Are the Tibetans going to mess up China's Olympic Punchbowl? Certainly the dollar's demise is making matters more complex for their banking system as it is throughout the world. (See 1 below.)
IAF reacts to terrorist gunfire and improving accuracy. Olmert's dithering continues to increase risks to Israel. (See 2 below.)
British sponsor of Netanyahu's visit throws oil on troubled waters but this is not the first time in Bibi's career that money and how it was handled has not played a part and given his opponents an opportunity to sully him. Israeli politics can be nastier than even ours and often is. One of my next year's speakers will discuss "dirty politics" in ancient times. Shakespeare - "Man's Inhumanity To Man." (See 3 and 4 below.)
Democrats on the horns of a dilemma according to this journalist. (See 5 below.)
Irving Kristol discusses the problems of cynicism and conceit and suggests the bloom may be coming off Obama's "rose/rise." It is entirely possible that in the end Obama will fall on his own sword by virtue of claiming to be different when all along he was just another politician who could not cope with the truth. If you aren't change, an yu bring about change? I once wrote I thought Obama was more engaged in short changing with his grand oratory. I also previously suggested a failed Obama candidacy and/or presidency could resurrect racial backlash. If, in fact Obama, is proven not to have been truthful about his engagement with Rev. Wright and he does fall on his own sword matters could become ugly and recriminations and accusations could abound. That would be sad indeed and particularly so as we experience concurrent economic uncertainty.
We do live in interesting times and you never know what is around the corner.(See 6 below.)
1) Geopolitical Diary: Beijing's Tibetan Dilemma
Each March, there are demonstrations in Tibet commemorating a 1959 uprising against the Chinese occupation. This year, the normally small and easily contained demonstration progressed from marches to shouting, to rock-throwing, to burning things and attacking ethnic Chinese stores and businesses. The Han Chinese represent the economic elite in Tibet — as well as the political, military and security elite. The outburst was clearly focused on the economic dominance of the Chinese but wasn’t confined to it.
What was extraordinary about the rioting was that it happened at all. The Chinese have confronted and contained Tibetan unrest with relative ease for years. Their normal approach would have been to seal off the area of unrest, arrest as many of the participants as possible and later release those deemed not to represent a particular threat. This time, the Chinese failed to contain events. Indeed, the protests turned into an international media spectacle, with China appearing to be simultaneously repressive and helpless — the worst of both worlds.
The reason the Chinese pulled their punches this time around is undoubtedly the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. China has tried to portray a dual image in the months leading up to the games. On the one hand, the government has tried to appear extremely vigilant on terrorism, hoping to allay tourist concerns. The Chinese, for example, went out of their way to showcase a foiled March 7 hijacking of a flight to Beijing from Urumqi in Xinjiang province. The Chinese claimed that the hijackers intended to crash the plane. At the same time, Beijing released new information on a January capture of a Xinjiang Islamist cell that allegedly was plotting attacks against the Olympics.
The Tibetan situation is another matter. The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet in India, is extraordinarily respected and popular in the West. The question of Tibetan autonomy has been taken up by public figures in the West, and some companies have indicated they would not participate in sponsoring the Olympics because of the Tibetan issue. Tibet is not a shared concern, like terrorism, but rather an issue that puts China and the West at odds. Therefore, the Chinese didn’t want to be seen as conducting another Tiananmen Square in Tibet. They were hoping that it would die down on its own, leaving them time later to deal with the instigators. Instead it got out of hand, in a way very visible to the international media.
Tibet matters to the Chinese geopolitically because it provides a buffer with India and allows Chinese military power to be anchored in the Himalayas. So long as that boundary is maintained, the Chinese are secure in the Southwest. Tibetan independence would shatter that security. Should an independent Tibet — obviously hostile to China after years of occupation — fall into an alliance with India, the regional balance would shift. There is, therefore, no way that the Chinese are going to give Tibet independence and they are unlikely to increase its autonomy. In fact, they have built a new rail line into Tibet that was intended to allow Han Chinese to move there more easily — an attempt to change Tibet’s demographics and tie it even closer to China.
The Chinese are sensitive about their international image. They are even more concerned with their long-term geopolitical interests and with threats to those interests. The Chinese government has attempted to portray the uprising as a conspiracy undertaken by the Dalai Lama, rather than as a spontaneous rising. The Chinese have not mentioned this, but they undoubtedly remember the “color” revolutions in the former Soviet Union. During those uprisings, the Russian government accused the United States of fomenting unrest in countries such as Ukraine in order to weaken Russia geopolitically. The Chinese government is not big on the concept of “spontaneous demonstrations” and undoubtedly is searching for explanations. Having identified the source of the trouble with the Dalai Lama, it is a short step to accusing India — or the United States — of having sparked the rising. Both have been official or unofficial allies of the Dalai Lama.
This is not the way the Chinese wanted the run-up to the Olympics to go. Their intention was to showcase the new China. But the international spotlight they have invited encourages everyone with a grievance — and there are plenty such in China — to step forward at a time when the government has to be unusually restrained in its response.
Undoubtedly the Tibetan situation is being watched carefully in Beijing. Xinjiang militants are one thing — Tibetan riots are another. But should this unrest move into China proper, the Olympics will have posed a problem that the Chinese government didn’t anticipate when it came up with the idea.
2)Israel Air Force may buy vertical-takeoff planes to dodge Hizballah-Hamas rockets
This is reported in the American Defense News . The expanding Palestinian and Lebanese Hizballah’s missile threats to its southern and northern air bases have persuaded Israeli’s Air Force to consider switching its procurement plans from 100 US F-35A stealth jets to the F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) version, designed to serve the US Marine Corps under fire.
Israel’s southern and northern air bases have come within range of rockets from Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas from the Gaza Strip, respectively, and possibly from the West Bank too. Air landings and takeoffs have therefore become hazardous. Israeli air bases and installations have been fortified against Palestinian rocket attack from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“Air base survivability is no longer hypothetical,” said one retired air force general.
Military sources report that IAF chiefs reckon that in any future flare-ups, the Palestinians will not be satisfied with hitting Sderot and Ashkelon but will go for its main air bases as well.
This information has been kept from the Israeli public as the Olmert government continues to avoid proactive options for knocking out the increasingly dangerous Hamas and Hizballah’s rocket capabilities - boosted by Iran, and remains fixed in defensive mode. This fixation is not lost on Iranian, Syrian, Hizballah and Hamas in charting their assault scenarios against Israel.
Most military strategists warn that a comprehensive ground operation is unavoidable and the longer it is delayed, the harder it will be and the more casualties.
Israel’s designated Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who assumes his new duties on April 1, stated at a recent lecture: “Professionally speaking, if Israel wants to prevent high-trajectory rocket or mortar fire, it must establish good control on the ground.” He added: “…if Israeli forces are present on the ground... then we can stop the development and manufacture of rockets and other weapons in time.”
The government continues to lag behind Israel’s perceived security needs. The new Lockheed Martin planes will not be available in time for the confrontations widely predicted to erupt over the next two or three years. The rockets already in Hizballah and Hamas hands - not to mention Iran and Syria - may be able to prevent some Israeli warplanes from taking off from vulnerable runways.
Salvation will not come from the F-35B, which is still undergoing initial testing. On March 26, a Pentagon Acquisition Board will decide whether to approve the production of the first six STOVL F-35Bs, conditional on a successful first flight. In April, the first plane will begin propulsion system ground testing, ahead of its first flight by June. Its capabilities in relation to cost have still to be determined. There is no estimated time line for the F-25B to go into service with the US Marines.
Israeli defense ministry’s director general Pinhas Buchris visits Washington in mid-March to discuss IAF procurements.
3)Joshua Rowe financed Netanyahu visit - but his interview kills story - except for diehards
In an interview broadcast this morning on Israel Radio, Manchester UK based
communal figure Joshua Rowe explained in fluent Hebrew that it is standard
operating procedure in the UK Jewish community for individuals in the
community to pick up the tab for Israelis invited by the community to make
presentations in the UK.
Rowe covered the tab for Binyamin Netanyahu's visit during the Second
Lebanon War and confirmed that Netanyahu repaid him for Netanyahu's personal
Rowe emphasized that this was something done many times for many different
Israelis and that the UK Jewish community follows this practice so as to
avoid encumbering the community institutions with the costs.
In answer to questions from program anchor Arieh Golan, Rowe said that the
charge for the suite was quite reasonable given the prices in London and
that the choice of the suite was appropriate for Netanyahu's intensive
information campaign visit - a visit Rowe said was worth many fold its cost.
While the Rowe interview might seem to kill the story, Israel Radio
introduced the interview as a scoop that an individual, rather than the
Jewish community, covered the tab.
On the other hand, the 7:30 news headline on Israel Radio only mentioned
that Rowe said Netanyahu's visit was worth it.
4) Background: Who will decide whether Netanyahu behaved improperly?
By DAN IZENBERG
There are two possible avenues of investigation into the funding that Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, received to finance the Likud leader's speaking tour of London in August 2006.
Netanyahu Bureau Chief Ari Harow : This is a witch hunt against Netanyahu
One possibility is a criminal investigation to examine whether Netanyahu violated the 1979 Civil Service Law (Gifts).
According to the law, "If a public servant receives a gift in his capacity as a public servant, whether in Israel or abroad, whether given to him or to his wife who lives with him or his children whom he supports, and the public servant does not refuse it or immediately return it, the gift will become the property of the state. If the gift is not a commodity, the public servant must return to the state its value in money. Anyone who breaks the law is liable to be fined three times the value of the gift."
The only exceptions are gifts from friends, gifts of little value or gifts given as rewards for good work, either from public money or from a private organization if the award is granted in public.
* Analysis: Between the posh and the proletariat
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) has filed a criminal complaint against Netanyahu with Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on allegations that he broke the gifts law. Mazuz's spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that "Hasson will receive an answer in the customary way."
The second avenue of investigation is for the Knesset Ethics Committee to determine whether Netanyahu broke the internal code of ethical conduct that applies to all MKs. The committee is due to meet next week to consider a complaint lodged by Ma'ayan Hamoda'i, chairman of the Labor Party Young Guard, regarding the speaking trip.
According to the ethics code, every MK must apply for permission to the Ethics Committee to travel abroad, unless the trip is funded by the Knesset or the government. According to the Knesset Spokesman's Office, Netanyahu did not apply for permission for the London trip. Although the Knesset paid for the Likud MK's flight, it did not pay for his wife's ticket or the couple's stay in London.
Before that trip, the Ethics Committee had approved requests for Netanyahu's wife to travel with him - at the expense of those who invited the couple, not the expense of the Knesset. Sara Netanyahu's trips were approved because she was the wife of a former prime minister. Thus, according to a Knesset source, it is likely that had the Netanyahus asked for permission to travel to London for the speaking tour, their request would have been granted.
As an aside, it should be added that in January 2007, unconnected to the London trip, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided that it would no longer grant permission to Sara Netanyahu to accompany her husband at the expense of those who invited him. Since then, she is obliged to pay out of her own pocket for such trips.
The above are the institutional procedures for examining whether Netanyahu and his wife broke the law or were guilty of violating the Knesset's ethical standards.
However, in a commentary published on Sunday by Yediot Aharonot, Nahum Barnea wrote that Netanyahu's excessive spending should be held up to the court of public opinion. He wrote that Netanyahu was a hedonist, as were the leaders of the other two major parties, Labor's Ehud Barak and Kadima's Ehud Olmert. It was up to the public to decide whether it wanted such people to be their leaders, Barnea wrote.
5) Democrats risk losing a generation
BY RON DZWONKOWSKI
If -- and it's still an if -- the numbers just don't add up for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic presidential nominee, but the party, through its arcane rules and super delegates process, gives it to her anyway, Democrats will pay dearly, for a generation or more.
Instead of re-establishing themselves as the party in power for perhaps the next 20 years, Democrats could be effectively handing the White House to Republican John McCain and alienating up to 30 million young voters who have gotten engaged in politics this year for the first time because of Barack Obama. If these voters feel that Obama has been cheated out of a chance to run for president, they and the hordes more of them becoming eligible to vote in the years ahead, will not easily return to the Democratic fold. Even if they like the party's principles, they will distrust its processes.
In this scenario, Clinton mitigates the damage only somewhat by choosing Obama as her vice presidential candidate -- a role he has said he doesn't want anyway.
More likely, young voters sit out the election (as they have in the past) and McCain wins and Democrats dissolve again into their bickering, finger-pointing ways while an emerging generation that desperately wants to see a stronger, safer and better America backs out of the political system.
This is truly a nightmare scenario for the Democratic Party, which has on its hands a much closer battle for the presidential nomination than anyone, especially Clinton, expected when the race took shape last fall. It seems as if it can be avoided only if in the weeks ahead either Clinton or Obama emerges with an indisputable command of the contest and the loser delivers a strong, convincing endorsement of the victor. Given the way they've been going at each other for weeks, the convincing part may be difficult.
This Democratic dilemma came up this week in a conversation with two old-line party members who have written a new book on young voters. "Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube and the Future of American Politics." The book is all about the political potential of the so-called Millennial Generation, born from 1983-2003, and at 80 million strong, the largest generation in American history. It also is the most diverse and most technologically savvy and has been forecast to be America's next great generation, reshaping the nation to the same extent that the "GI Generation" did after World War II.
With its defining moment so far the 9/11 attacks, the Millennial Generation is concerned about security and is in constant communication via cell phones and the Internet. Thanks in part to Title IX and growing up with TV shows that melted down stereotypes, the generation has little sense of traditional roles for men and women, doesn't make much of racial or ethnic differences, and relies for advice largely on friends and peers. Millennials prefer "win-win" solutions to outright victories for one side, which means they have little use for politics as practiced in this country for the past 20 years or so.
Although, at 46, not part of the generation, Obama obviously is in tune with it. His campaign is the first to tap nationally into the online "social networking" that is an essential part of life for just about every Millennial.
"They don't see a black candidate; they see hope," said Morley Winograd, the former Michigan Democratic chairman and adviser to Vice President Al Gore who wrote the book with Michael Hais, a researcher and analyst who worked on campaigns for Michigan U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and former governor James Blanchard.
"They are not out to resist government authority, but for them that authority has not worked very well," Hais said of the coming generation of voters, who have only known presidents named Clinton or Bush. "They want to make it work better and don't see the current leadership doing that."
For them, Obama means change. And if he can claim the most votes or the most states going into the Democratic convention, that makes it pretty simple for Millennials to decide who should be the nominee.
Although McCain, at 71, is almost three generations removed from the voting-age Millennials, he still could appeal to them with his personal example of "serving a cause greater than yourself" -- a theme from his 2000 presidential run.
"The Republicans can take advantage of this," Hais said of the Democrats' dispute. "The partisanship among Millennials is not so firmly set that they couldn't lean Republican."
And the Democrats are not so forward-thinking that they couldn't screw up the chance to capture a generation.
6) Generation Obama? Perhaps Not.
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Sunday evening, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner held a “Generation Obama” fund-raiser at Boston’s Rumor Nightclub. In case you’re not up on the Boston club scene, I should tell you that Rumor “brings together the sexiest and hippest people from around the globe” and “has raised the bar in Boston’s night life” (if Rumor may say so itself). Presumably, Ben and Jennifer raised the bar a notch further on Sunday.
Which is fine. Obama supporters are allowed to have fun. And celebrities are entitled to headline fund-raisers. But one has the sense that elsewhere in this great land the bloom is coming off the Obama rose.
For one thing, it’s becoming clear that Obama has been less than candid in addressing his relationship to his pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. For example, Obama claimed Friday that “the statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity.”
It certainly could be the case that Obama personally didn’t hear Wright’s 2003 sermon when he proclaimed: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people. ... God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.”
But Ronald Kessler, a journalist who has written about Wright’s ministry, claims that Obama was in fact in the pews at Trinity last July 22. That’s when Wright blamed the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much of the world’s suffering, especially the oppression of blacks. In any case, given the apparent frequency of such statements in Wright’s preaching and their centrality to his worldview, the pretense that over all these years Obama had no idea that Wright was saying such things is hard to sustain.
This doesn’t mean that Obama agrees with Wright’s thoroughgoing and conspiracy-heavy anti-Americanism. Rather, Obama seems to have seen, early in his career, the utility of joining a prominent church that would help him establish political roots in the community in which he lives. Now he sees the utility of distancing himself from that church. Obama’s behavior in dealing with Wright is consistent with that of a politician who often voted “present” in the Illinois State Legislature for the sake of his future political viability.
The more you learn about him, the more Obama seems to be a conventionally opportunistic politician, impressively smart and disciplined, who has put together a good political career and a terrific presidential campaign. But there’s not much audacity of hope there. There’s the calculation of ambition, and the construction of artifice, mixed in with a dash of deceit — all covered over with the great conceit that this campaign, and this candidate, are different.
Which brings us back to the “Generation Obama” event. If you go to the Obama campaign Web site and click on “people,” you’ll see 14 categories of people you can choose to hook up with — women, labor, people of faith ... and “Generation Obama.”
What is Generation Obama? It’s a “grass-roots movement led by young activists with a simple goal: electing Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America,” the Web site says, adding that “you and other members can utilize the many talents of our country’s next great generation in support of the campaign in a variety of meaningful ways.”
So in fact, “Generation Obama” is just a fancy name for young activists for Obama. But the (remarkable) conceit is this: The “next great generation” of Americans can appropriately be called “Generation Obama.”
Now I’m actually a believer in the next generation, which one might call the 9/11 generation. Many of its members seem more serious and impressive than we baby boomers were when our elders were foolishly praising us, 40 years ago, as the best-educated, most idealistic generation ever. Many of the best of this young generation are serving their country — either in the military or otherwise. Some are in politics, working for various causes, liberal and conservative, and for various candidates, Democrats and Republicans. But surely there’s something creepy about a campaign claiming them as “Generation Obama.”
With no particular dog in the Democratic fight, many conservatives have tended to think it would be good for the country if Obama were to win the Democratic nomination, freeing us from the dreary prospect of the return of the House of Clinton. Now I wonder. Might the country be better off with the cynicism of the Clintons than the conceit of Obama?