We welcome your comments and postings on our blog

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!

The Senate and the Supreme Court

At last our Senate Intelligence Committee has identified Russia as our enemy and Putin as the one who ordered the multi-faceted attack against our democratic system, our government, our allies, and against America's role as defender of the free world. 

What does that mean? It's not likely that the Supreme Court would reverse the Election of 2016, but it could reverse some of the actions taken by the President.

1. The Senate must block the Trump/Putin summit!

2. The Senate must consider Judge Garland to replace Judge Kennedy

3. No other judges should be appointed by the President before Special Counsel Mueller’s report is presented and acted upon

4.  The Attorney General must begin a bi-partisan investigation of the House Intelligence Committee.

5. The Senate must review the appointments of the President's Cabinet 

6. The Supreme Court must review its recent decisions on Immigration, Labor Unions, and Gerrymandering

7.  Congress and the Supreme Court must undo the damage by the Trump administration to G7 and NATO, our trading partners and our military alliance.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Our Supreme Court strategy

A year ago, heading into the July 4th recess, our movement was fighting an epic battle to save the Affordable Care Act and to defeat TrumpCare.
The question on everyone’s mind was: can the resistance win?
The honest answer? No one knew. 
The repeal bill passed the House in May, and the Senate released their bill right before recess with plans to vote in July. Indivisibles in Maine, in particular, came out to 4th of July parades to talk to their senator, Susan Collins to plead their case and ask their Senator to vote no. And they won her over. She voted no three weeks later, helping to defeat TrumpCare. 
Now, we’re once again up against seemingly impossible odds as we head into this year’s July 4th recess.
On Wednesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, delivering Donald Trump another vacancy -- and the ability to appoint a justice who will be all-but-guaranteed to side with conservatives. If this vacancy is filled, decision after decision, we will not have enough justices on our side to stop them. Their lifetime appointment will unravel decades of legal progress. A “yes” vote on any nominee Trump’s shortlist is a vote to ban abortion, to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people, and to limit voting and civil rights.
We’re in the fight of our lifetime. And again, the question is: can we win?
The path to victory was on healthcare was incredibly narrow, but it wasn’t hard. It required massive, sustained, collective, targeted action. And that’s exactly what we need again.
Last night, our co-Executive Director Ezra Levin was on The Rachel Maddow Show (watch here!) unveiling what we believe to be the only winning strategy to defeat Trump’s complete reimagining of the Supreme Court (read our strategy here). There are two steps:
First, we have a (narrow) path to stopping Trump's nomination: all Democrats must reject any nomination and two Republicans must join them. The hard truth is that Democrats have no mechanisms at their disposal to single-handedly stop this nomination, but they must hold strong and remain vigilant. And two Republicans -- likely Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who’ve supported Roe v. Wade -- must break from their caucus.
Second, we must retake the Senate in November. If we succeed in defeating Trump’s nominee this year but fail to retake the senate, Trump will just appoint another extremist next year. The only way to permanently win this fight is to retake the senate. Specifically, there are five flippable senate seats in Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas. Are these easy seats to win? Nope. But they are winnable. If we hold the current 49 Democratic seats and then take at least two of these five seats in November, that will give us a Senate majority that can actually act as a permanent check on Trump.
That’s it. Get 51 votes against Trump’s nominee this year, and flip a few Senate seats to get at least 51 Democrats in the chamber for the next fight.

We have the winning strategy. Now, here’s how we do it. 

  1. Call. Show up. Call again. This is our bread and butter as a movement, and how we most effectively put pressure on our Senators. Each and every senator needs to hear from their constituents. Indivisibles in Alaska, Indiana, Maine, North Dakota, and West Virginia: your Senators are key votes in this fight. We need to let both Republicans and Democrats know that a ‘yes’ vote on Trump’s nominee is politically toxic, and it’ll follow them for the rest of their careers. Use our resource and call script to prepare, and then make your call. We’ve set up a toll-free number at 1-844-778-3056. Use it. Share it. Keep. On. Calling.
    Your Senators will be on recess beginning today, until July 8. They’ll be home for a week working from their district offices and they’ll be at 4th of July parades, town halls, and barbeques. Read up on our resource to use these local public events to get facetime with your Senators.
  2. Commit to volunteer to target voters in our five target states to flip the Senate -- AZ, MS, NV, TN, and TX.Indivisibles are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e, and they’re already working to take back power and flip the Senate. And the stakes have never been higher. Are you ready to get to work? Sign up and commit to volunteer now. We’re building out a national phonebank to begin reaching progressive voters in these deep red states.
Conventional wisdom said that the resistance -- that you -- didn’t stand a chance to defeat TrumpCare. Republicans had full control of the House, the Senate, and the White House and TrumpCare would be the law of the land within hours of the inauguration. But you fought, and you won.
There’s a similarly narrow pathway to victory to #SaveSCOTUS. It’s not hard, it’s not complicated, and it canwin. But the only way it’ll work is if we all throw in together.
It’s been a week full of of breaking news on everything from the Supreme Court’s rulings on the Muslim Ban and Janus, and the crisis on the border hasn’t relented. It's nonstop. The certainty of widespread pain and suffering, and the uncertainty of future victory is hard to stomach. It's almost unbearable.
But while we continue fighting across different issues, our advocacy is linked by a common cause. The Trump administration does not serve the will of the people, and we have a moral imperative to use our power to demand our leaders listen to us -- or else, we elect ones who will. 
We’re fighting to save American democracy. Let’s do this.
In solidarity,
Leah, Ezra, Angel, Marí, Sarah, Matt and the rest of the Indivisible Team