Israel prostitutes itself trying to buy friendship and the U.S. concurs and encourages? (See 1 below.)
Let 'em eat cake! (See 2 below.)
Since silence is golden, publish it instead. (See 3 below.)
Truce ends - rockets continue. Olmert and Barak remain pitiful Gullivers. Would any president allow Mexico to rocket Texas every day? In today's PC climate, perhaps so.(See 4 below.)
We never kicked him out of our college fraternity. He was just a bright kid then. Now he has become a confused intellectual so Israel did it. (See 5 below.)
It will be more expensive to postpone reality according to Sowell but cheaper for politicians. Postponing reality has become an American way of life.
Sowell also recommends a few Christmas book gift ideas. (See 6 and 6a below.)
Liberals are conflicted over Caroline Kennedy getting Hillary's seat. It is fascinating watching liberals debate the merit and/or demerit of one of their own - Caroline Kennedy would restore the luster of Camelot, but is she qualified?, who cares about being qualified, she is a Kennedy - American Royalty like Grace Kelly and on and on the blather goes.
Does this poor shy lovely young lady know what she is getting herself into? I doubt it. She will become a watched magnet and her every word and move will attract the world's media and press but will she help Gov. Patterson win re-election? What will our nation be without a Senator named Kennedy? Must the torch of truth, liberty, sacrifice for the unwashed, which was not doused by Chappaquidick's murky waters, and which Teddie carried for eons be kept lit by his niece?
As for myself, I say why not Caroline Kennedy? She is apparently intelligent, has engaged in worthy causes and that is more than I can say for half the current crop of Senators. Who cares about earning anything today. We live in 'give away land' and Caroline is as deserving as anyone else despite her last name. After all, we will soon have a president whose qualifications are more oral than based on solid time proven accomplishments. Isn't that what liberals said about GW and GW certainly is not even an effective communicator. Is the Left being boomeranged by the prospect of an inexperienced cut from their own cloth?
The way I see it, Caroline would be an effective anti-dote to a clown like Franken should he slide in so - Caroline, show them what you are made of! After all the Senate is a joke, it is up for sale so why not Caroline. (See 7 below.)
1) Russia bids for first Israeli military purchase – spy drones
A $10-12 million transaction for Moscow to purchase Israeli spy drones for the Russian army is in negotiation with Israel's Aerospace Industries. The Russian Kommersant reported Tuesday, Dec. 16 that Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia's armed forces, visited Israel in November for talks on the purchase of a first batch of the unmanned reconnaissance drones which Georgia used successfully in its conflict with Russia last August.
Military sources report that the sale, if finally approved by the defense ministry in Tel Aviv, would be Israel's first advanced hardware sale to Russia. It would also mark a reversal of Israeli policy, since the Russian army would almost certainly use the drones in another future round of hostilities with Georgia over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
A drone transaction with Moscow would give the Russian army a technological-intelligence edge over Caucasian and Caspian nations, like Georgia and Azerbaijan, and therefore place in doubt their future arms purchases from Israel.
Jerusalem consulted with Washington over the deal, as required under the US-Israel 2006 security pact covering Israeli weapons transfers to third countries. The advanced state of Israel-Russian negotiations indicates its approval by the outgoing Bush White House and incoming Obama administration in line with their efforts to improve relations with Moscow.
2) Insiders still own Illinois' Senate seat
By Douglas O'Brien
At first it seemed that the outrageous acts of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had resulted in an epiphany of transparency among some of the most reflexive stalwarts of the state's Democratic junta.
Close on the heels of the Governor's arrest for, in part, trying to sell the President-elect's Senate seat, the state's senior Senator, Dick Durbin called loudly for a special election to be held to fill the position. Soon, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky joined the chorus. State House Speaker Michael Madigan called for a special session of the legislature to change the state's law that allowed the Governor to fill a Senate vacancy and give the decision to the voters. Even Barack Obama chimed in, saying he thought the people should decide the fate of his former position. Democrats were falling over each other to present themselves as champions of openness and advocates for the people.
The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times editorialized that a special election was the best option for filling the vacancy in light of the crippling effects of the scandal and the public's desire to break from the culture of sleeze in Illinois politics.
But a funny thing happened on the way to empowerment of the people. Democrats realized that a special election would create a remote possibility that a non-Democrat could win the seat. It dawned on them that the voters seemed really miffed about all this third-world-style corruption and that they could prefer a senator who was not a product of their machine.
They then heard rumblings that suburban Congressman Mark Kirk, a moderate who was just elected to his fifth term in the House was seriously considering a run in the special election. Kirk has fought off several multi-million dollar challenges from the national Democrats, holding a district that voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama. The naval intelligence officer, know for his smarts, clean image and fundraising prowess, was just the kind of candidate who could take advantage of the situation.
Add to the presence of at least one formidable GOP candidate the likelihood of a brutal Democratic primary and the politicians began trying to cram the genie back in the bottle.
African American politicians cried that a special election was a backdoor attempt to steal the seat from their community since it would be very hard for any of the prospective black candidates to win. Democrat lawyers started opining that a special election would be unconstitutional. Others began caterwauling about the price tag for holding the election, even though the special could be held in tandem with the municipal and local elections being held across the state in the spring and greatly reduce the costs.
While there are valid questions about and arguments against a special election, (former Republican Governor Jim Edgar has publicly said it is a bad idea) it soon became clear that politics were driving an about face by Democratic leaders.
Democrats also realized their potential candidates had some problems. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. spent much of the week tap dancing around allegations his camp tried to buy him the seat. Representative Danny Davis also had to dodge questions about how openly he had been lobbying the Governor for the appointment, appearing with Blagojevich at several events and praising him effusively. And Representative Schakowsky admitted lobbying the Governor as well, which added to her problems dealing with the fact that her political operative husband just recently got out of prison for financial crimes while heading up a non-profit advocacy group.
Still, a Rasmussen poll conducted late last week showed that 66% of Illinoisians favored a special election, with only 21% against. GateHouse News Service polled state legislators (both houses are firmly under Democrat control) and found 67% in support of holding an election.
Quinn, the Lieutenant Governor who would take over if Blagojevich resigns or is kicked out of office began to change his tune, saying he wanted to appoint a new senator once he got into office or at least appoint a temporary replacement who would then have a leg up if a special election were held. Others followed suit, reneging on, or modifying their support for a special election.
Seeing the tide begin to turn, the Illinois Republican Party tried to keep the pressure on the Democrats by running television ads reminding everyone of the original calls for a special election and the furious backtracking going on now.
And the state Democrats did not disappoint. When the special session of the legislature convened Speaker Madigan (who is chairman of the state Democratic Party and father of Attorney General Lisa Madigan whose gubernatorial ambitions are no secret) neglected to call the special election bill which had been the original purpose of the session. Democrats in the state senate are also refusing to call a similar bill in that chamber.
At first the state's Democrats showed that they were all too eager to dive head first into the deep end of open government as they scrambled to distance themselves from their disgraced leader. But they ignored both the practical and political realities.
Practicalities are rarely of major concern to politicians of any stripe, but when the Democrats realized that they had jeopardized political strength in their callous attempt to avoid the fallout of scandal, they immediately hid behind these minor technical concerns as an excuse to deny the people a voice in the process and keep power in the hands of the political class that has created this crisis to begin with. This scandal may have serious long-term impacts on Illinois Democrats and even the new administration. But for the time being, the loss of a senate seat does not appear to be a possible consequence.
3)Defense reporter: Cabinet approved secret Gaza plan last week; now, ministers must keep silent
By Ron-Ben Yishai
Silence is the key
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as opposed to what is being published on
occasion, is not enthusiastic about escalating the IDF's response to the
sporadic rocket and mortar fire originating from Gaza. He knows that harsh
responses will ultimately require the IDF to carry out a large-scale
operation in the Strip which it does not wish to embark on at this time.
Therefore, Olmert is adhering to the same restrained positions as Barak and
Yet this leaves many members of the Israeli public confused and mostly
frustrated. Reports regarding Hamas' considerations in favor of and against
the lull abound. Yet the considerations that prompt the Israeli government
to openly declare that it wishes to see the lull go on are much less clearer
to Israel's citizens. The statements made by the politicians lead us to
understand that top security officials are curbing more hawkish actions,
which many ministers support.
The explanations offered by Defense Minister Barak to the public fail to
make it clear why the ministers - including Deputy PM Ramon, Foreign
Minister Livni, and Transportation Minister Mofaz, among others - make do
with belligerent statements, instead of uniting in order to enforce a
belligerent decision in the cabinet. It is still unclear what Minister Barak
and his deputy Vilnai mean when they say that the IDF is prepared to carry
out a broad and creative series of Gaza operations, and will be carrying it
out - at the "right time." What conditions are required in order to create
The key to deciphering all those question marks apparently has to do with
the policy and action plan formulated by top security officials. The plan
was approved by the kitchen-cabinet last week. We are dealing with a plan
that is meant to secure several targets, including the release of Gilad
Shalit and a long-term solution to the terror attacks originating in the
There is no way of knowing whether the policy and action plan are effective
and whether they will secure the desired results. Their execution may prove
that we are dealing with a complete fiasco. However, security officials are
justifiably claiming that exposing the plan, and even exposing the
considerations it is based on and the preparatory steps required for its
successful execution, may jeopardize its outcome and the lives of IDF
For that reason, the prime minister and senior ministers make sure to remain
silent and vague - this includes making ministers and senior officials and
officers sign declarations of secrecy. It is legitimate for the government
and defense establishment to prevent such sensitive information from being
revealed publicly. However, this requires government ministers to draw the
right conclusions and maintain their restraint.
The vague statements made by ministers because of electoral considerations
on the advice of their strategic advisors cause damage. On the one hand,
they do not help the public in understanding and coping with the situation,
yet on the other hand they may expose Israel's intentions. Even the defense
minister and foreign minister must behave responsibly now, overcome their
urges, and remain silent.
4) 9 Qassams land in southern Israel
By Ilana Curiel
Two days before end of truce, Gaza vicinity residents wake up to another reminder of shaky situation with seven rockets hitting Eshkol Regional Council. Another rocket lands in Ashkelon; no injuries or damage reported.
Palestinian gunmen fired nine Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on Wednesday morning. Seven rockets landed within the Eshkol Regional Council. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Shortly afterwards, a mortar shell landed within the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, without causing injuries or damage.
A rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip in the later morning hours landed in an open area near a factory in Ashkelon's southern industrial zone. Three factory workers were evacuated to the city's Barzilai Medical Center after suffering from ringing in their ears.
Another Qassam landed in an open area within the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council without causing any injuries.
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which has become particularly shaky in the past few weeks, is slated to expire over the coming weekend.
Eshkol Council head Haim Yalin told Ynet, "Yesterday everyone watched the 'Big Brother' final, but the Qassams landing here are not a reality show. This is most likely the promo waiting for us ahead of the official expiry of the alleged lull."
"We woke up to the sounds of the Color Red alert system and explosions," Ella Fox, a community manager in one of the council's kibbutzim, told Ynet. "We are strong, but this situation is unbearable. Instead of starting our day like any other citizen in the State of Israel, we're forced to start it like this."
"Adults and children can't even wake up to a regular morning, and once again we have to check what's happening with the children who have to go to school. The children in the kindergartens can't even go out to the yard today. This is life not everyone in Israel knows, it's something completely different," Fox said.
She added that when her family members heard the Color Red system they immediately ran into the corridor. "We don’t' have fortification yet. They're working on it."
Wednesday's rockets joined nine Qassam fired into Israel on Tuesday, causing a boy to suffer from shock and damaging a factory in the town of Sderot.
The Israel Air Force struck twice ready-to-launch rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip, near the town of Beit Hanoun. The army reported that the targets were hit.
5) Israel kicks out outrageously biased UN official
By Dion Nissenbaum
Has the Jewish State finally learned its lesson?
JERUSALEM — No one can say they didn't see it coming: Israel this week expelled a United Nations investigator who compared Israeli policies to the Nazi Holocaust.
Israeli officials barred Richard Falk from entering Israel to investigate its policies towards the Palestinians because, as one Israeli official said, of Falk's "extreme, methodic criticism of Israel."
Last April, Falk was named to be the U.N. Human Rights Council's special investigator on the Palestinian territories — and Israel made it clear at the time that the Princeton University professor emeritus and American Jew was not going to be welcome.
The heart of the matter is a 2007 piece Falk wrote with the provocative title: "Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust."
"Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity?" Falk wrote in the piece. "I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy."
The inflammatory article was widely criticized by Israeli leaders who made it clear, for obvious reasons, that they didn't view Falk as an impartial arbiter.
"Of all the people to be able to appoint, to find somebody who compares Israel to the Nazis is very bizarre and outrageous," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said at the time.
In May, Falk had a chance to explain what he meant in an extended interview on the BBC.
While Falk said he regretted using the analogies, under persistent pressure from the host, he stood by his statements.
After sending Falk packing Monday, the Israeli government criticized Falk and the U.N. for appointing him to the post.
"In the case of Prof. Falk, beyond the imbalance inherent in his mandate, the bias is further exacerbated by the highly politicized views of the Rapporteur himself, in legitimizing Hamas terrorism and drawing shameful comparisons to the Holocaust," the Israeli government said. "In light of his vehement publications in the past, it is hard to square his appointment with the requirements of the Council's own internal procedures which call for the appointment of mandate holders who are impartial, objective and possess the quality of personal integrity."
6) Postponing Reality
By Thomas Sowell
Some of us were raised to believe that reality is inescapable. But that just shows how far behind the times we are. Today, reality is optional. At the very least, it can be postponed.
Kids in school are not learning? Not a problem. Just promote them on to the next grade anyway. Call it "compassion," so as not to hurt their "self-esteem."
Can't meet college admissions standards after they graduate from high school? Denounce those standards as just arbitrary barriers to favor the privileged, and demand that exceptions be made.
Can't do math or science after they are in college? Denounce those courses for their rigidity and insensitivity, and create softer courses that the students can pass to get their degrees.
Once they are out in the real world, people with diplomas and degrees-- but with no real education-- can hit a wall. But by then the day of reckoning has been postponed for 15 or more years. Of course, the reckoning itself can last the rest of their lives.
The current bailout extravaganza is applying the postponement of reality democratically-- to the rich as well as the poor, to the irresponsible as well as to the responsible, to the inefficient as well as to the efficient. It is a triumph of the non-judgmental philosophy that we have heard so much about in high-toned circles.
We are told that the collapse of the Big Three automakers in Detroit would have repercussions across the country, causing mass layoffs among firms that supply the automobile makers with parts, and shutting down automobile dealerships from coast to coast.
A renowned economist of the past, J.A. Schumpeter, used to refer to progress under capitalism as "creative destruction"-- the replacement of businesses that have outlived their usefulness with businesses that carry technological and organizational creativity forward, raising standards of living in the process.
Indeed, this is very much like what happened a hundred years ago, when that new technological wonder, the automobile, wreaked havoc on all the forms of transportation built up around horses.
For thousands of years, horses had been the way to go, whether in buggies or royal coaches, whether pulling trolleys in the cities or plows on the farms. People had bet their futures on something with a track record of reliable success going back many centuries.
Were all these people to be left high and dry? What about all the other people who supplied the things used with horses-- oats, saddles, horse shoes and buggies? Wouldn't they all go falling like dominoes when horses were replaced by cars?
Unfortunately for all the good people who had in good faith gone into all the various lines of work revolving around horses, there was no compassionate government to step in with a bailout or a stimulus package.
They had to face reality, right then and right there, without even a postponement.
Who would have thought that those who displaced them would find themselves in a similar situation a hundred years later?
Actually the automobile industry is not nearly in as bad a situation now as the horse-based industries were then. There is no replacement for the automobile anywhere on the horizon. Nor has the public decided to do without cars indefinitely.
While Detroit's Big Three are laying off thousands of workers, Toyota is hiring thousands of workers right here in America, where a substantial share of all our Toyotas are manufactured.
Will this save Detroit or Michigan? No.
Detroit and Michigan have followed classic liberal policies of treating businesses as prey, rather than as assets. They have helped kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. So have the unions. So have managements that have gone along to get along.
Toyota, Honda and other foreign automakers are not heading for Detroit, even though there are lots of experienced automobile workers there. They are avoiding the rust belts and the policies that have made those places rust belts.
A bailout of Detroit's Big Three would be only the latest in the postponements of reality. As for automobile dealers, they can probably sell Toyotas just as easily as they sold Chevvies. And Toyotas will require just as many tires per car, as well as other parts from automobile parts suppliers.
6a) Christmas Books
By Thomas Sowell
Good books are especially good to give as gifts to the proverbial "man who has everything" because he (or she) may not have heard of a new book that fits their interests.
Good new books are one of the few good things about this past year. Here are some books that could make fine gifts, obtainable painlessly without battling crowds at the mall-- or even in the bookstores, if you order on-line.
The most outstanding political book of 2008 has been "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg. It shoots to pieces the prevailing ideas of who is on "the left" and who is on "the right."
It can become especially relevant in the coming year, if the new administration goes further with the government interventions in the economy begun by the outgoing administration-- the kind of economic policies that were at the heart of fascism.
Fans of economist and columnist Walter Williams will welcome a new collection of his columns in a book titled "Liberty versus the Tyranny of Socialism." Spiced with imaginative examples of economic principles in everyday life, it is vintage Williams.
It's not all economics, either. Professor Williams' columns are also on education, law, politics and other subjects, all done in his own inimitable style.
Another economist and columnist, Robert J. Samuelson of Newsweek, also published a new book this year-- one focused on a topic that is likely to be of growing interest and growing concern in the years ahead. Its title is "The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath."
It is an account of how the American economy went from price stability in the 1950s to the beginning of inflation in the 1960s, reaching dangerous levels of inflation in the 1970s, with inflation then being brought under control with a lot of tough decisions and painful consequences in the 1980s.
This is the kind of book that may be more fully appreciated by an economist but it is written in plain English, with no graphs or jargon, so it should be interesting to a lot of people who are not economists.
"The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath" also has that most uncommon characteristic, common sense.
Not all the books recommended this year were published this year. "Greatness" by Steven F. Hayward is an unusual book published in 2005. In its 170 pages of text, it deftly compares Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan as leaders, revealing a truly remarkable range of similarities between these two men from radically different social backgrounds.
Written at a popular level in an engaging style, "Greatness" is also a book from which scholars can learn-- except for those who think they already know it all.
A very different book is a little book of whimsical cartoons titled "Furry Logic" by Jane Seabrook. It is good for a few moments of real pleasure and cheer during the holiday season, perhaps especially good for people recovering in hospitals or at home, but enjoyable by people of all ages and circumstances.
Books about the past can be relevant to the future, especially when the same kinds of policies reappear under new names. It is good to have an understanding of why these policies did not work when they were tried before, as a sneak preview of what to expect from such policies the second time around.
Since so many of the approaches that Barack Obama has advocated under the mantra of "change" are things already tried out during the 1930s by Franklin D. Roosevelt, a devastating and very readable book titled "FDR's Folly" by Jim Powell spells out just exactly what happened in the American economy when such policies were put into effect.
My own new book this year is "Economic Facts and Fallacies." While I cannot pretend to give an unbiased evaluation of it, I can point out that it received a prize at an international gathering in Zurich and has already been translated in Spain.
Since fallacies flourish during election years, you may already have heard quite a few of these fallacies this year. "Economic Facts and Fallacies" can help prepare you for what is likely to happen when those fallacies are turned into policies in the new administration next year.
7) Who Plays...Who Pays.
By Joe Klein
I've met Caroline Kennedy a few times and she seems like a good person. Compared to many children of the rich and famous, she has lived her life quietly, modestly, in exemplary fashion. She has worked hard for worthy causes; those who've worked with her say she is intelligent and self-effacing. Or was self-effacing. You can't really say that she is now, having thrust herself into the midst of the selection process for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. By doing so, she has displayed an eminently New York quality: chutzpah.
Indeed, Kennedy's play seems very much of a moment recently passed--the dynasty years of American politics, when Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes (and other, less obtrusive dynasties--Udalls, Cuomos) cluttered our public life. There is nothing new about this. We've had our Adamses and Roosevelts in epochs past. But the combination of dynasty and celebrity in a too-hot media age has proved a diversion from good governance. That was part of the message sent by Barack Obama's victory over Hillary Clinton in the primaries--Clinton was, and is, a fine public servant, but she came attached to a moveable media carnival. There was, I think, a gnawing, somewhat subconscious sense that in this difficult time we needed to turn the page from the carnival years. The Era of Big Strange Political Families was over. (That goes for you, too, Jesse Jackson Jr.)
If nothing else, Barack Obama's transition demonstrates his intent to launch an era of Real Serious Governance. He has chosen well outside the standard political fast-food menu in some cases--James (OOPs: Steven) Chu, the Secretary of Energy comes to mind. And I'd hope that Governor David Paterson might consider a similar sort of selection--an honorary, non-political (but Democratic) appointee, a person of real, world-class, distinction who would never normally serve in the Senate, to grace the seat until the next election--if he hasn't already been bum-rushed into the Kennedy coronation. Certainly, New York State is filled with extraordinary people. Here are four:
--Dr. Harold Varmus, former head of the National Institutes of Health, now director of the Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer hospital. He could add real value to the Senate's health insurance debate.
--Geoffrey Canada has spent his life doing extraordinary work with the young people, especially the young men, of Harlem. He would be a strong, African-American voice for the poor.
--Vishaka Desai, president of the Asia Society would be the first member of the Senate born in India. She would bring great knowledge about the world's hottest hot-spot to the Senate, plus great expertise in the areas of education and culture.
--Judge Judith Kaye, the briliant chief justice of New York's highest court, soon to retire.
There are dozens of others such. The point is, that the Blagojevich fiasco and now the Kennedy play have turned the selection of new Senators into a skeevy travesty. The best way to change the story would be go in the exact opposite direction--go completely high-minded.
Meanwhile, in a related area, Morton Abramowitz makes the excellent argument that it's also time for Obama to move past the era of dispensing ambassadorships as baubles to high-rolling campaign contributors. That's an another semi-corrupt anachronism we can no longer afford.