Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Premium on Ignorance, Israel's Capital, Hear Harry Lauder Singing, Out-of-Control Republicans and some Thoughts from Alan Dershowitz

A Premium On Ignorance

We are all entitled to sometimes feel simple-minded and ignorant.  The other day I was reading about how members of The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank were divided over the pros and cons of the Bank taking steps to raise or lower interest rates, and how that would affect banks, the United States Treasury, unemployment and the economy in general.  Frankly, I didn’t understand it.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke thinks on a level beyond my ability to understand. 


Other things that make me feel dumb include trying to really understand what JP Morgan/Chase was doing with the “bets” they were making on the direction an interest rate index on which bond costs are based would turn.  I also cannot fully fathom how Barclays Bank was playing around with the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) numbers.  And the details of how the European central banks are attempting to bail out banks and governments which are at the brink of insolvency, saving those nations’ economies, also eludes me.   

In monetary affairs, I flunk. I think most of us do, even if we don’t like to admit it. 

License to be ignorant in monetary affairs, however, should not extend into more understandable political and fiscal areas.  What our government spends, where it gets its revenues, its borrowing practices and how it handles debt are fiscal matters which we all should at least try to understand.  Similarly, political positions on the economy, unemployment, foreign affairs, the environment, social security, health insurance, our infrastructure, the armed forces and such topics are things which we all should be able to grasp.  We should gather the facts and make our decisions, make our views known and of course, vote for candidates who support those views. There is no excuse for the ignorance which understandably prevails in regard to complex monetary affairs to spread into these areas as well.

Most of the millions of dollars which are being spent by candidates, political parties and the SuperPACs in this election year are not aimed at those who pay some attention to political, economic and social issues and seriously attempt to understand them.  Most are aimed at those who are comfortable in a cocoon of ignorance, and who are susceptible to being influenced by half-truths, innuendos and outright lies.  Sadly, there is ignorance all around us.
Example: it is understandable that many uneducated Americans pronounce the Middle Eastern nation from which we recently brought back our troops as “Eye-Rack” instead of “Ear-Rack” or the more preferable “Ear-Rock” which is somewhat closer to the actual Arabic pronunciation.  The same thing is true for Iran which I often hear pronounced “Eye-Ran” instead of the more accurate-sounding “Ear-Rahn.”  When I hear people in government, the military and journalism make these errors, giving license to mispronunciations traditionally permitted only to the uneducated, I wonder how much they really know about whatever it is they are discussing. 

           Eye-Rack and Eye-Ran                                                           Sikh Temple Tragedy

Another example:  The recent murders in suburban Milwaukee where a right wing extremist opened fire on a Sikh temple also manifest this ignorance.  While, the tragedy would have been just as horrific had the shooter fired into an Islamic mosque, it should be noted that he probably didn’t know the difference between Sikhs and Muslims, and this lack of understanding, this ignorance, affected his choice of a target.

Unfortunately, I am afraid that the messages financed in this election year, particularly those paid for by unlabeled SuperPAC money, will be aimed at those who are not only comfortable in their cocoons of ignorance but probably also don’t know how to pronounce Iraq and Iran and don’t know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim.  Those who put a premium on ignorance know that the gullible vote too.  And if they comprise 5% of those voting in almost any election, they can make the difference in its outcome.
Jack Lippman

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The Capital City of Israel

I’ve seen a few Mitt Romney commercials, not from him nor the G.O.P.. but put out by a SuperPac group pointing out that Mitt, on his recent visit to Israel, specifically referred to Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel.  The ad challenged President Obama to do the same thing. 

                                                                    Romney in Israel
It was a cheap and tawdry attempt by the morally bankrupt supporters of Romney to attract Jewish votes.  Romney well understands that the United States maintains a Consulate General in Jerusalem and an Embassy in Tel-Aviv.  Moving the Embassy to Jerusalem would officially acknowledge that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on a “de jure” basis rather than merely treating it as the capital city in many daily governmental dealings on a “de facto” basis, as we are presently doing.  

That would be a fine thing to do, except for the fact that the Palestinians want to place their capital in Jerusalem as well when they get around to sitting down and honestly talking about it with Israel.  Moving the Embassy there at this time would take a bargaining chip off of the table and make resolution of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians far more difficult.  If Mitt Romney doesn’t know this, as all of our Presidents since the establishment of Israel have known, he has no business running for President.  But I guess he does know it, because when CNN recently asked him if he would move the Embassy there, here is his reply:

“My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital. That is something which I would agree with. But I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.”
— Mitt Romney, interview with CNN, July 29, 2012

                          U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem
This is pretty much the position of President Obama and the operative word in Romney’s answer is “ultimately.” Obama, of course, because he occupies the Oval office, has to be more circumspect in his use of the word “capital.”  Romney, who holds no public office, does not.  Actually, no nations have embassies in Jerusalem at this time for the same reason that ours remains in Tel Aviv.  The last two nations with Jerusalem embassies, Costa Rica and El Salvador, moved them back to Tel Aviv a few years ago.  Paraguay does have an Embassy in a suburb of Jerusalem, about ten miles out of town. 
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Listen to Harry Lauder Sing  

Two postings ago, I talked about the late Sir Harry Lauder and included the lyrics to his famous song, “The End of the Road.”  I again reproduce them here and suggest you follow along as you hear Sir Harry sing the song back in 1926. Here are the links to where you can hear him singing.  If you listen via the second link, don’t forget that Harry lost his son in the First World War.  Turn your speakers up a bit.

The End of the Road  

Verse 1
Ev'ry road thro' life is a long, long road,
Fill'd with joys and sorrows too,
As you journey on, how your heart will yearn,
For the things most dear to you.
With wealth and love 'tis so,
But onward we must go.

Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end,
If the way be long, let your heart be strong, keep right on round the bend.
If you're tired and weary, still journey on, till you come to your happy abode,
Where all you love you've been dreaming of will be there at the end of the road.

Verse 2
With a big stout heart to a long steep hill,
We may get there with a smile,
With a good kind thought and an end in view,
We may cut short many a mile.
So let courage ev'ry day,
Be your guiding star alway.

 (Repeat Chorus Twice)


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And here’s a column reprinted from the Jerusalem Post of July 29, written by Alan Dershowitz who has . . . . .

No ‘buyer’s remorse’ for voting for Obama
When I decide who to vote for as president, I ask myself who will be best for America and for the world.

Republicans are trying to woo away Jews who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, hoping they have experienced “buyer’s remorse.” I, for one, have experienced no such remorse.

I have gotten from President Obama pretty much what I expected when I voted for him: a pragmatic, centrist liberal who has managed – with some necessary compromises – to bring us the first important healthcare legislation in recent history, appointed excellent justices to the Supreme Court, supported women’s rights, eliminated the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, maintained the wall of separation between church and state, kept up an effective war against terrorism and generally made me proud to be an American who cast my vote for him.

Even with regard to his policy toward Israel, which has generated much of the impetus for this “buyer’s remorse” campaign, President Obama has kept his promises.

During the last campaign, I and others urged candidate Obama to go to Israel and visit Sderot, which was being shelled by rockets from Hamas controlled Gaza. He then went to Sderot and while standing in front of the lethal rockets that had inflicted so much damage – physical and psychological – to so many children and adults, this is what the candidate said:

“I don’t think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens... If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same.”

And when the IDF finally had to respond to the rocket terror with Operation Cast Lead, President Obama supported Israel’s actions and his administration condemned the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and biased against Israel.

Now, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is visiting Israel. I’m glad he is, because support for Israel must always remain bipartisan. No presidential election should ever become a referendum on support for Israel. Certainly the upcoming election will not be, because both candidates strongly support Israel’s security. Each candidate must earn the vote of each citizen based on the totality of their records, and must not take the support of any group for granted.

The Obama administration has worked hand in hand with Israel in developing the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow defense capabilities. It has approved the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the Israel Air Force. It has conducted large, joint military exercises and has coordinated intelligence operations with Israeli secret services. That is why I was not surprised when Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he could “hardly remember a better period of...American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding... than what he have right now.”

The greatest threat Israel faces today is from Iran, a nation ruled by anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying, terrorist-inciting Mullahs, who would sacrifice millions of their own citizens to destroy “the little Satan,” which is how they refer to Israel (the United States being “the big Satan.”)

There are some, in both parties, who wrongly believe that a policy of “containment” – that is, allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons but containing their use by the threat of tit-for-tat reprisal – is the right strategy. President Obama has explicitly rejected this benighted approach and has instead announced that his policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it takes military action to do so. In the meantime, he has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure while explicitly keeping the military option on the table.

Several months ago, President Obama invited me to the Oval Office to discuss his Iran strategy. He looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t bluff.” His actions with regard to Osama bin Laden and the Somali pirates who endangered Americans and threatened to kill them demonstrated his willingness to use force when warranted. So does his increased use of drones to target terrorists who are beyond the reach of capture. I believe President Obama when he says that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons on his watch.

President Obama also understands that no sovereign nation can ever outsource the protection of its own citizens against a nuclear Holocaust. If Israel were to decide – as a last resort, after exhausting all diplomatic, economic and intelligence options – that it had no choice but to take military action against Iran’s nuclear programs, I am confident that the Obama administration would not condemn that action (as the Reagan administration condemned Israel’s correct decision to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981!) These are President Obama’s own words on this important issue: “Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States – just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.”

The issue of Israeli security must be distinguished from the issue of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank. Israel’s settlement policy is deeply controversial within Israel and among Jewish supporters of Israel in the United States. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have been critical of some Israeli decisions regarding the settlements. I have sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with these criticisms. Reasonable supporters of Israel will have different views on the settlements and on how best to move toward a two-state solution that assures Israel’s security.

When I decide who to vote for as president, I ask myself who will be best for America and for the world. An important component of my answer involves my assessment of the candidate’s willingness and ability to protect Israel’s security, since I strongly believe that a strong Israel serves the interests of the United States and of world peace. I am confident that President Obama will keep his promise “always [to] have Israel’s back” in the face of the continuing threats posed by Israel’s enemies.

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Repbulicans Out of Control

Victories by extreme conservatives in the Indiana, Texas and the Missouri Republican Senate primary races have shown that the voters who call themselves Republicans prefer uncompromising right-wing, conservative candidates.  This weakens whatever appeal the G.O.P. ticket will have to undecided independent voters and strengthens the chances of Democrats in the November races.  

Todd Akin, Missouri G.O.P. choice over somewhat less conservative Sarah Steelman, whom we had predicted would win.

This tendency, if present at the upcoming G.O.P. Convention, will force Mitt Romney to hew to the right in his political posture.  Although it is almost inconceivable at this point, there is a miniscule chance that despite the results of the Presidential primaries, Romney will be denied the nomination by a party which is voting for candidates far, far, to his right, and despite what they say, is no longer the party of Eisenhower, Reagan, Dole, McCain or even Barry Goldwater.  The G.O.P. may be betrothed to Mitt Romney, but they still are deeply in love with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.  


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