2008 was not a great year for movies–not as good as last year, for instance, when we got three outstanding comedies from Judd Apatow & co. (”Knocked Up,” “Superbad,” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”), one of the best Coen Brothers pictures ever (”No Country for Old Men”)–well, if I don’t stop here, I’ll end up listing my entire Top Ten for 2007. But 2008 wasn’t nearly as much fun as the year before.
The 2008 campaign’s People’s Choice and Runner-up were decided Election Day. The second-largest winner and loser were chosen long before: Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, who died in 1994 and 1996, respectively; and the national media, most of whose honor died long ago.
If the year 2008 has revealed anything, it is this: no society can function properly unless there is a general agreement about what is right and wrong. Unfortunately, right and wrong are now largely held hostage by political ideology: conservatives and liberals have vastly different ideas about what constitutes ethical behavior. Is there common ground? Try these few for starters:
Tonight, the curtain falls on a year that left the most hardened political observers breathless. I did not get the nominee I wanted. Heaven knows I did not get the president-elect I wanted. But as an American, particularly one blessed with a radio show and a newspaper column, I cannot help but feel grateful for the ride.
If Israeli reporters are correct, Olmert will accept Sarkozy’s suggested 48 hour pause as a prelude for a more permanent agreement. Israel claims to have degraded Hamas military capability and Hamas demonstrated it can hit Beer Sheva 40 kilometers away. It can afford to call it quits. But will it? I hope so.
It should not listen. Two years ago Israel promised to crush Hezbollah. It did not. It did cause enough damage to make Hezbollah think twice before attacking Israel. Nassrallah knows the Lebanese would not forgive him if he exposes them again to Israeli bombardment. So, at the moment, Northern Israel is quite. Olmert is looking for a similar deal with Hamas. Concluding that bombastic rhetoric hurt Israel’s case in 2006, he toned it down this time. This does not please many of Israel’s supporters. Brett Stephens writes:
Caroline Kennedy has gotten bad reviews for repeatedly saying “you know” in a New York Timesinterview. This case points out a little-noted aspect of journalism. Unlike court transcripts, news transcripts are often not verbatim. News organizations frequently “clean up” quotations by fixing grammar or deleting verbal fillers such as “like,” “uh,” and “you know.” But this time, the Times seems to have been unusually strict. By way of comparison, consider how it treated an interview with Barack Obama a few weeks ago. Here is a passage as it appeared in print:
How could you be misquoted in your own autobiography? Well, it happened to basketball player-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley who explained the matter simply, “It was my fault. I should have read it before it came out.” In all likelihood the problem was that Sir Charles employed a ghostwriter, nothing to be ashamed of since it puts him in decent company with the likes of Ronald Reagan (Robert Lindsey) and David Beckham (Tom Watt).
As Israel strikes back at Hamas, this champion of Iraqi-Israeli cooperation has been explaining to his fellow Iraqis, “the conflict is not between Palestinians and Israelis, it’s between terrorists and moderates.”
Disgusted with PA corruption, they voted for Hamas. But the man calling the shots is not Haniyah, the Hamas leader living in Gaza. The man calling the shots is Mashal, the Hamas leader living in Damascus and, hence dependent on Ahmadinejad’s side kick Bashir Asad. It was he who for the sake of his Iranian/Syrian pay masters said no to the renewal of the cease fire with Israel.
Following are ten top questions needed to engage in strategic discussion of the ongoing Israel-Hamas confrontation in Gaza. These items can be altered if ground developments would take different directions in the next days or weeks.
We buried our father yesterday. His name was J.J. Hurley. He was 89 years old. But, if you love your parent that does not begin to tell the story. Obituaries are like deck chairs on the Titanic. Adornment is never a satisfying explanation for the way your heart feels for someone who was larger than life. For the woman in his life, his five children and seven grandchildren he was always there. A presence of wit, strength, honor, charisma and selflessness. It is difficult to lose a parent. It is devastating to lose one you loved and respected on a daily basis.
Lucette Lagnado looks at the consequences of Madoff fund’s collapse and asks When the big Spenders fail, who will save Jewish Charity?Personally, she reports she would like to see Jewish charities returning to the good old days when they relied on, pushkes (charity boxes), i.e., community giving. But “Jewish leaders” would rather not. Why? because according to Jack Wertheimer, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, “Jewish organizational life has become much more expensive — nickels, dimes and pushkes aren’t going to do it.”
Simon Deng, Darfur activist and escaped slave from South Sudan, just returned from a trip to Israel, where he was advocating for the South Sudanese Christians there. He tells me something this Christmas day that is very sad: the mayor of the Southern Israeli town of Eilat has banned South Sudanese Christian refugees from working in the hotels there.
On the eve of this Christmas 2008, I will shift from my ongoing field of research and commentary in Terrorism, international and ethnic conflict and global strategies to address a subject dear to the heart of many among us, and dream maker to most of us, i.e., the children: Christmas.
Do you know that Hanukkah is holier to women than to man? I did not and my name is Judith. Why? Rabbi Eliezer Melamed explains: “Since the miracle of Chanukah was initiated by a woman named Yehudit - whose courage led her to behead a commander of the enemy forces - women have a higher-level obligation to celebrate the holiday; for women, then, the holiday is elevated to the level of a classic, Torah-commanded festival, during which melacha (work) is prohibited.”
On the day before Christmas Eve, Team Obama dumped its own “internal review” of its contacts with Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, arrested several weeks ago on federal corruption charges for allegedly attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat.
I’ve often mentally scripted a sketch in which a female host is interviewing an imam or other Islamist official, and asks questions such as, “Does Islam allow manicures?” “How about shaving one’s legs? Is that permissible?” “And what about having legs in the first place? If she covers them, is it OK for a woman to have legs?” The questions would get gradually more ludicrous while the imam would of course be unamused, answering seriously each time. Before I had the chance to suggest the funny sketch to any SNL writers or producers, lo and behold it’s no longer a sketch, but reality: