Dish alum Zack Beauchamp scrutinizes Israel’s strategy in Gaza, one that emerged from its past conflicts with Arab states. In that approach, “Israel would have to live with a certain level of threat … but would use its military to occasionally weaken those threats and ensure they didn’t ever reach truly existential proportions”:

Obviously, Israel recognizes that the threats from groups like the Gaza-based militant group Hamas aren’t the same as the Cold War-era threats it faced from Arab invasions. So it’s developed a new version of its long-held threat management strategy, which is often called “mowing the grass.” It’s a pretty creepy term, as it implies that periodically killing people is the same as keeping your lawn groomed. But that’s the basic analogy: Hamas, like grass, can’t disappear, but it can be regularly cut down to size. And, like mowing the grass, it’s implied that this is a routine that will be continued forever.

According to Efraim Inbar and Eitan Shamir, Israeli academics based at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the basic difference between “mowing the grass” and Israel’s old strategy is that the end-goal has changed. In the era of wars with Arab conventional armies, Israel hoped that eventually “a long and violent struggle, punctuated by decisive battlefield victories, could eventually lead Arab states to accept the notion of Israel’s permanence.” In other words, Israel believed that its threat-management strategy would eventually lead to peace, which in cases such as Egypt it did.

Israel does not believe the same thing today about applying this strategy to non-state militant groups. Israel sees Hamas and other militants as “implacable enemies, who want to destroy the Jewish state and there is very little Israel can do on the political front to mitigate this risk.”

So will “mowing the grass” make Israel safe in the end? Of course it won’t. Au contraire:

Read On

That, I’d argue, is the real news from the CNN poll today on the ACA. The headline numbers are actually the opposite, showing opposition beating out support by 59 – 40 percent. But this omits a rather large point:

“Not all of the opposition to the health care law comes from the right,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Thirty-eight percent say they oppose the law because it’s too liberal, but 17% say they oppose it because it’s not liberal enough. That means more than half the public either favors Obamacare, or opposes it because it doesn’t go far enough.”

To buttress this interpretation of the polling, a 53 percent majority also believes that they, their family or others have benefited from the ACA, compared with 44 percent who insist the law hasn’t helped anyone at all (a ludicrous and obviously ideological view when you come to think of it). That’s one more reason why the sudden threat by literalist judges, preferring to interpret a few words rather than an entire law, is not such a great thing for the GOP. Stripping millions of health insurance means confronting that 57 percent.

And that’s why I remain befuddled by the lack-luster Democratic message machine in this summer before the mid-terms. On so many issues, the Democrats are ahead: on healthcare, on climate change (63 percent backing Obama’s stance on carbon dioxide emissions and fuel emission standards), on marriage equality (55 percent support) and on a non-interventionist foreign policy (65 percent want the current or less involvement with Ukraine-Russia, for example). I find it hard to understand why a political party with all these advantages has to play defense in the upcoming elections. Maybe a Republican over-reach on the ACA may stir their base. But what about their feckless leaders?

The View From Your Window

Jul 23 2014 @ 12:41pm

London-8-30 pm

London, England, 8.30 pm

What Happens Next For Halbig?

Jul 23 2014 @ 12:18pm

Margot Sanger-Katz reviews the possibilities. The one that is getting the most attention:

All the judges on the D.C. Circuit could decide the Halbig v. Burwell case. There is a process called “en banc” review in which the case would be reargued before all of the 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court, and the Obama administration has said it will ask the court for such a review. A majority of the judges would have to agree to rehear the case for it to be reconsidered in this way. Appellate courts rarely accept cases for en banc review, but this is a big one. Many legal experts think that the full court would view the government’s position more favorably than the two judges who ruled against them in the original decision on Tuesday; legal questions don’t necessarily break down along political lines, but Democratic appointees outnumber Republican appointees on the court and include four new judges recently appointed by President Obama.

Danny Vinik thanks Reid for having deployed the nuclear option:

Here’s where the Democrats’ use of the nuclear option is important. The D.C. Circuit has 11 judges on it, seven Democratic appointees and four Republican ones. The only reason Democrats have a majority is due to the nuclear option.

Read On

Speak Loudly But Carry A Small Stick

Jul 23 2014 @ 11:55am

Politico_Poll

That’s the message Yglesias gleans from a new Politico poll (pdf), which finds that Americans are wary of getting involved in foreign wars but still trust Republicans more than Democrats on foreign policy:

By a margin of 39 to 32 the GOP is the party that’s more trusted with the country’s foreign policy. That points to an optimal political strategy for Republicans of complaining loudly and repeatedly about Obama’s lack of leadership in various foreign crises without saying too much in detail about what they would do specifically. In other words, what the GOP is already doing. Most people, it turns out, don’t have detailed and fully coherent ideas about the whole range of public policy issues so they can turn toward the more hawkish party without embracing any particular hawkish ideas.

Drum is on the same page:

Bottom line (for about the thousandth time): Americans prefer the actual foreign policy of Democrats, but they prefer the rhetorical foreign policy of Republicans. They want lots of bluster and chest thumping, but without much in the way of serious action. In other words, pretty much what Reagan did.

By “serious action” I assume Kevin means actual military conflict by the US (and not by proxies). And isn’t this merely a predictable response for a country still reeling from the over-reach of the Bush years? Of course we still want the illusion of controlling and running the world; we just know deeper down that we can’t, and when we’ve tried, have been humiliated. So there remains some hope that somehow some figure can restore it all, which is why I fear the GOP candidate will run on a classic peace-through-strength platform in 2016.

But the far more important fact is that the GOP can have all the debates it wants between non-interventionists and neocons and global hegemonists. In the country at large, the non-interventionists have already won.

Waldman focuses on the people affected by the court decision:

Now pause for a moment and consider what it is Republicans are asking the courts to do here. They want millions of Americans to lose the subsidies they got this year, in many if not most cases making health insurance completely unaffordable for them, and their justification is this: We found a mistake in the law, so you people are screwed. As far as the Republicans are concerned, it’s like spotting that a batter’s toe missed second base as he was trotting around for his home run, and therefore claiming that they won the game after all.

But it’s not a game, it’s people’s lives. If they succeed at the Supreme Court, people will die. That’s not hyperbole. Millions of Americans will lose their health coverage — 6.5 million by one estimate — and many of them won’t be able to afford to go to the doctor, and many of them will have ailments that go untreated. People will die.

Pierce is also furious:

Simply put, there is almost an entire half of our political system that believes that a great number of Americans simply do not matter enough to make it economically feasible to help them stay healthy. They do not count. It does not matter how many of them die preventable deaths. It is better for the country, this half of the political system believes, that they grow sick and bankrupt themselves.

Michael Cannon, who Weigel calls Halbig’s “chief advocate,” shifts blame:

Read On

Is Obamacare In Jeopardy?

Jul 23 2014 @ 11:20am

Obamacare Ruling

Noah Feldman asserts that “the ACA is not yet quite dead. But there’s blood in the water, and the great whites in robes are circling.” McArdle assesses the damage to Obamacare:

Much will depend on the courts: Does the case get en banc review, does that review rule for the government, and if so, will the plaintiffs be able to push an appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court? Will the Supreme Court expose itself to more outrage from whichever side they rule against? All that is unknown. We do know this much: this was a big blow for the government, and a potentially fatal one for the administration’s signature legislative achievement.

But Emily Bazelon expects the government to prevail:

[I]t is the D.C. Circuit’s ruling that is probably going nowhere beyond a victory lap by the strategic conservative lawyers who brought this case, and a round of postmortem hand-wringing among law professors, who are already deriding the decision. That is because the legal reasoning of the majority in D.C. is seriously unconvincing, and as Slate contributor and UC–Irvine law professor Richard Hasen quickly pointed out, the next stop on the legal train is the D.C. Circuit as a whole, where today’s result will likely be reversed.

Bloomberg View’s editors weigh in:

Obamacare isn’t dead. And given the flimsy logic of the latest legal argument against it, there’s a good chance it never will be. … The legal battle now moves to the full D.C. Court of Appeals and perhaps from there to the Supreme Court. The worst-case scenario is that the strict-constructionist view of the dispute will prevail. Even then, however, Obamacare can survive — if state policy makers take the opportunity to set up their own exchanges.

Ingraham provides the above chart, which shows how many current enrollees would be impacted if federal exchange subsidies are banned. Kevin Drum also imagines what would happen if SCOTUS sides with Halbig’s plaintiffs and “in a stroke, everyone enrolled in Obamacare through a federal exchange is no longer eligible for subsidies”:

Read On

In a long and wide-ranging interview with David Rothkopf, Zbigniew Brzezinski opines on how the US should engage the Middle East today:

I think the whole region now, in terms of the sectarian impulses and sectarian intolerance, is not a place in which America ought to try to be preeminent. I think we ought to pursue a policy in which we recognize the fact that the problems there are likely to persist and escalate and spread more widely. The two countries that will be most affected by these developments over time are China and Russia — because of their regional interests, vulnerabilities to terrorism, and strategic interests in global energy markets. And therefore it should be in their interest to work with us also, and we should be willing to play with them, but not assume sole responsibility for managing a region that we can neither control nor comprehend.

He also thinks it’s wiser to pursue accommodation with Iran than to continue treating it as a greater threat than it really is:

Read On

A Split Decision On Obamacare

Jul 23 2014 @ 10:31am

Jason Millman summarizes yesterday’s news:

The federal appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled 2-1 this morning that the Affordable Care Act doesn’t authorize the federal government to provide subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans to buy insurance in the 36 states where the federal government set up exchanges to sell health-care coverage. Just two hours later, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a similar case unanimously found just the opposite — that the IRS correctly interpreted the text of the ACA when it issued a rule allowing all public exchanges, regardless of who set them up, to provide insurance subsides.

Emily Badger explains what the lawsuits hinge on:

This latest legal challenge focuses on four words in the mammoth law authorizing tax credits for individuals who buy insurance through exchanges “established by the States.” Thiry-six states declined to set up their own exchanges — far more than the law’s backers anticipated — and in those states, consumers have been shopping for health care on exchanges run instead by the federal government. Now the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that these consumers are not eligible for subsidies because, well, they bought their insurance on exchanges not “established by the States.”

This is a tremendously literal interpretation of a small but crucial part of the law, and it’s one that was arguably never intended by its creators.

Greg Sargent joins the debate over the meaning of “established by the States”:

[T]he phrase does not literally say that subsidies should not go to people who get subsidies from the federal exchange, which under the law must be established in states that decline to set up their own exchanges. In fairness, opponents are right — the phrase also does not literally say that subsidies should go to those on the federal exchange. But all of that is precisely what makes the statutory language in question ambiguous. Once you accept this point — that the meaning of the phrase is not clear — then there is ample precedent for the courts evaluating the intent of Congress as expressed in the whole statute.

Philip Klein quotes from the DC federal appeals court ruling, the one which went against the administration:

“We reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance,” they wrote. “At least until states that wish to can set up Exchanges, our ruling will likely have significant consequences both for the millions of individuals receiving tax credits through federal Exchanges and for health insurance markets more broadly. But, high as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still. Within constitutional limits, Congress is supreme in matters of policy, and the consequence of that supremacy is that our duty when interpreting a statute is to ascertain the meaning of the words of the statute duly enacted through the formal legislative process. This limited role serves democratic interests by ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed, life-tenured judges.”

Adrianna McIntyre disagrees with this logic:

Read On

Quote For The Day

Jul 23 2014 @ 10:02am

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

“It’s maddening to think that the tremendous military power Israel has amassed is not giving it the courage to overcome its fears and existential despair and take a decisive step that will bring peace. The great idea of the founding of the State of Israel is that the Jewish people has returned home, and that here, we will never be victims again. Never shall we be paralyzed and submissive in the face of forces mightier than us.

Look at us: The strongest nation in the region, a regional superpower that enjoys the support of the United States on an almost inconceivable scale, along with the sympathy and commitment of Germany, England and France – and still, deep inside, it sees itself as a helpless victim. And still it behaves like a victim – of its anxieties, its real and imagined fears, its tragic history, of the mistakes of its neighbors and enemies.

This worldview is pushing the Jewish public of Israel to our most vulnerable and wounded places as a people. The very essence of “Israeliness,” which always had a forward-looking gaze and held constant ferment and constant promise, has been steadily dwindling in recent years, and is being absorbed back into the channels of trauma and pain of Jewish history and memory. You can feel it now, in 2014, within very many of us “new” Israelis, an anxiety over the fate of the Jewish people, that sense of persecution, of victimhood, of feeling the existential foreignness of the Jews among all the other nations.

What hope can there be when such is the terrible state of things? The hope of nevertheless. A hope that does not disregard the many dangers and obstacles, but refuses to see only them and nothing else,” – David Grossman.

(Hat tip: Jeff Weintraub)

(Photo: Israeli soldiers weep at the grave of Israeli Sergeant Adar Barsano during his funeral on July 20, 2014 in Nahariya, Israel. Sergeant Barsano was killed along with another IDF soldier on the twelfth day of operation Protective Edge, when Hamas militants infiltrated Israel from a tunnel dug from Gaza and engaged Israeli soldiers. By Andrew Burton/Getty Images.)