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Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

Another back hand for immigration

The immigration bill went down the tubes, and that may be OK since almost everyone could find something they didn't like in it. Most of the senators who voted it down were Republicans and the irony is that that result is just what Democrats wanted since they didn't want Republicans and the President to get credit for solving the problem of illegal aliens to any degree. This way they get to keep the issue for 2008 and probably lock up the rapidly growing Hispanic vote for that election. The R's missed a big chance to continue their trend of gaining Hispanic votes, and worse, they missed it in the name of Know-Nothingness, their myopic view on the subject, one largely in the tradition of Millard Fillmore.

The fact is that Hispanic voters should and would identify with the GOP in large numbers, given a demonstration of even the slightest interest in their issues. Most Hispanic cultures are socially conservative, extremely family oriented, avowedly Christian and hard working. Aren't these all traits Republicans identify with? So it is monumentally stupid for Republicans to make these people feel unwelcome in the country and the party.

Of course any bill that finds favor with both George W. and Teddy Kennedy figures to be a little wacky, so the bottom line is that they couldn't get it done.

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If the Administration had a noble idea on immigration, I fear it is off the deep end on Palestine. It's one thing to say you want to isolate Hamas in Gaza and cut off aid, but quite another to assume that you should then reward Fatah by freeing up the frozen funds for the West Bank. Let's remember that Fatah is also a terrorist organization, and despite what has been perceived as a softening in its position, has still not made its peace with the continuing existence of Israel. As a long time advocate for a two state solution, I now find that I am more attracted to a one-state solution, though in my case, it would take a somewhat different form than that suggested by Hamas or Fatah. Frankly, I now think that Israel should be the only state and that the Palestinians will never be entitled to a state. To the extent that Israel no longer wants to occupy the territories, put them up for bid. The highest bidding Arab state can have them. I bet no one bids. Not even a nickel. No one wants those people and for good reason, I'm afraid. Just ask the people in Lebanon how they feel about the Palestinian camps in their country.

The problem is that Palestinians have become perpetual victims, and they seem comfortable in that role. Without international aid, they would all apparently starve. Once the aid is cut off, they merely languish. One should remember that before Israel received its UN mandate, Palestine was simply a desert and no one wanted to live there.

The other night, I was at a fundraiser for Senator Hagel of Nebraska, who though quite charming and intelligent on the vast majority of issues, seems to have gone simply wobbly on the Middle East. Somehow, he implied that Israel deserved some part of the blame for the current mess because as it was dismantling settlements in Gaza, it had the poor judgment to build them in the West Bank. Frankly, I think the only mistake Israel has made recently, (besides the tactical ones in the skirmish with Hezbollah) was to dismantle the Gaza settlements. You don't get credit for any concessions in that part of the world.

Senator Hagel, like many moderate Republicans and most Democrats, think the way you make progress in foreign affairs is to keep talking, as Jim Baker did with Syria when he was Secretary of State. What these critics forget is that negotiation only makes sense when you are dealing with sensible parties who bargain in good faith. Negotiating with Syria, Iran, Fatah, Hamas, North Korea, etc. etc is a useless waste of time. They simply pocket your concessions and move on. Worse, they mistake your willingness to talk and compromise for weakness, and that makes them more aggressive and subject to miscalculation (the point of a very fine column in Mondsay's WSJ by Joshua Muravchik). This is what makes Iran so dangerous and why Senator Lieberman reminded us this week that we should keep all (military) options on the table when dealing with that country.

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Presumably, musings readers are getting pretty sick of my Middle Eastern rants, so maybe we should talk baseball instead since we are nearing the traditional half way point. In the National League, I am amazed at how strong the NL West is with the Giants bringing up the rear (too many flaws) and the three teams with such good starting pitching apparently headed for a long close race. Even the Rockies are not that bad (though they stopped winning after the Yanks left town). As good as that division is, that's how bad the Central is, with the mediocre Brewers threatened only by the hapless Cubs. The NL East is pretty interesting. The Mets are clearly the favorite (and deservedly) but they have some flaws and a lot of guys playing hurt. Still, with their starting pitching and the emergence of young Gomez, I think they will outlast the competition. It looks like the Phillies and the Braves will stay close just about all the way, with the Phillies starting to look like the stronger of the two.

In the AL East, I never thought Boston was that good and expected Toronto to win but they got hit with a rash of serious injuries, and are only now hitting stride, maybe too late. I have said all along the Yanks are a 500 team, and that won't get it done. The AL Central will likely provide the wild card, either Detroit or Cleveland, both making the post-season. The Angels should win the West easily. So we are looking at three very good races, and possibly a fourth, if the Jays can keep improving.

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Before moving to the stocks, let's give a muted round of applause for the Supreme Court's decision chipping away at the McCain - Feingold campaign finance law, which I believe to be clearly violative of the 1st amendment. I say muted because the Roberts Court, as will be its apparent M/O, provided only an incremental victory and did not go as far as it could or should have. But it's a start.

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On Monday, I sold another 100 shares of Barnes Group (B), now a Jim Cramer pick by the way, at 32.50, originally purchased 7/6/98 for 13.625. Wednesday, I bought 50 more shares of Expeditors International (EXPD) at 41.82. It is very unsettling to watch Bear Stearns work its way through its two hedge funds' sub - prime mess. If there is one very safe bet, we will see more hedge funds in trouble.


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