Archive for March, 2009

Israelis Are Hard To Please

Give the guy a chance!

Haaretz poll: 54% of public dissatisfied with new government
By Yossi Verter

The Knesset approved Benjamin Netanyahu’s return as prime minister last night amid allegations that his new government is bloated, convoluted and unprepared to deal with Israel’s many problems.

According to a survey for Haaretz, the public is not giving the new government a grace period, perhaps because it has so many ministers and deputy ministers, or because so many of them have dubious portfolios.

Tough crowd.

- Aggie

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To Bail Or Not To Bail?

How do we know what to do?


How to figure out the best solution to a complex financial problem.

- Aggie

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Limbaugh Leaving New York

The new taxes push him out

Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show king, announced this week that he’s ditching his New York digs and finding another alternate location for his top-rated show in the wake of Gov. Paterson’s “stupid, punitive, massive tax increases.”

“I’m going to get out of there totally, ’cause this is just absurd,” railed Limbaugh, who famously acknowledged an addiction to painkillers in October 2003.

Of Albany’s proposed hikes, which will boost income taxes on households earning more than $300,000 a year, El Rushbo said they were “punishing the achievers for the mistakes… on the part of a bunch of corrupt politicians.”

And he promised to “lead the way” out of New York for similarly afflicted taxpayers.

“I’m going to look for an alternative studio somewhere outside New York, perhaps Texas,” he fumed.

Not that Limbaugh spends much time here anyway. He taped about 15 shows in New York last year – mostly to avoid hurricanes lurking near his Florida base, he told listeners.

He added that he always pays city and state taxes on income he earns on those New York shows.

He also owns an apartment here – a 4,000 square-foot penthouse in a Fifth Ave. building where similar units have recently sold for more than $10 million, records show.

Limbaugh promised to sell the pad, but not before suggesting a new state slogan to Paterson: “New York: It’s Never Enough.”

I wonder how many other well-to-do New Yorkers will discover that they can live somewhere else? Yes, they can.

- Aggie

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PM Netanyahu

It’s official; he’s in:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in late Tuesday to lead Israel’s 32nd government, after cobbling together a coalition amid rising tensions within his own Likud party and with other leading political figures.

Lawmakers voted 69 to 45 with five abstentions in favor of Netanyahu’s right-wing government after a six-hour debate, making Netanyahu prime minister for the second time in 10 years.

The new coalition will comprise 30 ministers and seven deputy ministers. In addition to serving as premier, Netanyahu has also created a position for himself as financial strategy minister and appointed Yuval Steinitz (Likud) to serve as finance minister.

Lawmaker Silvan Shalom – Netanyahu’s chief party rival – agreed on Tuesday to enter the incoming government as vice premier and regional development minister, after days of a chasm many feared would divide the faction and hamper the ability of the new coalition to function.

Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak will retain his position as defense minister bringing with him into the government four other Labor ministers.

Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman, whose inflammatory statements about Israeli Arabs has had him branded as racist and raised ire both in Israel and abroad, will take on the unlikely position of foreign minister.

I chose the testy Haaretz coverage because it had the most complete breakdown of the coalition. Obviously, they’re not pleased with Lieberman.

He will certainly be entertaining. (Imagine how the Obama administration and the State Department are going to love him! Give ‘em hell, Avigdor!)

A coalition that runs from Labor to Likud to Yisrael Beiteinu—not to mention the personal rivalries. Fasten your seat belts.

PS: One of my favorite Israeli bloggers, Arlene Kushner, is underwhelmed.

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No Jews, Please, We’re British

Reader Martino alerted us to this “theater review” in the WSJ yesterday:

Here’s a sketch for a racist play about “moral decline” in black America since the civil rights era.

Act I: Heroic protestors gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965 to march in defiance of a segregationist state. Act II: The scene moves to San Francisco in the early 1970s, where the radical politics of the Black Panthers quickly give way to robbery and murder. Act III: A New York City crack house, circa 1985. Act IV: the trial of O.J. Simpson. Act V: The present, in which a black man on a prison furlough goes on a murder spree.

Appalled? I hope so.

Now substitute the word “Jewish” for “black” and change the scene to Europe and Israel and you have, roughly, the plot of celebrated British playwright Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children,” which debuted last month to some controversy and much acclaim at London’s Royal Court Theater. It is now in the U.S., playing in small but respectable venues to sophisticated audiences that — judging from the performance I attended in New York last Thursday — are overwhelmingly disposed to like it.

Well, of course they were. Americans are dumb enough to fall for anything under the heading of British Drama. Stick a little baroque music in front of it, and you can call it a mah-sterpiece.

And I couldn’t be more stunned that a member of the British intelligentsia libels Jews and celebrates Gazans—never heard of that before! Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill—do they teach this stuff at RADA?

A biased reviewer, perhaps, but John Nathan in the Jewish Chronicle wrote:

For the first time in my career as a critic, I am moved to say about a work at a major production house that this is an antisemitic play.

I do have this to say in the play’s favor—it’s only ten minutes long. My arm gets tired if I have to throw rotten fruit for much longer than that.

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Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

That’s all the Jews do about the Holocaust. Do they think it was fun for anyone else?

A Brazilian archbishop dropped a bombshell Friday when he said Catholics and gypsies had been more persecuted than Jews during the Second World War.

“The Jews talk about six million people killed. But how many Catholics were victims of the Holocaust? They were 22 million in all,” Archbishop Dadeus Grings, from Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, told advertising magazine “Press & Advertising.”

The archbishop also contended that while “Jews say they were the main victims of the Holocaust, the biggest victims were the gypsies, because they were exterminated.”

Twenty-two million Catholics? I’m willing to consider the claim, but where does he get it? Just dying in WWII doesn’t count, and Poland doesn’t take you far enough.

And while I’m sympathetic to the gypsies (Romani, please, Your Excellency), this table shows the Jews do have a case to make:

holocaust

What do you call two-thirds of the civilized continent’s Jewish population, Archbishop? A start?

And what the [bleep] are you doing talking this [bleep] to Press & Advertising magazine?

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The Devil on his Shoulder

devil

Jonah Goldberg at NRO found this nugget in the latest New Yorker:

In his e-mail, Assad praised the diplomatic efforts of former President Jimmy Carter. “Carter is most knowledgeable about the Middle East and he does not try to dictate or give sermons,” Assad said. “He sincerely is trying to think creatively and find solutions that are outside the box.” Carter’s calls for engagement with Hamas have angered many in Israel and America. In “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” published in January, Carter described Syria as “a key factor in any overall regional peace.” Last December, Carter visited Syria, and met not only with President Assad but with Khaled Meshal, the Hamas leader.

A senior White House official confirmed that the Obama transition team had been informed in advance of Carter’s trip to Syria, and that Carter met with Obama shortly before the Inauguration. The two men—Obama was accompanied only by David Axelrod, the President’s senior adviser, who helped arrange the meeting; and Carter by his wife, Rosalynn—discussed the Middle East for an hour. Carter declined to discuss his meeting with Obama, but he did write in an e-mail that he hoped the new President “would pursue a wide-ranging dialogue as soon as possible with the Assad government.” An understanding between Washington and Damascus, he said, “could set the stage for successful Israeli-Syrian talks.”

Jonah notes that if Sy Hersh wrote it, there’s only about a 50% chance it’s true.

Obama has yet to make his intentions clear toward Israel and the Middle East—but Carter sure has. And if he has Obama’s ear (God knows there’s a lot of it), Israel had better say Kaddish.

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Muslims Don’t Say the Darnedest Things

Like “freedom”, “tolerance”, “moderate”, “secular”, “martini”, “thong”, “bagel” …

In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.

I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not. If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.

As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.

This is serious, as far as I can tell. His point seems to be that Muslims don’t hear what we mean for them to hear. Freedom, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean individual liberty, but might be taken for licentiousness.

Of course. Happens every day.

Get the wax out of your ears, you stupid Muslims! These concepts aren’t patented by us, or foreign to you. They are universal. And if you’ve lost familiarity with them out of disuse, don’t blame us.

Put your tongue behind your top teeth—that’s it—and say “t”. T. T-o-o-o-lerance. Good. Tolerance. F-f-f-f-re-e-edom.

Say it first, then practice it.

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Reading the Arab Mind

See, you have to know how to handle these guys. Leave them to their own squabbles and feuds, and they’ll fight each other forever—like the Qaddafi/Abdullah fracas we reported on earlier (see earlier post).

But the moment someone from the outside criticizes them, they circle the camels:

Arab leaders have concluded their annual summit by showing their support for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted for war crimes.

The Arab League said it rejected the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue a warrant for his arrest.

President Bashir had earlier spoken at the summit in Qatar, and won strong support from his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

See? You scratch my Bashir, I scratch yours.

This is the result we’re after:

Hamas’s takeover of the Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip last week may lead to the deaths of Palestinians who require immediate medical care in Israel and Egypt, the United Nations warned on Monday.

On March 22, Hamas took control of the PA Health Ministry’s Referral Abroad Department, which oversees the process by which Palestinians in Gaza receive approval from the PA to travel to Israel and Egypt for medical treatment.

The World Health Organization and the UN humanitarian coordinator said Monday that the PA Health Ministry in Ramallah was refusing to approve and fund applications. As a result, the patients are not allowed to travel to Israeli or Egyptian hospitals.

Defense officials said they were aware of the situation and that it was not surprising.

“This is another example of the effect Hamas’s takeover has on the Palestinian people without any connection to Israel,” one official said. “This is a political dispute between the PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza, and unfortunately the Palestinian people in Gaza are caught in the middle.”

Exactly. In fact, if Israel plays its cards right, it may never have to fire another shot in self-defense. Just keep enough Fatah and Hamass around occupy each other, and the only innocents to suffer will be Palestinian.

And how many of them are innocent anyway? Honestly.

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Too Little, Too Late

So, the Taliban have threatened an “amazing attack” on Washington, huh?

The commander of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a Pakistani police academy and said the group was planning a terrorist attack on the U.S. capital.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., said Monday’s attack outside the eastern city of Lahore was in retaliation for U.S. missile strikes against militants along the Afghan border.

“Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world,” Mehsud told The Associated Press by phone. He provided no details.

Somebody already beat you to it, Tallulah. Name of Obama. Razed it to the ground, left it in rubble, like the Bamiyan Buddhas your fellows turned to gravel.

Better hurry or there’ll be nothing left.

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Not the Comfy Chair!

When was it—yesterday?—that I remarked that once you chisel in granite your limits on interrogation, the terrorists start preparing.

I know you’re reading us out there, Osama! I’m waving at you!

Article in Al-Qaeda E-journal: “How to Withstand Interrogation”

The last issues of Sada Al-Malahim, the e-journal of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, featured a three-part article titled “Gaining Victory over the Interrogators,” aimed at teaching the mujahideen how to cope with the psychological techniques employed by interrogators to extract information and confessions from detainees.

The full report is for subscribers only, but you get the idea. Once we go from clenched fist to limp wrist, the terrorists will have nothing to fear. Nothing. You may not like waterboarding—I’m certainly not anxious to give it a try—but it worked on the hardest of hard-asses, and left not a mark. And it saved untold numbers of lives.

Remind me again why it’s so wrong? I keep forgetting.

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Brother Hood

When these two face off, step back:

snapshot-2009-03-31-06-27-02.jpgsnapshot-2009-03-31-06-27-49.jpg

Following are excerpts from an address by Libyan Leader Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi to the Doha summit on March 30, 2009, which was broadcast live on Qatar TV.

I would like to take this opportunity to say to my brother [Saudi King] Abdallah: For six years you have been running away, fearing confrontation [with me]. Let me assure you that you shouldn’t be afraid. After six years, it has become clear that the lie stands behind you and the grave stands before you. You were created by Britain, and you are protected by America.

Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani: Brother Mu’ammar, I call you to order! Heads of state are talking…

Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi: …Hamad, out of my respect for this nation, and I believe that the personal problem between you and me… the problem between you and me…

Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani: …the microphone…

Mu’ammar Al-Qadhafi: …[I am] an international [leader], the most veteran of all the Arab leaders, the king of kings of Africa, and the imam of the Muslims. My international standing does not allow me to stoop to such a level. Thank you.

No, Mu’ammar, thank you.

“The lie stands behind you and the grave stands before you.” That is sheer smackdown poetry.

I hope your health is better than it looks. You may be a leader, a king, and an imam—but you look like a syphilitic Danny DeVito.

ADDENDUM
In pursuit of a cheap crack, I may have offended one uninvolved in political discourse in any way. If so, I offer my sincerest apologies to T. pallidum pallidum.

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