Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That voodoo that they do so poorly

A miniature version of Jonathan Chait's introduction to the history of voodoo economics was published in the New Republic about a year ago. Print it out and read it side by side with your 401K statement. (hat tip: Balloon Juice)

from the New Republic: Feast of the Wingnuts

This piece is adapted from Jonathan Chait's book, The Big Con: The True Story of How Washington Got Hoodwinked and Hijacked by Crackpot Economics, which (was) published ... by Houghton Mifflin.

American politics has been hijacked by a tiny coterie of right-wing economic extremists, some of them ideological zealots, others merely greedy, a few of them possibly insane. The scope of their triumph is breathtaking. Over the course of the last three decades, they have moved from the right-wing fringe to the commanding heights of the national agenda. Notions that would have been laughed at a generation ago--that cutting taxes for the very rich is the best response to any and every economic circumstance or that it is perfectly appropriate to turn the most rapacious and self-interested elements of the business lobby into essentially an arm of the federal government--are now so pervasive, they barely attract any notice.

The result has been a slowmotion disaster. Income inequality has approached levels normally associated with Third World oligarchies, not healthy Western democracies. The federal government has grown so encrusted with business lobbyists that it can no longer meet the great public challenges of our time. Not even many conservative voters or intellectuals find the result congenial. Government is no smaller--it is simply more debt-ridden and more beholden to wealthy elites.

It was not always this way. A generation ago, Republican economics was relentlessly sober. Republicans concerned themselves with such ills as deficits, inflation, and excessive spending. They did not care very much about cutting taxes, and (as in the case of such GOP presidents as Herbert Hoover and Gerald Ford) they were quite willing to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. While many of them were wealthy and close to business, the leaders of business themselves had a strong sense of social responsibility that transcended their class interests. By temperament, such men were cautious rather than utopian.

Over the last three decades, however, such Republicans have passed almost completely from the scene, at least in Washington, to be replaced by, essentially, a cult.

All sects have their founding myths, many of them involving circumstances quite mundane. The cult in question generally traces its political origins to a meeting in Washington in late 1974 between Arthur Laffer, an economist; Jude Wanniski, an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal; and Dick Cheney, then-deputy assistant to President Ford. Wanniski, an eccentric and highly excitable man, had until the previous few years no training in economics whatsoever, but he had taken Laffer's tutelage.

His choice of mentor was certainly unconventional. Laffer had been on the economics faculty at the University of Chicago since 1967. In 1970, his mentor, George Shultz, brought him to Washington to serve as a staffer in the Office of Management and Budget. Laffer quickly suffered a bout with infamy when he made a wildly unconventional calculation about the size of the 1971 Gross National Product, which was far more optimistic than estimates elsewhere. When it was discovered that Laffer had used just four indicators to arrive at his figure-- most economists used hundreds if not thousands of inputs--he became a Washington laughingstock. Indeed, he turned out to be horribly wrong. Laffer left the government in disgrace and faced the scorn of his former academic colleagues yet stayed in touch with Wanniski, whom he had met in Washington, and continued to tutor him in economics.

Starting in 1972, Wanniski came to believe that Laffer had developed a blinding new insight that turned established economic wisdom on its head. Wanniski and Laffer believed it was possible to simultaneously expand the economy and tamp down inflation by cutting taxes, especially the high tax rates faced by upper-income earners. Respectable economists-- not least among them conservative ones--considered this laughable. Wanniski, though, was ever more certain of its truth. He promoted this radical new doctrine through his perch on The Wall Street Journal editorial page and in a major article for The Public Interest, a journal published by the neoconservative godfather Irving Kristol. Yet Wanniski's new doctrine, later to be called supply-side economics, had failed to win much of a following beyond a tiny circle of adherents.

That fateful night, Wanniski and Laffer were laboring with little success to explain the new theory to Cheney. Laffer pulled out a cocktail napkin and drew a parabola-shaped curve on it. The premise of the curve was simple. If the government sets a tax rate of zero, it will receive no revenue. And, if the government sets a tax rate of 100 percent, the government will also receive zero tax revenue, since nobody will have any reason to earn any income. Between these two points--zero taxes and zero revenue, 100 percent taxes and zero revenue--Laffer's curve drew an arc. The arc suggested that at higher levels of taxation, reducing the tax rate would produce more revenue for the government.

At that moment, there were a few points that Cheney might have made in response. First, he could have noted that the Laffer Curve was not, strictly speaking, correct. Yes, a zero tax rate would obviously produce zero revenue, but the assumption that a 100-percent tax rate would also produce zero revenue was, just as obviously, false. Surely Cheney was familiar with communist states such as the Soviet Union, with its 100 percent tax rate. The Soviet revenue scheme may not have represented the cutting edge in economic efficiency, but it nonetheless managed to collect enough revenue to maintain an enormous military, enslave Eastern Europe, fund ambitious projects such as Sputnik, and so on. Second, Cheney could have pointed out that, even if the Laffer Curve was correct in theory, there was no evidence that the U.S. income tax was on the downward slope of the curve--that is, that rates were then high enough that tax cuts would produce higher revenue.

But Cheney did not say either of these things. Perhaps, in retrospect, this was due to something deep in Cheney's character that makes him unusually susceptible to theories or purported data that confirm his own ideological predilections.


An Israeli-Palestinian agreement: Forget about it

Jerusalem Post: An Israeli-Palestinian agreement ... forget about it

I've been a Palestinian firster for most of my professional life. I believe that the Palestinian issue is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the key to regional peace, and the sine qua non for preserving Israel as a Jewish democratic state.

These arguments remain valid. What's changed is that a conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians may no longer be possible. I choose my words carefully here. Varying kinds of accommodations cease fires, informal cooperation and temporary arrangements may still be possible. But an agreement now or perhaps for the foreseeable future that revolves conclusively the four core issues (borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security) isn't.

Three realities drive my pessimism and should force experts, politicians and would be mediators to keep their enthusiasm for quick or easy solutions under control.

First, there are the issues. There is a myth out there driven by the Clinton parameters of December 2000, the Taba talks in 2001, the Geneva accord a year later, and the hundreds of hours of post Annapolis talks between Israelis and Palestinians that the two sides are "this close" (thumb and index finger a sixteenth of an inch apart) to an agreement. The gaps have now narrowed, perhaps impressively, but closing them, particularly on the identity issues such as Jerusalem and refugees, is still beyond the reach of negotiators and leaders.

It's not that there are metaphysical or magical reasons why these core issues can't be resolved; it's that the political will is lacking among leaders to reach an agreement and that the current situation on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians makes it impossible for them to do to. That everyone knows what the ultimate solution will look like (an intriguing notion that is supposed to make people feel better) is irrelevant if the circumstances for an agreement don't exist.

THIS BRINGS me to my second point. The dysfunction and confusion in Palestine make a conflict-ending agreement almost impossible. The divisions between Hamas (itself divided) and Fatah (even more divided) are now geographic, political and hard to bridge. Until the Palestinian national movement finds a way to impose a monopoly over the forces of violence in Palestinian society, it cannot move to statehood. The hallmark of any state's credibility (from Sweden, to Egypt, to Poland) is its control over all the guns. Criminal activity is one thing; allowing political groups to challenge the state, or its neighbors, with violence is quite another. What Palestinian leader can claim to speak for all Palestinians or negotiate an agreement against the backdrop of a separate entity which controls 1.3 million Palestinians, possesses a different view of governance and nation-building and often attacks its neighbor? And what Israeli prime minister could ever make concessions to a Palestinian leader who doesn't control all of the guns? There is no solution to this problem now. Only by restoring unity to the Palestinian house will a conflict-ending agreement be possible. And that agreement will have to take into account the needs of both Israel and a unified Fatah-Hamas negotiating position which doesn't reflect Hamas's extreme views and irredentism.

Third, there is serious dysfunction at the political level in Israel as well. Israel has its own leadership crisis. The state is in transition from a generation of founding leaders with moral authority, historic legitimacy and competency to a younger generation of middle age pols who have not quite measured up to their predecessors or to the challenges their nation faces. The leadership deficit is a global phenomenon, but not all states are sitting in a dangerous neighborhood on top of a political volcano. Is there an Israeli leader today who has the authority and skill to make and sell the tough choices required for Israeli-Palestinian peace?

So what to do? My days of giving advice to Israelis and Palestinians are over. I would, however, respectfully suggest to President-elect Barck Obama, in my capacity as an American who doesn't want to see America fail again, that he recognize there's no deal in this negotiation now. Manage it as best you can: help support an Israeli-Hamas ceasefire, train PA security forces, pour economic aid into the West Bank and Gaza, even nurture Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the big issues, but don't think you can solve it; you can't.

Instead, go all-out for an Israeli-Syrian agreement which is doable and will enhance American credibility to confront Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran over time with tough choices, and improve America's regional standing. Then, perhaps, your chances on the Israeli-Palestinian track may be better. In the interim, I'm afraid sadly that the bottom line for Israelis and Palestinians is not a good one: Israelis will have their state, but Palestinians will never let them completely enjoy it.

The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, worked as an advisor on the Middle East for six Democratic and Republican secretaries of State. He is the author of The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive search for Arab-Israeli Peace.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

German University Awards Ph.D. to 88-Year-Old Who Was Denied the Degree in 1943

by Aisha Labi

from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

An 88-year-old man who was not allowed to take the oral examination for his doctoral degree during the Nazi era because of his Jewish ancestry successfully defended his dissertation this month and was finally awarded his Ph.D., according to the Deutsche Welle news agency (for other reports, in German, see Die Zeit and Academics.de).

The venerable student, Dimitri Stein, submitted his thesis in electrical engineering in 1943, but officials at the Technical University of Berlin refused to permit him to take the oral exam needed to earn a doctorate.

Mr. Stein hid from the Nazis with the help of one of his professors and eventually immigrated to the United States. He initially pursued a career as an academic before becoming in a businessman. During the 1950s he approached the Technical University of Berlin about taking the oral examination but “received a rude rejection,” Deutsche Welle reported. Mr. Stein raised the issued again in 2006, and this time his request was honored.

On November 12, Mr. Stein defended his dissertation “with the examiners assessing his work in the context of state-of-the-art engineering knowledge from the 1940s,” the news agency said. The president of the university, Kurt Kutzler, awarded Mr. Stein his degree in person.

Doktor nach 65 Jahren
Dimitri Stein

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Krugman to Obama: Think big

from Joseph Lazzaro at BloggingStocks:

New York Times (NYSE: NYT) columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argues, in so many words, that, indeed, the United States must go back, to get to the future.

Krugman's advice for President-elect Barack Obama? Think big. Contrary to selected, conservative arguments about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the reason the New Deal had limited, short-term success was the fact that FDR's economic policies were too cautious, he said.

The New Deal: new life

The New Deal's long-term success and achievements, including the structural changes to the U.S. economy (including Social Security and bank deposit insurance), have proved to be both durable and essential, most economists, including Krugman, agree.

Hence, President-elect Obama should think big from the get-go, Krugman says, and avoid the mistaken belief that 'government spending made the Great Depression worse,' and Obama should move forward with a large fiscal stimulus to put people back to work, for work that needs to be done in these United States.

Further, Krugman doesn't bring author Amity Shlaes up, but she's one who argues, incorrectly in the view of yours truly, that the federal government's intervention prolonged the Great Depression. Briefly, in Shlaes' interpretation, the downturn of the 1930s was a pull-back following the Roaring 20s that the market would have corrected, had the federal government not intervened.

Shlaes' take on the Great Depression is as flawed an analysis of economic policy as one will find. Had the New Deal not intervened, the Depression would have been longer. Further, the problem, as Krugman noted, with the early New Deal years was not that the government had intervened, but that government spending was not big enough.

When government spending did increase to large levels, the Depression ended, Krugman notes, and the proof of that -- the evidence that philosophically and empirically refutes Shlaes' absurd thesis -- is the increased U.S. Government spending for World War II. When government spending increased to a large amount at the start of and throughout World War II, the U.S. economy boomed, and expanded, and became more dynamic, and diverse, and sophisticated, with an enormous increase in the nation's productive capacity - - to the point where the United States economy became the strongest economy on the face of the earth.

All because of government spending, Krugman states, adding that he hopes President-elect Obama is listening.

Fiscal Policy / Economic Analysis: Likewise, yours truly hopes President-elect Obama is listening, as well.
Take a look at Paul Krugman refuting George Will's advocacy of Shlaes' misinterpretation here:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reports of Robert Malley working for Obama "pure fabrication"

I'd be interested to know who fabricated the story and how they disseminated it.

from Ron Kampeas at JTA: Malley’s back in town! (or not)

The Zionist Organization of America, citing conservative blogs that cite Arab newspapers that cite ... I dunno, I'm getting kind of lost here ... anyway, according to the ZOA, Robert Malley -- the former Clinton administration peace negotiator who has argued that Israeli bad faith was as much at fault in botching the 2000 Camp David peace summit as was Yasser Arafat's recalcitrance (whew!) -- really IS working for Barack Obama!

Except not. No one in this conga line of like-thinkers bothered, you know, to actually ask the Obama transition team about claims that Obama dispatched Malley to the Middle East to calm folks over there by telling them that the president-elect will commit himself to enhancing relations with Egypt and Syria.

So, over here at JTA, we did. And, according to a senior Obama transition aide, the story is bogus. "Mr. Malley has had no connection to the campaign since May, or to the transition," the Obama aide told us. "In the past, Mr. Malley was a member of a foreign policy team and never directly advised Mr. Obama."

Dennis Ross, who actually was a senior Middle East adviser to Obama has also described Malley's participation in the panel as the extent of his campaign role. Apparently, the panel dealt with Iraq issues.

Three interesting things:

A) Around the time that Malley is said to have been booted from that role, he participated in an American Enterprise Institute panel on Iraq. And if he's good enough for the neocons...

B) Malley was bumped from whatever role he had with the campaign when it was "revealed" that he met Hamas figures as part of his work as the Middle East and North Africa Program Director for the International Crisis Group, a think-tank-cum-activist forum that promotes conflict prevention. The thing is... I've heard Malley, in public forums, openly refer to his contacts with Hamas -- i.e., it's part of his job and he never exactly made a secret of it.

C) An assistant to Malley told me in May that in fact he had never played any role in the Obama campaign. The official campaign statement at the time was: "Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future." Now, Obama's people now seem to be acknowledging that he did have a formal connection, albeit a marginal one.

UPDATE: This has apparently been circulating for a while; Malley's office denied it on Monday to Josh Landis, a respected Syria scholar. It's not clear from the statement whether Malley was in the region, but the statement makes clear that if he was there, Malley was not representing Obama:

A quick word to stress that the story about Rob Malley visiting Egypt and Syria to deliver a message from the president-elect are a pure fabrication. The “aides” quoted in the piece are equally fictional. I would greatly appreciate if you could post this to correct the record.

UPDATE II: The ZOA's Mort Klein called to note that Middle East Newsline, the source cited first in the ZOA's release, is not accurately described as a conservative blog, which is true; I would add, however, that the designation is accurate regarding his secondary source, FrontPageMag. (And as Mort says, nothing's wrong with quoting conservative blogs in general; it's just that in both these cases, the sourcing is vague, at several removes, and begs for a reply from Malley and from the Obama team.)

Regarding Middle East Newsline's anonymous sourcing ("Malley's aides"), see the Malley's dismissal of them as "fictional" in my earlier update above; additionally, this morning I received this denial directly from Andrew Stroehlein, the ICG spokesman:

Robert Malley did not work for the Obama campaign, nor is he working for the transition team. His work on the Middle East in recent years has been in his role as the International Crisis Group's Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

The claim that Rob is "anti-Israel" is a completely unwarranted attack given Rob's dedicated efforts to achieve Middle East peace over the years. I think the best reply to this claim came in a letter to the New York Review of Books from a group of other heavyweights in Arab–Israeli affairs. See that letter here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to know if your congressman's a loony

from the AP via the Raleigh, NC News &Observer: Georgia congressman warns of Obama dictatorship

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may - may not, I hope not - but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."

"We can't be lulled into complacency," Broun said. "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."

Rep. Paul Broun is pictured on the right in both of the photos below.
http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/images/paul-broun-ec.jpg http://images.politico.com/global/071119_broun-paul4.jpg

By way of background, Broun, who represents the Athens. GA area, describes himself as a "constitionalist" and compares himself to Ron Paul (read here). Like Paul, Broun's idea of protecting the Constitution means undoing the past two centuries of its development.

Broun worries that interpretation of the Constitution has been off for a very long time. “Maybe it was when they decided Marbury v. Madison when the courts hijacked the Constitution,” he says.
In other words, like Ron Paul, Paul Broun wants to protect the Constitution by destroying it. (Reminds me of the Vietnam-era phrase "we had to destroy the village in order to save it".) So, by his way of thinking, a President who has actually studied and taught constitutional law and has worked to defend the Constitution represents a threat unseen since the fall of the Soviet Union.

That's how to know if your congressman's a loony.

The sad thing is that this stuff is not much different from what's being said by Hannity and Limbaugh and believed by millions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Dutch outcry over naming giant ship after Nazi

By TOBY STERLING, from the AP via Yahoo! News:

It ought to be a proud milestone in the Dutch seafaring heritage — the construction of a new ship its owner claims will be the world's largest. But there's one problem: its name.

Edwin Heerema, founder of the company that has commissioned the $1.7 billion vessel, wants to name it the Pieter Schelte after his late father, Pieter Schelte Heerema, who was renowned as a maritime engineer but was condemned for his service in the murderous Nazi Waffen SS.

The choice of name has provoked outcry from politicians and Jewish groups, and revived painful questions about Dutch collaboration with the country's World War II occupiers.

"For people who know his pitch-black history, this ship should not be named for him. Not now, not ever," said Ronny Naftaniel, director of CIDI, which monitors anti-Semitism in the Netherlands. He said Edwin Heerema's desire to honor his father was understandable up to a point, but the choice of name was "tasteless and unethical."

Edwin Heerema's company, Swiss-based Allseas Group SA, rejected criticism.

"Pieter Schelte Heerema was widely appreciated in the industry during his life and the companies that came from his heritage have an excellent name in the offshore industry," spokesman Jeroen Hagelstein e-mailed in response to questions.

But it's an awkward matter for the government. It gave Allseas' Netherlands subsidiary a $1 million tax break for its part in designing the ship, and now acknowledges it didn't notice the name until a Dutch journalist, Ton Biesemaat, raised the issue.

Hagelstein said Heerema joined the Nazis out of opposition to communism rather than enthusiasm for national socialism. He said he then switched sides and joined the resistance in 1943 "as he could no longer associate himself with the ideas of the Nazis."

He noted that Heerema was tried and released shortly after the war, which shows he "cannot have been seriously delinquent."

The respected Netherlands Institute for War Documentation said that's technically accurate. Heerema was sentenced by a Dutch court to three years in prison but quickly released, the courts having recognized his unspecified but "very important" services to the resistance between August 1943 and March 1944.

"You have many different kinds of collaborators: some are passive and some are active. This man was prominent, a leader," said NIOD spokesman Fred Reurs.

Heerema's file at the NIOD contains a report of a speech he gave in 1941 in which he was quoted as saying "The German race is model. The Jewish race, by comparison, is parasitic ... therefore the Jewish question must be resolved in every Aryan country."

Some 70 percent of the Netherlands' 140,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

After winning promotions within the Waffen SS, Heerema became assistant director of an organization that rounded up unemployed Dutch workers and resettled them in Nazi-occupied areas of Eastern Europe, where hundreds died.

After a falling-out with his German superiors in August 1943, Heerema disappeared until his arrest in Switzerland in March 1944.

After his release in November, 1946, he headed to Venezuela where he began a new company and rapidly achieved success.

As a postwar industrialist he was credited with such important innovations as the semi-submersible crane vessel for work in rough seas.

He became a multimillionaire and member of the Dutch elite, but questions about his past resurfaced periodically until his death in 1981.

The new ship, to be used for laying oil pipes and decommissioning North Sea oil rigs, will be 1,253 feet long and 384 feet wide, making it the world's largest in area, Allseas says.

It said on Oct. 24 the financial crisis would not prevent the ship's completion in 2012. It said it has reached agreement on around $250 million worth of contracts and is reviewing bids from shipyards in Southeast Asia to build the hull.

The tax break prompted Sharon Gesthuizen, a lawmaker of the opposition Socialist Party, to put formal questions to the Economic Affairs Ministry on Oct. 28.

"Do you see it as your responsibility to protest the naming of this ship, given the extreme sensitivity of the historical events that are connected to that name?" She asked.

The ministry has two weeks to respond.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Republican repo men chase Palins to Alaska

from Think Progress » Party’s over for Palin: GOP goes to collect leftovers from her shopping spree.

After controversy erupted over Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) largely unauthorized spending spree, Palin announced that she would no longer be wearing the expensive clothing: “Those clothes, they are not my property. … I’m not taking them with me.” However, it seems that a few items did make it back to Alaska with her, and the GOP is coming to reclaim them:

Sarah Palin left the national stage Wednesday, but the controversy over her role on the ticket flared as aides to John McCain disclosed new details about her expensive wardrobe purchases and revealed that a Republican Party lawyer would be dispatched to Alaska to inventory and retrieve the clothes still in her possession.

A new story in Newsweek reveals that Palin “spent ‘tens of thousands’ more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband.”

Happy Days Are Here Again!

I can't find the Lucky Thompson version from his album on Prestige, so here's a classic:

and another one:


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Exit polls: Obama gets 77% of Jewish vote

It's been my misfortune during the presidential campaign to spend far too much time dealing with smears concerning whether Barack Obama is good for the Jews, to refer to that old joke. (If you don't know the set-up to that punchline, write to me at adamhollandblog@yahoo.com and I'll email the joke to you.) Not since the McCarthy era has our political dialogue been so deluged with false charges of subversion. Guilt by association turned out to be one of the main planks of the Republican platform.

I have to admit that I was shocked to see otherwise intelligent people fall for and promote a series of obvious distortions produced by charlatans, professional liars and psychopaths. The fact that the anti-Obama smears were baseless didn't seem to matter as much to some Republicans as the fact that they might scare Jewish voters into voting against him, or not voting at all. I have lost considerable respect for a few respected columnists and bloggers who, purportedly motivated by a desire to defend Israel, chose to defame a man who promises to be her strongest friend.

I'm now happy to report that it didn't work.

from Haaretz: Barack Obama wins 77 percent of Jewish vote, exit polls show

Despite the tense rift between Republican and Democratic Jews over the course of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, exit polls on Tuesday showed that Barack Obama received about 77 percent of the Jewish vote.

These numbers were higher even than the 2004 election, when Democratic candidate John Kerry received 74 percent of the Jewish vote. Al Gore received the highest percentage of Jewish votes in 2000, with 79 percent.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of the J Street lobby group on Tuesday called Obama's victory a sign that the campaign waged against him by Republican Jews comprised "baseless smears."

"American Jews resoundingly rejected the two-year, multi-million dollar campaign of baseless smears and fear waged against him by the right wing of our community," he said. "Surrogates and right-wing political operatives in our community stopped at nothing in their efforts to sway Jewish voters against Obama."

"We can only hope that these results put to rest for good the myth that fear and smear campaigns - particularly around Israel - can be an effective political weapon in the Jewish communit," he added.

A Gallup poll released in late October showed Jewish voters favored Barack Obama over John McCain by more than 3 to 1, with 74% saying they would vote for Obama over 22% for McCain.

The poll, which interviewed over 650 Jewish registered voters each month since June, showed American Jews growing increasingly comfortable with Obama since July, when the Illinois Senator tied up the Democratic Party nomination.

The poll showed support for McCain among Jews stood at a high of 34% in June, before beginning its downward turn in July after Obama's nomination

Nader's racist insult of Barack Obama

Ralph Nader used the night of the election of the first black president as an occasion to warn him not to be "an Uncle Tom." Watch the video:

Nader's deliberately offensive statement, the sort one expects from an Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, deserves to be condemned. As the video makes clear, even Fox News has higher standards than him ... sometimes.

(hat tip: Crooks and Liars)

Recommended listening

Playing here in honor of President Obama: "Happy Days (Are Here Again)" by Lucky Thompson.

Palin supporters' big mistake

They mistook the Beverly Hillbillies for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

from The Washington Monthly (by Steve Benen):

'WASILLA HILLBILLIES LOOTING NEIMAN MARCUS'.... There's plenty of time for the Republican recriminations to get completely out of hand, but in the meantime, would you believe McCain campaign aides are still fighting over Sarah Palin's wardrobe?

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family -- clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards.

The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

Also yesterday, Steve Schmidt refused to say that adding Palin to the ticket was a good idea, and someone dished to Newsweek that McCain "rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign."

The point here isn't whether the Palin family behaved like "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus"; the point is that these reports suggest Palin will get the blame for much of what went wrong.

It started with McCain aides calling her a "diva," and progressed to at least one aide calling her a "whack job." Now she's a "Wasilla hillbilly"?

McCain's team couldn't destroy Obama, but they can certainly ruin Palin's future.

MORE ON PALIN FROM THE McCAIN CAMPAIGN: She didn't know that Africa was a continent. She thought it was a country. She asked how it was possible that South Africa was a separate country.

(Hat tip: Americablog)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Anti-Semitic election coverage from Greece and Saudi Arabia

from David T at Harry’s Place » The End of Jewish Domination

Andrew Apostolou sends me a shot of the front page of the centre-right, New Democracy supporting tabloid, Avriani. The headline reads:

“The End of Jewish Domination”

avriani1.jpg avriani2.jpg

Here is the translation of the headline, courtesy of the Athens News Agency

AVRIANI: “The anticipated victory of Obama in US elections signals the end of the Jewish domination - Everything changes in USA and we hope that it will be more democratic and humane”.

This isn’t far Left Jew hatred. This is not a neo Nazi newspaper. It is just an ordinary, middle of the road, centre right tabloid.

Taking a contrary position, Saudi Arabia (from MEMRI, hat tip: Gene at Harry's Place):

Antisemitic Cartoon In Saudi Daily: Jews Control Both McCain And Obama

Monday, November 3, 2008

Martin Indyk declares his support for Obama ... in Israel

from Haaretz: On visit, ex-U.S. envoy Martin Indyk makes case for Obama to Israeli public

Former U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk has taken the opportunity to declare to the Israeli public his support for U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Indyk, who was born to a Jewish family in England but grew up primarily in Australia, has made a career of Middle East diplomacy and support for Israel. Among other entries on an impressive resume, he has worked at AIPAC, founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and served two stints as U.S. envoy to Israel.

On a visit last week to Israel to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Peres Center for Peace, he spoke directly to widespread Israeli fears that an Obama White House would be less friendly than an administration run by his rival, John McCain.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Syrian Ambassador: Lieberman Assured Me McCain Would Talk With Syria

from Think Progress:

In a new interview with Foreign Policy magazine, Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha said that Syria is “doing everything possible within our means” to stop insurgents from crossing into Iraq, and decried the recent U.S. strike into Syria as a “terrorist, criminal act.” Most interestingly, Moutapha said that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) personally assured him that a McCain presidency would open up a dialogue with Syria:

FP: U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama says that he would be willing to sit down with states that are now considered enemies of the United States. Is that encouraging to you?

IM: I have reason to believe that even if [Senator John] McCain becomes president of the United States, he will also be inclined to sit and talk with Syria. I can tell you this on the record: Senator Joe Lieberman, who is supposed to be very close to McCain, has said this explicitly and very clearly to me personally.

I don't believe Ambassador Moustapha with respect to Syria's commitment to stopping insurgents from entering Iraq, but one aspect of his story rings true. Whichever candidate is elected, the U.S. will talk with Syria.

Florida: Republican Party's racist email campaign

I've recently written about Pennsylvania Republicans' evoking the threat of another Holocaust should Barack Obama be elected president (read here). That email was sent to 75,000 Jewish voters. One signer of that email, a former judge involved in the Pennsylvania Republicans voter suppression efforts, has subsequently apologized, claiming that she hadn't read it closely before signing it (read here.)

Now, from Hillsborough County on Florida's Gulf coast, comes another story about Republicans sending racist anti-Obama email. This time the appeal seems more pro-Nazi than anti.

from tampabays10.com (Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Fla.): Local GOP Chairman distributes racist e-mail

The head of the Hillsborough GOP, David Storck, distributed an email from a Republican Party volunteer saying (that African-Amercian) voters are a threat.

That's because, as the volunteer says in the email, he sees "car loads of black Obama supporters coming from the inner city to cast their votes for Obama."

It goes on to say, "This is their chance to get a black president and they seem to care little the he is at minimum a socialist and probably Marxist in his core beliefs." The Republican volunteer says that is because, "After all he is black- no experience or accomplishments but he is black."

Hillsborough Commissioner Kevin White says, "There's no place in our community for those types of views." White, who can't believe the email was distributed, says Storck should resign.

White says when he reads emails like this, he realizes hatred and racism is still alive and well.

Storck says he didn't pay enough attention to the email before he sent it out. "Now I know that was a mistake. I never should have done it. I do not agree with the statement or anything else. That's not what we're all about."

Despite Storck's apology, Curtis Stokes, an African American Republican who is also the head of the Tampa NAACP chapter, echoes White's call for Storck to resign.

A pdf of the entire email is available here. The website of the county Republicans is available here. Below is the main part of the email, unedited, capital letters intact:





The reading skills of these Republicans must be pretty poor, considering the blatant racism which Storck claims not to have noticed. This excuse is also entirely implausable considering that Storck initially defended the email (read here).

This appeal to the racist right, a message which is not only anti-black, but red-baiting, anti-labor and anti-intellectual, is largely consistent with the message of the Republicans' 2008 campaign. Storck made the mistake, as did Representative Michele Bachmann (read here: "Minnesota's smiley-faced Joseph McCarthy"), of spelling out what the Republicans have preferred to imply with code words like "welfare" and "terrorist". Although unsubtle, their rhetoric flies just below the racial radar of the mainstream media while sending a clearly fear-mongering message to insecure white Americans. (Note: in fairness to the Florida Republican party and McCain campaign, they have both, when asked about it, condemned the email -- read here.)

Storck's email has received the unqualified support of the nation's top neo-Nazi radio broadcast, the aptly-named Political Cesspool (read here), which called Storck's comments "the truth". Concerning his apology, the Cesspool folks write on their blog:

Storck is now apologizing and groveling as only a white man can, and I hope the spineless wimp does resign, or is forced out.

Political Cesspool host and blogger James Edwards is associated with the Pat Buchanan wing of the Republican Party.


from The Daily Beast: Waaay Off-Message (by Benjamin Sarlin)

In the battleground state of Florida, one McCain official wonders if the man leading in the polls is actually Indonesian.

In Florida, volunteers for John McCain’s campaign have been buzzing about a discredited rumor that Barack Obama is not a natural born United States citizen, but either Kenyan or Indonesian. That’s not surprising—the rumor has enjoyed a long life on the Internet. But now a McCain campaign official in Broward County, Fla., is indulging in the same fantasizing. Tim McClellan, the Northeast Broward County regional manager for the McCain campaign, told me on Friday that he has doubts about Obama’s citizenship.

“I have strong concerns that Obama is not a citizen,” McClellan said. “Did he go to Indonesia and become an Indonesian citizen? And if so, did he take steps to regain his citizenship?”

According to McClellan, Obama’s birth certificate—a copy of which has been independently verified by news organizations—is a forgery. McClellan pointed to a recently dismissed lawsuit by Pennsylvania resident and 9/11 truth advocate Philip J. Berg alleging that Obama is really a Kenyan citizen as evidence that the Democratic nominee will eventually be removed from office when the truth comes out.

“I suspect the U.S. Supreme Court will prove that Obama’s not a citizen,” McClellan said.

I asked McClellan if he was frustrated that McCain was not making the case that Obama is not a genuine American.

“Yes, and I think that’s true of a good majority of Republicans,” McClellan said, “You have to look at why more of it isn’t getting attention, though. The mainstream media is very liberal and the word doesn’t get out.”

Broward County, of course, was the battleground of the 2000 recount. But if McClellan was off-message in his campaign duties, he was hardly alone. Several volunteers at rallies this week mentioned the birth certificate issue, among other Obama conspiracy theories. Pamela Geller, author of the popular conservative blog Atlas Shrugs, even held a rally in Sunrise, Fla., on Friday to call on the Federal Election Commission to bar Obama from further campaign spending on the basis that he is not a natural born US citizen. Geller made news earlier in the week when she argued in a rambling 12,000-word essay that Malcolm X may be Barack Obama’s biological father. Politico reporter Ben Smith described the piece as the “frontiers of craziness.”

What was most fascinating about McClellan and other conspiracy-minded Republicans in Broward was that they did not seem to believe there was any conflict between their theories and the McCain campaign’s own claims. McCain himself walks a fine line when raising questions about Obama’s past (“Who is the real Barack Obama?”). His staff, it seems, is working overtime to fill in the blanks.

Geller's blog posts about her counter-shlep start here. (I'm getting whiplash from clicking between blogs claiming Obama is too pro-Jewish, like this one, to those claiming he's anti-Jewish. At least they can agree that Obama is bad and the Jews are involved in some way.)


Poster for Pamela Geller's Florida anti-Obama rally: "Obama Lethal for the Jews"

Girl stoned to death by Somalian Islamists after reporting rape

Today's most infuriating, tragic news story reminds us what we're up against. Anyone with any illusions about Islamism should read this very carefully.

from the Guardian: Rape victim, 13, stoned to death in Somalia

An Islamist rebel administration in Somalia had a 13-year-old girl stoned to death for adultery after the child's father reported that three men had raped her.

Amnesty International said the al-Shabab militia, which controls the southern port city of Kismayo, arranged for a group of 50 men to stone Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow in front of a crowd of about 1,000 spectators. A lorryload of stones was brought to the stadium for the killing.

Amnesty said that Duhulow struggled with her captors and had to be forcibly carried into the stadium.

"At one point during the stoning, Amnesty International has been told by numerous eyewitnesses that nurses were instructed to check whether Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was still alive when buried in the ground. They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue," the human rights group said.

"Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander."

Amnesty said witnesses originally reported that Duhulow was 23-years-old, based on her appearance. But the human rights group found out from her father that she was a child.

Duhulow's father told Amnesty that when they tried to report her rape to the militia, the child was accused of adultery and detained. None of the men Duhulow accused was arrested.

"This was not justice, nor was it an execution," said Amnesty's Somalia campaigner, David Copeman. "This child suffered an horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo.

"This killing is yet another human rights abuse committed by the combatants to the conflict in Somalia, and again demonstrates the importance of international action to investigate and document such abuses, through an international commission of inquiry."

Amnesty said al-Shabab had created a climate of fear in which government officials, journalists and human rights activists faced death threats and killing if they spoke against the militia.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dennis Ross on Israel and Obama

Dennis Ross speaking at a shul in Florida on what the Bush administration has not done for Israel, and what Obama will do.

World's largest ship named after Waffen-SS officer. Project funded by Netherlands government.

from Haaretz: Why did Holland fund megaship named after prominent Nazi? (by Cnaan Liphshiz)

Pieter Schelte
The Dutch government will in the coming days be required to explain why it has funded the construction of a ship named after prominent Nazi industrialist and Waffen-SS officer Pieter Schelte.

"Funding this ship was a mistake which is offensive to many people," Dutch legislator Sharon Gesthuizen, who recently filed a parliamentary query on the subject, told Haaretz on Friday. Gesthuizen has also called for the ship's name to be changed.

Gesthuizen's query concerns an 800,000 euro subsidy which the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs allocated in 2001 for the construction of the Pieter Schelte, a mega vessel which will become the world's largest ship after its launching after or during 2010.

The decision to name the ship after the late Nazi industrialist was made by the man's son, Edward Heerema, who is the president of the offshore giant which is building the megaship, Allseas.

A spokesperson for ministry told one local Dutch paper that funding was approved because "no alarm bells" had gone off during review. In accordance with Dutch law, the ministry is expected to provide a more detailed answer within the next two weeks.

"This is an unbelievable situation, where a fanatic Nazi is honored by having one of the world's largest ships named after him," investigative journalist Ton Biesemaat, who exposed the affair, said.

He added he found the affair "characteristic of the passivity and moral decline in Dutch society," and of a "desire to forget" inconvenient truths about Dutch collaboration with the Nazis in WWII.

Both Biesemaat, who is writing a book about Heerema's business empire, and Gesthuizen said they were surprised at how little attention the matter received in Dutch media.

Meanwhile, as the Peter Schelte was being constructed, the Israeli government commissioned Heerema's firm to participate in the Al Arish-Ashkelon pipeline installation project which was completed last year.


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