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“More Unhinged Than Usual”: Ted Cruz Sees An Imaginary ‘Economic Boycott Of Israel’

Just last week, a civilian airliner was shot down over a war zone, killing all 298 people on board. On Tuesday, just five days after the tragedy in Ukraine, a rocket landed Tuesday within a mile of Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.

In the interest of public safety and fearing a “potentially hazardous security situation,” the Federal Aviation Administration announced a temporary halt to U.S. flights into the Israeli capital. “Safety is the very first priority for DOT, for FAA,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said yesterday. The announcement coincided with suspended flights from Air France and Lufthansa, along with a warning from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which “strongly” recommended against flights into Tel Aviv.

Here in the U.S., many on the right responded to the news with the kind of maturity and restraint we’ve come to expect: “FAA Trutherism” was born. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in a move that was brazen even for him, accused the Obama administration of launching an “economic boycott on Israel.”

“When Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo this week his first act was to announce $47 million in additional aid to Gaza, which is in effect $47 million for Hamas. In short order, this travel ban was announced by the FAA. Aiding Hamas while simultaneously isolating Israel does two things. One, it helps our enemy. Two, it hurts our ally.

“Until these serious questions are answered, the facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands. If so, Congress should demand answers.”

By any fair measure, Cruz’s response was more unhinged than his usual condemnations. The FAA’s security concerns, the far-right Texan said, are “punitive” and a possible attempt at “economic blackmail.” The senator raised the prospect of a presidential conspiracy, demanding information on “specific communications … between the FAA and the White House.”

Keep in mind, the Obama administration also asked Congress this week to “fast-track Israel’s request for an additional $225 million for the Iron Dome anti-missile system.” As Steve M. noted, the Obama administration and other Democrats “are seeking additional funding for Israel’s defense shield while Ted Cruz is alleging an economic boycott of Israel on Obama’s part.”

Cruz either hasn’t kept up on current events or he’s choosing not to see details that contradict his wild-eyed nonsense.

And the senator isn’t alone. Last night, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly told viewers the FAA was prohibiting domestic flights to Tel Aviv, but the FAA hadn’t imposed a similar policy over Ukraine. What Kelly claimed was wrong – the FAA has banned commercial travel over Ukraine since April.

This is what happens when the right gets a little too excited about bashing Obama – they lose sight of reality. The instinct to see presidential conspiracies lurking in every corner has passed the tipping point.

Let’s not brush past just how bizarre this whining really is. At its core, the complaint from Cruz and his allies is that the Obama administration is trying too hard to protect Americans traveling near war zones. If there were a deadly incident at the Tel Aviv airport involving a civilian U.S. passenger plane, it’s easy to imagine conservatives demanding to know why the FAA didn’t do more. This week, Republicans are instead complaining the FAA did too much.

This morning, however, Cruz received the news he wanted to hear: the FAA is now satisfied there are security measures in place and the travel ban is now over. The right can now move safely about the political landscape, looking for new “scandals” in need of conspiracy theories.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2014

July 26, 2014 Posted by | Israel, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When Will You Stop Beating Your Ally?”: Ted Cruz On Protecting And Promoting Israel’s Tourism Industry

I really thought the peculiar use of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political weapon against Barack Obama had reached its point of diminishing returns back in the 2012 presidential cycle, when the entire field (with the exception, obviously, of Ron Paul) competed to express how abjectly each as president would defer to Israel’s wishes in using American resources and commitments, in sharp contrast to the faithless Muslim-lover in the White House. I mean, seriously, wouldn’t the tribunes of American Exceptionalism eventually see something wrong with their political representatives demanding that the U.S. outsource its foreign policy to another country?

Leave it to Ted Cruz to take it all to another level, accusing the administration of telling the FAA to ban flights into Tel Aviv as part of a pro-Hamas conspiracy:

“Given that some 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last six weeks, many of them at Tel Aviv, it seems curious to choose yesterday at noon to announce a flight ban, especially as the Obama Administration had to be aware of the punitive nature of this action.

“Tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel, which is in the middle of a summer high season already seriously diminished by the conflict initiated by Hamas. Group tours have been cancelling at a 30% rate. This FAA flight ban may well represent a crippling blow to a key economic sector through both security concerns and worries that additional bans will down more flights and strand more passengers. It hardly matters if or when the ban is lifted. At this point, the damage may already be done….

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a veiled threat last February when he encouraged boycotts of Israel [sic] and said that absent serious Israeli concessions at the negotiating table, Israel’s economic prosperity was ‘not sustainable’ and ‘illusory.’ Secretary Kerry unfortunately reprised this theme just this April, when he threatened that Israel risked becoming an ‘apartheid state’ if Israel did not submit to his chosen solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis.

“Taken in the context of Secretary Kerry’s comments, yesterday’s action by the FAA raises some serious questions.

So apparently the United States has an obligation, at the potential expense of the safety of its own citizens, to promote the security claims of another country in order to protect said country’s tourism industry. Anything less than that is to side with Israel’s enemies, whose bloody hands Obama is already shaking by continuing humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

How much further can Republicans move the goal posts here? Should we become more militantly pro-Israel than the Israelis themselves?

I know this is a sweet spot for conservatives because it pleases a certain type of evangelical Christian activist and projects bloody-minded “strength” without risking a commitment of U.S. troops, since the Israelis really can take care of themselves from a military point of view. And the Palestinians, of course, are the overseas equivalent of those people here, somehow still held to be responsible for 9/11. But if there is a Republican president any time soon, the GOP isn’t doing him or her any favors by mortgaging half its foreign policy to the interests of a single foreign state, however admirable.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Israel, Palestine, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Opportunistic Capitulation”: For The GOP, Spending Cuts For Thee But Not For Me, Because It’s Different This Time

But this time it’s different…

How many times have we heard those words – not as an apology for past mistakes but as a justification for one’s current actions?

It seems the GOP excels at this justification. Whether it be championing spending cuts, but then seeking to restore funding for the Federal Aviation Administration because “it’s different when they have to wait in line at the airport,” or Michelle Bachman decrying Obama’s stimulus package as “fantasy economics” and an “orgy” of government spending, but then being the first to request funding to stimulate projects in her home state of Minnesota. Ah yes, it’s just “so different.”

Recently, we saw two more such examples of opportunistic capitulating. In 2008, Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., bragged in a press release after then-President Bush declared 24 Oklahoma counties eligible for disaster aid due to severe weather, “I am pleased that the people whose lives have been affected by disastrous weather are getting much-needed federal assistance.” But four years later he voted to deny emergency funding for those areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Then, when confronted with the prospect of providing federal disaster aid money to those decimated in Moore, Oklahoma following the devastating tornado, Inhofe pledged his unqualified support, stating on MSNBC that unlike Sandy, this is “totally different.” Really? When Americans lose their homes, possessions and livelihood due to uncontrolled natural forces, I didn’t think there really was a difference or justification for politicians to pick and choose the winners and losers.

And then there’s Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., who was elected on the tea party platform vowing to reform government such as farm programs and cut wasteful spending. During the recent House Agriculture Committee’s markup of the Farm Bill, he lived up to his promise and voted to cut $20 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly known as food stamps – but then turned around and SUPPORTED an increase and expansion of crop insurance subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.

In committee, he claimed that SNAP funding, which goes to those whose income is below 130 percent of the federal poverty line, (mainly children, elderly and military retirees), is stealing “other people’s money that Washington is appropriating and spending,” but yet, somehow, he has no issue spending “other’s people money” to fund crop insurance subsides because they are “so different.”

The kicker: According to research by the Environment Working Group, Fincher is the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history. From 1999 to 2012, Fincher received $3.48 million in crop insurance subsidies.

I guess the rule-of-thumb is when it affects your personal bottom line – either financially or by impacting your prospective political longevity, things truly are different.

 

By: Penny Lee, U. S. News and World Report, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lesson In Civics”: If A Budget Cut Doesn’t Impact The Wealthy, Congress Won’t Fix It

As thousands of air travelers suffered through flight delays last week, the average American got a lesson in civics: when you cut government spending, it has real life consequences. Americans are fond of saying that they want to slash government spending in the abstract, but loath to point to specific programs that they actually want to cut. With sequestration, this ambivalence has come home to roost. Because the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration affect all programs evenly, the ones that touch middle-class Americans, not just the poor, have suffered equally.

We haven’t just learned a lesson about the effects of budget cutting, though. We’ve also been able to see the priorities of Congress in stark relief. The flight delays, a result of furloughs at the Federal Aviation Administration, were not the first effects of sequestration. Those were visited on the poor. Yet the FAA was the only agency that saw swift and bipartisan action. After Congress was flooded with calls from angry travelers—not to mention, as lawmakers started down flight delays for their own flights home for recess—the Senate and House each passed a bill with overwhelming support within forty-eight hours. When’s the last time you remember that happening for any other issue?

The poor have long known that a budget cut passed in Congress means hardship in real life. This dynamic was in full force as sequestration went into effect. The first to be hit by the reduction in funds, by and large, were low-income Americans. Preschoolers have been kicked out of Head Start. Food pantries have closed. Native American health services have been reduced. Thousands of cancer patients on Medicare have been turned away from clinics. Meals on Wheels is delivering to fewer elderly people. The long-term unemployed will receive severely reduced benefit checks.

While these cuts have been well covered by local media, the rest of us haven’t heard much about them. Yet when furloughs delayed flights, they dominated the media, as did the cancellation of White House tours. In mainstream cable news coverage, flights were mentioned about two and a half times more than Head Start, over twice as much as cancer patients, and six and a half times more than Meals on Wheels. White House tours were even worse: they were mentioned thirty-three times as often as the sequester’s impact on the poor.

The coverage of tours and flights was likely driven by something we don’t see very often: budget cuts that impact nearly all Americans. Targeted cuts tend to focus on programs that the poor rely on, and we rarely hear those stories. But even middle-class and well-to-do Americans were feeling what it’s like to have reduced government spending in their daily lives when they went to the airport and waited an extra hour to take off. This is surely a mere inconvenience compared to losing food or housing if you’re poor, but it’s still important: Americans of all income levels may finally be learning the importance of government spending in their lives.

As Suzanne Mettler has demonstrated, many Americans do in fact benefit from government services. But few realize it. Mettler calls this the “submerged state”: the variety of public programs that are delivered in such a way, such as through the tax code, that many don’t realize they’re getting assistance. The epitome of this contradiction is the senior who shouts, “Get your government hands off my Medicare!”

For this reason, perhaps, well-off Americans tend to be less concerned with spending on the social safety net and more interested in cutting government spending. This has huge consequences for our political system. A body of research has shown that the needs and desires of the poor rarely influence how their representatives vote. On the other hand, Congress’s priorities nearly duplicate those of the wealthy.

And here is the last lesson sequestration has taught us: just how much more Congress cares about what’s bothering upper-middle-class citizens than what’s going on at the bottom of the income scale. There are tons of different programs expecting a big impact from sequestration. None of them saw multiple bills introduced in the Senate, one of which was passed with huge support on both sides of the aisle and signed within a matter of days. Had they continued, the furloughs would have been more than an inconvenience. They could have meant sharply reduced economic output. But the same could be said of many of the cuts to other programs. The lesson is not that the flight delays should have gone unaddressed. It’s that if a budget cut doesn’t impact a wealthy constituency, Congress can’t to be bothered to fix it.

 

By: Bryce Covert, The Nation, April 28, 2013

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Sequestration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Everything That’s Rotten About Congress”: Fixing The Part Of Sequestration That Affects Rich People

After a month or so of the sequestration budget cuts only affecting people Congress doesn’t really care about, the cuts hit home this week when mandatory FAA furloughs caused lengthy flight delays cross the country. Suddenly, sequestration was hurting regular Americans, instead of irregular (poor) ones! Some naive observers thought this would force Congress to finally roll back the purposefully damaging cuts that were by design never intended to actually go into effect. Those observers were … sort of right! The U.S. Senate jumped into action last night and voted to … let the FAA transfer some money from the Transportation Department to pay air traffic controllers so that the sequestration can continue without inconveniencing members of Congress, most of whom will be flying home to their districts today. The system works! (For rich people, like I’ve been saying.)

The Washington Post says, “The Senate took the first step toward circumventing sequestration Thursday night,” though in fact what it did was work to ensure that the sequester continues not affecting elites, who fly regularly. I am embarrassed that I did not predict this exact outcome in my column Tuesday morning. The Senate, which can’t confirm a judge without months of delay and a constitutional crisis, passed this particular bill in about two minutes, with unanimous consent. The hope is that the House can get it taken care of today, I guess in time for everyone to fly to Aspen or wherever people whom Congress listens to fly to on Fridays.

After that Congress will be done fixing all the various problems with the design and implementation of the sequestration:

But House action on a broader deal to undo the across-the-board cuts appears remote. House conservatives say much of the impact has been exaggerated by the White House, and they have relished the success of forcing visible spending cuts on a Democratic administration.

“I think it’s the first time we’ve saved money in Washington, D.C.,” said Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “I think we need to move on from the subject.”

Move on, people who may become homeless! We fixed the airports, what more do you want?

There was a big to-do yesterday about a Politico story insisting — explosively! morning-winningly! — that Congress was trying to exempt itself from Obamacare. Because this is Politico, the story was based on equal parts misunderstanding of policy and desire to create a fuss. The actual story is that Republicans proposed forcing members of Congress and their staffs to only use healthcare plans created by Obamacare or available in the exchanges. Democrats passed the amendment, as a sort of fuck you. But the exchanges are designed for people who don’t have employers who pay for healthcare. Congressional staffers get employer-sponsored health benefits. The exchanges are explicitly not designed for employees of large employers who pay for healthcare, so some people are right now trying to figure out how to make sure staffers continue to get healthcare. It may end up not being a big deal, or it may require a tweak to the law. But it’s not a scandal. (Honestly, it’s all a pretty good argument for ditching employer-based healthcare in favor of universal single-payer but then again everything is.)

But the fuss was already created. The story will live forever, and no amount of debunking in the world will kill the popular myth that Congress attempted to secretly “exempt” itself from Obamacare. So self-serving!

Their staffers are generally the poorest people members of Congress know, and trying to make sure their healthcare is paid for is seriously the closest our legislature gets to altruism. But while the story of Congress working to make sure its staffers don’t have to shoulder the entirety of their premium costs because of Republican political stuntmanship was treated as a scandal and an example of everything rotten about Congress, the story of Congress hurriedly making sure the well-off minority of Americans who fly regularly don’t get briefly inconvenienced — while ignoring the costs of brutal cuts on programs for low-income Americans facing housing or hunger crises — is treated as a wonderful and encouraging display of bipartisanship.

Have a great flight home, senators!

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, April 26, 2013

April 27, 2013 Posted by | Congress, Sequestration | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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