For Once, The GOP Is Outflanked.

Chess games are usually measured by their cost or benefit in relation to losing one pawn. Just looking at the board on the basis of a pawn for pawn exchange is much like playing checkers. Sometimes you can sacrifice a little bit of material and end up in a position to win the game as a result, even if you are behind in material. This is called a gambit.

Obama and Pelosi attempted to deal with Republicans, who then cast zero votes for the Stimulus in the House. The Senate got its usual narcissistic Old WASP Male attention time, and now it’s done with three Republicans scrambling to be the two that form a coalition with Democrats, leaving the Broken Record GOP making motions for a trillion dollars in corporate tax cuts.

Then, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (!) backs the stimulus. Obama goes across country and people hear about the woman living in her car and Caterpillar’s pledge to rehire workers it’s about to lay off if the bill passes. “Centrists” paid for their time in the spotlight by being hit with tough criticism from both side. Have we ever heard so much trash about Ben Nelson before?

That’s all brilliant, but it’s not as brilliant as this part (despite what it might look at upon first read, this is nor sarcasm): the stimulus is nowhere big enough. It’s maybe 33-50% of what’s necessary to fix the problem. How can I say that with so much confidence? Because the states are mostly screwed. California alone is making $17 billion in cuts. And so, why is this brilliant? Because the Republicans are now branded as the party that made this too small. Believe me, when the economy doesn’t come back, we’re not going to blame the stimulus. If things don’t get better, people are going to demand more, not less. Even Democratish tax cuts (middle class income tax cuts as opposed to estate taxes) pretty much only benefit working people. If there is 15% unemployment, that ain’t going to cut it.

And next time Obama can say we’re not going to deal with them much because they limited it too much last time. The fact that two weeks were spent negotiating with just three or four Republicans—well, next time, after Al Franken gets in, it will only take 1. And guess what? Prisoner’s Dillema time. “Well, Arlen, we’d love to work with you, but we only need one more vote. So, if you can make us a better offer than Susan or Olympia, we’d appreciate your support. Do you want to be on the wrong side of this when you’re up for reelection? The right wing isn’t going to save you. They’re going to try to primary you again. If you don’t get some crossover support, you’re toast.”

And in the end he mostly got what he wanted. Obama 5, Congressional Dems 2, Senate Dems 0, Senate Republicans -3, House GOP -6.

We’re not at the bottom yet. A few states will probably have to go bankrupt for serious action to be taken. And, oh boy, when we hear that happened because of Hoover economics. Wow.

I know it’s early and I know there are things that have been bumpy the first two weeks, but they will be forgotten. Obama will get to appoint 2 Supreme Court justices in his first term. I think we may get 60 senators in 2010. I think that means we might get healthcare in 2011.


Israel's Epic Fail

Everything that makes Israel intellectually defensible (as opposed to the raw emotion appeal of a Jewish homeland) rests on Israel’s status as a democracy. Sure, it’s not a perfect democracy. But who is? Yes, they have problems with their minority population that they displaced. But that’s not unique. Just ask a Native American, an Irish person, or even a Lappish person. Judging Israel by harsher and stricter standards than we judge other western nations shows a huge bias against it.

Saying they’re our ally isn’t enough. Lots of brutal dictatorships are our “allies.” What makes Israel defensible is that it is a western-style democracy, warts and all.

So, when Avigdor Lieberman wins control of a block of swing votes with the intention of ethnically cleansing Israel (and I’m fairly sure by “Israel” he means at least part of the Palestinian territories too) of Arabs, and both major parties are trying hard to include him in their coalition, you have to wonder.

You have to wonder whether Israeli democracy is undergoing a crisis. It’s not hard to guess why. Just look at the US in the several years after 9/11. Israel has a 9/11 level event all the time. The Israelis believe that Iranian government, which has sponsored terrorist groups that attack them daily, is developing a nuclear weapon to attack them. They are living in a highly charged state of fear. They aren’t wrong to be that way.

Funny store. A new left wing party in Israel may have diluted Kadima’s vote just enough to make their best hope of a coalition (including Shas, a religously conservative but somewhat socialistic party) only must 60 instead of 61 votes. Shas and Lieberman strongly dislike each other, so if Lieberman tried to form a government with Netanyahu, Shas might have had an urge to join Tzipi. That won’t happen, because the 61st vote is in an Arab party, and, well, that can’t happen. (Could it happen in the US? No.)

So, the right wing is going to come to power there, and may undermine all of the intellectual defenses of Israel, leaving only the religious, emotional, and racial ties to the place. I’m not sure I can do that.

Why I Read The Guardian

The Guardian:

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on September 11 2001 and July 7 2005, a noble impulse seized the British liberal left. Politicians, commentators and activists united to say to their fellow citizens that, no matter how outraged they felt at the loss of civilian life they had just witnessed, they should under no circumstances take out that anger on the Muslim community. Progressive voices insisted that Muslims were not to be branded as guilty by association, just because the killers of 9/11 and 7/7 had been Muslims and had claimed to act in the name of all Muslims.

They urged Britons to be careful in their language, not to generalise from a few individuals to an entire community, to make clear to Britain’s Muslims that they were a welcome part of the national life. One week after the 7/7 London attacks, a vast crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear a call for unity led by then mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Londoners should not start looking for “who to blame and who to hate”.

It was the right reaction and I am glad that, writing on these pages, I shared it, denouncing the surge in Islamophobia that greeted either a terrorist attack or the revelation of a terror plot. Yet there’s been a curious silence in the last few weeks. Once again many are outraged by the loss of civilian life they have witnessed – this time in Gaza. Yet there has been no chorus of liberal voices insisting that, no matter how intense their fury, people must not take out that anger on Britain’s Jewish community.

The reason for this is quite simple. The Left doesn’t understand Antisemitism because it is not something that was overcome by leftists. Rights for African-Americans, women, and gays are all part of the Left’s legacy. Jews, on the other hand, just sort of trickled into normal society. There was never any Jewish affirmative action, never any Jewish civil rights laws. Mostly, Jewish emancipation was made complete by reaction to Word War II and the upward mobility of Jews made possible in part by their own work and in part by assimilating enough to enjoy white privilege.

It’s not that different in England. And England, like America, is sick and tired of the fighting in the Middle East, sick and tired of imperialism, sick and tired of neo-conservative America dragging them into wars. So, Jews/Israel get shunted into something that the Right Wing sticks up for.

What’s ugly is associating all Jews with Israel, all Israelis as Zionists, all Zionists as Neoconservatives, etc. Really, the attack on Gaza was provoked and exaggerated by Hamas, and Israel responded when it did due to the political realities of Israel and the US. In other words, it has more to do with Hamas’s leadership and some of Israel’s ministers than it does Jews or Muslims.

And then when there’s any “permission” to act antisemitic, the crazies come out of the woodwork. It’s all social psychology. Being pissed about Gaza gives social permission to others. If you try and act like the two aren’t connected then you hate science.

Here’s the other thing: amateurs and grassroots folks always look at the upside. People in power look at the downside more if not as much. The upside of being right about Palestine is Peace In The Middle East®. The downside about being wrong is more Islamic terrorism. Wanna face that? Haha.