Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Byzantine Battle over Poverty Data

1. Since, after the rocket attack on the Israeli army base, now even the
Olmerites realize that appeasing the Pestilianians will not stop the
Kassam rockets, I wanted to propose my own solution. The solution is .
solution. That is, pump sea water into the Gaza Strip until it is
permanently under 4 feet of salt water. And then do nothing. Trust me,
the rockets will stop. You do not see any Qassam rocket being fired out
of Bengla Desh after the annual floods. None were fired from New Orleans
right after the hurricane.
If anyone whines, Israel can blame global warming for it.

2. With so many other atrocities and outrages going on, it will be
understandable if you did not notice the battle in Israel over poverty

The battle is between the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, run by
Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki, and the other governmental offices, mainly the
National Insurance Institute (Israel's Social Security).

Shlomo Yitzhaki is a distinguished and decent economist. He is a bit to
the left for my tastes, but I have great admiration and respect for him.
(I have debated him in the past, and while we have some disagreements, I
consider him a fine human and an accomplished scholar.) The battle
between Yitzhaki and the bureaucrats has to do with the concept of poverty
and its measurement. It sounds like a minor technical irrelevance, but it

Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics is state of the art and
professional. It and Yitzhaki are trying to get the government to start
defining poverty in a meaningful manner. "Poverty" in Israel is defined
in an absurd and meaningless manner, in a way that does not measure
poverty. It is based on how many people earn less than 45% of the median
reported wage. But this means that if every Israeli family struck oil
like Jed Clampett, the poverty statistics would still show that 20% of
Israelis as impoverished. The problem is that the government's
definition of poor has nothing to do with actual hardship or actual level
of consumption. It just measures how many people report earnings less
than the average. Hold on to your streimel - because half of Israelis
will ALWAYS earn less than the average (actually, always less than the
median) no matter what. And lots of Israelis who report very low incomes
are actually earning more but not reporting it.

The poverty statistics lump students, retired people, people not inside
Israel, people not in the labor force, people working for cash payments,
and others in the group identified as "poor." There are "poor" people in
Israel with three cars, Jacuzzis, and swimming pools. Of course, there
are also actual poor people, we just do not know much about them from the
poverty statistics.

Yitzhaki and his team want to trash the ridiculous governmental definition
and adopt an actual measurement of poverty, based on real consumption and
hardship, not based on people's hurt self-esteem because others earn more
than them.

But they cannot do this because the pointy headed bureaucrats in the
National Insurance Institute refuse to release the income and consumption
data for Israeli families needed to create new measures of poverty. They
are a state secret, unlike most of Olmert's military moves. The Central
Bureau of Statistics wants to go to court to force the other Israeli
governmental offices to release the economic data. You with me . one
Israeli government office needs to litigate to get basic data from another
office that should be freely available to all citizens.

Meanwhile, the same pointy headed bureaucrats and their allied "poverty
lobby" have a new billboard and commercial PR campaign in Israel,
screaming about "a million hungry Israelis." Telling Israelis that a
sixth of the population does not have enough food. In other words,

Put aside how we will be feeling late in the day on Yom Kippur in a few
days, and let's ignore the anorexic middle class girls with the eating
disorders. There is no hunger in Israel. How do we know? Because hunger
and malnutrition are visible when they exist. Israel has state-of-the-art
mortality statistics, thanks again to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
We know how many people in Israel die of malnutrition and the answer is
none. (Well, aside from a few anorexic girls.) No swollen bellies, no
other easily recognizable signs of hunger and malnutrition. In other
words, the poverty lobby is lying.

There is an old joke . that the only place Israelis really do not have
bread to eat is in the Chinese restaurants. But the political demagogues
are so wedded to posturing on behalf of the poor and hungry that they are
committed to stamping out honest measurement of poverty and hardship.

3. The Left's Nervous Breakdown:


4. Jewish Cabals, boring:

5. 911 Amnesia

6. Chamishite anti-Semitic 911 Conspiracy "Theories" still Spreading:

7. ISM guttersnipe croaks:


8. A Real 9/11 Cover-Up
September 11, 2007; Page A18
A year ago today, ABC ran the docudrama I wrote, "The Path to 9/11," at
the peak of a firestorm of political protest designed to discredit and
shut down the miniseries before it aired. Left-leaning pundits, politicos
and bloggers waxed hysterical about its supposed inaccuracies and
anti-Clinton bias, though the vast majority of them had not seen it.
They were determined that no one else should see it, either. But they
failed, and the miniseries garnered nearly 28 million viewers and seven
Emmy nominations. One year later, however, there is another attempt to
shut down "The Path to 9/11" -- this time the DVD version.
Despite what these would-be censors and the conspiracy theorists of the
blogosphere fervently believed a year ago, the miniseries was never about
Bill Clinton, the political left or right, but about our common enemy then
and now: Islamist terrorism. It dramatizes a clearly linked chain of
historical events, beginning with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993,
continuing through the multiple attacks on American embassies and
interests abroad, and culminating in the horrific attacks on American soil
six years ago.
The miniseries depicts not only the institutionalized lapses and errors
along the way, noted in the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources, but
also the efforts of ordinary American heroes who did their best to defend
this country from its enemies. Both the failures and the successes are
historical facts, and neither the Clinton nor Bush administration is
spared its failures or denied its successes in the miniseries, as its many
millions of viewers can attest.
After the broadcast the controversy went away. The threatened lawsuits
never materialized, and the attacks on the miniseries' credibility
dissipated. Indeed, experts such as Michael Scheuer, former chief of the
CIA's bin Laden unit, and Gary Schroen, the first American field agent
into Afghanistan after 9/11, both came forward to confirm the accuracy of
the docudrama.
The current battle against the DVD version is not taking place in a frenzy
of unfounded accusations, but in silence. The normal time frame from
broadcast to DVD for miniseries and movies is approximately four months.
Originally I was told by ABC that the DVD release date would be in
January. January came and went, and I was told June was the new release
date. Then July. Now ABC's official statement is, "We have not decided on
a release date at this time." No further explanation.
Privately, I was told by an ABC executive that "If Hillary weren't running
for president, this wouldn't be a problem." The clear message is that
ABC/Disney isn't eager to reopen the wound, or feel the pressure again
from politicians anxious to whitewash their legacy. Executive Producer
Marc Platt, a well-known Hollywood liberal, even had to finance the
limited Emmy campaign himself because Disney/ABC refused to do so (unheard
of for such a high-profile production). This passive self-censorship is
just as effective as anything Joseph Stalin or Big Brother could impose.
The result is the same: the curbing of free speech and creative
expression, and the suppression of a viewpoint that may be an inconvenient
truth for some politicians.
This was a $40 million project that, because of the overblown controversy,
attracted no sponsors and thus made not a penny of profit from its
broadcast. It is a quality production, both entertaining and educational,
that has the potential to recoup a significant part of its cost, if not
actually turn a profit, through the sales of an eagerly anticipated DVD.
Does ABC/Disney not owe it to its shareholders to make this basic effort
to reclaim some of their $40 million?
But profit, while not an insignificant consideration, is not at the heart
of the matter here (certainly not for me personally, as I would make
literally a fraction of a penny for each DVD sold). The issue is that
corporate timidity is preventing millions of Americans from finding "The
Path to 9/11" on DVD -- though other politically controversial movies are
readily available, such as "Loose Change," which argues that the Bush
administration targeted American citizens for death in an elaborate and
sinister plot, or Michael Moore's unabashedly biased "Fahrenheit 9/11."
These highly charged movies, which don't offer even a pretense of balance,
and others can be found online or in retail outlets and DVD rental stores
across the country -- and so they should be, just as "The Path to 9/11"
should be.
Whatever one may think of the miniseries or of me as the writer, the
American way is not to let the docudrama languish in a cowardly purgatory
but to release it for the general public to judge. If there is
controversy, all the more reason it should be made available for every
American to decide for himself. In fact, I suggested to Disney executives
that members of the Clinton administration be allowed to speak their piece
in the DVD's special features, a suggestion which was met with -- that's
right -- utter silence.
A year ago, the amped-up outcry preceding the airing of "The Path to 9/11"
nearly drowned out the truth. This Sept. 11, it is the corporate silence
regarding the DVD that is deafening.
Mr. Nowrasteh wrote the screenplay for "The Path to 9/11" and is one of
its producers.
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