Thursday Comic Relief

Maybe weather forecasts should always be like this. Jeremy Paxman does the weather on UK nightly program, Newsnight. 

https://vine.co/v/MTAWgqxj3Wh/embed/simple

Kathy Weppner poses with her campaign staff: 

OK Go with incredible optical illusions: 

 

Mick Jagger & David Bowie’s odd video for “Dancin’ in the Streets”, which aired during Live Aid in 1985, excerpts from which are now presented without music: 

Just so you know, if you’re out in public, no one needs your permission to record video of you. 

In Rally, the co-driver calls out pacenotes to the driver, advising him of what’s coming up, letting the driver go as fast as possible. But come on, Samir, you’re breaking the car!

Finally, Philosopher Football (as in soccer), from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Here, Germany v. Greece. 

It’s a funny skit, but the genius of Python is this: 

The Germans are disputing it. Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside. 

Everything from the Outer Harbor to #BringBackOurGirls

Remember last year, when I began a semi-weekly excoriation of Donn Esmonde and posted things about the Clarence schools budget crisis/vote? I’m sparing you the ugly details this year because I’m putting on my dusty activist hat and making sure the perfectly reasonable budget that the school board passed unanimously is passed next Tuesday, and also campaigning for a school-friendly slate of candidates. This is why posting here has been lighter in recent days. That, and the fact that there’s nothing new under the sun.

For instance, it was late 2004 when my blog transitioned from one that focused on national politics into one that looks more closely at local matters. Since that time, local political blogs of all partisan stripes have come and gone, but I’m still here.  The first local thing that really got me going on a roll a decade ago were three competing plans for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that the NFTA was pimping. They ranged from bucolic park-like setting to mid-density brownstone to what I called “elevator to the moon“. Of course, nothing came of any of them and in 10 years we’ve seen the Outer Harbor be the focus of patented Buffalo inertia and hand-wringing.

The best we’ve done has been to improve access to the area, and even that was met with false yelling about  how Route 5 was a “wall” that separated downtown from her waterfront, never mind the river and grain elevators you had to get past before you ever reached the road.

So, if I wasn’t currently concentrating on schoolkids and their futures, I’d be writing about this:

1. The Outer Harbor: it’s a state park! It’s a sports complex! It’s the location of the Bills’ new stadium! It goes to show you that there’s nothing new under the sun. 10 years down the line, we’re still arguing over what to do with a patch of dreadfully contaminated real estate on a chilly lake.

A few weeks ago, Pat Freeman, the sports director for WUFO was on Twitter and Facebook urging people to contact  Governor Cuomo and urge him to back the museum/stadium on the Outer Harbor. Someone even got a hold of my cell phone number and the same message was – unsolicited – texted to my phone on two occasions.  And Facebook messaging.

Freeman blocked me after I asked him how and why he got my number. Suffice it to say that it’d be swell if the city or Erie County Harbor Development Corporation would put whatever property won’t be a park on the market and sell it, complete with a comprehensive plan and mandated architectural standards.  Government’s job should be to pave the streets, wire the electric, put in the plumbing, and extend the light rail.

2. David Torke is one of the bloggers who’s still at it 10 years later. He’s morphed into a preservationist activist, so he’s totally in with that local clique. I recall some years ago, he would take people on tours of the East Side, where he lives, and show them how owners of properties – the city in particular – would let them become uninhabitable solely through neglect. He’s revived the “tour de neglect”, and the News’ Colin Dabkowski joined one this past weekend.  On on the one hand, it’s good to open people’s eyes to the problems plaguing a huge swath of the city that’s seen little of the incremental good news we have on the West Side. On the other hand,

Most of the conversation focused on buildings; there was very little talk about the East Side’s current residents, many of whom could be negatively impacted by the kinds of development strategies now being enacted or proposed.

You help the East Side of Buffalo get better by addressing the pervasive socioeconomic difficulties present there. The East Side isn’t a crisis of architecture, but of poverty. We can’t – and shouldn’t – be concerned with the potential we see in buildings until we address the potential in people. It will be people, after all, who will ultimately help to change the East Side, and it’s addressing poverty and violence that need to be in the forefront. Like the annual invasion of the relatively affluent to a poor neighborhood to get drunk on Dyngus Day or shop at the market in someone’s grandparents’ neighborhood, a group of affluent, privileged white faces biking through a neighborhood should be focused first on people, not on cornices. This, to me, is the fundamental flaw in all the planning and preservation activism in Buffalo.

3. A local bar owner is planning on bringing a branch of the iconic Bavarian Hofbräuhaus to downtown Buffalo. Seeing as how Buffalo likes beer, sausage, and boiled cabbage, this has some potential. You’ll just have to learn to pronounce “dirndl“, now. No word yet on how a German chain might affect our sense of place or authenticity.

4. Camille Brandon is apparently one of the Democrats who is planning to run for the Assembly seat most recently kept warm by creep Dennis Gabryszak. In the News’ article, our own local political Snidely Whiplash, Steve Pigeon, just can’t help but to suggest that he might bring in his acolyte, Kristy Mazurek,  to run as well. But if you pay close attention, note that both Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner and his chief rival, Frank Max, are backing Brandon. Any effort by Pigeon to insert Mazurek into the race – and the brutally defamatory race that would ensue – would go a long way towards maintaining the Democratic infighting on which Pigeon thrives.

Make no mistake, Pigeon’s insertion of Mazurek has more to do with preserving Tim Kennedy’s Senate seat than the useless Assembly.

5. Much of the natural gas located in the part of the Marcellus Shale that’s in New York isn’t as marketable as what Pennsylvania has. Because of the fracking boom that’s scarred, among other places,  the Pennsylvania countryside, the price of natural gas has plummeted. There are too many unknowns, and the people shilling for drilling are likely overstating the potential economic benefits for New Yorkers. I think that fracking in New York is inevitable, but I hope they regulate how it’s done and ensure that people know what chemicals are being injected into the rock in order to extract the gas. It’s not worth it, e.g., to sacrifice clean drinking water for a short-term boomlet of natural gas.  Although it has to do with coal, not natural gas, use West Virginia’s Elk River disaster as a cautionary tale.

6. A Muslim terrorist group in Nigeria kidnapped 276 schoolgirls and is supposedly selling them off into slavery. Nigeria doesn’t have an especially competent government, so there haven’t been any credible attempts to do something about this. People are trying to bring attention to this tragedy through social media, using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.  Even Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself holding a piece of paper with the message on it.

Of course, because Mrs. Obama got involved, the right wing is politicizing it. They mock the notion of hashtags and efforts to inform people about something horrible that happened.

But it wasn’t Michelle Obama’s idea. It’s not her thing. It was started by a Nigerian lawyer.

It’s thanks in large part to an initially uncoordinated campaign launched by local Nigerian activists that the girls’ disappearance didn’t continue to fly under the radar at major news providers. The campaign began on April 23 with a single tweet by Nigerian lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi, the first to use the now viral #BringBackOurGirls tag, amid what he calls “complete dissatisfaction” with his government’s response to the incident.

As Abdullahi watched a live address on that date by former Nigerian Minister of Education Obiageli Ezekwesili, he tweeted a phrase she used as follows: “Yes #BringBackOurDaughters #BringBackOurGirls declared by @obyezeks and all people at Port Harcourt World Book Capital 2014.”

The lawyer and activist tells DW it is a “great joy” and “heartwarming to know that [the campaign] has gone so global,” as #BringBackOurGirls today nears three million uses on Twitter since April 23. In the Nigerian capital of Abuja, Abdullahi says a group of around 20 campaign volunteers has expanded into more than 100 individuals. They meet daily to monitor progress on finding the girls and follow how the viral campaign is developing.

I don’t get what’s so wrong about this. Suddenly, people are talking about it. British Conservative PM David Cameron even joined in. The point is that the online effort has brought much needed attention to what happened in a part of the world that Americans especially tend to ignore completely. Conservative mocking of #bringbackourgirls is, in effect, saying that we shouldn’t raise awareness about horrible things that are taking place. With this crowd, no matter what Michelle Obama does, she’s just the President’s fat wife who is micromanaging kids’ lunches or whatever. At least #bringbackourgirls brings attention to something worthwhile. #tcot is just a typical conservative circle-jerk of hatred. I suspect that conservatives on Twitter won’t be abandoning #tcot, though.

Reversion

Two things for your Friday reading: 

The South Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

1. 8 interesting factoids about the American South and Southwest, which reveal how stubbornly poor it is, and how people continuously vote against their own self-interests. Are taxes lower there? Probably. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  If you like poverty, crappy schools, and bad healthcare, the South might be for you!

Vaccinate

2. There is a dangerous trend among some parents to withhold from their children disease-preventing, life-saving vaccinations. It’s a weird intersection of pseudoscientific holistic natural gobbledygook with the completely discredited mythology that vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they’re designed to prevent. (For instance, a lie was spread for years linking the MMR vaccine with autism. It wasn’t true.)

The anti-vaccine crowd may think they’re only making a decision for their own family. In fact, they’re threatening to make the rest of us sick. Refusing to vaccinate your children means you are contributing to a worsening public health crisis. There is no denying it, and there is no point in sugar-coating it.

I hope the anti-vaccine movement somehow loses steam. Perhaps America will take note of the return of long-gone illnesses and will stop treating vaccine denialism as a viewpoint worth considering. Perhaps vaccine-refusing parents will consider whether it’s worth the anxiety of knowing that a person who coughed in their grocery store two hours earlier could infect their kids as they do the week’s shopping together, and will reconsider their choices.

The point of vaccines isn’t just to protect your kid from unnecessary disease – it’s a public health matter designed to rid society of these diseases altogether. Some of these vaccines lose their potency over time, but it didn’t matter so long as the diseases themselves weren’t reintroduced into society thanks to 100% vaccination. 

If you think your kid isn’t strong enough to overcome the non-existent effects of a vaccine, what makes you think your kid is strong enough to overcome mumps, measles, or some other 19th century disease? 

This Post Matters

1. George Zimmerman seems to have a thing for using a firearm to menace innocent, unarmed people. That’s a fetish that’s going to prove to be expensive. At a bare minimum, he seems to have a bizarre fetish whereby he tries to solve everyday interpersonal conflicts with a gun. A bit excessive, and, you know, someone could get hurt. He’s now charged with a felony and, ironically, this could finally enable the government to take this lunatic’s guns away. Even in Florida. This gun matters. 

2. There’s a fine line, I suppose, between a police department enforcing nuisance laws and blatant racism. The owner of Ying’s Wings and Things is accusing the Tonawanda police of targeting his restaurant’s DJ nights because they attract black kids. The police say the crowds are too noisy and rowdy. Like – oh, just about everything – attitudes about race in western New York are rooted firmly in the 50s, to everyone’s detriment. In the meantime, Ying should hire some security to keep his patrons safe, to keep parking lot nonsense and shootings to a minimum, and to document it all. This 18+ DJ night matters. 

3. Kaleida has a plan to redevelop the site of the former Millard Fillmore Gates hospital into a ~$60 million complex of housing, offices, and retail space including a large complex for seniors. It would attract hundreds into a city neighborhood now occupied by a nondescript, empty white box. There’s no damn way this goes smoothly. This lot matters. 

4. Looking for a Christmas gift for your kid? Depending on age-appropriateness, how about a construction kit of the Anne Frank House, showing how the secret Annex was connected to the house and kept hidden from the Nazis for most of the war. With shipping, it costs a little more than $50, but it’s cheaper than airfare to Amsterdam. This house matters. 

5. This idiotic incident will result in a lawsuit being brought against the rail-slider and the Bills and everyone else. Was a Bills Mafia dummy’s reckless tumbling from the 300s into the 200s – and onto another person – foreseeable? When a football spectator buys a ticket and takes his seat, does he assume the risk that someone might fall on top of him – is spectator precipitation a risk inherent in football? This is why we have lawyers and lawsuits. This jurisprudence matters. 

6. Rob Ford is now, effectively, the figurehead mayor of Toronto. Yesterday, the city council voted 37-5 to strip him of practically all his powers. As the drama unfolded, Ford was defiant and managed to, among other things, knock over a council colleague while charging towards a heckler. Of course, the conservative Toronto Sun gave Ford and his brother, Doug, their own TV show. This crack matters. 

Post-Bratstvo i Jedinstvo

License plates are little, mundane slabs of metal or plastic that generally serve two purposes – to identify vehicles, and to promote a culture. I find them fascinating.

We just returned from a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime 3-generational tour of the former Yugoslavia, from where my parents emigrated in the 60s. Since breaking up in 1991, these countries have gone from waging war against each other to varying degrees of recovery. Slovenia is in the EU, and Croatia will join this July. Bosnia and Hercegovina is almost perpetually in political / ethnic crisis, while Serbia and Montenegro have just recently gone their separate ways, having dissolved their confederation. Macedonia is plugging away, nestled between the Serbia-Kosovo conflict and the Greek economic crisis. 

The title of this post is the slogan of the former League of Communists of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – Tito and his successors promoted “Brotherhood and Unity” among the Southern Slavic peoples, who were united after World War I under Serbian rule and then fought each other mercilessly during the second World War. Perhaps it was always doomed to fail, as the Yugoslav nations had distinctly dissimilar backgrounds – Slovenes and Croats were under the Austrians and/or Hungarians for centuries. The Serbs, Macedonians, Kosovars, and Bosnians under Ottoman rule. Serbs and Croats essentially share a language, but the Serbian Orthodox Christian heritage didn’t always mesh with Croatian Catholicism, and while the former writes in Cyrillic, the latter uses the Latin alphabet. Small differences that, with the right spark, can result in inexplicable cruelty and violence. 

I have a similar fascination with international frontiers. It seems astonishing to me sometimes to think how an arbitrary, imaginary line on a mountaintop or the middle of a creek can so starkly separate two distinct languages, histories, religions, and cultures. 

During our trip, I cataloged the plates I saw that represented a once-united country. The only ones I didn’t see were Kosovo’s (although I saw several new and old-style Albanian plates, which were unheard-of when I was a kid and Albania was Europe’s North Korea.) 

Only Slovenia can display the blue Euroband with the gold stars of the EU. All the rest, except Croatia, have a blue area for the Euroband without the stars, but with the country’s international vehicle registration code. (Slovenia = SLO, Croatia = HR, Bosnia and Herzegovina = BIH, Montenegro = MNE, Serbia = SRB, Macedonia = MK, Kosovo = RKS – note that Kosovo used to be a province of Yugoslavia and then Serbia, and the two countries have not yet resolved their dispute over Kosovo’s independence). Croatia has no Euroband, but left room for it to the left of the regional code that precedes the Croatian coat of arms (shown here is PU for Pula). 

A lot of blood was shed to get to this point, where there now exist seven independent and sovereign republics where once there was one federal entity. The irony, it seems, is that they all seek to enter a troubled European confederation where the movement of people and goods would once again be completely without frontier or limit. 

Cyber Monday

Welcome back to a semi-normal week. A few quick takes: 

1. Skyfall is among the best Bond films, ever. As with the rest of the Daniel Craig series, it’s doing a great version of what the Bourne trilogy was – thrilling and action-packed. You know it’s a Bond film because it’s got an evil genius villain. With Craig, however, Bond isn’t just a pseudo-human. They develop the character and give you backstory. Well done. 

2. I think there are pre-Lincoln people and post-Lincoln people. I saw it yesterday, and it reminded me of Spielberg’s other serious world-crisis-as-biopic, Schindler’s List in a lot of ways. Lincoln is unique in that it revolves very specifically around the political flexibility and machinations Lincoln brought to bear on his fight to get the lame duck 38th Congress to free the slaves. Lincoln saw passage of an emancipation amendment to the Constitution as a necessary path to end the Civil War. His team of rivals didn’t always see eye-to-eye with him.  The legal and political issues and ramifications of the Civil War are not glossed over; not dumbed down. Go see it, if for nothing else the Albany lobbyist comic relief. 

3. A fire erupted in a Bangladeshi sweatshop, killing 124

“The factory had three staircases, and all of them were down through the ground floor,” Mahbub said. “So the workers could not come out when the fire engulfed the building.”

“Had there been at least one emergency exit through outside the factory, the casualties would have been much lower,” he said.

This is why we have building codes and regulations. 

Bangladesh’s garment factories make clothes for brands including Wal-Mart, JC Penney, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour and Tesco.

Hey, did you get any great Black Friday deals on clothes? 

4. Krugman addresses the supposed shortage of skilled workers, on which some businesses blame high unemployment. He raises a different issue: 

So what you really want to ask is why American businesses don’t feel that it’s worth their while to pay enough to attract the workers they say they need.

The US went so far down the phony, make-believe supply side/Reaganomics/trickle-down rabbit hole; we have so thoroughly demonized workers and labor that businesses are now wondering why trained, qualified people aren’t taking jobs at insulting low pay. 

5. Chris Brown is a singer and a horrible person. Never buy anything of his again, ever. 

6. Congratulations to Lake Effect Ice Cream, which announced a move to new digs in Lockport. 

7. The people at City Dining Cards were good enough to send me a copy of their Buffalo-specific “Fridge Phrases” . They make a great Christmas/Hannukah gift for your Buffalo friends and members of the Buffalo diaspora. 

 

Taking and Mooching

1. Collins Mistakenly Crashes Dem Shindig

From Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” column, an entry entitled, “Dude, Where’s My Caucus?”

A Democratic staffer camped out at this morning’s caucus meeting for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s big reveal witnessed a panicky exit by a perplexed newcomer.

“When they welcomed Leader Pelosi and everyone stood up to applaud, a frantic new member got up — breakfast plate in hand — rushed over to me and asked, ‘Wait … what meeting is this?!’ I said, ‘This is the Democratic Caucus.’ He said, ‘Oh s—, I’m in the wrong meeting. Where are the Republicans meeting?’” the anonymous tipster said of the mini-drama.

The confused caucuser? Rep.-elect Chris Collins, R-N.Y.

A Collins aide suggested it was all part of the boss’s master plan.

“Congressman-elect Collins believes very strongly in reaching bipartisan solutions to fix this country’s problems. What better way to accomplish that than introducing himself to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” the budding spinmeister assured HOH.

Ha ha very funny because Collins believes quite the opposite, based on what he said during the campaign. Collins only seeks bipartisanship when he controls the game, and as a freshman 1/435 he won’t be controlling anything.  After months’ worth of his hateful and negative Obamapelosi rhetoric, it’s delightful that he mistakenly crashed Pelosi’s party.  (Image courtesy Tom Dolina from Tommunisms.com).

2. Romney blames the 47% on his loss

Lest you thought that Romney tape wherein he asserts that he doesn’t care about – and can’t rely on – votes from the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes, and see themselves as entitled welfare queen taker/victims, was a fluke

In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign, Mr. Romney said Wednesday afternoon that the president had followed the “old playbook” of using targeted initiatives to woo specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

“In each case, they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said, contrasting Mr. Obama’s strategy to his own of “talking about big issues for the whole country: military strategy, foreign policy, a strong economy, creating jobs and so forth.”

Mr. Romney’s comments in the 20-minute conference call came after his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, told WISC-TV in Madison on Monday that their loss was a result of Mr. Obama’s strength in “urban areas,” an analysis that did not account for Mr. Obama’s victories in more rural states like Iowa and New Hampshire or the decrease in the number of votes for the president relative to 2008 in critical urban counties in Ohio.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Talk about class warfare. 

Making sure that every American has access to quality health care isn’t a free gift you find in some government Cracker Jack box. It’s something that literally every other industrialized democracy has had in place for decades. It’s something every other 1st world nation implemented generations ago yet we still struggle with because of stupid rhetoric. But what it actually does is help treat disease, mend broken bodies, fight cancers, helps cure infections. It helps people; being able to obtain treatment without fearing bankruptcy or resorting to the emergency room is a good thing individually and societally. Your county taxes go to pay millions to reimburse the hospitals for unpaid-for ER care. Obamacare is much cheaper and more effective. 

Everything else Romney has to say about why he lost is just as insulting and accusatory as what he said to donors in Florida about the shiftless laziness of the 47% of Americans who “take” and “want stuff”. 

Romney and people like him love it when government gives free stuff to big business and millionaires. When government gives regular folks something that helps them, it’s socialism and negative. Mitt Romney’s election would have been an utter disaster and the American middle class dodged a bullet. 

Thankfully, even some Republican recognize how awful this sort of rhetoric is, and are trying to get people to cut it out

“We have got to stop dividing the American voters,” Jindal, the RGA’s incoming chairman, told reporters here. “If we’re going to continue to be a competitive party and win elections on the national stage, and continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly. One, we are fighting for 100% of the votes. And second, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream, period.”

Part of the American dream would include “not going bankrupt from medical care”, right? 

3. Social Media Fail

If someone leaves a negative (truthful) review of your business on Yelp, don’t threaten to sue them for their opinion. You may run into someone with some search engine optimization experience.

 4. Collins is dictating to President Obama

Reading this article, whereby rich person Chris Collins categorically refuses to raise taxes on himself and his neighbors, (what is proposed is a small hike in the rate on income earned in excess of $250,000) is infuriating mostly because of the dismissive way he refers to the President of the United States. It’s as if we elected a better-dressed, Botoxed Rus Thompson to go to Washington and stick his middle finger up at the President.  

“[T]ax increases and job creation “go together like oil and water.”” says Collins. Well, that’s patently untrue. What do you call someone who slavishly clings to an ideology that’s been proven wrong by empirical evidence? Hell, even Forbes acknowledges that the Bush tax cuts only affected 2.5% of small businesses. Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you’re a small business or that you in any way hire anyone except the household help. 

Luckily, Tom Reed seems to have gotten a different message from his constituents; that Congress should stop bickering. Also notable is that outgoing representative Kathy Hochul sees a path to compromise. This is why it’s so devastating that she – and her pragmatic work to find common ground – will leave New York’s 27th District. 

Monday Miscellany

1. So far, a viral campaign has so far collected 3,000 condolence letters from Muslims to the family of slain Ambassador Chris Stevens. That’s not to mention other forms of apology and grief expressed by the people of Libya who remain grateful to the United States for helping it to overthrow 40 years of dictatorship by a homicidal psychopath. 

Next time you hear some conservative mock Islam for not being “religion of peace-y” enough, or for pining for the good old days when Reagan had to drop bombs on Libya, point this out. 

2. Famed prude and anti-sex legislation enthusiast Rick Santorum gave an accurate speech to a crowd of like-minded vicious homophobes. 

3. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks he can berate the United States into doing his bidding. He’s been taking actions and saying words in the last few weeks in an effort to either influence our election here in favor of Romney, or to embarrass the current administration into supporting a strike against Iran. Evidently, having a military presence in Afghanistan isn’t difficult and costly enough, we’re also meant to support an invasion of a functioning, reasonably advanced nation-state. People criticize Obama for letting relations with Israel deteriorate, but that street runs two ways. It’s so bad that the leader of the Israeli opposition openly asked whether Netanyahu really wants regime change in Tehran or Washington

All of this is complicated by the fact that the Republican Party’s evangelist base is willing to do whatever Israel wants because Israel is proof to them of the imminent rapture, or something. I think it’s fantastic that wars, and our contemporary foreign policy are in part dictated by competing 2,000 year-old fairy tales. 

You should read this piece in Foreign Policy, wherein Bill Clinton explains how exactly Netanyahu completely obliterated – single-handedly – any chance for peace in the Middle East in the near future. 

“The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

“[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it,” Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.

But the Israeli government has drifted a long way from the Ehud Barak-led government that came so close to peace in 2000, Clinton said, and any new negotiations with the Netanyahu government are now on starkly different terms — terms that the Palestinians are unlikely to accept.

“For reasons that even after all these years I still don’t know for sure, Arafat turned down the deal I put together that Barak accepted,” he said. “But they also had an Israeli government that was willing to give them East Jerusalem as the capital of the new state of Palestine.”

Israel also wants a normalization of relations with its Arab neighbors to accompany a peace deal. Clinton said that the Saudi-inspired Arab Peace Initiative put forth in 2002 represented an answer to that Israeli demand.

“The King of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘if you work it out with the Palestinians … we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership,'” Clinton said. “This is huge…. It’s a heck of a deal.”

The Netanyahu government has received all of the assurances previous Israeli governments said they wanted but now won’t accept those terms to make peace, Clinton said.

“Now that they have those things, they don’t seem so important to this current Israeli government, partly because it’s a different country,” said Clinton. “In the interim, you’ve had all these immigrants coming in from the former Soviet Union, and they have no history in Israel proper, so the traditional claims of the Palestinians have less weight with them.”

Clinton then repeated his assertions made at last year’s conference that Israeli society can be divided into demographic groups that have various levels of enthusiasm for making peace.

“The most pro-peace Israelis are the Arabs; second the Sabras, the Jewish Israelis that were born there; third, the Ashkenazi of long-standing, the European Jews who came there around the time of Israel’s founding,” Clinton said. “The most anti-peace are the ultra-religious, who believe they’re supposed to keep Judea and Samaria, and the settler groups, and what you might call the territorialists, the people who just showed up lately and they’re not encumbered by the historical record.”

Netanyahu appeared on Meet the Press yesterday, but I haven’t watched that show since it’s been watered down into an unrecognizable piece of dreck by David Gregory. Gregory apparently referred to Netanyahu as “leader of the Jews”, which is as stupid as it is factually inaccurate. 

4. Someone ask Ralph Lorigo how his early support of Chuck Swanick has helped (a) Lorigo; (b) Swanick; (c) the anti-same-sex marriage cause.