November 18, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


 A decisive conclusion is necessary (GILAD SHARON, 11/18/2012, Jerusalem Post)

We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima - the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they'd really call for a ceasefire.

Were this to happen, the images from Gaza might be unpleasant - but victory would be swift, and the lives of our soldiers and civilians spared.

IF THE government isn't prepared to go all the way on this, it will mean reoccupying the entire Gaza Strip. Not a few neighborhoods in the suburbs, as with Cast Lead, but the entire Strip, like in Defensive Shield, so that rockets can no longer be fired.

There is no middle path here - either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. 

All you need to know about what's happened to the Israeli soul is that those are viewed as the only two options for the Palestinian people.
Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Hamas aims high in its ceasefire demands : Islamists wants open borders for Gaza and no more Israeli strikes; Jerusalem says any deal must mean an end to rocket fire -- for good (Times of Israel, November 19, 2012)

An Israeli envoy was whisked from the tarmac at Cairo's international airport to talks with senior Egyptian security officials. The top Hamas leader in exile Khaled Mashaal held talks with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who also spoke by phone with the Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas' demands, as presented by Mashaal, include open borders for Gaza and international guarantees that Israel will halt all attacks on Gaza, including targeted killings of the movement's leaders. The assassination of Hamas' military chief last week after days of smaller exchanges between the two sides marked the start of the Israeli offensive, the most intense since a three-week-long war four years ago.

The Islamists view the current round of fighting as an opportunity to pry open the borders of Gaza, which slammed shut in 2007, after Hamas wrested control of the territory from its political rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In response to the takeover, Israel and Egypt -- then under Morsi's pro-Western predecessor Hosni Mubarak -- sealed off Gaza to disrupt Hamas rule.

"We will not accept a cease-fire until the occupation (Israel) meets our conditions," said Izzat Rishaq, a senior Hamas official who is involved in the cease-fire efforts in Cairo.

Free movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza is seen as vital for Hamas' continued control of Gaza.

Trading something symbolic for something substantial is strategic nous.
Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Tocquevillian Reflections on the Meaning of the Election (Peter Augustine Lawler, November 12, 2012, Ethika Politika)

So how would Alexis de Tocqueville react to our "progressive" president's reelection?  His first comment might be:  Don't overreact!  Think a bit about what really happened.

Tocqueville makes a key distinction between SMALL and GREAT political parties.  Great parties are parties of high principle.  Their dominance on the political stage has the advantage of bringing great men into political life.  They have the disadvantage of rousing up animosity that readily leads to war.  So great parties make great men happy and most men miserable.  Lee and Lincoln were given by the Civil War challenges worthy of their great talents and ambitions, as was Washington by the Revolutionary War.  But these bloody conflicts were devastating for ordinary lives--for most people's hopes and dreams.

Democracies, however, hardly ever have great parties.  Most of the time our parties are coalitions of diverse interests and short on clear and divisive principle.  Politicians make petty appeals to ordinary selfishness, and people vote their interests.  The bad news is that great men are repulsed by the small stakes and contemptible motives of political life, and so they stay away from it.  The good news is that the outcomes of elections aren't so important, and people aren't roused up to take to the streets or grab their weapons.  The winning candidate and party is the one that most effectively builds a majority coalition of diverse interests, and the losing candidate and party end up acknowledging that, most of all, it got outhustled.

Both of our candidates, two decent, talented men short on high principle, ran small, highly calculated, and even cynical campaigns. 
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Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


The Eugenic Impulse (Nathaniel Comfort, 11/12/12, The Chronicle Review)

"The ultimate ideal sought," wrote Harvey Ernest Jordan in 1912, "is a perfect society constituted of perfect individuals." Jordan, who would later be dean of medicine at the University of Virginia, was speaking to the importance of eugenics in medicine--­a subject that might seem tasteless and obsolete today. Yet nearly a century later, in 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the biomedical research institute on Long Island's north shore, published a book titled Davenport's Dream, which shows that eugenic visions persist. Charles Davenport, ­a colleague and friend of Jordan's, had directed Cold Spring Harbor for the first third of the 20th century, turning it from a sleepy, summertime marine-biology laboratory into a center for genetics research­--and the epicenter of American eugenics.

Davenport's Dream is a facsimile of Davenport's major work, Heredity in Relation to Eugenics (1911), prefaced by nearly 200 pages of commentary by scientists, historians, and legal experts­ celebrating Davenport and expanding on questions of genetics and eugenics in biomedicine. In the volume, the genome guru Maynard V. Olson writes that dbSNP, the database of small genetic variations, makes possible the fulfillment of Davenport's dream. "Here," he writes, "is the raw material for a real science of human genetic perfection."

Davenport thought he had the raw material for a real science of human perfection. The original conception of eugenics, described by the British polymath Sir Francis Galton in the late 19th century, was based on the breeder's subjective, holistic understanding of heredity. The rediscovery of Mendel's rules of heredity in 1900 seemed to place eugenics on an empirical, quantitative, scientific footing. And so it did, ­relative to Sir Francis.

Davenport and his cronies used genetic arguments to promote the betterment of the human race through marriage, immigration, and sterilization laws, as well as through propaganda and research. But eventually, Progressive-era human genetics and eugenics came to seem out of date. Through the second half of the 20th century, Davenport was geneticist non grata, an embarrassing black mark on the pedigree of human genetics, like a Nazi grandfather you'd rather not bring up in conversation. 

...was the confusion of farm breeding programs with evolution.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Literary Bond Superior to Movie Version : Compare Ian Fleming's fictional creation in his novels to what we see on the screen and the differences start piling up. It's the books, not the films, that should be the standard Bond (Allen Barra, 11/11/12, Daily Beast)

The man who never lost a fight in the movies was, in his literary incarnation, not physically imposing. SMERSH estimated his height at "183 centimeters, weight 76 kilograms, slim build." Or six feet and 168 pounds. Fleming's Bond is no superman, though the Russians thought him an "all-round athlete, expert pistol shot, boxer, knife-thrower... knows the basic holds of judo. In general, fights with tenacity and has a high tolerance of pain." Lucky for him, because in all the 1950s books he is tortured by people who mean business, not supervillains like in the movies who want to explain their plans and show him their erector-set operations with inexplicably obvious self-destruct buttons.

This is because they are Communists. The grim visage of Cold War is never far from Bond's mind in any of the early books. Casino Royale's le Chiffre, Auric Goldfinger, the hideous and asexual Rosa Kleb in From Russia With Love, Mr. Big, the fierce African-American crime boss in Live and Let Die, were all Communist agents--vermin eating at the vitals of the free world. [...]

In The Man Who Saved Britain (2006), Simon Winder argued that Fleming's novels would fade, regarded at best mere addendums to the Bond films. I would maintain the opposite. Outside of the first few Connery films and a handful of others since then, most of the Bond movies have been a waste of time. The books, on the other hand, have attracted perhaps the smartest readership of any genre writer since Raymond Chandler. Chandler, in fact, was one of Fleming's biggest boosters, along with Kingsley Amis (who wrote a fun little book, The James Bond Dossier, and a Bond novel himself), Anthony Burgess (who wrote an introduction to a British edition of the Bond paperbacks), Cyril Connelly (author of perhaps the best parody of Fleming, "Bond Strikes Camp"), Christopher Isherwood, Elizabeth Bowen, and even John F. Kennedy, who, in a 1961 edition of Life magazine named From Russia With Love one of his 10 favorite books, along with Stendhal's Scarlet and Black. Fleming was particularly proud of Kennedy's endorsement; he probably died without knowing that another fan, Lee Harvey Oswald, had checked his works out of a New Orleans public library.

Fleming's Bond is an avatar of a time still strongly felt if only dimly remembered. The Cold War may be dated, but so is the Victorian London of Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe's pre-boom Los Angeles. There will always be room in the fictional pantheon for someone willing to die in the service of his country. And when you do what you're told as well as Ian Fleming's Bond, you shouldn't be begrudged a little grated egg with your caviar.

Similarly, but with even less literary pretense, Mickey Spillane's early Mike Hammer books are a helpful reminder of how much decent people hated Communists.
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Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


New Efforts by Barna Group, NAE, Others Aim to Reach--and Understand--Hispanics : Evangelical leaders capitalize on post-election interest in U.S. Latinos. (Melissa Steffan, 11/15/2012, Christianity Today)

The Barna Group announced Tuesday the launch of its new Hispanic research division, Barna: Hispanics, which coincides with the release of its first report, "Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities."

In addition, more than 150 evangelical leaders renewed their calls for comprehensive immigration reform. On Tuesday, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) issued letters to President Obama and federal lawmakers demanding a meeting within the next 92 days--a reference to the number of times the Hebrew word for immigrant (ger) appears in the Bible.

The EIT, which launched in June, is calling for lawmakers to "create just and humane immigration laws" that adhere to six principles: respect for "God-given" human dignity; protection for families; respect for the rule of law; guaranteed border security; fairness for taxpayers; and a path toward legal status for qualified immigrants.

Original signatories of the EIT include the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Sojourners, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

Such calls for immigration reform among evangelical leaders--as well as these particular principles--are not new. In 2010, the NAE ran a similar ad campaign, "An Evangelical Call for Bipartisan Immigration Reform," advocating the same principles verbatim.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


The Books Interview : Anne Applebaum: "Why did so many people co-operate with what were clearly evil and unjust regimes?" (JONATHAN DERBYSHIRE PUBLISHED 08 NOVEMBER 2012, New Statesman)

You describe a process in the Soviet sphere of influence in eastern Europe after the war that you call "passive collaboration".

I struggled for the correct phrase. Someone who read the manuscript said, "You shouldn't use the word 'collaboration'." On the other hand, I couldn't think of what other word I could use.

What I meant were people who went along with things because they had very bad choices and because the circumstances of their lives forced them to do it.

I have huge sympathy for people who lived in, say, Poland or Czechoslovakia in that period. I have much less sympathy for people in the west. There was always information about what was going in eastern Europe. They had plenty of good choices. So I don't feel sympathy for Eric Hobsbawm and his friends but I do have sympathy for unwilling, half-enthusiastic communists in eastern Europe in the 1950s. They had a tough time. [...]

You mentioned Eric Hobsbawm. How do you see the role of western communists and fellow-travellers in this period? You mention Sartre, among others, in the book.

They assisted in legitimising the regimes, at least for a period, but I wouldn't overplay their role. They were important in legitimising the Soviet Union in the 1930s - that was when they did real damage.

You suggest that there was nothing inevitable about the fate of eastern Europe. It's not as if the countries in the region were predisposed to totalitarianism.

Right. If Austria had been taken over, Austria would have been a communist country. And if the Soviets hadn't taken over Poland, Poland wouldn't have been a communist country.
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Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Tax reform? We need a revolution : We should be shifting from taxes on corporations and income to taxes on pollution, wealth and consumption. (Bruce Ackerman, November 18, 2012, LA Times)

In framing the case for reform, the commission took the basic tax system as a given. In contrast, a final deal should recognize that the country is taxing the wrong things. We should be shifting from taxes on corporations to taxes on pollution and wealth, from taxes on income to taxes on consumption. These changes would increase revenue and promote a more just and efficient economy.

The corporate tax is the brainchild of the early 20th century. Progressives used it as symbol to demonize evil corporate fat cats conspiring against the public good. But shareholders can pass on a great deal of the tax to workers and possibly consumers. To the extent that investors bear the burden, the high corporate rate encourages them to send their money overseas.

The traditional aims of the corporate tax are better served by other means. Imposing an annual wealth tax on the super rich is a more effective way to curb economic inequality. On very conservative assumptions, a 2% annual wealth tax on households with $7.2 million in assets -- the top half of the top 1% -- would yield $70 billion a year. As the experience of France, Norway and other nations shows, it is perfectly feasible to impose such taxes, and they would put real meaning into the rhetoric of shared sacrifice.

Similarly, a carbon tax on polluters to curb global warming provides a better way to ensure corporate responsibility. The tax could yield an estimated $1.25 trillion over the next 10 years. This gives firms a powerful incentive to clean up cheaply, while consumers pay prices that encourage them to buy products that do less environmental damage. Japan has already introduced such a levy, and it is on serious agendas elsewhere.

These taxes are usually nonstarters for Republicans in the House. But would they consider them an acceptable price to pay in exchange for reduced corporate rates? The corporate tax yielded $175 billion last year. With the new taxes generating $2 trillion over a decade, the corporate rate could be cut significantly as part of a grand bargain that generated a huge net gain for the Treasury.

The president and the speaker also should be expanding their negotiating room by considering how a tax on consumption might contribute to a better deal on the income tax.

Other than his wealth tax, why tax income at all?