Monthly Archives: December 2008

Moderation in war?

Rumours swirl that Israel was considering a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza strip though in the end the government seems to have rejected it at least for the time being. But does anyone think if the situation were reversed Hamas would consider such a thing? Which does not settle the question whether Israel should, although those who proposed it ought to realize more clearly than they seem to that Hamas would not use a lull in fighting (or anything else) for humanitarian purposes. But Israel’s willingness to entertain the notion does underline the stark moral difference between the two sides.

Sarah Palin she ain’t

Caroline Kennedy’s dynastic shoe-in candidacy for the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton took a dramatic turn for the worse when she gave a bumbling interview that started (in, says the Ottawa Citizen, “a dull monotone”):

Um, this is a fairly unique moment both in our, you know, in our country’s history, and, and in, in, you know, my own life, and um, you know, we are facing, you know, unbelievable challenges, our economy, you know, health care, people are losing their jobs here in New York obviously um, arh, you know …

Hey, bring back that, you know, um, witty, eloquent lady from, um, ahr, Alaska.

Brainless in Gaza

As another Middle Eastern “crisis” unfolds not only participants but commentators seem to be repeating themselves. Which is not really a criticism of the latter because the same old points generally retain their validity when one side (Israel) has limited new options and the other side (the Palestinian leadership and an unknown proportion of the populace) is wedded to a strategy of belligerent rejection that has now failed wretchedly for eight decades and counting. I note however Barry Rubin’s point about the Hamas strategy of giving Israel “the choice between rockets and media” because I think most reasonable media, even if they stress the suffering of Palestinian civilians, also reflect an understanding that Israel doesn’t really have a lot of options and it is the fault of Hamas that they don’t so the suffering, which is deplorable, is also Hamas’s fault. OK, so the New York Times sent out a Dec. 29 e-mail teaser (I don’t know if it’s possible to link to it but if you have the service you will have received it) saying:

“Israeli Troops Mass Along Border; Arab Anger Rises By TAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ISABEL KERSHNER With the death toll in Gaza rising to nearly 300, a furious reaction spread across the Arab world, raising fears of greater instability in the region.”

And on December 27 the BBC invited residents of Gaza, but not Israel, to submit tales and photos of suffering (that story is still online but the submit stories section and links seem to have disappeared). But for the most part my view is that the Western-media component of Hamas’s strategy is as miserable in every sense as every other part of Hamas’s strategy. Even in the Middle East some things do change.


Media outlets are starting to produce their lists of historically significant incidents and people in 2008, man/woman of the year etc. These are useful exercises although I fear that when (if) history pauses to look back at them many will prove to have been trendy rather than tremendous. But I value these forays into postnostication anyway because they do remind us of something I wish the people taking part in current events manifested some sense of, namely that their deeds will one day be part of history and they should try to act and speak in a manner worthy of being remembered even if there’s no guarantee that they will be anyway. Uh, when I say “remembered” I should probably add that I mean without contempt.

Experts say… stuff

So it turns out the experts didn’t actually know what the economy was going to do after all. No really. Thomas Homer-Dixon said it so it must be true. Gosh. I guess we’ll all be driven back to hoping for the best and preparing for the worst by keeping ourselves flexible, spending less than we earn and trying to diversify our savings in case life has unexpected ups and downs. Weird.

Our cups runneth over

As you sit amid the wrapping paper and debris on Boxing Day, picking your teeth with a wishbone, I want to ask: What if that was it? Would it be enough?

I don’t mean what if you were struck down tomorrow, or if you never saw another Christmas pudding consumed by flames. I mean what if, from now on, there were as many gifts equally good (or tacky) and the same Christmas dinner, in houses as nice and warm as this year and so on, but not more. Would Christmas still be worth it?

OK, hands down all the Grinches who think it’s not worth it now. This is a thought experiment about public policy, not odd seasonal customs. And there is a curious cross-party, trans-ideological consensus that the answer to my question is, “No! Certainly not! If things don’t keep getting better it’s all just dust and ashes.”

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It’s the pits

Prime Minister Harper now says the $4 billion the Canadian and Ontario governments have offered GM and Chrysler is probably just the beginning of the ill-considered dumping of public money into companies with bleak long-term prospects. If you’ve been enjoying the scintillating level of debate on this proposal you’ll also enjoy this video:

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into………….. A Giant Hole?

Would you buy a used car from this plan?

So George Bush has decided to go ahead and dump a preliminary $17.4 billion in public money into the two least successful “Big 3” North American auto makers. It’s not obvious where that is in the Constitution but the President explained that “These are not ordinary circumstances.” So apparently the idea is that something that would be unaffordable folly if you had money is indispensibly prudent conduct if you don’t. I somehow missed that in economic class too.