View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Property Rights


The Denver Post this morning carries a very disturbing story about local governments' use of eminent domain to acquire property for development by private companies. If a property is for private use, then private developers need to acquire it, or work around it. The Russian Tea Room in New York refused to budge, so the Metropolitan Tower and the Carnegie Hall Tower had to be built separately. Too. Damn. Bad. Eminent domain is supposed to be used for fire stations, highways, police stations, schools, and other public facilities.


Denver is far from alone. National Review Online and 60 Minutes have both carried stories about this abuse, and the New York Times is trying to strongarm its neighbors in Times Square into a sweetheart deal for its own development. The Milwaukee suburb of Greendale condemned a property, where the owner claims he wasn't even approached by the developer. The worst part of that story is that the new owners are, in effect, being subsidized by a 4% increase in property taxes for residences.


In suburban Atlanta (article not available on line), property has been condemned for a new shopping mall. "The disputed property, Morris said, is pegged for storm drainage, roads and rights of way --- all public uses under the law, he noted. There's also talk about a new city hall, police station and convention center." But these uses wouldn't be there at all unless there were a new shopping mall going up. And you can't take someone's property because you might decide to put a new police station up.


The story is the same in St. Petersburg, Cleveland, and other cities, where sometimes, the companies in question get tax breaks in addition to government help in securing the land they want.


I believe in private property, and I believe in property rights. Michael Novak has written eloquently about the Founders' notion that political and economic freedoms reinforce each other. To be real, to be effective, these rights have to count as much for the little guy as for the big guy. It breaks faith with the community to chase people out of their homes, rather than present them with the choice of cutting budgets or raising taxes.



Friday, November 28, 2003

Public Service Opportunity


Next Tuesday, December 2, at the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek, here in Denver, the head of the local anti-Israel, anti-American "peace" group, CCMEP, will be promoting her new book. Wouldn't it be nice to deny her a nice, friendly, cozy audience? Nothing impolite, of course; we're the civilized ones. If the event get written up, let's get some ink for the side of right and justice. These people are, if not consciously evil, in league with evil. Look at their site. Read what they write and what they say. And ask youselves if they should ever get a public forum to themselves.


Tell you what. Let's go downstairs afterwards and meet for coffee.



Whoa, Nelly!


Since becoming religiously observant, I haven't had much chance to watch college football, and I had forgotten how great it is. Aside from the fact Notre Dame isn't threatening to move to Iowa unless South Bend builds it a bigger stadium, the field is bigger. If you stand there with a tape measure, it's the same, of course. But the players are smaller and slower than the pros, but at the highest level still have plenty of talent to make things happen. There's room to run, and time to watch the play develop. Throw in Keith Jackson, who at over 70 is still the best in the business, and I'll watch even a mediocre game just to listen to the commentary.



Milbanking


So there's a Thurberesque word, "milbanking." Goes along with "Dowdify." "Mr. Smith, after a long look at the financial pages, decided to go out milbanking for the morning."


In this case, the Post's Designated Democratic Mouthpiece (courtesy Powerline) emphasizes the political aspects of the President's trip to the front lines. "But one thing is certain. Bush's Thanksgiving Day surprise ties him, for better or worse, ever more tightly to the outcome of the Iraq struggle."


Well, yes. But that's mostly the Democrats' choice, not Bush's. He was there as the Commander-in-Chief, the representative of the civlian leadership, and the country as a whole, something that no mere senator could accomplish, ahem. The Democrats have chosen to make this a political issue, to move their party away from support for the war and into opposition to it. If they were supportive of the war and its aims, by definition the President's visit would have been less political.


One other thing. The symbolism of the President serving dinner to the troops is outstanding. It says, "I'm here to make your job easier. I work for you, not the other way round."



Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Israel Confiscates Dolls


According to the Jerusalem Post,



Singing and dancing, two of the world's most wanted men reached the shores of Israel in doll form on Wednesday. along with a load of dubious Teletubbies, a consignment of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein dools were seized by customs officials at the Haifa Port.


They were discovered in a container consignment ordered by an Israeli Arab, a resident of Kafr Kara in the Triangle region. He was questioned and maintained that the toys, made in China, were intended to be a gimmick to be sold in Israel.



There were 400 Osama dolls, but only 50 Saddam dolls, suggesting a slippage in Hussein's Power Rating since the Iraq War.



Israeli Doctors Operate on Iraqi Child


In today's feel-good Thanksgiving story, Israeli doctors are performing a sophisticated heart surgery to save an Iraqi baby girl, airlifted from Iraq to Israel for the operation. The doctors in Israel called the doctors in Iraq to give him instructions on stabilizing the girl, and then she was flown to Holon, to the Wolfson Center.


Of course, the only thing that made this possible was our invasion and occupation of the country. Of course, we'll get no credit for that. Certainly not from the Europeans, but also not from the Iraqis. Mostly because we still don't have a radio service operating in country, and they'll never hear about it.


Don't expect the Israelis to get much goodwill, either. They've done this surgery for over 300 Palestinian children, too, and look where that's got 'em. It's a good thing they have a conscience, and do this because it's right, since the external rewards for this sort of thing are pretty thin.


UPDATE: I am reminded that the EU hospitals, great humanitarians that they are, refused to operate on the child. I'm not sure why this is, or what reason they gave, but I'm sure they have the expertise.



Tuesday, November 25, 2003

From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill


U.Va. has a reputation as a conservative school, but it's not. I mean, it's not nuts like Harvard or Berkeley, but nowadays it's about as liberal as the average college. I never thought I would see the day when the Cavalier Daily would be seized by a bout of conservative common sense, though.


Two incidents. First, a University Hospital employee evidently used the "N-word." Now, he didn't actually call anyone the N-word. He didn't even refer to any specific set, or subset of people as the N-word. In fact, the sentiments expressed, that a team called the Redskins is about as appropriate as a team call the N-words would be, would be heartily approved by the NAACP. They'd probably be endorsed by a higher percentage of blacks than Indians, but that's beside the point. The point is that while Julian Bond calls for re-education camp, and President John Casteen finds a way to cluck and bite his tongue and talk about "inappropriateness," and the Univeristy employees' union stages a protest, the Cavalier Daily actually calls for some restraint and the application of common sense. This is a paper that, when I was in school, campaigned against the Single Sanction for honor offenses on the grounds that the standards were those of a dead white Southern aristocracy, and that blacks really couldn't be expected to understand subtle concepts like stealing other people's work.


Then, two days running, the paper editorializes against something called a "Diversity Center," to replace the student lounge. The purpose of the proposed "diversity center" is to promote social mixing of people of different ethnic backgrounds. Funny, but the student lounge actually used to do that. I used to play pool and ping-pong, and used to see pretty much everyone down there studying or watching the big-screen or listening to videos or what-notting. I remember watching the 1985 NCAA Basketball finals down there, the one where Villanova beat Georgetown, and it seems to me it was a pretty mixed crowd.


One editorial makes this point, and the op-ed piece uses the "Diversity Center" as a jumping-off point for questioning the value of the whole notion of diversity. There may be hope yet.



Live, from "Palestine," It's Krystall-nacht!


Nancy Stohlman, one of the organizers of the Colorado Campaign for Israeli Surrender, er, Middle East Peace, CCMEP, is going to be speaking at the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek next Tuesday night. I think she deserves a polite, but decidedly hostile reception. Among the questions we might ask are:




  • Can you remember the last time you specifically condemned Palestinian terror without using the word "but" or the phrase "all innocent life" in your answer?
  • Inasmuch as democracy depends on the certainty of the next elections rather than the last ones, can you tell me when the Palestinians will have the chance to vote again?
  • Why doesn't either mosque in Denver fly an American flag?
  • In a world where (pick three):

    • Robert Mugabe is starving his people to death
    • North Korea is starving it people to death while pursuing a nuclear bomb
    • China is oppressing Tibet, Hong Kong, and salivating over Taiwan
    • Vietnam throws people into mental hospitals for asking for democracy
    • Cuba throws people into jail for running private libraries
    • (Any Arab Country) is a despotic dictatorship or monarchy
    • Iran is openly planning to test their first nuclear bomb over Tel Aviv

    Why do you only question the legitimacy of the sole pluralistic democracy in the Middle East?


Seriously. Someone, preferably a whole roomful of someones, should show up and ask these questions. And others. Early. Often. Don't let them have the floor. Mop it with them.



Settlements and Other Settlements


Jed Babbin has a fine discussion on Israel's need for the Fence. In it, he touches on the issue of settlements.


The issue of settlements can be very simple (keep them all; they all must go) or very complicated. Not all settlements are equal. The Etzion Bloc of settlements, for instance, south of Bethlehem, has not only been built up substantially, but also has great emotional significance. Michael Oren, in _Six Days of War_, talks about how even secular Jews felt a sense of homecoming in the West Bank, because that was historical Judea, where the great events of the Jewish people took place. Thus Hebron and Nablus, while now Arab cities, have places of great religious significance to Jews.


I certainly do not believe that every settlement is a good thing. I do not believe, for instance, that it makes any sense to keep Jews in the middle of Gaza, or that their presence there has any meaning, or that it makes holding onto Efrat any easier.


My only point is that some places will be more easily disposed of than others, and these distinctions need to be drawn now, before Israel concedes anything, leading to momentum and pressure for them to concede everything.



Tovah, Golda, and Me


Went to go see "The Making of 'Golda's Balcony'" at a Federation fundraiser last night. Let's just say that "Golda's Balcony" is the show; "The Making of..." is the HBO advertising special. Tovah sings! Tovah Act! Tovah prances! (Yes, really.) The show couldn't decide if it was about her, Golda, her & Golda, or the show it was supposed to be about.


She had a couple of good songs (Billy Joel, Carly Simon), some latter-day-Broadway songs (Andrew "As a Lyricist, He's a Fine Composer" Lloyd Weber), and some truly awful stuff (Tovah Feldshuh). Golda was from Milwaukee. Now, if you're going to try to rhyme that city, you're left with sqwaky, gawky, and talky. She used two of them. (If you're into baseball, there's also balky and Yawkey, but I don't think Golda spent a lot of time listening to the Red Sox on the shortwave.)


As for the jokes, it was like a traditional wedding: something old, something new, a whole lot borrowed and a little blue. She did a little 10-minute riff on her grandmother, which wasn't nearly as funny to me as it might have been 10 years ago, or if my grandparents had been Yankees. I did learn a little about Golda herself, although nothing that a 2-hour visit to the House wouldn't have taught me.


It wasn't exactly clear why we had to sit through an hour of Tovah's Baloney rather than "Golda's Balcony." The Rocky gave some vague excuse about the show being on Broadway. Do theaters purchase exclusive rights to shows? Are they afraid that people won't add the modest price of an airline ticket to the exorbitant cost of the theater ticket if they can get it at home? I can't imagine it was the set or the costuming: it's a one-man show, for crying out loud. Hal Holbrook has been Mark Twain for longer than Mark Twain was Mark Twain, with nothing but a white suit and a pocketwatch. I'm sure we could have rustled up some blue velvet and a green formica table.




Monday, November 24, 2003

Has James Carville Lost His Mind?


Earlier today, Hugh Hewitt played a clip of James Carville flailing about, looking for Democratic electoral success. Carville pointed, for some reason, to Colorado. Jim, Colorado has a Republican Governor, thus Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, House, Senate, two Republican US Senators, and 5 of 7 Republican US Representatives. If this is Democratic success, Jim, bring it on, bring it on.



Beware of Greeks...


FoxNews was reporting earlier that the Greeks, who've been almost as much help as the French over the last two years, want to talk to us about security for the 2004 Olympics they're hosting. Gee, a few little bombs go off next door, and suddenly, the British and we are the experts.



Master and Commander


Loved it, and not just because the French get it in the neck. It's our modern-day man's man, Russell Crowe playing an ocean-going version of Captain Kirk (without the overacting), full-circle in that Kirk was based on Horatio Hornblower. It's violent, but the worst stuff takes place just off-screen. If you can't stand a little ketchup, go see Sylvia instead, or the latest Hugh Grant pap.


Funny, Hollywood can't stand to give us the war we're actually fighting, but they show up with four war pictures this winter: Master and Commander, The Last Samurai, Cold Mountain, and, if you count it, Return of the King. They dare not speak the name of the enemy we face, but they do somehow seem to sense that people understand we are at war.



Sunday, November 23, 2003

Parking Lot Etiquette


A friend of mine, Jeremy Epstein, asks the following question:



Youíre in a parking lot, riding as a passenger with a friend. Itís crowded, spots are not easy to come by. As the passenger, can you get out of the car and walk around the lot? And if you do see an open spot (that hasnít been claimed by another person), can you go and ďsave itĒ until your car arrives there? Are you allowed to wave off other drivers?

I'd say that unless you're spotting for a pregnant woman, the answer would more or less be no. You sit in the car, looking for spots like everyone else.


Think of the mayhem that this kind of behavior could cause, if carried to its logical conclusion. It's 7:30 on a summer evening, at a parking lot near 7 Corners. Jim is ferrying the kids soccer team to the local pizza joint after the game. Naturally, each of the little monsters has a cell phone, as does Jim. He drives across the lot, pausing briefly at the end of each lane to discharge a small passenger, who then walks down his assigned lane looking for an open spot, calling Jim when he finds one. Of course, his kids are all in 7th grade, whereas John, who's doing the same thing, has high-schoolers at his disposal. While Sarah is taking her women's investment club to lunch.


Pretty soon, the lot is crawling with cell-phone-laden spotters, racing each other to the only open spot available, and then arguing over who saw it first, and/or got there first, like two women bickering over the last jar of borscht at Katz's on Erev Pesach. The smarter ones mimic driving behavior, tailing people leaving the mall for their cars (and their soon-to-be-vacated spots). Only the high schooler group up to follow the twenty-something bureaucrette leaving her exercise session, and who gets nervous at being tailed by 5 teenage boys, and whips out the mace.


No, I think this is a very bad idea, indeed. The only place I could see this working is where time really is an important factor, like an airport parking lot. Hopefully, your passenger has a Segway at his disposal.



One People, At Least Two Worlds


Welcome back. This is what happens when you try to hold down a full-time job, while blogging, and taking night classes. Something's gotta give during Finals Week, and since blogging represents not the Ghost of Income Past, Income Present, nor Income Future, guess what got The Shaft?


That night, the last night of finals, Wednesday, November 19th, I went to go see a Reform/Orthodox dialogue between two local community rabbis. In the Right Corner, wearing the blue trunks, representing the Orthodox, Rabbi Daniel "The Kid" Alter, and in the Left Corner, wearing the red trunks, representing the Reform, Rabbi Stephen "Don't Call Me Beautiful Dreamer" Foster. It was my first sustained contact with Rabbi Foster, and it's a measure of how charming a speaker he is, that it took me most of the evening, and a sustained post mortem, to realize how thoroughly condescending and arrogant he had been. None of this necessarily had anything to do with his representing points of view with which I completely disagree. No, it had to do with him.


Rabbi Foster wanted you to come away with three ideas: 1) he's been a Rabbi in Denver for 33 years; 2) he's happy to come talk with us Orthodox, who've treated him so badly over the years, and 3) his synagogue can beat up my synagogue, but only if the contest were held on Saturday, since they won't show up any other day.


The biggest mistake Rabbi Foster made, the only one, really, was in bringing up Israel, where he proposed that promoting the Leftist line on the situation there was an obligation of Reform. Most people were willing to give this a pass, until the Q&A, when one questioner rather forcefully suggested that the problem wasn't the rate of Orthodox opposition to a Palestinian state, but the rate of Palestinian murders against Jews. Rabbi Alter let this go, saying it was a debate for another time.


Rabbi Foster was not so mature. He proceeded to accuse many of the Orthodox of opposing a two-state solution, and to accuse Sharon of "causing more terrorism than anyone." He then went on to defend the local imam, who had kindly come to Temple Emanuel to denounce the killing of any innocents, as though the IDF were in that business. Finally, he took great umbrage at having his loyalty to Israel questioned, although nobody had actually done so.


Up until then, things had gone well, but the fact is, this debate had absolutely no place in this forum. This simply isn't a Reform/Orthodox question. There's a whole Orthodox shul (in DC) full of people willing to create a Palestinian state tomorrow. Rabbi Zwerin at Temple Sinai here in Denver has been very much to the right on this question since Arafat's War started in 2000. Rabbi Foster was evidently confusing his own opinions with those of his movement, and continued to do so when things got heated, noting that, "at 9:30, the dialogue finally got started."


No, Rabbi Foster, the dialogue didn't get started. You finally said things that were self-righteous and offensive enough, from a horse high enough to hide Greeks in, on an issue that ought to be non-denominational. We simply don't feel threatened by each other any more, unless one side deliberately goes after the other in a public forum. The Orthodox, by and large, accept that we have nothing to learn religiously from people who can't define what they stand for religiously, and the Reform feel the same way about people they believe are trying to stop time either 300 or 3000 years ago (take your pick).


Israel is different. That's an issue where we are all insecure, where we feel the insecurity of the state, its state of siege, the rising tide of anti-Semitism, deliberately planted by the Arabs, to deligitimize the only Jewish state in the world. To have someone cloak themselves in religion, in my religion, to tell me that my support for a particular government is religiously wrong, is bound to raise a few hackles. Rabbi Foster has a right to his own opinions, but to try to dragoon an entire movement into supporting him, to make that a Reform/Orthodox split where there is none, is both intellectually dishonest, and morally reprehensible.



Friday, November 14, 2003

Filibusters


Changing the Senate rules on filibusters is going to be tough, I think. The alternation of power makes a majority today less likely to abuse what is transient power. But even then, if they get fed up enough and think they have the votes, the Democrats will put up fierce institutional and procedural resistance.


We've done this before. Over 100 years ago, the House of Representatives had something called a "silent absence," and required a quorum of an absolute majority to conduct business. When majorities were slight, as they were at the end of the last century, like today, it as difficult to put together a majority of the total House to conduct business. Worse yet, the minority could show up, debate, and then call for a quorum and just not answer when their names were called. denying a quorum for a vote.


Speaker Thomas Reed of Maine, also a Republican, moved to get rid of this, by calling a quorum and then counting present the Democrats who refused to answer. All hell broke loose, there was almost a riot on the floor, there *was* a riot on the floor, before three days of debate on the matter were immediately scheduled. Eventually, the Republicans prevailed, and the House was able to conduct business. Barbara Tuchman has a detailed, and vivid account of the whole thing in her The Proud Tower, which is well worth reading, anyway.


The point is, Reed was a powerful Speaker as well as a powerful speaker, a brilliant debater, a master parliamentarian, and a battleship of a man with tremendous presence and force, and he still only barely pulled it off. He did so by knowing how many votes he had, with meticulous planning, and by catching the opposition by surprise. I'm not sure that we have that sort of leadership in the Senate right now.



Gangs


We live in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by nice neighborhoods. Across a major street is a small public housing project, which does not appear to be in disrepair. Every there's a high school a block away, and a large park 2 blocks away. Both of which are magnets for elements that would like to do something about these nice neighborhoods.


I've started seeing gang tagging on the sidewalks, buildings, and signage around the park. Gangs may be run by bullies in their 20s, but they prey on the not-so-swift high school kids who think they're tough. Tagging marks turf, and simultaneous tagging by rival gangs marks a war zone-to-be. Fortunately, Denver has a good graffiti removal program, which is about to get tested.



Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Radio Station That Is the Internet


"What? This guy's a professional web developer and he's just now catching on to Internet radio?"
Ahem, No. Still, there's more of it now than there was a few years ago. All of New Europe is coming on line, and while most of it is state radio of one form or another, the things that make non-state radio so important, I couldn't undertand, anyway.


There's a 24-hour Hungarian classical station, and this Polish station I'm listening to right now that broadcasts nothing but Ahhhhh, Bach. And no, I'm not going to give you the web address, you'll have to find it for yourself. The Hungarian station seems to have too much traffic, so even the slower broadcast sounds like the soprano is singing through an aluminum tube and takes breathers from time to time. I don't need to have that happen to Johann, so I'm keeping it to myself.


If the Arab countries actually had Internet technology, and if they allowed their people to broadcast, and if I understood Arabic, now that would be interesting. Of course, they don't, but then, there's always MEMRI.


Fortunately, Arafat is now sick enough that he's offensive in English, too. He asserts Israel's right to live in peace, whatever that means to him, and then reads off a list of grievances, some of which aren't made up. He complains about the violation of Christian holy places, like the Church of the Nativity. Excuse me Yassir, but those guys with the guns holed up in there, turning over pews and running through the wafers like they were the supply wagon weren't speaking Hebrew. Why on earth anyone believes anything that comes out of this guy's mouth is beyond me.



Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Economic Numbers Explained


Barron's, the business weekly owned and published by Dow Jones, publishers of theWall Street Journal, has a front-page web feature explaining the daily economic numbers. There are many daily financial and economic data releases that don't make it to the front pages, but which managers and executives use to make decisions. Barron's explains the methodology of the better-known ones, as well as the less sexy releases.



Monday, November 10, 2003

Self-Defense Blog


Clayton Cramer has started a blog devoted to incidents involving the use of guns for self-defense. It's a nice idea, but it's going to take more than just scouring the newspapers. Frequently, the initial reports state that the guy claims self-defense, but only through follow-up will we know if the police agreed, of if they didn't whether a jury did.



Sunday, November 09, 2003

Glad We Cleared That Up


From today's corrections on the New York Times:



A chart last Sunday with an article about cable channels created by the National Basketball Association and the National Football League misstated the name of another professional sports organization, the PGA Tour; misstated the annual television revenue for Major League Baseball and Nascar; misidentified two of the networks that broadcast Major League Baseball games; and omitted one that broadcasts Nascar races. The chart also referred incompletely to the expiration of Major League Baseball's and Nascar's current TV deals.





Monday, November 03, 2003

No Honor Among Axes


The Wall Street Journal report on the captured Iraqi intelligence archives contains this gem:



Iraqi government documents showed that Baghdad made a down payment to North Korea in late 2002 of $10 million for delivery of a Nodong missile, the senior U.S. official said. But North Korean officials replied that they couldn't deliver the weapon because they were being watched too closely by the Bush administration. The Iraqi side asked for its money back, though there are apparently no documents to confirm they got it, the official said.





Our Greatest Ex-President


Jimmy Carter's at it again. In his opinion piece for the USA Today, Carter portrays Geneva as providing the framework for an ultimate solution to the Israel-Palestinian war. He portrays it as Oslo was portrayed, and it certainly does look a lot like Oslo. The factual and logical gymnastics involved in making it look viable are worthy of Olga Korbet.



Although it has received little attention in the U.S. media, a detailed, soon-to-be-released Middle East accord struck by a group of influential Israelis and Palestinians paves the way to the region's best, and perhaps last, chance for peace.



Yes, the Israelis are so influential they were destroyed in the last elections, some even leaving Labor for parties further to the left. The Palestinians are so influential none of them is currently in government. The would matter even if the government were actually elected.



Its plan is an alternative to the "Quartet" road map fashioned by the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. That also offered an encouraging prospect for peace, but even its first basic phase has been substantially rejected. Key obstacles have been Israel's insistence on colonizing Gaza and the far reaches of the West Bank, and the Palestinians' insistence on the withdrawal of all Israeli settlements, a return to the pre-1967 border and a right to unlimited return for refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars.



Yes. "Colonizing." True technically. Playing to the worst symbolism of Israel as a colonial power. Even Sharon has said that there should be a Palestinian state, and that some settlements will have to go. Not the one large, missing issue here: the state of war that exists between the two, with the unsettling tendency of Palestinians to blow themselves, busses, children, workshippers, and restaurant-goers to bits with some regularity, unless they are stopped. Here he ignores the issue. See what happens later on.



The Quartet's plan is now a dead issue. Instead, there are continuing violent attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups and increasingly harsh reprisals from Israel. With apparent acquiescence from the Bush administration, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recently announced that additional settlement units will be built and the Israeli dividing wall farther intruded into Palestinian land.



Moral equivalence between blowing up children, and blowing up the houses of those who would blow up children. The Palestinians term "wall" for the fence is adopted, as well as the assumption of "Palestinian" land. No mention of where the offending settlements lie, and no mention of why the fence is being built.



Supporting such policies is the worst thing America could do for Israelis who want peace. There also is no doubt that the obvious lack of real effort to resolve the Palestinian issue is a primary source of anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East and a major incentive for terrorist activity.



Naturally, allowing Israel to defend itself only hurts those who want peace. And there is, too, considerably doubt about that assertion. Need we go through the history here, that Osama only named Israel as a problem when he saw it might get him support? That it's thoroughly unrealistic to expect the US to impose a settlement where none is wanted by one side? No, to the extent that other Arabs really care about the Palestinians, they might consider making them citizens, stop keeping them in camps, and funding suicide bombings.



For more than two years, the group of Israelis and Palestinians, many of whom played key roles at earlier discussions under President Clinton at Camp David and later at Taba, Egypt, has held difficult, tedious negotiations. Working without government support, both sides have made constructive concessions without contradicting the concepts of the Oslo accords of 1993, the Clinton proposals and the Quartet road map.



Israelis and Palestinians, many of whom played key roles in previous failed negotiations...Perhaps the reason they're working without government support is that all of them have no support within the government. Again, note that one of those governments is actually elected by its citizens.



Their plan proposes a two-state solution. It would settle the conflict's most critical elements, including precise border delineations, Israeli settlements, the end of excessive occupation of Palestinian lands, the future of Jerusalem and its holy places and the extremely troubling question of Palestinian refugees.


The proposed plan permits more than half of Israeli settlers to remain permanently in the West Bank, strictly limits the return of Palestinian refugees and provides for a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, connected to Gaza by a secure highway. Highly-developed Palestinian land near Jerusalem now occupied by Israeli settlers would be swapped for equal areas of remote, uninhabited Israeli land. Satellite imagery has defined a border to the level of individual homes. Unrestricted access by specific routes is guaranteed to East Jerusalem's holy places.



Yes. Half the Israeli settlers may remain in the West Bank, subject to discriminatory laws, physcial harassment, and the constant threat of death from a hostile population not only unrestrained, but encouraged, by its government. The highly-developed land is assumed to be Palestinian, so it's assumed to have been unfairly taken, or that anything onthe other side of the 1967 Green Line is by default Palestinian land. And I'm sure that that unrestricted access by specific routes wil be just as secure as Israel's access to Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University was before 1967. Or, for that matter, just as secure as access to the Wall was before 1967, also guaranteed by cease-fire.



Presumably ó and as already pledged by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia ó such an agreement would induce all Arab nations to recognize Israel's rights to live in peace and to take action to prevent further violence initiated by naysaying Palestinian groups. Such a commitment should be a prerequisite to a final agreement.



Right. So the Palestinians can deliberately keep some small issue unresolved, like, say the Sheeba Farms. The issue will be small, but will be cited as the reason for continuing Palestinian murder, and certainly no impediment to implementing all the agreed-upon issues. Of course, the other Arab states will use that as a pretext for recognizing Israel. And what to do about the Golan? Surely Syria won't recognize Israel until that's settled.



Current U.S.-Israeli strategies must change. Demanding an end to all terrorism before final negotiations only guarantees they never happen. Such extremist groups as Hamas do not want a negotiated settlement and are out of the Palestinian Authority's control. Half-hearted, step-by-step approaches let violent acts on either side subvert the peace process.



Now, murder, while acknowledged, is simply wished away. The whole power dynamic within the PA is reduced to, "Arafat can't control Hamas." As though he wants to. As though giving Hamas a larger base to operate will make Israelis safer. As though "violent acts on either side" really exist. As though there is a "peace process."


As though Carter actually had something newor constructive to say.



The Party of Vote Fraud


The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on pre-election thuggery by the supporters of Philadelphia Mayor John Street. It's too bad, because he won election as the reform candidate. Katz is planning an aggressive GOTV effort, and claims he's had to hide his vans for fear of sabotage, but it's hard to know how much of that is real, and how much is histrionics. He also promises an aggressive plan to challenge fraudulent voters at the polls, but I'm sure the NAACP is already pulling a Florida and charging harassment and racism.


The Democratic Party claims to care about the little guy. But it's perfectly happy to dilute his vote. And no, both parties don't do it.



Right Hand, Left Hand


FoxNews is reporting that the government is having a hard time find Arabic-speakers. No kidding. We're perfectly happy to turn away Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews who know Arabic, because they can't be trusted to be accurate. Meanwhile, those trustworthy Muslim converts we hired, who happened to get their religious training in Syria, are falsifying transcripts, stealing documents, and shipping them FedEx to Damascus.


Notice the "volunteer" part about the Jews. Notice that there are millions of Arabs and Muslims in this country who are supposed to be eager to be seens as patriotic Americans. Or, at least, who want not to be suspected of being otherwise. I'm sure they're breaking down the doors to help translate. Where are the postings on CAIR and AMA and the rest of the crew, urging patriotic Arab-Americans to help out? Where are the Middle-East Studies departments offering their skills for the benefit of a country that pays their salaries, supposedly for this very purpose?


One of my favorite lines in American diplomatic history ("Nuts," doesn't count), was when the German foreign minister during WWI, Zimmerman, he of the Telegram, said to the American ambassador that if America joined the war, there would be "half a million Germans ready to rise in rebellion." "In that case," replied the Ambassador, after he realized Zimmerman wasn't joking, "we shall have half a million lampposts to hang them on."


We hear so much about the benefits of diversity because they are true. But only so long as we can actually count on the loyalty and love of the immigrants who provide that diversity. Violence against innocents is wrong, period. But social pressure and societal suspicion and disapproval are powerful, non-violent forces. Maybe it would be better if they really were a little worried about being seen as disloyal.



Sunday, November 02, 2003

NPR Recycled


Among the various NPR offerings, This American Life has always been a little funky and offbeat, plus they have occasional pieces by Sarah Vowell. This afternoon, driving home from a group meeting at school, I caught the tail end of Ira Glass's report from a city garbage crew. In-between, he talked about landfills and recycling.


To hear NPR admit that there's plenty of landfill space almost ran me off the road. Glass then went on to look at specific recycling issues. It turns out that while the enviros still argue in favor of recyclying paper and plastic on practical ground, there are other, more marginal items such as glass, where almost no energy or resources are saved. Glass was incredulous to hear some hard-core enviros argue that we should recycle anyway, to prevent new landfills, for aesthetic reasons. I'm not insensible to aesthetic arguments, but the fact that a) that's what they're down to, and b) that NPR finds them less than convincing, are both heartening developments.



Why Does This Always Happen to Us?


The Washington Jewish Week carries one of those articles that looks like it could have come from the 1950s, or 1930s, the notion that the whole world revolves around the Jews. The article argues that Texas Republicans are specifically targeting Martin Frost because he's Jewish, and are trying to split up the Jewish vote. There are far more Hispanics and Blacks in Texas than Jews. The notion that Texas redisticting was targeted at Texas's small Jewish population is self-importance masquerading as oppression.


Frost is, of course particularly bitter, and if Tom DeLay led the state Republican forces in this fight, Martin Frost was every bit as active organizing the Democrats. But for him to say that DeLay "can't on the one hand say he wants Jewish funding and votes, and on the other hand eliminate the only Jewish lawmaker ever elected to Congress from the state of Texas" is identity politics at its worst. Frost has been active in supporting Israel, but the Democractic Party as a whole has been less so. There's no reason to think that Jews and Israel won't benefit from a stronger Republican delegation. I should point out that the US House Assistant Majority Whip is a conservative Republican Jew from Richmond, Va., and he didn't get there because Tom DeLay didn't want him there.


Democratic State House member Scott Hochberg had this to say about state legislative redistricting: "The issue of chopping the Jewish community was brought to the attention" of the Republicans. "A community should always have the ability to elect its own leadership." There's nothing that's keeping the Jewish community from electing its own leadership. This should in no way be confused with an entitlement to ethnic representation in any legislative body.




NPR on the Defensive


This week's Intermountain Jewish News contains a reply by NPR's president and CEO, Kevin Klose, to recent criticism in the paper. The paper's editorial page characterizes the reply as "we're wrong, but we won't admit it," and then goes on to hope the reforms proposed are real. He does that symmetrical criticism from both sides is no proof of objectivity or fairness - as long as the two sides don't have symmetrical goals: "Palestinian critics want a pro-Palestinian radio station, with no dispassionate reporting, no objectivity, no concession of any point to Israel. We want a neutral, dispassionate radio station that lets the facts speak for themselves. When that happens, we'll let NPR be."


In the meantime, let's take a look at what Mr. Klose has to say about the changes NPR has implemented.



First, NPR has developed a document entitled "Middle East Reporting Guidelines," which establishes standards for our coverage and terminology.



I was unable to find this document, either searching by name, or under the Middle East Reporting section of the website.



Second, for listeners to have an informed opinion on our coverage, it is important that they have access to all of NPR's stories in their entirety.



No, they don't. It may help for someone doing research on NPR's unofficial positions to have all their reports at hand. But if I listed to a story a week on the subject, and 95% of the time it's tilted one way, I don't need to go digging through their entire ourve to see where they stand. Moreover, NPR is engaged in producing radio shows, to which people listen while driving to and from work. Most people don't have the time to go reading all of NPR's valuable reporting on a subject, that's why they listen. Also, presenting all reports on a website appears to give them all equal value, when Morning Sedition and All Things Crescent have by far the highest listenership. Bob Edwards introducing a story on the latest massacre in Jenin carries far more weight than a Sunday Evening Weekend Edition report on a joing swallow-watching program in the Galil.



In our most recent report, we found that in 60 Middle East-related pieces that aired on NPR in the first three months of 2003, Israeli voices were heard 65 times and Palestinians (and other Arabs) were heard 49 times. In addition, Israelis were quoted (but no tape played) 61 times and Palestinians (or Arabs) were quoted 57 times.



Fine, but what points of view did they express? NPR is also scrupulous about reporting on the Israeli opposition, especially the Peace Left, insignificant a political force though they may now be. The Palestinians may not be right, but they sure are sure of themselves. Somehow, I doubt many of the Palestinians quoted expressed their strong personal beliefs in the right of a Jewish state to exist.



Fourth, we have added a section to our Web site that allows listeners to submit story ideas on the Middle East.



This is nice and charming and all that. How about you decide that you're going to report the obvious stories fairly, and then we can get on with the others. You're the guys with the reporters on the ground; you discharge your professional responsibilities to report what's going on.


Go to the NPR site. Look at Mr. Dvorkin's work. See if you think he's taking a tough line on this. See if you would take this criticism seriously.



Sixth, NPR executives have met with numerous representatives from both the Jewish and Arab-American communities during the past several months to better comprehend the diverse perspectives about the Middle East conflict.



Again, these people are on the outside, with an obvious agenda, although the agendas differ in their objectives. It's NPR's job to sort this stuff out; and in any case, since when is meeting with the ADL the same thing as meeting with CAIR? Finally, by associating Arab-Americans with the Palestinian cause, and Jewish-Americans with Israel, just contributes to making these people (read, the Jews) targets for those with a gripe about Israel.



Seventh, NPR is currently organizing a series of symposia in major cities across the nation to create an open dialogue on the issues of accuracy, fairness and balance in reporting on highly emotional and contentious topics, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.



Read: we're wrong, but we won't admit it.



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