View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Monday, February 09, 2004

"Negotiation Intervention" 

On Thursday, Mr. Matt Hodes of the Carter Center will grace DU with his presence, to tell us about the Geneva Initiative. I'll bet he's for it. I can't promise a report from the scene, since class runs until 1, but we'll see...

According to the announcement, Mr. Hodes "maintain[s] readiness for potential negotiation interventions globally." I shudder to think what a Carter-led "intervention" would look like with respect to Israel. A bunch of Carterites in suits, parachuted in to the negotiations, all saying things like,

"You know you've got to dismantle all the settlements, Sharon."

"The Wall was a terrible idea, Sharon, why not just admit it and move on?"

"You're in denial, Sharon. If you don't come around, we're going to manipulate the next elections to get Bibi elected."

"Or Peres."

"Just sign; Sharia's not so bad, really, once you get used to it."

Just as a test of self-control, I may go.

Business Inventories 

In more good news, business inventories were up in December. The key numbers:

  • Wholesale inventories up 0.6%, wholesale sales up 1.0%
  • Durable goods inventories up 0.9%, sales up 1.4%
  • Year-over-year wholesale inventories up 2.0%, wholesale sales up 8.0%
  • Turnover ratio (how long current inventories would last, in months) stayed about steady at 1.17, from 1.18

    One of the more misunderstood economic indicators is business inventories. Inventories rise and fall, but the proper interpretation of that number is completely context-dependent. Increasing inventories are good, if they're in response to increasing orders, and represent increasing orders of their own. They're bad if business orders are flat, and warehouses are filling up with unbought product. In this case, the represent rising confidence, so they're good.

  • Sunday, February 08, 2004

    Big Fish 

    Finally saw Big Fish last night. I know this is late, but there's a reason God gave us second-run theaters. The measure of most films is how long you think about them after you leave your seat. Tim Burton usually does this by creating a world you don't want to leave. Big Fish is the story of a son's attempt to find out the story of his dying father's life, a life shared only through tall tales and myths he's told. By the time the tall tales caught up to real time, I didn't want that world, half of Edward's world, to go away. Albert Finney as the old man makes you want them to be real. And when he finally dies, you find yourself believing.

    Tom Friedman Off Mark Again! 

    Tom Friedman is at his smarmy worst again. His Feb. 5th column in the NY Times ("A Rude Awakening") betrays his ongoing, perverse sense of reality that is impossible to reconcile with the rather notorious facts on the ground. First, in decrying American abdication of a supposed responsibility to “forge, empower and legitimize a moderate center in . . . Palestine [sic],” he neglects an important distinction: The U.S. recently conquered Afghanistan and Iraq militarily, and is now in total control of the apparatus of state in both countries as a result. That's the most salient reason why the U.S. has a chance now to create a "moderate" counterbalance to the Islamist totalitarians in those countries.

    In contrast, the U.S. does not enjoy any such advantage in the West Bank or Gaza. Nor, ironically, does Israel, having acceded much governing authority there to the corrupt, terror-supporting Palestinian Authority. If either the U.S. or Israel is to create a new, sanely moderate Palestinian leadership, the first step must be to roundly depose the old, murderous one: Yasser Arafat, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and their allied groups. Right now, no moderately minded Palestinian would dare come to the fore willingly, lest he be intimidated, exiled, or--what’s more likely--killed. Until the criminal terror leaders are no longer calling the shots—literally—and a pacified environment has been created and is maintained by a superior force, no moderate leadership cadre will be able to emerge.

    Second, Friedman would have us believe that Ariel Sharon has a devious lock on Messrs. Bush and Cheney, and that Sharon is the tail wagging the dog of state as a result. Apart from gratuitously feeding old Arab canards about illicit Jewish control of the U.S. government, Friedman disserves us all by demonizing the Israeli leader. Sharon may in fact be proposing withdrawal from Gaza and relocation of settlements precisely because America won't let HIM do what by national right, Biblical mandate, and historical imperative Israel needs to do: Reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza completely, depose Arafat, Yassin, & Co., disband the PA, forcibly dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, and disarm the entire Arab populace other than a small, uniformed civil police force. Contrary to Friedman’s slant, it is Sharon’s hands that are tied in dealing with the Palestinians, not Bush’s, given Israel’s profound and chronic reliance on American diplomatic support and largesse.

    Friedman’s attempt to paint Sharon as responsible for Hamas ultimately coming to rule in Gaza and the West Bank in the event of an Israeli pullout is even more disingenuous. Amazingly, he accuses Sharon of “fail[ing] to lift a finger to empower more responsible Palestinians-like Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan,” thus “creat[ing] a power vacuum in Gaza and the West Bank, filled by Hamas, the Islamist militant group.” If Sharon has been disabled by American rules from forcibly ending Arafat’s control of the various militias and security agencies, what possibly could he have done to help Abbas and Dahlan assert more authority? How on earth can anyone empower “the moderates” when totalitarians have a protected rule of the roost?

    If Friedman is honest about wanting to build a decent, moderate political center in the Gaza and the West Bank, he needs to stop bashing Sharon and start supporting him having a much freer hand. Simply put, the viciously atavistic, oligarchic autocracy now existing the territories has to be ended first--by a military campaign if necessary--before Israel can successfully cultivate Arab leaders who are prepared to develop a truly civil, humane, and democratic polity that will coexist peacefully alongside it.

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