The Case For Israel

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am by no means an unquestioning supporter of Israel. And I am convinced that the focus on the “Israel Lobby” is a good thing for both America and for Israel. But there is no question in my mind that Israel deserves American support and that our alliance should remain strong and steadfast.

The case for Israel is not moral, and it is certainly not biblical. As rationales for the existence of a state, neither argument is convincing.

The Jews are not “owed” anything for the years of pogroms and the Holocaust unless everyone who has ever suffered is owed; nor does the reasoning that the Jews have suffered more than others ring true. The Jews have suffered, but so have millions of others individually and collectively. Suffering, however prolonged or organized, does not warrant special privileges for the sufferer.

As for the bible, I think I speak for every rational human being when I say that it’s existence should be irrelevant in modern geopolitics. It is not, of course. But I am assuming that readers of this post are rational.

No. The case for Israel is political. It is not just that they are a democracy (though this is, obviously, vitally important), it is that they have a flourishing institution that is the essential complement to liberal democracy: a free press.

And this, and this alone, is the true, best reason to support Israel.

There has been a lot of talk lately in neocon circles about a league of democracies. This is a good idea, as far as it goes. But the problem is that all democracies are not constructed equally. Even Israel clings to the idea of itself as a Jewish state, and hence it is not truly democratic. What should be the cornerstone of a league of democracies is a measurement of the freedom of a state’s press.

If, as in Israel, the press is free to openly and repeatedly question the deepest held convictions of the state – its laws, its history, its purpose, its government – than that state deserves to truly belong to a league of democracies.

Without this freedom, even the ballot is compromised. A free press is the absolute (forgive me) sine qua non for any country that wants to truly be a free, liberal democracy.


Billionaire Wilbur Ross: Beware Housing Fallout

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From this story by Andrew Fisher on CNBC:

“You saw those numbers that were reported yesterday, 16 percent down from the 2006 highs,” Ross told CNBC. “Sixteen percent of $23 trillion means $3.8 trillion of Americans’ net worth has been wiped out by that decline.”

The impact on the economy, he said, is likely to be severe.

“Economists allow for the sort of ‘wealth effect,’ or ‘poverty effect,’ that’s probably something like 5 percent that gets reflected in consumer spending,” Ross said. “If it is, that’s $180 billion, or more than 1 percent of our gross domestic product.”

McCain Will Never Surrender

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John McCain continues to repeat that “he will never surrender” in Iraq. This is a bit of Rovian framing that he hopes will do two things: one, keep the debate focused on his perceived area of strength, foreign policy, and two, position leaving Iraq on anything other than his timetable as “surrender.”

It’s not a bad piece of politicking. And he’ll likely repeat it throughout the remainder of the campaign. That said, it won’t work. Despite the recent gains in Iraq (now if Petraeus was running, that would be a real candidate), Americans understand that it is a giant clusterfuck with, ultimately, no good options for a successful resolution. We can support al-Maliki and the SIIC until they’re tucked in bed with the Iranians (our enemy, lest you forget) and pay the Sunnis not to fight with borrowed billions forever, but we’ll still be screwed.

To deny this, is to deny reality. But that’s all McCain has left: denial. Which is why he’ll never surrender. He’ll be fighting this battle (as I suspect he’s still fighting Vietnam) on his death bed.

What McCain really needs is just a pat on the head and a soft voice. “You do that, pops. You do that.”

Belly Up to the Barr

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One other piece of news over the weekend: Bob Barr, the erstwhile congressman from Georgia, has received the Libertarian Party nod to lead their ticket in November. Right now, Barr’s operating in Ron Paul’s shadow, but once Paul’s supporters realize that he won’t mount a third party run, they’ll turn to Barr, and give him their financial support too.

I, personally, am a big supporter of his candidacy. I encourage my readers to join me in supporting Barr (or Paul if he does decide to go for it) for President.

Read: Judging the Libertarian Factor

Bush: Appeaser-in-Chief

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Here’s a photo of Bush holding hands with the leader of a state sponsor of terrorism.

W is telling us that begging the Saudis to produce more oil despite the fact that they continue to sponsor madrassas all over the Arab world that teach hatred of America and, that 15 out of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi and, that Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi and, that King Abdullah has proclaimed the action in Iraq illegal and, that they’re an authoritarian state with no regard for democracy and human rights and, so on…isn’t appeasement.

Do you think he’s spoken to McCain and Holy Joe about this?

Bad News on the Home Front

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And so it continues. Today the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller national home price index reports that home prices dropped 14.1% year over year in the first quarter of 2008. This is bad news for several reasons, but the main, macro-reason is that our economy won’t begin to improve until housing stabilizes. As much as some economists want to marginalize the sector’s importance, the reality is that they cannot.

With the housing bubble, the impact of home prices has spread into the economy at large, effecting employment, borrowing, consumer spending, and a hell of a lot of Wall Street paper.

Related to this, here is an article by Roger Lowenstein in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that has been sitting on my desk for a few weeks. I finally read it over the weekend. If you want to understand how potentially damaging the housing crisis is to Wall Street (and how it happened), this is an essential article. It is easily the clearest explanation of how the mortgage industry and Wall Street with the help of the bond rating agencies managed to put us on the brink of another Great Depression.

New Mars Mission

Monday, May 26, 2008

I know, ho-hum, right? If you’ve seen one dusty, rock-strewn photo from the red planet, you’ve seen them all. The difference here is in the mission of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander. This device has landed on Mars’s northern arctic plains with the tools to dig beneath the surface and analyze the ice there for signs of (or the conditions necessary for) microbial life.

This journey is amazing for a thousand reasons: One, the thing landed on Mars Sunday night and it’s already sending back photos. Two, the whole thing is solar powered. Three, the Lander will conduct “sophisticated scientific experiments” on the soil and ice on the spot (this thing isn’t coming home). Four, the goal of the mission is to “(1) study the history of water in the Martian arctic and (2) search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.” Five, the strong possibility that there will be some evidence of life on Mars will redefine how we view the universe and, for me, reaffirm a sense of the universe as an organic entity.

And so on. Go to NASA for more.