Netanyahu’s “shrift rift” turned into a confessional with all the hallmarks of dirty politics. First, no one accepts an invitation from a “family” member unless he or she is certain the head of the house approves. Certainly, a national leader does not accept an offer to speak that bypasses the equivalent office he or she holds, when to do so undermines and embarrasses the very relationship on which your security and progress is built. Would it be a “family” issue if President Obama thought it important enough to bypass Netanyahu and take his case directly to the Knesset?
Every dirty political move denies its errors and intent; Netanyahu is doing the same. Every dirty move claims it is demanded by a higher calling: safety, security, liberty, survival are righteous claims. The details of truth that lay in the balance are overlooked because of the attention given to the dirty move—which is being carefully denied! Hence the cycle: it’s denied in order to deflect from the details of truth that disprove its claims.
Finally, the point of political dirt is disruption—and this Boehner/Netanyahu dust-up with Obama is as nasty as it gets—bypassing a head of state to address a national legislature is a collusion never witnessed in US history. (Not Britain, France, China, Russia, or any of the world’s 190+ nations have had the opportunity and disdain and disregard to do so!)
John Boehner is willing to risk our national security while embracing a war hawk who wants the US to be his pocketbook and national proxy; in Israel, some call him the Republican senator from Jerusalem, or is that Netanyahu?
Israeli bombing in Gaza, 2014.
Finally,the speech. In the South, we speak of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” speech that engages in hot air and fantasy and traces lines of fear but in the end has no substance and leads to the same dead ends. It was sad to see the Prime Minister’s speech use the powerful images of threat, the history of his country and its survival and the “sturm und drang” of war for more “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
So much of the controversy around this historic opportunity was old news. Old slights, grown uglier and menacing to US statecraft. Defiant anger coolly aimed toward Obama. Old warnings of nuclear threats on a horizon in a warmonger’s looking glass that skipped a myriad of details—including who is going to fight, or what happens next—or even what happens now?
Search English editions of Israel’s newspapers (haaretz.com, the JPost) and read what Boehner and he never admit: the spin machine is going full-bore, trumpeting Netanyahu’s popularity in the US as being at an all-time high, claiming the political tensions, inside and out of the US and Israel, are being exaggerated, touting his standing ovation by Republicans who had refused to fund their own national security in order to politically punish our President. Sheldon Adelson’s free daily newspaper Israel Hayom expanded its printing to a record press run.
Yet other news outlets ere pointing out that 188 generals and officials (including a former head of Mossad) thought his speech was self-serving and did not serve Israel well. And more than 3,000 ultra-orthodox Jews protested in New York City over Netanyahu’s claim that he speaks as an emissary for all Jews. Acknowledging him as a head of state, they opposed his covenant claim of speaking for Jews. Many carried signs saying, “We don’t need a bibi-sitter.” Continue reading The Netanyahu Confessional
ABC’s This Week will feature Secretary of State John Kerry discussing among other things the identify of “Jihad John,” and the upcoming speech to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. ABC News political analyst . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 3/1/15
Before we get to anything else…
Mr. Spock is dead. Long live Mr. Spock!
That may be a rather illogical construct, but it just seemed the most appropriate thing to say. The fictional character the late Leonard Nimoy played often used “Live long and prosper” as his favored salutation, which is just a rephrasing of the basic sentiment, really. Nimoy will be missed by fans all over the world, who agree with President Obama’s simple statement: “I loved Spock.” We all did, which is why Spock will live on in many hearts. Long live Mr. Spock!
We’re only going to briefly touch upon the illogical world of politics this week, as we bring you a very special edition of our Friday Talking Points. Mostly this is due to the fact that I tried (twice) to write about the fiasco in Congress over the Department of Homeland Security budget, but both times had to delete what I had written because events were moving so fast and so unexpectedly while I was busy writing. So, instead, I am throwing up my hands in frustration and will be following the late-night developments tonight, along with everyone else.
The real reason the introductory parts of this column are going to be extremely short, though, is that the end of this column is so insanely long. You have been warned. I don’t think in all the years of diverging from this column’s primary purpose that I’ve ever written such a historical timeline, but that is what we’re offering up today, to mark the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington D.C. this week. Because we felt honor needed to be given where it was due, in the midst of all the other celebrations.
If this attempt at telling a story bores you, or you otherwise would like to hear some rip-snortin’ Democratic talking points, we would instead direct your attention to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s most recent (and most excellent) viral video. That should satisfy any craving for hearing how to properly frame political issues, while tossing down a major gauntlet to the Republicans.
OK, let’s get on with things by quickly running through an award or two, before we get to the main event.
Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington D.C., deserves at least an Honorable Mention, for standing strong in the face of threats of jail time from House Republicans, for allowing the will of the voters (70 percent of them) to become law this week. But we’ve got much more on marijuana in D.C. to come, so we’ll just mention it briefly here.
The winner of the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is Chicago mayoral candidate Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, who forced Rahm Emanuel into a runoff despite being heavily outspent in a crowded field. Garcia got 34 percent of the vote to Emanuel’s 45 percent, so Rahm may win the runoff anyway, but we can’t help but wallow in a bit of schadenfreude over Rahm’s problems (since we’re still waiting for an apology for all the nasty things Rahm called lefty bloggers in years past).
In any case, Garcia’s story is an impressive one so far, and maybe he’s even got a shot at dethroning Rahm. For his success in embarrassing Emanuel alone, he is certainly worthy of this week’s MIDOTW award.
[Congratulate Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia on his contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]
We have no award for Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, which is always a good sign.
If we’ve missed an obvious candidate, please let us know your thoughts, down in the comments.
Volume 337 (2/27/15)
The 1960s gave birth to the concept of the “sit-in,” as well as other related protest events such as “teach-ins” or even “die-ins.” But today we’re going to focus on one particular event which isn’t all that well known outside of the Washington Beltway: the “smoke-in.” Specifically, the annual D.C. Smoke-In held every year on July Fourth.
Nowadays, with three states and D.C. having legalized recreational marijuana (just this week, Alaska and D.C. joined Colorado and Washington state), the concept of a public smoke-in seems almost retro and quaint. But those who participated over the last four decades were risking arrest and drastic punishment for what they bravely did — breaking the law in protest of the unjust nature of the marijuana laws. So while many District residents celebrated in various ways this week (while some others cluelessly went in search of the “pot parties”), we instead would like to salute those who put their own freedom on the line each year in a dramatic display of civil disobedience.
This has included fights over who got to use the prime location for the rally, and (most memorably) James Watt shooting himself in the foot by attempting to ban the Beach Boys from the Independence Day celebrations. Every participant in the decades-long history of the Smoke-In has their own stories to tell, of course. What follows is just a few of them, in honor of all who stood up for what they believed in. They all helped usher in the new freedom D.C. residents now enjoy, which is why we’re dedicating today’s column to the history of the event. Sit back and enjoy. Continue reading Friday Talking Points  — D.C. Smoke-In History
I am one of the few who has made the argument that the President’s style is a classic example of the practice of the high art of Zen, one prescribed by its greatest masters and rooted in the classic book of wisdom, the I Ching.
It’s an easy case to make! Zen focuses on inner strength, not outer conflict. It is a quiet and presence of mind that sees both the short and long term by a presence of heart that is calm and reserved; it values wisdom above force.
The comparisons and the parallels with Zen never come up in the media. After hundreds of microphone sound checks by top analysts and thinkers, the Zen meme, in plain sight, is without a peep. It reveals how terribly and narrowly one-sided American thought presented by media has become: they claim insights on world traditions, but they established a multi-channeled agenda to build an intellectual frame, with Obama’s image as the poster of misgovernance.
Zen, by definition, is smart action, wisdom deftly applied. For deep, contextual reasons of power and privilege, Obama was a threat to all a circle of special interests cherished, and they needed desperately to portray him to their followers and to America as dumb.
The I Ching finds its roots in China as a work whose system of insights and actions explains the social and spiritual conditions that at times appear chaotic and bewildering, while at other times appearing calm and clear. Each set of conditions has hidden meanings and passages. If respected and tempered, through actions and virtues, these insights and steps bring forth inner truth, guide choices, and direct the path to change.
Simply, the I Ching defines relations between men, women and the world, and the forces beyond, the unseen conditions once known as the zeitgeist and weltanschauung and the things of heaven. The I Ching defines both the inner and outer nature of conditions and change in society and in the hearts of men and women. It is a manual that tells how to progress and benefit while being morally responsible; it addresses prosperity and security and the attitudes of good and evil; it maps out when to be patient and when to advance and warns of the dangers, both visible and hidden, from people and conditions.
Barack Obama has faced both during his two terms as our elected President; he has faced dangers—from people and conditions. When he stepped into office in 2009, some of the country’s most powerful institutions and people immediately formed organized resistance, and global conditions were at their global worst.
But his refusal to fight was classic Zen: engagement would have only stirred and strengthened evil and confusion. A fight would have only served his enemies. Despite his victory, he and the country were too weak to win and fight when others defined the terms and were willing to weaken the country even further.
His patience served America, and patience is an inner virtue, but in the President, many—both enemies and supporters—called it weakness, indecision. Many were drawn in by the anger his opponents displayed, by the force of their hatred and their demands for absolute power over his office as they blamed him for disturbing the status quo and not submitting to their “compromise.” They shut down the government and said he wouldn’t meet them halfway—to give them all of what they wanted to end their threat. They skipped 200 years of time to draw on a model of government that has no models of success.
The President did not respond until conditions were right. Zen teaches the right conditions are when your opponents think they are at their strongest, but have in their zeal for power left many things neglected, failing to attend to social needs. So after the midterm elections that put Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate, the President has made his opponents look incompetent and revealed them as servants of special interests whose tools are anger and bluster and money and whose goals are power and disrespect.
Like now, when the President without fanfare issued the third veto of his five years in office, striking down a bill in which Congress voted to approve the building of a Canadian pipeline across America’s plains, over America’s vital Midwestern aquifers, across sacred Native American sites, to bring the dangerous Canadian tar sands oil to Texas refineries. His opponents called his veto an “embarrassment.”
So America’s energy policy is a principal concern about not being “embarrassed?” What about merits? Were there none to criticize the President on? Was an embarrassment the worst result of his veto? The criticism hides a deeper failure by his opponents to pass a bill with substance they could defend.
Barack Obama has seen the institutions of power align to belittle and willfully oppose his every act, politically and personally. His legislative initiatives were wrong, his vacations too expensive, his head nods were considered bows that displayed gross violations of unwritten protocol and submission to foreign heads of state—even as his opponents were unrepentant about their violations, one yelling out during the State of the Union speech to say to the President, “You lie!” Continue reading Barack Obama: The Man of Zen
Is it that time already? Sadly, yes. CPAC’s 2015 edition gets underway Wednesday at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center just outside DC. This year’s roster of speakers looks remarkably similar to that of previous years, a cavalcade of crabbed conservative know-nothings preaching ignorance to the ignorant and hate to the hateful. Among them will be Rand Paul, John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Sarah Palin, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Sean Hannity, Bobby Jindal, and of course the Rick twins, Perry and Santorum.
In a clear sign that the world has slipped its moorings, debate continues to heat up over Bill O’Reilly’s credibility, which implies, fallaciously, that he ever had any to begin with. If nothing else, this all might provide a nice diversion for fellow liar Brian Williams as his suspension continues. In O’Reilly’s case, the issue is apparently him claiming to have single-handedly won the Falklands War with a falafel. Or something; I really can’t bring myself to care.
Speaking of liars, Chris Christie presents his sixth budget address to the New Jersey Legislature on Tuesday, with a court decision still pending as to whether he violated a 2011 deal on the public pensions he’ll apparently spend a lot of his address bleating about. Christie is still considering, apparently, whether he wants to try moving up to lying to people in all 50 states or whether he’ll content himself with just lying to New Jerseyans.
Chicago voters go to the polls Tuesday, with incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel campaigning hard to avoid a possible April 7 runoff. The strongest of Emanuel’s four challengers, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, said over the weekend that he expects “a major upset.” If Emanuel does end up with a runoff on his hands, or loses outright, “major upset” won’t even begin to describe the tantrum he’ll throw.
The Department of Homeland Security faces having to furlough 30,000 employees and shut down many of its operations on Friday, because House Republicans – well, “because House Republicans” pretty much sums it up. Despite their own questionable maturity, efforts continue by some Republican Senators to mollify their crybaby colleagues in the lower house but avoid a shutdown. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 2/23/15
ABC’s This Week will feature an interview with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both considering runs for the White House in 2016, will discuss their . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/22/15
Hello and welcome back to our Friday political news roundup. I must apologize for not writing one of these columns last week, but I was under the weather and far too sick to type (or think coherently). So the events covered today really encompass the previous two weeks, just to warn everyone in advance. Also, this intro is going to move along at an accelerated clip, because there is a lot to cover. Our awards this week are backwards, and then we’ve got a rant on the Republicans in Congress who are getting ready to have another government shutdown (because the last one worked so well, right?). But enough overview, let’s get on with things.
Congress woke up and realized that they should start debate on Obama’s war on the Islamic State. Hey, only nine or ten months late, but better late than never, right? It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out in the next few weeks.
Health and Human Services just announced that there will be a special one-time grace period for people to sign up for health insurance right around the deadline for filing income taxes. I wrote about this earlier in the week, and am glad to see they made the right call. This is for people who were unaware that not only will they be penalized on their 2014 taxes for not having health insurance, but because the open enrollment period just ended they’d have been locked into paying the penalty next year as well. With the new grace period, they’ll be able to avoid the penalty next year, which is a good thing because it’ll motivate more people to sign up. Obamacare already signed up almost 12 million people this time around (up from 7 million last year), and this will help boost those numbers.
Labor seems to be making something of a comeback, as strikes and lockouts are happening for oil refinery workers and those who unload container ships on West Coast ports. So far, the media hasn’t paid this much attention, but we’ll see where it all goes in the next few weeks.
Gay people are getting married in Alabama and Texas, which at one time might have been a truly shocking headline, but these days it’s almost commonplace to read about. The Alabama case got interesting when the chief justice of the state supreme court tried to have a showdown with the U.S. Supreme Court, but was smacked down in the end. By July, the headline is going to read “U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes All Gay Marriages Everywhere,” of course, but we’ve all still got a few more months of state-level news before that happens.
A federal judge in Texas blocked the implementation of President Obama’s new immigration policy, but that’ll really become bigger news next week, in the heat of the fight over the Homeland Security budget (which we’ll get to in the talking points section).
News from the campaign trail: Jeb Bush gave a not-ready-for-prime-time speech on foreign policy this week. Spoiler alert: he wants his brother’s foreign policy team, because they did such a bang-up job last time. Also, the Bush team went a little too transparent in a dump of emails from when Jeb was Florida’s governor. Problem was, they forgot to strip out such information as addresses and even Social Security numbers. Whoops! And Jeb’s supposed to be the smart one?!?
Rand Paul wants to change his state’s election law so that he can run for Senate and president at the same time. Boy, that just oozes confidence about his chances to get the Republican nomination, doesn’t it?
Scott Walker had his own not-quite-ready moment overseas, when he was asked about his views on evolution. His answer: “I’m going to punt on that one as well.” What wasn’t widely reported in the American press (due to the embarrassment factor, no doubt) was the questioner’s response to Walker [PDF transcript]. First, it was an incredulous: “No, really?” and then the Brit moderator commented: “any British politician, right- or left-wing, would laugh and say: ‘Yes, of course, evolution is true.'” Ah, to have such sane and science-based politics — where such things aren’t even seen as partisan!
Marijuana news: Vermont may become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana not through a voter initiative but through the state’s legislature. The nation’s new drug czar actually supports Washington DC’s legalization law, even though (by law) he must be awfully circumspect in how he speaks of it. The Drug Policy Alliance so far thinks the new drug czar is a lot better than the previous one, as well.
At least one U.S. Attorney doesn’t seem to have gotten all the Justice Department memos on not prosecuting state-legal marijuana operations, but this is no surprise because she’s been pretty gung-ho all along. Debbie Wasserman Schultz seems to be offering up her support for medical marijuana to the highest bidder (pun not intended). Anyone got a bunch of Democratic donation money? Give D.W.S. a call, quick! And finally, Jamaica’s senate passed a decriminalization bill on Bob Marley’s birthday, which couldn’t have been more appropriate. Continue reading Friday Talking Points  — GOP’s Government Shutdown Showdown
Which of the two holds the greater attraction: helping an organized rebel group under attack by an international coalition to establish a caliphate governed by Sharia law, or the right to kill without consequences far-ranging straw populations turned into enemies? This is the divide which reflects the debate about the global attraction of ISIL. But it’s really a choice that represents the same side: help establish the caliphate and kill; kill and help establish the caliphate.
The two realities are married. The caliphate is a process, a goal to be pursued; its outlines measured in captive cities and mapped territories. The other is a reality shared daily, like the rites of morning prayer or tea. ISIL’s rituals of death are displayed, taped and broadcast across the globe. The images include fire fights with irregular troops and the defeat of national armies, but more often with a solemn horror, the bodies of civilians—women, children, men and boys, in uniform or out, laying dead, still, scattered in the streets. Or as short and long lines of captives made to kneel as they are executed, their heads whacked with knives or blown away with guns. To an amazed global audience, there are those who want to participate in the killing, drawn to wielding the evil pleasure of meting out death as a witness or by their own hands.
There is a time when activities leap forward to create new forms, and the old thinking is slow to catch up. From where I watch, the old thinking is tied to a conflict narrative of political ideology that misses the new motives. Evidence—the old thinking misses the new evidence. And because it does, it is unable to contain a force whose spread will consume civilization. The caliphate will be a rogue organization with stateless boundaries through which random terror will threaten and disrupt the world order of global societies. The caliphate’s only purpose will be to provide the resources and safety to serve death again and again until fear and grief shut freedom and liberty down.
ISIL is a death cult. It attracts those fascinated with killing. Its main activity is murder. Its survival and media is giving similar-minded groups the will to copy its blood trails. It is swiftly attracting recruits.
The caliphate is like the leather jackets of Hell’s Angels or the Disciplines, an identifying style to mark them apart, to signify their outlaw status, a display of their pride in defying the social order for the wild satisfactions of the fringe. Even the motorcycles of the gangs became secondary to the gangs’ corruption that reveled in the dark side of crime and violence. For ISIL, the caliphate, too, is a symbol, nothing more, of those who are consumed with the electrifying rush related to killing, and who seek to establish communities of killers, those who share and glorify the same rush, inflicting death across the globe.
ISIL is not so much a political problem as a psychological one. It is the ground zero point for a part of our culture that many thought had been successfully repressed. But its horrors have risen from time to time, albeit short-lived.
During the Civil War at Ebenezer Creek, Georgia, in a little-known incident, Confederate cavalry leader and West Point graduate Joseph Wheeler killed over 3,500 slave “contraband” who were following the Union army. Their bodies washed out of the black water creek to dam its mouth for six months after the incident. The locals found women, children—infants–men among the dead. At Fort Pillow, Confederate Nathan Bedford Forrest ordered the killing of surrendered, unarmed black soldiers and ran the Mississippi red.
Throughout the 20th century, in race riots in Florida, Tulsa, Cincinnati, in thousands of lynching incidents including 15 year old Emmett Till’s death in Mississippi, in officially sanctioned police actions like the one in 1969 that killed Chicago Black Panther Fred Hampton in his bed in a pre-dawn raid as eight police officers fired 99 shots, death has been the quick, easy solution for fears and slights. But its presence in society goes deeper than its ease. Continue reading The Will to Kill
On ABC’s This Week, House Armed Services Committee member and Iraq War veteran Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) will discuss the ongoing battle with ISIS and President Obama’s . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 2/15/14
Grumpy: Hey, Mouse, did you hear this one?
Three Blind Mice
Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran over to London town,
Where tabloids cut off their sorry tales,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?
Mouse: Not sure I like where this is going…
Grumpy: One after another the Teapublicans sent their finest hopes for 2016 into the jaws of the London press corps, where they were all well chewed and promptly spit out to meekly return back to the loving arms of the American press.
Mouse: Ah, yes. If this is about Republicans getting their asses kicked, then I’m all ears.
Grumpy: First up for a healthy dose of reality from the London tabloids was Governor Piyush Jindal. Poor Piyush, he must have thought he was entering the cozy confines of a Fox News studio where he could make stuff up and get applauded for it. On the other hand he may have actually believed the stuff about Muslim “no-go zones” being established in cities across Europe. I wonder where he could have heard that. Those pesky Brits just kept asking him to explain. Have they no respect?
Mouse: When it comes to talking about “Bobby” who in their right mind could have any respect?
Grumpy: Obviously London was having none of it, but the American press didn’t cut him much slack either. If he thought Fox was going to back him up, well, they had already retracted the fantasy of “no-go zones”! Poor Piyush!
Chris Christie apparently decided that he’d show the Louisiana upstart how to handle the redcoats. Christie probably should have paid a visit to his doctor to get a vaccination against those pesky London reporters. The nerve of those people impertinently asking him for his views on the issue of the day, vaccination. The courageous Governor then bravely canceled future exchanges with the British press.
Mouse: Must have been a tough trip for Christie. The British are not known for the yumminess of their cuisine.
Grumpy: Oh, I didn’t even think about the cuisine. I’ll bet he probably warmed up though when he found out that “bangers and mash” is sausage and mashed potatoes. Of course I doubt he really even looked at the menus; he seems more of an “all you can eat buffet” kind of guy.
Before Christie did his disappearing act he managed to slip a jab at the President into his remarks to the press. Speaking on the topic of trade, Christie said, “I think the President has shown over and over again that he’s not the most effective negotiator, whether you’re talking about the Iranian nuclear talks or whether you’re talking about his recent foray into Cuba. The President has not proven himself to be the most adept negotiator, in my opinion, on behalf of American interests.” Has he never heard of the Dixie Chicks? Continue reading Three Blind Mice