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Netanyahu Speech To Congress Shows America Will Buy Anything

A blistering piece of commentary by the esteemed (and leftist) Israeli political commentator, Gideon Levy, in Haaretz today is a must read for anyone who cares to see what progressives in Israel think of Netanyahu’s show today before the U.S. Congress.

Levy begins his piece with these loaded, and to my mind, honest salvos concerning Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today:

It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did.The fact that the Congress rose to its feet multiple times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the quality of their guest’s speech. An Israeli presence on the Jordan River – cheering. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel – applause. Did America’s elected representatives know that they were cheering for the death of possibility? If America loved it, we’re in big trouble.

As Levy notes, Congress today applauded some painful statements by the Israeli head of state, and this applause said much about both their ignorance on the true state of affairs in Israel as well as their willingness to remain ignorant about the true state of affairs in Israel for political gain (see: the vote of Christian conservatives and the campaign contributions of the Jewish elite).

Below is a brief look at a few of the standing ovations Netanyahu received by our representatives in Congress, and why such applause should be troubling for us as American progressives:

1. Jerusalem as Israel’s Undivided Capital – by applauding this statement by Netanyahu, our leaders essentially applauded the death of any possible peace agreement, for, as everyone knows, East Jerusalem is the proposed capital for a future Palestinian state in every iteration of negotiations that have been produced since Oslo. And yet, a standing ovation. And it bears noting: with the Arab Spring spreading throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and a declaration of Palestinian statehood on the horizon by the U.N. in September, the death of peace negotiations no longer mean what they once did: the status quo. Instead, such a death will mean major instability with unpredictable outcomes.

2. Israel is not occupying the West Bank – when Netanyahu claimed, with a straight face, that the Jewish people are not occupiers, and that the situation in “Judea and Samaria” is not an occupation, Congress roared to its feet. That the U.S. Congress could rise in boisterous applause to a known lie is chastening – Israeli leaders past, including Ariel Sharon, have admitted the obvious: that Israel is in the difficult and damaging position of occupying another people’s land.

3. Boasting on the Status of Israeli-Arabs – Netanyahu’s government has backed a series of anti-Palestinian, anti-democratic laws recently, the most notable of which forbid citizens from recognizing, in any way, The Nakba (which is the sorrowful observance Palestinians engage in as Israelis celebrate Independence Day). By applauding, our leaders, wittingly or not, gave sanction to a leader and an administration which has done much to strip non-Jewish citizens of their democratic rights.

Netanyahu’s speech today, more than anything, signaled the official death of the peace process, for none of the “terms” presented by Israel’s leader comes close to acceptable for the Palestinians.

And by standing to applaud 29 times, our leaders today gave sanction to that death. Even the White House, this evening, issued a statement saying that Netanyahu’s speech “reaffirmed the strength of U.S.-Israeli relationship.”

Here’s why what happened today matters: America has incredible leverage with regard to Israel, and has always been capable of using that leverage to talk Israel down off the pathological ledge it’s been toeing for so long due to my peoples’ existential fear of annihilation. (For good reason, I should add, but I digress.) The United States gives Israel unprecedented monetary, military and diplomatic support, all of which could easily be drawn down.

But as we saw today, the tail unfortunately wags the dog. And this wagging may end up being disastrous not only for Israel, but for American interests in the region as well, for a Netanyahu-applauded vision of Israel-Palestine is nothing more than a recipe for confrontation, for instability like we’ve never seen.

The Arab Spring has changed dynamics such that there is no going back. If Netanyahu, and America, stay on the course articulated today, this is where we may be headed:

1. A Palestinian declaration of statehood by the U.N. in September
2. Israeli & American rejection, with possible annexation of lands
3. A conflict that will not end well.

May my analysis be wrong. I hope such is the case. I fear such a case is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

By: The Troubadour, The Daily Kos, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Rich Are Different: They’re Luckier

This long attack on the unfairness of progressive taxation from the Hoover Institution by Kip Hagopian usefully embodies a lot of right-wing delusions about income inequality. It argues that a person’s income is determined by three things:

America’s free enterprise system provides an environment in which the substantial majority of its citizens can realize their fullest earnings potential. Within that environment, individual economic outcomes are the product of a combination of three elements: aptitude, work effort, and choice of occupation.

Aptitude. For the purposes of this essay, aptitude is broadly defined as the capacity to produce, or to earn income. For the most part, it comes from circumstances of birth and is distributed unequally. Aptitude may be derived from innate talents (cognitive, musical, artistic, athletic, etc.) or physical attributes (appearance, dexterity, possession of senses, etc.). Or it may be acquired from lessons learned from parents and other life experiences. Aptitude emanating from circumstances of birth (either innate or acquired) can be significantly enhanced by individual effort applied to strengthening one’s skills (see “Work Effort” below). Aptitude is measured from low to high in accordance with the monetary value placed on it in the marketplace. This is a measure of earning power and is not in any way an indication of an individual’s intrinsic worth as a human being. For most people aptitude is the most significant determinant of income. But it has to be understood as capacity; aptitude does not produce income until it is combined with individual effort.

Work effort. For any given level of aptitude and occupation, work effort plays the decisive role in determining income, and in many cases may result in persons with lower aptitudes earning more than their higher-aptitude peers. For the purposes of this essay, the term “work effort” includes not only the number of hours worked, but also the intensity of the effort applied during those hours. As noted above, it also includes work effort applied to strengthening one’s skills.

At every level of aptitude and in every profession, whether the pay is in salary or hourly wages, there are workers who outperform their peers in each hour worked. They do this by performing tasks more quickly; focusing on the tasks more intently; finding and completing additional tasks that need to be done; and using some of their leisure time practicing or training to become more skilled. These people get more raises, larger bonuses, and more promotions than their peers. Thus, greater work effort can produce higher income whether the person is paid by the hour or earns a salary.

In addition to producing higher income in its own right, work effort applied to strengthening one’s skill — resulting in “learned” or “enhanced” aptitude — can make a substantial contribution toward increasing income. The “rough” carpenter who spends nights and weekends developing the skills necessary to qualify as a more highly valued “finish” carpenter will move up the wage scale by doing so. Professional athletes, musicians, singers, and other performers can enhance their innate aptitudes substantially through extensive practice, and a great many are renowned for having done so. A classic example is Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who is generally recognized as the best wide receiver in NFL history. He was one of the highest paid players in pro football for twenty years, an achievement largely credited to his intense practice and workout regimen. Perhaps the most effective way of enhancing aptitude is through increased study in school. Whether it is grade school, high school, vocational school or college, for any particular tier of aptitude, those who study the most almost always get the best grades, matriculate to the best colleges, and secure the best jobs.

Choice of occupation. Choice of occupation is also important in determining income. Had Bill Gates decided to finish Harvard and become a high school math teacher, he almost certainly would have been successful, but he would not have become a multi-billionaire.

Earned income is determined by a mix of the three factors described above, and the relative contribution of each varies by individual.

This is obviously written to minimize the role of luck. It acknowledges that Bill Gates made more money by choosing to become a software mogul than by choosing t be a high school math teacher. But, of course, Gates (as he has acknowledged) benefited enormously not just from his family situation but from the timing of his birth, which put him in the work force at a moment when computing technology was set to explode. If he had been born a decade or two earlier, he probably would have been an anonymous lab geek if he had followed his mathematical inclinations, or perhaps the owner of a successful grocery store chain if he had pursued his entrepreneurial instincts.

What’s more, it is demonstrably not the case that income levels simply reflect aptitude and effort. Now, obviously being from a richer family affords all sorts of advantages, including physical, emotional, and cultural development. But factor all that out of the equation and assume that it’s just fair for all those things to translate into higher academic performance and higher earnings.

Even assuming that, there are massive advantages inherent simply in being born rich (and disadvantages in being poor.) My favorite example, simply because it’s so dramatic, is that a child born into the lowest-earning quintile who manages to attain a college degree is less likely to be in the highest-earning quintile than a child born into the top quintile who does not attain a college degree. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that making it to, and through, college is far harder for poor kids than rich kids even at a given level of aptitude. (Two thirds of the kids with average math scores and low-income parents do not attend college, while almost two-thirds of high-income kids with average math scores do.)

 How would Hagopian explain this? The lower-income kids managed to beat the odds by graduating from college, yet they make less money than the rich kids who beat the odds in the other direction by not going to college. By any measure, the former group has more aptitude and greater work ethic. Now, clearly right-wingers in general, and wealthy right-wingers in particular, like to think aptitude and effort and choices determine how much money you make. (Hagopian is the co-founder of a venture capital and private equity firm.) You see this from Greg Mankiw, Arthur Brooks, and on and on. The right-wing worldview is based on a moral premise about the relationship between merit and wealth that is demonstrably false.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, April 1, 2011

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Equal Rights, Ideologues, Income Gap, Jobs, Minimum Wage, Politics, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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