For a very long time, the nations of Israel and Lebanon—who, by the way, are technically at war—have been arguing over gas and mineral rights in portions of the eastern Mediterranean Sea by their respective borders. The Biden administration decided to get involved and, after more than a year's worth of diplomacy, managed to hammer out an agreement satisfactory to all involved.
The deal is, in a word, historic. How do we know? Because everyone involved says so. "This is a historic achievement that will strengthen Israel's security, inject billions into Israel's economy, and ensure the stability of our northern border," declared Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid, for example, while Joe Biden called it a "historic breakthrough," and Lebanese President Michael Aoun concurred that it was "historic" for the Middle East. Virtually every headline reporting the news also described it as historic, such as CNBC's "Israel and Lebanon reach historic agreement to resolve a long-running maritime border dispute," CNN's "Israel and Lebanon reach historic agreement, paving the way to potentially rich gas exploration," or The Washington Post's "Israel, Lebanon agree on historic maritime border deal." Of course, it is possible that the politicians are just engaging in hyperbole, and the newspaper headline-writers are just reflexively repeating that hyperbole. But what are the chances that's the case?
The actual issue here is pretty weedy. In short, there is a small triangle of water that the Israelis and the Lebanese had their eyes upon:
The Lebanese think there is natural gas to be discovered in part of the triangle, and the Israels have already proven there are commercially viable resources in another part. Now, thanks to the diplomats, each country has the sliver of triangle they really wanted.
As compared to Donald Trump's Abraham Accords, we are inclined to deem the Biden agreement to be a greater accomplishment. With the caveat that diplomatic affairs are not our bailiwick, the Abraham Accords merely formalized a state of affairs that already existed—Israel and UAE/Bahrain were already on the path toward normalized relations, and jack-of-all-trades Jared Kusnher just sped the process up a little. By contrast, the Israel-Lebanon dispute had been going on for years, and was not near resolution when Team Biden, with U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein taking the lead, jumped in.
That said, we do not believe this news will have a meaningful impact on the midterms. As already noted, the dispute was pretty weedy, and does not lend itself to description in a soundbite-length statement. Further, we see no evidence that the Abraham Accords benefited Trump. Generally, diplomatic triumphs have to be huge before the voting public notices, and even then, they don't always care. (Z)
Former representative and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has been thinking carefully about things, and has come to an important conclusion: She is not really a Democrat. And so, yesterday, she announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party. In a video, she explained:
I can no longer remain in today's Democratic Party. It's now under the complete control of an elitist cabal of warmongers driven by cowardly wokeness, who divide us by racializing every issue and stoking anti-white racism, who actively work to undermine our God-given freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.
As chance would have it, this announcement came on the day that Gabbard launched a new podcast. Undoubtedly, that is entirely coincidental.
There may have been a few clues that the Democratic Party was not exactly a match for Gabbard anymore. Her support of Vladimir Putin, for example, or her dislike of LGBTQ+ rights. There's also the fact that, during her tilting-at-windmills presidential campaign, she drew more support from Republicans than, you know, Democrats. And since that campaign, nearly all of Gabbard's public appearances have been on right-wing TV channels, where she has railed against the Biden administration in particular and against the Democratic Party in general. In short, someone who was paying very, very close attention just might have figured out that this day was coming.
Gabbard did not announce what political party she plans to join, though the rant about wokeness might provide a clue. In any event, she's never getting elected to office again in Hawaii, and clearly her maneuvering for a Fox gig didn't work out, so now she's just one of a million current and former politicians with a podcast. We assume we will never again have a need to write about her.
And as long as we're on the subject of apostate members of the House, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) just endorsed a bunch of Democrats for statewide office in Illinois and Pennsylvania. He's got as much a future in the Republican Party as Gabbard has in the Democratic Party. Maybe he too will have a revelation in a year or two, and will announce he's changing parties. Generally, Democratic voters prefer to vote for Democrats who used to be Democrats, as opposed to Democrats who used to be Republicans, but in fairly blue Illinois, maybe Kinzinger could make that work. Our guess for what his future holds? A podcast. (Z)
Across the United States, a relatively small number of trans athletes are participating in women's high school sports. Maybe that's fair, and maybe it's not—even those people who make their livings in sports governance, like the members of WADA—have not been able to come up with an answer satisfactory to all involved. Whatever the case may be, not too many high school principals and ADs have to deal with it, because it's a fairly rare situation.
You wouldn't know that from Republican campaign rhetoric, though. According to a new article from Politico, trans athletes are a near-obsession for many candidates. And that's not only promises to "deal with the problem," if elected, but warnings about how the sky will fall if the Democrat is elected. To take but one example, a commercial in heavy rotation in Kansas right now is hammering Gov. Laura Kelly (D-KS) because she vetoed restrictions on trans athletes.
We honestly don't believe that people actually care that much about high school sports. One of us, (V), isn't a sports person. The other of us, (Z), is, including participation in and lettering in high school sports. And even (Z) cannot be persuaded that high school sports is worth all the hubbub, especially since this particular issue comes up so rarely. High school sports primarily exist for fun, for fitness, and to teach some useful life lessons. All of those can be achieved regardless of who wins or loses. Some folks will point out that some athletes are competing for college scholarships. This is true, but athletic scholarships are awarded based on individual performance, not on wins or losses. In fact, the coaches who recruit athletes try to put aside wins and losses, for fear of spending a valuable scholarship spot on an athlete whose success was more a product of their team.
In short, this seems like a phony issue, with trans athletes are being turned into a boogeyman, like alleged communists in the 1950s, or Black rapists in 1988, or immigrant Mexican gangs in 2016. Better finish your dinner, Timmy, or the trans athlete in your bedroom closet will get you when you go to sleep tonight!
And that brings us to the main point of this item. During a political campaign, candidates run for office, in part, based on past performance—theirs, or that of their opponents. Complaints about Joe Biden's management of the economy, or about Donald Trump's tax cuts, would be in this category. And candidates run for office, in part, based on policy—also theirs, or that of their opponents. The general goal, as we've observed many times (including yesterday), is to portray your side as reasonable and the other side as extreme.
Based on our sense of the 2022 campaign, these seem to be the policy issues that Republicans are hitting Democrats over the heads with:
And these seem to be the policy issues that Democrats are hitting Republicans over the heads with:
Are these lists a fair characterization? Please stop and consider for a moment, before you read what we have to say next.
Assuming that we have the right of it, then these two lists have a fundamentally different characters. In order to portray the Democrats as extremists, the Republicans have invented a fantasy platform, either grossly overstating the significance of issues (trans athletes, CRT) or ascribing policy positions to the Party that few officeholders actually hold (defunding the police, open borders, birth-time abortions).
By contrast, in order to portray the Republicans as extremists, all the Democrats have to do is... talk about the Party's actual policy positions. Not all Republican officeholders hold all of the policy positions we outline above, but is there any question that all four of them have become mainstream within the GOP? And while there are many Republicans who don't actually believe in stop the steal, they pretend to play along, which has the same net effect.
Our conclusion is this. There are measures, most obviously DW-NOMINATE, that endeavor to quantify the extremism within each party. And those measures suggest that the modern Republican Party is more extreme than the modern Democratic Party, and that it might be the most extreme party in U.S. history. That 2022 Republicans have to invent whackadoodle stuff to attribute to Democrats, while Democrats just have to talk about the Republicans' real policy planks, would seem to make the exact same point, just in a different way. (Z)
A new poll is out from Politico/Morning Consult, and it reveals that 65% of Americans support Joe Biden's decision to issue pardons to people convicted of possession of the sweet leaf. Even more respondents, 69%, want to see the president go all the way with marijuana, and legalize it. Curiously, that means that 4% of respondents apparently don't want there to be future penalties for Mary Jane use, but they want past offenders to continue rotting in prison.
Millennials are particularly enthusiastic about legalization, with about three-quarters of them supporting what Biden is doing; how high will his support with them go if he actually manages to get weed decriminalized? The President is well aware of this, and is clearly dangling that possibility in order to get younger voters to the polls (even if they smoke two joints before doing so). And really, there's a certain inevitability here, since marijuana is less harmful than, say, alcohol; you can get chemically addicted to the latter, but not to the former. Plus, weed has legitimate uses as a medication, and criminalization interferes with that.
We're going to learn in about a month if the President's gambit works, and keeps the Democrats' House majority from going up in smoke. (Z)
Note: We didn't want to do the slang-terms-for-marijuana bit so soon after having done it last week. So, instead, each sentence contains the title of a song about marijuana use, just like the headline does ("Dooo It!" is by Miley Cyrus). The list is below.
Yesterday, we wrote about the three Latino L.A. city councilmembers who got caught on tape having an overtly racist conversation. We noted that, although we were passing the news along, "This story doesn't have much national significance." Oops!
The story certainly acquired national significance yesterday, when Joe Biden got involved, and called for the resignation of all three of the councilmembers who were a part of the conversation. Thus far—and our item yesterday was a little sloppy on this point—primary instigator Nury Martinez has resigned as council president and has gone on leave, but is still on the council. Her fellow discussants, Kevin de Léon and Gil Cedillo, have said very little, and most certainly haven't resigned. Still, when the president himself is leaning on you, that's not a good place to be. It's also a reminder, as we noted yesterday, that one major political party tolerates this sort of behavior, while the other does not.
On top of that, reader R.W. in Decatur took us to task for missing a very plausible explanation for why this story was leaked when it was:
Of course [this story] has huge national significance as it serves to drive a wedge between Black Americans and Latin Americans. On Tuesday evening, the story on this on PBS' The News Hour seemed scripted to achieve this very end. Surely at least one of you has read Heather McGhee's The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (if you haven't, at least do a deep dive by reading chapter 5, "No One Fights Alone".
Our thanks for the contribution and the recommendation, R.W.
There's one other lesson in this story that we might point out. Municipal governance often flies under the radar, which is a situation that can and often does give rise the venality and corruption. Chicago has been famous for this for a long time, but Los Angeles has a lot of problems in this regard, too. In theory, the era of machine politics ended 100 years ago. But did it, really? (Z)
The new COVID-19 boosters are now available, and can be had with ease. And yet, few people are getting them. There are roughly 280 million Americans above the age of 12 who are eligible for the shots. And yet, fewer than 15 million of them (around 5%) have actually done so.
The disease has not been defeated, of course, and winter always sees a spike in cases of communicable disease, since people are more likely to be in enclosed, indoor spaces. So, you might imagine that some sizable number of people would take care of business. And yet, that's not happening.
What seems to be the problem? The Biden administration is, in a word, stumped. There is surely some amount of pandemic/vaccine fatigue. Also, a fair number of people aren't fully aware that boosters are available, or else don't grasp why they would need to get yet another shot. (Z)'s personal experience also suggests that the shot-givers aren't doing a great job of being proactive. He had two different booster appointments canceled with a phone call from the provider because the new shot wasn't ready yet. And once it was, neither provider reached out with an update; he just had to figure out that they must have it now.
Congress could potentially help out with this if it would allocate some more billions to outreach. But the members have indicated they are not terribly interested in doing so. Thus, the White House is left with little to do but cross its fingers and hope for the best.
The good news, of course, is that there's enough vaccination out there that the disease won't spread quite so easily as it did back in 2020. And when it does, it is much less likely to be lethal. Still, another rough chapter in the story of the pandemic is coming. It's just a matter of how rough it is. (Z)
Today, in his history and Hollywood course, (Z) will commence the lecture on propaganda. It starts with Triumph of the Will, of course, followed by Why We Fight, but thereafter, clips from Michael Moore and Dinesh D'Souza are likely to make an appearance.
In view of the fact that (Z) is prepared to label Moore a propagandist in just a few hours, it would seem an inopportune time to take the documentarian's political analysis seriously. And yet, Moore has developed a reputation as the blue-collar-white-guy whisperer. And, while he is an outspoken liberal, he's also willing to swallow hard and speak truths he deems to be unpleasant. Most notably, as many readers will remember, he correctly predicted that the blue-collar-white-guy vote would break hard for Donald Trump in 2016, giving Trump the presidency.
In view of this, we are going to pass along Moore's assessment of the 2022 midterms. Actually, he's offering 44 distinct assessments, one per day leading up the election, which he calls "tsunamis of truth." And the reason that he's using the term "tsunami" is that he foresees a blue tsunami in November that will absolutely kick Republicans in the teeth.
The recurring thesis of Moore's truths (and there are 15 of them so far) is that the people who predict election outcomes—pollsters and pundits—are out of touch. He writes:
Much of what many in the media are telling you is patently false and just plain wrong. They are simply regurgitating old narratives and stale scripts. They are either too overworked or too lazy or too white and too male to open their eyes and see the liberal/left/progressive/working class and female uprising that is right now underway.
Moore has never pulled his punches before, even when failing to do so got him booed at the Oscars, so why would he start pulling his punches now?
Each reader can decide for themselves how much they trust Moore's gut feel. But he certainly does offer a different perspective from the usual, so it's worth at least considering what he has to say. (Z)
Some interesting stuff here. Last time OH Predictive Insights did a poll of Arizona, we wondered what Ohio pollsters really know about the Grand Canyon State. It turns out, to our surprise, that they are located in Phoenix. We can't figure out what the OH means, and they did not respond to an e-mail asking for an explanation. Anyhow, we guess this means you can believe them when they say Blake Masters (R) is in trouble.
This is our first poll of California this cycle. (Z) writes about politics daily and lives in California, and would not have been able to name the Republican candidate. It would seem a lot of other Golden Staters are in the same position. Meuser is going to get crushed.
We also have our first post-abortion-revelation poll of the Georgia race. Given that Emerson has a decided Republican lean this cycle, the fact that they have Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) with a slight lead is an indication that Herschel Walker (R) did suffer a few points' worth of damage. That said, we look forward to seeing other polls. (Z)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Arizona||Mark Kelly*||46%||Blake Masters||33%||Oct 04||Oct 06||OH Predictive Insights|
|California||Alex Padilla*||56%||Mark Meuser||34%||Oct 07||Oct 10||SurveyUSA|
|Colorado||Michael Bennet*||49%||Joe O`Dea||43%||Oct 03||Oct 06||Marist Coll.|
|Georgia||Raphael Warnock*||48%||Herschel Walker||46%||Oct 06||Oct 07||Emerson Coll.|
|North Carolina||Cheri Beasley||45%||Ted Budd||46%||Oct 07||Oct 08||PPP|
|Oklahoma||Madison Horn||40%||James Lankford*||52%||Oct 03||Oct 06||Sooner Poll|
|Oklahoma-special||Kendra Horn||42%||Markwayne Mullin||51%||Oct 03||Oct 06||Sooner Poll|
|South Dakota||Brian Bengs||28%||John Thune*||53%||Sep 28||Oct 10||South Dakota State U.|
|Washington||Patty Murray*||52%||Tiffany Smiley||40%||Sep 22||Sep 26||Strategies 360|
Marijuana songs: In addition to "Dooo It!," there's also "Sweet Leaf" by Black Sabbath, "Legalize It" by Peter Tosh, "Mary Jane" by Rick James, "How High" by Redman and Method Man, "Smoke Two Joints" by Sublime, "Addicted" by Amy Winehouse, "Medication" by Damian Marley and "Up in Smoke" by Cheech and Chong.