I know I’m stepping into it: My take on the Israeli-Palestine dispute (post-Obama speech)

•May 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

I’ve held this view for a long time, ever since my 2004 class at U-M with Mideast expert Dr. Ron Stockton. I wrote about it for my final in that class, which asked us how we would solve the impasse between the two. With some modifications from then, this is what I think a good solution would be.

We’re rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, and Israel’s rationale for holding onto the Golan Heights and the West Bank no longer exists. They have longstanding peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Syria alone does not have the power or ability to do anything more than annoy Israel or, in a worst case scenario, lead an attack on the northern towns that would ultimately fail. The continuous moves of the Israeli right-wing to build settlements and refuse to follow a process long established in law are harmful to Israel’s long-term security.

The idea of a split Palestine that has existed since the Oslo Accords has been a poor choice, and is reflected in current circumstances. With a soverign nation in between their two parts, Palestine is like Pakistan in the 1960s: at total risk of a major split. Hamas’ influence benefits from the split between Gaza and the West Bank, because the Palestinian Authority is based in the West Bank, and has little control over Gaza, because it is so tightly closed off by Israel. It’s an untenable situation. The best solution would be Israe lhelping Palestinians relocate to the West Bank and yield it as the Palestinian nation, in return, Israel could keep Gaza and redevelop it for other purposes. A split nation is ungovernable, and Israel would have, in their minds, one less threat to worry about. One contiguous border is much easier to defend than two. Israel would retain safe ports on the Mediterrean, and the Palestinians would have the Jordan River to use for water and other resources. A good IMF loan would be a way to help finance it to keep the burden from hurting Israel’s economy.

The status quo can’t keep going. With a few differences, the original UN partition plan of 1948 gave the West Bank to the Palestinians and some chunks elsewhere (which, to be honest, was a STUPID idea, because nations can’t be scattershot like that), but a West Bank Palestinian nation, by itself, would be a major achievement, it would give them a safe border with fellow Arabs in Jordan, and Israel would maintain access to the sea.

As for Jerusalem….the best, fairest option is to split the city, with UN guaranteed access to all religious sites, and a UN contingent to provide security at the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, the Holy Sepulchre church, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Getting agreement on this front will be next to impossible, but it is the fairest compromise. It would return Jerusalem to its 1967 state, with East Jerusalem being Palestine’s capital, and West Jerusalem remaining Israel’s, as it has been since 1949.

I’m sure plenty of disagreement will be out there from both sides, but any attempts at unduly penalizing either side would simply cause more intransigence and violence, and an end to this needs to come sooner rather than later. The President simply said out loud what has been U.S. policy (on and off somewhat) since Nixon in 1973, but the response of Republicans and Netanyahu is the knee-jerk reply that has been causing this violence for so long. Netanyahu says that the 1967 lines were boundaries of war, but as I’ve stated above, it’s not a valid criticism, because Jordan and Egypt have long ago made peace with Egypt. Furthermore, the criticism that Ed Henry is voicing on CNN right now, that came from others, is that he’s asking the Israelis to compromise before negotiating with the Palestinians. This is so ignorant of recent history that it makes me want to cry. The Oslo Accords set a process. That process was more or less advanced through 2000, when Ehud Barak made a final offer of virtually the entire West Bank to Arafat, 98% of it, which was a number that had steadily gone up since 1993. So, saying it’s a compromise before negotiation is wrong, because this was ALREADY previously established in negotiations.

I don’t know that agreement will come any time soon. I doubt it will, until the last of these older right-wingers dies off. Netanyahu’s crude attempt to set off the right wing here in America against the President, his blatant attack on our foreign policy when we have backed Israel far more than it has deserved sometimes, deserves a full apology. We helped deliver peace with Egypt and with Jordan, because those nations trusted us, and we were serious mediators because we refused to give Israel everything it wanted. We must keep that same position if we are to help these two sides negotiate a lasting peace.

Update: Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of TPM Media, weighs in (Marshall is Jewish).

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My response to the Baltimore Sun’s false equivalency column

•April 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m posting this here for the simple reason that since the author gets to approve all comments on their site, I highly doubt it’ll see the light of day. Original article here.

Well, sir, aren’t you special? How amusing that you try to distinguish your false equivalency by “throwing a bone.” The difference between a Fox ideologue and one on MSNBC is that the ones on MSNBC put facts together. Beck, Hannity & O’Reilly create their own reality.

However, in a sign of how poorly the media has lost their way (this coming from someone who ran his college paper and WANTED to be a journalist before finding out what a shell it’d become), people like you feel duty-bound to create an equivalence between both sides, ignoring the facts of the situation, and maybe, just maybe “throw a bone” to one side once in a while, all in the name of fairness.

It’s fair to say that Olbermann has at times been a little over the top in his comments (and I will say outright that I am a fan of his). It’s fair to say that he may have overreached at times. But to compare his call for dirt on Beck and Ailes to the flat-out accusations of racism directed at the president by Beck, who has faced some horrendously virulent racism during the campaign and his term, is the worst of false equivalencies. You conflate passion with anger, racism with activism, and blatant hate-mongering with fury.

You are wrong, Mr. Zurawik, because you unfairly apply the same terms to two sides of the equation. Mr. Olbermann could be loud, angry, and sometimes over the top, but he never advocated violence. On the whole, he frequently called out those who advocated such violence and hate. He didn’t go after 78-year-old professors. He didn’t accuse people of trying to kill him. He didn’t make the wild, baseless accusations that Beck did, and when he said something, there was typically a good deal of facts to back up his statements. He didn’t twist history to his own purposes and invent massive right-wing conspiracies. And unlike Beck, he went after people on the left when it was merited, but his criticism, while passionate, often maintained a basic civility that Beck lacks.

So, go on, continue to spin your own balance. But just remember that “fair and balanced” is a Fox News term, and the truth isn’t always fair or balanced.

What’s So Conservative About These People?

•March 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After reading a short op-ed piece this morning in the L.A. Times, I really started to wonder: What’s so “conservative” about these conservatives?

So, before starting, I’ve consulted my Random House dictionary, and it defines a conservative, first and foremost, as “1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”

Ok, then. Now that we’ve defined what a conservative is supposed to be, let’s take a look at the bunch running the show on various levels of government.

First, in Wisconsin, we’ve got Koch’s bought and paid for thug governor, Scott Walker. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to innovate in a variety of areas, and its traditions are very liberal/progressive. From the start of the Progressive party under the La Follette family (who established direct primary voting, the minimum wage, workers compensation), to leading the fight for direct election of U.S. Senators and women’s suffrage, to becoming the first state in the nation to allow public employees to collectively bargain, it has been a state where progressive innovation has been the tradition.

Scott Walker is upending the system and tradition of Wisconsin to suit his needs. He is wanting to go back over a hundred years in time, and take away the rights of the many to serve the powerful few. Decertify the unions, he says. Give me sole control of Medicaid in Wisconsin. Let me sell state property to who I want for what I want. All this under the cloak of a “fiscal emergency” that he helped create with his business tax cuts from a budget that was going to finish as a surplus. What’s conservative about Scott Walker?

In Georgia this year, a bill has been introduced to criminalize miscarriages. That’s right, miscarriages. The Georgia bill also says that the Supreme Court had “no jurisdiction to hear Roe v. Wade and because Georgia wasn’t part of that case, “it carries no legal effect in Georgia.” The Supreme Court stopped having jurisdiction? Since when? They’ve had that since the Constitution was written. They were the last resort in any court case, state or federal. What’s conservative about declaring the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction after 224 years of the Constitution?

In Tennessee, a proposed law would jail those who follow Sharia law (which, on a personal level, includes washing of the feet and prayers) for up to 15 years. “Conservatives” have screamed for decades that Christianity and prayer is being persecuted, but yet in multiple states, bills such as this have been introduced, and in Oklahoma, passed. What’s conservative about not allowing religious freedom?

In the House of Representatives, the “conservatives” want the government to not regulate Wall Street giants, yet they want to create abortion restrictions on private insurance companies and business via a Trojan horse bill to amend health care reform. If a business provides insurance to its employees that includes coverage for abortion, they lose the tax credits a company gets for providing insurance. They only get the tax credits if the insurance policy doesn’t cover abortion. So, they don’t want any regulation of business, unless it’s tied to abortion, then they want to regulate the crap out of it. This, nonwithstanding the fact that some abortions are medically necessary. I had a friend who miscarried but the baby was still inside her. Guess what? An abortion procedure is how that baby is removed. What’s “conservative” about telling people what specific kind of insurance they must buy (because, let’s face it, when 87 percent of policies would be ineligible for the tax breaks, who would buy them)? Aren’t conservatives up in arms over the simple mandate that people must buy health insurance in the first place under health care reform?

Let’s face it. These people are radicals, and dangerous ones at that. They want to undo all the advances of the past 100 years, and ply us with the rules of the 1780s (but only the ones they approve). If they were conservatives, they would truly adhere to the Constitution and law of the land. They would move much more slowly and cautiously towards changes. They would do an awful lot of things differently. Richard Nixon was considered a conservative 40 years ago, but by God, he’d be a heretic to this bunch. Unless you’re ready to gut America and change it into a privatized quasi-fascist state, you aren’t conservative these days. Go ask Mike Castle. Go ask Bob Bennett. These guys got firebombed by these radical lunatics, and they used to be the “conservative” ones.

God help us all. Our fight in Wisconsin is only the beginning.

Nixonland Redux

•June 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Throughout my life, I’ve been asked why I read so much. “Why are you always reading?” “Don’t you get bored reading all that historical stuff?” My answer has always been the same. I’m fascinated by it, and I always know that there’s more I can learn that I didn’t know before.

It is something I wish far more people did.

While I have largely tuned out the cable news shoutfests and the partisan muck, I keep an eye out for the general direction of such things. I’ve devoted far more of my time to looking at our past, and I am astonished to see that very little has changed in 40 years. What I suppose shocks me even more is that after 40 years of the same thing, too many people are either ignorant or deliberately refuse to acknowledge the falsity of some things.

In the late 1960’s, the right-wing blamed everything on Communist fronts. The riots by impoverished blacks in their corrupt cities: Communist-trained. Sex education: Communist-guided to reduce our God-fearing moral direction. Antiwar movements: Communist subversion of our fight in Vietnam. While McCarthyism had ended, the right still saw Commies under every bed, carpet, and vehicle in America. Lord knows they weren’t alone. President Johnson and the vast majority of his cabinet believed the same, even had the CIA investigate it. When director Richard Helms reported there was NO Communist influence, Johnson refused to believe it. The Cabinet responded with disbelief when Attorney General Ramsay Clark said the same.

Today, the subjects have changed, but the same tired charges spew forth. This time, it’s the stimulus bill, or healthcare reform, or Obama’s administration, that are called Communist, products of Communism, et cetera. Communism is dead. China is Communist in title, but not in act. They are a capitalistic economy run by a committee of dictators. Cuba is nearly dead, as is North Korea. The Soviet Union has been dead for 19 years. Why are people still trotting out Communism as something to fear? Even more, why are so many people believing that there is some scary Communist underground in the White House, desperately trying to undermine society?

Because, let’s face it, President Obama has ended up being very moderate on a variety of issues. In fact, many of us who support him find him too willing to hew to Bush administration views regarding our war on terrorism. What I honesty feel it comes down to is that his election broke down another barrier, and it scares the crap out of the WASP/C (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant/Catholic) establishment, and so they drag out the old bogeyman argument to scare Americans into fighting against policies that will better their lives.

Why do I say this? The book Nixonland by Rick Perlstein lays bare, in detail, the offenses and outrage that took place against African-Americans during the sixties, how the conservatives howled with delight as riots took place and then used them as a reason to vote down Great Society legislation, to blame the “coddling” of the disenfranchised as the reason the riots took place (and not their corrupt, racist city structures), and use them as a reason to use police state tactics. Again, they weren’t alone. The liberal Johnson administration, and Secretary of Defense Bob McNamara, drew up legal orders that would in case of severe inner-city disturbances (which, again, they thought were the work of those nefarious omnipresent Communists) give the President the right to declare martial law, orders that Deputy Attorney General Warren Christopher handed over to John Ehrlichman the day that Nixon took office.

I am not saying, nor do I believe, that disagreements with the President and his policies are born of racism. What I am saying, however, is those who are yelling the loudest about him, are, by and large, from that WASP/C establishment (with the few tokens like Michael Steele and Bobby Jindal). Some of the people protesting him in the Tea Party movement are racist (witness the Obama as witch doctor pictures at rallies). The majority of them, I believe, are simply scared of their order being torn down. They are scared of the demographics that show that Hispanics will be the largest ethnicity in the nation by 2050 (hence the massive cauterwauling about illegal immigration and the clearly racist Arizona effort to not issue birth certificates to children of illegal immigrants-a direct violation of the Constitution’s provisions on such matters.) They are scared of not having power, and so they do their best to scare Americans into believing the worst about these people.

For a nation that constantly changes, we are collectively afraid of change on a deeper level. In 1966, voters in Massachusetts were quoted as saying about Edward Brooke, an African-American Republican candidate for Senator, “Nothing personal, but if we vote you in, we’ll end up with a Negro president.” Now we have a black president (albeit a mixed-race one), and the fears of those type of people have been realized. So, Glenn Beck goes on TV and says Obama hates white people. Sarah Palin said during the campaign, “He isn’t like you and me,” echoes of Nixon’s charges about the antiwar crowd. He is decried as a closet Muslim (because in this age of terrorism, being Muslim is scary!) and a militant black Christian in the same breath. The “birthers” scream for proof of his citizenship, much as they did against the Mormon George Romney in 1968, because he was born in Mexico while his parents were out of the country.

Anyone that is “different,” who isn’t part and parcel of the power structure, Americans fear. In the late 19th century and well into the 20th century, Catholics were supposedly part of some papist plot to put America under their control, and John Kennedy repeatedly had to demonstrate his fealty to America. Today, many of those Catholics, sadly, repeat the same sort of slurs, directing them at Obama, that he’s a closet Muslim who wants America under Sharia law. None of it was or is true, about Catholics, about Mormons, about Muslims, but a fear and smear campaign always bears more fruit than one based on facts.

This is why I read. This is why I consume as much information as possible. This is why I read the newspapers (online), scores of books, and study history with the devotion I do. Because the maxim is true, that those who fail to learn history are destined to repeat it. Nixonland, sadly, is alive and well in this divided nation, still perpetuated by the same type of people, with the same falsities and myths propagated upon an America that is as vulnerable and afraid as it was in the late 1960’s. Too many people do not care or try to know anything more than what the loudest, most ignorant person in their communities or on their televisions and radios shouts. In their isolation, they do more to destroy what makes our nation great than any external enemy could ever hope to achieve.

Andre Bauer Is A Jackass

•January 27, 2010 • 1 Comment

Crossposted at the American Princess

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but this guy just flat out pissed me off.

My friend Sarah pointed out this story to me, and it is incredibly offensive, to say the least. Andre Bauer, the lieutenant governor in South Carolina who is running for the big job to replace cheating Mark Sanford, compared people receiving government aid to “stray animals” during a campaign appearance recently.

Bauer said, “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

In the midst of the worst economic crisis in this country in decades, Bauer is reviving rhetoric straight from the 1980s, ignoring the fact that welfare was dramatically overhauled in the 1990s, and acting like his state, one of the poorest in the nation, should just be filled with starving homeless people. Because THAT’S going to make it such an attractive place for people to want to visit, live and work in.

Bauer added, “I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina,” adding, “You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period. So how do you fix it? Well you say, ‘Look, if you receive goods or services from the government, then you owe something back.'”

58 percent of South Carolina’s children are in that program. Could it be that their schools have crappy funding and don’t get the materials they need to teach the children properly? Could it be that their economy is in the toilet? South Carolina was filled with textile factories and the like, jobs that have disappeared over the past 20 years. Furthermore, statistically (thank you, Census Bureau), South Carolina’s income levels are well lower than the U.S. average and their poverty rate is higher than the U.S. average. People can be working full-time and still under the poverty ceiling, meaning, wait for it….they get government assistance.

Bauer’s comments reek of a lack of knowledge, not to mention a lack of compassion for human beings. The only thing of intelligence he said was that aid programs should require drug testing from its receipients. That’s fine, most of them do anyways. A once-a-month random drug test is not the worst thing in the world to ask. But Bauer’s requirement that parents attend PTA meetings and parent-teacher conferences or lose their aid is idiotic. An awful lot of people receiving aid are working at the Wal-Mart to bring in a little more money to support their families and they don’t necessarily have that sort of time. PTA meetings are pretty useless in any case, but that’s beside the point. Sarah is a single mom, not by choice, and she works 60-70 hours a week, and her daughter gets the free lunch program at school. She doesn’t have time to go to a freaking PTA meeting. Should her daughter go without food because she’s working hard and doing her best to make a living?

Look, long story short here is that it is incredibly easy to demonize people who are beneath you on the socio-economic scale. It makes people feel better about themselves when they can portray the random idiot who lives off a dole as the rule and not the exception. It’s also incredibly shortsighted and downright stupid to say such things. I know a multitude of people who’ve had to be on food stamps or get state aid and NONE of them wanted to be there and were trying hard to get work that would support their families or were going to school to make their chances better. It’s an awful economy and people do need help right now. Not helping people who are unable to get work just means you’re going to increase the amount of people who are homeless, starving, and filling our streets, and who does that benefit?

Maybe it’s easy when you are a high government official and live in an official home and don’t have to see the consequences of such things, but for those of us who do see it, for those of us who have experienced it, Andre Bauer is a jackass. Stray animals? Really? Do us a favor and get the facts or shut your ignorant mouth.

Tolerant In Name, Not In Action

•November 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It was with the deepest sadness that I awoke this morning and discovered that once again, via a ballot measure, Americans voted to deny equal rights to their fellow citizens. I cannot express the emotions that have churned inside of me all day, the feeling of shame that once again, we lived up to our worst instincts.

Surely, I thought, surely the citizens of Maine would let the wisdom of their elected representatives and governor stand, and show leadership on this issue. Surely the tide would finally turn.

But I, and so many others, were terribly wrong. So today, I feel sick.

What is it about Americans that when we are faced with moral issues at home, we consistently fail the test for years after the rest of the world has gotten with the fucking program? Yes, I swore right there, because that’s how upset I am. In so many ways, we are the greatest nation on earth, but we are so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to moral issues. Europe ended slavery before us, they’ve decriminalized or legalized marijuana before us, legalized gay marriage before us. Not to say that all of Europe is a hotbed of civil liberties, but we really miss the boat sometimes. Whenever fear is invoked by someone, we curl up into a ball and start taking rights away from people. It has never failed, since our inception as a nation, we blow it over and over again.

Every time one of these votes comes on a ballot, we get “fear the queers” blasted all over our televisions and radios and newspapers. “They’re gonna make your kids gay in the schools!” “They’re gonna sue your church to force them to marry them!” “They’re going to ruin your heterosexual marriage!” The same propaganda over and over again, and here’s the thing: it’s all a lie. Much like McCarthyism was a lie, or the Red Scare of the 1920’s, or the idea that ending slavery would destroy the South. Well, that last one is kinda true, but only because they decided to attack the government over their right to treat blacks worse than their hunting dogs.

Oh, and of course, we can spend a trillion dollars to give people halfway across the world “freedom”, all while killing thousands of them, but we can’t allow gay people to marry and share the same civil rights as the rest of the nation. This, of course, would cost zero dollars and not kill anyone, but the thought of gay people having rights is apparently as scary to most of America as the idea of black people being allowed to marry white people fifty years ago. It’s some godawful thing that’ll cause the world to end, except it really won’t.

My generation is solidly behind allowing gay marriage. We have the power to change the nation, but last night showed what happens when we don’t vote. We get regressive white men running Virginia and New Jersey, and bigotry won again somewhere. Yes, the change is coming, but it’s moving slower because too many people my age don’t storm the damn barricades and bring change where it’s needed most: the ballot box.

I guess I’ll conclude this ramble by saying it’s time for this to end. I’m tired of waking up after elections and feeling sick. I’m tired of my friends being denied equal rights. I’m tired of this nation being less than because people would rather be afraid than do the right thing. It is long since time to stop denying equal rights to people, all people, gay, straight, black, brown, white, male, female, whoever.

I Have No Witty Headline

•October 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Crossposted at The American Princess

It’s kind of hard to come up with a good headline for a story that bothers me so badly. I am probably what one would call a “dissident” or “lapsed” Catholic, in that I don’t go to Mass or financially participate in the Church any longer, yet I do pray and observe the holidays and Lent. I have argued that I didn’t leave the Church so much as the Church left me. Yes, I have become more liberal in the past ten years, yet the details and poor handling of the abuse scandal (which affected me VERY deeply and is another topic for another time) is what pushed me out of active participation (I was a lector). The lurch rightward in the past few years deepened the schism, as last year I made efforts to return to the Church, only to feel pushed back out by further developments.

The story that has so upset me is this. The gay marriage battle is raging in Maine, where a proposition, similar to California’s, is up for a vote on November 3, to reverse the decision of that state’s supreme court in recognizing gay marriage. The anti-gay marriage side has received over half a million dollars from the local diocese in Portland to wage its media campaign. Repeat that number again, and square it with the current circumstances going on nationwide and surely up in Maine as well. We’re in a terrible recession. People are going broke, losing their homes, going without food, etc. From an institutional perspective, parishes and schools are closing down, changing the fabric of many a neighborhood (I’ve seen this at the parish in which I grew up, served as an altar boy, was confirmed, etc.)

Despite this, the local bishop saw the anti-gay marriage crusade as deserving of a half-million dollars of diocese funds. Do you think the person in the pews at Sunday mass thought this is where their money would go to? People are urged to give at mass to help the sick, the needy, the suffering, and to keep their parish open, but the bishop took that money and used it for what? Who was clothed, fed or housed with that money? What parish was kept open by that money?

I understand that the Catholic Church has a long-standing antipathy to homosexuality, let alone an opposition to gay marriage. It’s part of the doctrine, and while it is something I find personally abhorrent, those are the rules. Furthermore, the great thing about America and our freedom of religion is that anyone is free to object to gay marriage, the bishop of Portland included, and can do so on religious grounds. If the bishop had launched a campaign to go on news programs and tour churches statewide to push for what he believed in, I couldn’t object to that. I do not agree with him, but he’d be spreading the word in a manner that I’d have no objection to.

What he did, though, was hand $529, 666 over to the group fighting against gay marriage in Maine. The church didn’t even use the money itself. Is it the church’s money to use as it wishes? That’s a yes and no question, because just like taxpayer dollars, when church dollars are spent, they are spending the parishoners money, hard-earned money that is difficult to come by these days. I wonder what they think of this. After reading a story like that, would you be as generous in your weekly donation at Mass? There’s a good likelihood that many of them would not. It’s hard to give your money to your church when it asks for it and is deceptive about what it is for. And if the campaign to stop gay marriage is unsuccessful, the bishop will have squandered money that could’ve been used for far more productive ends.

As I have written before, and used as my main point in a debate I had with a Focus on the Family member in Los Angeles three years ago, the sanctioning of gay marriage is a civil function, defined by state authorities, and in no way impinging upon the prerogatives of religious institutions. Those states that have legalized gay marriage have not seen a collapse in the institution of marriage, they have not seen heterosexual marriage decline, they have not seen a loss of morality. Quite frankly, sometimes religion is ahead on the human rights issue, and sometimes it is behind on it. This is one of those times it is behind, because not only is the Church preventing the equality of civil rights for an entire group of people, but they are also working to prevent it at the expense of many other people who need their help, and I cannot help but find that morally repugnant. It is one thing to fight against something, it is quite another to take money collected from people under the guise of helping those in need and using it to prevent equality of civil rights.