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Friday, December 21, 2018

Our country, our democracy, in mortal danger

I am frightened. Seriously frightened for our people, our nation, and yes,
myself, in a way I never have been before.
We have a President of the United States who delights in sowing chaos and
threatening this nation’s stability at home and abroad.
               What he is doing and saying is also
threatening to tear our country apart.
               Not just destroy our alliances
and respect for us abroad. Not just ruin us financially, though he is doing
those things too.  He is destroying
respect for our government.
               Yesterday, for example, when it
was clear that Congressional leaders in both parties had reached agreement on a
continuing resolution to keep the government running for six weeks, Donald
Trump had what is being aptly described as a temper tantrum.
               Trump loudly bellowed that he
wouldn’t accept the deal, that if he didn’t get his way and the billions he
wanted for his crazy border wall, he’d shut the government down.     
The day got worse after that. Trump, often with
jeering contempt, regularly rejects the advice of those close to him on matters
of policy they know more about.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the one cabinet
member who still commands widespread respect, resigned after the President
decided to pull our troops out of Syria. As he often does, Trump totally ignored
the military and diplomatic advice of someone who knows far more about both
things than he ever will.
When that became public, Trump, after first lying and saying
his defense secretary was just retiring, next said that he might pull our
troops out of Afghanistan as well.  For
the first time, I actually began to wonder whether Trump is an agent of or
being blackmailed by Russia.
Regardless, he seems emotionally about two and a half
years old.
We have never seen anything like this before. I
remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my sixth-grade teacher telling us there
was probably going to be a nuclear war. I remember Watergate, and wondering if
Richard Nixon would obey the U.S. Supreme Court. I remember worrying about
nuclear war again under Ronald Reagan, and September 11th and all
that followed.
 But it never
occurred to me that any of those Presidents were mentally unstable, or willing
to put their own petty and spiteful emotional needs ahead of what was best for
our nation.
But that’s where we are now. I had thought I would
talk today about the pettiness and spitefulness of the Republicans in the
Michigan legislature, who spent much of this lame duck session doing things
like trying to take power away from the offices of governor, attorney general
and secretary of state, all jobs the GOP lost decisively in last month’s
They made it harder to protect the environment, and
took pay and sick leave benefits away from low-income workers, after preventing
a state vote on the issue.
But what they and Trump are doing are part of an ugly
trend nationally.  Yes, we have an
accidental President who is clearly the most unfit man in history to hold that
Yes, he has stirred up and given legitimacy to the
worst elements in the American soul, from racism to irrational hatred and fear
of immigrants.
Beyond him, however, we have a generation of politicians
who couldn’t care less about the common good, about democracy, who gleefully
delight in making it harder for Americans to vote, or in making sure the people
can’t overturn laws they hate.
This is a greater threat to America than any external
threat we’ve ever faced.
We have to hope we will do better at facing and
fighting it next year.
Jack Lessenberry | December 21, 2018, https://lessenberryink.com/author/jack/

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sentencing Memos

  The four sentencing memos  published last week have enough material to fill a college course.  Let me give a few of my impressions which I have not heard from others.
        Chump continues to tweet about Mueller and his posse of angry Democrats.  Of course, that's a lie.  Let's look at the Cohen sentencing memo coming from the Southern District of NY.  This was not Mueller.                    Chump failed to nominate a US attorney for the Southern District after he fired Preet Bharara..  So the forty or so judges in the district unanimously agreed to appoint Geoffrey Berman, using an unusual provision in the law.  Berman is a lifelong Republican.  After being appointed, Berman recused himself from the Cohen matter, presumably because he had a conflict of interest.  So his deputy Robert Khuzami took over the Cohen investigation.  Khuzami is also a Republican. 
          Khuzami's sentencing memo was a blistering rebuke of Cohen's payment of hush money in order to help swing the election for Chump.  Most importantly the memo explicitly stated that Cohen acted at the direction of Chump (identified as individual one, who was running for president).  This means that Khuzami stated that Chump committed a crime.         In fact, the crime wasn't merely payment of  hush money, it was a conspiracy to commit the crime which makes it more serious than the crime itself.  There is no explanation why Chump was not indicted since the prosecutor said he committed a crime.  Maybe it was in keeping with the Justice Department policy that a president can not be charged with a crime.  Maybe Khazami buckled under the enormity of such an action. Or maybe, Chump got a little bit of a break because the republican U.S.  attorney could not bring himself to indict a republican president.  There should be no doubt in anyone's mind, however, that in official court documents the Justice Department has stated the Donald J. Chump has committed a serious felony.
        As is my wont, I watched coverage of the memos obsessively on MSNBC and CNN.  All of the commentators correctly stated that these memos were huge.  My problem with the commentators is that they repeatedly said that it looks like Mueller is wrapping up the investigation.  I don't think so.  The crimes committed by Cohen, Flynn and Manafort identified so far, by and large  are not related to Russian interference in the election and Russian conspiracy with Chump, his children and his son in law.  Nothing so far has touched on the infamous Trump Tower meeting.  Nothing has touched upon Chump's statement before the meeting that in the next week there would be a pile of information about Hillary.  The Tower meeting turned out to be a bust, and Chump did not deliver the goods as promised.  How can there be any doubt that Chump had advance knowledge of the meeting?  Chump had a personal interest in writing the false narrative about the meeting.  I believe that Mueller will eventually report far more facts about Chump's conspiracy with Russia than anyone outside of Mueller knows. I suspect that the redactions in the Flynn memo are explosive.  They almost certainly involve Russia. And for good measure I am willing to bet that Chump committed perjury when he answered Mueller's questions.
         The crime which may be charged is a conspiracy to cause harm to the United States. How is that for a sitting president?  Some might call it treason. Chump has attempted to destroy the institutions of government which make our country great.  The institutions are much stronger than this two bit criminal.
        I could go on with a college course of more things to say..  The problem is that our brains can explode with all of this stuff.  So I hope my little bit of analysis puts all of this into perspective.  As always, thanks for listening.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Kentucky Colonel's Eleven Chickens

Senator Mitch McConnell's eleven he-men on the Senate Judiciary Committee talk tough, sound tough, and act tough.  After toying with Christine Blasey Ford, she has accepted their terms: a deal to testify on her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when they were in high school.  She was fifteen, he seventeen. 

Of course they plan to shame her, but they don't want women voters to see them do that!  So proving just how tough they really are, they hired a woman to ask the hard questions: not just any woman but a prosecutor from Maricopa County. 

That is the county that re-electedJoe Arpaio several times.  Arpaio, you may recall, is the notorious Sheriff recently pardoned by President Trump.

So here is how things stand: Every Senator will be given five minutes to ask questions. The eleven “”Chickens” will not ask questions but will hide behind the skirt of a woman who has been given all of the fifty-five minutes that were granted to the Republicans. The ten Democrats who oppose the nomination will each have five minutes to ask their questions and listen to the testimony. 

The majority vote for a lifetime job of Justice of the Supreme Court for Brett Kavanaugh will then be passed along to the entire Senate some time next week.  (At least that is the script they have written).

That may sound fair on Fox News: an experienced prosecutor with an uninterrupted hour gets to ask Ms, Ford questions, challenge, and then ask questions again and again for an additional fifty-five minutes.  Ten opposing Senators each get to ask whatever for five minutes. 

 It proves that the “Chickens” have no respect for their colleagues, for their interviewee’s donors, for their base, or for the American electorate! 



Thursday, September 20, 2018

Al's Blog - More Treachery

During the 2006 Election, Rudy Giuliani appeared on several TV channels, proclaiming that '"the FBI hates Hillary". Sometimes he was accompanied by Chris Christie, discussing their joy in the prospect of seeing Hillary Clinton humiliated by that agency.

But it is now clear that the FBI was more concerned about Russian interference on behalf of the Trump campaign.  The hypocrisy of Trump's puppets in the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees attacking top FBI agents, all Republicans, is beyond comprehension.  Maybe there was something even more pernicious about their “show trials" (as in the Nazi show trails In the late 1930's) Ifwe consider the fact that several secret files were shared with Congressmen who ordinarily had no right to see them.  What else might they be looking for?

1.  Of course we still don't know, but Strzok ran a 10-year undercover operation that broke the back of a major Russian spy ring! How many names of his assets made it to the Kremlin? How many of them were tortured and murdered?

Now they are working on Bruce Orr. When a Russian lawyer for one of Russia’s most powerful reputed crime bosses arrived at F.B.I. headquarters one day around 2006, he wanted to cut a deal. The Russian, Semion Y. Mogilevich, had been indicted three years earlier by the department on charges of defrauding a company outside Philadelphia out of $150 million and could not travel for fear of arrest.  

2.    “As the lawyer made his pitch, a supervising F.B.I. agent and a senior career Justice Department official, Bruce G. Ohr, both listened intently, according to a former bureau official who described the meeting. The case was significant for American law enforcement. It had made headlines and laid the groundwork for Justice Department efforts to combat Russian organized crime overseas. Finally, the F.B.I. agent spoke, “No deal, he said; Mr. Mogilevich must surrender. Mr. Ohr said little, but his unwillingness to negotiate was signal enough: The Justice Department would not compromise with the Russian mafia.

How much are his de-classified secret files worth to Vladimir Putin?
Did the hearings make our country safer, or did they serve Russian Intelligence?   Who else will be tortured and murdered (or poisoned?)
Were the hearings a matter of national security, or a smoke screen to do just the opposite?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Manafort and Trump and Antisemitism

  There has been much debate over whether Chump is antisemitic. I will get to that below.  Manafort's plea deal detailed  in despicable  language his antisemitism.  This lead me to think about Chump.
       First Manafort.  Yulia Tymoshenko was the duly elected president of The Ukraine.  In 2010 Victor Yanukovich, a Russian puppet, beat Tymoshenko's bid for reelection.  Within a year, Yanukovich had Tymoshenko thrown in jail on phony corruption charges.  As an aside, does that sound familiar?  Remember the disgusting "lock her up" chants led by Trump.  It turns out that Chump was following Yanukovich's play book. And it started when Manafort joined the Chump campaign.
        After Yanukovich's election, he hired Manafort at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to spread lies so that the Obama administration would favor Yanukovich  At the time, the Obama administration opposed the jailing of Tymochenko.  So in a correspondence Manafort said he wanted "Obama's Jews"  to support Yanokovich.  To do this Manafort created a false story that Tymoshenko was antisimitic.  Manafort was able to plant the false story in an Israeli communication which was picked up by Brietbart News.  This is how Manafort tried to manipulate "Obama's Jews".  It is a bit convoluted, but one thing that Manafort admitted to was that he used the term, "Obama's Jews"   Now Manafort's client has fled to Russia and Tymochenko is out of jail.
        So is Chump antisemitic?  I think his antisemitism is complicated but in plain sight.  There are many who will say that he cannot be  antisemitic.  Here is how the argument goes.  His daughter and grandchildren are Jews, so it is impossible for him to be antisemitic.  Also he has appointed several Jewish cabinet members.  His former bankruptcy lawyer, who is now ambassador to Israel is Jewish.  He moved the Embassy to Jerusalem.  He is such a strong supporter of Israel that he just cut off all aid to Palestinians, including aid to promote peaceful relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
       Here are the indications of his antisemitism.  When he owned casinos he said he only wanted Jews to handle his money because they knew how to do it.  In his campaign he approved pictures of Hillary with dollar signs and stars of David.  He went on Alex Jones's radio show and sang the praise of Jones.  Jones is an unrepentant racist, antisemitic bigot. He said that the Neo Nazis who marched in Charlottesville were good people.  And finally,  Chump is supported by neo nazi, fascist organizations.
       So how can the two sides be reconciled?  Here's how.  As I have written before, and as has been written by numerous mental health professionals, Chump is a classic sociopath.  He cares about no one.  People are merely objects to be used or discarded  at will.  So Chump doesn't hate Jews the way Hitler did.  Even if he read books, he would not be reading The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. He merely hates Jews in the same way he hates media people, he hates Obama, he hates Muslims, he hates shithole countries, etc. He is an equal opportunity hater.  And if the occasion arises that he needs to pander to Neo Nazis he will do it without a second thought.    So that's my curbside analysis of our bigot in chief.  Again, thanks for listening.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Republicans have absolutely no shame

  First,  by now I assume you have heard Chump declare that  Puerto Rico disaster relief was an "Incredible success".  I guess he thought that keeping the death toll below 4,000 was an incredible success.  He also said that he got A Plus ratings for responses to hurricanes in Texas and Florida.  Pardon my ignorance, but I was unaware that there is a rating agency for hurricane response. Trump went on to say that FEMA is "TREMENDOUSLY" prepared for Hurricane Florence.  My inside contacts tell me that means that Chump will have a truckload of paper towels to throw at hurricane victims.
      Second, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine wrote an outstanding  piece about  how the Republicans in Congress have totally abandoned any pretext of integrity.  One of the examples Jonathan cited was the Republican failure to name a Senate office building after John McCain.  I think I wrote about the building before, but it is worth revisiting.
   Over the last five years or so I have spent a lot of time in Washington visiting my son and his family.  My morning walk takes me past the Russell ;Senate Office Building.  The building is named after Richard Russell, an unrepentant racist segregationist who did everything he could to oppose civil rights legislation.  Every time I walk past the building I am revolted at the thought  that Russell's name is attached to a senate office building.  
       After John McCain's death, Chuck Schumer proposed changing the name of the Russell building to the McCain building.  I thought the idea was both brilliant and appropriate.  Despite many disagreements I had with McCain's policies, I thought very highly of him as did many Democrats.  Joe Biden, John Kerry and Barack Obama had high praise for him. McCain personally ask President Obama to speak at his funeral.  He also gave very clear instructions that Trump was not to attend.  I thought that naming the building after McCain was a no brainer.  This would be one instance where Democrats and Republicans could work together.  Guess what?  Chump didn't like the idea of honoring McCain.  So the Senate Republicans refused to back the renaming.  
          The Republicans have absolutely no shame.  It is possible the Democrats can take control of the /Senate.  If they do, I hope one of the first orders of business is a resolution to rename the senate office building.  Let's see the Republicans vote "no".  
            Finally, Chump has caused a new definition of the "F" word.  We know the old definition.  The new definitions include Fire, Fury and Fear.  I would add feckless and fool.Thanks for listening.


Monday, September 3, 2018

please meet Haley Stevens

  Kathryn and I are honored to be a co hosts for an event for Haley Stevens.  Haley is the Democratic nominee for Congress in a district that includes Franklin, Berkley,Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Novi, Milford, Livonia and other communities.  We do not live in Haley's district, but we feel that this race is one of the most important in the country.
       The seat is currently occupied by David Trott.  He has announced his retirement.  Haley won the primary election against several very well qualified opponents.  Haley, herself, is incredibly qualified.  Her most impressive accomplishment was being chief of staff for Steven Rattner who was in charge of the task force which saved the  auto industry.
         The district is considered flippable by all political observers. I view this race as important, not only because Haley can win, but also because of Haley's opponent, Lena Epstein.    Epstein is a unabashed sycophant for Trump.  She is proud of the fact that she headed the Michigan For Trump campaign.  She advocates "repeal and replace" Obamacare  which is code for REPEAL.  After the Access Hollywood tape she said that she would not want Trump to be her child's Sunday school teacher, but he was not running to be a Sunday school teacher.  I could go on.  I am horrified by the thought that Epstein could represent, my friends, neighbors and Michiganders in general. 
       Please see the invitation  below.  I hope  you can make the event. If you can't make it, please consider contributing to Haley at Haleystevensforcongress.com. I am asking even my non Michigan contacts to support this race which has national importance. There are other important things you can do,  First, of course,volunteer.  Second, let every one you know who lives in Haley's district know about this race and encourage them to help get out the vote.  Third, pass this message on to everyone  you know outside of the district who might be interested..
        There is only one pathway out of the national nightmare we are living through, namely win in November.  Haley and others like her can make it happen if we all pitch in.  Thank you in advance for your support.

PS:  We are blessed with another incredible congressional candidate from this area, Elissa Slotkin.  She, too, can and will flip her seat.  Kathryn and I have never worked harder for  two candidates with one exception, Barack Obama.  Hopefully our meager efforts will help our candidates win just as we got President Obama elected.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Jury deliberations

 I feel like I am waiting for a jury in my own case.  I have waited for juries many time.  It is high anxiety time.  And when the jury announces it has a verdict, I nearly stroke out.
        Commentators have been filling the airways with theories about why the jury is taking so long.  They think it is good for the prosecutor.  No wait, it's good for the defendant.  Here is the truth.  First, the jury has not been out for an extraordinary long time.  The Oliver North jury was out 12 days.  The Scooter Libby jury was out ten days.  In both cases they were convicted.  Second, it is impossible to know what it means that the jury has been out for three days.
      The Manafort  case was very complicated.  The jury must decide on 18 separate charges.  Among other terrible things about this judge, he did not let the jury examine the exhibits until the entire pile was handed to them when they started their deliberations.  In the courtrooms where I tried cases, we were allowed to hand the exhibits to the  jurors during trial.   In this case the jurors evidently had to try to figure out which exhibit went with which criminal charge.
         I thought it was 50/50 that the jury would return a verdict today.  Now I think it's 75/25 they will return a verdict tomorrow.  I have absolutely no basis for making my prediction.  Maybe they will reach a verdict tomorrow.  Or maybe they won't reach a verdict for another week.  Regardless of when the jury reaches a verdict, I am sticking with my  prediction.  It is impossible that Manafort will be found not guilty on all of the counts.  The evidence against him is overwhelming.  The best he can hope for is one or two jurors holding out on all 18 counts.  Then it's a hung jury.    So relax.  Easy for me to say, I will be taking tranquilizers until the jury returns a verdict.  Take care all.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Abdul/Whitmer divide

At the heart of the Abdul/Whitmer divide is a fundamental disagreement about how policy is made and change happens.
Whitmer and her supporters have been saying for a year that single-payer healthcare is impossible to implement at a state level. California tried and failed, therefore we can never do it here. Don't you know that we would need to control the State Senate to pass that bill? Do you realize that we can't take the Senate this year?
In this line of thinking, if something is politically impossible in the short-term, it is not worth talking about.
Abdul and his campaign have a different philosophy. They believe that by talking about the impossible in the short-term, you make it possible in the long run. There's no other way. That's why Abdul has campaigned on this issue from Day 1. He wrote an original policy paper detailing about how single-payer would be implemented. He acknowledged the political barriers, and never promised to pass the thing overnight. All he has promised is to fight like hell.
And what do you know, the political winds are already shifting. Since Abdul launched his campaign, we have seen:
-A single-payer bill introduced in the state legislature
-The launch of a new statewide organization launch to advance this idea
-At least a dozen state legislative candidates campaign on single-payer
All of which is creating political will, building buzz, and paving the way for more allies to jump on board.
Call me young and naive, but I'd rather fight for the "impossible" than calmly explain to voters why a humane healthcare system, 100% renewable energy, and other life-saving policies are simply unachievable." ~ Will Lawrence, environmental organizer

Monday, July 30, 2018

Barak 'n' Roll

Ehud Barak served as Israel's Prime Minister and Defense Minister. He is also the most decorated soldier in Israel's history and served as armed forces chief of staff. His love for Israel, his service to Israel, and his knowledge about Israel are unparalleled. That doesn't mean he's right about everything. But it does mean that we cannot lightly dismiss anything he says.

If you want to understand Israel, you should read his memoir, My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel Searching for Peace, which is as much a memoir of Israel as of Barak, as he participated in so many key events: all of the wars, Entebbe, bombing Syria's nuclear reactor, planning to kill Saddam Hussein, peace negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria, the Iran Deal, and much more.

I can't summarize a 472-page book in 1,000 words, but I'll try to cover key points of particular interest to readers of this newsletter.

Loving Israel does not mean dismissing the Palestinian narrative. Too many right-wing pro-Israel groups act as if the Jewish claim to Israel cannot stand on its own, so they diminish the Palestinian attachment to the land. When asked in 1998 how his life might have turned out if he had been born a Palestinian, Barak replied "At some stage, I would have entered into one of the terror organizations and fought from there." 

Barak was clear in that interview that he abhorred terrorism, but he writes in his memoir that he "simply answered as honestly as I could, trying to imagine I'd been one of the Palestinian babies in Wadi Khaweret, yet with the same mind and approach to life that had defined me as an Israeli." That's called empathy.

Barak discusses Moshe Dayan's famous 1956 eulogy for Roi Rotberg, who was murdered by Arab terrorists. Dayan said that  "For eight years, [the Palestinians] have been sitting in the refugee camps of Gaza, while before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and villages where their fathers dwelt." Sounds like something you'd expect a naive lefty to say, but this is Moshe Dayan speaking in 1956, quoted by Ehud Barak in 2018. Pro-Israel does not have to mean anti-Palestinian.

Barak has faith in the Israel Defense Forces. Barak is firmly convinced that Israel can cede the West Bank and the Golan Heights without putting Israel's security at undue risk. He also believes that Israel could have ended Iran's nuclear weapons program with military strikes. He writes that many in Israel's military and intelligence communities opposed the strikes not because they doubted Israel's ability to achieve the military objectives, but because they were concerned about the diplomatic and geopolitical repercussions (although chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi felt that preparations had not yet "crossed the threshold of operational capability").

In 2008, President George W. Bush told Barak and Ehud Olmert, "We are totally against any action by you to mount an attack on the nuclear plants." President Obama, too, opposed Israeli military action, arguing that America could and would take military action when and if it became necessary, and that American action would be more effective. 

Barak writes that although Obama disagreed with Israel on some issues, including the peace process and how to deal with Iran, "I had dealt face-to face with four U.S. presidents: both of the Bushes, Bill Clinton, and now Obama. In terms of the Israeli security and intelligence concerns, none of them, except for President Clinton, had proved as consistently supportive as Obama."

Zionism means rejecting a galut mentality. "Galut" is the Hebrew word for diaspora (exile). Barak felt that the refusal of Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman to take risks to disentangle Israel from Palestinians on the West Bank was "living proof of the old saying that it's easier to take Jews out of the galut, than take the galut out of the Jews." Barak explains that "the whole Zionist project was based on the idea of taking our fate into our own hands, and actively trying to change the reality around us." Barak writes that

I was especially upset by Bibi's increasing use of Holocaust imagery in describing the threat from Iran. "Just think of what you're saying," I told him. "You're prime minister of the State of Israel, not a rabbi in a shtetl, or a speaker trying to raise funds for Israel abroad. Think of the implications. We're not in Europe in 1937. Or 1947. If it is a 'Holocaust,' what's our response: to fold up and go back to the diaspora? If Iran gets a bomb, it will be bad. Very bad. But we'll still be here. And we will find a way of dealing with the new reality." 

Barak opposed the Iran Deal and still thinks it was a bad deal, although he concedes that "as the details of the agreement began to become clear in 2015, its provisions to curb Iran's nuclear program did appear, at least on paper, more comprehensive and better policed than I had expected."

The greatest threat to the Zionist dream is internal. Barak believes that Hizbollah, Hamas, ISIS, and Iran, "are real yet surmountable challenges." Rather, Barak writes,

The main threat comes from inside: from the most right-wing, deliberately divisive, narrow-minded, and messianic government we have seen in our seven-decade history. It has sought to redefine Zionism as being about one thing only: ensuring eternal control over the whole of biblical Judea and Samaria, or as the outside world knows it, the West Bank, even if doing so leaves us significantly less secure. 

Barak explains that as long as the occupation is an interim arrangement with the ultimate goal of a political resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians, treating Jewish settlers differently from Palestinians in the West Bank, legally and politically, is defensible. "But under a one-state vision, it will become harder and harder to rebut comparisons made with the old South Africa."

Yet Barak remains optimistic, especially considering that the ultimate aim of Zionism and Zionists was "not to secure every inch of the Land of Israel: it was to redeem, reinvigorate, and rededicate themselves to the People of Israel."

We are free to disagree with any or all of what Barak thinks--some in Israel certainly do. But when we consider what it means to be pro-Israel, let's not be so quick to reject the views of those who do agree with Barak, and let's at least remember that there is a difference between pro-Israel and pro-Bibi. Some pro-Israel groups seem infatuated with an Israel that never was, except perhaps on the pages of books like Exodus. Pro-Israel advocacy is more likely to succeed if it is based on a mature understanding and love for the Israel that really is, wonders and flaws and all.

Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

Friday, July 27, 2018

Wake Up -- MGH, Seelie Fae on FB

"Fake news, fake news!" he tweets and he cries 
When reporters report on his actions and lies 
Listen, instead, to this talking head, 
He'll make you believe every lie that we've said. 

Oh, did I say lie? My bad, I meant facts 
Alternative facts bout the women and blacks 
About science and money, and refugees, too 
About how hard we laugh while we're all shafting you 

Oh, don't you all worry, we're Great again, see? 
My tariffs are bigly, my apathy free 
I dine with dictators and bully our friends 
Sow fear, hate and better than, the show never ends! 

So I hope you all Love me, but I really don't care 
I'm my ancestor's son, and we don't like to share 
I'm much better and stronger and richer than you 
I can do what I want, and I will, and I do. 

So try to dethrone me, my folks will rise up 
I fed them a witch hunt, they drink from my cup 
Look what they believe, said it decades ago 
You all laughed, but I hope you're enjoying the show.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Trial runs for fascism

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.
It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.
Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Moral boundaries

But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.
People have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group
It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.  
Children and workers at a tent encampment recently built in Tornillo, Texas: the blooding process has begun within the democratic world. Photograph: Joe Raedle Children and workers at a tent encampment recently built in Tornillo, Texas: the blooding process has begun within the democratic world. Photograph: Joe Raedle
To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

‘Devious’ infants

And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious? Second, the hardcore fans loved it: 58 per cent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.
Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors
This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality. They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow. 

Fintan O’Toole

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why Finland?

  Dotard, the great negotiator, gave a huge and very important geopolitical victory to Putin before their meeting in Finland ever started.  I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to find out how this came about.  Was it Putin's suggestion?  Did the Dotard know anything about the history of the relationship between Russia and Finland?  Could the Dotard even find Finland on a map?  Putin well knows history and geography.
      Plain and simple, Finns despise Russia.  They have centuries full of reasons to hate Russia.  I will merely focus on the 20th century.  In 1939 Russia invaded Finland in what is now known as The Winter War.  Stalin thought Finland would be easy pickings.  Russia far outmanned  and far out equipped Finland.  The Finns fought back brilliantly and drove Russia out of the country.  Russia regrouped and reinvaded.  This time they beat back the Finns.  Eventually the countries agreed to a treaty.  Many historians believe that the humiliation of the Russian Army gave Hitler the inspiration to invade Russia.  I am willing to bet that there is not a single Finn above age five who does not know this history.
      I recently had a conversation with a young man I know who has traveled to Finnland several times for business.  He confirmed that every Finn he has met despises Russia.  He told me that several Finns told him that they would never set foot on Russian soil.
       The fact that Putin is meeting The Dotard in Finland is a huge slap in the face to Finland.  More importantly it sends a message to Finland that the big bear  is back and dangerous.  
     It also sends a message to Estonia, which lies across the Gulf Of Finland from Finland.  Estonians also have centuries of reasons to despise Russia.  Again I will write only about the 20th century.  After World War II Russia controlled Estonia.  Stalin undertook a program to Russify Estonia.  Hundreds of thousands of Russians moved to Estonia.  Over three decades the percentage of native Estonians dropped from about 90% to about 60%.  There remains a huge number of Russian speakers in Estonia.  Does this sound familiar.  Think Crimea  I guarantee Putin does.  So do the Estonians.  Estonians as well as Latvians and Lithuanians are frightened to death of another Russian invasion.  Their first line of defense is NATO.  And Chump trashed that.
        Having the meeting in Finland is hugely symbolic.  It is a safe bet that the Dotard had no idea of the symbolism, but his advisers certainly did.  Did they advise him.  Did he wittingly give Putin this gift?  I have  suggested on other occasions that the Dotard may have committed treason.  Here is another prime example.
       Again, thanks for listening.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Family Separation

Last week, our video and social media teams traveled from Washington, D.C. to the Bronx, New York and Brownsville, Texas to capture the work of organizers and advocates fighting to reunite kids who've been torn from the arms of their parents because of Trump's cruel family separation policy.

If our travels during that week have taught us anything, it's that Trump's "zero tolerance" policy is a humanitarian crisis that's turned into a dark chapter of American history.

Our first stop of the trip was a facility in the Bronx serving 58 children -- recently separated from their families -- who were being held with no information on when or how they would be reunited with their parents.

When we arrived, the entire road leading up to the building was blocked off with school buses. It was difficult to see what was actually going on. DNC Chair Tom Perez and DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake tried to get into the facility but were turned away.

DNC Chair Tom Perez and Vice Chair Michael Blake asking to enter the facility
DNC Chair Tom Perez and Vice Chair Michael Blake asking to enter the facility

After asking to meet with the children to no avail, we all staked out a spot in front of the building, put our cameras and phones down for a moment, and rallied outside with advocates, clergy, and legal experts who've spent months fighting for these kids.

From the sidewalk, we could see children in the facility coming up to the windows as we chanted, "¡El pueblo -- unido, jamás será vencido!" and "No parents, no peace." It was a chilling scene that I will never forget.

The next morning we traveled to Brownsville, Texas -- a small town about 15 miles from the Mexican border.

Brownsville is a small, family-oriented, and super friendly town. Everywhere we went -- from the taco stands that Xochitl, our Communications Director and a Brownsville native, recommended, to the BBQ joint where Tom spoke with local advocates and legal experts -- everyone went out of their way to make us feel welcome and share their stories with us.

One of the things we quickly learned is that family separation is as much a community issue as a national one. We spoke to local lawyers who were so impassioned that they teared up talking to us about their clients -- some of whom are children who were ripped from their parents' arms and now have to appear in court alone. We visited a local church where we saw so many women and men praying and crying. We spoke with local advocates who have been working on this issue for a long time. They explained how the Trump administration is constantly changing the rules and only allowing some families to enter while barring others on any given day.

Tom talking to children at the Brownsville rally
Tom talking to children at the Brownsville rally

One of the more powerful experiences of our trip was the rally we attended in Brownsville that made it abundantly clear that this community is committed to fighting on the local level to reunite families. Teachers, nuns, firefighters, union workers, nurses, and activists stood together and cheered "sí se puede" and "families united will never be divided." There were more active kids holding signs than I've ever seen at a rally. It was multiethnic and multigenerational -- and the majority of the people leading and organizing the event were from Brownsville.

Families cheering and holding signs at the Brownsville rally
Families cheering and holding signs at the Brownsville rally

At one point during the rally, little kids made speeches about families being separated. A little boy stood at the podium and said, "Children should be having fun in the sun, like going to the beach and playing soccer." That was the moment that really struck me. I thought of the kids peeking through the windows at the Bronx facility. I thought about everything they had endured prior to arriving there -- and how that experience was such a contrast to the carefree life they should be enjoying as children.

Brownsville rally to protest Trump's family separation policy
Brownsville rally to protest Trump's family separation policy

When our video and social media teams take trip like this one, our goal is to listen to people on the ground and hear their stories. Folks like the ones we met on the road last week inform the work we do day in and day out. It's about understanding firsthand how our fellow Democrats relate to the issues that affect our daily lives -- and join them in fighting back.

It all comes down to this: Separating families is not moral and it's not what America stands for. Long after this crisis fades from the headlines, we must continue doing everything humanly possible to fight for what's right. We must stand up for the families who have been ripped apart due to the blatant cruelty of the Trump administration and the complicity of Republican leaders who remain silent in the face of moral travesty.

That's why we've got to rally, protest, and call our senators and representatives. We've got to fight like hell for those kids who are separated from their parents and work around the clock to elect Democrats who believe that putting kids in cages is unconscionable -- and who will take action to reunite families. We are powerful when we stand together, Al. Don't forget that.

All my best,


Kat Skiles
Message Mobilization Director
Democratic National Committee

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Trump - Hitler

I've always hated Hitler. I've seen every documentary on the racist murderer. See if you see any parallels here 🤔
45 continues to call the media "fake news". Since January, transgender protections federally have been removed. LGBTQ reference guide has been removed from the White House website. EPA has been destroyed, deep cuts proposed for healthcare for the aged, blind and disabled, increased military funding. America has been isolated from other countries. Our government isnow filled with religious extremist zealots. Our government is slowly evolving into one from the history books 😡
.Step one for Hitler was to discredit the media.
• Step two was to silence scientists and government employees.
• Hate crimes against minorities grew to the highest in their country’s history. Clashes between parties became so extensive that Hitler ended civil liberties (Step three), giving “law and order” as the cause. Those who opposed Hitler were ridiculed and threatened.
• In Step Four wealthy supporters purchased media outlets, employing only those faithful to the ruling party.
• In his final step (Step Five) Hitler declared that the only way the country could be unified was to restore traditional values. Minorities including gays, the disabled, Jews, Roma, and people of color were considered “inferior” and sent to death camps for slaughter.
We're between Step 2-4.
This is in case you were always confused by how so many people could go along with Hitler's Final Solution, this is exactly how it happened. And in case you were confused or bothered by people comparing Trump to Hitler. This is why!