Criticizing Israel Does Not Make You A White Supremacist!

The ugly head that conflates the criticism of Israel’s actions towards the dislodged people of Palestine with anti-Semitism, has risen again. And most of it surrounds a few statements from a Muslim-refugee, who wears a head scarf within the Capitol building, representing Minnesota’s 5th District, Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Omar is a freshmen Rep who has joined the caucus of new female House members setting the U.S. political and cultural norms on fire. Along with others, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocazio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), she supports new progressive proposals like the Green New Deal and the BDS movement. But what really caught the ire of Republicans and most Democratic leaders, are a few comments that Omar made recently criticizing Israel. For example, referring to AIPAC,

“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, Why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby … that is influencing policy

(PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

Statements like these have people screaming anti-Semitism. They say Omar is reinforcing anti-Semitic tropes, such as that Jews have dual-loyalty to both America and Israel, and that Jews are controlling the world with their money. But this couldn’t be more untrue. A criticism of lobbying groups such as AIPAC, and America’s fanatical loyalty to Israel, are true concerns. In the U.S., if you say or do anything out of line regarding Israel’s foreign policy, you are labelled as a bigot towards Jews.

Now, we know that the blind allegiance to Israel is based on three reasons:

  1. Zionism (Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews (Hebrew: Eretz Yisraʾel, “the Land of Israel”) is exceptionally strong among American Christians, and especially Evangelicals. They believe that the second-coming of Christ will not take place until Jews return to their homeland in Palestine.
  2. Secondly, according to In These Times, America got mixed up in the Cold War in the region when most Arab states were loyal to the U.S.S.R.
  3. And lastly, according to Chomsky (Who Rules The World, 2016), Israel serves as an available landing station for American forces if their were to be a catastrophic conflict in the Mid-East.

It has nothing to do with all that nonsense about being the only democratic state in the Middle East, or having some sort of special relationship between us and Israel.

In conclusion, another quote from the ITT’s March 4th piece sums it up in one statement:

“…(F)alse accusations of anti-Semitism—usually linked to criticism of Israel or Israel’s supporters in the United States—are on the rise as well. And we need to be clear: It is not anti-Semitic to support Palestinian rights, demand a change in U.S. policy towards Israel, expose the kind of pressure that the pro-Israel lobby brings to bear on elected officials, or call out Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.­­ “

PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

So get out there to support Rep. Omar, support the BDS movement, and form an activist group in your locality to contribute to the cause. And remember, critiques of Israeli crimes against humanity do not equate you with being anti-Semitic. That’s just a convenient and false construction used to silence the cries of the Palestinians. Don’t let it stop you. You are not a white supremacist.

“Pelosi and Democratic Leaders Condemn Omar Statements as Anti-Semitic”: How Criticism is Quashed

Any time someone expresses any criticism of Israel’s criminal actions towards the Palestinians, they are labeled as anti-Semite.

This is how AIPAC wants to keep it, too.

“Imperial Presidency”?

leadA piece in the NYT about how the slogan, or whatever you want to call it, “imperial presidency” is being used by the Right to describe the Obama administration. It’s in an effort to sway voters to their side proposing that Pres. Obama is overreaching his presidential powers.

But as the article points out, the GOP is one day saying that the President doesn’t lead, and then claims this “imperial presidency” idea the next day.

Read Here.


The “Nuclear Option”

fd489c51fA good piece in The Atlantic on the filibuster change in the Senate lead by Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

It will be interesting to see if, in time, this bold measure will comeback to bite the Senate Democrats when, someday, the GOP is in control. Changing the rules after decades of existence could change Washington forever, and not necessarily for the better.

Read Here.


Warren Not Ready for 2016 Presidential Race

0beb2c2ebA good article in The Atlantic explains why even though Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a true progressive loved by liberals, she could not win the 2016 presidential race because she has only spoke out on one issue and would not move to the center.

Read Here.


Obama Fixed Almost Nothing

1a618297-b5cb-423b-9fd7-36270b6c0b44-460x276According to this article in The Guardian about Pres. Obama apologizing for the way the new ACA was badly launched, and how some people’s current insurance plans were cancelled on them after being told they would not in a national pledge, is being followed up by a quick fix which is going to try to stop those cancellations. But check out this paragraph in the report here:

It remains unclear whether insurers or state regulators – who will receive a letter informing them of the so-called “enforcement discretion” – will actually act in ways that stop the cancellations. Officials conceded they had received no such guarantees from either states or insurers, many of whom were hoping to use the new law as a way to move customers onto higher-cost policies.

We need real answers on the ACA implementation’s problems or Obama is in real trouble.



Democratic Economic Rhetoric More Leftist

DEMS-articleInlineAn article  in the NYT reports that Democratic Party members are moving left of the centrist position in the economic debate to a more left-center position. With the slowly improving economy, they feel a more populist message may have more traction with the American public. And this movement is not only being led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren any longer, but rather by the President too.

But the problem is what if the Right begins screaming “class warfare” again? This term seems to resonate quite nicely for the GOP every time.

Read Here.

Voter Suppresion = Awful Policy Positions

The American system of voting leaves a lot to be desired and is certainly not one of the areas where we are the shining example of efficiency for the rest of the world.  Conservative David Frum penned an excellent piece shedding light on some of the issues just prior to the election that is definitely worth the time to read.  But the most worrisome and talked about problem in the United States at this time are the attempts by the right to try to suppress the rights of law-abiding voters across the country.

Just the same ole song.
Just the same ole song.

To be fair, if the shoe was on the other foot and Democrats were desperately looking for ways to win elections they were trailing, they would likely employ similar methods to try to win.  It is the nature of the beast and parties will look for any advantage they can get regardless of how immoral and reprehensible the tactic may be.  But for now, the offending group is the Republican Party and their methods are due some well-deserved criticism.

The most important factor to keep in mind is simply the effort being made.  People are looking through state election laws, deciding where to attack the hardest and make voting most difficult for likely Democratic supporters, and veiling the measures with the unrealistic idea voter fraud is a problem.  In short, time, money, and manpower is being used just to keep people from voting.  Which, underneath it all, means one critical reality for the Republican Party: they can’t win elections on their party platform and policy positions alone and they fully recognize this.

If you, as a political party, are trying to win races by making sure the supporters of your opponents don’t vote, you are acknowledging you cannot win people over on the issues and are using other means to influence the outcome.  Every dollar spent and every hour of work by someone devoted to this activity is recognition of your policy failures.  This is not an act that can be spun by the most hard-right media into something noble or patriotic or anything else other than what it is.  They have the choice to knock on doors or run more ads or print brochures selling their positions and they are choosing not to do this.  Instead, they are making the conscious decision to suppress voters as opposed to engaging them.

There is no spinning this as an act of healthy democracy or patriotism.  It is an act of desperation, immorality, cruelty, and class warfare.  The attempts at voter suppression in the pre-Civil Rights era were about fearing race.  The attempts in 2012 are clearly because of a fear of populism and this is just as shameful as the racism of the past.

Stunning Development Among Voting Veterans: They are Favoring the Democrat

I can’t say a lot of things that happen in politics surprises me mostly because of the incredibly slow pace of change in the American system.  This nugget of information in a Reuters article, however, is very surprising:

If the election were held today, Obama would win the veteran vote by as much as seven points over Romney.

This is a very significant change in the political leanings of veterans and a big change since the last presidential election.  As stated here, Obama lost the veteran vote in 2008 by ten points and John Kerry, a veteran himself, lost by sixteen points in ’04 to George Bush. Even if we assume the usual estimated 3% error in polling it’s still a double digit swing to the Democrat in 2012.

Republicans have typically been seen as the stronger party on defense for a very long time now and for reasons I’ve never actually understood.  Democratic candidates have been seen as doves on war/defense despite the reality of the past hundred years and who was in office when wars began.  Let’s quickly recap some of the most well known.  WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Clinton’s actions in Somalia and Eastern Europe in the ’90s were all implemented under Democratic presidents.  Both Iraq wars, Afghanistan, expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, and the actions of the Reagan administration in Latin America in the ’80s were all implemented by Republican presidents.  Assessing who is the dove and who is not when looking at history should be rather difficult.  Yet somehow, according to right-wing pundits, it’s not.  And they have used this to support their candidates very successfully for many election cycles now and always come out on top with veterans.

Until now.

So why the change?  Some potential reasons are given in the article from the individual level but let’s face the reality on the macro level.  Regardless of what your personal perception of the wars might be we all have to accept the reality that war is very ugly and brutal.  People die, come back with missing limbs, watch their close friends lose their lives, and are traumatized with PTSD.  When questions arise as to the reasons for the war and whether those reasons were worth fighting for, such as Iraq, the soldiers themselves who endure the heaviest loads are the ones who would most likely become disillusioned with the use of force by governments.

It is very clear this is now happening and the party most responsible for the action, the Republicans, might be paying a high price electorally.  The question now will be, if this trend continues, what will the Republican strategy be toward defense in the following election cycle?  It is very possible they might temper their rhetoric quite a bit and show a position where they would be less likely to commit troops unless it is blatantly necessary to all, including the American people.  This would be a very nice step in the right direction going forward as we should be very thoughtful and very reluctant when it comes to starting wars and initiating actions that take so many lives.

The Government Does Work! (We Just Aren’t Told About It)

Is the government really as incompetent as we sometimes perceive it to be?  Answer: no.  In fact, it is much more efficient than most of us give it credit for and does a lot of things we have all come to simply take for granted.  Jeff Greenfield discusses the Democrats’ biggest problem today which is the image that government is wasteful and is a burden on society and all Democrats want to do is further expand it wherever possible.  Delving into this a little deeper, it’s easy to see when the government screws up.  A scandal is uncovered and we are hit with a barrage of stories from the media.  But what about when the government works?  Do we always hear about that?  Is the perception of rampant incompetence fair?

Let’s take an extreme example to begin: WMDs in Iraq.  No reason to go too deeply into the details but as we all now know, there were none and it is pretty clear the government knew that before invading.  This becomes a story for the media to address and stays in the cycle for days, weeks, and months.  It is discussed by weapons experts, terrorism experts, Middle East region experts, family members of experts, people who made mud pies in preschool with those experts…you get the idea.  We get hit with so much information and so many stories for so long that our psyches cannot help but be worn to the point where we think government is a failure. Even if we take smaller examples of government failures, we would see they still get plenty of time in the media in comparison to any success.

And we should be discussing these things at length.  I’m certainly not arguing we shouldn’t.  The media is doing its job when it is actually making sure the government and the people within it are doing their jobs properly and exposing any problems when someone is behaving badly. But what about the media coverage when the government fails versus when it is successful?

If the government is doing its job and, for example, successfully implementing new safety procedures in a dangerous job, do we hear about it for hours, days, weeks?  What about if an FDA  restriction stops a salmonella outbreak before it even happens, how would we know?  Let’s use Shirley Sherrod as an example.  The vast majority of us would not know her name if not for the viciously edited video making her look like a racist and leading to her firing and later vindication.  But what about Shirley Sherrod before that incident?  Did we know her name?  Would we recognize her on the street as a competent government employee doing her job?  Where was the story of her successes prior to the scandal and why wasn’t that discussed for days in the media?  In this sense, the government is like an offensive lineman in football.  You rarely hears the names of these guys during the broadcast of a game…unless they commit a penalty.

When it comes to reporting from the media the government is in an unfair fight.  It will always be that way and it should always be that way.  But what we have to realize is there are successes by the government and they outnumber the failures exponentially.  The fact is we have come to simply take the successes for granted and no longer notice them on a regular basis.  We take for granted when the streets we drive on get paved for us.  We take for granted the gas prices that are still far lower than most other industrialized countries.  We take for granted our free education.  We take for granted safety regulations at work and the fact our food is not poisoned when we eat.  And how many of us took firefighters for granted prior to 9/11?

The public sector is not perfect much like the private sector.  There are, however, two important differences between these sectors.  One, the successes of government are all around us in our everyday lives but the media does not report on those successes the way they do the private sector’s victories (e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg being household names versus the average person trying to name a Secretary of HHS).  Two, the public sector is accountable through democracy and elections and the private sector is not.  When a politician fails, we can elect someone else.  When Goldman Sachs screws us, we can only watch helplessly as those execs get on their private planes and fly home to potentially screw us some more.

The government works and works really well a lot of the time.  Let’s not take that for granted anymore or else we might elect people who take those conveniences away.