Friday, July 25, 2014


Try this experiment: Google “Palestine.” Or “Palestinian history,” or “Palestinian culture.” What you’ll get is an indecipherable mess. You’ll have your pick of literally millions of sites filled with people arguing about when, where, by what authority Palestine came into being and even whether it actually is a country at all. Whatever you can find about them is completely colored by whatever non Palestinian site is doing the writing.

I’m old enough to remember the ’67 war. And the ’73 war. And all the other ones since. I’m not a historian and claim no special expertise on the history or issues of the region. All I can tell you is what I’ve learned watching the dismal news from this miserable part of the world for the past 50 years: There would be an Israel without the Palestinians but without Israel the Palestinians wouldn’t exist. An Israeli has a culture, a history of scholarship, industry, literature and the arts. A Palestinian simply hates Israelis. Benjamin Netenyahu may be a belligerent bully but that is the basic truth behind his statement that Israelis use missiles to shield their citizens, while the Palestinians do the reverse.

One of the biggest pieces of this tragedy is that by now the Palestinians have plenty of legitimate reasons to hate Israel. But this is all they are, all they have shown themselves to be to the rest of the world: a loose group of refugees with no defining national identity except their visceral, blind hatred of Jews, Israelis and the Israeli state. The Palestinians have invested their entire sense of national identity with a sick and sickening eagerness to embrace the role of Israel’s victim on the world stage.

I agree, Israelis shouldn’t be provoking them with constantly building new settlements in places meticulously calculated to piss off the most people. And yes, it’s certainly an asymmetric conflict with Hamas’ crude hand held popgun rocket launchers no match for Israel’s vastly superior arsenal of sophisticated weaponry. But to locate those ineffectual cut rate military “assets” under your schools and hospitals, then proudly display your dead children for the international media betrays a collective mental and emotional “sickness” that makes it difficult for even the most even-handed and sensitive westerner to feel any sympathy for your cause. We get the kind of nationalistic dehumanization that would make a people celebrate the deaths of their enemies’ children but when you dance in the streets celebrating the deaths of your own?

However factual the claim may be, it does appear that the more Palestinian dead the West sees piling up on its TV screens, the more divided they become in their attitudes toward Israel’s role in the conflict. And it appears the Palestinians are trying to exploit this as part of their strategy. But I gotta tell you, Sami Abu Zuhri, you guys are not thinking this through. If you’re actually happy about gradually dividing international opinion about Israel piling up your dead kids on top of your weapons caches, then your venomous hatred has not only blinded you it’s rendered you pretty fucking stupid as well. World opinion would immediately and universally condemn Israel if they were expending this kind of gross firepower on the factory you just tried to build to provide jobs for the listless unemployed young men whose idleness you can just continue to conveniently blame on Israel and the West. If it were a fledgling economic infrastructure you were trying to create to make your home even a little more economically viable, the UN would draft a proposal denouncing Israel’s actions by dinner time. And if you guys cheered and passed out candy to your kids on 9\11, just think of the parties you could throw at the Great Satan’s predicament when that happens.

Oh what’s that, the occupation has made it too difficult to gather the resources for economic development? The Israelis have made it impossible to improve your conditions with its brutal stranglehold of your border crossings? Gee, you still manage to get the material you need for weapons and bomb-making. You’re a pretty ingenious, industrious and well-coordinated bunch when it comes to acquiring what you need to kill people. But channeling your citizens’ energies and talents into creating a useful community asset in defiance of the world’s support of Israel’s domination… well like I said earlier, I’ve been watching the news from your miserable part of the earth for fifty years and it’s gotten easier every day to see why it’s always bad. In that same time period the world saw another conflict just as bitter, hate-fueled and intractable as your sorry mess get resolved simply because the parents of dead children got together to stop it. You just have to love your kids more than you hate each other. So here’s another thought, how much damage you think you might inflict on Israel’s standing in the world if the news reports showed them holding up shipments of tools, sand, lime and sheetrock? It’s not as flashy as parading your dismembered children across our tv screens but what it lacks in color it’ll make up in economic value. Because here in America and the west we’re Capitalists. We believe in progress, industry and the free market. We might not give two collective shits about a few limbless brown kids but damage a functioning privately owned source of revenue and they will have fucked with the wrong marine then.

Like I said at the outset, whatever you can find about Palestinian statehood or national identity is pretty much the projection of the writer (myself included). So maybe it’s time for the Palestinians to fill that vacuum with something other than their own orgiastic exhibition of victimhood.

Oh, and any pro Israeli folks who might have stayed with me thus far, you might want to try this little experiment: Google "American Evangelical Christians." See how prominently a sovereign Jewish state figures in their agenda. That enemy of my enemy bullshit is bullshit.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thank You Hobby Lobby

So the nightmare scenarios unfold.

I like the Scientologist not covering antidepressants, the Jehovah’s Witness not paying for blood transfusions and the Christian Scientists not paying for anything. But my personal favorite is the one that could happen to me: my employer hires a new administrator who decides my three interracial children should not be covered for anything because the Bible says miscegenation is immoral and any illness would be God’s just punishment for my sin. Hard to say what’s worse: All the terrible things that religious zealots have now been empowered to do to the rest of us or listening to them preening and crowing about their victory for religious freedom. There’s more blowback on the way too here and here. The slippery slope is now in the rear view mirror folks. We’re in the shit.

But when you really think about it, maybe this isn’t going to pan out the way everybody thinks. I’m not so sure it’s as good as the Right thinks or as bad as the Left believes. Let’s speculate:

A furniture manufacturer in North Carolina won’t cover anybody who’s gay because they just lost their fight to fire them outright. A chicken processing plant won’t cover anybody who’s Catholic because they object to Papists. A Saudi Arabian consortium gains a controlling interest in GM. They instruct their insurance provider that any ailments traceable to alcohol or pork consumption will no longer be covered. Nobody covers Jews anywhere for anything. A group of Catholics in the chicken place sues in court for unfair discrimination. A group of Fundamentalist Protestants working at the furniture shop sue because they don’t think the Catholics should be covered by their employer. Muslim employees of GM sue because they don’t want anything covered for the Infidels. Jews start suing everybody.

The court system becomes paralyzed with suits and counter suits all alleging infringement on our constitutionally guaranteed religious right to exclude everybody we don't like from having anything we feel they shouldn't have. The courts have to choose which laws to ignore and which to follow, anti discrimination laws or pro religious bigotry statutes. These back their way up to the Supreme Court and Antonin Scalia has a stroke trying to read them all and untangle the legal knot he tied with his Hobby Lobby decision. He dies in the emergency waiting room while the hospital administrators are trying to determine if he’s excluded from coverage because he’s a Papist or because he's an Italian. President Paul declares the date of his death a National Health Care Free Holiday on which absolutely no American citizen connected to the Health Care Industrial Complex has to work and if you split your head open on a rusting factory gate you’re just shit out of luck.

Finally, the corporate CEOs get together and decide they’ve had enough and sue all their employees. In a unanimous decision, the Court agrees with the corporations that if their employees want religiously acceptable health care they should get it from their churches. “Let Dolan put it where his fucking mouth is,” Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in her majority opinion. 

And why not? Why should employers be in the health care business in the first place? Who’s the genius that put those two together and where can we find him? Our religious leaders, the nation’s moral compass, when faced with the logistics of actually carrying out Christ’s call to heal the sick shit their pants and then do what all the rest of us less-holier-than-them do in an ethical conundrum. They blame the federal government for its ineptitude and inaction and call on it to fill the vacuum.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

That the most recent trends in anti Obama criticism have become so increasingly unhinged in their desperation has provided an abundance of comic material to his supporters. (There’s no point in wondering what those in “the center” are thinking since I haven’t met anyone of them in years.) How is anyone supposed to listen to John Boehner talk about suing the President over his use of executive orders or Michelle Bachman and others describing his actions as “king-like” when the facts bluntly show that characterization to be a hypocritical lie?  Or how can anyone possibly listen to John McCain, Mitt Romney or Dick Cheney claiming to have presciently foretold the failure of the President’s policies in Iraq when back in 2002 then-Senator Obama predicted that the Bush administration’s adventure would result in just such unforeseeable chaos as is occurring now? And how can anyone entertain their charges of failure of leadership when, if you read that 2002 speech, you can hear a fledgling international statesman cautioning against a hasty leap into a centuries old quagmire while all three of them couldn’t put our children in harm’s way fast enough and couldn’t contain their excitement at the opportunity to do so? Viewing attempts to counter these criticisms is akin to watching Bill Nye arguing with climate change deniers and Creationists or any educated person arguing with a holocaust denier: in the end you just feel more frustrated while they gain something that passes for legitimacy among a populace growing ever more illiterate politically, historically and scientifically.

While a lot of those on the left are laughing, the fact that this kind of contemptuous carping has to be treated as serious debate should be alarming. The Republicans hold the House and will probably keep it in November while very possibly gaining control of the Senate. This means impeachment, pure and simple. Whatever the end result for the man and the legacy he deserves, the consequences for us are enormous. You can forget about legislation or governing. After four years of the most useless unproductive congress in history, the final two years of the Obama presidency will be consumed with exactly the kind of spectacle the Republicans have decided is the only role left to government: Bloodsport. The bestial cockfighting that Republican politics has degenerated to. (Anyone remember the President’s resistance to his more ardent left wing supporters back in 2009 to open hearings into Bush and Cheney’s handling of the war, their outing of active CIA agents and torture, because he wanted his administration to move forward and govern together with our friends across the aisle?)

Rather than laughing at these rants, though certainly imbecilic enough, maybe we’d be better served looking more closely at them for what they are, the most recent feverish symptoms of the underlying right wing illness: Obama Derangement Syndrome. And maybe we should look more closely at the disease itself because while it’s tempting to sit back and enjoy the misery of those friends across the aisle it might just be proving to be more life threatening than a simple case of the clap infecting those who deserve it.

There’ve been a lot of facile explanations for the Right’s irrationally rabid hatred of a man who has been, after all, elected President twice by large margins, certainly larger than George Bush ever enjoyed. What’s the deal? He’s everything Republicans lecture the rest of us about. Actually born into meager circumstances (unlike George Bush or Mitt Romney) he bettered himself through hard work, perseverance and intelligence without the benefit of inherited wealth and the entitlements of family connections. He’s a church-going family man, a faithful husband and a good father to two beautiful children. He exemplifies everything Republicans say they stand for. Yet they accuse him of being a Muslim (even though being one, by the way, is perfectly legitimate, legal and reasonable) and of being a radical who hates America because of the ravings of the Christian preacher whose church he attended for twenty years. (Which begs the question whether he was there to convert Reverend Wright to Islam or the other way around.) He’s been accused of being a terrorist because some other guy who used to be one forty years ago donated $200 to his Senate campaign. His birth certificate is not really his birth certificate because he was born in Hawaii, which is part of Kenya, which is a foreign country. And of course the big reason everybody hates the guy so much, the Left is fond of saying, is because he’s black. Or at least not white. Not all the way.

But maybe there’s something else that’s causing ODS. You could feel it beginning back in 2007 and ‘08 as time was dragging the decayed carcass of Bush’s presidency over the finish line. It started even before Obama won the nomination. At the heart of ODS is the inner realization by everybody on the right, at some conscious or unconscious level, that the Bush presidency was a catastrophic failure. And I can hear the whining, here we go blaming Bush again. It’s been six years already, enough. Nope. The mess that presidency left will be with us for at least a generation. (Iraq is only beginning whatever path he and Cheney set it on, a path which could actually lead to a solution first floated by Joe Biden, of all people. Think you’ll be hearing anybody use the word “prescient” to describe Joe Biden?) Bush inherited a booming economy and if not a peaceful climate, at least an absence of open warfare. We were still the world’s only superpower and the rest of the world looked to us for leadership. And he inherited a government surplus. He left behind a smoking crater. The worst economy in seventy years with mounting government debt. The lowest, most negative international standing since the world news was dominated by black and white flickering images of American planes napalming grass huts in Southeast Asian jungles in the 1960s. An overstretched, exhausted and unwelcome military bogged down in not one but two foreign entanglements. And a significant portion of a major American city reduced to a muddy debris field.

But this is actually bigger than just George Bush. The right instinctively understood that the cast of clowns parading through the farce his presidency turned into had laid bare the utter bankruptcy of Republican ideology. Relieving the wealthy of their responsibility to the American community did not result in any largesse trickling down to the rest of us. Whatever trickled, trickled up. The rising tide pretty much swamped all but the biggest boats. Government was not the enemy after all. Instead it turns out it had been what was holding us together. Until 1980 anyway.

And with this realization came the decision, conscious or instinctive, that no matter who followed George Bush to the presidency he (or she) would be transformed into the most reviled public figure in living memory by the sheer volume and viciousness of their criticism. No matter what his successor actually did or said the Right was determined to keep that individual an object of scorn and derision from the moment the votes were legitimately counted and the choice of the president was taken from Scalia, Thomas and Alito and given back to the electorate. Every circumstance of his life, including his very birth would be twisted into some indication of a flawed, even malicious character.  And here I agree with even his most ardently racist critics: That he was nonwhite was never really a factor, it just made it easier to enlist the bigots and Luddites who might have been dissuaded from the Right wing cause with a higher minimum wage and health care for their kids.      

The Obama presidency has been flawed, as has every other one. But there have been important accomplishments as well, chiefly the apparent turnaround, however tenuous, of the economy (if anyone really wants to call 52 consecutive months of private sector job growth -- the longest in history -- a tentative recovery I’ll concede the point just to save time) and the initiation of a health care reform process that will finally begin to stanch the thirty year long hemorrhaging of the middle class. Don’t forget, these were carried out against the stiffest, most venomous obstruction ever encountered by a sitting President. (While George Bush enjoyed six years of one-party rule from 2000 to 2006. You know the Republicans miss those heady days in 2004 when the only things left on the agenda were converting Social Security into a Wall Street slush fund and diverting the population by hunting down and purging the last few government Liberals left in the judicial branch in places like Oregon and Massachusetts.)

And for all of you in the “both sides do it” false equivalency club: Yes Bush encountered incredible opposition and derision from his political enemies on the Left. But name the elected Democratic senate leader who publicly announced that his party’s chief priority (before national security, job creation, health care, infrastructure, education and the environment) was to prevent George Bush from gaining a second term. Name the elected Democratic congressional leaders who met the night of Bush’s inauguration to plan to oppose and obstruct any initiative he chose to launch from the White House. How many times after taking the House in 2006 did Democrats vote to repeal Bush’s unpaid for Prescription Drug Program? Name the sitting Democratic Congressman who during a nationally televised State of the Union Address called George Bush a liar to his face. (When you come up with that one, I’ll reward you with your very own Joe Wilson “You Lie” memorial extended ammunition clip.) Name the Democratic party officials, candidates and elected legislators who called either for the violent overthrow of the federal government under Bush or participated in talk of his personal assassination. Send me a picture of people brandishing assault weapons and waving threatening signs at a Bush public appearance. Remember all those clever Pray for Bush bumper stickers so popular at the start of his tenure? And how many Democratically controlled states saw a rise in actual secessionist movements in response to the Supreme Court's appointment of George Bush to the presidency in 2000 or his 2004 win enabled by the manipulation of voting machines and practices in Ohio? No President in modern history has encountered the kind of mindlessly hateful opposition seen by this one.

Since thirty-four years of conservative Republican policies have decimated the middle class and started our republic down the road to decline President Obama, Democrats, Liberals and Progressives and all those who still believe in the power of Government to be a force for positive change have an increasingly legitimate and important role to play in governing the country. The Right wing onslaught of rabid attacks on our elected leader are calculated to lead to impeachment, which is calculated to keep government dysfunctional. And since Republicans can no longer run for anything, a dysfunctional government is all they have left to run against.