August 19, 2009

The important things in the health care discussion

Want to get an idea of how skewed the health care debate in this country is? Perhaps you know my Congressman, Barney Frank. The guy who got re-elected in 1990 with 66% of the vote even after he was nearly unanimously reprimanded by the House of Representatives. Yeah, that guy . . . and that district. So he had one of those town hall meetings on health care, where lo and behold, he confronted the same kind of rowdy conservative mobs that have been getting an awful lot of press coverage. It just goes to show you that even though they scream the loudest, they are not representative of the average viewer at home -- they only appear that way by showing up en masse and shouting down any and all opposing views.

This is confirmed in a recent NBC poll: Obama's health care approval ratings -- while not impressive -- have not gotten any worse in recent weeks. Meanwhile, misinformation on the proposal abounds. As Jon Stewart remarked on the TV coverage of politics, "The race to the bottom is done with tenacity."

August 06, 2009

Dept. of It Could Be Worse

Wow. Bernie Madoff, consider yourself lucky with the 150-year prison sentence you received. AP reports that China has just executed two businessmen for committing fraud. The death penalty has by and large been on the decline in the U.S., as well it should be. May we only see a further drop, leaving behind the only countries to execute more: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and North Korea.

August 05, 2009

What can't Iran get away with?

Sorry to interrupt everyone's attention from the awkward kiss between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the "re-elected" President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While much attention has rightly been paid to the electoral mess going on in Iran, we seem to have once again lost sight of the bigger issues -- a.k.a., the reasons why we care about the results of the Iranian election so much.

Several sources are reporting that the plane crash in Northwest Iran that killed 168 people two weeks ago was caused by the detonation of explosives meant to be given to Hizballah by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. This explosion comes on top of one in Lebanon not long ago, an illegal Hizballah weapons cache. The existence of this cache was known to the UN force in Southern Lebanon for months, but they predictably did nothing about it. Sadly, the Iranians will once again walk away scot-free.

August 03, 2009

Obamanoia, cont'd

On the continuing trend of Obama-can-do-no-right, I stumbled upon an analysis of Obama's body language by the conservative blog American Thinker. Conclusion: Obama is a snob. They reach this conclusion from a vast body of evidence -- namely, one photograph the White House released of the president walking in front of Skip Gates and Sgt. Crowley. But lest readers feel they have not learned enough from this example, they kindly provide a stunning visual juxtaposition with a singular photograph of President Bush!

July 31, 2009

On Obama and cults

Conservatives (and some liberals) have often charged that a segment of Barack Obama’s fanbase has turned into a cult of sorts. It’s a fair charge to a certain degree. It’s also not unique to political figures—not least of which, Ronald Reagan. (Seriously, ask a conservative if they can think of a negative thing about Reagan. His liberal son, Ron, doesn’t count.)

But if liberals are guilty of creating an Obama cult, then some conservatives have responded with an Obama paranoia—a burning hatred and distrust of Obama so intense as to totally defy reason. One way this manifests itself is to repeatedly and brainlessly denounce Obama as “socialist,” even as his economic policies have been stridently anti-socialist. For example, most liberal opinion leaders thought early on that Obama’s approach to the banking issue had to include temporary nationalization of the affected banks. Obama’s proposal not only shied away from that idea (Treasury Secretary Geithner was said to be deeply wary of it), but it seemed to shift the public debate away from public ownership.

An early example of this came back in April, when President Obama approved the use of military force to get back the American hostage taken by Somali pirates. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg—hardly one who looks for excuses to support the left—caught flack from his readers and from de facto Republican party chairman Rush Limbaugh when he (gasp!) said that Obama deserved a minimal amount of credit for his handling of the situation.

More recently, Glenn Beck made the preposterous claim that Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” And still stronger than ever is the “birther” movement, the people who believe the president is actually a native Kenyan. Birther-in-chief Orly Taitz appeared on the Colbert Report, and, as documented, all but admitted that there’s nothing Obama can do to quell their concerns:

Colbert: What would he have to do to satisfy you and those in your movement?
Taitz: In order to be president and commander in chief, he has to be a natural born citizen. So even if he were born in Hawaii, he cannot be the president and commander in chief specifically because of his multiple citizenship.
Colbert: So there’s absolutely nothing he can do to satisfy you?
Taitz: Unless he can bring his father out of the grave and make him a citizen post-mortem.

Well, then!

July 27, 2009

Time for an "even-handed" foreign policy?

One thing which critics of Israel cite as a grievance of theirs is that the U.S. rarely enforces an "even-handed" policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- an ostensibly neutral outlook to solving the ongoing issue. I've never thought that even-handedness was a prerequisite for any proper foreign policy -- should we be even-handed between the Islamists and democrats in Afghanistan?

Regardless, here is an opportunity for American supporters of the Palestinian cause to dare the Obama administration to pursue an even-handed foreign policy: get the Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas to agree to something as necessary and overdue as the Israeli government just has. According to American and Israeli sources, the Israeli government will abide by a temporary freeze in settlement activity.

This is quite a step for the Israeli government. At no point even during the Oslo process was there an explicit agreement between the U.S. and Israel on settlement construction. And this comes on top of PM Netanyahu's previous endorsement of a Palestinian state. He has even kept his word on his campaign promise to ease Palestinian freedom of movement. One year ago there were 35 manned checkpoints in the West Bank; today there are 10. Say one thing about Netanyahu: he is expending significant political capital to protect his relationship with the United States. A country with a foreign lobbying movement so powerful and manipulative shouldn't have to rely on such political maneuvering on behalf of its patron, should it?

Alas, for Obama to push the Palestinian government into an equally needed act would prove fruitless; there is no Palestinian government. Netanyahu's promise to freeze settlement construction is a just act on its own. In fact, it is a pure act of altruism; what could Abbas promise now and deliver? If nothing else, this episode illustrates one crucially important point: Even the most dovish of Israeli leaders would not have a negotiating partner right now.