Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Despite Bibi Adulation, How Anti-Semitic Is The Republican Party Base?


Tom Scheich-- killed by GOP anti-semiticism

Yesterday, his friends and family buried Missouri Auditor-- and Republican gubernatorial contender-- Tom Schweich, who had shot himself February 26. A few weeks earlier he had announced he was running for governor in 2016, triggering a primary battle with former Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Since his death, it has come out that Hanaway backers, primarily Republican Party state chairman John Hancock and a gaggle of Republican Party power broker who ran this nasty ad last week, had started an anti-semitic whispering campaign against Schweich in the hopes of driving him out of the race.

How ironic that the funeral in Clayton was the same day that the Republican Party was worshipping Bibi Netanyahu as though he were one of Baal's golden calves. The political right has always been, at least partially, defined by it's virulent anti-semitism and the bizarre and ahistorical love affair between the American political right and the Israeli political right can be confusing.

Former Missouri Senator John Danforth (R) was the state's Attorney General from 1969 to 1976, when he was sworn in as a U.S. senator, serving from 1976 until 1995. He is a political moderate and an ordained Episcopal priest. And Tom Schweich was his mentor. Yesterday has wasn't worshipping Bibi Netanyahu. He was commemorating Schweich at the funeral. And the Missouri Republican Party did not want to hear what's its elder statesman had to say.
“Politics has gone so hideously wrong,” Danforth said. “The death of Tom Schweich is the natural consequence of what politics has become.”

Danforth suggested that Schweich might have been ill-suited for the sharp-elbowed world of politics.

“He was a person easily hurt and quickly offended, and I told him I didn’t think he had the temperament for elective politics,” Danforth said. “But Tom didn’t easily accept advice, and he was offended by mine. It was his decision, and he was my friend, and I was for him, whatever he chose to do.”

...Later, Danforth spoke of how he believed the campaign had stung Schweich.

Last month, as Republicans gathered in Kansas City for the Republican Party’s annual conference, a radio ad hit the airwaves attacking Schweich as a weak candidate who could be “easily confused for the deputy sheriff of Mayberry.” Schweich was thin and short.

“Making fun of someone’s physical appearance,” Danforth said, “calling him a ‘little bug,’ there is one word to describe it: ‘bullying.’ And there is one word to describe the person behind it: ‘bully.’ …

“We often hear,” Danforth said, “that words can’t hurt you. But that’s simply not true. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said just the opposite. Words for Jesus could be the moral equivalent of murder. He said if we insult a brother or sister we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool we will be liable to hell. Well how about anti-Semitic whispers? And how about a radio ad that calls someone a ‘little bug,’ and that is run anonymously over and over again?

“Words do hurt. Words can kill,” Danforth continued. “That has been proven right here in our home state.”

...One of Schweich’s final acts before his death was an attempt to set up an interview with reporters from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Associated Press. The topic was to be his assertion that the newly elected chairman of the Missouri Republican Party had been spreading misinformation about his religion. Schweich was an Episcopalian with a Jewish grandfather. He told reporters that he suspected references were made to his Jewish heritage to damage his standing with Republicans in the primary for governor.

Missouri Republican Party Chairman John Hancock said that he mistakenly believed that Schweich, 54, was Jewish, “but it was simply a part of what I believed to be his biography-- no different than the fact that he was from St. Louis and had graduated from Harvard Law School.”

“While I do not recall doing so, it is possible that I mentioned Tom’s faith in passing during one of the many conversations I have each day,” Hancock wrote. “There was absolutely nothing malicious about my intent, and I certainty was not attempting to ‘inject religion’ into the governor’s race, as some have suggested.”

Danforth’s eulogy tried to challenge that logic.

“The only reason for going around saying that someone is Jewish is to make political profit from religious bigotry,” he said. “Someone said this was no different than saying a person is a Presbyterian. Here’s how to test the credibility of that remark: When was the last time anyone sidled up to you and whispered into your ear that such and such a person is a Presbyterian?”

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More About That "Centrist" Democratic Counterattack


Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) making it rain?

by Gaius Publius

Howie covered this news from The Hill — "Centrist Dems ready strike against Warren wing" — in a previous piece, but there he focused mainly on the "centrists" themselves. I'd like to focus on the article.

First, though, read the headline from The Hill; then consider — this is very good news. The battle between real progressives and Big Money will be engaged, not shunted to the wings, and engaged on our ground, not theirs. Their prime argument? "Democrats will lose if they run progressive candidates. Only 'centrists' can win." Our prime argument? "The party ran that experiment in 2014. The results shows the opposite. Most of their 'centrists' lost."

Keep that in mind as you read through this.

The Article and Its Framing

Let's start where the article starts, by framing the news. From The Hill (my emphasis):
Centrist Dems ready strike against Warren wing

Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she's a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I'm not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said. ...
Read the rest of the article, since there's more of the same stuff in it. After you're done, let's deconstruct this a bit.

Now A Modest Translation

First, "centrist" is code for "corporate" without the negative-sounding name. "Moderate" is also code for "corporate." "Businesses" is code for "corporations" even though they'd like it to echo "small business" — like the mom-and-pop operations their campaign contributors work so hard to gobble and destroy (think of all the small cable companies like Storer that were eaten to become Comcast).

Now my translation of the same passage, with a few interpolations added:
Corporate Dems ready strike against Warren wing

Corporate-controlled Democrats are gathering their forces [and corporate-sponsored funding] to fight back against the [anti-corporate] “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left [of the pro-corporate right] could prove disastrous [for corporate candidates] in the 2016 elections.

For months, corporate Democrats have kept silent, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the [actual voters] and stirred desire for a more populist approach.

But with the race for the White House set to begin, corporatists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of corporate-sponsored Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal, said, “My own preference is to create a message without bashing my corporate sponsors." ...
It's now a wholly different article, right? Yet a more accurate one, even with respect to its undeclared but obvious purpose — presenting the news.

Note that my translation is not snark, but literally true. The almost total extent to which New Democrats owe their funding and careers to "corporate service" is well documented. For example, here's Howie writing about the above-named frontman for this policy group, Rep. Scott Peters:
Scott Peters is a very wealthy conservative Democrat who bought himself a San Diego congressional seat in 2012. In one of the closest races in the country, Peters beat incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray 124,746 [to] 122,086, after outspending him $4,352,737 to $2,772,270. ... Peters ran one of the most self-financed congressional campaigns in history, having spent $2,757,452 of his own money. Since getting elected, Peters amassed a very conservative voting record that finds him voting with the GOP on crucial issues as frequently as he votes with progressives. He's not popular with Democratic voters in his own district and it was no surprise when the GOP mounted a strong campaign against him last year. ...

Peters eked out reelection 98,332 (51.6%) [to] 92,408 (48.4%). Peters spent $4,504,003 to DeMaio's $3,349,677. This time, though, Peters "only" spent $476,659 of his own money on the race. ... His ProgressivePunch 2015-16 crucial vote score is an abysmal 46.15, the worst of any California Democrat.
People who vote with Republicans vote with Big Money, and a guy who can spend over $3 million on his own election is Big Money (mostly; in terms of wealth, he looks up at the soles of David Koch's shoes, but most of us still look up at his). The choice of Peters to represent the Big Money pushback on the "Warren Wing" — the anti–Big Money wing — of the Democratic party is inspired. And Peters is clearly eager to be of service.

If my translation is accurate, then the writer's framing is misleading — because he disappears the corporate "thank you for your service" aspect of the New Democratic operation, and substitutes their "we just disagree" cover story as if it were factual. That framing is the opposite of factual, a counter-factual cover story in so many respects.

Note too the contradiction in just the passage above, which may have flown right past the writer. From the original:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.
Peters said that, if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."
Translation: Warren's attacks are popular with voters. But Peters wants to win them back with yet more pro-corporate positions. That's because each "wing" of the Democratic party has a different notion of their "base." The New Dem base is corporate CEOs and their lobbyists. The Warren Wing base is voters. Actual voters. Has the writer noticed that you can't win back voters with more of the same? I can't answer that question, unfortunately.

A Modest Interpretation

Which leads to the second layer of deconstruction. In all of these stories, someone is whispering into the writer's ear, and around those whispers an article is built that contains (1) as much of the whisperer's framing as the writer can in conscience include — this is the pass-through part — and (2) enough of the writer's own material so that the piece doesn't read like a cred-killing press release. (Trust me; in the non-political world, I've worked both sides of that press release–becomes–news article cycle. It's a very common practice. In the slimier corners of that world, it's even worse — it's "press release–becomes–news article–becomes–here's your thank you, sir.")

So, who whispered into this writer's ear? It has to be a New Dem staffer, right? Or perhaps even Scott Peters himself. Whoever is the source, the project-authorized whisperer, the part I quoted above is her voice, saying "Here's our news and here's how we're framing it." Immediately below the part I quoted above is the writer's own addition:
Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist [ahem: "pro-corporate"] direction during his eight years in office.
The first sentence quoted above and the first half of the second are entirely true. After that, the writer slips back into New Dem framing.

I'll let you complete this interesting article. There's much to wonder at. For example, look for the brief section that ends with a congressperson saying, "I don't need an angry phone call from Bill Clinton." The writer is accurate about the tensions. Just wrong about how to think about them, based on the facts themselves.

Your Takeaway

There are two takeaways. First, be very clear. As I noted at the start, the Big Money wing of the Democratic Party ran its preferred candidates in almost every 2014 race — Alison Lundergan Grimes, for example, among a great many others — and got stomped. If anyone is losing seats for the party, it's them. If they wanted to win seats for the party, they'd run Warren Wing progressives. Which tells you their real goal — once again, we can only conclude that corporate Democrats would rather lose to corporate Republicans than to progressive Democrats who can win. Once again, progressives are being Tea Partied by their "friends"  on the same side of the aisle.

The second takeaway relates to articles like this. Shame on the writer for not spotting the contradiction between a group that says they want to win Democratic votes but offers known losing candidates and policies. That's a story, but because the writer ignores the obvious, you have to work to find it.

Which means, you have a task. Every time you read a piece like this, ask yourself — who's whispering in this writer's ear? Whose message is she passing along?


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Pushed To The Brink By Confederates, Boehner Finally Guts The Hastert Rule


So Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign rally wasn't the only big event on Capitol Hill yesterday. Early in the morning, Speaker Boehner steeled himself and told his crackpot caucus that-- deal or no deal-- he would allow a vote on a clean Department of Homeland Security spending bill. No blackmail forcing Obama to deport Mexicans; no blackmail forcing Obama to take away healthcare from working families. Many extreme right-wingers were furious-- even beyond the 52 Confederates and teabaggers who scuttled Boehner's "compromise" bill Friday.

Boehner told Republicans he just couldn't take the chance with the country's security to defund Homeland Security in the light of the terror threats. A serious attack against the country during a Department of Homeland Security shutdown would likely cost the Republican Party dozens of House and Senate seats outside of the Deep South and damaged the party brand for at least a decade. The DCCC had already started running robocalls against vulnerable Republicans in mostly non-Confederate districts, warning voters that their Rep was "playing games with our national security." These are the Republicans that were getting clobbered back home when Boehner announced he would allow the clean vote:
Martha McSally (AZ-02)
Jeff Denham (CA-10)
David Valadao (CA-21)
Scott Tipton (CO-03)
Mike Coffman (CO-06)
David Jolly (FL-13)
Carlos Curbelo (FL-26)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)-- what would Wasserman Schultz say!??
Rob Blum (IA-01)
David Young (IA-03)
Robert Dold (IL-10)
Mike Bost (IL-12)
Rodney Davis (IL-13)
Bruce Poliquin (ME-02)
Dan Benishek (MI-01)
Tim Walberg (MI-07)
Cresent Hardy (NV-04)
Scott Garrett (NJ-05)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Tom MacArthur (NJ-03)
Lee Zeldin (NY-01)
John Katko (NY-24)
Ryan Costello (PA-06)
Patrick Meehan (PA-07)
Greg Walden (OR-02)
Will Hurd (TX-23)
Barbara Comstock (VA-10)
Randy Forbes (VA-04)
Dave Reichert (WA-08)

Boehner tried blaming McConnell and the Senate for his troubles rather than his own crackpot caucus:
“Unfortunately, the fight was never won in the other chamber. Democrats stayed united and blocked our bill, and our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight. The three-week CR we offered would have kept this fight going and allowed us to continue to put pressure on Senate Democrats to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected.”
But on the left and on the right this was called a cave-in and a surrender by Boehner. The frenzy over Netanyahu helped Boehner drown out the garment rending over the clean vote on the Department of Homeland Security. Mike Simpson (R-ID) brought the bill up for a vote, a 96 page bill Tom Massie (R-KY) demanded be read aloud word-for-word. In the end, the House approved the bill, 257-167, with only 75 Republicans sticking with their leadership and fully 167 Republicans basically voting to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. Wild! Pelosi and Hoyer delivered every Democrat to vote YES. Boehner himself voted yes-- he usually doesn't vote at all-- as did his leadership team. and most of his committee chairs.

This is the ad an Establishment GOP PAC, the American Action Network, is running against right0-wing extremists like Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), John Jordan (R-OH), and Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) back in their home districts:

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

After Bibi: Maybe the solution to the Boehner Problem is to consider whether we really, absolutely need a House speaker


Plus some thoughtier thoughts than Bibi's on Iran

Okay, I admit I fell crazy mad in love with this "manufactured" image when our colleague Gaius Publius shared it in his pre-speech post yesterday, and I would likely have taken advantage of any remotely contrivable opportunity to recycle it. But that doesn't mean that, post-speech, it isn't still the defining image of Prime Minister Bibi's Iran policy.

by Ken

So, at last, Prime Minister Bibi has spoken. Sure, it's a national disgrace, but haven't our right-wing brethren been working their chubby butts off to ensure that the U.S. is never anything but a national disgrace? At least we Americans can congratulate ourselves on our civic-mindedness in playing our part in the Israeli election process, even at the price of further muddling the already-difficult question of how to deal with Iran. (Now at least we have an easy first step: Pay no attention to anything Bibi said.)

Technically, this Borowitz Report from yesterday -- and so, of course, in advance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign speech address before a joint session of Congress today -- is "satire."

“Even as the President threatens us with provocative acts, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s support for us has been unwavering,” Boehner said. “He understands what many of us have long known: that peace with this enemy can only be achieved through total victory.”

Netanyahu had equally high praise for Boehner, saying that “no one has been more steadfast and dedicated in the struggle against your President.”

“This foe is not to be trusted or appeased,” Netanyahu said. “Your resolute refusal to find any common ground with him whatsoever has earned my undying respect.”

As the press conference drew to a conclusion, Boehner appeared to fight back tears as he called Netanyahu “a brother in arms” in the ongoing hostilities with Obama.

“A wise man once said that my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” Boehner said, choking up. “You, sir, are my best friend in the world.”


It doesn't seem likely that "Sunny John" Boehner actually said publicly of Bibi: "Even as the President threatens us with provocative acts, Prime Minister Netanyahu's support for us has been unwavering. He understands what many of us have long known: that peace with this enemy can only be achieved through total victory." And it doesn't seem likely that Bibi actually said publicly of Sunny John that "no one has been more steadfast and dedicated in the struggle against your President."

But does anyone disbelieve that Boehner 'n' Bibi were thinking it?

It's hard to know how Sunny John thought this stunt he cooked up with right-wing political operative Ron Dermer would play out. It could be that Dermer (who, you'll recall, was a GOP player before he decamped to Israel and worked his way up to become "Bibi's brain" and his new country's ambassador to the U.S.) was merely playing him for a hapless schmuck, which certainly would have been an apt call on Dermer's part. But if Sunny John thought this political stroke was going to solidify his shaky leadership, well, that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

The other day, in a WaPo op-ed pondering the effective breakdown of House Speaker "Sunny John" Boehner's, er, leadership as reflected in his inability to get House Republicans to support his 20-day extension of DHS funding on Friday, followed by his resort to accepting Democratic support to pass the 7-day extension ("Boehner's defeat was actually really unusual. Here's why"), University of Virginia Prof. Jeffery Jenkins noted that calls for Sunny John to step down are increasing, obviously from his increasingly out-of-control far-rightward flank.

"His only saving grace," Professor Jenkins wrote, "is that there is no obvious alternative."
No one from his leadership team enjoys any more support or presumably wants the position, and no one on the conservative flank of the GOP can win widespread support in the caucus.

But if conservative GOP anger is great enough, could another path emerge? Could an ends-against-the-middle coalition form to declare the Speaker’s chair vacant? Would conservative Republicans join with Democrats on someone – anyone – other than Boehner? Stay tuned.
I don't know if it's the triumph of irony or of something still nuttier, but where Professor Jenkins sees th unmaking of Sunny John's speakership in his failure to uphold the "Hastert rule," to a lot us it has seemed that the defining characteristic of Sunny John's disastrous run as House speaker has been precisely his near-inviolate adherence to that "rule." (Which we have to continue to put in quotes because the "Hastert rule" was never actually a rule. And for cripes' sake, doesn't anyone tremble -- either that or laugh hysterically -- at the irony, or the whatever, of engraving in political stone any teaching from that sleazy crook "Planet Denny" Hastert?)

It's a clean bill, no mention of President Obama's executive orders on immigration, something members of his caucus had been swearing they'd never accept. And they didn't. Sunny John accomplished this legislative feat by totally disgregarding the "Hastert rule." In fact, he brought only 75 GOP ayes to the 257-167 vote.

D.C. pols appear stunned. Howie will have more to say about this tomorrow.
In case it isn't clear, given the realities of what the House Republican caucus has degenerated too, it's not at all obvious that anyone could have managed that pack of lamebrains and thugs more successfully than Sunny John has. Then again, it's not at all obvious that anyone could have done a worse job of it.

Which has me thinking about that scenario sketched for us by Professor Jenkins, of "an ends-against-the-middle coalition" coalescing "to declare the Speaker's chair vacant." Of course he's thinking of this as a step toward some coalition of R's and D's electing some mutually acceptable replacement. Whereas I'm just thinking of having the speaker's chair vacant. The way it is, more or less, at present.

I know we really should have a speaker of the House. The Constitution says so. But do we really need one? After all, it's not as if the current House majority has any stake in, you know, getting stuff done. And if they don't care, why should we?

Maybe the House R's could persuade one of their number to reinvent himself (or herself, in the event that there actually are any female House R's) as Sippy the Clown and install him in the chair. Would anyone know the difference?


This morning, in anticipation of Bibi's campaign speech to Congress, Bernard Avishai, an adjunct professor of business at the Hebrew University who's now a visiting professor of government at Dartmouth College, engaged in some informated speculation on ("Netanyahu's Speech") as to what the Beebster would have to say. I've highlighted a paragraph I find especially useful on the subject of Iran -- in the unlikely event that anyone is interested in having a serious, as opposed to kneejerkish, discussion of the subject. I need hardly add that this view is not that of Bibi, or of Ron Dermer, or of Sunny John (if he actually has a view on Iran), or of AIPAC or "Holy Joe" Lieberman or "Chucky the Hammer" Krauthammer.
[B]ecause both American political parties are so deeply concerned about the security of [Israel], Netanyahu has a permanent incentive—as does AIPAC, for that matter—to present Israel’s policies as necessary to fend off urgent existential threats. Netanyahu will claim that any Iranian nuclear capacity is proof of genocidal intentions toward Israel—we have heard the same argument about the Palestinian claim to “a right of return”—so why would supporters of Israel accept the reciprocal approach that may emerge from negotiations? This gambit should not work this time. Clearly, Netanyahu is representing one side of a policy debate, with supporters and detractors in both the United States and Israel, where American lives and regional interests are also at stake, and where the Obama Administration has taken a very different position.

The big threat that Netanyahu will raise is that of Islamist extremism. The Middle East is rife with armed insurgent groups that have proven themselves capable of horrific acts of violence. Sunni groups have been backed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States allied with the U.S.; Shiite groups have been backed by Iran, and tacitly by Russia, the chief military sponsor of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. These extremists are united in their hatred for Israel and the West, not necessarily in that order. More immediately, however, they are waging war against each another, more or less along sectarian lines. These rifts may create openings for American diplomacy; it is hard to see, for example, how the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) could ever be defeated without Iran’s coöperation. Netanyahu, unlike Obama, refuses to admit this, presenting these groups as a single military front that the West must beat back.

For Netanyahu, in other words, Iran should be seen as the most powerful example of this extremism. He speaks, reasonably enough, of Iran’s past sponsorship of terrorist acts, its bloody suppression of the popular uprising that followed the election of 2009, and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to “wipe Israel off the map.” But Netanyahu also wants his audiences to understand a point that his own former chief of staff denies: that Iran’s ruling clerics are fundamentally irrational and share a self-sacrificial mindset with terrorists.

It is more reasonable to see Iran’s clerics, like the Saudis, as a brutal, pragmatic, authoritarian theocracy with a tenuous hold on power. The regime is likely to go through serious upheavals in the coming years. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is seventy-six years old. The Guardian Council, which elected him, is filled with both reformers and reactionaries. The powerful and rich Revolutionary Guard could conceivably carry out a coup. A rising generation, which was shaped by the protests and repressions after the elections of 2009, could once again take to the streets. Iran, in other words, is less a terrorist state than a turbulent one, and its continued isolation poses far greater dangers to the international community than a process that draws it closer to the rest of the world—with monitors on the ground, regular diplomatic exchanges, and greater economic integration.

Most vexing in this context is Netanyahu’s conception of how economic pressures might influence the regime. In his view, stiffening sanctions would put stress on the Iranian middle and educated classes; notionally, these groups would, in turn, force embattled and xenophobic clerics to change their priorities. Yet Netanyahu derides this logic—that economic forces matter—when it is used to envision the moderating influence of a deal. Obama has reason to believe, but cannot say, that relaxing sanctions will bring the middle class into the global economy—exposing élites to foreign travel, and to scientifically trained entrepreneurs and scholars. This opening to the international community might well create new national interests for the regime to protect, and perhaps ultimately transform it.

The countries currently engaged in negotiations with Iran—not only the U.S. but also China, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, even Russia—are a formidable diplomatic bloc, which has reason to deny Iran the capacity to make nuclear weapons, if only to prevent a regional nuclear-arms race. This group has proven its ability to maintain Iran’s economic isolation and force its comparative impoverishment. Netanyahu has been speaking about the negotiations as if they were being conducted by people who, lacking the Jewish people’s sense of dread, engage in wishful thinking—and who are entertaining the relaxation of sanctions before Iran’s nuclear capacity is taken down more or less completely.

Netanyahu is appalled, he says, that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are willing to formally approve Iran as a threshold state, with the scientific and infrastructural capacity to assemble a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran has been a threshold state for some time, and when Netanyahu focusses on this issue he elides the achievement that appears likely to come out of the ongoing negotiations; reportedly, to increase to at least a year the time that Iran would need to assemble a bomb. A year, as President Obama told Reuters last night, would be enough time for the U.S. and its allies to react, first by imposing economic sanctions and finally by taking military action.

This, for Netanyahu, amounts to appeasement. To be clear, what he really seems to want is war. Netanyahu speaks of “dismantling” Iran’s nuclear infrastructure: demolishing all its nuclear installations and disbanding its scientific groups and programs. He has come to Congress to ask that it increase sanctions until, presumably, Iran accedes to this. But he cannot really think that Iran would completely abandon its nuclear program. Instead, sanctions would not only preëmpt continued negotiations with the great powers, and the humiliation of Iranian reformers, but guarantee a “break-out,” with Iran going for a bomb.

If this happened, the international community (read, the U.S.) presumably would abandon diplomatic efforts and attack Iran, with the very high risk that this would entrench the regime and create an escalating war with Iran and its proxies in the Persian Gulf. American and perhaps NATO forces would almost certainly be drawn into the conflict. The great powers are entertaining military action as a last resort, and, unlike Israel, they have the military means to intervene at the eleventh hour. Why would they even consider making the last resort the first?

Ultimately, Netanyahu wants Americans to believe that Iranian leaders are so fanatical in their hatred for Israel that, once armed with a nuclear weapon, they would use it unexpectedly against Tel Aviv. Even if the threat is merely hypothetical—incinerating Tel Aviv would, after all, irradiate the Palestinians for whose sake a bomb would be dropped—no Israeli government can ignore it. That’s why the Israelis have been working for years on a “second-strike capacity,” with the means to retaliate against all Iranian cities. It is an open secret that Israel is in possession of at least a hundred nuclear warheads of its own, and has deployed submarines (acquired from Germany), bombers, and missiles. To believe Netanyahu, you must believe that Iranian leaders are out to secure a nuclear-suicide vest. It is easier to believe that they are trying to secure what Israel has, a hedge against invasion.
Note that The New Yorker's own John Cassidy yesterday offered, in a post called "What Netanyahu Won't Say to Congress," what John explains in a later-added explanatory introduction is "my own version of a speech [Bibi] could theoretically deliver, but most certainly won't," which he suggests "would be a more effective, and, ultimately, a more productive, address than the one Netanyahu is expected to deliver." Of course it includes wacko stuff like:
The government of Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors. It recognizes the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians living in territories occupied by our military forces to have a land of their own, and it is eager to reach a permanent settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders, but taking into account the enormous demographic and physical changes that Israel has experienced in the past fifty years.
To prevent the emergence of a nuclear-armed Middle East, bold initiatives are needed, so let me suggest one. If other countries in the region agree to give up their nuclear ambitions in a manner that is complete, persuasive, and verifiable; if, in addition, they publicly accept Israel’s right to exist and denounce their prior ambitions to destroy it; then Israel, which is currently one of just four U.N. member countries that has never signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, will be prepared to do its part.
Sure, John, sure! You didn't by chance write this in Washington, did you? You know, where pot is legal now?


The Washington Post's Anne Gearan has account, in "For Hillary and Bibi, a long and sometimes fraught relationship," of a 45-minute phone conversation between the two, in which Bib Hillary [UPDATE: thanks, John P!] is said (by whom? it's hard to see how the inside information could have come from anywhere except Hillary's camp) to have talked for 43 of those minutes, leaving Bibi in the highly unfamiliar and highly unpleasant position of listening. She didn't go into the protocol of The Speech, but apparently somebody wants us to know that she delivered tough love unto him.

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Donna Edwards... A U.S. Senator? You Bet!


Despite nonsense from the Beltway media, the only "surprise" about Barbara Mikulski's retirement announcement yesterday was that she made it yesterday. There was no chance she was running for another term. She'll have served in the Senate for thirty years (the longest-serving woman in the history of Congress, when you recall that she was also in the House for a decade, from 1977-1987). And she's 78-- and not in the greatest of health.

Now we'll be hearing about all these preposterous Senate wannabe's for the next year and a half-- from conservative multimillionaire John Delaney and soundly rejected ex-Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown to an undistinguished former senator's son and Military Industrial Complex shill Dutch Ruppersberger. Every politician in the state would like this job.

The most natural place to turn, however, is Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Others being mentioned are Chris Van Hollen, Elijah Cummings, Martin O’Malley (who has already announced he's not interested in running), Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Van Hollen is in line to be Speaker and talk about his big $1.7 million war-chest could as easily be about that climb as about a Senate race. Speculation on the nearly pointless Republican side of the aisle is even sillier.
Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) could be atop their list. He’s also has been exploring long-shot White House bid. Ehrlich served one term as governor of Maryland but lost to O’Malley in 2006. He challenged O’Malley again in 2010 but got crushed by 14 percentage points.

Rep. Andy Harris, Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, current Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford and Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who lost a Senate bid in 2012 and House bid in 2014, are also potential candidates.

Two other names to watch are Ben Carson and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Carson has moved to Florida, but the retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon still has a house in Baltimore County. He’s currently near the top of many polls in the GOP presidential race, and his political adviser told The Hill that’s where his focus is right now.

Steele has a high profile from his time as chairman of the RNC and as an analyst on MSNBC. He served as Ehrlich's lieutenant governor and lost a 2006 race to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
You'll be hearing more from us about Donna Edwards in the coming days. For now, let me just say her ProgressivePunch crucial vote score for 2015 is 100% and her lifetime crucial vote score is 96.16. She has lived up to her promises to represent ordinary working families... and her constituents love her. She was reelected in November with 70% of the vote and in 2012, the presidential year that will be a lot more like 2016, she won with 77%. She's been a great congresswoman and she'll be a great U.S. senator. If we were to launch a Draft Donna Edwards page, would you support it?

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Do cops understand how bad they're made to look by the hysterics who ritually screech "Anti-police! Anti-police!"?


In his "one-on-one stidown" last night with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, The Nightly Show's Larry Wilmore asked about the mayor's relations with police, and they had -- wonder of wonders! -- a genuinely sensible conversation about race.

by Ken

For his first Nightly Show "one-on-one," Larry Wilmore sat down last night with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. (The mayor is becoming something of a TV "presence." As the NYT's Michael M. Grynabum notes, "In Fact and Fiction, Mayor de Blasio Becomes a TV Fixture.") Naturally, though, the part I heard about on the radio this morning was where Mayor Bill commented on the recent outburst of hysteria over his observation, which in fact dates back to the election campaign (as you can hear him point out in the clip), that he has had the talk with his son Dante, who is of mixed race, by which I mean the talk about how to deal with police.

Larry is one interviewer who doesn't need to have this explained. It's still hard to believe, though, that there are any Americans who need to have it explained. This is all the more regrettable when you're reminded that when you do try to explain why persons of color in this country need to be actively aware of the racial attitudes likely to be ingrained in any cops they encounter, there's that now-permanent chorus of screeching ignoramuses and liars lying in wait to screech, "Anti-police! Anti-police!"

And unfortunately, the cops themselves remain all but universally silent, apparently not grasping how terrible this makes them look. It puts them in an indefensible mode of "that's our story and we're sticking to it" stonewalling as reality catches up with them. (As with, for example, the pending DoJ report that inspired the NYT headline "Justice Department to Fault Ferguson Police, Seeing Racial Bias in Traffic Stops.") In the clip we hear Mayor de Blasio talking about some highly sensible steps he's encouraging in police training to try to rechannel the initial impulses to violence. It's hard to understand how what he's saying could even be controversial let alone a rallying cry for the right-wing thugs who aren't interested in good, effective policing but only in authoritarian control.

Of course, what can we expect from people who tell us with every appeal to racial bigotry and violent repression how much they don't love America?

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Wall Street-Owned New Dems Ready To Make War Against Elizabeth Warren And The Progressive Movement


Multimillionaire Scott Peters (D-CA) wants to undermine Elizabeth Warren

Scott Peters is a very wealthy conservative Democrat who bought himself a San Diego congressional seat in 2012. In one of the closest races in the country, Peters beat incumbent Republican Brian Bilbray 124,746-122,086, after outspending him $4,352,737 to $2,772,270. And not just outspending him; Peters ran one of the most self-financed congressional campaigns in history, having spent $2,757,452 of his own money. Since getting elected, Peters amassed a very conservative voting record that finds him voting with the GOP on crucial issues as frequently as he votes with progressives. He's not popular with Democratic voters in his own district and it was no surprise when the GOP mounted a strong campaign against him last year. Luckily for Peters, the Republican candidate, Scott DeMaio, spent the campaign on the front pages of the newspapers defending himself in a conveniently timed series of gay sex harassment cases. He would have won and even with all the tawdry scandal, he nearly did win!

Peters eked out reelection 98,332 (51.6%)- 92,408 (48.4%). Peters spent $4,504,003 to DeMaio's $3,349,677. This time, though, Peters "only" spent $476,659 of his own money on the race. The DCCC came to his rescue. They spent $2,574,753 and their super-PAC, the House Majority PAC, spent another $831,751 on the race-- so, over $3,000,000 on a conservative whose voting record this year is already worse than his first term record. His ProgressivePunch 2015-16 crucial vote score is an abysmal 46.15, the worst of any California Democrat. If you contributed to the DCCC last year, you enabled that. And a bad voting record isn't where it stops for Scott Peters.

Yesterday, The Hill was reporting that his corporately-financed, Wall Street-friendly faction, the New Dems is plotting a "strike against the Warren wing" on the Democratic Party. Of course, opposing the legitimate interests of working families is all the New Dems ever do, so that shouldn't come as too big a shock to people who follow carefully.
"I have great respect for Sen. Warren-- she's a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it's going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers-- I'm not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said.
Peters and other New Dems are working with Third Way and other Wall Street and Big Business-backed groups to undermine progressives in the policy arena and to push the Wall Street agenda that Republicans already back. Reminder: when you contribute to the DCCC, you are financing garbage like Scott Peters with money that could be going to help elect and reelect progressive Democrats. Just stop. If the DCCC and DNC feel a drop-off in contributions from grassroots Democrats, they're likely to be more responsive to actual Democrats outside of K Street and Wall Street. Peters and two other especially bad Democratic congressmembers-- Suzan DelBene and Kyrsten Sinema-- were just named Honorary Co-Chairs of the extremely corrupt Third Way.

UPDATE: NJ Christiecrats' Bump In The Road-- NJ Pinelands Pipeline: 4 Ex-Govs Oppose Barr Appointment

On February 27, we reported on the underhanded procedure Christiecrats Steve Sweeney and Jeff Van Drew used to get the nomination of Robert Barr approved by the New Jersey State Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

In an interview posted on the Asbury Park Press web site later that day, Sweeney arrogantly defended his move and reiterated his support for running a natural gas pipeline through the environmentally unique Pinelands Preserve in order to keep an outmoded electric generating station in operation.

On March 1, the Newark Star-Ledger, the state’s largest daily paper, published a blistering editorial condemning Sweeney’s manipulation of the Judiciary Committee to ensure approval of the Barr nomination, calling it “a Machiavellian power grab.”

And on yesterday, the same four ex-governors who urged the Pinelands Commission to reject the pipeline proposal in December 2013 wrote a letter to Ray Lesniak-- an opponent of the pipeline project, and the senator that Sweeney replaced with Van Drew on February 24. This time they were asking the full Senate to reject the Barr nomination. Here’s the text of that letter:
Dear Senator Lesniak,

We are writing to urge the Senate to withhold confirmation of the pending nomination for the Pinelands Commission, Robert Barr to replace Robert Jackson, when it comes before the full Senate in the coming weeks. We believe that at this time and in the present circumstances, this nomination would undermine the independence of the Pinelands Commission. For thirty-five years, the Pinelands Commission has been the bedrock of the Pinelands conservation effort. Its extraordinary success in that mission is due in great part to the fact that it has functioned as an independent executive agency without undue interference in its implementation of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. Recent events threaten to erode that independence. The Senate can preserve the integrity of the Pinelands program, and help protect the work of other independent executive agencies, by withholding confirmation of this nomination at this time. As former governors for whom the Pinelands represents one of New Jersey’s great-- but ever-vulnerable-- treasures, we ask for your help at this important juncture in the life of the Pinelands.


Brenda T. Byrne
Thomas H. Kean
Christine Todd Whitman
James J. Florio

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Is somebody finally doing something about the horror that is Monday?


It turns out that what the Studio 360 people really would have liked to "redesign" was the daily commute, but that was judged too big a job, and since the commute is worst on Monday mornings, they decided to settle for "redesigning" Mondays.

by Ken

The short answer to the question in my post title, "Is somebody finally doing something about the horror that is Monday?," is: Well, we'll see.

Frankly, I can't figure out what it is they think they're going to do about the problem Their very idea, that Monday can be treated as a "design" problem and "redesigned" out of its horribleness . . . well, that's just silly, isn't it?

Yet there it is, at the top of their website's "popularity" list since last Thursday: "Redesign Challenge: Bring Joy to Mondays." This tells us two things, I think. First, that it would be impossible to overstate the horror of the Monday problem, about which people would love to see something done. Second, that these aren't the people who are going to do it.

I can't say I've ever been much inclined to delve into Studio 360. I know it used to come on right before or right after one of the weekend shows I listened to faithfully on my local public radio station, so I would catch weekly snatches of it. It didn't sound like anything that was likely to repay my investment of time.

Anyway, here's the Studio 360 segment:

Host Kurt Andersen talks to designer Ingrid Fetell about the new "Designing Better Mondays" project.
And if you've been champing at the bit to follow the above link but haven't yet done so, let me save you the trouble. Here's how this latest "Redesign Challenge" was presented onsite:
Can design bring joy to the most frustrating, annoying moments of daily life? We asked you to tell us what terrible thing, place, or experience you wanted us to transform into something joyful. We heard about airport security lines, winter weather, taxes, and the daily commute. Redesigning America’s transportation systems might be a little ambitious, so our design partners focused on one aspect of the problem. “Nothing seems quite as painful as that Monday morning commute,” says Ingrid Fetell, a design director at IDEO and the author of the blog “Aesthetics of Joy.” “Why do people say things like, ‘I have a case of the Mondays’? Why is Monday in general so joyless?”

Over the next several weeks, Fetell and her team will work on a design to bring joy to Mondays. That’s welcome news for Dorothy Weiss of Alexandria, Virginia, who wrote us, “Does anything say ‘joyless’ more than [the elevator] trip up to work on a Monday morning?”

Weiss herself, though, is self-employed, “in part because I just couldn’t stand those Monday mornings anymore,” she tells Kurt Andersen. “I hope that I can help save Mondays for everybody else. That would be terrific.”
Well, we'll see.

Would The Republicans Really Run Presidential Candidates Who Aren't Natural Born Citizens?


The right-wing activists who vote in the CPAC saw poll-- there were around 3,000 of them this year-- included enough libertarian and Paul family fan boys to give Rand Paul the win (again). He came away with 25.7%. No one is especially impressed-- and no one thinks it means much of anything in terms of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Second place was more interesting-- Koch puppet and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came in with 21.4%. Third place went to Ted Cruz-- CPAC is his kind of crowd and he should have done a lot better than the 11.5% he took. But, then again, some Republicans don't consider Cruz constitutionally eligible to be president. Not Cruz, not Marco Rubio (who took a sad 3.7%) and not Bobby Jindal, who couldn't even manage to round up 1% of the vote.

About a month ago one of the crazy birthers, Tracy A. Fair, seems to have ended her endless whining about Obama being a foreigner and ineligible to be president and turned it into a new crusade against Cruz, Jindal and Rubio. She sent petition to the Supreme Court February 4 conceding that Obama's eligibility is now moot and instead wants to litigate whether or not probably Republican Party contenders Cruz, Jindal and Rubio are "natural born citizens."

Fair: "Rubio and Jindal were born in the United States to parents who were not United States citizens at the time of their respective births. Ted Cruz was born in Canada to parents only one of whom (his mother) was a United States citizen. Under the law existing at the time of their birth, each became a 'citizen' of the United States at birth. Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal by the 14th Amendment, Ted Cruz by statute."

Birthers base their claims on Article II, Section 1, clause 5 of the Constitution which reads "No person except a natural born Citizen . . ., shall be eligible to the Office of President" and Fair insists: "That phrase 'natural born Citizen' has yet to be defined by the Supreme Court. So are they "natural born Citizens" eligible to be President? I think the People deserve to know the answer to that question before the next Presidential Campaign starts in earnest... My efforts were never about Mr. Obama as a person or a politician. Instead, my efforts were about insuring that the Constitution was respected and enforced by those charged with those duties. Where a phrase in the Constitution-- such as 'natural born Citizen'-- is undefined, it is the duty of the Supreme Court to interpret such a phrase. As the Supreme Court itself said in the 1922 case of Fairchild v. Hughes, I have: 'the right, possessed by every citizen, to require that the Government be administered according to law.' By repeatedly refusing to 'say what the law is' regarding 'natural born Citizen', the Supreme Court would abolish the rule of law and replace it with the rule of their whim and caprice to whatever political ends that super-legislature may possess."

By any reasonable and widely accepted definition Jindal and Rubio are certainly natural born citizens-- even if some fringe teabaggers would describe them as "anchor babies." Ted Cruz is another case and, of course, he takes this very seriously. In 2013 he finally-- at 43-- renounced his Canadian citizenship. Remember when Arnold Schwarzenegger fanboys wanted to change the law to allow Schwarzenegger-- who, after all did kill The Predator-- to run for president. A movie industry p.r. firm got this placed in the New York Post at the same time Ted Cruz was renouncing his Canadian citizenship:
Action star and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been lobbying for support to change the law to allow him to run for president in 2016, Page Six has exclusively learned.

We’re told Ahnold has been openly talking about his political ambitions while in New York to promote his new movie with Sylvester Stallone, Escape Plan.

One source said: “Schwarzenegger has been talking openly about working on getting the constitutional rules changed so he can run for president in 2016. He is ready to file legal paperwork to challenge the rules.”

Arnie was born in Austria, and the US Constitution prevents foreign-born citizens from holding the nation’s top job. Any amendment to the Constitution must be approved by two-thirds majority in the House and the Senate.

But Arnold, who became a US citizen in 1983, still could mount a legal challenge. In 2010, he appeared on the Tonight Show, and was asked by Jay Leno if he would make a White House run if the law were changed.

Schwarzenegger replied, “Without any doubt.” With America becoming more diverse, it is not clear what would happen if Arnie or any other foreign-born naturalized citizen decided to run.

Columbia University Law School professor Michael Dorf, an expert in constitutional law, said about the Governator’s case in 2007, “The law is very clear, but it’s not 100 percent clear that the courts would enforce that law rather than leave it to the political process.”

While Arnold’s rep didn’t respond to us, even Mayor Mike Bloomberg has spoken playfully about forming a presidential ticket with Schwarzenegger.

“There would be a fight to see who would be the presidential candidate and who would be the vice presidential candidate,” Bloomberg quipped a few years back. “He would want to arm-wrestle for the top spot; I would want to check the Constitution.”

If it does happen, an arm wrestle between Arnold and fellow 2016 contender Hillary Clinton would be a spectacle, although our bets are on Hillary.
Cruz, who was born and raised in Canada to a virulently anti-American Cuban fascist dad and an American mother, seems to have snowed U.S. conventional wisdom into thinking the Constitution doesn't apply to him. At least those 11.5% of CPAC straw vote participants don't mind all that constitutional stuff.

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If Netanyahu Speaks Before Congress, He Will Likely Win Reelection in Israel


​Manufactured image, but speaks the truth (source)

by Gaius Publius

Howie has been covering the upcoming (perhaps) Netanyahu speech before Congress in light of (1) the relationship between Israel and the U.S., (2) the relationship between people like billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban and our two political parties, and (3) the relationship between the Netanyahu speech and the upcoming (for sure) Israeli general election.

Of Adelson, for example, Howie quotes Uri Avnery in Counterpunch saying this (my emphasis throughout):
Who is the ruler of Israel?

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, of course.


The real ruler of Israel is one Sheldon Adelson, 81, American Jew, Casino king, who was rated as the world’s tenth richest person, worth 37.2 billion dollars at the latest count. But who is counting?

Besides his casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, Macao and Singapore, he owns the US Republican party and, lately, both Houses of the US Congress.

He also owns Binyamin Netanyahu.
Adelson, of course, is not the sole owner of the Republicans. Like owners of sports franchises, he shares ownership of most politicians (of both parties) with the Koch-allied and Wall Street cluster of billionaires, together with a limited number of ilk-like others.

But that's a small point. Avnery's larger point is about Adelson and Netanyahu, and on that he's likely right. By Howie's and Avnery's telling, it's largely Adelson and his associates who are bringing Netanyahu to Congress. Note that Adelson is closely allied with the Republicans and not at all with the Democrats. For Avnery that matters, as you will read shortly.

What Does the Israeli Election Look Like to the Israelis?

Avnery is an Israeli politician and peace advocate (click to read his background; it's long and distinguished). In a new piece, he weighs in on all three aspects of Netanyahu's speech listed above. As Avnery tells it, this is a turning-point election for Israel's future, and no one's talking about it (h/t Dr. Don Baham for the link):
I have witnessed 20 election campaigns for the Knesset. In five of them I was a candidate, in three of them I was elected.

As a child I also witnessed three election campaigns in the dying days of the Weimar republic, and one (the last more or less democratic one) after the Nazi ascent to power.

(The Germans at that time were very good at graphic propaganda, both political and commercial. After more than 80 years, I still remember some of their election posters.)

Elections are a time of great excitement. The streets are plastered with propaganda, politicians talk themselves hoarse, sometimes violent clashes break out.

Not now. Not here. 17 days before the election, there is an eerie silence. A stranger coming to Israel would not notice that there is an election going on. Hardly any posters in the streets. Articles in the newspapers on many other subjects. People shouting at each other on TV as usual. No rousing speeches. No crowded mass meetings.

EVERYBODY KNOWS that this election may be crucial, far more so than most.

It may be the final battle for the future of Israel – between the zealots of Greater Israel and the supporters of a liberal state. Between a mini-empire that dominates and oppresses another people and a decent democracy. Between settlement expansion and a serious search for peace. Between what has been called here “swinish capitalism” and a welfare state.

In short, between two very different kinds of Israel.

So what is being said about this fateful choice?

Issues like peace, occupation, settlement, population transfer and the crumbling Israeli welfare state, he says, are undiscussed:
The Israeli welfare state, once the envy of many countries (remember the kibbutz?) is falling apart. All our social services are crumbling. The money goes to the huge army, big enough for a medium power. So does anyone suggest drastically reducing the military? Of course not. What, stick the knife in the backs of our valiant soldiers? Open the gates to our many enemies? Why, that’s treason!
Instead, the discussion is around what most would call distractions — for example, "Did Sara Netanyahu use public funds to install a private hairdresser’s room in the [Prime Minister’s] residence?"

Despite a Misled Opposition, the Election Is Tied

The opposition party, called "Zionist Camp," includes or consists of the Israeli Labor Party and it is badly led (click through to read how and why). Nevertheless, the election is razor-close.
In spite of everything, Likud and the Zionist camp are running neck and neck. The polls give each 23 seats (of 120), predicting a photo finish and leaving the historic decision to a number of small and tiny parties.
Which means:
THE ONLY game-changer in sight is the coming speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the two Houses of Congress.

It seems that Netanyahu is pinning all his hopes on this event. And not without reason.

Netanyahu is an accomplished TV personality. He is not a great orator in the style of Menachem Begin (not to mention Winston Churchill), but on TV he has few competitors. Every movement of his hands, every expression of his face, every hair on his head is exactly right. His American English is perfect.

The leader of the Jewish ghetto pleading at the court of the Goyish king for his people is a well-known figure in Jewish history. Every Jewish child reads about him in school. Consciously or unconsciously, people will be reminded.

All Israeli TV stations will broadcast the event live. It will show him at his best. The great statesman, addressing the most important parliament in the world, pleading for the very existence of Israel. ...

I cannot imagine any more effective election propaganda. Using the Congress of the United States of America as a propaganda prop is a stroke of genius.
It sounds like Avnery thinks this speech will be a winner back home, that it could well swing the election.


Why does that matter? Avnery:
MILTON FRIEDMAN asserted that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and this lunch has a high price indeed.

It means almost literally spitting in the face of President Obama. I don’t think there was ever anything like it. The prime minister of a small vassal country, dependent on the US for practically everything, comes to the capital of the US to openly challenge its President, in effect branding him a cheat and a liar. His host is the opposition party.

Like Abraham, who was ready to slaughter his son to please God, Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory.
In essence, Netanyahu, thanks to Adelson and his close associate, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, are risking the bipartisan consensus that keeps Israel in "most favored nation" status in all respects, just to win electoral victory for himself and the worst elements of the Israeli population — the expansionist, eliminationist element.
[Netanyahu] has declared war on the Democratic Party, cutting the bond that has connected Jews with this party for more than a century. Destroying the bipartisan support. Allowing Democratic politicians for the first time to criticize Israel. Breaking a generations-old taboo that may not be restored. President Obama, who is being insulted, humiliated and obstructed in his most cherished policy move, the agreement with Iran, would be superhuman if he did not brood on revenge.
For Avnery this will affect all three aspects listed in the first paragraph above.

(1) Israel and U.S. relations — Discussions about support for Israel will no longer be a "gimme" in American politics. [Not a bad thing, in my view; also not as certain as Avnery asserts, though I could be wrong.]

(2) Adelson and the Republicans — Adelson will have won. By this move, he's cementing his Israel-first hold on the Republican party as we speak. From Avnery's earlier piece (quoted here):
It was Adelson who prepared the witches’ brew that is now endangering Israel’s lifeline to Washington. His stooge, [Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron] Dermer, induced the Republicans in Congress-- all of them dependent on Adelson’s largesse or hoping to be so-- to invite Netanyahu to give an anti-Obama speech before both Houses.
(3) Netanyahu and the Israeli election — Netanyahu will have won, if this is the electoral swinger Avnery thinks it will be, and Israel may never step backward again.

Those are the winners — Adelson, Netanyahu, the Republicans (temporarily). Who will have lost? Obama (temporarily). And Israel, its hope for peace and its future as a democratic state. Is this a tipping point for Israel, already vilified (and justly, in my opinion) on the world-wide left? Avnery thinks so. We can only watch and find out.


Another manufactured image; something
for you (and Obama) to ponder

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Just How Furious Is The US Surveillance State At Russia Over Ed Snowden's Asylum?


Early in the third season of House of Cards, Russian President Victor Petrov has the Russian security police arrest American gay rights activist Michael Corrigan in Moscow, which causes a disturbance in U.S. domestic politics (and international relations). It would have been far more complex for Beau Willimon to write Ed Snowden's sojourn to Russia into the series instead.

There are people who believe the CIA aggression in Ukraine was, at least in part, pay back for Putin's grant of asylum to Snowden. In his book, The Edward Snowden Affair, Michael Gurnow doesn't get into that specifically, only that "the fallout was catastrophic."
After declaring on July 19, “We [the White House] call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” Press Secretary Jay Carney produced the U.S. government’s first official response to Snowden’s asylum shortly after Russia granted the whistleblower his freedom. Washington’s fatigue and exasperation was obvious. Carney issued the subdued statement, “[ ... ] we are extremely disappointed by this decision by Russian authorities” before glibly inserting, “This move by the Russian government undermines a longstanding record of law enforcement cooperation.”

Various U.S. senators went on record. Charles Schumer announced, “Russia has stabbed us in the back.” Former presidential candidate John McCain proclaimed, “We cannot allow today’s action by Putin to stand without serious repercussions.” Lindsey Graham stood by his previous call to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if Snowden wasn’t returned to the United States. The latter two congressmen also suggested ignoring America’s nuclear disarmament agreement with Russia. They called for the completion of the last phase of America’s European missile-defense program. In anticipation of Russia providing Snowden safe harbor, several politicians had already begun to pressure the president to cancel his meeting with Putin, which was scheduled to take place before the commencement of the G20 Summit in Moscow on September 5 in Saint Petersburg. Carney reported that the White House was now “evaluating the utility” of a pre-summit conversation.

Last House of Cards episode I watched-- #5-- UN Ambassador Claire Underwood had quietly moved from targeted financial sanctions against Russian officials to threatening to blow up planes and trucks and ships. The Obama Administration is still primarily sticking to sanctions-- even if their efficacy are still much-debated.
Economic sanctions, which most forecasts assume will continue this year, are having less impact that many in the West would like to believe. Sergei Tsukhlo of the Gaidar Institute estimates that the sanctions have affected only 6 percent of Russian industrial enterprises. "Their effect remains quite insignificant despite all that's being said about them," he wrote, noting that trade disruptions with Ukraine have been more important.

Granted, there's no avoiding a significant drop in Russians' living standards because of accelerating inflation. The economics ministry in Moscow predicts real wages will fall by 9 percent this year-- which, Aslund wrote, means that "for the first time after 15 years in power," Russian President Vladimir Putin "will have to face a majority of the Russian people experiencing a sharply declining standard of living." So far, though, Russians have taken the initial shock of devaluation and accompanying inflation largely in stride. The latest poll from the independent Levada Center, conducted between Feb. 20 and Feb. 23, actually shows an uptick in Putin's approval rating-- to 86 percent from 85 percent in January.

It's time to bury the expectation that Russia will fall apart economically under pressure from falling oil prices and economic sanctions, and that Russians, angered by a drop in their living standards, will rise up and sweep Putin out of office. Western powers face a tough choice: Settle for a lengthy siege and ratchet up the sanctions despite the progress in Ukraine, or start looking for ways to restart dialogue with Russia, a country that just won't go away.

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