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San Francisco, petty politics: "neener, neener", "tit-for-tat", "like third grade".....

* PETTINESS IN POLITICS: "neener-neener", "tit-for-tat", "like third grade", still "a lower road"....   That is the scenario described in C.W. Nevius column in today's San Francisco Chronicle.  Caption of the column -- and first couple paragraphs -- pretty much captures the scene:

"Mayor takes low road -- supervisors even lower":

   Just when we were handing out the kudos to city officials for working out a compromise and moving the Hunters Point shipyard project forward, they send us back to school.

   Like third grade.

   No one is blameless in this, but just as I was going to tweak the mayor for a small-minded move, the Board of Supervisors stepped up and made an even more petty call. At this point everyone needs a timeout while they write: "We were elected to serve the people of the city, not to engage in silly personal grudges," on the blackboard.  (SF Chronicle)



Public comments, response, outrage: $787,637 salary for Bell city manager.....

* Many folks in the working-class, largely Latino immigrant very small city of Bell say the recession has cost them their jobs and they are struggling to just barely stay afloat.  Not surprisingly, most of these folks also say they had no idea that their city officials are among the highest-paid in the country....  From today's L.A. Times:

   "Residents of Bell unhappy over high salaries for city employees" - "Residents of the tiny city, many of whom are struggling to pay rent, why the city manager earns nearly $800,000."  (LAT)

and a second item, also from the LAT:

    "$787,000 salary for city manager is outrageous, assemblyman says" (LAT)


"State Secret: Chelsea Clinton's Wedding Plans"

* NEW YORK TIMES TODAY GOES HUNTING "ON THE TRAIL OF CHELSEA CLINTON'S WIDDING:  Everyone knows the date is Sunday, July 31.  But where will it be (even invited guests are being kept in the dark until a week before the big day)?  who will be there?  what will the bride be wearing?  what will the menu be? 

Excerpts from the NYT:

   The wedding, set for July 31, is so cloaked in secrecy that in Washington, where the mother of the bride holds down a day job running international diplomacy for President Obama, details are harder to ferret out than the president’s Afghanistan strategy. Even guests do not know the locale; invitations came with instructions to be within driving distance of Manhattan, plus a promise that specifics would be sent a week before the big day.

   That has not prevented some educated guessing. The current betting is that the Clinton-Mezvinsky nuptials will take place in Rhinebeck, at the Astor Courts, a 13,000-foot Beaux Arts pavilion built between 1902 and 1904 for John Jacob Astor IV and designed by Stanford White evoke the Grand Trianon at Versailles. The Clintons have refused to confirm the reports; the mansion’s owner, Kathleen Hammer, a political donor to Hillary Rodham Clinton..., did not return e-mail messages or calls.


   As to the guest list, one can only imagine the headaches. About 400 are expected to attend (although the Obamas aren’t). That’s large for an ordinary wedding, but small for a family whose reach includes presidents, movie stars and kings, not to mention all those political donors looking for a payback. There is one criterion for making the cut: guests must have a personal connection to the bride and bridegroom.  (NYT)




Afternoon notes....

* Lots of politics in the news, especially "OBAMA POLITICS".....

 From the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer:

"OBAMA'S NEXT ACT" ....(Note:  "The real prize is 2012.") 

   In the political marketplace, there's now a run on Obama shares. The left is disappointed with the president. Independents are abandoning him in droves. And the right is already dancing on his political grave, salivating about November when, his own press secretary admitted Sunday, Democrats might lose the House..

   I have a warning for Republicans: Don't underestimate Barack Obama.


   Act One is over. The stimulus, Obamacare, financial reform have exhausted his first-term mandate. It will bear no more heavy lifting. And the Democrats will pay the price for ideological overreaching by losing one or both houses, whether de facto or de jure. The rest of the first term will be spent consolidating these gains (writing the regulations, for example) and preparing for Act Two.

   The next burst of ideological energy -- massive regulation of the energy economy, federalizing higher education and "comprehensive" immigration reform (i.e., amnesty) -- will require a second mandate, meaning reelection in 2012.  That's why there's so much tension between Obama and congressional Democrats. For Obama, 2010 matters little. If Democrats lose control of one or both houses, Obama will probably have an easier time in 2012, just as Bill Clinton used Newt Gingrich and the Republicans as the foil for his 1996 reelection campaign.

   Obama is down, but it's very early in the play. Like Reagan, he came here to do things. And he's done much in his first 500 days. What he has left to do he knows must await his next 500 days -- those that come after reelection.

   The real prize is 2012. Obama sees far, farther than even his own partisans. Republicans underestimate him at their peril.  (WP)

* And, another line of thinking, from the WP's Eugene Robinson:


   Let's get this straight: The federal deficit is such a big crisis that we can't extend benefits for millions of Americans who are unemployed, many of them in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure? But without a second thought we can extend a massive, temporary tax cut for the rich, even though asking the wealthy to pay their fair share would go a long way toward erasing the deficit?

   This, as helpfully laid out by Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, is the Republican Party's economic policy. It's tempting to conclude that if Democrats lose big in November, it will be their own fault because they're running against a party that's preaching pure incoherence.  The thing is, we already know that the Republicans' prescription for the economy doesn't work. We gave their approach an eight-year trial under George W. Bush -- basically, squeeze money out of the middle class and transfer it to the upper class, which theoretically then shows its gratitude by creating jobs for what BP's chairman would call "the small people." The result of the experiment has been the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

   That should settle the question of what happens this fall. Democrats ought to be looking at the prospect of only modest losses, consistent with the historical pattern of midterm elections. Instead, they are going to have to fight tooth and nail to keep their congressional majorities, especially in the House.

   I'm of the school that contends White House press secretary Robert Gibbs did his party a favor by publicly stating the obvious:  Control of the House of Representatives is in play.  I'm also of the opinion that the Republican Party's prospects aren't quite as sunny as some observers believe. But Gibbs's candor seemed to jolt Democrats out of the sour lassitude in which they had been mired.  The party has now shifted into something resembling a sour frenzy. but that's an improvement.

   One reason I'm not so confident of a Republican blowout in the fall is that while polls clearly show that the country is in an anti-incumbent mood, there's also considerable evidence that people see the GOP as part of the problem, not part of the solution. A new Post-ABC News poll, for example, showed that 58 percent of voters have "just some" confidence, or even less, in President Obama's leadership, and that 68 percent were similarly doubtful about the ability of congressional Democrats to lead. But 72 percent had little or no faith in congressional Republicans -- which suggests to me that the GOP has work to do before its leaders start picking out new office suites in the Capitol.


   After rising from the ashes of 2008 by uniting in opposition to anything Obama and the Democrats tried to do, Republicans are defined more by the word "no" than by anything else. They have a rallying cry but not a program. Are the populist, Tea Party types really going to accept the fat-cat economic philosophy of the GOP congressional leadership? Is "drill, baby, drill" a viable energy strategy after the BP disaster? Is Sen. Lindsey Graham the voice of the party on Afghanistan, or is Michael Steele?

   That's a lot for Democrats to work with. I happen to believe that Obama and his party have established a remarkable record of achievement. Many Americans do not agree, however, and the thing for Democrats to do is not to sulk and feel misunderstood but to go out and change people's minds.

   Democrats need to get over themselves. And then they need to get busy.  (WP)

* And polling regarding the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race in Nevada shows Senate Pres. Harry Reid with "a strong lead" over his Sharron Angle, his Republican opponent....  From the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

   U.S. Sen. Harry Reid has opened a strong lead over Republican opponent Sharron Angle after pummeling her in a ubiquitous TV and radio ad campaign that portrays the Tea Party favorite as "too extreme," according to a new poll for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.   The Democratic incumbent's aggressive strategy of attacking Angle's staunch conservative views from the moment she won the June 8 primary has cost her support among every voter group -- from men and women to both political parties and independents -- in vote-rich Clark and Washoe counties. 

   "He's had five perfect weeks," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey. "The race has been all about her, and he's been doing a good job of pounding her."   Yet Coker said it's too soon to write off Angle. More than one-quarter of the nonpartisan swing voters who probably will decide the Nov. 2 election haven't jumped to the still-unpopular Reid but instead are undecided or in the "other" or "none of these candidates" columns, the poll showed.  "I wouldn't write her obituary just yet," Coker said, noting it's a long way to November. "Three and a half months is a lifetime, and at some point she's going to be able to start fighting back."

   The Mason-Dixon poll showed that if the general election were held now, Reid would win 44 percent to 37 percent for Angle. Ten percent were undecided, 5 percent would choose "none of these candidates," and the remaining 4 percent would pick another candidate on the ballot.  That is the best Reid has done against Angle this year in a series of Mason-Dixon polls. Previously, the two had been locked in a statistical dead heat with Angle finishing just ahead of Reid in February, 44 percent to 42 percent, and in June, 44 percent to 41 percent, and Reid finishing just ahead of Angle in May, 42 percent to 39 percent.  (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

****Lots of other info here on what is viewed as one of the biggest elections in November, with the President and his team likely to do everything they can to save the seat for Reid and the Democrats......






"Who is a Jew?"

* Interesting op-ed in today's New York Times:

   WHO is a Jew? It’s an age-old inquiry, one that has for decades (if not centuries) provoked debate, discussion and too many punch lines to count — all inspired by what many assumed was the question’s essential unanswerability. But if developments this week are any indication, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, might soon offer an official, surprising answer: almost no one.

   On Monday, a Knesset committee approved a bill sponsored by David Rotem, a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, that would give the Orthodox rabbinate contorl of all conversions in Israel.  If passed, this legislation would place authority over all Jewish births, marriages and deaths — and, through them, the fundamental questions of Jewish identity — in the hands of a small group of ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, rabbis.

   The move has set in motion a sectarian battle that is not only dividing Israeli society but threatening to sever the vital connection between Israel and the American Jewish diaspora.

   The problem is not simply that some of these rabbinical functionaries, who are paid by the state and courted by politicians, are demonstrably corrupt. (To take the most salacious of a slew of examples, an American Haredi rabbi who had become one of the most powerful authorities on the question of conversion resigned from his organization in December after accusations that he solicited phone sex from a hopeful female convert.) Rather, it is that the beliefs of a tiny minority of the world’s Jews are on the verge of becoming the Israeli government’s definition of Judaism, for all Jews.

   It is hard to exaggerate the possible ramifications, first and foremost for Jewish Israelis. Rivkah Lubitch, an Orthodox woman who is a lawyer in Israel’s rabbinic court system, painted a harrowing picture of the future in a recent column on the Israeli Web site Ynet.........

   Why are the rabbis doing this? The process is not being driven, as some say, by a suspicion of new converts — they’re simply a wedge issue. Nor is it, as others argue, a reaction to the influx of Russian Jews, who when they seek permission to wed in Israel are often asked for evidence that their families were registered as Jews in the old Soviet Union.

   No, what is driving this process is the desire of a small group of rabbis to expand their authority from narrow questions of conversion to larger questions of Jewish identity. Since what goes for conversion also goes for all other clerical acts, only a few anointed rabbis will be able to determine the authenticity of one’s marriage, divorce, birth, death — and every rite in between.


   The redemptive history of the Jewish people since the Holocaust has rested on the twin pillars of a strong Israel and a strong diaspora, which have spoken to each other politically and culturally, and whose successes have mutually reinforced the confidence and capacities of the other. Neither the Jewish diaspora nor Israel can afford a split between the two communities — a dystopian possibility that, if this bill passes, could materialize frightfully soon.  (NYT)

[Op-ed is by Alana Newhouse, editor in chief of Tablet Magazine, which covers Jewish life and culture.]