Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Last Call

Well, any good news left in the universe?
Many Americans express concern over Elena Kagan's lack of experience as a judge, but they currently don't think she is too liberal for a seat on the Supreme Court and a majority say that the U.S. Senate should vote for confirm her, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday indicates that 54 percent of the public says that Kagan should be confirmed to the high court, with 36 percent saying that senators should not confirm President Obama's nominee for associate justice to the high court.
Oh great.  I completely forgot about the Kagan fight later this month. Just what we need.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

When America faces adversity and chaos, it turns to...Moose Lady.

The Hill: "Palin pushes Jindal to build barrier islands without feds' approval"

CNN: "Palin targets NBC over McGinniss interview"

The Weekly Standard: "Palin Reacts to Flotilla Incident"

That's just today.  Exactly why is the Village obsessed about what Sarah Palin's political opinion is on any of those topics, and why is it national news?

Can Obama Talk Turkey (Down)?

If this is true, then Obama needs to convince Turkey to pull the plug on any more blockade running flotillas, or it's going to turn into seventeen different kids of hell.  ABC's Jake Tapper:
I’m told there won’t be any daylight between the US and Israel in the aftermath of the incident on the flotilla yesterday, which resulted in the deaths of 10 activists.

Regardless of the details of the flotilla incident, sources say President Obama is focused on what he sees as the longer term issue here: a successful Mideast peace process.

“The president has always said that it will be much easier for Israel to make peace if it feels secure,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

The suggestion is that US condemnation of Israel would further isolate that country, and make further peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians even more difficult.
Not that I'm surprised in any way shape or form.  Not that I approve of what Israel did.  But the reality is (and as much as it really, really galls me to type this) my usual peanut gallery is correct: another flotilla at this point is just something to try to provoke an Israeli naval response.  Especially now that Egypt has opened its Gaza crossing, it's time for Obama to show some serious diplomatic chops and convince Turkey and Egypt to make a major aid package to Gaza through Egypt.  Make a big huge show of it if you want to, invite Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on down, have Turkey PM Erdogan there too, get photo ops with little Palestinian kids on your laps, whatever.

But Turkey blockade running with warships, not an option.  Cooler heads need to prevail here, and it's time for Obama to be as chill as Point Barrow, Alaska in January.  He's made the argument time and time again that diplomacy and smart power are the keys to peace in the Middle East, well hey, this is the perfect time to prove it.

I understand Turkey's goal is to draw attention to the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.  Well, you've gotten Egypt to open its crossing as a result...take advantage of it.  Get the aid in there, and let's prove that diplomacy is better than bullets.

Obama has the chance to show some true leadership here.  I hope that he takes the opportunity.

Free Market Fallout

BP common stock has gone from $60 a share five weeks ago to $36.52 today.  Lost $7.50 or so just today on Top Kill(tm) screwing up over the weekend.

Maybe there are some consequences after all.  I don't see Tony Hayward keeping his job much longer.  Gosh, that's a shame.

The Gaza Strip Shuffle

Now Egypt has gotten into the fray by opening their Gaza border crossing to all Palestinians until further notice in protest of Israel's actions on Monday.  Reuters:
The move, urged by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against whom the embargo has been directed, prompted dozens of people to race to the crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, though the gates appeared still to be closed.

It is the only point on Gaza's borders that is not fully controlled by Israel. Cairo, coordinating with Israel, has opened it only sparingly since Hamas Islamists, who are allied to Egypt's opposition, seized control of Gaza three years ago.

A permanent opening of the crossing, which lies above a stretch of desert frontier riddled by hundreds of smuggling tunnels, would be a major boost for Hamas and a blow to efforts by Israel and its Western allies to cripple the Islamists.

The Interior Ministry run by Hamas since it seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007 said in a statement: "Rafah crossing is open every day from 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) to 7 p.m." Since Hamas took over, Egypt has opened the crossing only sporadically and with restrictions.

An Egyptian security source told Reuters: "Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter the Strip.

"The border will remain open for an unlimited time," the source said, letting Palestinians enter and leave Egypt.

Aid convoys, to which Egypt has in the past allowed only limited access, would be allowed to use the crossing, subject to following Cairo's limitation that only food and medical supplies be transported.

"Hard materials" -- apparently including concrete and steel which Gazans want to repair damage from last year's Israeli offensive -- would have to go via Israel, the Egyptian source said. Israel has made clear since it halted a Turkish-backed aid convoy at sea on Monday that it will not ease its embargo.
Now things get interesting.  Turkey could choose to route aid through Egypt now.  Will they continue to try to send in an aid flotilla and escort it with warships?  How will Israel respond to Egypt?  How much and what kind of aid will Egypt allow through?  How long will they keep their border crossing open?

We'll see.

And So It Begins

Expect an overwhelming majority of Congress to respond to the Israel/Turkey situation like Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner.
"This was about instigating an altercation and they succeeded," Weiner, one of Israel's leading allies in Congress, told me. He insisted that the activists piloting the flotilla were offered other alternatives by Israel, such as docking the ship and transporting the supplies to Gaza by land.

"If you want to instigate a conflict with the Israeli navy it isn't hard to do," Weiner continued. "They were offered alternatives. Instead they chose to sail into the teeth of an internationally recognized blockade."

Pushed on whether the Israeli response, which killed at least nine, was disproportionate, Weiner wouldn't acknowledge it. "It's always easy to criticize the response to a hostile act, but for a week at least the Israelis were trying to prevent this altercation," Weiner said, adding that the Israelis had been "set upon."

"It's very easy now to say they should have come in using water cannons and harsh language," Weiner said, speaking of the Israeli commandos.

When I asked Weiner whether it was legit for the activists to use the flotilla to draw global attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, he suggested that wasn't the real motive. "If they were truly interested in providing aid, there were ways," Weiner said. "This was about instigating an altercation and they succeeded."

Pressed on whether it was defensible for Israel to authorize the boarding of the flotilla, given that such a move was certain to provoke an international outcry, Weiner again turned the blame back on Turkey and the activists.

"Anything that israel does would create an international outcry," Weiner said. "This entire effort was intended to create an international outrcry."
It's all Turkey's fault.  They made Israel kill people, you see.  As I said yesterday, Congress has made Obama's decision for him.  He has no choice but to fully back Israel and throw Turkey under the bus, and unless he can stop the next aid flotilla, the Middle East may come apart at the seams.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Brad DeLong asks:
Have decades of widening wealth inequality created a chattering class of reporters, pundits and lobbyists who’ve lost their connection to mainstream America? Has the collapse of the union movement removed not only labor’s political muscle but its beating heart from the consciousness of the powerful? Has this recession, which has reduced hiring more than it has increased layoffs, left the kind of people who converse with the powerful in Washington secure in their jobs and thus communicating calm while the unemployed are engulfed in panic? Are we passively watching an unrepresented underclass of the long-term unemployed created before our eyes?
Short answer, yes.

Long answer, do you think the GOP is going to actually do anything to make the economy better when they can let it burn, make sure nothing happens, blame Obama when we plunge into the second half of this recession, and then benefit at the polls?

If you were the Republican Party, why would you lift a finger to do anything to improve the economy right now when by doing nothing, you stand to gain House and Senate seats?

Why should the GOP agree to do anything to reduce unemployment right now?

Orange Julius Versus Orange Goop

If you're wondering why the GOP has been mostly silent on the BP oil spill, it's because they're too busy being the Party of No and proud of it.
For Boehner, being called the “Party of No” isn’t a regrettable invective. It is a strategy aimed at highlighting the contrast between those running things and those who want to run things. That deafening silence you hear from Republicans about the gulf oil spill? All the better for Americans to hear the glubglubglub of Democrats and the administration going down the drain.
And if you have any illusions about what a GOP congress would mean, it's shutdown time:
Boehner is reluctant to speculate about November, when 100 seats will be in play. If things should go bump on election night -- and should Boehner replace Pelosi as speaker -- expect to see lots of blood on the floor. First to get the hatchet would be health-care reform, which Republicans would seek to replace with "common sense" measures to reduce insurance costs and secure jobs. Other priorities would include line-by-line budget cuts, entitlement reform and restoration of the integrity of the House, which Boehner says has been damaged by previous speakers' emphasis on partisan gains. "That's why the Congress of the United States is broken and I aim to fix it." 
Defunding programs right in the middle of what will most likely be a double-dip recession.  That'll help!  Glad to see the Republicans have so many solutions to the issues that we face:  the oil in the Gulf, the Koreas on verge of war, Turkey and Israel going at it, a stumbling economy, and the GOP House leader's plan is to say "Well, we're not in charge!  Vote for us!"

How gratifying.

More Primary Impetus

Primary voters will take to the polls Tuesday in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico.  TPM has the races to watch, but here are my three:
AL-02: Three Republicans are competing to take on freshman Rep. Bobby Bright, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who has voted against many parts of the national Democratic agenda. The three main candidates are Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby -- an NRCC "Young Gun" candidate, representing a top tier of national GOP endorsement -- state Board of Education member Stephanie Bell and businessman and Tea Party activist Rick Barber. The district voted 63%-37% for John McCain in 2008.
This one's important because you have NRCC candidate Martha Roby going up against Tea Party candidate Rick Barber.  The GOP leadership is firmly behind Roby.  But the Tea Party grassroots anger is firmly behind Barber.  Bell is the wild card, so anything could happen here.
MS-01: Three Republicans are competing to go up against Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Travis Childers, who was first elected in a May 2008 special election. The three candidates are the establishment-backed state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, former Europa Mayor and ex-Bush Administration Justice Department official Henry Ross, and Fox News commentator Angela McGlowan. The district voted 62%-37% for John McCain in 2008. As with Alabama, a candidate will need 50% of the vote to win outright.
McGlowan has the national FOX recognition and the tea Party cred, Ross has the local boy and Beltway pull, and Nunnelee has the state politics angle covered.  Again, any of the three of them could win.

NM Republican gubernatorial primary: Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson is term-limited, and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is the presumptive Dem nominee. Five Republicans are competing for the GOP nomination: attorney Pete Domenici, Jr., a son of former Sen. Pete Domenici.; Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez; businessman and political activist Doug Turner; state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones; and businessman and former state GOP chair Allen Weh, who played a role in the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias.

The TPM Poll Average gives Martinez 31.4%, Weh 25.4%, Domenici 13.8%, Turner 7.5%, and Arnold-Jones 3.1%.
Martinez is leading right now, but Weh has a lot of clout in the NM GOP.  It's going to be a close race.

The question here is will the GOP establishment-backed candidates win, or will the Tea Party folks upset the apple cart?  Is Dominici's name recognition in New Mexico really hurting him badly in 2010?  Can NRCC "Young Gun" Roby beat back her Tea Party challenger in Alabama?

Tuesday evening should be pretty interesting.

Israel Goes Cold Turkey

So what if Turkey is serious about sending another aid flotilla, this time protected by Turkish warships, to Gaza?  If Israel doesn't intercept it, the Netanyahu government collapses.  What it will be replaced by, I couldn't tell you for sure, but there's a very good chance that the Netanyahu government would be replaced by something far more hard line that may try to force the United States into another war, possibly with Iran.

And so help me, that's not the worst-case scenario.

If Israel does intercept it, NATO collapses.  NATO command will refuse to go to war with Israel at Turkey's request, and the entire structure falls apart, NATO allies will all withdraw their troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US will now have to go it completely alone, isolated militarily for good.  Nobody will ever trust us again.

As StrangeAppar8tus said yesterday over at Rumproast, this is Obama's Kobayashi Maru moment.  Whether or not he can pull a Captain Kirk and cheat the system, I don't know.  Maybe he can convince Turkey not to send the escort at all.  Maybe he can transfer the aid to the UN.  Maybe he can find another way around this nightmare.

Because if he doesn't, we're in a lot of trouble.


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