Thursday, June 23, 2016

Not Your Father's Israel

Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu

The July/August issue of Foreign Affairs has a series of articles concerning the changing relationship between Israel and the United States. Behind it all is the changing nature of Israel itself.

The journal's managing editor, Jonathan Tepperman, summarizes:
In important respects, [Israel] no longer resembles the image many Westerners still picture – the liberal Zionist state of David Ben-Gurion, Abba Eban, Golda Meir, and Yitzhak Rabin. The socialist Ashkenazi elite that used to dominate Israel's politics has long since fractured and faded away. Sephardic Jews, Soviet immigrants, settlers, the religious right, secular Jews, and Arab Israelis now vie for influence. In foreign policy, meanwhile, what Israel stands for, and who it stands with, is also in play. [My emphasis.]
Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of Haaretz, Israel's oldest daily newspaper, writes about "The End of the Old Israel":
Israel – at least the largely secular and progressive version of Israel that once captured the world's imagination – is over. Although that Israel was always in some ways a fantasy, the myth was at least grounded in reality. Today that reality has changed, and the country that has replaced it is profoundly different from the one its founders imagined almost 70 years ago. Since the last elections, in March 2015, a number of slow-moving trends have accelerated dramatically. Should they continue, they could soon render the country unrecognizable.
Already, the transformation has been dramatic. Israel's current leaders – headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who metamorphosed after the election from a risk-averse conservative into a right-wing radical – see democracy as synonymous with unchecked majority rule and have no patience for restraints such as judicial review or the protection of minorities....
Meanwhile, the two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians has been taken off the table, and Israel is steadily making its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank permanent. Human rights groups and dissidents who dare criticize the occupation and expose its abuses are denounced by officials, and the government has sought to pass new laws restricting their activities. Arab-Jewish relations within the country have hit a low point, and Israel's society is breaking down into its constituent tribes.
Netanyahu thrives on such tribalism, which serves his lifelong goal of replacing Israel's traditional elite with one more in tune with his philosophy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Tomorrow the Brits vote on whether to leave or stay in the European Union. It's a decision that will eventually affect us here in the United States.

Jonathan Pie is, according to Andrew Tobias (who sends us this link and the John Oliver link, below), "the British John Oliver." In this 10-minute clip, Pie expresses his frustration at the level of the pro- and anti-Brexit debate.

Warning: It's not for children's ears.

Warning: It is progressively hilarious. It really gets going at about the 4:30 mark.

If you promise to watch the Jonathan Pie clip, too, then watch John Oliver himself on Brexit:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Report from the Lowest Common Denominator

The Gallup organization reports that their polling currently has the approval rating of Congress at 16 percent. Its approval rating among Republicans, who have built their franchise on not approving of anything related to the government, is even lower – 12 percent. In September and November of last year, the approval rating among Republicans was 8 percent!

When you take into consideration that both houses of Congress are controlled by the Republican Party, you begin to get a sense of how successful their franchise has been.

In contrast, President Obama's approval rating – in a poll taken since the probable Republican nominee insinuated the President's complicity in the Orlando shootings – is up another point to 53 percent.

This chart has nothing to do with this story, but it's fun to look at anyway.


This just in: Donald Trump has just announced that he is barring Sempringham journalists from his events.

Reached by phone, Sempringham blogger Bob Miller responded, "This was a shock to me, first, because Sempringham has no journalists, and second, because I have never had nor intimated that I had a desire to attend any Donald Trump event."

Miller went on to say that he was honored to be in the company of Politico, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Gawker, Foreign Policy, Fusion, Univision, Mother Jones, the New Hampshire Union-Leader, the Des Moines Register, the Daily Beast, and most recently, the Washington Post.  After a moment's pause, he asked that the New Hampshire Union-Leader be removed from his list. "Not such an honor," he explained.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fareed Zakaria

Among the list of people I'd most like to have over for dinner, Fareed Zakaria is certainly near the top. Here are a couple of topical examples of why.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Trump, Conspiracy Theorist

Andrew Tobias points us to this collection of 58 Donald Trump conspiracy theories.

Did you know that Barack Obama not only did not attend Columbia University, but also got bad grades there? Now there's a conspiracy!

Monday, June 06, 2016

154 Cuts

Lynn Sweet, a political reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, writes in today's column:
On Friday, Trump, pointing to a [supporter] at a rally in California said, 'Oh, look at my African-American over here. Look at him,' Trump said. 'Are you the greatest?'
Under questioning Sunday from MSNBC's Chris Matthews, Gregory Cheadle, an African-American Republican running for a California congressional seat, told Matthews he was indeed at the rally and was the man Trump singled out. Cheadle told Matthews he was not sure he would vote for Trump.
Almost every day, it's something.
Let's pause for a moment here to give everyone a chance to raise his/her slacked jaw.

Then I'll again quote Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist in the Washington Post:
Make no mistake. Those who support Trump, no matter how reluctantly, have crossed a moral boundary. They are standing with a leader who encourages prejudice and despises the weak. They are aiding the transformation of a party formed by Lincoln’s blazing vision of equality into a party of white resentment. Those who find this one of the normal, everyday compromises of politics have truly lost their way. [My emphasis.]
Can we start of list of politicians who have crossed the moral boundary? Let's see, there's:

Paul Ryan
Mitch McConnell
Rand Paul
Rob Portman
Chuck Grassley

Oh, wait! We don't have to list them all here, because Wikipedia has already done the job for us!

We have 154 days until the election, and almost every day Trump is going to say something stupid, crude, and disgusting, and on each those days these guys are going to have to separate themselves from the man they have endorsed to be President of the United States.

Go watch Hillary's speech. Her criticism of Trump needs to be expanded to a criticism of the Republican Party itself. The Republic is in danger.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Hillary Starts Hitting the Right Notes

Hillary will never be a great orator, but her San Diego speech this week was the first to take aim, throughout, at Donald Trump. And it was a winner, from beginning to end. The only critical words I've heard about it have been from Faux and the Donald.

You can watch it here:

Or read it here. Warning: If you read it, there's one of those irritating videos that starts automatically when you connect to the page.. You'll need to turn it off quickly or your blood pressure will take a hit.

A special note to Bernie supporters in California: There's a lot I like about Bernie Sanders. But he is not going to win the nomination, even if he wins this week in California. Hillary IS going to get the nomination, but she'll have a harder time winning the election if she looks weak in the California primary. Please consider that when you're in the ballot box voting booth. (Please stay out of the ballot box!)  And please watch or read her speech if you're hesitant. There's a lot at stake here, as if I needed to tell you.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

God Help Us

Are you ready for this? I'm guessing not.

Iconic Chicago Tribune Building now.
Newspaper chain Tribune Publishing announced today that it is changing its name to "tronc" and will switch its stock exchange listing from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq. It will start trading on Nasdaq on June 20. The company described Tronc's mission as being "a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels."
Got that?

Chicago Tribune Building after name change.

No, that didn't come from The Onion, it came from Politico. It's for real

There's no word yet on whether the Chicago Tribune will actually be renamed. I'd say "of course not",  but John McCain has endorsed Donald Trump, so there really are no standards anymore. Meanwhile, I'm getting all misty-eyed about how the Constitution guarantees freedom of content curation and monetization. Freedom!