Posted tagged ‘Benjamin Netanyahu’

07.31.17 Democrats seek to criminalize free speech (with friends like Ben Cardin, who needs enemies?)

July 31, 2017

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin introduced S.270, the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” on March 23. It attracted little attention until the past couple of weeks.

This blog post is not about where you or I might stand on Israel. I have written plenty on that topic, including how Jewish-American politicians contribute to anti-Semitism through their support for the country.

Rather, I’m writing about free speech, a right enshrined in the First Amendment and a fundamental underpinning of US democracy (indeed of democracy itself). That is the issue at hand here: S.270’s purpose is to criminalize (with shockingly severe penalties) my right to hold political opinions that the bill’s many sponsors happen to disagree with.

As I wrote to Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) last week:

Principled opposition to this bill is something quite apart from one’s particular views on Israel.  If you believe in civil liberties, you support them. Our fundamental freedoms should never be sacrificed to the interests of another country (any other country). Once that principle is agreed to, you can have whatever debate you need to about Israel.

Just in case you’re a fan of the ACLU, here’s what they have to say about this pernicious bill: How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights.

Take another look now at the S.270 link and that of HR.1697, the House’s equivalent. There are 46 cosponsors in the Senate and 249 in the house. That is, half of our elected officials are ready to toss aside the First Amendment because they think servitude to Likud and settlers is worth it.

We have become sadly accustomed to GOP assaults on democracy, particularly in the form of voter suppression, but not to exclude theft of Supreme Court appointments and more. But note this: 14 of those cosponsors in the Senate and 71 of them in the House are Democrats, including such “liberal” luminaries as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand* (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), and Maria Cantwell (WA).

It gets worse, Maryland voters, as our own Hall of Shame is well populated. Apart from Cardin, here they are:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

Out of Maryland’s seven Democratic members of the House, only Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Raskin are not trying to undermine our constitution.

I called Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s and Jamie Raskin’s offices last week to find out where they stand on Cardin’s bill. Both told me that the members were “still considering it.” Here’s what I sent to Van Hollen:

I’m not sure how much study one would need to determine that a piece of legislation like this elevates another country’s temporal interests over our fundamental civil liberties.

I called Van Hollen’s office again today and was told exactly the same thing as last week. It is apparent that Chris Van Hollen is ducking his responsibility to stand up for the First Amendment. This goes beyond political cowardice – since his reelection to the Senate is damn near guaranteed for life. In fact, I can think of no explanation for it at all. I urge you to write him and call him (202-224-4654) to get him to do the right thing.

Because I have a personal relationship with Raskin, I called him directly last Friday and was gratified to hear him denounce the measure unequivocally. When I told him that his staff didn’t know his position, he said he would take care of that promptly and issue a written statement. When I called back today, his staff still didn’t know his stand and had not seen a statement. I urge you to write him and call him (202-225-5341) to get him on the public record.

We learned two years ago, when Ben Cardin and Chuck Schumer were two of only three Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, that they will always prioritize Likud’s interests over American interests. This is a soft form of treason, in my book, and neither of these men deserves to be in elected office. (They are entitled to their opinions — no one is entitled to be an elected official.) What amazes me this go ‘round is how many additional Democrats are willing to swear allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu instead of to the Constitution of the United States of America. Please remember this in 2018.

*Kirsten Gillibrand seemed like such a hero in the winter when she led Dems in the number of Trump appointments she voted against. Oh well.

©2017 Keith Berner

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04.17.16 Bernie Sanders for President (with caveats)

April 17, 2016

Bernie Sanders represents my values. It’s about time we had a national leader who is not only willing but eager to speak truth to power. Sanders is right to describe our economic and political systems as rigged for the wealthy and powerful (who, of course, are usually the same). He is right to condemn corporate corruption. He is right to speak out against a Democratic Party establishment (currently embodied by the odious DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz) that has tried repeatedly to rig the current presidential campaign in favor of the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton.

From a progressive-values standpoint, Sanders has very few flaws. He didn’t suddenly discover the moral catastrophe of economic inequality because of pressure during this campaign. He has been speaking up for the left-out, the “little people,” ever since he ran for mayor of Burlington, decades ago. Before that, he was an active participant in the civil rights movement. (Hints from Clinton supporters like [for shame!] Congressman John Lewis [D-GA] that he might have been insufficiently so, have been proven a lie.) His own integrity and incorruptibility are beyond question.

The only less-than-bright spot in Bernie Sanders is his relative lack of enthusiasm for gun control, which is hardly surprising for a politician from a rural state. Attempts by Clinton to portray Sanders as a gun nut, though, are wildly off the mark.

So, why have I lacked passion in my support for Sanders for president? Partly, it’s because I assumed he never had a chance. Party, it has been my assumption that his nomination would doom the Democrats in November. (I have softened on this as his poll numbers against Trump and Cruz have remained higher than Clinton’s; though I still believe that his numbers would drop significantly under a full-throttled GOP onslaught.)

I have also been thrown by the almost obsessive opposition to Sanders by progressive figures like Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Krugman and others have been hammering away at how Sanders’s economic numbers don’t add up and how he lacks any reasonable plan for getting getting his program through a Congress that has stopped even the decidedly centrist Obama in his tracks.

I find these arguments compelling, but also have to remind myself (and you, dear reader) that almost no political candidate’s numbers add up or plans for success have any chance in the real world. Bernie Sanders’s campaign is aspirational. It is not a legislative program. And, Sanders is right that the only hope for progress in this country is a political revolution. That revolution isn’t going to start in Congress. But it has to start somewhere. If not Bernie Sanders, then who?!

Finally, I have been disturbed by Sanders’s almost complete failure to reach out to and captivate African Americans. I cannot imagine a political revolution in this country that does not include the very people who were the targets of America’s Original Sin and the country’s ongoing indifference to their daily lives and struggle. In creating his campaign, Sanders forgot African Americans and wrote off the South. To some extent, this was a reflection of his own skepticism about his chances. If he wasn’t really trying to win then it hardly mattered if he lost too many states with early primaries.

To some extent, Sanders’s blindness to building a real “rainbow coalition” (to use a phrase that ended up sounding empty in Jesse Jackson’s mouth), like his stance on guns, is a result of decades serving a lily-white rural state. Sanders has tried to repair the damage recently and had some success. He is certainly not a bigot himself. But his early failures figure into my relative lack of passion for his candidacy.

The New York State primary campaign has provided an opportunity for me to rekindle some passion. Sanders has shown his typical, unusual courage in speaking out against Israeli policy and Prince of Darkness Benyamin Netanyahu ­– in Brooklyn of all places! Sure, college students have been pushing for boycotts and some progressive Jewish leaders have been denouncing AIPAC and Likud. But an actual elected official speaking the truth about Israel? And a Jewish one, at that? Unheard of! (Your blogger is also Jewish, but foremost a humanist.) This alone reinforces my commitment to support Sanders over a Clinton, whose whole family swears allegiance not only to AIPAC and Likud, but also to the butchers in Cairo (Mubarak and Sisi) and Riyadh.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile is a poster child for most of what is wrong in our political system and country. I’m glad she has moved decidedly left in the course of this campaign, under pressure from Bernie Sanders and his supporters. She says she now opposes free-trade-at-all-costs and Wall St. dominance. Her utterances on this and other topics are encouraging, if not wholly persuasive. (Remember, Barack Obama appointed Wall St. and the NSA to run his administration after sounding very different during his campaign.)

As I have written, I have particular loathing for the Clintons because their hubris leads them over and over again to waste political capital on scandals of their own making. Open the books on Whitewater in 1992 and there is no impeachment. Admit to flawed judgment and release all the emails in 2015 and “Emailgate” disappears. Release transcripts of the Goldman Sachs speeches and you start to climb out of the hole your politically incompetent decision to feed at that trough dug in the first place.

I will never understand how African Americans managed to forgive the Clintons for the explicitly racist campaign Bill ran on Hillary’s behalf in 2008, and the implicit racism of Hillary’s dog whistles for the folks who now support Trump in places like West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Now we have the spectacle of Bill’s shouting down Black Lives Matter protesters last week. (The thought of that man running loose in the White House gives me the [slick] willies.)

(I accept Hillary’s denunciation of the 1994 crime bill. Everyone has learned a lot since then, including her. This is a case where she should be applauded for growth, rather than condemned for flip-flopping.)

To the extent that Clinton’s consistent progressive rhetoric this campaign season can be believed, there remains one area of profound difference between her and Sanders: foreign policy. Clinton voted for the Iraq War and has tried to distance herself from that decision only out of political expediency. Her embrace of military intervention in Libya more recently shows a continued arrogance (your blogger was torn on the issue at the time for humanitarian reasons, but was not secretary of state). It’s not not only that Clinton puts too much stock in military solutions; it is also that she believes in an American mission to remake the world. Hillary Clinton is a neocon. The fact that the GOP neocon establishment has recently hinted at supporting her in November should give more circumspect foreign policy analysts pause.

(Your blogger is not an isolationist and has some fear that Sanders could be too much of one. As destructive as US involvement in the world has usually been, the chaos that would result from complete US disengagement would not be pretty.)

A Democrat better win in November. The stakes for anyone to the left of Attila the Hun are higher this year than perhaps ever in American history. Unlike in the disaster years of 1980 and 2000, Democrats now have precious few holds on power across the country. Even as the national GOP is providing an amusing political spectacle this year, right-wing freaks own outright a substantial majority of governorships, state legislatures, and school boards from coast to coast. A slightly unbalanced Supreme Court has broadly expanded the powers of the corporate elite in the past 20 years and game will be up if the GOP gets one more appointment there. The only thing standing in the way of a right-wing extremist abyss is the presidency.

In this context, it is frightening to hear Sanders supporters tout a “Bernie or Bust” line. It’s bad enough that Nader and his supporters deemed Gore the larger evil in 2000, leading to hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, not to mention W’s myriad other policy disasters, which – at best – will take decades to recover from.

It seems unlikely now that the Democratic nominee will be anyone other than Hillary Clinton. Trump and Cruz may be flawed enough to lose even in the face of an uninspired Democratic electorate or a new Clinton scandal. But if Bernie supporters stay home, or – worse – continue to attack Clinton after the nomination is secured – they create unacceptable risk.

So, why am I still going to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Maryland Democratic primary on April 26? Because his voice still needs to be heard. Also, because if he can manage to win convincingly in the remaining primaries (which I doubt), he could just eke out a victory in July. (If Sanders does not win in New York this Tuesday, I will call publicly for him to tone down the anti-Clinton rhetoric.)

Bernie Sanders is an American hero for raising issues that Democrats have ignored for decades. He is worthy of your vote. But let not your love of Bernie now blind you to the greater imperative of Democratic victory in November.

04.02.15 Breaking News: Indiana declares war on Iran

April 2, 2015

BREAKING NEWS: Indiana declares Iran nuke deal dead on arrival, declares war on Iran and Washington, DC.

In Arkansas, Gov. Hutchinson counseled caution as he awaits guidance from Walmart.

Meanwhile John McCain and Benjamin Netanyahu have been rushed to emergency rooms with apparent aneurysms.

©2015 Keith Berner