June 17, 2008

Hypocrisy Watch —Okay, so Egypt is brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and meetings have been held between the three parties in Cairo, so will somebody please remind me why-oh-why negotiating with one of the few elected governments in the Arab world is so terrible? This underscores—as if underscoring were needed—the complete and utter hypocrisy of the Israel Lobby in this country: while jumping on Barack Obama for supposedly suggesting he would talk to Hamas (or, more accurately, that one of his advisors—now a former advisor—wouldn’t rule it out completely), the Israelis are themselves chatting merrily away with these supposedly mad suicide-bombers, and even coming to some sort of agreement with them.

Of course, the Israel lobby and the Israeli government are not one and the same: the former is all about poisoning our relationship with the Arab-Muslim world, while the latter must live with that world, or at least side-by-side with it.

Enough is enough —Every now and then, our government’s disgust with the strictures of the “special relationship”—which deem any public criticism of Israel absolutely verboten—bursts through to the surface. The other day, we heard Condi Rice blasting the Israelis for “undermining” the peace process, in what is described by the Associated Press as unusually “harsh” words. Here‘s Agence France Presse:

“US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wraps up a Middle East tour on Monday after strongly condemning Jewish settlement activity in the occupied West Bank. She was holding a one-on-one meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak where she was also expected to press for the removal of more of over 600 checkpoints and roadblocks scattered across the West Bank…. ‘We have not made the progress that we would like to in terms of movement and access, removal of barriers,” Rice said on Sunday at a press conference with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah. ‘Particularly, I am concerned about the outposts which are, after all, illegal under Israeli law,’ she added, referring to dozens of wildcat West Bank settlements Israel has pledged to remove under a 2003 roadmap agreement.”

Reminding the Israelis of their own laws, and broken promises, is “harsh,” you see. And no doubt evidence of an anti-Semitic conspiracy in the highest reaches of the US government ….

Question of the Day—You’ll note in the previous item I linked to but did not quote—except for one word—the AP story I cited. Which brings us to the Question of the Day: How is a news organization like a taxi driver?

Answer: one charges by the minute—and the other charges by the word. Associated Press, the last giant of the Old Media to remain standing, is now threatening bloggers with lawsuits unless they refrain from directly quoting AP stories, or at least more than 39 words of the story. This has shocked the blogosphere, of course, which has traditionally reprinted all or most of the news stories that are their regular fodder, but it turns out that the AP bigwigs have long had a policy of charging by the word. Here’s their rates, as uncovered by Boingboing:

5-25 words: $ 12.50
26-50 words: $ 17.50
51-100 words: $ 25.00
101-250 words: $ 50.00
251 words and up: $ 100.00

Of course, even quoting their rates, according to them, should open Takimag up to the prospect of a lawsuit—a fact that highlights the utter absurdity of AP’s policy.

What I want to know is this: why doesn’t this “principle” apply to books, and magazine articles, as well? As a book author—plug, plug—I have an economic interest in promoting this idea, and, well, why not? Of course, it would discourage reviews, but, hey, what the heck, what have I got to lose? After all, my own recently reissued Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement has been (im)politely ignored by the allegedly “conservative” media, at least so far, in spite of the fact that I got everything about the neocons and the sad decline of small-government conservatism right—back in 1993!

Speaking of my book, there has been one review, in a Canadian media outlet, the Western Standard, by the youthful-but-very-smart Kalim Kassam. Well, not really a review, but just a note that the book has been issued. However, accompanying this is a wonderful video by the “Southern Avenger,” a regular columnist for the Charleston City Paper, that makes the same point as my book, and is really quite wonderful:

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The Welfare-Warfare State in action, as reported by James Risen in the New York Times:

“The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops. The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations. Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. … But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors “€” after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims “€” approved most of the payments he had tried to block.”



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