A Truly Bad Spokesman

I watched Up with Chris Hayes and he had Rula Jebreal on to make her case that the coverage on American Television was horribly biased toward the Israelis. Now that has not been my experience, since most of the coverage I have watched is just the opposite, decrying the violence and demanding cease fire. Now I don’t watch much except MSNBC so that is not a valid rebuttal.

But the coverage I did see called for an immediate cease fire, failing to recognize that both sides have to agree to that and so far Hamas has set conditions that would be in effect giving in to terrorism. It reminds me of all the people who say that Washington needs to quit partisan bickering and just work together, but the Republicans are not interested, yet both sides do it. Negotiations would go just fine if Democrats would just agree to the Republican position.

But having said that, she tried to make her case in what I would call the shrill talking, not listening mode. She may have some excellent points but her fast talking, not taking a breath, not letting her opponent respond counterdicts her position that she is unbiased, and she comes across as so biased that the other points of view does not deserve to be heard as she talks over them. If she wants to make her case, she needs to learn how to listen and respond unemotionally or her life on TV will be very short and she will convince no one.

A Politicized Judicial is the Sign of the End of Democracy

Today the “United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.”
The ruling came within hours of a 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said that the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange.

Is it law or political ideology? If, as we have seen with the Supreme Court, the law is inconsequential to political ideology, then the citizens know there can be no justice. It is the beginning of the end for a working democracy in America when its institutions become political. This is what was come of 40 years of Republican efforts to pack the courts with litmus test judges. Yes Virginia, conservatives will destroy this country.

Oh, and yes there is a big difference when Republicans and Democrats “do it”. Democrats usually represent the common man and equal rights. Republicans usually represent the status quo and the wealthy. That makes a giant difference.

The Hijab and Worse

I have a visceral reaction when I see a Muslim wearing a headscarf or completely wrapped in some flowery cloth with only their face showing. This occurred to me last night as I watched the young American-Palestinian teenage boy who was arrested and beaten by Israeli police being interviewed on All In with Chris Hayes. His mother, a lovely woman, who was with him was covered so only her face could be seen.

Later that evening I was watching the French movie Je T’aime Paris and in one of the eighteen short segments that makes up the movie was a story about the meeting of a young man and a young Muslim woman wearing a Hijab. He questions why she covers her beautiful hair with a scarf and she replies that it makes her feel secure and she is proud of her religion. She doesn’t have to wear it, she wants to.

Ah, if the world were so simple. My visceral reaction is one of distain. I can’t help it. At some visceral level it is a display that you are a second class human being. This morning there was a story about how Turkey is having a debate about religion in a secular society and most of it is “fought on the battleground of women’s bodies.” As the article noted, “Men of all political persuasions feel free to lecture women on how to dress and how to live.”

I guess in a perfect world, we should have the freedom to believe and wear what we want to. But are you really free to make that choice? As the article noted, in Turkey where they had outlawed wearing the hijab and have now struck down that law, “Just like their counterparts who were forced to discard their head scarves so many years ago, uncovered Turkish women are feeling uncomfortable and unwanted in their own country.” It becomes a sign of your beliefs in a highly polarized society.

I see it as a sign of repression, that you are a second class citizen. In a culture where we hope that women, especially our daughters, will have the access to everything a man does, I see this as a sign that they can’t. It is a subtle patriarchal religious customs that defines your place in life. Maybe that is close minded or not politically correct, but at the heart of it, that is what it is.

Huh?

The media is reporting that the investigators in the Malaysia 17 shoot down will now get full access to the site so they can determine exactly what happened.  Well that would be true if this were an accident, but it is not.  We know what happened and nothing at the scene will clarify who did the shooting.  In case they are confused, a missile was fired at the aircraft and shot it out of the air.  Accident investigation over.  Who did it will (if not already) be determined by intelligence, not accident scene investigations.

The flight recorders will show nothing because up untill it was hit, there was nothing wrong.  There might be conversation after they were hit if the plane did not completely come apart in the air, but the crew will not have a clue what happened.  There might be proof of a missile hit by examining the debris (already completely contaminated by the separatists) but we already have visual evidence of the launch.  The only thing useful will be recovering the bodies and their effects (which have been pilfered by the separatists).  So it is nice that we can finally secure the victims and the site, but it will tell us nothing we don’t already know and we need to quit pretending it is a large step forward in the investigation.

Lies and Damn Lies

The Daily Beast has an interesting on the scene in Ukraine report about trying to visit the “morgue” of the victims of the Malaysian airline shoot down and being arrested and held by the separatists holding the territory where the plane came down.  What was truly interesting about the report is the first hand account of what the separatists believe about the conflict and what happened.  It is a pact of lies that strains credibility.  But like the Russians themselves, the separatists are being feed misinformation on a continuous basis from propaganda news.  We see how that can twist the minds of people.  Then there is FOX News.  The only redeeming factor in propaganda as news in this country is that there are competing sides that are heard.  But like the separatists, many conservatives have made up there mind and FOX just continues to push lies and damn lies.  It truly is sad that we have fallen so far.

We Are A Thick Bunch

Have you noticed that nothing is ever easy? The headline that got me thinking about the was, Kerry Appears Troubled with Civilian Death Toll. Did we not think this was going to be messy. Oh, I know. It shows we care for both sides. I am not sure I do. This has been going on my entire adult life and nothing ever changes. People urge calm and want a cease fire and I understand that, but it just slows down the killing, I guess at a more tolerable level, whatever that is.

Clearly pointing fingers at each other is a waste of time. Both sides have plenty to answer for. And like the United States, the politics of a solution is being controlled by the radical fringe on both sides, (well in the United States it is only on one side) meaning there will never be a solution. The solution is simple, Hamas goes away along with the Israeli settlements and the Palestinians get their own state managed by a international coalition until they can act like adults. Egypt and Israel have to open up the borders and let Palestine breath.

But since that is not possible in the current climate, maybe it is time to let one side win instead of maintaining the stalemate. If we have learned anything from our history, change only comes from great bloodshed when the intransigence of our positions becomes intolerable. See our Civil War. But then again maybe we are now inured to the reality of our stupidity. See Sandy Hook.

Sadly what all this points out is that we are not rational. Solutions to most of our problems are simple and straight forward. Yes there will be winners and losers, but we are all losers if we don’t face our problems. And yet emotionalism driven by religious or ideological beliefs gets in the way. We, as a civilization, have been around quite a while and most of the deep questions have really been answered, it just happens that those answers are inconvenient to our own self interest and status quo so we ignore them. And the world is a mess.

Not to leave you in a depressed state, think about these obvious truths and how if we lived by them, many of our problems would go away:

Revenge is not justice, it does not bring relief, and in the act of revenge you simply perpetuate hate

Forgiveness releases one’s anger and hate, you have a choice

Happiness is not bought by possessions, but by love, especially by the love of others

There is no other, we are all in this together or said another way, there is only one human condition

Of course if we actually practiced this stuff, there would be no Republican Party.

Hypocrisy Squared – Have We No Shame

From the NYT;

President Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he had “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides in Gaza.

Netanyahu could have responded, “Really? I am concerned about the collateral damage in your drone program, the number of civilians killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and your treating refugees at the boarder as criminals and pushing them back into the violence they fled.” When will we ever learn how to walk our talk. Are we “exceptional”? Not by a long shot.

Then there is the little problem with our calling the downing of the Malaysian airline in Ukraine, a criminal act, but when we did the same thing on an Iranian airliner killing the same number of people, we called it a sad mistake that we never apologized for. Hypocrisy squared.

Forcing the News to be Informative

I saw an interesting exchange today on MSNBC’s Up with Steve Kornacki. Barney Frank refused to be bullied into just answering questions that followed the host’s narrative and after multiple interruptions and some ego outburst by the others, asked the critical question for all of us to consider.

The discussion was the invasion by the Israeli’s into Gaza and was this going to solve anything. It was basically beating up on Israel by armchair quarter backs. But Barney pushed back and when he finally got his question in, it was this. Hamas is lobbing rockets into Israel, if you think their reaction will not help, what would you do?

Here is the essence of the whole problem. You can criticize Israel all you want and say their use of force is excessive and people are dying, but what is the alternative. Oh, wait, would that be negotiations? But Hamas won’t play. Kind of like when we want the President to negotiate with Republicans and we should just all get along, but Republicans won’t play.

Probably what this highlighted the most has nothing to do with Israel or the Palestinians, but how the press likes to criticize, but never offer or discuss alternative approaches. It makes good entertainment to lament the failure or short sightedness of a particular policy, but it adds nothing to the discussion unless you have alternatives which could be discussed. Hence the focus on the politics of an issue instead of the issues themselves. At least Barney brought the discussion back from bashing the Israelis to looking for solutions.

Self Fulfilling Prophesies and Other Things

The latest crop of Republicans hate government (sorta because they symbiotically exist on it) and claim it screws everything up, and then when they are in charge as the are now (filibuster in the Senate and control of the House), they make sure it is dysfunctional by not allowing it to work.

When was the last time you saw any real legislation to address anything important? Supreme Court tells us businesses’ religious beliefs trumps worker’s religious beliefs, and the Senate uses the filibuster to block legislation to correct their misstep. We have a critical shortage of primary care physicians, yet because Republicans hate Obama care so much, they are blocking funding for a commission to look at real time solutions.

Our highways and bridges are falling apart and they say no new taxes and the funding must come from existing programs. Their brilliant solution is a short term underfunded fix to reduce the amount of funding corporations have to set aside to cover their pensions, basically underfunding them, but making more of the corporation’s income taxable.

Then we get to the border situation and they scream bloody murder for action, and do nothing to fund the actions they demand. Instead they flame ignorance and stupidity by claiming this is an invasion of disease ridden children looking for a free ride (the one they take the most advantage of), and looking for a faster way to send these kids back into harms way, instead of standing tall in the face of a real refugee problem created by their War on Drugs and past immigration/deportation policies.

The part I like best about these knuckleheads is that in the face of the shoot down in Ukraine, they can come up with all kinds of money to send arms over there, but not to fix our bridges. How come their only answer to violence is to escalate it by shipping more arms? Kind of see a connection to no gun control and open carry?

So if you want bad government, well you got it. Americans elected these small minded little nincompoops, saying government does not work, and sure enough it does not. Connect the dots yet?

Economic Fairness and Dumb Ignoramuses

One of the false strawmen that Republicans like to throw out there is that “Liiiiibrals” want to take away money from those who have worked hard for it and give to those who don’t deserve it (makers and takers). Now one could question the implicit assumption that those who have it (money), deserve it. Some do, some don’t. But it is the whole argument that is false.

We liberals are not looking for some communist utopia and the only thing we really want to redistribute is opportunity. Republicans like to claim “class warfare” as we suggest ways to even out the tax burden and ensure that the players in the success game are not limited to just the wealthy. If you are born wealthy you live in a good neighborhood and if the schools aren’t good enough, well off to private schools and tutoring. If you are poor you are born into a bad neighborhood with gangs and marginal schools systems. The conservatives tell you to pull yourself up by your boot straps, but where do those $100,000 boot straps that pay your tuition to go to college come from?

Conservatives love to rail at Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but they don’t need it. They hate unemployment insurance, but then they don’t need it, and they assume you wouldn’t need it either if you had worked hard and saved. Problem is, most of them did gain their wealth that way either, and by luck of birth and genes they had advantages many don’t. They hate the idea of an inheritance tax, but as wealth becomes more and more accumulated in the few, and that is the fact, it really is a zero sum game with less for the rest of us. The old flow down thing is a myth.

But Progressives like me don’t want to take your money and spread it around evenly, we want to take some of it and redistribute it in investing in tomorrow. We would like to invest in jobs and infrastructure. We would like to level the playing field and make sure poor kids get good schooling and healthcare. We want to make sure they can afford college for those who can. We don’t think you shouldn’t be able to get rich, but some of those riches have to be spent on the kind of country where if you can, you will.

Conservatives have a neat little theory that allows them to deny that it is not an equal world and many who work hard don’t have a chance. See they earned theirs and you are upsetting the natural order of things if you give some of it to those who are poor, well, because they deserve to be poor. They really do live in a world of us and them. The Tea Party, the bearing arms, the tossing out of the kids at the border, are the most blatant displays of that selfishness. And in their defense there are some real ignoramuses out there who will waste everything you do for them. But for every one of those, there are thousands who will jump at the chance in a level playing field.

So it is not about redistribution of wealth, it is about the redistribution of opportunity so that more of us have a chance to be wealthy, just not as extremely wealthy as we have today. And if after you have leveled the playing field and some still slide off, well that is okay with most of us Progressives, because then and only then is it fair to hold them accountable for their failures. When they have a fair chance to avoid them.

Oh, and one last thing about the hypocrisy of conservatives as they rail against social programs that “give their money to the poor.” Our system of the market place has evolved over many decades of subtle handouts and give aways to the wealthly in the form of tax breaks and subsidies. The list is endless from the farm program to energy, to capital gains taxes to trade policy. It is redistributing your tax dollar from the poor to the wealthy. There is a class war, but it is being waged by the wealthy on the poor. I would caution them. It did not work out so well in France around the time of our Constitution.