Bibi’s Bailout Bonanza

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping that congressional Dems can get him out of the gaping chasm he put himself in over his plan to visit Congress, and so far his pleas are falling on deaf ears.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office confirmed Thursday that he had called Democrats and “other friends” in Congress in recent days, and that he “reiterated that the survival of Israel is not a partisan issue.”

Mr. Reid, a strong supporter of Israel, said in an interview that he had had a candid conversation with Mr. Netanyahu. He said he had advised the prime minister that the speech, scheduled for March, had become such a problem that some Democratic senators had backed off their support of the quick imposition of new sanctions on Iran.

“It’s hurting you,” Mr. Reid said he told Mr. Netanyahu. “I said: ‘You have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.’ ”

“It would have been wrong for me to say, ‘Don’t come,’ ” said Mr. Reid, who is recovering at his home in Washington from a serious exercise accident he sustained Jan. 1. “I wouldn’t do that.”

Ms. Pelosi said late Wednesday that when she spoke with the prime minister, she had stressed that the speech “could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance.”

Gosh, it’s almost like this too-clever-by half plan to “put Obama in his place” was such an overt insult that it blew up in Bibi’s face.  Doubly so since John Boehner is running as quickly as he can away from this so that Netanyahu and his ambassador to the US are the ones left holding the bag here, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out talking to Ambassador Dermer:

Goldberg: Democrats (including, and maybe especially, Jewish Democrats) believe that the prime minister is sometimes disrespectful to the president, and they worry that your government privileges its relations with the Republicans at their expense. Assuming you believe this is wrong, why is this wrong?

Dermer: The prime minister and the president have disagreed on issues, but the prime minister has never intentionally treated the president disrespectfully—and if that is what some people felt, it certainly was not the prime minister’s intention.

Nobody believes that.  There’s every indication that Bibi flat out despises President Obama and if Bibi going around him to speak to Congress as a foreign leader openly undermining the foreign policy of a sitting President isn’t intentional disrespect, there’s very little that does qualify.

And now the guy is scrambling to try to find some way to save his own ass, because he full well knows what the consequences are as the Palestinians decide to take their grievances to the International Criminal Court rather than the UN.  He knows he needs the United States, and right now nobody will give him the time of day.

Can’t say he doesn’t deserve it.

Something Something About Diplomacy, Nice Doggies, And Rocks

The Obama administration has been holding its tongue over Republicans inviting Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without informing the White House so far, but it looks like that period of silence has more or less ended with a bang.

The Obama administration, after days of mounting tension, signaled on Wednesday how angry it is with Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Republican leaders’ invitation to address Congress on Iran without consulting the White House.

The outrage the episode has incited within President Obama’s inner circle became clear in unusually sharp criticism by a senior administration official who said that the Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate the invitation, had repeatedly placed Mr. Netanyahu’s political fortunes above the relationship between Israel and the United States.

The official who made the comments to The New York Times would not be named, and the White House declined to comment. The remarks were the latest fallout after Mr. Dermer, without the White House’s knowledge, worked with House Speaker John A. Boehner to arrange the speech, which is scheduled for March.

If there is a head around here that’s going to roll, it’s going to be Ambassador Dermer’s.

Mr. Dermer, an American-born former Republican political operative who is so close to Mr. Netanyahu that he is often called “Bibi’s brain,” became Israel’s envoy to the United States in 2013. White House officials were at first wary that Mr. Dermer would politicize relations between Washington and Jerusalem, but over time cultivated a working relationship with him after concluding that there were advantages in his closeness to Mr. Netanyahu.

The last week has borne out their initial concerns.

Mr. Dermer relayed the invitation to Mr. Netanyahu from Mr. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, without notifying top officials in Washington or Jerusalem. American and Israeli officials said that Mr. Dermer, in the course of a lengthy meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry just before Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was announced, never mentioned it.

Let’s not forget that Dermer was one of Frank Luntz’s boys back in the GOP’s “Contract With America” days of Speaker Newt Gingrich.  He’s a GOP operative through and through, and he decided that his loyalties to the Republican machine trumped all.

We’ll see how this shakes out, but the crosshairs are definitely on Dermer’s career right now should the White House decide to persona non grata his ass.  That however would be a major escalation on our part.

It may very well be warranted.

Chaitsplaining the Perils of PC

Jonathan Chait has written a lengthy screed on the perils of political correctness. He reviews its history, provides numerous examples of its pitfalls and even name-checks Balloon Juice fave Freddie deBoer, who is quoted as follows:

It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.

It’s a long piece, but if I may attempt to summarize, Chait divides libtards into two camps: Radical leftists (black hats!) who are the intellectual heirs of Marx; these social justice warriors infest Tumblr and other platforms and try to win the day by shutting down opponents. The second group, Classic Coke liberals (white hats!), are the heirs of Enlightenment traditions. These free speech advocates try to win through application of reason. Read more

Long Read: “Ralph Steadman on Charlie Hebdo, the Right to Offend and Changing the World”

The older I get, the more I think we need a word for the opposite of nostalgia — a word to express the dark humor-slash-remorse one feels upon remembering that the terrible things one dreaded in the past have come true, usually in forms even worse than we imagined. Robert Chalmers, in Newsweek, interviews the 78-year-old visual satirist probably best known in America for his collaborations with Hunter S. Thompson:

We were sitting in a bar in Aspen, Colorado, almost 20 years ago, I remind Ralph Steadman, when he first told me that he’d become a cartoonist because he wanted to change the world. It wasn’t the first time he’d made this declaration and it wouldn’t be the last. But it’s a mission statement that seems horribly apposite this afternoon, as we sit in the living room of his house near Maidstone, Kent, watching live news coverage from the print warehouse where Said and Cherif Kouachi, the killers of the Charlie Hebdo artists, are making their last stand.

“It is interesting that you should mention that remark today,” says Steadman, “because, looking at what has been happening in Paris, I now feel that I have succeeded. I did manage to change the world, and it is a worse place than it was when I started. Far worse – an achievement I had always assumed would be impossible.”…

Some years ago, when we were travelling in Utah, Steadman told me that he feels interviews sometimes risk sounding like posthumous tributes. What adjectives, I asked him, would he like to see in his own obituary?

“Distasteful,” he said. “Unhygienic. Truculent. Moody. Provocative towards bastards.”

“How about long-lived?”

“Oh, yes. I’d like my obituary to say: ‘He was very long-lived. Endlessly. We thought he’d never go away’. A pause. “And we were right: he didn’t.”…

“I think – I know – that satire does frighten fascists. Fascists don’t like satire. They don’t like it at all. And they especially don’t enjoy visual satire. Because of its unique power to communicate. As Wittgenstein [Ludwig] asserted, the only thing of value is the thing you cannot say. Sometimes you can’t communicate the idea or the emotion, but a drawing can. You draw something, and people say: ‘Oh, I see what you’re getting at now’.” And that thought, Steadman says, “brings us back to what happened in that room at Charlie Hebdo. Some things,” he adds, “there are no words for”.

Steadman’s graphic response to the Charlie Hebdo murders — as well as some of his other works — are at the link. Well worth clicking over to see!

Good news everybody

Via Think Progress:

For the first time in a decade, the number of people struggling to pay their medical bills has started to decline, according to a new survey released on Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund. …

Between 2012 and 2014 — as Obamacare’s main coverage expansion took effect — the Commonwealth researchers found that the number of people who had issues paying for health treatment dropped from 41 percent to 35 percent. Over the same time period, the people who skipped out on health services because they couldn’t afford them declined from 43 percent to 36 percent

Both of those numbers, in ideal societies, should be zero, but I’ll take a significant improvement and a massive break in negative trend to positive trend as a win.  This type of data is why I have very little patience for people who wanted to kill the bill in 2009/2010 in order to heighten contradictions for something better.  The people who wanted to kill the bill as they are either sociopaths, empathy stunted assholes or people figuring that they’ll come out on top so using scarcity and fear as a means of social coercian and control are who they are, but the heighten the contradictions folks wanted to inflict more pain when pain alleviation was achievable.