Monday, July 30, 2012

You still want to raise my premium after that rebate check? My ACA story.

Two weeks ago I received a letter in the mail from my insurance company. The opening paragraph made clear exactly what the insurance company wanted to do: significantly raise my premium:

We are writing to let you know that on July 16, 2012, Group Health Incorporated (GHI), an EmblemHealth company, will be submitting a request to the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) for a change to the premium rate that will be effective on your 2013 policy renewal date. If approved, a proposed 24.5% increase will be applied to the approved 2012 renewal rate that has either gone into effect, or will go into effect, during 2012 for your policy.

It then proceeded to inform me that the rate increase could be approved, modified or denied by the Superintendent of Financial Services. In light of the letter I received today, I would certainly hope that the request, at the very least, is modified significantly, if not outright denied.


Because I received a letter a rebate check in the mail today.

This letter, dated 7/27/2012, discussed the "Medical Loss Ratio" and the "80/20 rule." Then came the final paragraph.

What the Medical Loss Ratio Rule Means to You

The Medical Loss Ratio rule is calculated on a State by State basis. In New York, GHI did not meet the Medical Loss Ratio standard. In 2011, GHI spent only 81 percent of a total $70,837,138 in premium dollars on health care and activities to improve health care quality. Since it missed the 82 percent / 18 percent target in your State by 1 percent of premiums it received, GHI must rebate 1 percent of your health insurance premiums. We are required to provide this rebate to you by August 1, 2012, or apply this rebate to your premium that is due on or after August 1, 2012.

We are enclosing a check.

The check I received was for $23.94, but my insurance company wants to increase my premium by nearly one-quarter. Try and figure that one out. I know that I certainly can't. Are they trying to make it so that they have to cut rebate checks again next year?

I can only shudder to think what would happen if the Affordable Care Act wasn't in place. $23.94 isn't a lot, but it's money in my pocket and not the insurance company's. For me, it's just another reminder why I so strongly support President Obama's re-election.

Mr. Romney goes to Israel; Jewish voters say "Meh"....

Cross posted at Daily Kos

In the last week Mitt Romney has gone on what can be best described as an "around the world train wreck". In one week he has managed to piss off our strongest ally (the British) and then turn around and completely insult and anger the Arab World and any erstwhile ally or friend we have in the region outside of Israel.

All of this has been covered to the nth degree so there is no real need to rehash the information, HOWEVER, it is worth noting that in his shameless pandering to the Evangelical and Right wing voters (Including the hard fringe of the Jewish Right both here in the U.S. and in Israel) he manages to completely get in the way of the alliance that President Obama is building to counter Iranian hegemonistic interests in the region.

How did he do this? With his typical attempt to play both sides of an issue. First, he told the Israelis that he would call:
Jerusalem "the capital of Israel," ignoring their own claims to the city and most world opinion.
but when questioned on this issue he refused to say if he would actually do that. As the Egypt Gazette reported:
In an interview with CNN, Romney refused to be pinned down on whether he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital if he beats Obama and wins the White House. 
"A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital," he said.
"I think it's long been the policy of our country to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital, Jerusalem. The decision to actually make the move is one, if I were president, I would want to take in consultation with the leadership of the (Israeli) government which exists at that time. So I would follow the same policy we have in the past (vb1 emphasis)."
In other words... "I plan to do nothing, but, I want gullible American voters and their allies in other nations to think that I might do something AND in the meanwhile I will get any alliances the President Obama might be building and put them in jeopardy". 

Now, hopefully other nations seeing this, as well as the debacle that Romney made out of the British leg of his trip, will hopefully understand that Romney is NOT the President of the United States and does not speak for our nation.

But back to the main point of this diary...

Last week Gallup released yet another poll showing the race in terms of President Obama vs. Mitt Romney with Jewish voters. Following along with most polls of the Jewish American electorate in the words of The Forward:Obama Thumping Romney Among Jews: Poll GOP Candidate Trails 68%-to-25% as He Heads to Israel:
On the eve of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, a new Gallup poll reveals that Jewish American voters continue to support his rival, President Barack Obama, by a wide 68%-25% margin.
Now these numbers have been fairly consistent and that has led many Republicans and their ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome) flacks to crow about how the President is "bleeding" Jewish support. Why do they do this? Well in the 2008 election, President Obama won the Jewish vote approx. 78%-22%. So, when they see the 68% number they immediately try to spin the information in their favor to feed the meme that the President is losing support amongst Jewish voters. 

BUT, hold the phone (as they say)... Is the President REALLY "bleeding" support from Jewish voters? The answer is... "Not so much". Let's look at the Gallup polls prior to the 2008 election at this time in fact... Quite the opposite seems to be happening. According to Gallup in July of 2008 then Senator Obama led John McCain 61%-31% NOW President Obama leads Mitt Romney 68%-25%.

As Mitt Romney tacks harder to the Right he risks losing even MORE Jewish support as Jewish voters tend to be more liberal voters. His continued gaffes including refusal to speak out on the conversion of Holocaust Victims to the LDS Church, or scheduling a dinner on Tisha B' Av, or basically showing himself to be completely unversed in Middle Eastern politics are not "confidence builders' to say the least. Let's also not forget that his domestic agenda (which as far as anyone can see is "Bring back the Bush team" and cut taxes for the super wealthy and not a whole lot else) is hardly inspiring to anyone outside the far-right and the lunatic fringe.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Today I fast

Yesterday was Tisha B'Av, but because it fell on Shabbat its observance it was postponed until today. As I feel the hunger in my stomach, and the dryness in my mouth, I am reminded constantly of why we fast. It is not just the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and the other calamities that are the Halachic basis for the holiday. It is the many calamities that have befallen our people today.

Throughout the centuries — in every generation — there is someone that arises against us and seeks to wipe us off the face of the Earth. Each and every time they have failed. Yet it still reminds us that we are hated by so many in this world. We are hated because stand tall and proud of who we are. We are hated because we proudly hold on to our traditions. We are hated because we dare to exist.

Today is a day of sorrow. We remember all that has befallen our people throughout the ages. It is not a day that is linked to one specific event, but to all the tragedies our people have suffered. Today we are all mourners. Today we remember. Today we honor. Tomorrow we can get back to our regular lives.

In Jewish tradition, it is said that Tisha B'Av will eventually become a day of great joy. We will not fast, but we will eat and drink and be merry. Let me conclude on a similarly positive note. I write this today because of the strength of my ancestors. I write this today because I am here and because I am proud of who I am. I fast today because I am a proud Jew. I am proud of my heritage — the heritage passed down to me by countless generations and the heritage I will pass down to future generations.

Yes, I am mourning today. However, I am cognizant of why I am mourning and the significance of what that means. I am a Jew and I will continue to dare to exist.

Friday, July 27, 2012

To the International Olympic Committee, "Jewish blood is cheap"

Or so went the headline just a week-and-a-half ago, when noted historian Deborah Lipstadt (who knows a thing or two about antisemitism) criticized the IOC for making all manner of excuses to avoid giving some long overdue respect to 11 Israeli participants in the 1972 Munich Olympics who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. As Lipstadt wrote:
Why the IOC refusal? The Olympic Committee’s official explanation is that the games are apolitical. The families were repeatedly told by long-time IOC President Juan Samaranch that the Olympic movement avoided political issues. He seemed to have forgotten that at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. Politics were also present at the 2002 games, which opened with a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11.
Very interesting, yes? It's somehow "political" to pay respect -- beyond insincere lip service -- to Olympic athletes who were murdered by terrorists in the Olympic Village, but not political to... um... uh... delve into politics that don't ostensibly have to do with the Olympics.

Even more interesting: tonight, during the 2012 London Olympics' Opening Ceremonies, there were moments of silence for fallen soldiers (because there's nothing political about the Iraq War, right?) and the victims of another terrorist attack, this one in London on July 7, 2005. Neither of which had anything to do with the Olympics either, though you might quibble on the latter -- it was just the day before that London was awarded these Games, though it doesn't take much intelligence to figure out that London would have been attacked that day no matter which city was announced as the host.

To be clear, I don't have any problem with the moments of silence the IOC has held. It seems to me that all of the groups they've recognized with moments of silence have deserved that respect. What troubles me is that the one group they refuse to recognize is the one group of victims of terrorism who were murdered on their watch, in no small part due to their shoddy security.

But I also have some sympathy for the argument that the Games should be free of politics, that they should be about bringing people together from all nations, setting aside any conflicts, and celebrating all that is good about sports.

So I'm left to wonder again why it is that the IOC thinks it's too "political" to commemorate Israeli athletes murdered at the Olympics, in the Olympic Village, but somehow a "reasonable accommodation" to do this:
The Lebanese judo team at the 2012 London Olympics refused to practice next to the Israeli one on Friday afternoon, and a makeshift barrier was erected to split their gym into two halves...

Organizers accepted the Lebanese coach’s demand to separate the teams, erecting a barrier so that the Lebanese team wouldn’t see the Israeli one.
Are we all clear on that? It's too "political" to commemorate Olympic athletes murdered at the Olympics, in the Olympic Village by terrorists, but it's a "reasonable accommodation" to set aside the Olympic creed of not being political, of bringing athletes of all nations together to compete, of protecting the delicate eyes of the Lebanese judokas from having to recognize the existence of Israelis.

At a minimum, that's hypocrisy. And it sure seems like cowardice, that Jacques Rogge, the head of the IOC, and his minions are so worried about the "political implications" of acknowledging that Olympic athletes were murdered at the Olympics by terrorists that they can't be bothered to give a damn about the political statement they're so clearly making.

I think Deborah Lipstadt identified that statement quite well:
This was the greatest tragedy to ever occur during the Olympic Games. Yet the IOC has made it quite clear that these victims are not worth 60 seconds. Imagine for a moment that these athletes had been from the United States, Canada, Australia, or even Germany. No one would think twice about commemorating them. But these athletes came from a country and a people who somehow deserve to be victims. Their lost lives are apparently not worth a minute.
Shame on you, Jacques Rogge, and shame on the IOC for sacrificing your proclaimed ideals in favor of antisemitic politics.

Is the Bulgarian Bomber a Western Caucasian? If So, It Would Be Very Significant Moment in Terrorism.

Note:  This post is, at the moment, idle speculation.

By now we've all seen the grainy security camera footage of a person suspected of being the suicide bomber behind the recent attack that killed five Israelis at an airport in Bulgaria.  Here's the image:

In addition, there is his fake Michigan Drivers License.  

If you asked me to read the fuzzy tea leaves, I would say that this person looks like a Caucasian Westerner -  i.e. a white person from Europe or North America not of Arab, Persian, or South Asian descent.  (He also looks like a total disgusting skeevy sleezeball who belongs in the back row of an Eagles concert in 1978, but that is besides the point here.)

If this bomber does indeed turn out to be a Western Caucasian, presumably a convert to Islam, then this would be a very significant development in the history of Islamic and anti-Israel terror.

There have been previous non-Arabs and even non-Muslims involved in carrying out in anti-Israel terror, for instance the Japaneses Red Army Faction-led attack at Israel's Lod Airport in 1972.  Also it has been documented that Germans helped the Munich Olympics terrorists in 1972 and the hijackers of the Air France plane in Entebbe in 1976.  Also, there are infamous cases of Caucasian Americans joining the Al Qaeda network, such as Adam Gadahn and John Walker.  

However, in the cases mentioned above, the perpetrators were either aligned with a supposedly secular, leftist cause (as in the case of the anti-Israel incidents in the 70s), or joined Islamists to fight on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Somalia, or Yemen.  In all cases, these perpetrators were not involved in suicide operations.  There have been other, non-Caucasian, converts to Islam who have been involved in suicide operations, such as shoe-bomber Richard Reid and Guantanamo inmate Jose Padilla, but these, in addition to not being Caucasian, were also not primarily targeting Israel, but rather the West from which they felt alienated.

If the Bulgarian bomber indeed turns out to be a white American or European convert to Islam, it will mark a watershed moment in terrorism and Islamist violence.  It will mean that Islamists have begun to successfully recruit white Westerners to their diabolical evil cause, not just to play soldier but as actual suicide bombers.  And it will mean that those converts are especially motivated by the the antisemitic - and not just the anti-Western - manifestation of their hate-filled ideology.  Such a thing would probably throw current counterterrorism strategy in the US, Europe, and even Israel for a huge loop, as they have focused traditionally on Arab and South Asian men, or black converts to Islam.  

And I would not discount the possibility that the Bulgarian bomber could turn out to be not a convert to Islam, but a white American or European secular far-leftist or Paulbot, who has been recruited to the anti-Israel and antisemitic cause as so many have been.  This too would be a watershed, for it would signal the first time that a secular Westerner would have been pushed by their Israel hate and antisemitism to the level of suicide terrorism.  I have written before about the unholy alliance between Islamists, secular far-leftists, and isolationists, so perhaps such a thing, if it did not happen in this instance, is only a matter of time.  

The sad reality is that there are more than 6 billion people in the world and among those will inescapably be a fraction prone to mentally unstable behavior manifesting in extremist ideologies and violence.  There is no reason to think that such plagues will not infest a number of White westerners to the point where they will be willing suicide pawns in service of extremist evil.  Counterterrorism strategies will have to be updated to recognize that the threat may come from all ethnicities, backgrounds, and even genders.  And those of us who abhor such hateful ideologies will have to redouble our efforts to reach out to our family and acquaintances to arrest, to the extent we can, the descent into madness.  Evil is coming to your community, most likely.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Minute of Silence for Munich 11 called "racism"

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, has called the proposed minute of silence for the 11 Israelis murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics "racism." In a letter to International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, Rajoub wrote:
Sports are a bridge for love, communication and the spreading of peace between nations and should not be used for divisiveness and the spread of racism.
And how is a moment of silence in memory of those murdered at the Olympics in any way divisive or racist? The Munich 11 came for the love of sport. They came to build bridges. They came to be athletes in a community of athletes. They hoped for a better future where Jew and Arab could beat their swords into plowshares and till the Earth. For that they were taken hostage and murdered by terrorists that sought to push a political agenda by making victims of innocents.

The only one being racist and divisive here is Jibril Rajoub. If it was 11 Palestinians that were murdered I have no doubt he would be screaming for a moment of silence and calling anyone that opposed it "racist" and "divisive." That is where the difference between him and I is. If JDL terrorists entered the olympic village and murdered 11 members of the Palestinian team I would fully support that moment of silence. Why can't he do it when it's olympians that happened to be Jewish and Israeli?

He does prove one thing right yet again, that old Abba Eban maxim that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Foreign Policy Qualifications Boiled Down to Two Sentences

Obama got Osama. Romney insulted our closest ally.

Or perhaps we could boil it down to 30 seconds...

All we would need is to do a quick recut to change the end from what it was four years ago and substitute in President Obama approving the message.

I never thought I'd say this, but the Republicans have managed to nominate someone that makes Sarah Palin look like a foreign policy genius. Her "I can see Russia from Alaska" shtick seems tame and insignificant compared to visiting our closest ally and then proceeding to insult that ally and break protocol by revealing you met with their spy chief. If Mitt Romney does this with our closest allies, can we imagine what he'd do when it came to dealing with nations that are not friendly, to say nothing of our enemies?

So now we know that Mitt Romney is afraid to release his tax returns, has assets parked in overseas tax havens and insults allies. What's next? And what, exactly, makes him qualified to be President of the United States given this record?

President Obama has a clear record of accomplishment. After all, bin Laden's still dead and GM's still making cars. I'm all in. How about you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Few Questions About Presidents and Israel

So here's a quiz that asks 10 questions about the actions of four leading politicians have taken towards Israel or statements they have made about Israel and her enemies. Three of them — Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — are presidents. The fourth is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The answers to the various questions make very clear which of the four is, by far, the most pro-Israel. Here's an example:
And the answer is...

The answer, of course, is clear. President Obama is the only one of the four that is a true friend to Israel. The facts speak for themselves.

I understand that people with ODS — Obama Derangement Syndrome — will not care one bit about the facts. They will remain so blinded by their hatred of President Obama that it would not matter if Moshe Rabeinu himself came down and gave President Obama his hechsher. For everyone else, though, this will put matters in sharp focus. So, please, share this with your friends and family that are on the fence. When someone says that President Obama is not pro-Israel, tell them to take the quiz and read the facts.

Oh, and one last thing. There's an official campaign button that reads:

ברק אובמה

but none that reads

מיט רומני

That does kind of say it all, doesn't it.

Ex-Citigroup Chief Says Break Up the Banks

As Citigroup's Chairman and CEO Sanford Weill invented the modern bank as the one-stop shop where people could handle all their various financial needs. Now, in an interview on CNBC's Squawk Box this morning he called for breaking up those big banks:

“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail,” Weill told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

This would mean, effectively, a return to the days of Glass-Stegall.

In addition to calling for the break-up of the banks, Weill also called for greater transparency in the banking industry:

Banks should also be completely transparent, Weill said, with everything on balance sheet. “There should be no such thing as off balance sheet,” he said.

The impact that this has going forward remains to be seen. However, the fact remains that the person who pioneered our modern big banks, and helped create the system that spawned "too big to fail" has now come out in favor of ending that system. If we needed one last piece of evidence that the big bank system doesn't work — a coup de grâce, so to speak — Sandy Weill might have just delivered it.

Will the Media Call Romney Camp Out on Its Racism?

Posted by Ian Reifowitz at Daily Kos

Now it's just getting ridiculous. After Mitt Romney characterized Barack Obama's ideas as "foreign" earlier this week as well as last week, one of his advisers stooped to a new low yesterday in London.
From the Telegraph (UK):
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

"We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special," the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: "The White House didn't fully appreciate the shared history we have."
The Romney campaign has now directly cited Obama's race, his African ancestry, as a factor that makes him a bad President. Apparently a black man can't be as good a President as a white, Anglo-Saxon man simply because his race renders him unable to "fully appreciate" certain important facts.

This might be the most ridiculous comment yet made by a member of the Romney campaign (and that's a pretty high bar to clear). But it's far more than that. It's part of a distinct pattern and a purposeful strategy implemented by Mitt Romney to play on racial fears and the fear of Obama as "the other" in order to gin up votes and distract Americans from his own flaws.

Rather than come clean about his time about Bain Capital, or explain how he can claim to have "retroactively retired" but yet still collect a $100,000 annual salary from 1999 to 2002, or do what his father did during his presidential run and release a dozen years of his tax returns (as opposed to the one return, from 2010, Mitt has released thus far), Governor Romney would rather blow the dog whistle of racism.

There's some evidence that the American media is going to start holding Mr. Romney accountable for the bigotry his campaign is spewing.

But it will take a lot more than a couple of articles on one day. It is time for the media, the whole of the mainstream media, to call Mitt Romney and his campaign out for exactly what it is doing.
Because until the cost to his campaign is greater than the benefits he reaps, Romney will just keep on spewing it.

GOP Candidate Douses Her Site in Hot Pink

GOP New York State Senate candidate Mindy Meyer's website is so unprofessional it makes one LOL (or is that LMFAO given her use of 'Sexy and I Know It' as her site's background music?). At first glance, given the site, it might look like she's not really a candidate. She is. As New York Magazine describes:

Mindy Meyer has dubbed herself "the first young woman in the history of New York to run for New York State Senate." She's definitely the first to do so with such a natural understanding of how to get noticed on the Internet: Meyer, an Orthodox Jewish 22-year-old from Brooklyn, caught viral fire today based on the flashy genius of her hot-pink campaign website, which sports the LMFAO-inspired slogan "I'm Senator and I Know It." (She's not. Yet.)

Yes, this is really her website banner:

Meyer Banner

When City & State asked Meyer about her inspiration she cited 'Legally Blonde' and "pink." Seriously.

“To be honest with you, the reason why I initially wanted to attend law school is because I’d watched Legally Blonde and saw Elle Woods,” Meyer said. Eleven years ago, when the film was released, Meyer was about 10 or 11 years old.

“She showed me you could go to Harvard and make it sophisticated. Pink is my favorite color, so that’s technically my inspiration, everything pink,” she said.

Meyer imitates, and references, The Hunger Games in her issues section, which she titles 'Diva of the District' (in leopard print, no less). Again, seriously:


Hunger Games

Her opponent is incumbent Democratic state senator Kevin Parker, who won his 2010 re-election bid with 84% of the vote. He jokingly conceded to City & State that he might spruce up his website, which Meyer said could make someone "fall asleep" because "everything’s just red, white and blue." So, yes, barring a monumental upset, Parker will win re-election. Meyer is nothing more than the GOP's sacrificial lamb. Still, her website has gone viral and gained her notoriety. That, however, won't elect her to the state senate.

In the end, this is just good for a LOL.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

VFW Speech: MItt Romney Lies about President Obama... Yet Again

Cross posted at Daily Kos

In his speech to the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney continues along his trajectory of lies and deception about the Presidents policies in the Middle East.

Here is a full transcript of Romney's festival of distortions.

Most of it is fairly boilerplate as Mr. Romney continues to spin a foreign policy that is full of platitudes yet lacking in any substance. But here are some interesting things to point out.

The first thing that struck my eyes was the talking points concerning the adage "Loose Lips Sink Ships" where Mr. Romney is directly criticizing the White House for leaks involving the successful killing of Osama Bin Laden. Romney's comment:

Exactly who in the White House betrayed these secrets? Did a superior authorize it? These are things that Americans are entitled to know – and they are entitled to know right now. If the President believes – as he said last week – that the buck stops with him, then he owes all Americans a full and prompt accounting of the facts.
Now this is particularly rich coming from a man that counts as his "foreign policy experts" the same people that exposed an active CIA agent during wartime for political game due to the fact that her husband opposed the policies of the Bush Administration and had the nerve to do so publicly.  Given his advisors, his voice in this matter carries as much moral voice as an arsonist discussing the needs for fire prevention. It simply cannot be countenanced.

Meanwhile in the "real world" the President has addressed and IS ADDRESSING this. In discussions on June 8th, 2012 the President strongly denied these charges saying:
Obama said he will "root out" those responsible for revelations in the press about a joint US-Israeli assault on Iran's nuclear programme using a computer virus known as Stuxnet, the role of the president in deciding a "kill list" of targets of drone strikes in Pakistan, and revelations about a CIA sting operation in Yemen that blocked an attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight.

"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong," he said....

...."Since I've been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation," he said. "We have mechanisms in place where if we can root out folks who have leaked they will suffer consequences. In some cases, it's criminal. These are criminal acts when they release information like this. And we will conduct thorough investigations, as we have in the past."
The Presidents record of killing or capturing more leaders of al-Qaeda than the Bush Administration ever did and doing it with such effectiveness gives lie to the Republicans shameful exercise of rhetoric. Claiming that the White House would purposefully expose national secrets at this level is at best simple projection (given the Republican record on this front).

But let's look at some other distortions or lies in the Romney Speech (and there are really too many to count so I want to focus on a few regarding the Middle East).
I will tell you right here – before I leave – what I think of this administration’s shabby treatment of one of our finest friends.

President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem.
Hmmmm aside from agreeing with former French President Sarkozy that Prime Minister Netanyahu is a "pain the ass" (something many Israeli political figures would agree is a "generous assessment"), here are some of the things Israeli leaders have said regarding the President. Here is Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak speaking of the President in November of 2011 in a CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria:

Ehud Barak: He is extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to its security. Traditionally, the president will support Israel in keeping its collective military edge and taking care of its security needs. But this administration is excelling in this. And it could not have happened without the immediate direct support of the president. So I don’t think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel
Perhaps Mr. Romney is not familiar with the Israeli Defense Minister or what that position means. But here let's see what the President of Israel Shimon Peres (A U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient - something the President does normally to leaders of countries he wants to disrespect) had to say regarding this President:
"To receive it is an honor. And to receive it from you, Mr. President, is a privilege that I shall cherish forever," Peres said after receiving the medal. "It is a testament to the historic friendship between our two nations. I receive this honor today on behalf of the People of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor. With this moving gesture, you are paying tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, and fought for, a State of their own. A state that would give them shelter. A state that they could defend. Mr. President, you are honoring the pioneers who built homes on barren mountains, on shifting sands. Fighters who sacrificed their lives for their country. On their behalf, I thank America for days of concern, for sleepless nights, caring for our safety, for our future."
Perhaps Mr. Romney is also not familiar with the Israeli President (and twice Prime Minister of the Country) Shimon Peres.

Finally, here is Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel talking about the President has "undermined" Israel (/snark):

"I would like to express my gratitude to the president of the United States, Barack Obama," Netanyahu said. "I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude."
"This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States," the Israeli leader said. "This alliance between Israel and the United States is especially important in these times of political storms and upheavals in the Middle East."

Binyamin Netanyahu Prime Minister USA Today 9/14/11
Apparently, Mr. Romney never heard of the vote at the U.N. when the U.S. stood in the face of unilateral Palestinian action and convinced the Security Council to vote against such an action. And let's not forget all the other votes at the U.N. where the President stood strongly with it's friend Israel.
Mr. Romney really needs to familiarize himself with the Presidents record here if he wants to criticize. Right now he seems ill-informed about the reality of the region.

And speaking of the U.N. where the U.S. has acted almost alone against the world in defense of it's friend. Romney had this to say:
The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world.
I guess Mr. Romney missed out on the Presidents pushing through of EXTRA funds for Israeli Missle Defense systems, Magic Wand, David's Sling, and Iron Dome (which just today intercepted a rocket from Gaza). Fortunately the people that Mr. Romney claims the President did not support understand the level of Mr. Romney's deception.

The joint US-Israel missile defense programs, including the Arrow and David's Sling are slated to receive $106.1 million in 2012. Congress normally increases this aid by tens of millions of dollars over the administration's request, but it is not certain that this will happen this year.

Global Business News 12/04/11
Unless that person is completely unfamiliar with this administration or the subject, like Mr. Romney seems to be it is easy to see how the ignorance of Mr. Romney's speech would be accepted here.

There were two other things in this speech that I feel it necessary to comment on.

The first was the strange fiction of Mr. Romney saying:
I have been critical of the President’s decision to withdraw the surge troops during the fighting season, against the advice of the commanders on the ground. President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions is arguing for endless war. But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat.
and then saying
As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.
Ummm... this is EXACTLY President Obama's plan. I am just going to let that one sit as is.

But also:
Egypt is at the center of this historical drama. In many ways, it has the power to tip the balance in the Arab world toward freedom and modernity. As president, I will not only direct the billions in assistance we give to Egypt toward that goal, but I will also work with partner nations to place conditions on their assistance as well. Unifying our collective influence behind a common purpose will foster the development of a government that represents all Egyptians, maintains peace with Israel, and promotes peace throughout the region. The United States is willing to help Egypt support peace and prosperity, but we will not be complicit in oppression and instability.
So... basically Romney is adopting the Presidents position.  One might notice that though the President of Egypt is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood - an organization that absolutely despises Israel and he has said that he will respect all international treaties that Egypt had signed. Now, how does one suppose he got to that position? Hmm? But let's see what the The Obama administration has said in this matter:
She also said Morsi must stick by his commitment to uphold Egypt's international commitments, which include the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Speaking alongside Clinton, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said Morsi had reiterated his commitment to Egypt's treaties.
Perhaps... Mr. Romney should put aside the lies and deceptions and get on with actually understanding what is happening in the region. His lack of knowledge AND honesty in this regard is frankly frightening.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guns and Violence in America - A Personal Perspective

Cross Posted at Daily Kos

PERSONAL NOTE: I am a gun owner. I own a Glock 17 9mm pistol. I enjoy target shooting and recently I took a class in Tactical Point Shooting (which is learning techniques regarding safety and shooting in an urban environment including dealing with hostage situations, anti-terrorism and other things). I plan to take another more advanced class later in the year.

All this said, I am also in favor of extremely strict Gun Control Laws. I am completely in favor of a ten-day waiting period (and actually would make it 30 days if up to me). I also think that people should have to take a general licensing class (like getting a drivers license) to handle a deadly weapon. If anything, my shooting class taught me just how much I didn't know and just how lethal a weapon like a gun can be. However, I am "pro Second Amendment" and I do not favor a ban on either Assault weapons, or other types of weapons. So this is where I am coming from.

With the tragedy of the killings in Aurora, CO, America has embarked upon "kitchen debates" (because really, the candidates are not touching this one right now) about Gun Control and what role do they play in our society. It has gotten me thinking because I think that I can see both sides of the debate and honestly I think in this case both sides have merit. I also think both sides have their faults.

One thing about Guns is how easy they make it to settle things much more finally and directly. Shooting someone with a gun is much easier than beating someone to death or stabbing them with a knife. I practice a Martial Art (Krav Maga) which is both very aggressive and is designed for combat situations (rather than tournaments). I can say with some authority that fighting is never pretty and you never know how a fight will end. In fights, size, speed, age, agility all matter to varying degrees. Guns... well they take those elements out to a degree. Anyone can pull a gun and anyone can get really lucky. You don't risk firing a gun (or the risk is less) to settle a problem.

Same as with a knife. A gun is much easier to use than a knife. It simply takes certain elements of risk out of knife fighting. There is not that personal contact with the victim. Shooting someone from 20 yards away is very different than stabbing someone. It's a lot less "up close and personal" so to speak.

Statistics in America prove that gun violence is an "epidemic", particularly in poorer, urban areas. Guns have replaced the old "rumbles" where while people did get hurt and rarely killed and turned those fights into battles of life and death. Just a cursory look at statistics bears this out. According to Wikipedia, weapon caused deaths are overwhelmingly caused by guns and handguns in particular. And there is this:

"The incidence of homicides committed with a firearm in the US is much greater than most other advanced countries. In the United States in 2009 United Nations statistics record 3.0 intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants; for comparison, the figure for the United Kingdom, with very restrictive firearm laws (handguns are totally prohibited, for example) was 0.07, about 40 times lower, and for Germany 0.2.[41]"

Then there is this:


a cartoon that a Pro-Gun friend of mine posted on FB. And this to me is telling in how very wrong it is. It is true that if someone had had a gun in Aurora they might have been able to stop the massacre, but the key word here is might. More likely (as was mentioned here), Gun fire from the crowd would have probably caused MORE death and destruction than was already inflicted. (Again, as was mentioned here), Hitting an armored moving target in the confusion and gas would be a completely tough shot. Most likely there would have been more casualties from shooting in this crowded situation. How many more people would have had to die to justify shooting James Holmes.

ON THE OTHER HAND.... Holmes broke no laws in purchasing his weapons. He got things legally,  and given the maniacal, sociopathic nature of the shooting even strict gun control laws probably would not have stopped him. I say probably, because honestly, I don't know all of the details of this event. BUT, it does go to show that indeed the adage regarding "if criminals really want to get guns, they will" is true. It wasn't Gun Control Laws that failed us here.

Also, while people want to "blame" assault weapons, as the Wiki article shows, legally bought assault weapons are not a major percentage of gun deaths. Most people buy them because they are fun to shoot and in my opinion, they are fun to shoot. I don't own an assault rifle and I have no plans to ever do so, I don't really see how I have a need for one however, I do know people that own them and that is exactly how they feel about it.

I think rather than focus on Guns in this debate there is a discussion to be had about the de-sensitization that our society has towards gun violence and violence in general. "Shooter games" that glorify the destructive power of higher and higher caliber weaponry, movies that portray violence as the only way to solve problems (which granted is a lot more fun/escapist to watch than seeing people sitting around a table discussing non-violent conflict resolution), are pervasive in our society. Even in our language to each other. How many times, (and I am as guilty of this as anyone) do we resort to violent language to express ourselves? How many times do we excuse violence as a means to an end?

Violence only touches most of us in cursory ways. I spar for a hobby, yet it's just that. I get the occasional black eye, bloody nose, and have even broken a bone... but it never was "violent" (meaning that it was not done to inflict pain). It was never random, it was not meant with malice, and it is never uncontrolled. Aggresiveness lives in all of us, but violent, or uncontrolled aggressiveness is something that we keep at bay and see as an "outlier" (for good reason I might add).

So what do we do to make this better? I think education is the key. I think there is too much emphasis on violence as the solution and not enough on the short and long term effects of violence. For me, doing martial arts and taking shooting classes shows me the true power inherent in these things. Handling a gun gives you power, understanding the full effects of what you are doing or can do... is sobering IF you truly understand what those effects are. Causing pain, and mayhem is NOT a means in itself unless one is a truly twisted individual and "likes" to cause pain and suffering.

How does this manifest itself.. Society has to have a discussion just what this means. We go to war in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but we don't see the bodies come home or the injuries on T.V. All we see is the bravery and camaraderie and occasionally we see the toll that it takes. But unlike Vietnam we have really no understanding of what is happening. We don't want to see guys/gals coming home in body bags. We don't want to see the effect today's weapons have. It's much more fun to see people get shot up in a game and never have to worry what that really means. We don't want to know about the screams for mercy, the sighs of the dying, the smell of cordite, the burning. It's too inconvenient. I have never experienced that and I pray I never do. But I have a number of friends who have and when they talk about (on rare occasions) it is enough to make me understand that none of this is a joke. We have to be better at communicating this.

I am not proposing a radical shift for our society, what I am saying will take time and patience. I think as a society we have to get over the "bravado" that is enforced and be willing to say "it's ok... there has to be a better way." We have to get rid of the silly hyperbole around violence as it has pervaded our conversations and understand that when we speak the language of hate and violence we simply encourage it more. As we are human, there will be violence. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes it's absolutely needed. But I think it should also be completely understood what that violence means. Would I use my gun if I had too.... I don't know, but, I think I could. I THINK I could shoot someone if my life or the life of my friends and family were at stake. But that would only be as a last resort. It would only be in an actionable situation. I can say, though, that even if I could do it, I would not want to do it.

I only ask that people please discuss this with their friends and their family. Please discuss how hyperbole and the quick use of violent rhetoric can lead to violence. Then think about what the long term effects could be. Is it really worth it.

Peace... Shalom.

Anti-Semitism in Santa Monica?

It appears bigotry knows no geographic bounds, not even in the seemingly tranquil setting of Santa Monica, California as the LA Times reports today a gathering of young leaders of the Friends of Israeli Defense Forces were discriminated against during their planned charity event to raise money for the children of fallen IDF members to attend summer camp. The event was being held at the Hotel Shangri-La owned by Tehmina Adaya whom was quoted by an employee as stating:
In a deposition, Nathan Codrey, who was assistant food and beverage director of the Shangri-La at the time of the gathering, stated that Adaya told him the day of the charity event: "I don't want ... any Jews in my pool."  
Members of the group have sued the hotel for discrimination saying they were told
to take down our literature and banners. The hotel removed our rope and stanchions and guests' towels. Anyone wearing a blue wristband was asked to get out of the swimming pool and hot tub." "They were told they weren't allowed to have banners, that literature was not permitted in the pool area, that the pool was only for hotel guests and that the pool was overcrowded," said James Turken, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
"It was my intent and the group's intent that, as long as we were there and knew we belonged there, we were not going to be forced out because of who we were and what we believed in," (Ari) Ryan said.
A sad day in America it is when people believe they can discriminate without consequence. Let us hope this hotel owner learns otherwise.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dumbest "Both Parties Do It" Column Ever

By Ian Reifowitz - Cross Posted on Daily Kos

And that is saying something. But it's true.

The column in question, written by CNN's Ruben Navarette, Jr., starts by making the point that, with signs pointing toward Mitt Romney -- after floating Condi Rice, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and other non-white figures -- going with either Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty (T-Paw!) as his VP pick, the Republicans appear to be close to, once again, nominating two white people on the presidential ticket. Nothing out of the ordinary so far.

But then a hint of the "both parties do it" inanity shows up:
This looks like a familiar tease, one used by Democrats and Republicans alike when selecting vice presidential nominees. It starts with casting the net wide, and floating the most diverse set of names possible to give voters the impression that the campaigns put a high premium on diversity.
But you might be thinking: wait a minute, Mr. Navarette. Vice-presidential nominees? You're criticizing both parties equally on the lack of diversity in VICE-presidential nominees? Which party nominated an African-American for NON-VICE President -- also known as President -- you know, the top of the ever-loving ticket? And which party is about to do so again?

But maybe that was just a tic. Maybe Mr. Navarette just forgot about that fact. Let's let one slide and see how the rest of the column goes.

Navarette goes on to urge Romney to do something other than pick a white male, to show that his party isn't just the party of whites, and makes some other reasonable statements on that theme. Then he goes back to "both parties do it."

After mentioning Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008, Navarette rattles off a list of white male VP nominees, right up to Joe Biden in 2008 (conveniently ignoring the truly historic nature of Al Gore's selecting a Jewish running mate, Joe Lieberman, in 2000. I guess that doesn't count as diversity, even though we live in a country where conservatives run around talking about America as a "Christian nation.") Then Navarette offers this gem:
Talk about a wasted opportunity. What would it have meant if, after more than 50 years of happy talk from Democrats, when the time came to act, it was actually a Republican who put the first Latino or first African-American woman on a presidential ticket?
Happy talk? Happy talk? No, the Democrats didn't nominate a black or Latino woman for Vice-President. Do I really have to say this again? OK. Barack Obama. That's a hell of a lot more than "happy talk."

Then, finally, Navarette remembers the current President, and has this to say about the fact that one of the major parties nominated an African American for the top of the ticket:
For one thing, it would have meant that Democrats would have been put on the defensive, and forced to explain to some of their own liberal base why they hadn't broken those barriers years ago. Let's not forget that when the Democratic Party finally nominated an African-American for president, it did so only after a long and bruising primary campaign. It was a contest tainted by vicious race-mongering on the part of some supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Take a deep breath everyone. Yes, Mr. Navarette has just slammed the Democrats for not breaking "those barriers years ago," for not selecting (through an undemocratic choice made by one person) a non-white woman for Vice-President, while essentially dismissing the groundbreaking nomination of the first non-white American for President because it only happened after, wait for it, an actual election in which tens of millions participated.

That election was "long" and some people did say racist things. Because it wasn't easy or a landslide or because there is still racism in America, Mr. Navarette seems to think it wasn't that big an accomplishment in terms of diversity to nominate a black man for President. He thinks that if Mitt Romney picks Condi Rice or Susana Martinez as his running mate, then Barack Obama and the party he leads will be "put on the defensive" when it comes to diversity and the presidential ticket.
Think about the stupidity of that statement.

But stupidity is what you get when you try to to shoehorn a false, "both parties do it" equivalency into an argument where both parties aren't doing it.

Mr. Navarette, if you want to criticize the Republican party for the lack of ethnic and racial diversity on its presidential ticket over the decades, and put some subtle pressure on Mitt Romney to break that trend, then do that. By all means do so.

But don't be afraid of being accused of 'partisanship' or being 'pro-Obama' or even, heaven forfend, a 'liberal.' Sometimes it's true, both parties do it. And sometimes Democrats deserve to be criticized.
But trying to criticize Democrats on diversity in their presidential ticket makes you look stupid. Incredibly stupid.

And this is what happens when media commentators strive for 'balance' instead of truth. They end up looking stupid.

Obama Supports Moment of Silence. Romney Stays Silent.

Back on Tuesday, I wrote about the attempt to have a minute-long moment of silence in memory of the olympians killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics. President Obama has now become the latest world leader to publicly endorse this effort.

"We absolutely support the campaign for a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News by email.

Mitt Romney, who allegedly left Bain Capital from 1999-2002 to run the 2002 Winter Olympics, remained silent:

A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, Andrea Saul, said the Republican standard-bearer had taken no public stance on the issue.

This is the same Mitt Romney who will be in London when the Olympics open there next week. I say he acted in classic Romney fashion, but that would require he first support the moment of silence, then oppose it, or vice versa. Here he just stays silent.

So, what is it Mitt? Do you support the moment of silence or not? How hard is it to answer 'yes' or 'no' as to whether slain olympians, murdered at the olympics, are worthy of a public display of remembrance for the world to see?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

President Obama SUPPORTS moment of Silence for Slain Olympic Athletes

This just in from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA):

(JTA) – President Obama joined the campaign for a moment of silence (vb1 emphasis) at the London Olympics to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Olympics.

“We absolutely support the campaign for a minute of silence at the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes killed in Munich,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told Yahoo News in an email.

The families of the victims of the 1972 massacre have mounted a global campaign to get the International Olympic Committee to hold an official moment of silence at the Games -- something IOC officials already have rejected for this year and have never done in the past. However, IOC representatives have attended Israeli and Jewish-organized commemorations....

Aside from Obama, the U.S. Senate, the German Bundestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, about 50 members of the British Parliament, the Israeli government, Jewish organizations worldwide and about 100 members of Australia's Parliament have urged the IOC to hold a moment of silence.

Apparently taking a break from cozying up to Nazi Based Jihadi's and "defaming" the Jewish People" (as the lunatic fringe of the Right Wing puts it), the President once again has shown that he is a true friend to both the Jewish and Israeli People.

Also at a campaign stop today in West Palm Beach the President had this to say regarding U.S. ties to Israel:

"And we’ve strengthened our alliances and stood with countries that shared our values. I know a lot of people in this community care about the state of Israel -- (applause) -- and we are heartbroken -- and it’s an important time to talk about this because of these barbaric attacks that happened in Bulgaria -- young people being killed because of this ruthless terrorist attack. And I want everybody here to know, under my administration, we haven’t just preserved the unbreakable bond with Israel; we have strengthened it.   (vb1 emphasis)(Applause.)

We’ve stood by Israel’s side in the face of criticism. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. And obviously this is a moment of great uncertainty in the Middle East given what’s happening in Syria and what’s happening in other places. So now is the time to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect Israel’s security. And I want you to know that that’s something that should transcend party. That’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue. That is an issue of how we work with one of our closest allies in the world that shares our values and believes in democracy. (Applause.)"

Of course, this goes hand in had with phrasing from President Shimon Peres as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak who had echoed the Presidents words when they said:

(Peres) "To receive it is an honor (the Presidential Medal of Freedom). And to receive it from you, Mr. President, is a privilege that I shall cherish forever," Peres said after receiving the medal. "It is a testament to the historic friendship between our two nations. I receive this honor today on behalf of the People of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor. With this moving gesture, you are paying tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, and fought for, a State of their own. A state that would give them shelter. A state that they could defend. Mr. President, you are honoring the pioneers who built homes on barren mountains, on shifting sands. Fighters who sacrificed their lives for their country. On their behalf, I thank America for days of concern, for sleepless nights, caring for our safety, for our future."

and from DM Ehud Barak:

Addressing the Home Front's state of preparedness, he noted that the "US is standing by us in an exceptional way and will help us purchase more Iron Dome and Magic Wand systems as well as cruise missiles which could dramatically improve Home Front protection."

Anyway... the most important thing is not only to let the President know we "have his back" in the coming 2012 elections but to support the move by the President to get the IOC to grant that moment of silence to the slain Israeli athletes in the Munich Massacre. Please read Reuven's article here and sign the petition asking that indeed we all support such a memorial.

FINALLY Please keep the families of the slain in the horrible attack in Bulgaria in your thoughts and prayers. YNET released their names. If anyone is in shul this shabbat please remember:

Itzik Kolengi (28) from Petah Tikva,
Amir Menashe (28), also from Petah Tikva,
Maor Harush (25) from Akko,
Elior Priess (26) from Akko
Kochava Shriki (44), of Rishon Lezion.

Right-Wingers Go Nuts Because Obama Nominee Sent Her Kids to Jew Camp

The right-wing Daily Caller freaked out because President Obama's nominee to head the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Erica Groshen, sent her children to a Jewish summer camp (aka Jew Camp) that was founded 90 years ago by leftist Jews. Yes, in the conservative mind this is an actual, newsworthy story. I suppose to them it is just proof of John Sununu's claim that President Obama just doesn't seem like a real American.

Naturally, people are having a field day with the report, but not in the way the Daily Caller expected. There is just downright mocking of this story in subjecting it to complete ridicule. Really, the conservatives do need to get better material.

Here's The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg on the camp in question (along with a note about the BLS):

The Workmen's Circle! The most harmless organization in America! This is what they're worried about? You should have seen my Jewish summer camp, Camp Shomria, a Socialist Zionist outpost in the Catskills. Kinderland was for bourgeois pantywaists. We, on the other hand, almost succeeded in forcibly collectivising Grossinger's.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, you'll recall, was the organization Richard Nixon believed was overpopulated with Commie Jew-types. He became so obsessed with this, in fact, that he tasked an aide, Fred Malek, to count all the Jews in the bureau, some of whom were subsequently demoted. But it's hard to keep those Commie Jews down, apparently.

And Max Read at Gawker:

That's right: this isn't just any summer camp — it's an unabashed Jewish leftist summer camp. The mind reels. What other important HUAC investigations have been overlooked by the communists infiltrating the government? ... We need brave journalists like [Matt Boyle] looking into the Jewish-communist menace!

And Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog:

Yes, conservative media is now interested in the historical roots of summer camps where obscure administration nominees used to send their kids. We can only hope a lengthy congressional hearings begin immediately.

And the right wonders why it's so difficult to take conservative media outlets seriously.

This story is just one of those truly laugh out loud moments when it comes to conservative craziness and paranoia. They see communists and socialists everywhere and see them as engaged in this vast conspiracy to destroy mom, apple pie and the American way of life. All this because someone sent their kids to Jew camp — a Jew camp founded 90 years ago by Jewish leftists that is now more about just making sure kids have a good time during the summer.

I guess all I can say is, thanks for the comedy conservatives. But, come on, can't you come up with better material than this? Jew camp? Really?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Obama as "Not American": Sununu's Only Echoing His Boss -- Romney

Reposted from Ian Reifowitz AND Daily Kos by Ian Reifowitz

Thanks to Jed Lewison, I'm sure most of you are aware of the remarks made on Tuesday by top Romney surrogate John Sununu, the former New Hampshire Governor.
"I wish this president would learn to be an American."
Let that sink in for a minute.

Granted, Sununu did mumble some sort of apology and talked about context and how he was referring to Obama's policies on business. Frankly, that's irrelevant. He said that Obama is not an American. There is no context where that is anything but disgusting and hateful.

But this is about far more than remarks made by one Romney surrogate speaking out of school. What the media needs to report is this: Sununu is merely echoing language coming from Mitt Romney himself. Right now.

At an event in Pennsylvania on the same day that Sununu made his remarks, Romney spoke about his own approach to business, thus employing that same 'context' that Sununu used to justify what he said. Romney praised his "course" for the country, and then asserted the following about Barack Obama:
"His course is extraordinarily foreign."
There is no denying that Sununu and Romney, surrogate and boss, are on exactly the same page here. There is no question that, on the very same day, they both used language that seeks to "other" Obama, to paint him as "not American."

And Romney has done this before. On December 7, 2011, again in part of a discussion about the economy, he said of the President:
"I don't think he understands America."
A New York Times editorial had this to say about Romney's statement:
It’s not quite Newt Gingrich’s saying Mr. Obama has a “Kenyan” worldview, but it’s close.
On January 2, 2012, in Iowa, Romney once again used a discussion ostensibly about the economy to "other" Obama. Romney stated that the President will:
"Poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God."
This kind of language acts as a dog whistle for bigots. It is a more subtle version of birtherism, and reflects the kind of exclusionary definition of American national identity embraced by far too many on the right. It is the exact opposite of Barack Obama's conception of our national identity, one that emphasizes national unity as well as inclusion, and seeks to strengthen ties among Americans across lines of race, culture, and religion.

When John Sununu said that President Obama was not an American--and make no mistake, that's what he said--he wasn't saying anything his boss hadn't said before. Mitt Romney has made the same kind of remark on too many occasions to be able to deny that his campaign has made a clear decision to do what John McCain refused to do, and what any politician with a sense of honor and patriotism would refuse to do.

Mitt Romney is running on hate.
Because it is directly relevant to the content of this diary, I'd like to mention that for more on Barack Obama's conception of Americanness, as well as an analysis of the exclusionism coming from Romney and others on the right, please see my book, Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, which is being published by Potomac Books later this month.

Latest Evangelical Swipe at Jews — Western Wall Replica in Kansas

Evangelical anti-abortion activists in Wichita, Kansas are planning to construct an exact replica of the Western Wall in Kansas. They envision the replica to serve as a memorial to aborted fetuses. According to the plans there will be 60 crosses in front of the structure with each cross representing 1 million aborted fetuses. As they have done before, activists have also appropriated the Holocaust in their campaign against a woman's right to choose:
“[The Western Wall] is a place that memorializes what happened during the Holocaust,” said Pastor Mark Holick, the spokesman for the anti-abortion project. “Since Roe v. Wade,” he said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that struck down state bans on abortion, “60 million baby boys and girls have been murdered, and that is a holocaust unprecedented in the history of mankind.” [Author's note: It is Yad Vashem that memorializes the victims of the Shoah]
While defending the right of anti-abortion activists to express and advocate for their position, Anti-Defamation League executive director Abraham Foxman blasted their appropriation of the Western Wall and the Holocaust:
"Over the years we have seen a number of anti-abortion groups compare abortion to the Holocaust, but this takes the misuse of Jewish symbolism and history to another level," Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, said in a statement issued Monday. "The Western Wall, this monumental symbol of Jewish grief and redemption is being co-opted and distorted to promote an anti-abortion agenda and message. Members of the pro-life movement are entitled to their opinions, but we wish they would not express them at the expense of Judaism’s holiest site and the Holocaust."
Perhaps the best smack down, though, came from Adam Chandler in Tablet, where he eviscerated a National Review piece that slammed DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for emphasizing Jewish-American support for abortion rights:
That’s 93%, folks. The report goes to explain that while opinions are more varied by political affiliation among Jews, over 75% of Jewish Republicans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. From the data, it seems that Wasserman Schultz isn’t saying anything that isn’t reflective of the vast majority of Jewish opinion. In fact, it seems that access to abortion is the issue upon which the most Jews agree.
Now if Levin really wants to fret about the politicization of abortion and Judaism, I’m inviting him to fly to Wichita, Kansas. Just mere miles from the spot where Dr. George Tiller was shot in 1993 as well as the church where he was assassinated during Sunday morning services in 2009, evangelical pastors are building a full-sized exact replica of the Western Wall as part of The International Pro-Life Memorial and National Life Center.
Let me conclude with a personal note. The Western Wall (or the Wailing Wall) — referred to by most Jews simply as "the Kotel" — is the holiest site in Judaism. It is all that remains of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The appropriation of it for political ends is disgraceful and a slap in the face to Jews across the world. Many Evangelical Christians love to proclaim how they are great friends to Jews. However, when they engage in behavior such as this they make clear those words are truly meaningless.

I will finish with a bit of a happier note, though. When I was in Israel, I had the opportunity to attend Shabbat services at the Kotel on Saturday morning. It so happened that the week I was there the portion of the Torah that was read was the same portion that was read at my Bar Mitzvah. Because of that, I received the honor of being called to the Torah at the Kotel. It was truly amazing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why is the International Olympic Committee so afraid of a moment of silence?

David Berger

Ze'ev Friedman

Eliezer Halfin

Amitzur Shapira

Kehat Shorr

Mark Slavin

Andrei Spitzer

Yakov Springer

Yossef Romano

Yossef Gutfreund

Moshe Weinberg

They are the Munich 11. In 1972, armed terrorists broke into Munich's olympic village, took them hostage and murdered them. These terrorists violated everything the Olympics stands for: emphasizing our common humanity and seeking to build bridges of peace understanding through competition of sport.

Why is the International Olympic Committee so afraid to honor the memories of these men with a simple moment of silence?

Today, all that is asked is that they be remembered with a moment of silence. As Ankie Spitzer, the widow of Andrei Spitzer explains (full transcript of video here):

I am asking for one minute of silence for the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and referees murdered at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich. Just one minute — at the 2012 London Summer Olympics and at every Olympic Game, to promote peace.

These men were sons; fathers; uncles; brothers; friends; teammates; athletes. They came to Munich in 1972 to play as athletes in the Olympics; they came in peace and went home in coffins, killed in the Olympic Village and during hostage negotiations.

Please join the many others and tell the International Olympic Committee that you support a moment of silence to remember the Munich 11 and sign the petition calling on the IOC to reverse course.

Todah (Thank you).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bain: Aren't We Glad Obama Didn't Listen to Cory Booker?

Another Gem from Ian Reifowitz.... Originally posted at Daily Kos

Remember a couple of months ago, when Cory Booker said this:
“It’s nauseating to the American public,” Booker said on NBC's "Meet the Press." “Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”“As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” he added. “To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”
And then remember the hand-wringing (oh, the hand-wringing), as described in this article from the L.A. Times:
WASHINGTON -- The fallout from Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s criticism of the Obama campaign’s use of Bain Capital against Mitt Romney continues, with Booker objecting to "being used by the GOP" to help the Romney campaign.
To give credit where credit is due, Daily Kos's own David Nir presented us with polling data in early June that showed the attacks on Bain were going to work, and referring to the aforementioned hand-wringing as a "phony media-created phenomenon."

But the real credit, of course, goes to the Obama campaign. They knew they had a winner on their hands and understood the importance, when you're an incumbent, of defining your opponent early (see Dole, Bob, 1996).

This is a relatively simple diary, so let me answer my rhetorical question with a simple answer.
Yes, we are.