TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

Laurence H. Kant

 

Many, including Melania Trump, have assured us that Donald isn’t Hitler. Some commentators object to the comparison outright; others simply bleat the equivalence hysterically, without further explanation. All should contend with the evidence:

 

  • Trump’s tweeting a Mussolini quotation and retweeting neo-Nazis, white supremacists;
  • Trump’s belated (and weak) disavowal of David Duke and the KKK;
  • Trump’s refusal to condemn or even rebuke Jew-hating tirades—including death threats and concentration camp oven imagery—against Jewish journalists who’ve criticized   him (Bethany Mandel, Ben Shapiro, and Jonathan Weisman);
  • Official association of Trump’s campaign with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, giving talk-show host, James Edwards, a VIP press parking space and interview with Donald Trump, Jr. at a Memphis rally, and designating William Johnson a California Trump delegate to the Republican convention;
  • Ivana Trump’s Vanity Fair statement (1990) that her husband kept a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order,” in his bedside cabinet (which Trump acknowledged);
  • The right-arm salute Trump invokes at his rallies, recalling the Nazi salute (some dispute this, but, given his media skills, it’s safe to assume that Trump knows the symbolic effect of every image he uses);
  • Trump’s use of “America First,” alluding to an isolationist, early-40’s U.S. movement that was rife with Jew hatred and called for negotiations with Hitler;
  • Trump’s October 13 speech that refers to international bankers, media, and global elites that allegedly strip the U.S. of its rightful power—a trope that recalls the classic Jew-hating screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” , and has numerous and widespread parallels in other Jew-hating rhetoric as well;

 

Does anyone really believe that this self-described “really smart” Wharton grad draws on the Nazi tradition of political rhetoric, symbolism, and ethnic/racial scapegoating unawares?

The onus should be on those who deny the obvious connections to explain in detail why they’re not relevant.

Countless other items of evidence connect Trump to fascism more generally:

 

  • Using threatening gestures, encouraging supporters to beat up protesters and intimidate critics;
  • Forecasting (and encouraging) “riots” at the Republican convention;
  • Calling reporters “scum” and implicitly threatening them, and barring major media organizations (left and right) from his campaign events;
  • Calling to change libel/slander laws to curb criticism of public figures;
  • Demonizing ethnic groups: labeling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug addicts,” calling for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented aliens, advocating a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and demanding the recusal of a judge as biased and unqualified because of his ethnic heritage;
  • Targeting the disabled by mocking the arm and facial movements of New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski;
  • Praising dictators, including North Korean Kim Jong-un, for murdering potential  enemies; Chinese rulers, for cracking down on Tiananmen Square protesters; and Vladimir Putin for being “a leader’’;
  • Openly and frequently calling for the jailing of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton—this happens as a matter of course in totalitarian societies from the Congo to Cuba to North Korea;

 

No, Trump doesn’t outline a genocidal philosophy or well-thought-out plans to implement discrimination—what coherent policy strategy has he ever enunciated?—but he is aware of Hitler and Mussolini and riffs off of them. He knows who they are and borrows their ideas—most notably the use of intimidation and violence to acquire political power.

Does this make him more like a third-world dictator (Marco Rubio’s assessment)? Would Mussolini serve as a better comparison than Hitler? Silvio Berlusconi?

We don’t know what he sincerely believes, but does that really matter? We can only judge him by his words, his actions, and what he promotes.

We d­­­on’t know what Trump would actually do if elected president. Given the American system of checks and balances, his attempt at authoritarian rule would likely be limited by the realities of governance. Yet, is that a risk worth taking?

Why don’t commentators address the specific evidence instead of asserting that Trump isn’t Hitler? Many in the press minimize the Trump phenomenon by laughing off his words or by rationalizing the crazy stuff he does. The reason is clear: because the evidence is so troubling and disturbing, and the implications so appalling, that they would rather it simply go away.

If we’ve learned anything from the holocaust, it’s that we can’t take on the role of bystanders and let troubling events transpire by ignoring or glossing over them.

Too frequently in the past, politicians and commentators trivially compared political adversaries to Hitler and the Nazis, leading to what many call “Godwin’s law”: the inevitable invocation of Hitler or Nazis to refute an argument. Neither mindless name-calling nor willful ignorance force us to face the facts before us.

The facts are clear: Trump uses language, images, and tactics that directly recall those of the Nazis and Hitler, along with other fascists. To allow him to speak destructively by incorporating this pernicious tradition and to permit him to encourage violence without calling him to meaningful account does nothing more than offer him a media get-out-of-jail free card. It amounts to an abdication of the sacred responsibility the founders gave the press in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Who is willing to stand up and be counted?

 

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The Press, the Storyline, and Politics USA

This comment by Belichick says it all about the press and how utterly dense and clueless they can be. All the reporter is interested in is what the STORYLINE is about their quarterback (Jimmy Garropolo), but all Belichick is interested in is getting his work done.
 
And that’s exactly what’s happening with Hillary Clinton and the presidential election. The media is in a frenzy about her health and pneumonia, because they need a STORYLINE to take down the front runner and because they want to equalize the two candidates as if they are both legitimate contenders for the presidency in order to create a horserace to attract more advertisers and readers. That’s their story and they’re sticking with it no matter what.
 
I remember Joe Friday in Dragnet: “Just the facts.” For the media, it’s “Just the storyline.”
 
This is the sad state of affairs that currently passes for the press and media in the U.S.
 
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Hillary, Pneumonia, and Me

PNEUMONIA, HILLARY, AND ME

In late 2012 I had pneumonia, and I waited and waited to see the doctor–mainly because I didn’t know what the cause of my illness was. Finally I got so sick (high temp), was wheezing so much, and was throwing up a lot (which is not typical of pneumonia) that I had Dianne drive me to an urgent care treatment center here in Lexington (KY). I got out of the car while Dianne went to park it. I was so out of it that I walked into the wrong office–a nail salon where the employees spoke no English, and I tried to communicate with them in my somewhat delirious state. Finally I figured out what was going on and walked into the right office. I could barely sign the intake form and finally shakily headed off to the doctor who suggested I get a chest x-ray. I remember sitting in the x-ray room and going into a dream state where I was convinced that what I was dreaming was actually happening. Then the x-ray tech came in, told me put on the x-ray-proof vest, and stand beside a wall to get my x-ray taken. I told her I was feeling nauseated, and she told me that, if I threw up, please do it in the trashcan beside me. I remember looking inside the can and feeling disgusted that I would have to throw up in it.

The next thing I remember was waking up on a gurney surrounded by EMTs with all sorts of stuff attached to me. They were worried I was having a heart attack and doing an EKG (among other things), I said I was fine and felt rested because I had napped a bit. They were giving me intravenous fluids and told me that I had fainted, and they had put me on the gurney. They said I would have to go to the hospital by ambulance, I asked that they let Dianne drive me, but they were adamant. And I ended up at Central Baptist, where they x-rayed me finally, and I was found to have a relatively low-grade case of pneumonia. Apparently I was so dehydrated and wiped out that I had fainted.

Now we have the Hillary episode and the great drama that has ensued in its wake. Yet, all the huffers and puffers seem to have forgotten that pneumonia can make anyone faint and cough a lot, including teenagers. I’m sure that Hillary had no idea how serious what she had was and was just trying to keep her schedule.

And yet the media goes nuts, trying to imply that Hillary has some kind of mysterious disease or that she is hiding a secret health disorder. They are busy criticizing her for her lack of transparency. Say what?

Look I know Hillary has weaknesses as a candidate and does not always interact sufficiently with the press. Yet, the media and the pundits are way off base here. If anything, this incident makes me admire Hillary even more. As far as I’m concerned she’s a hero, a kind of political Wonder Woman, When I had pneumonia, I could barely move, except to engage with the toilet. Now here you have Hillary sitting and speaking at an emotional 9/11 event after having kept a schedule that almost no one could imagine keeping even with normal health.

I cannot think of a time where the media has seemed more pathetic and sexist, busily trying to equalize the two presidential candidates, as if they are both legitimate in their quest for the presidency.

No, Trump is not a legitimate candidate. He is a mentally ill fascist demagogue and con-man who cheats and lies almost every minute of the day and who appeals to hatred and bigotry to get the votes of those whose fears and dark sides have gotten the better of them.

On the other hand, Hillary works her butt off every day trying to make a difference in the world, and she gets smoked for it.

Now we have a woman who exemplifies what hard-working women have generally always done: Keep going and getting the job done no matter how they feel. That’s what makes Hillary a role model here. And I’m embarrassed by a press whose capacity to sink to new lows knows no apparent bounds.

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Rape Culture at the University of Virginia and College Campuses

Duke v Virginia

Rape culture is pervasive in U.S. colleges and universities, but even more so at the University of Virginia. The extent of violence surprised even me.

Interesting that it took Rolling Stone to produce this story rather than one of the mainstream news outlets. So many local newspapers and news stations have essentially enabled this kind of revolting power dynamic at some of our most prestigious higher educational institutions. Many of them are simply advertisers and marketers for their local university and have few real journalists, if any. And most national outlets aren’t any better, as they’re committed to establishment institutions as they currently exist.

This is a story as much about what we allow to happen as it is about what’s happening. If the media and higher educational administrations did their jobs and if we put these students in prison as criminals for the rape crimes that they have committed, then this behavior would diminish. The students who engage in these abusive crimes are criminals, thugs, and our society should treat them as such.
We let thieving bankers, rapists, and police shooters live their lives as respected citizens, but put in prison drug users and the poor who can’t pay debts. There’s something wrong with this picture. If society does nothing to address this, there will be a massive, popular reaction against all the imbalance. Nature abhors a vacuum.

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/a-rape-on-campus-20141119

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Media Bias and Israel

FriedmanMatti

More on the bias of Western media coverage of Israel by a former AP reporter, Matti Friedman: hostile fixation on Jews and Israel; censorship of Gaza coverage under pressure from Hamas and failure to report Hamas using civilians as human shields; and failure to report on an Israeli peace proposal. The original story discussed the failure of Western media to report on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority; the all-consuming media criticism of Israeli society and politics, with virtually no criticism of Palestinian society and politics; intense documenting of Israeli violence against Palestinians, with no corresponding, remotely equivalent documenting of Hamas’ brutality and vast military infrastructure; failure to report on Hamas intimidation of reporters; failure to describe the Hamas charter, which call for the genocide of Jews and uses the notorious Jew-hating Protocols of Zion to call for the murder of Jews; failure to report on Israeli peace proposals prior to the Netanyahu government; failure to report on the tiny size (both geographically and demographically) of Israel in contrast to the Arab/Muslim world; failure to connect Hamas to other extreme, exclusivist, violent Muslim religious movements (e.g. al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Taliban); and the overall equivalence of Israel as bad oppressors and Palestinians as sympathetic victims.

I am a strong critic of many Israeli policies (settlements, racism against Arabs, too much religion in government, the Netanyahu’s goverment failure to engage the Palestinian Authority), but it’s appalling how media coverage is so one-sided and tilted against Israel (and Jews as well) and so relatively non-critical of Hamas (which advocates genocide of Jews, believes in forced conversion to Islam, supports brutality and violence, and opposes democratic and secular values) and the Palestinian Authority (which is notoriously corrupt, inept, suspicious of democratic values, and refuses to accept Israel as Jewish): http://tabletmag.com/scroll/184707/ongoing-controversy-around-the-most-important-story-on-earth

Here’s the original article by Friedman: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183033/israel-insider-guide?all=1

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Gaza, Israel, and Media Coverage

Why are the global protests all focused on Gaza? Many more are dying in Syria: 700 over a two-day period.

Israel is the bogeyman for world media, but no one gives a hoot if Arabs are slaughtering other Arabs. What does this say about Israel and about antisemitism (yesterday protesters looted and ransacked Jewish businesses in a Paris suburb)?

Part 1: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGING THAT MEDIA COVERAGE OF GAZA IS SO EXTENSIVE BECAUSE OF ISRAEL’S FAILURE TO AGREE TO A CEASEFIRE

I don’t agree with you that the ceasefire issue is what drives the media.

The reason everyone pays attention to Gaza, and not to Syria, is because no one in the West gives a darn about Arabs and Muslims dying, but they do enjoy scapegoating Jews wherever they are. Whatever problems there are in the Middle East, blame it on the Jews. Now Muslims and Arabs have joined in on this. Take a look at Paris and its suburbs, where protesters have now burned and decimated French Jewish businesses. This is not primarily because of Gaza, but because fundamentally, at root, people blame Jews for whatever problems exists in their communities and cultures.

It’s sad, but it’s a fact. I don’t see a lot of people in Europe attacking Russian churches and community centers, because Russian separatists shot down a passenger jet. Where are the protesters on Iran’s treatment of the Bahai? Israelis are trying to protect their civilian population. You can argue about their tactics and effectiveness, but they do have a good argument based on self-defense.

No, fundamentally, the media and most people are fixated on Jews. This is a 2500-year-old problem, deeply rooted in history and culture. Those of us who devote our lives to working on antisemitism, Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations, must face this on a daily basis. That’s the reality, and no amount of rationalizations get around this fact.

PART 2: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGUING THAT EXTENSIVE MEDIA COVERAGE OF GAZA IS DUE TO LIMITED FINANCIAL RESOURCES

a) It’s not just Syria that the media ignores. Last I heard France is pretty good digs for reporters. Yet how much media attention is focused on protesters burning down Jewish shops and businesses, calling Jews “pigs” and shouting “kill the Jews,” vandalizing and storming synagogues, and hunting Jews on the streets? There were similar (though less destructive) events in Germany. I don’t see much on the TV about that. Iran is a police state, but it’s relatively safe to travel in. Where is the attention on the Iranian treatment of the Bahai, who are viciously persecuted and murdered? What about the Iranian treatment of their native Arab population and political dissidents, whom they like to hang from cranes? Where is the attention on the destruction of indigenous communities worldwide (including in the US and Canada) for corporate profit (oil, minerals, gems, whatever)? What about China and Tibet? What about the treatment of women and gays in the Arab/Muslim world? How much media attention is there on that compared to Israel? I could go on and on. The fact of the matter is, the media, and people in general, are obsessed with Jews. Israel is a good proxy for that.

There is one financial factor you did not mention: Israel coverage markets well to a public that is focused on Jews and Judaism. In other words, “Israel” sells. As the newspaper people used to say, “Israel” makes good copy.

That said, I do agree that the safety and cheapness of travel to Israel is a factor in media coverage of Israel. Part of the attraction is also that Israel is a pleasant place to which to travel and a democracy with a free press. There’s just a lot more to it than your explanation.

b) Israel is in the news all the time. The media always has stories about the Palestinian situation–not as intensely as Gaza right now, but these stories are all over the place regularly. They’re hard to miss. I don’t see nearly as much attention on the stuff I describe above as I do on Israel, even when Israel is not involved in a war.

Beyond that, there has been massive violence (with concentrated deaths in short periods of time) in other locations over the past decades with relatively little media attention: Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Congo, Ivory Coast. Back in the 1960s through the 1990s we saw hideous numbers of deaths in conflicts in South America, Africa, and East Asia (remember East Timor) without comparable attention. Naturally disasters such as occur in Bangladesh and India attract relatively little attention. These are not all impossible to cover (not as easy as Israel, but not Syria), and yet we saw very little on them. I would not expect the equivalence of Gaza, but I would have expected a lot more than we got.

Somehow the media figured out a way to cover our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Vietnam. The media covered the breakup of Yugoslavia, including Bosnia/Serbia. They covered the Tiannamen Square uprising in China. They gave blanket coverage to the Indonesian tsunami. They focused on the 2009/10 election protests in Iran. In the U.S. the media covered the Tea Party, but much less the Occupy movement.

If it wanted to do so, the media could cover Syria to a greater extent than it has recently. Yes, it’s not easy, and, yes, it’s more expensive. Coverage of Syria would never equal coverage of Gaza, but the media could give Syria much more attention than it has–even without a lot of reporters on the ground. It chooses not to, because Syria, Arabs, and Muslims just don’t hold the attention of the public or of news decision-makers. They’re just not sexy or meaningful to enough people.

I’m not saying that it’s unreasonable to give Gaza a lot of attention. And I’m not saying that a Jewish fixation is the only reason the media focuses on Israel/Gaza/West Bank. I am saying that Gaza has attracted much more attention than other stories of similar magnitude and that part of it has to do with the public’s fascination (for both good and ill) with Israel and Jews. I’m also saying that the media picks and chooses what it decides to cover, in part based on what it thinks sells best. And Israel sells real well. And it has since 1948, especially since 1967.

And I can tell you this. Unless a miracle happens soon, stories about Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors will continue to abound (massive deaths or not), while stories about Ukraine and Russia will have long since faded into oblivion. This does have to do with the prominent place of Jews (in spite of their small numbers) and Israel in human culture and history.

c) All in all I just don’t buy this argument. It does not pass the smell test. The amount of coverage on Israel/Palestine (the former British Mandate), a tiny piece of land with a miniscule population of Jews and Arabs is massive and overwhelming, even without the current Gaza conflict. The overwhelming coverage cannot be explained away simply by reference to limited media resources. An alien from another solar system who dropped onto earth and saw the media coverage would assume that Israel/Palestine must comprise a large continent and a major portion of the world’s population. Obviously, that’s not the case. There are other reasons why the public and the media are obsessed with this little slice of our planet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

d) I do think antisemitism is a major factor, but not the only one. It’s fixation on Jews that’s really at the core here. Even some supporters of Israel are motivated in part by the Bible and by their belief in Jews as part of God’s plan. And there are philosemitic non-Jews who focus on Jews and on Israel for a whole host of reasons. I wouldn’t call that antisemitism, but it does reflect a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Jews and Judaism. So fixation on Judaism is not simply antisemitism, but can actually be philosemitism as well. I would certainly rather have the latter than the former, but even that is a sword cutting more than one way.

I think it would be best for Jews if others would simply live their lives and leave us be. At the same time, I admit that Jews sometimes cultivate this fixation, and I’m certainly uncomfortable with that. There should be dialogue and conversation–not as an attempt to convert or to preach, but in order to learn and grow. I think it’s much better for Christians to become better Christians than to become Jews or something else, and I think it’s much better for Jews to become better Jews than to spend our time distinguishing ourselves from Christians and others.

As for one-sidedness, that’s a red herring. There are lot of one-sided conflicts in the world (some of which I already mentioned above) that do not get the same attention as Israel/Palestine. In Tibet, it’s mostly Tibetans getting killed, not Chinese. In Iran, no government officials get killed, only dissidents and disfavored minorities. In Central America, governments killed rebels and dissidents far more than the latter killed the former. In France, supporters of Israel are not attacking pro-Palestinian demonstrators, while Palestinians supporters are engaging in numerous attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. Right now in Syria, ISIS seems to be inflicting most of the damage.

Actually, the death toll in Gaza is now over 700 Gazans and 32 Israeli soldiers, plus two civilians. Of course, that’s because Israelis try to protect their civilians, while the goal of Hamas is to have as many civilians as possible killed in order to promote their PR/media campaign. It’s amazing (though sadly not surprising) to me that the media mentions this only in passing or skeptically. Also, we have no way of knowing how many Gazan civilians vs. soldiers are being killed–Hamas is not exactly a trustworthy source for this kind of info.

In any case, the media would do well to spend more time looking more deeply at what’s going on and not simply reporting death numbers as if it’s a football game. From that perspective, however, Hamas is winning. For them the side with the most dead is the victor. So on the media scoreboard, Hamas is currently ahead of Israel, c. 1,058 vs. 53. That’s a lopsided victory for Hamas. I’m sure Hamas’ leaders are thrilled. The culture of death is winning in a landslide over the culture of life.

Perhaps, however, the distancing of other countries from Hamas that I have observed recently is a move in the right direction. That would certainly show some sophistication in not simply accepting Hamas’ explanations at face value. I hope the media will move in that direction as well.

 

PART 3: ON ISRAELI AND ARAB POSITIONS ON A PALESTINE STATE (INCLUDING THOMAS FRIEDMAN WHO WANTS ISRAEL TO FOCUS ON DEVELOPING THE WEST BANK AS A THRIVING DEMOCRACY)

I’m not a fan of Netanyahu and have never supported him or Likud. I’m not sure he’s as opposed to a Palestinian state as you think, but I’m not sure he believes in much of anything–except his own political survival. And I wrote on this blog that most Arab governments don’t want a Palestinian state either: see the same thing here-http://mysticscholar.org/whats-really-going-on-in-the…/

As far as the West Bank goes, Friedman is right in principle, but that’s no easy task either. Fatah is corrupt, inept, and non-democratic, and there is not much of a prospect for more salutary groups or institutions that could take the lead. The West Bank would need a massive shift in culture and outlook for what Friedman suggests to happen. And Arab governments, as well as Iran, have no interest in an autonomous, free, democratic Palestine. They will do everything possible to prevent that from happening. So that leaves essentially a mess for Israel to deal with. Netanyahu is not much of a leader, but I doubt that anyone or any Israeli party could deal with the current state of things. 

So what are the options? What should Israel do in light of all this? I have no idea. Neither does anyone else as far as I can make out. The best I can think of is play a waiting game and hope that the West Bank cleans up its act and that the Arab world develops some kind of democratic institutions (Tunisia??).

As far as handling Hamas, I don’t know what Israel should do. I’m not an Israeli, and I don’t live there. But I know I wouldn’t put up with rockets firing on my land and tunnels with terrorists pouring out. Perhaps there’s a better way to deal with Hamas, but I don’t know what it is, and I haven’t heard anything plausible. Demilitarizing Gaza would make sense, but that seems impossible, given Hamas and given the sentiments of Gazans. 

If you have something practical to suggest, I really would listen–really. But most of what I’ve heard out there is, quite frankly, naive, totally impractical, or simply wrong. I’m waiting–but sometimes, you just have to tread water for a while. 

Friedman can talk and talk, but his ideas are not really pragmatic or feasible; they just sound nice and thoughtful. He’s not really suggesting anything workable, just a lot of hopeful words.

In the meantime, I have to deal with the antisemitism that’s out there and that’s integrally related to the media’s depiction of Israel. France is a mess, and the attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions is reminiscent of Nazi-era events. And this is happening across Europe. The situation is ugly and screwed-up, and the media is making it worse by not explaining what’s going on.

It does bother me that Israel gets singled out for its deplorable conduct, while the other nations you mention get a pass. The BDS movement focuses on Israel, but shows no interest in advocating divestment in other countries with far worse human rights violations (in the Middle East, that would include Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, among others). This too is ugly and antisemitic, and the media does not address it at all. When you’re dealing with the detritus of the Holocaust that still remains with us and the burgeoning global antisemitism, this is very disturbing indeed.

 

Part 4: ON ISRAEL LEAVING THE WEST BANK AND THE CREATION OF A PALESTINIAN STATE THERE

The problem is: if Israelis pull out and declare a Palestinian state (so called Plan B, which many Israelis are discussing, by the way, including Netanyahu), then you are left with a disfunctional Palestinian government/society and major security issues right on Israel’s border. The West Bank Palestinian economy is not good, and no amount of help from Israel can fix a broken system. Israel has limited resources with its own enormous economic issues: a large population of young who do not have much upward mobility (just as is the case globally), an excessively high cost of living, a minority of ultra-orthodox who profit from the current welfare system without putting much back into it, an electoral system that promotes fragmentation (giving excess weight to small parties), and a military budget that will not diminish just because Israel leaves the West Bank.

Therefore, if Israel leaves the West Bank on its own or with an agreement, it will be faced with a restive, frustrated Palestinian population in the West Bank, a corrupt government that is anti-democratic and probably unable to improve the economy much at all, and the potential for a neighbor that will continue its war and terrorism against Israel as a way of casting blame away from itself. And you cannot forget that the Fatah government would have limited ability to govern, given that Hamas has considerable influence in the West Bank and that there are numerous other splinter groups in the West Bank committed to the destruction of Israel. There is no guarantee that Hamas, a fanatic group committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide, would not take over there. As we learned in Iraq, a democracy/free society does not emerge just because you wish it to be so. A lot has to be in place before that can happen. If it doesn’t, Israel will be in an even more precarious position.

Further, Arab/Muslim governments for the most part do not want an independent, free, democratic Palestinian state for a simple reason: they would be forced to face their own populations and explain themselves. Their opposition would create further difficulties for both Israel and Palestine and make the situation potentially even more volatile..

I do not support the continued building of new settlement outposts, and I’m not going to defend that. I think it’s wrong. But I don’t know what the way out is. There are many critics of Israel (including Israelis), but I have not heard much about how to solve this pragmatically other than hopeful words and pleasant thoughts. If anyone out there has read something or heard something that is practical and specific, I would be thrilled to read or hear it.

As to the media, I stand by what I’ve said. Israel/Gaza/West Bank is a tiny strip of land with a miniscule population. Even when there’s no major conflict, the media focus is enormous and disproportionate. That’s because it sells globally: in the U.S., in Europe, and in the Muslim world. It’s because it’s the land of the Bible. And it’s because Jews are involved.

PART 5: RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE ARGUING THAT THE CONCEPT OF THE “CHOSEN PEOPLE” AND OF “DIFFERENCE ARE WHAT DRIVE SOME OF THE ANIMOSITY TOWARD ISRAELIS AND JEWS

On the whole “chosen people” business, I rarely hear Jews, including most Israelis, talk about this. Most of the Israeli settlers are looking for suburban plots near Jerusalem and have no interest in theology. There are extreme settlers who talk about the Chosen People (Hebron, for example–and quite a number of them are American immigrants), but they are a small minority, and most Israelis (even religious ones) strongly dislike them.

It’s mostly Christians who talk about Jews as the Chosen People. I’ve led a lot of Jewish study groups, and that topic hardly ever comes us, except in response to Christians. Conservative/Evangelical Christians love the whole “Chosen People” trope and run with it non-stop. They have their own agenda, with end-time theology and mass conversion. Mainline and liberal Christians hate the whole idea of it and complain incessantly about Jewish superiority and tribalism.

Jewish sources talk about the Chosen People, but mostly not with pride. In Jewish tradition, God asked every other people to be the chosen ones, and they all refused. The Jews were the last, and they finally agreed to it–with a lot of complaints that have continued through the centuries. The concept of being “chosen” is not necessarily positive at all, but a burden that Jews are stuck with, forcing them to live difficult lives without much reward.

Even so, most Jews today don’t talk about it much, because it’s not an important part of daily life, of identity, or of practice. It’s mainly Christians (and now Muslims) who obsess over it.

Now, on the concept of “difference,” that’s a different matter. Lots of individuals and groups think of themselves as different. And, in fact, they are.

Teilhard de Chardin (who was a Catholic evolutionary biologist and theologian) had a concept known as the Omega Point, which he believed was the ultimate level of collective consciousness that human beings could attain in the distant future. He thought that collective consciousness depended not on homogeneity, but on hyper-individuality–each person’s authentic uniqueness.

We’re all different, and, yes, we’re all similar too, but Jews focus more on the “difference” part. They’re not the only group to do that. I don’t think that everyone should have to be the same. There should be a place (I hope) on the planet and in the human species for individuals and groups who focus more on difference.

 

ON THE DIFFICULTIES OF A TWO-STATE SOLUTION

The problem is: if Israelis pull out and declare a Palestinian state (so called Plan B, which many Israelis are discussing, by the way, including Netanyahu), then you are left with a disfunctional Palestinian government/society and major security issues right on Israel’s border. The West Bank Palestinian economy is not good, and no amount of help from Israel can fix a broken system. Israel has limited resources with its own enormous economic issues: a large population of young who do not have much upward mobility (just as is the case globally), an excessively high cost of living, a minority of ultra-orthodox who profit from the current welfare system without putting much back into it, an electoral system that promotes fragmentation (giving excess weight to small parties), and a military budget that will not diminish just because Israel leaves the West Bank.

Therefore, if Israel leaves the West Bank on its own or with an agreement, it will be faced with a restive, frustrated Palestinian population in the West Bank, a corrupt government that is anti-democratic and probably unable to improve the economy much at all, and the potential for a neighbor that will continue its war and terrorism against Israel as a way of casting blame away from itself. And you cannot forget that the Fatah government would have limited ability to govern, given that Hamas has considerable influence in the West Bank and that there are numerous other splinter groups in the West Bank committed to the destruction of Israel. There is no guarantee that Hamas, a fanatic group committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews worldwide, would not take over there. As we learned in Iraq, a democracy/free society does not emerge just because you wish it to be so. A lot has to be in place before that can happen. If it doesn’t, Israel will be in an even more precarious position.

Further, Arab/Muslim governments for the most part do not want an independent, free, democratic Palestinian state for a simple reason: they would be forced to face their own populations and explain themselves. Their opposition would create further difficulties for both Israel and Palestine and make the situation potentially even more volatile..

I do not support the continued building of new settlement outposts, and I’m not going to defend that. I think it’s wrong. But I don’t know what the way out is. There are many critics of Israel (including Israelis), but I have not heard much about how to solve this pragmatically other than hopeful words and pleasant thoughts. If anyone out there has read something or heard something that is practical and specific, I would be thrilled to read or hear it.

As to the media, I stand by what I’ve said. Israel/Gaza/West Bank is a tiny strip of land with a miniscule population. Even when there’s no major conflict, the media focus is enormous and disproportionate. That’s because it sells globally: in the U.S., in Europe, and in the Muslim world. It’s because it’s the land of the Bible. And it’s because Jews are involved.

 

ON PROSPECTS FOR A TWO-STATE SOLUTION

Actually, believe it or not, I think there will be peace some day. So I’m not pessimistic in the long term. I may be wrong, but, in my view, the Arab/Muslim world will have to move toward a more democratic system of governance before a two-state solution works. That’s going to take time. In spite of its shortcomings, the “Arab Spring” (which is not Spring in some places I realize) was a positive step. Tunisia will be interesting to watch.

Dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will also help over time. This will not transform the region over night, but it is slowly affecting the situation and will continue to do so..

As for your idea, Ehud Barak offered something similar in 1999. Arafat and the PLO rejected it. It may not have been the right time, and Barak was a terrible negotiator.

Israel did not “seize” Gaza and the West Bank. Israel entered them in 1967 after facing a massive Arab attack. When the Arab world decides to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East (which governments are beginning to), then it will be easier to deal with the logistics of this problem.

On the Arab right of return, this is obviously a thorny issue and will involve compensation. The Palestinians are the only group in the world given “refugee” status after multiple generations of absence from a territory. When the Arab countries expelled Jews after 1948, Israel accepted them as full citizens of the state of Israel. On the other hand, Arab governments forced Palestinians to live in refugee camps and did not integrate them into Arab societies.

Israel will have to deal with this issue financially, but it’s not as one-sided as your words imply. There are two stories here, each having legitimacy: two peoples with two painful histories and competing narratives and claims to the land.

As for Hamas, I’m glad you’re confident in Gaza tossing them out under the right conditions. I’m not. And I don’t think Israelis can assume anything. All I have to do is look at other parts of the Middle East to draw another conclusion.

Nevertheless, at some point, the day will come when a two-state solution can be put into action. I just don’t think that day has arrived yet. Let’s hope it comes soon.

RESPONSE TO A COLLEAGUE WHO ARGUES THAT ISRAEL IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, COMPARING IT TO ALABAMA 100 YEARS AGO

KantGazaExchange1

On the Barak proposal and the Camp David Summit, most observers (including many Palestinians ones) lay the blame on Arafat–that he never offered a concrete counter-proposal and could not give up on the right of return. In the end, Arafat could not accept a Jewish state on land that he still considered as belonging to the Palestinians. In other words, he was not ready to make a deal–Barak was (even with his weaknesses as a negotiator).

As for democracy, Israel is not a perfect society, and there’s racism and prejudice there, along with at times poor treatment of its Arab population. And, yes, it is a Jewish state, with Jewish governing principles and a Jewish majority.

That said, Arab citizens in Israel have more freedom and rights than they do in almost any Arab/ Muslim society that I can think of. The rights of Arab Israeli women are far higher than in any Arab society. Arab Israelis also have a considerable higher standard of living than in the surrounding societies and can actually be openly gay without being murdered.

In 2011, the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion commissioned a poll of Arab residents of Jerusalem. A plurality indicated that, if given the choice, they would choose to live under Israel rather than the PLO and that they thought their neighbors would prefer Israeli citizenship to Palestinian citizenship. Most Israeli Arabs vehemently oppose an Israel-Palestine settlement, because they do not wish to live under the PLO. Senior PLO and Hamas leaders (including three sisters of Ishmail Haniyeh, the top leader of Hamas) have sought Israeli ID cards so that they can live in Israel if they choose. Many of them have done so, including Haniyeh’s sisters. (Haniyeh’s sisters currently live as Israeli citizens in the Bedouin town of Tel as-Sabi near Beesheva on the edge of the Negev in Southern Israel; several of their children have served in the Israeli Defense Force/IDF!). I don’t know what the polls are saying now and who is living where and who holds which ID cards, but not all Palestinians and Israeli Arabs view Israel as a authoritarian state (as you suggest). Further, their view of the Israeli government versus the PLO and Hamas is filled with complexity, nuance, and contradictions.

If we consider Germany a democracy or Italy or France or Japan or South Korea (countries that presume ethnic/linguistic/cultural majorities), then Israel is no less a democracy than any of those. Israel believes it has a right to preserve its Jewish character, that Jews need to have a place where they can live without fear of persecution, discrimination, and murder. I don’t think that’s unreasonable or contrary to democratic principles. Perhaps others have a new definition of democracy with which I am unfamiliar.

Would you really compare Israel to Alabama a 100 years ago– lynchings; micegenation laws; separate water fountains, bathrooms, park benches; not to mention effective voting prohibition? Are you sure that you thought this analogy through? I don’t think there are many objective observers who would consider your comparison legitimate or reasonable. You might want to try a new tack.

 

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Finland #1, but U.S. Sinks to #46 in Press Freedom World Rankings

USSinksInPressFreedomWorldRankings

Not surprising, but disappointing. Apparently the myths we have about ourselves in the U.S. overshadow the truth.

http://news.yahoo.com/finland–1–us-sinks-to-46th-in-global-press-freedom-rankings-145044630.html

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Mass #Surveillance Destroys Investigative #Journalism

NSA HQ Maryland

 

If you destroy the idea of #confidential sources through mass surveillance, what’s left of the press’ ability to do the kind of investigative journalism we have come to expect? Of course, we should remember that corporations are equally at fault here with their own surveillance systems. We are certainly entering a new word here and will have to find new ways to preserve fundamental freedoms:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/12/nsa-direct-threat-journalism-cpj-report/print

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Laurence Kant
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Freedom of the Press Foundation

 

FreedomOfThePressFoundation1

A fundamental cause of our time. Without a free press that actively challenges state authority and secrets, we cannot have free societies. Whatever you think of Wikileaks (and I have my issues) and of other muckracking organizations, we need them. They are the rock on which our freedom stands.

https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/

 

 

 

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Right-Wing History Re-Writes

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.

http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/150937/the_right’s_’big_lie’_strategy:_when_losing,_simply_rewrite_history/?page=1 (via Dianne Bazell)

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Current TV Booted Off Air in Italy by Murdoch Minions

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.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/19/al-gore-rupert-mudoch-news-corp

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Kidnapped Reporter Calls to Say Good-Bye

Here is the harrowing, deeply moving story of Melissa Fung’s kidnapping in Afghanistan:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/986850

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Television Ownership Declines in U.S.

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

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Ryan Mallett Analysis

This analysis is interesting, thoughtful, detailed, and perceptive.  The author is a thinker and researcher. I enjoyed reading it to get an insight into how to think about predicting trends and future directions. It’s football, but applicable to life.

http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/sports/columnists/hyde/blog/2011/03/draft_winds_lies_damn_lies_and_1.html

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Fox Goes Full Birther

Disgusting. Repellent. Racist. Xenophobic. Yet Fox has led the charge with its fake news.
http://mediamatters.org/research/201104200008

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Fox Goes Full Birther

Disgusting. Repellent. Racist. Xenophobic. Yet Fox has led the charge with its fake news.
http://mediamatters.org/research/201104200008

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Fake News

Corporations are airing advertisements through media outlets as if they are legitimate news.
http://www.freepress.net/press-release/2011/3/25/fcc-fines-local-tv-stations-airing-fake-news

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The Rise of Al-Jazeera

The importance of Al-Jazeera continues to grow
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53339.html

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Facebook Data and Advertising

Here’s the way Facebook is now mining your data to deliver targeted advertising to you:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-facebook-ads-20110417,0,1887797.story

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IDF Adapts to Goldstone Report

The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has learned from the Goldstone Report in spite of the report’s failings. The IDF emphasizes the participation of legal advisors in military operations, media relations, and cooperation with legitimate human rights groups.
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/04/11/3086821/pushed-by-goldstone-idf-embraces-new-smart-warfare

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The Fall of Glenn Beck: Wacko Conspiracies and Antisemitism

This describes the demise of one of the more bizarre figures in American culture: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

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Fox Propaganda Campaign against Labor

An excellent overview of the slanted coverage that Fox uses in its propaganda campaign to portray unions and their supporters in a negative light:
http://mediamatters.org/research/201103150008#1

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Frank Rich: GOP Post-Tuscon PTSD

This is an excellent essay by Frank Rich, describing the popularity free falls of leading conservatives (e.g. Beck and Palin) and the inanity and emptiness of conservative policy.  While many rightly note how little progressives have to offer, conservatives have becomes voices of even less. We are in a state not only of empty rhetoric from all ideological vantage points, but of political triviality.  We need grassroots leadership somewhere.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/opinion/20rich.html

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Fox Not News

How is Fox News called “News”?  Its purpose is not news, but spreading corporate ideology.  Calling it news is Orwellian.  Fundamental dishonesty is a core element of morality, and what Fox promotes is counter to basic ideals of integrity.

And Media Matters reports how Fox lied about the Wisconsin situation:
http://mediamatters.org/print/research/201103020013

And now we find that the head of Fox news, Roger Ailes, asked an employee to lie:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/nyregion/25roger-ailes.html?hp

Prime Minister’s Harper’s attempt to repeal the Canadian law that prevents false and misleading news information is rejected.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/fox-news-will-not-be-moving-into-canada-after-all_b_829473.html

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Wealth and the Middle Class

What’s happened to the middle class?  That’s the question we need to ask in light of the bailouts and the crushing of workers’ unions in Wisconsin.  Does work matter any more or only shuffling paper?  Those of us committed to spiritual exploration need to recognize that the exploration of meaning and purpose in life requires that people are not always in survival mode. Spiritual truth is also connected to justice.

David Koch and Rupert Murdoch battle the middle class through Fox and the Wall Street Journal
http://www.alternet.org/story/150047/rupert_murdoch_and_david_koch_collude_against_wisconsin_workers?page=entire

The Wisconsin battle is part of a 150-struggle to break unions, now with the Koch Brothers leading the charge: http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/gov_walker_does_something_big_20110304

Bob Herbert discusses the financial crises facing ordinary, working, middle-class Americans:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/opinion/26herbert.html

This essay argues that we need to increase upper income tax brackets in order to prevent the concentration that would destroy democracy in this country.  While I do not agree with the authors (and others) that decreasing government waste is not an important issue and that we need to figure out how to make medicare work more efficiently (social security is in fact basically sound), I cannot fathom why we keep lowering tax rights on the wealthy.
http://www.consortiumnews.com/2011/022411.html

Robert Reich makes a similar argument:  http://robertreich.org/post/3591689800

Ellen Brown argues that a state bank would solve many of Wisconsin’s and other states budget/pension issues–of course, that presumes that Walker and others are actually concerned about the budget rather than crushing labor http://www.webofdebt.com/articles/wisconsin.php

In the meantime, the percentage of underwater mortgage are on their way up:  http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_underwater_mortgages

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO lauds the 14 Wisconsin Senators who stood up for workers’ rights:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-trumka/todays-heroes-the-wiscons_b_831749.html

More and more cities are broke:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/magazine/06Muni-t.html?_r=1 (via Dianne Bazell)

Jackob Hacker and Paul Pierson, in their book, “Winner Take-All Politics,” discuss the rising inequalities in the US economic system: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/03/inequality-and-political-power/?scp=8&sq=middle%20class&st=cse (via Dianne Bazell)

Robert Reich argues that the real issue is not jobs, but wages:  http://robertreich.org/post/3638565075

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Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are close, as this article indicates.  And now Hamas has invited one of the charismatic leaders of the Brotherhood to Gaza, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Egyptian Qaradawi has frequently called for jihad against Israel and Jews, the destruction of Israel, and has said that he himself looks forward to coming to Israel to personally shoot Jews.

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e137.htm

For more on Qaradawi and his hatred of Jews, see the following:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/02/sheikh-qaradawi-seeks-total-war/71626/

http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=35&x_article=2000 (this discusses not only Qaradawi’s anti-semitism, his love for Hitler and his hopes for another even more successful Jewish holocaust, but also his support for female genital mutilation and wife beating, suicide killers, the fatwa ordering the murder of Salman Rushdie, the execution of apostates, and laws treating religious minorities differently.  The author emphasizes the whitewashing of Muslim Brotherhood hatred and violence in the New York Times.

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Profile of Arianna Huffington

Or how someone can move from a Greek immigrant to a follower of self-help gurus to wife of a Republican multi-millionaire to conservative icon (and supporter of Newt Gingrich!) to liberal icon to media maven.  Wow, that leaves me breathless.  She sure knows how to reinvent herself.  And everyone seems to like her, no matter their political persuasion.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2011/Feb/08/can_huffington_transform_aol_like_she_has_herself_.html

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Wael Ghonim’s Television Interview

This is a moving interview that provides insights both into the thinking of the protesters and of the government.  The interview speaks for itself and shows the profound integrity of everyday Egyptians.  I am struck by the deep concern for dignity that Wael consistently mentions.  There is a sense among Egyptians that this government has shamed them and treated them as children.  Young protesters like Wael are educated, cosmopolitan, entrepreneurial, thoughtful, and modern.  They are the future leaders of Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations.  While there are many perils and chances for disasters, Wael and his colleagues should give us all reason to hope for greater peace and prosperity in the Middle East in the long term.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/subtitled-video-of-wael-ghonims-emotional-tv-interview/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/world/middleeast/09ghonim.html?hp

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Glenn Beck and Antisemitism

Many have spoken on the rise of antisemitism on the left in recent years, but antisemitism is alive and well on the right as well, even among those who ostensibly support Israel.

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110131/OPINION04/301310047/1002/rss07/Dana-Milbank-Glenn-Beck-s-brutal-hateful-routine

This is article is now archived. See instead the op-ed by Dana Milbank for the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2011/04/06/AFNEgnqC_story.html

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Al-Jazeera and a Free Press

http://www.thenation.com/blog/158183/washington-embraces-al-jazeera


This is an excellent discussion of Al-Jazeera and its crucial role in the Middle East.  The Bush administration hated Al-Jazeera when it did reporting that was not supportive of US policy in Iraq, and it went after their reporters.  Of course, presidential administrations in the past have not liked a lot of US media either and have targeted them as well.  Now we see the essential importance of an active, free press, and the current US government finally embraces it.  Democracy and freedom depend upon it.  The more openness and transparency that a truly free press demands, the greater the chance for truly humane, compassionate societies to evolve.  Ironic that it took an Arabic-language news organization to show us this.

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Violent Rhetoric and Tucson

As we see today in Tucson with the attempted assassination of a congresswoman (Gabrielle Giffords), plus the shootings and murders of many bystanders, violent imagery and language can set the context for real-life horror. Whatever your political point of view (center, right, left, independent), let us please pledge ourselves to civility, humanity, and mutual respect.

Pima County (Arizona, Tucson) Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, says it powerfully:

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

“The vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business … This has not become the nice United States that most of us grew up in.”

Please keep the victims and families in thought and prayer.

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Jon Stewart as Change Agent

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/27/business/media/27stewart.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

We often think of comedy and satire as letting off steam or entertainment.  However, a brilliant comedian can use them and his laugh pulpit to shame those who would deny our commitment to the suffering heroes of September 11, 2001, and to push the government to honor its promise to those who protect and defend our nation.

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Triumph of Social Networking in Politics

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37468.html
I’m most interested here in social networking and its synergy with media. The triumph of social networking activists on both the left and the right shows the diminishing power of long-established political institutions and traditions. Money and power move faster horizontally than they do vertically. Fast-growing social networking promises just as fundamental changes for other institutions as well: business, education, religion, media, newspapers, publishing, transportation, environment, etc. Organizations that do not transform themselves in fundamental structural ways will find themselves replaced by others that understand the new dynamics.

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Snopes

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/technology/05snopes.html


At a time when it’s very difficult to tell truth from fiction on the internet, Snopes is one of those oases of reliability (via Dianne Bazell).

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