Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Just Made My First 2012 Donation to President Obama

When I came back onto my computer after the end of Shabbat tonight, I saw about 10 different emails reminding me that the quarter ends at midnight. I have been meaning for the past few weeks to kick in a little to the Obama campaign, but seeing those tonight finally spurred me to some action. So, I gave a little money and did my small part. Hopefully, in the coming months, I'll be able to give some more — both to President Obama and other worthy Democratic candidates.

I know there are some that support President Obama because of the clowns running for the Republican nomination and just how horrid the Republican Party has become. I understand that. However, for me, it's not just that. I support President Obama because of all he has done. I support him because of his quietly transformative presidency. I support him because he is the adult in the room. I support him because of the change he's delivered.

It doesn't matter what the Supreme Court does when it rules on the Affordable Care Act. Yes, I obviously would like to see them uphold it, but the fact remains he was willing to expend the political capital, and take the risks, to get health care reform done. It's not a perfect bill. There's more all of us would like to see done. But the fact remains he has done what no other Democratic president has managed to do. He got health care reform passed because, in the end, he knows that his job is to get things done for the American people even if there are temporary political consequences.

Of course it's not just about the ACA. It's about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It's about the fact that he actually cares about the environment. It's about student loan reform. It's about Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal. It's about ending the war in Iraq. It's about repairing our relationships in the world. It's about the fact that GM is alive and bin Laden is dead. When it comes to implementation of policy, Barack Obama is the most successful Democratic president since Lyndon Baines Johnson.

There is much work left before us. We see what the Republicans will do, given the opportunity. They will end Medicare. They will destroy the social safety net. They will create a "You're On Your Own" society where if you fall on hard times there is no one there to catch you and you will not know if the water you drink is clean, the quality of the food you eat and whether the air you breathe is clean.

So, if you can, donate a little bit to President Obama and other worthy Democratic candidates. The Republicans have their millionaires and billionaires ready to fund them. We need to combat them. Remember, President Obama is only as great, and as effective, as we give him the opportunity to be. That's why we need to give him a Democratic Congress when he starts his second term next January.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Syria authorities target children, says UN rights chief"

The BBC is reporting that....

Syrian authorities are systematically detaining and torturing children, the United Nations' human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has told the BBC.

Ms Pillay said President Bashar al-Assad could end the detentions and stop the killing of civilians immediately, simply by issuing an order.

....

"They've gone for the children - for whatever purposes - in large numbers. Hundreds detained and tortured... it's just horrendous," she said.

"Children shot in the knees, held together with adults in really inhumane conditions, denied medical treatment for their injuries, either held as hostages or as sources of information."

I ask for universal condemnation of these horrific acts of violence against the most vulnerable in any society.

How any country, such as China and Russia, can support such a regime in the security council and at least in Russia's case, via arms and munitions is unimaginable

Russia faces a growing international outcry over its arms sales to Syria but shows no sign of bowing to pressure and has even increased deliveries of arms that critics say are helping keep President Bashar al-Assad in power.
How any country's ruling political alliance, such as Lebanon can include a party, such as Hezbollah, that supports such a regime is unimaginable. The people of Syria are taking note
Hezbollah's support for the Assad regime has not gone unnoticed by Syrian protesters. Recent images from demonstrations in the country show people burning the yellow Hezbollah flag. The Syrian Revolution Coordination Committee has accused Hezbollah of firing Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into the al-Zabadani region of Syria where anti-Assad protests are taking place.
The world is watching.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Victory in Park Slope: BDS Loses Vote On Whether To Have Vote

The results are in from tonight's much followed vote by the Park Slope Food Coop on whether to have a vote on whether to join BDS - the "Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions" regime that seeks to replace Israel with an Arab-majority state. Out of more than 1600 votes cast at an unprecedented meeting of some of the coop membership at a high school auditorium, the members present opted to defeat BDS by a margin of 61% to 39%.

It is an important victory for the anti-BDS side because this debate drew significant outside attention beyond the usual I-P partisans, with repeated coverage in the New York Times and other media outlets, as well as by entertainer and paranoid freak Glenn Beck. Also, rather unique to BDS circuses, this one featured several prominent local politicians weighing in, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who delivered a scathing rebuke of BDS.

It is interesting that this partcular vote was accompanied by significantly more outside interest. One could certainly attribute it in part to being in New York City, the home of many media companies. The Park Slope Coop is also a pioneer in the food coop movement, dating to the early 70s, so their move either way may be seen as more significant and impactful than recent similar happenings in Sacramento, Davis, Port Townshend, Ann Arbor, and Olympia.

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61% to 39% is closer than many would have liked, but it is a decisive defeat that will probably keep BDS from trying again in Park Slope for at least a little while. It is also possible that some people in attendance out of deference to (small-d) democratic ideals may have voted to hold the vote but would have voted no in that actual vote. Also the vote itself drew only the most interested members. 39% is therefore an upper limit to BDS support at the coop (Note that this will not stop BDS from claiming that their democratic rights were infringed because of the arcane procedure that this was the vote on whether to hold the vote and not the actual vote - and I note the insane hypocrisy that will accompany this because in Olympia BDS insisted on no vote by the membership).

This is another in a very long line of electoral defeats for BDS, which include all of the above mentioned food coops except for Olympia, as well as every college and university, municipality, and church hierarchy in America where they have tried over the past 10 years (many gory details are available at the excellent Divest This blog). However - and this is crucial for understanding what BDS is all about - BDS will not see Park Slope as much of a defeat, for their goal is not to actually economically harm Israel, which everyone knows could not happen even if every food coop in America stopped selling hummus.

Rather, the goal of BDS is to get the "Israel=bad" meme to be associated with a respected progressive institution such as a coop, university, mainline church, or cool city. And that is unfortunate, because it means we have to strive to defeat BDS every time, not just a majority of times or the most important times. Annoyingly, Park Slope is not the end, it may not even be the beginning of the end, but at least it may be the end of the beginning.

This Friday is Buy Israel Day, and I hope many Brooklynites will hit up Park Slope for the Israeli products they will continue to be able to enjoy.

President Obama Could Make GOP Health Care Victory Pyrrhic

It's simple. It's elegant. It's obvious. Robert Reich nailed it. Through the use of a little leverage, President Obama could make a Supreme Court decision that strikes down the individual mandate a pyrrhic victory for Affordable Care Act opponents. Reich presents the dilemma for for-profit insurers in a post-mandate world thusly:

Yet the only way private insurers can afford to cover everyone with pre-existing health problems, as the new law requires, is to have every American buy health insurance – including young and healthier people who are unlikely to rack up large healthcare costs.

He then posits that the for-profit insurers, in order to maintain their profits, will push for the elimination of the provision mandating they cover people with pre-existing conditions. The solution put forth by him is simple, obvious and elegant:

When this happens, Obama and the Democrats should say they’re willing to remove that requirement – but only if Medicare is available to all, financed by payroll taxes.

This, of course, is the nightmare scenario for insurers and effectively puts them in a bind, a bind which would ultimately lead to the end of a for-profit insurance model in the United States.

If the other provisions of the ACA remain intact in the absence of an individual mandate, insurance companies will find profits dwindled or eliminated by the costs of covering those previously rejected for coverage. With private companies that lose money forced to either change their business model or go out of business, the insurance companies, mostly likely will cease to operate. That is because it will be impossible to change their business model. The ACA will have effectively boxed them in.

The other solution is the one put forth by Reich — amending the ACA, and removing the requirement to cover those with pre-existing conditions, in exchange for the establishment of Medicare for All. This option is scary for Republicans and the insurance companies because it will lead to the vaunted market speaking. With lower administrative costs and better able to use economies of scale, Medicare for All will likely become the preferred option for Americans. The result, in the end, is the same as if the ACA remained intact, but without the individual mandate; for-profit health insurance companies go out business.

Essentially, the question asked is how we wish to implement a full single-payer system in the United States. In the first instance, we would adopt single-payer as the result of a shock to the system. It would, effectively, happen overnight and there would be not time for a transition. In the second instance, however, it would be a slow and gradual process as we moved to a de facto single-payer system.

The ultimate beauty, though, as Reich points out, is that this is already legal. Social Security and Medicare have been found constitutional. In fact, they are third rails of politics. In order to oppose any legislation creating Medicare for All, Republicans would have to seek to have Medicare, itself, declared unconstitutional. That is tantamount to political suicide.

There is, of course, one thing this is all dependent upon. That is that Barack Obama is re-elected President of the United States this November. If any of the Republican candidates out there are elected along with a Republican Congress, then the ACA will be repealed and all this will be moot because we will go back to the way things were before March 23, 2010. Of course, it will also be moot should the Supreme Court uphold the entirety of the ACA, including the individual mandate.

Finally, irrespective of what happens with Washington, and the ultimate fate of the individual mandate and the ACA, keep in mind what Justice Brandeis famously said — the states are laboratories of democracy. We can still show the way to a successful single-payer system at the state level, no matter what happens in Washington.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Strange Times We Live In: The Red-Brown-Redneck Alliance

One of the most fascinating things for me as I have explored the depths of blogdom and activism is the ideological alliance that has coalesced among the strangest of bedfellows, who find common cause at the intersection of antisemitism and Israel hatred.

It has often been mentioned how Israel exercises power far out of proportion to its tiny size - economically, militarily, and culturally - and to that list we can also add the extraordinary way it has brought together Jihadis, survivalists, and supposedly secular far-leftists.

Attend any ANSWER-type political rally nowadays, or look at almost any web-based discussion of Israel - whether it be in the comments section of a CNN article or Youtube video, or at a blog such as Daily Kos, or a dedicated anti-Israel and antisemitic website such as Mondoweiss - and you will notice three distinct and seemingly incompatible affiliations, all brought together:

1) Jihadis: Their motivation in the game is clear, and they have an unhidden genocidal hatred of Jews and Israel. Online, their presence is characterized by mangled spellings and grammar (e.g. the famous "BUT can yoo handle the truth with facts??!!"), copious broken links to Jihadist and Iranian regime websites, and random interjections of 100 variations of AhaLlu AkBar, all featuring different spellings and capitalizations. At ANSWER-type rallies, they can be seen waving Hamas flags, dressing children up in suicide bomber regalia, and doing those ominous "Yehuuuudi" chants.

2) Survivalists: They are obsessed with Jewish and Israeli influence in the US government, and are tweaked by all of the insane conspiracy theories, from 9-11 to the USS Liberty and beyond. This group is mostly middle aged and older Caucasian males, usually bearded, who are on the margins of society. Online they are obsessed with the USS Liberty and display significant support for Ron Paul. At ANSWER-type rallies, they have the barely coherent often hand-made signs charging vast conspiracies of Jews and Israel.

Many would think of these people as some sort of Neo-Nazis, but while there are similarities, I think there is a distinction because they are not usually affiliated with actual Neo-Nazi groups, and they have a completely different aesthetic and age distribution - tending toward older, bearded, health-afflicted, and lazy, rather than young, built, and looking for a fight. They really exist at the aesthetic intersection of redneck, hippie, and petty paranoia. However, they are far lazier than those who would act physically on their hatred. The best word I could think of to encompass all of the converging strands is 'survivalist'. Basically BigAl (for those familiar with Daily Kos) is the model for this person, but they can be seen all over fringe rallies and websites.

Why would people who are fundamentally pretty racist be so eager to ally with Arab and South Asian Islamists? I think it is because the survivalists' combination of racism and laziness manifests in a desire not for race war but for America to completely withdraw from contact with the rest of the world, and Jihadis of course are their allies in this. But it gets even stranger with group #3:

3) Secular far-leftists: The secular far-leftists tend to be the organizers of, and strive to be the public face of the alliance. They are the ones who organize the rallies, who form the leadership of far-left organizations such as ANSWER, and who run the websites such as Mondoweiss and Adalah at Daily Kos. They thrive off the support from, and in turn provide rhetorical support to, the Jihadis and the survivalists. Without the Jihadis and the survivalists, ANSWER-type rallies and Mondoweiss and Adalah would have a small fraction of the bodies that they do now, with the accompanying irrelevance.

It is tough to discern the actual core values of this group of secular far-leftists, because they have absolutely no problem making common cause and perpetual alliance with the awful people described above, not to mention other fundamentally illiberal villains such as the Cuban or Venezuelan regimes. They also, to put it mildly, tailor their message to the audience, speaking of "human rights" and "peace" when speaking to liberals, and speaking of "revolution" and "resistance" when talking to others.

So what do they actually believe and seek? I don't know, but it seems to be some sort of world anti-Capitalist and anti-American revolution that absolutely has to start in Israel, and somehow things will just work out from there.

The secular leftists are of course the most surprising contingent of the alliance, because it seems like they should know better than to make common cause with the other two. After all, they spend their time sitting around coffee houses reading Marx and Sartre, right? And they really care about human rights, alternate sexuality, and patriarchy, right? Well, I don't know.

What I do know is that they have adopted Muslims and Arabs, and in particular the Palestinian Arabs, as the major symbolic representatives of everything that is wrong with, and victimized by, American and Western military and economic power, Capitalism, and so forth. And in turn, the Arab world's major self-declared mortal enemy, Israel, has become the symbolic representative of Western, American, and Capitalist military and economic power.

Now I will be the first to state that there are many problems with the manifestations of extreme Capitalism and American military overreach - I am a liberal after all. However, I recognize the fundamental illiberality of Jihadists and conspiracy nuts, and of seeking to deny self-determination to only one ethnic group in the world - the Jews - which also happens to be the most persecuted group in human history.

But that's me. The secular far-leftists in question don't believe so. They see Israel - population 6 million, with gay rights, universal health care, environmental stewardship, and universal suffrage - as the necessary starting point for a world revolution. Unfortunately, this strange belief has been creeping in from the extremes of the far left into more mainstream leftist thought, at places such as Human Rights Watch and even Amnesty International.

The amazing thing is that all of this has already been tried before by the secular left, to disastrous results. They seem not to be aware of, or not to want to learn from, obvious history. Many people forget that the Iranian Islamic Revolution was initially largely supported by the secular liberals and Communists in that country and among its exiles. They figured that once the Shah was dealt with and the old order was overthrown, they could maneuver in the post-Shah system to achieve their goals.

Boy were they wrong! Iran's leftists and Communists quickly learned that their position once the Ayatollahs took over was not going to be at the negotiating table or in the Parliament, but rather in the prisons and torture chambers, behind veils, and for the lucky few, in exile. The same will no doubt be the case in the unlikely scenario that certain Western far-leftists succeed in bringing about revolutionary change through their alliance with Jihadis.

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This analysis applies to what I would call the 'true believers' from each camp - those that are genuinely convinced of the ideological righteousness of their cause. Of course beyond those types, in these sorts of movements, there are the opportunists who are willing to do anything to sell a book, become famous, drum up support for their regime, sell pot, or whatever else it might be. Those people would probably need an entirely different analysis, because their motivations are quite different than true believers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Obamacares Turns Two

Two years ago today President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. His signature culminated a decades-long effort to bring meaningful health care reform to our country. Many presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Harry Truman to Richard Nixon (yes, Richard Nixon) to Bill Clinton had tried and failed. President Obama succeeded. As I wrote earlier this month, when sharing my own story (including why I call it Obamacares to turn the meme on the Republicans), the bill is far from perfect and we have more to do, but it is a start and we need to start somewhere.

In this month's edition of the Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris wrote of how several previous government programs started out small and were gradually expanded. This included legislation as important as Social Security and the GI Bill. Ironically, many of the same arguments made against Roosevelt's Social Security bill from the left were eerily similar to the arguments made against Obama's health care bill by critics from the left.

Remember, the moment the ACA passed and President Obama signed it into law everything changed, just as when Franklin Roosevelt signed Social Security into law and Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law. From the moment President Obama signed the ACA it no longer became about whether or not one wanted to reform health care in this country. It now became about the extent of form. It was no longer about opponents trying to keep something from going up. It was now about opponents trying to tear something down. And, as many have pointed out, they know their window is small and closing as more and more portions of the ACA go into effect and it undoubtedly becomes more popular when people see how they benefit from its provisions.

There are two significant hurdles that lie in the way of the ACA becoming an enduring piece of legislation with lasting effects. The first is this year's election. The second is the Supreme Court. So long as President Obama wins re-election and the ACA survives the Supreme Court largely intact, it will likely become similar Social Security and Medicare in being a third rail of politics. Discussion will center on how to expand and strengthen it, rather than repeal it, because Americans will see what it brings them.

In fact, the Obama campaign is already highlighting the changes brought forth by the ACA and yesterday released a video highlighting the struggle for health care reform in this country as his signature piece of legislation neared two years of age:


Make no mistake about it on this second anniversary of the ACA. Everything that President Obama has done the past 3 years, 2 months and 3 days hinges on the outcome of this year's presidential election — and that has been a lot of damn stuff. Yes, he has been imperfect; he is only human after all. What I can say is that I am proud Barack Obama is my President and I am proud that I will vote to re-elect him on November 6.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Politicians: Don't Attend Netroots Nation If Antisemitic Panel Is Included

(note: this is a draft of a petition that will be circulated through change.org)

Netroots Nation is an annual gathering of internet-based activists, largely centered around the website Daily Kos. In the past, Netroots Nation has focused on a variety of topics of Democratic Party and progressive interest, often in panel discussion format, and has had the participation of a number of mainstream Democratic Party figures.

This year there is a proposal to include a panel discussion at Netroots Nation about the Israeli-Arab conflict. The proposed panel is entirely one-sided, illiberal, and against universally held Democratic Party and progressive principles. As proposed, there will be no representation on the panel from a pro-Israel perspective. The two 'sides' of the proposed discussion will both consist of extremists who favor the elimination of Israel and its replacement with an Arab-majority state. The only effective disagreement between the two proposed sides of the discussion is the method by which this outcome will be acheived. The most famous proposed participant is blogger Ali Abunimah, who has explicitly called for the elimination of Israel and for a "third Intifada".

Furthermore, some of the proponents and promoters of the proposed panel have a long history of tolerating and promoting explicit antisemitism at the website Daily Kos. As documented extensively in summaries such as available at http://progressivezionist.blogspot.com/2012/03/resources.html, many of the proponents tolerate and promote traditional antisemitic rhetoric such as charging Jewish Americans with disloyalty to America and intent to control US foreign policy, promoting conspiracy theories involving the USS Liberty, pushing the debunked Khazar hoax, and many other staples of antisemitic rhetoric. Many of these same panel proponents have excused the rhetoric of the Iranian regime and expressed support for both Iran and Hezbollah acquiring nuclear weapons.

If the proposed panel is included, it will be a forum for some notorious internet promoters of antisemitism to push their hateful ideas, as well as a forum for extremists alone to promote their preferred outcome to the Israeli-Arab conflict: the replacement of Israel with an Arab-majority state, in direct contradiction to the positions of the Democratic and Republican Party platforms and every major elected official in the United States.

We call on all politicians and elected officials to avoid any association with Netroots Nation if the proposed Israeli-Arab panel is included in the program. Such extremist ideas are the antithesis of the true mission of the Netroots, the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party.

We the undersigned pledge to withhold all contributions and votes from any politicians or elected officials who participate in Netroots Nation if the proposed Israeli-Arab panel is included.

Resources

Hello, thank you for your interest in combatting internet-based antisemitic rhetoric.

These collections are an extensive, but by no means complete, documentation of antisemitic rhetoric promoted by users and the management of the website Daily Kos. Many of the same users are promoters of the proposed Netroots Nation Panel on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

These collections are not exhaustive, meerly a representative sample of the rhetoric promoted and tolerated on Daily Kos by proponents of the Netroots Nation panel.

A) Links to many instances of antisemitic rhetoric, including:
1) Charging Jewish Americans with disloyalty to America
2) Promoting conspiracy theories involving Jewish control of finance, the media and government
3) Denying, minimizing, or revising the Holocaust
4) Promoting the debunked Khazar hoax


B) Links to instances of rhetoric such as:
1) Holocaust and Darfur genocide denial
2) Promotion of the elimination of Israel
3) Promotion of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Iranian regime and terrorist organizations

C) Links to more of the same, including
1) The elimination of Israel and possible genocide of its inhabitants
2) Accusations of Jewish control of the US government

An Open Letter to the Administration about Netroots Nation 12

Mr. President and Staff,

My name is _____ and I blog under the name volleyboy1 at both Daily Kos and at my own blog http:progressivezionist.blogspot.com (the Progressive Zionist). On my site I constantly defend this administration against Right Wing members of the Jewish community. At Daily Kos I am one of the co-founders of "Jews for President Obama". This said....

At Netroots Nation 12 there is consideration for a panel on the Israel-Palestine conflict that would feature only those voices that would deny Israel's existence and force a One State solution on the area.

While it is important to recognize that the Palestinians DO indeed have a voice that needs to be heard, in this setting it is also important that Zionist voices are heard as well. For over 95% of American Jews, the existence of Israel is an important and vital part of our lives.

Any panel at this conference that did not include Zionist voices that support the full existence of the State of Israel would be a sure indicator that the delegitimization of the legitimate right of Jewish self-determination.

Were any Democrat to then speak at Netroots Nation with a panel that denied Israel and Jewish Self Determination I can't help but think that they would be supportive of that panel as well. As such I could not see myself supporting those particular politicians and in fact would speak out against them.

Therefore, I am asking that should Netroots Nation 12 take this path -the administration NOT support this by sending speakers or representatives. Can you imagine what FOX or Right Wing bloggers would do with tapes of this. It would destroy all of the hard work you have put in to show the Jewish community that you are our friend.

Mr. President, we support you. You have been a great friend to our community and to Israel. Please don't let this tarnish that friendship.

Please join me in sending the text of this letter (skip the first paragraph as it is not relevant to individual writers) to your representatives and the White House. I will be sending this to my Rep. John Garamendi as well as the offices of Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein. Hopefully they will not support nor send proxies to NN12 should the panel as discussed (a panel in which NO strong Zionist voices would be presented) go forward.

The goal here is not to shut down Netroots, I think it is a great conference. The goal is to make sure that Democrats are not supporting something that gives a platform for hatred and denial of the legitimate right of Jewish self determination.

The thing is that there are people (whether Paulistas or true lefties) that are trying to radicalize the Democratic party for whatever reason and there is no reason that we as Democrats should let them. Racism, has no place in our party. The Republicans and the Right have embraced that meme (just look at the Paul candidacy or "the Southern Strategy" or the speakers at CPAC etc...), let them have it. We don't need it, don't want it, and I for one won't stand for it. Not that what I say has any bearing on what people think.
All of us have a voice to fight racism. NN12 is proposing a racist panel. We can't just fight the racism that exists "across the aisle", we have to face what we see here as well.

SO... please keep an eye on this, and let our representatives know that participating in a conference that actively promotes anti-Jewish memes (destruction of Israel through BDS and the Palestinian One State Solution) is simply unacceptable to us as Democrats.

Shalom!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

US Report: Turkey among worst defenders of religious rights

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report where Turkey has now been added to the list of countries found to be the among the worst in violating religious rights within the country.

ABC News reports the commission as citing Turkey for "systematic and egregious limitations" against religious freedom.

Among other problems, the report criticizes Turkey for regulating non-Muslim groups by restricting how they can train clergy, offer education and own their places of worship.
Turkey joins a list of countries that includes
Tajikistan, Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Not great company in regards to respect for religious liberty.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pager for the link to the report here

Excerpts from the report....

Due to the Turkish government‘s systematic and egregious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief that affect all religious communities in Turkey, and particularly threaten the country‘s non-Muslim religious minorities, USCIRF recommends Turkey be designated a ―country of particular concern.The Turkish government, in the name of secularism, has long imposed burdensome regulations and denied full legal status to religious groups, violating the religious freedom rights of all religious communities. These restrictions, including policies that deny non-Muslim communities the rights to train clergy, offer religious education, and own and maintain places of worship, have led to their decline, and in some cases, their virtual disappearance.

Other concerns include the Turkish government‘s intervention into minority religious communities‘ religious affairs; societal discrimination and occasional violence against religious minorities; limitations on religious dress; and anti-Semitism in Turkish society and media. Additionally, Turkey‘s military control over northern Cyprus supports numerous arbitrary regulations implemented by local Turkish Cypriot authorities. These regulations limit the religious activities of all non-Muslims living in northern Cyprus, deny these religious communities the right to worship freely and restore, maintain, and utilize their religious properties, and threaten the long-term survival of non-Muslim religious communities in the area.

Why Does House Ways and Means Chair Allow Staffer to Chain His Wife?

In Judaism, there is the woman known as the agunah. Today, agunot are, almost exclusively, the wives of husbands who refuse to grant them gets (religious divorces). They are known as chained women because they are literally chained to their husbands. They cannot move on with their lives and remarry religiously. From a standpoint of Jewish Law any such relationship would be considered adulterous and any children from that relationship would be considered illegitimate. That is because she is still considered married to her previous husband until he grants her a get or he dies.

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Michigan), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, employs a staffer who chains his wife. Aharon Friedman has been separated from Tamar Epstein for four years. Back in 2010, they were civilly divorced. He has been condemned and censured (PDF). There have been calls from leading rabbinic bodies to exclude him from communal life. All this in an attempt to convince him to free Tamar Epstein. Despite all this pressure he refuses to grant a get.

The story has now even moved beyond the Jewish community. There is a social media campaign. It has even made it into the mainstream media, with Politico reporting on it two weeks ago. Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of an advocacy group for agunot explained to them why what Aharon Friedman is doing is abusive:

Withholding the Jewish divorce is about abuse because domestic abuse, at its core, is about control and restricting the personal freedom of another person.

As the Change.org petition on behalf of Tamar Epstein notes, there is no effort to ask Camp to fire Friedman. All that is asked is that he:

Stand firmly against this abuse of women's rights by issuing a public statement condemning all forms of domestic abuse, including the refusal to issue a Get.

And if one wonders what view Judaism takes towards those husbands that refuse to grant their wives gets, it isn't exactly positive, as Deborah Lipstadt notes in Tablet Magazine:

The fact is that Judaism takes a very dim view of husbands who refuse to give their wives gets, particularly after having been told to do so by rabbinic courts. Maimonides [note: most important Jewish theologian and philosopher since the Talmudic era, if not ever] believed that recalcitrant husbands should be flogged until they agreed to issue the get.

While I doubt he will, I hope Rep. Camp the question I pose in the title: Why do you allow your staffer, Aharon Friedman to chain his ex-wife? Why do you allow him to abuse her by denying her the right to move on with her life?

Tamar Epstein has the right to move on with her life. Aharon Friedman is preventing that and his boss, one of the most powerful men in the House of Representatives calls it "gossip." Dave Camp's silence speaks volumes. He just stands there silent while a man emotionally abuses his ex-wife and uses his last shred of power over her. And Republicans claim they have no war on women. I call bullshit.

And one last, quick thing. Please sign the Change.org petition. It currently has 5,304 signatures and has a goal of 7,500. Let's help get it there. I've already signed. How about you?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome, Zion Square

One of the more malignant features of the dialogue in the United States about Israel, Zionism and the role of Jews in our body politic has been the absence of confident, informed Progressive voices.

In practice, this has resulted in the terms of debate being set by the fringes of the far right and far left with all their attendant issues of bigotry and maximalist positions, of the kind that are persuasive only to those who require no persuasion. An echo chamber is not the same thing as a conversation. The rest of the nation, to the extent that it is even interested - and I would posit that most Americans, of the left or right, simply can't be bothered to unravel the Byzantine complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict - has no voice in that dialogue.

Which is why I am really rather intrigued by Peter Beinart's new blog on The Daily Beast, Zion Square.

It begins with the naming. A square is a place where people meet, exchange goods and ideas, where our communities are centered. By definition, a square is open to all.

Zion, meanwhile, and note I'm writing this as a Gentile, is a deeply resonant name in our society. 'Jerusalem' is often called England's unofficial anthem. The American landscape is dotted with little Zions of our own, and in our own land of milk and honey, places matter. They form our collective memory, the ground where our dreams take hold.

We often hear - and rather loudly, at that - from the above-mentioned fringes that Zionism is in crisis. I would argue the contrary; as national liberation movements go, it is a spectacular success. The state it has built, a thriving, tolerant liberal democracy, is not something normally created in the blink of the eye of historical time. But it happened, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. You might get a sense of just how difficult that is from the paroxysms currently shaking Egypt.

Our job, as Americans, is to try to understand the complexities inherent in this unprecedented endeavor, and to do so without the rancor and division the subject so often inspires. We can't shout each other down. So why don't we try talking?

Maybe in Zion Square.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

GOP Deflects. Claims President Obama has "War on Women."

I kid you not. A friend of mine posted the ad released by the RNC on my Facebook timeline. I would comment further on it, but this is one of those cases where the absurdity speaks for itself. Yes, it really is that crazy. Video below (Warning: From RNC YouTube channel).


And, come to think of it, I'll comment anyway. Their whole ad is based on the fact that a stand-up comedian who also happens to have his own show on HBO uses some foul language (and I don't agree with him using it), so, therefore, President Obama is waging a "war on women" between taking money from him and anonymous assertions that the Obama White House was/is a "boys' club."

So, what has President Obama actually done? Well, there was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. There was requiring insurers to cover contraception, like they already cover Viagra and other drugs that benefit men. There was support for Planned Parenthood. There was the repeal of the Mexico City Policy. There's Secretary Clinton and Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

Now, let's compare this to what the Republicans are doing. They are saying that if a woman wants to exercise her constitutional rights the state can and should demand that she first get raped. They are saying that women should not have guaranteed access to contraception. They are saying that women should be forced to explain to their employers why they use contraception. They are basically saying that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.

Yeah, this is just a classic case of deflection and the Republicans hoping to fool enough people into believing they aren't waging a war on women. I'm a man, and as a man, and as a human being, I stand up for a woman's right to control her own body; so does President Obama. The only ones that don't are the Republicans.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Senator Diane Savino Stands Up for Unions and Pensions — This Video Needs to go Viral

We've all seen the attempts to curtail the rights and hard-earned benefits of public workers. We've all seen the attempts to stigmatize unions. It was reported today that we're close to a deal on pension reform here in New York. New York, if I may remind you, is currently governed by Andrew Cuomo, who helped make us the sixth state with marriage equality and is one of the most talked about names for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

State Senator Diane Savino, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island in the state legislature, however stood up for the firefighters and police officers and teachers and all public workers and all those in unions in an impassioned speech she gave in Albany yesterday. Follow me below the fold for the video, because the words and the passion speak for themselves.

Anti-Israel Activists Try To Distance Selves From Gilad Atzmon - Too Little Too Late

As reported on the Electronic Intifada and elsewhere, the "US Palestinian Community Network", a group with a number of prominent Palestinian and affiliated activists, has released a letter trying to distance themselves from anti-Israel advocate and rabid antisemite Gilad Atzmon.

Atzmon has made a name and career for himself by minimizing the Holocaust and perpetuating antisemitic memes about Jewish conspiracies and Jewish tribalism, as well as promoting extreme anti-Zionism, to the point of claiming that there is no difference between Tel Aviv and a West Bank settlement. And all along, in doing so, he has had the enthusiastic support of, and has been a celebrity in, the pro-Palestinian activist community. As recently as a mere two weeks ago they were fundraising with him at an appearance in Berkeley.

It seems that now some in that community have finally decided that Atzmon, with his obvious, unapologetic, up front antisemitism, costs them more than he gains them, hence the new statement.

However, as with everything else in the anti-Israel activist community, the statement is full of lies. It starts out calling Atzmon a "self-appointed" activist, as though he hasn't had the support and endorsement of large segments of the anti-Israel community for years, including up until two weeks ago in Berkeley. And then it goes on from there, making the laughably ridiculous claim that Atzmon's extreme anti-Zionism is actually itself a form of Zionism. The whole thing is so stupid, insipid, and lying that it doesn't even merit a larger response.

I would say that the brazenly dishonest way they have completely ignored the years of their movement's of close alliance with, and promotion of, Atzmon is a new low. He's spoken at many of their events, and they've fundraised off of his books and appearances. Anti-Israel activists disavowing Atzmon and calling him a "self-appointed" activist is like Republicans suddenly disavowing Reagan and calling him "self appointed" - it just flies in the face of everything that has been happening for years.

Atzmon is a despicable antisemite and deranged asshole, so of course I don't feel bad for him. But he is now being unceremoniously discarded by the anti-Israel set after years of being considered a hero to them, and this should serve as a warning to people like David Harris Gershon. The anti-Israel movement might be acting like your best friend at the moment, but as soon as they decide you are no longer useful to them, they will drop you like a ton of bricks so quick you won't know what happened.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is President Obama a Muslim? Who the F*** Cares?

We’ve seen the polls in recent days out of Alabama and Mississippi where majorities believe President Obama is not a Christian and a majority in Mississippi, and a plurality in Alabama, believe that he’s a Muslim. Any rational person knows that this is not the case. It’s actually quite funny in a very sad way. On the one hand, they rail against President Obama’s former pastor. On the other hand, they think President Obama is a Muslim. They are seemingly incapable of connecting the dots that one precludes the other. This, however, distracts from my main point.

Let me once again ask the first question I ask in the title:

Is President Obama a Muslim?

How is this relevant in any way, shape or form? Does this have any bearing on his ability to perform his job? Do his religious beliefs have anything to do with these words:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

his oath of office? Do those that believe this think this has any bearing on his ability to carry out his duties as President of the United States or any bearing on his fitness for office ever read these words from our Constitution?

no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Whether anyone is a fill-in-the-religion is absolutely irrelevant. All that is relevant is that the person supports our Constitution and follows the law. A person’s religion only becomes an issue when they seek to turn their religious beliefs into civil law and force those believes down the throats of others. Then, and only then, do religious beliefs become relevant to the political debate.

When someone asks whether President Obama is a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu or an agnostic or an atheist or anything else we should not answer them with, “He’s a Christian,” and end it at that. We should ask why it even matters. We should point out that we live in a secular republic where religion and state are separated and religious beliefs are neither a requirement nor qualification for political office.

Yes, we all know that President Obama is a Christian. Really, though, who the fuck cares what President Obama is. I know that all I care about is that he upholds his oath of office and works to promote good policies. What religious beliefs he holds close to his heart are absolutely irrelevant, as he is not seeking to impose them upon me or any other American.

Please excuse my not-so-polite, rant-y answer to the question of whether or not President Obama is a Muslim. Some things just need to be said and, sometimes, there is no other way to say them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Obamacares Strikes Again

Well not really again, but the President's campaign site now has a page up to show in a simple and easy-to-understand manner how individual Americans benefit from the Affordable Care Act. All it takes is a few easy clicks and you can say exactly the benefits you, and your friends and family, derive from the health care law that Republicans are determined to repeal at any cost. And, yes, I like the term Obamacares because it flips the meme on the Republicans and shows who actually does care about the ordinary citizens and their access to health care.

What Republicans really fear, undoubtedly, is the fact that as various facets of the Affordable Care Act come into force the American people will see the benefits and not only support it, but demand more. They will demand that reform go further and that we truly make access to health care a right that all Americans enjoy. That we will see the implementation of a public option and that it will quickly become the dominant provider, creating a de facto single-payer system in our country that replaces the for-profit model. Oh, and am I the only one that finds ironic that conservatives rail about an "activist liberal judiciary" that "overrides the will of the people" and then seeks to have a law enacted by the people's elected representatives struck down by the courts?

Today, I am lucky. I qualify for Healthy NY and can cover the $260 per month in insurance costs. Like many young people, I aged out of my mom's health insurance, which I was able to continue on post-college because I was in law school. After that, I spent three years on COBRA. If Obamacares had been in effect back then, I would have had my insurance for another 2-3 years before even having to go on COBRA.

Like many other policies in Barack Obama's quietly transformative presidency, we will not see the full effects of health care reform for another two years or so. As Paul Glastris notes:

But the lukewarm-to-hostile attitudes people have about the law now are likely to fade if he manages to get reelected. With four more years to oversee the implementation of the law and protect it against whatever the courts and congressional Republicans hurl at it, Obama can ensure that it will be politically and programmatically secure. The benefits will have started flowing, and businesses and the medical industry will have begun to adapt to it. Over time it will likely become as much a permanent fixture of American life as Social Security.

And, as with previous presidents, the fate of President Obama's policy accomplishments rests on his ability to win re-election. If he loses, all that progress we have begun to make — the process of finally starting to stem that conservative tide — can easily become undone. If Republicans win this November, we go back to the failed polices of Reagan and both Bushes. If President Obama wins, those advances has made become the first step of what is to come.

In closing, let me be clear. I do not view the Affordable Care Act as the end. To quote Sir Winston Churchill, "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." I do not know when that end will come, but I do know that we have made it past the beginning. Universal health care has been part of the liberal lexicon for a century, and part of the Democratic lexicon since Harry Truman, but only when it goes from policy proposal to government policy will the end finally come.

Kindegarten Hit by Palestinian Rockets: Islamic Jihad and PRC will "not accept cease-fire"

The latest round of tragedy in Southern Israel / Gaza continues unabated.

Last week, the Israelis, acting on information that the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee was planning a major incident (re: terrorist attack) on the Egyptian / Israeli border, struck the leadership of the PRC in a targeted Air Strike and killed their Secretary General Zuhair al-Qissi. The IAF followed that up with a focused strike that killed a Rocket Team preparing to bombard Southern Israel.

This brought on an massive rain of Rocket fire directed at civilian areas of Southern Israel and had not the Iron Dome short range missle defense system been working and had not the Israeli government closed schools casualties from these rockets directed into civilian areas would have been huge.

In addition to the strikes that have threatened the lives and caused injuries to civilians in Southern Israel a number of Palestinians (23) have been killed and many more wounded (80) during the course of 23 IAF air missions. Of course, it should be noted that the militant groups firing on Israel are firing from crowded areas and using civilians as human shields. NOT too mention that all of their fire is directed solely at random CIVILIAN targets in Southern Israel.

With all the damage that is occuring though, so far Hamas has been staying out of the fighting, and at least part of it is talking with the Egyptians in an attempt to rein in Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the PRC that continue to fire. while the PRC and Islamic Jihad are saying "No" to cease fire talks.

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Islamic Jihad held a press conference on Monday warning that it would not agree to a truce with Israel while airstrikes continue to kill Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
"We will not agree on a ceasefire stipulated by Israel, neither do we accept a ceasefire while the lives of our people are taken without restraint," Jihad officials told reporters in Gaza City.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar told Reuters in Cairo he expected a ceasefire to be reached, but the timing depended on Israel.
"I expect matters will calm down," Zahhar said. "The statements coming from them (Israel) either in public or via mediators, especially Egypt, say that they do not want escalation."
But even Hamas admits that the Israelis DO NOT want an escalation.

And Haaretz is reporting today:

Egypt negotiating between Israel and Gaza factions for ceasefire, diplomats say
"We hope that we will succeed to reach quiet tonight," said one Egyptian diplomat. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Hamas approached Egyptian intelligence and asked to pass a message to Israel regarding the renewal of calm.
"We do not carry out negotiations with Hamas," Yaalon said.
"Our response through the Egyptians was very simple, this is basically our policy since the beginning of the current administration: if you are quiet, we will be quiet, if you shoot, or plot attacks, we will hit you, and so the ball is certainly in their court."
The Egyptian diplomat who is involved in the efforts to bring about the ceasefire said that Egyptian intelligence has been talking with Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau since Sunday, as well as with different Palestinian factions, with an emphasis on Hamas.
It is coming down to a matter of "who will blink first" in the fight between Israel and the Palestinian factions. The Israelis have vowed to strike continue to strike as long as the militants continue to fire into Israel or plan Terror strikes into Israel. Even the Israeli politicians outside of Likud are supporting this current round of strikes.
Labor faction chairman Isaac Herzog on Monday also expressed support for the decision to assassinate Zuhir al-Qaisi, the Popular Resistance Committee leader, on Friday, which ignited the current flare-up. "We hope that the current round of violence will end soon," he added.
Netanyahu expressed similar sentiments on Sunday at a meeting with the heads of local authorities in Ashdod. "I came to identify with the residents and with you, and to express my deep appreciation for the IDF and the Shin Bet," Netanyahu said.
Both the U.S. and the U.N. have expressed concern regarding the state of fighting in Gaza:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also condemned rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip into southern Israel and called on all sides to try to restore calm (vb1 emphasis).

"Let me also condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel, which continued over the weekend," Clinton said during an appearance on Monday before the UN Security Council. "We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks. We call on both sides - all sides - to make every effort to restore calm," Clinton said.

Let us all hope that cooler heads will prevail and the Rocket Fire and Air Strikes can come to a screeching halt.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Billionaire Romney Supporter: Super Wealthy Have "Insufficient Influence" on Political Process

In an era where multibillionaires can cut $100 million checks to Super PACs, one billionaire Romney supporter has actually stated that the very wealth have "insufficient influence" on the political system. Billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin spoke those words in an interview published in today's Chicago Tribune.

Q. I'm going to come back to this. But I want to touch on two more areas first. What do you think in general about the influence of people with your means on the political process? You said shame on the politicians for listening to the CEOs. Do you think the ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate amount of influence on the political process?

A. I think they actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet. And so I hope that other individuals who have really enjoyed growing up in a country that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and economic freedom is part of the pursuit of happiness – (I hope they realize) they have a duty now to step up and protect that. Not for themselves, but for their kids and for their grandchildren and for the person down the street that they don't even know ...


We already knew that the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and others held this exact view — that the very wealthy hold insufficient influence in our political process — however they never spoke the words so directly. Ken Griffin has now put on the record what so many of those pouring tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican Super PACs with the intent of defeating President Obama, and anyone else who dares to speak up for the 99%, have thus far not said. Those words are now on the record for all to see and they will think Ken Griffin's only mistake is that he actually uttered them for the record.

So, there we have it. The super rich have "insufficient influence" in our political system, never mind that they are free to contribute up to $5,000 directly to any candidate under our already-existing rules and unlimited funds to Super PACs in the wake of Citizens United. Despite all this, they have "insufficient influence." What would they like next? Additional votes based upon their wealth?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Time for Some Facts about BDS and the Jewish Community

We see many of the Israel haters that self-identify as members of the left claiming that amongst the younger generation of Jewish-Americans there is growing antipathy towards Israel. There are two possibilities for this claim. The first is that they believe if they repeat this lie often enough that it will take hold within the mainstream. The second is that they, like many on the right, are caught within their own bubble — in this case their hatred of Israel — and thus do not realize that this claim is inaccurate.

Here is a cold, hard fact: Jewish-Americans overwhelmingly support Israel.

Here is another cold, hard fact: Mainstream Jewish-American organizations reflect the overwhelming Jewish-American support for Israel.

Here is yet another cold, hard fact: The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement seeks the end of Israel as the Jewish state. It opposes the two-state solution and would have Israel replaced with a Palestinian state and end any semblance of Jewish national self-determination in our ancestral homeland, but is perfectly fine with giving a different ethnic group those same exact rights.

Organizers and supporters of BDS will never say this explicitly. Instead, they speak in dog whistles. They say they support a "fair" solution solution. In reality, they support the end of Israel. Their "fair" solution involves the "return" of millions of Palestinians to Israel to create a Palestinian majority and vote Israel out of existence. Now, why do I use "return" in quotation marks? Because these are not people that left their homes in what would become the State of Israel in 1947 and 1948. Yes, some of them did. However, the vast majority of them are the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those left. Furthermore, the Arab governments gave their response in the form of forcing out Jewish populations in Arab lands following Israel's successful fight for her independence.

Am I saying that the Palestinian people have not suffered? No, they certainly have suffered. Any solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will include a fair and realistic solution to the refugee problem — a problem borne of over 60 years of living in refugee camps. Yes, make note of that. For 19 years there was not a single Palestinian living on Israeli soil that did not hold Israeli citizenship. During these 19 years, all the Palestinians that today hold refugee status lived in, or are the descendants of, those that lived in camps constructed in Arab lands with Arab governments unwilling to absorb them or assist them in the same way Israel absorbed and assisted Jews expelled by those same governments.

This, of course, is something that BDS supporters wish for everyone to ignore. The reason is patently obvious. Unfortunately for them, those of us that support truth and support Israel will not remain silent. We will confront them the facts. If they do not like this, then that is too bad for them. They are the ones that distort the facts and hope that no one will notice. They do not have the right to complain when they are called out for such behavior.

Let me close with this. Jewish supporters of BDS are less relevant within the Jewish community than liberals are within the Republican Party. It should, therefore, come as no surprise when they are received with hostility, disdain and disagreement by mainstream Jewish organizations. They, after all, give support to those that would deny the Jewish people the right of national self-determination in our ancestral homeland. They give credence to the claims those same people make that Jews oppose Israel — implying serious disagreement within the Jewish community — rather than the truth that Jews opposed to Israel constitute a small minority of the Jewish-American community. They, therefore, have no right to cry when the reaction of mainstream Jewish organizations thoroughly discredit their lies and untruths.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Barack Obama's Quietly Transformative Presidency

Does this line sound familiar?

widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout

Am I discussing any of the various pieces of legislation passed by Congress and signed into law President Obama? Actually, I am not. I am discussing a man considered a liberal hero and the president that many of President Obama's critics on the left wish he would emulate: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

When FDR created Social Security in 1935, the program offered meager benefits that were delayed for years, excluded domestic workers and other heavily black professions (a necessary compromise to win southern votes), and was widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout. Only in subsequent decades, as benefits were raised and expanded, did Social Security become the country’s most beloved government program.

Those words are written in "The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama," an article by Paul Glastris in the most recent edition of Washington Monthly. The article is a long read, but is well worth it, detailing some of President Obama's most important actions and accomplishments, and their ability to transform our country in the long run.

Glastris lays out in complete detail what many of us already know — President Obama's accomplishments are many and are lost to many people. There are a panoply of reasons for this. There is the economy, which is still struggling, particularly when it comes to employment. There is the sheer volume. There is the Republican noise machine dedicated to defeating President Obama at all costs, even if it involves destroying the country in the process. There is the fact that many of these accomplishments have been done quietly because President Obama is more interested in governing than he is playing the game.

This paragraph sums up perfectly exactly what drives many criticisms of President Obama — both from the left and from the right — along with the significance of his achievements and that they are not just for the present day, but even more so for posterity:

In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks. But if you measure Obama against other presidents—arguably the more relevant yardstick—a couple of things come to light. Speaking again in terms of sheer tonnage, Obama has gotten more done than any president since LBJ. But the effects of some of those achievements have yet to be felt by most Americans, often by design. Here, too, Obama is in good historical company.

In three years, our president has gotten more done than every president in his lifetime, save one. Like Lyndon Johnson and like Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt before him, some of President Obama's accomplishments will be felt while he is in office. However, the true benefit of them will be felt many years down the road, and in perpetuity — should the Republicans be thwarted in their attempts to gut them.

Many speak of how we need a transformational president at this moment; one who will break with recent history and reverse the conservative tide that has dominated our government these past 30 years. Many argue that Barack Obama has not been this president. However, I would say that the evidence shows President Obama is exactly that type of president. It is simply that he is quietly transforming this country, the transforming being lost in the background noise of hopes, fears and everyday worries. When we have the benefit of history we will assuredly look back differently upon his record.

I close by referring to a site I have referred to here many times to highlight President Obama's many and varying accomplishments — What the fuck has Obama done so far? (PG version here) — and to Washington Monthly's list of "Obama's Top 50 Accomplishments."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mr. President, You Have Always Had My Support

You are unlike any president in my relatively short lifetime. Not just because you have managed to get so much done, but because unlike any previous president in my 28 years on this planet you understand and appreciate the nuts and bolts of our political system. Perhaps it is because you were once a Constitutional Law professor. You understand the system our Founding Fathers created and how it was designed to encourage moderation and slow change. You understand that you must work within the system if you seek to realize your goals. That is why unlike so many other presidents you did not rush head first into pursuing a legislative agenda and you did not demand total control over it.

It also helped that you walked into the worst economic crisis this country has had since the Great Depression. You understood that you were a paramedic arriving at a train wreck and that your first objective was to stabilize the patient before you could begin treatment. You understood from the outset that you could not simply give the economy two pills and tell it to call you in the morning. It is this understanding, more than anything, that set you apart from your competitors in the primary and general elections and now sets you apart from your recent predecessors.

I know that you face critics in every direction in which you turn. There are those on the right that believe you are nothing more than a Kenyan socialist who seeks to undermine the American way of life and deliver us to communism and fascism. There are those on the left who feel that you have been too conciliatory to your opponents on the right and are, yourself, too far to the right. I cannot begin to imagine how frustrating this is is for you.

Despite all this, you manage to persevere and continue to get things done, even with a Republican-controlled House that seeks to oppose every last proposal you make simply because you made it. I have no doubt that if you were to propose the privatization of Medicare tomorrow they would immediately oppose it and propose we adopt single-payer for all Americans. Such is their determination to oppose any proposal you make in their desire to win at all costs.

Through all this, even though I sometimes found myself in disagreement with you, my support did not waver. I could see where you were coming from, even if I sometimes found it frustrating. I knew see that you were looking at the forest and not the individual trees. I understood you were looking at the bigger picture and not just thinking one day or one month or one year into the future, but also five years and ten years and even twenty and thirty years into the future. You, first and foremost, were a politician interested in governing and not just the political game.

Do I expect you to be perfect? No. Do I expect to agree with you on every bit of policy? No. Do I expect to agree with you on every last bit of strategy? No. What I do know, however, is that there is one area where we are in complete agreement. We both seek what is best for America, and not just tomorrow or the week after, but many years down the road. I am 28 right now. Hopefully, I have another 5 or 6 decades ahead of me. I cannot think just what America will be like when I am 30. I must also think what it will be like when I am 60 and 70 and 80. I must think about the America that I will hand to my children and my grandchildren (when, G-d willing I have them).

I am proud to say that Barack Obama is my President. I am proud to stand up for your record against those that disparage you. I am proud of what you have done for our country. I am proud that I will have the opportunity to vote for you again this November. I look forward to what you will accomplish in your second term, hopefully with a Democratic Congress there to help you. This year's election, and the governing that comes after it, will be a real fight and you cannot do it alone. I always have been in your corner and I will continue to be. Who is with me?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Republican's Mad Libbed View of President Obama

Just fill in the blanks with the options from the drop-down menus and print them out to get crazy statement Republicans have already made or would like to make. I think we could all use a stress reliever that relentlessly mocks the Republicans that want to take our country back several centuries. And a big tip of the hat to sarahnity for graciously providing the coding for us to have way too much fun. So, follow below.

Barack Obama was born in a base in run by . He is an avowed that is committed to the of the United States of America. He is a secret that will send all to meet their untimely deaths by sending them to . Only by putting in the White House can we stop Obama's agenda.

The Party Obama leads seeks to give all unlimited and unfettered access to with our tax dollars. We must this socialist from his agenda on the American people. If we do not him this November then it will be too late and we will be on the path to becoming the .

Therefore we must preserve by banning and and , and cutting and and , and increasing . After all, freedom and liberty is only for , , , who are because they are the only ones who know how to properly use it. That is why I will be voting ... oops... I mean Republican... this November.

The sad part about all of this, of course, is that it is so funny because it is so true — namely that so many Republicans do think in these terms. It will be quite amusing to see their reaction when the American people reject their reactionary agenda that would set us back several centuries and re-elect President Obama. Hopefully, that re-election will come with a strengthened Senate majority and a new House majority. In the meantime, I say we should have some more fun at the Republicans' expense, even if we know they will continue providing comedic gold in their campaign to alienate as many Americans as possible that are not white, Christian, heterosexual males.

Great Column by Brad Burston Haaretz: If Obama Wins in November is Netanyahu in trouble

Writing in Haaretz today Bradley Burston has a very interesting comment with regards to our election.

There is something in the air. Something new. Something as recent as this week's AIPAC conference. And for Benjamin Netanyahu, it's not something to be desired.

American conservatives have begun to think out loud that Barack Obama will win in November. Citing the GOP's disastrous showing in the 1964 presidential election, influential Washington Post columnist George Will suggested this week in a tone of some resignation ("the Presidency is not everything") that conservatives might better use their energies by concentrating instead on Congressional and Senate races.

No one will be following the campaign more closely than the man adored by Republicans nationwide as the favorite son they can never adopt, Benjamin Netanyahu. And should Obama win a second term, perhaps recouping a measure of Congressional strength on his coattails, Netanyahu stands to lose as much as anyone.

Barack Obama Benjamin Netanyahu - PMO - 06032012

Much of the prime minister's policymaking strategy has been based on educated hopes for a steady decline in Obama's first-term electoral strength and a Netanyahu- friendly Republican taking the White House in 2012. Marshalling conservative allies in Congress and the Jewish community, Netanyahu seemed to have shattered the Obama administration's linkage of Israeli-Palestinian peace progress (with its attendant threats to the settlement enterprise) and resolution of other regional issues, notably Iran.

But it's a different Netanyahu coming home this week. The Prime Minister's Office is no longer betting on Obama to lose.

According to Burston Channel 10 is reporting that some officials have been remarking that "Well, If the President does get re-elected and we are restrained, hopefully he will remember that".

Another thing we is this:


Tuesday's announcement of new talks followed a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States, where President Barack Obama said the talks offered a diplomatic chance to quiet the "drums of war".

"I'm very happy that they are opening discussions," said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror.

"There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability," he told Israel Radio.....

....."It should be clear that without a real military alternative, the Iranians will not relent in the negotiations. And without there being a serious alternative, they will not enter the negotiations, and in any event there has to be readiness for the negotiations failing," Amidror said.   

Netanyahu's spokesman Liran Dan said there had been no U.S. effort to veto or endorse any military action by Israel on Iran.

This coming just a week after the government had this to say regarding the U.S. deal with N. Korea

Wednesday's agreement between the United States and North Korea that would halt the latter's nuclear program is no proof that diplomacy will be enough to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said.

More to the point, that the Israelis signal Nuclear Talks COULD work, something they were not signalling before. So how does this sync with Burston's article? Well, two of the Republican Candidates are banging on the drums and calling for Bombs Away and that the Presidents approach won't work. The other (the front runner btw), Mitt Romney simply just lied about and said the President never put the "military option" on the table, even though he clearly did.

The fact that the Netanyahu government is willing to start shifting their positions publicly on this is quite interesting and telling. Perhaps, in Washington some reassurances were made, perhaps the Prime Minister saw the wind was blowing with regards to the Republican Primaries (and what a joke they have become). Who knows?

Jon Stewart captured it perfectly the other night and BruinKid over at Daily Kos got it right in this diary. I heartily recommend reading it: Jon Stewart blasts Republicans over Obama on Israel.

One interesting note is that rumor in Israel has it that PM Netanyahu is thinking of early elections in Israel. He is ahead in every poll I have seen so perhaps he wants to consolidate that now rather than waiting until 2013 (when electios are due) so he can negotiate with President Obama from a position of internal strength which presumably won't be weakened by new U.S. moves.


Purim — Women's Rights and a Reason I Vote Democratic

Purim starts tonight at sundown. This, however, is not a diary about the specifics of Purim. Purim is a holiday, I suspect, that many Republican politicians and Republican primary voters would not like to know about, and, if they do know about it, would really like to forget. Why? Because it tells the story of a strong and courageous woman who assumes the mantle of leadership to help save our people.

Republicans do have a few women in prominent public positions within their party. However, those women are diametrically opposed to women’s issues. They seek to take away a woman’s right to choose. They seek to take away a woman’s right to contraception. Their policy positions, when it comes to women’s issues, are absolutely and utterly indistinguishable from the men who believe that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Simply put, they believe that women’s reproductive organs are the property of the state. So much for the “party of limited government.”

Right now, there are two obstacles that prevent Republicans from imposing their dystopia on the rest of us. One is the United States Supreme Court. The other is President Obama. The latter helps determine the composition of the former. Today, a woman’s right to control her own body hangs on by a thread in the Supreme Court. There is, presumably, only a one-vote majority to preserve choice and other rights. When any of those five leave the Court, the person sitting in the White House will help determine whether women are entitled, as a constitutional right, to the most basic control over their own bodies.

The fight, as we know, will not end in 2012. It will continue so long as one political party remains committed to an agenda that believes in “liberty” and “limited government” only if one is a white, Christian, heterosexual male. Understand that very clearly. There is one party that believes a woman’s place is the house and one party that believes a woman’s place is in the House. I am proud to belong to the party that believes leadership should be entrusted with the best-qualified person, irrespective of sex.

Tonight, and tomorrow, my fellow Jews and I will celebrate Queen Esther. We will hear the megilla and listen to her exploits as she saved our people from the evil Haman. We will hear the story of a strong and courageous woman. And, many of us, will wonder when we finally elect a woman as President of the United States. Me? I am hoping that it happens as early as 2016 and that she is my junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. In the meantime, I will keep my eyes on 2012 and do what I can to re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oops! Which Political Party Has An Israel Problem?

There has been an ongoing debate as to what extent the mainstream Democratic party should be held responsible for the Israel derangement of the loony far left exhibited at places such as Daily Kos. People who think the answer is 'a lot' tend to use that to justify support for the Republican party.

But lookie lookie what happened today!

Whatever people say about President Obama, there is only one explicitly anti-Zionist candidate in the 2012 presidential race, and it is Ron Paul. Paul has said that Israel's creation was, quote, "a mistake". He promises to zero out aid to Israel. His campaign even bragged about this hostility to Israel on a flyer targeted at Arab American voters.

Well today Ron Paul the anti-Zionist pulled 41% of the vote in the Virginia primary. His tallies were helped by the absence of the two other non-Romney candidates from the ballot in that state, but the fact remains that 41% of Virginia Republican voters are okay voting for an explicit anti-Zionist.

I'm going to go ahead state that fact again, because it flies in the face of so much rhetoric we've been subjected to about the Democrats' supposed Israel problem:

41% of Virginia Republican voters are okay voting for an explicit anti-Zionist

Ron Paul the explicity anti-Zionist candidate also pulled 35% of the Republican vote in Maine, and 25% or more of the Republican vote in Vermont, Washington, and Minnesota.

Meanwhile it looks like the least pro-Israel Democratic member in the entire House of Representatives (and he's not even that anti-Israel) lost his primary.

So which political party's base has an Israel problem?

My Mom Was A Single Mom

Hi there again, Ricky! You might remember me calling out some of your garbage from the past month. Specifically, the time you compared President Obama to Hitler and when you said that people of faith in this country are on our way to the guillotine. Now you are out there claiming that single moms cause problems and create criminals. I understand you probably think I must be a criminal of some sort because I was raised by a single mom, I am a person of faith, I believe we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers and I believe women should have control over their own bodies.

I think it is time for me to share my story here because I have seen firsthand the amazing and hard work single moms do. Being a single parent is very hard and very tiring. Single parents have to do the work that two parents ordinarily spilt and, oftentimes, they very rarely get a break. I saw all of that firsthand when my mom was raising me all by herself, despite her attempts to hide it.

My father walked out on my mom when I was three. They got divorced three years later. Over the next eighteen years he fulfilled, mostly, his legal obligations. He paid child support. Occasionally he would see me. He would buy me a thing or two from time-to-time. When I got a bit older he took me on vacation, but that was because he wanted to go on vacation. He never chose to help my mom enough that she could afford a vacation because she was putting so much into me instead of going on vacation or even buying herself new clothes. She grew up poor and she wanted to make sure that I never knew what it was like to not have things.

That, sadly enough, was the good side about how my father treated. The bad side? He would repeatedly hang up the phone on me whenever I would say something he did not like. He would constantly break his promises. He would do so much to wound me emotionally. Every time that he did there was always one person there who would comfort me and try and make me feel better. That person was my mom. Since I was three, it was her and I on our own and she knew that she had to always be there for me — not just because she was a single parent, but because she is simply a good parent.

Despite making a good living as a New York City public school teacher (before she retired nearly 8 years ago), she still worked after school. As much money as she made as a teacher, it still barely made ends meet given how expensive it is in New York and the fact that she wanted to make sure I never knew want like she did when she was younger. She never wanted me to have hand-me-down clothes. She wanted me to have all those cool electronics that I would have to show her how to use. That, though, was not the most important thing.

The most important thing was that she was always there for me — and she still is, thank G-d. Whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on. Whenever my father would hurt me. Whenever I had a question. Whenever I needed a little bit of help with something. Whenever I needed anything she has always been there for me. And she has done it all by herself. The proudest days of her life have been when I graduated college in 2005 and then, three years later, when I graduated from law school in 2008. It was my way of validating and saying how much I appreciated all those sacrifices she made for me throughout the years.

These past thirteen months I have come to appreciate all those sacrifices she made all the more because our roles have been reversed. I have been the one that has had to take care of her as she got so sick from her kidney disease that she needed dialysis. I was the one who took care when she recovered from open heart surgery. I was lucky enough that she made enough with her pension that I could do that instead of having to look for a job — permanent or temporary — and balance the demands of work and caring for a sick family member. And today, even though she is still on dialysis and waiting for a kidney transplant, I am so thankful that she has much of her life back and she is able to once again talk about doing things last year she never dreamed she would be able to do.

So, listen up Mr. Santorum. My mom was a single mom and she is a hero. She is everything a parent should be and when you denigrate her, and every other single parent out there, you should be ashamed of yourself. Unfortunately, from your past comments in other areas, I strongly suspect you lack any sense of shame. For me, I am thankful everyday that I have been lucky enough to have her and I would never change that for the world. So, Mr. Santorum, you can just sit down and shut up, as far as I am concerned.