Thursday, October 10, 2002
A Parting Shot at the Fools on the Extreme Left

Ron Rosenbaum is a wonderful writer who has a column for the New York Observer. (He's also the author of Explaining Hitler, which examines the different approaches to understanding Der Fuhrer and which I strongly recommend reading). Rosenbaum is also your average liberal who has recently decided to part ways with the anti-war crowd. This article explains why.

While reading through it, I kept saying to myself "Yes! Good point." Rosenbaum manages to put his finger on the basic problem I have with the idiotarian crowd, namely complete devolution into moral equivalency. For Rosenbaum, his breaking point came when a respected academic made an analogy between America and Nazi Germany. This led him to wonder why it is that the same crowd that always points the finger at the US can't own up to the genocide and suffering caused by the regimes they do champion (Cuba, China, the Former Soviet Union, etc...)

The point is, all empires commit crimes; in the past century, ours were by far the lesser of evils. But this sedulous denial of even the possibility of misjudgment in the hierarchy of evils protects and insulates this wing of the Left from an inconvenient reconsideration of whether America actually is the worst force on the planet. This blind spot, this stunning lack of historical perspective, robs much of the American Left of intellectual credibility. And makes it easy for idiocies large and small to be uttered reflexively.

There's plenty more inside...

Thank God for Small Favors

Let us doff our hats to Daniel Kahneman, who will be sharing this year's Nobel Prize in Economics. Kahneman, a Tel Aviv native, won for his work on how economic decision making by individuals is not as rational as economic theory would dictate.

Yes, I know it's horribly provincial to bask in the glory of a local boy made good. However, we're so starved for good news around here that we'll take whatever we can -- be it getting our butts kicked (though not overwhelmingly) by Manchester United to a mid-place showing in the Eurovision to a Nobel Prize.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Why We Fight

For those of you who missed it, Haaretz published an interview last Friday with Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, a German human rights worker who spent much of the last 10 years doing work in Iraq.

His descriptions of life under the Saddam regime are harrowing. He also has some rather saucy opinions about the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that colors Deutsche foreign policy. And he's a German Marxist. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Fashionably Late

Time to get a little off-topic here.

One of the few pieces of good news lately has been the return of Linda Thompson.

Thompson was one half of rock's most dramatic husband-and-wife duo with husband Richard. The two split up in 1982, shortly after the release of Shoot Out the Lights, which even Rolling Stone conceded was one of the top albums of the '80s. After releasing one solo album 1985, Linda T quit the business, stricken by a condition known as hysterical dysphonia which left her unable to sing.

Somehow she managed to overcome the condition and has returned with a new disc called Fashionably Late. It's a great piece of work which features her son, Teddy Thompson, as well as a reunion with Richard on the album's opening track. You can hear an interview with her and Teddy here.

Thompson has returned to give Lucinda Williams a run for the title of rock's greatest female singer. It's good to have her back.

Monday, October 07, 2002
Our pal, the UN Secretary General

TNR puts the spotlight on Kofi Annan this week with a piece which questions why the Bush administration thinks he's on their side. The article doesn't answer this question too deeply, but instead focuses on the follies and foibles of the UN under Annan's tutelage. Specifically, it hits him on his own failures in Srebrenica and Rwanda, where UN peacekeepers stood and watched the slaughter of thousands. Annan's Nobel Peace Prize looks like the ultimate example of failing upwards. Were it not for Yasser Arafat, Annan would probably take the prize for worst Nobel Peace Prize laureate ever.

Interestingly, Annan came into the job with the right idea: to use the UN as an interventionist force for good in the world. But along the way, the Sec. Gen's approach became muddled by an inability to recognize an evil regime for what it is and an appeaser's need to avoid conflict at all costs.

His approach to Saddam demonstrates both points. Annan appears to be one of the few people in the Western world outside the Democratic party who is taken in by Saddam's lies. He failed on the job when the UN backed down from confronting Baghdad in '98 and he's doing it again today.

Israel has something of a love-hate relationship with the UN, if you substitute the words "mild contempt" for love. I think it comes from being the perennial whipping boy.

From our experience here, we've learned that the UN is mainly good for protecting terrorists and generally getting in the way. This was certainly the case during Israel's occupation of Southern Lebanon in the '80s and '90s. The UN Peacekeeping force did little except hinder the IDF in its war against Hizbullah. In 2000, the IDF withdrew to the internationally recognized borders and the UN annonced that everything was now kosher.

Except that the cross border violence continues sporadically. Hizbullah took control of the area and the UN did nothing to protest. In one notorious case, UN observers actually witnessed the kidnap of 3 Israeli soldiers from Israel to Lebanon and did nothing about it. Actually, they did a lot to hinder the investigation into the case until the US brought pressure on them to release the evidence they were trying to hide.

When it comes to the United Nations ("Oum" in Hebrew) , then, I tend to go with Ben Gurion. When asked about the organization, our legendary first Prime Minister would contemptuously wave his hand and declare "Oum Shmoum..."