Monday, August 21, 2006


Just in case you didn't notice, this wasn't where this blog started. is its original home (and it still inks from there). We moved it here so I could update more frequently and in so doing, the original two posts have the wrong dates. The Joe Should Go post was written 8/1, the Bad Choices was written on 8/8 (although posted there later, which is what caused the move.)If you got here directly and haven't visited, I recommend it highly.

Who Do You Hate Today?

Hate has been in the news a lot lately, involving actors, politicians, and a civil rights leader turned company man. There is much Mel Gibson, George Allen, and Andrew Young have in common – wealth, fame, and, as they say, “issues”.

Andrew Young’s defense of Wal-Mart driving out “mom and pop” business was a somewhat different kettle of fish. His rant against the succession of “mom and pop” business owners who ripped off black folk – Jews, Koreans, and now Arabs – was an attempt at defending Wal-Mart’s destruction of those businesses in poor areas. His perception that those businesses charged more in those areas than in others may have merit – although it has nothing to do with the ethnicity of those owners and more to do with the nature of running a small business, especially in a high crime area. The other difference, of course, is that he paid an immediate price for his remarks – he had to resign his position in embarrassment.

George and Mel are different. Senator Allen appears on the hot list as a potential VP candidate. He has even higher aspirations than that. His statements regarding a young man taping his speech on behalf of the Webb campaign were particularly repugnant. Much has been made of his use of the “macaca”, which has been used as a racial slur. His latest excuse was that he was combining the word “Mohawk” (a hairstyle the young man didn’t have) with the word “caca” and doing it badly. Now we can discuss whether any grown man who publicly uses the word “caca” to describe anything in public is someone we want running the country, but this is a painfully strained explanation. I don’t know where he got that word from, unless he has become such an expert in international racial slurs that he can calmly insert a French one into his speeches. That would speak well to his sense of internationalism, if not to his application of same. More important to me (and to his fitness for office) was his following that up by saying “welcome to America and the real world of Virginia” to him. The assumption that someone who looks foreign (i.e., not white) is not an American is utterly disgusting. That this guy actually attended the University of Virginia and actually was raised in VA (unlike Senator Allen, who worshipped the Confederacy from California), makes this even dumber. In a decent world, no man with that point of view, willingly stated openly to an all white audience, would be able to win a Senate race. Let’s see how the good citizens of the Commonwealth react to this.

The Passion of the Mel: for the record, since some of you may not be able to guess it from my name, I am Jewish. And I think Mel Gibson is an anti-semite. Being drunk is not an excuse. Being drunk doesn’t make you say things you don’t believe, it makes you say things you wouldn’t dare say when you were sober – it removes your social censorship mechanism. When Deputy Mee actually dared put the cuffs on a belligerent drunk, Mel immediately knew why – he must be a Jew, since no Christian would cuff Mel Gibson, self-styled owner of Malibu. Now Mel, and his friends, say that he has good, close friends who are Jewish – so how could he be an anti-semite? Hell, he probably has lawyers who are Jewish, maybe even an agent or two. But it is not how he feels about a specific Jew that makes him an anti-semite, it is how he feels about The Jews.

Mel, when sober, apologized for his anti-semitic I guess we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t believe Jews cause all the wars in the world. I don’t buy it. He believes that and lots of other stuff he wouldn’t say publicly. Does that make Mel Gibson a horrible human being? Did George Allen’s rant make him one? How about Andrew Young? The dirty little truth is that most people harbor some prejudice within them. It is not having that prejudice that is the problem, it is acting on it that is the problem. For years Jews have known that anti-semitism lurks below the surface and I’m confident blacks know it about racism. In Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth described his father as talking Neanderthal and voting Democratic. Had you listened to my father at the dinner table, you would have thought he was Archie Bunker. Yet he not only voted Democratic, in Democratic primaries, he voted liberal – he voted for Herman Badillo (a Puerto Rican) in a mayoral primary for that reason. It is important to differentiate between those who have racist attitudes and those who let them govern their actions. We know what is in our hearts, we know what is in our minds, and if those things are wrong, we must be especially careful about what we say and what we do. If you are George Allen who feels the way he feels, you do not have a noose hanging from your office tree, do not oppose the Martin Luther King Birthday holiday, and do not say things which insult non-white campaign workers. If you are Mel Gibson, you are careful with how you portray Jews in your biblical epic. If someone asks you about your Holocaust-denying father’s views, you don’t refuse to answer. As a famous Jew once said “by their deeds shall ye know them”. We have seen Mel and George’s deeds and you would have to be blind to not know what they are.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bad Choices

Someone asked me if I was only going to be writing about VP types here and I told him no, but for the second time in a row, a #2-ish person is the subject. Today it’s Ehud Olmert, formerly Ariel Sharon’s backup, forced into a leadership role by Sharon’s stroke. The attack on Hezbollah had been in the planning stages for years, so this isn’t a case of a former #2 trying to show how tough he is. No, Israel is doing what they think they had to do, taking out the threat posed by Hezbollah, using the pretense of a kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers to get things rolling.

Now Lebanon is Israel’s personal “tar baby” – they couldn’t wait to get out of there the last time they invaded, after nothing but trouble. Unfortunately, the government of Lebanon was unable, or unwilling (run by Syria, the latter is more likely) to demilitarize the south and control Hezbollah. The new government is nowhere near strong enough to take on Hezbollah – and besides that, Hezbollah is a large part of that government. So Israel, seeing the importation of weapons and the buildup by Hezbollah in the south, decided they had to take them out. What was their choice, letting them amass more and more weaponry and manpower?

If you’ve ever played blackjack, you know the terrible situation when you get dealt 16 and the dealer has a ten showing. You can count cards all you want, but most of the time, you are going to lose money on that hand. The only thing you can do is use all the information and possible options to limit your losses, so that later victories can leave you further ahead. There are moments where countries are faced with the diplomatic/military version of a 16 vs. a 10, leaving options which are not necessarily likely to yield wonderful results. Wise countries, run by intelligent leaders, consider all the possibilities before rushing in (not to be confused with countries run by George Bush and Tony Blair, who double down.) The question in this case is whether Olmert fully grasped the situation.

I suspect he did not. I suspect that he felt their vast air power would level what had to be leveled, blow up what had to be blown up, and that the IDF would move in and cleanup the south of Lebanon. This war, as much as any, has demonstrated the inability of air power to win a war. It can do a lot of damage, but in this case, against an enemy which is not controlled by the state you are attacking, it cannot achieve the key objective of eliminating the enemy. In fact, while clearly Hezbollah will be weakened militarily (having used most of their missiles on Israeli citizens), they will probably be strengthened politically. Destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure doesn’t strengthen its government. Blowing up a man’s home doesn’t make him upset at those who caused the situation which led to the destruction, he gets upset at the people who dropped the bomb. The result of this war will be to strengthen Hezbollah both inside and outside Lebanon, as well as strengthening the cause of its patron states, Syria, and especially the ascendant Iran.

I’m not talking about whether Israel had the moral or legal right to do what they did. That isn’t really Olmert’s problem here, since Israel’s survival trumps those concerns for him. The question is whether this was the optimal choice for Israel at this time. It seems clear that it wasn’t, yet it’s also hard to come up with the alternative strategy. Yes, they could have exchanged prisoners to get the soldiers back, but that doesn’t solve the long-term Hezbollah problem. And here’s the key to everything – doing nothing is not a long-term option for Israel. They have realized (or at least Sharon did) that time is not on their side. Between the demographics of the area and the advance of technology and militant Islam, the difficulty of occupation and the danger from those whom you are trying to control becomes harder and harder. Israel must constantly work on a two-track strategy, one which allows for the possibility of a peace agreement, another which deals with the absence of a true negotiating partner. I say “true” negotiating partner to differentiate from the sham which traditionally takes place, where the right of return pops up at the end to blow the whole process up. If one side in a negotiation sees the long-term benefit of never compromising to reach an agreement, then no true negotiation can take place. This is Olmert’s problem, this is Israel’s problem – they need to deal with every possible worst-case scenario. Does the U.S. have a role in this? Certainly. We have to ask Israel the question “what if this doesn’t work?” Of course, it would be nice if we ever thought of that ourselves, but the current U.S. regime does not think of such things – or think at all, for the most part. Good luck, Ehud, you have a bad hand there, play it very carefully.

Joe Should Go

First subject of a blog associated with should have something to do with a VP, but the best I could do today is a former VP candidate. Joe Lieberman is running for re-election to the Senate and has a serious opponent in the Democratic primary, Ned Lamont, which has many observers in a snit. On the right, Jonah Goldberg has mocked the Democrats for attacking their own; on the left, Jonathan Chait has expressed fear that this sort of thing could cost the Dems a Senate seat, and the LA Times editorial board was just aghast that a fine man like Joe Lieberman should be opposed by a bunch of left-wing activists (and worse, bloggers) across the nation over one issue, when they aren’t all that active in opposing others who voted for the Iraq war.

Well, excuse us for caring. Let’s see, the Iraq war involves the geopolitical future of the world, oil, America’s standing in the world, our military’s ability to respond to other crises (see Korea, Iran, and much of Africa), our economic future, and of course, life and death. And that isn’t enough for these people? It’s not that Joe supported the war resolution – he co-sponsored it. He pimped for the war before it was proposed. He has not only supported it throughout, he has criticized those who criticize it. He has criticized those who criticize the way Bush and his minions have run the war, saying it’s wrong to oppose the President during war time. Good Lord, the man was virtually kissed on the lips by Bush in public – God knows what W would do to him in private. No one outside of Karl Rove’s office has done more harm to the Democratic party than Lieberman. No one deserves to be replaced more than him.

And if that issue isn’t enough, his grandstanding on judicial appointments by heading up the “centrist” Gang of 14 in the Senate has given Bush virtually every extremist judicial appointment he wanted, including the horrifically unfit Janice Rogers Brown. He has made it virtually impossible for the Democrats in the Senate to stop the right-wing takeover of the judiciary. One would assume that even if the Dems win back the Senate that he would still try and be in control of that.

There may be some of you who wonder why I titled this “Joe Should Go” rather than the more potent “Joe Must Go”. That’s because Joe has no intention of going anywhere. He has already proclaimed that even if he loses the primary, he will run as an independent (on the Joe Lieberman for Connecticut party), and would probably win. As Joe has said, he cares more about the country than the party. Actually, he cares more about Joe Lieberman than either. In 2000, when he ran for VP, he also was on the ballot in CT for the Senate, even though the party asked him not to run there, since if he was elected VP, a Republican Governor would have picked his replacement, costing the Dems a key Senate seat. He didn’t care about the good of the party or country then, he doesn’t care now. That there are many Democrats supporting Lieberman now is a sad commentary on the party. I am not surprised that Bill Clinton is among them, since no Democrat did less for party building than Clinton. What is even sadder is that Lieberman will probably be re-elected as an “independent” and nothing will change except that his ego will get even larger than it is now and his sanctimonious whining will get louder and more frequent.