Archive for January, 2008

An article on Olmert post-Winograd…

January 31, 2008

…that I do not agree with.  From the New Republic:

The Olmert Omerta by
January 31, 2008
 
The survival of Israel’s inept and arrogant prime minister may have devastating consequences for Israeli society.
 

The good news about Ehud Olmert is that he is not a willful murderer of Israeli soldiers. The bad news is that he is the most inept and arrogant Israeli prime minister in the country’s history.

While the Winograd Commission investigating the Second Lebanon War has absolved Olmert of the worst accusation ever made against an Israeli prime minister–that he sent 33 soldiers to their deaths on a useless mission, whose only purpose was to bolster his image as a tough leader–the commission did confirm what the Israeli public has sensed since August 2006: that the Lebanon War was the worst military defeat in Israel’s history, that the IDF missed an unprecedented opportunity to restore calm to Israel’s borders and restore its shattered deterrence, and that Olmert’s judgment was flawed at every crucial step.Throngs of bereaved parents and reservist officers from the Lebanon war have been camped outside Olmert’s office for the past few days. Despite their demands for Olmert’s ouster in accountability for his failed leadership last summer, the prime minister will probably survive. Having been absolved of the most sensational accusation, the commission’s indictment of Olmert’s leadership comes as an anti-climax–especially given the fact that the commission’s interim report, released nine months ago, already went public with that same conclusion. His continued political survival, however, could do irreparable damage toward the already weakened the bonds of trust that Israeli citizens have with their government.

Until Olmert’s election, every Israeli prime minister could lay claim to the Zionist ethos of heroism. Israel’s leaders were divided into two groups: the European-born founders like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Menachem Begin who embodied self-sacrifice, and the native-born sabras like Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak who boasted first-rate military careers. Even Benjamin Netanyahu, the only one of the sabra prime ministers who didn’t rise to the top of the security establishment, was an officer in Israel’s most elite commando unit; his brother, Yoni, the fallen hero of the Entebbe rescue mission in 1976, added an heroic aura to the Netanyahu family.

Olmert, neither founder nor hero, is the first professional politician to serve as prime minister. Yet, in resisting calls for his resignation, he is insisting on being absolved of the standards for personal accountability in war to which other prime ministers were held. Golda Meir and her defense minister, Moshe Dayan, were forced from office by an outraged public because of failure in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, while Menachem Begin and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, were compelled to resign because of failure in the first Lebanon War in 1982. Olmert, though, sees himself as immune from such archaic values as personal responsibility. Even before the release of the final version of the Winograd report, Olmert had announced that he wouldn’t resign no matter what the commission concluded.Olmert’s fatal flaw, and the source of his failure in Lebanon, is arrogance. No Israeli leader ever decided to go to war faster than Olmert did–in a matter of hours. And no Israeli leader was worse prepared: Not only did Olmert have no security expertise, but neither did his defense minister. The one member of his cabinet with top military credentials–former IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz–was serving as transportation minister, and Olmert didn’t include him in his inner circle. Olmert failed to establish clear goals for Israel’s counter-attack or to inquire whether the IDF had alternative plans. Olmert’s policy was, in effect: Let’s go to war and see what happens.

Carter leans toward Obama…

January 30, 2008

Surprise, surprise.  From a CNN article on 1/30/08.

One former president has long assumed a very outspoken role in the presidential race. Now another is speaking up.

Jimmy Carter says he’s not formally endorsing any candidate, but in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the former president lavished praise on Barack Obama, calling his campaign “extraordinary”

“Obama’s campaign has been extraordinary and titillating for me and my family,” Carter told the newspaper in an interview published in its Wednesday edition. According to the paper, Carter was particularly praiseworthy of the Illinois senator’s rhetorical skills, comparing them to those of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Carter also said Obama “will be almost automatically a healing factor in the animosity now that exists, that relates to our country and its government.”

Carter, a onetime governor of Georgia and one of only two Democrats to win the White House in the last forty years, also said he thinks Obama’s candidacy could put several southern states in play in a general election match up.

Carter also commented on the recent criticism surrounding Bill Clinton, following that former president’s comments on the campaign trail that some have viewed as racially divisive. Carter said Clinton personally called him to explain the remarks.

“He doesn’t call me often, but the fact that he called me this morning and spent a long time explaining his position indicates that it’s troublesome to them, the adverse reaction,” he said.

“I told him I hoped it would die down. — the charged atmosphere concerning the race issue,” Carter continued. “And I think it will.”

The Nukalofan threat…

January 30, 2008

…a story written for my mom on the occasion of her 75th birthday…

 The Nukalofan Threat 

I was walking home from school one wintry day when I was seven, wondering whether that afternoon I would be free to have a final contest, once and for all, with the evil that lurks in our universe.  It is a frightening evil, the kind that blasts defenseless women and children with beams of energy fired from starships orbiting the Earth.  It was my burden as well as my honor to lead the fight against this diabolical evil, a race of beings with bulbous heads, antennae, and no body hair, known far and wide as the Nukolofans.  The Nukalofans were a race that traveled from a galaxy, far, far away, to our Milky Way in order to subdue Planet Earth and wrench our earthly freedoms from our hearts.  

I was prepared to confront the Nukalofan threat that afternoon in December many years ago when I was seven, as the sun of the northern hemisphere sank low in the sky.  It was a sun that illuminated everything in its path with that winter’s light, that light of sharp angles, that light that makes it so that every creature, every tree, every car seems to radiate its own light, like a planet about to explode into a star.  Yet I knew that I had to wait until my mother drove my sisters to Hebrew School before I could engage in operations in and around our family compound, a six bedroom, two-story house on half an acre on the south shore of Long Island that had plenty of bushes and trees which provided cover against the aliens.  The only unanswered question in my mind was whether, during the free time that I would have between dropping my strong-willed sisters off at Hebrew School and when they and my father would arrive home for dinner, I would receive orders from my commander, otherwise known as my mother, to engage in search and destroy operations in and around the family compound.  Though it is hard to believe, it was my mom who was the Chief of Planet Earth’s Department of Homeland Security; and I and my dog Bonkers were her loyal lieutenants.  It would be mom’s decision whether or not a second grader’s homework would take precedence over securing our way of life on Planet Earth.

In the car, my sisters and their superficial friends yammered on about some teen idol of theirs on television, some cutesy David Cassidy or some such creature.  Luckily, these sisters of mine, who, I must admit, could still pummel me with the fierceness of an intergalactic swamp rat, were dropped off at Hebrew school, which much to my delight, was something they detested.  I of course was not thinking ahead to the time that I too would be forced to forgo intergalactic spying or even an afterschool soccer game for this forced Jewish learning.  Yet, with a few good years left as a spy, I scooted to the front seat of my mom’s station wagon and the two of us drove home.

Me and my mom.  Just the way I liked it.

“Got homework tonight, honey?” she asked.

I had only moments to make my case for the defense of the galaxy.

“It’s warm out for winter, Mom.  Can I run around the yard before supper?”

“How much homework do you have?”

Ahh, the dreaded homework question, raised immediately by my mother, whose acute intellect never missed a detail.  She was of course a starship commander.

“Not a lot,” I replied. “Some math, some reading.”

“Maybe you should get busy on that right when we get home.”

I had to explain to her the necessity of our maneuvers that day.  I had to explain how, if I delayed taking action with my team of intergalactic spies, then there might not be a Planet Earth in existence tomorrow, and that meant no elementary school around the corner, no second grade, and hence, you do the math, no homework due.

“But, Mom, the Nukalofans are planning an attack this afternoon before it gets dark and if I don’t stop them, the planet will be destroyed, and you know what that means?”

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Mrs. Grace (my second grade teacher) won’t be asking us to hand in our assignments.”

Mom smiled.  I detected a muffled laugh.  A starship commander such as she cannot be seen to be getting jocular with her subordinates.  I smiled.  Mom removed her eyes momentarily from the road, and she and I exchanged a glance, a knowing glance, a glance of co-conspirators.  I studied that smile on her olive-colored face, her lips painted red, her teeth straight and white, her hair wavy and as black as the hearts of those Nukalofans, the same color as mine.  That smile, which she shared with me before giving me my orders for the afternoon, was a smile I had given her.  From the time I was a baby learning to laugh at my mom’s goofy baby sounds, I had generously given her that smile.  I understood on some non-verbal level the principle that she that giveth shall receiveth.  That is, my mother had given me something, some primal emotional support only mammals understand, and in return, I gave her that smile.  Sometimes yelling at my sisters or arguing with my father or even on the rare occasion disappointed in me, my mother gave up that smile.  But that was only temporary.  She was a natural with laughter.  A naturally silly person.  She gave me the capacity to laugh, so I gave her that smile.  A smile that made her turn away from the road to glance in my direction once my strong-willed sisters had been left to contend with the rabbis.  Maybe it was the private burden my mother and I shared of having to save this watery planet from alien invasion that made us appreciate our few moments free to laugh and goof around. 

“Yesterday, you had me flying through space on a Nukalofan starship,” she said.  “I can’t get anything done up there in space.”

“I know,” I replied.  “It’s a good thing Bonkers and I rescued you.  Or we wouldn’t have had supper last night.  But today the Nukalofans are going to land on Planet Earth.  On our front lawn.  The whole world is in danger.”

 I had reached her.  She put her eyes back on the road, stiffened her neck and gave me my orders for the rest of the day.

“Okay, starship trooper, you can run around for a while, but keep your jacket on, and right after supper, you go up to your room and do your homework. I don’t want your father saying I go easy on you, not to mention your sisters.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I barked.  With a sharp jerk of my arm, I offered her the salute that she deserved.

Back at the family compound, while my mother prepared dinner in the kitchen, Bonkers and I set about our work.  It was dirty work, but someone had to do it.

I stretched myself out on the floor of the kitchen by the refrigerator with Bonkers, who was a little dog, yes, but a tough predator nonetheless.  He sat on my chest and we conferred on the imminent operations.  My mom had to step over me a couple of times to get to the frig.  She didn’t complain.  She and I communed in silence, almost as if we were exchanging thoughts telepathically about the imminent Nukalofan attack.  She smiled down at me.  She was calm, rolling meat balls in her palms.  I believe that rolling meat balls is a little-recognized therapeutic technique that could help many a world leader deal with the heavy weight of the problems they face.  Made me remember that time I rolled a meat ball around a grape, much to my sister Elise’s chagrin later at dinner when the tart juice squirted in her mouth when she thought she was biting into a harmless meat ball.  I think my mom even muffled a laugh at that time.  I loved to trick my sisters, but saved my most diabolical actions for the Nukalofan enemy.

“Aren’t you going outside?” my commander asked.  “If you wait much longer, it’ll get too late.”

With that, Bonkers and I launched our operations.  What looked like the headlights of a car coming down our street through the windows in the front of the house were in fact the lights of a Nukalofan shuttle craft landing in our front yard.  The Nukalofan away team was by this time in our house, so Bonkers and I sped out of the kitchen, jumped over the armrest of the couch in the living room and hid for a while beneath the cushions.

“Get out of there with Bonkers!” shouted my commander.

But, before we could do that, Bonkers and I took cover behind my father’s bar.

“I said, ‘Get out of there with Bonkers,” she repeated, firmly but amiably.  We both knew that I wasn’t supposed to be in the living room with Bonkers, but we both knew that she didn’t really care that much.  She was merely reinforcing the rules that we both knew would go into effect when my father arrived home.  Bonkers too was aware of the changing legal framework in our household when my father would arrive home, given his memory of rolled up magazines wacking him on the butt when he broke these iron-clad laws.

Outside Bonkers and I avoided an atom blast fired by a Nukalofan security officer by diving into the hedges along our driveway.  Then we made a break for the fence to the back yard. We closed the fence door behind us and ran for cover by the unfinished redwood deck.  Our plan was to lure the Nukalofans under the redwood deck, my favorite hiding place in the whole family compound.  It was a place my father hated me to hide, fearing a collapsing two-by-four, but a place my mother condoned me hiding when no one else, not my sisters, not my dad, was around.  It was where I would hide with Bonkers, luring the unsuspecting Nukalofans in order to fire my atom blaster at them.  I had to bring them into close range, and the bowels of the redwood deck provided the best possibility.  At close range, I could score a direct hit on their atom blasters, which would cause an anti-matter explosion which would cause these diabolical creatures and their nefarious way of life to cease to exist.  It was our only hope.  Earth’s only hope.  I think my mother, rolling meat balls in the kitchen, understood this.

Well, it seemed that it was not to be. Before Bonkers and I could reach the unfinished redwood deck, a team of five Nukalofan storm troopers surrounded us.  They tied me up and put ole Bonkers, barking incessantly, in a cage.

“We shall destroy you,” hissed their leader, “by lowering you into a pit of crocodiles. Then we will roast your little dog on the spit and serve him as a Nukalofan hors d’oeuvre.”

It seemed that we were finished. Soon to be destroyed, leaving the Earth itself, and all that we hold dear, to be obliterated.  But I felt calm.  It was a calm that comes from good parenting.  You see, I had been in fixes before out on operations in my family compound.  Whether it was killers from Argentina about to have my limbs pulled apart by wild animals, or galactic terrorists determined to cut my head off and sell Bonkers into slavery, I knew that my commander, my mom, was not far off. Oh sure, perhaps she was in another wing of the house sewing or cooking or painting or reading.  Perhaps she was talking on the phone, not nearby at all, preoccupied with something else.  But, I knew that when I was engaged in military operations designed to protect my family, protect our neighborhood, protect Planet Earth, when there was no one home but my mom and I, and I was free to roam the family compound, freed by my commander, my mother, I knew that she was never far away.  I knew that her smile was not far away.  I knew that she had a sixth sense about these things.  She knew when my life was in danger, when my enemies were upon me, and she would arrive and save me in the end. 

That was why I was calm when being lowered into a pit of man-eating crocodiles.  Tied to a board moving slowly down into the barbecue pit that the Nukalofans had turned into a crocodile nest, I could have despaired that all was lost.  But I knew, like James Bond, that I would prevail by the end of the movie.  As the crocs snapped hungrily just inches below by limbs, I heard my mom call from the backdoor of the house, “We’re eating!” 

When she spied my predicament, she pulled out her atom blaster.  The five Nukalofans barely knew what hit them.  As they turned, off-balanced and confused, the last thing they saw was a blast of energy coming their way and then they were no more.  Then she turned her wrath on the Nukalofan shuttle craft, blasting it to atoms, and then toward the sky, she shot a mega-photon ray at the Nukalofan starship orbiting the planet.  It was time for supper.

Thirty years later, I am proud to say that the Nukalofan threat, while not eliminated, has been held at bay.  Held at bay through the tireless efforts of my mom, my dog, and me, liberated each day a long time ago when my sisters and my father were away, liberated by my generous mom, rolling meat balls in her palms in the kitchen, liberated by her smile.  My mother let me have the run of the entire family compound so that I could engage in operations that would save the galaxy.  Hats off to my mom.    

I will always remember my mother’s gift to me.  Free reign and time alone to let my imagination run wild, all the while knowing that she was not too far away to save me in the last moment from my enemies.

Amazing photos from Israel’s early years…

January 30, 2008

…taken by photographer, Paul Goldman.  See link below.

http://info.jpost.com/C007/Supplements/TimeCapsule/index.html

Outside Groups Aid Obama, Their Vocal Critic

January 29, 2008

Looks who is funding the candidates.  Once again the 527s (and their wealthy backers)…

Published: January 30, 2008, NYTimes
After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.

 Mr. Obama has repudiated a California group, Vote Hope, that is working on his behalf. But it has pressed on and, along with a sister organization called PowerPac.org, is planning to spend up to $4 million promoting him in California and conducting voter registration drives aimed at blacks in 11 Southern states.

The group has already run radio advertisements with local ministers in South Carolina. New advertisements, some for television, have been prepared for California, one with the rap star Common and others focusing on black and Latino voters.

As the campaign treasuries of Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are rapidly draining heading into the nominating contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, independent political groups — whether so-called 527 groups, political action committees, nonprofit organizations or trade unions — are stepping in to help fill the void. The efforts of these groups, particularly 527s, which are named for a section of the tax code under which they fall, worry campaign finance watchdogs because many can take unlimited contributions from donors and have limited oversight.

Mr. Obama’s campaign says it has taken pains to discourage these efforts on its behalf, and in fact the campaign has no recourse in controlling them. “We do not think people should be donating to 527s,” said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman. “We would rather have them involved in our campaign. It is our hope that anyone who supports Obama does so directly through his campaign and not through these outside groups.”

The Clinton campaign, which has not made an issue of outside help, has been a much greater beneficiary of these groups. Mrs. Clinton has large unions representing government employees and teachers on her side, as well as the politically savvy feminist organization Emily’s List. The two unions plan to spend millions of dollars on her behalf through direct mail, phone banks and get-out-the-vote efforts in Super Tuesday states.

The teachers’ union, which has 1.4 million members, has budgeted $3 million for the effort, while the government employees’ union has earmarked $5 million. Meanwhile, Emily’s List has an effort directed at women just outside the New York City media market.

Mr. Obama has lined up support from unions representing plumbers and pipefitters, as well as hospitality and garment workers. One union, Unite Here, plans to mobilize its 450,000 members through direct mail advertisements, phone banks and door-to-door visits in Super Tuesday states. It will also continue efforts, begun in Nevada, to run pro-Obama television and radio spots, many in Spanish and aimed at voters in California. The plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union, which has 340,000 members, said it was working with the Obama campaign to get out its membership and was encouraging members to donate time as Obama campaign volunteers.

Unlike 527s, unions can coordinate some activities with campaigns, and spending by their political action committees must be reported to federal regulators.

The efforts by Vote Hope pose a particular challenge to Mr. Obama’s campaign, given his repeated criticism of Mrs. Clinton and former Senator John Edwards for having accepted similar help.

Referring to Mr. Edwards, Mr. Obama said in December in the heat of the Iowa campaign, “John said yesterday he didn’t believe in these 527s.” Then he added, “You can’t say yesterday you don’t believe in it, and today three-quarters of a million dollars is being spent for you.”

The two California groups supporting Mr. Obama, Vote Hope, which is a 527, and PowerPac.org, which is a nonprofit group, are both creations of Steve Phillips, a longtime social activist and lawyer who founded PowerPac.org five years ago.

“We have a chance to make an impact,” Mr. Phillips said. “There are not the resources within the Obama campaign to organize. You need a dedicated organization with a dedicated revenue stream.”

Mr. Phillips donated $95,000 to the effort. He is also the son-in-law of Herbert Sandler, a billionaire banker and major donor to the Democratic Party and liberal causes. Vote Hope plans to spend about $1 million supporting Mr. Obama in California, while PowerPac.org has budgeted $2 million to $3 million for the nonpartisan voter registration drive in the South, help that could not come at a better time.

“These groups are critical to the campaigns,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance lawyer who advises Democratic candidates. “The campaigns are spread so thin on Feb. 5, in terms of geography and television coverage. There is never enough money to do what you want. So these groups can step in and play a critical role.”

So long as unions are politicking among their own members, they can coordinate their efforts with individual candidates and campaigns. While rules may vary according to the structure of the group, many outside organizations, like nonprofit groups and 527s, cannot coordinate their activities with a campaign. Some of these groups can receive donations in unlimited amounts, or in amounts that exceed campaign finance limits, and with looser disclosure rules.

According to Vote Hope’s Web site, its goal is “to get hundreds of thousands of new votes pledged for Obama — starting Jan. 9 and leading up to the state’s Feb. 5, 2008 primary.”

To that end, Vote Hope and PowerPac have set up what amounts to a parallel campaign to the Obama organization, specifically directed at blacks, Latinos and young people.

A Vote Hope advertisement featuring the rapper Common saying “Obama is down for us” has already run on television in San Francisco and can be found on the group’s Web site and on YouTube. Vote Hope’s Web site is also maintaining its own voter data bank of Obama supporters.

In addition, the Web publication Politico.com posted a memorandum sent to Vote Hope supporters outlining a PowerPac.org drive to hire people — at $12.50 an hour — to find voters for Mr. Obama, drive them to the polls and then check with polling locations to be certain they have voted.

The Obama campaign says it would rather the money come directly to the campaign itself.

“There is much that you and others associated with Vote Hope can accomplish for the Obama candidacy within his official organization,” the Obama campaign said in a Dec. 28 letter to Mr. Phillips. “An independent effort outside that organization undermines the senator’s message.”

Among unions, Tom Snyder, the political director of Unite Here, which represents a number of groups including hospitality and garment workers, said the group would be sending a big “positive pro-Obama” message in Super Tuesday states, just as it did in Nevada and South Carolina. The group’s political action committee has about $660,000 on hand for its efforts.

“We plan to communicate with our members and turn them out,” Mr. Snyder said.

On behalf of Mrs. Clinton, Edward J. McElroy, president of the American Federation of Teachers, predicts a “tsunami” of activity as Tuesday draws closer. This will include phone banks, door-to-door visits and fliers on issues like education and the economy, distributed to a membership that is about 70 percent women and has an 80 percent voter registration rate.

Equally active on behalf of Mrs. Clinton is the American Federation of State, Local and Municipal Employees, which will be sending staff members to important Super Tuesday states to drum up support among its members. For the entire election cycle, including races for president, Congress and governor, the union has budgeted $60 million.

“We will have waves of mailings leading up to Feb. 5,” said Larry Scanlon, political director for the union. Mr. Scanlon estimates that “several million” fliers will be mailed, to be followed up by both live and recorded telephone calls.

Obama on Israel: No Palestinian Right of Return

January 29, 2008

Obama: Palestinian refugees can’t return


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Palestinian refugees belong in their own state and do not have a “literal” right of return to Israel, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Monday.

“The outlines of any agreement would involve ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state,” Obama told The Jerusalem Post and other members of the Jewish and Israeli press on a conference call. He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, but said, “We cannot move forward until there is some confidence that the Palestinians are able to provide the security apparatus that would prevent constant attacks against Israel from taking place.”

His conversation with reporters and his support for the Israeli position on refugees came on the heels of scurrilous charges that Obama is secretly a Muslim who received a radical Wahhabi education.

Obama concluded the phone call by stressing how wrong the accusations were.

“There has been a constant and virulent smear campaign via the Internet that has been particularly targeted against the Jewish community,” he said. “It is absolutely false. I have never practiced Islam. I was raised by my secular mother, and I have been a member of the Christian religion and an active Christian.”

Obama said he wanted to speak personally on the subject so that voters in the Jewish community could hear “from the horse’s mouth” that “there is no substance there and that there is a strong and deep commitment and connection to the Jewish community that should not be questioned.”

Obama’s campaign has taken several steps to debunk the falsehoods in circulation, including sending out a flier in South Carolina emphasizing his Christian convictions – a move that upset some Jewish groups. Obama won South Carolina handily to add momentum to his tight primary race with Sen. Hillary Clinton. They will face off again on February 5, as many of the country’s largest states – with the nation’s largest Jewish populations – vote.

Obama has also recently articulated stances in support of Israel and Jewish issues, including his comments during the conference call, as well as a letter he sent Tuesday urging that America not endorse a UN Security Council resolution on Gaza that doesn’t condemn Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel.

“The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense,” Obama said during the call – though he noted, “The Palestinians have a legitimate concern that a state have a contiguous coherent mass that would allow the state to function effectively.”

Regarding Iran, he called for more pressure on the regime, as a divestment bill he sponsored advocates, but didn’t mention the possibility of using force.

He also said that “carrots” needed to be offered, while a spokesman said that he believed there should be low- and mid-level diplomatic contacts between the United States and Iran.

“Diplomacy is not just talking with your friends, but talking to our enemies,” Obama said. “We want to send a signal to the Iranian people that we are reasonable. We are not looking to impede Iran’s legitimate national aspirations, but they have to change their behavior.”

Hitler rose to power 75 years ago…

January 29, 2008

…Time Magazine shows pictures related to this history.  Click the link:

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1707887,00.html

Kennedy Mystique

January 29, 2008

Op-ed by David Brooks, explaining why Teddy chose Barack… 

Something fundamental has shifted in the Democratic Party.

David Brooks

Last week there was the widespread revulsion at the Clintons’ toxic attempts to ghettoize Barack Obama. In private and occasionally in public, leading Democrats lost patience with the hyperpartisan style of politics — the distortion of facts, the demonizing of foes, the secret admiration for brass-knuckle brawling and the ever-present assumption that it’s necessary to pollute the public sphere to win. All the suppressed suspicions of Clintonian narcissism came back to the fore. Are these people really serving the larger cause of the Democratic Party, or are they using the party as a vehicle for themselves?

And then Monday, something equally astonishing happened. A throng of Kennedys came to the Bender Arena at American University in Washington to endorse Obama. Caroline Kennedy evoked her father. Senator Edward Kennedy’s slightly hunched form carried with it the recent history of the Democratic Party.

The Kennedy endorsements will help among working-class Democrats, Catholics and the millions of Americans who have followed Caroline’s path to maturity. Furthermore, here was Senator Kennedy, the consummate legislative craftsman, vouching for the fact that Obama is ready to be president on Day One.

But the event was striking for another reason, having to do with the confluence of themes and generations. The Kennedys and Obama hit the same contrasts again and again in their speeches: the high road versus the low road; inspiration versus calculation; future versus the past; and most of all, service versus selfishness.

“With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion,” Senator Kennedy declared. “With Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign — a campaign not just about himself, but about all of us,” he said.

The Clintons started this fight, and in his grand and graceful way, Kennedy returned the volley with added speed.

Kennedy went on to talk about the 1960s. But he didn’t talk much about the late-60s, when Bill and Hillary came to political activism. He talked about the early-60s, and the idealism of the generation that had seen World War II, the idealism of the generation that marched in jacket and ties, the idealism of a generation whose activism was relatively unmarked by drug use and self-indulgence.

Then, in the speech’s most striking passage, he set Bill Clinton afloat on the receding tide of memory. “There was another time,” Kennedy said, “when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier.” But, he continued, another former Democratic president, Harry Truman, said he should have patience. He said he lacked experience. John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do!”

The audience at American University roared. It was mostly young people, and to them, the Clintons are as old as the Trumans were in 1960. And in the students’ rapture for Kennedy’s message, you began to see the folding over of generations, the service generation of John and Robert Kennedy united with the service generation of the One Campaign. The grandparents and children united against the parents.

How could the septuagenarian Kennedy cast the younger Clintons into the past? He could do it because he evoked the New Frontier, which again seems fresh. He could do it because he himself has come to live a life of service.

After his callow youth, Kennedy came to realize that life would not give him the chance to be president. But life did ask him to be a senator, and he has embraced that role and served that institution with more distinction than anyone else now living — as any of his colleagues, Republican or Democrat, will tell you. And he could do it because culture really does have rhythms. The respect for institutions that was prevalent during the early ’60s is prevalent with the young again today. The earnest industriousness that was common then is back today. The awareness that we are not self-made individualists, free to be you and me, but emerge as parts of networks, webs and communities; that awareness is back again today.

Sept. 11th really did leave a residue — an unconsummated desire for sacrifice and service. The old Clintonian style of politics clashes with that desire. When Sidney Blumenthal expresses the Clinton creed by telling George Packer of The New Yorker, “It’s not a question of transcending partisanship. It’s a question of fulfilling it,” that clashes with the desire as well.

It’s not clear how far this altered public mood will carry Obama in this election. But there was something important and memorable about the way the 75-year-old Kennedy communed and bonded with a rapturous crowd half a century his junior.

The old guy stole the show.

Israel launches satellite…

January 29, 2008

Israel launched a cutting-edge satellite, maintaining its technological superiority, which, given its deficiencies such as population and land, it must do in order to deter its foes.  See below.

DEBKAfile Reports: With the successful launch Monday of Ofeq-7 imaging satellite, Israel acquires an essential intelligence asset for any war contingency

June 11, 2007, 7:35 AM (GMT+02:00)

 

Ofeq-7 was launched westward over the Mediterranean by the home-made Shavit three-stage solid fuel vehicle from the Palmachim aerospace base at 02:15 IT, June 11. The first images should be received by Tuesday night.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the launching was part of a seven-day US-Israeli air exercise taking place this week in the Negev which, though presented officially as a routine practice, reflects wide expectations of a Middle East war this summer.

Israel thus launched the 300 kg Ofeq-7 in mock war conditions, displaying a cutting-edge capability reserved to the US and Russia.

Its successful deployment in low Earth orbit was anxiously awaited as strategically essential after the failure of the Ofeq-6 test last September. Joining the ageing, five-year old Ofeq-5, the new platform fills the gap in the coverage of distant high-priority areas in the Middle East including Iran.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The military importance of the Shavit’s successful performance as a deterrent to Iran’s missile threats cannot be overstated. It means that Israeli rockets can be relied on to reach any part of Iran.

Earlier this year, as Syria and Iran built up their missile arsenals, Israel quietly accelerated its military space program with three successful launches in February and March under a news blackout. Russia too reacted by placing a new Cosmos spy satellite in an orbit for keeping a close watch on the Middle East including Israel, Iran and the Gulf.

DEBKAfile reports that work is advanced at Israel’s Air Industry on the TechSAR radar-operated all-weather platform, Ofeq-8 and a new type of satellite called only Ofeq-Next. Israeli defense officials are in talks with US Spacecom for supplementing the Amos-4 communications satellite still to be launched with military capabilities.

Learning to believe what politicians say…

January 28, 2008

From a Jpost article, 1/28/08.  Humans have ignored what “bad actors” have said and written in the past at their peril.  Olmert says he will believe what Ahmadinejad says…

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Monday that Israel would not ignore any calls for its obliteration, as the Knesset held a special session to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“We will not permit ourselves to be complacent to the sounds of voices calling for the obliteration of Israel, which are backed by murderous and jealous ideologies, tyrannical regimes, supporters of terrors and malicious programs to develop weapons of massive destruction,” Olmert said during his address to the Knesset, held one day after the international day of remembrance.

The United Nations declared three years ago that each January 27 would be the International Day in Memory of Holocaust Victims.

It was the first time since the end of World War II that the UN recognized the killing of an estimated 6 million Jews and minorities by Nazi Germany.

Germany nominated the day as a national day of commemoration in 1996, while the UN named the date International Holocaust Remembrance Day in November 2005.

In his address to Knesset on Monday, Olmert also accused the allies of the Second World War of not making even the slightest effort to stop the extermination of Jews.

“The killing machine worked nonstop. Military aircrafts bombed hundreds of thousands of places across Europe, but not one raid was meant to stop the extermination process. Auschwitz, the railroads, the trains and the platforms, all worked uninterrupted, like a clock, a Nazi clock, but the sky remained clear; the sun went up and down as usual. Rain fell, snow piled up, the murderer murdered, and not a single aircraft interrupted the killing routine,” Olmert said.

Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik said during the session that at the height of the Holocaust many of Israel’s present-day friends said they did not see, hear or know anything.

“Today, there is no doubt about the existential danger we’re facing, and no one could claim that they didn’t know,” she said.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that “the allies knew everything, but did not dispatch even one pilot. They had intelligence in real time and some of the most enlightened leaders of the 20th century. But they were apathetic to the fate of the Jewish people.”

On Monday, the UN General Assembly will hear addresses by survivors of Nazi death camps, including U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, and a concert by the Tel Aviv University Symphony conducted by Zubin Mehta. The UN plans also to issue a special stamp to mark the day.