Sunday, March 21, 2010

What can I say

Tonight, the House is expected to pass ObamaCare, with its huge price tag (which is sure to balloon). Meanwhile, according to, "the bond market is saying that it’s safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama. Two-year notes sold by the billionaire’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in February yield 3.5 basis points less than Treasuries of similar maturity."

Why is this? "The $2.59 trillion of Treasury Department sales since the start of 2009 have created a glut as the budget deficit swelled to a post-World War II-record 10 percent of the economy and raised concerns whether the U.S. deserves its AAA credit rating."

Since we're already at the edge of the cliff, what could make more sense than to step confidently out into space?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Unpleasant surprises on Mideast trips

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hasn't been the only VIP to meet with an unpleasant surprise during a Mideast trip. He was outraged by an Israeli announcement regarding housing construction in Jerusalem which has led to a serious crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Destruction rather than construction was the problem for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and top EU diplomat Lady Catherine Ashton. They were in Gaza when a rocket launched from there killed a Filipino worker in Israel. However, since Hamas said it hadn't launched the rocket, the two were free to condemn the attack without having to actually name a perpetrator.

Nor for that matter, do they appear to have acknowledged Hamas' recent contribution to peaceful dialogue: in a TV interview last month, a Hamas official called Jews bacteria who need to be exterminated. It's nice to know the UN and EU have high standards, and that we're doing our best to match them! (Thanks to MEMRI and Daily Alert.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Analyzing U.S. foreign policy

Commentator Robert Kagan offers Israel the cold comfort that many of America's allies feel neglected or bruised by the Obama administration. His observation, which I think is spot-on, is that any administration only has so much time and attention to spend on foreign policy issues. Obama's initiatives toward Iran, China, Russia and other such countries have crowded out traditional friends and allies.

Kagan summarizes the new approach: "This administration pays lip-service to 'multilateralism,' but it is a multilateralism of accommodating autocratic rivals, not of solidifying relations with longtime democratic allies ... the administration's posture is increasingly one of neutrality, at best, between allies and adversaries, and between democrats and autocrats."

I have no doubt that this is absolutely the wrong approach and that it will do significant harm to American interests. What I don't know is at what point that conclusion may dawn on Obama and his administration.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hooray for bipartisanship

President Obama has already created a surge of bipartisanship in opposition to his health care and climate change policies. Now it looks as if Mideast policy can be added to that roster. According to a recent Gallup poll, support for Israel has risen among both Republicans (85%) and independents (60%), while remaining within the historical range for Democrats (48%).

Given the latest crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations, triggered by the Israelis but deliberately amplified by the United States, this configuration should merit at least a footnote in future histories of the Obama presidency.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don't drag your feet

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Greek Cypriots driven from their homes during the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974 cannot plead attachment to family homes indefinitely. Nor can they demand their homes back, if those homes are occupied by other people over time. But they can, and should, receive adequate compensation for their lost property.

A majority of the court's 17 judges "fully accepted the Turkish position - whereby reality overrides 'family roots,' time outweighs sentiment and the rights of the tenant come before those of the owner. The refugees, the court said, can receive what they are entitled to in cash." The court's most important message: if you wait and wait and wait, you're less likely to regain what you've lost.

The ECHR is a powerful institution whose influence extends beyond the borders of Europe. It would be great if, over time, the ECHR decision tempers sympathy for maximalist Palestinian demands to return to property their grandparents or great-grandparents owned in 1948. However, I'm not holding my breath! (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

I'm baaaaack!

Yes, I took a break from blogging, but am back with a link to an excellent piece by Christopher Hitchens on one of the latest attacks on free speech.

Having bullied the Danish newspaper Politiken into apologizing for publishing cartoons deemed offensive to Muslims, Saudi lawyer Ahmed Zaki Yamani is now trying to get other Scandinavian newspapers to fall in line. His threat: to sue them in the name of all the 94, 923 descendants of Mohammed and make their lives miserable. Of course, the threat of physical violence lurks in the background; a Somali nearly butchered one of the Danish cartoonists last New Year's Day.

The moral: apologizing doesn't work; it is viewed as a sign of weakness, and only results in further pressure to knuckle under.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

EP update

For anyone interested, Mr. Farage, the European parliamentarian mentioned earlier who dared to be rude to the EU's new president (and to cast aspersions on Belgium, the president's country), has been fined 2,980 euros.

His response, on Twitter: "Sentence passed, letter from Parliament President: maximum allowable fine €2,980. Free speech is expensive in Brussels." Farage plans to appeal the ruling.

Now the one guy who said what everyone thinks has been punished, business can continue as usual!

Monday, March 1, 2010

European Parliament mores

Last December, the EU appointed as president a relatively unknown Belgian politician, Herman Von Rompuy. Europeans have since been bemoaning the fact that their new leader is such a colorless, uninspiring fellow (although reportedly expert at backroom maneuvers).

But woe to any Member of the European Parliament who says any such thing out loud! UK MEP Nigel Farage did just that, saying that Van Rompuy had the "charisma of a damp rag" and the appearance of a "low-grade bank clerk," language Farage said would have been normal in the UK House of Commons. He made the comments during Van Rompuy's maiden appearance in the Parliament.

The reaction: horror and outrage, and now threats to discipline Farage. Apparently 'vivid political debate' is acceptable, but not personal insults or comments about someone's personal appearance. This, you understand, from a parliamentary body that routinely accuses the United States of dastardly motives and actions....not to mention what its members said about former President Bush. I'm glad to know they have standards!