Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Debt Ceiling Vote--From Now Until August

The House Republicans wanted to change the subject from Coupon Care and brought a clean bill on raising the debt ceiling to the floor today. Members were notified on Sunday that the bill had been prepared. When the members came to the House, they were asked to raise the debt ceiling because President Obama's budget created an additional deficit. The problem was that the debt ceiling entails all the debt to date--the bulk of which was incurred during the Bush-Cheney Administration.

Factually, the House bill was offered on a false pretense. The United States has to raise the debt ceiling so that the United States does not default. The House itself, which passed the Ryan budget, would have added $1.9 trillion anyway as would the first several budgets he proposed in his plan. In other words, the debt ceiling would have to be raised frequently under Ryan. Under Bush, it was raised seven times without a whimper.

Even the Chamber of Commerce said that they understood the comedy being played out on the House floor. Wall Street is acting that the debt ceiling will be raised--it's only a matter of time. But watch for the panic begin around July as the United States starts staring at a drop-dead date.

If the House is dysfuntional, so is the Senate, which has not passed a budget for over 760 days. The Senate was waiting for the Gang of Six to resolve their talks and then they broke up, saying they were waiting for the Biden Group to announce what budget cuts and taxes were agreed to. Senate Republicans have already said that tax increases are off the table for them. This means that the Democrats can not fall back to their position of adopting some of the Cat Food Commission's recommendations, which included tax increases.

So we are once again back at the White House--tomorrow the House Republicans get to complain to President Obama and the following day the House Democrats. This will begin the circus on the budget, which will last all summer.

The Washington Post has begun their softening up of public opinion by printing pieces that tax hikes will not solve the question of the debt. Indeed. But they start of the theoretical taxes on 501K plans, which have virtually no chance of passing and no one with any authority is arguing for. So we will be entertained by the usual barrage by the wealthy--make no mistake of who the media are--to try and kill any type of tax hikes.

In the meantime, the economy is swooning again with another collapse of the real estate market and consumer confidence. The austerity freaks like Niall Ferguson, British neo-con and fan of empires are trying to prove to Americans that European austerity measures are working--they aren't.

But all these Congressional games only show how dysfunctional both chambers have become. The good news is that the recovery seems self-sustaining, even though it is not robust. The reason it's not robust is because the housing market remains in a Depression and consumers are cutting back on purchases. This goes back to one of my first posts over two years ago when I warned that a consumer driven recovery was not to be and in fact we may have to reconsider the whole ideas of economic progress. I'm still betting on about 8% unemployment by the time of our elections in 2012. I also think that the American economy will not be able to better that unless it starts to change the basis of its national economy.

What is disturbing is that this town's politicians are living in a fantasyland if they believe the government doesn't have an additional, vital role to play in the economic recovery.

Finally, the debt ceiling vote is so America doesn't default. As the hacker of the Fox News sign around Times Square noted today, "The American economy is twice that of China's. The American economy is still as large as Europe's combined. We are not broke. It's just they are trying to destroy the Middle Class and Unions. " We are not broke. Bruce Barlett wrote a piece today that indicates that the percentage of GDP that goes to taxes is the lowest since 1950. And the Republican House would like to lower the taxes on the wealthy to the lowest since the 1920s.

Watch this space over the next few months. Not much will come out of the Congress this year. AAnd what does will not be healthy to humans.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Week That Will Not Be

The Senate remains out of session but present so that Elizabeth Warren can't get an appointment. The newspapers in North Carolina lit into Rep. McHenry's rudeness in the Warren hearing and reminded its readers that Warren had warned about the financial crisis ten years before it occurred and that she was the most able spokesperson for all those with mortgage problems. Editorials also reminded McHenry's constituents that she was not the "liberal" the congressman portrays and is working with Mrs. Petraeus to alleviate the financial problems affecting military families. Nice try but it's not going to work. In the Beltway, the punditry is already saying that Elizabeth Warren is polarizing. Since her persona is anything but,I guess they mean that powerful financial interests don't like her.

The House will be in session this week. They will be introducing a "clean bill" on raising the debt ceiling. This whole exercise is purposely futile since you need by House rules a 2/3rd vote to pass. The whole point is to show the Administration that the public just demands massive cuts in government spending to accomodate such a vote.

Paul Krugman writes today that our policy makers have a learned helplessness about job creation and have moved on to ranting about the deficit and national debt. He cites the OECD report that concludes that all industrialized countries have exhausted all the tools at their disposal for creating jobs. Krugman comes up with three of his own--a WPA style program, serious mortgage remodification programs and getting inflation up to 4% to reduce the personal debt issue. But he writes that all of these would just run into a brick wall with House Republicans. But, he urges everyone who is still concerned about unemployment to keep talking about it.

Yesterday's New York Times published an article on the findings of an international think tank about how the debt of all industrialized countries will eventually dwarf the largest economies. But the operative elements of the piece are the suggestions that the large economies should wait until 2013 to pass austerity programs so as to allow for the recovery to stabilize. In addition, elements of debt reduction programs should not really begin until 2019. The point is that this problem is actually manageable and should not be dealt with by panicking. Unfortunately, our wealthy punditry is sounding the alarms before there is an economic recovery.

The media has gained Rapture with Sarah Palin's black leather routine here in D.C. It's Sister Sarah 24/7. The word is that if she bails out before New Hampshire, it's because she is not feeling the positive vibes. If she takes her bus down towards South Carolina, she will pull the trigger.

Lawrence O'Donnell bummed out people like me by plainly explaining why she isn't running. Otherwise, Roger Ailes would have pulled her from Fox by now and they reiterated her status has now changed.

The Right has cut another one of its RHINO ads. This time they are going after Tim Pawlenty. The first ad went after Jon Huntsman. Will the third go after Romney? Stay tuned.

Mitt announces this week. I will be in the hinterlands so I will not be able to miss this historic event.

Tim Pawlenty now is attacking President Obama of being a "doofus", who wants to maintain the status quo. I guess he wants to contrast himself with Newt who claims that Obama is creating a socialist, secular state controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Should be an interesting debate. But speaking of "doofus" maybe Pawenty should have chosen a better word, not a self-description.

This week's commentator of the week is Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly. Benen has been in a groove all week, explaining the various modes by which the GOP ignore the practical answers to the problems facing this country. His writings this week deserve our attention. He's almost hit the same groove Krugman was in when he became a prolific blogger on the Ryan Plan.

Speaking of which, Mitch McConnell says he has put the Ryan Medicare Plan on the table. Whatever that means. It's not even a place to start. Since we are now at an ideological stalemate, let's just do nothing. The Bush tax credits expire by themselves in 2012. Let's keep the withdrawal dates for Iraq and hasn't the date for Afghanistan. You eliminate three biggest drivers of our deficits by attrition. Then we can debate whether you want to dismantle the social safety nets in 2012.

A curious thing happened on the way to the Wisconsin budget bill, the state now finds it will have $600 million more in revenues than anticipated. Not only was all that upheaval for nothing other than the ideological dreams of the GOP but it had no economic rationale. We will find the same is true once the three drivers of the national deficits are done and there is a modicum of a recovery.

Have a Happy Memorial Day. It is in the mid-90s in D.C. And the human race managed to emit more carbon emissions this year than at any time in history. But Sister Sarah says, "She just loves the smell of emissions". She better not tell Frothy Mix Santorum. He might get strange ideas.

A Week After Bibi's Speech of A Lifetime

The Secretary General of the United Nations urged that there not be another Gaza Flotilla.

The Secretary-General also said that it was unlikely that Palestine would be recognized by the UN because of security council vetoes.

Egypt permanently opened its border with Gaza and said that no Europeans would be allowed to monitor the border crossings as in the past.

President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority makes a public declaration that he would be going to the United Nations for a September vote on recognition.

The Arab League voted to take the Palestine question to the United Nations.

Israel claims that it was Bibi who got the Canadians to drop the 1967 border reference at the G-8 meeting. A flap ensues and the Israeli government steps back from that claim.

Rallies are announced on the Jordan and Syria borders to commemorate the 1967 war. Israeli authorities predict violence.

Bibi finally tells the Israeli public that Israel can not stop the recognition of a Palestinian state. He tells the country that he expects the support of only a handful of countries to try and prevent this.

Remember this was the whole point of President Obama's push to restart the peace process so as to stop any United Nations vote and not end up with the isolation of both the United States and Israel.

Bibi probably thought extracting Obama's commitment to veto was enough. But that will trigger more difficulties both both countries, not less.

Nice job, Bibi!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coupon Care and The Phony Entitlement Debate

I'll leave it to the able hands of Ezra Klein, Steve Benen and Paul Krugman to act as the wrecking crew on Paul Ryan proposals on the elimination of Medicare and Medicaid (lest we forget). They are more able to get into the weeds than I am.

Michael Gerson writes of how admirable and courageous Paul Ryan's plan but that it is not complete. First, it's no longer Paul Ryan's Plan, it is the legally voted on proposal of the Republican Party. And it is totally fair for the Democrats to hang the whole thing on everyone who voted for it.

Gerson argues that there needs to be a coalition formed of advocates for entitlement reform. He argues, quite correctly, that this coalition would take conservatives out of their comfort zone. He argues that the expansion of costs for so-called 'entitlement" programs will eat up everything left for discretionary spending in the federal government.

First objection I have is to zeroing in first on entitlements as the primary drivers of the current debt crisis. Let's get back to the priorities here. The primary debt drivers are the wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the recession itself. It is dishonest and ideologically motivated to start the debt discuission with those very things you want to eliminate anyway.

Second, I do not believe the House Republican Plan is courageous or visionary or even honest. Paul Ryan is very sensitive to the criticism this Plan provoked and he claims the Democrats are demagoguing on this issue. The problem is that the democrats' critique of his Plan happens to have the virtue of being accurate as opposed to the Republican charges that Obama cut $500 billion in Medicare benefits. If you stop and think about it,why wouldn't Republicans support that.

Third,the CBO and others have all come out with the fact that Ryan's Plan vastly underestimates the costs of his coupon care both to the Government and to the senior. In his plan, the cost of healthcare is not contained or even modified. It continues as a runaway train. One of the key elements of the Affordable Health Care Act debate was the awesome fact that 17% of our GDP is being spent on healthcare costs, almost double and sometimes triple the amount spent by advanced economies.

Fourth, virtually no one has interviewed or gotten an on-the-record response from the health insurance industry about what kind of insurance seniors would actually get. Given the industry's current record, I can't envision great enthusiasm for insuring seniors, except with junk insurance. Wendell Potter, the former CIGNA executive and now whistleblower on the health insurance industry, claims that this is a big windfall for the insurance industry. I look at it as the payback by the Republicans for their attempt to eliminate the individual mandate in the Affordable Act, which would bring them 40-50 million new customers. Therefore the GOP gave them an equal swap. Remember Medicare's overhead is roughly 1.5% compared to the 28-30% overhead for private health insurance.

Fifth,the AP dutifully rang the alarm that Social Security and Medicare would go broke prior to the announced dates. Well, sort of, not really. Social Security would cease to pay me 100% benefits one year earlier than the last two estimates. Medicare again would be one year earlier, although that is depleted more rapidly--in the next 15 years.

Sixth, never make serious life or political decisions that will affect millions upon millions of people n a panic or because of a false sense of desparation. Address the main drivers of the national debt now and actually deliberate on reforming Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security once the recession is over.

Seventh, Paul Ryan's Plan is not the starting point for any discussion on this issue. No journalist has yet investigated where he came up with these ideas because --believe it or not--he doesn't know anything about economics. The other red flag that should alarm people is that Ryan says because of his "economic doctrine" he would not entertain any steps to increase government revenues. This is not a serious man. or maybe he is a serious ideologue.

Eighth, it is a very bad idea to put in stone budget priorities for a generation in the future. We literally do not know what the world will look like. And we certainly do not know what the economy will look like.

Ninth,Paul Ryan was right in one of his townhall meetings that you can not tax your way out of debt. But he neglected to say that you can not cut your way to prosperity. In fact, we know from modern history that it has never been done. In fact, the various European austerity programs now are increasing those countries' debt, not lessening them. It also is a very incovenient fact that the United States has never really balanced a federal budget. Historically, it just hasn't happened and in fact it is not desireable to do so.

Lastly, Paul Ryan did win something. All of Washington, which is now our richest city,actually belives we have a debt crisis. And the nomenklatura have a quiet consensus that cutting government spending is the way to go. Even political Democrats in Congress are very reluctant to propose generating new revenue streams unless it is a populist measure like taking away subsidies for oil companies, which would only bring in about $30 billion a year.

The rest of the country--in poll after poll after poll-is concerned about jobs and the economy. Even with the media banging away day in and day out, this priority has held before and after the 2010 elections. Also, huge majorities of Americans in poll after poll do not want Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid cut. The GOP take-over of the House was the result of the American frustration with Congress for not pushing more job creation programs, not less. What the voter didn't realize is that the Republicans had become so radicalized that they would take their win as an over-arching mandate to dismantle the remnants of the social welfare state. The result is massive voter remorse. Now over 59% of Americans strongly disapprove of the House Republicans.

Paul Ryan keeps peddling the line that by next year the American voters will approve of his position. That can only happen if millions of dollars by the corporations are spent on dishonest political ads.

Friday, May 27, 2011


*Paul Krugman's suggestion for the title of the new Sarah Palin film "The Undefeated".

You can hear the noise of the motorcycles here tonight as Rolling Thunder is in town to focus attention on the issue of MIAs and POWs as well as other veterans' issues. Andrea Mitchell tracked down Ted Shpak, the legislative director for Rolling Thunder, and asked him how Sarah Palin got involved. "We didn't ask her. We don't endorse her." Apparently First Dude Todd is trying to procure a motocycle for Sarah to ride tomorrow. "We can't prevent anyone from riding,"said a distinctly troubled looking Shpak. He thought she was a distraction away from the Rolling Thunder message.

Palin's slick ad for her Bus Tour signals to almost everyone that she is running. It's too much like a well-produced political ad complete with her voice over. I guess we will be hearing more Sarah Palin voice-overs. They come from the audio version of her magnum opus Going Rogue.

The Bus itself looks like the Rapture Bus from Harry Campings recent adventure for the end of the world. Maybe she got it from him. It clearly has the same paint job.

The tour will mark the first time Sarah Palin has been back to New Hampshire since 2008. Mitt Romney immediately moved there after the 2008 election for his moment of glory. Let's see what kind of splash she makes on Mitt's home turf.

The Rushbo thinks Palin should run because he loves how she scares the Beltway elites and the Republican establishment. He believes Democrats are so scared of Palin because they know she can beat Barack Obama. If Rushbo is coming out so in front of this, it will influence a decision.

Meanwhile Ron Paul has zoomed into second place in New Hampshire.

Her female rival Michelle Bachmann said today that she "heard the calling." So even though her money bomb failed, she heard God tell her to run. Now when Sister Sarah gets in the race that makes three people, including Frothy Mix, whom God told to run. Maybe God is like Chairman Mao "Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom" and then he mows everyone down. Or maybe God's just confused. Will know soon enough.

Mitt Romney was saved by a fire alarm at his Iowa town hall meeting. He had just been asked how a moderate Republican from a Democratic state could win a caucus of social conservatives. Then the bell rang and he said he believed in safety and asked everyone to evacuate.

Even though God has told Michelle Bachmann to run, he obviously didn't teach her about winning hearts and minds. She was the main speaker scheduled for the Polk dinner in Iowa and belatedly cancelled so the organizers couldn't find another speaker so the dinner was cancelled. The more well-known Lincoln dinner in Iowa had to be cancelled but that was because Republicans no longer recognize Abraham Lincoln.

"Google Me" Santorum has a slight problem in his home state of Pennsylvania. The city fathers of his hometown have put a tax lien on his house because Frothy Mix doesn't believe in paying his taxes.

Peggy Noonan thinks that younger voters might be attracted to Newt and they don't remember his past. Since Newt is now for Coupon Care,it's hard to see the appeal. But worse for Newt is today endorsement of Coupon Care by Pat Boone, who now is the spokesperson for the new astroturf counter organization to AARP. I don't think it's a great idea to win the youth vote when you're seen with Pat Boone.

Tim Pawlenty seems to have a Huckabee problem. Remember Huckabee released some hardened felons by pardon because they said they had become Christians. Of course, on release they started up with their old mayhem. Pawlenty pardoned a sex offender because his wife, the person he sexually abused, wanted to open a child care center. Pawlenty erased the man's entire record as a sex offender. He's been arrested for sexually abusing his young daughter hundreds of time. No one knows whether he touched the children, who had been in the child care center next door to their home.

I really can't believe this but conservatives really do want Rick Perry to run for President because of his economic record. This is a man who hid the amazing $20+ billion budget deficit from the public and demanded from the Obama Administration waivers to use the stimulus money to cover his massive budget shortfall. This is also the guy sitting over the whole Texas Textbook Scandal and the man who is in the middle of wiping out Medicaid in the state. And that's just the start of the list.

Conservatives have already cut pre-emptive ads against Jon Huntsman about his various positions on cap and trade, health care reform and gay rights.

The GOP field is freaky-deaky. I think Palin would be the best person to sell Coupon Care. She could sell it as a commonsense solution to America's problem and say that the real American makes do with clipping coupons to go grocery shopping.

Mitch McConnell is having another one of his Get Off My Lawn Days. He is holding the debt ceiling vote ransom to significant cuts in Medicare. What's truly worrisome about this is that reporters asked him if the Biden group comes up with significant cuts but none of Medicare would you support the debt ceiling vote. He said:" No."

The position of the Obama Administration should be "We don't negotiate with terrorists." Put the revolver in Mitch's hand and he call his bluff. Let him pull the trigger. The reason is that the grand patrons of Mitch's side of the GOP are the Chamber of Commerce, who are already on the record saying not lifting the debt ceiling would plunge us back into a recession at minimum. Let these guys pound on the Republicans for awhile.

In the last budget fiasco,Obama played the cool reasonable guy.The Left thought he sold out when in fact the budget deal actually increased government spending by $400 million. But this time, the GOP is emboldened by Congress' rejection of Obama's Israel policy and still think they can muscle him. It's important for him to draw the line on Medicare and let the others do the work on the GOP.

Memorial Day Recess*

*Except when it's not.

**The Senate is gone but remains in session. The reason is that GOP Senators fear President Obama will make a recess appointment of a singularly dangerous person, a genuine threat to the nation and our well-being. The previous week this person was called a liar by House Republicans. The person, of course, is my Sweetheart of the Rodeo--America's Own Heroine and Decent Person--the great Elizabeth Warren.

Literally the GOP is so scared of Elizabeth Warren that they keep the Senate in session to prevent her appointment. 44 Republican Senators have actually signed a letter that they would not confirmed her as head of the new Consumer Protection Agency.

In my opinion, if you wanted only one person to be given a post--any post--in Washington, it would be Elizabeth Warren. She has been one of the most articulate spokespersons for the interests of the Middle Class in the country. She has been pioneering in her work on credit card and mortgage issues facing the country. Even her initial critics--the small town banks--have now openly urged her appointment and sing her praises. She talks to any audience and will answer any question of her.

Her basic problem is that she's not corrupt. In olden days, that was the type of person you wanted as the head of an agency to protect consumers. But not now.

I hoped that there would have been a large television audience for the way the House treated Elizabeth Warren the other day. Not to wish it on anyone, but the sharp contrast between her and her inquisitors would have made everything perfectly clear about what the stakes are in today's debate.

** In case, you've have forgotten some of Glenn Beck's conspiracy theories, you should be reminded that the most powerful man in America is Cass Sunstein, also known as the husband of Samantha Powers. Now the House GOP wants to investigate Cass Sustein--not that he's done anything wrong. It's just that he's in charge of Obama's efforts to reform regulations. Previous to being smeared by being associated with President Obama, Republicans used to think highly of him believing he was a pseudo-libertarian. But now ,according to Beck, he is a raving socialist.

**Steve Benen over at Washington Monthly wants you to know that Tan Man Boehner's excuses over the House eliminating Medicare are lame. Boehner argues that the Democrats cut $500 billion from Medicare (the old GOP ads in 2010) and the GOP is saving it. Benen is right, of course, but I'm not so sure that the GOP can't pull that line off. Paul Ryan picked up this new line when he argued that his budget restored the Obama cuts. Absolutely, utterly false. but repeated enough, people might buy it.

**Karl Rove just thinks the killing off Medicare issue is really just a messaging problem. He suggests creating a little "college" where newly elected Republicans can learn how to explain it. What about, we killed it, Karl. Or Americans love clipping coupons. Call it Coupon Care. or Better yet something like Kevorkian Care.

**I deeply regret Goodwin Liu withdrawing his name as the nominee to fill the vacancy on the 9th Circuit Court. He was obviously forced to because Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans filibustered his nomination. He has only been hanging around for about two years to be confirmed. He would have been the first Asian-American on the 9th Circuit Court. He received the highest ABA rating and even netted the endorsement of people like Ken Starr. But, some Republicans from the Deep South felt that he was too "sympathetic to Red China." Whatever that means. Basically, he was blackballed because of racism and that he was the most liberal nominee put forth by the Obama Administration. Of course, there was no relationship with Communist China.

**To celebrate Mariano Rivera's record-breaking 1,000 appearance as a Yankee Pitcher, Rudy Guiliani has taken the lead in the CNN poll for the Republican nomination ( yes, a 2011 poll). Rudy gains 16%, Romney 15%, Palin 13%, Ron Paul 12%, Cain 10%, Gingrich 8%, Bachmann 7%.
Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

**Newt, who opposed Coupon Care because it was radical social engineering, now wants your donation so he can support the Paul Ryan Plan.

**Pizza Man Herman Cain thinks the GOP should stop hiding and called their Medicare idea a "voucher program." Instead, it's like a frequent flyer promo--"Premium Plus".

**Sister Sarah is in town today with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle parade for the MIA. She will be taking her Magic Bus throughout the East. Observers say this a preclude for her run for the Gold.

**Karl Rove did get something right. He said that Sister Sarah doesn't believe the rules apply to her. That's true. He was referring to her lack of organization in Iowa and South Carolina and her lack of recent fundraising activities. Her supporters believe--and I tend to agree--that if the minute she runs, she absorbs all the attention and that the Palinbots will desert other candidates and that she can win both Iowa and South Carolina without too much effort.

**Frothy Mix Santorum will be declaring next week, making Dan Savage proud. He's supposed to do it in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania--no jokes please about chutes or other things.

**Rick Perry, the secessionist Governor of Texas,believes he's under the Gaydar so he is thinking about running for President--despite his pledge when he ran for an unprecedented third term for Governor.

** 25% of Minnesota citizens think Michelle Bachmann is qualified to be President. Well, that seems enough for her to travel to Iowa to make her announcement. She warned people that she and Palin are not interchangeable.

**Mitt Romney will announce formally this coming week. I guess the first time didn't take on Youtube.

**I know Tim Pawlenty is running because he said he wasn't like President Obama on a pub crawl. Also, Tim is running on his foreign policy expertise. He thinks the United States is occupying Iran.

**This is something you won't read about in the news. President Obama will make an official Presidential visit to Puerto Rico. He will only be the second President to ever do so. The first was John F. Kennedy. Stranger yet--his task force on the status of Puerto Rico has completed its work and President Obama wants to resolve the island's status before the 2012 elections. That won't happen. But the proposal from his task force is interesting. First, Puerto Rico must determined whether it wants to be part of the United States or independent. Second, if they decide to be part of the United States, then they vote on whether to become a state or remain a commonwealth.

** Another thing you won't read in the newspapers. President Abbas of Palestine is actually trying to get his fusion government to make a proposal on the peace talks which will be in line with the Quartet's requirements. Both Hamas and Fatah would accept the right of Israel to exist and pledge to a non-violent solution. This would take away Bibi's resistance to negotiate with the Palestinians. Abbas also said that the Palestinians had no intent to isolate Israel.

** The G-8 backed the Quartet's plan for the Middle East peace talks but the Canadian Prime Minister insisted that the language about the 1967 borders be dropped from the text. fromer American envoy George Mitchell told liberal Israelis that President Obama was trying to avoid a train wreck this September. Mitchell said that a UN vote would not be good for Israel, not be good for the United States and not be good for the peace process.

**War crimes are forever. Ratko Mladic was finally arrested. Now he will be extradited for trial at the Hague.

**Louisiana and Tennesse actually did outlaw abortion this week. Luckily, both states struck down prison sentences for the women who have them but doctors will face upwards to ten years in prison.

Oh Boy, The House Republican Plans For Jobs

After some 140 days in office and dozens of anti-abortion bills later, the House Republicans have unveiled their seminal proposal to create jobs and embark on a pro-growth policy. It's about time. So I'm sure that they have learned from the past, when the last Administration created over 1 million public sector jobs but lost jobs in the private sector. At last glance, we would losing over 750,000 jobs in the private sector per month, now we are created about 240,000 jobs a month but this is too little. So I'm sure they recalibrated some of thie thinking on economic policies.

Ezra Klein today has a light-hearted approach to the Republican 10-page brochure. Steve Benen has more pointed comments to make at Washington Monthly. And we can forget Paul Krugman because he is not appreciative of graphic design.

Well, clearly, with American companies sitting on trillions of dollars, their reluctance to invest in the United States to create jobs is because of Too Many Regulations. Now what we need is Congress to conduct an audit of all business regulations to eliminate those that are redundant and too restrictive. (It seems I remember President Obama embarking on a similar project--no mind because if he does it, it doesn't count.) What we really need is to take regulations away from the regulatory agencies--Nixon thought that up--and allow Congress to vote on every regulation. Sort of like passing laws to regulate women's health care. That approach. Now what are the types of regulations that prevent growth and job creation--Regulating Greenhouse Gas, Net Neutrality, and Pesticide Controls. I kid you not.

And obviously, our businesses, especially small businesses like Koch Industries and Bechtal, are over-burdened by Taxes. On paper, the United States has some of the highest business taxes in the industrialized world. But then again less than 25% of our largest corporations pay any taxes. So we must help the Job Creators, which also include the wealthiest Americans because they hire assistants and maids. So we flattened the tax code--actually not a bad idea--and put the top rate for businesses and individuals at 25%. Now the House claims it wants to eliminate tax loopholes for special interests. The problem seems to be what interests because they voted to extend the tax breaks for the oil companies.

Now once we cut taxes for the corporations and the wealthy,the big job boom really can't start until we allow Companies to repatriate their overseas profits--said to be in the trillions--without them having to pay taxes. This will encourage them to create jobs in the United States.

The House Republicans will Expedite The Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Now holding up our competitive edge in the world are Patent Backlogs. There are over 700,000 patent applications backlogged. (Reforming this is already in process by the Obama Administration). So the House Republicans want to modernize and improve the patent system. So one of their ideas is to Discourage Frivolous Lawsuits.

Now that we have all the profits repatriated, the free trade pacts done and patents streamlined, we have to be sensitive to the problem our high-tech industries face in struggling to find skilled American workers. So we must change our immigration system to provide visas to the highly skilled. So while foreign workers can run the high-tech industries, many thousands of Americans will be hired as janitors and this will have a trickle-down effect on the economy.

Since our health care industry, particularly the drug companies,are the vanguard of the world, we must facilitate the FDA approval process and stop the delay in approving "life-saving" drugs. So we should cancel the fees the health industry as to pay for prescription drug approval and medical device approvals.

And of course, we must deal with America's energy needs. We must maximize our domestic energy. So we must encourage energy exploitation and production. There is no mention in their plan of alternative energy sources that actually do create jobs. But no matter.

But we also have to reassure investors that America will pay its bills so we must Pay Down the Debt. This is actually a new Republican theme since Dick Cheney always said "Deficits don't matter." But the House Republicans proudly have cut $6 trillion from the debt by passing the Paul Ryan Budget. Coupon Care will alleviate the future Medicare problem. Americans will then become Solyent Green after their last coupon runs out.

Ezra Klein says that you would have to read this plan without remembering or knowing anything that happened in the last decade. A more charitable economist said that this plan might--I stress might--have the long-term effect of increasing America's GDP by 1%. That's over a period of years. No the collateral damage might negate any benefit.

Since the tea party people have trouble reading, the brochure is in very large type and half are glossy color pictures so it's easy to read. What I found nice is that the government should have no role in encouraging areas of investment in our economy so that we might actually be competitive in the future. Instead, the wonderous powers of the free market with the Koch Brothers' guidance will produce this new Brave World.

I forget who said this was an example of how brain dead the Republican party is. Take out your golden oldies and say we need more of them or else America will end. Do it now.

To reassure investors and the market, Mitch McConnell says he will not agree to raising the debt ceiling unless there are dramatic cuts to Medicare. This is the new tactic to get around Coupon Care, insisting that Democrats and President Obama are the ones cutting Medicare. Hey, maybe it will work. It did in 2010.

I think they missed other opportunities like ensuring that we have no public school systems because the private sector can educate children better about the needs of business. But this is a minor quibble. Because America is exceptional.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gideon Levy Take 2 on Bibi and Blair on Obama's Concern

Haaretz' Gideon Levy takes another cut at Bib with "Netanyahu relegated himself to the footnotes of history".

Levy, who keeps referring to Bibi's address to Congress as the "speech of hife life", says now the speech is quickly that of his political demise. Polls in Israel don't suggest this but Levy's point is larger. He slams the snake oil peddlers who sold the masses on the "more moderate"," grown wiser","matured" Netanyahu, whom we could expect "sensational suprises from." He says that Israelis must admit the bitter truth. "The Israeli Leonaid Brezhnev is occupying the Prime Minister's Bureau. A many of yesterday, frozen and rigid, uncompromising, deaf to the sounds of his surroundings and blind to the changing times. His term of office, heaven forbid, must not drag on nearly twenty years, the way Brezhnev's did."

Levy asks what happens when the warmth of the American Congress' hollow ovations evaporation. What now? "Then it will become clear that this prime minister has got us in trouble. Big trouble. We lost the Palestinians a long time ago, and now also the White House's America. Once the speech ended, the chances ended." After the speech, Levy writes we know where we are going--nowhere.

Levy says there are no more buyers in the world for the stale merchandize Bibi offers. "There is a new world around us, and Netanyahu refuses to acknowledge its existence. What is he going to tell this world now, a world of popular uprisings, struggles for freedoms and human rights? That he is in favor of freedom for Arab peoples, just not in our backyard?"

Levy raises what happens when the September vote at the United Nations happens. "At the end of this oratory session, the Israelis, too, will have to ask themselves: What next? Blind and deaf,will we continue to follow this Brezhnev of ours? And how will we confront the storm raging around us? And what will we do with the U.S. President Barack Obama, who at long last will have to act and not just talk?"

Former British Prime Minister and the UK's Middle East envoy Tony Blair spoke to an audience of Middle East-focused business leaders at London's Royal Institution. Blair said that President Obama launched his peace initiative because Obama was "frankly worried about the position that Israel is in."

Blair described Obama's initiative--rejected by Bibi Netanyahu--as "an attempt to fill a vacuum which he sees as dangerous , particularly dangerous for Israel in the run-up to September", when the General Assembly is expected to take up the issue of Palestine. Basically Obama was trying to avoid an embrassing diplomatic showdown in New York. While the U.S. is committed to veto the resolution, it would leave the United States isolated with anti-Israel sentiment rising in Europe.

Blair, who represents the Quartet of Mideast mediators, didn't comment on what he thought the consequences of the vote would be. "I do think, especially with what's coming in September...we're going to live in interesting times."

For the United States, the General Assembly vote would be an enormous setback when we have to deal with an assortment of Middle Eastern issues. But the Israeli center and center-left believe it will be catastrophic. Because if European countries go along--and they might,knowing we're going to veto--then Israel's isolation would almost be complete. Then the balance among the Palestinians might shift to Hamas from the accomodating Abbas and the vote would give pretext and cover for renewed confict.

Make no mistake Blair's comments were officially approved by both the British and Americans.

America the Strange--the Continuing Saga

It is looking like Sarah Palin may be making a run for the presidency. She commissioned a two-hour documentary extolling her virtues as Queen Esther, her Christianist persona. Frank Bailey's Blind Allegiance is out and gives an insider's look at Palin's gubernatorial campaign and her short-days at Governor of Alaska. If you forget your attitudes toward Sarah Palin, this is a fun book about the mayhem of political campaigns when your candidate is disorganized,vindictive, lacking any policy aptitude and corrupt in her own ways. Bailey does convey the freshness of Palin's persona and how she resonated with an electorate tired of dynastic and corrupt rule.

In a way, this memoir is about the first teabagger candidate and all the troubles that come with campaigns based on simple sloganeering. The book is based on her general factotum's e-mails back and forth with Sarah and Todd Palin and his years first as a volunteer and then later as a player in her inner circle. There will be more anti-Palin books coming out like Joe McGinness' and others. But this one is from a self-described Fox conservative and a person who gravitated to Palin as a self-proclaimed Christian.

Why would one think at this late day that Palin might make a go of it. Look at today's Gallup poll for the Republican nomination: Mitt Romney 17%, Palin at 15%, Ron Paul 10%, Newt 9% and Herman Cain 8%.

Or the more interesting Sachs/ Mason Dixon Poll on "Who would you rather have lunch with?"
All respondents: Obama 53%, Palin 16% and Romney 9%.
Democrats: Obama 85%, Palin 5%, and Romney 2%
Republicans: Palin 27%, Obama 25%, and Romney 19%
Independents: Obama 48%, Palin 16% . and Romney 8%

What is fascinating in Bailey's memoir is all the union support Palin had during her run for governor and her husband, who is a union member, canvassing the Alaskan union scene.

Then consider her recent purchase of a home in Scottsdale, Arizona. Local gossip suggested it was for a run for Jon Kyl's seat when he retires this year, but others suggest it would be the headquarters for a presidential run.

Then factor in that Freedomworks, teabag central, has announced its commitment to destroy Mitt Romney suggesting he is like Charlie Crist. Add in that Michele Bachmann's recent fizzle in her effort to create a Money bomb for her candidacy and there is a large opening for a teabag candidate that would woo Huckabee's Christian Right base.

And over a dozen potential candidates have dropped by the wayside. As I've written so many times before, Palin is the BASE incarnate and the forerunner of governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Her lackluster ability to pick winning candidates in 2010 is not a downside. Remember she did back Nikki Haley in South Carolina and is identified with the new Christian Right women candidates.

These is a smoldering question in the Republican Party. The emergence of the teabaggers is a phenomenon of extreme discontent with the Republican establishment and also a delayed reaction to the George W. Bush years and its expansion both of federal government powers and the national debt. In this scenario, all of Palin's vices become virtues and she is genuinely and emtoionally hostile to the party establishment and Newt Gingrich to her is a giant red flag. The situation is too tempting. She has already salted away more money in the last two years than her family will ever need the rest of her life. And there has to be some strong feelings that others are trying to coopt her appeal.

David Frum writes that while he expected Palin to be the Goldwater of 2012, he was actually wrong and it is none other than Paul Ryan. I happen to agree with him. Ryan has appeared after the defeat of Jane Corwin in NY26, Jack Kemp's old district, to double down on his Medicare position. He now says that all seniors should have to pay for their healthcare themselves. He even went on the airwaves and got his power point out to attack Democrats for misrepresenting his plan, which he then went on to explain exactly the details of the plan everyone objects to.

While Drudge reports that Obama's budget went down to defeat in the Senate, most of us watched the vote called by Harry Reid on the Ryan budget. 40 Senate Republicans, including Dick Lugar, voted for it, while five Republicans voted against it. Rand Paul opposed it because it did not go far enough. Only Scott Brown, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Lisa Murkowski voted against it. Olympia Snowe called Ryan's Plan " a recipe for the race to the bottom."

Dick Cheney says that he worships the ground Paul Ryan walks on. Apparently Ryan himself knows that the people of Wisconsin do not. The negative response to his Medicare plans at his townhall meetings persuaded him not to run for the Senate.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the new head of the DNC, managed a wonderful maneuver. She accused the leading Republican presidential candidates for not being sufficiently committed to American exceptionalism. Her argument was based on their reluctance to close tax loopholes for corporations who export jobs,loopholes for the oil companies and their refusal to tax the wealthiest, while hurting America's competitiveness in the world. Bravo! She did say,"I do not question their patriotism..at all." Nice thrust given that the Republicans have been yelling even since Obama took office he didn't believe in American exceptionalism and that he wasn't suffient appreciative of American reality. If I were in her position I would refer to the "Hate America Firsters".

I hope this was not a one off because Republicans have wrapped themselves in the flag for so long that they pretend to be patriots. It's time the Democrats turned the tables for a while.

Meanwhile I distinctly recall Mitt Romney going on network television to lambast President Obama for bailing out the auto industry. He didn't just do this once, he did it multiple times. I wondered at the time what the son of the head of American Motors was doing, especially when he needs Michigan. Hey, no problem. Mitt said the Obama plan was his idea but it would have worked better if he had done it. This is incredible! I hope the DNC runs the YouTube videos of Romney saying the bailout was a waste of money.

Let us remember that if the auto industry had gone under--17% of the American economy would have vanished overnight and America would have been plunged into a Depression greater than the last one. It would have ended American manufacturing ability.

Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was the most vocal opponent of the plan because he had coaxed BMW into his state with subsidies, actually came out this week and claimed credit. This goes beyond Republican congressmen claiming credit for stimulus programs in their districts when they voted against the stimulus bill en masse.

Wisconsin Dane County Court Judge Maryann Sim ruled that yes the Wisconsin legislature did violate the open meetings law when they jammed through the labor law. She did not decide the case on the merits of the law itself.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, three Republicans now face recall elections and no Democrats. Petition drives have begun to recall Gov. Snyder in Michigan and Ohio is finishing up a petition drive to get the Kasich labor busting laws up for a state-wide referendum.

Yesterday President Obama hit a 53% approval rating , the highest in a year. Perhaps, more importantly, he hit 50% in Florida, while the very strange and very criminal Governor Rick Scott hit a low of 29%.

Sharron Angle decided not to run for the House in Nevada.

Crazywoman Virginia Foxx managed to get the House to pass a law that prohibits all medical schools who receive federal funding to teach abortion procedures.

Oh and by the way, these actions have brought the Pro-Choice Americans back up to 49%, compared to anti-abortion supporters who are at 42%. The Gallup poll reversed a previous finding of the other year that showed anti-abortion people had assumed the top position for the first time. I would suggest that occurred because everyone thought that this issue had been resolved in the courts so people who might dislike the procedure felt they could say so without it having any implications. I would also suggest that the number of pro-Choice Americans will increase as more attention is paid on the GOP war against the Uteri.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Snark of the Day

It's clear to me after Congress' reaction to Bibi's speech that the Middle East Peace Process needs a new independent mediator. I think this would be an excellent opportunity for the Chinese to step up to their new global responsibilities.

What do Israelis think about what Bibi should have done. 10% believe he should have accepted President Obama's suggestions without reservations. 46.8% said that he should have accepted with some reservations, and 36.7% said he should have refused everything.

President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority said today he would go the United Nations route unless there was some progress before September. President Obama in the UK said that the Palestinians could not achieve their aims through the United Nations.

Joe Lieberman is working with Orrin Hatch to draft a Middle East resolution to rebuke President Obama and support an indefinite occupation of the West Bank by the Israelis.

So let's see--we have the Arab Spring which the United States must delicately work with on a diplomatic and economic front, while all of Planet Earth votes to recognize a Palestinian State but we have to veto it to save Israel diplomatically. That's going to play well. That's why our diplomats are so well paid--to square the circle.

What are the probable effects on Bibi's party's chances? He would go from a whopping 25 to 26 seats--a gain of 1-- in the 120-seat Knesset. A virtual El Duce.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Paul Ryan's Plan Gets Defeated in NY-26

In the perpetual Republican 26th district of New York State, a district that actually voted for Carl Palladino, the Democratic candidate Kathy Hochul won over Jane Corwin by 48%-42%. This was a race that saw Karl Rove pour money in and ads ran against the Democrat that she favored the Red Chinese, even though Corwin was heavily invested in Chinese companies. Anything to change the issue that the Republican had gone on the record saying she supported the Ryan Plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

By late this afternoon, the GOP were trying to spin a loss trying to avoid the Medicare problem. What is so interesting was that the GOP strategy was initially aimed at discrediting the teabagger, a wealthy businessman who is a perennial candidate in the district, thinking that his support would automatically drift to the establishment candidate. Instead, it went to the Democrat.

Citizens in the district were fed up at the end by the robocalls from people like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and John Boehner. Boehner himself came to campaign for Corwin, a well-financed and wealthy candidate, as did many other prominent Republicans.

Whether this is a one off or a harbinger of things to come for 2012 remains to be seen. But the odds on a Democrat winning this district were astronomical--people don't remember if this has ever happened before. I was quite skeptical because as the editor of the Buffalo News indicated this was a May election where the turnout would be lucky to exceed 20% and the Republican Party had all the counties wired. Local unions were working heavily for Hochul. Even though she was thought to be an excellent candidate the odds seemed too much.

What is the first take on the election is that the Democrats have found a winning formula in running against the Ryan Plan and attempts to tie all Republicans to it should yield plenty results. That's why Harry Reid's attempt to get the senate to vote on the Ryan Plan is important if the Democrats have any chance of keeping the Senate in 2012. Already Brown and Snowe have jumped ship on the Plan.

While Washington Applauds, Some In Israel Despair

Jon Karl reported this evening that Bibi received more standing ovations than Barack Obama did in his State of the Union address and comments on Google revealed Congressional Republicans tweeting messages of pure hate for Obama and love for Bibi. This siding with a head of a foreign power over the President of the United States is the subject of a current Foreign Policy piece , which traces how far the Republicans have gone in subverting American strategic interests by the full embrace of Bibi's and Israel's regional policy. That article quotes the American military about the difficulties they face with this situation. As we saw from today's speech, the problem is not just with Republicans but also with leading Democrats, who also seemed to have downed the Kool-Aid.

One of Israel's leading journalists and writers, Gideon Levy wrote in today's Haaretz that "Netanyahu' speech to Congress shows America will buy anything."

His comments are worth repeating at length:
"It was an address with no destination,filled with lies and illusions, heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It's unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday.

"The fact that Congress rose to its feet multiple times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the quality of their guest's speech."

Levy burns at Bibi's comments on the Arab Spring, noting his embrace of authoritarian Arab leaders, and almost shouts off the page at the lies Bibi told about freedom of worship in Jerusalem, citing the restrictions on young Palestinians. He said,"Netanyahu's 'speech of life' was the speech of the death of peace.

One American Jewish commentator noted that the American Congress gave a standing ovation to Bibi's line that the "Jewish people are not foreign occupiers", when in fact under international law they are occupiers of the West Bank and even Ariel Sharon said so. So this commentator noted the irony of the entire American Congress giving a standing ovation to a violation of international law. I didn't. After all most of these same characters approved on a bipartisan basis torture.

Herb Keinon at the Jerusalem Post said, Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel."

Josh Marshall writes,"(Bibi's) clear aim is to perpetrate the status quo indefinitely--something that simply is not compatible with israel's security, America's security or the Palestinian need for a state."

In its editorial Haaretz addresses the American Jewish community under the headline,"U.S. Jews Must Support Obama's Mideast Vision". The editorial praises President Obama for not turning his appearance at AIPAC into a political rally but instead addressed the urgent questions facing Israel. They emphasized that Obama stressed that only a peace agreement can ensure that israel will continue to be a Jewish and a democratic state and prevent a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly. They noted that yesterday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, backed Obama's plan as did other members of the Quartet. The core of which was that the 1967 borders must be the basis for a negotiated peace with land swaps.

The editorial goes on to say that Bibi's refusal to agree to this leads to a dead end. "From there the Road is short to a violent confrontation with the Palestinians, diplomatic isolation and perhaps even economic sanctions."

Haaretz concludes," The time has come for the Jews of New York and Illinois to stand beside their worried brethern in Jerusalem and Sderot who have welcomed Obama's message and are hoping for it to become a reality. Between loyalty to Obama's way and loyalty to Netanyahu's way, they must choose loyalty to the future of the state of Israel."

Today was a Pyrrhic victory for Bibi. As he has always said,"The Americans are easily manipulated to go right." But the concerns of the Haaretz writers are very serious. Israel already exists in a precarious balance and an Israeli leader playing brinksmanship jeopardizes more than his own political career.

For instance, given what we heard today, what will be the international reaction to the upcoming Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Over 15 flagged vessels--under the British, American, Greek, Swedish, Irish and Turkish registries--will be heading to Gaza. What happens--in light of the Arab Spring--if the Israeli raid them like last time? What will be the reaction? How doe you think the United Nations will respond? Does anyone really think American influence is going to hamper the anti-Israeli reaction in Europe and in the Middle East?

Hopefully, some saner heads in Israel will prevail for their own national interest.

Bibi's Big Dud

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen gave it the old college try,cajoling Bibi Netanyahu by invoking his 101-year old historian and Zionist father, Benzion, and Dov Weissglass, Ariel Sharon's chief of staff, to get off the dime on the peace process. Cohen wrote that today's moderate Palestinian leadership may disappear tomorrow and the 1967 borders are no less defensible than the current ones. Referring to Ze'ev Jabotinsky,a militant Zionist leader and journalist, whose essay "The Iron Wall" encapsulates Bibi's doctrine, Cohen writes," A doctrine enunciated in 1923 is out of date. You can not build an iron wall high enough anymore."

Josh Marshall writing before the speech said that Bibi isn't interested in a two-state solution. never was and never will be. It's time for everyone to face that fact.

The Christian Science Monitor earlier in the day hinted that Zionists were known for taking great risks and getting out ahead of events. It was clear that the Israeli embassy had done their background work and earlier in the day had promised "surprises" in the Prime Minister's speech.

In an article "The Israel Reality That Obama Doesn't Understand" in today's Haaretz , Merav Michaeli, a member of Isreali peace Initiative delegation, fills in President Obama on Bibi's own reality show as "the leader of a persecuted people", a role he revels in. He cites Abe Foxman's statement that Obama has actually done alot of good for Israel and his proposals were good for Israel. But, according to Michaeli, there is " no reality in this world which has ever convinced our leaders to stop being a persecuted nation."

Michaeli recalls that nine years ago 22 Arab League countries submittted a proposal for ending the conflict with the Palestinians and for the full normalization with all of them. The result, the Israeli leaders simply chose to ignore the fact that 22 Arab countries would accept the right of Israel to exist in peace. Only 15% of the Israeli public even know that such an offer was made. When his delegation met with the Egyptian Foreign Minister to make the first response, he said "For 9 years the initiaticve has been on the table. Now you remembered?"

Michaeli in his address to President Obama writes,"The reality is that change is the thing that Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular fear the most. The reality is that the state of Israel has become accustomed to the present situation and does not recognize itself without it. Israel has existed longer with the occupation than without it; it has existed for most of its years with no borders and is deathly afraid of change."

"The Reality is that Netanyahu never wanted or thought to initiate change. He wants settlements. He wants occupation. He wants the situation as it is and sees no problem with it. And now, Netanyahu prefers confrontation. Confrontation with you, confrontation with the Palestinians, confrontation with anyone he sees as coming out against "the persecuted people". The Reality is simply that confrontation we already know,Mr. President, but peace we do not know at all."

Yossi Aphen, an adviser to Ehud Barack and a former Mossad officer, has said that there is panic in Israeli government circles about the United Nations Resolution and are concerned that European governments are leaning toward accepting it.

SO BIBI'S SPEECH. For his own domestic political purposes, Bibi probably thought he did terrific. He received over two dozen standing ovations from a pliant Congress. Harry Reid even appeared with Bibi and chastised the President for some of his comments and said , of course,the peace agreements have to be negotiated on the ground and can not be dictated--as if his own President said that. Remember great people have been asked to address a Joint Session of Congress-Winston Churchill, NelsonMandela, Yitzhak Rabin, Vaclav Havel to name a few. None that I recalled were invited by the opposition party, while the President was scheduled to be abroad.

I listened to the speech. Frankly, it was horrible. Bibi's delivery was a "just us guys" type. He was snide and flip at points and then he invoked the horrors of being constantly under threat. While he inserted positive references to President Obama's suggestions at points, he basically reiterated what everyone knew were his core personal beliefs. His "painful compromises" were simply that he would have to give back any land of "ancient Judea and Samaaria", not Palestinian land. He promised that the Palestinian nation would have ample space and that he would be generous in what he gives it.

But he inserted several deal breakers. The promise of Ehud Barak of two countries with capitals in Jerusalem vanished. To much applause, Bibi asserted that the only time Jews, Christians and Muslims could worship freely in Jerusalem was when it was under complete Israeli control. And he claims that it would always remains so and be the capital of Israel. He then said that as all Jews in the world could emigrate to Israel so to Arabs and Palestinians could emigrate to Palestine. So much for any discussion on the right of return. Then because Israel was giving up so much, it would have to have its own military presence in the Jordan Valley amidst a demilitarized Palestine.

Bibi claimed that 6 Israeli Prime Ministers had agreed to the idea of a Palestinian state. But that Israel could not negotiate with terrorists. So he demanded that President Abbas tear up his Pact with Hamas, which had be shelved until the Palestinians listened to President Obama's proposals. And that the Palestinians should shelve its efforts to go to the United Nations for recognition because only negotiations would produce a state. Then he said he would be generous with the size of such a state and be the first to support its membership in the United Nations.

Within minutes after his speech, President Abbas formally announced that Israeli military presence in Palestine would be unacceptable. Unnamed Palestinian advisers said that Bibi had virtually ignored every talking point mentioned by the Palestinians. He responded that the speech was in effect " a declaration of war". The Palestinians by the end of the day said they would not be coming back to negotiate until the settlements stopped.

So we are left with the status quo and not much hope that anything will change anytime soon. The King of Jordan after hearing last week's spat between Bibi and President Obama said that there would be no movement for at least a year. The problem with this is that the UN resolution will come up and the United States will have to be the country that kills it, even though Bibi gave absolutely nothing to his only ally, except heartburn.

Maybe it's just as well. The last time it looked like there would breakthroughs in the peace talks were the Wye Plantation talks under Clinton. Then it was the Palestinians , particularly Yasir Arafat who could not pull the trigger. Basically, the Palestinians got 90% of what they wanted and Arafat thought he couldn't agree because of dissent within the ranks. It's so strange to see Israel now afraid of a moderate Palestinian leader, when they were to cut a deal with their arch enemy and a real killer.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Matt Yglesias Bums Me Out--Regarding Israel

Matt Yglesias in Think Progress wrote this morning a piece, "Bibi Netanyahu's Victory" where he explains to novices that Bibi didn't blunder by showing President Obama the back of his hand because, no matter what, Israel has basically a free hand to behave as it wishes, taking the pieces of the West Bank as it wants.

While Yglesias doesn't like this, he makes a cogent case based on quoting congressional types of both parties, who criticize President Obama's proposals. He notes that these attacks on the President not only involve misrepresentations of what President Obama said but they are in many cases coming from members of the President's own party. I would also add that many of them are actually wrong from a strategic point of view.

The bottom line: The President made it clear that he disagrees with the regional policy of the Israeli government, but despite that disagreement intends to keep Israel as the number one recipient of American foreign aid and that he also intends to put America's diplomatic clout at Israel's disposal in the coming controversy over a Palestinian declaration of statehood. And the whole time he will be subjected to opportunistic political attacks from the opposition party that will be reinforced not rebutted by members of his own political coalition.

Yglesias also makes the devastating case that the Palesitinian cause is deeply and increasingly unpopular in the United States. He uses a chart tracking the Gallup poll from 1988 through 2011, which showed that the Palestinians never topped 20% in approval and that Israel remains at about 63%, its top year was 1991 at 64%. So there is no public opinion pushing for a more balanced view of the negotiations.

What he argues is that Bibi has debunked the Barak/Sharon/Olmert/Livini centrist conventional wisdom that had dominated Israeli politics. The idea was that Israel needs to be willing to make tactical concessions to the Palestinians or even be polite to the White House to retain American support. That's why Bibi can act like he does because he knows he could do almost anything and still Israel would receive unconditional support from the United States.

He also points out but I think he over-estimates their importance that the populist nationalist parties gaining influence in Europe today on their anti-immigrant/ anti-Muslim positions are much more strongly pro-Israel. Frankly, I doubt that will influence the current situation, especially where the United Nations vote is concerned.

He thinks this strategy of Israel is morally wrong and that it is a strategic mistake for the United States to go along with it.

Running counter to Yglesias thesis is another piece in Think Progress that demonstrates that large majorities of Palestinians and Israelis, based on public opinion polling, support a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with land swaps. That's why I believe Bibi's strategy, while Yglesias may be right about its net effect, is catastrophic in the long run for Israel, and maybe the United States also.

Comments to his piece include a remark that sums up the awful logic of where we are:"The United States (and, by extension, Israel) is absolutely supreme in the military realm and can continue with virtually any strategy, no matter how wrongheaded, basically indefinitely."

T-Paw Declares, Will Tell The Truth


Netanyahu's Catastrophic Leadership*

*This piece appears in the Washington Monthly today.

Harold Pollack, a Professor at the University Of Chicago, weighs in with observations that as a non-Jew I can relate to. Pollack is not religiously observant but feels a strong sense of kinship, identification and affection for Israelis but is alarmed about the country's future. In this piece, he recalls the steady decline in Israel's moral and political standing within the United States and its deteriorating situation in the world as a whole.

Pollack maintains that Netanyahu might gain some short-term tactical advantages to resist American pressures but in the long-run , "he is pursuing a catastrophic course, both for Israel and the United States."

He recalls Israel's stature since the Oslo Accords. When that process began, Israel enjoyed de facto alliances with Turkey, Jordan and Egypt. Lebanon posed manageable security concerns. Iran was a distant threat. Israel was militarily ascendent. And it had relatively good relations with the European Community.

Having failed to achieve a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, Israel's position has steadily eroded. Its whole relationship with Europe is under serious question. Egypt still observers the peace treaty but the alliance is no more. Turkey has dramatically repositioned itself partly because of Israeli actions. Hamas is entrenched in Gaza and Palestinians seem to be turning away from a peace process that has become discredited. Our power as a country has visibly eroded after two wars. And the Arab Spring with broad and populist anger against Israel poses new dangers.

Pollack raises the generational issue of Israel losing its moral and political standing within the United States itself. He remembers the founding of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust as a living memory among older Americans and how his parents were riveted to the radio to hear battle reports from the Yom Kippur War. But he notes that he has met few Jews under 40 who are the unapologetic supporters of Israel in the way he and his peer group were. Having ground up myself on Leon Uris and Herman Wouk novels about Israel and listened to Abba Eban, I can relate.

Israelis were Jewish cool with Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rubin and even Bibi's brother, the hero of Entebbe. Even the bellicose Ariel Sharon had his own charming swagger. But, alas, Bibi makes Meyer Lansky look great. I even remember when a"Jewish settlement" was a kibbutz and not a Levittown or Leisure Village built over the graves of Saladin's family.

Pollack notes how liberal and moderate Jewish opinion leaders like Jeffrey Goldberg, Thomas Friedman, Leon Wieseltier and Peter Beinert have become alienated from Israeli policy and urges people to read what they used to write ten or fifteen years ago.

While politicians still make the annual pilgrimage to AIPAC, the atmosphere is different and the speeches are not heartfelt. He notes that Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans are emerging as important politicla constituencies with their own legitimate points of view.

Pollack believes Bibi gambling dangerously by allying himself with American conservatives against a sitting President. I do too. The Christian Right and neoconservatives will support Bibi unthinkingly as will partisan Republicans. But as Pollack notes, President Obama's policy views are widely shared within the Republican policy elite. He rightfully points at that Bibi's on-the-ground policies and his efforts to play American domestic politics are generating serious ill-will among American diplomats. And the American military have frequently complained here in Washington that Israel's policies have made it a strategic liability when this country is fighting three wars within the Arab and Muslim world.

Pollack believes Bibi will be to blame if the United States loses control of the peace process as it would under a general Assembly vote on a Palestinian state. And as several people, including myself, have wirtten there is a growing global momentum for precisely that outcome.

Pollack notes that President Obama is more popular among American Jews that Bibi is. He believes the American Jewish community will split if Bibi confronts the Palestinians or the United States over the continued expansion of the settlements. He sees israel being in a terrible state if it decides to defy the United States and then the Palestinians wage a politically sophisticated nonviolent intifada.

An ill-wind is blowing.

Morning Reflections On The Bibi-Obama Row

Junior Neo-Con, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin wasted no time in taking out against President Obama's AIPAC speech. In a lengthy rebuttal to the President filed shortly after his speech, she criticized him for not referring to the issue of the right of the return, the necessity of a military presence in the Jordan Valley (a long-held belief by Bibi) and not talking about the military option against Iran. She accused the President of accepting many of the Palestinians' assumptions about the situation in Israel.

Philip Weiss, who writes about Israel from a progressive perspective, said "It was a histroic speech, maybe the most remarkable speech he has ever given."

Josh Marshall, writing for Talking Points Memo,was effusive in his praise of President Obama's speech. Marshall writes," On its present course, Israel is on the way to becoming a pariah state, a status in which it cannot indefinitely or even perhaps long survive." For Marshall, "The occupation itself represents the true existential threat to Israel."

Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com views President Obama as the superb imperial manager without strong beliefs but thinks people must defend him for his ever slight deviation from orthodoxy on the peace negotiations. Greenwald argues that this flap opens the door for more intense debate and discussion on Israel and the Middle East. And he sees this as a way to change American attitudes on the issue and peal back the Washington consensus built up over years of successful lobbying by the American Jewish community.

Writing to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish on May 21, an Israeli citizen thanks Sullivan for his commentary on the recent Bibi-Obama flap saying:
"You should know that many Israelis actually do understand that we should go back to '67 border, but the environment here is so toxic. -Not unlike what the far right has done in America-that you can't say anything out loud or you'll be denounced as almost anti-semitic. What's going on here is awful. Bibi is taking us straight to hell. It's amazing to think that if Olmert were still in charge, he would have to cut a deal with Obama a year ago. What a waste to finally have an American President who is so sincere, serious and decent, at a time wyhen there's no leader, no vision and no hope in Israel."

Writing in the Daily Dish, Peter Beinart muses on "Netanyahu's Bizarre Response to Obama's Palestinian Proposal". Beinart sees Obama as throwing Bibi a lifeline to stave off the September General Assembly vote at the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state along Israel's 1967 borders. Obama's parameters for these new peace talks would help de-rail this eventuality. I don't know whether Beinart's analysis is correct that if the Resolution passes the General Assembly, according to international law Israel would be occupying a sovereign country. What he envisions then is a calvacade of lawsuits, divestment campaigns and cancelled business deals. Israel would be more and more beseiged as a result. That I agree with him on. For this reason, Bibi's outright and public rejection of Obama shows no real grasp of the real world, where America is no longer the single superpower capable of dictating results.

Beinart also notes that Bibi's response was bizarre when he said that the 1967 borders were indefensible. Clinton proposed a more dramatic solution in late 2000 as did Ehud Olmert in 2008 when both endorsed a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Michael Tomasky, also writing in the Daily Beast in a piece entitled "Bibi's White House Tantrum" said that Bibi this time miscalculated President Obama's power, playing the scene as if it were the first time they met and AIPAC and others ganged up on Obama for his initial peace initiatives. Seeing President Obama much stronger and with serious foreign policy credentials,he views Bibi's White Huse performance as verging on petulence.

The Economist noted that the Palestinians were holding off the reapprochment between Fatah and Hamas until after President Obama's speech. While Palestinian spokespeople were generally pleased with the trhust of President Obama's parameters, they said they needed to hear from Bibi whether Israel was in fact serious. They noted that Hamas was currently having an internal debate between their exiled leadership which favors negotiation with Israel and their domestic leaders who do not.The Economist noted that the European community is getting a little tired of two decades of American-led talks leading nowhere. Which to me signals Europe simply allowing the UN General Assembly vote happening.

One point that President Obama alluded to in his remarks about the urgency to restart the peace talks was the changes brought about by the Arab Spring. A few commentators note that now that the Palestinians are resorting to non-violent tactics they have the Israelis flummoxed. President Abbas on May 15th blessed a campaign of civil resistance by Palestinian refugees aimed at encouraging the return of Palestinian refugees by breaching Israel's armistice lines.

In short, the Arab Spring has arrived at Israel's footsteps. When Muburak was overthrown, the Israeli national security elite annouced that the world had been turned upside down and that things would never be the same. I think that's true and it also means that the pressures on Israel will become more complex and sophisticated and can not be solved by its leader trying to browbeat the President of the only country that supports them.

This past week's events took place after more than a year of Israel isolating itself. You will recall the gratuitous insults by the Foreign Minister to the Turkish Ambassador and the over-reaction to the Gaza Flotilla, which basically ended Israel's closest military and intelligence relationship with a Middle Eastern state. The arrest on the high seas of people like world famous author Henning Menkell only alienated that part of the European public still sympathetic to Israel. Basically, people like Benard Henri-Levy had to plead with his fellow Frenchmen and Europeans to tolerate Israel's actions. Things were not helped by the collapse of the settlement moratorum and the gratuitous insults to American envoy George Mitchell.

At the begining of the Obama Administration, the United States by quiet diplomacy and shuttle diplomacy had choreographed a deal among 22 Arab countries to simultaneously recognize Israel if its government went back to negotiating with the Palestinian Authority and suspended any further settlements. It didn't and the grand bargain failed. In the ensuing months,Israeli actions, which appeared more maladroit than malicious, further alienated the region and the world community.

Clearly, the Israelis need to manage their foreign policy better than they are currently doing. By apparently betting on the American Right to save their bacon, this only will alienate the larger American public who would like to support them. With the seige that lies ahead, Israel is going to need every friend it can get. That's why the behavior of Bibi Netanyahu was inexplicable to old friends of Israel and totally self-destructive. The last thing Israel needs to do is isolate itself further and by its own choice.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The World Really Ends On July 15 When Voldemort Battles Harry Potter

This should have been obvious to everyone. The release date for the last Harry Potter film will trigger catastrophic events across the globe.

So Harry Camping got a few things wrong. What's a few statistical errors between friends? He is 89 after all and missed the end of the world once already in 1994. He may still be right since the real end in his prediction is October. It's the rapture part where he was a bit off. That may be because the whole idea of rapture was never grounded in Christian traditions. It showed up in American in the late 19th century. No one had ever heard of it before so I think people are being a little picky here. it was a trial balloon.

Harry's gone missing--or maybe he was the only one who experienced rapture. His followers should keep their busses--those were great paint jobs. Not as good as the Teamsters who were protesting in Wisconsin but close enough. I feel sorry for the family who killed themselves and those who spent all their money because the end time was here. But Harry contributed alot to our entertainment leading up to yesterday. Hundreds of great cartoons were produced, newspapers got some fun stories for a few days, animators made great shorts and Rachel Maddow invented a new cocktail for the occasion. We even got explanations about the world's earthquake activities. That's not bad for a foolish idea.

Harry and his wife can always hide from his flock. They have about a hundred million dollars so they can now safely enjoy retirement. Harry Camping might want to bring in some scientists to check on his formula and his calculations. This might help him revise his estimates.

One of my favorite tweets of yesterday was from Rachel Fairbanks in Manhattan who said," Either the rapture isn't happening or all of New York City is going to Hell."

And why do we want to know when the world ends, anyway?

Will this episode lead reporters to ask Mitt Romney whether he believes Jesus Christ is going to return to St. Louis? (I never knew he had once been there.)

Harry Camping could make a comeback by appearing before his disappointed flock and saying he had been born again. It worked for Jimmy Swaggert. It should work for Harry.

Mitch Daniels Out, Cain In and Newt Melts Down

Mitch Daniels sent out an e-mail last night to supporters alerting them to his decision not to run for President. He basically said that he made the decision for family reasons. It's sad that all the Republicans who bow out seem to gain stature in my eyes than those who stay in. I thought Mitch Daniels statement was nicely phrased and fairly modest. He did not claim like Donald Trump that he would have won or like Mike Huckabee that his support was national, not regional. The business wing of the Republican party supported Daniels and he would have access to the Bush money-making machine if he had decided to run. It's a tribute to Daniels that he didn't buy into the Beltway hype and the GOP punditry claiming he was the One.

But Herman Cain announced before an enthusiastic crowd of 10,000 in Atlanta that once he is elected he can say ,"Free at Last, Free at Last" and that Martin's dream would have been fulfilled. The 65-year old pizza salesman is a tea party favorite and the winner of the South Carolina debate. The twitter feeds when he announced were really amazing. He has the type of following one usually associates with Ron Paul.

Newt continues his metldown. On Face the Nation this morning he still tried to weasle out of his criticism of Paul Ryan and at first denied he had talked about him on Meet the Press the previous week until they played the clip. Then he was asked about the Tiffany Charge Account. Here, Newt revealed how out of touch with reality he is. He first explained that he has no debt, no second home ,only a rental in Wisconsin with a mortgage and he has been a successful small businessman--contrary to the "Obama model". So if he and Callista buy stuff at Tiffany's they are private citizens and can do what they want. Then he tried to explain how his Tiffany's account didn't charge interest--that's a way to win the average voters' heart. So you are left hanging about a huge jewelry bill, which finally Newt snapped that you'll have to ask Tiffany's about that.

For someone who has contemplated running for President for decades, Newt certainly is not a prime time player. He has been all over the map on almost every issue and it's not been a full month. He doesn't even remind me of when he was a guerrilla leader and a bomb-thrower. He resembles a suicide bomber more than anything.

Tomorrow we see how Tim Pawlenty can excite the crowds. Already he has taken friendly fire, his predecessor Arne Carlson, a Republican, charged that Pawlenty created a state deficit that as a percentage of the budget was worse than California. John McCain seriously considered Pawlenty for his vice-presidential candidate because he admired his working-class background and how he worked his way up to be a lawyer and then entering politics. There are serious problems with Pawlenty but none greater than he is boring and lackluster.

Old Frothy Mix Santorum decided to get into the torture debate after John McCain revealed what Leon Panetta told him about the killing of bin Laden. Santorum actually said that McCain didn't understand how torture worked, that you break someone down and they tell you everything. McCain, someone who has been tortured frequently over a period of years, did in fact talk about how the tortured will say absolutely anything to stop the pain. Santorum's attack was met with disbelief by the McCain family and a funny response from the Senator's staff who said,Who?" Mark Salter, McCain's alter-ego,posted on his Facebook that Santorum was the dumbest person he ever met in the years he served in the Senate. A couple of days ago Santorum apologized for his comment--sort of.

Mitt Romney was hailed for having a telethon in Las Vegas where his rich backers used their rolodexes to raise more than $10 million in a day. Somehow that doesn't seem that great. Ron Paul's money bombs usually net $1 million after one of his appearances and no one has to make a call.

The new New York Magazine has a long piece on how Glenn Beck was fired from Fox. But the main point of the piece is how Roger Ailes aspires to being the arbiter of who will be the GOP presidential nominee and his endless war against the Obama Administration. Ailes comes across as a shrewd political operator with all the freaky ideas we associate with super-rich people. You could imagine he and the Koch Brothers talking about eugenics. He actually believed that Obama was going to create a private police force.

The piece details how Ailes tried to get Sarah Palin to lay low after Gaby Giffords was shot in Tucson only to have her cut her "blood libel" video. Ailes has been trying to get Sarah to make a decision about running for President for months so he can re-program Fox.

But the Republican he loves is New Jersey Governor Chris Chrissie ,whom he hosted at his Hudson River house along with Rush Limbaugh. Despite Ailes' pleading, the governor refused to commit to run for President this year. A group of Iowa Republicans will be travelling out to New Jersey to make another pitch soon.

But so far the GOP race is looking like a Romney-Pawlenty contest. This is driving republicans to despair.

The most attractive candidate is Jon Huntsman but the comments on right-wing blogs have been universally scathing. Also, he did not do himself any favors by virtually changing all his positions in a week to make himself more acceptable to the Right.

President Obama at AIPAC

Before the adults take the stage, let's hear from Karl Rove, who criticized President Obama for using the "language of the Left" in characterizing Israel as "occupying the West Bank" and using the language of "those who hate Israel."

Steve Benen at Washington Monthly countered with this quote from Ariel Sharon, who said in 2003,"You can not like the word, but what is happening is an occupation--to hold 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation."

Newt Gingrich called President Obama's comments on Thursday "disasterous", saying that God never wanted Israel divided.

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch said he might have to support a pro-Israel Republican if there is one who doesn't adopt austerity economics.

The head of the Zionist Organizations of America demanded that AIPAC rescind the invitation to the President to speak today.

Andrea Mitchell is picking up on the distaste Americans felt about Bibi Netanyahu "lecturing the President like a schoolboy."

People should be reminded that it's not a great idea to be scheduled to speak after President Obama. Bibi Netanyahu will have to wait until tomorrow. I wouldn't like to bet that he will be better received than President Obama was today at AIPAC.

President Obama gave a strong, eloquent defense of his position on Israel and the urgent need to advance the peace process. It was one of his most coherent, lengthy addresses in a while since he only had to focus on a single issue. Despite all the critics and the manufactured tension, the AIPAC audience frequently interrupted the speech with strong applause. The President did not back away from his statements concerning the 1967 borders but elaborated on its meaning and how this was the template for negotiations since the Clinton Administration.

President Obama built the speech by first outlining the strategic importance of Israel to the United States and then to our moral commitment to the state of Israel and the common values that bind both nations. This was giving the audience the red meat.

President Obama reiterated America's commitment to Israel's security and our commitment to the survival of Israel as a strong,secure homeland of the Jewish people. And here he inserted specific steps the Administration has done, which his critics have conveniently or deliberately ignored. He has increased the cooperation between the two militaries--the U.S. and Isreal--and provided Israel with our most advance technologies. He increased the foreign military financing to record levels. And he mentioned how the United States and Israel developed the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that has already thwarted missile attacks on Israel. You might remember this from the whole Star Wars flap when neo-cons claimed Obama had abandoned missile defense systems both for Israel and Europe. Which of course he didn't. He pledged that the United States would always help Israel maintain its qualitative edge in military technology.

He outlined how the Administration has created the strongest sanctions against Iran and how he was absolutely committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (It should be noted that Israel has an estimateed 250 nuclear devices and Iran zero at this point.) And he talked about efforts to stem Iran's support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.

He committed the United States to oppose any attempts at the United Nations to de-legitimize the state of Israel. He said that the United States would stand up against efforts to single out Israel at the United Nations.

He recognized that Israel has a problem with negotiating with an entity that includes a "terrorist" group and said that the United States will insist Hamas accept the basic responsibility of peace --recognize Israel's right to exist, reject violence, adhere to existing agreements and release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

But the status quo is unsustainable. He cited three basic facts, which indicate that peace must be obtained soon.

First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Second, Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of genuine peace.

Third, which I found most compelling, a new generation of Arabs are reshaping the region so that a just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders alone. This generation of Arabs must see peace obtained so that it can be maintained in the future.

He pointed out that the Palestinians are pursuing United Nations recognition because of the world's impatience to see peace achieved. He did note that the Administration would hold the Palestinians accountable for their rhetoric.

He brought up the whole issue of the 1967 borders and said that they would have to include land-swaps and the borders would have to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.

"We can not wait another decade, or another two decades, or three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will only undermine Israel's security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve."

Good luck, Bibi, in trying to top that.

The speech would hardly qualify in the words of Mitt Romney as throwing "Israel under the bus." In fact, I could not think of a stronger defense of Israel than the President gave and still be responsible to the issue of Israel's real security. I would like to hear from the Israeli Prime Minister, on how specifically he is enhancing the security of his own country since everything his government does seems to undermine it.

Be interesting to see how the Wild Things react to the speech and how his words can be misconstrued. The whole speech is worth accessing on line.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Reactions to Obama's Israel Flap

The Sunday Washington Post's lead editorial laments President Obama's relationship with Netanyahu and believes the President undercut his own diplomatic efforts by formulating his position on negotiations between Israel and Palestine the way he did. The Post claims that Netanyahu only found out about the precise wording of the section on Israel only a few hours before the President delivered it.

The Post's editorial in my opinion is woefully wrong in its conclusions, blaming Palestinian President Abbas for not wanting a negotiated peace. They never raised the issue of Netanyahu's sincerity on the subject. And also questioned whether President Obama's initiatives on the Arab Spring are now in doubt.

Since we're supposed to think there is only the United States and the country upon which we act out our policy,it might be interesting to consider that there is something called the Quartet chosen by the international community to foster a peaceful solution between Israel and Palestine. The Quartet consists of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The rest of the Quartet is on the record as agreeing with President Obama's parameters for a peace settlement and saying that they especially stress the urgent need for negotiations.

Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom were quick off the block openly agreeing with President Obama, especially on the 1967 borders as being the starting point for negotiations, something Prime Minister Netanyahu has so far denied.

Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Kadima coalition in Israel, went on record backing Obama's plan and his tone. But she let loose on Netanyahu, saying: "The Prime Minister has violated relations between israel and the United States. He has endangered the security of Israel and its power of deterrence."

The sight of Netanyahu lecturing the President of the United States at their joint press conference has been the cause celebre in the Middle East and has drawn criticism here in the States. Pat Buchanan, not your most philo-semitic person, donned his commentator hat to say that he was bewildered by Republican criticism of Obama's position since it was the exact same as that of George W. Bush. But he also said that he personally resented having Netanyahu, who is totally dependent on America, to be publically lecturing President Obama like a schoolkid at the press conference.

Defense Minister Ehud Barack tried to downplay the PR fiasco for Israel, saying that the meeting didn't go all that badly and people were over-reacting.

In Ramallah on the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas instructed all his advisers to avoid any comment so as to keep the attention on Netanyahu's behavior and his collision course with Obama. Palestinian authorities privately said that the chance of renewing the talks seem rather remote after the Israeli Prime Minister's visit to the United States.

Unless Obama can change Netanyahu's mind before he leaves the United States, the odds are great that the Palestinians will again look to renew the United Nations Resolution. President Obama has openly warned the Palestinians that they would not achieve their goal of a state through this method.

Palestinians well aware that the United States has vowed to veto such a measure are now looking either to have a United Nations trusteeship declared for Palestine or to acquire observer status at the United Nations.

During this time, President Abbas has been consulting Arab foreign ministers by phone and is heading to Jordan for consultations with the King. He has requested a meeting with the Arab league next month.

We look forward to both President Obama's and Netanyahu's speeches to AIPAC this coming week. President Obama's words that the "Dream of a Jewish democratic state can not be built on permanent occupation" resonates with the better angels in Israel but the ruling coalition knows it's doomed if it openly talks about a two-state solution.

Everyone's ambulance chaser, Glenn Beck has used the occasion to announce his wonderous "Restore Courage" tour of Israel. For just a few thousand dollars, you can travel to the Holy Land and walk in the footsteps of the Savior. And get to hear Glenn Beck defend Israel. He has said he will be willing to die there if God wants it. Beck says that all of Western civilization will end if Israel is destroyed. He badgered Bill O'Reilly the other night about his attitudes toward Jews. And like many evangelicals, he invokes the name of Dietrich Bonhoffer, who died in prison after trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

What Beck doesn't confess to is how Hitler allowed Mormons to proselytize in Nazi Germany and how the American evangelicals, who love to talk about Bonhoffer, in fact shamefully supported Hitler's programs for Germany. Accompanied on his trip to Israel by the religious Right's favorite fake historian David Barton, Beck might have inquired about American fundamentalists strange history in their relationship with Hitler's Germany. But irony isn't allowed here.

Glenn Beck said that he hoped his trip would ruin American foreign policy toward the region. Any bets on whether he is greeted by Netanyahu. After all the Prime Minister stiffed one of America's strongest allies of Israel, Vice President Biden, for an event hosted by Pastor Hagee, who was extolling the Jewish settlements.

There is real bad juju going on here and anyone really concerned about the security of Israel has to be tremendously bothered.

As with the Republicans, I remember meeting Bibi Netanyahu with Bayard Rustin when Bibi was relatively sane and intelligent. What bothers me know about him is his fixation on Masada.