Friday, July 12, 2002

HARKEN HERE: Byron York summarizes the case for why Bush's Harken scandal is a non-event, or should be. The Center for Public Integrity has posted a number of the SEC documents relating to the investigation of Bush. I think it is difficult to read this this SEC memo (in PDF form) and think that there's much of a scandal there.
I may have much more to say on the topic soon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

HOUSING PERVERSITIES IN NEW YORK AND SAN JOSE: Here's another aspect of what's wrong with rent control. (Via Megan McArdle.)

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

THE POWER OF FIFTH COLUMNS, OR "WHEN WINE ENTERS, SECRETS EXIT": Hirsch Goodman has a fascinating column about a dinner he had with a Palestinian "peace activist:"

We have known each other for quite a few years and I have always had deep respect for his views, hence the importance I attach to what he said that night, despite the three glasses of wine that went down with his meal.
The Zionist experiment, he told me, is over. The Palestinians have discovered a strategic weapon: suicide bombers. Once anathema, they are now considered heroes. The shahids (martyrs), once seen as religious fanatics, are now nationalist freedom fighters. Moreover, he continued, they are growing in legitimacy all the time. The Arab world understands them and even some Europeans seem to. The Israelis have F-16s, the Palestinians, suicide bombers. The equivalency is obvious to all.
Now, he continued, there are thousands out there waiting in line to kill as many Israelis as they can, to make your lives hell on earth. They belong to no organization, but want revenge and are prepared to die for it. You think you are going to stop them by punishing their parents. You are wrong. You won’t even know who they are or where they came from. Nothing will be left of them.
We are going to hit you everywhere we can: gas stations, theaters, parks, wedding halls. You will know no happiness. It will be one funeral after the next.
And then, while you are reeling, the 1.5 million Palestinian allies, the Israeli Palestinians, our brothers and your enemy, will rise up as well. They are just waiting for a sign from us. They know you better than you know yourselves. They speak your language and know every street in every one of your cities. They are familiar with every nook and every cranny. And they will join at the right time. Make no mistake about it.
And then what does Israel do? Transfer? Can you imagine CNN and the BBC reporting live as the Jews transfer truckload after truckload of Palestinians over the border? Your country will lose all legitimacy. The Arab world will go to war against it. You will be a pariah, worse than South Africa under apartheid. Your generals will be tried for war crimes. The world will impose sanctions. Your F-16s will run dry of fuel.
Your people will leave in droves, especially professionals.
The Zionist experiment is over.

With "peace activists" like these, who needs terrorists?
Buried in this declaration of war is the true lede, the elaboration of Israel's greatest vulnerability: the chance that Arab citizens of Israel will actively join the Palestinians and fight against Israel.
It is apparent that the Palestinians do not control their Israeli cousins in the manner fantasized by Goodman's peace-loving dinner companion. (The same way it is apparent that Al-Qaeda does not yet have nuclear weapons; if they can use this weapon, what are they waiting for?) But if the Arab Israelis ever did start aiding terrorism on a large scale (something which has been fairly rare up to now), engaging in sabotage or otherwise fighting against Israel, that would have the potential for destructive consequences beyond the reach of the current conflict.
In my opinion, Israel would be able to, if the situation deteriorated sufficiently, effect a quasi-"transfer" (especially if it is a matter of moving Palestinians within the West Bank and/or to Gaza) and survive (especially if it is accompanied by the evacuation of isolated, indefensible settlements). But if Israel ever had to send tanks against or attempt to expel up to a fifth of its own citizens, that would be another matter entirely. That scenario is the Palestinians' true nuclear weapon; it is fortunate that they do not appear to possess it.

Monday, July 08, 2002

SNARKINESS HALL OF FAME NOMINEE: Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently published Globalization and its Discontents, a book-long screed against the IMF.
(Here's an article setting forth his basic views.) The IMF has now responded to Stiglitz's book in a manner which should be admired and emulated throughout public life.
ARE YOU SURE THIS ISN'T A WAR CRIME? Steven Den Beste has been on a crusade (completely justified) against U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court. Here's his most detailed elaboration of why the Court would likely be a disaster for U.S. interests, and here's his explanation of the principles involved.
THE ECONOMIST'S FIRST PRINCIPLES: Here's a report on the reflexive anti-Israel atttitudes of the Economist.
ISOLATIONISM: Yossi Klein Halevi has another great article in TNR regarding the consequences in Israel of near-total international condemnation. One point is particularly noteworthy:

A benign or at least neutral international climate is a key precondition for Israeli willingness to take risks for peace. Though it's widely assumed that the Oslo process restored Israel's diplomatic standing, the sequence of events was actually the opposite. Only after the former Soviet bloc, China, India, and much of the Third World renewed diplomatic relations with Israel in the early '90s, following the Gulf war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, did Israel feel safe enough to begin negotiating with the PLO.
...International detractors who turn every Israeli act of war into a war crime and subject the Jewish state to a level of moral judgment not applied to any other nation are inciting the very hard-line forces they deplore.
BABY STEPS? Remember the terrorist baby picture? In TNR, Spencer Ackerman outlines the horrifying aspects of the various Palestinian responses to the furor surrounding the photo:

Last month former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak created quite a ruckus--among intellectuals, anyway--when he suggested that Palestinians have a cultural predisposition to dishonesty. Writing with Israeli historian Benny Morris in the New York Review of Books, Barak declared that Palestinians "are products of a culture in which to tell a lie ... creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't."
Critics pounced on the statement, accusing Barak of "the vilification of an entire people." And yet Barak's portrait of a Palestinian culture that places little premium on truth might be the most flattering image of Palestinian society currently available.
After all, the competing snapshot is one of a suicide bomber in Pampers.
...The interesting reactions came from the Palestinians--wildly divergent as they were. Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat did what the PA does best when confronted with unpleasant truths: accuse Israel of manufacturing them. As with the discovery of the Karine A munitions ship, as with the records of financial support from the PA to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades found in Arafat's Ramallah compound during Operation Defensive Shield, Erekat called the photograph "lies that [the Israelis] use to cover their own crimes, the murder of our children." Stopping short of claiming the picture was fraudulent, Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo accused the Israelis of "using this photo to justify Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and to go on with their occupation of the Palestinian territories."
But then the baby's family weighed in. After first denying relation to the infant shahid, Redwan Abu Turki acknowledged both his grandchild and the authenticity of the photograph, even as he claimed the get-up was nothing but a joke. "The picture was taken just for the fun of it," he shrugged. After all, in the streets of Gaza and Jenin, suicide bombers are heroes. Wondered the baby's uncle, "What's all the fuss about?"
...If Erekat and Abed Rabbo feel compelled to lie about the Abu Turki picture of the baby bomber, it is because they realize just how repulsive the concept really is. Far more horrifying will be the day when a Palestinian leader looks at a picture of an infant strapped with dynamite and, rather than denying its veracity, doubles over in convulsive fits of hysterics.

HACK, HACK: No, I was not on vacation for July 4. I was (and still am) under the influence of an energy-and-thought-sapping bug with lovely side effects, such as coughs louder than John Entwistle's bass. (No audio link available.) I will try to catch up ASAP. As always, I apologize for the absence.