The ‘Disproportionate Force’ Canard

December 31, 2008

Is Israel Using Disproportionate Force?

Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, crisply refutes the predictable knee-jerk yet remarkably selective invocation of the ‘disproportionate force’ canard so beloved by gullible media clods and anti-Semitic Euro-trash alike.

[I]n fighting counterinsurgency wars, most armies seek to achieve military victory by defeating the military capacity of an adversary, as efficiently as possible. There clearly is no international expectation that military losses in war should be on a one-to-one basis; most armies seek to decisively eliminate as many enemy forces as possible while minimizing their own losses of troops. There are NATO members who have been critical of “Israel’s disproportionate use of force,” while NATO armies take pride in their “kill ratios” against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Moreover, decisive military action against an aggressor has another effect: it increases deterrence.14 To expect Israel to hold back in its use of decisive force against legitimate military targets in Gaza is to condemn it to a long war of attrition with Hamas.

The loss of any civilian lives is truly regrettable. Israel has cancelled many military operations because of its concern with civilian casualties. But should civilian losses occur despite the best efforts of Israel to avoid them, it is ultimately not Israel’s responsibility. As political philosopher Michael Walzer noted in 2006: “When Palestinian militants launch rocket attacks from civilian areas, they are themselves responsible – and no one else is – for the civilian deaths caused by Israeli counterfire.”15

International critics of Israel may be looking to craft balanced statements that spread the blame for the present conflict to both sides. But they would be better served if they did not engage in this artificial exercise, and clearly distinguish the side that is the aggressor in this conflict – Hamas – and the side that is trying to defeat the aggression – Israel.

Dr. Gold is much too fair to Israel’s media critics who’ve kept silent for years while Israel was on the receiving end of 5,000 unprovoked rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists, only to bring out the cameras when Israel finally responds to generate footage of Israeli strikes against the (cue the violins) “poor Palestinians”® with no explanation why Israel is fighting back.


Israel vs. Hamas

December 31, 2008

The always insightful Melanie Phillips on the Israeli-Hamas conflict:

The issue of Israel sits at the very apex of the fight to defend civilisation. Those who wish to destroy western civilisation need to destroy the Jews, whose moral precepts formed its foundation stones. The deranged hatred of the Jews lies at the core of the Islamists’ hatred of America, the ‘infidel’ west and modernity, and is the reason why they wish to destroy Israel. Unless people in the west understand that Israel’s fight is their own fight, they will be on the wrong side of the war to defend not just the west but civilisation in general.

The British government has invested huge hopes in Ed Husain as an attractive and plausible antidote to Islamist extremism in Britain. But how can anyone now believe anything he has ever said when he promulgates such a gross libel as the canard of Israel’s ‘massacre’ of hundreds of ‘innocent’ Gazans? How can the government believe that Ed Husain will de-radicalise British Muslims when through articles such as this one he is inciting them to yet more hatred of Israel, the west’s forward salient against Islamist aggression?

Of course, his arguments are — tragically, appallingly — replicated in large measure amongst the British intelligentsia, media and indeed members of the government itself and the broad political class. Indeed, this is a far, far wider problem than one not-so-reformed-after-all Islamic extremist. It is a profound moral corruption that has infected the British body politic. The fact that so many among Britain’s educated class think like this means that they too are on the wrong side in the great battle to defend civilisation. And it’s not just Israel that in their moral confusion they are thus preparing to throw to the Islamist wolves. It is their own society too.

Full article here

Not much I can add, except to say that there is a spiritual dimension to this story, and that Israel stands at the epicenter of a much larger struggle between the forces of good and evil. In this context, Melanie Phillips’ writings stand out like a beacon of moral clarity amidst a dark sea of confused and craven critics seeking Israel’s demise.

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
— George Orwell

A Palin of Their Own

December 31, 2008

How often does Caroline Kennedy say “You know”? Cuffy Meigs of Perfunction has a video running tally of her ubiquitous verbal tic here.

Someone really needs to do a head-to-head of Caroline’s you know’s against Obama’s sans teleprompter Uh’s.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video is certainly worth more than the dozen or so silly columns in recent weeks comparing liberal darling Caroline to liberal nemesis Sarah Palin.

Pseudo-conservative pundit Kathleen Parker posed the question a few weeks ago:

It is a legitimate question: Why is the resume-thin Caroline Kennedy being treated seriously as a prospective appointee to the U.S. Senate when the comparatively more-qualified Gov. Sarah Palin received such a harsh review?

It is legitimate, at least, to those inclined to see apples and oranges as essentially the same.

Full article here

Parker concludes that the difference in treatment afforded Kennedy vis-à-vis Palin is warranted given the extreme “power differential of the respective offices being sought”.

Ironically, for someone who frames her entire argument around the apples to oranges cliché, Parker herself is hoist by her own petard (to borrow a hackneyed cliché of my own). Once you get past the umpteenth iteration of obligatory Palin slams comprising 70% of the piece, Parker’s argument essentially boils down to this:

In the meantime, a Sen. Caroline Kennedy would not be a nuclear-enabled leader of the free world, whereas a Vice President Sarah Palin might have been.

As such, they are as apples to … zebras. Their treatment has been commensurate with that difference.

Ironically, Parker views the “apples to . . . zebras” difference between a New York Senate seat and the Vice Presidency solely in terms of their respective proximity to the Presidency. One wonders what great things Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan, Hillary’s predecessor in her ignominious office, might have accomplished had he and Dan Quayle switched places.

Of course, any comparison of Caroline Kennedy and Sarah Palin is patently ridiculous and grossly unfair — to Governor Palin.

If there’s any truth to the stale liberal joke that President Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple, what can one say about a Presidential daughter and Onassis heiress with an estimated $400 million net worth whose professional experience consists of serving for free on various non-profit boards (such as the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation) and a $1 per year part-time fund raising job for New York City’s public schools?

Palin is the anti-Kennedy in every sense, which is why liberals and faux conservative pundits like Parker despise her. As Paul Fussell meticulously illustrates in his superb study, Class: A Guide Through the American Status System:

“You can outrage people today simply by mentioning social class, very much the way, sipping tea among the aspidistras a century ago, you could silence a party by adverting too openly to sex. . .

Actually, you reveal a great deal about your social class by the amount of annoyance or fury you feel when the subject is brought up. A tendency to get very anxious suggests that you are middle-class and nervous about slipping down a rung or two. . .

If you reveal your class by your outrage at the very topic, you reveal it also by the way you define the thing that’s outraging you. At the bottom, people tend to believe that class is defined by the amount of money you have. In the middle, people grant that money has something to do with it, but think education and the kind of work you do almost equally important. Nearer the top, people perceive that taste, values, ideas, style, and behavior are indispensible criteria of class, regardless of money or occupation or education.”

Gov. Palin’s well-publicized personal story of achievement from modest beginnings is a quintessentially American success story in the tradition of Horatio Alger tales from the 19th century. Her authenticity and charisma explain her obvious appeal — for some of us at least.

For Parker and others, some parts of Gov. Palin’s story — such as her attending numerous community colleges before completing her bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism from the University of Idaho — represent an affront to their cherished — albeit unexamined — class prejudices and sensibilities. To such people, the Girl who would be Senator’s wealth and pedigree trump any actual accomplishments from upstarts like Sarah. In their eyes, Princess Caroline’s Columbia Law degree merely gives objective confirmation to their presumption of her superior intellect, just as Sarah’s less than stellar education somehow proves her inferiority.

Never mind that Sarah was thrust into the hostile limelight and 24/7 media scrutiny and emerged with so few real scars that pseudo-scandals and gaffes had to be manufactured against her. Never mind that Caroline’s “deer in the headlights” moments happened before fawning interviews with a friendly media, rather than the withering and witless inquisitions Palin endured from Charles Gibson and Katie Couric.

There’s a singular provincial mindset that grows not in Brooklyn, but in certain affluent neighborhoods of Manhattan. It is encapsulated in a famous Hirschfeld sketch Saul Steinberg cover of The New Yorker that depicts the native New Yorker’s view of the world from 9th Avenue. At the forefront are the avenues of the Upper West Side. Above these are lesser shapes representing the Hudson River, followed by the hinterlands of New Jersey, then the rest of the U.S. (“flyover country”), with the Pacific Ocean and China, Japan and Russia included almost as an afterthought. Apropos of Tina Fey’s SNL Palin impersonation, in the Steinberg sketch, you really can see Russia from Caroline Kennedy’s house.

new yorker cover

The late Scott Peck used to say that we all have our maps of reality, which are only as good as how well they represent reality. Those who view the world through Steinberg’s prismatic map tend to get uppity and upset when the Sarahs of the world venture beyond their assigned insignificant parts of the map and try to upstage the Carolines from their rightful place at the center of Everything.

Who’s Zoomin’ Who

December 23, 2008

Madam Secretary-elect has big plans:

Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to build a more muscular US State Department, with a bigger budget, high-profile special envoys dispatched to trouble spots and an expanded role in dealing with the global economic crisis, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The Times cited an unnamed Hillary Clinton adviser as saying her push for a more vigorous economic team stems from her belief that the State Department needs to play a part in the recovery from the global financial crisis, while economic issues also are at the heart of key diplomatic relationships, notably with China.

So what role, if any, will Barry have in the new Clinton Administration?

Hat tip: Nancy M.

Caroline Kennedy Declines to Make Financial Disclosures

December 23, 2008

From the global edition of the New York Times:

If she were applying to be, say, an undersecretary of education in Barack Obama’s new administration, Caroline Kennedy would have to fill out a 63-item confidential questionnaire disclosing potentially embarrassing text messages and diary entries, the immigration status of her household staff, even copies of every résumé she used in the last 10 years.

If she were running for election to the Senate, Kennedy would have to file a 10-part, publicly available report disclosing her financial assets, credit card debts, mortgages, book deals and the sources of any payments greater than $5,000 in the last three years.

But Kennedy, who has asked Governor David Paterson to appoint her to succeed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton — and who helped oversee the vetting process for Obama’s possible running mates — is declining to provide a variety of basic data, including companies she has a stake in and whether she has ever been charged with a crime.

Kennedy declined on Monday to reply to those and other questions posed by The New York Times about any potential ethical, legal and financial entanglements. Through a spokesman, she said she would not disclose that kind of information unless and until she becomes a senator.

Full disclosure is for commoners apparently.

Full article here.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.

Les Bon Temps They’re Not Rouler-ing

December 18, 2008

I just received a copy of a report published by Celent on the flawed assumptions underlying the so-called credit crisis:

In many cases, it appears that these policymakers’ assumptions regarding the credit crisis are incorrect. Far from seeing a tightening of credit, a number of measures show that credit has expanded, and Celent finds that the lending markets are in surprisingly good health. Data published (in most cases by the Federal Reserve itself) show that:

Overall lending by US banks is at a record high and has increased during the credit crisis. Interbank lending is at record highs and has increased during the credit crisis. Consumer credit is at record highs and has increased during the credit crisis. Commercial paper markets are operating within their historical norms. Lending by banks to businesses is at record highs and has been growing rapidly. Municipal bond markets are operating within their historical norms. Deposits at banks have shown a substantial increase since the start of the credit crisis.

Contrary to popular belief, the accompanying graph demonstrates that commercial lending has increased by $1 trillion since April 2007, even as mortgage lenders, the housing market, financial government institutions are on the brink of collapse.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

As Glenn Beck would say, “I’m not an economist, but I am a thinker.” Generally, when an industry enjoys a 15% increase in sales, that’s considered a good thing. Yet this $1 trillion increase in commercial lending has led to the failure of the largest sub-prime lender, New Century, followed by Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and bailouts of AIG and Citibank.

This leads me to believe that the underlying economic problem just might be the result of too much, rather than too little lending, at rates that are too low, rather than too high.

Is this concept really so difficult that two geniuses like Ben Bernake and Henry Paulson can’t figure it out?

There seems to be a vast cognitive disconnect between what our politicians and bureaucrats are saying and the underlying economic crisis. As anyone who’s read George Orwell’s famous 1946 essay on Politics and the English Language can appreciate, when politicians/bureaucrats say “tightening of credit”, what they really mean is tightening of credit for people who are bad credit risks. People with good credit can borrow as much as they want. The problem is people with good credit tend to borrow a lot less than banks and politicians want us to borrow.

Our politicians recognize the problem: consumers, corporations, governments have all borrowed too much. We live way beyond our means and have finally reached the tipping point where rational lenders refuse to extend any more credit. However, their “solution” is to tamper with free market mechanisms as much as possible so that maxed-out credit card holders, compulsive shoppers, over-leveraged homeowners and corporations with “cash flow problems”, as the euphemism goes, can continue to borrow and spend, and borrow and spend some more.

There was a television show in the late 60’s, “Run For Your Life”, starring Ben Gazzara as a successful attorney who is told by his doctor in the first episode that he has just one or two years to live. He decides to do all the things he never had time for, trying to cram a lifetime of experiences into what little time he had left. I once saw a parody of that show in which the Gazzara character tells his financial adviser that he’s going on a huge shopping spree, funded by maxing out his credit cards, then applying for more credit cards to cover the minimum payments and maintain his extravagant lifestyle. “I have enough credit cards to last 18 months or more,” he says.
His adviser cautions: “But after 18 months you’ll be dead broke.”
“Well, you’re half right.” That investment strategy seems to have made a comeback.

Our brave new capitalism is no longer based on “laissez faire”, but on “laissez les bon temps rouler”. Unfortunately, we have run out of bon temps left to rouler.

Tonight we’re still partying like it’s 1999, but it’s eight years past two thousand zero zero, oops out of time.

We’re running on — running on empty, running on — running blind.
Running into the sun, but we’re running behind.

Meet the Anti-Obama

December 17, 2008

In an interesting piece, Andrew Romano introduces Newsweek readers to Republican Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal:

Bobby Jindal is in a hurry. It was only an hour ago that the Louisiana governor, 37, landed near the town of Longville (population: 2,462) and descended from his helicopter, Pelican One, into an SUV bound for the local Baptist church. And it’ll be only a little while before Jindal reboards the chopper and resumes a tour that will, by bedtime tomorrow, take him to Breaux Bridge, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Arcadia and, finally, New Orleans—a typical, 1,000-mile, midweek excursion for the boyish politician who rarely bothers to eat or urinate when traveling, which is almost always (emphasis mine).

After two years of fawning over an empty suit, Newsweek apparently thinks the best way to dismiss Jindal as a serious candidate is by likening him to The One™. The prostrate-enhanced whirlwind described above almost reads like a parody of the media caricature of Obama, except in the case of Obama, the media was oblivious to the satire.

There are plenty of rising stars in the GOP. But in the wake of Barack Obama’s victory on Nov. 4, none has attracted as much speculation, curiosity and unapologetic hype as Jindal. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently called him “the most transformative young governor in America.” Radio host Rush Limbaugh refers to him as “the next Ronald Reagan. . .”

This, of course, is the same sort of swooning that propelled a certain Illinois state senator to the presidency. So it’s no surprise that “many prominent members of the GOP,” as the Post noted, already consider Jindal their “own version of Obama”—the charismatic, nonwhite, Ivy League change agent destined to revitalize his party. Critics carp that Jindalmaniacs are simply jumping on the Benetton bandwagon, and Norquist admits that having at least one young, brown-skinned prospect is “helpful” in the age of Obama. . .

The comparison between Jindal and Obama works if you can suspend disbelief long enough to think a successful 37-year-old who overcame academic racist quotas the equivalent of a 47-year old lifelong beneficiary of such quotas.

Jindal is hardly ashamed of his heritage; at Brown he once answered a professor’s hypothetical question—”If a high school only took the brightest students, would it be mostly white or mostly black?”—by slipping Ahsanuddin a note that read “all Asian.”

Interesting. That’s the first time I’ve seen the Ivy League’s dirty little secret mentioned in a mainstream media publication. The truth isn’t that race-based affirmative action admissions policies favor blacks at the expense of whites, but that they favor blacks and whites at the expense of Asians. If Harvard and Yale ever introduce truly color-blind admissions policies, then blacks, Hispanics and non-Jewish whites collectively might be able to achieve 1% representation in those institutions.

Some might see Jindal as a political opportunist. But the governor’s history of self-invention, yet another echo of Obama, seems less a product of ambition than of assimilation.

If Jindal was a political opportunist, he wouldn’t have converted to Catholicism.

“If I wanted the aesthetics without the inconvenient morality,” he wrote in 1998, “I could become Episcopalian.”

Of course by Catholicism, I mean the real thing, not the cafeteria version espoused by the Bidens, Kennedys and Pelosis et al., which is closer to the Episcopal variant, but without the aesthetics or the morality.