Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Make Money Not War

Is it too simplistic to suggest that when countries (neighboring or otherwise) start making money and develop a prosperous mercantile infrastructure, they are generally far less likely to want to fight with each other? This comes to mind in connection with economist George Gilder's piece in City Journal about the Israeli high-tech economy:
Israel has very recently become a center of innovation, second in absolute achievement only to the United States, and on a per-capita basis dwarfing the contributions of all other nations, America included. How Israel is treated by the rest of the world thus represents a crucial test for civilization. Will we pass it?
...This tiny embattled country, smaller than most American states, is outperforming European and Asian Goliaths ten to 100 times larger. In a watershed moment for the country, Israel in 2007 passed Canada as the home of the most foreign companies on the technology-heavy NASDAQ index; it is now launching far more high-tech companies per year than any country in Europe...
Just as Hong Kong ultimately reshaped the Chinese economy in its own image when Deng Xiaoping mimicked its free economy, Israel could become a force for economic liberation in the Middle East, reaching out to Palestinians and other Arabs with the blandishments of commercial opportunity.
So wouldn't it be better for Israel's impoverished neighbors to move away from a self destructive, self defeating war footing and instead try to join it on the economic bandwagon?

We have long maintained that politics of any kind should be kept separate from entertainment and science. We happen to be renting the DVD of Jonathan Demme's excellent 1980s concert film "Stop Making Sense," featuring the Talking Heads led by David Byrne. By coincidence, this stomach-turning development just emerged in the news:
Some 50 celebrities, artists and filmmakers, including actors Jane Fonda and Danny Glover, musician David Byrne and filmmaker Ken Loach, have accused the Toronto International Film Festival of "complicity with the Israeli propaganda machine" over its spotlight this year on Tel Aviv.
The 2009 festival will present 10 films by local filmmakers on the Israeli metropolis, for its City to City program, which each year focuses its lens on a different city.
The choice led to protests that the film festival was "staging a propaganda campaign" on Israel's behalf, given "the absence of Palestinian filmmakers in the program," said an open letter to festival organizers, AFP reported.
The program "ignores the suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa area who currently live in refugee camps in the Occupied Territories" after a "mass exiling of the Palestinian population" in 1948, according to the letter.
"Looking at modern, sophisticated Tel Aviv without also considering the city's past and the realities of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, would be like rhapsodizing about the beauty and elegant lifestyles in white-only Cape Town or Johannesburg during apartheid without acknowledging the corresponding black townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto," AFP reported the letter as saying.
The controversy started on August 28, when Canadian filmmaker John Greyson withdrew his film from the festival in protest.
We don't expect much from Hollywood airheads such as the artist formerly known as "Hanoi Jane," but David Byrne is a brilliant musician who clearly has the capacity to do his own research.

Unlike the surrounding dictatorships with non-existent human rights records, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and where its citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion (or non-religion) have the right to vote and to exercise freedom of speech. [If you've seen any movies from Israeli film industry, you'll note that they generally tend to be highly critical of the policies of the government and military, and hardly constitute propaganda.] And if David Byrne is concerned about "apartheid," he should ask why the United Nations and the Arab regimes force people to live in refugee camps rather than granting them legal status and resettling them into their countries.

Adds the Washington Times, "Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici complained that Mr. Greyson is now trying to shut down the voices of filmmakers in the only country in the Middle East that allows free expression."

By the way, is there any sovereign nation on earth other than Israel that the U.S. and the international community can try to tell its citizens where to live?

Leaving politics aside, here is a very cool video of David Byrne's 21st-Century bike rack designs:

Culture Critic Camille Paglia Does Some Truth Telling

Over the years, but especially recently, one phenomenon that has become profoundly obvious is that left-of-center polemicists tend to accuse right-of-center writers, bloggers and other counterparts of "lying."

But this trend has emerged a classic case of projection, because it is in general those on the left who engage in half-truths, distortions, disinformation or lack of information, taking things out of context, and perhaps what's worse, incuriously accepting at face value virtually any pronouncement from this administration.

We hesitate to use the word lie because that word has been thrown around so much in so many different quarters that it is almost devoid of meaning. [Even Judge Milian too often seems to accuse a litigant of lying when it might be just an instance where two individuals simply have a good-faith difference in perception.]

In her latest Salon essay primarily about the "sick" obsession of this administration, Congress, and what she calls the "liberal lemmings" of the mainstream media, to impose socialism on the medical delivery system, self-described Obama supporter (and Republican critic) Camille Paglia makes reference to the same trend:
Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year's tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators? First of all, too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web -- both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights. I rarely watch TV anymore except for cooking shows, history and science documentaries, old movies and football. Hence I was blissfully free from the retching overkill that followed the deaths of Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy -- I never saw a single minute of any of it. It was on talk radio, which I have resumed monitoring around the clock because of the healthcare fiasco, that I heard the passionate voices of callers coming directly from the town hall meetings. Hence I was alerted to the depth and intensity of national sentiment long before others who were simply watching staged, manipulated TV shows.
Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism...
But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the U.S. has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it's invisible....
Throughout this fractious summer, I was dismayed not just at the self-defeating silence of Democrats at the gaping holes or evasions in the healthcare bills but also at the fogginess or insipidity of articles and Op-Eds about the controversy emanating from liberal mainstream media and Web sources. By a proportion of something like 10-to-1, negative articles by conservatives were vastly more detailed, specific and practical about the proposals than were supportive articles by Democrats, which often made gestures rather than arguments and brimmed with emotion and sneers. There was a glaring inability in most Democratic commentary to think ahead and forecast what would or could be the actual snarled consequences -- in terms of delays, denial of services, errors, miscommunications and gross invasions of privacy -- of a massive single-payer overhaul of the healthcare system in a nation as large and populous as ours. It was as if Democrats live in a utopian dream world, divorced from the daily demands and realities of organization and management.
By the way, tonight would be a good night to rent a DVD, check-in with the Dog Whisperer or Animal Cops if they're on, or engage in recreational reading, or participate in any "healthy" activity other than watching yet another tedious, narcissistic presidential address.

Besides, the lemmings in the mainstream media have already decided for you that this is the greatest speech ever delivered in recorded history.

Card Check Hypocrisy

The administration wants card check union organizing for private-sector business, but the Washington Times reports that a federal agency deemed this approach "unreliable" for its own employees:
While the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in Congress press to allow private-sector workers to unionize by signing authorization cards instead of voting by secret ballot, the government's legal-aid program for the poor has declared the so-called "card check" strategy "unreliable" and rejected an effort by some of its own workers to organize that way.
The Legal Services Corp., a congressionally chartered, taxpayer-funded entity, even hired a law firm to rebuff the efforts of workers in its oversight offices to gain union representation by the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), forcing the workers to conduct a vote by secret ballot later this week.
The LSC's decision has prompted concerns on Capitol Hill that the government may be trying to impose a solution on private businesses that its own agencies and panels are reluctant to follow.
This is almost as hypocritical as those instances when union leaders opposed efforts by their own headquarters employees to form collective bargaining units.