Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I SHOOT, I SUPPORT GUN CONTROL

Yep, that's right. Just like the Title says... "I Shoot" AND "I support Gun Control". Not Gun Bans (though I understand the call for bans on "Assault Weapons" and I can see why people do support this - I am agnostic on them leaning towards supporting the ban), but reasonable Gun Control.
I add this so that people have some context.

Understand.... I am no pacifist. At one point I thought I was. I was wrong. I practice a very aggressive style of Martial Arts called Krav Maga. I do abhor violence for the purpose of assault or other crimes and I would NEVER initiate violence for that purpose. But I do enjoy fight sports and enjoy sparring. I think people should be fully equipped with knowledge of how to defend themselves if the need arises.
That said... I also enjoy shooting my pistol (A Glock 17 9mm)

Here is me shooting said Gun:


I enjoy shooting. There is something about it that I just really enjoy. I take classes in Israeli Tactical Point Shooting - (which has an emphasis on dealing with terror situations and not criminal assault, rounds are not chambered until the gun is actually pulled). The more I go through these classes the more I realize just how powerful a gun really is, and how it should never be taken lightly or be a weapon of "first resort". The rhetoric coming from the NRA and hard-core supporters sickens me. In my opinion, when a gun becomes a response of "first resort", these are the people that should absolutely NOT have guns or any deadly weapon.
So I just want people to understand when I come out in support of the gun control laws I support, that people understand I don't want to take away peoples rights to sport shoot, hunt, or protect their family. What I do want is to regulate the availability of Guns and their destructive power.

When the horrible tragedy at Newton happened, the NRA and their supporters were out in force talking about how in Israel teachers are armed and that "They really know how to deal with Guns there." One Paulist acquaintance, claimed he was going to move to Israel IF the Feds "came after his guns". In response to this I wrote a diary titled: Israel to NRA and Tea Party: You have no idea what you are talking about
In that diary, I showed what were Israeli Gun Control laws, so I want to excerpt that part again:
Gun Owner Licensing 
Genuine Reason Required for Firearm License:
Applicants for a gun owner’s license in Israel are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example, self-defense, hunting and sport
Minimum Age for Firearm Possession
The minimum age for gun ownership in Israel is 27 years and 21 years if served in the military
Gun Owner Background Checks
An applicant for a firearm license in Israel must pass background checks which consider health, mental and criminal records
Gun Owner Licensing Period
In Israel gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm license every 3 years
Licensing Records
In Israel, authorities maintain a record of individual civilians licensed to acquire, possess, sell or transfer a firearm or ammunition
Limit on Quantity, Type of Ammunition
A licensed firearm owner in Israel is permitted to possess a limited quantity of ammunition.
NOW this is gun control that I can completely support. I firmly believe in raising the age requirement for ownership, Full background checks, limited ammunition, licensing every three years (like driving in the U.S. sort of). I see no problem with any of this.

So let's have the real argument... because from what I see, it all comes down to is that people want to keep their guns because they are afraid that our government will turn tyrannical and impose the second coming of the Third Reich, Stalinist Russia, or the Khmer Rouge.

People also have some misconception that they are going to be some heroes and valiantly stand up to whoever is oppressing them and every home is going to be "REMEMBER THE ALAMO". Well... that is a bunch of crap. Most people (including myself and I am trained to deal with this to a small degree) would be freakin' terrified to deal with this situation and most likely in real life say: "OK, here is my gun".

Could this happen in the U.S.? Yeah... it could but it is highly unlikely and honestly were it to happen, how the hell some shotgun or my Glock is going to stop it? Right... they won't.

So really, if we look at it closely, what is the gun here in most cases, but an extension of our inner desire to be tough or to not be "run over" by other people. I am not sure that is how I see it, since handling a gun does not make me feel tougher than anyone else (I am not sure I can describe how I feel but it is not "tough"), but, I do know many people who do feel as if a gun defines them (both male and female).

This is the thing... I think we need to be honest here. Why oppose any of the rules above? How do they hinder anyone from shooting, or learning to shoot? Here is another thing... If you like shooting "Assault weapons" (and I have fired M-16's and an HK Folding Stock Automatic rifle), I say no problem.. I like shooting them as well. So here is a solution, how about there be ranges that have special licenses (like in Las Vegas) where you go and can target shoot? It's all controlled, no guns leave the premises and you get to shoot as much as you like. Problem Solved.

Look, honestly, there can be very reasonable gun control and because guns are such powerful things they should be regulated and controlled. I am not sure I see the harm in that. No... I don't see the harm in that.
No, if you are that afraid of the government coming to take away your precious guns then just admit it. If you think it sounds a bit whacky and you are afraid to even tell people that, then you shouldn't have a gun - you won't be able to handle it. I like my gun because I like to shoot and it is nice to have extra protection in the house (though locked up and out of sight), just in case of an emergency but that is about it. I am not going to fight off the Black Helicopters and U.N. Troops with my pistol. Heh.

I think that the real issue is in how we see ourselves and where guns fit in that image. The thing is that the Gun is an "easy" accessory to solve problems with, it is an equalizer. You don't have to be big, or tough, or know things to have power you just have to have the will to pull a trigger. Until we understand that about ourselves this debate will rage and there will be more senseless gun violence. It really is as they say... "Guns don't kill people, People kill people... BUT... Guns sure make it a lot easier".

But in the end... I shoot, I support Gun Control. I want people to be safe and while you can't protect everyone from every harmful thing you can make it more difficult for people to be harmed. I don't see anything in Gun Control legislation that stops me from going to the range and shooting my pistol. I don't see anything unreasonable in what is being proposed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TED CRUZ: THE NEWEST VILLAGE IDIOT

Over at the Maddow Blog we have reports from the newest Village Idiot (even by Congressional Standards) Ted Cruz (R-Secessionist Republic of Texas).

Here let's let the idiocy speak for itself:





In this clip, at around the 0:44 mark, Cruz notes that the Senate has "two pending nominations, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel." Describing the nominees, Cruz added, "Both of whom are very prominently..." 
After pausing for a few moments, the event's moderator said, "Anti-us?" Cruz responded that Kerry and Hagel are "less than ardent fans of the U.S. military."
Perhaps Ted Cruz would benefit from a reminder about the men he's attacking. John Kerry is a decorated war hero who was awarded combat medals including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Chuck Hagel is a decorated war hero who was awarded combat medals including the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, two Purple Hearts, Army Commendation Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Cruz, meanwhile, who apparently considers himself an "ardent fan of the U.S. military," has never worn a uniform, except maybe on Halloween.
But then watch some more... Cruz goes on to solidify his claims to the title by saying that Ronald Reagan should have won the Nobel Peace Prize because he "caused the downfall of the Soviet Union and won the Cold War".

Anyway, the sheer stupidity / ignorance of saying that two decorated War Heroes (no matter what else one may feel about either man), don't love "us" (he did not say "the U.S." he said "us") are "anti-the U.S. military" is mind boggling in it's wrongness. To say that both men only favor judicious use of the military or are anti-militarism would be far more accurate. BUT for someone who has never served in any military role to accuse two decorated war heroes, in leadership positions in the U.S. Government as being anti-U.S. military is mindblowingly dumb.

OH yeah, AND in the case of Chuck Hagel. These morons at the National Review Institute Summit should remember that not too long ago their guy Hagel was racking up scores from the American Conservative Union of over 95 on his voting record.

Oh well just another day in wingnuttia.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Paul Ryan Channels Big Brother

Hat Tip to Jed Lewiston and his Daily Kos Front Page Diary: Remember when Paul Ryan blamed the attack in Benghazi on the sequester?

In reading Jed's diary something struck me in one of Paul Ryans quotes:
We should always stand up for peace, for democracy, for individual rights.
Ok... on it's own sounds fine.

Then Ryan goes on to say:
And we should not be imposing these devastating defense cuts, because what that does when we equivocate on our values, when we show that we're cutting down on defense, it makes us more weak. It projects weakness. And when we look weak, our adversaries are much more willing to test us.
And this is where Ryan channels Big Brother. Allow me quote from George Orwell's Masterpiece 1984:


So... what Ryan here is directly saying is... (In my words): "Let's stand for PEACE and the way we stand for PEACE is to build up our WAR machine to a point where no one will be able to challenge us, because if they do, we will utterly destroy them." Now, aside from the facts that Guerilla movements in SouthEastern and Central Asia give lie to his commentary (after all, we outgunned the Viet Cong and Taliban 10,000 to one and we were able to wreck complete destruction upon their relative nations and yet that didn't stop them). This is a dangerous fallacy that has infected the American Polity in a number of ways.
OH, and before we go on I want to make it clear that I am not an isolationist, I am not a Green, and I have no issue with the United States having a presence around the Globe (though I am certainly not a supporter of "Empire Building"). Further, I fully support the notion that the U.S. and our allies should have what I term a "Stout Defense". But, that said, I also support an honest commentary on what that means and NOT use of Orwellian terminology to create a false meme.

But here... Here is a chart of our Defense Spending relative to the rest of the world
1. United States                  711.0  
2. China                             143.0  
3  Russia                              71.9
4  United Kingdom               62.7
5  France                              62.5
6  Japan                               59.3
Now, notice... IF the U.S. Cut it's military spending by over $ 400 BILLION per year. That's right... you saw it $ 400 BILLION PER YEAR, we would STILL outspend the next five countries on the list added up together.

Let's break that down even further. IF we cut our Defense budget by $ 500 Billion for one year we would still almost outspend our main rivals Russia and China together (they would have us by $ 3 billion).

NOW, does anyone in their right mind think that Al Qaeda for one second looks at our defense spending and says: "HOHOHO America cut it's spending - well they must be weak" and further does anyone even further out really think that our main allies, Britain, France, Israel, Australia, etc... think that we are somehow "weak" even though we are outspending the next five nations (Nations 3 2-#6) collectively???
No.. What this is, is a blatant Orwellian Chant of "War is Peace", "We destroyed that village to save the village".

Paul Ryan's words are hypocritical. His party stands firmly against Democracy (look at his party's efforts to not count the popular vote), his party party stands firmly against individual rights (Marriage Equality, voting rights, civil rights). Ryan talks about Peace but in this, he is only talking about the Peace that comes from utter destruction left in the wake of War.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where to now Yair and the Numbers behind the Israeli Vote

Now that the Israeli elections are over the questions are just beginning. Questions such as, What coalitions will form? What if any change going forward will the nation face on such issues as The Occupation, the Economy, or on issues of Social Justice. These are all, of course, large questions and can't be answered now - but as the government forms it is interesting to explore them.

First however, lets take a look at the "numbers behind the numbers". The Times of Israel does a very nice job of breaking this down.



The chart corresponds to these totals:
Likud-Beytenu (31 seats):880,972 ballots, (23.32%)
Yesh Atid (19): 541,033 (14.32%)
Labor Party (15): 430,305 (11.39%)
Jewish Home (12): 344,028 (9.11%)
Shas (11): 330,359 (8.74%)
United Torah Judaism (7): 195,577 (5.18%)
Hatnua (6): 188,425 (4.99%)
Meretz (6): 171,660 (4.54%)
United Arab List (4): 137,983 (3.65%)
Hadash (4): 113,336 (3.00%)
Balad (3): 96,788 (2.56%)
Kadima (2): 79,064 (2.09%)
One interesting fact here... There were approx. 250,000 votes cast that did not count. Why? Because in the Israeli system to get into parliament, a party needs to cross a 2% of the total vote threshold. Those votes went to parties (22 parties) that did not meet that threshold and in Israel, that means the votes get tossed out. So... for the election:
Out of all the 5,656,705 eligible voters, 67.52 percent cast their ballots in just under 10,000 voting stations throughout the country. The turnout was some 4% higher than in the previous elections. 
A total of 3,818,441 votes were cast. Of those, 40,464 were disqualified. The remaining 3,777,977 votes were legal and counted by the election committee.
More than 250,000 votes were cast by people away from their local voting station, the majority of them by soldiers and the rest by Israel’s diplomatic corps, prisoners, hospital patients and sailors of the merchant navy.
The threshold needed to enter the Knesset was set at 2% of the general vote, which, in light of the number of votes cast, translated into slightly over 75,000 votes.
And yes.... apparently in Israel... People in Prison can vote.

So the question that people in Israel (and around the world) are asking.. Where to now, Yair?

In Israel's parliamentary system governments are formed by coalitions. The party with the most votes GENERALLY (but not always) gets the "first crack" at forming the government. In this case Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-Betainu Party won the most votes (and largest bloc of seats) so he gets first try.
To form a government the coalition needs to get to 61 Seats (out of 120 seats).

So far, Netanyahu has reached out to four parties: United Torah Judaism (UTJ), Shas, Yesh Atid, and HaBayit HaYehudi. The two religious parties UTJ, and Shas have both indicated an interest in being part of the government and both have stated a preference for the government to be led by PM Netanyahu. At the same time HaBayit HaYehudi (trans. Jewish Home) has almost been begging for a position in the coalition. Their stated goal is to make sure that the Prime Minister does not veer to the Center or Left when it comes to issues of security.

Now there is a certain degree of "bad blood" between HaBayit HaYehudi (H.H.) and Likud. For one there are sever personality differences between the Sara Netanyahu (the P.M.'s wife and Naftali Bennett - the leader of H.H.). Plus, Bennett is a competitor for the Hard Rights votes with the Right Wing of Likud which is most prominently represented by YESHA Council leader Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin. All of these folks have as their top priority the creation of an Israel from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. But with these three parties, the government can only cobble together 60 seats total not enough to make legislation.
Into the mix comes the Centrist Yesh Atid party led by Yair Lapid (please use the link to look at their website for their main positions). Lapid has put three major points across for his party to join the government. The first is that the government has to initiate reform in the economic sectors of society and ease the burdens that the Middle Class have been facing. The second is that the government has to spread "the burden" of National Service out more equally and finally that the government has to do what it takes to get back into negotiations with the Palestinians.

AND THUS the chaos begins.... In order to join the government, Yesh Atid will have to compromise on at least ONE of these demands. That or Likud-Betainu has to compromise on some of their principles. As YNET puts it:
Lapid clarified on Wednesday that he would not form an obstructive Center-Left bloc to prevent Netanyahu from assembling the next coalition. However, Lapid is expected to present two basic conditions for joining a Likud-led government: Equal share of the burden legislation and the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians. 
Apart from these two red lines, Yesh Atid will push for a reduction in housing rates, education reform that will see core subjects studied in all schools and the reduction of the number of government ministers to a maximum of 18.
Members of Yesh Atid's list are divided as to their potential coalition partners. Lapid himself has refused to rule out the haredi factions however members of his party estimated that passing a universal draft bill would be easier without the ultra-Orthodox.
Others are less adamant about the exclusion of the haredim and are more concerned about working alongside Habayit Hayehudi. Leaving out Naftali Bennett's party, they claim, would enable progress in the peace process. They believe Shas can be a partner to negotiations on universal draft.
Now, can the government put together a coalition of just Likud-Betainu, Yesh Atid, UTJ, and Shas? The numbers say yes. They would have 68 seats. BUT, the problem for Likud-Betainu would be that any significant discussion on "sharing the burden" would be hindered by the fact that the religious parties (UTJ, and Shas) may not go for real meaningful reform. THUS, any true attempt at that reform could bring down the government. 
At the same time, IF the parties go back to the negotiating table with the Palestinians (something the Religious Parties don't really care much about), the difference between Yesh Atid - who seems to favor a negotiated Two State Solution and most of Likud-Betainu which supports some sort of One State solution (although curiously the PM supports a very sad (editorialized) version of the Two State solution would seemingly preclude any agreement there. How would the afore mentioned Danon, and Feiglin handle working with their "Two State " companions in Yesh Atid... and vice versa. Of course, then the question would be... how would that work?

Personally, from what I am seeing - The Prime Minister is making all kinds of promises that he simply won't be able to keep. The only way he could do that would be to head to the Center or Left and include Labor but then he would splinter the Right Wing of his party and could lose half his seats (at least).
So here is where I get cynical... I believe (but I could be wrong), that Lapid is going to do exactly what Ehud Barak and Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) did and join with the government to "fix it from the inside". I base this on all the messages of "positive discussions" both Lapid and Netanyahu are putting out.

Of course, like Barak and Mofaz found out, those who wade into coalition, disappear into the pool of bullshit that surrounds the Prime Minister. He simply either can't or won't do anything that he is promising Lapid. Look what has happened every single time. He just cannot or will not deliver and thus the "great hope for moderation" will go down.

HOWEVER, I would be happy to be completely wrong here and hope that Lapid and his cohorts will "stick to their guns" regarding both Social Justice AND the Occupation issues. Like anything... We shall see.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blogging the Israeli Elections

So today is the day for the Israelis. The elections are up and running and many wait to see the results.
The Polls are due to close at 10 PM Israel time (12 noon PST, 3 PM EST) and then results can start being reported. As of now, Turnout is looking to be at it's highest point since 1999 with The Times of Israel projecting a possible 70% turnout was at 55% as of 4 PM Israel Time.

On social media and throughout the nation one thing I am hearing is that Likud-Betainu is NOT going to get the mandates they thought they were (Assaf called this one on Sunday). Haaretz is running a "liveblog". Sources there are saying Likud-Betainu may get as few as 31 Mandates (down from 42 they currently hold though it is still way to early to tell):

According to Haaretz:
7.52 P.M. Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu officials are trading accusations, imputing the responsibility for the electoral failure of their joint ticket. 
5:33 P.M.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Haaretz  that voter turnout in Likud strongholds in Israel are low, highlighting the growing fear within his party that it's heading for collapse. As the evening wears on, Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to awaken Likud voters across the country.
5.27 P.M. Likud is concerned with low turnout at the party's traditional bastions. "We're lucky if we get 31 seats," one party official said.
On some other interesting notes - Yesh Atid is claiming that polling from Channel 10 shows that they will be the # 2 Party in Israel. This is of course complete speculation but it does pose some interesting questions if true.

Other stories seem to be Arab Turnout which was around 10% in some places was starting to pick up and in Nazareth has hit 44%. The Arab parties are working hard to get out the vote and in an unusual move the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michael Sabbah has urged Arab citizens to get out to vote.
Along with this turnout on the IDF bases are also high with 60% turnout (up 13% from 2009) with five hours to go.

What will happen here is anyone's guess and depending on vote totals things could shift in the country dramatically.

A few days ago I wrote a diary based on possible coalitions... Now.... with what I am hearing. Who knows?
I will be posting updates throughout the day. I seriously hope our Israeli friends will come in and comment and share what they are hearing as well.

UPDATE # 1: 

From the Times of Israel: 20:12
The Twittersphere is awash with purported leaks from the TV exit polls which, based on initial small samples, ostensibly show why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sounding worried.
The leaks purport to show the Likud doing less well than even the more pessimistic final polls, falling below the 30-seat mark, and Jewish Home and Yesh Atid competing to be the second biggest party with 16 or so seats each. The leaks still show a right-wing/Orthodox bloc managing to win more than 61 seats, but only just.
BELOW 30 SEATS... WHOA.... And where is Avodah and Livni (HaTanuah)

UPDATE # 2

10:25 AM PT: From Haaretz:     8.08 P.M. Tzipi Livni says will pursue attempts to join forces with Labor and Yesh Atid.

8.06 P.M. Netanyahu calls on supporters: "The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for the sake of the country's future."

1:28 AM PT: And from the U.S.:
9.21 P.M. The White House said that regardless of the results of the Israeli election, the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not change.
"We will continue to make clear that only through direct negotiations can the Palestinians and the Israelis ... achieve the peace they both deserve," said spokesman Jay Carney. He said the complexity of the conflict, not Obama's relationship with the Israeli leader, was the main impediment.

12:03 PM PT: AND THIS FROM HAARETZ:

9.50 P.M. Labor officials: we're not ruling out endorsing Lapid for PM.

12:06 PM PT: FIRST PROJECTIONS ARE IN:

First projections (ch. 2): Likud 31, Yesh Atid 19, Labor 17, Shas 12, Jewish House 12, Meretz 7, Livni 7, United Torah Judaism 6, Arab parties (combined) 9 -- ch, 2 calls it 61-59 for the right

3:25 PM PT: Revised figures from Channel 2:
The new prediction: Likud-Beytenu 33, Yesh Atid 18, Labor 16, Shas 12, Jewish Home 11, Hatnua 7, United Torah Judaism 7, Meretz 6, and the combined Arab parties 10.

That puts the right-wing/Orthodox bloc at 63, leaving the center-left-Arab bloc at 57.

3:57 PM PT: Lapid calling for a Left - Right Broad Coalition http://www.ynetnews.com/...

Lapid said, "There is a possibility to create a true and fair Center that listens to the other, that remembers that we are together; not at the expense of one another, but together.

"I urge the senior members of the political system to form as broad a government as possible that would unite the moderate forces from the Left and Right, so that we will be able to bring about real change in the State of Israel," he said.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why Kicking Time Bombs Down the Road Never Really Works Out

Bad ideas for actions related to bombs.....

Generally when one sees a bomb just lying there merrily ticking away, it is never a good idea to run up to it and kick it and hope that by the time it goes off, you kicked it so far away that you are immune to the blast.

It is also never a good idea to yell at the Bomb and dare it to go off, you can sit there and taunt it, or curse at it, or scream "bloody murder" at it until you are blue in the face all you want. You can loudly proclaim that you are not afraid of the Bomb (and you might not be). But doing all of those things won't stop the Bomb from going off and when it does you probably get blown to smithereens.

Finally, one other piece of advice... It is never a good idea to stand next to the bomb and pretend that it doesn't exist. That helps no one. There it is, just sitting there ticking and you standing there just whistling away and minding your time is not going to do the trick. Pretending it doesn't exist, well that's never the best idea towards dealing with high level explosives particularly when they are active and sitting right next to you. In that vein, looking away from the bomb and focusing on everything BUT the bomb is going to do nothing relative to making that Bomb and it's impending explosion any less.

In Israel, what is the Bomb? The Bomb are the Palestinians and the rest of the world relative to the Occupation and the issue of settlements in the West Bank. 

This is how the top three major Israeli parties are looking at the next election. HaBayit HaYehudi (H.H.)(Jewish Home - Projected to be the Third Place finishers in the upcoming Israeli elections at least by today, , a party of Right Wing, Orthodox Religious Nationalists has decided that what they think is best is to run up and kick the Bomb. Their plan is best described as this... They want to take the part of the West Bank known as "Area C", where most of the Jewish population lives and completely annex it. The Palestinians who live there? They would become Full Israeli citizens with all rights and obligations of said citizenship.

THEN they want to take the remainder of the West Bank (Area's designated as "A" & "B" where most of the area's Palestinian population lives) and spend millions and millions of shekels building modern connecting roads to promote smooth passage of individuals and goods between Palestinian Parts of the West Bank. Not only that, but they say that also want to pour more money into building up the Palestinian economy and create prosperous economic zones for the Palestinians. Area's "A" & "B" would be considered an autonomous area for the Palestinians within Israel. The Palestinians living there would elect their own leaders, collect their own taxes and set up their own polity.

But you know what they wouldn't have? They wouldn't have an independent country. They would have an autonomous section of Israel and be subject in the end to the Israeli Government, but they would not have the right to vote in Israel. They wouldn't have the Rights enjoyed by many Israeli citizens and would certainly NOT have full civil rights. The flaws of this strategy are obvious.

There are many pitfalls of this from an Israeli perspective. Israel was born out of a need for the Jewish people after 2,000 + years of displacement to be a homeland and sanctuary for the Jewish people. FURTHER, it's founders envisioned a Democratic State based on Jewish principles of equality and fairness, principles enshrined in both the Torah and Talmud. This solution would just toss that completely out the window.

First of all, it would destroy Israel as a Democracy immediately and down the road as a Jewish State. Curiously for those that support Naftali Bennett and H.H. did they ever stop to consider what the destruction of Israel as a democracy would mean? Do they consider it worthwhile? Do they consider that in the best interests of the Jewish people. When the world through social media and increased technology is getting more and more democratic, do they understand that societies fail when they get less democratic. The founders of Israel saw this when they wrote this in the their Declaration of Establishment for the State of Israel:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants  irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
But let's forget the high mindedness of actually having ideals and striving to work through them. Let's look at the practical side of this. The Demographics of it all. Right now the Jewish Population to Non-Jewish Population ratio in Israel is approx. 75.4% - 24.6%. A very healthy Jewish majority for a Jewish State.
With the Habayit Hayehudi plan, that demographic shifts radically by adding 2.57 million Palestinians into the state, (which would only grant "citizenship" to 100,000 of them). This would create a major demographic shift in the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan (not counting Gaza) to a ratio of around 56%-44% AND of that 44% a good 55% plus would be disenfranchised. How long would the disenfranchisement of almost half of an ethnic groups population in one nation based solely on that ethnicity, last in today's world?

The practical outcome of this would be either civil strife or a mass exodus. Where could the population go in the surrounding area that would take them in and welcome them? Certainly the Israelis could make life so miserable for the Palestinians that they would want to leave, but, would that really be a long term solution? Continued oppression of people so that finally they want to just pick up and go? As Jews, we have been victimized in this manner throughout history. What would this to do to the original Zionist vision for Israel? I posit that this would eventually destroy Israel due to the fact that it would destroy one of the very foundations that the nation was built upon.

But there could also be civil strife. Generally, when you disenfranchise someone you create resentment that leads to both violent and non-violent resistance. Is this article justifying acts of terror against civilians? OF COURSE NOT! But, it does make it understandable that military targets and instruments of the maintenance of the Occupation would be targeted. Then what would happen? How could Israel allow it's soldiers and civil authorities to come under attack? This would most likely result in mass forced ethnic cleansing of the area, in other words forced evacuation. Is this something that the Israeli people would be ready to carry out. Forcing people from their homes in retaliation for them standing up for themselves. Would those who bravely carry on at their keyboards be the ones moving a family out of an area at gunpoint? 

But also, how would the rest of the world deal with this? Israel's back is already to a degree against a wall, however, support from the U.S. and E.U. (and by "support" I mean real support in terms of military and economic agreements) keeps Israel's economy moving and Israel at a qualitative military advantage over it's neighbors. What if Israel actually took the words of their hard Rightist supporters literally when they say things like this:
.... but in my opinion Israel should take the unilateral steps necessary to protect its security — and let the EU and Obama do their worst.
"Do their worst". Interesting. Well, how would Israel handle all trading agreements being cut off? How would their economy do with the E.U. closing markets in response to Israeli moves to annex 61% of the West Bank (land that is not considered theirs by the world community) and permanent disenfranchisement of almost 20% of all the people living in that area? Israel's economy would be shattered. How about if the U.S. also "did their worst"? Where would the Israelis get the money to build up Area's "A" & "B" and their H.H. road system to link the area? Can one imagine the security costs involved in a project like that? Of course, since the Jewish Home plan would run in direct conflict with American Foreign Policy and would force a severe strain on American diplomatic efforts to contain Iran in the area, I cannot imagine the American government kicking in any more of their $ 3 billion per year in loan guarantees.

Where then would Israel find it's military assistance, from Russia? They have no desire to do anything for Israel and never really have. From China? China is busy in the Gulf States and supporting Iran in the U.N., all while building up their guarantees for Oil. So where can Israel turn for it's own needs. It will have to fight Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt for control of the Natural Gas Fields in the Med. and it will have no large state sponsors to help. So sure - it's easy to sit in ones living room in the U.S. and challenge America to "do it's worst" (ask any nation that America does it's worst too how that worked out for them), but for the Israelis a loss of partnership with America and the E.U. would lead to one place. Masada. How did that work out for our people in the end?

As one can see kicking the bomb... is maybe not that great of an idea. At best one might only lose their foot, but in most cases one would lose their life.

Then there is the next option - The Likud Betainu option... This is both alternately ignoring the bomb and yelling at the Bomb, blaming the Bomb for being the bomb, talking about how it's the bomb's fault for being a bomb. All of that (of course) doesn't matter... the Bomb is still the bomb and it still will explode. What's even worse about the Likud-Betainu situation is that they simply have no solution. If the HaBayit HaYehudi plan has a flawed and fairly unrealistic solution, the Likud Betainu plan doesn't exist. Yelling at, cursing at, blaming the Bomb, doesn't make the bomb go away. At best it doesn't do anything but at its worst, it makes the bomb even bigger. It adds power to the resentment behind the bomb.

So in real terms what are we talking about? Israel faces a dilemma. What to do with the West Bank. In a debate for New Olim broadcast on YNET - the Likud Betainu Representative, in response to a question from Meretz about whether Likud was still committed to Prime Minister Netanyahu's Bar-Ilan Speech vision of Two States, simply blew the question off saying "Well, Abu Mazen doesn't want peace so really... what can we do"? (Paraphrased). Moreover, he went on dismiss his questioner as someone who is letting the Palestinians "determine the fate of Israel". Meanwhile, as everyone knows building in the territories continues apace and with the latest shift Right in the Likud primaries, the ascendency of the Feiglin, Danon wing of the party and the "purge" of the "moderates" (who really are not that moderate until they are looked at in comparison with Rightists in the Party) does nothing to produce a future solution that is really not that different from the Jewish Home vision. No one familiar with Israeli Politics could honestly see Moshe Feiglin, Danny Danon and their respective friends in Betainu and Likud agreeing to any sort of deal that cedes any parts of the West Bank (what they call Judea and Samaria) to the Palestinians to form a State.

Now, of course the Prime Minister has seemingly laid out a different program for a solution. He has floated a solution based purely on security needs where Israel annexes 50-60% of the West Bank, setting up a security zone in the Jordan Valley and around J'slem and Tel Aviv. This seems to be the path that the Prime Minister sees for the Occupation. Almost a de facto unilateral disengagement. Something that runs completely against the wishes of the U.S. and E.U. (who seek creative disengagement and an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis).

But more than any of this, Likud Betainu lacks any vision of what it is doing. What are it's goals for the West Bank? Does it want a Two-State Solution, if so under what terms? Does it want a One State solution? If so,  what will it do with the Palestinians in the West Bank. Do they become full citizens of Israel? Do they get rights, will they be enfranchised? How does the economy continue to grow while facing pressures from an increasingly unhappy and frustrated United States and European Union whose Arab allies grow more and more restless for a solution to this issue? And what of the economy here? How does the Israeli economy continue to grow with the government throwing more and more resources into the West Bank, both in shekalim and military personnel? There are real issues of social justice inside the "Green Line". What happens to the population there who see continuing failings in Education, Social Welfare and the like, seeing new settlements and housing being built in the Occupied Territories?

And as was discussed in prior section on the Jewish Home plan, do they think that the U.S. and European Union are going to continue to turn a blind eye to this? Well, in this case they really just don't seem to care. The arrogance of suggesting that they won't deal with a situation like the Occupation because somehow that suggests that the Palestinians are dictating policy to Israel is laughable. One cannot portray themselves as a leader if they are willing to simply ignore major challenges to both the Jewish Identity of the State or to the philosophical foundations of the nation because they feel like someone else is telling them what to do. The problem still exists and still must be dealt with.

No, trying to place blame all the while "kicking the bomb down the road" is no solution. It can only end in violence or strife. Israel might be able to win this fight in a military sense but what would be the price of such a victory? Would the price of a victory like this be more than the country could bear?

However, one cannot leave out the main opposition Avodah. Their approach has been to totally focus on issues of social welfare (which in my opinion is fine) but they have been like the person who stands next to the bomb and whistles while looking the other way, trying to ignore it. It is only lately where Avodah has had some vague mutterings about dealing with the Occupation based around the 1967 lines with some land swaps. Nothing concrete mind you, simply thinking that this should solve that issue. Their leader Shelly Yachimovich has long been a crusader for Social Justice in Israel but never has been much on dealing with the issues of the Occupation.

This approach can't work either. There are real security concerns for Israel that need to be dealt with. The Palestinians are not simply going to go away, and right now they don't really have any inclination of accepting much when it comes to Israel. Those security concerns NEED to be addressed. Israel cannot afford to "navel gaze" and be completely unaware of those surrounding her. So what is Avodah proposing? What are specifics of what they would like to see with regards to Israelis in the West Bank? How are they going to support massive social welfare plans while also financing an Occupation? They haven't really addressed any of these issues.

Sitting there and whistling is nice but it does nothing to solve the ticking time bomb at ones feet. Generally what happens is that the bomb goes off and while one floats up to heaven to get their harp and sing hosannas at the feet of G-d (sarcastic cartoon imagery here), they wonder... "What the heck just happened???"

DISCLAIMER FOR THE NEXT SECTION: I am not an Israeli so really, it's not up to me to pick their future for them, but, I care deeply about the country and as a Jew with family and friends there I do have an opinion of this. Take that for what it's worth.

So now that I have whined, complained, and debunked the three major parties what is it that I suggest the Israelis do? A side note here is that I have little tolerance and even less respect for those simply whine about a problem but make no suggestions or make suggestions that are not well thought out and based on both stupidity and hatred. SO I give you my suggestions knowing full well that I might be wrong but, at least I feel they are well thought out.

What do I suggest about this "bomb". Well, I suggest that Israel ceases it's needless agitation of both the Palestinians as well as the U.S. and E.U. (not too mention Russia). I suggest that they immediately cease any and all building activity in the West Bank and Jerusalem. I suggest they stop tossing shekels into projects that they may have to at one point abandon. Instead, I suggest they turn their money to projects that support existing infrastructure in communities in Israel and in some of the settlements. I suggest they use that money to start the development of the Leviathan Natural Gas fields, AND most importantly that they use some of that money to make needed improvements to the IDF (like equipment upgrades, housing and so forth).

Then I suggest that the Israelis immediately propose immediate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority regarding a permanent solution with the assistance of both the U.S. and the European Union. At the same time, I think it important that parallel to these negotiations, the Israelis talk to the West in terms of Mutual Defense treaties as well as NATO membership. In return for the freeze and a return to serious negotiations, I would suggest asking for security and economic agreements that assure economic and military cooperation for the next fifty years.

Prior to these negotiations with the Palestinians, I suggest that the Israelis lay out a series of terms that MUST be agreed too by the Palestinians in order to solve this issue. Basic border issues (I personally favor the Olmert Plan map), Recognition of Israel as the National State and Homeland of the Jewish People (which would in effect wipe out any claims to Palestinian Right of Return), and issues surrounding water and resources. These are all things that both the U.S. and E.U. have already de facto recognized. They are all things supported by the U.S. and E.U.

It should be noted that no one is here is fooling themselves by thinking that these are things that fit the Palestinians "end game". If they had their way, they would use any withdrawal as a stepping stone to the eventual destruction of Israel. There is no one in the world that actually thinks that a peace agreement on paper (without support of the major state sponsors) that led to a complete withdrawal of the West Bank with no security provisions built in, would last any amount of time without Iran or radical groups using that land as staging grounds for terror and war.

Of course,whether the Palestinians accept this (and it would be the best deal they would ever get) or not is almost immaterial. Why? Because at that point Israel can show both the U.S. and the E.U. that the Palestinians walked away yet again for a third and final time. As they say: "The forms would have been obeyed" and would have been seen in a very final manner. Imagine the Palestinians telling the world in no uncertain terms.. "No, we will NOT accept Israel as the Jewish State and National Homeland of the Jewish People, No we will not accept their security concerns, and NO we will not accept a reasonable sharing of resources based on size of economy and projected use". Now, if they did accept those internationally recognized facts and understood that this was the end of their conflict with Israel, that would be great. Everyone goes home happy for a while and that is that.

If however, the Palestinians held out for their maximalist demands, well they would just be "shooting themselves in the foot". They would immediately lose all support from both Europe and the U.S. They would be turning down a permanent peace deal that was offered. There would be no more EVER offered. To fight Israel, the Palestinians would also then have to fight not only an Israel with the latest military technology but an Israel backed by the full might and economies (by treaty) of the U.S. and the E.U. It is simply a war, they cannot win, not for a very, very long time.

The most powerful economies would be there to make sure that there were not boycotts in heavy consumer markets, they would be there to support Israeli energy claims (particularly if Israel were to strike "sweetheart" deals with the Europeans). Plus, with withdrawal and building up of security they would of course need U.S. and European aid packages to build infrastructure to make accommodations to the new situation.

What else could happen if they walk away... well then Israel can then take on a defensive posture and act unilaterally with regards to security concerns, leaving Palestinian populated areas and allowing for the Palestinians to create a contiguous homeland throughout the West Bank. Of course, any acts of hostilities (terror strikes or rocket attacks) would be considered hostile military actions by one nation against another and again, the Israelis could invoke Mutual Defense Pacts.

BUT all this has to come with Israel getting to the table, making the first step and unilaterally deciding to play the international game by NOT continuing the settlement venture and going along with European and U.S. negotiators. It would be an announced final settlement for the Israeli - Palestinian issue and the whole world could watch as the Palestinians signed their own fate - either to continue along the trajectory of tragedy and war which has not worked out ever, or towards peace and co-existence. It would be done in the full on world spotlight. Because in the end, the Palestinians would have a hard time walking away from a viable State to hold out for some Maximalist demands. Abba Eban and all that... I think the time has come when they might realize what they are up against and take the chance on Peace.

THUS... Israel in this case would end up "disarming" the bomb. They wouldn't kick it. They wouldn't yell at it, they certainly would not ignore it, but they would do what they do best. Deal with the threat and eliminate it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

An Appropriate Guide to Israeli Elections

Here you go... Doesn't get much more accurate than this:

If you can't read Hebrew ....

Shaul Mofaz is Homer
Tzipi Livni is Marge
Likud Beitanu is Mr. Burns
Meretz (Zahava Gal-On) is Lisa
Naftali Bennet is Ned Flanders
Yair Lapid is the Anchorman
Green Leaf is Otto the Driver
Balad is Sideshow Bob
Shas is Apu

Oh and  Otzma Yisrael of course is Nelson - PERFECT!

Pretty funny.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Israeli Elections are a-comin'

Well, if you thought the campaign season here (in the U.S.) was fraught with vitriol, charges against patriotism, all manner of crazed predictions... (as they say) "You ain't seen nothing yet". Welcome tot he run-up to the Israeli Elections to be held in one and a half weeks.

So here is a simple graphic I grabbed from Haaretz that should explain the likely / and unlikely coalitions that could come from the next Israeli Elections (Jan. 22nd):
 
GRAPHIC ONE - The Hard Right Coalition
So... what are you looking at here in these graphics. Well in the first graphic you have
P.M. Netanyahu (Likud Betainu), Naftali Bennet (Ha Bayit HaYehudi), Ariyeh Deri (Shas) and what looks to be MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism). This is a Hard Rightist coalition that would command approximately 64 seats. Would be dedicated domestically to at least favoring a religious agenda (because both UTJ and Shas would hold the keys to keeping the coalition in tact) and on foreign policy and the Occupation would mark a veer away from PM Netanyahu's plan of an eventual Palestinian State on the West Bank (albeit with only 60% of the West Bank and no Jerusalem) and into a solution like that proposed by Habayit Hayehudi who would Annex Area C, Spend millions of Shekls to create connectors in Area's A & B and create autonomous homeland areas (but not allowing for an independent State) within the remaining parts of the West Bank. Economically, it would be very strongly "capitalist" in a country that is basically a Socialist or Social Democratic nation.

This is NOT the Prime Ministers preferred coalition, though it may indeed be the coalition that is most likely to happen. Why? Because, P.M. Netanyahu first of all DOES NOT really want to be dependent on the Religious elements of society to run the government. While he may be a Rightist he is not a theocrat. This coalition would place the stability of his coalition into the hands of the religious (and in the case of Habayit Hayehudi - religious nationialists). ALSO, Netanyahu does have a plan for at least some of the West Bank and Gaza to be a Palestinian State. While it may not be something that anyone will accept it is a plan. If he has to take on Habayit Hayehudi... that plan goes out the window.

GRAPHIC TWO - The Broad Based Coalition

This is the Prime Ministers favored government. It shows Likud Beitainu (34 seats projected), HaTanuah (Tzipi Livni's new party) (11 Seats), Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid's new party) (11 Seats), Shas (10 seats) and UTJ (6 seats) for a solid Knesset majority of 72 seats. While this coalition would still have to hold on to either of the religious parties to maintain the coalition, either party could leave and not crash the coalition. Given the more politically moderate nature of Ariyeh Deri (compared to Eli Yishai of Shas), this would allow for a foreign policy that is more flexible and more security minded than religious nationalist minded.

This would in appearances and policy represent a Center (Yesh Atid and HaTanuah) / Right (Likud - Betainu) coalition. It would be more more socially responsible than option # 1 in terms of national economics, and would have a religious presence but not necessarily a religious - nationalist presence. HOWEVER, when I say this that is not to say that there would be NO religious - nationalist presence there. Likud, in their primaries, purged a few prominent "moderates" and took on a much more rightist perspective with Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin moving up the ranks. Interestingly enough... Likud Betainu (who are bleeding votes in the polls to Habayit Hayehudi) are now so pissed off that they are threateing the settlers that vote for Bennett's party instead of Likud.
Support for Naftali Bennett’s ascendant right-wing Jewish Home party comes largely at the expense of the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list and its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and nowhere is this more pronounced than among the largely Orthodox settler population. Reportedly, the trend has prompted Likud to “play rough” and convey the message that if these Israelis fail to vote for Likud-Beytenu in January 22′s election, the consequences for the entire settler movement could be grave.... 
...But now, the sources said, “there’s pressure on the settlers. The message is that, this time round, you have to be with us. Otherwise, there will be repercussions for the future of the settlement movement.”
Along with this very direct threat:
Another Likud member was quoted as saying that, after the elections, the party would compare the number of votes it received in various settlements to the number of Likud members in the same locations.
NOW... how will Likud be able to make good on this threat with people like Danon and Feiglin in the mix, I don't know. It seems to me that no matter what, the settlers will have support from Likud-Beitainu. The real question is whether Lapid and Livni will "play ball" with Netanyahu and his plans. Both are relative moderates on foreign policy issues (which includes the Occupation). Neither one wants to Annex the West Bank into Israel and create a demographic nightmare that would effectively force Israel to become a minority run state. SO, I am not sure how I can see Livni in coalition with Danon, Feiglin or Lieberman (that already did not work out once).

Also, Given Netanyahu's record of absorbing more moderate groups in (Kadima and Labor), I am not sure how far either of them can trust the Prime Minister to work with their agenda's. I think that if either of the two "centrist" parties do go into a coalition government with Likud - Betainu they would try to exact some heavy promises from that group however, as Shaul Mofaz, and Ehud Barak found out... those promises from Likud don't really amount to much.

GRAPHIC THREE - The Left/Center Coalition

Personal Note: (this is the coalition I personally support).
This coalition has virtually no chance of happening however... it is nice to see. This coalition as shown would consist of Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) (18 Seats) heading up a government consisting of Livni, (11 seats), Lapid (11 Seats), Shas (10 Seats), UTJ (6 seats), and Zehava Gal On (Meretz) (5 seats) for a total of 61 seats. A bare majority that would strongly be beholden to the religious parties on those issues.

This has a low likely hood of happening for two reasons. The first is that Likud/Betainu would be able to put together that Rightist coalition without any of the Center - Center Left parties on his own and since it is pretty obvious from the polling Likud - Betainu will win a strong majority of seats they will have the "first crack" at building a government. ALSO.... as the chart indicates the religious parties seem to both prefer that Likud be given the first shot at the government and I don't think would hold out for Yachimovich's very secular and leftist economic platforms. Still it is a nice dream.

GRAPHIC FOUR - The UNITY GOVERNMENT
This is an interesting situation because I think this would probably not happen but... it would have Likud-Betainu (34 seats), Labor (18 Seats), Lapid (10 seats) and Livni (11 seats) plus the religious parties (16 seats). This would give 73 seats NOT counting the religious parties (89 seats with the Religious Parties). Why do I see this as not probably not happening?

Well first of all, I can't see Labor EVER going back into coalition with Likud given their previous experience. I don't see how Yachimovich and Co. could co-exist with Danon and Feiglin, it just doesn't make sense. Plus, Yachimovich has sworn not to enter into a coalition with PM Netanyahu (though we all know how much politicians promises are worth) and to lead a strong opposition. For a long time, Yachimovich and Labor were not outspoken on the Occupation and Settlements, preferring a more neutral path and in fact had not touched the settlement budget but, in response to ever growing criticism (as Assaf noted in a diary a few weeks ago I believe) she has now come out as opposing increased settlement activity and promises to take steps opposite that process.

One might also ask "Where are the Arab Parties and Hadash (a combination of Arabs and Jews with a Communist bent) in this discussion? They sit at 11 seats total. As any observer of this will tell you, all of these parties are non-Zionist in nature and do not accept the idea of Israel as the National State and Homeland of the Jewish people. Because of that, or until they change that, they will never, ever, ever, ever be asked into or be part of an Israeli Ruling Coalition. It just won't happen.

SO that is a very brief rundown of what is happening in the Israeli elections. Of course there is much more to this and I hope that our Israeli Kos folk will add to this and enlighten us with some more info.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

About that Hall of Fame Vote

So, yes, I'm back to writing again. I know this is largely a political site and all, but this isn't a political diary. This is about the fact that the eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America did not elect a single member to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Some of their vote certainly makes sense. There are players on the ballot who do not belong in Cooperstown despite their gaudy statistics. There are, however, victims too — players who never had their names linked to scandal and players that there were just whispers about, but no concrete evidence.

I write this diary about both those players. These are the players of the Steroid Era. These are the players from an era where many were artificially enhanced and where all the players — both clean and cheater — are tainted by that fact. Some of those players will inevitably get into Cooperstown, while it is clear that certain players will not. What is certain is that the bottleneck will only get worse as more and more candidates from that era come up for hall of fame consideration. These words, however, aren't specifically about those players, but, rather, about those players that were rejected today.

Note that this diary is only about first-ballot candidates and other players from the Steroid Era. It is not about players such as Jack Morris or Lee Smith, who are part of an entirely different debate.

First, let me start with what the writers got right. They kept Barry Bonds out. They kept Roger Clemens out. They kept Sammy Sosa out. They kept out other admitted and proven users such as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero. Those are players that have no business being in Cooperstown and I hope that the writers stick to their guns in keeping those players out. It is my firm belief that admitted and proven steroid users have no place in the Hall of Fame. That means that going forward other players who have admitted to use, or been proven to use, such as Alex Rodridguez and Manny Ramirez should not be enshrined in Cooperstown.

And, yes, as a corollary to this, I still consider Henry Aaron the all-time home run champion and Roger Maris the single-season home run champion. In my mind, the records of Bonds and McGwire have no place in the record books, particularly in a sport that is more cognizant of its past and its heritage than any other sport.

Now, let me get to what the writers got wrong. They kept out Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. Biggio was undoubtedly clean. He played the game the right way. In many respects, he was his era's equivalent of Pete Rose, but without the gambling problems. He did what his team asked of him and he did all he could to win. That was the only setting he had. If it meant getting a hit, he did it. If it meant getting hit by the pitch, he did it. And while he wasn't elegant in the field, he worked hard to make himself the best defensive player he could be.

Then there is the case of Mike Piazza. People here see my handle, so it's not going to be a surprise that I believe Mike Piazza belongs in Cooperstown. Throughout the years there have been whispers that Piazza was a steroid user. They would point to certain injuries he had as proof of that. However, his name was never mentioned in any report and there has never been any proof that he tested positive for steroids. Perhaps one piece of evidence stands out over all the others in the case of Piazza. Kirk Radomski was a Mets clubhouse employee and major steroid dealer during the Piazza years. He was also the star witness of the Mitchell Report. He named several Mets. Mike Piazza was not one of them.

Now, both Biggio and Piazza are relatively close to the 75% needed for induction to the Hall of Fame. They should get over the top in the next year or two, hopefully. The same is probably true for Jeff Bagwell, who is in the same category of Piazza when it comes to suspicion, but no proof through either admission or test. On the other hand, players that should definitely be kept out — such as Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Palmiero, etc... — are thankfully not anywhere near induction and will likely never receive the necessary votes.

I know that there are both saints and sinners in the Hall of Fame. After all, there are men such as Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth in there right alongside someone like Lou Gehrig. Also, cheating is a part of the game. Gaylord Perry, practitioner of the illegal spitball, is in the Hall of Fame. However, there's cheating and then there's Cheating when it comes to baseball. Stuff like the spitter is part of the hijinks of the game. Steroids, however, directly impacted upon the integrity of the game. That's why a spitballer can get into Cooperstown, but a steroid user should, at least in this humble diarist's opinion.

Baseball can't have a hall of fame that's full only of completely upstanding citizens that never did any wrong. However, it doesn't need to let those that destroyed the integrity of the game into its most hallowed halls.

Racist Pamela Geller at it Again

Cross Posted at The Progressive Zionist

First it was calling Muslims and Arabs "Savages" and during that time I got push back from the lunatic fringe and racist droolers who said accused me of racism due to the fact that they said I was "conflating Jihadis with Muslims" and that Geller was really making a distinction between the two.

Of course, given any study of her history, she was not making any distinction and really she was just trying to find some bigoted bullshit to smear all Muslims with. I mean here are some of her comments (noted in my other diary):
"Hussein [meaning President Obama] is a muhammadan. He's not insane … he wants jihad to win."
— Pam Geller, AtlasShrugs.com, April 11, 2010
and
"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
and
"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
But of course, according to the Raving Lunatics on the Right Wing... there's no conflation between Savages and Muslims by Geller - she is just talking about Jihadi's... Including President Obama (/snark). So what his this hateful person done... She has put up the following ad in the NY Subway System:

Notice the website listed in this horrible ad: truthaboutquran.com 

Well to that I say: THE WHAT???

First of all, she is quoting a passage written over one thousand years ago in very different circumstances. Now are there those who twist the religion to make this a central part of Islam, yes. But of the literally more than One Billion people on the planet who are adherents to the Muslim faith, this is just one of those passages all religions have that one looks at and takes in the context of the times and realities around those writings and simply files it as "Oh that is interesting"

But more to the point, why does this piss me off so much. You know why? Because throughout history MY PEOPLE have been victimized by this tactic. For thousands of years AND even today and even at this site people have been finding egregious quotes from the Old Testament and using that to justify hatred of Jews and Israel. I mean how would some of this Rightwing bigots like it if someone ran ads in the NY subways that said:
"Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses." (1 Samuel 15:3)
with a picture of IDF soldiers or Planes in action...

or maybe:

Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)
or perhaps something like this:
Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)
and it had something like truthaboutoldtestament.com as a link... 

We would be furious (and rightly so). What would be the point of that... Well it would be to say that all Jews are Savages and should be dealt with accordingly.

Hatred and bigotry in any form is a disgrace and while the First Amendment does protect our freedom of speech it DOES NOT protect one from "yelling fire in a crowded theatre" (so to speak). These ads do nothing but to inflame people to go out and hate and perhaps in some cases take action. These were the kinds of things that the Nazi's did in their run-up to persecuting the Jews. This is a tactic modern anti-Semites take throughout the world to justify their anti-Semitism. SO when I see this happen and it happens from a part of a polity that I am from I feel the need to denounce it.

People who are Jewish and Pro-Israel don't need Geller and her band of low grade morons to go out and represent our side. We don't need to take on the absolute lowest forms of hatred to make our case. This hatefulness serves no good purpose at all, all it does is reinforce separation and bigotry amongst people.
I constantly rag on people on sides opposite me for not confronting the worst elements of their polities and sitting back while people regurgitate the lies of racists against my side. Those who sit back and say "Well any ally will do as long as they agree with my goal". Well I say SCREW THAT. Racists and bigots are some of the lowest kinds of human beings there are and if one has to use their arguments to make a point... well that goes for those that would accept their help as well.

Don't this outrage stand. Though the MTA can't do anything at this point and though they have a disclaimer out - demand that this goes further. Ask that they put a stop to these hateful ads that do nothing but promote bigotry. There has to be something.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Musings on Chuck: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I write this diary because even though I in general oppose the Hagel nomination I think it is one of those things that will ultimately end up being about as significant as a "fart in a blizzard" (for lack of a better term).

So here are my thoughts... there are good and bad things about this nomination. In general I still oppose it because I think there are other politicians out there who are Democrats who would be more in line with Democratic Politics. Four names I can think of off the top of my head are General Wesley Clark, Admiral Joe Sestak, Admiral James Webb, and Former Senator Bob Kerrey.

There is also longtime Pentagon official and former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy who would be a historic choice given that she would be the FIRST female Defense Secretary. From everything I have read about Flournoy (and (here is an interesting article), she would be a good choice. So there are four names that I think are well qualified, and who could do a fine job AND are also Democrats.

Aside from some what I consider bigoted remarks regarding Jewish Americans and LGBT Americans the irksome thing for me in this nomination is that President Obama felt it was necessary to choose a Republican for this post. I didn't vote for, support or donate to the guy to put Republicans into the highest positions in our government. I really didn't. I voted for President Obama because I don't think the Republican Party is particularly good for our nation (and hasn't been for a long time) and having Republicans in high office is not positive. Chuck Hagel... is a Republican, and yes, though he bucks the establishment of the Party on a few issues, he is still a Republican through and through.

BUT.... again, the Sec. Def. doesn't have the power of the Sec. State and though the position has a guiding voice in government, it doesn't set our foreign policy agenda so really... there is not much there that I think will make any bit of difference one way or the other.

Anyhow, in the past few days I have been inundated with Chuck Hagel news.... Hagel this, and Hagel that. BUT, what is the reality of a Hagel appointment. Well on the Far Right we hear the screechings of the batshit racists who are pissed because they are certain that Hagel will help Iran get nukes, thinks that Hizbollah and Hamas should be our best buddies, wants to drop Israel into the ocean and wants eventually to enslave America to "Teh Ebilz Mooslim Empire" (Ok, that's an exaggeration but really not much of one - check out the bullshit that flows from the Hard Right).

At the same time we have the drooling bigots on the Hard Left who are absolutely positive that a Hagel nomination is the bestest thing in the world since the invention of indoor plumbing AND sliced bread. They are positive that Hagel at Defense means the absolute end of "Teh Ebilz JOOOO / IZRAILEE lobby111!!!!11" and that "Teh Ebilz IZREEL" is finally going to get theirs. Oh yeah and Iran will next become our "bestest friend in TEH WHOLE WORLD"... Just read some of those blogs.

Of course neither the batshit fringers on the hard right or the drooling bigots on the hard left are right. Most likely, none of those things will come to pass should Hagel clear confirmation. We will still be friends with Israel, there will continue to be military cooperation with the IDF. Yes, there will be friction with Israel due to the ascendency of the Hard Right, but and at the same time there will be friction with the Palestinians due to the rising popularity of Hamas and the Religious Islamists within the Palestinian Polity (not too mention friction with Egypt and the future rulers of Syria over that same issue).

The Middle East will come into hard focus in the coming years as the threat of Iranian Hegemony will need to be faced, and the U.S. will be angling towards building a regional coalition against the Iranians. SO, I think that there will be a focus on Israel and the West Bank in regards to the Occupation but, I think that was coming anyway, no matter who the Sec. Def. happens to be. Official U.S. policy stands diametrically opposed to the directions of both the Israeli AND Palestinian polity. Anyway, enough on that.

Although there is one funny aside with regards to the droolers on the Hard Left (particularly where they meet with the batshit Paulbots on the Hard Right). All these fools are absolutely convinced that AIPAC and TEH JOOZ (though they use Zionists and Israelis as cover terms) run the nation and our government. Just read hate sites like Stormfront, davidduke.com and MondoFront - you can see it there. YET, if this is the case, then how in the world did (snark coming) Superhero and all around scourge of the "Jewish Lobby" (Hagel's comment) Chuck Hagel even get the nomination? I mean if AIPAC runs things... that could never have... ROH 'ROH....

All this said and outside of the silly meta regarding the intertoobz, there are some good things about Hagel's nomination as well (at least in my opinion). The guy was a combat vet and was an enlisted man (rather than an officer). He led people in tough situations, made life and death decisions and apparently made them well (according to what I have read). I think he has a distinct understanding of the results of war policy. I can respect that. Though I am not not well versed in his politics as some, it seems that he is a strong advocate for veterans rights and did buck the Reagan administration (actually resigning from his post of Deputy Head of the VA) when they wanted to cut funding over benefits for Vietnam Vets.

SO for that, I think in his post (should he win confirmation) he will be a good addition. I am all in favor of our nation taking care of those who we ask to give everything. I have no issue when it comes to spending my tax dollars on support of veterans and veteran care. Given how crucial that is now, with our soldiers dealing with not one but TWO crappy situations (because Iraq is still really not yet over), I think it important that we have someone in the Sec. Def. post that understands veterans issues in personal terms.

I also support his position on extending rights of habeas corpus to AMERICAN prisoners at Guantanamo (though he voted AGAINST that for all prisoners). And his stand on ending the camp and it's practices there. I also support his stances on NOT capping America's foreign aid budget and support for funding regarding AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

Also, though I think his positions are over-hyped by his supporters (and over-stated by the lunatic fringe), I generally agree that engagement is preferable to "gunboat diplomacy" and ever increasing hyperbolic rantings as people on the right try to resurrect that wonderful time known as The Crusades (/snark). Just because you talk to someone doesn't mean you agree with them or will do what they want. That said, there also comes a time when you can talk as much as you want, but, it is not going to change anything. I think given Hagel's background and voting record on these things, he seems to understand that.

But through all that.. remember that Hagel voted FOR the Patriot Act and its re-authorization. Remember, he also voted to support FISA and EXPAND on Federal Wiretapping. So....

HOWEVER, as I said before in general I oppose Hagel's nomination and think the President is making a mistake here. I can see WHY he is doing it, but, as I also mentioned before, I think there are others that are just as if not better qualified for the position and who are Democrats.

I also oppose the Hagel nomination on a number of other points. One is that, though he did apologize for his vindictive remarks towards Ambassador Hormel (offering only a tepid apology which did not seem particularly heartfelt), he does seem to have an issue with the rights of the LGBT community. From the New Yorker:
When Hagel served in the United States Senate, as a Republican from Nebraska, he consistently voted against gay rights—his record earned him a zero-per-cent rating (three times) from the Human Rights Campaign, the leading gay-rights lobby. Among other things, Hagel voted against extending basic employment nondiscrimination protections and the federal hate-crimes law to cover gay Americans.
As a Jewish American - I also have issues with this nomination. Hagels commentary on the "Jewish Lobby" is frankly DISGUSTING. I don't know where he really stands on Israel as I don't trust the screeching racist dingbats on the Right on anything they say and I understand that he said in 2008 that he felt Israel's character as a "Jewish Nation" was not negotiable. But, that is honestly not that much of an issue to me as the Sec. Def. really doesn't have shit to do with our policy towards Israel and as Peter Beinart commented on "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick" today, (Paraphrasing) "Hagel is certainly NOT the most Anti-Israel Sec. Def. we have ever had... George Marshall and Casper Weinberger were far harder line there".

Finally, I have to say I have issues with this: Hagel has a rating of 84 (reaching into the high 90's during the Bush Admin.) with the American Conservative Union and he received constant high grades from the American Taxpayers Union - I mean... COME ON! That is NOT what I voted for when I voted for President Obama. Someone who is that high on these lists is certainly no one that I could support.
I have to say, that this nomination SHOULD be opposed by liberals and progressives. Why in the world President Obama would nominate ANYONE who has been a staunch conservative is beyond me. I didn't vote for the man to put Republicans/Conservatives anywhere near the White House and inviting them into his cabinet just doesn't sit right here. There are others that would do a great job and who could and should have been considered. And though I do in the end feel that this won't amount to anything, I think the President is making a mistake here and I do think it is important to let him know that it is not necessary or acceptable for him to promote conservatives.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Apparently, I Have Nazi Tendencies

Yep... apparently I have "Nazi Tendencies"...

Silly me, A guy who lived in Israel for a year, was part of many Zionist Youth Groups, speaks a bit of Hebrew, practices the Israeli Martial Art of Krav Maga, goes to services on the High Holidays (Rosh Hashannah and Yom HaKippur), co-founded Team Shalom AND Jews for President Obama here at Daily Kos... well I didn't know this but... I have "Nazi" tendencies.

Just what are these tendencies? Here I will let you read the Facebook conversation that got me called this and you can see for yourselves. This was in response to my saying that the richest Americans should pay their fair share:
xxxx Fair share? I busted my arse 16 hours a day, holidays, Saturdays, Sundays, sun up to sun down for 35 years...and you have the audacity to tell me I am not paying my fair share? All said and done, the Government is in my pocket for over 50 percent!!! You my friend, have Nazi tendencies (vb1 emphasis) and have drank the whole jug of poison. 
xxxx 50 percent of so called "Americans" DO NOT, DO NOT PAY TAXES! Are you effin' kidding me?
ME: Ummm Nazi Tendencies??? I am Jewish just FYI! Wow... And yeah pay fair share. I bust my ass too, at my job AND I run a small business. But I want schools, and roads, and social security that I paid into, and Medicare and all those things. And that is bullshit that 50% of Americans Don't pay taxes. They don't pay Federal Income Taxes but they pay everything else.... Look, only the Nazi's were the Nazi's and Government spending DOES NOT make one a "Nazi". Learn the fucking history man. Ok.. that's it.. this conversation is going nowhere... NAZI's for G-d's sake..
xxxx: Read about Austria, they voted for Hitler. 98% of Austrian's voted for Mr Hitler to rescue Austria from 33% unemployment, 25% inflation and 25% interest rates. So YES NAZI tendencies.
Me: Ok... look xxxx... I'm done here... I know more about the history of the Weimar Republic and the Nazi Movement (the Reich) that followed it than you apparently will ever know. I don't mean to be an ass to you, but honestly this Nazi thing is way out of bounds. So look you may have the last word but I am going to suggest you do a little reading up from real historians abut what actually happened in Germany following WWI. It is nothing like what is happening here and nothing like that is being proposed. SO... have a good day and please drop the Nazi Stuff.. That is like saying: "Well the sky was blue over Germany and so it is over the U.S" - There is absolutely ZERO comparison between the two situations. Not too mention what the Nazi's proposed and did. Just leaving out that. Sigh......
xxxx Our schools are doing fantastic (run by the Feds)...Our roads are the best in the world (run by the Feds)...Social Security - is yours there (run by the feds)...Medicare is solid as a rock (run by the Feds). Shall I go on? The Government can't run anything but the Government. Have you seen the PORK PORK PORK in the bill to HELP SANDY VICTIMS? Get it? Yes, Nazi tendencies? Keep giving the drug addict money! Keep giving power to the Nazis...it is what the Jews did. You do NOT understand history.
yyyyy: How about the new medical device tax.2.3% on anything used in the medical field. Most small companies operate at a 2 to 4 % profit margin. And this is on gross sales not profits. This will cost companies millions, and will sink small companies.A michigan co. already laid off 10,000 employees.My wifes co. is considering taking their manufacturing out of the US and i don't blame them!!!
xxxx: "After America, there is no place left to go"
xxxx: (volleyboy1 - my name was here), "No Nazi comparisons? Sounds like something Hitler would say?"
So what are my Nazi tendencies that he cited... Well it stems from this comment:
Then raise revenue... That means taxes on the $ 250,000 level and cut defense. We spend 6-7 times the amount of the rest of the world combined on outdated and wasteful weapons systems. Let's take care of our own citizens, with strengthening social security, medicare, veterans benefits, etc. We have the money, but, business likes its corporate welfare. Oh yeah, and cut subsides to big oil and close tax loopholes for the rich..... 
I don't hate corporations... but I think they need to pay their fair share AND I don't want to live in a corporate society. So... it's a difference in perspective. BUT I guarantee you that for all the complaining you do about Obama... The real Socialists hate him a lot more than you do. And yes, they really do.
Apparently, according to the wingnuts, a strong social safety net, strengthening medicare, supporting VETERANS RIGHTS, cutting subsidies to Big Oil, and closing loopholes for the rich.. well those are "Nazi Tendencies". Of course, according to the genius I was talking too... Most Jews in Germany (or Austria) at the time supported the Nazi's as well... Who knew.

THIS is what we are dealing with out in the Grassroots of the Republican Party. This is what gets people like Michelle Bachman and other teahadists elected. It is amazing in it's incredible pride in lack of anything that resembles any kind of knowledge. These people's pages are all full of "Support the Troops", "We Love Guns", "Obama is Teh Ebilz, Kenyan, Mooslim, Socialist, Nazi, Communist" type postings. Oh, and these people are not a small group. They certainly are not the majority in the U.S. but not for FOX News, Glen Beck and a whole lot of other people trying.

How crazy is this... these people are from NY (I grew up with these guys). Our town was literally almost destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. AND YET... these folks stand up for the Republican Party despite the fact the people they voted torched Sandy Relief.

And what makes it worse... they think there was "too much pork" in the Sandy Bill so they are happy to wait for a new bill without pork (like that will ever happen) and WITH Offsets because while they get their aid (which is Good Government Aid, they can pay for it on the backs of the Poor who are just a bunch of "lucky Welfare Abusing, Food Stamp collecting, lazy people".

SO... We need to understand that this is what we are dealing with. I can tell you that this is NOT an anamoly. I have heard it before. There is no real rational discourse (or very limited amounts). When supporting a strong social safety net, a just economic policy, support for veterans, makes one have "Nazi Tendencies"... well... what's next?