Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Laid Out for All to See

The leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President earlier this month referred to his political enemies as "vermin," thus continuing a long tradition of GOP politicians who vilified Democrats personally, usually in less crude or less blatant terms. Steve M notes that (parentheses mine) Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6), George HW Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich were perhaps the most consequential Republicans whose delight in ad hominem attacks were generally dismissed as being within the boundaries of political norms.

The No More Mister Nice Guy guy cites Media Matters statistics demonstrating that the Big Three broadcast TV networks, the three major cable news networks, and the five highest circulating U.S. newspapers all gave far more coverage to Hillary Clinton's 2016 "basket of deplorables" comment than to Donald Trump's "vermin" comment.

Media Matters could have reinforced that point by noting that the "vermin" remark is disturbingly consistent with the authoritarian state the ex-President plans to form if he is able to remove the "ex" in fourteen months. In July, we learned from Government Executive

Former aides close to President Trump are working to revive and expand his signature proposal to upend the federal civil service, according to a new report, and are working in conjunction with the former commander in chief to quickly purge thousands of federal employees if he were to return to office.

The plan, as detailed to Axios and confirmed by Government Executive, would bring back Schedule F, a workforce initiative Trump pushed in the 11th hour of his term to politicize the federal bureaucracy. The former officials and current confidantes are, through a network of Trump-loyal think tanks and public policy organizations, creating lists of names to supplant existing civil servants. They have identified 50,000 current employees that could be dismissed under the new authority they seek to create, Axios reported and Government Executive confirmed, though they hope to only actually fire a fraction of that total and hope the resulting “chilling effect” will cause the rest to fall in line.

In October 2020, just before the presidential election, Trump signed his controversial executive order creating a new class of federal employees excepted from the competitive service.

Last December, slamming the election he had lost two years earlier, Trump tweeted on his ironically-named Truth Social "A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution, Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

In possibly (the day is still young) his most recent rant, Trump charged

MSNBC (MSDNC) uses FREE government approved airwaves, and yet it is nothing but a 24 hour hit job on Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party for purposes of ELECTION INTERFERENCE. Brian Roberts, its Chairman and CEO, is a slimeball who has been able to get away with these constant attacks for years," Trump wrote. "It is the world's biggest political contribution to the Radical Left Democrats who, by the way, are destroying our Country. Our so-called 'government' should come down hard on them and make them pay for their illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch!"

Did I say "rant?" It is less a rant than a statement of intent and warning.

Steve M. believes one of the primary reasons tasteless GOP cracks about Democrats are largely ignored while the media obsessed over Hillary Clinton's "deplorable gaffes" is that the media is, contrary to widespread opinion, not liberal.

However, there is another major reason that insults by Donald Trump, who regularly condemns his perceived opponents in the harshest, most extravagant ways, are given so little coverage. It is, ironically, that it is not an aberration, but rather in character.

Hillary Clinton's politically inept gaffe surprised, and shocked because it was so unlike a sane and sober and mainstream politician to say such a thing about a group of voters, even if, as we've learned from the 1/6/21 insurrection and its aftermath, is largely accurate.

By contrast, Donald Trump's remarks and statements of intent are part of a pattern. Nevertheless,  the attention paid to his plans is diminished by the attention paid by CNN and other outlets to the four criminal indictments lodged against the former President.

The fascination these matters hold for MSNBC is the most extreme example. The seemingly endless commentary  from pundits, and especially lawyers, about gag orders and other relative minutiae should merely highlight the twists and turns, turns and twists, which render such speculation immaterial.

All of which serves to reinforce the instinct to slam Trump as stupid, demented, self-destructive, unhinged, or out-of-control rather than dangerous. The 45th President probably is none of these, and two of his main advisors, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, are surely none of these.  Donald Trump may be unable to produce a doctoral thesis describing in full his plans and schemes, but the will is there and the loyal confidantes he would bring in, coupled with those he would embed to replace current civil servants, would put into place the lawless autocracy he relishes.

But whatever the reasons, the media is generally neglecting Donald Trump's master plan, In an exception from a journalist I've bashed a few times, CNN's Dana Bash (beginning at 2:16 of the video below) states

You talk to historians like The Washington Post did and we just need to say for the record that the term "vermin" was really effectively used by Adolph Hitler and by Mussolini, who dehumanized people and encouraged heir followers to go after their opponents.

That was only a start, but it was a start.  With less than 12 months to go before the next presidential and congressional elections, much more is needed.


Monday, November 27, 2023

Netanyahu's Blind Spot

The day after the world's foremost and now most popular terrorist group massacred Israelis, The Times of Israel noted

For years, the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.

The idea was to prevent Abbas — or anyone else in the Palestinian Authority’s West Bank government — from advancing toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Thus, amid this bid to impair Abbas, Hamas was upgraded from a mere terror group to an organization with which Israel held indirect negotiations via Egypt, and one that was allowed to receive infusions of cash from abroad.

Hamas was also included in discussions about increasing the number of work permits Israel granted to Gazan laborers, which kept money flowing into Gaza, meaning food for families and the ability to purchase basic products.

Israeli officials said these permits, which allow Gazan laborers to earn higher salaries than they would in the enclave, were a powerful tool to help preserve calm.

The number of work permits granted Gazans ballooned prolifically through Netanyahu's five stints as Prime Minister and

Additionally, since 2014, Netanyahu-led governments have practically turned a blind eye to the incendiary balloons and rocket fire from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel has allowed suitcases holding millions in Qatari cash to enter Gaza through its crossings since 2018, in order to maintain its fragile ceasefire with the Hamas rulers of the Strip.

This was no way to commit genocide and nothing an apartheid society or government would do. Moreover, the policy of propping up Hamas while undermining Fatah and the people it governed (on the West Bank) not only stoked the conditions which led to the 10/7 slaughter but also reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Islam. 

Aayan Hirsi Ali was raised as a devout Muslim in Kenya, escaped the culture of religious extremism to become a member of the Dutch Parliament, and is now an American citizen.  Seven years before the butchers of Gaza attacked Israel and tried to wipe out Jews and take other Jews as hostage, she described radical Islamism in a short, balanced video.  Yet its prescient message was completed ignored, with devastating consequences, by Prime Minister Netanyahu. She explained

If the Jihadists win and the hope for a reformed Islam dies, the rest of the world will pay a terrible price. The terror attacks in New York, London, Madrid and Paris and many other places are only a preview of what's to come. For this reason I believe that it's foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace. 

Individuals respond to their religious faith in various ways, so

When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent. This is manifestly not the case. There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world,. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam. Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses including, but not limited to, adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality, and apostasy- that is, to leave Islam. Those who tolerate this intolerance do so at their peril.

That would be all manner of countries and political leaders globally. They have included, ironically, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose obsession with the Palestinian Authority has blinded him to the far greater danger always posed by the religious fanatics of Hamas. Evidently observing irony, Ali continued

As someone who has known what it is to live without freedom, I watch in amazement as those who call themselves liberals and progressives- people who claim to make common cause with the forces in the world that manifestly pose the greatest threats to that very freedom and those very minorities.

She recognized years ago, back during the Obama Administration, what virtually the entire world refuses to recognize even now.  Citing an example from her own experience, 
Ali emphasizes 

By labeling critical examination of Islam as inherently "racist," we make the chances of reformation far less likely. There are limits on criticism of Christianity at American universities or anywhere else, for that matter; why should there be of Islam?

There should be few if any restraints placed on criticism of any religion. Yet, even now- maybe especially now- criticism of Islam is suppressed as symptomatic of white supremacy or Western colonialism.  Further

Instead of contorting Western intellectual traditions so as not to offend our Muslim fellow citizens, we need to defend both those traditions and the Muslim dissidents who take great risks to promote them. We should support these brave men and women in every way possible.... These are the Muslims we should be supporting for our sake as much as for the sake of Islam.

Netanyahu defied this argument by propping up Hamas and squelching the less extreme leaders on the West Bank. If he had done otherwise, such as by realistically accommodating Fatah and isolating Hamas, the latter would have been weakened.

Ali concludes

If we do in fact support political, social and religious freedom, then we cannot in good conscience give Islam a free pass pass on the grounds of multicultural sensitivity. We need to say to Muslims in the West: if you want to share in our societies, to share in those material benefits, then you need to accept that our freedoms are not optional.

"Islam is peace," lied President George W. Bush six days after a terrorist attack killed nearly 3,000 Americans in New York, New York.  Now, after a terrorist attack responsible for approximately 15 times as many individuals on a per capita basis, the myth that "Islam is peace" lives on, with no one permitted to mention the words "Islam" or "Muslim" in anything remotely related to the Middle East. 

But while Islam is not peace, it's not war, either, or at least as it's interpreted by peaceful Muslims.  Putting his lot in with the most fanatical individuals, Bibi Netanyahu decided not to distinguish violent Muslims from the millions of non-violent Muslims on the West Bank. It was a fundamental, unforced error which helped expose Israel to an unprecedented attack and severely undermined the safety and security of his country.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Pause the Nonsense

Trying to present a pro-Hamas- uh, pro-Palestinian- message, these young women are confused.

At a pro-Hamas- I mean, pro-Palestinian- rally in Washington, D.C., one woman speaks and then the other, remarking

We're here to call for a ceasefire. We're here to call for an end to the illegal occupation of occupied Palestine and then Palestinian liberation. And liberation for all, including those who are indigenous to North America.

It's just a guess, but the call for "liberation for all" does not include Israelis, given that the slogan of Palestinian liberation is "from the river to the sea" (the eastern to the western borders of Israel) "Palestine will be free."

One woman continues "They have decided to pause- a humanitarian pause, when in fact there is still a genocide occurring today in the U.S. to indigenous people in America." She proposes consumers avoid buying products on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to stop "genocide of Palestinians and the genocide of people in America."  

The 2023 defense budget stands at $816.7 billion. Although a great deal of that is appropriated for purposes other than weaponry, the inability of the USA military to wipe out- commit genocide- against indigenous people is both startling and terrifying. Even if "indigenous" included everyone born in this nation (as it literally does), the genocide could not fail.

The "Stop Cop City" (in Fulton County, Ga.) tweeter, who is rabidly anti-Israel, is favorably impressed with the message "You don't 'pause' a genocide. You pause a TV show. You pause a movie. You pause a video game. You don't 'pause' ethnic cleansing. That's not how that works."

Exactly- and that's yet more evidence, on top of all the rest, that Tel Aviv is not pursuing genocide. It has agreed to a pause, which is a remarkably foolish means of trying to wipe out a people. As is obvious to any Zionist or any completely neutral observer, Israel is not committing genocide. The first clue is the effort to move civilians from northern Gaza, where Israel has concentrated its attack, to southern Gaza; the warnings it gives remaining  residents before bombing, a second clue; the emphasis upon military targets by a country which could wipe out an entire population if it wished, a third; the disinterest in attacking Jordan, which is probably majority Palestinian, a fourth clue. 

There is far more evidence that Israel is not committing genocide. An additional one is that individuals who claim Israel is committing genocide don't know the meanings of "indigenous" or "Palestine" and assert with apparent sincerity that the USA currently is conducting a genocidal campaign against tribal people in its midst. Whether stupid or bigoted or both, there is a dangerous number of people on the streets and social media these days spouting dangerous and inaccurate disinformation, which may leave a whirlwind of disaster in its wake.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Issues Raised

There are misconceptions in both Cornel West's tweet and Rashida Tlaib's statement to fellow US Representatives, though here Tlaib is lacking the nastiness of West while including an ironic remark. At 3:24, the congresswoman states

I am grateful to the people in the streets, in the peace movement with countless Jewish-Americans standing up and saying "not in our name." We will continue to call for a ceasefire, Mr. Chair, for the immediate delivery of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza for the release of all hostages and those arbitrarily detained, for every American to come home.

They are not Jewish-Americans  but American Jews, just as Tlaib is both a Palestinian-American (national descent) and a Muslim (religious affiliation). However, that is a mistake while though extremely significant, is now commonly made, intentionally or unintentionally.

The war, initiated by Hamas, conducted by Israel and supported by the USA, is not "in our name." It is not being waged for the benefit of American Jews, living in the relative comfort and safety of a nation which is not in daily fear of being attacked and eventually eliminated.  It's difficult to avoid the suspicion that many of these same demonstrators at other moments have bemoaned "white privilege," yet themselves are unaware of the privilege they themselves possess while Jews in Israel have no such assurance. Assuming the war is being conducted for them reflects an unpleasant sense of entitlement. They can speak no more for Israeli Jews than they can for Israeli Muslims.

Aside from Tlaib calling for a ceasefire, which would be tantamount to a surrender by Israel, she otherwise is ironically advocating for action more favorable to Israel (and less to Hamas) than the pause in fighting set to go into effect at midnight at the confluence of Thursday and Friday.  She advocated "the release of all hostages," which by contrast seems unambiguous. She proposed "the immediate delivery of critical humanitarian aid to Gaza," which is directly or indirectly part of the agreement, inasmuch as

Qatar said the deal would include "the entry of a larger number of humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs."

Senior Hamas official Taher al-Nunu said at least 200-300 aid trucks would enter as part of the truce, including eight carrying fuel and gas.

Tlaib proposed also the release of "those arbitrarily detained," by which she meant all Palestinians in detention in Israel jails, or some of those detained, or something entirely different. By contrast, the deal would proceed in two phases in which

In a first step, 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners are set to be released during the four-day pause in fighting.

If successful, a second phase could see 150 more Palestinian prisoners freed in exchange for another 50 hostages during an extended truce, the Israeli government said.

While hostages are moved, Israeli reconnaissance of Gaza would be put on temporary hold, Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said.

The latter aspect will be of some strategic disadvantage to Israel, though it's a provision Tlaib (and most people) would not have contemplated.

But 150 Palestinians in return for 50 non-Palestinians?  This was not as disproportionate as when more than 1.000 detained Palestinian suspected criminal offenders were exchanged for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a deal possibly beneficial if Shalit goes on to make a discovery equal to that of say, fire, electricity, or the automobile. 

That was absurd and bound to come back and haunt the nation of Israel, as it now has. It was both misconception and irony when (at 2:40) Tlaib stated

Speaking up to save lives, Mr. Chairman, no matter the faith, no matter the ethnicity, should not be controversial in this chamber. The cries of Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me. Why- what I don't understand- is why the cries of Palestinians sound different to you all.

The congresswoman still has not condemned Hamas for the slaughter of Israelis on October 7, a conscious omission for which she has received considerable criticism. However, her claim that "the cries of Palestinian and Israeli children sound no different to me" has gone unnoticed.

Whatever equivalence  Tlaib draws between Palestinian children and Israeli children (and it's highly questionable that she does), the issue here is not Israeli children and Palestinian children, but Israeli children and Gazan children. Moreover, without the world noticing, Hamas has indirectly acknowledged that it does not rate Palestinian children, even the youth of the Gazan territory it controls, very highly.

No longer is it 1,000 to 1. However, it's still 3 to 1. Israel is sufficiently dedicated to human life that it is willing to give up three individuals to free one, notwithstanding the peril to its medium- and long- term security. For Hamas, Palestinian life so lacks value that three Palestinian lives are equal to one Israeli life.. A Palestinian life is worth only one-third of an Israeli life: that is not my calculation; it is the calculation of Hamas.

Tlaib's speech, though misinformed and misleading, presumably was delivered as someone who wants things to work out in the end and is committed to a cause,  albeit that Israel can go fly a kite. Cornel West, however, gratuitously attacks AIPAC, accuses Israel of purposely directing "carnage' against innocents, and condemns Israel for genocide it does not practice. And in light of his presidential run, the outcome he's pining for is the election of Donald Trump. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Spare Us the Political Advice, Congresswoman

The Chinese are right: "aged ginger is more pungent." Also, with age, comes wisdom.

It's so refreshing to get strategy advice from Defund the Police lady. who on October 5, 2021 in her first lecture to her Hypocrisy 101 class, declared

I’m going to make sure I have security because I know. I have had attempts on my life and I have too much work to do there, too many people that need help right now for me to allow that. So, if I end up spending $200,000, if I spend 10 more dollars on it – you know what? I get to be here to do the work. So suck it up and defunding the police has to happen, we need to defund the police and put that money into social safety nets.

In an opinion piece in USA Today in 2021 upon the occasion of Juneteenth, Bush wrote

...slavery quite literally lives on today through our system of incarceration and policing. The 13th Amendment explicitly permits slavery "as a punishment for crime." It is no wonder then that Black people and Black communities across this country are devastated by yet another system of bondage- policing and criminalization.

Slavery, bondage, and policing- or as Bush would put it, "redundancy." In November of 2020

James Clyburn, the House majority whip and Democratic “kingmaker” who played an outsized role in Joe Biden’s successful presidential run, has said the “sloganeering” of the Black Lives Matter protests and other social justice efforts this summer might have hampered them at the polls.

Clyburn, a Black South Carolina congressman and prominent figure in the civil rights movement, likened the “defund the police” mantra of certain activists to civil rights efforts in the 1960s, when some public support for the movement’s objectives was eroded by radical messaging.

While recognizing the harsh political impact of the slogan- for which Republicans still tar Democrats- Clyburn did not name names, as he should have. Few Democrats endorsed the defund the police movement nor the label as much as has Bush, who has called the USA "racist AF" (classy!). Along with Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Bush is the original Defund the Police member of Congress and to this day defends not only defunding the police but also the slogan itself. 

There is a parallel between ending the support for Israel the President has given and withdrawing ending funding for police. They are both bad policies. "Defund the Police' represented, and still represents, a mine field for Democrats, while we'd have to be psychic to know for certainty the political impact of a reversal of course by Biden.

Presumably, the move would be initially popular in districts such as that of Bush and very unpopular in districts with many Jewish voters, or sensible ones.  However, as the devastating repercussions of withdrawal of support became clear, the effect would be terrible for the President and other Democrats.

President Biden is- politically- stuck between a rock and a hard place, damned if he does and damned if he doesn't, and all other applicable cliches. Representative Bush, wrong on the policy and politics about policing, rationalizes her faulty values by pointing to sentiment among young voters. In such times as this, though, it would be wise to fall back upon the principle of doing the right thing, as the President has done thus far. 

                                                   HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Dictator, Dictatorship, and Dictatorial

When President Biden met tyrant Xi Jinping of Mainland China outside of San Francisco on Wednesday, he may have broached the topics of Chinese spy balloons, breach of American cybersecurity by Mainland China, Beijing's support of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and of North Korea, Tik-Tok, the brutal treatment of the Xinjiang Uyghurs by the Butchers of Beijing. Instead 

Joe Biden said Wednesday he still believes Chinese President Xi Jinping is a dictator, even as the two leaders made progress in their relationship during a meeting outside San Francisco.

“Well, look, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden told CNN’s MJ Lee. “Anyway, we made progress.”

When asked about Biden’s latest comment at a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing on Thursday, a spokesperson called it “extremely erroneous” and an “irresponsible political maneuver, which China firmly opposes.”

Alleged journalist Lee had asked "And Mr. President, after today, would you still refer to President Xi as a 'dictator'? This is a term that you used earlier this year.


Newsflash to Lee: Mainland China is a dictatorship run by the Communist Chinese Party completely controlled by Xi Jinping.

She should know that and, absent complete ignorance of world affairs, does. That puts her question in the category of "gotcha." Worse, Lee forfeited an opportunity to ask the head of the world's #1 superpower a question about the world's #2 or #3, superpower, with which the #1 superpower has many points of serious disagreement.

Disappointingly, reporters at The Washington Post responded with 

But in true Biden fashion, he veered off script despite the careful planning of his aides. White House officials had structured the news conference so Biden would take four questions. The president did take the four questions and began to walk away, but couldn’t help himself as a television reporter shouted out another one. Biden turned around and came back to the podium, giving another television reporter time to ask whether the President still believed Xi was a dictator.

“Look, he is. He's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that's based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said.

Video from the news conference showed some of his aides noticeably grimacing. China’s foreign ministry later said it “strongly opposes” the remarks.

President Biden could have avoided the question and been accused, rightly, of being cowardly and intimidated. He could have lied and stated that Xi Jinping is not a dictator, or given an ambiguous answer and been accused, still rightly, of a lack of honesty and transparency. Republicans would have had a field day, and Biden probably would have sealed his defeat next November.

 Or he could have stated the obvious, that Xi Jinping is "a dictator."

It was a "gotcha" question asked by a reporter who, educated beyond 4th grade, knew the answer. Presumably, M.J. Lee asked the question to put the President on the spot and get her on every CNN news segment in the following two days aired about the summit. Alternatively, she had another motive. As of now, in the absence of more evidence, she deserves the benefit of the doubt and simply represents failed journalism.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Haley's "Girl" Card

It was bound to happen,  The cliche is "even a stopped clock is right twice a day" and Vivek Ramaswamy is right maybe twice a year. The mainstream media is promoting Nikki Haley as the alternative to Donald Trump because the ex-governor is a woman. Additionally, she's also a corporate stooge who has demonstrated that she is not antagonistic to minorities. 

Nonetheless, it's the woman's card she's playing for all it's worth.

Haley is seen remarking

Look what happens. He comes out of the gate. He gets the female chair of the party, he gets the female anchor on the platform, and then he hits me. And I'm not saying anything. But he might have a girl problem. 

Now serving her fourth term as chairman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna Romney McDaniel has overseen the party during three bad election cycles, in 2018, 2020, and 2022. By all indications, she has done a poor job and appears to be a gift to the Democratic Party.

Ramaswamy opposes USA support of Ukraine and has been at best, lukewarm toward Israel. By contrast, the ex-UN ambassador supports USA assistance to Ukraine and to Israel, with condemnation of Hamas which has gone beyond that of virtually anyone of prominence. More to the point, Haley is now the main challenger to Trump's nomination. Ramaswamy has been extreme in his praise of the ex-President, probably angling (in vain) to be Trump's running mate, and may even be a proxy for Trump. He's not going to go after the former President; for him, Haley is the most obvious target.

Haley's criticism of Ramaswamy as having a "girl problem" is quite rich, and not only because if any politician said a female candidate had a "girl problem" or even a "woman problem," he'd be driven out of politics in less time than it takes to spell "woke."

Donald J. Trump has been accused of sexual assault or sexual harassment of more than a dozen women, including of E. Jean Carrol, whom a jury in civil court earlier this year found had been sexually abused by Trump in 1996. The leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is the man behind such statements as:

."If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?" 

 "Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that ((Carly Fiorina)? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" 

She(Megyn Kelly) gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever."

And so many more. Yet as recently as Wednesday, November 15, Haley stated unequivocally that she would "support the Republican nominee," who is likely to be Trump, and that the latter was "the right President at the right time."  When Dana Perino at the Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library in California asked the candidates "which one of you on the stage tonight should be voted off the island," the obvious answer was "anyone not here to speak to Republican voters," which would have been Trump.  For Haley, it was "are you serious?"

It was a serious question, though drawing upon popular culture, and one which elicited revealing responses.  What Nikki Haley is serious about, as called out by Vivek Ramaswamy, is delivering the shtick of a tough chick act. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

That Third Rail

When the New York Times/Siena College poll of six swing states was released approximately ten days ago, the main storyline was that Donald Trump was ahead in a one-on-one matchup with President Biden in five of them. The secondary story was that Nikki Haley was ahead in all six.

Of course, polls twelve months ahead of the presidential election are virtually worthless. We don't know whether by then Donald Trump will have been convicted or acquitted in a court)s) of law or whether there even will be a verdict by then. Twelve months ago, there wasn't even a war in the Middle East, and the status of that conflict and that between Russia and Ukraine is unknowable.  It's even more uncertain when we add to that such things as the unpredictable nature of the economy, of the political effect of Republican efforts to roll back reproductive freedom, the impact of third party candidates, the dishonest persuasiveness of artificial intelligence applied to social media, and the outcome of the presidential election.

That has not prevented many of the stars, hosts, pundits, and others, in the mainstream media to speculate that other GOP hopefuls, especially Nikki Haley, would be stronger candidates than Trump.

Bring it (her) on.  Below, the ex-South Carolina, ex-United Nations ambassador can be seen remarking

Social Security is going to go bankrupt in ten years. Medicare is going to go bankrupt in eight. So the way we deal with it is we don't change anyone's retirement or anyone who has been promised in.

This has been the right's mantra for many years now. Conservatives know that Social Security is very popular with the elderly, who know how important it is- and they know that the elderly vote. And they know- or should- that Social Security is not "going to go bankrupt" in ten years.  As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted earlier this year

Social Security is largely a “pay as you go” program, meaning today’s benefits are funded primarily by the payroll taxes collected from today’s workers. For over three decades, however, Social Security collected more in payroll taxes and other income than it paid in benefits and other expenses, and the Treasury invested the surplus in interest-bearing Treasury securities, ultimately reaching a total of $2.9 trillion in trust fund reserves. In 2021 Social Security began redeeming those reserves to help pay benefits. Payroll taxes from current workers will continue to pay for the bulk of benefits. The trust fund reserves will make up the difference between income and costs until the reserves are depleted. At that point, Social Security’s income will still be able to pay roughly 80 percent of promised benefits — even in the unlikely event that policymakers fail to act.

She continued

But we go to people like my kids in their '20s when they're coming into the system and we say the rules have changed. We change retirement age to reflect life expectancy. Instead of cost-of-living increases, we'd do it based on inflation. We limit the benefits on the wealthy and expand Medicare Advantage plans.

Understandably, Haley did not explain the difference between cost-of-living increases and inflation, an explanation which would have been enlightening. However, the "change retirement age" is a fairly clear recommendation that we increase the eligibility age..

Haley suggests "we limit the benefits on the wealthy" not because they're unneeded by the rich but because that approach would turn Social Security into a welfare program, at which time support for Social Security as we've known it would diminish.  That would give corporate-friendly Republicans such as Haley an excuse to move to privatization of the system.  Were Haley interested in limiting assistance only to the needy, she'd argue that tax loopholes for the wealthy be eliminated, which she will advocate once Miami receives a major July snowstorm..

Haley hinted at her motive when she recommended the federal government "expand Medicare Advantage plans."  Yet as a Medicare advisory group has explained, the

over-reach of private Medicare Advantage plans is called what it is: Fraud. Medicare Advantage overpayments threaten Medicare’s fiscal sustainability. At the same time, these private plans block access to necessary care with baseless prior authorization and on-going Medicare denials. In short, Medicare Advantage costs the Medicare program and taxpayers more, but provides beneficiaries less when they really need care.

Haley claimed "sixty-five is way too low"  for eligibility for Social Security. That may go over with her conservative buddies in the professional-managerial class, individuals who are physically able to work into their 70's (and occasionally beyond) because the work takes little toll on their bodies. But tens of millions of Americans, most in the working class which Republicans insist they're so concerned about, have no such luxury. If they do not receive Social Security, they must keep working for a living, and that retirement age which has increased will take a blow along with the lives of the families involved.

If there were any will whatsoever among Republicans, the decline in Social Security solvency could easily be reversed. The cap on contributions toward Social Security not only would shore up the system in the short run but would probably end any revenue shortfall forever. 

But there is no interest among Republicans, including among those such as Haley who are sometimes characterized by the media as "moderates," for taking this obviously needed step. They would prefer to undermine the system. If the former South Carolina governor is nominated, she would play right into what we learned in January is President Biden's wheelhouse.


Monday, November 13, 2023

Long and Winding Road Ahead

During Sunday's State of the Union, Dana Bash of CNN asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

before I let you go, I know you have been asked this several times, but I have had multiple people inside Israel reach out to me knowing that I was going to interview you and say the one thing they want to hear from you is that you take personal responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attacks and protecting your people.

I know you say the time for that will come after the war. Why won't you take responsibility now?

Surprise! Netanyahu, though pressed by Bash, would not take responsibility. He would not take responsibility because no politician ever takes responsibility. None. He or she may say "I take responsibility" but none will say "I am responsible." The politician then will go on to explain how he/she is not to blame for whatever was said or done.

The reason is obvious. Once a politician admits responsibility, he or she can be held accountable. Opposing politicians will hold up the concession as proof that the individual is not worthy of continuing to hold office. Once they do that, the media will do what the media does, jumping on the bandwagon and question whether the pol should remain in office. Virtually no one will credit him/her for doing what no other public figure has the integrity to do.

It would be particularly perilous for a wartime head of state to admit responsibility because that leadere would be undermining his or her credibility, which would in turn undermine legitimacy. Bash should have known that and if she in fact has had "multiple people inside Israel." tell her that "the one thing they want to hear from" Netanyahu is that he "take personal responsibility for failing to prevent the October 7 attacks and protecting your people," she has been talking to the wrong individuals. It's unlikely an Israeli politician will do what American politicians won't: admit error. Not going to happen.

However, this was a critical line of questioning:

Bash asked

The U.S. also says that any postwar plan for Gaza must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. You appeared to reject that yesterday. You said Israel will not accept a -- quote -- "civilian authority there that educates its children to hate Israel."

So I just want to be clear. Are you saying that Israel would not accept giving control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority after the war?

After Netanyahu dismissed the Palestinian Authority because it has "unfortunately failed" to "de-militarize" and "de-radicalize" Gaza, he remarked

So, you have to have some kind of authority, civilian Palestinian authority, that is willing to fight the terrorists and educating -- and, importantly, must educate their children for a future of peace, peace, cooperation, prosperity, cooperation with Israel, not the annihilation of Israel.

After the fighting ends and Hamas is subdued (hopefully eliminated), there still will be a Gaza and there still will have to be an authority ruling it. Gazans have little confidence in the Palestinian Authority, western hegemony wouldn't be accepted by the supermajority Muslims, and it's nothing Israel wants to do in perpetuity. Persian Iran is obviously out, so the ultimate answer probably lies in a some combination of Arab states, actors not partial to drowning the Jewish state.

That would be difficult to accomplish. Buy-in would be difficult to obtain from nations which themselves have wanted no part of ethnic Palestinians. There is one more roadblock: it would require some actual acceptance of genuine responsibility. And as with politicians in Israel and the West, that is asking a great deal.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Censure of Rashida Tlaib

By a vote of 234 to 188, the House of Representatives voted to censure Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Dearborn, Michigan, for remarks she made, including advocating a Palestinian state "from the river to the sea."

The good news is that Representative Jamie Raskin did not claim, as others implausibly have, that "from the river to the sea" or "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" does not refer to abolishing Israel. The bad news is that he's wrong here.

Raskin stated

So I rise here not in spite of the fact that I'm a Jewish-American who supports the Constitution and Jewish democratic state and hates all the anti-Semitic rants and terrorists around the world from Putin in Russia and Mohammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia to Hezbollah and Hamas. 

Referring to "anti-Semitic rants," the congressman could have added "such as now appearing on college campuses," but that would have been a risky Sister Souljah moment. Also, there are no more "Jewish-Americans" than there are "Protestant -Americans" or "Catholic-Americans." Still it was a pretty good start, followed by

I am here because of these things and because of everything I believe in and stand for. At this moment when democracy is under siege all over the world, America must stand tall for the Constitution of the United States and this resolution is about one thing and one thing only, the punishment of speech. So we have a chance to show the world what the American Constitution means and how we hold fast to our core principles, even when we're drawn away from them by our own passions and our righteous anger. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land the very hear of it is the First Amendment, which protects every citizen's freedom of speech and says "Congress shall make no laws abridging it."

H. Res. 845 proposed "censuring Representative Rashida Tlaib for promoting false narratives regarding the October 7, 2023 Hamas attack on Israel and for calling for the destruction of the State of Israel." As noted by NBC News, on November 3 the congresswoman had posted a video to a tweet of hers "featuring footage of pro-Palestinian protests from across the country, as well as remarks from President Joe Biden expressing his support for Israel. The video ended with Tlaib saying, “We will remember in 2024,” followed by the text: “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.'”

Later that day, Tlaib posted a tweet defending "from the river to the sea," neglecting to admit that the full slogan is "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." For those following at home, that would be from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which would obliterate Israel.

Raskin seems to understand that. However, his claim that the censure violates the First Amendment falls short for several reasons. A censure is not a law abridging freedom of speech or anything else. If a censure were a law, it would be called a law and be referred to as legislation rather than as a resolution. The action taken by the House is not punishment for speech because it's not punishment, but rather is an individual's colleagues expressing disapproval. As The Hill explains

A censure is a formal vote of deep disapproval of a member's conduct taken by either chamber of Congress....

A vote to censure another member of Congress does not hold any other power beyond a public condemning of that member's behavior. It does not expel a member from Congress or deny the rights or privileges of that member within Congress.

In fact, a censure has no power. It is an expression of disagreement, not a punishment for speech because it effects no punishment.  Most employment carries with it an understanding that statements unacceptable to the employer will not be tolerated. There are standards for speech, even outside the workplace, for the vast majority of jobs in society, including many even in the public sector.

Advocating disposal of our most loyal ally in the world, Tlaib added in her video "Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people." It is a damnable lie, directed against both the President and Israel, and surely worthy of censure by colleagues of the individual promoting it.

Friday, November 10, 2023

The Responsibility of Holocaust Education

Malcolm Nance asks, and answers, the question of why there so many protesters of Israel are johnnies-come-lately.

Most of the people who are angry right now could not spell "Palestine" three weeks ago. They weren't angry when Bashir Assad used chemical weapons and mass murdered 500,000 of their own people.

There's a fight going on in Sudan right now. Five thousand people have been killed by two factions that have been fighting. Somalia, Libya, Lebanon.

Oh Jesus, Lebanon. I went to the civil war. They have been massacring each other to the tune of 125,000 people. ISIS literally tried to wipe out north Iraq and Syria and took slaves doing it.

What people are showing here is one of two things. One: this is something they could wrap their head around because there's a lot of cameras or to be quite honest, there's a lot of inherent anti-Semitism in this and maybe they think in solidarity with their Palestinian, brothers and sisters, who are angry, that this position is the right one.

And one more thing, which no one has on his or her bingo card as a reason for the immense hostility toward Israel's actions in Gaza. Nor will there be consideration that this could be a factor because it is unexamined and counter-intuitive. 

As of the end of 2021, there were twenty-one states which required schools to provide Holocaust education.  On the website of the United States Holocaust Research Museum, there are "Guidelines for Teaching About the Holocaust."  There are ten recommendations, although only one- "Contextualize the History"- pertains to my theory. There we read

Events of the Holocaust, and particularly how individuals and organizations behaved at that time, should be placed in historical context. The Holocaust should be studied in the context of European history as a whole to give students a perspective on the precedents and circumstances that may have contributed to it.

Similarly, the Holocaust should be studied within its contemporaneous context so students can begin to comprehend the circumstances that encouraged or discouraged particular actions or events. For example, when thinking about resistance, consider when and where an act took place; the immediate consequences of one’s actions to self and family; the degree of control the Nazis had on a country or local population; the cultural attitudes of particular native populations toward different victim groups historically; and the availability and risk of potential hiding places.

Encourage your students not to categorize groups of people only on the basis of their experiences during the Holocaust; contextualization is critical so that victims are not perceived only as victims. By exposing students to some of the cultural contributions and achievements of 2,000 years of European Jewish life, for example, you help them to balance their perception of Jews as victims and to appreciate more fully the traumatic disruption in Jewish history caused by the Holocaust.

Ironically, if the guidelines advocated by the Holocaust Museum are routinely reflected in the teaching of the Holocaust, this singularly barbaric event is taught out of context. There are two instances in this section in which "European" is mentioned.  The words "Arab," "Persian," or "Muslim" are not listed here, nor anywhere in the Guidelines. This portion of Jewish history is critically relevant to understanding the milieu in which the Holocaust took place. The Time of Israel explains

Jews were an enduring presence in the Middle East and North Africa before the advent of Islam and Arabian conquests, yet today fewer than 4,000 Jews live in the region. This contrasts with post-Holocaust Europe, where 1.4 million Jews currently reside. So much for the Moroccan proverb, “A market without Jews is like bread without salt.”

Beginning with Iraq’s notorious Farhud pogrom on June 1–2, 1941, Jews in Iraq and elsewhere faced intensified persecution akin to what took place in pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany as leaders such as Iraqi prime minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani sought to emulate Hitler’s tactics.

 During the two-day Farhud in Baghdad and other Jewish population centers in Iraq, Jewish homes were marked so mobs could destroy them. In the process, 180 Jews were recorded as murdered. Similar to Kristallnacht in Germany and Nazi-occupied lands, shops and religious buildings were looted and set ablaze.

 The word “Farhud” means “violent dispossession” in Arabic, the prophetic name given to the pogrom by Iraqi citizens. About 135,000 Jews lived in Iraq in 1941, but almost the entire community relocated to Israel within a decade of the pogrom.

 “The Farhud was a turning point because it was the first step in this Jewish community’s dispossession,” said Black.

 The Holocaust directly reached Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, as well as Lebanon and Syria, through the Vichy France regime. In German and French documents, those lands were considered part of Europe for the purposes of the genocide.

For example, after the Nazis invaded Tunisia, some 5,000 Jewish men were sent to forced labor camps. In France, 160 Tunisian Jews were deported to the death camps. Despite the genocide’s reach into Tunisia, the country was home to the region’s largest Jewish community outside Israel until the 1970s.

After Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945, the persecution of Middle Eastern Jews in no way slowed down.

Outside of Israel, there no longer are many Jews in the Middle East and it is no coincidence. There were periods of severe violence and oppression of Jews. As noted here, "in the ninth century, for example, Baghdad's Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany."

As a response especially to the Holocaust, but also to the mistreatment of Jews in the Muslim-dominated Middle East, the state of Israel was created in 1948 upon a tiny sliver of land surrounded by Arab and Persian nations. Jews in large numbers had resided in the land of Palestine since time immemorial. Great Britain in 1922 was awarded the Mandate for Palestine and expected to create from it a Jewish homeland.  In November 1947 the United Nations adopted a resolution to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, the latter east of the Jordan river. Great Britain announced it would relinquish the Mandate on March 15, 1948 and on March 14, Israel declared its independence.

The following day, five Arab countries launched a war against the new nation.

This is a part of the history of the creation of Israel which often is forgotten. It is even unknown to many individuals, especially young people. They've heard of the Holocaust, perpetrated by the German nation, and may even have studied it. Yet, Tel Aviv is killing a large number of civilians in the Middle East and is located nearly two thousand miles from Germany. Being ill-informed, young people may be averse to the idea of having a Jewish state in the Middle East.

Holocaust education, if conducted as the US Holocaust Research Museum recommends, reinforces the perception a young person already has about Israel's origin as being entirely due to atrocities committed by Europeans.  Contributing to this ignorance was President Barack Obama, who in a speech in Cairo in June, 2009 failed to distinguish between mainstream Islam and fundamentalist Islam, at one point remarking

The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights... 

And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. 

(Imagine a Republican today extolling the virtues of Christianity and ignoring the dangers posed by extremists claiming to be devout Christians. Democrats would be apoplectic, largely justifiably.)

The Holocaust was the main driver of creation of the state of Israel, and most Muslims, like most Jews, Christians, and others, are relatively peaceful.  Yet, a full and complete picture is being denied to many students. If an anti-Western bias pervades Holocaust education, young men and women are getting a skewed version of history.  And the results, in both anti-Semitism and uninformed, sometimes prejudiced, bias against Israel, are glaringly obvious.

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