Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Brief and Incomplete Review of the DSA

WHO IS THE D.S.A. REALLY?
The failed primary candidacy of Bernard Sanders (I. VT) has left in its wake a nothing if not overstated schism within the Democratic Party. I am somewhat hesitant to even say within the party, as Bernard himself and many of his acolytes are decidedly outside of it. I would further suggest that one who did not vote for Ms. Clinton in November is certainly out of bounds to suggest to the Democratic party on how it should conduct itself. And yet it is in this much ballyhooed rift we see the influence of the Democratic Socialists of America, abbreviated throughout the following as DSA.  I found Bernard to be disingenuous throughout his primary run, but realized I don’t know enough about the organization that has suddenly been thrust into my consciousness as the only true bastion of liberalism remaining in America; at least, that’s according to what several Twitter profiles with red roses have told me in no uncertain terms.
I deign to have no false deifications in my life, and am continually perturbed by those who would insist divine attributes to Bernard. The most common of which is the patently false claim that he “would have won” the general election. Leaving aside the fact he suffered a brutal drubbing in the primary, the premise itself is a classic unknowable quality and unworthy of any consideration. Though I do not personally recall the DSA playing a prominent role in his prolonged stump speech of a campaign, its adherents are now quite convinced of their importance and supremacy. Again, the hubris of losing a primary and then insisting that the path of the also-ran is the correct one is baffling.
Who is the DSA? Upon reaching their website, the first thing I see is a picture and quote from Cornel West. Recent memory reminds us that West was appointed to the 2016 Democratic Platform Committee by Bernard. Following that venture, West proceeded to campaign on behalf of Green Party perennial nominee and WiFi fear monger, Jill Stein. West also achieved some notoriety in the past for insisting that President Obama was a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface” and he said on CNN in 2015, "I would say the first black president has become the first n*gg*rized black president." Appointing him to the committee was one of Bernard’s many mistakes and the DSA makes it quite clear that they are proud to tout the support of someone who so callously disparages arguably the most successful black man our nation has ever seen. This is not convincing me that they want to work with Democrats, but rather supplant them.
Another interesting thing I noticed on the website:
“Standing Up to Hate Emergency Response
In response to the anti-Mexican, anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee anti-woman and general hate-mongering coming from Donald Trump and the way he is creating space for racist extremists to mobilize, DSA local chapters are reaching out to immigrant rights organizations, mosques and others who may be targets for violence. We are mobilizing to spread the message that hate only creates more hate, and we will continue to resist him and what he represents. Longer term, DSA chapters will work to build a multi-racial democratic socialist movement that is forthrightly anti-racist and includes white poor and working class and rural folks.”
Read that first sentence a few times. Something is missing. There is a group that has suffered an 86% increase in incidents directed at them since January 2017 that the DSA has chosen to ignore entirely. It’s a group for whom Trump advisor Steve Bannon has a long history of disdain. Thanks DSA, good to know who you are here for, or aren’t.
Here’s something they say about Israel:
“We also join with the European Union and most progressive religious organizations in the United States in supporting a boycott of goods and services produced by Israeli and foreign corporations in the occupied territories and for divestment from companies such as Caterpillar and Motorola that economically benefit from the occupation. (Such a policy is commonly known as “partial” boycott, divestment and sanctions.)”
Here we have the DSA explicitly endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Let me be as unambiguous as possible: BDS is inherently anti-Semitic.  “Every country has its faults. It is legitimate to disagree with some of Israel’s policies. But to single out Israel and to hold it to a different standard than any other nation in the world – is antisemitic.” Gila Gamliel in the Jerusalem Post 2/6/17. There’s no better way to say it.
Here’s what they say about Bernard’s campaign corpse:
“The Bernie Sanders Campaign
DSA is proud of our local chapters around the country that supported Bernie Sanders' campaign to win the nomination for President in the Democratic Party. This was a grassroots "independent expenditure" campaign to start a political revolution in this country that will continue long after the 2016 campaign is over. DSA was telling America that #WeNeedBernie to make the democratic socialist movement strong - and we continue building that message. Given the presidential election results, the need for a strong democratic socialist voice at the grassroots is more clear than ever.”
This is a telling and false conclusion. Given the presidential election results, we need to abolish the Electoral College. This notion that there is some sort of undercurrent of voters yearning for the DSA is a purely confirmation biased reading of synthetic tea leaves. I will say again, anyone who voted for Bernard in the primary but abandoned Secretary Clinton in the general is only slightly less reprehensible than an actual Trump voter. It’s clear the DSA did exactly that; sorry guys, you’re bad at building coalitions.
An aside about the DSA Constitution: it contains no guarantee of freedom of religious expression. (Feel free to correct me if I somehow missed it)
The DSA website still contains a press release statement indicating their disappointment at Keith Ellison’s defeat regarding the DNC chair post. One might find it odd that an organization who did not support the Democratic candidate for president , would have such a vested interest in who leads the party. I would submit this: they are attempting to co-opt leadership in the Democratic Party by actively undermining from the outside and from within.
I have said in the past I believe the far left, alt-left, DSA has been dramatically overestimating their influence on national politics. Let’s have an unscientific look at some numbers.
DSA followers on Twitter: 80,800.
Democrats Twitter profile followers: 1.3 million.
Likes on the DSA facebook page: 127,3224.
Likes on the Democrat’s facebook page: 1,535,575.
Votes for Bernard in the 2016 primary: 13,206,428.
Votes for Secretary Clinton in the 2016 primary: 16,914,722 (13% margin of victory)
Bear in mind, these numbers come at a time when the DSA has never been more visible. This is not an uprising or revolution any more than the half-baked (connotation intended) Ron Paul fans were. Obama in 08 was a revolution. (Obama in 08 is the only person to earn more popular votes than Secretary Clinton in 2016). This is the very small, but very vocal fringe. I don’t object to this fringe existing, but I do object to their hubris and insistence that theirs is the one true path of liberalism.
What is so confounding is that all indications point to just how marginal they are. The DSA held a People’s Summit in Chicago on June 9. According to their facebook page a staggering 172 people actually went.  The DSA boasts of having 24,000 members, that’s still less than the undergraduate population of my alma mater, about a third the size of my hometown.
To put it simply: I don’t trust the DSA as an organization. They do not reflect my values in the general and in fact run in direct opposition to some of them specifically. On an intellectual level they are fundamentally dishonest about their influence and relevance. It is not for the DSA to dictate how liberals at large should behave. The onus is on the DSA to provide an argument as to why they should be considered at all beyond their own narrow scope.





Final fun fact: it was the German Social Democrats who failed to build a sufficient coalition government to resist the rise of the Nazis.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Political Parties or What's In a Name?

Political Parties or What’s in a Name?
There is no escaping the specter of Senator Bernard Sanders . The independent senator from very small, and very racially homogenous Vermont has recently been trotted out with DNC chair Tom Perez in something ironically referred to as a “unity tour.” Mr. Sanders seems to not have been informed of the title or even purpose of the these events. He was quite clear when asked if he was a Democrat that he was not. The official GOP twitter handle shared a video of Tom Perez being booed and Bernard did nothing to stop the derision from the crowd. Unity indeed.
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In my recent social media forays (almost all of which are a total waste of time), I find myself engaged primarily with those who identify on the left, are highly critical of the Democratic party, and see no problem with Mr. Sanders attempting to lead a party of which he is not a member. To be clear, I take no issue with reasonable critiques of the Democratic party. It is always subject to scrutiny and there is always room for insight into party affairs. Being a sports fan, I am quick to offer that attempting to lead a party (and Mr. Sanders has accepted the title of outreach chair) one is not in would be akin to attempting to be a team captain for the New England Patriots while being a back-up punter for the Cleveland Browns.
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This dissension begs revisiting the purpose of having political parties in the first place. It’s quite simple, parties are the tool by which democratic power is organized within a democracy. Given Duverger’s Law (google it) the US will always have two dominant political parties. The names of the parties have changed throughout our history, as have their affiliations, aims and goals. Looking at the Democratic party, one can see a shift from the segregation supporting party in the early 20th century to the more liberal party today. Building a party is monumentally difficult. It involves cultivating relationships, reaching common ground with diverse swaths of people, crafting a message that resonates with constituents and ultimately convincing those constituents to vote for you. These actions all take place for the greater goal of using the party apparatus to put forth the party agenda in elected offices. The party is a tool, an engine of politics. Albeit an extremely unwieldy and unpredictable engine.
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I have been accused of many things, but one thing I will gladly agree with is that I am hyper partisan and have been ever since the malfeasance of the 2000 election theft. I am a Democrat because I recognize that the Democratic party is the most effective way to enact a liberal agenda in electoral politics. That is not to say every Democratic candidate is a good one. Obviously, races have primaries for good reason. Sometimes even after a primary the nominee isn’t ideal, it’s a democracy, that will happen. It then becomes imperative to judge the nominee against the general election opponent. People will say, “I shouldn’t have to vote against  someone.” This is a fallacy in our electoral system. It is incumbent on the voting citizen to choose the candidate that will do the most good and avoid the most harm to the country. Choosing not to vote in every election possible is to be derelict in one’s duty as an American.
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So, what’s all this to do with Bernard? To his credit, he has been able to amass political capital in tiny white Vermont without being affiliated with a party. Though he caucuses with Democrats, he has unquestionably been antagonistic to the Democrats throughout his entire career in public life. Most egregiously praising the Sandinista government in the 80s and musing that President Obama needed to be primaried in the 2012 election; and there are several other instances and quotes that mirror these sentiments. Mr. Sanders’ negative opinion of the Democratic both historically and in the present are perfectly allowable, but highly questionable for someone who months ago was running under the Democratic banner as a candidate for president. Furthermore, Bernard was blown out in dramatic fashion in the primary. A 13% loss that despite the coverage it received, was never close. Fans of Mr. Sanders can all tell you how close the MI primary was, but none know about the double digit wins Ms. Clinton racked up in South Carolina or Mississippi or Alabama. (This hints at the coalition building among black Democrats that Mr. Sanders was thoroughly disinterested in).
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Following the drubbing he received in the primary and Ms. Clinton’s subsequent Electoral College loss, Mr. Sanders resurfaced somehow as the great white septuagenarian savior of the Democratic Party. Let us pause for a moment and consider the monumental hubris of Bernard Sanders. Here we have a politician who misappropriated a party title, infrastructure, funding and legitimacy only to cast off any sense of responsibility they conferred once it became politically expedient to do so; to then be so arrogantly presumptuous to assert that the party that he will not join, and rejected him, must be remade in his own image to save itself. Re-read that massive run on sentence again. And again. It takes a few passes to absorb the enormity of Bernard’s conceited egotism.
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The bottom line is that political parties matter. Despite our flaws on the Democratic side, ours is still the best way to enact liberal, democratic values and ideals. It isn’t going to be perfect or fast enough but our country isn’t designed to be either of those things. Don’t let those flaws distract you from the bigger picture.  Don’t let a non-existent perfect be the enemy of the reality of the good. The party that we build needs leaders, but one thing they should all have in common, is that they are members. Don’t trot Bernard out in front of me or the millions of Democrats who voted against him. Give me Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand, John Lewis, Ted Lieu, Nancy Pelosi, and yes, even Keith Ellison. Don’t try to sell me on a politician whose entire career was made on sanctimonious sniping from the sidelines (and OMG dumped radioactive waste on a poor Latino community).
#UniteBlue      #DemForce  #butemailstho  #bothpartiestho
PS: Caucuses should be eliminated and all primaries should be closed. Pick a side and get involved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brief thoughts during Pesach 2017

Of course I’m eating matzo right now and one cannot eat matzo and not be reminded of the Jews’ time as slaves in Egypt. As every Jew knows, the seder is intended to remind us of all the aspects of the hundreds of years our people spent there. We are continually told that we were strangers in Egypt, so we must never forget what it was like to be a stranger. Tonight I’m thinking of a particular stranger that has been suffering horribly for years: Syrians.
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I don’t usually link to other articles, but the following piece by David Inserra from the very conservative Heritage Foundation is required reading before discussing this:
http://www.heritage.org/immigration/commentary/how-the-refugee-vetting-process-works
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It’s important to understand that from an American perspective, there isn’t a side that is good for our interests. Assad is a brutal dictator who is clearly content to watch his country fall apart while he clings to power. The opposition is bolstered by Islamic fundamentalists (except for maybe the Kurdish fighters). I support the right kind of foreign interventions, such as the Israeli airstrike that took out the North Korea designed nuclear reactor in 2007, and the Libyan intervention in 2010. I see no strategic advantage to US involvement in this civil war. What does have a clear US interest is aiding the innocent civilians who are brutalized by both sides of the conflict, and the US can do something about it.
What is undeniable is that pain, suffering, and misery have befallen the Syrian people. Donald Trump made it clear during his campaign that not only is he opposed to the refugee vetting process we’ve had in place for years, he wants to halt all immigration from certain countries. This is the failed “Muslim ban.” While I’m relieved it has failed (weren’t we supposed to be tired of all his winning by now?), it’s disheartening that such a thing was even in the platform of a candidate for president.
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Reading the vetting process of refugees described by Inserra, it is comprehensive, exhaustive, and effective. I’d wager that most Americans are not familiar with what the US has actually been doing, and most don’t know that we’ve only admitted approximately 1200 Syrian refugees. I would prefer if we were taking in more. The terrorists are the ones that are staying to fight the damn war. The terrorists have the vested interest in toppling the Assad government. The Assad government is killing civilians whether they’re suspected of being terrorists or not; at times with chemical weapons Those who are fleeing the war are those that have decided that their lives are more important than taking a side; which is exactly what I would be doing because Assad is a secular dictator and the opposition would institute a repressive theocracy. People fleeing these outcomes are exactly the people that we should want to come here. These are people who would be able to see the promise of America in a positive light, and that would reverberate throughout the Middle East.
Could there be people who seek asylum here that intend to do us harm? Of course. We have law enforcement for that and I trust them to protect us. However I want to live in a country that isn’t so dominated by fear that we cower from the stranger. We were all strangers somewhere once, and it is incumbent upon us (not just Jews, but Americans) to treat the stranger among us well. Our hearts must be stronger than our fear.
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Ours is supposed to be a nation of hope, not just to our citizens already here, but to the whole world. I’m not advocating for open borders a la Ellis Island. I’m calling for the vetting process that’s in place to remain, and perhaps be expedited in certain cases. Trump fired cruise missiles at an air base that was active again the next day and did nothing to prevent chemical attacks from being carried out against Syrian citizens again. This cannot be the extent of our Syria policy. In fact the actions taken by Trump made the chemical weapons situation worse. Intelligence used to know where the chemical weapons were stored, they have since been moved. We have ordnance designed to neutralize chemical weapons, but these were not engaged in the 59 cruise missiles that were launched. Trump even stated in an interview that the missiles were fired at Iraq and had to be corrected by the host that they were launched at Syria. In that same interview he spoke as much about his damn chocolate cake as he did the missiles.
#butemailstho

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Unenviable Position of the Democratic Zionist

The Unenviable Position of the Democratic Zionist
Last week a self-identified socialist called me a white supremacist. Today the synagogue I was a member of for years in Chicago received a bomb threat. This bomb threat caused the young children in the day school to be evacuated. Chicago was not the only city targeted with bomb threats today and this is the latest in a growing wave of bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers (JCC), ADL offices and other types of Jewish buildings. There have been over one hundred such incidents since January. Also in recent weeks this trend has escalated to include at least two separate incidences of desecration of Jewish cemeteries.
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To be sure, correlation is not causation, but there can be no denying that these bomb threats have increased in frequency and scope since after Donald Trump’s installation and inauguration. Though his press secretary, the unintentionally amusing Sean Spicer, has communicated that Mr. Trump condemns these acts of terrorism, there is scant information regarding what he is actually having done about it. Considering the ongoing scandal regarding Russian involvement in his campaign and potentially in his administration, one can hardly have confidence in Mr. Sessions having a strong handle on any such investigation on behalf of the national Jewish community. General Flynn, the original National Security Adviser appointed by Mr. Trump was forced to resign. To date, he has not been replaced. James Comey remains in charge of the FBI, but he is also embroiled in investigations into Mr. Trump. What manner of resources can we be assured of being delegated to investigate these continued attacks on the national Jewish community? We have received no assurances, and no details. Given the obvious and public disarray of our intelligence apparatuses, I am not hopeful for a speedy resolution to any type of investigation.
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There has been one suspect found allegedly calling in at least 8 of the known bomb threats; a former Intercept reporter. One may recall the Intercept as the intellectually anemic “journalism” effort launched by former white supremacist defender, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald, a fierce critic of Israel and the United States is not actually a member of the left, though he pretends to be. Several of those on the American left continue to fall under his spell despite his affinity for abhorrent regimes like Hamas. The Intercept also recently ran an article concerning anti-Semitism in the United States and the maladroit writer concluded that it is not much of a force. I humbly suggest the children hauled out of their classes in Chicago this morning likely felt differently.  
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It is hardly surprising that these elements exist in the fringe left and right. Both ends of this political spectrum horseshoe enter the nexus of anti-Semitism, and always have. The Communist movements always reject any religious expression as a matter of course. Nationalist right wing movements have typically found Jews to be a perfect scapegoat as the “other” outside of the core of their movement. We are experiencing this presently from the alt right and the anti-Zionist, and occasionally anti-religious, left.
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Donald Trump presents a unique challenge to Jewish and liberal Zionists, of which I am both. I am disgusted to see Donald Trump and Steve Bannon in the White House (where Truman first recognized Israel and Obama was the first president to hold seders). Trump and Bannon are both men that the alt-right (ie neo-nazi) have championed as their own figureheads. The right wing extremists of today see Trump as their own victory over liberalism; and by extension over “globalization” and “liberalism.” These are not new dog whistles or code words for Jews. Indeed, Mr. Bannon is alleged to have even removed his daughters from a school because there were too many Jews there. The Trump administration pays lip service to supporting Israel, but I am not convinced they know what that means. Mr. Trump has demonstrated no fluency in his descriptions of Israel. He has also not treated Jews he comes into contact with particularly well. Trump contemptuously told a Jewish reporter to sit down after asking a question about anti-Semitism before launching into a baffling and weak declaration that he is “the least anti-Semitic person.” There are also reports that Mr. Trump intimated that the recent waves of anti-Semitic activity were actually due to the machinations of Jews themselves. Sorry Donald, your words, actions, and the company you keep demonstrate otherwise.
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I have typically felt at home on the left as a Zionist and liberal despite being aware of the tendencies of the far left to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. To be clear, not all criticism of Israel and her policies are anti-Semitic; but some are and should be identified as such. I have been long mystified of the disdain the fringe left has for Israel. Israel, with its socialized healthcare, liberal social policies (even recently decriminalizing marijuana!) and long history as a steadfast ally in a region generally unfriendly to the US, is vilified by the fringe left despite practicing many of the aims the left has for the US domestically.  It was with much consternation that I observed the rise of Linda Sarsour during Bernie Sanders’ ill-fated primary campaign. Ms. Sarsour’s apologetics for Sharia law and vilification of Israel have been widely covered and it would be redundant to readdress them here. Equally disconcerting are her vile, sexist comments regarding female genital mulitation survivor, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Sadly Ms. Sarsour has come to greater prominence on the left due to her involvement in the Women’s March and general organizing in the Trump resistance movement. Ms. Sarsour has also absorbed convicted terrorist murderer, and immigration form perjurer, Rasmea Odeh into the upcoming women’s general strike. These are not simply symbolic positions in a loosely affiliated resistance movement, these are prominent faces at the forefront of organizing it and I could scarcely be more disgusted.
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The very name of our people, Israel, has the notion of struggling embedded in it. We have found ourselves in unwarrantable positions at countless points in our long history. Today we find ourselves in a new one. On one side, an administration staffed with reprehensible characters, and on the other a crystallizing resistance movement that definitively rejects our people’s natural right to national self-determination. I am reminded of Tevye and the central simile of Fiddler on the Roof. Now it is true that we are not facing the pogroms of Czarist Russia, but I find our present position to be in an unenviable and tenuous balance. I reject the platforms of Mr. Trump but I will not cast my lot with Ms. Odeh (real justice for Rasmea is a jail cell). Let us instead find common cause with each other and those who are willing to listen to our reasonable criticisms of the administration and the resistance to it. I do not suppose this is an impossible undertaking. Bear in mind, Ms. Clinton dominated the 2016 primary by 13% and the general election by 2%. The fringe left in particular is overplaying its hand as it tends to do, and we are not beholden to be led by the castoffs from Mr. Sanders’ failed campaign; who foolishly conflate Zionism with racism. The path to an effective resistance movement does not lie with deplorables on either end of the spectrum. Our voices will not be marginalized by extremists of any manner.
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Final note: There is something of a silver lining to diversifying our resistance. The Trump administration will be forced to acknowledge a vast swath of peoples and interests are opposing him. I can think of nothing this insecure, small-minded man would be more insulted by than accepting that such an array of groups are opposing him in a multitude of ways.    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Conservativism is not trumpism

There is a storied, if not mythological history that is often repeated concerning Ronald Regan and former speaker of the House Tip O’Neil; that they could spend their day fighting bitterly in the public sphere but then enjoy each other’s company in social life. In this current political climate of animus, I can scarcely imagine such exchanges today. To be sure, I have had to police my words with others in my new hometown in the Deep South. As you may imagine, that is very difficult for me to do. The coded language our politicians use has been secreted into daily speech to the point where one can ascertain the political leanings of a person within a few sentences. I can personally account for someone saying to me, “We’re so lucky that bitch didn’t get into office” being the most egregious. Add that to the general timbre of catch phrases like “lock her up” and “trump that bitch” those halcyon days of a more gallant relationship between the two poles of American politics seem to be slipping farther and farther way. I admit that I am no saint in this regard, the angels of my better nature have yet to show themselves.
I watched Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress. What I saw and heard was not conservativism. It can only be described as trumpism. Trumpism will be difficult to define as it is as slippery as the man himself. It is easier to conclude what trumpism is not, and trumpism is not conservativism. When we hear him prattle on about promising walls, excessive military spending, while simultaneously pledging to not tinker with Medicare or Social Security, we are not witnessing a conservative from the Goldwater/Buckley/Reagan tradition. Nor could this sort of pseudo populist grandstanding be described as even neo conservative. However, Trump maintains that (R) next to his name. He is a Republican. He is the de facto leader of the Republican party. And I would submit that the Republicans who have lined up behind him while barely even offering a whimper of protest to his questionable election and horrifyingly incompetent Cabinet picks are no longer conservatives. No. They have sold their political and ideological integrity to trumpism in what can only be described as craven opportunism.
There is no shortage of ink (data?) being spilled on the disarray and discord within the Democratic party. While there was certainly a bitterly fought (but decisively won) primary, the Democratic party has not lost its integrity as the party of those on the left. It is true, there are those who regard the election of Mr. Perez to DNC chair as evidence of some sort of vestige of the Democratic “establishment” continuing to assert party dominance. Though one would be hard pressed to describe Mr. Ellison who has served several terms in the House as somehow not part of the Democratic “establishment.” In a fitting and proper gesture, Mr. Ellison was made Deputy Chair of the DNC. I would urge the so-called Sanders party to coalesce around this union. After all, Sanders has still not joined the party and continues to not share information with the party that could assist the Democrats in organizing against Trump. This is in addition to his 13% primary loss. I mention these things not to further enrage these members, but to include them at the proportion they have thus far included themselves. As an aside to those who voted for Sanders in the primary but not Ms. Clinton in the general; you left the party in November. It’s a remarkably arrogant position to take; betraying the party in a general election, but then thinking that betrayal has afforded you a louder voice.
Despite being an avowed liberal and Democrat, I think it will be conservatives, not Republicans, that will be the variable in effectively resisting Trump. The Democrats will continue to organize and unify. Yes, even despite the lingering (but healing) wounds of the primary. I don’t envision the same happening for the Republicans. The leaders of the party prior to 2016 clearly preferred Jeb Bush, and if their party had a mechanism like superdelegates, Trump would never have been the nominee. We can see glimpses of failing Republican unity behind Trump in the occasional actions and words of Senators Graham and McCain (though they voted for Mr. Trump’s appalling cabinet nominations). As a resident of SC, I was able to watch a town hall with Senator Graham and can attest to his strong language against Russian interference. I watched the same with our junior Senator Mr. Scott but he did not address the issue as forcefully. I hope with the continued opposition presence at town halls, Republicans will be forced to acknowledge the voices of their constituents.
Aside from calling your elected leaders, I would recommend something else in order to effectively resist Trump. If all politics are local, then let us challenge the conservatives we personally know on an intellectual level. If they are conservatives, then they must agree that building a wall is a massively irresponsible government spending project. If they believe in ethical personal conduct, one cannot support the man who bragged about sexual assault. If they are a strict Constitutionalist, they cannot support any sort of religious based legislation regarding immigration. I know these are not new arguments or points. When our conservative friends trot out their tired apologetics for trumpism, I will respond that obviously Trump is no conservative, but he is a Republican. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Maybe you've seen them in videos of palestinian protests and gatherings. It's quite jarring to see men (always men) at these gatherings dressed in traditional black suits, black hats, beards and payos (side curls). You'll see them holding palestinian flags, holding signs that claim Judaism opposes Zionism. They are also frequently photographed and filmed burning the Israeli flag. So who are these Jews who so openly despise Israel? (Well, besides the dolts at Jewish Voice for Peace).

Disclaimer: While I am going to be severely critical of this group of Jews, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way asserting that these are not Jews. None of what follows is intended to delegitimize their Jewish identity. 

Allow me to introduce the Neturei Karta (NK). The most frequently tokenized Jews of the anti Zionist movement. I first became aware of them when the loathsome former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmenidijad held a conference on Holocaust Denial in Tehran in 2006. Anti-Zionism (and anti-Semitism) makes for very strange bedfellows. In this case the NK were there not so much to deny the Holocaust, but to remind everyone that the Holocaust should not be used as a tool to oppress other people ie. the creation of Israel. I highly doubt that Mr. Ahmenidijad minded the fact that the NK were not completely on board with the conference's odious purpose of denying the factual record of what occurred during the Holocaust. After all, he was provided with token Jews who provided some photo ops for him to continue claiming to everyone that he doesn't really hate Jews.

It is worth mentioning that Holocaust Denial is anti-Semitism. Pseudo intellectuals like Ahmenidijad and the vile Steven Salaita like to pretend that Jews cry anti-Semitism whenever we are upset, and use claims of anti-Semitism to deflect academic freedom and critical study and thought. People who use this argument are akin to Young Earth Creationists who claim that geology and natural selection are not well understood sciences. Study of the Holocaust is at least as conclusive as carbon dating. 6 million Jews were murdered with assembly line style efficiency. Millions of other innocents were murdered as well. No reasonable person can dispute this. Only anti-Semites with an agenda do.

The NK are quite small in number. Some estimates say they have only 5000 members worldwide. The Anti Defamation League estimates that only about 100 members of the community are active in anti-Israel activism. The NK are also regressive religious fundamentalists. Their entire reason for being so adamantly against the state of Israel comes from the Talmud. Specifically a portion called the Three Oaths. This passage contends that the Jews would not rebel against the gentile world that gave them sanctuary in exile. Furthermore that Jews would agree not to immigrate en masse to Israel, and supposedly in return the gentile nations promised not to persecute the Jews. The NK see Israel as rebelling against this pact made with G-d.

It feels a little silly to say this, but I think any objective observer can conclude that this pact hasn't worked out particularly well for we Jews. The above referenced Holocaust, the pogroms of the 18th, 19th, 20th Centuries, hundreds of years of blood libels and scapegoating for every crime imaginable from throughout the world are all pretty good evidence of this. In fact, every single atrocity perpetrated against Jews throughout the world is further evidence of Israel's need to exist. Jews are still persecuted throughout the world today. the IDF covertly rescued the last of Syria's Jews last summer. a three thousand year old Jewish community in Yemen was told to convert or die mere months ago. Fundamentalists of all stripes are not known for their critical thought. In fact that is probably the common ground the NK could find with someone as despicable as Ahmenidijad. In addition to draconian views on homosexuals and women.

The anti-Zionists are a good place for the NK to fester. Like the rest of their compatriots they rest on misunderstood concepts and ideology as opposed to reality. It consistently amazes me that the Left is often anti-Israel when Israel embraces many policies that are domestically more progressive than those in the US. Tel Aviv is one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. (how's the pride parade in Gaza City?). Israel has women in government, (and a former Prime Minister!), Arabs in government, Muslims in government, Christians in government; and the Druze, those guys are awesome. These are not tokens to try to produce good optics. These are realities of life in Israel, and no other nation in the Middle East. And yet the anti-Israel gaggle despises a nation that practices the ideals they would otherwise be proud to see. "Oh but it's not anti-Semitism" they will say, "just look, we have some totally Jew-y looking guys over there."

The NK are not the only Jews who obnoxiously fight against other Jews about Israel.  In fact there's a group of more modern Jews who do so with less visual tokenizing. They are called Jewish Voice for Peace. In the immortal styling of Linda Richman they are barely Jewish, not a voice and not for peace. More to come on them next time....


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I don't have a large readership, but this marks the first time I might write about something that could cause some readers to question my judgment.
From my all too frequent musings on Twitter (@clompthestrong) I have found that most like minded Zionists that I converse with are very conservative in their political leanings. This is a common feature I see in American politics: US conservatives are frequently more supportive of Israel than most liberals. I've never completely understood this as Israel is a relatively liberal nation, gay marriage was recognized a long time ago, universal healthcare etc. Conversely it is for those reasons that I've never really understood the reticence of US liberals to support Israel.
So what's the risk I'm taking? I'm going to make a recommendation for the 2016 presidential race, and that recommendation is former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yes, I'm a Democrat. I hope that doesn't automatically disqualify me from ever being read again by my more conservative readers. Stick with me, I believe I can offer a compelling case.
How does this tie into Zionism? Hillary has a long record of being a friend to Israel, even going back to her days as First lady of Arkansas where she introduced Israeli education methods to Arkansas schools. More recently as Secretary of State she helped put together an international coalition that maintained the toughest sanctions on Iran (that Kerry helped unravel, but that's another story) and has said several times that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; which clearly includes unilateral Israeli attacks on reactors should that be necessary (like Israel did to the Iraqi reactor in 1984). Hillary has also stated that any attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US.
While in the Senate Hillary introduced legislation to call for release of Israeli soldiers held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah. She cosponsored the Palestinian AntiTerrorism Act in 2006 which blocked foreign assistance to Hamas, and cosponsored the Syrian Accountability Act to pressure Syria to stop supporting terrorism in the Middle East.
A personal memory I have is watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show try to challenge Mrs. Clinton about 2014's Gaza War. She told the following story that I still tell people who don't understand what dealing with Hamas governed Gaza. In 2005 Israel removed all settlers from Gaza. It was a heart wrenching experience for Israeli citizens being ripped from their homes. The Israelis left behind a flourish floral business that had been built up from nothing. The Israelis left their greenhouses and businesses for the Gazans to take over. Instead of picking up where the Israelis left off, the Gazans burned the greenhouses to the ground. This anecdote is a perfect microcosm of how Hamas views Israelis and Jews; they only seek to destroy us. I believe Mrs. Clinton understands this in a way no other candidate does. She was right about the Arab Spring. She recognized that it wasn't going to lead to the kind of reforms Obama was hoping. Mrs. Clinton's strength is something her Democratic opponent severely lacks, she sees the world as it is whereas Bernie Sanders sees the world as he would prefer it to be.
I'm aware of Mr. Sanders' time spent on a kibbutz in Israel. I'm of course aware that he is a fellow Jew (but that doesn't seem to be something he takes any note of). One of Sanders' best moments on Israel came during a townhall in VT during 2014's Gaza War. He told an obnoxious audience member (who was calling Hamas a humanitarian organization) to shut up and reminded the audience what a nightmare Hamas is on a daily basis for Israelis. This seems to be about the end of positive things I can say about Mr. Sanders in regard to his support for Israel. He frequently calls for less defense spending and aid for Israel. He supports the two state solution (see my previous entry for more on why that is a total fantasy) like many well intended but ignorant liberals. What is most disturbing to me from this perspective is his rank amateur understanding of the Middle East, its complexities and nuances (he demonstrates this level of ignorance for other international areas as well, but I'm focusing only on the Middle East). When recently questioned about how to fight ISIS Mr. Sanders suggested a Muslim coalition. Sounds good right? Well he intimated that Iran and Saudi Arabia should work together. Sure, maybe after they're done setting each others embassies on fire. He also stated in a recent interview that he will take Middle East analysis from the spineless hacks at JStreet. It is my conclusion that Mr. Sanders' plan for Middle East terrorism would clearly include even worse relations with Israel than John Kerry has now and well....it's hard to come up with anything else as he doesn't give much more. I don't feel Mr. Sanders has any deep understanding of the complexities and statesmanship of dealing with the interests of several nations on an international stage. Considering he's been representing Vermont, a mostly white state with a paltry population of 626,000 people this isn't entirely surprising.
For any Democratic observer of Middle East politics, Hillary Clinton is not just the smart choice, she is the only choice. One cannot overstate the shameful lack of thought Mr. Sanders has put into this crucial area of consideration.
As I'm not a Republican I'm not going to make a recommendation on their side, but I don't find their general threats of nuking Syria until their sand glows appealing. If you're a Republican, I hope you'll read this and give Mrs. Clinton some serious consideration in this primary and if she gets the Democratic nomination in November.
I'm going to go out on a final limb here. I sense in Mrs. Clinton the capacity to be a leader like Golda Meir. Strong, determined, extremely smart and also a big heart. I'm reminded of Golda's quote about when there were many sexual assaults in Israel and some politicians suggested a curfew for women and she responded that the men were the criminals, let them stay home. The State Department under Mrs. Clinton had the "Hillary Doctrine" which was essentially the directive to always include initiatives for women and girls in all dealings possible. I also think of her broken heart following the Munich Olympic massacre and her response to assassinate the terrorists. These are the kinds of heart and mind soul wrenching decisions a president has to make, that I feel Mr. Sanders is incapable of effectively making; those are the kinds of foot steps I can see Mrs. Clinton following in as president of the US.
#I'mwithher

PS- back to non partisan writing next time, I promise. Thanks for sticking around until the end.