A Cause for Optimism about Democracy

I thought I had possibly dreamed this, but apparently not.  

Our president, the man who can’t seem to stop bragging about his historically large 106,000 vote Electoral College mandate (take those close votes in three states and flip them and Hillary wins), was rebuked 98-0 by a viciously divided senate the other day.

It happened like this.  He met with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin last week in Finland.  The strongman apparently easily lifted our large president over his head several times during their secret meeting, greatly impressing our great leader.   After the meeting Putin was wearing the smile of the cat with the canary in its mouth and our president seemed even more childish, confused and foolish than usual.   Putin apparently asked that he be allowed, in return for granting the Mueller team access to twelve recently indicted Russians, to interrogate a similar number of American diplomats including the former American ambassador to Russia.  Our president said he would consider it.   The Senate, bitter partisans who can agree on nothing, immediately voted 98-0 to “shut the fuck up, you imbecilic asshole!”

I find a reason for optimism in that unanimous vote by hacks for both supremely corrupt pay-to-play parties.  There is a limit, ladies and gentlemen, to what someone who has contempt for democracy, fairness and even honesty can be allowed to do, even if he’s the almost unanimously elected president of the United States.  I like to think so anyway.

Here’s a short article about the vote.

 

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Healthcare as a human right

The radical right is consistent, most of the time, I have to say that for them.   They latch on to something like “Right to Life” (no abortion under any circumstances) or “Right to Work” (the legal right of the employer to fire your ass at any time, with or without cause) and ride it to the end.   Their disciplined relentlessness is impressive, even if it’s not always good for democracy, people, animals, plants, children, old people, babies, the environment, health, human dignity, human survival.   The important thing is that they give their supporters a rallying cry to scream, a cry that never changes, if it works.   That these phrases may not bear much scrutiny as ideas in the marketplace of ideas is not the point.  Winning is the point, the only point.

As Republican icon Ronald Reagan said, either being pithy or already in the first throes of dementia: “the right to life ends at birth.”   “Right to Life” means that the right of a fetus to be born is absolute, more absolute than a mother’s right not to die from complications of pregnancy, far greater than the right of a fourteen year old girl not to have to go through the trauma of giving birth to her rapist’s baby.   Like every right extended, except to wealth that has perpetual life (corporate folks, persons just like you and me except they never die) it terminates at a reasonable time.   In the case of an unwanted baby, the right to life ends as soon as the poor bastard is born, breathing air and crying.   When the unwanted child is born society says “you’re on your own now, motherfucker, we protected you for nine months, your own mother wanted to kill you, but we saved you from that murderous bitch.  Now get the fuck out and get a job, asshole. And try not to stink so much… can’t you change that sagging diaper already?  No self-respect, you little shitass…”   Nothing to see here.

The way America’s wealthiest and least scrupulous organized themselves to make sure Obama was not able to get bipartisan support for anything, especially his hated plan to give access to healthcare to more Americans; priceless.  Jane Mayer reminds us that when Ted Kennedy’s death in 2009 left a vacancy in the Senate, a flood of dark money was unloosed immediately before the special election in Massachusetts.   After that election unknown Republican Scott Brown would sit in the seat occupied by a Democrat (a Kennedy, in fact, Ted took over JFK’s seat in 1962) from time immemorial.   Read all about it here.  

The Koch influence machine (the Kochtopus, as admirers dubbed it)  had secretly pulled off a stunning, history defying upset in a blue state that hadn’t had a Republican senator in generations.   Wikipedia is pretty even-handed about the invisible tentacles of the Kochtopus:

As of January 8, 2010, Martha Coakley raised over US$5.2 million in total, and had $937,383 cash on hand. Scott Brown had $367,150 cash on hand. Brown spent $450,000 on television advertisements, while Coakley spent $1.4million.[99] A week before the general election, Brown raised $1.3million from over 16,000 donors in a 24-hour fund-raising effort. Reports also indicated that Brown raised an average of $1 million per day the week prior to the election.[100]

The effect of this historic upset was that the Senate, with Brown, was now 59-41 Democratic, meaning Obama’s majority in the Senate, although impressive, was no longer filibuster-proof.   The loophole now existed for the entitled vulture class to defeat the hated president’s hated, albeit mostly conservative-think-tank-created, healthcare proposal.   The compromise that became known as the Affordable Care Act, when it was passed, had many, many faults, none of them ever fixed.  The ACA contained a few huge improvements over America’s past ruthless health insurance regime, the biggest being the abolition of the vicious “pre-existing condition” loophole that allowed health insurance companies to only insure people who were good bets not to need massively expensive healthcare.   The business of America is business, how it is fair that some fuck with cancer expects to get all those expensive treatments and drugs paid by insurance?   Pre-existing condition, totally unfair to make the insurer pay!

Some socialist types, and others, believe that included among the rights of citizenship in a wealthy society is the right to decent, affordable health care, administered through a publicly supervised health care system.   Americans pay by far the highest prices for our health care, far more than the citizens of other wealthy, industrialized nations, yet our health outcomes are no better than most places, except, arguably, at the very top end of American medical care.   Wealthy patients can always seek out and buy that top high-end healthcare, if they want to pay for it (and why not? they deserve it).  

The rest of us believe we have a right to not die of the many preventable and treatable diseases that are always stalking us.  A “right to life” if you will.   50,000 or more dead Americans every year who die because their only access to health care is an emergency room where the ER doc will say to a family member “oh shit, if only we’d seen him two years ago…”   These unfortunate American dead and their loved ones unwittingly make a sacrifice for all of us, a small price to pay for the freedom of eternal, legally created “persons” to live in perfect liberty, enjoying maximum profits protected by a friendly government, with the populist cover of a manipulated mob of confused, angry, powerless people chanting “USA!   USA!!!”.

I get my health care through the problematic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  I can tell you dozens of ways the law sucks, and have written about many of them here (click the category Obamacare to read ’em).   Top of my list is the difficulty of actually finding care in this corrupt, lobbyist-written regime.   After years of rabid Republican opposition to the law, and more than fifty attempts to repeal it in its entirety (check ’em out), some elected Democrats are organizing to fight back with the hated “public option” (something that already exists and works pretty well for millions of Americans 65 and older, as well as in most other wealthy nations).   Seventy Congressional Democrats have apparently formed a caucus to discuss lowering the age of Medicare to cover even that fucking unwanted baby who selfishly insists on its right to care after the government has already zealously protected its ungrateful little ass for nine long months.

Here’s the petty detail that bugs me today, as I work on rehabbing my aching knees.  It took me about a month to find and get an appointment with a sports medicine doctor for a referral to Physical Therapy (PT).   A rep for my health-insurance company (think of how fucking asinine it is to give people health care via private, profit-driven insurance companies…) assured me that referrals are no longer required by their company for things like PT.   Every place I contacted about PT disagreed.  Obviously, they said, you have to have a doctor’s referral before we can give you PT.  Made sense.   I finally was able to see the sports medicine doctor who immediately referred me for PT.   Then it was a few weeks of searching, not getting calls back from the “in-network” PT offices where I left  messages, until I finally hobbled over to a place I could walk to that accepted my insurance and where I could have PT.    

Note this:  every week I searched, without finding service, every obstacle I had to crawl over to get to the next step in finding treatment, was money in the pocket of the insurance company.  Multiply my search by a few thousand searches, by a million, and you begin to get the idea of how lucrative it is to make this basic of medical care, finding and seeing a doctor in your “network”, so difficult.

There was one last hoop to jump through on my ailing knees, now weeks and weeks, months, in fact, after they’d become acutely painful.  I’d have do be “evaluated” for PT for my knees, by doing a half squat with my back against the wall of the PT room.  I did the half squat and was told now all I had to do was go home and wait to see how many sessions my insurance company would approve.  You see, the doctor is not the one who decides what’s medically necessary, nor is the physical therapist, it is someone at your insurance company who decides exactly what course of treatment, under the current law, you are entitled to.  Fair is fair, they’re the ones paying, you dig.

They decided I was entitled to seven sessions of PT, twice a week.  If you do the math, the approved PT would last just over three weeks.  Not much time to fix a problem that had taken a year or more to get this bad, now I just had to wait until they got the go ahead from my insurance company.  A week later I was able to start PT.  It is slow going, physical therapy.   No long-festering physical ailment can be cured in seven sessions.   After session six I asked the receptionist at the PT place what I had to do to get more sessions.  Another referral, she told me.   I contacted the office of the sports doctor I’d seen for a second time a week or so earlier.  After session seven of PT I was told that once the referral arrived I would have to be re-evaluated.

Stand against the wall in the room where you’ve completed your seven sessions of PT and squat as far down as your creaky knees will take you, then just go home, without further treatment of any kind, and wait.   In about a week, if all goes well, they would get the OK from the insurance company, if your particular insurance policy authorized more physical therapy for you.  Then, the following week you could continue your PT, with only, at most, a short one or two week gap.   You see, it’s impossible to determine if you’ll need more than seven sessions until you’ve completed seven sessions, right?  That’s just basic logic, right?   No matter what your fucking know-it-all sports medicine doctor might have to say about it (the rehab could take several months of hard work, she told me sympathetically).  No matter what.

God fucking bless America, boys and girls!

Basic Goddamned Fairness! How about it?!!!

People are unfair to the President of the United States of America, as they so often are to the true, unapologetic geniuses walking among us.    It is reported the U.S. president “attacked” our NATO allies, calling them cheap, demanding that they pay more into NATO’s military budget, claiming afterwards that they had agreed to his new terms.  Immediately after those remarks the French leader said there had been no such agreement.    The leader of Germany has never shown much respect for our president — he offered her some advice, told her what she needs to do for political survival, as he smoothly told one of Rupert Murdoch’s TV hosts in Britain the other day, but she, sadly, appears to be doing exactly the opposite.   He took some modest credit for the great feeling of collegiality at the recent NATO meeting, something he said never existed until recently, when, presumably, someone of his caliber finally came into the room.  

His meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday, we learn, no surprise, will be secret, mano a mano; apparently no other witnesses, no recordings, no official record of any kind.   Just the account that will be given of the meeting by two world leaders who have never lied about anything, nor have they ever agreed to lie about anything, nor would either ever have the slightest motive to lie about anything, clearly.   No point to unfairly mention Cheney and Dubya’s controversial top secret, tandem testimony, not under oath, to the 9/11 Commission they reluctantly agreed to allow to proceed.   I’m not going to knock our current president, he’s had a very challenging life, is constantly treated very unfairly by many, many, many corrupt liars and gets so little credit for his many towering and historic achievements from our communistic mass media.  

One of the people who attacked the current president, while our leader was still a candidate, texted terrible things about him, this FBI man and one-time member of Robert Mueller’s team on the witch-hunt to find some kind of corruption to link to the highly principled POTUS.   This Peter Strzok as much as called him a “fucking asshole”.   When the defamation laws are tightened up (and truth is no longer an absolute defense to the charge of speaking words that harm another’s reputation) people like him will face justice.  For now, he was dragged into a Congressional Hearing to explain to hostile interrogators what the fuck he was fucking doing texting these vicious, personal opinions to another FBI employee he was having an extra-marital affair with.    Instead of apologizing, the adulterer Strzok was defiant.  He said this, among other inflammatory things:

Peter Strzok: “That was written late at night, off the cuff, and it was in response to a series of events that included then-candidate Trump insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero. And my presumption, based on that horrible, disgusting behavior, that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States. It was, in no way, unequivocally, any suggestion that me, the FBI would take any action whatsoever to improperly impact the electoral process.”

source

That dickhead’s words speak for themselves.  Traitor.

I thought the NY Times was too respectable a paper to publish outright mockery of America’s president.  Apparently I was sadly mistaken.   Not only did the fuckers splash headlines about 12 Russians indicted today for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and other records, the president “trying to repair damage after criticizing British leader,”  another headline reading, with leering suggestiveness, that he “Invited the Russians to Hack Clinton.  Were They Listening?”  but they also published a disrespectful, even humiliating little video of disgusting Brits ‘taking the piss’ on the NY Times website.   The disrespect for our commander-in-chief that these fucking out of control goddamned Brits mirthfully displayed when our president came to tell their head of state she’s wrong and misguided, and that her extreme right-wing political rivals are smart and with the times?  Fuck those fucking so-called “protesters”, you know what I’m saying? Totally unfair.

If you have a morbid curiosity about the depths the failing NY Times will now sink to in their hysterical hatred of our blameless leader, click here.

“Spokesreptile”

No idea where the president got this particular spokesreptile, Alex Azar (no offense to snakes and lizards) but check out this beautiful attempt at auto-fellation yesterday in response to the nettlesome question of why the administration has been unable to comply with a federal judge’s order to reunite families: to wit, 3,000 children forcibly taken from their parents at the southern border:

Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar: “It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.”

source (hear the quote for yourself, spoken yesterday to Wolf Blitzer, on TV)

Here is CNN’s own account of the conversation (you can see that, in context, it’s not quite as simple as I made it sound above, but that’s just nuance).

Azar is the administration official who told  the Senate Finance Committee recently that it would be easy to reunite children forcibly separated from their parents.  It was a matter of a couple of keystrokes, he said on June 26, to find any detained child on the government database.   He claimed “hundreds” of children had already been reunited with parents and gave the numbers to back it up:  2,047 currently in HHS custody, down from about 2,300.    These claims were soon belied by many other reports, even by HHS’s updated numbers of detained children separated from parents (up now by about 1,000 from the 2,047 figure).   This is often the case with claims made by those speaking for our compulsively untruthful commander-in-chief.   Here you go.

I am sure Mr. Azar is as highly qualified for his position as Betsey DeVos is for her position as Czar of Public Education, or Ben Carson is for his stewardship of all federally subsidized public housing in the the United States, or Jared Kushner is for solving the Opioid Epidemic and making peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or as the environment-hostile Scott Pruitt was to head the Environmental Protection Agency.   Mr. Azar is possibly even as highly qualified as the president himself, even as the cruel president doubles down to escalate a bullying, counterproductive, unwinnable trade war with America’s enemies and allies alike.   But let us parse this “great act of American generosity and charity”.

The hateful program designed to terrorize those thinking of fleeing terror and seeking refuge in the United States is blandly called Family Separation.   Reads much better than Forcible, Possibly Permanent, Removal of Children from Asylum Seeking Parents, (and you get no receipt for your fucking kid, who we will send hundreds of miles away with no records kept, s-word asshole) in Order to Deliberately Terrorize Asylum Seekers, no?  

The president and his spokespeople freely admitted that the program was designed to scare would-be asylum seekers from coming to our borders.   It was designed to inspire the greatest terror someone fleeing persecution could ever face: the loss of the little brown children whose lives they are fleeing to protect.  Make no mistake about the class and race-based animus at work here: the despicable program is directed against impoverished brown people, not Aryans, the kind of genetic material, the best people, the very best of the best, that the president wishes were clamoring to enter the United States instead of these brown, raping hordes.

The diminutive, racist Attorney General sharpens this to a finer legal point.  We are no longer allowing asylum applications based on reasonable fear of deadly violence to those fleeing domestic violence or gang violence.   He points out, as defenders of the Ku Klux Klan did successfully for generations, that gang violence is not “state-sponsored”.   See, this is a supremely important legal distinction.   When the Klan tortured and hung a Negro who didn’t know his place it was never “state action”, the kind of thing that would have triggered the federal laws made to enforce the long-slumbering Fourteenth Amendment.   Since it was not “state action”, you understand, it was solely within the province of the individual state to convene a jury to decide, if a trial was even necessary, whether the allegedly murdered black person had crossed a goddamned line that would have made any white person justifiably enraged enough to kill him.  Nothing to see here, says Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, as so many of his ilk pompously intoned since before he was even a glint in his racist pappy’s eye.

Peter Fonda, an actor currently promoting some project, angrily tweeted that Barron Trump, son of the president and his third wife, Melania, should be ripped from Melania’s arms, that she might wail in agony to her supremely cruel husband (I think Fonda used the less precise adjective “asshole”) as the mothers of the forcibly seized young children wail to their husbands, if their husbands have not already been killed by the forces the US now claims no longer constitute “reasonable fear of persecution” for purposes of political asylum.  Fonda was forced to retract the tweet and apologize, since he was promoting a movie that is probably already being boycotted, based on his outrageously offensive, if morally justified, tweet.     

There is only one person in the country who is immune from apologizing for anything: the birdbrain-in-chief whose tweets, while largely incoherent brain farts emanating from his constantly enraged insular cortex, are often clearer than his oral pronouncements, his oral pronouncements, his very fine pronouncements, the repeated, idiotic sounding cadence, the idiotic sounding cadence, repeated, familiar, familiar from reality TV, which is real TV, let there be no doubt, and I repeat, I repeat, because he has, like, you know, the finest words, the best words, the very best words money can buy, and when I say money, I’m talking about money, Money, heaven-reaching towers of golden money piled on top of more money than you can ever imagine.  I have the greatest words.  Your words suck, but my words are the greatest, the best, the finest words.  I have the finest words, the best words, and I always get the last word, the last word, the greatest word, the last word.  I always get the last word!  Which is the greatest word, the greatest word.

Nuance vs. Anger

In an enraged world, where powerless people are poised, at the slightest provocation, to bite each other’s heads off, nuance disappears.   The best explanation I heard of why this happens is the neuroscience of what happens in the insula (insular cortex) when people are angry.   This important region of the brain, crucial to our emotional lives, lights up, apparently, whenever we are angry.   When the insula is glowing with anger we simply can’t process nuance, can’t make distinctions, can’t make productive comparisons, can only see our anger.   People who insist Trump is the worst president ever can quickly get mad enough to insist that fucking Trump is a better president than fucking Bernie Sanders would have been.

We attended a concert for peace at Temple Emmanuel a few months back.  A couple of musicians we like very much were performing and it was touted as a concert for peace, Palestinian musicians making music with Israeli musicians.   Outside the historic synagogue a small group of angry looking Jews were holding signs, behind a barricade, with a couple of NYC cops flanking them.   The signs said this was an anti-Semitic event held by self-hating Jews.   I crossed the street to ask what was up. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was about to be a dupe of fucking anti-Semites!   I was informed that one of the concert’s sponsors, the New Israel Fund, supported terrorism against Israel.

This claim took me by surprise.  I knew nothing about the New Israel fund, and asked how exactly these momzers [1] supported terrorism against Israel.   “BDS”, I was told, the anti-Semitic plot to squeeze Israel to death economically so that the Arabs who claim to be Palestinians can overrun it.   I felt like I was talking to Stephen Miller, the hatred coming off this one young man was palpable.   I told them I’d check out the New Israel  Fund, but that as far as I knew, from the artists in the show, I was pretty sure none of them are anti-Semites.  My friend crossed the street and took me by the arm at this point.  She led me away from the dozen or so protesters who continued to make a ruckus after we headed in to see the show.

For true believers, it suffices merely to have a rationale, a buzzword, to spit in the face of those who refuse to believe.  In the case of these protesters, BDS is a tool for modern day Nazis and should be criminalized in America, the sooner the better. Full throated support for BDS is the same, to them, as opposing the criminalization of this specific form of non-violent political coercion.   To these angry people, anyone who believes BDS should not be illegal supports BDS and intends to put a dagger through the heart of our beloved Jewish State.  Easy peasy, no need for your fucking anti-Semitic nuance you self-hating fucker!

Here is the New Israel Fund’s position on BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction), from their website:

What is NIF’s position on boycott, divestment and sanctions?

The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalize the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including the global BDS movement which we do not ourselves support.

The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.

NIF will not fund global BDS activities against Israel nor support organizations that have global BDS programs.

However, NIF opposes the occupation and settlement activities. NIF will thus not exclude support for organizations that lawfully discourage the purchase of goods or use of services from settlements.

 

[1] bastards

Simple vs. Complicated

Complicated is hard, simple is so much easier.   It’s no wonder that buzzwords and the wearing of different colored hats so often carry the day in human affairs.  

Keeping the countless gnarly complications in mind, remembering contradictions, comparing everything to your own situation and remembering that while you may be lucky, many just like you are cursed… the endless nuance and supreme challenge of trying to remain fair-minded, pursuing justice, mindful of history’s famously slippery slopes, the dependable unreliability of history, of homo sapiens —  it is exhausting just to map it out in a sprawling sentence.  

Complicated is difficult, takes too much goddamned work to work your way through, there is no end to complicated.   Simple is better, clearly.

Hence the soundbite.  The tweet.  Slogans.   If your slogan does not parse well and fit on a hat, the marketing folks will nix it.   A great ad is supremely simple.  It hits some essential truth we recognize immediately.   The best of them bring tears, so simple, so true!   We should make that long distance call to the poignantly adorable child who misses us.  Oh, God, it’s all so simple.

Except, of course, that it’s not at all simple.  “What do you think of Bernie Sanders?” someone asks simply, though it’s not likely you dislike Sanders or what he stands for based on the way you talk.    So, carefully, sensing a mine field as the first few critical comments about him fly around the table, you say:  if we remove the personality and the things you just said from the equation and put all the actual issues his campaign raised on the table, I think we’d all agree about most of them.   I got as far as the importance of addressing catastrophic climate change before the heavy guns were wheeled into place.    Sanders is a self-hating Jew, he only uses his Jewishness for his own purposes, he hates Israel, supports BDS  (Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel) [1]  One raises his voice to say he’d vote for Trump before he’d vote for the hypocrite Jew-hater Sanders. 

Now everything is simpler, easier to understand.  My reflexes were a tad too slow, though I know the right thing to do at a moment like this.   It is time to get up from the table and start washing dishes, or at least to clam up.   Perhaps sit on a nearby chair and play the ukulele a bit, as this little storm passes.   All these options I hope to keep in mind should this kind of thing arise again any time soon.  There is no point, no nuance that can be brought up once somebody is peeved enough to say Trump is a better choice than Bernie because Trump loves Israel and Bernie is a grumpy old Jewish Nazi. 

Simple:  Anyone critical of Israel’s long, often brutal, occupation, and the ticking time bomb of millions of encamped enemies living close by, generations of haters, many raised in hellish, hopeless poverty, many living in camps, literally, with state violence the only means of keeping a lid on the anger of now literally generations of these hopeless and dispossessed people — anti-Semite.  

We can agree that Bibi Netanyahu is clearly not an exemplar of the highest Jewish values.  He’s a putz, a schmuck, a much smarter Israeli Trump.  Fine.  Perhaps we can agree that the mildly racist Avigdor Lieberman, former extremist now Israeli Minister of Defense, and his party, to the right of Netanyahu’s right wing group, is not a legitimate force for de-escalating tensions in the seemingly eternal war between former neighbors.  

But, let’s keep this simple.  BDS, Boycott, Divest and Sanction, the same economic tactics used to exert enough pressure to bring down apartheid in South Africa, is plainly anti-Semitic.  Any Jew who thinks it might be a legitimate tactic to employ is simply a Jew hater, end of story.

Sitting here calmly, reflecting dispassionately, it is beyond dispute that there are numerous issues involved in this particular issue of BDS.   It equates Israel to the racist South African regime — not entirely fairly.    This equation requires its own long, sober conversation.    It involves uncomfortable levels of candor, perhaps, or tamping down an angry reflex to dismiss anything comparing Israeli military policies and THINGS THE FUCKING NAZIs used to do.  

Breaking down doors at night, grabbing and torturing suspects, an off the books detention or killing when required, doing secret violence here and there to keep the opposition from organizing, or bulldozing an entire block of homes because a terrorist was harbored in one of those homes, or forced relocation, or whatever you want to bring up, are reminiscent of things ruthless armies of occupation routinely do.  There is a much larger discussion to be had of the particulars of all these policies.  

All this is very uncomfortable terrain to negotiate, even among people who agree about most things in American politics, you have to walk through it very, very slowly, reassuring the other party of your good will at every step.   Easier to just say Israel, eternally menaced by a world of haters, is justified no matter what or the equally emotional position that Israel is acting just like the fucking Nazis.   The tic to view everything as a dichotomy blinds you to any truths that fall along that human gradient, seamlessly from black, to dark charcoal grey, to grey, to paler, mouse grey, to ash-colored grey, to white.  

Truth is hard, true belief is easier.   That ease is the reason so many still support their president, even as his policies are already starting to fuck them hard.

There are Israeli peace groups (example) working tirelessly against the right wing forces in Israel which have controlled the government, and the narrative, since a right wing religious fanatic murdered Itzhak Rabin more than twenty years ago.   These right wing Israeli officials argue it’s perfectly fine, even restrained, to shoot protesters with live bullets if they come too close to the fence in Gaza.  This policy is controversial and complicated, many difficult discussions can be had over whether it’s the best way for Israel to proceed toward any kind of peaceful resolution to the long conflict between Palestinians and Israel..    

But, for the moment, let’s keep it simple, folks.  Israel is a democracy and our greatest ally in the Middle East (along with Saudi Arabia, but why mention those publicly beheading motherfuckers?)   Our U.N. ambassador applauded Israel’s restraint in killing and wounding so relatively few Palestinians in the recent outburst of mass ugliness between these enemy neighbors.   Soon after her comments we [3]  left the U.N. Human Rights Council who wouldn’t stop bitching about Israel’s use of deadly force against unarmed civilian protesters, even suggesting the shootings by sniper might constitute a war crime.  

To cite but one example of the complexities involved.   One Israeli peace group, The New Israel Fund, supports the right of people to use protest methods like BDS, or, more precisely, it opposes the proposed U.S. criminalization of BDS  (their position is much more nuanced, New Israeli Fund actually explicitly OPPOSES BDS).  

Yet to those Jews who seek to keep it simple at all costs, the New Israel Fund supports terrorism by opposing “pro-Israeli” laws to criminalize BDS, thereby supporting BDS and hatred of Israel.  The New Israel Fund is a target of angry American Jews who believe Israelis who oppose their government’s extreme right wing tactics are traitors and anti-Semites, no better than Nazis, really.   I actually heard this view expressed by a tiny gaggle of disgruntled protesters outside a Palestinian-Israeli peace concert we attended.  

Keeping it simple: the New Israel Fund supports terrorism.   Boom.  End of story, synagogue hosting event is giving a forum to anti-Semites! The great David Broza, anti-Semite.  Anyone looking for peace with the enemy– traitor!

The Israeli government’s moral position on the mass shootings at the Gaza-Israel fence is that it gave the Hamas-inspired protesters fair warning: come within this distance of the 37 mile long reinforced fence [2] and we will use deadly force.  The warnings were dropped in the form of leaflets, plainly written in Arabic for anyone to read.  Fair warning.  Come near my fence and I will shoot you, even kill you.   Still they came, protesting by the thousands, surging toward the hated fence, threatening to breach it and cause a bloodbath in Israel, whose right to exist they angrily deny.  

The failing NY Times reported on the many Palestinian deaths, at least sixty, in the days around Ivanka and Jared’s photo op with Bibi Netanyahu as they cut the ribbon on the controversial U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  Palestinian and international sources give much higher numbers of dead and wounded at the Gaza fence.   Easy enough to dismiss these numbers as fake news, anti-Israel propaganda, since it comes from people who have historically had a bloody ax to grind against Israel.   Is there a number of medics shot that is justifiable?   Is it legitimate to fire on medical personnel because they are aiding and abetting, by trying to save the lives of, those who surge toward the guns of their hated enemies?

It is so much easier to pick a side and just be on it than to try to consider all sides in an extremely complicated and intractable situation and take nuanced positions on a case by case basis.  We can raise arguments about the Palestinian definition of refugees, as the Jerusalem Post apparently did recently.  Simple, these fucks are not actual refugees, they just pretend to be victims under a definition they came up with.   They can’t leave Gaza?   Good for them!   The simple view sees good guys and bad guys and good people stick with the good guys.  Simple.

I was reminded, even sitting around a table with good friends, warm friends, people I love, all old friends who speak Hebrew and love Israel as much as I do, that some innocent questions are, to be simple about it, not innocent.   Say the wrong thing and the conversation is over.   Forget the fact that we all likely agree, to one extent or another, about the school to prison pipeline, intergenerational poverty going back directly to slavery,  the fossil fuel industry-created denial of plainly observable climate catastrophes as part of a of pattern related to centuries of escalating human pollution, vast, escalating income inequality, the anti-democratic curse of concealing information of great public concern from the voting public, the recent gift of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest, at the cost of cutting the social safety nets for the most vulnerable, our unforgivable and unaddressed national racism (we can pat ourselves on the back for banning the hateful word “nigger” and replacing it with the great neologism “n-word”, much less offensive!), the imminent dismantling of a woman’s federal right to choose to terminate an unwanted, or dangerous, pregnancy, the inevitable corruption of a democratic system where unlimited campaign money is “free speech” and dark money — if donated in a large enough pile — needn’t ever have its source exposed, as the recently rewritten law provides.  

We did not get to this cruel president and his blundering administration by chance. The extremest, greediest billionaires found their donkey to ride to the promised land they’ve been dreaming of since the days of the John Birch Society.   The Koch brothers’ wealthy, distant father was a founder of that society.  The John Birchers were rich, paranoid men who suspected Dwight D. Eisenhower might be a secret Commie, or at least an unwitting dupe of the goddamned Commies.  These canny billionaires built a national infrastructure over the last thirty years or more, methodically, think tank by think tank, state house by state house, created legislative/corporate partnerships, and finally, as the Kochs head toward their reward in heaven (both are old men now) their long-cherished dream has become reality for all of us.  The cancerous chickens of our materialistic, profit-worshipping “libertarian” democracy have come home to roost.

It is a certain kind of torment to live in a world as inured to violence as our world is.  Millions die violent, hopeless deaths, it’s just the way it is.   Cherished principles are so easily tossed aside when policies are addressed directly to our terrors.   THEY ARE GOING TO KILL US!!!!   So we are morally justified in killing them first.   THEY HATE US.   Therefore, we can torture them, because if they hate us, fuck them, you know?   They already hate us, so torture them, what are you being so squeamish about?   They’d do the same to us, probably much worse.  

At the same time, when we are calm, we can recognize that hate never conquers hate, that an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind, that we need our most creative, empathetic, ingenious solutions for intractable, historically violent problems, but those are just abstractions.  All very exhausting abstractions!

BUILD THE WALL!   BUILD THE WALL!!!!   BUILD THE WALL!!!!    Feels pretty good, actually.

 

 

 [1]   Not only is this a sticky factual issue, with many sources stating that Sanders actually opposes BDS, but there is a related and completely separate issue that is easily elided into “support for BDS”.   Do you oppose a law criminalizing BDS?   I do, vigorously.   Do I support BDS?  I don’t.  What is Bernie’s position?   Truly, I have no fucking idea, though it appears he doesn’t.   I’m pretty sure he agrees that criminalizing selected nonviolent political expression is anti-democratic.  Which in my book, makes Bernie Sanders no more an anti-Semite than I am– trying my best to live by my Jewish values, including dedication to protecting the weakest among us and not doing what is hateful to us to others.

[2]      The fence is actually two parallel barriers built by the Israelis: a formidable one of barbed-wire within Gaza and a 10-foot-high metal “smart fence” packed with surveillance sensors along the Israel demarcation line. A restricted buffer zone as wide as 300 yards is between them. Israel has warned that people in the zone without authorization risk being subjected to deadly force.    

source   (Lying NY Times) 

[3]  We, the People.

Infallible Superman types

“The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.    The assumption of infallibility, moreover, is based not so much on superior intelligence as on the correct interpretation of the essentially reliable forces in history or nature, forces which neither defeat nor ruin can prove wrong because they’re bound to assert themselves in the long run.  Mass leaders in power have one concern, which overrules all utilitarian considerations– to make their predictions come true.”

                                               – Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

 

You can call this unending need to be unendingly infallible the hallmark of every overbearingly toxic type: the blowhard, petty tyrants of all stripes, bullies, unrepentant jackasses, stern overseers, vengeful teachers, viciously demanding bosses, bullied weaklings who grow up to get — and abuse– any measure of authority over others, small time authoritarians of every kind.    The rule for infallibility is simple: never admit an error.

It is not that hard to insist on your own infallibility, if you are prepared to pay the cost to be the boss.   For one thing, there is always somebody to blame: a liar who has it in for you, a thousand liars, a million liars, petty, mean bastards, the corrupt, the jealous, the weak, losers, insubordinate subordinates, traitors, leakers, blabber mouths, disloyal assholes, elites who claim they’re better than you are– hah!   The list is limited only by your own infallible imagination.

Hannah Arendt makes this observation about mass leaders like Hitler and Stalin, the main subjects of part three of her treatise on totalitarianism.  It is obvious, once pointed out, that every tyrant insists on his infallibility.   Hitler was a great case– if Germany lost the war of aggression he started, and imbecilically prosecuted, overruling his generals and shouting that he was the smartest man in every room, until German defeat was a certainty, well– it only fulfilled his prediction that if the German Volk was weak that they deserved, every last one of them, to die.  In the end he ordered German boys to man the barricades as the vengeful, brutal Red Army closed in on his bunker in Berlin.   Every last German must die, because they had let their infallible selfless Fuhrer down.  Nothing more he could do, he poisoned his idiot girlfriend, after hastily marrying her, shot his beloved dog and turned the gun on himself.

Which brings to mind the same thought I have every time some sick fuck kills a bunch of people and then “turns the gun on himself.”  The thought: why didn’t he fucking turn the gun on himself BEFORE he murdered all those people?   Makes me want to holler, although, of course, hollering doesn’t help much.

Another example Arendt gives of this infallibility/prophecy pathology is Hitler thundering to the Reichstag in 1939 that if international Jewry insists on forcing Germany into another world war, it will result in the annihilation of the “Jewish race”.   You see how this prophecy business works among the infallible?

I’ve really got nothing more to add on this note, except to say that it appears those who most desperately claim to be to infallible are weak, vain, stupid, insecure, resentful, entitled, incompetent, jealous, petty, vindictive, hopelessly inferior feeling, empty, blindly hating, shallow, incurious, uninformed (yet supremely opinionated), envious, grasping, self-ignorant, desperate, persecuted, vicious types.  Very fine people, fine people, no doubt, the finest people, if you know what I’m saying, but heaven help the nation that falls under the power of one of these headstrong, never wrong creatures.