunity” from being sued for racial profiling in imprisoning suspected terrorists
(e) that in al-Marri v. Pucciarelli, a legal U.S. resident cannot be held indefinitely at Guantánamo (sounds safe enough to guess that all of these will come true).

11. Obama philosophy will be regarded as:
(b) determinedly centrist on health care, immigration and protectionism (I think Obama will tread carefully on all issues).

12. Year-end presidential approval rating will be:
(c) sinking but 30 points higher than that of Congress and the news media (and much higher than Bush's approval rating. The euphoria will end so Obama's approval will drop somewhat, but there is a good chance it will still be high).

I wonder, has anyone stuck around to read all my predictions?

2008: I Didn't See That Coming

In my first post of the year, I made predictions about 2008, based on William Safire's annual Office Pool column in the New York Times. Today, the Times published the 2009 edition, which starts out with Safire pointing out that he predicted the Dow Jones would break 15,000 points this year. I made the same foolish wild guess.

So I decided to go back to my predictions and see how I did. I discovered that on many issues I have no idea what actually happened. I'd be happy if Safire also published an "And the winner of the office pool is" column, where he'd give the correct answers, according to what ended up happening. I do know how some things turned out, and I didn't do too well with those, though I wasn't entirely wrong either.

I said that "There Will Be Blood" will win the Oscar. Even though "No Country For Old Men" was the actual winner, I was kind of right. "Blood" was the only film Safire gave as an option that even got nominated in the best film category.

I was right about the Supreme Court: it did indeed rule that gun rights belong to the individual, states can require photo ID to vote, and lethal injection is not cruel and unusual punishment. I'm not a legal expert, so I'm not sure whether or not they ruled habeas corpus applies to Guantanamo detainees, or whether military commissions for detainees were declared illegal on different grounds.

I was pretty much wrong about all the political and diplomatic issues, except that I think I was right about Fidel Castro leaving the world stage, and America is indeed going leftward with a Democratic Congress, though it's with Obama as president, not Hillary Clinton.

Hamas Kills and Injures Fellow Arabs

After Qassam rockets killed two Palestinian girls in Gaza last week, and injured a Palestinian man, the indiscriminate nature of Hamas's weapons has been demonstrated once again today. Missiles launched by the terrorist group hit a construction site in Ashkelon, killing Hani al-Mahdi, 27, and injuring 10 other workers, all of them Palestinian citizens of Israel. Will Hamas now declare this innocent victim a Shaheed?

In related news, Israel destroyed about 40 tunnels in the Rafah area. This will substantially reduce Hamas's capability to re-arm itself. So far, the operation has been going very well.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Good Job, IAF!

One of the most frustrating things about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that the solution is very clear to most people, but that's still not enough to end the violence. The only way out of this quagmire is the two state solution, with Israel and Palestine side by side, and no return of Palestinians into Israel. This very sensible solution is rejected by Hamas, who would rather keep fighting Israel until all of this "holly Muslim land" is "liberated". It even seems to be rejected by Fatah, who still calls for the return of Palestinian refugees into Israel.

Radicalism must be crippled on both sides. Right now we're working on crippling Hamas. When we're done with that, we should reign in the rogue settlers. But that will be later. Now Hamas is the enemy and I wish all their members nothing but the worst.

I'm one angry Israeli, and the longer the range of Hamas's rockets, the angrier I get. Don't screw with Israel!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Airstrikes Against Hamas in Gaza

I'm on the peaceful side of the Israeli political spectrum, but even I think that there is a time for peace and a time for fighting. Israel was right to attack Hamas in Gaza. It isn't attacking civilian targets and civilian casualties are very low among the 200-odd dead and 200 or so wounded.

The ball is in Hamas's hands now. If it stops attacking Israel, Israel will stop attacking Hamas. Eventually, even the border crossings may open.

When even dovish people like Amos Oz and Meretz leader Haim Oron support action against Hamas in Gaza, it means Hamas has really crossed a line. The terrorist organization has been raining scores of rockets a day on Israeli towns over the last week. Even during the so-called ceasefire, Palestinian rockets hit Israel.

Just yesterday, two Palestinian girls were killed by a Qassam rocket which misfired. Also yesterday, a Palestinian man who was injured by a Qassam, which he may or may not have been trying to launch at Israel, was transferred to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment.

The Qassams only hurt the Palestinians. Without them, the lives of Gazans would be much better and the prospect of an independent Palestinian state would be much closer to reality.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Sharia Law in Gaza

According to Al-Hayat, the Hamas government in Gaza has passed a new law detailing the punishments for various crimes, based on Islamic Sharia law. Not surprisingly, whoever cooperates with Israel is sentenced to death. I don't support this, but at least this part is somehow understandable. Now here are some of the scarier Iranian/Saudi Arabian/Taliban-style punishments:

  • For drinking, owning or producing wine - 40 whips.
  • For gambling, hurting religious sensibilities, cursing, humiliating people and hurting the public's feelings - you'll get whipped.
  • For stealing - amputation of the right hand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time's People of the Year

Is there any doubt whatsoever that President-elect Barack Obama is the man of the year? Whether you like him or not, the first African-American President beat off more experienced candidates and made history. Do Time Magazine editors even have to think this through? They seemed to support him during the election, so if they won't select him, it would just be a lame attempt to prove they aren't big fans of his.

The bigger question is who the runners up will be. Clinton? Palin? Tina Fey? I'd choose Hillary Clinton as 1st runner up, since she was very close to becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major party and ended the year getting nominated for Secretary of State. Second runner up will probably be the president of China, and a European leader (Brown of the UK, Merkel of Germany or Sarkozy of France) will be 3rd.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Senate Seat For Sale

Wow, this is absolutely incredible. Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, who has the power to appoint Barack Obama's successor in the Senate, has been arrested for allegedly trying to sell the Senate seat to whoever had the most lucrative offer for him (either cash or a high paying job for himself or his wife). He was recorded on a wiretap saying that if nobody offers him something good enough he'll just appoint himself. This sounds like one of the worst, and most blatant, cases of corruption in US history since the end of New York's Tammany Hall days.

Ehud Olmert must feel sorry for the governor.

Channel 1's Weird Likud Primary Coverage

Because of long lines and problems with voting machines, polls closed only at 1 a.m. in the Likud primaries. Polls are still open in the West Bank. Because of this, results are expected at 2:30, instead of midnight. Nobody is still covering this election, except for Channel 1, the public (government-owned) channel.

Newscasters Geula Even and Oded Shahar, along with political commentator Yaron Dekel, are joking around with the guests in the studio and Ayala Hason-Nesher,the reporter at Likud HQ. Hason-Nesher even asked Even and Shahar how long they have to stay on the air and killing time. They keep joking about not falling asleep. They are acting so silly that when they interviewed Limor Livnat, Even fake-complimented her on her looks and brains, "in case you become the minister in charge of public broadcasting."

Hason-Nesher to Even after Even successfully guessed Moshe Yaalon is in 7th place, according to the unofficial list Hason-Nesher got: "You're not just beautiful, you've got brains".

It doesn't seem like they think anyone is actually watching them.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Likud Moderates vs. Feiglins: Who Should I Root For?

Tomorrow the Likud holds its primaries to elect its list for the Knesset. Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping that right-wing extremist Moshe Feiglin and his supporters, known as "the Feiglins", will not do very well. He fears that if they make it into high places on the list it will cost the party a significant amount of votes. I'm sure he's right. A radical Likud Knesset list would definitely hurt Netanyahu in his race against Tzipi Livni.

I have mixed feelings about the results I'd like to see coming out of tomorrow's vote. A part of me would like to see the extremists win, so that Likud will lose to Kadima in the general election. However, as an Israeli, I don't really want these dangerous nuts in my parliament. I'd rather see moderates like Dan Meridor, Asaf Hefetz and Uzi Dayan get into the Knesset than Moshe Feiglin.

I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to see the moderates in the top 20, spots considered safe, and I don't want the Feiglins to be in completely unrealistic spots, like 40 and up, but rather places that are on the brink - mid-20's to mid-30's, places where people will say to themselves, "if my vote is the one giving Likud a 26th (or 30th) seat and putting that guy in the Knesset, I'd rather vote for a different party."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Labor's Knesset List

I have mixed feelings about the primary election's results. On the one hand, most of the candidates I support are at the top of the list (Braverman, Yechimovich and Pines), while another, Daniel Ben-Simon, is in 11th place, which just might get him into the next Knesset. On the other hand, the entire second fivesome ("hamishya", places 6-10, not including 7, which was reserved) is made up of people I hoped would be pushed out of the Knesset - Matan Vilnai, Yuli Tamir, Amir Peretz and Fuad Ben-Eliezer, while one of the people who were pushed out was Colette Avital, one of the finest Knesset Members Israel has.

I'm also not happy about Yoram Martziano winning the seat reserved for struggling neighborhoods. Martziano is a thug whose main contribution to Israeli legislation was to overturn a desicion to remove huge billboards from buildings along a busy highway. Transportation experts said the billboards, which usualy have scantily clad models on them, distract drivers and cause accidents, but Martziano came out in defense of the advertising companies. He also got into a fistfight at a nightclub and was accused of sexual harassment. The good news is that Martziano is only in 17th place, and the way it looks now, Labor will get only about ten seats.

Anyway, here's how the Labor Party's Knesset list will look (top 19):

1. Ehud Barak, party chairman
2. Yitzhak Herzog (1st place in primaries)
3. Ofir Pines (2nd)
4. Avishai Braverman (3rd)
5. Shelly Yechimovich (4th)
6. Matan Vilnai (5th)
7. Eitan Cabel, reserved as secretary-general
8. Fuad Ben Eliezer (6th)
9. Yuli Tamir (8th, bumped up one seat due to reservation for women)
10. Amir Peretz (7th)
11. Daniel Ben-Simon (9th)
12. Shalom Simhon (seat reserved for Moshavim)
13. Orit Noked (seat reserved for Kibbutzim)
14. Einat Wilf (10th place in national primary)
15. Ghaleb Majadla (seat reserved for Arabs)
16. Shekeev Shanan (seat reserved for Druze candidate)
17. Yoram Martziano (seat reserved for struggling neighborhoods)
18. Leon Litinsky (seat reserved for Olim, new immigrants)
19. Colette Avital (12th place in national primary, bumped up due to reservation for women)

All Is Quiet On the Hebron Front (For Now)

Israeli forces evacuated 250 settlers illegally occupying a house in Hebron yesterday. It was over within an hour and went just about perfectly, as the evacuees were caught by surprise. They thought negotiations with the government may still produce an agreement that would allow them to stay there.

The trouble came later, when Jewish settlers attacked Palestinians all over Hebron. Settlers shot at Palestinians, burned their laundrey and tried to burn their houses. The police and army did nothing to stop them. This is a disgrace. The security forces should have treated rioting Jews as if they were rioting Palestinians. All those who participated in criminal acts against innocent Palestinian civilians must be brought to justice.

It is now quiet in Hebron. It is hard to know how long this will last.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Labor Primaries Postponed Mid-Voting

I waited two hours today at my polling place to vote in the Labor Party's primary election. The voting system crashed and so we had to wait for it to come back up again. Once in a while it came back up, two or three people managed to vote and then the system crashed again. The poll workers said there were problems all over Israel and that the company running the system had only two tech support guys for the whole country. It was ridiculous. In the end I didn't vote at all.

Turns out that the party has decided to stop today's elections and postpone them to December 10. This was the Labor Party's first attempt at electronic voting, and during the re-vote they'll go back to the old system of paper ballots. I think they should have had paper ballots available today as backup in case the system fails.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Labor List Prediction

Other than Ehud Barack and Eitan Cabel, who have the 1st and 7th places on the Labor list reserved, as well as a few people running unopposed for seats reserved for specific geographic and demographic districts, all other people who want to get into the party's list have to succeed in tomorrow's primaries. Here's how I predict the top 10 will look:

1. Ehud Barack (Reserved, as party chairman)
2. Ofir Pines (1st place in primaries)
3. Shelly Yechimovich (2nd)
4. Avishay Braverman (3rd)
5. Yitzhak Herzog (4th)
6. Daniel Ben-Simon (5th)
7. Eitan Cabel (Reserved, as party secretary-general)
8. Colette Avital (6th)
9. Amir Peretz (7th)
10. Einat Wilf (8th)

Coming in at 9th place and getting the 11th spot on the list will be Fouad Ben Eliezer. 10th place, who will get to be no. 14, after the two spots reserved for Moshavim (Shalom Simhon, running unopposed) and Kibbutzim (where Orit Noked will probably win), will be Yuli Tamir.

I'm predicting that 4 women will be among the ten people with the most votes, and three of them will also make it to the Knesset list's top 10. They don't even need the places reserved for women (5th, if no woman is elected to places 1-4; 9th, if no woman is elected to places 6-8; and 14, if no woman is elected to places 11-13). I may be too optimistic here.

Polls close at 22:00 (3 PM Eastern), and voting is electronic, so results should not take too long to be tallied and announced.

My Labor Votes

The Israeli Labor Party selects its Knesset list tomorrow. Each party member chooses five to eight of the 19 general candidates plus votes for district candidates. As a (not so proud) member, I'll have the right to vote as well. I'll be voting for Avishay Braverman (a brilliant economist), Ofir Pines (a sane moderate on social and national security issues), Shelly Yechimovich (an excellent legislator who used to be extremely leftist in her previous journalism career, but who has become a moderate), Colette Avital (excellent legislator and former diplomat) and Daniel Ben-Simon (a former Ha'aretz journalist who has entered politics recently). I might also vote for Shimon Sheetrit, a law and political science prefessor and former cabinet member, and Dr. Einat Wilf, a young academic with interesting ideas about education.

You may notice I'm not voting for any generals. I have no idea what good Fouad Ben-Eliezer, a retired Brigadier General, has ever done for this country in all his years in government. He's been good to members of strong labor unions, but not to the general population. Matan Vilnai, a retired Major General who I used to like, has had some very odd security proposals recently.

Neither will I be voting for Yuli Tamir, the Minister of Education. She has let the Ministry of the Treasury run negotiations with teachers' and university professors' unions and , and she has led the awful Ofek Hadash (New Horizon) reform plan, which gives teachers slightly more pay for a lot more work (meaning that per hour, their pay was cut), among other problems.

I will not vote for the inept Amir Peretz or the bleeding-heart Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer. I will also vote against the Ars (thug) Yoram Martziano, who is running in the "neighborhoods" district (where only residents of poor neighborhoods can run but all party members can vote).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Olmert Has To Go

Israeli Attorney General Menny Mazuz announced yesterday that he will indict Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, pending a hearing. Olmert is suspected of billing several charitable foundations as well as the state for the same flights, and using the surplus for his family's personal travels.

Olmert resigned a few weeks ago, but is still officially the prime minister until the next government is formed. He should declare himself unable to carry out his duties and allow his deputy, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, to become Acting Prime Minister.

Instead of doing the right thing, Olmert (or, as the media calls it, "people close to Olmert") blasted the attorney general for not waiting until he becomes a former PM. I don't think Mazuz should have waited. Once he has enough evidence for an indictment, he should indict Olmert, just like any other suspect.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In Context, Denis Leary Is an Even Greater Asshole

A few weeks ago, the New York Post published an excerpt from Denis Leary's new book, "Why We Suck". The quote, from a chapter titled "Autism Shmautism", caused a stir because Leary claimed kids who were nothing more than brats were diagnosed with autism so their "inattentive mothers and competitive dads" would feel better about themselves. Leary later said the quote was taken out of context and if you read the whole chapter and book you'll see that right after the offending paragraph he talks about autistic kids he knows personally, which would demonstrate that he knows that autism is real.

Well, folks, I've read the chapter. It has been posted online. In context, it is even worse. Here's the part about his friends' autistic children:

"I know a couple of autistic children and let me tell you something they both have in common-they are extremely bright and attentive and­ much like Rain Man-have individual talents and abilities that would lay your empty little tyke’s video game-addled soul to waste. A truly au­tistic child may be able to reproduce music he or she hears with perfect pitch-entire classical pieces, the rock opera Tommy, the latest hit Broad­way musical-over and over again. OR tell you instantly upon hearing what your birthday is-what day it has fallen on every year for the last four decades. What the weather was on those days. Who the president was at the time. What the number one song on the radio was just before singing it note for note and word for word. THAT’S an autistic child. Not some fat-assed simpleton whose brain has been fried by television and the Xbox and no proper daily attention from his or her supposedly caring parents."

All he knows about autism comes from Rain Man and two (yes, that's 2!) autistic savants. The idiot thinks you have to be a genius or have some memory-related superpower to be truly autistic. Apparently, he's never heard the often-repeated saying "once you've met one person with autism, well, you met just one person with autism".

Leary then goes on to say, more or less, that Asperger's Syndrome does not exist. After describing the definition of Asperger's, he has this to say:

"Where I come from, we don’t call a guy like that a victim of Asperger’s. We just call him an Asshole Who Won’t Shut The Fuck Up. You wanna find people who don’t think it strange or boring or mind­numbing to listen to you ramble on and on and on about what it takes to plug electronic boxes into electro converters and then into tubeless amplifiers THROUGH a remote-access special effects board and blap blappety blap until shit shoots out of a guitar played by a guy wearing fourteen-inch-high platform-heeled leather boots and a girdle? Here’s the list:

1. The guy in the girdle
2. You
3. People with Kiss T-shirts on

That’s it.

You don’t belong in the spectrum of autism disorders. You belong backstage with a shitload of AA batteries and a suitcase full of roman candles. Long-winded and one-sided."

I hope his book tanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

High Functioning, Low Funding

The Israeli Education Ministry is about to change the method it uses to determine how much money to spend on each student with special needs, Or Kashty of Ha'aretz reports (Hebrew version here). Instead of getting money according to the type of disability, each child's level of daily functioning at home and in class will determine how much money the school will get for his needs. This will be determined by testing the child's verbal, cognitive, social and motor skills as well as his level of independence. High functioning children will receive less money than they do now.

This is another case of punishing success and progress. In Feb. 2006 I wrote about how education officials were trying to cut my high functioning autistic nephew's assistance at school. Now, almost 3 years later, he's doing even better, but there is still a lot more he needs help with. So-called experts may see a child who seems almost like all the other kids, just maybe asking too many questions, so they'd cut his funding, meaning less hours with his "shadow" assistant. That would be very bad for him. He still needs frequent, subtle guidance.

As Laura Tisoncik said: "The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means that your deficits are ignored and low-functioning means your assets are ignored... Either way, you get ignored."

Crime of First Degree Yawning

The commander of the Ramat David Air Force base has sentenced a soldier to 21 days in prison for yawning during a memorial service commemorating the 13th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The soldier yawned during the commander's speech. The commander put the soldier on trial for disrespectful behavior. More specifically, he says the soldier showed contempt for Rabin's memory. I think the commander was insulted that the soldier dared to yawn during his speech. "My speeches are not boring!", he must have thought to himself as he sent the young man to jail.

Bedouin Obama?

According to the Times of London, an 8,000-member Bedouin tribe in Northern Israel is claiming President-elect Barack Obama as one of their own. Abdul Rahman Sheikh Abdullah, a local council member in Bir el-Maksur in the Galilee, says Obama's grandfather was one of the Kenyans who came to work in the town during the 1930's. He married a local Arab woman and returned with her to Africa. Abdullah's 95-year old grandmother figured out the connection when she saw Obama and noticed a resemblance to the in-law she hadn't seen in decades.

Is there any truth to this? I doubt it. They claim they have documents proving the lineage, but will show it only after they personally present it to Obama first. Since Obama is not likely to invite them to the White House, they'll never show anyone the proof.

If it does turn out to be true, I can understand why they are proud. It won't change Obama's foreign policy, though.

No Cookies For the Cookie Monster

Kristina Chew of Autism Vox reports that Cookie Monster now eats vegetables. He has a cookie once in a while, but what he eats on a daily basis comes out of Mother Earth. Have the producers of Sesame Street gone crazy? I can't even imagine him eating health food. The rates of overweight and obese children in the United States are very high, but is this the way to deal with it? Is Cookie Monster, in his cookie-eating form, a bad influence?

I loved Cookie Monster as a child. I also loved eating cookies. One didn't have anything to do with the other. I bet my love for sweets came along way before I ever watched Sesame Street. And if you think of it, the furry blue muppet never ate the cookies, he just made a mess out of their crumbs. How many children actually imitate him like that?

As a person who grew up watching two versions of Sesame Street in two different languages in two different countries (Israel and the US), I have a request: Bring back the "cookie" into Cookie Monster. If you want to teach children about nutrition, which is not a bad idea at all, bring in a new character for that purpose.

I wonder if Ugifletzet, the Israeli version of Cookie Monster, has also gone vegetarian. My nephew and niece would probably know.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Jerusalem's Sad Mayoral Elections

Most of Israel's municipalities are holding elections tomorrow. Jerusalem is one of them, and boy am I glad not to be a Jerusalemite. Three men are running for mayor: Meir Porush, Nir Barkat and Arcadi Gaydamak. To say that they're all unworthy would be an understatement. Every single one of them would be a horrible mayor.

Meir Porush, a member of the Knesset representing the ulta-Orthodox Agudat Israel Party, has been quoted as saying that within 15 years there will be no secular mayor anywhere in Israel. He has a right wing political agenda and would like to impose a "medinat halacha", a state run according to religious law. The outgoing mayor, Uri Lupolianski, who is not running for re-election, was the first ultra-Orthodox mayor of Jerusalem, and he tried not to anger what is left of the secular population of the city. Porush doesn't seem as conciliatory.

Nir Barkat is known as "the secular candidate". He is a millionaire businessman and a right wing hawk who wants to build Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. While the mayor has nothing to do with peace negotiations, he can make things very difficult by creating facts on the ground. Maybe the fact that he is a successful businessman at least means he's a good administrator, but that isn't good enough for a city like Jerusalem.

Trailing in third place, according to the polls, is Arcadi Gaydamak, an eccentric Russian-born billionaire who is wanted in France for illegal arms dealing with Angola. He doesn't speak Hebrew, other than a few words here and there, so he communicates with Israelis in English. I don't really know what his platform is, if he has one at all, but the man himself is the problem. He uses his money to gain political power and does not like dissent. He calls anyone who disagrees with him stupid and worse curses. He even asked "who is Tzipi Livni to decide not to join forces with me in the municipal elections". That's quite a nerve!

Oh, Jerusalemites, don't you deserve better?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Electoral Precognition: The Results

On Oct. 22 I tried to guess how many electoral votes Barack Obama would win and which states he would carry. I predicted he would win 306 EVs. A few days before the elections I revised my prediction, giving him 326 EVs. I misunderestimated him, as Bush would say. Obama has won at least 349 electoral votes. The votes in North Carolina and Missouri are still too close to call, but it seems he is leading in NC and behind in MO, which would mean he would end up with 364 votes vs. McCain's 174.

Of the battleground states, I correctly predicted Obama would win Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia and lose Montana and North Dakota, and it so far seems as if I was also right about a loss in Missouri. I was initially wrong about Nevada but was right when I added it to the Democratic column a few days before Election Day. The same goes for North Carolina, presuming the final results will show an Obama win there.

I was wrong about Indiana and Florida going for McCain, but was right about all the other red states. Obama did not lose in any state I expected him to win in.

West Wing Similarities Continue

Many have commented on how much this election seemed to immitate the events of the last two seasons of "The West Wing": A young Democratic member of Congress who is a member of a minority (hispanic instead of black) who defeats a veteran Republican moderate senator from the west (California instead of Arizona). Matt Santos, the Democrat, even picked a running mate much more experienced than himself (a former White House chief of staff instead of a veteran senator) while Arthur Vinick, the Republican, chose a conservative governor to balance the ticket. I also noticed that the new Democratic first lady of the show looks like a younger version of Cindy McCain, the would-be Republican first lady of reality.

Now, with the upcoming appointment of Rahm Emanuel to the powerful position of White House chief of staff, another similarity arises. On "The West Wing", the man President Santos appoints to this position is Josh Lyman, his campaign manager and former deputy White House chief of staff. The Lyman character is widely believed to be based on Emanuel, who was a senior staffer in the Clinton administration.

In the highly unlikely event that Obama decides to offer a cabinet position to John McCain that would be another case of West Wing immitation. President-elect Santos appointed his formal rival as Secretary of State.

Good thing Joe Biden survived Election Night. His West Wing counterpart, Leo McGarry, died of a heart attack before polls closed in the western states. He was written off the show due to the death of John Spencer, the actor portraying him, also of a heart attack. That was another case of West Wing writers predicting the future. McGarry had previously survived a heart attack earlier in the show.

As a side note, Rahm Emanuel's Hollywood agent brother Ari is the basis for the "Entourage" character Ari Gold. I hope Jeremy Piven will be given a line like "I swear I'll get my brother to unleash the IRS on your ass if you don't do what I say".

Obamania in Israel

Haaretz dedicated its front page today to a full transcript of Barack Obama's impressive victory speech, translated into Hebrew. Reporters and news anchors can't wipe the smiles off their faces, even as they ask what Obama's victory means to Israel. Of couse, Israelis are also very happy about the expected appointment of Rahm Emanuel, the son of Israeli parents, as White House chief of staff.

Anybody who thought Israel would go into mourning over the end of Republican rule was wrong. We may have some concerns about Obama, but we are quite confident that Israeli-American relations will remain close.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Constitution Is Making a Comeback

Unexpectedly, I'm feeling quite elated by Barack Obama's victory. I still would have preferred Hillary Clinton and I voted for Obama in the general election only as the lesser of evils. Despite all this, I just can't wipe the smirk off my face.

The end of George W. Bush's administration, along with the end of Republican rule in general, is definitely reason enough to be happy. The total disregard and contempt of the constitution and the rule of law demonstrated by President Bush and Vice President Cheney will not continue under President Obama and Vice President Biden. I am sure that the use of signing statements, statements issued by the president when signing bills into law, will be reduced dramatically, and will be used as directions how to implement the law, not how to undermine and disregard it.

Also, the historical event of electing the first black president of the United States is very exciting. When Obama was born, the southern USA, including his mother's home state of Kansas, was under segregation. Apartheid, in other words. Now, more than ever, America is closer to being the real land of opportunity it has always claimed to be.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why Tuesday: Israel Edition

Today is not only Election Day in the United States. Elections for most municipalities in Israel were also supposed to take place today, but due to the fact that it is November 4th, the anniversary of the Yitzhak Rabin assassination it was postponed by a week. By law, regularly scheduled elections are held on the third Tuesday of the Hebrew month of Heshvan (or the first Tuesday of Heshvan after a leap year). When early elections are called, they are always held on a Tuesday.

The historical reason for Tuesday elections in the United States is well known. Sunday was the Sabbath, and Monday was for traveling to the polling place, Tuesday for voting, and Wednesday was for traveling back. Holding elections on a Tuesday these days doesn't make sense anymore, though, even in the United States. So why are Israeli elections on Tuesdays, other than imitating America?

In Israel, where government services don't operate on Saturdays due to the Jewish Sabbath, I can understand why the weekend is not used for voting. I guess they chose the middle of the week so there won't be a problem with last minute preparations during Saturday, and most of the counting of results is over before the next Saturday.

I think it would be smarter and cheaper to hold the elections for a whole week, from Sunday to Friday, with polls closing on Friday before the Sabbath so the religious parties won't object. The costly day off on Election Day can be canceled, since people will have a lot more time to vote, especially on Friday, when most people have the day off anyway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Pro-Obama Gazan

McCain's robo-calls linking Barack Obama to terrorists aren't the only phone calls the Democrats should be worried about. According to today's Haaretz, a Palestinian student from Gaza is using Skype, the internet-to-phone service, to leave random Americans messages urging them to vote for Obama. As quoted in Haaretz:

"I'm Ibrahim Abu Jayab from Gaza Strip. I support the Senator Obama from Gaza Strip," he said in one. "I think the Senator Obama achieve the peace in the world and in my area."

"For the peace, please elect Senator Obama. Thank you very much."

This is extremely counterproductive. An average American who hears the name Ibrahim Abu Jayab and Gaza immediately thinks of terrorism. It is wrong to automatically associate Arab names with the likes of Osama Bin Laden, but the fact that many people do have that connotation in their minds is a reality.

Ibrahim, you mean well, but for Obama's sake, stop. Either that or only call Arab- and Muslim-Americans. The more WASPs and Jews hear your message, the less likely they are to vote for Obama.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarkozy: Obama Immature About Iran

Even though I still prefer Obama over McCain, I find the following story from today's Haaretz newspaper very disconcerting:

Sources: Sarkozy views Obama stance on Iran as 'utterly immature'
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is very critical of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's positions on Iran, according to reports that have reached Israel's government.

Sarkozy has made his criticisms only in closed forums in France. But according to a senior Israeli government source, the reports reaching Israel indicate that Sarkozy views the Democratic candidate's stance on Iran as "utterly immature" and comprised of "formulations empty of all content."

Obama visited Paris in July, and the Iranian issue was at the heart of his meeting with Sarkozy. At a joint press conference afterward, Obama urged Iran to accept the West's proposal on its nuclear program, saying that Iran was creating a serious situation that endangered both Israel and the West. According to the reports reaching Israel, Sarkozy told Obama at that meeting that if the new American president elected in November changed his country's policy toward Iran, that would be "very problematic."

Until now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have tried to maintain a united front on Iran. But according to the senior Israeli source, Sarkozy fears that Obama might "arrogantly" ignore the other members of this front and open a direct dialogue with Iran without preconditions.

Following their July meeting, Sarkozy repeatedly expressed disappointment with Obama's positions on Iran, concluding that they were "not crystallized, and therefore many issues remain open," the Israeli source said. Advisors to the French president who held separate meetings with Obama's advisors came away with similar impressions and expressed similar disappointment.

According to the Israeli source, Sarkozy plans to begin intensive negotiations with the new American administration, regardless of whether it is headed by Obama or Republican Sen. John McCain, even before the new president takes office in January, with the goal of persuading him to continue the current policy on Iran.

But Sarkozy's pessimism does not stem only from Obama's stance; it also stems from the overall behavior of the international community toward Iran's nuclear program, and particularly its inability to agree on a fourth round of Security Council sanctions against the Islamic Republic. This foot-dragging will make it impossible to effect a change in Iran's nuclear policy, Sarkozy believes.

The French intelligence community believes that Iran has already obtained about 40 percent of the enriched uranium it would need for its first bomb, and that at its current rate, it will obtain the rest of the uranium it needs in the spring or summer of 2009.

However, French agencies are divided over what Iran is likely to do once it has this uranium. One view is that the Iranians will immediately make a nuclear bomb, in order to demonstrate their capability. The other is that Iran will continue enriching uranium without making a bomb - at least until it has enough enriched uranium for several bombs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Electoral Precognition

Predicting who will win the presidential election is easy. At this point, it seems fairly safe to say that Barack Obama will be the 44th president of the US of A. But how many electoral votes will he get, and which battleground states will he win?

According to electoral vote.com, which uses state-by state polling data to gauge the state of the electoral college, Obama is ahead with 364 electoral votes, though 78 of them are actually really too close to call, leaving 286 votes that are either safe or leaning towards Obama. I predict that all those 286 votes will indeed go to Obama, plus Ohio's 20 electors. All the rest will go to McCain. In other words, it will be 306-232.

And in case I change my mind, here is an electoral map that automatically updates whenever I change my prediction (it should be identical to the one above as long as I don't flip any states):


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Frightened Voter

I have done my civic duty as an American citizen. I've voted in the presidential elections and mailed my ballot. I chose a man I don't know well enough; a man I do not believe is qualified for the job of president; a man who frightens me. I chose him over a man I believe I do know well enough (but I don't like what I know about him); a man I do not believe is qualified for the job of president; a man who frightens me.

Yes, the prospect of either Barack Obama or John McCain as president of the United States frightens the hell out of me. Obama is dangerously naive while McCain is dangerously hawkish, and as of late, also a panderer to the evangelical right crazies. I asked myself who is more qualified between the two, or at least less unqualified, and I could not really come to a conclusion. Then I asked myself the following sad question: who do I find less frightening. It was a hard question to answer, but in the end I came to the conclusion that Obama and Biden are much less frightening then McCain and Palin. Besides, I generally see myself as a Democrat and a liberal. It wouldn't make sense for me to vote for a man with whom I disagree on most issues.

In my case, the running mates also helped me decide who to vote for. John McCain chose a younger version of George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee, while Obama chose an exprerienced, if somewhat imperfect senator. At least in their first presidential choice, Obama made the wiser pick.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good News: Jörg Haider Ist Tot

Jörg Haider, the leader of Austria's extreme, unofficially neo-Nazi, right wing, was killed today in a car crash. Good riddance. The extremist parties recently won about a third of the vote in Austrian elections. That is very alarming. Sure, their focus insn't the Jews right now, but rather muslim and other immigrants, but they'll come back to the Jews eventually. Hey, the world is in a financial crisis - sounds like a perfect opportunity to blame us.

Haider was a very charismatic figure. Hopefully, his death may reduce the power of extremists. On the other hand, it may be too late now. Either way, the world is better off without him.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bye-Bye Olmert and Mofaz, Hello Livni

Yesterday's Kadima leadership elections could not have produced a better outcome. Tzipi Livni, the most qualified candidate, won, and the least qualified candiate, Shaul Mofaz, lost, albeit by a very small margin, and is now taking a break from politics. Good riddance. Don't come back. Your services will not be required. In fact, because of your service, many people will have to work hard to clear the mess you left in the army and the ministries of defense and transportation.

Tzipi Livni's victory without a runoff also brings Ehud Olmert closer to the end of his prime ministership and his political career. Now, by the time Attorney General Menny Mazuz decides whether to prosecute him for corruption, as the police has recommended, he probably will no longer be in office. Indeed, Ehud Olmert may not only be nearing the end of his life as a politician, but he might also be nearing the end of his life as a free man.

I must say I don't like Livni as much as I used to, but of all the people in Kadima she is the best person for the job of prime minister. She'd also be better than Labor's Ehud Barak and Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Radical Islam, Israel and Paul McCartney

Beatle Paul McCarteny is scheduled to perform in Israel on September 25, and anti-Israel groups are pressuring him to cancel the concert. They claim that by coming here McCartney is expressing support for Israel's policies. That's bullshit, or rubbish, as the Brits say. McCartney is playing for the audience, not for the government or IDF. He can come here and still stay neutral on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Political pressure is one thing. Now radical Islamic clerics have started threatening his life if he sets foot in the State of Little Satan. Omar Al-Bakri, an Islamic militant who was deported from the UK three years ago for supporting terrorism and plotting against the British government, has said that McCartney shouldn't come to Israel if his life is dear to him.

I hope McCartney doesn't cave. He should not let fear dictate where he will or will not go. I also hope that he'll take the necessary precautions to make sure the terrorists don't make an example to all the world's performers out of him. One murdered Beatle was too much as it is, and with John Lennon and George Harrison dead, if Paul McCartney dies too, Ringo Starr would be awfully lonely, and the amount of talent in the world would drop drastically.

Above right: Cartoon by Amos Biderman, Ha'aretz, Sept. 15, 2008.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MMR-Autism Link Debunked

Today's New York Times editorial:

Ten years ago, a clinical research paper triggered widespread and persistent fears that a combined vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella — the so-called MMR vaccine — causes autism in young children. That theory has been soundly refuted by a variety of other research over the years, and now a new study that tried to replicate the original study has provided further evidence that it was a false alarm.

The initial paper, published in The Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, drew an inferential link between the vaccine, the gastrointestinal problems found in many autistic children and autism. In later papers, researchers theorized that the measles part of the vaccine caused inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that allowed toxins to enter the body and damage the central nervous system, causing autism.

Now, a team of researchers from Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tried and failed to replicate the earlier findings.
These researchers studied a group of 38 children with gastrointestinal problems, of whom 25 were autistic and 13 were not. All had received the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella. The scientists found no evidence that it had caused harm. Only 5 of the 25 autistic children had been vaccinated before they developed gastrointestinal problems — and subsequently autism. Genetic tests found remnants of the measles virus in only two children, one of whom was autistic, the other not.

The new study adds weight to a growing body of epidemiological studies and reviews that have debunked the notion that childhood vaccines cause autism. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization have found no evidence of a causal link between vaccines and autism.

Meanwhile, the original paper’s publisher — The Lancet — complained in 2004 that the lead author had concealed a conflict of interest. Ten of his co-authors retracted the paper’s implication that the vaccine might be linked to autism. Three of the authors are now defending themselves before a fitness-to-practice panel in London on charges related to their autism research.

Sadly, even after all of this, many parents of autistic children still blame the vaccine. The big losers in this debate are the children who are not being vaccinated because of parental fears and are at risk of contracting serious — sometimes fatal — diseases.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Questions for Joe Lieberman

If I had a chance, I would ask Sen. Joe Lieberman the following questions:

  • What views do you share with Gov. Sarah Palin? Would you ever have voted for her if she weren't on the same ticket with John McCain?
  • If no vice presidential nominee receives the required minimum of electoral votes and the selection of the VP falls upon the Senate, would you vote for Palin or for Biden?
  • Had John McCain lost the Republican nomination, who would you vote for in the following general election combinations: Romney vs. Obama, Romney vs. Clinton, Huckabee vs. Obama, Huckabee vs. Clinton?
  • Had you not lost the 2006 Democratic Senate primary, would you have still endorsed McCain?

Friday, September 05, 2008


I had to get up early this morning, so I couldn't stay up all night to watch John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. I also missed CNN's repeat presentation of the speech. I can't say I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to watch it. After all, McCain is not exactly the greatest orator. The only Republican I'm sorry I didn't watch was his running mate, Sarah Palin, who got praise for her performance. I like good speeches even if I totally disagree with their contents and would never consider voting for the speaker.

Barack Obama is trying to link John McCain to George Bush. The truth is that other than on the issue of the Iraq war, McCain is not a Bush Republican. He is not a liberal Republican, nor is he as moderate as he'd like independent voters to think, but at least he is no evangelical nutjob. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is a Dubya-style fundamentalist Republican. Democrats should target her extreme conservatism in their campaign.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Veepstakes Demographics: How Did I Do?

In May, I made a few predictions regarding the "demographic affiliation" of the Republican and Democratic vice presidential nominees. Now that we know who the running mates are, I can see how I did. My predictions are in Italics, followed by the results:

First of all, no more than one of the running mates will be a white male Christian. It is quite possible neither one of them will be a WASP, but definitely not both of them.

I got this one right. Joe Biden is a white male Christian. Sarah Palin is a white female Christian. I was wrong about the possibility that both won't be WASPs, but I was right that at least one won't be. Joe Biden is a Roman Catholic (the P in WASP stands for Protestant).

Since I doubt that all four people on the two major tickets will be senators, no more than one current senator will be a VP nominee.

Indeed, one of the four people on the major party tickets is not, nor ever was, a senator: Sarah Palin.

Both will come from either red (conservative) or purple (swing) states. Neither one will come from a blue (liberal) state, unless Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton run together.

I was wrong here. Only one of the running mates fits this description. Gov. Palin comes from Conservative Alaska. Sen. Biden comes from the safe Democratic state of Delaware. The swing states are not on either ticket.

If Barack Obama wins the Democratic presidential nomination, his running mate will not be black. John McCain's running mate will probably not be black, either.

Sure enough, both VP candidates are white.

Both running mates will be between the ages of 50 and 65.

I was half right, sort of. Sarah Palin has not reached this age range - she is 44. Joe Biden is exactly 65, but will be 66 by Inauguration Day.

One or both of the running mates will be a member of at least one of the following groups: women, Latinos and Jews.

No Latinos or Jews, but Sarah Palin is definitely a woman. I predicted correctly.

Neither RM will be openly gay or bisexual, nor will be even suspected as such.

In this still homophobic age, this one was a no-brainer.

At least one, but probably both, will have previous executive experience as a governor, major city mayor, United States Cabinet member, diplomat, high ranking military officer or a prosecutor.

Well, technically I was correct. One running mate, Sarah Palin, indeed has executive experience, but not much. She has been governor of the small state of Alaska for less than half a term (two years), and before that was mayor of a tiny city. I'd say that even Joe Biden, as the chairman of two powerful committees - the judiciary and especially the foreign relations committee, has more executive, and certainly diplomatic, experience than Gov. Palin, although he has never held an outright executive office.

My score: Six right, 2 half right, none completely wrong. You could say that's 7 out of 8. Not bad.

Excitement Deficit Disorder

I can't imagine myself staying up till 6 a.m. in the morning to hear an Israeli political rally or debate. Yet, when it comes to American politics, I often do just that. Yesterday, I stayed up all night in order to hear Al Gore and Barack Obama's speeches. I had to force myself not to stay up each night to watch the Democratic National Convention so I would not ruin my whole week, sleep-wise. Next week, I don't plan on sleeping on the night of John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

As an Israeli-American dual citizen who lives in Israel and is a political junky, Israeli politics interests me very much. It doesn't excite me, though. American politics does. I think that in general, while Israelis are much more involved in politics than most Americans, there always seems to be more excitement among Americans interested in elections than among their Israeli counterparts. I've noticed this long before Barack Obama's charisma and George W. Bush's failures fired up even more political fervor in the United States.

Maybe it just seems that way because I'm here in Israel, living with the muck of Israeli politics on a daily basis, observing American politics from afar. Maybe I've romanticized American politics, or just translated my own deep interest in all things USA into an incorrect generalization. Maybe the Excitement Deficit Disorder also exists in the States during most election years.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The President Joe Lieberman Scenario

Here's an unlikely, yet possible, political scenario for the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections:

Republican presidential nominee John McCain picks so-called Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman as his vice presidential running mate. The McCain-Lieberman ticket defeats the Obama-Biden ticket in November. On January 20, 2009, McCain and Lieberman are sworn in as president and vice-president, respectively. Sometime during the term, John McCain either dies or has to resign for health reasons.

Now Joe Lieberman becomes president. He is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. He nominates a hawkish Democrat as his VP. In 2012, President Lieberman decides to run for a full term, but he cannot run as a Republican or as a Democrat, so he runs as an independent. Since he is the incumbent, he is the strongest independent candidate in years and has an actual chance of winning electoral votes, if not the presidency.

On election day, the votes are split almost evenly between the three major contenders - the Democratic nominee (Hillary Clinton?), the Republican nominee (Mitt Romney?), and Joe Lieberman. Nobody gets at least 270 electoral votes. For the first time since 1824, the House of Representatives will have to choose a president, and for the first time since 1837, the Senate will have to elect a vice president.

I don't want this to happen, but it would certainly be interesting politically if it did.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden for VP

I like Joe Biden. I like him much more than I like Barack Obama. I certainly like Biden much more than I like John McCain.

I'm surprised Obama chose a running mate with no executive experience, but Biden certainly has a lot of important experience as a senator. In fact, he has been the chairman of two of the most important committees in the United States Senate - the judiciary and foreign relations committees - and committee chairmanships have an executive aspect to them. Biden is more experienced than either presidential candidate.

There certainly is an even greater chance now that I will vote for Obama.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Modest Proposal for Russia and Georgia

Hey, Russia, I've got a suggestion. Maybe Georgia can be convinced to let South Ossetia and Abkhazia gain independence or become part of the Russian Federation if in return, you, Russia, will grant Chechnya independence and recognize Kosovo's independence from Serbia.

What, no takers?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Grandiose, Magnificent, Boring: Olympic Debut

The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing is a well orchestrated show. It is colorful and beautiful, but I just can't keep my eyes on it. I keep finding myself surfing the web instead of watching what is supposed to be the greatest show on Earth (and as I write this they're literally dancing on a globe). I don't think I suddenly developed ADD. Is it just me, or did China produce a ceremony that, despite its grandiosity, is just plane dull?

Good luck to the Israeli and American athletes: I wish them that if they don't bring home a medal, they at least won't bring home damaged lungs from all the pollution.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Hamas Leader's Anti-Islamic Son

Last weekend's Haaretz magazine had an interesting article by Avi Issacharoff about Masab Yousef, son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, leader of Hamas in the West Bank. Masab converted to christianity, denounced Hamas and Islamism and moved to California, where he is seeking political asylum.

Read the article in English or Hebrew.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Netanyahu Better Than Mofaz

The leadership contest in the Kadima party, set for September, will determine who will replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister. Hopefully, Tzipi Livni will win. She's the most qualified person in Kadima. She's still leading in the polls, but retired Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, the former IDF chief of staff and defense minister and current transportation minister, seems to be getting stronger. If he wins, it will be a huge disappointment. The guy is not a centrist but a hawkish Likudnik who left the Likud for his own political benefit, not because of ideological differences.

Shaul Mofaz shares the same views as Benjamin Netanyahu. The difference between the two is that Netanyahu is much more intelligent and an excellent executive. Mofaz, on the other hand, didn't handle the army and the ministries of defense and transportation very well. So if the two share the same hawkish views that will send Israel in the wrong direction, I'd rather see Netanyahu at the helm. He would be less harmful to the country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Brilliant Olmert Cartoon

By the way, the cartoon was in English in the original Hebrew edition of Haaretz today. This is not a translation.

Cartoon by Amos Biderman, Ha'aretz, July 21, 2008.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Goldwasser and Regev's Privacy

I couldn't help feeling like I was invading the privacy of the Goldwasser and Regev families today. As much as I tried to avoid watching the funerals and eulogies, they were all over the news shows (and in Israel, there are lots of them). Channel 2's "6 with Oded Ben-Ami" dedicated almost 15 minutes, television eternity, to the eulogies by Udi Goldwasser's wife Karnit and mother Mickey, and Eldad Regev's brothers.

I feel sorry for the families and angry at the media. The news outlets have basically declared two days of mourning over two deaths that occurred two years ago. Yes, only yesterday did Israel receive final confirmation that the two are not alive, but this fact has been widely known for quite a while. I can understand that the families were in denial, not wanting to accept the fact that their loved ones are dead, but I can't understand why the media and, if the media truly reflects public opinion, the whole nation have been in denial.

It is a sad day, but it isn't a tragic day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Israeli Soldiers Dead, Kuntar Should Be Too

Today, Israel received the dead bodies of Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers abducted by Hezbollah two years and 4 days ago. In return, Israel will release a few Lebanese prisoners, hundreds of bodies of Lebanese terrorists and, at a later date, a few Palestinian prisoners will be released as well. One of the Lebanese prisoners being released is Saleem Kuntar, the cold-blooded murderer who killed a father and daughter, as well as a policeman, in 1979. Kuntar shows no remorse.

This deal's stupidity angers me. I hate the idea of Hezbollah terrorists holding parties for this horrible murderer and the other prisoners, while Israel mourns the death (or confirmation of death) of its two reservists. I truly do hope that one of the people in charge of transporting Saleem Kuntar will shoot him in the head. This way, it is not the Israeli government that reneges on the deal. It is just a single person losing his cool with a lowlife terrorist that should have been hanged long ago.

I know this is politically incorrect. I don't care.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Acceptable Iranian Nukes

Monday's Ha'arerz ran an article, reprinted from the New York Times, about how the Iranian people like Americans and American culture, and would like to restore relations with the United States. This made me think about the sad fact that Iran, one of the greatest nations in the world, is run by one of the worst regimes in the world. Sadly, unlike the United States and Israel, where the horrible governments currently in power could be replaced through elections, in Iran an election is not enough. The regime has to change into the kind of democratic regime the Persian people deserve, and nobody can do this but the people of Iran themselves.

I don't want the Ayatollahs to have nuclear weapons. However, were the regime to change into a non-theocratic Ayatollah-free democracy, I'd have no problem with the new Iran having nuclear capabilities. That is, if the new form of government is stable enough not to fall and be repaced by a second Islamic revolution.

The chances that the Islamic Republic of Iran would attack Israel with a nuclear weapon are not great, but the possibility still exists. The main threat from a nuclear Iran would be a change in the balance of power toward the governments and groups more hostile towards Israel, the United States and Western Europe. Reaching peace with our neighbors would be even more difficult than it currently is. However, a secular Iran that does not support groups like Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, would be a positive force in the region, with or without nukes.

The Iranian population supports the nuclear program. Once they get rid of the theocracy, there will be no reason to deny them their wishes.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Kicking Out East Jerusalemites

Ann El-Khoury of People's Geography referred me to a blog post in The Magnes Zionist about a policy I did not know existed. For Palestinians from East Jerusalem, who as Jerusalemites have Israeli residency permits but not citizenship, moving abroad, even temporarily, makes them lose their residency permits, and so they cannot go back to their families in East Jerusalem. I assume Palestinians in the rest of the occupied territories also lose the right to live in the territories if they move abroad.

While I oppose the right of return, this is not the issue. This isn't about refugees from 1948 returning to Israel and flooding the country. It is about Palestinians in the territories arbitrarily being barred from returning to where they actually still live. This is a disgrace and should stop immediately. The Magnes Zionist calls this ethnic cleansing. I'd say it is a semi-passive form of ethnic cleansing; passive because Israel isn't actively yanking people from their homes in East Jerusalem and kicking them out, but only semi-passive, because it is, after all, actively cancelling their residency permits when they leave.

It would be one thing to deny residency from people active in terrorist activity against Israel. This is something else completely. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem aren't residents like other people who have residency status. They aren't foreign workers. They've been there since before Israel captured the area. They deserve to have irrevocable residency status, unless convicted of terrorism. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, too, should not be denied re-entry into the territories only because they move abroad temporarily or marry a foreigner.

Israeli-Arab Conflict Can't Be Resolved (Yet)

In yesterday's Ha'aretz, Shlomo Avineri, a political science professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that it is time to transfer into conflict management mode, instead of conflict resolution mode. I think he's absolutely right. It seems impossible to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict any time soon. What is needed is a longer process.

Palestinians will probably be against this, saying that this is good for Israel because it can keep hold of the West Bank. That's part of why they were very unhappy with the results of the Oslo peace process. They expected an immediate resolution: immediate independence and the immediate implementation of the right of return. They were unhappy with the smaller steps that took place, even though they were quite significant. Israelis, too, expected immediate change. These false expectations created the crisis that began with the second Intifada. A gradual strengthening of Palestinian independence is the best way to go.

Here is Avineri's article (the Hebrew version is available here):

There are good reasons to worry the current round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will yield no real results - not only due to the weakness of both two governments, but especially because the two sides are so far apart in their basic positions on borders, settlements, Jerusalem and the refugees. This expected failure is arousing fears the violence will resume and the region as a whole might slip into a new cycle of hostilities.

The fear is understandable - but it is not justified. It is based on the assumption that there are only two options: peace or war. But that is not true.

Part of the difficulty of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stems from its complexity. The conflict has a territorial dimension, of course, but it also has other components: It is waged between two national movements; it involves disputes over issues of sovereignty and legitimacy, as well as a clash of historical narratives; it is riddled with the occupation, terrorism, settlements and the future of refugees; and although it is not fundamentally a religious conflict, religious aspects intensify it. Furthermore, the conflict involves neighboring countries, and it also influences the relations between international powers. In this sense, the conflict is not unique. All of its components, in different dosages, have appeared in several prominent conflicts of the last decades: Cyprus, Kosovo, Bosnia and Kashmir.

Like the Israeli-Palestinian problem, each of these conflicts has lasted decades and is rooted in historical events, sometimes events that took place centuries ago; and in each of these cases, all attempts to find a solution have failed. And still, the alternative is not the eruption of a new war.

In Cyprus there was an enormous international effort to come up with a solution (The Annan Plan), which the United Nations, the United States, Britain, Russia, the European Union and even Greece and Turkey all embraced. Because of the opposition of the Greek Cypriots, however, the plan was an utter failure.

A similar attempt was made in Kosovo, and a plan that received broad international support (The Ahtisaari Plan) led to Kosovo's independence. But the objection of the Serbs, supported by Russia, is preventing a consensual solution. In Bosnia the Dayton Accords did end the fighting, but the political apparatus created there, a complex multi-ethnic federation, is not functioning, and only the presence of foreign troops prevents the outbreak of renewed hostilities on ethnic grounds.

The Kashmir conflict is as far from resolution today as it was in 1947, when British India was divided into two independent states, India and Pakistan.

In all of these cases, the international community understood, reluctantly but out of a realism based on both theory and practice, that there was no immediate chance of resolving the crisis. And so it turned to other channels of gradual restraint - what is known in political jargon as "conflict management."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far more complex, but for some reason the international community believes it can offer a swift and immediate solution for it. Israel's internal debate also focuses on different proposals for resolving the conflict, and it does not try to confront the alternatives suggested by the lessons of other, similar situations.

Conflicts of this kind are hard to solve not only because of leadership issues: When there are such weighty issues at stake as clashing national narratives or deep feelings anchored in memories that are sometimes traumatic (just ask the Greeks in Cyprus what they think of the Turks), such obstacles cannot be removed in the blink of an eye.

We would do well to learn from these lessons and free ourselves of the provinciality that characterizes much internal Israeli debate. International bodies, which are not always aware of the necessary analogies, can also learn from the attempts elsewhere: Those who ask European leaders why they think they can succeed in the Middle East after having so clearly failed in Cyprus and Kosovo will see that they begin to think anew.

Changing the paradigm from "conflict resolution" to "conflict management" does not mean accepting the status quo. The recent initiative in Cyprus to open a crossing at Ledra Street in Nicosia offers evidence of this.

In our context, this means continuing to seek different ways of minimizing the friction between the two sides: real Palestinian steps toward creating governing institutions, particularly an effective security apparatus capable of dealing with militia and terrorist gangs; aid in economic development, which suits the interests of both sides; a significant easing of the roadblock burden and an end to new construction in the Jewish settlements; and, finally, once the political furor has subsided on our side, renewing the option of unilateral disengagement from specific parts of the West Bank.

Historic disputes are not resolved with a wave of the hand, much less by external directives (the U.S. has yet to "resolve" any one of them).

It takes lengthy internal processes, which alone can lead to the formation of a joint political desire to reach an agreement. Until then, the only options are not war or peace; there is always a third way - as Cyprus, Kosovo and Bosnia can prove.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt and Israel

Colombian politician and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt has been rescued from captivity. Israeli military technology assisted the Colombian Army in this heroic and bloodless operation deep in FARC territory, which resulted in the rescue of several hostages . Israel's Channel 10 News reported that retired Israeli generals, officers and intelligence experts helped Colombia plan the rescue.

I wish Israel could conduct such an operation to release Gilad Shalit from captivity in Gaza, without the need to release hundreds of terrorists.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Endangering Gilad Shalit

Israel has decided to release several Lebanese prisoners in exchange for two dead bodies of the Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, abducted by Hezbollah in 2006. This decision makes the release of Gilad Shalit less likely to come to fruition soon. Remember, it is known that Shalit, the soldier being held by a faction of Hamas in Gaza, is alive. This means he's much more important than the dead bodies in Lebanon.

The verbal diarrhea of our stupid leaders is doing as much, if not more, damage as the deal with Hezbollah. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, for example, have both said that soldiers will be less willing to serve if Israel doesn't "do everything" to release them if they are captured by the enemy.

They're addressing their words to Israeli soldiers, but also our enemies hear them. Hamas now knows it can inflate its demands in the Shalit deal, which means it will take longer for a deal to be reached (if ever). It also encourages more kidnappings.

Numerically, it might seem like this deal is better than the deal Ariel Sharon reached in 2004 since we're releasing about 75 times less prisoners this time. The truth is that because of the fact that Gilad Shalit is still being held prisoner this deal is much more dangerous that the previous one. A deal over the live soldier should have been reached before the deal over the dead ones.

Obama Israelbound

Senator Barack Obama has announced he will visit the Middle East and Europe this summer, including a stop in Israel. Just like John McCain's visit not long ago, it would be nothing but a bunch of photo-ops, and not a real opportunity to ask him serious questions about his views on the Middle East. I wonder if he'd consider meeting American citizens living in Israel, though I doubt that he would, since he's good at big gatherings and not the smaller, town hall-type meetings.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Is Tracksy Dead?

It has been over a week now that whenever I log in to Tracksy, I get the message "Session timed out. Please log back in." A quick Google search shows many other people have had problems with the site. Does this mean the service is gone for good? Is it time to get my site statistics from a different source?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Live Prisoners For Dead Soldiers

A deal seems to have been reached between Israel and Hezbollah. In exchange for the two Israeli soldiers abducted by the terrorist group in 2006, Israel will release six Lebanese prisoners, including Samir Kuntar, who murdered 4 Israelis, including a man and his 4 year-old daughter, in 1979. If one or two soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, are alive, than it is a great deal, considering the fact that a few years ago we released 450 prisoners for 3 dead soldiers and one living drug dealer, and right now Hamas is demanding thousands of Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, the soldier who is being held captive in Gaza.

If both Goldwasser and Regev are dead, as is most likely, this deal should not go through. In exchange for the dead bodies of Israeli soldiers we should only release dead bodies of Lebanese who either died during fighting with Israel or while in Israeli prisons. Living prisoners, especially those who may pose a threat to Israelis in the future, should only be released in exchange for living soldiers.

We should not release Samir Kuntar just so the soldiers' families can have emotional closure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama and McCain Can Both Win Big

I just did a little electoral college exercise. Using excel, I checked whether it is possible that Barack Obama will win a majority of the popular vote, with a margin of a few million, and still lose the electoral vote by a large margin. Based on results from 2004 and some basic knowledge of the political leanings of the different states, I wrote down a possible scenario for popular vote results in every state and counted how many electoral votes each candidate would win.

According to my made up, yet not all that implausible, election returns, John McCain wins the presidency with 379 electoral votes, compared with 159 for Barack Obama. That's a 220 vote difference, despite the fact that Obama won the popular vote by more than 4 million votes and 3 percentage points (65 million to 61 million, and 51.15% to 47.98%).

This is in no way a prediction. It would be extremely stupid to actually guess what the election results would be in every state, especially the exact number of votes. Think of it as a quantitative political science experiment. I'm sure the actual results in November will be much less extreme.

Here is the data and number of votes I gave each candidate in each state, so you can decide for yourself whether or not my results make any sense. By the way, I decided to split Maine and Nebraska's electoral votes between the candidates, 3-1 and 3-2.

Friday, June 06, 2008

What's Up With the Zohan

This weekend Adam Sandler's new comedy, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan", is being released in the United States. Sandler plays an Israeli commando-turned New York City barber who falls in love with his Palestinian boss (played by a Jewish Canadian actress of Moroccan descent) and has to fight terrorists on the streets of the Big Apple.

Other than the Chanukah Song, I've never been a fan of Adam Sandler's work. "Anger Management", the least stupidest movie of his I've seen, was mildly amusing mostly because of Jack Nicholson's performance. Still, I'm curious to see "Zohan". It's interesting for me as an Israeli, but I also want to see it because Sandler co-wrote the script with Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel. I loved Apatow's "40-year-old Virgin" and "Knocked Up", and am quite a fan of Smigel's creation, Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (just shows how immature I am). The New York Times review by A. O. Scott is quite positive.

By the way, from the trailer it is clear Sandler has not mastered the art of imitating the Israeli accent. Usually, Hollywood actors who try to sound Israeli end up sounding Polish or German (which might make sense for Polish- or German-born Israelis, but not for those born in Israel). Sandler, on the other hand, sounds either French or like Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

So, is the movie going to be great... for me to poop on?

This Blog Is 5 Years Old

Happy birthday, dear diary, happy birthday to you. Half a decade is quite a long time in Internet terms. I wonder how many more half-decades this blog will last.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Congratulations, John McCain

Now that Senator Barack Obama has won the Democratic nomination for president, John McCain's chances of becoming the 44th President of the United States of America are very high. I have a feeling that John McCain will win the electoral college by a large margin, though the popular vote will be very close. Obama might even win the popular vote by a percent or two. McCain will win most, if not all, of the swing states.

This isn't wishful thinking. I believe that when the choice is either Obama or McCain, Obama is the lesser of evils. McCain would be a complete disaster. Obama would be a disaster, too, but not as much as McCain.

I didn't like Obama's speech to AIPAC. He went so much overboard, going as far as promising a united Jerusalem, that it became unbelievable. There's no real reason for him to oppose giving East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as their capital other than to win the Jewish vote.

Here's what will be most likely to get him as much of the Jewish vote as possible: picking Hillary Clinton as his running mate. If he doesn't want Bill and Hill on his back, he can choose one of Clinton's top supporters, Ed Rendell, the Jewish governor of Pennsylvania.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

RNC, Obama and Auschwitz

Okay, this campaign is really getting stupid. Barack Obama made an innocent mistake when he talked about his great-uncle's participation in the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp. Obama said it was Auschwitz, while it was actually Buchenwald. I'm no fan of Obama, but I just can't see anything sinister about his remarks.

An RNC spokesman said this raises "questions about [Obama's] judgment and his readiness to lead as commander in chief", according to CNN.com's Political Ticker. Indeed, we have seen the dangers of a president who mixes up two different places and two different threats, like Iraq and Iran or Iraq and Al-Qaeda. One guy misspoke. The other mishandled the United States and the world. Quite a difference, don't you think?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Winehouse's Rehab Among the Rockets

It has been reported that British singer Amy Winehouse is no longer saying "no, no, no" to rehab. Of all places in the world she has decided to enter a rehab program in Israel, and of all Israeli rehab programs she has chosen the one in Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. That's the largest city within the range of rockets from Gaza. I wonder if she realizes this. Maybe this is a new thing - adventure rehab, a cross between rehab and adventure tourism. Perhaps Winehouse, who is Jewish, is showing her solidarity with the junkies of southwestern Israel this way.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Florida and Michigan's Leverage

The Democratic Party's state branches in Florida and Michigan should threaten the national party that if their delegates are not seated at the national convention in Denver this August, they will not put the Democratic Party's nominees on the ballot in these two states. Instead, one Michigan Democrat and one Florida Democrat will run together for president and vice president in those two states under the Democratic Party line. Such a move would pretty much ensure John McCain's victory in November, so the DNC would have to listen in order to avoid this scenario.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Survivor: Undisclosed Location

E-MAN NEWS SERVICE - Just a week after the announcement that the 17th season of the hit reality show "Survivor" will be filmed in the African nation of Gabon, new information has been leaked regarding the 18th season of the show.

"Survivor: Undisclosed Location" will pit eight Americans, most of them beautiful actors and models from California and New York, plus a token older and/or ugly person, against eight people with Arab-sounding names from around the globe. While the Americans must apply and go through a series of auditions, the foreigners will be picked up without having to do anything. The tribe names have been confirmed as Mukhabarat and Mujahideen, said to be local deities of the indigenous culture.

"It will be an interesting experiment," said a reliable source within Mark Burnett Productions, which produces the series. "We decided to do this now, with the season that will be filmed between October and December 2008, since this is probably our last chance for this particular concept. The Bush administration has been very helpful in recruiting contestants from outside the United States and finding a location for the game. Come January, we may not see as cooperative an administration as the current one."

When asked about the various challenges the contestants will have to play in order to win rewards, immunity idols, and eventually the grand prize of $1 million (or 1 million Iraqi Dinars, depending on the nationality of the Sole Survivor), the source agreed only to say that "if you liked underwater challenges in pervious seasons, the competitions we're planning this time will absolutely take your breath away."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peres and Olmert Love Bush

President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President George W. Bush spoke at an event commemorating sixty years of Israeli-American relations. President Bush was happy to hear, and moved by, the praise his Israeli hosts lavished upon him. I, on the other hand, found it embarrassing. They should have stuck to praising the American policy of friendship and support for Israel over the decades and given Dubya himself no more than a few token words. But no, they had to call him a great leader, a man with a vision, a champion of freedom and democracy, a man who history will treat kindly, blah blah blah.

Sure, they can't say how horrible a leader he really is. They can't say "Thank you, President Bush, for making Israel less safe by attacking a country that, as it turns out, was never really a threat to us and instead made it a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda and Shi'ite terrorism. We really appreciate the fact that now that you have failed in Iraq, the United States can't afford to face what seems to be a greater threat than Saddam Hussein ever was". And the list of bad things goes on... They can't say all those things, but they shouldn't say what is at best a bunch of lies about how great he is (at best, since the worst case scenario is that they actually believe what they are saying, which means our leaders have horrible judgment).

The event tonight was part of a conference about the future of Israel, organized by President Peres. Channel 1, the public channel that is owned by the government but supposedly independent from it, showed the whole US-Israel event, including the video clips about the history of the two countries' ties with each other. I felt like I was watching North Korean or Cuban TV. The clips weren't mini-documentaries but rather straight out of the PR department. It was absolutely ridiculous.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Minority Running Mates

Instead of writing lists of likely vice presidential running mates I'll just make some "demographic predictions". Chances are far greater that I'll be right this way.

  • First of all, no more than one of the running mates will be a white male Christian. It is quite possible neither one of them will be a WASP, but definitely not both of them.
  • Since I doubt that all four people on the two major tickets will be senators, no more than one current senator will be a VP nominee.
  • Both will come from either red (conservative) or purple (swing) states. Neither one will come from a blue (liberal) state, unless Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton run together.
  • If Barack Obama wins the Democratic presidential nomination, his running mate will not be black. John McCain's running mate will probably not be black, either.
  • Both running mates will be between the ages of 50 and 65.
  • One or both of the running mates will be a member of at least one of the following groups: women, Latinos and Jews.
  • Neither RM will be openly gay or bisexual, nor will be even suspected as such.
  • At least one, but probably both, will have previous executive experience as a governor, major city mayor, United States Cabinet member, diplomat, high ranking military officer or a prosecutor.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hezbollah and Lebanon

I can't say I really know what's going on in Lebanon right now. I hope things calm down, since it doesn't seem that the government is powerful enough to assert itself. The worst thing for Lebanon and the Middle East would be if Hezbollah took over the country. They're already in control of most of it, so some would say it might be better if they were openly in control rather than secretly the puppet master of Lebanon. That isn't the case, though. As long as they are only in partial control Lebanese secularists and moderates can gradually get stronger and eventually assert themselves.

It seemed odd to me that Sheikh Nassrallah said the Lebanese government declared war on Hezbollah. Isn't that like an acknowledgement that they are a state within a state? How can war be declared on a political party?

Hillary Must Defeat Obama

Senator Hillary Clinton, as the only qualified of the three candidates left in the race, must not quit. If she will not be the Democratic nominee then the United States will have to choose between two very different paths, but both of them just as dangerous. Clinton is the sane middle between the militarism of John McCain and the naivete of Barack Obama.

Right now, it looks like the race is finished and Clinton doesn't have a chance, but she should try anyway. Obama is a horrible candidate as it is, and would make a horrible president, so it doesn't really matter if she bloodies him ahead of November.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Day Without Palestinians

This Thursday Israel will celebrate its 60th Independence Day. For a vast majority of Israelis, as well as many non-Israeli Jews and gentiles, the creation of the state in 1948 and its many achievements are truly a cause for celebration. We mustn't doubt the rightfulness of our very existence as a free and independent nation.

Independence Day is also the one day we should be allowed to forget about the negative aspects of our country. Let's not think about the security situation, the decline of the welfare and healthcare systems or the corruption of our prime minister.

Also, it's a day on which we should not think about the Palestinians, what we have done and continue to do to them, or what we and the Palestinians do to each other. 364 days out of they year we should remember them and strive for peace in order to make their lives, as well as ours, better. But on the day we celebrate our independence, there is absolutely no reason to commemorate the Nakba or to think of Palestinian suffering. The Palestinians are free to commemorate their tragedy, but they shouldn't expect Israelis to do so.

One day each year, we can pretend Palestinians do not exist.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Hamas: Holocaust Planned By Jews

Hamas: Jews planned the Holocaust
By HAVIV RETTIG, The Jerusalem Post

Jewish leaders concocted the mass murder of handicapped Jews in order to keep from having to support them, and this murder is what the Jews term "the Holocaust," according to a documentary special that aired on April 18 on Hamas's Al Aqsa television station.

Palestinian Media Watch located and translated the contents of the footage, which it uploaded to YouTube under the headline "Hamas: Jews planned Holocaust."

According to the documentary's narrator, Israel's first prime minister David Ben Gurion decided that Jewish "disabled and handicapped are a burden to the state," after which "the Satanic Jews" - the film cuts to a picture of a hassidic Jew - "thought up an evil plot to be rid of the burden of disabled and handicapped" - the film then cuts to piles of emaciated corpses - "in twisted criminal ways."

"This is official Hamas TV," explained PMW director Itamar Marcus. "It's owned and totally controlled by the Hamas leadership in Gaza, and it goes out by satellite to the whole Arab-speaking world."

The program dealt primarily with the Holocaust, but included comparisons to the Palestinian situation, calling the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps a "holocaust" and blaming Israel for a "Palestinian holocaust."

"They [the Jews] were the first to invent the methods of evil and oppression," explains the documentary's narrator, cutting to scenes of Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan and Ben Gurion. The film claimed Jewish leaders blamed the Nazis for their own massacre of Jews "so the Jews would seem persecuted and try to benefit from international sympathy."

The film offers an "expert" - Amin Dabur, head of the "Center for Strategic Research" - who explains that "the Israeli Holocaust, the whole thing was a joke and part of the perfect show that Ben Gurion put on."

There is some tension in the film between blaming the Jews for the massacre of Jews, and denying the massacre took place. According to Dabur, Ben Gurion was interested in sending "strong and energetic youth [for Israel], while all the rest - the disabled, the handicapped, and people with special needs, they were sent [to die] - if it can be proven historically" - a reference to a claim heard often on Hamas television, from Iranian leaders and elsewhere in the Muslim world that the Holocaust has yet to be proven historically.

Continues Dabur: "They were sent [by the Jews to die] so there would be a Holocaust, so Israel could 'play' it for world sympathy."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama the Carteresque

Jimmy Carter's recent visit to the Middle East has convinced me that Barack Obama is presidential after all. The problem is that the president he resembles is Carter, the guy who owes George W. Bush a favor for pushing him off the number one spot on the list of worst presidents of the last half century.

Both Obama and Carter are very intelligent people who are extremely naive with regard to diplomacy. They both support high-level talks with all the unrepentant bad guys of the world. Barack Obama is willing to sit down with Mahmoud Ahmedinijad without preconditions and without lower level talks first. Jimmy Carter wants Israel to talk to Hamas, an organization that still says all it can agree to is a 10 year ceasefire in return for all of their demands (a Palestinian state and return of refugees).

Of the two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton was far better than Jimmy Carter. Hillary Clinton is very Clintonian, and not just because of her last name. So this primary season it is Clintonian Democrats vs. Carteresque Democrats, and if the latter win, the United States will be in big trouble.