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“Sad, Dispiriting And Potentially Disrupting”: How Israel May Be Damaging The Alliance Between Blacks And Jews

“Do u know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak.”

— A June 21 tweet by Judy Mozes, wife of Israeli interior minister and vice prime minister Silvan Shalom.

Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, a well-known Israeli radio and television personality, deleted the tweet and later apologized after drawing criticism for what she called a “stupid joke.”

Those who regard the Iran nuclear deal as a grave threat to Israeli and U.S. interests have a moral duty to vigorously oppose it, just as those of us who view the deal as the best way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon should work for its adoption. Vilifying the president of the United States with slurs and insults, however, is out of bounds. Except, perhaps, in some places and with some people.

U.S.-born Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, has done his own anti-Obama number. Citing President Obama’s upbringing, Oren suggested in a series of recent articles in Foreign Policy that the president’s “abandonment” by his mother’s “two Muslim husbands” created in him a desire for “acceptance by their co-religionists” that has now influenced his foreign policy. Conspiracy theorists and birthers could hardly have said it better — Obama’s Christianity notwithstanding.

This is beneath the Michael Oren I thought I knew.

It has come to this: racially charged affronts to the president of the United States from, of all places, Israel.

According to the Book of Esther, Haman, a high official of the ancient kingdom of Persia, sought to annihilate the Jewish people. A few months ago, Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, a West Bank settlement, likened Obama to a scourge on the Holy Land, telling an audience, “The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews.”

Riskin wasn’t the first rabbi to dub Obama a reincarnation of Haman.

In 2012, Dov Lior, then chief rabbi of another West Bank settlement, Kiryat Arba, also compared Obama to Haman, according to Israel’s Army Radio. But Lior stooped lower. He labeled Obama a “kushi” of the West, which, the Jerusalem Post reported, is a modern-day derogatory term used to describe people of African descent.

It’s not only the name-calling and insults hurled at Obama that grab the gut. Behavior sends signals, too.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress drew rave reviews from his Republican hosts and most — but not all — of Israel’s supporters. Many members of the 46-member Congressional Black Caucus were outraged that Netanyahu would go behind the back of the White House and arrange with Republicans to use the U.S. Capitol as the stage to challenge the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations. Several chose to stay away.

U.S. representative and caucus member James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said he regarded Netanyahu’s speech as an “affront to America’s first black president.”

In an interview with USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, Clyburn called Netanyahu’s White House end run “a real in-your-face slap at the president, and black folks know it. . . . [Netanyahu] wouldn’t have done it to any other president.” Pressed as to why Netanyahu would disrespect Obama, Clyburn responded, “You know why.”

Should it come to a search for 40 Democratic votes to join the House’s 247 Republicans in voting to override a possible Obama veto of legislation blocking an Iranian deal, don’t look for help from the Congressional Black Caucus. Hostility to the current Israeli leadership is real, and not just among caucus members. Many of their African American constituents are quietly seething, too.

Clyburn’s “and black folks know it” speaks volumes.

To no surprise, Republicans are trying to exploit the situation.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a petition urging people to sign and “[t]ell Obama it’s now time to stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu.” Are the petitions being circulated in Zip codes where large numbers of blacks reside? It would be wasted effort.

There is a larger concern. While the jury is still out, the argument over the Iran deal could well stress the long-standing and largely fruitful political alliance between blacks and Jews in this country.

It would be a pity if the nuclear arms debate shapes up as a dispute between U.S. supporters of Netanyahu’s policies and Americans who respect and trust Obama’s judgment. And it would be a sorrow to those of us who still look with favor upon an alliance that has stood the test in the hardest of times.

That may explain why the “Obama Coffee” insult, the rabbinical slurs and the below-the-belt punches of Israeli officials are so sad, dispiriting and potentially disrupting in ways that once seemed unimaginable.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 24, 2015

 

July 29, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Israel, Jews | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sure, Why Not?”: Is Donald Trump Serious About His Independent Threat?

Might Donald Trump run for president as an independent next year as he is threatening? Sure, why not.

My first reaction to the report in The Hill that former reality TV star Donald Trump is threatening to run for president as an independent if the GOP is too mean to him was a derisive chuckle – of course he’s not going to run as an independent, I thought. But hey, I also doubted that he’d ever actually declare for the presidency in the first place and even after he did that I wouldn’t have guessed that he’d file a real financial disclosure but he has. (And it’s the classiest, most unprecedented financial disclosure God ever created – I mean, Trump Drinks Israel?)

But having given it a little more thought … sure why not?

The fundamental question one must ask when pondering Trump’s “candidacy” is how seriously to take him as a politician seeking office. Does he really believe that he can be elected president and does he actually want to be? Does he, in other words, believe the nonsense that pours forth from his perpetual-motion-machine mouth? Or is this just a publicity stunt, a more elaborate version of his near-quadrennial attention grab?

If you’re not sure of the answer, consider this from The Hill’s story: “Real estate mogul Donald Trump said … he could run for president as an independent if he’s unable to win the Republican nomination in 2012.” Oops, sorry – that was The Hill’s story from April, 2011. So yeah, we’ve seen this show before.

In any case, regardless of whether you buy Trump as a serious candidate or not, an independent bid is sure-why-not plausible.

Suppose for a moment that he’s serious. If he’s really vainglorious enough to think he can win the GOP nomination barring establishment dirty tricks – and if he really thinks what the country needs is a Trump White House (and of course I mean that literally, with his name in huge gold letters on the roof) then why not run as an independent? Is he worried that he’s going to lose his credibility with Republicans? That he’s going to burn his political bridges? Like he cares? Trump’s political convictions are hardly set in stone. (For example: Per Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, the day before he told The Hill he might run as an independent he told conservative radio host Dana Loesch that “I will only ever run as a Republican.”)

The case for an unserious run is even more compelling: What better way to keep himself in the spotlight without having any chance of actually having to take on any responsibility or govern? What’s the downside? He has already demonstrated an unparalleled ability to get the media’s attention (and so, thus far, keep his poll numbers rising) so all he’d have to do is make some nutty pronouncement every few days and he could continue to soak up the limelight.

Does it ultimately matter if he decides to run? Less than you might think. Running as an independent requires the kind of 50-state political infrastructure for which Trump has demonstrated neither an interest nor any ability. There are 50 different sets of rules for getting your name on the ballot – sorry, Donald, you can’t simply license your name onto it – with 50 different deadlines. If he isn’t on a significant number of ballots is he likely to get onto a debate stage? Or siphon a determinative number of votes from, presumably, the GOP nominee?

It takes more than a sure-why-not campaign to make that sort of difference.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, July 23, 2015

 

 

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Independent Presidential Candidates | , , , | 1 Comment

“The Free Market Failed”: Here’s Some More Good News About Obamacare. Too Bad It Won’t Dent The Debate

Whenever a health insurer announces that it will be requesting significant premium increases in the coming year, it’s guaranteed to generate news stories that are waved triumphantly by conservatives as proof that the Affordable Care Act is a failure and, just as they predicted, premiums are skyrocketing because the government is messing around in health care.

When a story like this one comes along, on the other hand, it seems to generate much less attention:

California’s Obamacare exchange negotiated a 4% average rate increase for the second year in a row, defying dire predictions about health insurance sticker shock across the country.

The modest price increases for 2016 may be welcome news for many of the 1.3 million Californians who buy individual policies through the state marketplace, known as Covered California.

California’s rates are a key barometer of how the Affordable Care Act is working nationwide, and the results indicate that industry giants Anthem and Kaiser Permanente are eager to compete for customers in the nation’s biggest Obamacare market.

Leading up to Monday’s announcement there had been a steady drumbeat of news about major insurers outside California seeking hefty rate hikes of 20% to 40% for Obamacare open enrollment this fall.

Keep in mind that before the ACA went into effect, annual premium increases of 10 percent or so had become the norm. California is only one state, and when you go across the country the picture is complicated — in some states premiums are rising more slowly than they did before the law; in other states they’ve jumped; and in some places they’ve declined. There are many reasons why. But what’s important to understand is that the predictions of the law’s critics — that both overall health spending and premiums would explode — were completely wrong.

The key word in this story comes in the first paragraph: “negotiated.” California is one of the states where officials running the health care exchange negotiate with insurers over rates, and when you have a negotiation, you can get better terms for the people you represent. Yet incredibly, we’re still arguing over whether what the health insurance market needs is less government involvement and more of that free market magic.

So for the millionth time: the reason we have the world’s most expensive health care system is precisely because the free market failed.

If conservatives were right and government is the problem, then in all the world’s other advanced nations, where there is much more government regulation of health care than we have, they’d be paying more for their health care than we do. But they spend far less, often with better health outcomes and usually with virtually no uninsured. And after watching this debate for the better part of a decade, I’ve yet to hear a single conservative explain why that’s the case, and how it squares with their beliefs about government and markets. How can it possibly be that government-heavy systems — whether you’re talking about a completely socialized one like Great Britain’s or a system like France’s that combines a basic government plan with heavily regulated private supplemental insurance — work so much better and cost so much less than ours? If you have a religious belief that markets are always right and government is always wrong, it’s just impossible to reconcile.

The point isn’t that the ACA is a perfect piece of legislation that has solved all our problems, because it isn’t and it hasn’t. The ACA is a gigantic kludge layered on top of what was already a terribly dysfunctional system. Health insurance in America remains incredibly complicated — for instance, if you’re on an exchange, in order to get the best rate you may have to shop around every year. Unfortunately, Republicans have made it impossible to fix the law’s weaknesses as we used to do with complex legislation, because they’ve fed their constituents a lie that any day now they’re going to repeal the whole thing, so there’s no point in trying to make it work better (and that doing so would be a compromise with evil, of course).

Fifty years ago this Thursday, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law. At the time, Republicans predicted not only that the program would be a failure, but that it would send America hurtling toward a socialist nightmare of oppression. Ronald Reagan famously said that if the law passed, “we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” Yet this big-government, single-payer health insurance program for seniors turned out to be one of the most successful and popular pieces of legislation in American history. Not only that, due in part to the Affordable Care Act, the projected future cost of Medicare keeps going down — another conservative prediction about the ACA that has proven wrong by 180 degrees.

And today, Republicans pretend they love Medicare and only want to preserve it, while they present plans that would eliminate its guarantee of coverage and turn it into a voucher program, on the failed theory that whatever the private sector does in health care must be superior. These efforts always fail, because the program is just too popular.

The ACA isn’t politically bulletproof in the same way, in large part because it’s so many different things. No one “has” Obamacare in the way you have Medicare, with a card in your wallet; in fact, tens of millions of people are affected by the ACA, usually in positive ways, without ever realizing it. But here’s a crazy idea: What if we looked at where the law is succeeding and tried to build on that success, and looked at where it isn’t and tried to correct those shortcomings, doing it all with the best understanding of the actual facts we can gain?

Oh, who am I kidding.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 28, 2015

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Conservatives, Health Insurance Premiums | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ignoring The Reality To Pursue The Myth”: “Sanctuary Cities” And Violent Criminals–Myth And Reality

If you’ve been watching the rhetorical (Dondald Trump) and even legislative (the U.S. Congress) Republican effort to exploit the killing of Kathryn Steinle on a San Francisco pier by a recidivist immigration law violator into a general crackdown on cities that don’t always interrogate suspects or notify ICE about immigration violations, you should most definitely read Suzy Khimm’s explainer at TNR.

In an effort to restrict the overbroad notification requirements that had led hundreds of cities to stop routine referrals to the feds, and also to begin to redeem his own pledge to focus immigration enforcement on serious criminals, the President had authorized a new program to replaced the Secure Communities initiative that had essentially failed to target the high-risk illegals:

The administration is hoping that newer, gentler version of Secure Communities—rebranded as the “Priority Enforcement Program”—will entice cities like San Francisco to overcome their reluctance to cooperate with the feds. PEP narrows the criteria for deportation, prioritizing convicted felons, national security threats, gang members, and those immediately caught at the border. It’s begun to win over some critics of Secure Communities, including the police chief of Dayton, Ohio. But the program only began to take effect on July 1—the same day that Steinle died.

And the “reforms” Republicans are pushing for wouldn’t help much at all:

The House bill that passed Thursday, which was sponsored by California Representative Duncan Hunter, would take away funding from communities that restrict the collection of information about immigration or citizenship status. This is part of a decades-old fight on immigration: Los Angeles has a law dating back to 1979 saying that police can only ask about status if individuals are booked under certain crimes; San Francisco has a similar law. But there’s little evidence that such laws have anything to do with the recent tragedy: Officials at every level knew that Steinle’s alleged killer was unauthorized to be in the U.S. “What is the public policy problem that these proposals seek to address? it’s not even clear to me these are actually related to the Kate Steinle shooting,” says Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “The incident has given lawmakers and demagogues an opportunity to scapegoat immigrants.”

I know it’s hard to imagine lawmakers putting aside an executive initiative that would probably solve the problem they are complaining about instead of doing something ineffectual themselves, but it’s happening. They are ignoring the reality to pursue the myth.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 28, 2015

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Illegal Immigrants, Immigration Reform, Sanctuary Cities | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Same Sick Story Over And Over”: We Simply Sit And Wait For The Next Massacre

Such troubled young men.

This is what we call them instead of nuts with guns, and they are a dreaded modern American cliché. Every time there’s a newsflash about another mass shooting, we now expect the culprit to be revealed as a “troubled young man.”

The murders at a Louisiana movie theater on Thursday were unusual because the gunman was in his 50s. The typical mass killer is much younger.

His family is always stunned by his crime. So are the few friends he has. And in the days following the massacre we always learn more about his loneliness and disillusion, and of course the ludicrous ease with which he was able to arm himself.

The story has become, after so many horrid tragedies, a fill-in-the-blank exercise.

In the hours after 24-year-old Mohammod Abdulazeez killed five U.S. servicemembers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the media frothed with speculation that he was working under the jihadist direction — or, at least, inspiration — of ISIS.

Now it appears he was a messed-up kid who drank too much booze, smoked too much weed, and spent too much money. Oh, he was also depressed.

FBI agents believe Abdulazeez began exploring Islamic radicalism as his money problems worsened, and his mental condition frayed. Shortly before his shooting spree, he searched the Internet for guidance as to whether martyrdom would absolve a person’s sins.

Evidently he found a website or a chat room that seeded this loony brainstorm, and sent him down the path of mass murder. Getting the firepower was, as always, no problem.

Ironically, the day Abdulazeez died after shooting four Marines and a Navy sailor, a jury in Denver was deliberating what to do about another troubled young man.

His name is James Eagan Holmes, age 27. In July 2012 he shot up a packed theater during a Batman movie, killing a dozen people and wounding 70 more.

His lawyers insisted Holmes was insane, which is certainly true. Jurors went ahead and convicted him of all 12 murders, of which he is certainly guilty.

Holmes has Phi Beta Kappa intelligence — a degree, with honors, in neuroscience — but was also deeply disturbed from a young age. Some described him as obsessed with the topic of murder, and speaking openly of wanting to kill people.

And kill he did, first loading up on heavy-duty firearms at Gander Mountain and Bass Pro Shops — two Glock pistols, a Remington “tactical” shotgun, and a Smith & Wesson assault-style semiautomatic rifle. The 6,000-plus rounds of ammunition Holmes purchased online.

See, he passed the background checks. So don’t look for any blood on the hands of the retailers that armed him.

The gun laws being what they are in this country, the transition from “troubled” to “homicidal” is a breeze. What feeble screening there is can’t be counted on to stop young men on bloodbath missions.

Dylann Roof, age 21, shouldn’t have been able to buy the .45-caliber handgun he used to murder nine black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month.

A federal background check should have flagged him, because Roof had been arrested on felony drug charges and had admitted to possessing a controlled substance. The FBI has three business days to check if gun buyers have criminal records or drug issues, but the time expired while the agency was trying to gain access to the police report on Roof.

Because of a loophole in the law, the gun store was able to sell Roof the weapon because the three-day waiting period ended without an FBI response. “We’re all sick this happened,” FBI director James B. Comey said.

Sick is the word for it. Thousands of ineligible applicants for gun ownership have bought weapons over the counter, thanks to that loophole. Big surprise — some of those weapons were later used in violent crimes, according to the Justice Department.

So, Dylann Roof, eccentric loner and budding white supremacist, took his 21st birthday money and got himself a Glock, with which he executed nine innocent persons.

But not before posing for a photo — the gun in one hand, a Confederate flag in the other. The image tells much about this pathetic, unraveled soul.

Even if the gun shop had refused to sell Roof that pistol, he could have gotten another. Black-market weapons are available on the streets of Charleston, as they are in all American cities.

For a troubled man, young or old, finding kinship for your hate is only a mouse-click away. Finding guns is just as easy. It’s the same sick story over and over.

And all we do is wait for the next one.

 

By: Carl Hiaasen, Columist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 28, 2015

July 29, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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