Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Little Of The Old In And Out

In: Prince Harry. Yes -- Prince Harry has had a checkered past. And, yes, that past involves a stupid, tasteless Nazi uniform. There was some racial bluster in the military against brown people. But is there anyone that really thinks that Prince Harry is a David Duke racist? He suffered a pretty fucked up youth -- Mom died publicly (check), parents affairs exposed by Fleet Street (check) -- and he is probably the illegitimate son of the disgusting "Captain Cad" James Hewitt (Harry's flaming red hair is neither Spenceruian nor Windsoresque). These facts, aired for all of the UK to see and comment upon, could fuck up any normal man's shit for life. On the real, yo.

Still, Harry appears to be trying to overcome. Today he holds Governor's Island captive, playing Polo for a worthy charity after spending yesterday soaking up the personal meaning of 9/11 from the perspective of the victims families. It was a decisive moment for the West, as well as the "special relationship" between the U.S. and Great Britian; any possible-future King of England should have some direct knowledge of that tragic event. And this morning the possible-future was touring inner-city schools in Harlem. Not bad, say us. From CBSNews:

"Prince Harry wraps up his whirlwind, 36-hour first official visit to the United States Saturday with a visit to a community group in New York City’s Harlem, and a charity polo match.

"A stop at the World Trade Center site was among the highlights after he arrived Friday.

"Observers say image-polishing is high on Harry's list of priorities during the visit.

Buckingham Palace 'is determined that the royal wild side won't surface on this trip,' says CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

"One of Harry’s polo teammates on Saturday, Emma Tomlinson, told CBS News, 'It's very important to Prince Harry that money is raised for this wonderful charity, Sentebale.'

"Sentebale, founded by Harry in the tiny African kingdom of Lesotho, helps finance homes and education for AIDS orphans, a cause first embraced Harry’s mother, the late Princess Diana."

Anyone who thinks Prince Harry is a racist and not just an angry youth having gone through some issues, trying to reform himself, really needs to smooth themselves out.

Out: Jay Leno. We have never been fans of Jay Leno's thoroughly untaxing, carefully-scrubbed, lower-middlebrow style of ushering America into the land of slumber. Our bullshit detectors, we have been told, are the sharpest in The West. We call shenanegans on Jay Leno as "Mr. Nice Guy."

Leno's iteration of the Carson show lacked edge. Tailor-made for the intellectually woozy, people who prefer him prefer their entertainment of the safe side of life are the types who cling to Leno. Letterman, by contrast, is for those who respect edgier, unexpected happenings on late at night (Or, nowadays via DVR, early hungover mornings). And then there is the fakeness of being a man-of-the-people with a rare car collection (C'mon, Jay). And don't get us started on how Leno got the job (Then-manager Helen Kushnick's hardballing). Or Leno's feud with Howard Stern over the behind-his-back hiring of John Melendez.

Given Bill Carter's history with the late-night talker, revealing how he succeeded Carson, despite Carson's preference for Letterman, he was the perfect man to close the book on Leno's tenure. From Bill Carter of the New York Times:

"After 17 years as the host of 'The Tonight Show,' Mr. Leno’s final show on Friday night, his 3,775th, was much like many of the others, filled with monologue jokes and some of his signature comedy pieces.

"... During Mr. Leno’s final week as the host of 'The Tonight Show,' the ratings were up each night by about 21 percent on average over his ratings this year. His second-to-last show, with a special song tribute from Billy Crystal, was up 33 percent. (The figures for the week are based on preliminary ratings; NBC will not have audience-figure totals until next week.) The numbers may not approach the more than 40 million viewers who watched Johnny Carson’s last night on 'Tonight,' but that was in 1992, and unlike Mr. Carson, Mr. Leno is not retiring."

More here.

In: Is A Middle East Peace Based On The Two State Solution? The American right-wing, of late, is arguing that a two-state solution will not ultimately solve the Middle East situation. The President, by way of contrast, is gambling that a two-state solution -- and the peeling off Syria's alliance with Iran with a possible giveback of the Golan Heights -- will be just the ticket for some movement on the lack of diplomatic traction in the region. If Hillary can pull off an Israeli-Syrian peace then she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, the grandaddy of consolation prizes for near-Presidencies.

President Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia next week, the day before he speaks in Egypt -- the intellectual capital of the Middle East -- will no doubt involve working the room to keep oil prices low, hindering Iranian adventurism. Ahmadinejad gets geometrically saucier depending on how far past $60-a-barrel oil goes (Remember the '60 Minutes' mouthiness and the raucous speech at Bollinger's Columbia when oil prices per barrel were insane?). For further reference as to why this is so, see: Friedman's "First Law of Petropolitics." But there is also the veiled suggestion, in focusing next week ahead of Iranian and Lebanese elections, on Sunni strongholds like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, of strategic balance.

The Obama administration clearly hopes Iran's Presidential elections will oust the intransigent Ahmadinejad and favor the more malleable Mir Hossein Mousavi. As the neocons never fail to remind us, 70 percent of Iran's population is under 30. And President Obama has magic with the under-30 vote, even in "hostile" territory. If the stars are aligned properly and all of these previously mentioned factors work in the President's favor, we might just have the first shot at a Middle East peace in generations. Maybe. From ForeignPolicy:

"Last night, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told journalists that the Obama administration 'wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a confidante. Referring to Clinton's call for a settlement freeze, Netanyahu groused, 'What the hell do they want from me?' according to his associate, who added, 'I gathered that he heard some bad vibes in his meetings with [U.S.] congressional delegations this week.'

"In the 10 days since Netanyahu and President Barack Obama held a meeting at the White House, the Obama administration has made clear in public and private meetings with Israeli officials that it intends to hold a firm line on Obama's call to stop Israeli settlements. According to many observers in Washington and Israel, the Israeli prime minister, looking for loopholes and hidden agreements that have often existed in the past with Washington, has been flummoxed by an unusually united line that has come not just from Obama White House and the secretary of state, but also from pro-Israel congressmen and women who have come through Israel for meetings with him over Memorial Day recess. To Netanyahu's dismay, Obama doesn't appear to have a hidden policy. It is what he said it was.

"'This is a sea change for Netanyahu,' a former senior Clinton administration official who worked on Middle East issues said. The official said that the basis of the Obama White House's resolve is the conviction that it is in the United States' as well as Israel's interest to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 'We have significant, existential threats that Israel faces from Iran and that the U.S. faces from this region. It is in our mutual interest to end this conflict, and to begin to build new regional alliances.'

"... Netanyahu and [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman are probing, looking for areas they can get space gratis from the United States,' says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force for Palestine. 'And they are not finding it."

"We've been watching the move in Congress, especially among certain high profile Jewish American members -- people like Representative Gary Ackerman, Representative Robert Wexler, and Representative Howard Berman,' Ibish said. 'What has occurred -- and this has been greatly intensified by the election of Obama: There has been a growing sense of members of Congress who are well-informed on foreign policy ... that peace is essential to the American national interest and the Israeli national interest. And there's been a growing sense that the possibility of a two-state agreement is time-limited and that things like the settlements are incompatible with the goal of creating two states.'

"The changed dynamic in Washington has impressed Palestinian audiences. At a breakfast yesterday morning with Palestinian American policy hands near Pentagon City, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was extremely impressed with the Obama administration's resolve on policies that it sees as crucial for getting out of the current status quo -- after years of drift that have seen Jewish settlements expand to almost 300,000 people on land the Palestinians envision as part of a future Palestinian state.

"Abbas had a private meeting with Obama at the White House this afternoon, followed by an expanded meeting in the Oval Office with Obama, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, Clinton, and other U.S. officials. 'We are a stalwart ally of Israel and it is in our interests to assure that Israel is safe and secure,' Obama said in a joint press conference with Abbas after the meeting. "It is our belief that the best way to achieve that is to create the conditions on the ground and set the stage for a Palestinian state as well."

What is most interesting about this development is the surrogates President Obama is playing in The Great game that is Middle Eastern power politics. His deck of cards includes: Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel, Gary Ackerman and Robert Wexler -- all have unimpeachably Pro-Israel records. This gives the President maneuvering room to play tough with Netanyahu and the Israeli right. If President Obama's position as a bona fide friend of Israel is as yet untested -- though he received 77 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008 -- these prominent Democrats, all behind Obama without even a hair's breadth of policy difference on a two-state solution, bolster the President's argument. They are -- in a unified block -- presenting a case that is decidedly contrary to the perceived mandate of the Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition government, which was elected on a mandate of toughness on Israel's national security.

President Obama's mandate, by contrast, is one of Change. And you have to admire the breadth of his changes in policy regarding Middle East peace -- and the risks entailed. No region in recent memory is as fraught with political danger for a President. The President has doubled down. It would have been so much easier had another Barack -- Ehud Barack -- been the victor in the Israeli elections. But it was the prescience -- political luck? -- that Netanyahu's dire predictions of Katyusha rockets raining down from the West Bank after Sharon's givebacks came true, propelling him to yet another Prime Ministership of Israel, resurrected from the political dead.

The ball is in the court of Netanyahu, Lieberman and the Palestinians to see if they can hammer out a workable 2-state solution. Right now the Netanyahu-Lieberman alliance is snagged on the question of West Bank settlements. Their mandate is based on a tough national security stance; Obama's mandate is based on "Change." And never the twain shall meet?

Former Vice President Cheney, we cannot fail to note, has been thus far the right-wing go-to guy for the legacy of neoconservatism. Cheney exudes, ironically-operatically, all the pessimism of the past vis-a-vis the possibility of a two-state solution. It is not inconceivable that the unmuzzled former Vice President may side in the near future with the Netanyahu-Lieberman hard right agenda, trying to bolster his legacy, further his "principles" (And, if we may be so skeptical: split Obama's support within the Jewish community along the lines of the-2-state-solution-is-naive, especially in swing states like all-important Florida).

This course of action would be unfortunate, unwise, counterproductive to American interests in the region and, alas, given the tenor of the former Vice Presidents remarks on the War on Terror of late, quite possible.

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