The Obama administration warns Israel via a media proxy?

More interesting developments in the whole will-they-or-won’t-they saga, a romantic comedy starring Israel, bunker-busters, and Iranian nuclear sites. Or as the Greeks might argue, more of a tragedy, really. I suppose this debate is moot until we find out what happens in the end.

And speaking of endgames, I am (slightly, incrementally) heartened by the noises emanating from the American camp. Yesterday, an article appeared on the New York Times web site titled, “U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb.” The article begins thusly:

Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.

Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

This is strikingly different rhetoric than we’ve been hearing in most quarters recently regarding Iran. My take is that the Obama White House is preemptively trying to distance itself from any decision Israel may take on its own. A similar story took place several days earlier, when American General Martin Dempsey told Fareed Zakaria in an interview that an Israeli strike against Iran would not be “prudent.” This interview aired on the very same day that the Telegraph reported similar comments from British foreign secretary William Hague: an Israeli attack “would not be wise,” he said.

The subtext in the similarity of both the language and the timing of the two interviews was unmistakable: the U.S. and Great Britain are clearly acting in concert to warn the Israeli government, led by the fairly maniacal Benjamin Netanyahu, that they should not expect much support from either the U.S. or the U.K. in planning to attack Iran.

I believe, however, that this latest salvo — fired via the New York Times — is not only a stronger statement than the earlier ones, but may actually be indicative of a point of no return for the United States’ position on Iran. If Israel were to attack Iran, it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to rationally justify supporting or becoming involved in Israel’s military venture, since its own American security and intelligence agencies are making it very clear that they don’t believe the Iranian threat to be as serious as it is often described. I would imagine that Netanyahu is cognizant of this meaning, and I’m betting he’s seething right now. Could we actually be witnessing a 1956 Suez Canal moment, and during an American presidential election year no less?

Mind-blowing arrogance from Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit

From an opinion piece on the web site of Haaretz:

The Netanyahu-Obama meeting in two weeks will be definitive. If the U.S. president wants to prevent a disaster, he must give Netanyahu iron-clad guarantees that the United States will stop Iran in any way necessary and at any price, after the 2012 elections. If Obama doesn’t do this, he will obligate Netanyahu to act before the 2012 elections.

The moral responsibility for what may happen does not lie with the heirs of Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion. The moral responsibility will be borne by the man sitting in the chair that was once Franklin Roosevelt’s.

That’s funny. I could’ve sworn that Israel had its own government, whose job it is to protect the nation from external threats. I must have missed the memo where that responsibility was passed on to Obama.

New brain-teasing challenge for the right

On the one hand, he’s an Occupy Wall Street protester. On the other hand, he likes to walk around with a concealed gun and ammunition. I can hear Tea Partiers’ heads exploding from the inherent contradictions from here.

Live-blogging the Republican presidential debate (live now on CNN)

Hello, and welcome back. I am once again sitting on a living room couch in Paris. It is 1:56 AM, and yes, I am repeatedly questioning my life choices. (Am I questioning my life choices as much as Republicans are questioning their presidential choices, however? I think not. I hope not.)

So then, let us begin.

1:59 AM – The CNN.com online feed is showing crew members walking self-importantly back and forth across the stage.

2:01 AM – The CNN intro just dubbed Ron Paul “the delegate hunter.” Not a great start for him. But then, Mitt Romney got called “the long-distance runner,” so that’s not much of an improvement.

2:04 AM – I think Rick Santorum got the weakest cheers when he walked out. And I’m not sure Ron Paul actually shook Newt Gingrich’s hand when he got to the center of the stage. (Probably just missed it.) Also, given that this is a GOP event, yes, we are in fact being treated to a cheesy choral rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s in their contract (for America?).

2:05 AM – How’d they find an Asian female willing to sing at the Republican debate? We’re all disappointed in you, ma’am.

2:07 AM – They’re sitting! Somehow that disappoints me slightly.

2:08 AM – Newt Gingrich is wearing a purple tie, and immediately mentioned energy in his 10-second intro. Weird choice. Or maybe not, given gas prices.

2:09 AM – Santorum has just promised to cut the budget by $5 trillion in 5 years. This seems reasonable enough. Also, he just assured us he won’t cut defense. But welfare’s on the chopping block. I am so glad to hear we’re not going to cut our military funding. We haven’t had a really fun war in quite awhile.

2:11 AM – Romney’s had his first “I’m a businessman!” moment. He loves to work that in. Also, these camera views are awesome. They’re sitting close enough together to play footsies under the table. I think that’s what Gingrich and Romney are doing now, in fact.

2:12 AM – Did Romney just say he’s going to cut unemployment by 10%? So we’ll have roughly -2% or -3% unemployment? Actually, I can almost understand the math: that horrible feeling when you have a job and can’t seem to get fired.

2:14 AM – Romney, in responding to Santorum, just made a point of assuring the audience that he would cut taxes for the top 1% as well. Way to pander? (Not so much.)

2:15 AM – Gingrich: “You’re never going to balance the budget on the backs of a highly-unemployed country…So I would focus on jobs-based growth.” So…you’re dropping out and endorsing Obama?

2:16 AM – Ron Paul! Jon King asks him why he called Ron Santorum fake. Paul: “Well…because he’s fake.” Best part? Santorum’s sitting two inches to his left. Paul’s still going at him for fake fiscal conservatism and got some loud cheers. Finally, he closes with a weird, off-tangent complaint about foreign aid spending. Come on, Ron. You’re better than that.

2:22 AM – Gingrich looks sad and lonely, but also oddly at peace with himself. Methinks he just downed a solid pre-debate burger.

2:23 AM – It’s strange to see Gingrich address Romney’s ideas with so much deference and friendliness. He looks like a man who’s well aware of his impending defeat and has been given strict orders to derail Santorum.

2:25 AM – No fireworks so far.

2:26 AM – I hate to say this, but I kinda, sorta agree with Santorum on this one. Earmarks aren’t the end of the world. OK, quick, must disagree with him on something quickly before I become unable to recognize myself.

2:29 AM – OK, and now it’s getting heated. Santorum’s getting pissed about the earmarks discussion, Mitt’s talking over him, then Newt tried to get involved because Mitt mentioned him (gently) as a leader of an earmarking Congress, followed by Paul trying to talk after Santorum called him a prolific ear-marker. This is all getting very confusing. And more and more irrelevant.

2:35 AM – This audience is weird. They’re booing and clapping at the strangest things. Literally, as soon as I typed that, they clapped when Mitt Romney said the word “bankruptcy.”

2:39 AM – I love watching ol’ Rick start to get heated. You just know his advisers keep telling him, “Keep your cool, keep your cool, keep your cool,” but he just can’t help himself sometimes. People can just be so wrong.

2:44 AM – First commercial break, and I’m out. Too tired, and nothing’s going on.

It’s not Iran crossing the red line. It’s Israel.

Yesterday, Robert Wright wrote a piece called “AIPAC’s Push Toward War” for The Atlantic. In it, he notes:

Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.

The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”

In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the “red line”–the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what’s unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a “nuclear weaponscapability.” In other words, Iran shouldn’t be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.

At what point are we, as Americans, allowed to stand up and say what needs to be said: It is Israel, not Iran, that presents the greatest danger to the Middle East right now. Their government is unpredictable; it is a coalition government aligned with some truly despicable, racist warmongers (hello, Avigdor Lieberman and Danny Ayalon); and its perpetual saber-rattling, deceptions, lies, and misdirection has played a large role in making the Middle East a constantly volatile region.

There are other provocations, to be sure — most notably the Arab Spring, despotic dictators clinging to power, and so forth. Then, perhaps most obviously, there is Iran itself, whose leader’s anti-Semitic rants and Holocaust denials are certainly cause for concern. But another preemptive strike on a Middle Eastern country based on flimsy evidence? Not only does this sound familiar, but the advocacy for it is led by the same neocons who started us off on our glorious path in Iraq. That these people are still afforded even the tiniest sliver of credibility is testament to our woeful media’s inability to stand up for facts, as well a searing condemnation of the American public’s ever-dwindling attention spans.

Let’s please, please, not make another mistake. Constant war is not the answer.

How to write a very, very short story

Open Word. Scroll through the fonts list: Verdana. Helvetica. Georgia? Yes, Georgia. Georgia works. Georgia looks like a magazine font, looks like something publishable. Hell, it even looks good italicized.

Oh, and set the iTunes track to that insanely long piece from Babel, the one that lasts somewhere around 11 minutes. There, it’s called “Bibo No Aozora/Endless Flight/Babel.” I don’t even know what half those words mean, but this is good. This is appropriate writing music. I need a Coke and a choco-suisse.

On the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI

When people say “end of an era,” I think this is what they mean.

There was something about the stark contrast between Eli Manning’s ability to get down the field, pronto, and Tom Brady’s inability to do the same. There was something about that brilliant catch by Mario Manningham, and there was something about the inability of Wes Welker, Deion Branch, and Aaron Hernandez to do the same with under 5 minutes left.

The old air of Patriots inevitably is long gone, replaced by a steadily mounting feeling of panic. In Super Bowl XLII, playing the game seemed almost to be a formality before handing the Lombardi trophy to New England. Ever since that fateful game, New England’s been unable to fully shake off its demons. In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots had the perfect chance for revenge and couldn’t make it happen.

12 days until Red Sox pitchers and catchers report.