Wall Street guys – and they’re almost all guys of course – love their animal metaphors. When the markets jump up, day after day after day, that’s a Bull Market – you grab the rope and ride the raging bull to fame and glory, dominating it. It’s a cowboy thing. And when the market drops like a rock, and keeps dropping, that’s a Bear Market – and they are not talking about plush and cuddly little Teddy bears. You could get eaten alive. And when a down market suddenly jumps up for a day, for no apparent reason at all, they call that a Dead Cat Bounce. Some wag long ago said of such events, that if dropped from a sufficient height, even a dead cat will bounce. Another metaphor was born, not that they have anything against cats. Or maybe they do. Real men own subservient and faithful dogs, that they dominate too – probably mean dogs that will rip the throat out of anyone who gives their master any trouble. Women own cats, or really, no one owns cats. Cats are simply self-contained, and like women, equally mysterious. No one ever knows what either is ever thinking, so when a market behaves mysteriously, doing what no one would have predicted, it’s easy enough to think of cats, preferably dead ones. Life is often a mystery, no matter what many metaphors you prefer.
Thanksgiving week this year opened up with another of those mysteries, and a dead cat bounce on Wall Street – the Dow up well over two hundred points for no apparent reason. No one in Washington was an inch closer to backing away from that so-called fiscal cliff, if you listened to their actual positions. Republicans were still saying there would be no way they would agree to let taxes on millionaires and billionaires return to their previous rates – as those folks were the job creators, not the low-life generally useless wage-earners. Obama and his crowd were still saying those rich folks should start paying their fair share again, and they had won the election, not the Republicans, running on that very issue, and public opinion was with them too, by a two to one margin in all the polling. No one was conceding anything and economic disaster seemed assured – but everyone was talking nice, so maybe Wall Street saw something in that – or maybe it was just that dead cat thing. After a two-week drop in prices, a lot of that stuff out there was a bargain. No one can resist a bargain.
It’s not that there weren’t other issues. War, of sorts, was raging between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with Israel calling up the reserves and poised to invade Gaza and level it. That should have sent the markets lower, fast, but it didn’t. Oil prices spiked a few dollars and that was that. This too was mysterious – war in the Middle East was supposed to decimate everyone’s portfolio. It always has, but not this time. There were a lot of dead cats in Gaza, and dead children too.
Finally the markets should have been upset with their pro-business Wall Street party ripping itself apart – a full weekend of every Republican ripping into Mitt Romney and suggesting the party rethink all its positions – as if they could. Thy laid the blame for this big election loss at the feet of Mitt Romney, for his Forty-Seven Percent comment early on – almost half the country are scummy moochers and they’re hopeless – and for the “gifts” comments after the election – people just want freebies so the good guys, who tell them to suck it up and make it on their own or die, lose election after election. Romney should have never said such things. Voters don’t like being despised. Republicans should change their ways.
That was hopeless, as Kevin Drum explained:
Conservatives believe that liberals are intent on creating a welfare state that saps initiative, leads to moral decay, makes voters more dependent on government, and helps cement the Democratic Party’s hold on power. They’ve been saying this forever – but when Mitt Romney says it in slightly blunter terms than we’re used to, they practically barrel over each other running for the exits.
Poor Mitt… Conservatives never liked him in the first place, so he tried hard to say all the things they wanted him to say. But once he lost, he was an instant pariah. He was saying the stuff they wanted him to say during a campaign, not realizing that the rules had changed. Once the campaign was over, that exact same stuff was a rather too blunt admission of what conservatives believe. He was betraying the cause, not helping it. The price he’ll pay is banishment from the conservative movement even more thorough than George Bush’s. Conservatives are not kind to their losers.
Wall Street, the cowboy front line in the war on the welfare state that saps initiative and leads to moral decay, should have been upset that its core message had been delivered so inartfully, and at the current struggle to frame it more palatably. They weren’t – but maybe they were looking forward to a new generation of candidates who would talk about all the scummy moochers in a kinder and gentler way. The second George Bush had done that, somehow, and maybe someone like Marco Rubio could, but then Rubio got caught up trying to mollify the base of the party on the issue of whether the earth was only six thousand years old and all of science had it all wrong:
I’m not a scientist, man.
Right, he isn’t, and this was his recovery:
I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in seven days, or seven actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
This is the party’s best hope, who also said this back in 2009:
The “crux” of the disagreement, according Rubio, is “whether what a parent teaches their children at home should be mocked and derided and undone at the public school level. It goes to the fundamental core of who is ultimately, primarily responsible for the upbringing of children. Is it your public education system or is it your parents?”
Rubio added, “And for me, personally, I don’t want a school system that teaches kids that what they’re learning at home is wrong.”
And what if it is wrong? It would be better for the country to encourage ignorance, as a family value or something. The pro-business Wall Street can be drawn into some odd and quite surreal positions. There’s not much hope there, and there’s not much to say.
There was not much to say about anything that was going on. The dead cat bounced – nice words were said about the new and improved Republican Party. It meant nothing.
There was certainly not much to say about the situation in Gaza either. In fact, David Atkins offers a series of reasons no can can say anything sensible about that:
There are no good guys here. Bibi Netanyahu is a horrible person, and Likud is filled with horrible people. They’re basically the Israeli version of Dick Cheney and John Bolton, but with a religious belief in their right to steal land that belongs to others.
Hamas, meanwhile, is a murderous organization of cutthroats who refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist and want to drive every Jew out of the land they believe their God owes them.
This is a stalemate:
Whatever passes for Palestinian authority pretends to want peace and self-determination while doing next to nothing to prevent rockets from being fired at Israeli civilians. Hamas knows that there can be no peace without recognizing Israel’s fundamental right to exist, but they can’t even bring themselves to put those words down on a negotiating contract. Israel knows that there can be no pressure on Hamas to negotiate fairly as long as Palestine remains an Apartheid-style lockdown zone with continued encroachment from settlement.
Quite so, but the thing is that there’s a not damned thing we can do about it:
America is not going to abandon its commitment to protect the only functioning democracy in the region and the only dependable national refuge for the Jewish people. The American people can and should eschew support for Netanyahu and Likud, but it’s not as if relations between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu aren’t already frosty. Netanyahu quite obviously wanted Romney to win, and there can be little doubt that Obama would prefer to deal with someone from Labour/Kadima. Defunding Israel isn’t an option either, particularly given the hostility of other Middle Eastern powers to Israel’s very existence.
No wonder everyone is stunned into silence. There’s no way out. All you can do is watch the dead cat bounce, or not, in this case.
On the ground over there, Mairav Zonszein, who opposes the current lethal Israeli operations in Gaza, questions here whether the rockets raining in on Tel Aviv might break a sort of bubble that needs to be broken, since “maybe this means the status quo will break, because it must break” somehow:
Of course the situation in Tel Aviv is nothing like what Israelis are going through in the south, or remotely even close to what Gazans are going through. It’s all relative and hierarchic, and middle-high class Tel Avivians like me are near the very top of the food chart, with those in Gaza currently at the very bottom. So there’s no comparison.
But that doesn’t make the sirens followed by booms any less scary and awful. Regardless, Tel Aviv is geographically now a part of one of the local wars Israel periodically wages with one of its bordering neighbors. It is no longer immune. And as crappy as that is, maybe it’s exactly what needs to happen – that Tel Aviv now needs to also be part of this cycle of violence, that the daily routines and the bars and the nightlife and the hi-techs cannot function normally. They tell you to continue with your daily routine, but who the hell really can? And who the hell really should?
Something should give, and Nathan Brown argues here that Hamas can actually bend a little:
The most promising way to force Hamas to become more moderate is to force it to be more responsive to its own public. (As a leading Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian in neighboring Egypt told me when I asked him whether Hamas would ever accept a two-state solution: “They will have to. Their people will make them.”) And the most promising way to ensure such responsiveness is to speed up the reconciliation between the governments in the West Bank and Gaza, so that those governments can agree to hold elections rather than jealously hold on to their own fiefdoms in a fit of paranoia. But that, in turn, will require that Israel and the international community show a greater willingness to countenance Palestinian reconciliation.
Ah, Hamas – the terrorism crowd – and the Palestinian Authority – the diplomatic wimps – kiss and make up, and Israel and America and everyone else smiles on, benevolently. That seems unlikely. Add too that Yossi Klein Halevi reports here that Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process:
Most Israelis would surely agree that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is far preferable to yet another round of fighting. But few Israelis, whatever their politics, blame Netanyahu for the absence of peace. There is a consensus that peace with the Palestinian national movement – or rather that half of the Palestinian national movement represented by Mahmoud Abbas, rather than the explicitly theocratic Hamas – isn’t possible at this time. Indeed, that is precisely why the left-liberal opposition Labor Party had intended to shift its focus from the non-existent peace process to social issues.
Even the opposition has given up, and Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, now in Israel on sabbatical with her family, explains the mood there:
You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing. The one thing we learned this week is how quickly humans can come to normalize anything. But the hopelessness seeps right into your bones as well.
There’s a lot of that going around these days. It’s practically raining dead cats. No one can explain anything.
To be fair, there were truce talks currently underway in Egypt, as the Guardian’s Ian Black reports here:
Hamas wants a guarantee from Israel that it would end “targeted assassinations” of the kind that killed Ahmed al-Jabari last Wednesday. It would also need pledges about opening crossing points into Egypt and Israel – effectively lifting the five year blockade. Israel is insisting at a minimum on stopping the cross-border rocket fire which has united public opinion behind Operation Defensive Pillar. Israeli casualties have been low because the weapons are inaccurate and many of them were quickly destroyed.
Any deal would include other understandings that are unlikely to be formulated explicitly or made public. Israel certainly wants the Egyptians to shut down the network of tunnels that are Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world. Food and consumer goods are one thing, but the longer-range missiles that allow Hamas or more militant groups to strike targets in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel’s urban heartland are another.
That’s hopeful, and Hussein Ibish suggests here that an Egyptian-brokered deal might provide something for everybody:
Israeli leaders can claim they restored deterrence, took out key militant leaders, destroyed infrastructure and demonstrated that there is a heavy price for anyone attacking Israel from Gaza. Hamas leaders can claim to have stood up to Israel, shown the Israeli public they can reach Tel Aviv, once again unfurled the banner of armed resistance, and achieved major diplomatic breakthroughs with the recent high level visits to Gaza.
And the new president of Egypt wins too:
Morsi can achieve the neatest trick of all: he can continue with what are effectively Mubarak-era policies – Egypt serving as a broker of cease-fires and a liaison between Hamas and Israel – while presenting the whole thing as a reassertion of Egypt’s regional leadership, and a new foreign policy that stands closer to Hamas (mainly by symbolically dispatching his prime minister to Gaza). So he can create the appearance of popular change without actually changing policies that would aggravate relations with Israel or the United States.
That’s cool, but that’s just spinning possibilities. People are still dying, and there’s this:
Israel may be targeting more than Hamas as it escalates its bombing campaign in Gaza and tries to eliminate the threat of increasingly lethal stockpiled rockets. Israel’s real target may be Iran. The last six days of fighting may in fact be a prelude to what looks like an increasingly inevitable military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.
After all, Iran cannot retaliate if Israel has knocked out all the rockets they’ve sent to Hamas, perhaps for just that purpose. That would mean this Gaza business is just the first skirmish at the start of the real major war on the Middle East, which starts the evening Israel sends all they got into Iran to wipe out that one threat. Then all hell breaks loose. Everyone gets drawn in.
Is that what we want? On the conservative right, Walter Russell Mead claims here that most Americans support Israel’s use of overwhelming force in Gaza these days, even if it means civilians and even children die:
Certainly if some kind of terrorist organization were to set up missile factories across the frontier in Canada and Mexico and start attacking targets in the United States, the American people would demand that their President use all necessary force without stint or limit until the resistance had been completely, utterly and pitilessly crushed. Those Americans who share this view of war might feel sorrow at the loss of innocent life, of the children and non-combatants killed when overwhelming American power was used to take the terrorists out, but they would feel no moral guilt. The guilt would be on the shoulders of those who started the whole thing by launching the missiles.
Americans don’t do pity. Americans do what works, but Andrew Sullivan counters:
But what if the US had previously invaded and occupied part of Mexico and was populating that area with Americans, building American freeways to build new cities, and slowly asphyxiating the native Mexican population with barbed wire, road-checks, and economic isolation? Wouldn’t some of us support undoing the annexation and settlements rather than bombing the crap out of Mexico City in an unrelenting escalation?
Mead simply doesn’t see it that way, and he isn’t really big on concepts like “just warfare” and all that nonsense:
The kind of tit-for-tat limited warfare that the doctrine of proportionality would require is a recipe for unending war: for decades of random air strikes, bombs and other raids. An endless war of limited intensity is worse, many Americans instinctively feel, than a time-limited war of unlimited ferocity. A crushing blow that brings an end to the war – like General Sherman’s march of destruction through the Confederacy in 1864-65 – is ultimately kinder even to the vanquished than an endless state of desultory war.
In short, screw that doctrine of proportionality crap. Kill them all, quick – it’s kinder all around. And Sullivan isn’t impressed:
So now we’re talking Sherman! How many dead Arabs will satisfy Mead? Does he really want Israel to do to Gaza and the West Bank what Russia did to Chechnya? And what does “unlimited ferocity” mean? Nuking them? Or just mass death arriving from the skies? Would that really be “kinder”?
Yes, he used that word: kinder. To mean a Shermanesque march with not a smidgen of “moral guilt.” We have gone through the moral looking glass.
That happens when there are too many things happening that you just can’t explain. You get lost in metaphors, sometimes about General Sherman, and sometimes about dead cats bouncing of course – but the metaphors explain nothing. It’s best to think things through, carefully, even if it’s not as colorful. What’s really happening is in there, somehow – and people should really lay off cats anyway. Some of us like them. They’re not concerned with our nonsense, and that’s to be respected.