Tuesday, July 08, 2014

National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee Panel Discussion

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mitt Romney

Rarely have I been as horrifed by a presidential candidate's personality than I have been by Romney. It seems that Romney had a career as a high school bully that went beyond the usual name-calling and wedgies and included assault and battery.

If you haven't heard, Romney was offended by the long, blonde hair of a male classmate and recruited his friends to hold him down while Romney cut the hair off as the victim cried and called for help. This is not mere bullying. It is gutter cruelty. It was also technically criminal. He also, according to an article in Counterpunch by Alexander Cockburn, was part of a group of boys that shaved the heads of boys in a rival school and painted their skulls red.

When I was in high school, students in a rival school spraypainted their logos all over "my" school. That is age-appropriate misbehavior. Romney went beyond this. I was in high school in the seventies. Nobody ever did anything this cruel to anyone.

Why this matters is not so much what Romney did decades ago but how he responds to it now. The other boys involved in this disgraceful episode expressed shame and remorse for what they did, but Romney dismissed it as a mere "prank," seemingly obvlivious to the fact that his victim was never able to forget this. It is also important to note that the victim hadn't done anything to Romney personally: he hadn't sexually harassed him, hadn't insulted him, or hadn't teased him.  The kid was assaulted and humiliated simply for being different.

And then, there is the disgraceful thing this man did to his dog....

Friday, April 13, 2012

Save a Woman's Sight

Hi. I am writing to ask for donations for a friend. Bonnie has lost 95% of her vision and is in danger of losing more. She recently found a good doctor who told her she will need at least 2 surgeries, including a cornea transplant. Because of her vision loss, she can't work and hence doesn't have insurance. Her medicare will not start until October. If she waits until October to have the surgery, she will lose even more vision.

Please help Bonnie by donating to the fund set up to help her. Thanks.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Palestinian State?

A Palestinian State?

As the United Nations prepares to debate Palestinian statehood, this seems an auspicious time to suggest a potential solution to this intractable conflict. The ideas underlying this proposal are drawn from a variety of sources, most notably from the writings of the late Baruch Kimmerling, a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University who proposed a two-state solution and the admission of both states to the European Union, and to Mark A. Levine, who argued for the creation of a state based on the Swiss model of cantons. It seems that both perspectives can be combined to creates a system that will have the best chance of gaining support from moderates on both sides.

Kimmerling's plan calls for a two-state solution rather than a one-state solution. In this way, both sides avoid living under the dominance of the “other” and the tragic violence that often accompanies it. Each people would have its own army and police force, an important point for both sides, albeit for different reasons.

In accordance with Kimmerling’s ideas, both Israel and the new Palestinian state should be admitted to the European Union. Although this will not happen until after Europe regains its economic equilibrium, such a step would benefit both sides. Since any citizen of an E.U. country can live in any other E.U. country, Palestinians could live in Israel while Israelis could live in Palestine. This proposal affords Palestinians a right of return but one that safeguards the existence of a sovereign Israeli state, since Palestinians living and working in Israel would not be citizens there, but in Palestine. Of course, if Palestine could join the E.U., tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees would no doubt move to, for example, Italy or England to work instead of remaining in refugee camps on Israel’s borders, a fact that would ease tensions in the region considerably.

Similarly, the hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers living on the West Bank would not be forced to leave homes that they have inhabited for years and, in some cases, for decades. While it is easy to stereotype settlers as kipah-wearing Kahanists, many are poor Israelis from Mizrachi communities who saw moving to the West Bank as their only opportunity to escape Israeli slums. This proposal protects their interests as well.

As Kimmerling points out, one of the major obstacles to a peace settlement is the fact that two relatively sizable populations lay claim to one relatively small peace of land. EU membership greatly increases the land on which both peoples could live and work, thus easing population pressures.

While Zionists of all stripes object to a Palestinian right of return, a genuine and lasting settlement is impossible without it, largely because Palestinians will not accept a solution that leaves millions of their kin in refugee camps. Then, there is the moral imperative: it is difficult to understand the position of people who claim a right of return after two thousand years but wish to deny this right to other people who have been absent only sixty-three years. It is even harder to accept the actions of the Israeli government when they grant admission to Russians who have no Jewish ancestry and who have never been persecuted as Jews while denying the right of return to people who were forced out of their homes by war. (If you doubt this, read Kimmerling's Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians for an account of events leading to the Nakba.) Then, too, if current birth rates continue, Palestinians will outnumber Israel within the 1967 borders sometime during this century. Barring massive immigration of Jews from Israel and Canada or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Jewish demographic dominance will cease. In this case, Israel will be in the position of white South Africans and will be forced into major concessions. It seems better for Israelis to negotiate a settlement now, one that includes a right of return, from a position of relative strength than to wait until their backs are against the wall.

While a two-state solution provides a model for the larger political questions, the Swiss system of cantons provides a model for organizing the internal politics of each state. The idea of giving a relatively high level of power to decentralized local communities has two advantages for Israelis.

The first is that Israelis would have less to fear from the “demographic bomb” as Israeli Arabs become more numerous due to their somewhat higher birthrate. Under this system, Arabs in the Galilee would have little say in the affairs of Jews living in Tel Aviv. All communities would still retain substantial levels of control over their own affairs, something that would be more difficult under a highly centralized political system.

The second is that the canton system could potentially ease the second most contentious issue in Israeli politics—the tension between the secular and the religious. Under this system, citizens living in secular cantons could spend their Saturdays enjoying cultural opportunities—and spend Yom Kippur on the beach in their bikinis—while citizens of religious cantons could enjoy the peace of Shabbat and the company of modestly dressed women wearing marriage wigs.

One of the strongest features of the canton system is that these political units can be subdivided should the need arise. If, for example, Russian and Moroccan Jews want separate cantons, this remains possible. Similarly, cantons could theoretically unite when conditions change.

While there are no perfect solutions to nasty ethnic conflicts over territory, the combination of a two-state solution, E.U. membership, and local autonomy on the Swiss model offers hope for ameliorating the worst features of this ongoing tragedy. The ideas of Kimmerling and Magnes combine the best features of both the one-state and two-state solutions in that they allow each side to have its own state while protecting the interests of both Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlers who, although they acted wrongly in settling the West Bank, nevertheless have deep roots there.


Even though I have a deep sympathy for the Palestinians, I haven't followed this issue closely since the start of the Iraq War in 2003 -- something about the beam in America's eye and the mote in Israel's eye. As much as I don't like what happens in Israel/Palestine, what America is doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and probably other places I don't know about is far worse than what Israel is doing.

Nevertheless, I have written some ideas about what an "ideal" peace plan would look like, although I offer it knowing that it is more ideal for the Palestinians than for the Israelis.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Palestinian Students In Lebanon Learn English

This film was made by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who are learning English with LEAP, the Learning English Advancement Program. Because many exams in Lebanon are conducted in English, knowledge of this language is an essential skill for students hoping to go on to higher education. You can support LEAP and help Palestinian young people have a better future by donating to the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund, which provides assitance to LEAP.                                                                                                         

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Op-Ed Piece in Ha'aretz

Diana Kimmerling's Op-Ed on the Israel-Palestine Conflict

A dear friend of mine, Diana Kimmerling, is a progressive Israeli who wrote an op-ed piece in Ha'aretz that was published today. Its subject is the massive Israeli demonstrations protesting the high cost of housing in Israel. In the article, she took Israelis to task for their willingness to organize and protest when financial issues were concerned but their unwillingness to protest the denial of the most basic rights to Palestinians. As I read her article, I couldn't help but draw parallels with the American oppression of Middle Eastern people and the silence of Americans on this issue compared to their often vocal protests against U.S. economic policies. 

Every Saturday for years now, Tea Party adherents gather at a major intersection in Fort Lauderdale demonstrating for their cause. It would be easy, but wrong, to demonize them. They are, for the most part, middle class people who worked hard, saved for retirement, and played by the rules, only to have their standard of living decline precipitously because of faulty government policies. Many of the demonstrators seem to be in their late fifties or sixties, meaning that it will be virtually impossible for them to recoup their standard of living before old age and failing health make it difficult to work.

Even though I sympathize with their economic plight, I have to wonder why they were not protesting in favor of fiscal responsibility when the Iraq war was at its worst.  Government and media propaganda in favor of the war was so intense, so total, that I can't blame anyone for his initial support of the war. Yet, even after the American public had learned that there were no WMD and the Bush administration had been informed of this fact by the CIA, the Tea Party supporters remained silent. They still said nothing, even after Nobel-Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated that the war would cost 3 TRILLION dollars, an estimate that was revised upward to 5 trillion after his book was published. This estimate includes military expenditures, lost wages, health care for the troops, increased oil prices due to uncertainty in the oil markets, and the economic growth we forfeited because money was spent on war instead of being invested. This 5 trillion, which is about 1/3 of the deficit, will no doubt grow as the war continues--and American soldiers, to say nothing of Iraqis--continue to die in this country.

Yet, the Tea Party members rose up in indignation at health care reform. I don't know enough about the subject to say whether Obama's plan is a good one. I suspect that it isn't for a variety of reasons. I am not defending a particular plan but commenting on the irony of supporting lavish expenditures on an unnecessary war that probably made Americans less safe while objecting mightily to a program, however flawed, designed to help the poorest of Americans.

Diana Kimmerling's article unveiled an Israeli reality but also a human one. I wish to commend her for seeing this problem in her own society and taking the time to speak out about it. Now it is time for me to do the same in America.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Testimony of a War Tax Resister

Randy Kehler, a long-time war tax resister, explains his philosphy. He files a tax return every year with the IRS, but doesn't pay taxes. Instead, he gives the money he would have paid in taxes to help the poor in the U.S., the victims of war in places like Iraq and Central America, and peace organizations. I found him impressive and think he is worth listening to.

A Video About Hiroshima and Nagasaki

A video, filmed by two American servicemen, shows just a few of the human casualties of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima. This film footage is important, not only for historical reasons, but for modern ones. The U.S. has weapons that inflict the same amount of human damage--minus the radiation--on civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, and Yeman. We in the U.S. rarely see photos of Iraq civilians injured by U.S. military operations, but many have suffered severe burns similar to those shown in this footage.

Here is a video of injured Iraq children. Note the similarity of the injuries to those in the Hiroshima video.


As an aside, the only Iraq child whose injuries were widely covered in the U.S. was Ali Abbas, the boy who lost both of his arms in an American bombing. My impression is that the only reason his situation got press coverage was that it was covered so widely in other countries and, because of the Internet, millions of Americans learned of it, making it impossible for the U.S. press to ignore. The disgraceful 60 Minutes did two segments on him, both so upbeat and positive it made me want to retch. He has got to have post-traumatic stress disorder and bouts of severe depression. He will never embrace his wife or hold his children, if he ever has any. Yet the 60 Minutes pieces never mentioned those facts at all. Instead, they filmed him playing and saying he liked British girls. The underlying message was that it really wasn't so bad losing both your arms in an American bombing.