Archive for the ‘U.S. Domestic Affairs’ Category
Paul Ryan’s Economic Plan – An Analysis (28 June 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Plan
Some Americans have decided that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is a “moderate” who might have a restraining effect on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. This might be because Ryan’s language is less combative and contentious than Trump’s. But this is dangerously misleading, for the Speaker’s apparent moderation is an illusion. The truth is that regardless of his choice of words, what Ryan stands for is as disastrously radical as the positions of Trump and the rest of the right-wing Republicans.
America’s “newspaper of record,” the New York Times has caught on to this fact. In an editorial on Ryan’s “economic agenda,” published on 19 June 2016, theTimes tells us that Ryan’s vision for the U.S. economy is centered around a single, allegedly cure-all idea: “roll back hundreds of federal regulations that protect consumers, investors, employees, borrowers, students, and the environment.” The paper characterizes this as a “corporate wish list.” Ryan claims that this radical vision of deregulation is in line with Donald Trump’s own economic agenda. Thus, electing Trump and maintaining Republican control over the Congress would most likely result in Ryan’s plan being realized. The Speaker thinks this would lead to a period of economic growth that would benefit everyone – an economic utopia. However, this prognosis is also an illusion.
Part II – Another Gilded Age Dystopia
In truth Ryan’s plan would result in an economic dystopia – a society characterized by human misery. This assertion is not based on simple disdain for Republican Party posturing. It is based on history – a history of which Ryan apparently knows little. It is based on the fact that Ryan’s deregulated economic experiment has already taken place and proved to be catastrophic. That is why the U.S. now has the regulatory system it does today.
What the House Speaker apparently wants to do is resurrect the so-called Gilded Age. That was the period of American history following the Civil War when the economy grew rapidly but in an unregulated fashion. If you will, the Gilded Age economy operated apart from the rule of law, unless of course you believe in the ideologically posited “laws” of capitalism and the mystical notion of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” guiding the marketplace.
During this period of U.S. history a small class of entrepreneurs got very rich (their mansions and palatial grounds can still be visited today). But they operated with no reference to the basic human needs, or safety, of the community they lived in. And so, in their own lifetime they were both envied and denounced, and soon became known as “robber barons.”
The entire historical episode had a terrible dark side. If you think consumer vulnerability is a problem today, it was much, much worse in the era before regulation. For instance: most medicines (“patent medicines” often called “snake oil”) were sold in adulterated condition; food products were also adulterated with cheapened or impure ingredients; child labor was widespread; unions were considered a form of restraint of trade; there was no minimum wage; there were no safety standards for workers; monopoly enterprises grew; banking practices led to one panic after another, running into the 20th century, and finally culminating in the Great Depression; there was rampant job instability; railroad practices ruined farmers in the Midwest; land, sea and air were polluted without restraint. This is the sort of conditions that arise in the absence of economic rules and regulations.
Paul Ryan acts as if he knows nothing of this dark side. And perhaps he really doesn’t. He is an ideologue, and as such he cares more about his laissez faire ideology than he does about historic reality. He “knows” only what is filtered through the theoretical scheme to which he adheres. So it should come as no surprise that a free market ideologue such as Ryan has idealized, indeed has romanticized, the Gilded Age of economic expansion to such an extent that, for him, this distorted vision of the national past has been resurrected as a model for the national future. And how do we get back to this economic utopia? By eliminating all regulation and thereby turning the henhouse over to the foxes.
Part III – America’s Comfort Zone
The New York Times editorial asserts that “the American people are unlikely to be comfortable” with Ryan’s economic plans. Of course, “American people” is an unwieldy generalization. Certainly many of Donald Trump’s supporters are backing him because of what they perceive as government interference in their lives. These individuals exaggerate individual instances of conflict with this or that regulation into a near hatred of all regulation. Many others will support Trump for different reasons and won’t even bother to give serious thought to Ryan’s economic scheme. Presently, Trump and Clinton are running nearly even in several key states. Will this continue? If so, could it be that the Times has misjudged what the majority of the voting public might find “comfortable”?
Part IV – Conclusion
Never underestimate the power of dogma when propagandistically spread about among people who do not know much history. As the propaganda spreads out, dogma replaces reality. Thinking automatically narrows. Of course, the Democrats will try to counter the GOP worldview, but they also are opportunists. If Ryan’s passion for deregulation catches on, perhaps the Democrats will come up with their own compromise version of the Speaker’s scheme.
The most exasperating part of all this is that the likely consequences of much of Republican thinking has been seen before and we therefore know where it leads. Thus, it bears repeating that what in Ryan’s vision is a utopia has already been historically proven to be its opposite – a dystopia. The haunting refrain that history is bound to repeat itself is true only if we let it be so. And when our leaders’ plans and schemes spell predictable disaster – well, only the self-deluded and the truly ignorant would go there.
Getting It Wrong about the Orlando Massacre – An Analysis (20 June 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – This Is Not about Islam
Though it seems to fit the political agendas of both Republicans and Democrats, the assertion that the shooter responsible for the Orlando massacre was motivated by the Islamic State (ISIS) is certainly wrong. This conclusion is supported by the recent testimony of CIA Chief John Brennan before the Senate intelligence committee. He said that the CIA has found no connection between Omar Mateen, the man who gunned down over one hundred people at a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida on 13 June 2016, and any terrorist group. Thus, it makes more sense that this was a hate crime against gay people facilitated by gun laws that are demonstrably not in the interest of the citizens of the United States.
If this is so, why would Mateen claim on a 911 call, and later on a call to a television station, that he was slaughtering all these people in the name of ISIS? Can we take him literally on this? I don’t think so. Just ask yourself, Why would an alleged ISIS-inspired radical “Islamist” shoot up a gay nightclub full of Puerto Ricans?
Here is my theory to explain those phone calls and the ISIS claim. In Mateen’s mind, connecting his slaughter to ISIS was emotionally satisfying. He could convince himself that this political rationale would bring him praise rather than shame within the small and violent “Muslim” subculture with which he seemed to identify. However, his target belies this claim. It is far fetched that ISIS would select a gay nightclub in a middle-sized Florida city as a target. No, this was a personal act on Mateen’s part, motivated by a hatred of gay people, perhaps stemming from his own conflicted sexual feelings. However, if he explained his actions as an act against gays, later investigation might discover those conflicted feels, and that would certainly lead to shame in the sight of that same subculture. So he identified the whole thing with ISIS as a kind of false trail – a cover-up, if you will, to delude himself and others.
There are at least two other unnamed accomplices in this slaughter. One is the Christian right who have long sought to promote an anti-gay climate across the nation. As ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio noted soon after the massacre, “the Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months.” He concluded that it was not Islam, but rather “Christian homophobia” that contributed to the Orlando tragedy.
A second accomplice is even more culpable, and that accomplice is the nation’s criminally inadequate gun laws. Mateen had easy access to a weapon that could do maximum damage in the crowded, confined space of the Orlando nightclub. This easy access to guns is the common denominator that places Mateen’s action squarely in line with the hundreds of other gun deaths, singular and multiple, that have occurred in the U.S. in recent years.
Part II – Awful Responses
The politicized responses to Mateen’s awful act have themselves been awful.
Donald Trump unashamedly used the tragedy for political profit. “We’ve got problems,” he said and then identified these with Muslims both at home and abroad. He repeated his demand that Muslims be banned from entering the U.S. He also implicitly blamed the Muslim community now living in the country for recent acts of violence by individual Muslims. Trump made this charge based on the assumption that the American Muslim community is not turning in the alleged terrorists in their midst. Actually, when it comes to the Orlando incident, this is not true. The authorities had been alerted about Omar Mateen multiple times, both from Muslim and non-Muslim sources, but at that time the authorities did not judge him enough of a threat to warrant arrest. Trump made no reference to this fact. One might also wonder how far Mr. Trump wants to take this proposed community responsibility. Does he expect the American Christian community to start taking responsibility for shooters coming from their ranks? After all, they account for most of these kind of slaughters.
In any case, Trump’s reaction was selective at best. The presumptive Republican candidate simply ignored the possibility that the Orlando massacre could have been a hate crime against gays. He certainly made no mention of the need for much stricter gun control.
It should be noted that Trump’s position melds with that of the more fanatical U.S. Islamophobes, a good number of whom are, unfortunately, also fanatical Zionists. Take for instance the words of Daniel Pipes: “Omar Mateen’s obvious motives are almost ignored. … It’s time for the authorities to focus on Islamism as the problem, rather than bizarrely insisting Islam has nothing to do with it.” This is just typical distortion on Pipes’s part. What is truly bizarre is the attempt to conflate Mateen’s insanity with the entire religion of 1.6 billion mostly law-abiding Muslims.
Pipes was joined in his distortion by none other than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We are all shocked by the terrible massacre in Orlando,” Netanyahu proclaimed, adding, “Islamic terror threatens the entire world and all enlightened nations need to unite in order to fight against it.” It goes without saying that he ignored his own country’s brand of terrorism.
And then there was the response of Hillary Clinton. The majority of her remarks right after the massacre were not that different from Trump’s. She concentrated on the need to destroy ISIS even though its leaders were certainly more in the dark about Mateen’s violent potential than were local authorities in Florida. Like Trump, Clinton was maneuvering for political advantage here. She too seems uninterested in the fact that the vast number of these murder sprees in the U.S. over the last couple of decades have been carried out not Muslims, but by white Christian males. In addition, it was only after much talk about “jihadists” that she threw in a brief reference to a truly relevant topic – public access to assault rifles.
Part III – Conclusion
The only reason that U.S. politicians can get away with pinning the violence in Orlando on Muslims is because they, and their constituents, live in ignorance and denial. The truth is that most Americans rely for their news and opinions on media sources which are at best shallow and at worse are manipulative and propagandizing. Often, these media sources are bereft of logical thinking as well.
Unfortunately, your average media editors and reporters do not know much more than their audiences when it comes to non-local affairs. They get their information from the government, politicized “talking heads,” biased think-tanks, and news or “wire” service sources. This leaves all of us open to unwarranted exaggeration and fear, as well as the deemphasizing of selective topics deemed too politically or socially “sensitive.”
We should always keep in mind that the United States is not a democracy of individual citizens. It is a democracy of competing interest groups which use lobbies to pressure government (local, state and federal) as well as media to substitute their parochial interests for community or national interests. Presently, fear and distortion generated by neoconservative, Zionist and Islamophobe interest groups are influencing the storyline, the “spin,” on the sort of violence we have seen in Orlando. The National Rifle Association – that is, the gun lobby – is successfully pushing to minimize the issue of inadequate gun control.
And there you have it. If these interest groups prevail, the proper and needed steps to deal with the violence epidemic in the U.S. will not be taken. That means more carnage is in America’s future no matter who ends up in the White House.
Two “Presumptive” Presidential Candidates: Bigots All Around – An Analysis (11 June 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Bigotry and High Office
To find bigots in political office in the United States is not historically unusual. In fact, up until the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement, publicly recognizable bigots in office was the norm in many parts of the country. Even in the post-1960s era we find presidents such as Nixon and Reagan who could be openly bigoted. However, most recent office holders have known enough to keep their prejudices off of the public airwaves.
It is a sign of the fragility of the changes in national character wrought by the Civil Rights Movement that the inhibitions holding back public expressions of bigotry are wearing thin. And that has set the scene for the current contest for the presidency in which both major parties have thrown up (no pun intended) bigoted candidates. Yes, that is right, two of them, not just one.
Part II – Mr. Trump’s Bigotry
On the Republican side the bigot is easy to spot. That is because Donald Trump wears his bigotry on his sleeve, so to speak. He can’t help but display it because, apparently even at this late date, he doesn’t understand what the big deal is. On the campaign trail he has insulted Mexicans, Muslims and “our African-Americans,” and gotten away with it because millions of his supporters are also bigots. A common bigotry is one of the reasons they cheer him on. However, now that he is the “presumptive” Republican candidate for president, much of that party’s leadership and their media allies have begun to call him on these problematic public expressions. They want to see Trump act “presidential,” hiding away his prejudices for the sake of achieving maximum appeal. Alas, this is not easy for a man who, all of his life, said what he thought, no matter how improper. He sees it as “just being honest,” and up until the run for president, his wealth had helped forestall most public criticism.
Part III – Ms Clinton’s Bigotry
On the Democratic side the bigot is not so easy to spot, but the problem exists in any case. Hillary Clinton may not be a bigot in the same way as Trump. She certainly isn’t going to go about insulting ethnic groups with large numbers of potential voters. Indeed, she has cultivated many minority groups and is supported by them. But such outreach has its limits, and in one important case she is willing to act as a de facto bigot in order to cater to a politically powerful interest group. Having actively done so, the difference in ethical behavior between her and Mr. Trump starts to blur.
In what way is Hillary Clinton, now the “presumptive” presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, behaving like a de facto bigot? She does so in her open, prosecutorial hostility toward the fight to liberate Palestinians from the racist oppression of Israel and its Zionist ideology. Clinton, having in this case traded whatever principled anti-racist feelings she has for a fistful of campaign dollars, has openly sided with the Zionists. And, as she must well know, they are among the world’s most demonstrative bigots. Having made this alliance, she praises Israel as a democratic state upholding the highest ideals and ignores or justifies the illegal and blatantly racist treatment of its Palestinian population. In fact, she wants to reward Israel for its racist behavior and policies by pretending that to do so is to assist in the necessary self-defense of the Zionist state.
At the same time, Ms Clinton is willing to attack those who fight against Israeli bigotry, particularly in the form of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement. Disregarding U.S. law, she has pledged herself to destroy the BDS movement even if she has to rip to shreds the First Amendment of the Constitution to do it. And – here is the irony of it all – she claims she has taken this position in order to fight anti-Semitism, one of history’s most pronounced bigotries.
This rationale, that she backs a state full of infamous bigots in the name of defending against bigotry, is just so much sophistry. If there is an increase in the number of anti-Semites in today’s world, we can thank Zionist racism for that development. However, anti-Semitism does not motivate the BDS movement, which in the U.S. is backed by a large and growing number of Jews. No, the reason Clinton has targeted BDS is because it has proved an effective weapon against Israeli racism, and therefore her Zionist allies have oriented her in that direction.
The problem for Hillary is that if you ally with bigots and actively do their bidding, you too become a de facto bigot. Unlike Trump, who may or may not understand the offensive nature of his behavior, Clinton knows exactly what she is doing. Trump is a bigot by upbringing and social conditioning. Hillary is a bigot by choice. I will leave it to the reader to decide who is worse.
Part IV – Ultimately, Gender Is Immaterial
There are many considerations that go into choosing the candidate for whom to vote come November. If she plays her cards right, Ms Clinton may win over enough of the Sanders supporters to defeat Trump. However, if you are inclined to vote for Hillary, don’t kid yourself that what your are going to get is an upright, ethical president unwilling to adopt openly bigoted policies against vulnerable and long suffering peoples. Ms Clinton has clearly abandoned such standards of behavior.
Many will respond that, political expediency aside, she is a viable woman candidate and that as such she opens the way for greater female access to the highest offices in the land. This is true. However, taken too far, it is also a naive argument. The U.S. political system is deeply mired in corrupt ways of doing business. At this time in its history, just about any citizen willing to follow these flawed pathways can operate successfully – be they women or ethnic minorities. But adherence to rules of the political game is the price of playing the game. Ms Clinton has paid her dues, she has proven herself a reliable supporter of this corrupt system. As a consequence, having Hillary as president will not result in any significant changes to the system or its priorities. Her gender is immaterial.
The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, like her Republican opponent, has devolved into an unprincipled opportunist with a growing self-centered myopia thrown into the mix. If she becomes president she will almost certainly be aggressive in her foreign policy, perhaps renewing the Cold War, undermining the Iran nuclear agreement, and embroiling the country in new wars. If the Republicans maintain their hold on Congress, she will be just as stymied in her domestic policy as was President Obama. In her role as a system politician, she may not be dangerous to the nation in the same way as Donald Trump, but she will prove dangerous nonetheless. And, as many have pointed out, choosing the alleged lesser of two evils still means choosing evil.
The Opportunist and the Fanatics – An Analysis (1 June 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – A Common Denominator
What do opportunists and fanatics have in common? They both chronically exaggerate – the former often to con folks into doing their bidding, and the latter most often because they have already been conned by their own grossly distorted worldview. There are plenty of both types of people in today’s America, and the uncertain political environment has brought a lot of them out of the woodwork. The recent marriage of convenience of the National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership (fanatics) and Donald Trump (opportunist) is a case in point.
Part II – The Fanatics
The NRA is one of the country’s most influential advocacy organizations, with a membership of over 3 million. Its worldview, which can be neatly summed up as “freedom equals unrestricted gun ownership,” almost certainly carries weight beyond its membership numbers. In the wilds of places such as Minnesota, Wyoming and Alabama, NRA principles might carry more weight than the Bible.
Wayne LaPierre is the executive vice president of the NRA and Chris Cox is its executive director for Legislative Action. LaPierre and Cox are typical of NRA stalwarts and we can see them as representative of a good percentage of the organization’s members. On 20 May 2016 both men gave speeches before the NRA convention in Kentucky announcing the association’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president. In his speech Cox spent a lot of time painting a picture of the United States as a place about to lose its “freedoms” if Hillary Clinton gets elected. Here is how he put it: the present political environment in the U.S. is mired in “dishonesty, corruption and contempt for everyday Americans” and the only thing that stands between those “everyday Americans” and “the end of individual freedom in this country” are “gun owners,” who must turn out to vote “in droves this fall.”
Wayne LaPierre painted a similar crisis picture, again emphasizing that it is only the country’s gun owners who stand in the way of catastrophe. Here is how he put it: “We in this room, we are America’s best hope, and this is our moment. In all of history, there’s always been a time and a place when patriots stand up and rise up against the decree of the elites and shout, ‘No more! Get your hands off my freedom!’… That time and place is now. … The revolution to take America back starts here.”
Hillary Clinton was characterized as a “corrupt politician” whose “policies and Supreme Court picks would destroy individual freedoms, and therefore destroy the America we all love.”
According to Cox, Clinton’s vision of the U.S. is a place “where only law enforcement has guns and everything is free: free meals, free health care, free education.” It seems Cox has a real distaste for free access to anything that does not have lethal potential. He likens a society that provides no-cost availability to the items he lists to a prison.
As these sentiments suggest, the NRA’s notion of freedom is harshly reductionist and based on its members’ own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That interpretation is discussed in Part IV below. For the NRA, freedom is the right to own and carry a gun of any type. All other freedoms listed in the Bill of Rights are secondary, probably because without the right to own large numbers of assault rifles, the population cannot defend itself against an American government allegedly bent on dictatorship. Assigning such an exaggerated importance to the right to bear any arms is, of course, a gross distortion of the concept of freedom and demonstrates “contempt” for the ability of U.S. society to function based on the rule of law.
The NRA stalwarts live and breathe this exaggeration. There is something pathological going on here, for their obsession with gun ownership has also spun out conspiracy theories about looming oppression. There is here a general inability to analyze, in any reasonable way, the political and social environment around them. In other words, the NRA devotees are fanatics.
Part III – The Opportunist
The speeches of LaPierre and Cox laid the groundwork for the introduction of Donald Trump – now the NRA’s endorsed candidate for president. Trump’s appearance at the NRA convention marked his official acceptance of the organization’s exaggerated reductionist position. Actually, it was but a culmination – months before, Trump had discarded his more moderate position and, upon launching his campaign for the presidency, almost immediately adopted the NRA’s stance.
Now on stage at the Kentucky convention, he started off with what has become his characteristic patter for things he finds convenient to endorse: “I love the NRA. I love the Second Amendment.” Then he moved on to, essentially, parrot Cox and LaPierre: “The Second Amendment is under a threat like never before. Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun … candidate ever to run for office. And, as I said before, she wants to abolish the Second Amendment. She wants to take your guns away. She wants to abolish it.” All of this is a mixture of lies and gross exaggeration. In addition, Trump pledged to “get rid of gun-free zones” because that will make us safer. Trump has claimed that if we all went around armed, the death toll during the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris would have been lower. At this point the Huffington Post contacted a number of Trump hotels and found that, lo and behold, most of them remain “gun-free zones.”
The truth is that Trump is an opportunist and a chronic exaggerator. You might say that all politicians fit this bill. However, here we are dealing with a matter of degree, and most the key word is “chronic.” Trump’s practice in this regard is habitual and therefore may be pathological as well.
It is to be noted that this habit of persistently stretching the truth to the breaking point does not make Trump a fanatic. In fact, it causes his thinking and rhetoric to be all over the map. He even tells us that he values “unpredictability,” and this means he is often inconsistent as to how and what he exaggerates. It’s an orientation that precludes fanaticism but lends itself naturally to opportunism.
Part IV – Just What does the Second Amendment Say?
As mentioned above, the NRA has its own peculiar interpretation of the Second Amendment. This piece of the U.S. Constitution reads as follows: “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The amendment has two parts, the first part contextualizing the second. The first part reads, “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State.” The term “militia” here is the late 18th century American way of referring to the military forces of the thirteen states then in the process of becoming the United States. These militias were not private organizations but were controlled by their respective “free State.” That is what “well regulated” meant. The second part implies that these militias were to be democratically derived, that is, the “People” were to “bear arms” so a “well regulated militia” is possible. In other words, the “right to bear arms” is not open-ended or unregulated. It is tied to the maintenance of a regulated, democratically constituted armed force.
Nonetheless, what the NRA and other gun fanatics do is simply drop the contextualizing first part from their interpretation of the amendment. Having done so they are conveniently left with “the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” They put all their emphasis on this second part which, now taken out of context, inevitably distorts the meaning of the Amendment as a whole.
This is the kind of thing that both fanatics and opportunists are good at, and what comes so easily to them – the twisting of a text, and often reality itself, to conform to their point of view.
How long will the marriage of convenience between the opportunist Donald Trump and the fanatics of the NRA last? Well, that is really up to Trump, the self-styled unpredictable one. Fanatics rarely change, but opportunists are always playing the odds.
Zionism Begins to Unravel – An Analysis (21 May 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – A Flaw in the Ideological Outlook
Ideological movements, be they religious or secular, are demanding and Procrustean movements. By ideological movements I mean those that demand of their adherents resolute belief in some “deep set of truths” posited by a deity, by supposed immutable historical laws, or by some other equally unchallengeable source. Their followers, once initiated, or even just born into the fold, are expected to stay there and, as the saying goes, “keep the faith.”
However, in cultural, political and religious terms there are no eternal deep truths. History has an abrasive quality that erodes our beliefs in this god and that law. Though the process might take a longer or shorter time to manifest itself, yesterday’s faith will at some point start to ring less true. At some point followers start to fall away.
What happens when ideologically driven leaders start to lose their following? Well, they get very upset because those who are supposed to affirm everything the movement stands for are now having doubts. Such doubters are dangerous to the supposed true faith and so are usually dealt with in one of two ways: (1) the ideologues in charge attempt to marginalize the disaffected by denigrating them and then casting them out of the fold or (2) if we are dealing with totalitarian types, they send the dissenters off to a gulag, or worse.
Part II – Zionism Unravelling
This sort of unraveling – the loss of growing numbers of traditional followers of an ideological movement – seems to be going on within the Zionist community, particularly among American Jews. Zionism is an ideological movement that preaches the God-given Jewish right to control and settle all of historical Palestine. Since the founding of Israel in 1948 the Zionists have also claimed that the “Jewish State” represents all of world Jewry, thus self-aware Jews owe allegiance to both Israel and its prevailing Zionist philosophy. However, in the last ten or so years that allegiance has been breaking down. In the U.S. a growing “disconnect” has been noted between the outlook and actions of the ideologically rigid leaders of major U.S. Jewish organizations (who remain uncritically supportive of Israel) and the increasingly alienated Jewish American rank and file whom, at least up until recently, the leaders claimed to represent. This gap has been repeatedly documented by several sources ranging from, Pew Research Center surveys, to the Jewish Forward newspaper, and the organization of Reform Judaism.
As characterized by the Jewish Forward the situation is that ordinary American Jews are “far more critical of Israel than the Jewish establishment.” Almost half of the American Jews surveyed by a Pew study in 2013 did not think the Israeli government was making a “sincere effort” to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Almost as many saw Israel’s expanding colonization of the West Bank as counterproductive. Thus, this disconnect is not a sudden or new situation. The numbers of questioning American Jews have continued to grow, and things have only gotten worse for the Zionist leadership. Indeed, just as many young American Jews may be joining pro-peace activist groups as are cheering on AIPAC at its conventions.
Part III – Leadership Reactions in the U.S.
Following the two-option scheme described above, the main reaction of the leadership of American Jewish organizations is to try to marginalize these questioning Jews – to dismiss them as “uninformed, unengaged, or wrong.” To that end American Jewish officials are now conveniently asking if they really need to represent “the disorganized, unaffiliated Jewish community … the 50% of Jews who, in a calendar year, do not step into a synagogue, do not belong to a JCC [Jewish Community Center], and are Jews in name only.”
This sort of marginalizing of all but the true believers was articulated by Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He told the Jewish Forward, “you know who the Jewish establishment represents? Those who care.” Here Foxman was engaging in a bit of circular thinking: the important constituency are those represented by the establishment. How do we know? They are the ones who still “care” about Israel. How do we define caring? Caring means continuing to believe what the Jewish establishment and the Israeli government tell them. Eventually Foxman goes even further, concluding that Jewish leaders aren’t beholden to the opinions of any aspect of the Jewish public. “I don’t sit and poll my constituency,” Foxman said. “Part of Jewish leadership is leadership. We lead.” It would appear that, over time, he is leading diminishing numbers.
Part IV – Leadership Reactions in Israel
Reaction out of Israel to reports of the growing alienation of American Jews has been aggressively negative. After all, Israel is the centerpiece of Zionist ideology – its grand achievement. Being the subject of criticism by growing numbers of Jews, in the U.S. or elsewhere, is utterly unacceptable to those now in charge of Israel’s ruling institutions.
These leaders, both secular and religious, have begun to write off critical and skeptical Jews as apostates, even to the point of denying that they are Jews at all. Seymour Reich, who is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (such folks always wait till they retire to speak out critically), has recently described Israel’s current leadership as alarmingly anti-democratic. He writes of “the Israeli government’s assault on democratic values” and its use of “legislation and incitement to strike down dissent,” be it expressed through “speech, press, religion [or] academic freedoms.” He goes on to quote the Israeli Minister of Religious Affairs, David Azoulay. “Speaking about Reform and Conservative Jews,” who happen to make up the majority of Jews in the U.S., are often of liberal persuasion, and increasingly alienated by the ultraorthodox policies of Israel’s religious establishment, Azoulay said, “I cannot allow myself to call such a person a Jew,” and, “We cannot allow these groups to get near the Torah of Israel.” Things appear potentially even worse when we hear Israel’s Intelligence Minister Israel Katz calling for the “targeted killing” of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leaders. In the U.S. many of these leaders are Jewish.
Such official Israeli attitudes make a mockery of the claims of American politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, that Israel “is built on principles of equality, tolerance and pluralism. … And we marvel that such a bastion of liberty exists in a region so plagued by intolerance.” It should be noted that in January 2016 the Israeli Knesset rejected a bill that would have secured in law equality for all the country’s citizens.
Part V – Conclusion
In truth, Zionism and the state it created have always been ideologically rigid. Every effort at modifying the movement’s basic demand for a state exclusive to one people, from early concepts of “cultural Zionism” to more recent notions of “liberal Zionism,” has failed. The occasional bit of propagandistic dissimulation notwithstanding, Zionist leaders from Ben Gurion to Netanyahu have been dedicated to (a) territorial expansion based on the principle of Eretz Israel (greater Israel) and (b) the principle of inequality – none of them have ever seriously considered equal social and economic, much less political, treatment for non-Jews. That means that the present, obnoxiously rigid hardliners both in the U.S. and Israel are pushing persistent racist and colonialist themes.
It is the persistence of these Zionist themes that has led to increasing skepticism among U.S. Jews, most of whom take the ideals of democracy seriously. And it is the ideologically rigid refusal to reach a just peace with the Palestinians, who 67 years after the triumph of Zionism are still being ethnically cleansed, that has pushed many otherwise passive Jews into open opposition.
It has taken us several generations to get to this point, but our arrival has been predictable all along. That is because the ideology of Zionism brooks no compromises and admits to no sins – even as Israeli behavior grows evermore barbaric. Thus, the number of dissenters and critics grow and the ideologues start to become anxious and vengeful – a display of aggression that only alienates more Jews. Thus it is that Zionism has begun to unravel.
The Civil War Returns to New Orleans – An Analysis (10 April 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – History Lesson 1
Cultures do evolve, particularly those aspects driven by technology. However, social attitudes and behaviors often have remarkable stability. This suggests that America’s essentially racist culture cannot be wholly overcome in, say, the years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act – particularly when the effort to fight against American racism has always been half-hearted.
Why would this be so? In an analysis entitled Civil Rights Takes a Hit, posted on 5 March 2013, I made the following relevant observations:
A culture of racism shaped the American way of life since before the founding of the United States. This culture became particularly deep rooted in the southern colonies/states, where slavery became not only an economic institution but one that marked the South’s social character.
In the South the culture of racism was briefly interrupted when, following the Civil War, a short period of “Reconstruction” (1865 to 1877) took place. During this time a U.S. military occupation of the conquered Confederacy suppressed racist laws.
However, after 1877 and the withdrawal of the U.S. army, the southern states almost immediately reverted to a racially dictated way of life, replacing slavery with a regime of laws legitimizing segregation and discrimination against black Americans.
This state of affairs lasted close to another one hundred years, until the 1960s, when a massive movement of civil disobedience known as the Civil Rights Movement, finally led to the outlawing of such racist practices within the public sphere. I emphasize the public sphere because, at the time of the passage of national civil rights legislation, little was done to change racist perceptions and behavior within the private sphere. For instance, no effort was made to mandate the teaching of tolerance in the schools so as to better erode private racist perceptions. The private sphere was left to itself.
Thus, until 1965, with only a hiatus of 12 years following the Civil War, U.S. law validated racial discrimination and segregation as a guide to the citizen’s behavior.
Part II – History Lesson 2
Against the history outlined above we now have 51 years wherein civil rights laws have guided behavior in the public sphere of the United States. However, given the protracted period the opposite laws were allowed to work on the American mind, it can be argued that this is certainly not enough time for the message that racial prejudice is wrong to be fully assimilated in the private lives of citizens. As a result there has developed an unbalanced scenario wherein most white Americans are accepting of racial mixing in public spaces: hotels, bars, schools, shopping centers, the workplace and the like. Privately, however, they are less tolerant and continue to resist such levels of intimacy as racially mixed friendship circles, neighborhoods, or intermarriage.
This continuing divide becomes even more complicated in the U.S. south. A quarter of the U.S. white population identifies themselves as southerners and of those a significant subgroup, perhaps as many as 40%, have never truly reconciled to the notion of colorblind civil rights. Since 1965 they have harbored a simmering resentment of government efforts to force cultural change upon them, even in the public sphere. In order to give a historical underpinning to their resentment they have maintained a sentimental loyalty to Confederate Civil War heroes and symbols (the Confederate flag, for instance). These have become signs of resistance to federal hegemony and emblems of identity which, in some cases, are stronger than those representing the U.S. as a nation.
Part III – Civil War in New Orleans
This brings us to the current struggle in the city of New Orleans. The city, also known as Orleans Parish, has an African American majority of 58.8%. The city council also has a black majority although the mayor is white. Yet, within the city, there are many monuments to those Confederate Civil War heroes so important to the white minority mentioned above. Then, back in December of 2015, the council, at the mayor’s request, voted 6 to 1 to remove the three most prominent of these monuments (honoring Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard), from their outdoor public sites.
This move soon generated a backlash on the part of those local white southerners who never evolved beyond their historical racist orientation. Their reaction against local government efforts to deracialize the city’s public spaces was characterized by angry feels leading to violence. Employees of the contractor hired by the city to prepare the monuments for removal were threatened and the owner of the contracting business had his car destroyed. In the face of this intimidation the contractor withdrew from his deal with the city. Similar threats have been made to companies that might replace the original contractor. Protestors have also sued the city in an effort to keep the monuments in place. All these actions have momentarily halted the removal effort.
It is significant that the effort to prevent the removal of the New Orleans monuments involved violence in tandem with efforts in the courts. That is a tip-off as to the nature of this resistance movement. In response, the reaction of the state of Louisiana has been non-existent, and those respectively of the federal government and the city itself seem subdued. It is likely that the efforts in the courts to prevent removal will lose, and then, if and when New Orleans pushes ahead with its plans, there will be a return to intimidation and violence. At some point government officials will have to have to confront those reacting in this way.
Part IV – Conclusion
Things do change, but at the level of culture they do so slowly. How slow? Well, one could consider the 21st century’s creeping demise of Confederate symbols as a belated chapter in a continuing process set in motion by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
Unfortunately, these symbols and monuments may well go out with a bang rather than a whimper. They are identity markers for those who once were dominant but are now on the losing side of history. The public display of their heroes and symbols constitutes their eroding toe-hold in the public sphere. Another way of assessing this process is to note that these white supremacists are being pushed, irrevocably, back into their tribal private space where resentment and anger have long been the emotional glue that holds them together. Violence on their part is probable.
That probability is a warning that the status and quality of our nation’s private space should concern us all. There are times when progressive changes in the public sphere, like that brought about by the Civil Rights Movement, call for purposeful, if temperate, intervention into the private sphere. I mentioned the teaching of tolerance in the public schools as one example. If you ignore this side of things you make more likely the violent resistance we now witness in New Orleans.
So, as we grapple with the need to regulate banks and pharmaceutical companies, greenhouse emissions and guns, let us give some thought to the regulating of racism and other hateful attitudes through the judicious use of those public institutions that help shape attitudes from generation to generation. Our legal system and its laws are major players here, but there are other venues, such as the public schools. Maybe we should begin this process in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana.
The Zionists Censor a Textbook – An Analysis (20 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Map Censorship
What is the difference between a textbook publisher giving into pressure from Christian fundamentalists seeking to censor the teaching of evolution, and a publisher giving in to Zionists seeking to censor awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine? Neither phenomenon is a matter of opinion or perspective. One act of censorship denies facts established by scientific research. The other denies the documented violation of international law (for instance, the Fourth Geneva Convention) and multiple UN resolutions. So the answer to the question just asked is – there is no difference.
In early March 2016 executives at McGraw-Hill took the extreme step of withdrawing from the market a published text, Global Politics: Engaging a Complex World, and then proceeded to destroy all the remaining books held in inventory. (Did they burn them?) Global Politics, which had been on the market since 2012, was a text designed by its authors to “offer students a number of lenses through which to view the world around them.” Why did McGraw-Hill do this?
Apparently the book was obliterated (this seems to be an accurate description of the publisher’s actions) because, like a biology text that describes the established facts of evolution, Global Politics offered a “lens to view the world” that was judged blasphemous by a powerful, influential and ideologically driven element of the community. Of course, that is not how McGraw-Hill rationalized its action. Instead, the publisher claimed that a serious inaccuracy in the text was belatedly discovered. This took the form of a series of four maps that show “Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000.” The maps are the first set which can be seen at the following link: http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/
The maps in question are not new or novel. Nor are they historically inaccurate, despite Zionists’ claims to the contrary. They can be seen individually and in different forms on websites of the BBC and Mondoweiss and are published in a number of history books, such as Mark Tessler’s well-received A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Perhaps what the Zionists can’t abide is lining up the maps together in chronological order.
In truth, the objections reported to have been used by those who pressured McGraw-Hill are historically perverse – the sort of grasping at straws that reflects a biased and strained rewriting of history. For instance, an objection was made to the labeling of public land in pre-1948 Palestine as “Palestinian.” Why? Because the Zionist claim is that Palestine before 1948 was a British mandate and so the land was British and not Palestinian. As their argument goes, “no one called the Arabs [of this area] Palestinians.” Of course, prior to 1948, no one called the East European Jews pouring in at this time “Israelis.” Further, according to those taking these maps to task, the West Bank at this time was controlled by Jordan and so it too was not Palestinian. Obviously, no one brought up the fact that in September of 1922 the British had divided Palestine in two in order to artificially create what is now Jordan. The period after World War I was one of territorial transition, however, in Palestine, the one constant was the persistent presence of the Arab Palestinians.
The Zionists offered many other dubious objections to the maps, which seem to have sent the publisher into something of a panic. It would certainly appear that no one at McGraw-Hill knew enough relevant history to make an accurate judgment on the complaints.
Part II – Running Scared
McGraw-Hill’s response was to “immediately initiate an academic review,” which “determined that the maps in question “did not meet our academic standards.” Who carried out the review? Well, McGraw-Hill won’t say, but insists those who did so were “independent academics.” Just what are McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards”? Well, those haven’t been articulated either. The publisher’s reluctance to elaborate its claims makes their actions suspicious at best.
As Rania Khalek noted in an 11 March 2016 article on the incident in Electronic Intifada, these particular maps, showing the loss of Palestinian land over decades of Israeli expansion, “have the ability to cut through Israeli propaganda that portrays Palestinian anger and violence as rooted in religious intolerance and irrational hatred rather than a natural reaction to Israel’s colonial expansionism, land theft and ethnic cleansing, all of which continue today.” This gives insight into the strenuous efforts made by Zionists to keep the sequenced maps away from any mass market distribution. As it is, they seem to have overlooked this textbook source for some four years. However, once they spotted it, and began “flooding” McGraw-Hill with complaints from “multiple sources,” it took the publisher only about a week to suspend sales of the book.
The next obvious question is why didn’t McGraw-Hill move to change the maps or just remove them? Why destroy the entire inventory? The extreme nature of the publisher’s response remains unexplained but may stand as a testimony to the fact that the Zionist lobby has the same power within the corporate ranks of this textbook publisher as the anti-evolution fundamentalists have over most biology textbooks.
Part III – The Zionists’ Maps
The Zionists who made the claim that the Global Politics maps are “mendacious” do so from a starting assumption that all the land from the Suez Canal to Golan Heights and Jordan River has always been Hebrew-Israeli. On this basis they posit their own maps to make the claim that modern Israel, at least since 1967 and “in the pursuit of peace,” has voluntarily relinquished land rather than illegally taken it. These maps are the second set seen at http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/
It is significant that the Zionist maps begin in 1967, a year of major Israeli expansion through conquest. And, of course, the only land concession of any consequence since then is the Sinai Desert. The Zionist cartographical suggestion that Israel has given up Gaza and West Bank land is just a sleight of hand, given Israel’s use of Gaza as a prison colony and continued military control of every inch of the West Bank.
Finally, it is important to note that Israeli school maps are often pure propaganda. For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently carried a story about a map used to teach seventh graders about the country’s geography. The map omits the “green line,” which is recognized internationally as Israel’s eastern border, as well as the majority of the nation’s Arab-Israeli communities. Maybe the Israeli Ministry of Education used McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards” to create this map.
Part IV – Conclusion
Within academia there is the belief that textbooks are not to be subject to ideological censorship. This is a rather naive, but important, ideal. If such texts cannot maintain this level of integrity, the entire educational exercise becomes open to propaganda. Unless McGraw-Hill becomes transparent about its “independent academic review” and offers an explanation as to why it went to the extreme of destroying its inventory of Global Politics, one can only assume that the publisher has no objection to censoring its products in the face of pressure from an ideologically driven group. No doubt the motivation here is fear of controversy and subsequent market losses. In the absence of substantiating information, the whole story of an independent review and academic standards must be dismissed as a cover-up.
The sad truth is that the suborning of textbooks addressing culturally sensitive subjects has become a standard practice. Thus, the process of education is indeed threatened by incessant propaganda. This includes the culture wa.r that swirls around American biology textbooks. It also includes the powerful Zionist drive to literally wipe the Palestinians off the map
Cruelty as a Campaign Come-On – An Analysis (1 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Bully Acts Out
As the Republican primary plays itself out, cruelty has become a campaign come-on to voters who say they are frustrated and angry with traditional politics. Frustrated and angry feelings short-circuit critical thinking and create a yearning for the quick emotional release that comes with vengeful speech and acts. Donald Trump has become a master manipulator of this situation.
Trump has the type of personality that lends itself to using such an approach. He is a bully acting out. You can see this when he denigrates his opponents as losers. On the other hand, he is self-aggrandizing, always describing himself as a winner. And, apparently, he has little capacity for self-reflection about his own speech and actions. Some have described Trump as a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder. Whether or not that is how you want to label him, he certainly has no problem publicly promoting cruelty. And, a subset of the American population responds positively to his abusive behavior. Here are a few examples:
Trump tolerates, and indeed supports physical attacks on opponents who show up at his rallies. He sometimes encourages his supporters to violence by saying that he would like to punch protesters in the face. In the summer of 2015 he promised that if members of Black Lives Matter showed up at his rallies, “they would have a fight on their hands. I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or if other people will.” That prediction came true in Birmingham, Alabama, in November of last year, when a Black Lives Matter protester, who simply shouted “black lives matter,” was roughed up and insulted during a Trump rally. The next day Trump justified the actions of his supporters. “He [the protester] was so obnoxious and so loud” that “maybe he should have been roughed up.”
At another rally, this one in Vermont on a frigid January 2016 evening, when confronted with protesters, he told his security people to steal their coats before ejecting them. “Throw them out into the cold…. Don’t give them their coats … no coats … confiscate their coats.”
Part II – Muslims and Torture
Those are specific local displays of Donald Trump’s ability to act cruelly and encourage others to do so as well. However, this dangerous trend goes on at a larger scale as well. For instance:
Trump has uses unwarranted generalizations against groups he is suspicious of – generalizations that place group members in the sort of danger that comes with public stereotyping. This is particularly true when it comes to Muslims on the one hand and Mexicans on the other.
Trump appears to lump all Muslims in the same category as those who, to use his words, are “chopping off our heads in the Middle East.” Those who want “to kill us” and “knock out our cities.” Such a generalization ratchets up an already dangerous level of Islamophobia and sets the stage for other publicly proclaimed positions such as the closing of U.S. borders to all Muslims until such time as “our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Actually, there are a lot of people in and out of the U.S. government who already know what is going on. However, because the answer to this question has to do with long-standing, special-interest-driven foreign policies, “our representatives” have, for political reasons, never moved to rectify matters. And, its questionable whether Trump as president would respond any differently.
Trump’s generalization about Muslims has apparently helped promote popular acceptance of another particularly cruel and misplaced policy proposal – the revival of the use of torture (often euphemistically called “enhanced interrogative methods”). Thus he has recently proclaimed, “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works. Believe me, it works.” This was followed by a typical Trumpism: “only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.” Just how does he know this with such certainty? Has he ever tortured anybody in order to get specific information? Has he ever been tortured for information he held? Indeed, did he do any research on the subject before passing judgment?
The truth about the efficacy of torture is just the opposite. It has been known not to work since the early 18th century when Cesare Beccaria and other Enlightenment figures began to publicly call attention to the fact that there was no evidence that torture produces truthful confessions or other trustworthy information. Most professional interrogators since that time, with the exception of the small cadre of CIA torturers gathered around George W. Bush, have concluded that someone being tortured will tell their tormentors anything he or she thinks will stop the pain, regardless of its veracity. Obviously the consensus of expert opinion on this matter means as little to Donald Trump as it did to George W. Bush.
Part III – Mexicans and Mass Deportation
Donald Trump has declared that he wants to deport just about every illegal resident of the United Sates – of which there is an estimated 11.3 million. Though he claims that he would do this “humanely,” the size of such an operation would certainly entail the uprooting of thousands of families and the impoverishment of hundreds of thousands of individuals. In other words, it is one of those socio-political operations that cannot help but result in acts of official cruelty and the encouragement of dangerous xenophobic sentiments
Most of the immigrants at risk are people from Mexico who cross the southern U.S. border clandestinely. Trump’s solution is twofold: 1. Build a wall along that roughly 2000-mile border. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” In addition he would add 25,000 new immigration agents and deploy drones to watch the border. 2. Deport all the Mexicans who are illegally resident in the U.S., most of whom, according to Trump, come from the dregs of Mexican society. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems….they’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime.” This belies the research that shows that most immigrants are more law abiding than native citizens.
Trump also works on the assumptions that Mexican immigration increases unemployment and holds down wages. However, is this really true? If there is any competition for jobs it would be for underpaid work that Americans, even the undereducated, tend not to want – thus creating the employment opportunities that attracts “illegals” across the Mexican border in the first place.
Part IV – Trump Is Not Alone
The difference between Trump and the other candidates, both Republican and Democrat, is that he openly panders to emotions and fears that generate support for cruel actions and policies. Though other candidates might not act out in this way, they would, if given the chance, prove every bit as capable of initiating cruel acts and policies in the name of “American interests.” Given her actions in relationship to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, we know this is certainly true of Hillary Clinton.
It might well be that most presidents have acted cruelly at some point during their term of office. Take for example President Obama, who, on the one hand, put an end to President George W. Bush’s practice of torture while, on the other hand, initiated an infamous and on-going campaign of drone murder. Nonetheless, the vast majority of presidents have not personally sought to stir up hatred. However, we can all rely on ambitious demagogues and the rightwing media outlets to do this.
Part V – Conclusion
It is important to understand that there is always a subset of any population, including that in the United States, susceptible to the posturing and rhetorical style of a person like Donald Trump (who, by the way, often strikes poses and speaks in a fashion reminiscent of Benito Mussolini). This susceptible subset are looking for simple answers forcefully presented, they have a longstanding resentment of minorities and immigrants, they distrust the political establishment, and they feel disenfranchised. Their feelings and fears mean more to them than the nation’s constitution or other laws. The number of such people becomes larger or smaller depending on economic and social circumstances. However, they never go away entirely – their numbers never drop to zero. In the case of Trump’s appeal to the American public, my estimate is that this number may currently stand at one-quarter to one-third of the adult population.