Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Last Call For Israeli Getting Serious Out There, Con't

President Biden is expected to visit Israel on Wednesday as part of a wider Mideast shuttle diplomacy tour this week.

It took an explicit commitment from his Israeli counterpart to open Gaza for humanitarian aid for President Joe Biden to agree to make an extraordinary wartime trip to Tel Aviv.

While the trip will amount to a dramatic show of support for Israel as it prepares the latest stage of its response to last week’s Hamas attacks, it will also act as Biden’s strongest push for easing the suffering of civilians and allowing those who want to leave Gaza out. That mission got more complicated Tuesday as Biden was about to take off on Air Force One for the region – a planned summit with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was canceled after an explosion at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City killed hundreds. Palestinian officials quickly blamed Israel for the blast as the Israelis denied responsibility and pinned the blame on a failed rocket by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The high-stakes diplomacy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his interlocutor of four decades, underscores the delicate balance Biden is striking as he embarked upon the last-minute wartime visit Tuesday evening.

The White House had attempted to balance the public and military support for Israel with the reality that Arab partners are critical to Biden’s approach by going to Jordan for a summit with the key Arab leaders. But the last-minute scrapping of that meeting meant Biden would no longer go to Amman and instead faces a new diplomatic headache.

At stake on the trip to Israel are the lives of millions of civilians, including Americans, currently stuck in the coastal Palestinian enclave where a humanitarian crisis is underway as Israeli troops mass at its borders ahead of an expected ground invasion.

While there was no explicit stipulation from the US that Israel not launch its invasion until Biden leaves the region, that’s the understanding among American officials who have spent the past several days debating and planning the president’s visit, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

American officials want humanitarian plans for Gaza fully signed off on and implemented before start of the invasion, the people said, describing that task as among Biden’s main objectives during his visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken is getting some heavy diplomatic backup. He's going to need it
An attack on al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, a Christian-run medical complex in central Gaza City, killed 200 to 300 people on Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The ministry’s spokesman, Ashraf Al Qudra, estimated that at least 200 were injured.

Officials in Gaza and in Israel blamed each other for the carnage.

Al Qudra said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had targeted the hospital for bombing. Hamas also blamed Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that, saying, “It was barbaric terrorists in Gaza that attacked the hospital in Gaza, and not the IDF.”

Photos of the hospital showed fire engulfing the halls, shattered glass and body parts scattered across the wreckage. Videos posted to a Palestinian paramedic’s Instagram stories show first responders arriving at the hospital and taking bloodied bodies out.

Looking visibly shell-shocked in a video shared with NBC News, Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah said there were three artillery attacks on the hospital. “Part of the roof started to fall,” he said, as he was treating a patient for a jugular injury.

If the hospital bombing death toll of 200-300 is confirmed, it would be the deadliest incident inside Gaza since Hamas’ terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Doctors Without Borders said on the X platform that it was “horrified” by the bombing.
Understand that Israelis may be rallying 'round the flag right now, but not rallying around Bibi

One Israeli cabinet minister was barred from a hospital visitors' entrance. Another's bodyguards were drenched with coffee thrown by a bereaved man. A third had "traitor" and "imbecile" shouted at her as she came to comfort families evacuated during the horror.

The shock Oct. 7 massacre by Hamas gunmen has rallied Israelis to one another. But there is little love shown for a government being widely accused of dropping the country's guard and engulfing it in a Gaza war that is rattling the region.

Whatever ensues, a day of judgment looms for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after a record-long career of political comebacks.

Public fury over some 1,300 Israeli fatalities has been further fuelled by Netanyahu's signature self-styling as a Churchillian strategist who foresaw national-security threats.

Another backdrop is social polarisation this year over his religious-nationalist coalition's judicial overhaul drive, which triggered walkouts by some military reservists and raised doubts - now borne out in blood, some argue - about combat-readiness.

"October 2023 Debacle" read a headline in top-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth, language meant to recall Israel's failure to anticipate a twin Egyptian and Syrian offensive in October 1973, which eventually led then-Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

That ouster put paid to the hegemony of Meir's centre-left Labour party. Amotz Asa-El, research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, predicted a similar fate for Netanyahu and his long-dominant, conservative Likud party.
The moment this war ends, so does Netanyahu's career. My prediction: Bibi will attack Gaza with a full-scale ground invasion and this war will drag on for as long as it needs to. He won't listen to Biden. He certainly won't listen to China and the BRICS nations, warning very loudly that such a ground invasion and occupation will have a price.

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have gone "beyond the scope of self-defense," China's foreign minister has said, as the encroaching possibility of an Israeli ground attack threatens to further endanger Palestinian civilians who have been caught up in the fighting.

Protecting "the basic needs of the people in Gaza" is a priority and "China opposes and condemns all acts that harm civilians," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a call with Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in remarks reported by Chinese media.

Remember, the expanded roster of BRICS nations into next year includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Iran. Needless to say, if Netanyahu decides he wants to stay in power no matter what the price is, these are four Middle Eastern countries that can impose a staggering cost, with Russia and China backing them up.

Pray Biden can help Bibi come down to Earth and face the consequences, or "Much larger Middle Eastern War" is on the menu.

Jordan has cancelled a summit it was to host in Amman on Wednesday with U.S. President Joe Biden and the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders to discuss Gaza, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said.

Safadi said the meeting would be held at a time when the parties could agree to end the "war and the massacres against Palestinians", blaming Israel with its military campaign for pushing the region to "the brink of the abyss."

Jordanian and Egyptian officials are pissed about the al-Ahli Baptist Hospital massacre. Hell, at this point I don't know if Bibi will even bother holding off the ground assault until after Biden leaves.

This was already bad. It's now starting to look way, way worse.

The House GOP Circus Of The Damned, Con't

Democrats are already crafting a strategy to use Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as a political weapon against Republicans in the next election if he becomes the next House speaker.

In a memo to House Democrats, first shared with NBC News, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee urged party members and candidates to portray the entire GOP as beholden to radicals should Republicans hand him the speaker's gavel.

There are “no more moderates left in the Republican conference,” the DCCC said in the memo, adding that Jordan will win only if “so-called ‘moderates’” opt to “cave” and elect him.

“Every Republican who votes for Jordan for Speaker is simply following Trump’s marching orders,” the memo said.

The memo comes in anticipation of a House vote as early as Tuesday afternoon to elect Jordan as speaker. He will need votes from 217 of the 221 Republicans in the House to secure a win. It’s not clear he has the votes, but numerous GOP critics have been coming around to him.

The two-page memo included a list of what the DCCC described as “key examples of Jordan’s extremism,” citing his attempts to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020, his noncompliance with a subpoena by the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee, his role as a co-founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus, his opposition to bipartisan bills on immigration and his support for aggressive tactics that Democrats say caused “multiple government shutdowns.”

“A Speaker Jordan means extremism and far-right priorities will govern the House of Representatives,” the memo said. “It is imperative that our caucus makes clear to voters just how extreme Congressman Jordan is and how his Speakership would negatively impact working families across the country, threaten democratic norms, and weaken relationships with our allies.”
All this is certainly true, and if anything I've said Democrats need to make this more clear.
But as Steve M. points out, a majority of Republicans, if not voters in general, want to see the House stop working, because it means the Congress that most Americans despise can't screw anything else up. 
The problem with comparing the contemporary Republican Party to other fascist or fascist-leaning parties is that the Republican Party -- like much of the American public -- doesn't want the government to function efficiently. Remember Ronald Reagan's dictum: Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem. If you believe that, as nearly all Republicans do (as well as many non-Republicans), you might not believe that it's imperative to throw sand in the gears of government, but you certainly don't believe it's a bad thing when the gears become inoperably sandy.

Americans who believe Reagan's simple-minded pronouncements about government are rarely consistent -- they want the government to punish street criminals and immigrants, as well as women seeking abortions and sexual minorities -- but apart from that, they assume we'd all be better off if government weren't fuctioning at all ... or at least that's what they believe until they have problem getting VA healthcare or going to a national park. But even then they cling to the principle that government is bad (and government under a Democratic president is worse), so the current leadership struggles of the House GOP won't turn them against Republicans. The fact that Republicans can't run the government is a feature, not a bug, for much of the country.
In fact, I'd go further down that route: a solid plurality of Americans want government to stop working specifically to hinder those people who count on the government to help them.  They're okay with sabotage, and if they suffer some pain because of a government implosion like the one we're seeing, they are safe and comfortable in the knowledge that others folks whom they hate are suffering even more.

So yes, this needs to be said because it's true, that Republicans are chaos gremlins who want everyone to suffer some, and those at the bottom to suffer more. But I don't think it's going to be a convincing argument in an election cycle to move voters away from the GOP.

No, I see voters being okay with the House and maybe even the Senate being a check on Biden's second term. Voters have loved gridlock for decades now and have actively voted for it. That's not going to change one bit in 2024. Maybe they don't want Trump back in charge, but it doesn't mean they won't leave the House GOP Clown Show going for years to come.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

On Monday, Judge Tanya Chutkan made it very clear about what will happen if Trump continues to attack her, prosecutors, witnesses, and other court officers in Jack Smith's January 6th case against him, as the judge issued a partial gag order against Trump's social media tirades.

A federal judge on Monday issued a gag order on former President Donald Trump, limiting what he can say about special counsel Jack Smith’s federal prosecution into his alleged attempt to subvert in the 2020 presidential election.

The order restricts Trump’s ability to publicly target court personnel, potential witnesses, or the special counsel and his staff. The order did not impose restrictions on disparaging comments about Washington, DC, – where the jury will take place – or certain comments about the Justice Department at large, both of which the government requested.

“This is not about whether I like the language Mr. Trump uses,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said. “This is about language that presents a danger to the administration of justice.”

“His presidential candidacy does not give him carte blanche to vilify public servants who are simply doing their jobs,” the judge added.

Chutkan noted that any violation of her orders could result in sanctions.

Following the two federal indictments against the former president, Trump has lashed out against prosecutors, potential witnesses and the judge overseeing the election subversion case in Washington. Prosecutors with special counsel Jack Smith’s office say these comments are enough to warrant a narrow restriction on Trump’s speech around the case.

Chutkan, often the target of Trump’s attacks, warned the former president that comments he or his attorneys make could threaten the case.

“Mr. Trump is a criminal defendant. He is facing four felony charges. He is under the supervision of the criminal justice system and he must follow his conditions of release,” Chutkan said Monday during the hearing.

“He does not have the right to say and do exactly what he pleases. Do you agree with that?” she asked Trump attorney John Lauro, who responded: “100%.”
First, Judge Chutkan is making it clear sanctions -- real ones -- are on the table.
Second, she's making it clear that those sanctions could affect the conditions of Trump's release on bail.
Just hours after a federal judge handed down a gag order which prohibits him from publicly targeting witnesses, prosecutors, and court staff, former President Donald Trump went on a tirade against the judge, likely violating the order almost immediately.

He made the comments during a campaign speech in Clive, Iowa, calling the order “totally unconstitutional” while claiming that Judge Tanya Chutkan’s “whole life is not liking me.”

Trump later said: “I am willing to go to jail if that’s what it takes for our country to win and become a democracy again.” 
So what will happen when he goes nuts again and again on social media again this week? Will Judge Chutkan martyr Trump like he wants?
We're going to find out.
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