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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