Friday, June 11, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

Ehrlich, o'malley tied

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 03:04 PM PDT

According the most recent Rasmussen poll, former governor Ehrlich is now tied with with current Governor O'Malley.

Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich has pulled even with Gov. Martin O'Malley in a recent poll, which shows the rematch tightening as the race progresses.

Both O'Malley, a Democrat, and Ehrlich, a Republican, drew support from 45 percent of likely voters, with the remaining 10 percent undecided or favoring a third candidate, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Thursday.

Voter support for Ehrlich, who lost to O'Malley by 6.5 points in 2006, has slowly increased this year while O'Malley's has slightly waned. A Rasmussen poll in February pegged the race at 49 percent to 43 percent in favor of O'Malley. After Ehrlich officially announced his candidacy, an April poll showed that Ehrlich trailed O'Malley by 47 percent to 44 percent.

It's five months until the election and Maryland is a heavily Democratic state. Still I find it encouraging because when the two met four years ago ...

O'Malley, who has never trailed in the polls since entering the race, has been criticized by some in his party for running a cautious campaign devoid of bold policy proposals.

O'Malley never trailed in 2006. The race was seemingly a foregone conclusion even before the voting started. O'Malley isn't trailing now, but the numbers are not currently trending in his favor.

For more info, see the Hedgehog Report.


Posted: 11 Jun 2010 12:30 PM PDT


One of the funniest lines in the Harry Potter series is uttered by Professor Dumbledore on taking a brownish colored Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. He tastes it and says "Alas, earwax."

If you enjoyed that line, then you'll enjoy this.

My 11 year old got a box of Bean-boozled from JellyBelly. There are 20 flavors and 10 colors. Each color has a good flavor (e.g. strawberry jam) and a bad one (e.g. centipede). This afternoon my teenagers and I got into the box of beans and had a blast.

My 16 year old thought he was getting chocolate pudding. But he immediately gagged and went to the garbage. It was canned dog food.

You could hear lines like, "I'm looking for barf." and "Snot and centipede have the same taste." and "Ach, it's coconut, I was hoping for baby wipe."

The gross flavors are really gross, but the fun of watching someone else react to them is priceless.

Concrete answers for gaza

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 12:24 PM PDT

This is a pretty typical claim made in news article about Israel's embargo of certain goods into Gaza, which is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas:

Israel says the embargo it imposed when Hamas rose to power in 2006 is aimed at preventing weapons from reaching the Iranian-backed Islamists who have refused peace initiatives with Israel because they reject its right to exist.

Israel has also largely banned cement imports into Gaza, which has limited efforts to rebuild homes damaged in a three-week war launched in late 2008 with the stated aim of curbing cross-border rocket fire.

In other words, Israel's restriction of goods into Gaza causes hardship to many innocents.

Jonathan D. Halevi, though, observed:

The Palestinian tunnels also serve as a pipeline for the import of cement and iron - items barred from entering Gaza via Israel. On February 11, 2010, the Palestinian news agency reported a drop in the price of cement imported via the tunnels. The lower price stems from an increase in the import of cement via the tunnels. One tunnel owner said he is capable of transferring more than 60 tons of cement a day, but that most tunnel owners are no longer bringing in cement, preferring to concentrate on importing iron. Issam Sha'ath, owner of Sha'ath Construction Equipment, explained that cement prices fell after some 80 percent of tunnel owners began to import cement, as compared to 30 percent in the past.23

In February 2010, the Palestinian media reported a drop in the price of construction materials in recent months along with a rise in activity in the building industry. Farid Zakout, director of the Gaza Construction Association, said in an interview with the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam that tunnel owners in Rafah on the Egyptian border have been cutting back on the transfer of consumer goods in light of the volume of merchandise flooding the markets in Gaza, and are looking instead to increase the import of cement and iron. This trend has led, in his view, to a drop in the price of both these items on the local markets. He added that close to one-third of activity in the construction industry - including the manufacture of cinder blocks, floor tiles, and cement - has returned to normal levels during the past two months. Zakout noted further that the price of a ton of cement now stands at NIS 800 as opposed to NIS 1,200 two months ago, and over NIS 3,000 more than a year ago. The renewed surge in construction activity has fostered a rise of 25 percent in the number of those employed in the industry.24

So the price of cement and iron (and presumably other construction material) has dropped. That means that a lot has been getting into Gaza via the smuggling tunnels. (Prices fall when supply increases.) So if construction materials have been getting into Gaza, why aren't homes being rebuilt? What's happening to the cement that's getting into Gaza?

In related news, the Guardian reports:

Obama described the situation in Gaza as "unsustainable", saying a better approach was needed and calling for a "new conceptual framework" for Israel's blockade. A White House statement said the new funds "represent a down payment on the United States' commitment to Palestinians in Gaza, who deserve a better life and expanded opportunities, and the chance to take part in building a viable, independent state of Palestine, together with those who live in the West Bank".

The money will go towards infrastructure projects in both Gaza and the West Bank, including $10m for the construction of new UN schools. It did not explain how the schools will be built while Israel maintains its embargo on construction materials entering Gaza, claiming they could be diverted to make weapons and build underground bunkers.

This seems pretty typical. The situation is "unsustainable" because of the lack of materials for infrastructure, yet we know that those materials have been getting into Gaza despite the blockade. Yet no one seems curious what Hamas is doing with the concrete. It would seem that the Israeli fear is quite valid.

Dore Gold's observations are correct:

International reactions are often shaped by initial impressions. Undoubtedly, even Israel's friends bought into the Hamas narrative: the Gaza Strip is starving, Israel's cruel blockade must be removed, the Turks just wanted to give humanitarian aid, Israel opened fire on humanitarian workers. Israel must replace the Hamas narrative with its own account: In fact, Gaza has plenty of food. Indeed, the Washington Post reported on June 3 that the stores of Gaza City are stocked "wall-to-wall" with food. The people of Gaza need a better future, which the Hamas regime will never provide them, but they are not cut off from the world by Israel. The Israeli blockade is legal and necessary and its removal would lead to a flood of heavy Iranian weaponry, including long- range missile systems, coming to Hamas. A significant contingent on one ship of the Turkish flotilla was part of the notorious Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi, which the French counter-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Brougiere determined was involved in the failed "millennium plot" to bomb the Los Angeles airport in late 1999. Israeli commandos acted in self-defense after this group attacked them. This shift in international perceptions about Israel's operation against the Gaza flotilla won't happen overnight. For Israel it requires hard work and nerves of steel, and most importantly a fundamental understanding that in looking at the incident as a whole, Israel acted the way any other country, in exercising its right of self-defense, would have acted.

In order to change the narrative, though, journalists are going to have start asking questions that they so far are too incurious to ask. They really need concrete answers.

Crossposted on Yourish.

What ails the o's

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 09:17 AM PDT

Forbes runs a very depressing assessment of the Orioles.

Even though Oriole Park at Camden Yards is still one of baseball's crown jewels, an aesthetically pleasing ball park with scrumptious delicacies cannot compensate for the inadequacies of a floundering franchise. As the vestiges of the Orioles' storied past adorn the outskirts of the ball park in the form of retired numbers and the adjacent Sports Legends Museum, the interior of Camden Yards is eerily similar to that of a mausoleum. The deafening silence that has been produced by the thousands upon thousands of unsold seats is an utter tragedy.

Yes the Orioles have just fired their manager. And their performance this year has been awful. Historically bad. So bad that it brings back memories of 1988, when the NYT ran an editorial Those low flying Orioles.

A judge in a divorce case asks the couple's child whether he'd like to live with his mother or father. Neither, the boy says, because ''they'd both beat me.'' Then whom would he like to live with? ''Judge, I'd like to live with the Baltimore Orioles. They don't beat anybody.''

It really seems that bad, especially given the pre-season hype, that the team would likely turn a corner this year and, at least, be respectable. But most of the younger players who were supposed to carry the team have taken a step back in their development. So did the team judge the talent poorly? Is the team suffering from a lot of growing pains simeltaneously, but will bounce back? Or is the team lacking a good development program to prepare prospects to play at the major league level? That last possibility is the one that's most disturbing. Because then, even if the team targets the correct players, they may end up giving up on them and watching them succeed with other teams.

Of course, one of the problems is that Angelos has no (financial) incentive to improve the the Orioles.

You see, in order to allow the Montreal Expos to relocate to D.C., Angelos struck a deal with MLB that would eventually give him a controlling share of the MASN regional sports network. MASN televises both Nationals and Orioles games, and its ratings and advertising revenue will surge if Strasburg becomes a flame throwing star. So will the equity value of MASN.

(Peter Schmuck made a similar point not too long ago.)

Joe klein and the alphabet soup strategy

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 04:03 AM PDT

Joe Klein says that Israel's problem is that it relies on ABCD.

Jeffrey Goldberg, in his excellent memoir Prisoners, tells how he got pummeled by Irish kids, then read the famous novel of Israel's liberation, Exodus, by Leon Uris, and wound up a soldier in the Israeli army, guarding a Palestinian prisoner whom he befriended. Indeed, this need to flash tough is so prevalent among Jews of a certain age (my age) that I've come to see it as a syndrome, which I've named after the macho hero of the Uris novel: Ari Ben Canaan Disorder, or ABCD.

Israel is a nation suffering from ABCD -- and also surviving because of it. Charm is not a major part of the Israeli national character; a brusque, stubborn toughness, a fierce refusal to retreat against great odds, ensured that Israel would continue to exist when massed Arab armies tried to destroy it in 1948, 1967 -- when Israel struck pre-emptively -- and 1973. But over time, ABCD has distorted and limited Israel's view of itself and the world.

Specifically Klein writes:

The most recent display of ABCD is not so much a matter of the Israeli commando attack on the not-so-peaceful "peace flotilla," which inspired Helen Thomas' odious remarks -- although that operation was seriously seichel-deprived. It's more the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza that the flotilla was trying to break. There is reason to treat Hamas as an enemy of Israel; thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilians attest to that. Israel has every right to prevent arms shipments from reaching Gaza. But the blockade isn't really about arms. It's an ABCD attempt to make life so unpleasant for average Gazans that they turn against Hamas. Of course, the exact opposite is happening: Hamas has turned the blockade against Israel. A non-ABCD response would be to turn the blockade on its head, to allow everything but arms to pass through. That would be the sort of wise, restrained response that Israel made the night it chose not to retaliate against Saddam Hussein's Scuds and which doesn't happen so much anymore.

So ABCD then, is to defend oneself. What's astonishing is that Klein never bothers to consider what happens when Israel doesn't practice ABCD.

There do happen to be a number of instances of Israel doing just the opposite.

In 2000 Israel withdrew all of its troops from southern Lebanon. In reaction, Hezbollah, instead of laying down its arms, took advantage of the opportunity to build up its presence in southern Lebanon and continue attacking Israel until 2006, when the situation became intolerable and Israel attacked. In 2005, Israel withdrew every last resident and soldier from Gaza. In reaction, Hezbollah, instead of laying down its arms, took advantage of the opportunity to build up its presence in Gaza and continue attacking Israel until late 2008, when the situation became intolerable and Israel launched operation Cast Lead.

So Klein faults Israel for fighting back, but he fails to consider the lesson of history: that if Israel doesn't fight back it's enemies will take the initiative and attack. Right now the blockade of Gaza isn't so much an aggressive posture undertaken at the first sign of trouble, but a last resort undertaken when Israel lost its ability to defend itself under the existing conditions. In fact Israeli passivity in the face of aggression only invites more aggression. It's not as Klein suggests that Israel spoils for a fight for the heck of it.

Klein also demonstates his ignorance when he takes on Michael Rubin. (via memeorandum)

Yesterday Rubin wrote about President Obama's pledge to provide $400 million of aid to the PA:

Some back-of-the-napkin calculations:

1. There have been eight terrorist attacks against Israel since Obama's inauguration, so Obama is paying President Abbas a modest sum of $50 million per attack.

2. The were 2,048 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel in 2008, but let's not hold that against President Obama since, obviously, to channel our commander-in-chief, that was President Bush's fault. And during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion into Gaza from January 1-18, 406 rockets were fired into Israel. Again, let's not count these against Obama; he hadn't taken his oath of office yet. Since Hamas's third ceasefire, however, there have been 370 missiles fired from Gaza into Israel. So, if we want to discount terrorist attacks and just count missile attacks, then President Obama is rewarding Hamas to the tune of $1,080,000 for every rocket or mortar launched.

To paraphrase a slogan I learned in Quaker school: "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force Hamas has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

In response Klein wrote:

What Rubin doesn't mention, of course, is that the Palestinian Authority is, in effect, at war with Hamas--and that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been doing unprecedented work in creating a stable, secure environment on the West Bank, where there has been 8.5% GDP growth in the past year according to the World Bank...and where this $400 million will be spent. The Israeli government, minus its more extreme life forms, acknowledges that this is true--and has been helping the process by eliminating check points and other unnecessary accoutrements of occupation on the West Bank. The creation of a prosperous, well-educated Palestinian middle class is precisely what is needed to counter the terrorist excesses of Hamas--but Rubin, who seems a rather rabid puppy, is one of those people who looks at Palestinians and sees only terrorists. Very ugly stuff, this--especially the Muslim-tainted splashback on the President, who is clearly doing the right thing here.

Not that Rubin needs me to defend him, but even granted everything that Klein writes is true, there's a lot that he doesn't acknowledge. For example, it's PM Netanyahu who's making some of the concessions that allow the Palestinian government to expand that middle class. But still there are problems. Neither Abbas nor Fayyad - and though their moderation is overstated - has much of a constituency. Any relaxing of Israeli security concerns could be disastrous. But Rubin does get to the bottom of it here:

As for the West Bank, can Mr. Klein respond to studies which find correlation between aid to the Palestinian Authority and terror? Or address the incitement which still reigns supreme in the West Bank and official Palestinian media?

Frankly, even now, nothing is certain. Giving money to the PA is not certain to do good as Klein wants to believe. Experience, in fact, shows the opposite. But don't expect Klein to apologize, he enjoys his ignorance. It allows him pretend that he knows what he's talking about.

Crossposted on Yourish.

If you hang a kick me sign on your back, don't be surprised when other nations do

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 01:27 AM PDT

Charles Krauthammer (or here) takes up the issue of Iran's purported isolation.

Hence, nearly a year and a half of peace overtures, negotiation, concessions, two New Year's messages to the Iranian people, a bit of groveling about U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup, and a disgraceful silence when the regime's very stability was threatened by peaceful demonstrators.

Iran's response? Defiance, contempt, and an acceleration of its nuclear program.

And the world's response? Did it rally behind us? The Russians and Chinese bargained furiously and successfully to hollow out the sanctions resolution. Turkey is openly choosing sides with the region's "strong horse" -- Iran and its clients (Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas) -- as it watches the United States flailingly try to placate Syria and appease Iran while it pressures Israel, neglects Lebanon, and draws down its power in the region.

To say nothing of Brazil. Et tu, Lula?

Which is somewhat similar to what Barry Rubin just wrote:

The Obama Administration has replaced George W. Bush's, "You're either with us or you're against us," with, "If you're not with us, that's cool!

What do you do when a supposedly friendly country stabs you in the back?

Normal diplomacy: Show them (and would-be imitators) that there is a cost for behaving that way.

Obama diplomacy: Assure them that their actions are understandable and their behavior will have no effect on your relationship.

Brazil and Turkey sabotaged U.S. efforts to get more sanctions against Iran by making their own deal with Tehran, then voting against sanctions so weak that even China and Russia supported them. Why? It isn't a misunderstanding but rather because Brazil and Turkey are allies of Iran.

Then, Turkey's government in part managed and has done everything it can to turn into a major crisis the Gaza flotilla affair.

Now it isn't a matter of the United States declaring war on Brazil and Turkey, or slapping sanctions on them, or insulting them. But when someone stabs you in the back a couple of times you must react in some way to indicate that if they continue to do it there will be consequences. This is how foreign policy works (or should I say, is supposed to work).

If foreign policy emphasizes making friends at the expense of gaining influence, a country will end up with neither.

The council has spoken 061110

Posted: 11 Jun 2010 12:02 AM PDT

The council has spoken! In honor of the delusions discussed by this week's winners, I present you with ...

I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats They're coming to take me away - XIV Napolean

This week's winning council submission Helen Thomas,Jew Hatred And Its Polite Acceptance by JoshuaPundit argued that no one took action against Helen Thomas before now, because her views about Jews going to Europe were not that controversial among the press corps.

Helen Thomas is valuable because she provides a picture perfect example of the double standard most Left- leaning journos ( and believe me, the majority are Left- leaning) have when it comes to Jew hatred. While they might not personally endorse it, they're prepared to accept it, just like Joe Lockhart, as a legitimate point of view that is subject to debate. That's something virtually none of them would do if that hatred was directed anywhere else but at Jews.

On the non-council side, the winning entry was Goo-Goo Genocidaires: The Blood Is Dripping From Their Hands by Walter Russell Mead, which illustrated a different kind of rationalization or, if you will, self-delusion.

Understand and sympathize with their legitimate aspirations: that, the professors and preachers constantly told everyone else, was the sophisticated, modern and enlightened way to deal with these problems. Before the war it was the poor Germans, so shabbily treated by the Treaty of Versailles that Hitler represented a necessary phase of Germany's search for self-respect. Before and after World War Two they said it about Stalin: communism was simply payback for the excesses and crimes of capitalist greed. Yes, they sometimes went too far: but surely that was 'our' fault for having permitted these terrible conditions to occur in the first place.

Council Winners

Non Council Winners

For a complete list of this week's submissions see here.

Submitted 06/11/10

Posted: 10 Jun 2010 11:53 PM PDT

This week's Watcher's Council nominations are UP!

Council Submissions

Non Council Submissions

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