Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Walking Dead: Choosing up Sides, Again.

 (Spoilers abound, if you have not seen Season 5, Episode 3: Four Walls and a Roof.)

Here's a first for this blog: a bible passage!  As Gareth and the termites were looking for the survivors in the church, the readings for the next week were plainly visible.  One of them was Luke 24:5.  The text of that passage is: "And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?". 

So that was no accident.  And it's a sign that the writers are paying attention to the details of story telling rather than just relying on the zombie action to move the narrative forward.

Tonight's episode of the Walking Dead was especially strong. For once, they let our people be genuinely smart and they paid off on Rick's "promise" to Gareth from the season premiere.  It also ended on an appropriate mysterious note.  I also officially admire the show runners for making the season 5 premiere so deceptive. (Watch the above video from about :48 to 1:04 to see what I mean.) This gambit created genuine suspense in tonight's episode.  Well done.

The writers did cheat once in this episode.  I'm not sure it was really realistic for Abraham to split from Rick's group as quickly as they did, but splitting the group in two does make it easier to write complex and overlapping episodes going forward.  It's safe to say that the groups will meet up again, but it's almost certain that we'll lose at least one character from each side before that happens.

Here are the two rosters. The numbers match their ranking in my previous post, which was based on how much I would miss these characters if they died.

A-Team: The Ricktatorship                         B-Team:  The Small Bus to D.C.
1. Rick                                                            6.  Maggie
2. Darryl                                                         7.  Glenn
3. Judith                                                        11. Rosita
4. Carl                                                           17. Abraham
5. Michonne                                                  18. Tara
8. Tyrese (40%).                                           19. Eugene
13. Sasha
15. Father Gabriel

Well, the A Team is the A Team for a reason. They have the best leadership.  I would want Darryl, Rick and Michonne on my team before anyone from B-Team and Tyres and Sasha are also great survivors.  Even Carl is pretty useful, and getting smarter all the time.  Father Gabriel and Judith don't bring much to the fight, but neither does Eugene.

I assume that Abraham will act like the B-Team captain.  But we all know Maggie and Glenn are infinitely smarter than him and every bit as brave.  Abraham is a great NCO, but I suspect he's not cut out for major command. If this was my unit, I would hang Captain's bars on Maggie and let the rest of the team do their part to not screw things up.

There are some pieces missing from this chess board. Four, by my count:

C Team: The Wild Cards.
10. Morgan
14. Beth
16. Carol
20. Morales

Tonight's curtain line was Darryl saying "Come on out" to someone that we could not see.  Forty eight hours have passed since he and Carol got in that car to chase after the car that Darryl recognized as the one driven by Beth's abductors.  We know from the coming previews that next week's episode will show us that Beth is in some kind of hospital in downtown Atlanta.  I suspect that a lot of the clips we see will be from the weeks or months between Beth's kidnapping and the events at the church.  But I don't think the entire episode will be in that hospital. (Maybe I'm giving the writers too much credit here, but I hope they learned from the fan response to last year's Governor only episodes and the episode about how Darryl doesn't kiss Beth.)

I don't think Darryl is with Carol because his voice is very curt towards whoever it is that's behind him in the woods.  I don't think we will see Morgan just yet, as we know he comes to the vicinity of Terminus by himself.  So Darryl is probably with someone new.  There have been rumors that Morales might return to the show this year.  The actor who plays Morales stoked these rumors by posting some photos on social media that seemed to imply he was back on set.  Maybe he headed towards Atlanta after things went bad for him in Birmingham.  Darryl would have remembered him, so maybe that will be him stepping out to join.

Which still Begs the question: what happened to Carol. Obviously that story closely relates to Beth's whereabouts since she was last seen pursing her kidnappers. Darryl's company, whether it's Morales or someone else will probably know where Beth is. Those stories could connect in a big way and we probably will have  a feel for what the rest of this half of the season will be like after next week.  But here's my stab at what Primary and Secondary stories of the next 5 episodes will be.

The Coming Episodes, Predictions.

Episode 4 ("Slabtown") :   I want this episode to be equal parts Beth in the hospital and What Happened to Carol and Darryl.  But the title seems to refer to the hospital where Beth has been taken. My hunch is that 90% of the episode will be about Beth but I hope we at least get a few minutes at the end to show us who is with Darryl.  Maybe just a quick scene to establish that they have to go to Atlanta to find her.

Episode 5 ("The Choice"):   Rick and the A-Team set out to find and/or free Beth.  Maggie and the B-Team meander Northward, get hit by walkers and someone dies. I suspect "the choice" refers to either the A-team deciding whether to go after Beth or Team B having to choose whether to press on to DC or accept some sort of diversion, like helping a newly discovered group of suvivors.

Episode 6 ("Heart Drift"):   Resolution, one way or the other, of Beth's story and more complications for Team B on the Road to DC.  Whose heart could be drifting?  I really hope this isn't about Darryl being torn between Beth and Carol but no other options come to mind.

Episode 7 ("Crossed")  Well the title opens a few possibilities.  The Cross could refer to the cross on the back of the car that Darry and Carol chased after, but I think it more likely refers to the A and B teams crossing paths. (A phrase that was used by Gareth tonight.)  So I assume the teams will meet up, mourn their respective losses and then head north.

Episode 8: As Yet Untitled:  Arrival at the Alexandria Free Zone.  The Alexandria Free Zone is a major part of the story in the comics.  It is essentially several blocks of Alexandria, Virginia that have been made safe by a group of about 30 survivors.  That sounds pretty similar to Woodbury in the comic book, so they might want to mix things up somehow.  (In the comics Woodbury was never idyllic and the Governor was known to be a bad guy from the beginning.)

I suspect this half-season might just end on a relatively peaceful note.  It could end up looking like a mirror image of the first half of season 4, beginning with action and ending with Rick's people in a seemingly stable environment.  Of course, I think they will at least hint at the next big villain or challenge.  My other hunch is that this will be the episode where we learn that Eugene and his "cure" are a crock.

Uber-nerd alert: An almost frame-by-frame look back at the season 5 preview.
I just re-watched the Season 5 Preview, with frequent use of the pause button.  The only things that we haven't seen yet, with time mark are:

a. Carol and Darryl standing in the woods, weapons at the ready. (2:04)  Probably from the episode where we learn what happened to them after they took off in that car.
b. Rick, Michonne, and Sasha enter some kind of store or wardrobe room. (2:20)

a. Glenn kills a walker by the side of the road (1:49)
b. Abraham decapitates a walker with a baseball bat in front of a fire house (1:55);
c. Abraham crying in anguish at a roadside (2:03).  So someone from B-team catches one.
d. Abraham, Rosita and Glenn stand by the cab of a truck as the walkers exit that fire house (2:10)
e.  5. The church bus goes airborne over what appears to be a parked car.  (2:14).  This one has the look of Eugene screwed up again.

The last 30 seconds show Beth in the hospital, some of which we saw in the previews of next week's episode.   At 2:45 we see her apparently looking for an escape route. We then see either a walker or a female inmate/patient biting a guard.  Then we see Beth shoot a walker in the face with a hand gun.  At 2:50 she is shown running away from the building in her hosptial gown.  A male inmate/patient is standing behind her but doesn't look to be running.

i. Carl and Roista pointing guns at someone in an office.  (2:14)  This could be an outtake from tonight's episode.  The office looks similar to Gabriel's.  Or maybe they wind up in another office after the teams cross paths again.
ii.  A bus (but I don't think it's the church short bus) goes off of a bridge in downtown Atlanta. (2:23) This is probably from when they spring Beth out of the hospital.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Walking Dead Season 5 Preview (one episode late)

Last week's season 5 premiere of The Walking Dead was definitely the most action-packed premier in the history of the show.  I was very satisfied with the action and with the character development.  One thing that stuck out to me is how little dialogue our main characters had in the episode.

The most obvious difference between this and the previous seasons is that it (apparently) won't be be focused on a single location.  Season one took place primarily in the Quarry, two on the farm, three in the jail.  Season four was split between the first half in the prison and the 2nd half on the road to Terminus. Season five will apparently also be spent primarily on the road but it's not clear where they will head.  (Presumably they will eventually try to make it to D.C. in pursuit of Eugene's cure.)

The trap that the show has painted itself into is that the survivors seem destined to bounce from one horrible place to the next for as long as this show lasts.  (Which is going to be quite awhile, given it enormous ratings success.)  The only things I can say for sure is that they will encounter some new survivors (including Detective Carver from the Wire) and that they will again cross paths with Gareth again.  I think Gareth has great potential as a character.  It will be fun to see how he interacts with the survivors when they meet up again.  Most importantly, we know that we'll find out what's going on with Beth and with Morgan!  Lots to look forward to.

I like I that the story is unpredictable, at least for now. So rather than make a long list of predictions for the season, I'll focus on the perennial topic of the show: who is going to die and who is going to live.  I have ranked the significant characters below by how much I want them to survive. The number in parenthesis is my estimate of how likely they are to die this season.

1. Rick (0%)  To me, the show is still about him.  I know he's not always the most compelling character and there are some better actors in the ensemble, but I think the show is still centered on his journey through this apocalypse.  I want him to survive to a cure more than anyone else.

2. Darryl (0%). The best actor in the cast and the baddest character among the survivors.  Norman Reedus actually makes more money per episode than Andrew Lincoln, and for good reason.  Fans really would riot if he left the show.  The only way that happens is if gets sick of doing the show.

3. Judith (25%).  Obviously I have no investment in her as an individual but her birth and recent rescue by Tyrese are the only good thing to happen to this group in 4 seasons.

4. Carl (50%).  Similar to the above characters. He represents some semblance of hope for the future and has become a better actor as the seasons go by.  His age limits the story telling in some ways, because it's getting awkward that Carl has gone from 10 to 15 in the roughly 2 years since the apocalypse happened.  (Consider that Laurie must have gotten pregnant at about the same time as the apocalypse and Judith is only right about one year old.) So there must be some temptation to kill him off. But I don't want to see that happen.

5. Michonne (0%).  I still want to know how this woman got to be an expert at wielding a kitana, but I do see infinite possibilities for her in the future.  And she's way too popular to kill off.

6. Maggie (20%).  She's a good actor and very, very, very easy on the eyes.  Now that Hershel is gone, either she or Tyrese will emerge as the conscience of the group.

7. Glenn (70%).  Well, someone important has to die this season and Glenn seems most likely.  His death will be a lost to the cast, but I think he's well positioned to do other things in Hollywood.  And his passing could set up a deep story line for Maggie.

8. Tyrese (40%).  I still think of him as Cutty and I loved the scene last week when he beat that douchebag to death.  But they have clearly established that he is willing to take risks to do the right thing and that's not a recipe for long term survival.

9. Gareth (60%).  I found the Governor's story line deeply disappointing because I don't think the character was well written.  I think that Gareth has potential to be much better and I think the actor has the chops to elevate the story.

10. Morgan (20%).  He's such an integral part of the show, despite only being on 3 episodes.  I think that he's in for the long haul, but it's hard to say for sure.

11. Rosita. (25%) Any woman who makes the effort to keep shaving her legs in the zombie apocolypse deserves to live.

12. Bob (49%)  Ranked ahead of Sash solely because of the Wire.

13. Sasha (51%) Bob ans Sasha are now a couple, which makes me think one of them is doomed. I think Sasha is more likely to die, but I will switch that if Tyrese dies.  The show likes to have people around to mourn the dead.

14. Beth (10%) I think they are trying to open some new doors through her story, which probably means it will carry on for awhile.

15. Father Gabriel I haven't even seen him yet, but he's a Wire alumni so he can't be at the very bottom.

16. Carol (55%).  She's a good actress and her character has become a big part of the group but I just don't see a great arc for her. And if she does hook up with Darryl, she's doomed.  A season of brooding Darryl will be very good for the ratings.

17. Abraham (10%) He has potential in the story but I think that Darryl (who does not exist in the comic book) fills a lot of the space that this guy filled in the comic book.  But Michael Cudlitz is a good actor and I like the fact that he has a clear motivation.

18. Tara. (60%)  Not exactly sure why she's still alive.  I don't have anything against the character but I'm not really sure what she adds to the group, other than being the only gay character still alive.

19. Eugene.  (50%)  I've been waiting for an intellectual to join the group since season one.  And this is the doofus we get?  Oi vey.

20. Morales. (?) Remember him?  Season one. Left with his family for Birmingham.  As far as we know, he's still alive.  I doubt we'll see him again but 20 is a nice round number.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

By the Time We Got to Arizona

Who knew?

Full moon is rising
The Sky is black
I need your call, I'm coming back
The road is straight cast
Wind's in my eyes.
The engine roars between my thighs

From desert plains I bring you love
From desert plains I bring you love

Desert Plains, written by Glen Tipton, K.K. Downing and Rob Halford, 1981

Judas Priest was my favorite band in Junior High.  Rob Halford was technically in the closet at the time, and being a typical 12 year old straight boy, I wanted him to not be gay.  But the one song that just gave it away for me was Desert Plains. It was pretty clear to me, even at that age, that he was singing about a man.  There is no pronoun that gives this away; it just feels gay.  And not in a campy or flamboyant way.  It's just a love song and it's not about a woman.

Halford lived in Arizona at the time.  Yesterday, Arizona became a marriage equality state pursuant to a ruling by federal district judge John Sedgwick.  This happened just one year after the Arizona legislature passed a law that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to homosexual people on religious grounds.  The governor vetoed that law but she wanted the attorney general to appeal this ruling.  He declined.

So choosing a song to celebrate this one was easy.  The other option, after all, was an Eagles song.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The High Water Mark

"No matther whether th’ constitution follows h’ flag or not, th’ Supreme Coort follows th’ election returns” Humorist Finley Peter Dunne, writing as his alter ego, Mr. Dooley, in 1901.

This post was supposed to go up yesterday.  But a clerical error at the Supreme Court threw things into chaos for about 24 hours.  But by the close of business today we had two big developments; marriage equality in Nevada and in West Virginia.

Meanwhile, the of Idaho charged forward with an almost certain to fail appeal of the recent decsioin by the ninth circuit.  The actions of the Governors of Idaho and Nevada are completely consistent with my basic premise: the march of marriage equality tracks with the will of the voters. West Virginia is a slightly more complex example. Although the President only got 36 percent of the vote in 2012, its governor is a Democrat and I think it's safe to say that opposition to gay marriage is now untenable in national Democratic party politics.

As of this writing, 27 states (and DC) with marriage equality and 24 states without.  All but three states that voted for Obama have marriage equality.  Michigan is the only state where the President got more than 51% of the vote that does not have marriage equality. Only four Romney states have marriage equality and one of them, Indiana, was carried by Barack Obama in 2008.

Today, I re-crunched the numbers I had prepared for this blog yesterday.  It would have been inaccurate and wrong to not give West Virginia it's due place in history.  Thankfully, West Virginia is a small state so it didn't move the numbers much.  So I crunched the numbers.  In the 27 jurisdictions with marriage equality, President Obama got 55.8% of the vote and Governor Romney got 42.3%. That's a 14 point blowout, with a margin of nearly 10 million votes. In the 23 states without marriage equality, the President got only 45.1% and Romney netted 53.4%.  That's an eight and a half nine point deficit for the President totaling over 5 million votes.

So the equality states are solidly Democratic and the other states are solidly Republican. This disparity will level off in the coming weeks.  Idaho's stay of the 9th Circuit's ruling could be lifted as soon as tomorrow.  Officials in Kansas and North Carolina have hinted that they might not pursue their appeal further.  In a matter of weeks, if not days, we'll have another handful of states with marriage equality.  I'll probably update the numbers once again when those results are in.  But my point has been made.  This movement has been driven by the people and their representatives and even the judges appointed to serve them are not immune to popular sentiment.  In this instance, that happens to be a mitzvah.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Death Throes of Civil Unions

The states in the left column were carried by Barack Obama. The states in the right column were carried by Mitt Romney. Dark Blue indicates marriage equality. Nevada is green because as of this moment, it only has civil unions.  The light blue and red states have no legal recognition of gay relationships.

Another exciting day for marriage equality, with two major developments.  To keep up with these changes I have added a new wrinkle to the above table.  The states with yellow font are states where gay marriage is still not permitted but that are in circuits which have ruled to strike down state bans on gay marriage.  (Colorado became the first to do so earlier today.) Most likely these states will begin to flip in the coming days and two weeks from now, the chart will be mostly blue.

The most western states might take a little longer.  Today that the Ninth Circuit upheld two trial court rulings against state bans of gay marriage.  But that means these rulings are not directly affected by the Supreme Court's surprising decision to  not hear appeals from other circuits.  Alaska, Montana and Arizona can probably hold off the inevitable for a little while, although I'm sure there will be an expedited movement to change that fact in all of those states.

Idaho and Nevada also had an option to delay the inevitable.  Today's ruling came from a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.  Those states could have requested a hearing in front of the entire Ninth Circuit but it is a virtual certainty that the result would be the same.  The early indications are that they will not waste their taxpayers money on that. So as soon as tomorrow, I hope to update my chart again.

But today is truly historic.  We now have 25 states with marriage equality and 25 without.  Throw in DC and we can say that a majority of jurisdictions in this country have full marriage equality, barely ten years after Massachusetts became the first.

Another point of history is that today might be the very last day that this country has "civil unions" as the closest facsimile of marriage available to gay people.  Colorado went past that point today and Nevada is expect to do the same tomorrow.  Soon, my map will be just blue or red.  And it's trending blue, in a hurry.

UPDATE (and it's awesome):  The Opinion from the Ninth circuit in the Idaho case includes the following sentence, which ends with a footnote:

Same-sex marriage, Governor Otter asserts, is part of a shift towards a consent-based, personal relationship model of marriage, which is more adult-centric and less child-centric.(12)

Footnote (#12) Reads:

He also states, in conclusory fashion, that allowing same-sex marriage will lead opposite-sex couples to abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in extramarital affairs, take on demanding work schedules, and participate in time-consuming hobbies. We seriously doubt that allowing committed same-sex couples to settle down in legally recognized marriages will drive opposite-sex couples to sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.

Latta v. Otter D.C. No 1:13-cv-00482-CWD

Monday, October 6, 2014

History When You Least Expect It.

Blue for Equality, Green for Civil Unions, Red for Neither

This morning the Supreme Court declined to hear seven pending appeals related to gay marriage bans. The immediate consequence is that gay marriages are legal in Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah and Oklahoma.  Within weeks, it will also be legal in West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming. That latter group of states is not reflected in the above chart because I've been trying to track the gradual progress of this issue in order to show that the law is following the will of the people.  More about that later.

The news caught me by surprise.  It only takes four of nine justices to hear a case and my assumption was that the four conservative justices, who voted against Windsor, would vote to hear it.  But at least one of them chose not to hear all of these cases.  We may never know how the vote went, but there are three plausible scenarios:

1. Chief Justice Roberts didn't want to deal with this case just yet. He might not want the headache and publicity of a high-profile gay marriage case.  I'm pretty sure that deep down, he does not give a shit about this issue, and would much prefer to go back to handing out privileges to corporations and chipping away at the rights of criminal defendants. 

2. The Justices are waiting for a circuit split.  Perhaps he would rather wait until next year or until a circuit split arises.The Sixth Circuit, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, might soon rule in favor of the right of states to ban gay marriages. If that happens, then the issue will be more pertinent a year from now and even some of the liberal judges might vote to hear that case.

3.  Antonin Scalia had a moment of integrity. Well, stranger things have happened.  In his Windsor dissent, Justice Scalia predicted that the Court's opinion would inevitably lead to a ruling that states did not have the power to ban gay marriages.  After all, the Windsor majority held that the federal government could not deny the due process rights of American citizens.  It's not much a of a leap to infer that state governments also could not do so.  By that logic, the principled thing to do would be to let the lower court opinions stand.  Tony, if that's what you did....I salute you.  But let's just say I have my doubts.

Where we Stand and Where We Go Next.
Whatever the reason, the headline is that more than 50 million people will live with marriage equality.  For the first time, some permanent damage has been done to my underlying theory about the spread of this freedom tracking with democratic trends.  It's obvious at a glance that blue states are nearly unanimous in allowing gay marriage.  But now a small number of red states have marriage equality too.  Included among them is Utah, the state where the lowest percentage of voters chose the President last time out.  Wyoming, the President's 2nd worst state in 2012, will soon join Team Equality too.

The next big decisions will come from the sixth and ninth circuits.  If Marriage Equality prevails in both, only Deep South and a swath of the Great Plains will not have full marriage equality.  If there is a split, then the state by state fight will resume for another year.  And this time next year, I'll probably be blogging about how the Supremes are going to take a case and give us a final answer. And that opinion will come out at the start of the next next general presidential election.

Good times.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Masochists Ought Not Live by the Golden Rule

                                          Things were better once, (yes, really.)

Whenever violence flares in Israel, each side has a plausible claim that the other "started it".  But "it" is here a relative term in this conflict, which which can only be understood from multiple scales of time, distance and culture.  I've organized this post chronologically, since it's the easiest way to try to understand what's going on there, at least for a history major like me.

1.  The Origin Story.

The most depressing view of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the one rooted in theology.  Jerusalem is a sacred site in both the Old Testament and the Koran.  Jews believe that the Temple Mount is where "the divine presence" resides.  Sunni Muslims believe that this very same spot is where Mohammed ascended to heaven. Fundamentalist Christians agree with the Jews on the significance of this spot, with some believing that the site must be a Jewish temple in order for the second coming of Christ to happen.

Being a lapsed Catholic Atheist, none of these views have ever been persuasive to me.  And I think the religious dimension of the conflict is over stated.  (Yes, really.)  Of course people pay lip service to the theological importance of this site.  And some small percentage of people are willing to die for that idea. But most of the religious fervor is really the outgrowth of cynical political manipulation.  There is a lot of political grief to be avoided by pretending this fight is about God Almighty.  But really it's about real estate.

I'm old enough to remember when the Troubles in Northern Ireland were thought to be intractable because of the religious differences between Protestants and Catholics there.  But people got over it. I don't expect the Middle East to become as secular as a prosperous Ireland became in the 1990s, but I do take the point that these differences can be overcome, and it doesn't take a miracle to make it so.

2.  The Middle Part of the 20th Century.

Modern day Israel was created by the Western Powers in the aftermath of the near extermination of European Jewry during World War 2.  One popular view is that the allies felt guilty about not doing more to prevent or mitigate the Holocaust.  There is some truth in that.  Britain was certainly anxious to get out of the empire business and Israel seemed like a feel-good story in the immediate post-war years.  Eventually the Brits and the Americans, as is their wont, drew some lines on a map of what had been called Mandatory Palestine (yes, really) and carved the area into an Arab state and a Jewish state.

The Arab world never embraced this plan and soon enough, a war broke out. Israel eventually won that war.  The rest of the Arab world eventually gave up the fight, but refused to recognize Israel as a legitimate state.  Over the next few decades, the cause of the Palestinian people became a popular one in the Arab world.  By 1967, the Arab powers were planning an invasion of Israel.  Israel preemptively attacked those military forces in what became known as the Six Day War for the swiftness with which Israel destroyed the military forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.  Israel occupied a large swath of land outside its original borders in order to prevent any future invasion attempts.

So, depending on your point of view, this conflict is the fault of:

a. The Brits in 1948 for cavalierly abandoning a region that it had been responsible for without much concern for what came in its wake.
b. The Arab powers for planning an invasion of Egypt.
c. The Israelis for preemptively starting that war and/or occupying more land in its aftermath.

There is some truth in all of these theories.  Together they add up to the truth.  But most folks only focus one one of them.  Which one they prefer to believe correlates very strongly with their ethnic and religious affiliations. Knowing this little bit of history will do little to resolve the current crisis.

3.  The Recent Past.

In 1979 Egypt became the first Arab power to formally recognize the right of Israel to exist.  In exchange for this, they got back the land  they had lost as a consequence of the Six Day War.  This did not exactly open the flood gates of Arab countries rushing to recognize Israel.  But by the 1990s the international community began to get both sides to talk to one another and Israel eventually agreed to grant autonomy to the portions of their country with majority Arab Muslim populations.  The goal was to eventually create a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians walked away from a deal negotiated with a left-wing Israeli government, and facilitated by the Clinton administration that would have given them almost all of the land they wanted.  The Palestinian Authority was afraid that if it made the concessions required by the deal, more radical elements, such as Hamas, would supplant their standing, and assume political power.  (Spoiler alert: this happened anyway, at least in Gaza, even though Arafat walked away from a very fair offer of a Palestinian state.)

In recent years, Israel has been governed by right-wing coalitions led by the Likud Party. Gaza has been governed by Hamas since 2006.  Hamas and Likud both owe their political status to appearing tough on the other side.  Likud has been very aggressive about building settlements on land that belonged to Palestinians before 1967 and has imposed harsh  restrictions on the people of Gaza.   Hamas refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist and their political appeal is rooted in posturing as the real champions of Palestine, committed to the destruction of Israel.

4. The Current War.

So now we have two peoples governed by parties who owe their political viability to demonizing the other side.  Israel has accomplished great things.  Among these great things is its survival as a pluralistic democracy surrounded by a host of hostile, undemocratic countries.  But its survival has come at a price, not just in blood but to compromises with its own principals.  Israel agreed to let the Palestinian people have a kind of pseudo-sovereignty but has retained de facto military control over its territory and economy.  Worse still, it has continued to build illegal settlements on land acquired after the 1967 war.  Even before this war, the conditions in Gaza were dire and analogies to apartheid South Africa were not without merit.

The Palestinian people in Gaza have reacted to these deprivations by electing governments run by Hamas.  Hamas was born in the 1980s as a reaction to the decision by the PLO to seek a negotiated two-state solution with Israel.  Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment in its place of an Islamic state.  It also dabbles in Holocaust denial and all sorts of unsavory behavior that you would expect from a bunch of religious fanatics raised to believe they are at war with Satan.

During the course of the first half of 2014, Hamas fired about 150 rockets into Israel.  Most of these rockets missed their targets or were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defense system. Hamas even erected a statue of one such rocket to celebrate this futile campaign.  On June 12th, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. Three days later, the Israeli government accused Hamas of committing the crime.  They denied it, but in a typical bit of insane political theater, the head of Hamas "blessed the hands that captured" the teenagers, explaining that such actions were a duty of Palestinian people.

So a few weeks later, Israel began to bomb Gaza.  A couple hundred Palestinians were killed.  Hamas increased its own bombing campaign, but to little effect.  Only one Israeli citizen was killed during the opening phase of the current war.  Early on in the conflict, Egypt offered to broker a ceasefire between the two sides.  Israel agreed and held its fire for six hours.  Hamas did not, and continued launching its futile, wasteful, ineffective weapons, which were either shot down by the Iron Dome or landed some place where little damage could be done.  Eventually Israel resumed its rocket campaign, and the body count in Gaza continued to grow, while no additional Israelis died.

Eventually Israel launched a ground offensive.  This of course has caused hundreds of more Palestinian deaths, and resulted in the death of a few Israeli soldiers. The latest estimates are that about 600 Palestinians have died and that 25 Israelis have died.  A majority of the dead Palestinians were civilians.  All but one of the dead Israelis was a soldier. (The three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were also killed, in the run up to the war, as well as one Palestinian teenager who was apparently kidnapped by Israelis to avenge their deaths.)

5.  What's Next: More of the Same.

The war will stretch on for another week or two, perhaps a bit longer.  Eventually Hamas will run out of rockets to fire.  Once the Netanyahu government is convinced that Hamas has been temporarily deprived of its ability to launch significant numbers of rockets into Israel, it will stop shooting.  Then, both sides will declare victory.  And both sides will be right.  Hamas will look "tough" for having refused the ceasefire and for having waged its foolish "resistance" against a far superior military power. Likud will look "tough" for having inflicted a lot of casualties and for temporarily removing an immediate security threat by destroying Hamas' tunnels and depleting its armory.

For awhile, both sides will go back to "normal".  Israel will keep building illegal settlements. Hamas will continue to posture as the one true force of opposition to Zionism.  And in six months, or a year, some other crime or atrocity or diplomatic slight will give one side an excuse to rsume trying to kill the other.

6.  What is to be done?

Israel is not a project of lines hastily drawn by a dying empire on its way out the door.  It is a country.  A rich and powerful one, whose citizens lead a very comfortable lifestyle and whose artists and musicians and scientists are the envy of the world.  It is here to stay.  Eventually I hope it elects a government that realizes that the policies of settlement construction and oppressive occupation are not helpful to its long term interests.

Palestine is still a wish.  It has many friends and world opinion is increasingly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people.  Perhaps this fight will eventually be remembered as the time that Israel went too far and changed the diplomatic sympathies of its fellow wealthy democracies.  But an even better outcome would be if it became the fight that finally made the people of Gaza realize that Hamas does not have their best interest at heart.  Hamas can not win a military campaign against Israel.  And the Palestinian people can't expect the world's sympathy for very long if they continue to elect leaders that would rather bite the ankles of the enemy than build something positive for its people.

There is no reason that the land of Israel can't be divided into two sovereign nations.  But the current conflict benefits those who are in power there.  It makes it easy for them to stay in power. They don't have to solve the problem for as long as the enemy behaves so inhumanely.

I am not optimistic about this situation being resolved.  Such a resolution will require a degree of foresight and political patience that is not commonly found and is unlikely to be bred by the current cycle of violence.  Eventually someone will have to be the good guy and walk away from a useless, never ending fight in favor of an uncertain future. For Israel this would mean electing a government that recognizes that the construction of settlements on Arab land is counterproductive to long term security and that renounces the harsh restrictions it imposes on the economy and movement of Palestinian people.  For Gaza it would mean electing a government that accepts the permanent existence of Israel and the futility of the military resistance that now serves as a poor, unsatisfying substitute for a realistic vision of its future. In the mean time, Israel will continue to compromise its democratic principles for a false sense of security.  And the people of Hamas will accept a persistent, futile struggle rather than accept the reality of their situation.

The leftist tendency to root for the under dog and to empathize with the oppressed may make Hamas' "resistance" to Israel seem noble. I'll admit that it's hard to accept defeat, particularly when you are so certain that justice is on your side.  The price of this stubborn resistance to reality is being paid by hundreds of unarmed civilians.  They deserve better than that.  They deserve a nation of their own. Spitting into the wind will not get them there.