Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Was that what it was really all about?

One thing Bibi's speech did do: it buried the news of Boehner's capitulation on the DHS funding stand off.

the inevitable clean DHS vote

Shockingly, the Republican's sure to fail gambit has failed.

The only remaining question is how long before they put themselves in this exact same difficulty again.

The problem isn't a nuclear deal, it is any deal

This Fallows piece is the best explanation I have seen for why Netanyahu blundered ahead with today's speech even when the damage it was causing was clear. Fallows argues that Netanyahu's goal is not really ending the Iranian nuclear program but rather preventing Iran's reconciliation with the United States and the rest of the Western world. (Fallows' also ends in a similar place to joseph spiezer's comment on this site from the other day).

Monday, March 02, 2015

What the speech may do

This article gets to what I think will be the largest effect of Netanyahu's speech to Congress this week. I don't think it will have much effect on the Iranian negotiations (Netanyahu's views were already widely known). I don't even think the speech will have that much effect on this month's Israeli election.

The biggest effect of the speech is that, for the first time in recent memory, a significant number of strong supporters of Israel in the U.S. (including many American Jews) are breaking sharply away from a major effort by a sitting Israeli prime minister. I mean, the speech is not just something that J-Street is objecting to, Abraham Foxman wants the speech to be rescheduled! Even AIPAC is not totally on board with what Bibi is doing (although it is urging people not to boycott the speech).
"It’s a tipping-point moment,” said Rabbi John Rosove, an outspoken liberal and head of Temple Israel of Hollywood. “It’s no longer the Israeli government, right or wrong. The highest form of patriotism and loyalty is to criticize from a place of love.”
Okay, that's just one "outspoken liberal" rabbi. But that's the rub, there are a lot of liberal American Jews who nevertheless will automatically support Israeli policies even if those policies are a product of a right-wing government. If the attitude shift described by Rabbi Rosove sticks beyond this immediate controversy, that would be huge. It would open the door to all kinds of other criticisms of Israel from parts of the American political landscape that, until now, have basically defended whatever the current Israeli leadership does.

I don't know if it will stick. Probably it won't. I bet whenever the next time that Israels takes a belligerent stance towards some group like Hamas that everyone will claim  somehow poses an existential threat to Israel, knee jerk support for Israel will right back. But even so, I think it will be just a little bit harder to maintain that same kind of support going forward. So in that sense, Netanyahu's speech to Congress this week has a real silver lining: its potential to make American politics a little less knee-jerk supportive of Israel. That is something that has needed to happen for a long time, IMHO.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Damn, I guess I have to go with my long held principle that polling data is a better measure of the zeitgeist than some just so story with a few cherry picked examples. So much for my silver lining.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pro Bono Only Lawyering and a Dueling Revival

Those white supremacists sure do know how to write a constitution.

Iranian nuclear hardliners' best friend

I'm not surprised that Netanyahu is willing to damage Israeli interests for short-term electoral gain, but the last paragraph of the Goldberg piece is what I have been wondering for a while about Bibi's opposition to the nuclear negotiations with Iran:
"What happens if the president succeeds in doing a deal despite the speech of the prime minister?" he asks. "Instead of the United States and Israel talking about ways to provide strategic reassurance to Israel, there’s going to be an ongoing fight over this deal. And what if the prime minister then succeeds in killing the deal? How will the president relate to the destruction of one of his signature policy initiatives? And if the sanctions then collapse, as seems likely, and Iran continues moving towards a nuclear weapon, how does the prime minister propose to stop Iran? He will certainly manage in the process to create the impression that he wants the United States to go to war with Iran. I don’t think the American people, in their war-weary state, will appreciate that."
The bottom line is the only realistic way to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear bomb is getting them to agree not to build a nuclear bomb, which means some kind of negotiated deal. Bombing Iran is not going to deal the country anything more than a minor setback to the nuclear program. Plus, it would also serve as a pretty compelling case for the Iranian government to devote more resources to quickly getting a nuclear weapon so give Iran a deterrent to future attacks.

While a bigger regime-changing war with Iran might stop the program, there is no real chance that the U.S. will do anything like that. And frankly, Israel has no ability to manage that kind of war on its own (Israel isn't even capable of effectively bombing the Iranian nuclear program, which is why Netanyahu keeps trying to get the U.S. to kill Persians for him).

What is Netanyahu's plan to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons? He doesn't really have one. Instead, he is focusing all his efforts on sinking the only plausible chance for stopping the Iranian nuclear program: putting the program under international supervision in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. It is mind-boggling because if you buy Netanyahu's premise that a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat to Israel, than that is all the more reason you would want a deal with Iran.

What does Netanyahu think the endgame on the Iran issue should be?

Will anything change between now and March 21?

It looks like John Boehner will escape his current predicament by passing a resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security for just three more weeks.

I'm not sure how that really gets him out of his predicament though. I mean, doesn't it just create another predicament three weeks from now? Why does he keep setting himself up for difficult situations? I realize he has a rough conference and does not want to face the consequences when he gets branded an ideological heretic. But in a situation like this, it is better to just yank the band-aid off.

Maybe they will find a pretext to add Venezuela to the list?

As my longtime readers will remember (yes, both of you), I have an ongoing beef with the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The list has always been more about politics than any objective assessment of how much support a government gives to terrorist groups. In fairness, coming up with an objective list would be hard, and a fairer list would probably end up imposing some serious sanctions on close allies, if not ourselves.

So instead we have a list of countries that the U.S. has serious issues with that can (and has) been used as a bargaining chip with when the U.S. deals with countries it has had difficulties with in the past. Which is what seems to be happening with Cuba. But there is a problem. For much of its existence, Cuba has been the one non-Muslim country on the SSoT list. Having a token non-Muslim country is important, because it means that the list isn't just slapping the "supporting terrorism" label on Muslims for activities that many more countries do. I can imagine Cuba coming off, but I think they need a new token first.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Renaming "Nineveh" would not have gotten them any attention

People aren't paying enough attention to the Islamic State, so they smashed a bunch of statues and uploaded the videos to get the world to look at them again. That's my interpretation. The people on the video claim they were smashing statues to wipe out remnants of paganism.

The video was uploaded by the media office of Nineveh state, which is "the Islamic State's name for the Mosul region." But Nineveh was also the name of the capital of the Assyrian Empire, and the word "Nineveh" possibly means "seat of Ishtar"* Ishtar, of course, was a pagan goddess. I guess that's one remnant of paganism they're giving a pass.

* It might also mean "house of fish."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Net neutrality for dummies

Somehow net neutrality has turned into a partisan issue (I realize that Republicans tend to favor "business interests" but there are powerful business interests on both sides). And with the FCC poised to issue rules to protect net neutrality, I was curious what rightwing bloggers were saying about it. Via Memorandum I found this post and, not surprisingly, the author does not understand what the net neutrality rules will do, at least not if he thinks this is an illustrative example:
I pay for a slightly faster Internet speed that the usual Time Warner package, but I see no need for the fastest of the fast. People and private entities can pay for multiple different speeds at different prices. Not to be ageist, but many seniors feel no need for anything but the slowest speed (typically 768kbs), as they are not cruising around and downloading videos and such. People choose the speed that works for them.
Net neutrality rules will not affect people's ability to buy (or not buy) faster connections to the internet from ISPs. Net neutrality forbids ISPs from discriminating among the content they provide to subscribers. Mr. Teach will still be allowed to choose his "slightly faster" internet speed and his hypothetical old farts will still be able to choose the slowest speeds. What it will prevent is Time Warner from selling Mr. Teach a specific download speed but then throttling the actual speed that Mr. Teach can watch Netflix because Time Warner and Netflix get into some kind of dispute. In a sense, this will really just guarantee that Mr. Teach gets what he pays for. If Time Warner promises to provide 20 Mbps and Mr. Teach pays for that speed, the rule would prevent Time Warner from deciding to only give him speeds of 3Mbps for accessing particular web sites that fall out of Time Warner's favor.

(Teach also doesn't seem to know that net neutrality is what governed the internet from its creation until a few years ago when the court struck down the prior net neutrality rule. Most of the innovations in the internet grew under a net neutrality regime)

With so many Democrats planning to skip, Bibi is getting creative in filling those empty seats

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, the Arab ambassadors have declined because they are "are too smart to involve themselves in the partisan mess that this Netanyahu speech has become."

Fight the real enemy

It is amusing to see that the pet cause of a dipshit rightwinger has prompted actual legislation. The most amusing part is this:
According to the Houston Chronicle, Campbell has admitted that making the Alamo a UNESCO site would not actually involve selling it to the UN. She said in warning, however, that "UNESCO starts with UN.
If that's the real issue maybe her legislative efforts should be more focused. A lot of words begin with UN! She should outlaw universities, unemployment and underwear next.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I guess planning ahead isn't their forte

Now that we are days away from the funding deadline, Congressional Republicans are learning that the unwinnable fight they picked with the President over DHS funding is unwinnable. The great mystery is why they keep manufacturing crises without an endgame.

My theory is because their bases refusal to ever acknowledge that they made a mistake. That means that past mistakes, like the 2013 government shutdown, get spun into successes when the story gets retold to the true believers or reported on partisan news outlets. But if the base believes those things were successes, they will pressure members of Congress to do it again. Which puts people like Mitch McConnell in a difficult situation. He can refuse to bring the government to the brink of another shutdown crisis, which his voters will see as throwing away an effective tool they have against the president, or he can go along with what his voters want, even though he knows the tool is not effective. So he chooses the latter, except eventually it will get to the point where the ineffectiveness of his tool is evident, he has to give up on the plan and at that point (which is to say, this point), his base will see him throwing away what they believe is an effective tool for no reason.

Why McConnell et al didn't use last week's District Court decision against the president's executive action as a way out is the mystery within the mystery. It really could have been the perfect escape hatch.


Lots of people are piling on the Idaho lawmaker who is apparently unfamiliar with basic human anatomy. In times like these it is worth reviewing David Wong's "5 Ways to Spot a B.S. Political Story in Under 10 Seconds". Specifically #2.

Sure, it's a funny story. But aside from his stupid remarks there is no reason that national news would be talking about that member of the Idaho state legislature. There is really no larger political truth to be learned other than the fact that there are really ignorant people in state legislatures. But didn't we know that already?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shiites have no agency unless they are Persian

I wonder if it is possible for any Shia group to seek political power anywhere in the world without the Saudis seeing the group as a bunch of pawns for the Iranians.