Thursday, May 27, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

Strong but empty words

Posted: 27 May 2010 01:00 AM PDT

Jennifer Rubin observed last week:

At a signing ceremony for the Freedom of Press Act, it is ironic and shameful that Obama could not bring himself to identify the killers who beheaded the man who fearlessly reported on the jihadist terrorists.

Here are a few data points.

Heather Robinson recalls the plight of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

However Choudhury, via e-mail from Dhaka, tells me that the government of Bangladesh continues to harass him, using tactics such as summoning him to trial and making him stand for entire days in rooms without air conditioning, only to dismiss him when no "witnesses" show up for the trial.

Most troubling, Choudhury says that, since the election of President Obama, the U.S. Embassy has stopped monitoring his case.

"Though there is a statement in the State Department's report...the U.S. Embassy has stopped monitoring my case since Mr. Obama became the President," he writes.

Such an absence of monitoring is especially significant and troubling in a case such as this, because in the past, the Bangladeshi government has arrested, incarcerated, and even tortured Choudhury when the powers that be felt they could get away with it, according to Dr. Richard Benkin, an American human rights activist who helped to secure Choudhury's release from prison in 2004.

Barry Rubin catches the State Department somewhat less than enthusiastic about fighting Pakistani censorship.

In addition, it's farcical for Crowley to characterize what is occurring in Pakistan "dialogue and debate" over such matters. This is a country where Christians are persecuted and murdered (with no Western protest, members of the Ahmadis sect are discriminated against, and is a world center of antisemitism. Often, Christians are beaten or murdered for allegedly having done something "offensive" regarding Islam. Unfortunately, in the Muslim-majority world when governments do "outreach to minority religious groups" it's for the purpose of strangling them.

This question came within a few hours of the president signing a bill claiming to champion freedom of the press against foreign enemies of media liberty. Oh, by the way, has anyone else noticed that in signing a media freedom bill in honor of Daniel Pearl, President Obama never once mentioned that the reporter was murdered by radical Islamists in Pakistan? Here's a good example of trying not to cause offense curtailing free speech (and the recognition of reality).

Of course, Crowley is right in saying governments should safeguard free speech. But all the meaning is drained out of this since "robust legal protections against...hate crimes" includes in most countries steps that do punish free speech. That goes for Canada, the Netherlands, and many other places. So how can you deal with this very real contradiction unless you acknowledge that the mere act of speech--unless it involves a direct threat of violence or other regular crime--is never a hate crime. By the way, isn't that what was taken for granted in American law until a few years ago.

Finally there's the case of Khaled abu Toameh:

The former PLO "ambassador" to Australia, Ali Kazak, believes that an Arab journalist who writes about financial corruption and theft in the Palestinian Authority is a "traitor" who should be murdered the same way as collaborators were killed by the French Resistance.

Kazak told the newspaper, The Australian: "Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor. Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere."

Asked why he calls the journalist a traitor, the former PLO representative, who lives in Australia, explained: "Palestinians are the victims. He shouldn't write about them, he should write about the crimes of the Israelis."

Kazak's threat does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the methods used by Arab dictatorships to silence anyone who dares to demand reforms and transparency.

I don't expect the administration to do much on this count either.

President Obama said at the ceremony mentioned by Jennifer Rubin:

All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face; who are the frontlines against tyranny and oppression.

Those are good strong words. But the President's inaction in the face of specific threats to freedom of speech render these words empty and meaningless.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Not "really excellent" but "really hypocritical"

Posted: 27 May 2010 01:00 AM PDT

Future of Capitalism calls Thomas Friedman's As Ugly as it Gets, (via memeorandum) "really excellent." I would not be so generous.

It's correct that Friedman points out the dangers of Iran.

But Fausta notes one element of hypocrisy.

Friedman says he wants Iran to be a democracy. Good. But he also says, hey, let's have the USA be China for a day!

Which one is it, Tom?

I have a bigger problem.

Take for example his Israel's goals in Gaza, which he wrote in middle of Operation Cast Lead:

I have only one question about Israel's military operation in Gaza: What is the goal? Is it the education of Hamas or the eradication of Hamas? I hope that it's the education of Hamas. Let me explain why.

Yesterday he was bemoaning the actions of Brazil and Turkey to allow Iran to skirt sanctions for its nuclear weapons program. But Israel, last year, was fighting one of Iran's proxies. Destroying it should have been a goal that Friedman would endorse. But because it was Israel involved, he comes up with one of his cockamamie ideas that Israel needs to give Hamas a stern talking to.

Here's the beginning of Friedman's explanation.

There have always been two camps in Israel when it comes to the logic of peace, notes Gidi Grinstein, president of the Israeli think tank, the Reut Institute: One camp says that all the problems Israel faces from the Palestinians or Lebanese emanate from occupying their territories. "Therefore, the fundamental problem is staying -- and the fundamental remedy is leaving," says Grinstein.

The other camp argues that Israel's Arab foes are implacably hostile and leaving would only invite more hostility. Therefore, at least when it comes to the Palestinians, Israel needs to control their territories indefinitely. Since the mid-1990s, the first camp has dominated Israeli thinking. This led to the negotiated and unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank, Lebanon and Gaza.

Hezbollah's unprovoked attack from Lebanon into Israel in 2006 both undermined the argument that withdrawal led to security and presented Israel with a much more vexing military strategy aimed at neutralizing Israel's military superiority. Hezbollah created a very "flat" military network, built on small teams of guerrillas and mobile missile-batteries, deeply embedded in the local towns and villages.

Note that there were those who predicted that withdrawing from Gaza and, earlier, from Lebanon would only spur Hamas and Hezbollah to press their illegitimate fights against Israel. He can't simply say that his own view was wrong.

Then Friedman recalls an earlier column of his:

Israel's military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon -- when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That's when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: "What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?"

Here's what Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, said the morning after the morning after about his decision to start that war by abducting two Israeli soldiers on July 12, 2006: "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."

That was the education of Hezbollah. Has Israel seen its last conflict with Hezbollah? I doubt it. But Hezbollah, which has done nothing for Hamas, will think three times next time. That is probably all Israel can achieve with a nonstate actor.

The assumption behind Friedman's "morning after the morning after" "reasoning" is that Hezbollah is an independent entity. It is not. It is the a proxy of Iran and not at all concerned about Lebanon. Since 2006 Iran and Syria have gone about re-arming Hezbollah. Already possessing 3 times the weaponry it had 4 years ago, Hezbollah's making it clear that it is spoiling for another fight, better armed than before.

So the conclusion he drew was:

In Gaza, I still can't tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to "educate" Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims. Now its focus, and the Obama team's focus, should be on creating a clear choice for Hamas for the world to see: Are you about destroying Israel or building Gaza?

After 2 1/2 years that Hamas was in charge of Gaza and failed to build a functioning statelet, it was still unclear to Friedman what Hamas's goals were. Like with Hezbollah he failed to acknowledge that the terror group was a proxy of Iran projecting its force against Israel.

So yes, I guess it's good that Friedman now is horrified that Iran is about to go nuclear. But he should have been cheering on Israel to destroy Iran's proxies, instead of pretending that they were harmless mischief makers. More significant defeats - prevented by diplomacy - would have set back Iran's agenda. Instead Friedman supported giving Iran's proxies more chances.

So Friedman yesterday was not "really excellent" but "really hyprocritical."

5 reasons not to support "son of stimulus"

Posted: 27 May 2010 12:59 AM PDT

We just wrote about a paper from Harvard that demonstrated that federal spending did not spur corporate spending. So what about the so-called "son of stimulus" bill currently being considered?

James Pethokoukis gives 5 reasons to oppose the bill. Here's #1 (via memeorandum):

For instance, the bill includes a one-year, $6.7 billion extension of the federal research and development tax credit. By not making it permanent, the credit is less likely to foster long-term investment. The bill also extends tax breaks for NASCAR and Hollywood, ensuring both Red and Blue state residents get fed their respective helpings of pork.

Matthew Hoy explains why Pethokoukis's reason #2 makes no economic sense.

Instead? (h/t Future of Capitalism)

"If government leaders in the U.S. or Europe announced meaningful cuts in government spending or even a credible process to reduce the rate of increase--not a commission or a legislative rule, but concrete executive action--markets would celebrate and public applause would encourage more decisive action,"

Robbing peter doesn't pay paul

Posted: 27 May 2010 12:21 AM PDT

I was kind of surprised by this (via memeorandum)

Q: Perhaps the most intriguing finding, at least for me, was the degree and consistency to which federal spending at the state level seemed to be connected with a decrease in corporate spending and employment. Did you suspect this was the case when you started the study?

A: We began by examining how the average firm in a chairman's state was impacted by his ascension. The idea was that this would provide a lower bound on the benefits from being politically connected. It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman's state did not benefit at all from the increase in spending. Indeed, the firms significantly cut physical and R&D spending, reduce employment, and experience lower sales.

The results show up throughout the past 40 years, in large and small states, in large and small firms, and are most pronounced in geographically concentrated firms and within the industries that are the target of the spending.

In other words, robbing Peter to pay Paul (or, to be more precise, taxing Peter to provide pork for Paul) ends up not benefiting Peter.

Remember that the next time your senator or representative boasts about bringing a project to your state.

The Watcher's Council discusses this here.

When the Great Leader met the Supreme Leader

Posted: 26 May 2010 09:20 PM PDT

Oh, to have been there! I mean the original meeting, but these round-table talks were probably swell as well:

A photo exhibition, a film show and round-table talks were held at the Iran-Korea Friendship Magsal Agro-Stock Farm on May 19 to mark the 21st anniversary of President Kim Il Sung's meeting with Seyed Ali Khamenei, leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran.

On display in the venue of the events were photos showing the revolutionary histories of Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il and their immortal exploits.

Attending the events were personages of the farm and the Islamic Revolutionary Proletarian Organization of Iran. Staff members of the DPRK embassy in Teheran were present on invitation.

The participants of the events looked round photos on display and watched a Korean film.

The manager of the farm said in a speech at the round-table talks that Kim Il Sung helped Iran both materially and morally when it was undergoing difficulties, thus greatly encouraging its people.

The Iranian people will always remember the immortal exploits performed by the President for the development of the friendly relations between Iran and the DPRK, he added.

I hate to bring everybody down after that exhilarating article, but the DPRK is not happy about this business with the torpedoed South Korean ship:
. . .the "story about the north's torpedo attack" is a whopping lie cooked up by the group of traitors to weather its crisis in a bid to kick off "north wind" and that the investigation into the cause of the sinking of the ship was not conducted on a scientific basis but unilaterally done to serve its purpose and it was not objective but was based on bias and arbitrariness. [...]

The group of traitors employed all control means, persistently brushing aside various conjectures and opinions not serving the purpose of the scenario worked out by it and threatening and blackmailing people in the whole period of investigation. [...]

The puppet group is working with bloodshot eyes to peddle story about "north wind" defying scientific evidence and objective procedures after cooking up such mean and clumsy charade in a bid to tide over the present crisis. [...]

All facts prove that the "story about the north's torpedo attack" is, indeed, a poor anti-DPRK farce orchestrated by the group of traitors to harm and stifle fellow countrymen and an undisguised burlesque for confrontation in a bid to realize its despicable ambition and black-hearted intention.

Its brigandish farce is a hideous crime to be recorded in the history of inter-Korean relations as it is an open negation and total rejection of the June 15 era of reunification.

The army and people of the DPRK are sharply watching the moves of the group of traitors, which seeks to stifle fellow countrymen while linking the cause of the sinking of the warship with the DPRK, and keeping themselves ready to take decisive counteractions.

If the south Korean puppet forces show any sign of the slightest provocation, political, military and economic, against the DPRK, backed by the U.S. imperialists, we will immediately react to them by the just tactics of wiping out one by one, eliminate all rubbish of the nation from the Korean Peninsula and build on it rich and powerful reunified Korea where all Koreans enjoy prosperity. [...]

Ah, so the South Koreans will get wiped out "one by one" and then live happily ever after in the bosom of the brilliant Songun Commander?

Crossposted on Judeopundit

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