In case you missed it: The No. 1 best comedy line of the weekend came from one of our best deadpan straight men, House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio.
It came during a Sunday interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” They were talking about the Israeli prime minister’s flip-flop on Palestinian statehood just before and after Israel’s March 17 election — how on March 16, in Bash’s words, “he disavowed the two-state solution, and then right afterward he said ‘never mind’ and took it back. Isn’t this a little brazen?” No, Boehner said, “because he doesn’t have a partner.” He said he believes Netanyahu still believes in Palestinian statehood as “an aspirational goal.” Well, Bash asked, “Can you blame the White House or the president for not believing what he’s saying on where his position is on this?”
I think the animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is reprehensible. I think that the pressure that they’ve put on him over the last four or five years has frankly pushed him to the point where he had to speak up.
Get it? The animosity exhibited by our administration toward the prime minister of Israel is “reprehensible.” This from a guy who’s been virtually silent for six years — four of them as the leader of the Republican party — while members of his caucus and his party have directed an unending barrage of slander, character assassination and borderline obscenity at the president of his own country.
Think I’m exaggerating? In January 2011, days after Boehner’s Republicans took over the House and elected him speaker, Brian Williams asked him during an NBC Nightly News interview what he had to say to members of his party who claimed Obama wasn’t born in America, wasn’t a citizen and wasn’t legitimately president. Boehler’s reply:
Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We’re nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. It’s the melting pot of America. It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.
Translation: Shucks, I’m only a politician, head of the Republican Party. I can’t advise Americans on how to view the world. What am I, a leader?
The New York Times made an awkward attempt this afternoon to examine the presumably anxious debate in the American news media over whether or not to reproduce the new Charlie Hebdo cover with its image of Muhammad.
The trouble is, there isn’t much of a debate. The Times is one of just a handful of major American outlets that’s still unwilling to reprint the Muhammad image. Others practicing the self-censorship include the Associated Press, CNN, NBC News, ABC News and PBS.
Outlets that made the opposite decision and went ahead to show the image today included, in addition to our own Jewish Daily Forward, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Newsweek, the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Houston Chronicle, New York Daily News, New York Post and even the U.S. government-owned Voice of America. And that’s obviously a partial list.
The New York Times explained its decision not to publish the image as “an editorial judgment.” The AP said its decision was “based on its policy to avoid images designed to provoke on the basis of religion.”
CNN’s explanation was more refreshingly blunt. A statement by network president Jeff Zucker, read on air by anchor Erin Burnett, said CNN gave priority to “our obligation to protect our journalists around the world.”
President Obama was in rare form at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, delivering zingers at House Republican leaders, Fox News, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his own Obamacare troubles. His best line of the evening, the pundits seem to agree, was this one aimed at House Speaker John Boehner:
I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the speaker of the House as well. These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.
But the most outrageous lines came from comedian Joel McHale, the star of NBC’s Community and host of E Network’s The Soup. The workover he gave Christie must have set some sort of record. He opened his act by promising to keep it “amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.” Later, he asked, “Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? I could go half and half — I know you like a combo platter.” Then he did an incredible parody of Christie’s Bridgegate response, saying his joke was inappropriate but while it was written by his staff he took full responsibility and would appoint an independent investigation headed by himself to find out whose fault it was. But why read my summary? Watch it below.
New York magazine’s Caroline Bankoff put together a pretty good roundup of the evening, including useful statistics on how many jokes each were aimed at CNN, Fox and MSNBC and who was the most ragged-on politician of the evening (Christie). And Fox has a full transcript of Obama’s remarks, which shows either that they’re masochists deep down or that they want to use it to get their base riled up, perhaps hoping to emulate the ADL’s success in taking down Nation of Islam leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad in 1993 by running his anti-Semitic ravings as a full-page ad.
Here are the videos of Obama’s and McHale’s routines, in full:
One of the most common arguments in favor of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the so-called demographic threat or demographic time-bomb. Proponents worry that if Israel continues to control the Palestinian territories, with or without formal annexation, the different birthrates of Jews and Arabs will eventually result in Jews being a minority in the territory under Israeli control. At that point Israel will no longer be a Jewish state — or, alternatively, will be a Jewish state with a non-Jewish majority that is disenfranchised because of its ethnic identity. There’s a word for that. I won’t say it, but I’ll note that it’s Afrikaans in origin.
How far off such a situation might be is a topic of considerable debate. Some say the threshold will be crossed within a decade or less. Others suggest a longer timeline is possible. A few on the right believe there’s no threat at all, either because Jewish and Arab fertility rates are converging or because Palestinian population figures are inflated. By and large, though, demography appears to be a very mainstream worry.
Well, worry no more. It turns out we’re there already. Comparing the annual Rosh Hashanah population report from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, released September 2, with the midyear (July 1) population figures for the West Bank and Gaza in the CIA World Factbook, it turns out that Jews are now (as of Rosh Hashanah) outnumbered by Arabs under Israeli sovereignty by a grand total of 50,827. So the question is no longer whether or when the Jewish state will feature a minority ruling a majority. The question now is what to do about it.
Here are the numbers:
Palestinian Arabs, West Bank: 2,676,740
Palestinian Arabs, Gaza Strip: 1,763,387
(Total Palestinians, Israeli military-administered territories: 4,440,127)
Israeli Arabs (citizens): 1,666,800
Total Arabs under Israeli sovereign administration: 6,106,927
Israeli Jews: 6,056,100
A few notes on the figures:
We’re in a season of anniversaries and memories, many of them exceedingly melancholy: the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that ignited the global financial crisis, September 15, 2008 (5 years ago); the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, September 11, 2001 (12 years ago); the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, 10 Tishri 1973 (40 years ago by the Hebrew lunar calendar). And, wandering only a little further afield, the outbreak of World War II, September 1, 1939 (74 years ago). And, on a more ambivalent note, the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn, which was either a great hope that’s been dashed (as I believe) or a tragic error (as some of my friends and relations believe), September 13, 1993 (20 years ago).
But something unambiguously great happened today, September 12, 2013: NASA confirmed that Voyager 1, the spacecraft launched to Jupiter and Saturn on September 5, 1977 (36 years ago), has left our solar system and entered the cold zone of deep space, the first man-made object ever to enter the vast, unknown realm between the stars, interstellar space.
The crossing actually occurred a year ago, on August 25, 2012, according to NASA’s calculations. But, as Space.com reports, the instrument that would have detected the crossing and transmitted it back to earth broke down in 1980, so scientists had to rely on complicated calculations from other instruments. It took a bit of luck, too: “A massive solar eruption in March 2012 arrived at the location of Voyager 1 about 13 months later, making the plasma around the probe vibrate, NASA officials said.”
Voyager is currently about 12 billion miles from the sun—or about 11.9 billion miles from us—and radio signals traveling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) take about 17-1/2 hours to reach us.
As the Los Angeles Times reported today: