Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dershowitz's challenge is an offer to give $15,000 as an "award"

Upon some further reflection, I realize I should be using Dershowitz's own words to describe what he is offering. He is not offering a "bet" if the word "bet" requires the person challenging him to pay him $15,000 if the challenge somehow "fails."

Dershowitz is, as he said, offering an "award" of $15,000. Specifically, this is what Dershowitz has said:

"A few years ago, I offered a $15,000 award...I re-offer it here today, to anybody who can come up with a single prominent Jewish leader who has ever equated the legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Nobody has come to collect the award...because it has never happened."


Well, I think it has happened. And Dershowitz should pay the award to anyone who has challenged him with the examples I have provided or other examples that would reasonably qualify.

Oh, Professor Dershowitz? You sure you want to keep open your bet?

This New York Times article summarizes a report from a prominent Jewish-oriented organization that declares nearly any reasonably challenging criticism of Israel equates to "anti-Semitism."

The organization, the American Jewish Committee, has just released a report entitled "Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." With a title like that, no wonder the NY Times writer (herself Jewish) described the AJC as "conservative." Really, Rush Limbaugh couldn't have come up with a better title for the report.

Anyway, here is the web site for the AJC where you can download the report.

But, let us now recall Professor Dershowitz's $15,000 bet (see here and here), which the good professor reiterated just last week. Bad timing for him, eh?

Sad news all around...

Molly Ivins, R.I.P. She was a wonderful person, witty, charming and a great writer. I miss her already.

And, on all days, Hugo Chavez has finally become a full fledged Peronist, something I always hoped would not happen. Still, maybe some good will come out of it, but I think instead one will see political repression in Venezuela more than reforms. By "reforms," I mean new laws where the Venezuelans secure more control over their nation's natural resources and finances. Despite my misgivings, I would still oppose the Bush administration attempting to invade or de-stabilize Venezuela. The Venezuelan people will take care of their own government if or when Chavez begins to abuse this ridiculous power the Venezuelan legislature has ceded to him.


(Edited)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why the Web people are smarter than most television and radio millionaire commentators

You gotta watch this.

And yes, you should watch more of ZeFrank.

(Hat tip: Ezra Klein's blog)

Another problem for Dershowitz and his bet?

I received a comment at this post from a person who states he is a Palestinian (see comment number 5). He commented that he found another example that directly challenges Dershowitz with regard to the "bet" that no prominent Jewish leader has ever equated legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

The commenter's link did not work, but I think the article was a Boston Globe interview with Shulamit Reinharz, a professor of sociology and director of the Brandeis Women's Studies Research Center. Professor Reinharz is also married to the president of Brandeis University (See below for the link).

I did find, however, Professor Reinharz's most recently published article (January 27, 2007) in the "Jewish Advocate" where she expounds on her view that critics of Israel constitute "another form" of anti-Semitism. Here is the article, which I urge readers of this blog to read. For it does sum up views I have consistently heard in Jewish organizations and Temples around the US for many years.

The article attacks a variety of people as anti-Semitic, including Jews such as Noam Chomsky, Tony Judt, Tony Kushner and the Washington Post columnist, Richard Cohen. For example, she attacks Cohen for one essay he wrote, in a despairing moment about the Arab-Israeli conflict, while ignoring Cohen's life-long support for Israel--and other articles such as this one where he castigates those who only blame Israel for the war with Hezbollah last summer (I personally have little use for Cohen, an early Iraq War II supporter, defamer of Howard Dean, Al Gore and other Democrats who show any signs of true progressive or liberal spirit, etc.).

On a case by case basis, a few of those Reinharz cites can be reasonably called "anti-Zionist." But others, such as Chomsky, for example, do not even qualify as anti-Zionist. Chomsky has fairly consistently supported separate states for Israelis and Palestinians and merely hopes that one day the parties will federate and live in a peace. He has supported a Zionism that was associated with the early Zionist movement led by Ahad Ha'am and the Hashomer Hartzir (though, since attaining adulthood, he has said he belongs to no such groups). Kushner is legitimately called anti-Zionist, but one should read this interview in Ha'aretz with Kushner to understand why there is a large gap that has to be filled before one can "legitimately" call him anti-Semitic.

Here is another article where Reinharz is interviewed by a Boston Globe reporter who appears to be stunned by her bluntness (which may be the article the commenter had asked me to read). In the article, readers may also note how Reinharz lampoons Carter by using his religious faith. In her defense, this is not an attack on Carter's religion. However, people like Reinharz would argue it was an attack on a person's religion if someone else had used a pro-Israel supporter's Judaism in the way she did to lampoon that pro-Israel supporter.

But, again, note how narrow Dershowitz can get to avoid paying on his bet. Is Shulamit Reinharz a "prominent Jewish leader"? Well, maybe she has become "prominent" when she is interviewed in the Boston Globe and has an article published in a national Jewish oriented journal. Maybe her position and marriage to the president of the most prominent Jewish-oriented university in the US qualifies her as a "leader". However, this is where Dershowitz can wiggle out of having to pay his bet if he were to contest this challenge. On the other hand, as I noted in a comment I wrote in that previous post (see my comment #2 to the post) to a defender of Deborah Lipstadt, Dershowitz has chosen the language for the bet or contract, and he should live with the ambiguity of the language he has chosen.

I would also say that, since Dershowitz has made his statement in a public forum, he ought to perhaps be required to pay $15,000 to every individual who comes forward who makes the case against him--until he formally revokes the bet, which again under contract law he can do before having to pay more persons.

As for Reinharz, shame on her. She is part of the flack machine that attacks Americans who voice opinions similar to those uttered by Israeli Jews in Israel where, in Israel, they do not have to often face such virulent criticism that is leveled against such critics in the US.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Don't let suicide bombers derail peace talks

This morning's suicide bombing, in an area of Israel not often hit by terrorist acts, was not perpetrated by Hamas. However, Hamas has publicly said the bombing was a "natural response" to Israeli policies. Hamas, in making this statement, without an additional one which calls for peace with Israel, ends up being more of an endorsement than a denunciation of violence.

I doubt the Israeli military strategists are surprised that this attack has occurred, other than its location. For the Arab terrorists announced they would respond to the November 2006 Israeli attacks that left 52 Palestinians dead (this is not including the factional violence which has re-erupted among the Hamas and Fatah supporters). Recrimination and revenge begets recrimination and revenge--and I fully understand why some Israelis would now say, "Let's get these guys..." But it is also important to note that some Palestinians feel the same way.

That is why it is important to re-ignite peace talks among the warring parties. To allow the minority of Arabs who perpetrate these acts to continue to rule the day ends up creating conditions for new acts of murder. It is here that the incompetence and self-inflicted loss of credibility on the part of the Bush administration has become a barrier to peace talks.

This
action, however, is promising. For Israel to include a Muslim as a Cabinet minister is very good news--and for a Muslim to accept such a position is an act of courage for peace.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Does Alan Dershowitz owe me or others $15,000?

Alan Dershowitz was at Brandeis University last week to respond to Jimmy Carter and Carter's latest book. In the course of his remarks, Dershowitz said:

"A few years ago, I offered a $15,000 award...I re-offer it here today, to anybody who can come up with a single prominent Jewish leader who has ever equated the legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Nobody has come to collect the award...because it has never happened."

(Please feel free to tell me if I did not transcribe this correctly, but I listened to and watched the statement several times and did my best to transcribe this with accuracy).

After watching the video originally on C-Span, I emailed Professor Dershowitz (before I was able to find the video recording of Dershowitz's remarks on the web), asking Dershowitz to provide a precise statement of his bet. Here is my entire letter:

"I saw you today on C-Span and wanted to understand the precise nature of your 'bet' of $15,000 concerning those who utter statements about Israel that are then called "anti-Semitic." I ask because I thought of a couple of examples that sprang to mind when you made your statement:

"When Leon Wieseltier, in his New Republic essay, 'What is Not to be done: Israel, Palestine and the return of the binational fantasy' (Oct 23, 2003) (sic-Oct 27, 2003 issue), called Tony Judt's position 'anti-Semitic,' did that qualify under your proposed rules? When you called Walt and Mearshiemer's article 'bigoted', did that count, too? Or when Martin Indyk of the Saban Center said Walt and Mearsheimer were alleging a Jewish 'cabal' had taken over American foreign policy, was that a claim that they were anti-Semitic?

"I am not sure, but I think you said the statement have to be uttered by a prominent person in a Jewish organization, which I would presume would include ADL, AIPAC, AJC or Jewish Federation--but maybe the Saban Center would not qualify. Perhaps, in the case of Judt or Walt and Mearsheimer, you may find they are in fact uttering 'anti-Semitic' statements about Jews and/or Israel.

"I also note that Abe Foxman of the ADL has called Carter or at least his book, 'bigoted,' too. Here is a quote from a recent NY Times article about Foxman and the 'anti-anti-Semite' issue (Jan 14, 2007):

"'But, I asked, isn’t slinging the dread charge of anti-Semitism at people like Jimmy Carter and Tony Judt and Mearsheimer and Walt really a way of choking off debate? No, it isn’t, Foxman said. This was at our lunch; Foxman got so exercised that he began to choke on his gratin. I asked if it was really right to call Carter, the president who negotiated the Camp David accords, an anti-Semite.

“'I didn’t call him an anti-Semite.'

“'But you said he was bigoted. Isn’t that the same thing?'

“'No. "Bigoted" is you have preconceived notions about things.'

"The argument that the Israel lobby constricted debate was itself bigoted, he said.

“'But several Jewish officials I’ve talked to say just that.'

"'They’re wrong.'

“'Are they bigoted?'

"Foxman didn’t want to go there. He said that he had never heard any serious person make that claim...."

_______

(My email to Dershowitz goes on as follows)

"I quote the above and raise these points because, apart from any 'bet,' I am of the view that it is more difficult to express views like, say, Gideon Levy or Amira Haas, in US media than in Israeli media. If Levy or Haas--or Tanya Reinhart or Uri Averney (sic Uri Avnery)--were printed in a prominent US newspaper or allowed to utter their views on American network television or radio, they would immediately be called 'bigoted,' 'anti-Israel,' or perhaps 'anti-Semitic' or 'self-hating Jews.' Certainly, I've heard people in various Temples I've belonged to over the years say 'Gore Vidal is anti-Semitic' for example, though most American Jews in those Temples don't know the others I mentioned in this paragraph.

"Your response is appreciated as I know you are very busy.

"By the way, my son, for his Bar Mitzvah this past November, used your book, 'The Genesis of Justice' for research into his speech which summarized various interpretations of the Abraham and Isaac story. I loved your book too (He found the book on one of my bookshelves, right next to your other great book, 'The Vanishing American Jew'). Then, within a month of his Bar Mitzvah, he read and greatly enjoyed the entire book. I know [you and I] share a similar outlook about religion and Judaism, and we are both lawyers who recognize the importance of debate and argument. On Israel, your opening remarks I heard on C-Span today sounded like mine, but then again, Chomsky himself might even have agreed with your opening statements. Oh well. When all is said and done, we are both Jewish in our spirits--so of course we will have some disagreement with regard to various issues..."

__________

Now back to this post!

Since writing that email, I have come across Deborah Lipstadt's January 20, 2007 op-ed in the Washington Post where she said President Carter had uttered "anti-Semitic" canards in the course of his defending himself from attacks on his latest book. Lipstadt said:

"Carter's book 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,' while exceptionally sensitive to Palestinian suffering, ignores a legacy of mistreatment, expulsion and murder committed against Jews. It trivializes the murder of Israelis. Now, facing a storm of criticism, he has relied on anti-Semitic stereotypes in defense."
(Bold added)

One may say Lipstadt is not a prominent Jewish leader, but of course, she made international headlines and was declared a hero for vanquishing a Holocaust denier in court, and is a prominent historian of Jewish history--and is herself Jewish.

Again, as to Foxman's comments regarding Carter, Dershowitz may argue that "bigotry" is not "anti-Semitism." Sorry, but that is logically wrong. "Anti-Semitism" is a specific form of "bigotry". Indeed, the ADL, on its web site, states as its first mission:

" ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry here and abroad..."

To deny that "anti-Semitism" is a form of "bigotry" is to deny that Judaism is a specific form of religion. One might as well argue that "libel," which is the written form of defamation, is not the same as "defamation."

Therefore, when Abe Foxman, the national leader of the Anti-Defamation League, a prominent Jewish oriented organization, calls Jimmy Carter's criticism of Israel "bigoted," then a reasonable interpretation of that statement is that Foxman is accusing Carter of "anti-Semitism." Yes, if Foxman criticized a white person for uttering the "n" word about Michael Jordan, that would not be "anti-Semitism." It would, however, still be bigoted--just a form of racial bigotry.

Dershowitz may also raise another defense to my potentially demanding $15,000 from him. Note that Dershowitz qualified his bet by talking about what he calls "legitimate" criticism of Israel. What then is "legitimate" criticism of Israel? Perhaps Dershowitz would say Tony Judt, who calls for a bi-national state for Arabs and Jews over Israeli territory and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, is not making a "legitimate" criticism of Israel. Or perhaps, as Leon Weiseltier, a prominent Jewish writer at the New Republic wrote, Judt, in the course of his main essay on the topic, expressed "an anti-Semitic notion" when Judt wrote that he felt personally "copmlicit," as a Jew, in the conduct of Israeli soliders at Jenin.

Perhaps Dershowitz himself believes Carter's book is not a "legitimate" criticism of Israel. Dershowitz may also believe, as does Debroah Lipstadt, that what Carter specifically says in defending himself is, in fact, "anti-Semitic" and therefore not "legitimate."

If Dershowitz is reduced to these defenses, then one may conclude there is "no beef" to Dershowitz's bet. Dershowitz had started his brief discussion about his bet by suggesting it is a "canard" that people who criticize Israel are read out of polite company or are called anti-Semitic. I guess he hasn't hung around many Temples where people say "The LA Times is anti-Semitic" or even, yes, "The New York Times is anti-Semitic." I've heard it often enough to know it is more than an isolated feeling among Temple members in the US.

Dershowitz should know that Americans in mass media who criticize Israeli policy similar in either information or tone as particular Jewish writers at Israeli major newspapers do not get invited to appear on many corporate mainstream television and radio programs (Pat Buchanan being an exmaple of the "exception which proves the rule"). In other words, if Dershowitz's bet requires that (1) the specific word "anti-Semitism" has to be used in the critique of a person's statements about Israel, (2) the person calling the Israel critic "anti-Semitic" has to be a specific leader of a specific Jewish organization, and (3) Dershowitz himself is the arbiter of whether the criticism of Israel is "legitimate," then Dershowitz is truly parsing and significantly narrowing the scope of his bet. That is not how the world works, and that is not how critics of Israel are weeded out of the discourse of corporate US mass media--and Dershowitz knows that.

I happen to respect Alan Dershowitz's intellect, and I think I'd like him on a personal level. I wrote about Dershowitz recently here and discussed his original statements against Carter's book here.

I know I don't get much traffic, but I wonder, should Dershowitz pay up to someone who provides the above information to him, as I have largely done?

(Edited)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A great defense of former President Carter

Yossi Beilin, a former minister and current member of Israel's parliament, has fairly reviewed President Carter's book on the Palestinian-Israeli problem.

The following portion of the article should be read aloud in every Temple and read by every American Jewish lobbying group leader:

"In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves."


While Beilin says he disagrees with Carter's use of the term "apartheid," a term that at least one other former minister in Israel has found applicable to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, he writes the following:

"But if we are to be fair, and as any reading of the book makes clear, Carter’s use of the word 'apartheid' is first and foremost metaphorical. Underlying Israel’s policy in the West Bank, he argues, is not a racist ideology but rather a nationalist drive for the acquisition of land. The resulting violence, and the segregationist policies that shape life in the West Bank, are the ill-intended consequences of that drive.

"Of course, there is no appropriate term in the political lexicon for what we in Israel are doing in the occupied territories. 'Occupation”' is too antiseptic a term, and does not capture the social, cultural and humanitarian dimensions of our actions. Given the Palestinians’ role in the impasse at which we have arrived, to say nothing of Arab states and, historically speaking, of the superpowers themselves, I would describe the reality of occupation as a march of folly — an Israeli one, certainly, but not exclusively so.

"But if we are to read Carter’s book for what it is, I think we would find in it an impassioned personal narrative of an American former president who is reflecting on the direction in which Israel and Palestine may be going if they fail to reach agreement soon. Somewhere down the line — and symbolically speaking, that line may be crossed the day that a minority of Jews will rule a majority of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — the destructive nature of occupation will turn Israel into a pariah state, not unlike South Africa under apartheid."


He then concludes:

"In this sense, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” is a stark warning to both Israelis and Palestinians of the choice they must make. That choice is between peace and apartheid, for the absence of one may well mean the other. Carter’s choice is clearly peace, and, for all its disquieting language, the book he has written is sustained by the hope that we choose peace, as well."

I hope more and more Americans of the Jewish faith begin to realize that hitching one's wagon to the Bush-Cheney world view and the right wing foreign policy propaganda apparatus, which includes certain hacks and flacks at the New Republic and the Weekly Standard, is not good for Israel and is not good for American Jews. These people are not more "pro-Israel" and are not more loyal Americans than those of us who are crticial of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

If anything, the Bush-Cheney world view is not only wrong, but is dangerous to America's best interests and the American commonweal. That world view is also a danger to the health of both the United States and our planet. If you find this too harsh, then I would merely ask you to read what these flacks and hacks have said about people with my world view and values over the years, including their over the top attacks on Jimmy Carter which were designed to keep people from reading Carter's book and learning the information that Yossi Beillin has recognized is essentially correct. Those who adhere to the Bush-Cheney world view are expert at the rhetoric of de-legitimization and demonization and have a long pedigree going back to the late 1940s and the start of the Cold War.

On the subject of Israel, Beilin's point about Israeli media being tougher than American media on the subject of Israel's occupation is something that, again, should be discussed in Temples across America.

(Edited)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wes Clark steps on a third rail...

Poor Wes Clark. I really, really, really like Wes Clark, and now I read he attacked rich New Yorkers who are Jews who are pushing for war with Iran. Let's have Matt Yglesias tell it:

"Retired General Wesley Clark is, like me, concerned that the Bush administration is going to launch a war with Iran. Arianna Huffington spoke to him in early January and asked why he was so worried the administration was headed in this direction. According to Huffington's January 4 recounting of Clark's thoughts, he said this: 'You just have to read what's in the Israeli press. The Jewish community is divided but there is so much pressure being channeled from the New York money people to the office seekers.'"

Oh, well. Third rail stepped on. Buzz! You're outta here, Wes. Don't even think of running for president right now. Too bad. I really, really like you--Oh, I said that already. Sigh.

Putzim like little Jonny Chait are all upset about this--even though, contrary to Chait, it is true. What cracks me up is that Clark has long ackowledged that his Dad was Jewish. He's no anti-Semite, but he understands American politics very, very well. Again, sigh.

Read the entire Yglesias piece. It is worth the read.

UPDATE on February 4, 2007: Glenn Greenwald links to the right ward NY Sun for an article that, by its own language and analysis, supports what Wes Clark said. Is the NY Sun, a Likudnik American newspaper, anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic? Um, no. Right?

Jim Webb for President. Got that, HillaryObamaBiden?

Jim Webb was awesome and spoke in ways that were positively inspiring.

While HillaryObamaBiden compare unfavorably to Webb, who should just say, "Aw, what the heck, I'm running for president," tonight's speech presented a strong contrast to the idiot liar who is our nation's President.

It is not a good day to be Cheney, either, is it? It appears Fitzpatrick was really gunning for Cheney as part of this prosecution of Libby, after all, and Libby is going to help nail Cheney while trying to defend himself.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pelosi: an effective Speaker of the House

Glenn Greenwald nails it as to how the corporate media ridiculously attacked Pelosi before she started her job as speaker of the House, and how she effectively overcame their malicious attempt to negatively define her. Look for her and Congress' ratings to go up, particularly if and when Bush starts vetoing bills like the Medicare prescription drug reforms.

Funny, though, unlike Robert Reich (thanks, Max, for link), I am relatively happy about the Congress' first 100 hours. On the other hand, I don't get why the school loan bill only cut rates over five years instead of immediately, something Reich does not mention. I would have rather seen a more sweeping student loan bill passed. I do not worry too much, however, about whether to index the minimum wage to inflation.

(Edited)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

HillaryBidenObama make me pine for Al Gore...

Hillary, Biden and Obama are actually the same person: Each is a nice banker. Hillary was of course a member of the board of directors of Wal Mart during the 1980s. She was also a supporter of war against Iraq in 2002 through the present (being against the surge does not alone make one against this war and she will be the first to admit it). Hillary loves most corporate trade deals (her only vote against a corpaorate trade deal was the CAFTA, which she did for rank political reasons). And I can see this coming during a Hillary Presidency, making the dream of that linked writer a horrible reality (note the writer wrote the piece for the Washington Post--she even thinks herself a "liberal" too. Ugh). Democrats who care about Social Security's continued viability should never vote for HillaryBidenObama. Ever.

I've written about Obama before and Biden is not worth the electronic space to write about. Biden is forever barred from receiving my support for his support of the draconian bankruptcy law he sheparded with credit card company money--and his continued support of the war.

John Edwards is looking better day after day after day. My nagging doubt on Edwards was that, as a Senator, he went along too much with the elite the way Obama has. Perhaps losing has truly caused Edwards to recognize he has to take risks and stands--and fight for those stands.

But I must say my heart belongs to the current Al Gore. Though I wish Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer would announce a run for the presidency--if Obama can do it, with his spotty and weak record, Schweitzer sure as hell can. Read Schweitzer's Democratic Party message of the week here. Unlike HillaryBiden (Obama's dithering on the surge really concerns me about the level of his opposition), Schweitzer is consistent in his opposition to the Iraq War II and is a true-blue economic populist who has turned Montana from hard Red to a deepening blue. Even the jerk Joe Klein has noticed.

The worst thing for Democrats right now is to think that the Republicans will remain in complete disarray and that it would be safe to take a chance on Hillary. THAT is precisely what Republicans want Democrats to do. I live in a Republican area and I can tell you this: People hate Hillary in ways that are violently emotional. They would vote for every announced Republican over Hillary. Hillary is radioactive and the irony is they think she is a "leftist," not merely an already detested "liberal." It is beyond weird; it is psychotic.

And Obama? If the Harold Ford election race in Tennessee should have taught Democrats anything, it is that Republicans will easily push racial codes into any election campaign where the Democratic Party nominated a black man for a national office. (Scroll down in link to section entitled "Flying hate below the radar".)

If Gore or Schweitzer decide not to run, I'm leaning toward Edwards, unless Wes Clark decides to run again (decide quickly, Wes, because the donor trains are leaving the station).

(Edited)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Arab street getting tired of their own war mongers

Just as Americans are tiring of the war mongering of the Bush administration, so too are people in the Middle East getting tired of their war mongerers. First, the Iranian citizens rebuked the mullahs in Iran and now the Arab street in Lebanon is showing signs of tiring of Hezbollah's permanent war footing.

This is an important time for US diplomacy, but unfortunately our current executive leadership is utterly cynical and incapable of effective diplomacy. Perhaps Americans with influence can make some supportive statements about Arab citizens and provide positive reinforcement for peaceful overtures.

One must never tire of seeking to take advantage of opportunities for peace, especially in the Middle East region of our planet. As I have said before, the people are not always a "mob" and are often less interested in war mongering than our elite leaders, who often see people as mere pawns for their vanity.

Israeli government leaders are rejectionists, too

The term "rejectionist" applied in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict usually describes Arab intransigence with regard to recongizing and making peace with Israel. However, on any number of occasions, that term has applied to the actions or omissions by Israeli government leaders in rejecting peaceful overtures from Arab leaders.

Here is another ocassion.

Deep in the article, one learns how the Israelis are afraid to make peace with Syria in order not to offend the Bush administration, which is seeking to isolate and maybe bomb the crap out of Syria. Again, the thesis that Israel tells the US what to do is largely backward. Israel is a ward of the US government. While Israel may sometimes take independent action, it is ultimately beholden to US interests. To those Americans who wish to blame Israel for things like the Iraq War II, I'd say, "Look in the mirror."

(Edited)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The State of Corporate Owned Media: Danger alert

Having been ill the past four days, I have had an opportunity to watch a lot of television, and the results are sad and worrisome. First, far too many channels had wall to wall coverage of the Golden Globes, focused almost exclusively on clothes.

Second, and more worrisome, was that the political coverage, since Monday, has been wall to wall speculation about Obama and Hillary. Watching the political talk shows, it was as if those two are the only persons running for president in either of the two major political parties. I have seen next to nothing on what is actually being debated in Congress (C-Span being the sole exception) and was left wondering why the disarray of the Republican Party (Tom Tancredo running for president??!?) isn't worth a mention among these commentators who focus on political gossip and personalities.

I would like to think the anti-corporate trade letter from the 39 new Democratic Party members of Congress (hat tip to David Sirota) would at least have prompted some news reporting on the 24/7 news channels, but no, it's been nonstop Obama and Hillary.

For those who think there is little in the way of propaganda in our corporate media structures, it might be time to think again. There is a consistent choice made in coprorate media as to what is allowed to be discussed and what is not allowed to be discussed. Corporate owned media is fairly consistent in (1) defining people by their views regarding sexual, not economic, issues, (2) ignoring or delegitimizing economic policies that would primarily help working people, (3) talking about "perceptions" while turning elections into horse races and (4) rarely helping Americans understand that the reason so many people in the rest of the world don't like America's foreign policies has to do with the bombs we drop on other people, not Britney Spears, the Golden Globes, or American Idol.

Oh wait? Is American Idol back on tonight? Yes, but TCM has "Casablanca" and "Foreign Correspondent" back to back. Now that's entertainment!

UPDATE: Just watched "The Third Man" which followed "Foreign Correspondent." If you haven't seen "The Third Man," rent it. It is Welles' finest moment apart from "Citizen Kane," and the best film adaptation of a Graham Greene story ever made. TCM is a wonderful channel--and no commercial interruptions. Long may it reign!

(Edited)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

So far, ex-Carter Center critic fails to impress

Kenneth Stein, who has noisily criticized Jimmy Carter's new book, is not impressing me with his critique. He uses hyperbolic terms ("gross inventions, intentional falsehoods and irresponsible remarks") to describe errors that are simply not that significant.

Example: Stein says Carter adds the word "the" in front of the phrase "territories occupied" in UN Resolution 242. That is probably an editing error as the phrasing in Reslution 242 is somewhat awkward (although in Russian, Chinese, French versions of UN Resolution 242, the word "the" is included in that context). Does adding the word "the" significantly change the intent of Resolution 242 according to the US interpretation of that resolution? The answer, from US history, is "no." At the time the Resolution was created, the Israelis specifically requested the word "the" be removed in that context and it was removed. However, US ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg, at the time 242 was written, agreed the purpose of the phrase in the resolution was to include Israel withdrawing from most of the Gaza and West Bank--and potentially all of those areas depending upon the nature of the contemplated peace among the warring parties. Goldberg, 20 years later tried to add more ambiguity to the wording to take the Israeli position that 242 did not require a withdrawal of most of the Gaza and West Bank. However, documents produced at the time of the resolution being written, which are summarized here, show fairly conclusively that the semantics of adding the word "the" do not change the fact that the US wanted Israel to withdraw from most of the occupied territories as part of a larger peace among the nations in the area. The State Department's summary states in pertinent part:

"Washington made vigorous efforts to win Arab support for the U.S. draft. When King Hussein came to New York in early November, Goldberg assured him that the United States supported the return of the West Bank to Jordan with minor boundary adjustments. Rusk confirmed Goldberg’s statements and urged Hussein to use his influence with Nasser...When it appeared that the U.S. draft resolution could not win sufficient support for adoption by the Security Council, Lord Caradon put forward a British draft resolution, similar to the U.S. draft, but calling for 'withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.'...The Israelis did not like the British draft but faced with the prospect of one that would be even less palatable, they acquiesced. The Arabs were equally unenthusiastic. Believing that the British draft offered a basis for the successful negotiation of a peace settlement, Washington promised that if the resolution passed, there would be U.S. support for the proposed British peace effort. At the last minute, the Soviet Union tried to substitute a draft with a stronger withdrawal clause, and Kosygin wrote to Johnson urging immediate Israeli withdrawal. Johnson replied that the United States would vote for the British draft resolution and hoped the Soviet Union would do the same. On November 22, the Security Council unanimously adopted the British draft as Resolution 242..."

If Stein is trying to say that Resolution 242 does not require Israel to withdraw from most of "the" occupied territories under Resolution 242, then it is Stein who is being misleading, not Carter. If Stein is admitting Resolution 242 requires Israel to withdraw from most of the territories as part of a comprehensive peace, then he and Carter have a similar outlook on this issue and the hyperbole Stein is using is not justified.

(As an aside, read Chomsky's analysis from the early 1990s that ironically shows Carter taking a very pro-Israeli government position on Resolution 242 during Carter's own presidency).

Stein also claims Carter made an "egregious" error as to discussions Carter had in 1990 with then Syrian president Assad. Per the article where Stein's discussion is reported, it states:

"But it was in his account of a 1990 meeting with Assad that Carter made his most egregious error, Stein said. Carter wrote that Assad had said that he was willing to negotiate with Israel on the status of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967.

But Stein said his own notes of the Damascus meeting show that Assad, in response to a question from Carter, replied that Syria could not accept a demilitarized Golan without 'sacrificing our sovereignty.'"


Considering that Assad was fairly consistent from the late 1980s forward in saying, give back the Golan Heights in return for Syria recognizing Israel, I am not sure what Stein's problem is here. I personally have never favored Israel giving back the Golan Heights for a mere statement that Syria recognizes the existence of the State of Israel. Carter may now think it is legitimate, but I don't. Still, is this an "egregious error" as Stein is reported as saying? And if it's the most egregious error in Carter's book, then Carter's book must be pretty good.

Still, when we consider the latest evidence of Syrian-Israeli peace talks that were just leaked, it appears the Israelis are ready to give back the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for diplomatic recognition. This again is consistent with Carter's memory of the 1990 meeting with Assad, the current Syrian leader's father.*

* It is sad, but still amsuing to note both the Israelis and Syrians are denying these talks occurred.

Note: Stein does correctly note that Carter describes the meeting as occuring after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Carter's memory is wrong because the meeting occurred in the spring of 1990, which was before Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. That is a factual error, but doesn't really change what actually occurred during the meeting. That Stein may have a slightly different memory of what was said at the meeting does not make Carter's statement "egregious" or in "error."

Overall, while I have at this point, only skimmed Carter's book, I am not hearing anything that justifies the vitriol emanating from Carter's critics. In fact, Carter's book should be read by those American Jews who have not heard much of the information Carter is providing in his book. As this writer from Ha'aretz says, the book is really written for American audiences, and specifically American Jewish audiences--not Israelis, who already know most of what Carter is talking about. If this is the case, then Carter is merely joining the late Yizhak Rabin in his dislike of the leaders of the American Jewish groups who have a Likudnik orientation.

For an earlier discussion about Carter's book and his critics, see here.

(Edited)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A former Israeli minister who won't get many invites from Temples to speak in the US

Via Counterpunch, this is quite an astonishing, though likely accurate article from a former education minister in Israel. I bet she won't get invited to speak to Jewish Federation or most Temples in the US. What a surprise...(insert sarcasm here).

No, the ones who get invited are jerks like this guy.

Thoughts about Bush's proposal for 20,000 more troops

Either Bush gets his way, or this is all a lame and equally futile setup by Bush, right wingers and war mongers for a "stab in the back" argument if Bush's increased troop request is rejected. You know, "If only the US Congress gave us 20,000 more troops, we'd have likely won this thing."

I'll fight the "what ifs" with anyone, so let's hope enough Americans can convince Congress to stop the expansion of this war, and push our way to withdrawal from Iraq.

The attack that angers me the most right now is the "Joe Klein" attack about those opposing Bush wanting the US to fail. The US has already failed in its mission to create a stable, Western oriented Iraq. The attack should be on the president and the war's supporters for sending 20,000 or so more troops into Iraq--and for starting this war that has largely benefited Iran. Such a negligable increase is an insult to our nation and shows an outright contempt for the lives of our nation's troops. The saddest truth is that it would take 500,000 troops to really take over Iraq, but it would still be a violent occupation, not a humanitarian one the way the US occupation of Japan went after WWII. And that is not a solution we should support, either.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

California governor opens door to universal health insurance

The governor of California has now announced his health care initiative. Yes, it's flawed, underfunded and may create perverse incentives for employers to lower the sums employers pay for health care. However, the initiative provides the perfect opening for Shiela Kuehl's plan for universal coverage. Unlike Schwarzenegger's plan, which continues to rely on employer mandates, Kuehl's plan separates employment from health insurance--a much needed reform that frees individuals from having to stay with a company based upon medical insurance coverage. Also, unlike Schwarzenegger's plan, Kuehl's plan promotes a direct choice of one's doctors, among other benefits. On the cost side, Kuehl's plan is better thought out because, through the creation of a government-run insurance group, the costs are much, much lower than the administrative costs of economically inefficient insurance companies. Trust me on this as a lawyer who has sued insurance companies for not providing benefits owed under their policies. Insurance companies are far more faceless and inefficient than Medicare--and privately-owned insurance companies spend upwards of 20% and higher on admin costs, while Medicare has admin costs of 2%.

Democrats in California's legislature passed Keuhl's bill last year, but it was vetoed by Schwarzenegger. It is time to immediately bring back Kuehl's bill and put it side by side against Schwarzenegger's plan. The beauty of Schwarzenegger offering a plan is that now Senator Kuehl's plan can be compared and contrasted with a specific proposal--and hers kicks butt compares to anyone else's specific plan.

Please read the above linked and well-written LA Times article on the governor's plan--and then read Shiela Kuehl's op-ed from the Times comparing her plan to Schwarzenegger's and the two other competing plans. The time is now for telling medical insurance companies that they will now have to compete with a lower cost and more humane government plan (we like competition, don't we?)--and finally separating employment from health insurance, something that business folks are starting to agree with, too.

Economics alert ahead: For those who call Kuehl's plan "socialism," let's look at it this way: The capitalist style of health insurance is clearly inefficient, has created perverse outcomes, and ends up forcing people into HMOs where they can't choose their own doctors. Kuehl's so called "socialized" system, however, allows people the choice of their own doctors. It also creates economies of scale in terms of administration efficiencies and the purchase of medications from Big Pharma. There is also an economic advantage in terms of creating more dynamic forces in our economy. How? Because freeing individuals from jobs they keep because of medical benefits allows people to take risks with new enterprises. For an admittedly unusual example of how social programs create wealth, think of J.K. Rowling, who went on welfare in England, and wrote Harry Potter, and is now richer than the Queen of England. And yes, she now pays big money in taxes to the nation she adores for providing her a chance to succeed. Macroeconomically, think about how the New Deal created the roads, buildings and other superstructures that helped business explode with development after World War II.

No plan is perfect, no system is perfect, we are not perfect. But a universal coverage plan such as the Kuehl plan makes the most sense and is likely to produce the best societal outcomes. Thank you, Governor, for inadvertently reviving Kuehl's plan!

(Edited)

Monday, January 08, 2007

More pillow talk, Maria!

I should have known it would happen. No sooner than I praise Governor Schwarzenegger then he calls for hurting welfare mothers.

Arnold needs to talk to Christopher Jencks and needs to understand that the abuses of welfare by women with children is the exception, not the rule. Also, the LA Times article I linked to appears to be saying that, due to the high cost of housing, any cut in welfare payments could have dramatically adverse consequences, i.e. women and children losing shelter.

I wish people would realize that most welfare recipients are on for short periods of time--this was true back in the 1970s as much as today--and that the cost of welfare is far less than the subsidies we hand out to corporate America. Start here and here, with information from the early to mid-1990s, before the "welfare reform" wave of the mid-1990s. Some pillow talk with Maria and a couple of seminars for the governor are in order. Perhaps that would help the governor see how a punitive approach to welfare reform is inconsistent with his goals for medical insurance for all children in California.

If he is truly interested in raising the workforce rates of poor women with children, don't cut their assistance. Instead, he should find out why more poor women are not in the workforce. He may find a higher incidence of sick children, for example, which keeps the moms home. He may find other reasons that would undermine the assumption that the moms are somehow "lazy."

Again, the governor was off to a good start. He can still maintain that course--but punitive measures against vulnerable and poor people is a hard right turn off the main road.

(Edited)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

More cause for optimism

Now Jewish students at college have an alternative to the right wing war-mongers posing as the only "true" supporters of Israel.

Ooh-mayn. That's "Amen" to those of the non-Jewish persuasion.

T-2 equals I-2 for Schwarzenegger

I guess life does imitate art--again. Recall that in the first "Terminator," Arnold Schwarzenegger played the mean killer robot trying to kill Sarah Connor so she would not get pregnant with the later hero of the human movement against robots in the now not so distant future. Then, in "T2," Schwarzenegger played the good, protective robot who protects Sarah Connor and her still young son.

That of course, was art. But now, in life, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R(?)-CA), in his first term as governor, played the mean-spirited, right-wing economic elitist governor attacking nurses, firefighters and teachers. However, as the governor begins his second term, he is seeking to protect, not scapegoat the most vulnerable people in our State's population--and he wants to protect the earth while he's at it.

Schwarzenegger wants the legislature to pass a government mandate to provide health insurance for all children, including children of illegal immigrants. After all, illegal immigrants live here, work here (and work hard here), and get sick here, too. And he continues to attack those who are skeptical of climate change, and touts his new emissions control plans.

On some level, pillow talk with this person is finally starting to pay off--for the citizens and workers in this State.

Schwarzenegger's second Inaugural speech ("I-2") was a combination of Earl Warren and Pat Brown, two my favorite governors in all of California history. And besides quoting one of my all time favorite historians, Kevin Starr, Schwarzenegger said the following:

"Some pundits said that I won reelection because I co-opted the Democratic agenda. Some said that the Democratic Legislature, by working with me to increase the minimum wage or reform prescription drug costs, abandoned the Democratic nominee for governor. This is the kind of partisan thinking that frustrates the voters and diminishes our democracy. The people are disgusted with a mindset that would rather get nothing done than accomplish something through compromise. I want to thank the Legislature for taking action this past year on behalf of the people, not politics. I thank them for taking that risk.

"The question is not what are the needs of Republicans or Democrats? The real question is what are the needs of our people? We don’t need Republican roads or Democratic roads. We need roads. We don’t need Republican health care or Democratic health care. We need health care. We don’t need Republican clean air or Democratic clean air. We all breathe the same air. When California’s leaders have worked together, we have accomplished good things.

"Consider the danger of global warming. Imagine your child is sick with a rising fever. If 98 out of 100 doctors said the child needed immediate treatment . . . and two doctors said the child was just fine . . . who would you listen to? The 98 or the 2? Should we do nothing about global warming on the slim-chance a few skeptics who deny its existence may be right? No, we should not.
"

This speech presents a wonderful opening for Democrats in the State legislature to speak practically, and propose legislation, to do the right thing in a host of areas, including reform of Proposition 13 concerning taxing of commercial property; public financing of elections; and reforming the three strikes law to ensure that only those who commit violent crimes, not those caught with a marijuana cigarette, are sentenced under that draconian law. And perhaps someone influential among the Legislators would offer the Governor the following compromise: In return for a judicially supervised redistricting deal that changes the State Constitution, the State Constitution should also be amended so that "only" a 55% super majority is needed to raise taxes, not 67% (two-thirds). California is one of two states with such a super-duper majority needed.

I know, I know. Dream on, but at least Schwarzenegger has dared to speak in a populist tone that seeks to uplift, not scapegoat. And he has dared to propose policies that are truly humane and again uplifting, not based upon false limitations and despair.

(Edited)

Anti-Israel media strikes again--oops, wait...um...

Here is an article on the late Teddy Kollek that no American corporate owned media outlet would likely publish. This was from, of course, Ha'aretz. I have long known the information in the article about Teddy Kollek and the growth of Jews-only settlements in and around Jerusalem, but I searched in vain for this information in the obituaries I saw in the LA Times and elsewhere.

Oh, and see if you can find the magic word in the linked essay. It's a word that recently caused Jimmy Carter much in the way of grief.

Obummer

Does anyone really doubt that if Barack Obama was a US Senator in 2002, he would have voted for the Iraq War resolution with Kerry, Biden, Lieberman and H. Clinton? This article is depressing proof of that proposition.

I mean it. Why shouldn't the Dems force a vote on cutting off funding? I see no reason whatsoever for any more Americans to die in this war in Iraq. None.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More reasons to impeach Bush and Cheney

Anyone out there style themselves as a "libertarian"? Well, read this and this and tell me why Bush and Cheney should not be impeached.

Note: The second link starts out with an interesting story about David Neiewert's appearance at a book store regarding his book about the Japanese-American internment. However, the post goes on to discuss how entire families, including US citizens, are being held in jails in Texas by the federal government.

The first link, about the torture of the terrorist suspect, Padilla, is chilling. There is nothing I've read about Padilla, a US citizen, that would justify such treatment of him. We didn't treat Manson, Gacy, or Bundy this way, and yet, the government appears to have knowingly decided to torture Padilla.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I was wrong, but McCain is entering "The Twilight Zone"

As readers of this blog know, I had said that if Saddam was executed, Bush was going to accept the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. Looks like I'm going to be wrong. Bush wants to stay and increase the US troop levels in Iraq.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who is credited with calling for this increase in troop levels, is now going to get what he claims to have wanted. This could be a "Twilight Zone" moment for McCain because, one of the recurring themes of that innovative and still vibrant series was to be careful what you wish for--and that, as Rod Serling ("The Twilight Zone" creator) said, "Sometimes, when you achieve your fondest dream, it becomes your worst nightmare."

The only good news in this is that there is a wide coalition of Republicans and Democrats against the proposal to increase troops--and the troops in Iraq have spoken up against the proposal as well (See this first link again).

I guess, therefore, I'm back to my usual mantra: Impeach Bush and impeach Cheney. That is the best way to stop this madness.

(Edited)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Eerie parallels about US officials losing control of a situation they helped create

There remains little doubt that Bush and his mis-administration wanted to see Saddam hang. One can imagine Bush pulling out his Karla Faye impression for old times' sake.

But this article in the New York Times shows how much the Shi'ite militias and mullahs are controlling Maliki's office. The manner in which Saddam was executed may also be a symbol of how much control the US has lost over the situation in Iraq.

What struck me as very eerie in reading this account (hat tip to Josh Marshall) was that US officials have been in these situations before. In Bolivia in 1967, the US finally helped catch Che Guevara, but wanted to keep him alive. However, the US (specifically the CIA) was ovverruled by local CIA operative, Felix Rodriguez and the Bolivian military officials. Guevara was repeatedly shot at point blank range in the legs to make it appear he was killed in a fight. Then, when Guevara was dead, his hands were cut off and photos gleefully taken (Rodriguez took Guevara's watch and other personal items for himself). See here and here (in last link, read the June 3, 1975 CIA de-briefing of Rodriguez).

Earlier, in early November 1963, the US government-inspired coup in South Vietnam against Diem went beyond what was planned. For the coup, the US only wanted Diem overthrown, not killed. Instead, Diem and his brother were murdered by the generals chosen to lead South Vietnam, which shocked the Kennedy brothers' sensibilities. See here and here.

This is what happens when the locals decide revenge is more important than anything else. We should therefore not be surprised by the vengeful conduct surrounding the execution of Saddam. It should also tell us that the War in Iraq has strengthened the Shi'ites' mullahs more than any other single group and that the lack of due process and other civilized rules of law continue in Iraq, Saddam or no Saddam.