Sunday, June 6, 2021

Last Call For Israeli A Problem, Con't

As the clock runs out on the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's top security official is warning of domestic terrorist attacks against Israeli lawmakers, in what would almost certainly be the Israeli version of our January 6th terrorist attacks.
The head of Israel's internal security service said that "extremely violent and inciting discourse" targeting the lawmakers who are seeking to end Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year tenure as prime minister could take a potentially lethal form — a grim echo of the warnings ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Shin Bet chief Nadav Argeman said Saturday that the spike in vitriol targeting Netanyahu’s opponents online and in public demonstrations “may be interpreted by certain groups or individuals as one that allows for violent and illegal activities that may even, God forbid, become lethal.”

He called on public officials to rein in the groups that have vowed to do “anything possible” to prevent the swearing in of a new power-sharing government that has been spearheaded by centrist politician Yair Lapid.

Netanyahu has said he condemns any incitement and violence, but he said at a meeting with his Likud party on Sunday that “incitement against us is also raging.” He called on lawmakers to vote against the formation of the “fraudulent” alternative government.

“Mr. Netanyahu, don’t leave scorched earth behind you,” Naftali Bennett, the right-wing religious nationalist politician who is poised to unseat him, said Sunday. “We, the entire nation, want to remember the good that you did in your service for the country.”

The new government, in which Bennett is to serve as prime minister for two years before handing the job off to Lapid, is expected to come to a vote in the Knesset this week. It’s composed of eight ideologically divergent political parties, including leftists, centrists, former right-wing Netanyahu allies, and, for the first time in Israel’s history, Arab-Islamists.

“With his brother-in-arms Trump out-of-power, consumed by incoherent ranting and mumbling in Mar-a-Lago about how the election was stolen from him by Democrats and the media, Netanyahu has one last page to copy from Trump’s playbook: creating his own ‘January 6,’” Alon Pinkas wrote in the left-leaning daily Haaretz. “As a result of incitement and disinformation, judges, prosecutors and now also the leaders of the opposition are receiving extra protection after Netanyahu’s cultlike supporters threatened their lives.”

After the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol left five dead and more than 140 people injured, Netanyahu said he would leave office if voted out of power. He called the storming of the Capitol by thousands of pro-Trump supporters “disgraceful” and “the stark opposite of the values that Americans and Israelis uphold.” In the following days, Netanyahu removed a picture of him with Donald Trump from his Twitter banner. He continued to boast of policy achievements such as the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem that took place during the Trump presidency.

But since Lapid’s “change coalition” announced last week they were able to achieve a parliamentary majority, Netanyahu has launched a fierce, multi-fronted campaign to keep the it from assuming power. He has uploaded social media posts including old videos of Bennett and his partners pledging to never allow Lapid to become prime minister and called on right-wing lawmakers “to oppose this dangerous, left-wing government.”


Needless to say, things could quite possibly go as bad as things did here in the US on January 6th. The real problem is that there's entirely reason to believe that things could go much, much worse. I have a bad feeling about all this, so keep a weather eye on things in Tel Aviv.

The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy and protecting that right should not be about party or politics. Least of all, protecting this right, which is a value I share, should never be done in a partisan manner.

During my time as West Virginia’s secretary of state, I was determined to protect this right and ensure our elections are fair, accessible and secure. Not to benefit my party but all the people of West Virginia. For example, as secretary of state I took specific actions to establish early voting for the first time in West Virginia in order to provide expanded options for those whose work or family schedule made it difficult for them to vote on Election Day. Throughout my tenure in politics, I have been guided by this simple philosophy — our party labels can’t prevent us from doing what is right.

Unfortunately, we now are witnessing that the fundamental right to vote has itself become overtly politicized. Today’s debate about how to best protect our right to vote and to hold elections, however, is not about finding common ground, but seeking partisan advantage. Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won’t instill confidence in our democracy — it will destroy it.

As such, congressional action on federal voting rights legislation must be the result of both Democrats and Republicans coming together to find a pathway forward or we risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials.

Democrats in Congress have proposed a sweeping election reform bill called the For the People Act. This more than 800-page bill has garnered zero Republican support. Why? Are the very Republican senators who voted to impeach Trump because of actions that led to an attack on our democracy unwilling to support actions to strengthen our democracy? Are these same senators, whom many in my party applauded for their courage, now threats to the very democracy we seek to protect?

The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen.

With that in mind, some Democrats have again proposed eliminating the Senate filibuster rule in order to pass the For the People Act with only Democratic support. They’ve attempted to demonize the filibuster and conveniently ignore how it has been critical to protecting the rights of Democrats in the past.

As a reminder, just four short years ago, in 2017 when Republicans held control of the White House and Congress, President Donald Trump was publicly urging Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster. Then, it was Senate Democrats who were proudly defending the filibuster. Thirty-three Senate Democrats penned a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warning of the perils of eliminating the filibuster.

It has been said by much wiser people than me that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, what I’ve seen during my time in Washington is that every party in power will always want to exercise absolute power, absolutely. Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy. The Senate, its processes and rules, have evolved over time to make absolute power difficult while still delivering solutions to the issues facing our country and I believe that’s the Senate’s best quality.

Yes, this process can be frustrating and slow. It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.

The truth is there is a better way – if we seek to find it together.
President Manchin has decided to bet America's future on bipartisanship with a party openly embracing white supremacist fascism, and declares his own party as bad as the GOP. I don't know what to say anymore to convince anyone that Manchin only cares about staying in power, and will never help Democrats. achieve anything more than what McConnell allows them to have.
President Manchin has consigned us Republican rule.

And what will will have is white supremacist fascism.

Sunday Long Read: The Cubicle Farm

Our Sunday Long Read this week from Outside Magazine almost sounds like the next guaranteed sitcom trope of the 2020's: Silicon Valley techsters, freed from the commute to Redmond, Palo Alto, and Mountain View by the Age of Social Distancing, invade sleepy small-town Mountain West communities by the score. The locals want them gone and do everything they can to get rid of them, but both sides realize that they love the area, and the new folks are here to stay.

"Absolutely bananas.” That’s how Truckee-based realtor Kaili Sanchez of Sierra Sotheby’s described real estate activity in 2020. And, she added with an air of disbelief when we spoke in mid-January, it’s still going strong.

The bulk of Sanchez’s clients come from the Bay Area and L.A. “They’ll say, ‘I want all the screens out of the house,’” she says. “‘I just want to hear the birds! See the stars!’” But much of the activity is also represented by locals capitalizing on the frenzy and cashing out, she says. They’re heading to Reno, Nevada. To Montana. Back east, to the ice, to get two houses for the price of the Tahoe one. Year-over-year stats from Sierra Sotheby’s are staggering: In November 2019, the agency had 67 pending sales, totaling $38.2 million. In November 2020, it had 94 pending sales, totaling $127.6 million.

According to Zillow, Truckee (population 16,735) saw 193 home sales in December 2020 alone, an 88 percent increase over December 2019. Home values were way up, too—December’s median sale price in Truckee was $833,000, an almost 30 percent increase compared with the same month the year before. Sales have soared as high as the Sierra Nevada’s snow-covered peaks, especially for properties with views of them. In wealthy Incline Village, the median home price hit $2.2 million in February 2021. And even on the relatively humble, less developed west shore, the median sales price in 2020 was $756,000. Inventory is at a historic low, while demand is at an all-time high. For example, Truckee’s Tahoe-Donner neighborhood typically has 80 to 100 homes for sale at any given time during the summer. In the first week of 2021, it had six. Buyers are signing contracts after Zoom walk-throughs, or even sight unseen, says Sanchez, and multiple offers over the asking price are now standard, as are all-cash bids. More than one Tahoe local has gotten a knock on their door, accompanied by an unsolicited offer: “I’ll give you $2 million for your house.”

“It’s the wildest time,” says realtor Katey Brandenburg, who works on Tahoe’s Nevada side. For her and other realtors around the lake, the autumn of 2020 felt like winning the lottery. “I paid off a lifetime of debt—28 years of loans, college, credit cards, and cars—in three months.”

All told, 2020 saw more than 2,350 homes sold across the Tahoe Basin, for a boggling $3.28 billion, up from $1.76 billion in 2019, according to data analyzed by Sierra Sotheby’s. That $3 billion stat is on a par with 2020 home-sales revenues in Aspen, Colorado (albeit there, the latest average home-sale price came in at $11 million). The trend is in line with real estate records being shattered from Sun Valley, Idaho, to Stowe, Vermont. And according to a just-released market update, it hasn’t stopped: in the first quarter of 2021, median prices for single-family homes increased by an astronomical 70 percent year over year in Truckee, 72 percent in South Lake, and 81 percent in Incline Village.

With Tahoe just a four-hour drive (well, without traffic) from a Silicon Valley–funded tech city, San Francisco, the Zoom-town effect here embodies all of the cultural and economic tensions fueling the mountain edition of the Great COVID Migration. “It’s the white-collar flight,” says Colleen Dalton, CEO of Visit Truckee-Tahoe. Urban professionals are trading in the proverbial button-downs—or rather their Silicon Valley hoodies—for puffy jackets.

“I’ve had several California clients tell me, ‘I don’t care if it’s Jackson or Park City,’” says star realtor Katherine Rixon from Ketchum, Idaho. “They just wanted a mountain town.”

According to U.S. Postal Service data analyzed by the San Francisco Chronicle, Truckee alone saw a 1,082 percent increase in San Francisco transplants between August 2019 and August 2020. More San Francisco households requested a change of address to that greater area’s 96161 zip code than to any other zip code in the country. And notably: “A disproportionate number of people who purchased homes in Tahoe in 2020 are employees of some of the largest tech companies in the Bay Area,” says Deniz Kahramaner, founder of Atlasa, a real estate brokerage firm that specializes in data analytics. Of the 2,280 new-home buyers Atlasa identified throughout the Tahoe region in 2020, roughly 30 percent worked at software companies. The top three employers were Google (54 buyers), Apple (46), and Facebook (34).

Prior to the pandemic, most people who moved to the mountains would probably consider themselves the type to prioritize place over career: where you live comes first, what you do to support yourself while living there is a distant second. Jobs in the mountains rarely came with Slack accounts or stock options or even, very often, full-time salaries. You were either employed by the mountain or the restaurants, shops, and hotels surrounding it, or you carved your own path as a free agent and Lived the Dream, making bank and riding bumps. But in Zoom town, you can work for Pinterest and ski powder. The Dream has become a reality, and with it, the potential for a kind of culture clash that inherently follows all that cash: when those who have it and those who don’t begin living side by side.

We'll see how this goes, but I'm seeing this as one of the main differences between East Coast and West in the decade ahead. New Yorkers and Bostonians, Atlantans and Charlotteans,  Miamians and Charlestonians will be back in the office by Labor Day, working for companies that will do everything they can to pretend that the work from home era was a one-time thing and will never happen again, even though it will. It'll be ugly, corporate overlords realizing they will lose good people to cubicle farms, and won't get them back.

Anywhere west of Texas, it'll be the new normal, maybe even to the detriment of people who want to come in five days a week.

Welcome To Gunmerica, Con't

We're going to be dealing with the fallout of Trump appointing more than a quarter of all federal judges for decades, and the latest sign that our side is pretty much screwed no matter what comes from California, where a Trump judge overturned the state's more than 30 year old assault rifle ban

In a ruling that compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife, a federal judge overturned California's longtime ban on assault weapons on Friday, ruling it violates the Second Amendment's right to bear arms. 
Assault weapons have been banned in California since 1989, according to the ruling. The law has been updated several times since it was originally passed. 
According to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego, the assault weapons ban deprives Californians from owning assault-style weapons commonly allowed in other states. Benitez issued a permanent injunction Friday so the law cannot be enforced. 
"Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," Benitez said in the ruling. "Firearms deemed as 'assault weapons' are fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles." 
In his ruling, the judge also criticized the news media, writing, "One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter." 
However, as CNN has previously reported, AR-15 style rifles have been the weapon of choice for numerous mass shooters, including in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Route 91 Harvest musical festival in Las Vegas, a massacre at a church in Texas, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the high school in Parkland, Florida, and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, among others. 
Last year, Benitez ruled California's ban on high-capacity magazines was unconstitutional. He also struck down the state's restriction on remote purchases of gun ammunition.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized the ruling Friday, calling AR-15's a "weapon of war." 
He said in a statement that the comparison made by the judge between a Swiss Army Knife and the AR-15 "completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who've lost loved ones to this weapon." 
Newsom added: "We're not backing down from this fight, and we'll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives." 
The ruling and injunction are stayed for 30 days, during which time the Attorney General may appeal and seek a stay from the Court of Appeals. 
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said he will be appealing the ruling. "Today's decision is fundamentally flawed, and we will be appealing it," Bonta said in a news release. 
Judge Benitez is a complete clown who shouldn't be managing a Dairy Queen, let alone issuing federal judicial rulings, but that's what America voted for in 2016 because the alternative was an evil bitch, right?

In all seriousness, it will take the rest of my natural life to deal with Trump judges, and if the GOP gets another crack at this in 2024, it'll take the rest of your grandkids' lives too.

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