Saturday, September 29, 2012

Someone said they feel sorry for me because I'm a Jew that supports Obama

People don't look at records because they're afraid of the big, scary black man Barack HUSSEIN (ZOMG!!!!111shiftone11!!111!! HUSSEIN!!!111shiftone11!!!1111!!) Obama. They don't care that Ike said fuck the British, fuck the French, fuck the Jews. They don't care that Ford threatened to cutoff aid if Israel didn't do what he wanted despite there being no peace treaty with Egypt. They don't care that Bush actually did partially cut off aid.

No, because Obama gives Bibi the cold shoulder after he decides to intervene in our own domestic politics on behalf of the GOP, he's TEH EBILZ! They don't care that Obama has increased military cooperation between the US and Israel. They don't care that Obama has funded Israel's anti-missile system that actually is working. They don't care that his record is as pro-Israel as any president's. Nope, because he gave Netanyahu what he deserved, and because his name is Barack HUSSEIN (ZOMG!!!11!1!1shiftone11!!11!!! HUSSEIN!!!111!!11!!) Obama they think he's horrible.
Oh, and because I'm a Jew that proudly proclaims I'm a Jew, wears a kippah and openly supports our president, at least one person feels sorry for me. Ugh.

So what precipitated this?

I went out to the supermarket tonight after Shabbat because Sukkot starts tomorrow night and I figured better to get my shopping done with tonight than go tomorrow when the supermarket will be crazy on a Sunday. I won't be able to go Monday or Tuesday because it's holiday. I finish my shopping and when I'm on line the cashier asks me what the Hebrew button on my jacket says. I reply that it simply says, "Barack Obama" in Hebrew. She asks about Israel and I tell her the facts, including that the most anti-Israel presidents have been Republican.

There's another guy on line and he looks at me funny before finally telling me he feels sorry for me just as I was about to leave.  He clearly didn't want to process the reality of the situation or the facts. It's just "Obama scary!!!!" No caring about the actual records. No caring about the fact that Mitt Romney refuses to condemn the baptism of dead Jews, including Holocaust victims. No caring that Mitt Romney's policies of give more to the rich and screw the poor stand against the most basic of values. No, none of that matters because he's running against Barack HUSSEIN Obama. \</rant>

Friday, September 28, 2012

Several Major Jewish Organizations Join Court Fight Against DOMA

This is a quick diary, especially as I'm getting ready to runoff for Shabbat, but I thought that it should be shared. Several major Jewish-American organizations have joined the court fight against the Defense of Marriage Act, filing a friend of the court brief with the Second Circuit. The brief states:

DOMA departs from this longstanding separation between religious and civil definitions of marriage by incorporating, for the first time, a single religious definition into federal law — a definition inconsistent with the decision of many religious groups, including many of the undersigned amici, to embrace an inclusive view of marriage.

The organizations signing on to the brief are important names in institutional Judaism. Among them are the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah and organs of both Conservative and Reform Judaism. While it is not a surprise that both the Conservative and Reform movements would sign on given their support for LGBT rights, it is surprising that both the ADL and Hadassah would join a side in what many consider a contentious issue that does uniquely impact upon the Jewish community.

That said, it is a reflection of Jewish liberalism and strong Jewish support for marriage equality. If people want to understand why Jewish-Americans support Democrats, and will continue to support Democrats, this is exactly why. We are liberals. We believe in community. We believe we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers. We believe in individual autonomy. We believe that every individual is unique and worthy of respect and dignity. We are all created in G-d's image. We remember that.

Nate Silver: Maybe the 47 Percent Gaffe Matters After All

Writing on the current state of the polls today over on at Five Thirty Eight at The New York Times, Nate Silver writes about the decided shift to President Obama in the polls:

It’s hard to tell whether this recent gain for Mr. Obama reflects the effect of the “47 percent” comments specifically. But the most typical pattern after a party convention is that a candidate who gains ground in the polls cedes at least some of it back.

Instead, the more pertinent question seems not whether Mr. Obama is losing ground, but whether he is still gaining it.

This comes as President Obama has expanded his lead to 5.7% from 4.1% in Silver's "now-cast" since the tape became public. That number reflects the margin Obama would be expected to win by if the election were held today.

The chart that he includes in his piece shows a steady gain following the Democratic convention, which then levels off for a bit (but does not decline), before it finally starts to move, once again, in a pro-Obama direction following the release of the 47% tape. Of course, as Silver points out, there could be a number of factors that is causing this shift. We cannot forget that Romney has made several gaffes throughout this time period and does not seem particularly interested in campaigning. Those are all potential contributing factors.

And Silver's conclusion and take away on the current polling as we prepare for the first debate:

The overall story line, however, is fairly clear: Mr. Romney is at best holding ground in the polls, and quite possibly losing some, at a time when he needs to be gaining it instead. Further, it’s increasingly implausible for Mr. Romney to attribute the numbers to temporary effects from the Democratic convention. Mr. Obama’s probability of winning the Electoral College advanced to 83.9 percent in the Nov. 6 forecast, up from 81.9 percent on Wednesday.

No, the election is not in the bag quite yet. However, President Obama has a clear advantage as we near the final month and change of the election campaign. And when one looks at the tracking polls (Rasmussen excluded), that advantage is becoming more and more pronounced.

Still, we must keep fighting because there are down-ballot races that we need to win beyond the presidency. We need President Obama to have the strongest coattails possible. In 1980, Reagan's coattails, and Carter's weakness, propelled Republicans to Senate control for the first time in 26 years. This year, if we can help give President Obama strong coattails, we can take back the House and win other critical races at the state and local level.

Let's win this thing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wolf Blitzer Destroys Poll Truthers. Cites Fox News.

On CNN Newsroom today, Wolf Blitzer absolutely destroyed the "poll truthers" that claim all the polls are skewed and Mitt Romney is really winning the race. His killer argument:

And here is video:

We all know that many in the mainstream media are invested in this being a close race, however it seems that many are now accepting what the polling says. This could well still be a close race, but President Obama has an advantage and he is widening that advantage. That Wolf Blitzer makes this point on CNN, using the right's on favorite "news" source, is even more delicious. After all, he reminds everyone that the poll truthers will have to say that Fox News is also skewing Democratic. Of course, when one is that disconnected from reality, that's not exactly the hardest leap to make.

Right now we have the Republicans on the ropes. They're desperate. They know that the Romney campaign is a sinking ship. They know that he's already helped evaporate realistic hopes of taking the Senate if the race remains in its current state. They know that his campaign could endanger their House majority. Now is the time to increase the pressure. All Republicans have left is fanciful math that all the pollsters, including their own, are somehow wrong.

I suspect that the poll truthers will only get more desperate in the coming weeks. It should be fun to watch, especially if those in the media follow Wolf Blitzer's lead and remind everyone that even Fox News has Obama ahead.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Logical Inconsistencies of Antisemites and Israel Bashers

Like any other extremists, antisemites and Israel bashers (and really, I can stop pretending there is any distinction there) have an extraordinary capacity for doublethink.  Doublethink was George Orwell's term for happily believing who mutually contradictory things at the same time.  Lately I've been pondering some of these things that antisemites and derangers believe and claim in tandem, which elementary logic dictates cannot be true in combination.

Not that logical consistency is a hallmark of antisemites and Israel bashers, but consider:

1) Jews aren't a people / Israel is racist

Denial of Jewish peoplehood is a staple of antisemites and Israel bashers.  We see it constantly on internet forums such as Daily Kos, HuffPo, and elsewhere that antisemites congregate in any numbers.  The fact that Jews are a people is supported by every shred of genetic and historical evidence.  But denial of such is so prevalent that it is functionally the "gateway" opinion to full fledged antisemitism.  If there is one thing in this world that David Duke, Hamas, and the Green Party of Australia agree on, it is that Jews are not a people.

Which is quite puzzling considering that often the very next thing out of their mouths is that Israel - sometimes its practices but usually its very existence - is "racist."  Such a charge can only mean that Israel advantages one ethnic group or race over others.

So if Jews aren't a people, then what ethnic group or race is allegedly "racist" Israel advantaging over others?  Am I supposed to believe that Israel just assembled a random collection of unrelated Khazars, Yemenis, and Ethiopians and decided to grant them privileged group status?  Ridiculous.

At this point Israel derangers might think they have an out by claiming that "racist" can mean favoring a particular religion over another, and while Jews are not a people in their minds they are a religion.  However such a dodge can be taken down trivially:  Israel is full of secular and atheist Jews who do not believe in Judaism the religion at all.  Even the great deranger "right wing" boogeyman Avigdor Lieberman is a secular atheist, and in fact has a political party based on that position.  And yet in spite of not being adherents of Judaism, these people are supposedly part of the advantaged segment of Israeli society.  Can you think of any theocracy or religious based state in the world where atheists are included in the privileged class?  Of course not.

The only way Israel can be "racist" is if Jews are a people or a race.

Now of course, I believe that Jews are a people and that Israel is not racist, which is logically consistent if one considers Israel to be a nation-state like most in the Old World, no different than Italy or Greece in that regard.  But for both of those to be untrue simultaneously is a logical impossibility.

2) Israel is a military juggernaut / Israel is a paper tiger utterly dependent on the USA

This one just makes me laugh.  In one breath we are regaled with all of the terrible sins of Israel's seemingly all-powerful endlessly ass kicking military - how they bomb innocent Gazans to smithereens, pre-emptively attack everyone under the sun, and even have nuclear weapons.  Not to mention that they militarily conquered and occupied all of this land in 1967.  Then in the next breath we are told how Israel would be nothing without America and always gets America to "do its fighting for it".  The later obviously ignores the many times that Israel achieved stunning military victory against much larger powerful neighbors with no outside help, such as in the 1948 war, the Six Day War, and so on, but whatever.

So which one is it, bashers?  Cuz it obviously can't be both.

3) Jews are an alien presence in Eretz Israel / The Dome of the Rock is on the site of The Temple

The later is not generally in the circle of concern of Western antisemites, but their Islamist allies are fond of it.

But let's look at the former first.  We constantly hear from the likes of Hamas - and misguided Western useful idiots (but interestingly not usually right wing antisemites) - that Jews are a foreign presence and don't belong in Israel, and will have to return to their "countries of origin."  This is fairly representative of Islamist (and even some secular Arab) extremist attitudes toward Israelis.

Yet somehow they have no problem maintaining that the Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock sits is the genuine site of the ancient Israelite temples, not to mention many other episodes mentioned in The Bible.  This is just absolutely inconsistent with the position that Jews are usurpers living in Israel, since all of these episodes are obviously associated with Jews.  But hey, as we are seeing, consistency is not their strong suit.

4) The Green Line is an international border / Israel is not recognized as a state

Whatever your feelings about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, it is clear that anti-Israel rhetoric constantly appeals to the pre-1967 Green Line as an international border between two polities which was violated and then occupied.  We are told that Israel must evacuate its illegal settlements from beyond the Green Line, as this is conquered land, and return everyone to behind the line.  Fair enough, as far as it goes.

But for the Green Line to actually demarcate one state from another, that would necessarily mean that there was a state on both sides.  However, until 1979 no Arab state recognized Israel as a state within any borders, the Green Line or otherwise.  No diplomatic relations, no name on maps, nothing.  The armistice that ended the 1948 war which established the Green Line in the first place, on Arab insistence, made it clear that the Green Line was only a cease fire line, and did not imply any sort of permanent border.

Even today, only two Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, recognize Israel as a state.  For the rest, and for all of their sympathizers in the West, since Israel isn't a state, how can the Green Line have any significance?  Logically, there should be no difference between one side of the Green Line and the other.

(on the last point, we know this is what they truly believe, but they rarely come out and say it directly to a Western audience)

5) Israel is a theocracy / Israel promotes homosexuality and promiscuity

Israel bashers like the Iranian regime and others in the Middle East frequently attribute the presence of sexuality and other libertine behaviors that they don't like to the nefarious influence of Israel.  Big, bad, sinful, satanic, atheist Israel.

And yet we are regaled all the time, by their sympathizers in the West, with charges that Israel is a theocracy or religious-based state, largely from people who don't or can't grasp the concept of Jewish peoplehood.

So which is it?  Is Israel a theocracy or a decadent secular Sodom.  Cuz logically it can't be both!


So there you have it, a sampling of idiotic, inconsistent doublethink when it comes to Israel.  It is strange because there is plenty of ammo if derangers wanted to rhetorically assault Israel, which, while being incorrect and misleading, at least would not be inherently logically inconsistent.  All they would have to do is pick one item from each of the pairs I mentioned and disregard the other.  They would be wrong, but at least they would be consistent.
But they can't even do that.  Sometimes even the most jaded among us can be surprised by the depths of mental laxity some people are capable of.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

As Yom Kippur approaches - Speak out against Pamela Gellers Racist Ad

Cross-Posted at The Progressive Zionist.

So as the day winds out and it is time for me to prepare for Yom Kippur, I want to use this time prior to my reflection to speak out against what I consider outright racism. Even though I am Pro-Israel and I strongly identify as a Zionist... I don't need "friends" like this on my side. I strongly believe that using hate to make your case de-legitimizes the message that you want to send in every case. Just as I call out anti-Semitic commentary and behavior on the part of those I disagree with, I will call out racism from my own corner and let them know that they are not welcome "on my half of the court".

Anyway, vile racist and all around crazyperson Pamela Geller decided to pay for a run a series of Racist ads in New York focused around the Mass Transit system. Here is that ad:


Now credit to the New York Transit Authority... they did try to stop these ads, but lost in court. Anyway these ads have been termed Islamophobic and racist. Geller's defenders have this to say (I won't link to this hateful site):
And just who is it that is defined as "savage"? Jihadis, that's who. You know, the same people who just slaughtered four American diplomats in Libya. Geller is absolutely correct. Jihadis are savages. They are people who are willing to use extreme violence in order to promote the Sharia, the genocide of the Jews, the murder of Gay people, and the oppression of women. Sounds pretty savage to me.
You know who the ad does not refer to?
It is the people who insist that the advertisement is "Islamophobic" who are conflating savage Jihadis with ordinary Muslims.  And that, my friends, truly is racism.  When they claim that this advertisement is "Islamophobic" the clear implication is that Muslims, in general, are Jihadis.
 They aren't.
In this instance it is not Geller who is being racist, but those who object to the advertisement on grounds of racism who are being racist.
So... Gellers defenders are too ashamed of their own racism to admit what they really believe and they feel the need to say that those objecting to her vile racism are really the true racists.
 Only thing is they are contradicted by Pamela Geller herself. She is honest in her hatred (which is not a positive btw). Here is how she uses the term "Jihad", From the SPLC
"Hussein [meaning President Obama] is a muhammadan. He's not insane … he wants jihad to win."
— Pam Geller,, April 11, 2010
"Islam is not a race. This is an ideology. This is an extreme ideology, the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth."
— Pam Geller On Fox Business' "Follow the Money," March 10, 2011
or this:
"I don't think that many westernized Muslims know when they pray five times a day that they're cursing Christians and Jews five times a day. … I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam."
— Pam Geller, The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2010
Apparently according to Geller followers of Islam (better known as Muslims) are now part of the Jihad including President Obama. So actually though her batshit insane defenders say she is not talking about Muslims... as the quote above shows, she most certainly is talking about Muslims. I mean the woman mentions that the simple act of prayer is an insult to Christians and Jews. 
Just to be clear on what we are dealing with here. This "person" claims that Anders Brevik (the man who murdered 77 Norwegians - mostly teens) was:
Geller couldn’t help displaying some sympathy for Breivik’s actions against the young multiculturalists. “Breivik,” she wrote, “was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims.”
and this:
Geller uses her website to publish her most revolting insults of Muslims: She posted (and later removed) a video implying that Muslims practiced bestiality with goats and a cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad with a pig's face (observant Muslims do not eat pork). Geller also has denied the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces in Srebrenica – calling it the "Srebrenica Genocide Myth," even though the Serbian government itself issued a state apology for the massacre. She wrote, "Westerners are admitting to their role in something that didn't happen, and digging their own graves."
And the liars that support her think she is merely talking about a small subset of Muslims. 
Well, speaking as a Pro-Israel partisan - WE don't need these kinds of friends and their lies and poisonous racism. I can make my arguments just fine without this bullshit. For those that support this, you should be ashamed and for those that are Jewish, I hope that you will use the time of reflection that Yom Kippur offers to look deep within yourself and see just how awful this is.

I urge people to make their voices heard regarding this hateful ad and the person behind it. Say "NO" to racism and hatred on all sides. People can disagree, but, when you make alliances with racists you are no better than the trash you associate with no matter what cause you may support.

I just wanted to say something before I begin my personal reflection and prayers for forgiveness. I cannot stand to let this go by without raising my voice of objection.

I Apologize

I am human. I will make mistakes. That is inherent in my humanity. It's not always something pleasant to accept, but I accept it. To me, the most important aspect is learning from those mistakes and striving not to repeat them. It's about how we pull ourselves up and make ourselves better people. However, when mistakes are made, an apology is owed.

I don't believe in wishy-washy apologies such as, "If I offended anyone..." I believe in a simple apology without equivocation. I believe in two simple words: I'm sorry. I also believe that a person should apologize in the forum in which they committed a wrong. For private wrongs, one can apologize in private. For public wrongs one should apologize in public. Like everyone else, I have committed wrongs here, which is why I write this piece.

Today is Erev Yom Kippur. Tonight, Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement — begins. Kol Nidre will be recited in synagogues across the world before the holiday actually begins. Evening services for Yom Kippur will then follow. Tomorrow, many Jews, myself included, will spend much of the day in synagogue. Even more Jews will observe the traditional 25-hour fast. Finally, after 25 hours of holiday and fasting, the shofar will sound, signaling the end of the holiday.

Since Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and marks the end of the High Holy Days (Days of Awe). They begin with Rosh Hashanah and conclude with Yom Kippur. During these days, while G-d decides our fate for the year, we repent for our wrongs. When I am in synagogue tonight and tomorrow, I will repent for my wrongs against G-d. That, however, will do nothing to repent for the wrongs that I have committed against fellow human beings. That requires reaching out to them and not merely praying to G-d.

This diary is in that spirit of repentance. It is also to reach out to account for those wrongs that I have committed here throughout the past year. I am offering my repentance for those wrongs. I do not seek to claim I will be perfect in the year to come. I know I will not. I know over the course of this year I will once again commit wrongs, as that is human nature, and thus, when this time comes next year, I will once again offer my repentance.

During this past year I have engaged in needless and pointless fights. I have let myself be reduced to simply making a point or simply beating the other side. Too often, like so many, I have let myself forget that there is another human being on the other side of the keyboard and that no matter how wrong I believe their views, much more often than not they are a decent human being who simply holds a different opinion. During the next year this will undoubtedly happen again, as I am only human and we find ourselves engaging in such games at one point or another. The goal is to try and minimize how often that happens.

As I stated last year:

What is in my power is to think even more before I make comments or write diaries. What is in my power is to reduce the number of times I let myself be caught up in this behavior. What is in my power is to control myself better.

The past month, and these past ten days in particular, have been a time of introspection. It is a time when we look within ourselves and search for our faults. We see where we have made mistakes. We see what we can do to not repeat them. We seek to make amends and try and right our wrongs. While specifically focused at this time of year for Jews, repentance is a process that occurs throughout the year. Yes, we make extra effort to find our wrongs and repent for them right now, but that does not mean we should ignore the rest of the year.

Tonight, I will be in synagogue repenting for my wrongs against G-d. Right now, though, I'm sitting in front of this computer screen repenting for my wrongs here. To those I have wronged, I'm sorry. To everyone, Gmar Hatima Tova. May you and your loved ones be sealed for a good year. May you and your loved ones be inscribed in the Book of Life. May all those that are fasting with me tonight and tomorrow have an easy and meaningful fast. May the days that follow these Days of Awe be good and sweet.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Will Republicans Atone?

Yom Kippur begins tomorrow night at sundown. It is the Day of Atonement. Many Jews will spend at least a portion of the day in synagogue atoning for our sins throughout the year. Many of the Jewish Republicans that ignore Jewish values and take every opportunity to smear our president will undoubtedly do the same. This piece, however, is not directed merely at them, but at all Republicans, particularly those that profess their conservatism stems from their religious values.

Several weeks back, I wrote an open letter to Jewish Republicans asking which Republican values, exactly, were consistent with Jewish values. That letter could have really been just as easily addressed to the many more Christians that are also in the Republican Party and ignore the values that Christianity's Jewish origins, and their own subsequent New Testament, imparts in them. As I ask in my title, will Republicans atone for ignoring these values?

In the Jewish community, we use the word 'tzedakah' to refer to charity. In reality, however, that is an imprecise translation of the word. 'Tzedakah' does not really mean 'charity.' It encompasses a broader concept. 'Tzedakah' really means 'justice.' It is not an obligation to give charity, but an obligation to do justice. That is where our strong belief in social justice comes from. We are to help make right those wrongs.

Underlying this idea is the belief that while we are individuals, we are also part of a broader community. There are those among us that are less fortunate and we have the responsibility to do justice by them. That is not to say everyone is entitled to a palace. However, there is a belief that we should people with the basics. That means putting a roof over their heads, food on their table and clothes on their back. Republicans would decry it as 'socialism,' and yet it is there in the very book they revere and argue should help form a basis for government policy.

  • We see Mitt Romney write off 47% of the country and deride the idea of helping the needy because they 'just want a handout.' Is that justice?
  • We see calls to curtail programs that help the poor. Is that justice?
  • We see an attempt to end Medicare. Is that justice?
  • We see Mitt Romney say the poor should just go to the emergency room. Is that justice?
  • We see attempts to deny health care to our fellow citizens. Is that justice?
  • We see the repeated attempts to deny autonomy, respect and dignity to our fellow citizens. Is that justice?
  • We see advocacy for a program that would accrete more and more wealth those that need it least and have it paid for by the middle class and working class and poor. Is that justice?
  • We see a concerted partisan effort on the part of "the party of Lincoln" to suppress voting rights by persons of color, the poor, college students and the elderly. Is that justice? (h/t Its the Supreme Court Stupid)
  • We see the attempts to create a society where everyone is on their own and we forget that we are a community linked by our shared humanity. Is that justice?

So, as many of us prepare to atone for our sins (and note that the prayers offered on Yom Kippur are only for our sins against G-d, and not against our fellow human beings — we need to apologize directly to the wronged party for that), will Republicans atone? Will they adhere to those values they claim as their own? Will they remember those among us that are waiting for that justice? Will they commit themselves to helping that justice come about?

Republicans Play Racist Dual Loyalty Card - A personal perspective

This has been a big week for news concerning President Obama, Israel and the Middle East in general. A lot of what happens really bothers me as a Jewish American and in particular as a Jewish American who supports President Obama. SO... let's go down the list....

1. The Republicans play the dual loyalty card.... For anyone not familiar with the "dual loyalty" card it is an old anti-Semitic meme that Jewish citizens of a given nation are more loyal to their fellow Jews or to Israel than they are to their own nation. This used to be a Right Wing meme but it has recently also been co-opted for use by the far left looking to justify their bigotry. Anyway... the latest ad that the Republicans are running in Florida and swing states with large blocs of Jewish voters is the following:

This ad is a failure on a number of levels. First, it presents a message from Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel seemingly endorsing Mitt Romney's candidacy. Now while it is true that Netanyahu has been rumored privately to be supporting Romney this ad forced him to distance himself from that position. How? Well the Prime Minister does not want to be seen as meddling in American politics as this would be something that could negatively affect American-Israeli relations should President Obama win re-election.
Netanyahu or the Israelis were never told about this ad nor did they endorse it. So Secure America Now ran this but didn't understand that the PM was going to disavow the ad. Rather than let what was going to be a silent endorsement these morons forced the Israeli leader to say the following:
"Asked by Meet The Press moderator David Gregory on Sunday if he thought "Governor Mitt Romney as President Romney make Israel safer," Netanyahu demurred.

I'm not going to be drawn into the American election. And what's guiding my statements is not the American political calendar, but the Iranian nuclear calendar," the Israeli leader replied. "I'm talking to [President Obama]. I just talked to him the other day. We are in close consultation. We're trying to prevent that. It's really not a partisan issue. It's a policy issue, not a partisan issue."
Oh well, there goes that... Hoping for a ringing endorsement they got instead a complete non-endorsement under the Headline: "Netanyahu: I'm Not Backing Romney".

BUT more than that they and unfortunately their Jewish Supporters in the RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition) play to the old anti-Semitic meme of "dual loyalty" where they make the assumption that American Jews will vote for Mitt Romney simply because they think that he will bomb Iran right away (something he has said he wouldn't do) at the behest of Israel. Of course this assumes that Jewish voters (traditionally a liberal voting bloc) would simply forget about things that are important to America like healthcare, the social safety net, the state of American education, the environment, civil liberties, voting rights and other issues and simply go all in for Romney because he has the support of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

All this Jewish American (and strong Zionist) voter is can say is "F-U... RJC and Secure America Now. How do I say that.... Well first of all, F-U for thinking I care what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says more than I care about my fellow Americans. Second, F-U for even assuming that the President who has been termed an "exceptional friend to Israel" by Israeli President Peres AND Israeli Defense Minister Barak would after years and years of support would let Israel down. Just because the President doesn't buy the Right Wing Israeli / American line on the Middle East does not mean he is not a friend to Israel.

But this assumption that I would vote solely based on this line by the Israeli and American Hard Right is disgusting. The fact that Republicans got some fellow Jews to buy into this dual loyalty is even more disgusting. It just pisses me off. My Israeli friends (and I have a number of them) can't understand why anyone would vote for the interests of another country over their own. I agree with them. How they can think that this would work is beyond me particularly when all polls show that only 15% of Jewish voters list American - Israeli relations as Prime voting factors in their voting preferences (6% for prime factor and 9% for second to the top factor).

But not to be outdone, the wingnuts set up failure #2 in trying to create an incident portraying President Obama "snubbing" or "standing up to" Benjamin Netanyahu with a meeting regarding the U.N. Of course the fact that the Netanyahu Government never asked for a Washington (an official meeting) with the President shouldn't get in their way. Nor should the fact that they were on different schedules. Forget that the President is campaigning for re-election against forces that want to take the country and destroy all of the social progress we have made over the last 170 years and he needs to speak to the American people and can through popular venues. OH NO... he should have meeting number 3214 (snark) with PM Netanyahu so they can once again issue a rejection of Iranian nuke policy.

So am I as a Jewish American voter to now say... "Well the President, who constantly talks to Prime Minister Netanyahu, needs to sit down to say exactly the same thing as he has said a hundred other times rather than talk to the people of America thru some popular venues". Seriously? The President and PM spoke on the phone for an hour. The President has constantly stood by Israeli security through both word and deed. Not only that but, he plans (according to Jay Carney's press brief today) to present a serious warning to Iran about Nukes.

The fact is that a State visit was not asked for and that President Obama IS NOT at the beck and call of the Prime Minister of Israel (who did not demand that of him in the first place) or Republican claims that Jewish voters are more concerned with Israel than anything else. He neither "stood up to" nor "snubbed" Netanyahu, he other things planned at the time.

Again Republicans and their RJC lunatics buy into the fact that Jewish voters are more concerned with Israel than they are with their own country. And with these arguments they fail on two levels. The first and foremost is that they promote the racist meme that Jews are somehow more loyal to Israel than America. The second is that they assume in the first place that the hard line Rightist plans for Israel are the only way to even be Pro-Israel.

While this pisses me off to a great degree, I am heartened by the fact that as of the latest polls 70% of American Jewish voters are supporting President Obama. I have confidence that as the rolling train wreck better known as the Romney campaign rolls on AND as this campaign continues to alienate everyone with it's destructive kowtow to the Hard Right and their Randian fantasy of a "free for all" society, that this number will grow.

My advice to the Republicans and their lunatic fringe supporters... Try assuming that we as American - Jewish Voters vote American values first. Voting to deny American women fair pay, voting to deny children quality education, voting to deny Gays and Lesbians equal rights, voting strip the EPA of any power, voting to deny millions of Seniors a safety net for their old age, and voting to deny Americans health care are all against the interests of America. You want our vote. Assume we pay attention to making our country better.

Obama Campaign Cuts Romney ER Ad

Given the Obama campaign's sharp responses throughout the campaign, we knew that this one was coming as well. Perhaps the only surprise is that it took 24 hours.

As is often the case with these ads, the best part is not where Romney makes the obligatory boneheaded remark, but where that remark is contrasted with a much more reasonable remark he made in the past. Of course, that's what happens to a candidate that is seemingly willing to take any position necessary, and say anything, to get himself elected president.

My only real question is what is he going to say next? Every time I think Romney can't manage to top himself he proves me wrong.

Now Romney Wants Those Fact-Checkers After All

The Romney campaign once claimed that they wouldn't let their statements and actions dictated by fact-checkers. However, now that President Obama's campaign has hit Romney's record hard, he's whining that he wants those fact-checkers after all:

“I understand that politics is politics but in the past, when you’ve had an ad which has been roundly pointed out to be wrong, you take it out and you correct it and you put something back on,” Mr. Romney said.

“He keeps running these things even though he knows they’re wrong and saying them in rallies even though he knows they’re wrong.”

And in what is becoming a common theme in the campaign, the Obama campaign is hitting it out of the park in response by reminding everyone where, exactly, Romney has stood in the past (which often is not where he stands now):

“It’s odd that Mitt Romney, a former C.E.O., won’t take personal responsibility for his campaign’s troubles,” said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, in an e-mail statement. “And it certainly takes a lot of chutzpah for him — after his campaign bragged that it wouldn’t be dictated by fact-checkers — to shed crocodile tears over a legitimate discussion of his record and policies."


She added: “If he’s so offended by his own positions, maybe he shouldn’t have taken them in the first place.”

Please, by all means Gov. Romney, encourage those fact-checkers to keep at work and further explore your record and your attacks on President Obama. Of course, that's why your campaign said it wouldn't let itself be dictated by the fact-checkers. You know exactly how that process would turn out.

Still, as you are hurting yourself more and more each and every time you open your mouth, I must say it's enjoyable to see you whining like this. Everyone knows exactly what this whining is a mark of: It's the mark of a campaign heading to defeat. I suspect, accordingly, that whining will only increase between now and election day.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CNN: Girls Beat Up Iran Cleric Over Dress Code


I have to say that that's a headline I didn't expect to see featured at CNN this morning, but there it was.
The article gives the details, but the headline tells the story.
They may be a far cry from their Western counterparts fighting for the acceptance to breast-feed -- or go topless -- in public, but two girls clobbered a cleric recently in a small town in Iran when he admonished one of them to cover herself more completely.
The article describes how the cleric approached the two women in the town of Shahmirzad and, when he saw that they were not dressed modestly enough, told them to "cover up."

The woman responded by telling him to cover his eyes, which the cleric described as "very insulting to me." When asked her again to cover up, and to watch her mouth, she and her friend began, well, pummeling him. The cleric spent three days in the hospital and was released.

The closing paragraph contains a pun that was new to me, and so I'll share it here:
The girls may have put the "jab" into "hijab," but fighting with morality police or private individuals telling women to cover up is rare in small towns. It's more common in larger cities, where women are more likely to take a stand.
I do not advocate violence, unless one is being directly threatened and must respond violently to defend oneself of course. However, I can't help but applaud people standing up for freedom and against oppression.

And how can you not like the idea of putting the "jab" into "hijab"? That's inspired writing, folks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Israel: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I'm back from my long overdue trip to Israel.  It was easily the most fascinating two weeks of my life, made possible, I now know, because Israel is the most fascinating country - at least the most fascinating per unit area - in the world.

I saw, I am proud to say, basically the entire country and now there are faces and places to so many of the things that were previously just concepts in my mind.  I saw it all, from Acre to Eilat, from Tel Aviv to Mea Shaarin, from the Dead Sea to the Golan Heights, from Jews to Arabs to Bedouin to Circassians, from secular to fundamentalist - from 2000 BC to the 21st century.

I am still processing everything I took in, and I think I will be for weeks.  Here, though, is what I can conclude so far about this wonderful, enigmatic, magical, controversial land, that has haunted my imagination for so long:

The Good:

The first thing to say in praise of Israel is the most obvious, so obvious, in fact, that we sometimes forget it:  Israel is the Jewish state!  After 2000 years the Jewish people have a nation-state, and it is a strong, prosperous, vital, gorgeous one at that!

It is the one nation in the world where Jewish people are a majority, and where Jewish culture and the Hebrew language have their full expression.  When the original Zionists came up with the idea of a reborn Jewish modern nation state not so much more than 100 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine their project would be as successful as Israel has actually become.

In spite of incredible obstacles that it has had to face, from genocidal neighbors to a tiny crowded space, Israel prospers as the home of 6 million Jewish people and 2 million others, whose origins are from all over the world, who come in all shades, and all opinions.

The Jewish state is home to some of the finest educational and scientific institutions in the world, a top-rate military, a robust parliamentary democracy, a vibrant culture with contributions from the four corners of the Earth, and one of the best economies around. 

In Israel, one can see Jewish people performing every role in society.  Yes, they are the professors and the artists, the doctors and the politicians, but they are also the soldiers, the policemen, the taxi drivers, the models, the chefs, the waiters, and everything else.  Jewish people, so long without a homeland, now have a state of their own just like other peoples.  This alone is an amazing accomplishment.

As the Jewish state, Israel is fascinatingly diverse.  In its tiny area you can find every color of person, and every possible opinion.  There are secular leftists, secular nationalists, religious nationalists, religious non-nationalists, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Druze, Circassians, Armenians, foreign priests, and thousands of workers from Africa and Asia, all in the same space.



This is why I just have to roll my eyes when I see bashers refer to Israel and "Apartheid", or frame the Arab-Israeli conflict as something involving white people on one side and brown people on the other side.  In reality, Israel is the opposite of Apartheid.  All of these different groups - many of which don't get along - nonetheless inhabit the exact same space, shop in the same stores, drive on the same packed roads, and sit at the same beaches, one on top of another in one of the smallest, most densely populated countries in the world.  And both Jews and Arabs come in a variety of colors.  This is one of those things where those who criticize Israel really need to perform a reality check - go there themselves or listen to people who have.  

Moving on, Israel is a wonderfully cultured society.  The museums and universities are top notch.  Israel has the best universities in the world outside of North America, Europe, and Japan, and it shows.  Easily half the population is fluent in English, and another quarter could get by.  It is perhaps the most English-proficient non-Anglophone country in the world.  This country has its intellectual and educational act together.


It is also remarkable that Israel has achieved what it has being in the neighborhood that it is.  It felt to surreal to be, for instance, when I was in the Golan Heights, about 10 miles from a literal civil war across the border in Syria, and yet there I was driving on a normal nice road surrounded by tour buses.  Or in Eilat, where you can be drinking a beer surrounded by half naked people, and literally right across the bay you can see Saudi Arabia. 

And I have to mention that the hummus is really good.  They do a version that for some reason is not available anywhere else I've been, called hummus masabacha.  It is served warm, and is not blended smooth but rather has whole chick peas in tahini, with the a lemon and garlic sauce on the side, along with a raw onion.  

The Bad:

This is the point where most people of my political bent would move on from all of those accomplishments to say "yeah but, the occupation..."   

But I'm not going to do that.  I'm not going to do that because, for one thing, I did not venture very far into the West Bank  - although I did travel through East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, but, more importantly, because the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is so complicated and nuanced that I cannot simply just say "occupation bad."  The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, as well as the Golan and East Jerusalem, have to be understood in the context of the entire conflict, such as absolutely genocidal intent of Israel's neighbors against it from the very start, and the way that, before 1967, every single Jew living in these areas that Israel now controls was kicked out or killed (now that's Apartheid).  Since this is primarily a report of my observations on the ground there, I'll leave it at that.  

The famous separation barrier in the distance.  Every other country gets to put a fence along its border without complaints.

Instead, I'm going to report on the thing that I think has the potential to truly destroy Israeli society and everything that has been accomplished:  The rise of the Haredim.

The Haredim are the extremely religious Jews, often called "ultra-orthodox".  As with everything else in Israel, there is much nuance in the situation, and there are many groups of Haredim all with different attitudes and positions.  So, anything I could say does not apply to all of them.  

But, that having been said, in general, a large number of the Haredim are religious extremists, and don't contribute to society by having careers, serving in the army, paying taxes, or otherwise engaging with the state or the economy. Many of them live in their own towns and neighborhoods, and have their own religious school systems.  

The Haredim tend to wear black coats and often black hats, in the manner of stereotypical religious Jews, and should not be confused with the religious nationalists, who also have extremist elements but are a different segment of Israeli society.

I walked through the most notorious, extremist Haredi neighborhood, Jerusalem's Mea Shaarim, and it was the stuff of nightmares.  It resembled the most disgusting third world hovel, with trash piled everywhere, the streets unpaved, a cacophony children screaming, and the putrid smell of rot and too many people filling the air.  It was truly, truly disgraceful.

There was a sign that boasted of "saving Jewish children from foreign education."  These people are certainly ignoring a very crucial part of Jewish culture and heritage if they think that anyone needs to be "saved" from education.

At the extreme end of their spectrum, some Haredim, such as the Satmar and Nuturei Karta Hasidic Jews, are actually opposed to the state of Israel itself.  They view Zionism as incompatible with their religion, which  presumably mandates that Jews should always be in danger.  

Perhaps the most offensive sign that has ever existed.  Do they really think that adding the Arabic text at the bottom is helping their credibility?

These are the most extreme examples, but there is certainly a disconnect between Haredim and the mainstream of Israeli and Jewish society.  The mainstream participates in one of the most advanced economies in the world, serves in the army, and generally exists within larger Western Civilization.  The Haredim, by and large, do not.  

When the state of Israel was founded, in a bargain struck between the secular leadership and the religious sector, there were around 400 individuals who were granted exemptions from military service and stipends in order to undertake religious study.  Big mistake, because 400 quickly turned into tens of thousands.

Currently, the Haredim are about 7% of the Israeli population.  However, in common with religious fundamentalists of many stripes, they have absolutely huge families, and they start them young.  It is not rare for a Haredi family to have 14 children, while secular Jewish Israelis often have two or three.

The long-term demographic forecast, therefore, is not good.  Reasonable predictions, for instance, say that by the year 2050 Israeli society will be roughly divided into thirds: One third Arab, one third Haredi, and one third secular and religious nationalist Jews.  That means that only one third of society will be participating in the economic and political mainstream - getting educations, having professions, serving in the army, shouldering the tax burden, and so on.  

That is a recipe for societal decay and collapse.  Everything I talked about above, how Israel is the Jewish state, a nation-state of the Jewish people but like any other, and how it has a successful economy, wonderful institutions, and a great culture, will be in jeopardy.  There is even the possibility of theocracy, with so much potential political power wielded by a large, fundamentalist segment.  

It seems to me to be an almost intractable problem.  What can be done about such unreasonable birth rates?    Clearly, the Haredim - and Arabs - need to be more integrated into the mainstream of Israeli society, and there needs to be a reform of the state benefits system so that these groups have to work in the real economy.  That is just at a minimum, and even that may be hard to accomplish given political forces.  

I tried to ask people about this issue, and they tended to shrug it off, usually after expressing some disdain for those Haredim who don't have jobs and live off state benefits.  But there didn't seem to be many answers.  For one thing, it is easy to ignore at the present, because a secular Israeli can live his or her life where the skirts are short and the food is good, and there are so many more immediate threats such as Iran.  A postdoc at Hebrew University told me that everyone knows it is a huge problem, but they try not to think about it.  

I certainly don't have any answers, and I hope someone is working on it, but it seems to be that in 40 years Israeli society will likely be radically different than it is today, and probably not for the better.

The Ugly:

Israel is not only incredible history, nature, and beautiful sunbathing people.   And it is not only looming demographic doom.

There is also a more mundane, ugly side that I saw, made possible since my goal was to see everything and all sides.  To me, the ugly basically consists of 1) poor urban planning, 2) trash, and 3) shameless commerce.

Let's start with the poor urban planning.  Outside of the center of major cities, Israel has adopted a haphazard development model, where towns and suburbs spring up out of the blue with little regard for quality of life or aesthetics.

The basic town or suburb consists of a cluster of high rise residential buildings, separated by large fields from the next town or cluster.  There seems to be little provision for commercial areas in these developments, which end up being concentrated at road intersections, and little provision for public transportation, which leads to a high density of cars.  It is like a high density version of American suburbia.

Typical residential cluster.  In any given location you may see several of these in different directions.
No stores, or places to walk
 The architecture in these blocks is not very appealing.  For instance, developers seem enamored of a style of high rises connected by high bridges of apartments, which are very bizarre looking.

And they are building them everywhere.  One consequence of the rapidly expanding population is the need for ever more housing.  Unfortunately, the development style does not seem to be changing.

 Moving on, Israel has a big problem with litter.  It is everywhere.

And not just trash, but dog crap too.  It seems like everyone owns a dog there.  And if there are two things in this world that should not be combined, it is dog ownership and small apartment living.  Nonetheless, Israelis love their dogs, and don't seem to want to clean up after them.

Lastly, I'd like to complain about the excess of stores selling crap to tourists.  It is really too much.

Equal opportunity tourist fleecing, regardless of ideology

Changing your money?  Why not get a tattoo while you're at it?

Need a Houston Astros logo kippah?

When I think of Jerusalem's ancient streets,. I think of Garfield the cat.

Some shirts in here depict Obama as a caricature of a Jew, others as a caricature of a Muslim.

So there it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It is clear and obvious that Israel is not what its detractors usually say it is.  It is something else entirely, something endlessly fascinating, exotic, and yet familiar.  It has profound challenges, none greater, in my opinion, than the demographic one posed by the ultra-religious.  Time will tell if the Jewish state will overcome this obstacle like it has so many others.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Breaking: President Obama Gains with Jewish Voters - Now at 70%

While perusing stories over at Haaretz (an Israeli Daily) I came across this happy news:
According to the polling data taken between July 1 and September 10th, 70 percent of registered Jewish voters plan to vote for President Obama. Only 25 percent of voters stated they were planning to vote for Mitt Romney, with 5 percent undecided. These results indicate a decline from earlier this spring, when 64 percent of registered Jewish voters said they would vote for Obama and 29 percent said they would support his Republican contender
and at Buzzfeed:
President Barack Obama is closing extending his lead with Jewish voters, leading among registered voters 70-25 percent according to unreleased Gallup daily tracking poll data . The data, obtained through a Democratic source, shows Obama up from leading 64-29 in polling this spring — and on par with his 2008 performance at this point when he led 69-25 over John McCain in Gallup polling. The data is drawn from tracking polls taken between July 1 and September 10th.
Despite a heated debate on Israel, most Jewish voters are Democrats and align closely with the Democratic Party on domestic issues from abortion to taxes and spending, and Republicans have tried without success for years to pry the group away from the Democratic Party. The Israel debate, meanwhile, often aims at a broad national audience that sees Israel as an ally, rather than specifically at American Jews.
As the Haaretz article goes on to state...
The rise in Jewish support for Obama, seems to indicate that the American Jews are less concerned with Israel than might be thought as accusations Romney has been making charging Obama with "throwing allies like Israel under the bus," and with failure in dealing with Iran's nuclear program don't seem to be helping garner Jewish support for the Republican candidate.
Two things:

The first is that first and foremost American Jews are American citizens. We vote for things that are in the interests of America. A more fair tax system, better education, better infrastructure, a better environment, a social safety net that works are in the interests of all Americans Jewish or otherwise. Also, the Presidents support for the Jewish community here as well as in Israel has been exemplary.

Second, the assumption that only the Hard Right in Israel represents Jewish interests in the U.S. is nonsense. Thinking that not agreeing to the YESHA policy and the concept of an Israeli One State solution is somehow against Israel is complete and utter bullshit. Just because President Obama doesn't subscribe to that doesn't mean he is "rolling Israel under the bus", it means that he (and most American and Israeli Jews) don't buy into a meme promoted by right wingers - and that is pretty much it.

The Republicans and their supporters just don't get this. At worst they assume (like many on the Far-Left as well) that Jewish Americans hold some sort of loyalty to Israel above all else and vote only that way. AND it is true that there are a small minority of people that do feel this way, but they are only a small minority. I personally resent this implication.

Well here is some cold hard advice. We are Americans, not Israelis and while we overwhelmingly support (and I think love) Israel and it's people we vote on issues that primarily serve Americans (both Jewish and non-Jewish). This poll and others like it show that the Israeli Right and Christian Zionists ARE not speaking in American Jewish interests but rather their own.

Until the Republicans can realize that their reactionary and heartless economic, social, and destructive environmental policy positions are at odds with American Jewish voters, they will never, ever, ever earn our votes.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

Shana Tova

So it's that time of year again. It's September and the Jewish holidays are about to start. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts Sunday night at sundown. I'll once again be in shul (synagogue) and once again off the computer. It's during this time that G-d determines our fate for the year. That's why besides saying "Shanah tova u'metukah" (a good and sweet year), we also say "Gmar hatima tova" (may you be inscribed for a good year). Anyway, in this spirit I once again offer some personal reflections on the past year.

As during 5771, I feel that I've continued to deepen my connection to my Judaism and my Jewishness. It is a point that many fail to understand that Jewish is the ethnicity and Judaism is the religion. A common heritage and set of cultural practices helps bind together all of us that are Jewish. However, there are Jewish atheists and agnostics out there, as well as practitioners of the religion known as Judaism. Many of my friends are Jewish atheists and agnostics, but they are every bit as Jewish as me because of our shared heritage that does not know the boundaries of religious belief. As it is, it so happens that I am a Jew that practices Judaism.

During this year, I have kashered my house. There are two sets of everything, from silverware to dishes to pots and pans to utensils. One set is meat and one set is dairy. I observe the six-hour rule that says I can't have dairy for six hours after eating meat. I now wear a kippah, both as a reminder that G-d is above me at all times and also to display my Jewish pride. I am proud to be Jewish and to let the world know that I am Jewish.

This year, I will once again be in shul over Rosh Hashana and will once again be praying for friends and family and myself. I will be praying that my mom will finally get her kidney transplant, which I'm hoping is very, very soon. I'll be praying that other family members who have had health problems see improvements in their situation. I'll be praying that I finally find a job, although in the past month or so I've made the conscience decision to forego looking for a job in the immediate future so that I can take care of my mom. I am lucky enough that I can afford to make that decision at the current time; very few are that lucky.

Finally, because this is the time we repent for our wrongs during the past year, to those of you that I have hurt or offended, I ask your forgiveness. When I am in shul praying, I atone for my sins against G-d. Here, I atone for my sins and my wrongs committed against others. Please remember, I am only human. I am imperfect. I know that just as I have made mistakes during the past year, so too I will make mistakes again during the year that is about to begin. I can only hope that I repeat as few of those mistakes as possible, and that I make fewer of them during 5773 than I have during 5772.

So, to everyone:

לשנה טובה ומתוקה (L'shana tova u'metuka)

A happy and sweet new year

May you and your loved ones be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Please Hold with the Victory Dance - GOTV!

Okay, I get that we are all very excited about the President's (and Democratic) bounce after a wonderful convention. Moreover, it's amazing that Mitt Romney and fellow Republicans continue to shoot themselves in the foot while attempting to stuff both feet into their mouth at the same time.

SO... it's not hard to imagine that people would be excited to get out and say - "Well we have this one, now let's go pile-on for the victory". I get that. To be honest, I like that feeling. I enjoy feeling like we are in a good place and that we will see not only a victory for President Obama but for a Democratic Hold on the Senate and a possible recapture of the House (though I personally think that's unlikely).

Now I realize there is some truth to the phrase "Everyone Likes a Winner". I get that too. But with that confidence comes a certain amount of complacency. The election is still a little less than two months away (a lifetime in Presidential politics). And while we are leading this thing at this point, we need to be mindful that we need to continue to understand that this is and will be a "dog fight" until the end.

Not to be a "downer" but... I decided to take a look at the last three elections to see where candidates were in September.

In 2000, Newsweek was predicting an Eight point blowout for Al Gore while CNN had Bush up by 1% and the WaPo had both candidates even. We all know what happened in 2000 where the election was stolen, however we also know that this shouldn't have even come down to this in the first place.

In 2004, RCP had then President Bush with a 6.3% lead on this date in 2004. The Final election results were Bush by 2.4% (with some questions about what went down in Ohio - but that is not for this diary).
In 2008, on this date, John McCain led by 2.1% in composite polling and of course we all know what happened following the crash in the economy.

As of today, composites show the President leading by 3.6 points (with Rasmussen being the one poll that has Mitt Romney ahead by One point).

Anyway, as we can see nothing is particularly reliable at this point, and if Mitt Romney could ever stop making mistakes (which may not be possible) he could have a chance to change the dynamics of the race. Further, he has a base which WILL turn out for him even if they thought a walnut would do a better job. One Right wing nutjob was quoted as saying that he would rather vote for a Pastrami and Cheese sandwich than vote for the President's re-election (I have heard variations on this theme from nutters throughout various in person and social media conversations).

This election is going to be about our turnout. WE need to get people out and registered and voting. A Republican victory for our country would be a disaster for everyone. This is no time to be crowing about what we have. This is a time to be pushing, and pushing hard for people to GOTV.

We cannot afford complacency. We cannot afford to be self-satisfied. What we need is a call to the electorate to reject the attempted Republican push to bring us back to 1845, and rather we need to keep moving forward.

I think it is too early to start crowing about what we see as a "cakewalk". It is. We can't win if we don't get people to the polls. We can't win if people don't vote. With all the attempts at voter suppression as well as other shenanigans the Republicans will try to pull, we cannot take anything for granted.

SO, please.... I ask that rather than congratulate ourselves for a race won, we push and push to make sure that we do win it. We will only push if we have a sense of urgency and we will only have a sense of urgency if we believe we need to have one. Please volunteer, donate, put up a lawn sign but do something... to help GOTV.

Obama's America vs. Romney-Ryan-Rand's America: Citizenship vs. Selfishness


I know President Obama's acceptance speech was a week ago. I've been thinking since then about how it fits into both the broader, philosophical debate over the role of government, and into his larger worldview expressed over a career. The most important thing the President did in Charlotte was offer a specific definition of what it means to be an American. That definition centered on one word:


But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.
Obama argued that citizenship – being an American – means being profoundly connected to every other American alive today, as well as to those who came before us and those not yet born. This is what he means when he speaks, as he has over and over again through the years, about us being "one American family." In Charlotte, the President also described how Americans have “responsibilities as well as rights.” He added:
“a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.” In language that evoked JFK’s inauguration, Obama then asserted: “America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.”

Here Obama introduced a crucial aspect of his conception of our national identity. We succeed both by accomplishing great things as individuals and by building things collectively, through our democratic institutions of government. He believes in balancing our individual freedom with our responsibilities to our country and our mutual obligations to our fellow Americans.

Without mentioning his name, the President was countering Paul Ryan, who offered his own definition of our national identity at the Republican National Convention. Ryan described as his ideal:
“an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That's what we do in this country. That's the American Dream. That's freedom.”

For Ryan, being an American is about freedom, but a very limited, narrow freedom, a freedom based solely on self. There's a reason why he repeated "myself" three times. The American Dream, to Ryan, is about being able to do whatever you want whenever you want. Barack Obama’s robust, civic nationalism offers a powerful, direct rebuke to the hyper-individualism of Ayn Rand, as channeled by Paul Ryan.

Obama also asserted in Charlotte:
“we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”
Here the President made clear the difference between saying that we are – all of us – one American family, and actually meaning it. Meaning it requires us to practice and preach inclusion. It means no one, especially politicians, should gin up anxiety or hate toward one group of Americans, whether that group is defined by class, race, country of origin, sexual orientation, religion, or anything.

Was that statement political? Sure. It was a subtle but strong criticism of Mitt Romney's campaign ads that, playing on racial stereotypes held by some whites about black Americans and welfare, falsely accused the President of weakening welfare’s work requirements.

But Obama’s statement represents far more than just the back and forth of a campaign. It is central to his entire approach to American national identity and national unity. Obama believes that this civic nationalism, a sense of being part of a community defined by citizenship – not blood, culture or religion – is at the core of who we are, and who we must be.

This is something that Barack Obama has consistently placed at the center of his rhetoric for two decades. In 2008 he said he has:
“spent [his] entire adult life… insist[ing] that we all share common hopes and common dreams as Americans.”
And at the same press conference, he highlighted the:
“need to all recognize each other as Americans, regardless of race, religion, or region of the country.”
For the President, that idea is at the core of his approach to politics and to his broader philosophy of empathy, of being able to identify with the concerns and understand the perspective of a fellow American different from oneself. That’s Obama’s America.

PS-For much more on this, please take a look at my book, Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity, published recently by Potomac Books.