The Passion Of The Israeli Liberal

Jul 28 2014 @ 6:14pm

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

Jonathan Freedland senses “a weariness in the liberal Zionist fraternity,” as the Gaza war once again forces the Israeli left to wrestle with the dissonance of their principles and their loyalties:

But underlying this fatigue might be a deeper anxiety. For nearly three decades, the hope of an eventual two state solution provided a kind of comfort zone for liberal Zionists, if not comfort blanket. The two-state solution expressed the liberal Zionist position perfectly: Jews could have a state of their own, without depriving Palestinians of their legitimate national aspirations. Even if it was not about to be realized any time soon, it was a goal that allowed one to be both a Zionist and a liberal at the same time.

But the two-state solution does not offer much comfort if it becomes a chimera, a mythical notion as out of reach as the holy grail or Atlantis. The failure of Oslo, the failure at Camp David, the failure of Annapolis, the failure most recently of John Kerry’s indefatigable nine-month effort has prompted the unwelcome thought: what if it keeps failing not because the leaders did not try hard enough, but because the plan cannot work? What if the two-state solution is impossible? That prospect frightens liberal Zionists to their core. For the alternatives to two states are unpalatable, either for liberal reasons or for Zionist reasons.

Former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin believes Netanyahu’s decision to reject the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement was a mistake:

Read On

The Color Of Homeownership

Jul 28 2014 @ 5:45pm

Kriston Capps notes a new study indicating that recent changes in the housing market “essentially wiped out the gains made by black homeowners since the 1970s”:

Read On

Best Cover Song Ever?

Jul 28 2014 @ 5:11pm

A reader recommends an extreme genre-bender:

Great contest. Let me nominate an unconventional, but brilliant, submission by Girl Talk. You want genre mixing? How about something that includes parts of Black Sabbath, Ludacris, Dorrough, the Ramones and Missy Elliot, among others (plus equally amazing video):

Is it a traditional cover song? No, but if this is the future of the cover song, we are in extremely good hands …

Previous coverage of the Dish’s favorite mashup DJ here. Another reader:

I can’t be the first to submit Cowboy Junkies covering Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. This version is so good Reed himself changed the way he performed the song live:

Read On

More Block Than Grant?

Jul 28 2014 @ 4:45pm

Josh Voorhees spells out his main concern with the Ryan plan, i.e., that the block grant mechanism he proposes for assistance programs like SNAP will result in benefit cuts:

Under the current setup, any American who qualifies for SNAP benefits receives them, regardless of how much money Washington has already spent on the program that year. But switching to a block grant would effectively set a cap on SNAP spending by stopping the program from automatically increasing along with need. That, critics warn, could leave the program unprepared and underfunded when the next economic downturn sends more Americans than expected scrambling to put food on the table.

The best case for those who want to protect SNAP and other social welfare funding would be for Congress to freeze current funding levels for the foreseeable future. That technically wouldn’t be a reduction in funding, but inflation would tell a different story. That’s what happened to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program during Washington’s last attempt at major welfare reform. Since that program was block-granted in 1996, funding has remained pretty much flat at $16.6 billion per year while the program has quietly lost nearly one-third of its spending power to inflation. Under Ryan’s proposal, food stamps would risk a similar fate.

To illustrate this point, Andrew Flowers imagines that the Ryan plan had been in place during the recession that began in 2007 and calculates how big a hit the program would have taken:

At the end of 2007, the number of SNAP recipients totaled more than 26 million, with cumulative expenditures at more than $33 billion. By 2013, expenditures had more than doubled to nearly $80 billion, with recipients surging to about 47 million. If funding had remained constant, the average monthly benefit would have fallen from $133 (its actual number in 2013) to about $53.

Read On

Mental Health Break

Jul 28 2014 @ 4:20pm

Puppies on a roll:

Following the recent debacle in Arizona, Ben Richmond determines that the death penalty is in decline:

Add up the 18 states where the death penalty is abolished, the three western states where the governors have placed formal moratoriums on executions, and the four states where lethal injection legal challenges have put a de facto moratorium on executions, and the states are split evenly. There are also seven states that, even without holds in place, haven’t executed anyone in at least five years. Add to that Ohio, Oklahoma, and now Arizona, where botched executions have at least temporarily halted the practice while the states review their procedures, and you’re looking at 70 percent of the states where the death penalty can’t happen, for the moment anyway.

Similarly, law professor David R. Dow, who represents death-row inmates, contends that the “end of the modern death-penalty era” is upon us:

Stephanie Neiman’s death was far worse than [Clayton] Lockett‘s, and [Joseph] Wood might not have suffered as much as his victims, Debbie Dietz and her father, Gene. But that does not alter the fact that the death-penalty regime is built on the myth that we as a society, when we execute someone, are better than he is. But when it takes 45 minutes or two hours to kill a man who helplessly strains against leather straps, no longer can we ignore the inherent violence of a sanction we have convinced ourselves is serene. Once you know how the magic trick works, you can no longer pretend.

But as Rebecca Buckwalter Poza notes in her report from Alabama – “the only state in which judges routinely override jury decisions not to impose the death penalty” – the picture looks very different depending on where you stand:

Read On

A new ad for Cheerios champions stay-at-home dads:

A reader responds to a recent post on paternity leave and masculinity:

There’s nothing more manly than taking paternity leave. Any stigma around it is tied to a general misunderstanding of its purpose. Paternity leave is the very opposite of time off: it’s a cruel parody of a vacation. Far from rewarding a new dad with a couple weeks to put up his feet and light a valedictory cigar, it’s meant designed to let a bewildered, anxious new dad support his exhausted, overwhelmed, frazzled spouse as much as possible and keep her from jumping out a window. But just as important, it creates the foundation of a lifelong bond with a child that no real man would want to break. A young single friend of mine recently suggested that paternity leave was bullshit—that new dads should be real men and get back to work. I somehow controlled my rage and gently explained to him that, after spending a couple of weeks in the trenches with an incomprehensible newborn and a spouse on the edge, I couldn’t wait to get back to work, where the office world, however imperfect, was populated with adults and routine and still made some kind of familiar sense.

The Dish also addressed paternity leave back in December. Another reader:

Before you get too far arguing for paid paternity leave, can we first get a quarter of employers to offer paid maternity leave?

Read On

Russia Grows More Brazen

Jul 28 2014 @ 3:19pm

Russia Ukraine

Over the weekend, the US released “proof that not only is Russia delivering heavy artillery for pro-Russian rebels, but it is actually firing rockets in eastern Ukraine from its own territory.” Rosie Gray collects further evidence:

On Wednesday, a Russian soldier, Vadim Grigoriev, posted several photos of Russian artillery positions on Russian Facebook clone VK with the caption, “We pounded Ukraine all night.” After Ukrainian media noticed his posts, Grigoriev deleted his profile and told Russian state media that his account had been hacked.

The State Department had previously accused Russia of shelling Ukraine from across the border, but had not released evidence for this until now.

Meanwhile, Kate Brannen keeps tabs on the “steady buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine”:

Read On

Ramesh argues that liberals can and should play ball with Paul Ryan and embrace some of the ideas in his anti-poverty plan:

For a politician, Ryan has shown a lot of willingness to revise his proposals in light of reasonable criticism. His ideas for reforming Medicare, for example, have been refined over time. In this plan, too, Ryan has addressed some of the strongest objections to previous versions of conservative ideas. When federal payouts to states have been suggested before, critics have noted that they might leave states and poor people in a bind during recessions. So Ryan’s plan includes proposals — such as tying the amount of aid distributed to the unemployment level in a given state — intended to make the grants counter-cyclical. … The bigger question to my mind, though, isn’t what Ryan will do next. It’s whether liberals will give his good ideas a fair hearing.

Ryan and Obama are actually on the same page on several issues, including college expenses. Both men, Libby Nelson observes, want colleges to be held accountable for providing an education that’s worth the money:

Read On

Can Israel “Win” This War?

Jul 28 2014 @ 2:40pm

10 children killed by strike on Gaza park

Daniel Berman doubts it:

In effect, what Israel can do militarily is to kill a lot of people, the majority of which will probably be Hamas members or supporters, but which will do nothing to politically advance Israeli security beyond demonstrating to Palestinians and their supporters that in favorable circumstances Israel can do what it wants with international support. I do not necessarily think that such a demonstration is value-less; I authored a piece earlier this week arguing that a key prerequisite of any peace agreement is a Palestinian recognition that Israel as the stronger party will get the better half of any possible deal. As such, I think demonstrating Israeli superiority could be of value.

Yet the Israeli superiority that needs to be demonstrated is political not military; no sane Palestinian believes they can defeat the Israelis in battle. … In the end there will be a cease-fire, and Hamas will have survived by virtue of the campaign they forced Israel to wage, even if every single current Hamas member in Gaza is somehow killed by the IDF. After all, Hamas is already being treated by mediators as an almost equal of Israel while the Palestinian Authority is all but forgotten. At that point what truly will have been accomplished?

That helps explain the Israelis’ furious response to the Kerry proposal. But all Kerry is recognizing is what Netanyahu has wrought. It is Netanyahu who proved that the PA’s moderate strategy is futile – since Israel has only rewarded that moderation with more aggressive settlements. It is Netanyahu’s hysterical and belligerent exploitation of the deaths of three Israeli teens that elevated Hamas to a position it would never have achieved on its own. And this awful cycle of extremism from Jerusalem has now forged a unanimous Security Council resolution for an immediate ceasefire. But once the dogs of war have been released, it’s hard to rein them back in:

Young men who were only first-graders during Operation Defensive Shield are now soldiers invading Gaza by land. In each of these operations there have been right-wing politicians and military commentators who pointed out that “this time we’ll have to pull all the stops, take it all the way, until the end.” Watching them on television, I can’t help but ask myself, What is this end they’re striving toward? Even if each and every Hamas fighter is taken out, does anyone truly believe that the Palestinian people’s aspiration for national independence will disappear with them?

Read On