Thursday, May 22, 2008

Israel Rejects Bush's Advice

The NYT rightly points out that Israel rejected Bush's advice directed at Obama not to negotiate with regimes you don't like, although it gave him time to get out of the country before Israel's talks with Syria became public. It just makes Bush and the neocons look like idiots. And they endanger the US in the process.

Friday, May 16, 2008

American-Israeli Pundits

In his blog, Patrick Lang takes on David Brooks' column in the NYT. I always liked Col. Lang's commentary on PBS, and I was happy to find his blog. Brooks is one of the more intelligent conservative columnists; so, it's disturbing when a reasonable moderate like Lang finds: "David Brooks is not an editorial columnist. He is a propagandist for the hard right in this country and in Israel." If this is Brooks, then what about a wild man like Charles Krauthammer. There's a more reasonable piece in the WP by James Rubin, but must the entire commentariat be Jewish? I definitely suspect their loyalty to the US, in that I believe they are more concerned about Israel's security than about America's. But it's arguable that that is a legitimate perspective for a 100% American. It's just not my perspective. I think the "I" by Sen. Joe Lieberman's party affiliation means "Israeli" not "Independent."

Just for the record, I am outraged at Bush's comments in Israel about an appeasement Senator (read Obama) who is the current day Neville Chamberlain. Bush should not have taken domestic politics overseas, although Republicans probably view Israel as a 51st state; maybe Democrats do, too. I don't, and so I thought his comments were extremely inappropriate. But it shows how much Jews control American foreign policy, and tilt it toward Israel. Bush probably raked in millions for the RNC and McCain by his comments.

MSNBC had a stupid but telling segment on Hardball, where Chris Matthews asked some apologist for Bush what Chamberlain did that was so bad. The apologist didn't know, but wouldn't admit that he didn't know. Matthews finally said that it was that Chamberlain agreed to Hitler's military occupation of Czechoslovakia, not that Chamberlain advocated talking to Hitler. McCain prostituted himself by buying into Bush's comments, but he will get lots of Jew money for doing so, and he needs money. But that's what prostitutes are: people who sell themselves for money.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

HIV and American Visas

Andrew Sullivan's op-ed in the Washington Post reminds me of an experience at the State Department in the early 1990s. I was the deputy director of an office called OES/EHC, which stood for Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science/Office of Environment, Health, and Conservation. Under the health responsibility I had an M.D. who in theory worked for me, although as a doctor, he made far more than I did. He wanted to take on the Jesse Helms visa ban on HIV-positive foreigners, and I went along to give him bureaucratic support. He took me to meet with HIV medical specialists in HHS and other agencies, and they convinced me that the Helms proposal was improper. At that time, the only basis for denying a visa to someone coming to the US was that they had a highly infectious disease. Jesse claimed that HIV was highly infectious, but the medical people said it was not. The only disease that was categorized as truly highly infectious was tuberculosis. They said that you couldn't catch HIV by sitting next to someone on a bus, for example.

So, my M.D. and I wrote a memo to the Secretary of State, then Jim Baker, saying that the Jesse Helms proposal should be rejected. Both my boss, the Assistant Secretary for OES, and the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, who was responsible for visas, signed off on it. We sent it on its way to Baker, but it had to go through the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, who was then Bob Zoellick, who is now President of the World Bank. Zoellick never passed the memo on to Baker; he kept it buried in his in-basket. I somewhat respected that decision, because the memo asked for a decision from Baker that put him in a no-win situation. Clearly the right legal, scientific thing to do was to reject the Helms proposal, because it had no legal or scientific justification. However, Jesse Helms was a great, powerful enemy of the State Department in the Senate. If Baker made Helms mad, there would be hell to pay on many other issues, probably ranging from the State Department budget to major issues of war and peace. So, Zoellick protected Baker from ever having to put his fingerprints on our memo.

It was bad law; it was unfair to HIV-positive people, but politically it was probably the best thing for the State Department. My colleagues and I periodically tried to press Zoellick to release the memo, but he never did. Neither of the Assistant Secretaries, much less people at our level, had the clout to bypass Zoellick.

I didn't know until I read Sullivan's column that Congress had subsequently passed a specific law banning HIV-positive people. A law has a better legal justification than Helms' regulation, although neither has scientific or humane justification, as Sullivan points out.

If you ask me, the fear of HIV is a sign of the same cowardice as the fear of terrorists. This generation of political leaders who grew up during Vietnam is, with a few exceptions, a generation of draft dodgers. They were either too afraid or too selfish to go to fight in Vietnam, and now they are afraid of HIV and terrorists, so afraid that they resort to torture of terrorists, and other extra legal means of dealing with both terrorists and HIV-positive people. It's a sad commentary on America.

Friday, May 09, 2008

State Comments on India Deal Kept Secret

The Washington Post reports that the State Dept. has asked Congress to keep State's comments on the US-India nuclear deal secret. It's not surprising, since the deal is sensitive in both countries. In India, the opposition believes the deal puts too many restraints on India's nuclear program; in the US, arms control advocates believe that it rewards India for flouting the nonproliferation regime and developing nuclear arms.

To me, one of the most interesting things is that the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs is Howard Berman, replacing Tom Lantos. Lantos was supposed to be the only Holocaust survivor in Congress, although it doesn't sound like he actually survived much; he was never in Auschwitz, Treblinka, or any of the real death camps. But he was Jewish, and his successor, Howard Berman is Jewish. And who is another country that like India has flouted the nonproliferation regime and developed nuclear weapons? Israel. Israel is not likely to come under much scrutiny in the House.

What's the impact of the US acceptance of proliferation by India and Israel on the problem countries of the day: Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, now Syria, et. al? Nobody knows for sure, but it's probably not good. But we (the US) will try to keep quiet about what's going on in India and Israel, so that we can beat up on the other countries. It might work, but I doubt it. It's ironic that the Jews, by developing Israeli nuclear weapons, are their own worst enemy in trying to prevent Iran from doing the same thing.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Israel, Marshall, and Truman

In today's Washington Post, Richard Holbrooke recalls America's response to the declaration of Israel's creation. He says that most of the "wise men" at the State Department opposed immediate recognition of Israel, because it would create so many problems with the Arabs. Defense Secretary Forrestal said there were 30 million Arabs [with oil] and 600,000 Jews [with no oil]. Secretary of State General George Marshall led the argument against immediate recognition. Clark Clifford, Truman's domestic political adviser, led the argument for recognition. Holbrooke, who wrote Clifford's biography says that domestic politics were not important, i.e., the Jewish vote. He might be biased.

Only with great effort was Secretary Marshall persuaded not to make a public stink when Truman recognized Israel, and then Truman went ahead and did it. It's still questionable whether this was the right decision. Clearly it's been good for Zionist Jews in America, who interestingly according to Holbrooke did not include the Jews who owned the Washington Post and the New York Times. But it's not so clear that it's been good for America as a nation. No doubt today's high price of gasoline is in part due to Truman's decision to side with Israel over the Arabs. And of course we have over 100,000 troops in Iraq doing something that is in part motivated by the defense of Israel. Both Hillary and McCain continue to pander to the Jewish vote by threatening to destroy Iran, which is the new target for Israel, now that the US has neutralized Iraq's threat to Israel.

But it's a never ending struggle for the US to defend Israel. Just in the last 24 hours Lebanon has threatened to blow up again. Will Bush "stay the course" in Lebanon, too, or will he follow Reagan's example and stay out?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Was Reagan So Great?

In this election year the Republicans often look back nostalgically to Ronald Reagan as the example of what a President should be. There are many, but two who love him are George Will and Peggy Noonan. Let's look at the record.

1) Reagan did not fight in World War II. Almost everyone fought in World War II, the last "good" war, the greatest generation. He had himself declared legally blind so that he could not fight, but he did become an Army officer who made movies in California for the military.

2) Reagan was divisive. His intra-party fight with Gerald Ford for the nomination in 1976 probably led to Jimmy Carter's election. If Ford had been uncontested for a second term, he probably would have won.

3) Reagan's election over Jimmy Carter in 1980 got a big boost from Ayatollah Khomeini and the other Iranian mullahs. The Iranians hated Jimmy Carter because he stood by the Shah and allowed him to have medical treatment and refuge in the US. Thus, they took over the US Embassy in Tehran and refused to let the hostages go while Carter was still President. They used the hostages as pawns to get Jimmy Carter out of office. Thus, Reagan was the Iranians' candidate. He probably could have won the election without Iranian support, but the hostage crisis helped his campaign enormously by hurting Carter enormously. The hostages were released within hours of Reagan taking office. We'll never know, but it's possible that the Iran-Contra scandal was the result of Reagan's trying to repay the Iranians for their support in the 1980 election.

4) He turned tail and ran out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks were blown up. All the Republicans talk about how brave Reagan was to stand up to the Russians, but they don't talk much a Lebanon, which is more closely comparable to the Iraq war today. He did not "stay the course" in Lebanon; after the massive Marine casualties, he brought the troops home quickly and left Lebanon to descend into civil war. Maybe Reagan was brave to stand up to the Russians, but Gorbachev was a new kind of Soviet leader, much more open to the West than his hard-line predecessors. At a summit in Iceland, Reagan is reported to have reached an agreement to totally dismantle the US nuclear arsenal before Richard Perle talked him out of it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Does Reducing Taxes Increase Revenues?

This morning in a debate on CNBC about tax policy, CNBC rolled out the old Laffer-curve argument that reducing taxes increases revenues. They showed this graph, which appears about 6:18 into the video. In it, you can see that when capital gains taxes were reduced, there was a spike in tax revenues. What they didn't mention is that the spike was quickly followed by a drop off to normal levels. What that shows is that legislating is a relatively slow process. When lower capital gains rates are being discussed, wealthy people hold off on realizing profits until the new lower rates are in effect. Then they do some profit taking on which they can pay the lower rates. A lot of the assets sold are probably ones that have been held a long time and perhaps would not otherwise have been sold.

Another factor as tax rates become even lower is that it encourages speculation. If there's little or no capital gains tax, it encourages people to "speculate" for short term gains, not "invest." Hence, there is more churning and more taxes on more individual transactions.

Reagan's belief in the Laffer-curve showed that his Alzheimer's had set in while he was still President. And for those crazies who still believe in it, it just shows that they are crazy. There probably is some very high level where the Laffer hypothesis applies, close to a 100% tax rate, but that it largely irrelevant in today's world.