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IVAW anniversary statement

by Dan Burns on March 20, 2015 · 0 comments

iraqI’m passing this along. Click and read the whole thing.
 

Today is a solemn day for us. Twelve years ago the Bush administration launched the illegal invasion of Iraq, forever altering millions of lives…
 
So much of what we see in our foreign policy and domestic political landscape can be connected to that fateful decision. It is reflected in everything from the climate of deep Islamophobia at home, to the high suicide rates of veterans, from the brutal rise of ISIS, to the militarization of police departments across the country. These are just a few examples of how widespread the effects have been…
 
After twelve years of warfare, there is more to mourn than could possibly be summed up in any statement. But we do find hope in the continuous acts of resistance by individuals and organizations in Iraq and communities here at home who have taken a stand against violence, militarism, and racism. There is much work yet to be done. Despite the long road ahead of us, we remain steadfastly committed to working towards justice and accountability for the crimes perpetrated against Iraq and encourage all people of conscience to join us in resisting the march to perpetual war.
(Iraq Veterans Against The War)

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Actor Slim Pickens, riding a nuke to destruction
in Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned
to stop worrying
and love the bomb

The right ‘wingaloos’, via Wonkette, because the right really IS crazier than anything you could make up.  Sadly, this is increasingly the norm on the right.

Rick Santorum took a few questions from the audience at last weekend’s South Carolina National Security Action Summit, an annual Gathering Of The Wingaloos sponsored by conspiracy theorist, rightwing hack, and Islam-panicked freak Frank Gaffney. So it’s not too surprising that Santorum got this long “question” from a nice lady named “Virginia.” She started by explaining John Boehner’s secret deal with Obama to let illegal aliens into the country, and eventually built to a beautiful crescendo of Pure Weird.

Obama?

Nuking Charleston?

What the HELL?  (That this woman was a teacher explains a lot about why red states drag this nation down in comparison with other nations educational outcomes.)

So where did THIS insanity come from this time? Sane people want to know who’s feeding the crazy.

And sure enough, it’s the right wing propaganda machine.

Via Bloomberg News Whoa, Conspiracy Theories:

That’s easy. In September 2013, the conspiracy news site InfoWars published an “exclusive” story, citing “a high level source inside the military,” about the transfer of nuclear warheads to the East Coast. The story was shared nearly 25,000 times on Facebook, aided by a video introduction by Alex Jones and by a follow-up that quoted South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s worry that a military build-up would lead to nuclear weapons moving through the port of Charleston. “This ultimately reeks of yet another false flag being orchestrated by the United States government in order to send us into war,” Jones wrote in a follow-up.

In October 2013, the European Union Times—a “news” site that combines real stories with rumors — cited a “Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today” to report that a nuclear weapon had been detonated off of Charleston’s harbor, as proven by an Oct. 8 earthquake that happened hundreds of miles from the coast. This, according to the website, was a botched “false flag” attack, which was carried out, strangely, in the middle of the government shutdown. On Reddit, discussion swirled that the “false flag” attack led to the dismissal of US Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, US Air Force Major General Michael Carey, Major General Charles M. Gurganus and Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant.

The appearance of those names in the story recalled the scam in Paper Moon, in which the names of the recently deceased were used by a salesman to sell Bibles to the surviving family members. Giardina was sacked, but this was later found to be related to a poker-rigging scheme that had been uncovered by the Navy’s Inspector General. Carey was removed from his job after an investigation into a drunken bender that took him around Moscow; though Carey remains a special assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command. Gurganus and Sturdevant were forced into retirement in September 2013, after a yearlong investigation into a Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Both men were removed, in other words, before the alleged “false flag” attack—and neither had anything to do with nuclear security.

And it goes without saying that the “false flag” attack, according to an alleged Russian intel report as translated by a fringe site, happened fifteen months ago, hundreds of miles from America’s coastline. Santorum’s questioner swore that it had happened “a few months ago” and “in Charleston.” If the potential 2016 candidate was wondering if he missed a major news event, he shouldn’t. He didn’t.

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Checking up on the odious TPP

by Dan Burns on March 19, 2015 · 0 comments

tppIt appears that negotiators still have some things to finish up with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was supposed to be ready any time now. Meanwhile, righteous opponents of this corporate-backed nightmare are getting ready for the showdown. I still can’t find anything reliable on whether it would have the votes to get through Congress, at this time. Incidentally, other countries, like Australia, aren’t necessarily slam-dunks to have their legislatures back this monstrosity, either.
 
One of the most awful measures in this deal is ISDS. Reps. Rick Nolan (D-MN) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) are among the original cosponsors of a bill that would prohibit that. And the following is from a reality check on it, from someone who knows.

 

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
 
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
 
If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
(Sen. Elizabeth Warren/Washington Post)

More below the fold.
 
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Rush Limbaugh must not read the Jerusalem Post. I doubt Rush reads anything that doesn’t rubber stamp his particular version of propaganda and lies. From earlier this afternoon:

The Drive-Bys Lash Out at Bibi In fact, I’ve had people ask, “Rush, Israel is filled with Jewish … names by the New York Times, and the election is characterized as turning ugly. And it didn’t turn ugly! There weren’t any allegations of cheating.

The factual, non-propaganda story from the ‘J-Post’ is entirely different:

Likud forged recording of Kahlon support Kahlon called the recording “criminal” and asked Central Elections Committee Judge Salim Joubran to open a criminal investigation into it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party admitted to forging a recording of Kulanu leaders Moshe Kahlon promising to support Netanyahu, according to a Kulanu spokesman. The party distributed the recording to potential voters on Monday evening, but Central Elections Committee Judge Salim Joubran ordered the group to halt using the recording at Kulanu’s request. Kahlon called the recording “criminal” and asked Joubran to open a criminal investigation into it. “We are pleased that Judge Joubran stopped the Likud from continuing to distribute this untruthful recording,” the party said. “It is sad that the LIkud party, in a moment of desperation, chooses to deceive the public.” Joubran fined the Likud NIS 20,000 over the forged recording.

And from Arutz Sheva, the national news television in Israel:

Likud Admits Misconduct in Kahlon Recording
The Likud party admitted Tuesday morning that it was indeed behind a faked recording of Moshe Kahlon which was distributed to hundreds of thousands of people Monday night. Kulanu, Kahlon’s recently established party, claimed Likud had acknowledged the misdeed in a conversation with the Central Elections Committee Chairman, Judge Salim Joubran. They claimed, however, that the tape was not misleading as voters were smart enough to realize it was an old tape. Consequently, Kulanu has turned to Joubran to open a criminal investigation against those Likud activists behind the tape’s recording, editing, and distribution. The Central Elections Committee (CEC) issued a temporary ban Monday night on Likud’s distribution of the tape, which features the former Likud minister putting his support behind Likud and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the 2013 elections.

While Likud hoped that by persuading their radical conservative base that Kahlon no longer OPPOSED Likud and Netanyahu in the 2015 election. And Netanyahu and Likud still NEED Kahlon to form a coalition government. The robo-call fraud is likely to have only FURTHERED the opposition of Kahlon rather than encouraged cooperation with them. If that proves to be the case, then Netanyahu may very well have won the election — and lost the government and the office of Prime Minister.

One of my ongoing objections to conservatives has been, whether US or foreign, they embrace short term gain at the expense of prudent and successful, rational, long term governance, as well as their willingness to compete dishonestly.

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Who’s paying for a soccer stadium?

by Dan Burns on March 18, 2015 · 0 comments

Aerial_photo_of_downtown_MinneapolisIt never ends.
 

(Monday) the Vikings announced Major League Soccer told them “thanks but no thanks,” turning all of the attention toward whether or not former United Health CEO Bill McGuire and his partners can build a soccer-specific outdoor stadium in the North Loop…
 
As we reported yesterday, that could come with a hefty public subsidy. Legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle have repeatedly said the state wants no part in funding another stadium, and there isn’t any political will in Minneapolis to chip in either.
 
That leaves Hennepin County. Board Chair Mike Opat is on board with some sort of partnership to make a stadium happen, even going as far as traveling with McGuire to present to MLS brass in New York, but other county commissioners we talked to over the last few months are undecided.
(City Pages)

There could be more than just lack of “political will” for funding another stadium, in both Minneapolis and at the state capitol. Both seemed to take for granted that any soccer franchise would also use the “People’s Stadium.” It’s hard to believe they anticipated that there would be talk of yet another facility to provide competition for the Wilf Mahal. We could see efforts to actively undermine the apparent intentions of McGuire and his associates in this.
 

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Congress has its own email problem

by Eric Ferguson on March 18, 2015 · 0 comments

An AP reporter did some digging and found out Congress doesn’t have any rules for saving official email.
 

Members of Congress who are demanding Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails are largely exempt from such scrutiny themselves.
 
Congress makes its own rules. It never has subjected itself to open records laws that force agencies such as the State Department to maintain records and turn them over to the public when asked.
 
There’s also no requirement for members of Congress to use official email accounts, or to retain, archive or store their emails, while in office or after.
 
That’s in contrast to the White House and the rest of the executive branch. Official emails there are supposed to be retained, though the controversy over Clinton’s use of a personal email account while secretary of state has exposed vague and inconsistent requirements from one agency to another.
 
But if the rules at federal agencies are unclear, at least there are rules. On Capitol Hill, there are almost none.
 
So the same House Republicans who are subpoenaing Clinton’s emails as part of their inquiry into the Benghazi, Libya, attacks are not required to retain emails of their own for future inspection by anyone.

 
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Israel election semi-liveblog

by Dan Burns on March 17, 2015 · 5 comments

israel615AM Wednesday: Yeah. Pretty bad.
 

But by Wednesday morning official results had stretched to a decisive five-seat lead for Likud of 30 seats, making it almost certain that Netanyahu would serve a third consecutive term as prime minister.
 
But Netanyahu appears locked on a collision course with both Palestinians and the international community after disavowing his previous support for a two-state solution made in a speech in 2009.
 
Netanyahu’s return to power on the back of his unequivocal opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state – a key policy of Washington and the EU – seems certain to exacerbate his already difficult relationship with the US administration of Barack Obama during the president’s final two years in office.
(The Guardian)

930PM: This long, comprehensive article from The New York Times explores the possibilities. Bottom line, though: For those of us who really want to see real, lasting Mideast peace, and who understand that a peace-oriented Israel and a Palestinian state are necessary precursors to that, this has been a bad day.
 
730PM: Votes are being counted, but the actual totals are unlikely to matter much unless the exit polling turns out to be substantially wrong. Basically, the top two parties, Likud and Zionist Union, tied. Each will try to build enough of a coalition with other parties to form a government without the other. The odds of either being able to do that in such a way as to form a strong, stable, lasting governing coalition may not be great, to say the least. I’ll post more updates on Wednesday.
 
350PM: This could be unfortunate, from the perspective of those of us who want to see Israel’s hard right (Likud) to at least have its power diminished. It’s from the Haaretz liveblog linked below.
 

After the ballot boxes were closed at 10 P.M. Tuesday, exit polls showed the two main contenders, Likud and Zionist Union, were neck and neck with 27 Knesset seats each, with a slight lead for Likud.
 
President Reuven Rivlin said he would work for a national unity government.

930AM: Overall turnout is now roughly in line with the last election. There are anecdotal reports of higher turnout among Israeli-Arab voters.
 
630AM: Haaretz has a liveblog, which indicates that at mid-morning turnout was 20% higher than in previous elections. Also, Election Day is apparently a national day off from work in Israel, which is something the U.S. should also do.
 

I haven’t tried to do this with an election in another country before, and I don’t know when good data might be available, what with the time zone difference and all. Maybe in the U.S. we’ll have some initial idea by mid-to-late afternoon. But it could be days, even weeks, before everything shakes out. Israel has a parliamentary system, where a government is formed based on seats won. I don’t think that anybody anticipates Netanyahu & Co. going gently, no matter how the seat count turns out.
 

The Palestinian-Israeli bloc, made up of what the Israelis call “Arab Israeli” parties and the Communist Party, now looks as though it could be the third biggest party. If the Palestinian-Israelis, who are 20% of the population, are able to do that well, they could well decide to back the Zionist Union of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, bringing the latter in striking distance of the 61 seats they need…
 
But such a government might well be willing to settle the Palestine issue with Secretary of State John Kerry and the Palestine Authority, pulling Israel back from the brink of declining into full Apartheid and international isolation. Livni has said she’d be willing to use police to remove some Israeli squatters from the Palestinian West Bank. Of course, that is a thorny and intractable problem and the hundreds of thousands of Israeli squatters are a powerful lobby against peace, so there is no guarantee a new government can have more success than the old.
 
While Livni is no liberal (she would rotate the prime ministership with Herzog if they won), and will watch the negotiations with Iran like a hawk, she is in the end a pragmatist, and Obama would probably see an end to Israeli direct interference in his negotiations with Iran.
 
On the other hand, if Netanyahu wins, likely he will continue policies that make it unlikely for Israel to survive another half century in the region. Israel’s economy is fragile and a third of its trade is with Europe, with which Israel also has extensive technology transfer. Growing European boycotts over the Israeli scuttling of the peace process and determined colonization of the West Bank will begin to bite.
(Juan Cole)

(I saw a note yesterday to the effect that Livni said she would yield the prime-minister’s office to Herzog, full-time. Apparently that has since been reneged upon.)
 
Israel doesn’t have compulsory voting, or anything like that. As with the U.S., only hard-line reactionaries can be counted on to turn out in force in every election. Also as with the U.S., this often (including right now) means “leadership” that is far more conservative than the public at large, with awful results.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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Isn’t the threat of axe beheading
voter intimidation?

Israel has been increasingly an intolerant, racist apartheid-practicing  theocracy rather than a genuine democracy.  Palestinians comprise >20% of the population, with a higher birth rate than other demographic groups, yet they are consistently under-represented  in both the Knesset and in the Israeli court system.

 

In the face of looking likely to lose the election, conservatives are lashing out against anyone who dares to vote their preference rather than conforming to the increasingly militant and extremist right, including Likud, reminiscent of southern Jim Crow.  Netanyahu and the Israeli Jewish conservatives long have been accused of bigotry and apartheid conduct.  As noted here, from noted professor and middle east expert Juan Cole via Truth Dig:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, under extreme pressure over the real possibility that he will lose the March 17 elections, has made a powerful appeal to his far right wing constituency by openly admitting that he will never allow a Palestinian state and that he intends to flood Israeli squatters into East Jerusalem and its environs to make sure this Occupied territory never returns to the Palestinians.

Millions of Palestinians whose families were violently expelled from their homes by Jewish settlers in Mandate Palestine in 1947-48 remain stateless.  These include the people of Gaza, the West Bank (four million) and a million or more in diasporas in Lebanon, Syria, and other countries.  A million Palestinians are now citizens in Israel, and others have rights of citizenship in far-flung places like Chile and Honduras, as well as the United States.  But I figure five million at least remain stateless.

The Palestinians are the last major stateless population.  Stateless people do not have rights as most people understand the term.  Their situation in some ways resembles slavery, since slaves also were denied the rights of citizenship.  Stateless people’s property is insecure, since people with citizenship rights have better access to courts and to ruling authorities.  Palestinians never really know what they own, and Israeli squatters routinely steal their property with impunity.  Squatters dig tube wells deeper than those of the Palestinian villagers, lowering aquifers and causing Palestinian wells to dry up.  Squatters go on wilding attacks, chopping down entire olive orchards (a prime source of Palestinian income) or beating up Palestinians.  If Palestinians assemble peacefully to protest the loss of their farms to ever-expanding squatter settlements, the Israel army arrests them, including, often, children, who are taken away from their families and put in jail. Palestinians can be held for long periods without being charged.  The prisoners are sometimes tortured.
Netanyahu and the Israeli right-of-center say they want to keep Palestinians homeless and without citizenship rights in a state because they fear a Palestinian state will make claims on Israel and present a security challenge. Netanyahu said Sunday that if Israel relinquished the West Bank it would become a bastion of Muslim radicalism (but West Bankers are substantially more secular than the Jewish population of West Jerusalem).

But in fact, Netanyahu and the right are dedicated to Greater Israel, to annexing the West Bank territory and finding a way to expel the Palestinians from it. The Palestinians are not a security challenge– they are like the guard at a bank getting in the way of bank robbers. The bank robbers feel a need to knock him out or kill him, remove him from the scene.

But it is shameful to have Israel preside over 4 million stateless people forever. This is Apartheid.

So far today we have these accounts of threats and intimidation reported from Israeli news media and US media.

 

From the AP via MSN:

Meanwhile, police said they arrested an Israeli soldier on suspicion of incitement of violence. The soldier wrote on Facebook that if a leftist were to rise to power, the soldier would follow in the footsteps of Israeli extremist Yigal Amir, who assassinated dovish Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

 

and we have threats of right wing Jews beheading Palestinian Israelis as well, from Haaretz, by way of the ibtimes:

Lieberman, leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party that is based on Russian immigrants, has a long record of inflammatory statements toward Arab Israelis, including a recent comment that suggested Israeli Arabs with sympathies toward Palestinian Authority be beheaded. “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an ax,” he said last week. (bold is my emphasis added – DG)

The Zionist Union, a center-left alliance between the Labor and Hatnuah parties that represents Likud’s main opposition, said Netanyahu’s statement amounted to racism. “No other Western leader would dare utter such a racist remark,” wrote high-ranking Zionist Union member Shelly Yachimovich on Twitter, according to the New York Times. “Imagine a warning that starts, ‘Our rule is in danger, black voters are streaming in quantity to the polling stations.’”

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

by Dog Gone on March 17, 2015 · 0 comments

St. Patrick’s day is a big deal in the metro, with many people becoming Irish-for-the-day if not actually Irish by heritage.  In order to celebrate the day other than by imbibing or parading, I present to you a challenging quiz about Ireland and St. Patrick.   Enjoy!
Answers are at the end of the quiz.

1. What was St. Patrick’s birth name.

a. Patrick

b. Maewyn Succat

c. Bill

d. Eric

 

2. St. Patrick was born:

a. Armagh, Ireland

b. Mont St. Michel, France

c. Cumbria, Britain

 

3. St. Patrick’s Day celebrates/ commemorates:

a. his birth

b. the day he performed his most prominent saintly miracle

c. his death

d. his official sainthood

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Bibi’s rally bummer

by Dog Gone on March 16, 2015 · 0 comments

At 8 pm this past Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed up a rally in Tel Aviv at the same square where Anti-Bibi protesters of the Likud regime  had shown up in roughly double numbers (15, 000-20,000 for Bibi, 30,000-40,000 against).

 
If Bibi and his far right Likud party lose the election, Bibi has been openly threatened with losing his party leadership. So, like conservatives DO, Bibi’s solution is to be a one-trick pony, doubling down on a strategy that isn’t working. Not only have many voters left Bibi and his party, but many of his political allies are fed up and bailing on him as well. Nobody likes to be tainted with the stink of failure, and the disapproval following Bibi’s congressional speech on Iran (criticized as lies by his own head of Mossad, siding with the opposition in Israel at the bigger rally) is just the latest, not the ‘onliest’ failure that stinks.

 
The only message Bibi had to offer — don’t-let-in-the-lefties, and fear-fear-fear-fear-fear, topped with a dollop of “I’m the only hero who can save you”. Add to that, allegations and investigations that government tax dollars have been misused, including to fund the campaign, including the Sunday night rally. All part of Bibi’s government-for-special-interests- problem with voters. As noted by Salon, back in a February article:
 

A Shapira spokesman told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the comptroller sees sufficient evidence to consider a criminal investigation.

 

Like the boy who cried wolf, the anti-Iran, everybody-is-against-us, it’s-always-someone-else’s- fault message is wearing thin, resulting in a fear fatigue.  Further, like the conservatives here in the US and elsewhere, conservative policies in Israel have produced poor economic outcomes, with a large part of the economic problems directly caused by excessive military spending (just like here in the US). As noted by Paul Krugman:
 

Economic happiness is not the usual mainstream story we hear about Israel. The country is a high-technology powerhouse and its economy has grown rapidly, barely affected by the worldwide recession starting in 2008. But the spoils of that growth have gone disproportionately to Israel’s own version of the one percent. According to Krugman, since the early 1990s,

Israel has experienced a dramatic widening of income disparities. Key measures of inequality have soared; Israel is now right up there with America as one of the most unequal societies in the advanced world. And Israel’s experience shows that this matters, that extreme inequality has a corrosive effect on social and political life.

Consider what has happened at either end of the spectrum — the growth in poverty, on one side, and extreme wealth, on the other.

According to Luxembourg Income Study data, the share of Israel’s population living on less than half the country’s median income — a widely accepted definition of relative poverty — more than doubled, to 20.5 percent from 10.2 percent, between 1992 and 2010. The share of children in poverty almost quadrupled, to 27.4 percent from 7.8 percent. Both numbers are the worst in the advanced world, by a large margin.

And when it comes to children, in particular, relative poverty is the right concept. Families that live on much lower incomes than those of their fellow citizens will, in important ways, be alienated from the society around them, unable to participate fully in the life of the nation. Children growing up in such families will surely be placed at a permanent disadvantage.

At the other end, while the available data — puzzlingly — don’t show an especially large share of income going to the top 1 percent, there is an extreme concentration of wealth and power among a tiny group of people at the top. And I mean tiny. According to the Bank of Israel, roughly 20 families control companies that account for half the total value of Israel’s stock market. The nature of that control is convoluted and obscure, working through “pyramids” in which a family controls a firm that in turn controls other firms and so on. Although the Bank of Israel is circumspect in its language, it is clearly worried about the potential this concentration of control creates for self-dealing.
The widening inequality in Israel, like that in the U.S. is the result of policy decisions, not just some naturally occurring phenomenon that free marketeers like to claim. Shockingly, according to Krugman, “Israel does less to lift people out of poverty than any other advanced country — yes, even less than the United States.” Now that is saying something. And those living in poverty are not just Israel’s oppressed Arab population and ulta-Orthodox Jews.

Israel’s oligarchs, like Russia’s, managed to gain control of businesses that were privatized in the 1980s. That control enables them outsized influence on policy. Works every time. Netanyahu is a big advocate for policies that keep them sitting pretty, and like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, the Israeli P.M. enjoys sitting and traveling pretty himself, often on the taxpayer’s dime.

Putting it all in simpler terms we’ve heard before, harkening back to Bill Clinton: “It’s the economy stupid.”

 

It is truly amazing how in lock-step conservatives are, here in the US and in Israel.  In both, for example, we have Sheldon Adelman spending obscene amounts of money to control politics that cater to special interests.  That is never good for ordinary people, but it has been the blubbery  kiss of death for right wingers for a while now.

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