A troubling tale about how money moves in the world of the Koch Brothers. We talk about the oligarchs in Russia. How different are we from them? http://www.propublica.org/article/the-dark-money-man-how-sean-noble-moved-the-kochs-cash-into-politics-and-ma
Oh the tangled webs we weave . . .
Hard to believe: corporate CEOs and other VIPs acting like idiots. Pathetic. A sad commentary on leadership and virtue in our society. Fortunately, there are intrepid reporters like Kevin Roose who make us look at ourselves in the mirror. Slowly this will force us to change for the better, I think.
We now live in at least a semi-totalitarian state–an alliance between government, multinational corporations, and the extremely wealthy. The distinction between us and other totalitarian states is a matter of degree (which is thankfully still substantial), not of definition:
Most U.S. newspapers, like the New York Times article below, have never really gotten it and still don’t get it. This is NOT only about Netanyahu. And it’s NOT just “kitchen-table” issues, a patronizing phrase that smacks of elitism and intellectual snobbery.
This is about studio apartments that cost $500,000 dollars. This is about the Ultra-Orthodox who don’t serve in the IDF and the rest of the population that does. This is about welfare for corporations and for the ultra-Orthodox who live off the hard work of the middle class. This is about a government fixated on Iran while ignoring the economic plight of its own citizens. This is about unemployment and youth who have limited prospects. This is about religious bullying and extremism. This is about a minority of settlers who put at risk the majority of Israelis just trying to live their lives. This is about the vast majority of Israelis from left to right who believe that Palestinians have no interest in peace, but who still place hope above despair.
Israelis do care about serious issues. The issues above are serious. Just because Israelis are not only focused on borders and negotiations, as we are when it comes to the Middle East, does not mean that they are superficial or materialistic consumers. Israelis have a right to live their lives without others imposing their social, political, and religious preconceptions on them.
We in North America and Europe love to babble on (including me) about the prospects for peace, about the children of Abraham, about Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, about the Bible, about oil, about democracy in the Middle East, and so much more. However, Israelis want to be able to have normal, healthy, fulfilling lives. This elections says to the Israeli government: you have to pay attention to the middle class and stop focusing on everyone and everything else but us. Without a middle class and without working people, there is no Israel. Peace starts at home.
By JODI RUDOREN – New York Times Online 1-23-13
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is likely to serve a third term, but voters gave a surprising second place to a centrist party founded by a celebrity who emphasized kitchen-table issues.
I don’t know if you saw this, but there was an electoral earthquake in Israel yesterday. Netanyahu is in trouble, and the election at this time is a 60-60 tie in the Knesset between right and left. Yair Lapid (leader of centrist and economically focused Yesh Atid) is king-maker with 19 seats. Netanyahu may still remain as prime minister, but it will be a much more centrist political landscape than before.
It rarely has happened in recent Israeli history (once under a Sharon government in 2003, but there is a real chance now of a government without the ultra-Orthodox (who only constitute 10% of the total population), if Likud/Yisrael Beteinu, Yesh Atid, Labor, Hatnua, and Kadima (probably not Meretz) join to form a government. (Habayit Yehudi is also a possibility, as they are modern orthodox, but they’re also far-right nationalists). Since everyone hates each other, that may not occur, but the possibility itself is a significant development whatever mess may ensue.
What people in the U.S. don‘t realize is that Israelis do not vote solely (or even primarily) on peace/war issues, but economics and religion-state issues are just as important to them. When it comes to the Middle East, we may only care about foreign policy, but Israelis (like Americans, and Arabs too by the way) are worried about their economic futures and their freedoms. Lapid won because people are sick of the ultra-Orthodox military exemptions and the crushing of the middle class by corporations and government expenditures on the fanatically religious. No one predicted this would happen, but secular voters, increasing numbers of moderately religious, and young people showed up in unexpected quantities (sound familiar). The polls were wrong, because they only used landlines and missed the cell-phone youth vote.
I know I’m surprised–and relieved. A new generation is beginning to assert itself in Israel. We‘ll see if they can help to manage the pandemonium about to ensue.
This article puts MLK into perspective, reminding us that he was not a bourgeoise moderate politician, but a radical social and spiritual acitivist with an economic vision for justice and equality. Whatever one thinks of his economic solutions, there is no question that levels of inequality in our society threaten our way of life, our democracy, and our freedom. MLK was well ahead of his time on that. We need to remember who MLK was and his vision of a just society and not depict him as the main character in a romance novel in order to domesticate him for popular consumption. .
In a move to assert their rights in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and to bring attention to gender inequalities, Mormon women put out a call to wear pants to church. We may think of women as having achieved parity in many sectors of American society, but in religious institutions women often find themselves caught in the backdraft of ancient traditions and historical precedents.
In my own Jewish tradition, for example, women have found themselves arrested by Israeli police simply for wearing a prayer shawl (talit) while praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In fact, there is nothing in Jewish law that would prevent women from doing this: it’s simply a custom that men in authority don’t like.
This is another example of religious institutions trailing behind other sectors of society in promoting economic and social progress. In the modern world, organized religion has in fact mostly stood as an impediment to the expansion of freedom and to cultural advancement. In contrast, spiritual thought and practice is much more attuned to the unfolding consciousness that is very gradually bringing humanity to a higher state of awareness and living.
Thanks to these Mormon women for helping humanity move forward just a little bit further.
“People say that we shouldn’t throw trash away carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people, either.” Favio Chavez, Landfillharmonic. This is an orchestra from Uruguay that makes its instruments from the trash in a landfill dump (via Dianne Bazell who excerpted this quote)
The linking of banks with off-duty police in full uniform is a perilous development for our freedom. Corporations and public security join forces to potentially oppose the will of the people. What’s happening to our freedom and democracy?
In the post-Enlightenment era, at least in developed societies, most profound social and spiritual change does not come from religious institutions, but from the middle class.
Larry Kant, Mystic Scholar
Scary to contemplate how advertisers now can target ads on multiple devices of the same user. Oy.
THE MIDDLE EAST AND THE ISRAELI POLITICAL SCENE
Laurence H. Kant
Thomas Friedman is right on the mark in this recent New York Times article, “The Full Israeli Experience,” describing (on the one hand) the justifiable frustration Israelis have with left-wing Europeans who don’t understand what it’s like to live in the Middle East and (on the other hand) pointing out the depressing absence of significant political support for peace initiatives among Israeli parties and political leaders.
As Friedman explains, Israelis will not listen if you don’t demonstrate you have a clue as to what’s going on in the Middle East. In my view, most left-wing Europeans–and some left-wing Americans as well–haven’t got the foggiest idea. They just don’t. They live in la-la land without a meaningful sense of the history of the Middle East or of Jews (or of Arabs and Muslims for that matter). Further, their own self-confidence leads them to think that they are somehow exempt from the prejudice and antisemitism that so deeply inhabits their being. They are just too arrogant and self-righteous to see it.
I would add, however, that Israelis are themselves naive at times. They think the US religious right is on their side, and they’re wrong. As some have said, fundamentalist Christians may love Israel, but they don’t like Jews much. Or maybe they like Jews from the “Old Testament” (as they envision it), or if Jews look funny in black hats from another time. However, such Christians are not very comfortable with mainstream Jews (secular, Reform, Conservative, and some Modern Orthodox, among others) who participate in global society, wear modern clothing, and constitute the vast majority of worldwide Jewry. Many millennarian Christians are not that different from the Palestinians in an odd sort of way. The PLO and Hamas are ok with the state of Israel as long as it’s inhabited by Arabs and Muslims. These evangelicals just replace “Arabs” and “Muslims” with “Christians” (after Jews convert, and Israel becomes a Christian state in the millennial age). Other evangelicals just want all Jews to convert to Christianity. Nobody, it seems, can envision Israel as Jewish, or can see Jews as staying Jewish, much longer. Apparently that concept is verboten.
The Middle East climate is rough right now, with the Arab/Muslim world in a whirlwind of tumult. In the midst of that, Israeli politics is more confused and chaotic than usual, an environment that is, to put it simply, a crazy mess (a mischigoss, balagan).
The main thing Bibi Netanyahu seems to care about is winning elections, while Avigdor Lieberman and his party, Yisrael Beteinu, is racist and authoritarian (though Lieberman is progressive on reducing the power of the religious). Lieberman and Netanyahu especially use the settlers (who constitute about 10% of the total Israeli vote) to drive their foreign policy and keep them in power, because in the fragmented Israeli system relatively modest numbers can drive your vote numbers high enough to win a lot of seats. Moshe Kahlon threatened a breakaway party that would espouse a challenge to corporate interests in Israel, but he decided to stay with Likud and not run this year. Recently emerging further on the right is Habayit Yehudi (The Jewish Home), a coalition of the National Relgious Party and the National Union, which are further to the right of Israel Beteinu, but represent a religious Zionist approach (in contrast to Likud/Israel Beteinu, which is secular). Led by Naphtali Bennett, this party is a settlers’ movement (closely associated with the West Bank settler’s council, Yesha) that envisions a greater Israel including the West Bank, opposes a two-state solution (in a wierd way, aligning with Hamas), and takes away votes from Likud/Israel Beteinu.
The religious parties (who represent the ultra-Orthodox Haredi), besides bent on discriminating against women, primarily want welfare for themselves and military exemptions. They are not Zionist or genuine supporters of the Israeli political system. These include primarily Shas (representing the ultra-Orthodox Sephardim, led byEli Yishai) and United Torah Judaism (UTJ, representing the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi). They rely on the weakness of the Israeli political system to essentially shakedown whatever government (right or left) is in power. Despite the portrayals of them in Western media, these groups have very little interest in, or influence over, the debate on Palestinian statehood or on West Bank settlements.
The center- and left-wings of Israeli politics are splintered and in tatters, filled with narcissists and limelight seekers (there are plenty of them on the right also, but there are more constraints on them at the moment). Friedman’s favorite centrist, Ehud Barak just sold his Tel-Aviv apartment for 26.5 million shekels or 6.5 million dollars–now there’s a real man of the people at a time when many Israelis cannot make ends meet. Beside his fondness for intrigue and drama, Barak also badly misjudged negotiating tactics in the Camp David discussions with the Palestinians in 2000. Tzipi Livni has added former Labor Party leader, Amir Peretz, to her new party (Hatnua) list so that we have two leaders whom many Israelis perceive as having failed miserably during the 2006 Lebanese war. Most Israelis naturally don’t want them in leadership. Shaul Mofaz, the current leader of Kadima, is not a popular leader, lacking charisma and political skills. Some have floated the name of Shimon Peres. While he’s been quite a statesman and leader (the man partly responsible for Israel’s nuclear program), he’s not at the right age to reenter politics at 89, and, though popular now, he did not inspire confidence in Israelis when he was in power as a Labor Party politician. Ehud Olmert has serious legal problems and his own political baggage. Shelly Yacimovich, the Labor Party leader, who is growing in popularity, has virtually no foreign policy or security experience. Yair Lapid, head of the new party, Yesh Atid, advocates for a secular society and for women’s rights in explicit opposition to the religious, but his platform is probably too narrow to attract enough votes to make him a significant player. The left-wing party, Meretz, describes itself as the peace party and as socialist, but most Israelis view it as too idealistic and unrealistic.
Overall, most Israelis don’t particularly like Netanyahu, but at least he’s competent in their view.
HBO or Showtime could easily serialize Israeli politics into a weekly evening soap opera, with wild twists and turns, intrigues, plots and counter-plots, jam-packed with drama-kings and drama-queens.
At the same time, one can trace the currently disturbed state of Israeli politics back to the 1995 assassination of Yitzhaq Rabin by a right-wing settler (Yigal Amir) who was himself goaded by the inflammatory rhetoric of settler leaders, politicians, and rabbis. Many Israelis (and diaspora Jews as well) are still stunned by the idea that a Jew would murder the Jewish leader of a Jewish state. Just as it took the US a long time to recover from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, it may take Israel a long time to find its political way after this traumatic event. The incapacitating stroke of Ariel Sharon in 2006 just after he had successfully led Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza further exacerbated the political trauma and left Israel without another of its seminal leaders. Rabin and Sharon may not have seen eye to eye, but they were powerful leaders who had a vision for Israel and its place in the Middle East. They had obvious military credentials, were tough individuals with strong egos, and possessed a willingness to fight in the political underbrush. They also believed in seeking peace through strength, taking measures to demonstrate both their toughness and their openness to reconciliation. Their loss has had a deeply depressive effect on the Israeli body politic. We should not forget this.
Of course, the structure of the Israeli political system is flawed, allowing for the proliferation of smaller parties some of which wield power well beyond the numbers of their supporters. It makes coherence, consensus, and political stability more difficult to achieve than it should be. What we end up with is an already fragmented electorate even more fragmented.
Israelis are particularly bleak at the moment about the Arab world and about Palestinian society. All you have to do is take a look at the recent statement of Hamas leader, Khalid Meshal, about Israel: “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” How do you have a rational discussion with a group that openly states that it wishes to annihilate you? Plus, Israelis have their own internal problems with an outrageous cost of living and enormous divisions between the secular and the religious.
Yet, in the final analysis, most Israelis want peace and will go a long way out of their comfort zone to make peace. Eventually the political culture will reflect that. Unfortunately, it may take more time. Given the situation in the Arab world and the lack of acceptance of a Jewish state, Israel’s neighbors are clearly in no mood to recognize a Jewish Israel. And, given Israel’s own divisions, Israelis find it difficult to harness a unified vision and national identity.
Things never move as quickly as we would like, but still they’re moving, however slowly. For example, attempts to bring Israeli Jews and Palestinians together are flourishing in all sorts of unlikely places in Israel and the West Bank. Within Israel we are seeing attempts from all sides of the political spectrum to lower the cost of living and help disadvantaged Israelis. And there are movements now to bridge the divide between the secular and religious in Israel.
Further, while the so-called Arab Spring could devolve into chaos or produce fanatic Muslim fundamentalist governments (see Iran, but this time potentially mostly Sunni rather than Shiite), it also presents the only real possibility for change in the Arab/Muslim world. The risks are enormous, but the previous corrupt, repressive governments of the Middle East (some of which still exist, with a few more barely holding on to power) would never have been able to bring about peace with Israel or democratic prosperity at home. Realistically, as dangerous and as anxiety-provoking as possible outcomes are, this change is the best hope Israel has for peace.
Part of the problem is that we can visualize peace, and that makes it seem closer than it actually is, but in reality peace is there on the horizon, just further out than we would like. Sometimes hope (as Pema Chodron says) holds us back and pushes us to do things which we should not. What we really need is neither hope nor despair, but an honest, clear-headed view of what’s in front of us, supported and nurtured by a fundamental trust in the universe (which is, after all, the Jewish way).
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-full-israeli-experience.html (Thanks to Nelson French! for this article)
The intriguing and mysterious saga of the Wilpon and Madoff families. I’m not sure what happened here, but the story is gripping. If Wilpon knew so little about investing (which may well be the case), that’s one more confirmation how con-men can push the buttons of anyone in their narcissistic drive for money and power.
I just saw Rachel Maddow’s program this evening. Did you know the extent to which Democrats have been winning unexpectedly in heavenly Republican districts? Obviously there’s the stunning victory in New York 26, but there’s much more going on. Democrats are winning everywhere: for Jacksonville mayor, for Tampa mayor, in New Hampshire for a state senate seat, and in Wisconsin for a state assembly seat. In a 50-50 Maine state senate district, the Democrat won by over 40 percentage points. In Ohio a Republican state senator who voted for the union busting bill resigned after relentless criticism for that vote. In Alabama, a state senator flipped from Republican to Democrat. The Republican governor of Florida (Rick Scott) has a 29% approval rating, while Republican John Kasich in Ohio is cratering in the polls and Republican Scott Walker is doing poorly in Wisconsin. In Ohio a poll showed an 18% lead for the opponents of the union busting bill.
What’s going on? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this quick of a political turn-around? This is more dramatic than what happened after the government shut-down in 1994-95. Now you never know what will happen down the road, but what were the Republicans thinking? Their strategy makes no political sense. It’s as if the end of the world were coming, and the Republicans tried to grab as much stuff as they possibly could before all hell broke loose. Busting unions, destroying Medicare, eviscerating social programs, offering tax-give-aways to the super-rich and corporations, gutting the environment, criminalizing abortion, and much more does not seem to be working out so well for them politically.
Honestly, I can’t make sense of what they’re thinking politically. It’s totally illogical and just plain bizarre. They could have caused a lot of damage and still maintained some semblance of political viability, but they chose instead to take a wrecking ball. The only thing that I can postulate is that Republicans were not thinking politically, but were instead doing the bidding of a few very powerful super-rich people such as the Koch Brothers. In other words,, Republicans had marching orders and happily walked the plank. Somehow, I guess, they think that these guys will rescue them or do something. I’m not sure, but that’s all I came come up with.
They are handing the 2012 general election on a silver platter to the Democrats. Why????? Do you have any ideas out there? It makes no sense. I’m perplexed.
Now, that said, I am concerned for our country. Yes, I want far-right-wing crazies, nut-jobs, and loony-tunes to lose, but our country needs at least two viable competing parties. Without that either party will probably mess things up even more. I can’t imagine that Democrats will know what to do with the massive majorities they might win in next election if things go as they seem to be going. We need two real parties with serious ideas that must compete with the serious ideas of the other party. Right now the Republicans are nuts, like invading locusts destroying everything in their paths, while Democrats are gleefully watching the self-destruction, but they don’t have any real ideas. Now Obama, I believe, has a vision, but the Democrats as a whole are pretty much empty. So where does that leave us as a country?
What I wish for are two parties: one which is expansive, trying to move the nation forward by advocating expenditures that will improve our quality of life and develop a new strategy to keep our economic global prominence; and another party that stands for fiscal responsibility that creatively figures our ways to save money, keep taxes reasonable, and act as good managers and stewards of our resources.
What’s happened? Where are these parties? I consider myself a progressive independent, a strong supporter of Obama, who has no alternative but to vote Democrat in light of the madness that currently passes for Republican policy. But that’s not what I want. I want a Democrat party that stands for something meaningful and hopeful and a Republican party that recognizes itself as a solid citizen watching over expenditures carefully and supporting change while also understanding the value of tradition. Instead, the Democrats just kind of float along living in FDR’s shadow, while the Republicans have gone off the deep end. Where is the imagination and creativity? Where is honor and responsibility. It exists with a few individuals, but it’s absent from political groups as wholes.
This is a wild time. Maybe we have to go through it as a country, but we are sure facing tremendous uncertainty and volatility unlike anything I can remember and really know about historically, at least since the Civil War. This is, I think, part of the great shift happening at a global level. We are entering a new period of history and consciousness, watching the collapse of old systems (including political ones) while new ones emerge. Perhaps we should not get caught up in the day-to-day, political and social earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but look through and beyond that to the world that is coming–for us and the globe. Perhaps nation-states will disintegrate as new forms of governance emerge that act at both global and local levels. A lot of people focus on up-and-coming countries like China, but perhaps we need to look toward the new structures that are emerging that have nothing to do with nations or political parties, but with movements–such as environmental activism or freedom movements in the Middle East or micro-financing or the post-religious “spiritual but nor religious” phenomenon or whatever –that are creating systems that we can’t even really seen just yet.
I have for a long time sensed a global shift and world transformation bubbling up from the depths, but experiencing it is completely different from envisioning it.
Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere and web world?
If you don’t like history, simply rewrite it and persuade people that lies are true. That’s the conservative method of attaining political victory.
It’s occasionally possible for the facts to change the minds of climate change deniers. The politicization of this issue in the U.S.. as well as the anti-intellectual and anti-scientific basis of American evangelical Protestants and the power of corporate interests, has made the U.S. one of the only places in the world to have such a substantial number of people who deny the clear conclusions of science. In the U.S., this follows the pattern of denying other scientific assessments, including evolution, damage to the ozone layer, the use of marijuana, the age of the earth, the dangers of nuclear power. and much more.
http://www.slate.com/id/2293607/pagenum/all/ (via Dianne Bazell)
Freedom from bondage in Egypt still has not finished. We are still wandering in the wilderness to the extent that we are in bondage to the expectations of others. Such a plight might indicate “peer pressure,” but even more it refers to the manipulations of powerful cultural forces and vast corporate empires.
Yet, in the din and confusion of screeching bullies and con-men, it is within our power to listen to our own authentic voices and act accordingly. A difficult journey faces us, but the land of milk and honey beckons.
A tour of a Christian district in Cairo where the garbage collectors live in squalor amidst sewage and garbage:
We prosecute NSA whistleblowers, while we let major scam artists and criminals go free.
Paul Krugman describes the beginning of a manufacturing revival in the U.S.
Robert Reich discusses why it is so important for the super-rich to contribute their fair share of taxes: http://robertreich.org/post/5583016733
This illustrates the great danger of media monopolies. Because Al Gore hired Keith Olbermann, Murdoch’s News Corp. will keep Current TV off the air in Italy. A conservative media power blows off a progressive upstart. And once again corporations show us who has the real power in the world.
I could not agree more with Reverend Wallis. As the recent dismissal of Chipotle employees (in Washington, D.C.) demonstrates (because the company was afraid of their legal status), our immigration system is broken. Reverend Wallis is right when he notes that our country would grind to a halt without Latino/a immigrant workers. We would simply not function as a country without them. These are hard-working people with the kind of drive and energy that is at the core of the prosperity and dynamism of the U.S. The xenophobia and fear that characterizes so much of our national discourse on this topic is not only economically and morally harmful to us, but it diverts us from the real problems we face.
Except for Native americans, we are all immigrants, including my grandparents who came to this country from Russia and Poland. The Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) is one of our greatest symbols, representing the most deeply held values of our people. Let us not react to our anxieties and hatred, but let us live out our dreams and hopes. That is the meaning of every great moral and spiritual tradition.
This is a wonderfully written story about the mania for gold (and mushrooms) and the adventurous souls that prospect for it in the Yukon in Canada
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/magazine/mag-15Gold-t.html (via Nelson French)
Why do we in the U.S. let corporate giants bully and abuse us? Richard Wolff proposes a solution:
In Europe, corporations treat workers with some respect, but in the good, old USA, those very same corporations act as slumlords and bully workers. This shows how important government actually is in protecting our standard of living. Who else will protect working people?
Coca-Cola and other big corporations prefer to talk the talk rather than walk the walk:
Here are JD Power’s bank ratings:
Great idea, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Which century do we live in?
Wisconsin Republicans push radical agenda ahead of recalls. I guess that’s what bullies do:
To get you to buy more stuff:
We cannot reduce everything to a commodity or money, as Paul Krugman concisely notes: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/opinion/22krugman.html
This is an excellent analysis and survey by U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Michael Oren: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/25/the_ultimate_ally?page=full
With the economic recession and the advent of internet technology, U.S. television ownership is on the decline for the first time in many decades: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/business/media/03television.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha25
This is an excellent survey of the many ways in which banks bully homeowners and decimate the middle class:
And the beat goes on: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110417/ap_on_bi_ge/us_no_taxes
Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.