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Winner Takes All

By: marsdragon Monday March 26, 2012 9:51 pm

Disclaimer: The following scenarios are fictional. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is coincidental and unintended.

14 year old girl dead. Police say she was the aggressor.

She scratched the face of the pedophile who was following her while carrying a loaded concealed handgun. The pedophile had previously called 911, fearful she might be a prostitute. 911 warned him not to follow her. He did so anyway. Her boyfriend was on the cell phone at the time. The last thing the boyfriend heard was the girl was scared of being followed. When police arrived on the scene, the pedophile had a bloody nose, a swollen lip, and lacerations to the back of the head. The pedophile told police this was a “stand your ground” self-defense. The 14 year old girl apparently “went for the gun” once the pedophile approached her and tried to corner her, demanding why she was here. Supporters of the shooting were glad the girl was dead. She had been suspended from school for marijuana use. She had a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea on her person.

Area socialite dead. She went for the pepper-spray first.
She had left the local restaurant and noticed a man was following her. The man called 911 to warn them that what he believed to be a high class hooker was about to be picked up by her pimp. 911 warned the man not to follow. Having been arrested a few years ago for assaulting a police officer, the man nevertheless carried a loaded concealed handgun. He followed her around the corner, into an alley, and demanded to know what she was doing there. “She reached into her bag,” the man explained to police, “and all I thought was that I should defend myself.” So, he shot her in the chest at point blank range. He has been in tears for several days, his friends say, because he never meant to take a life. He just needed to defend his life. Police declined to arrest the man because the shooting was in self-defense. The contents of her handbag included Chanel No. 5, lifesavers, and a small flask of sherry. Faux News pundits have combed over her entire life history and discovered that she had been divorced twice and had attended an Alcoholics Anonymous a few times several years ago.

National Musket Association spokesperson warns members to be watchful for new Gun Control Laws
“Law Abiding Citizens don’t break laws! Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. These two men exercised their 2nd Amendment rights to defend themselves. They lawfully carried those concealed handguns. Only criminals commit crimes. Since the law says they can shoot to defend themselves, then they had that right.”

In other news….

Barfight turns deadly…
The police arrived to find ten dead in a bar. The sole surviving shooter, a man with a Concealed-Carry License and four concealed Colt .45s, with previous convictions for assault and battery of a police officer, says that he felt threatened by the other 10 customers. Apparently, they were regulars to the bar, and the shooter perceived them and the bartender to be part of a gang, and the sole survivor saw some of them reach for a weapon. He opened fire in self-defense, standing his ground. The Police Captain said his department would have interviewed witnesses, but they were all dead. Since no contradictory testimony has been found, the police had no choice but to release the sole survivor, ruling the shooting a “justifiable homicide” under the Winner Take All law. Declining to comment, the shooter responded, “I feel real bad, yeah. They just had to make my day…” On a side note, all of the other dead aggressors were completely unarmed, and the shooter had called 911 first, warning that he believed a dangerous gang was in the bar. The dispatcher had warned him not to enter, but he said he had to do something.

Three weeks after this case made national headlines, a sudden new wave of “witnesses” has been found, alleging that the lone gunman was on the ground, screaming for his life, and that several of the dead bodies had once used marijuana, been put in Saturday Detention at school when they were kids, and even that some of them had made failing grades in elementary school. At least one of the men was rumored to have removed his Facebook page shortly before entering the bar. Ben Gleck has called for a full inquiry into the personal lives of these dead bodies, including a production of their birth certificates, with raised seals.


This post is my way of dealing with the shameful events of the past month, the shameful way that some in our nation have tried to rationalize a terrible event, and to highlight the absurdity of the laws at question. These “Stand Your Ground” Laws are poorly written, poorly understood, and poorly enforced. They create confusion for hard-working police officers, giving them very little ability to arrest vigilantes. Finally, these laws create perverse and reverse incentives. A bar fight would normally result in several people receiving some misdemeanor charges of assault and some black eyes. Now, who would bother to risk a misdemeanor charge when its just easier to kill em all and leave no witnessed. Dead men don’t talk, and the winner of the shootout simply has to accuse the dead body of “aggression” and claim self-defense.

Police can detain a suspect, process a crime scene, take a weapon used in the taking of a life, etc without having to prove anything “beyond a reaonable doubt.” Investigations can be opened before witnesses become tainted by media reports three weeks later. When a cop shoots someone fatally, an investigation is alway opened, and the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. These “winner take all” laws allow a private citizen to walk around with an armed weapon, sans police academy training, and engage in a deadly shooting with less investigation than a uniformed and badged peace officer. What kind of message does that send to our police services and to our citizens in general?


Omer Goldman…A heroine for my heart

By: marsdragon Thursday March 22, 2012 11:24 pm

This will be a short diary.  My intention is to inspire others by pointing to a woman of tenacious courage.   I also want to post it in the wake of recent “internal events.”  Comments on blogs and words hurled in anger are nothing,  really, when you think about someone like this woman:  Omer Goldman.  (quoted below according to Terms of Service by Wikipedia, from whence the extract was taken) 

Omer Goldman Granot, from the Tel-Aviv suburb of Ramat HaSharon, is a member of the Shministim, a young Israeli conscientious objector who became famous for being the daughter of Naftali Granot, former deputy to Mossad’s chief Meir Dagan.

She was sentenced to 21 days in military prison for refusing to serve the Israel Defence Forces on 22 September 2008, along with Tamar Katz and Mia Tamarin. She is one of about 40 high school students who signed the 2008 high-school seniors’ (“Shministim”) protest letter. In order to prepare herself for her incarceration in a military prison, Goldman went to a psychologist every week. She has spent a second term in prison for refusing to serve again

She claims that the crucial moment of her metamorphosis occurred when she went to the Palestinian village Shufa where the IDF had set up a roadblock. Someone she had considered her enemy stood beside her and someone who was supposed to be defending her opened fire at her.


She sits in the tempest, the heart of the fire, to do what she thinks is right. She loves her land, and she loves her people. But she also loves her neighbors. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land. She is willing to stand up and take the wrath of so many that she loves because she loves them – she wants them to do right, not wrong. So she will endure their ridicule if it will bring more of those she cares about to a better outcome. She is willing to stand up, repeatedly, to do the right thing. Others will call her a traitor, but she is not a traitor. She doesn’t dispute the right of Israel to exist. She doesn’t dispute its right to defend itself. She disputed the “Bush Doctrine” of pre-emptive war in the name of faux “self-defense.” She disputes the oppression of another people for any reason. She believes in upholding the ideals of a greater cause. To her, the mere security of her nation is not worth the sacrifice of its very soul.

That is a lesson that we could learn here in the United States. In the name of this “War on Terror” to “Defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” we have proceeded to dismantle that very same Constitution. With the Execution Memos that strip away several rights, the PATRIOT Act that strips many more, the indefinite detention of suspects, the use of extreme surveillance measures outside the bounds of all decency, etc. We are doing our enemies’ job for them. We are dismantling ourselves. At what point do we no longer exist as the United States of America, but only the hollow shell of what it once could have been? Or were we always doomed from the start? Considering how we came into being, and how we preserved our unity as states. Did we just have too many embedded predispositions in our national psyche to avoid this outcome? The shministim remind me of Code Pink as well. People accuse them of being traitors. But traitors to what? The Ideals of what America once could be and claims to be? No. They are not traitors to that. Maybe they are called traitors by a sitting government.

Well, I don’t think the oath states that one shall “defend the sitting government against the Constitution.” Does it? No. I think it states that one shall defend the Constitution against all enemies. Foreign and Domestic. In my mind, the gutting of that Constitution without any Constitutional Convention or other procedures under the law, is not the way to defend that Constitution.

I digress. Omer Goldman is a hero. She is my hero. One of many. But one worth sharing.


UPDATED: Why was Michael Cavlan Banned from FDL? He is now Reinstated!

By: marsdragon Tuesday March 20, 2012 10:00 am

Unless FDL reinstates this member, or provides a nice front page explanation for why he was BANNED, then I will not renew my membership, will expect FDL to likely BAN me (For daring to QUESTION their practices) and will also expect a FULL REFUND of my MEmbership Fee (since they take the money but don’t honor their own promises of being a PROGRESSIVE site).

HEre is what Michael Cavlan said:

My friend and ally, Alan Maki showed me the “offensive” video. There was nothing offensive about it. Unless you believe that a British MP who is Jewish and speaking the truth about Israel is offensive.

Just like that “self hating Jew” Norm Finkelstein. Who is a hero.

As an aside, there is one country whee Jews were not scapegoated and persecuted. I have had Jewish friends tell me that Ireland was known and respected for that.

Ireland now leads the world on standing up for the Palestinians

And he said it on this Article.

He was commenting on THIS video that David Seaton posted HERE.

Here is what I said at the first article, just in case anybody wants to throw some labels at me. (Reposted word for word from my comment).

I think everybody on this thread has made a valid point. I even agree with Seaglass in the first comment.

The treatment of the Native population in America by European colonists was at first peaceful, but it quickly collapsed into the “Manifest Destiny” nonsense that paved the way for ethnocide. The British East India Company had a HORRIFIC record of governing the Indian people for the 100 years before the British Crown took over (and then, it was no better!). The Arab regimes’ that persecute and destroy their own people (Saddam Hussein, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, etc etc) all have BLOOD on their hands. The British were no better when they subjugated Ulster with Plantations in 1609. The Lord Deputy, Charles Blount, famously said “The Gael will only be defeated by famine and starvation.” Tens of thousands were slaughtered by such tactics in Ulster. Ethnocide is nothing new. The subjugation of the MAJORITY by a MINORITY is nothing new. Whether it was the Puritan armies of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland or the Military Governorship of General Monck over Scotland (the first to kill Catholics, the latter to kill Calvinists, both perpetrated by a Puritanical Commonwealth that had just waged war against Episcopal Royalists) was itself the subjugation of majorities by Religious wingnuts.

So, Seagate is right – EVIL is not new. America was founded on the basis of Slavery and the subhuman status of Blacks and Natives. The Jews of Europe had it no better until the Dutch Republic was formed in defiance of the Spanish Empire, giving a safe haven for Portuguese Jews to flee to Amsterdam. From there, the Dutch navy become the only force that could break the Spanish silver fleet that sailed from Peru to Spain (of course, the Inca civilization had already been subjugated). But that had more to do with the dynastic ambition of the Spanish House of Habsburg than with the Catholic faith (the Jesuits and Franciscans at Salamanca were quite vocal in the condemnation of the conquests of native cultures, and they advocated the theories of Just War that we no longer follow…).

My point is that the Jewish people deserve not to be persecuted. So do all the innocent victims of the Assad regime. As did the Shiites of the Saddam Hussein Regime. As do the Sunnis of the Iranian Mullah regime. As do the Catholics of Northern Ireland. As do the Christians of Sudan. As do all the people across this world who find themselves on the wrong end of persecution.

Jews are not a majority in the United States. But religious freedom and the freedom to have a cultural identity allows the flourishing of the Jewish faith and culture in the US. Why? Is the US a Jewish state? No.

IN the late 1800s, the Zionist movement had a large internal debate among its members. Was a “Jewish Nation State” the right answer? That question was not universally agreed upon. I don’t claim to have the answer. But history reflects that there were many Zionists who believed that the Jewish faith would flourish better if it spread across the globe among all the free nations, and that the establishment of a Political-state was going to restrict, rather than liberate, the Jewish identity.

Some might agree with that fear today. Being a Jew sometimes is boiled down to simply being Israeli. I fear that the future identity of the Jewish faith may become nothing more than whether someone is an Israeli-citizen or part of the Israeli diaspora. Or whether a non-Israeli Jew is a pro-Israel, Israel-first type of non-citizen. And whether the person meets the Israeli state’s definition of being a Jew. Those are bills that have been debated in the Knesset.

Thus, the ideal of creating and preserving a “Jewish State” is itself a Catch 22 for the broader ideals of Judaism. Democracy itself sometimes doesn’t work so well with the concepts of Social Justice (as we have learned in the USA), and the ideals of Tikkun Olam don’t necessarily require a “Democracy” either.

So, I want all of us to ask this question. Why does it have to be a “DEMOCRACY?” Does “Democracy” somehow mean Social Justice? Equality? Fairness? Rightness? Not always. Does the Torah advocate Democracy? Not necessarily. Is Democracy the only way to govern justly? Not always. But on the flip side – is Judaism synonymous with a “Jewish” state? The United States is a great example of the flourishing of Judaism in a non-Jewish state. The Dutch Republic of the 1600s and the Golden Age of Islamic Spain and Morocco are also good examples of a vibrant and flourishing Jewish culture and faith in a non-Jewish state.

Do we limit ourselves because of fear? Fear of another Holocaust? Is that the BEST way to go forward? Should we not also have HOPE and LOVE too? We assume that the Palestinian people are going to murder us in our sleep. But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. The more we dig in, the more we limit our options.

Just something to think about. I think everybody has a valid perspective so far on these comments. The real questions is whether those are the ONLY valid perspectives. I don’t think so. I think we can be bigger than our fears, and bigger than our past and bigger than ourselves. The TaNaK is filled with those examples.

So, I want an explanation.  Why was Michael Cavlan banned?  Am I next?  I want my money back anyway, so go ahead and ban me and wife the refund back to my bank.  You already have my cancellation notice for membership for 2013.  I dare you to try and run the card again…


Scarecrow March 21st, 2012 at 11:30 pm 53
With Jane’s concurrence, I have reviewed the events involving the banning, as helpfully described by zapkitty — thank you — and with the mod who made the call. Bottom line is this: we made a mistake, and Cavlan should be reinstated.

1. There was a mixup on the video. The mod was checking more than one video at the time, and he confused an offensive video with the one he thought was from the post in question. That led to the mistaken removal.

2. Cavlan was then mistakenly banned for efforts to allow readers to view the video. If the video had been offensive, then such efforts could have warranted a reprimand or more from the Mod, but of course, this was not the offensive video. The original mistake was then compounded, resulting in Cavlan being banned. There was also a history of warnings before this (use of copyright materials) that likely contributed to the mod’s decision that he had gone too far.

3. This was our mistake in confusing the videos; it should not have been removed, and Cavlan should not have been banned. He will be reinstated.

4. We screwed up. The mistake in videos could have happened to anyone, but we should have discovered the mixup sooner, explained the confusion, and fixed the problem. We apologize.

One more thing. We keep referring to “the mods,” but we are talking about one very decent, hard working guy who spends about 80 hours a week trying to make sure diarists don’t get themselves (and us) into trouble with copyright issues, slander, bigotry, and so on. Dealing with real problems like that is most of his job, and because he does it faithfully, every day, FDL can sponsor a diary blog and accommodate comments.

We’ll try to be more careful about pulling the plug and fixing errors when we make them. We ask that others accept we are working in good faith and want to keep the diaries and comment sections open and conducive to worthwhile discussions.

John Chandley

Great Recession? Or Great Reconstruction?

By: marsdragon Friday March 16, 2012 10:13 am

The Great Recession is turning out to be a great front and cover for what I term the “Great Reconstruction” of American Society.  It is the overturning of democracy in favor of Corporate Oligarcy, and it is the desctruction of the Middle Class to create Two Americas – the very wealthy, and the very poor.  The War on Women that we are seeing it really a sub-part of that agenda.  By forcing women to submit to the morality of their employers, they are being turned into second-class citizens.

A couple of threads come together in my mind to make this conclusion.

1) The Banks were too big to fail, and were given bailouts and Investment Banks like Goldman, Merril Lynch, and others were allowed to convert to Bank Holding Companies within 48 hours of failure.  This gave them access to Federal Reserve lending and discount windows.  This process should have had a much longer vetting, but did not.  It was fast-tracked.  That tells you who runs the show.  The Financial Industry.

2) Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress passed the bipartisan Gramm-Leech-Bliley Act in 1999 (the Financial Services Modernizatino Act of 2000).   Almost on Christamas Eve of 1999 to be exact.  I remember because I was a law student that year, and I was taking financial analysis and securities law courses that Fall and Spring Semester.  The professors were abuzz with discussion of the new laws, and they made us do papers analyzing parts of the bill.  The number one thing I remember learning is that this was a dismantling of Glass-Steagall and the Securities laws of FDR passed in the wake of the 1929 Stock Market Crash.  Specifically – this new law tore down the Firewalls between Banking, Insurance, and Investment Banking.  From 1933 until 1999, those 3 sectors were not allowed to comingle funds, deposits, income, assets, etc.   The Greg Smith op-ed is insightful, since he started working at Goldman in 2000, exactly when these protections had just been dismantled.  In addition, this law created the plethora of newly designed FINANCIAL DERIVATES and allowed for the SECURITIZATION OF MORTGAGE BACKED SECURITIES.  As some prominent economisists have noted, this was nothing short of MORAL HAZARD. 

3) The Citizens United Case, as we all know, enshrines the concepts that MONEY is SPEECH and that Corporations are People.  More specifically, it provides for a framework in which the CORPORATE ENTITY is treated as an individual for CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION purposes.  A Corporation is therefore allowed to asserts it FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS as if it were an individual.

4) The War on Women that appears to have finally become the new frontline of political reality.   While this is, at one level, a continuation of the Conservative attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade and establish a religious-right perspective on this nation, it is much more than that.

Case in point.  Arizona House Bill 2625.  I’ve linked to the article at, but you can find analysis of that at Think Progress and other progressive sites.    In summary, this bill will require women to bring a NOTE to their EMPLOYER proving that they are not having sex, or that they are not using the Birth Control Pill to prevent pregnancy.  In other words, women, whether married or not, must get their Employers’ permission to use birth control.  And if the Employer does not believe in Birth Control Pills as a way to prevent Pregnancy (“Sex is only for Procreation and NOT Pleasure” mindset) then it means that the Employer will have the RIGHT under the Arizona Law (and other laws passed by likeminded states) to PREVENT COVERAGE BY THE INSURANCE CARRIER for that birth control pill.  The law also requires the women to show their medical histories to the employer to prove their point.  The entire decision rests with the Employer.  And the women who work in “right-to-work” states will also be at risk of instant termination, without cause, for failure to do anything the Employer likes.   Those states are very difficult to prosecute employment discrimination claims in, particularly in the 5th circuit (Texas, Lousiana, Mississippi).  The result is that the women must oblige the employer or risk being fired.  And above all, cannot obtain birth control pills without her employer’s MORAL CONSENT.

If that wasn’t enough, the reason it is included in this analysis is because of a curious comment made by the bill’s SPONSOR.  A Repulican Woman, Majority Whip Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, stated:

“I believe we live in America. We don’t live in the  Soviet Union,” Lesko said. “So, government should not be telling the organizations or mom and pop employers to do something against their moral beliefs.”

That is worth dissecting for a moment.  She believes that this is not the USSR, but the USA, and therefore, she feels justified in asserting this law.  She believes that the FIRST AMENDMENT FREEDOM OF RELIGION applies to a COMPANY itself.  And by extension, that COMPANY’s RELIGION is epitomized by the OWNER of that company.

First – the woman who uses birth control pills is an individual.  She is making a MEDICAL DECISION for herself.  The decision is between herself and her doctor.  The Insurance Company should not really be part of that equation in the first place.  But, for purposes of PAYMENT, they are a third party.  FOR PAYMENT PURPOSES.  And of course, the slippery slope is that they get involved in appropriateness of payment issues.  Is the medical procedure, pill, device, etc for a REAL purpose or a SHAM purpose.  That kind of involvment.  But Insurance Companies have never before been given MORAL ANALYSIS rights.  They never were allowed, under prior laws, to dictate which surgeries or procedures or pills could be given on a MORAL BASIS.  Only on a MEDICAL BASIS.  Insurers were allowed to request a less expensive method be used or to limit certain exams to once a year instead of twice, because there was a SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE (however thin or untested it may have been) to the objection.  But never a moral objection.

Second – the EMPLOYER is not the one making the moral decision here.  Nowhere in the Bible or American Jurisprudence has there ever been a statement or precedent or law or proverb that says an EMPLOYER will be judged or damned based on the decisions of the EMPLOYEES.   The only SECULAR law I can find that mirrors this kind of thinking is the one that that FEUDAL laws espoused.  Where the NOBLE was responsible for his vassal’s conduct on his land.  In Scotland in 1609, laws were passed enjoining the Highland Chiefs to become responsible for their clan members.  They were being held accountable for the actions of those who were under their authority.   Employer liability laws have been routinely and severely CURTAILED in the past 30 years by TORT REFORM.  No longer are Employers liable under the law for the actions of their employees in thousands of cases.  There are so few ways to attach liability to an employer for the actions of an employee.  So, all of a sudden, a woman employee’s ACTIONS are now a breach of an EMPLOYER’s religion?

Third – the woman employee used to have RIGHTS under the Constitution.  To engage in HER OWN religious and medical decisions.  To allow an EMployer the right to RESTRICT that employee’s protection is to basically say that the COMPANY/OWNER right are more protected under the FIRST AMENDMENT than the Employee’s rights under the same constitution. 

Conclusion/Analysis:   This is nothing short of an extension under Citizens United.   CORPORATIONS (and by proxy, their OWNERS) are allowed to assert the Constitutional Protections as FULL CITIZENS UNDER THE LAW.   Therefore, an OWNERS’ religion is the same as that of the CORPORATION.  Its like the old European Peace of Augsburg Treaty (1555) where the Prince’s Religion was to be the People’s Religion.  A Lutheran Prince could enforce Lutheranism in his province, and a Catholic Prince could enforce Catholicism in his province.  The Princes had liberties under the Constitution of the Holy Roman Empire.  But the PEASANTS had no such freedoms.  They were brutally suppressed if they tried to practice a different faith than their Secular lord.  That is how this law is applied.  A Catholic Business-Owner (Corporation) can impose its religious beliefs on the INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES, even if its a secular business that pays taxes.  

The INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES are not FULL CITIZENS any longer.  They are FRACTIONAL citizens.  They only get First Amendment Protection in limited cases.  They can’t freely choose a medical or religious application of medical decisions.  They must submit to the FULL CITIZEN power/rights of the CORPORATION.

And these are CORPORATIONS that have the backing of the US GOVERNMENT.  They have access to the US Federal Reserve, Treasury, and other Taxpayer funds to keep themselves afloat.

This is the emergence of a FEUDAL-FASCISM.  In other words, we are witnessing not the Great Recession, but the GREAT RECONSTRUCTION of America from a Democratic Capitalist Nation to a FEUDAL FASCIST NATION.

Intelligence Tradecraft 101

By: marsdragon Wednesday October 12, 2011 1:53 am
Tool Box Has Seen Better Days. (Photo: Stitch on flickr)

Tool Box Has Seen Better Days. (Photo: Stitch on flickr)

I haven’t been on here in a bit, but I felt it was important to add a few insights into the recent news regarding the breaking “terror plot foil” that is streaming across newsrooms and tv sets this day.

The story is about an American citizen of Iranian descent who was caught by the FBI in attempting to pull off a terror plot on behalf of the Iranian government.  So the official line goes.

The authorities say that the man had 1.5 million dollars in cold hard cash to pay the Mexican Drug Cartel, the Zetas, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington D.C. and that he knows all this and he knows that the Iranian Government hired him because the person who gave him the 1.5 million dollars told him as much.  And it turns out that the Zeta contact man he gave the money to was all along a DEA/FBI informant.

Being here in Texas, I heard some local news about this guy.  He is a Texas resident.  He lived in Corpus Christi, Dallas, and Round Rock.  His business was in wholesale car deals, and he owned a minute mart.  They interviewed a civil attorney he hired in Corpus about 10 years ago and some of his old neighbors.  Nobody pegged him for being the type.  He had some outstanding arrest warrants already for petty theft, fraud, and evasion of arrest.  He had some traffic tickets he didn’t pay, etc.

Okay, lets process this.

1.  Intelligence Agencies have handlers who handle assets.  Rule 1 – the handler never tells the asset who they really are, who they really work for, and what their missions really are about.  CIA, Mossad, MI6, FSB, etc, never never never tell their civilian assets who the hell they really are.  Nobody ever says, “Hey, I am CIA and I need you to infiltrate the Chinese embassy on your next business trip.  Make sure to poison Mr. X and grab a certain document for me.  And oh, here’s 1.5 million dollars.  I hope you can pull it off.  And my real name is John Smith!”

This isn’t about Black vs. White. It is about a Broken System.

By: marsdragon Saturday June 4, 2011 1:21 am

I hate to rehash too many facts here, so I will try to be brief and just get people up to speed on the basics.  You can find a lot of detail (and the surveillance footage on a lot of other sites).  But essentially, the case revolves around a West Point Cadet at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, in plainclothes, waiting for his brother to pick him up by the curb.  He was on the cell phone when Patti LaBelle’s three bodyguards decided to take turns knocking him down.  He his head on a concrete pylon and suffered a concussion.  He was wheeled away by a paramedic, and you could see the blood on the shirt and his face and on the concrete.   In the video, you can see that it took at least 3 attempts for him to get back up to his feet prior to the paramedic arriving.  

There is some dispute as to whether he laid his hands on somebody in her entourage first.  It appears, from the tape, that he didn’t.  That he was just walking and talking on the cell phone. 

The Houston Police Officers who arrived did not arrest the bodyguards, or even file a police report against them. Instead, the Houston PD took pictures with Patti LaBelle, while the city workers were mopping up the blood from the concrete a few feet away.  Someone in her entourage filed a police report stating that the Cadet had touched the cheek and caused a bruise.  The HPD noted on the report that the complainant “had a bruise” and that the Cadet “appeared to be drunk.”

What happened next was that someone in the HPD called West Point to report that one of their Cadets (a Senior who was 3 months away from graduating as a 2nd Lieutenant) had been “drunk and disorderly” at the airport.  West Point decided to dismiss him from the Academy, demote him to a Private (E-1) and then put him on a probationary active duty deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan at the end of which he might be allowed to return to the Academy.  He also was a defensive player for the Army Football Team. 

Due to his concussion, he will be unable to ever play football again, and due to the HPD report to West Point, he will likely never be an officer and may never return to the Academy, as well as being demoted to an E1 Private with a  black mark on his record.

The Cadet has just filed a lawsuit against Patti LaBelle and her 3 bodyguards this week for punitive and other damages.  His attorney was able to obtain the footage of the airport surveillance video, and it appears that the Cadet’s story is largely corroborated by this video.  There is about 1 minute where the Cadet is just barely out of range of the video, but he appears to be on the phone the entire time, and he appears to be making hand gestures while on the phone.  It is debatable whether he is gesturing AT one of the LaBelle entourage, or just gesturing while talking as some people are prone to do.

The blogosphere and news cycle is beginning to light up with this incident.  At issue are several key things.  1) Why didn’t HPD file a police report against the bodyguards?  2) Why are no charges being brought against the bodyguards? 3) Why did they take a picture with a potential suspect and witness at the site while failing to secure a potential crime scene? 4) Why did HPD call West Point prior to completing its investigation of all sides of this incident? 5) Did HPD even obtain the airport surveillance footage prior to relying upon the claim that the Cadet had bruised the cheek first? 6) Why did HPD attribute the Cadet’s staggering walk to alcohol without taking a breathlyzer or blood test?  7) Why didn’t HPD realize that a concussion could have resulted in the same type of staggering?

On the web, I am seeing an increasingly disturbing trend.  The injection of race and racism into this discussion.   And what is not helping is the fact that certain websites are automatically justifying the behavior of the three bodyguards while other websites are saying this is “reverse racism.”


Hip-Hop Wired’s spin:

West Point cadet Richard King will think twice before he gets near a celebrity again.

Take a look at the video below and tell us if you think the West Point cadet has a case, or if he should just take his a** whooping like a man and move on?

The New York Daily News: (look at the comments too)

If this dude was so drunk, he’ll have to depend on the tapes because between the alcohol and the beating, he can’t remember much of what happened. How is it he recalls LaBelle lowering her window to order her guards to beat him up. First of all, LaBelle is as people friendly as any entertainer that’s ever lived. That she would do such a thing is unbelievable. This white dude is obviously trying for the white ghetto lottery. Military hero my ascot. The guy was drunk, like that kid who was killed by cops in New Paultz. Remember how you railed that he deserved to die? Well this alchie cadet deserved to get the latrine beat out of his white ***.

and this…

The 23 yo cadet was not drunk and besides is entitled to have some drinks on holiday. Even if he was drunk and was not watching where he was going that would still be no excuse to have 3 apes attack him.Who does this old Aunt Jemina look alike think she is? I hope the cadet takes every last penny she has so she has to go back to mopping floors for a living.

The Houston Press (look at the comments!):

Come on people! You don’t really believe this incredulous tale of airport villainy, do you? Why is it that whenever there are fables of “dark skin misconduct”, the verdict must be guilty as charged. Does the ghost of D.W. Griffin cast its racist shadow still? #FearofaBlackPlanet.

and this….

You can take Shaniqua out of the ghetto, but you can’t take ghetto out of Shaniqua.  I hope cadet King sues this piece of washed up trash for rvery thing she’s got.

There is no reason for this kind of racial division or racial baiting in this incident.   If people who are black tend to defend her bodyguards whereas people who are white tend to defend the Cadet, then this will only get worse.   What people will have not realized is that the Houston Police who mishandled this situation were being awed by MONEY and CLASS and CELEBRITY – not by black or white.

And I want to finish by making sure we don’t forget a few basic concepts in all this. 

Sec. 22.01.  ASSAULT.  (a)  A person commits an offense if the person:

(1)  intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse; 

(2)  intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury, including the person’s spouse;  or

(3)  intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

Sec. 22.02.  AGGRAVATED ASSAULT.  (a)  A person commits an offense if the person commits assault as defined in Sec. 22.01 and the person:

(1)  causes serious bodily injury to another, including the person’s spouse;  or

(2)  uses or exhibits a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault.

In other words, if the Cadet threw a punch that bruised the cheek of the driver, then he might be guilty of the Assault charge.  And based on the videotapes, the bodyguards probably could be guilty of Aggravated Assault.   And people  may claim that he “had it coming” or that “he mouthed off” or that “he was drunk” or “he was too close to her limo” or “he didn’t move away” but in the United States, and in Texas, none of those arguments will be considered an Affirmative Defense to the charge of Assault.

We have a right to stand on an airport sidewalk, look at somebody, and even talk on the cell phone loudly.  We have the right to a few drinks on an airplane, and we have the right to wait for our ride outside the airport.   These bodyguards were not law enforcement personnel.  They did not have a right to tell him where to stand, and they didn’t respond to an imminent fear of bodily harm.  They were responding to their egos and their machismo.  And no matter what this Cadet did, he did not deserve to be beaten to the ground by three people to the extent that he would suffer a concussion.  That is excessive force.  IF the argument was that he should have moved back, then the chest bump by the first body guard appeared to accomplish that.  There was never a reason for that body guard to land a punch.  Let alone for the other 2 to join in and land their punches.

It is also evident  that the Houston PD is conducting an internal investigation  now that the Cadet’s lawyer has made the Airport Surveillance footage public!  It appears by initial reporting that the officers on the scene did not take the time to look at the footage before accepting the word of one of the actors against the word of the Cadet they wheeled off to the hospital.  It is also still unclear who in HPD put in a call to West Point (which ruined this Cadet’s career) prior to completion of their investigation. 

I will be the first person to condemn a bunch of white cops beating up a black kid in handcuffs. 

But I will also be the first person to condemn three black bodyguards for beating up a white kid who was no threat to them.

This isn’t about race.  But if we allow it become that, then we will all lose out, as Americans, and as human beings.  I know FDL is not filled with Obama supporters.  But, the right wing news media is already gearing up to make this about Obama and Liberals being shallow and supporters of reverse-racism and players of the race-card.  I encourage supporters of Obama to refrain from automatically defending Patti LaBelle’s actions simply because she was also an Obama supporter.   And I encourage Republicans or Tea Partiers or Libertarians or Progressives who are anti-Obama to also refrain from any ill-crafted analogies or comments.

This kind of monolithic herd-think mentality will never solve our society’s ills.  If we are looking for a culprit here, then I would offer this as a way to see it:  This is the breakdown of a system that engages in a cult of personality and adoration of money and celebrity.

It didn’t matter who was black or white.  It mattered that the police on the scene wanted a celebrity photo shot, and they cared nothing about doing their job, securing the scene, and gathering all possible evidence in an objective and professional manner.  HPD should punish the two officers taking those pictures, should make amends by retracting its potentially defamatory phone call to West Point, and should drop the claim that the Cadet was drunk when made no effort to secure a single piece of evidence to that effect.  If the claim is based solely on the officers’ observation of his “dizziness” and “inability to stand” then they are clearly misreading his concussion for drunkeness.    And District Attorney Pat Lykos should take every effort to make sure that this kind of assault at Houston’s largest airport is punished.   Whatever that Cadet did, he didn’t deserve to be beaten up to a bloody pulp, for his football career to be ended, and for his hard work at West Point to be tossed out on the word of a cop in her county who failed to perform his job in a professional manner.  

If Mayor Parker and DA Pat Lykos care about the future of Houston, they will do what they should to make sure this misconduct is investigated and rectified.  If the Cadet was worthy of being demoted and punished at West Point, then he should have been charged with a crime and prosecuted FIRST.   But this business of trial by innuendo, and punishment by slander/defamation is completely foreign to our Constitution and to the principles of this nation, this state, and this city.  Its an embarassment.   And it doesn’t matter if the Cadet threw the first punch or not.   Self-defense doesn’t attach when the immediate threat of harm has stopped.  A punch thrown 5 minutes earlier doesn’t justify a beat-down by three people.  That’s not self-defense. That’s revenge.  And that isn’t a justification or a defense under the law.

I am sure Pat Lykos has at least one Assistant DA on her staff that can make this kind of argument to a jury and secure a conviction for the bodyguards.  To do otherwise is to pander to celebrity and to whitewash or diminish the misconduct of a couple of cops. 

FY2011 Budget Crisis should be called “How to Hyde the Ball 101″

By: marsdragon Saturday May 28, 2011 2:17 pm

 Yes,  I  spelled it wrong on purpose.   Because this “Budget Crisis” could have been avoided LONG AGO by the Democrats had they not been so busy trying to Kill the Public Option in 2009 and 2010.  They engaged in the largest act of Kabuki I’ve ever personally seen, and I will dislcose that I started reading FDL during that time because it was the only real outlet that was being honest about the Kabuki Theater and the Hide-the-Ball strategy being played by the Democrats.  I encourage people who are not members to consider becoming members because this is the kind of hard-hitting, fact-gathering, investigative reporting that FDL did that drew me away from other blogs and news sources.   Hands down, I have to credit FDL as the PRIMARY source of my news now.  DemocracyNow with Amy Goodman and Pacifica Radio gets to be on that short list.  Everything else is corporate media, beholden to corporate interests.

I want to also give a big thank you and credit to David Dayen, Jon Walker, Marcy Wheeler, and Jane Hamsher and the other bloggers whose links I will be embedding throughout.  They have created an EXCELLENT archive of facts that detail this massive deception perpetrated upon the Democratic voters and America in general.  

 I will be covering a LOT of ground QUICKLY, so after you read it, go and click on any of the links to see the gory detail and footnoted and documented facts. 

This is a good blueprint for how the Administration and the Democratic Party have been engaged in 11 Dimensional Chess.   IT just so happens that the opposing player was the VOTERS and People of America.  Suckas!!!!

FY 2010 Budget vs. FY 2011 Budget

In April 2009, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate passed the FY 2010 Budget of $3.5 Trillion with overwhelming consensus.  They did so regardless of the criticism of the Right-wing.   The salient point?  The Blue Dogs didn’t balk that time. 

Fast forward to July 2010, and let’s see what the Blue Dogs are saying now.  No FY 2011 Budget will be passed.  Why?  Because suddenly, they have to wait for the ”Bipartisan” Deficit Commission (what everybody at FDL has termed the “Catfood Commission”) to reveal its findings in December of 2010.  So, lets just take stock.  The Blue Dogs  were willing to pass the FY 2010 Budget in April 2009.  But they are unwilling to pass the FY 2011 Budget in July 2010.    That was the first time since 1974 that Congress failed to pass a Budget. 

Remember that in July 2010, the Democrats controlled the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities that were won as part of the “Obama Mandate” that the voters expressed in the 2008 Elections.  Lets not forget that.  The voters gave the Democrats the Triple Crown of Mandates.   The House, Senate, and the Presidency.  All in the same year.  The Democrats KNEW that they would have 2 uncontested years to pass landmark legislation, unopposed, to clean up the past 8 years of Bush mess.   Or, if they were brave, to clean up the past 30 years of Trickle-Down Economics and wholesale de-industrialization of the American economy.   So, in July 2010, the time when a FY 2011 Budget should have been and could have been passed, the Democrats announced that they would “not pass a budget this year.”   What were they waiting for?  The elections were going to be in November of 2010.  If there was a CHANCE that Republicans could take a bite out of their majorities, or even retake the House, then waiting to pass the FY 2011 Budger AFTER that might happen would look like political suicide.  Why not pass the Budget when you can, instead of waiting for your opponents to have a chance to force a Budget that would destroy lower and middle class Americans? 

The Democrats Already Knew About Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan

Will the Democrats argue that they didn’t see Paul Ryan’s budget proposal to destroy Medicare coming?   Well, they would be lying to your face if they said that.  Why?  Because his budget had been proposed 2 years earlier.

The Democrats have known about Paul Ryan’s budget plan for well almost 2 years now.  This was no surprise to them.  Its important we know that, because we have to realize that in 2010, when the Democrats were the majority party in both the House and Senate, that they chose not to pass a Budget for FY 2011, instead willing to risk a Republican rally in November that could reintroduce the Ryan Budget for FY 2011.  The Democrats willingly and knowingly accepted the risk of a Paul Ryan Budget to kill Medicare when they chose not to pass a FY 2011 Budget in 2010. 

As a side note*, also realize that for the first time since the Iraq invasion, the FY 2010 Budget that was passed in 2009 included War Funding that had previously been done with supplemental and separate funding:

Instead of getting separate “emergency” authorizations for war appropriations, the funding for Iraq and Afghanistan are built into the budget.  That accounts for $130 billion of the increase over FY2009, and it ends the ridiculous practice of pretending that no one could plan for war resources.  The Bush administration should have made that move after the 2003 invasion instead of continuing to use emergency supplementals that became a poltical lightning rod every time it went to Congress for the funding.

*That  is important because it changes the numbers.  Republicans and Blue Dogs like to complain about how much money is in the FY 2011 proposed Budgets, and they like to villify Medicare,  Social Security, and Medicaid.  But they fail to mention the war funding that is in the budget, or the other expenditures related to the Global War on Terror (and the Global War on Drugs).  Those are off limits.  As are the Agricultural Subsidies to the corporate multinational Ag-Giants, the subsidies to the Oil industry, and the tax breaks to the Charter School/Hedge Fund industry.  Among hundreds of other Corporate Welfare tax breaks and subsidies. 

What is really happening here?  Look at the Health Care Battle for Clues.

This all seems to make no sense to low-information voters or casual observers (the majority of America).  The real issue here is embedded in the rope-a-dope strategy that was implicit (and explicit) during the Health Care “Reform” debacle. 

Rewind with me again to look at the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010:    

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Pub.L. 111-152, 124 Stat. 1029) is a law that was enacted by the 111th United States Congress, by means of the reconciliation process, in order to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub.L. 111-148). It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2010.

Let us briefly recall the timeline (the link glosses over some of the facts, and cleverly downplays certain aspects,  so I am making those facts more clear in my version below):

The Reconciliation Monster and Broken Promises

This bill, to recap, was not going to pass the House at first.  There was a lot of deal-making to get the House to agree to pass this very crippled Act.  The promise was made, by the Senate to the House, that their concerns would be addressed in the Reconciliation process itself when the bill returned to the Senate   Many were predicting this would be a long shot.

Then, when that failed to happen, the promise was made that those concerns would be addressed in a FY 2011 Budget Reconciliation Process.   

The Democrats could have entered into the FY 2011 Budget process to fix the deficiencies in the initial Heatlh Care Bill.   But they didn’t.   They still haven’t pass the FY 2011 Budget, and it is now half-way through FY 2011.   But, we can see that the public option was never going to happen, both by Tom Daschle’s admission  and by Harry Reid’s duplicity when the Senate could have allowed for the Public Option to be brought to a vote.

So, it is clear that the reason why the Democrats decided not to pass a FY 2011 Budget (for the first time since 1974) was because they would then have to eat their words on bringing the Public Option and other issues to the table in the Health Care debate.  Because they had promised to do that.  And so, instead of breaking such a clear promise in the FY 2011 Budget debate, they instead chose NOT to have a FY 2011 Budget at all!  And with the risk of a Paul Ryan plan around the corner if they didn’t act, they were still willing to take that chance.  

11 Dimensional Chess – Political Brilliance or Voter Stupidity?

Obviously, the Administration was able to convince the Democratic Party that the Act as passed had provided sufficient reform for the time being.  The Administration likely was going to make sure it used its Executive Rule-making and regulatory power to make the Act work. 

So, what has the Administration been doing with its Execuive Power and Regulatory Rule-Making Authority? (thanks to David Dayen  for providing all these updates over the past year as they happened):

Within 2 months of the Reconciled Bill being signed by the President, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave guidance to the insurance industry as to how to avoid the  requirement that dependents can stay on their parent’s policies until the age of 26.   To its credit, the HHS did anounce regulations for prevention and wellness a few months later.   To its discredit, the HHS then in October of 2010 announced that it would grant waivers to companies and insurers allowing them to strip existing services and coverage on employees.    Then, in 11/22/2010, the HHS promulgated rules defining how medical loss ratios would be calculated.   Which means that they can use up to 15% of each premium to pay for CEO salaries and administrative costs. But, the insurers were still able to get favorable tax treatment as part of the “bargain.”   It should be remembered that Medicare and Medicaid do not exceed 5% costs for salaries and administrative expenses.  They are non-profit public programs.  Private Insurers are for-profit private programs.  So, its debatable whether this regulation was good for consumers forced to pay those premiums. 

The HHS got a lot of flack when insurance companies started to jack up premiums in 2010 after the law was passed.   So, it promulgated rules to “shame” the offending insurance companies, but little more than that.   Not content with having done so little in the wake of passing such a pathetic “reform” act, HHS began 2011 with removing end-of-life provisions from the medicare regulations (in other words, people can not use medicare for counseling and assistance with terminal issues).

While this should be enough to shock the conscience of those who were willing to give this administration the “he’s only been President for 2 years” benefit of the doubt, Obama’s HHS Secretary Sebelius was not done gutting the Act even yet.  In February 2011, she proceeded to give states the green light to cut medicaid benefits for their poorest citizens.   Not satisfied with this demonstration of spineless from the Obama Administration, the Republican Governors, like sharks smelling blood in the water, made demands just a week later to the Obama HHS that the Federal Government had to pick up the tab on running the healthcare exchanges or else their states would simply balk and not run them at all, leaving millions of the high-risk and lower income citizens stranded without any coverage when the law would take effect PENALIZING people for failure to buy coverage! 

This bloodletting by the Insurance industry and the Republican governors would not cease.  Still in the month of February 2011, the Obama administration proceeded to allow the states to go forward with their threats, and the HHS authorized the insurance industry to water down the Act’s minimum requirements for what kinds of services had to be covered and how much they could charge for those services.     Finally, with the month of February 2011 STILL NOT OVER, the Obama Administration publicly endorsed the Wyden Brown legislation to accelerate how fast states could opt out of the healthcare law entirely.  

As recently as April of 2011, the Obama Administration has gone further, with this analysis by Jon Walker being as well articulated as possible:

Obama has already signed one reduction of the exchange affordability subsidies and is expected to sign another, similar reduction in the next few days. The laws reduce the money going toward exchange affordability subsidies by increasing the penalty a family on an exchange will need to pay back if their income fluctuates slightly upward during the year. The first time, the savings were use to increase pay to Medicare providers, and the second time, to pay for repealing the new 1099 tax reporting requirement for business. The CBPP explains why this will  have serious negative consequences for middle class Americans.In addition, as part of the government funding compromise reached with House Speaker John Boehner last Friday, the President has agreed to gut two other provision of the new health care law. Obama agreed to eliminate Ron Wyden’s Free Choice Vouchers program that would have helped some people with expensive employer-provided insurance get more affordable coverage on the new exchanges.

Also part of the deal, Obama agreed to significantly cut the funding for new health insurance co-ops. While I’ve personally been very skeptical about how much of a positive impact the co-op program will have, President Obama, his advisers and top Democrats spent a lot of time telling the public they were a really good idea. They claimed they would be almost as effective as a public option at increasing competition, reducing prices, and improving quality. If we take them at their word, this is significant reduction in funding for co-ops and from their perspective should be seen as a real blow to the law.

In short – the only thing still not watered down is that EVERY AMERICAN MUST BUY INSURANCE, but just about everything that regulates what the insurance industry can do with your premium dollars has been watered down, kicked out, gutted, or ignored. 

And the insurance industry has taken as much advantage of the Act (which they drafted) as possible.

Firstly, the consolidation and monopolization of the Insurance Industry was enshrined in the Act.   Second,  it was discovered that the Insurance Industry’s lobbying efforts in the State Capitols was even more draconian and effective, and in the wake of this “reform” the law failed to give the States any meaningful way to regulate  the Insurance Industry or to enforce this “reform.”   This became evident when insurers in California decided to raise premiums by orders of magnitude for no defensible reason.   The rate of increase of premiums far exceeds the rate of increase in all other costs that American consumers face.  IT is faster and higher than the costs of fuel, transportation, food, housing, clothing, appliances, education, or entertainment.  It is more than 20x the rate of inflation in some markets, and when those markets only have one or two insurers, then there is no choice in those markets but to either puchase grossly marked up policies or choose not to purchase a policy at all.  Except, this law changes that choice.  Now, it takes away the choice to not purchase a policy.  It doesn’t do anything else with respect to lowering prices of those policies, or controlling how those policies are honored by the insurance company.  It merelytakes away the choice to not purchase one.  You can either purchase crap or garbage, but you can’t choose to purchase neither.  You’ll be penalized by the IRS and then when you don’t pay that tax  extortion money , then the Internal Revenue Agents will knock on your door and treat you as a criminal.   

Small businesses have been dropping employees from coverage, or choosing to shift more of the premium onto the employees in the wake of this law.    While state regulators are trying to play cat and mouse with the insurance companies, it is clear that this law was woefully inadequate in giving the tools of enforcement to the regulators at the state or federal level with respect to regulating the Insurance Industry.  But of course, over half the law as written has nothing to do with the Insurance Industry, but instead focuses on regulation of the consumer purchasers.  It is primarily a law amending the Tax Code, with provisions for how to calculate the penalties, how to enforce the penalties on the consumers who don’t purchase, and how to penalize people who take subsidies but then end up making more money later in the year

In short, the Insurance Industry has taken every chance it can to find every loophole in this law.  A law that was written by one of their own – Liz Fowler of Wellpoint Insurance.   And the manner in which the Democrats and the Administration have acted by following up this pathetic “reform” with the “crisis” of the budget will result in serious consequences to America’s poor and middle class

So, where do we stand now that the “Reform” was passed and then gutted and hollowed out by this Administration and the Democrats?  Here’s one journalists take:

“The more healthy people available to pay for those in the pool who are ill (translation- the older people), the better the system works and the lower our premium charges should go.” [emphasis mine]

“Health insurance companies are making record profits for the first quarter of 2011. It is not rocket science — more healthy young people on the rolls bring balance and income. This raises the question of whether health insurance companies should be able to keep that extra money they are pocketing or forced to hold the line on premiums as a result of their good fortune? Whatever the case, having more people with insurance is a good thing. Having young people get the medical attention that they need now as opposed to later, hopefully means they will be less sick in the future.”

“The haters and naysayers can continue to label this good news as “Obamacare,” as if it’s a bad thing, while supporters have concrete proof that affordable health care is working for all Americans, including Republicans.”

In other words, whether they hold the line on premiums or simply pocket the “good fortune,” it doesn’t matter to this writer. Both outcomes are “a good thing.” I have to give this article one shred of credit. It at least posed the relevant issue in two separate places – as more people sign up, premiums SHOULD go down. Unfortunately, the article immediately walks back the expectation and dismisses its own hope as being “whatever.” Really? So, it would be nice to have lower premiums, but even if we don’t get that, we better not complain lest we be labeled as “haters and naysayers.”

Essentially, this entire article  measures the effectiveness of the healthcare law simply by measuring how many new customers have been created for the insurance industry. It ends with this simple formulation:

“Health insurance companies are making record profits” so therefore, “affordable health care is working for ALL americans.”

So, what’s next?

We will have live-streaming digital stock tickers in every doctor’s office waiting room in America, where the rising stock prices for all the major health insurance companies will be framed by some kind of fuzzy statement that says

“As our stock goes up, your health improves!”

Will that be the sign people see waiting for their doctor? Or will that be the sign posted outside the billing specialist’s office – you know, the one where they usually tell you how much of the bill the insurance didn’t cover, how much you still owe, and whether the doctor will even be allowed by the insurance company to perform the procedure? Yeah, they should post the sign there. “As our stock price rises, your health improves!”

Where I respectfully disagree with Netanyahu

By: marsdragon Tuesday May 24, 2011 7:27 pm

There is always too much to read about in the news, and too much I want to write about, that I never am quite sure what topic to take the time for, as time is a premium for me these days.

I hate to beat the bush on topics so many others cover so well here at FDL.  I’ve been a diligent reader, but not such a good commenter these past 2 or 3 months.   Today, I read a pretty interesting set of articles about the healthcare laws and the state of healthcare in the US, and I was very tempted to write about that.  But, alas, some other news has jettisoned itself into the national debate.   The statements made by Obama last week about the Israeli Palestinian issues drew international commentary. Amy Goodman on Democracy Now had a very interesting roundtable about it, with Norman Finkelstein and Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J-Street, having a pretty go at each other.  Both are good men, and they each believe passionately in a safe and secure Israel.  But they disagree on the details of how to get there.  They both agree that they are far to the LEFT of Netanyahu, which is where I think many American Jews find themselves.  But even folks on the left don’t always see eye-to-eye (I think we at FDL already knew that one!).

I wanted to write this post to mainly just address a few topics in this massive dialogue about Middle East Peace that I think gets too easily glossed over by the Corporate Media, and too easily does the garbage get digested by a rather uneducated public. 

I have to thank Alamode for reminding me of the kind of misinformation and garbage that is out there.

Here’s the link to Alamode’s comment and here’s the comment:

There is no such thing as a Palestinian, nor historically, has there ever been anything or any place called Palestine. These people are Arabs. So called Palestine is nothing more than the region between the southern Mediterranean coastal plains and the Syrian interior. The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphate, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans, the British and modern Israelis. IMHO, the way to peace is to relocate these Arabs to existing Arab States. To demand that Israel revert to the 1967 borders is just ludicrous. The Arabs started the war, not Israel, and the Arabs lost.

This is a very common argument, and its one that Netanyahu made himself in his book, “A Durable Peace: Israel and its Place Among the Nations.”  I own this book, I have read it from cover to cover, and it is quite a read.  I actually recommend it.  Despite the fact that I disagree with some of it, I still think it has some very good primary sources in it.  (See, I can recommend the book of someone I politically disagree with, and I can even agree with some of what he says, and still disagree with his solutions!!! What a NOVEL and UNKNOWN CONCEPT in the American Corporate Media and Political discourse!!!!!).

Yes, I diasgree with Netanyahu and the Likud approach.   But I can respect the man and tell you that some of his ideas have a genesis in reality, but that they come to conclusions that I find foolish and unworkable.

Was there or is there such a thing as a “Palestinian?”

Why is that question even important?  Its a straw-man argument, with a limited set of parameters allowed in how one is supposed to answer it, so its useful when trying to convince hard-right wing religious zealouts of the rightness of a cause they already have sworn themselves to.  But it is somewhat useless when you look at it with a wider angle lens.

Is there such a thing as an “American?”   Was there an “America” in 1750?  What about in 1776?   When George Washington was seeking recruits for a war against the British Monarch.   Were they “Americans?”  OR were they “Colonists?”    There was no United States of America.  Not yet.  Not for another decade.    There was no concept of “American.”  These were all Europeans who had aggregated together, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not.  The only true “Americans” were people who didn’t call themselves that – the NATIVE FIRST PEOPLES of this continent.  They called themselves Iroquois, or Cree.  Or whatever other tribal distinction they  had. 

America was FOUNDED as an IDEA and then a NATION was built up around that idea.

We are Americans today, but we are not genetically any different from the rest of humanity.  There is nothing INFERIOR or SUPERIOR about us.  We have no genetic difference from other HUMANS.

But we have a shared experience.  Even Democrats and Republicans have those shared experiences.  We have our differences.  But we have a certain shared range of accents, gastronomical tendencies, shared love of certain ideals (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, Representative government, anti-Monarchial dispositions, a shared experience with the Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, the Cold War, etc).  We shared 9/11.  We have shared in the rise of a new kind of America post-9/11.   Do we all agree?  No.  We have different perspectives about those shared experiences (some call it the War of Northern Aggression, and others call it the War to Free the Slaves), but we still SHARE those experiences. 

Are those the same shared experiences as those shared by the Germans and French and Dutch and English?  No.  They share the Napoleonic wars, the Great War, the up close and personal destruction of Europe during WWII in ways that we Americans NEVER will truly share in.  We didn’t see vast swaths of the Continental US carpet-bombed or blitzed.  Our Civil War was the traumatic moment of our shared history.  They had the First and Second World Wars.  Germany and Italy were not even nation-states in their present form prior to the end of the 19th century.  The Europeans also share a much longer heritage of Nobility, Aristocracy, Monarchy.  They have parliaments and landed nobles.  They have a different sense of space and time.   They view history the way we Americans view distance.   And vice versa.   300 miles is not a big deal to most Americans, just as 300 years is a blink of the eye to most Europeans.  But 300 years is the approximate age of our Nation, whereas 300 miles is the approximate WIDTH of most of their nations.   To many Europeans, drinking wine every day, throughout the day, is normal.  To Americans, it is considered drunkness.  Europeans are okay with topless beaches, while Americans will likely brand the topless beach goer as a sex-offender.

What is my point? 

The Caucasian American is genetically no different than the Caucuasian European.  The Asian-American is genetically no differen than the Asian-Asian.   The Black American is no different,  genetically, than the Black African.  But culturally – the difference is NIGHT AND DAY.

The ARAB Tunisian is genetically similar to the ARAB Bahraini.  But, culturally – they are night and day.  

This is what we MUST NEVER FORGET.   The attempt to frame the Middle East peace process in terms of GENETICS is ridiculous.  And foolish.  It is no different than what the Third Reich did with the German people, in attempting to create GENETIC divisions between the “Purer” Race and the “Inferior” Races. 

Palestinians may or may not be of “Arab” lineage or genetics.  Since all humans are identical, genetically, then I think the point is moot.  

The reality is this.   There are people who live in the West Bank and Gaza who have a certain set of shared experiences, traditions, and culture.  Those shared experiences PREDATE the current troubles.   They were the people who lived in the Levant under Ottoman Empire rule.   They grew olive trees, herded sheep and goats, and sang songs while making pottery for tourists or missionaries. They lived simple lives.  They weren’t engineers or industrialists who sought to tame the desert and irrigate it to build a new western-style civilization upon it.  The British did seek to do that after 1917 (the British also sought to build a pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean and the infrastructure that went with it).  The people living in the area known as Palestine had a long 1000-year history (or longer) of living there.  These were Christians, Jews, and Muslims.  They were of various sects of each.  Some were more traditional than others.  But they shared that land, and learned to live with one another, despite their differences.

The Palestinian Arabs and the Arabian Peninsula Arabs and the Arabs living in the ancient Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys all had similiar genetics.  Just like the Caucuasians of England, Germany, Italy and Ireland.  But when those English, German, Irish and Italians came to the North American Continent, fought the wars of Independence, engaged in Ethnic Cleansing of the First Nations, and proceeded to erect a society based upon materialism and greed, then they began to enter into a new shared experience.  The American Experience.

In fact, the moment those various groups of people decided to put down plow and take up musket under General George Washington was the moment they became AMERICANS.  They risked their lives for FREEDOM and LIBERTY.

The people of brownish skin living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank have had almost 50 years of SHARED EXPERIENCES by now.  They are entitled to call themselves WHATEVER THEY WANT.  They can call themselves GOOGOOs if they like.  And they can have the right to self-determination and dignity that the other people living in the region already have.

Does this have to be about Religion, GENETICS, or whose grand-daddy dug which hole first to find the water?!?!

The Human Species will either evolve past those trivial and divise topics, or it will suffer species extinction.   I hope we stop hearing the use of Alamode-style arguments to justifyaggression or occupation.

There are a few other points I want to quickly make based on Netanyahu’s book/arguments:

1.  He argues for “Strategic Depth” and therefore claims that Israel needs to control the high ground of the hills of Judea and Samaria (in the West Bank).  He also makes arguments about Israel’s geographic size (and how quickly the Jordanian military could overrun Israel to the sea if it was able to start at the Green Line vs. if it had to start at the Jordan River).  

(A)  This is the 21st century, not the 15th century.   Assymetrial warfare means that NO COUNTRY has “strategic depth” any longer.  America’s “strategic depth” and “buffer zone” of the ATLANTIC OCEAN didn’t seem to stop Al Quaeda.  Should we annex and occupy the United Kingdom on the off-chance that Norway might try something?   

(B)  Israel has a PEACE TREATY with Jordan, and right now, Jordan looks like a pretty tame place during this Arab Spring.  People there have far fewer grievances than they do with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, or Iran.  I don’t think Jordan is about to be toppled, nor do I see a risk of Jordanian forces crossing the Green Line.  Or the Jordan River.     

(C) Israel is still pretty small, even with the West Bank under occupation.  The Jordan River may have stopped the Elamites 4000 years ago.  I don’t think the Jordan River, or the Judean Hills, will stop a Scud missile, an Iranian missile, or a terrorist.  

(D) England and Scotland only have Hadrian’s Wall separating them.   The Scots and English are as different as Bombay Gin and Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch.  Do either of them need any more “strategic depth?”    Northern Ireland is just across a small sliver of water from England.  Did that water stop IRA bombers?  No.  A PEACE TREATY stopped the Troubles.   Has Europe seen its share of wars?  Yes.   Does Holland have more or less “Strategic Depth” than Israel behind 1967 borders?  Trick Question.  Strategic Depth is not just defined by GEOGRAPHY.  It can also be defined through TREATIES, INTELLIGENCE, and TECHNOLOGY.   The Dutch now have ECONOMIC strength, PEACE TREATIES, and are at the heart of the EUROPEAN UNION.   France no longer needs its heavy artillery, the Maginot Line, to stop German aggression.   Instead, the two are ALLIES and part of a regional cooperation treaty.   Israel’s STRATEGIC DEPTH will NEVER be GEOGRAPHICALLY comparable to the American STRATEGIC DEPTH, which didn’t make enough difference on 9/11 anyway, so Israel might as well scrap the idea of a land grab  that reaches to Tehran from the Mediterranean (which will still be smaller than American territory).  Israel would do better to learn from Europe.  MAKE PEACE.   To have PEACE with its neighbors will be a FAR GREATER Strategic Depth than any land grab or occupation.  America had to deal with the First Nations.  We chose GENOCIDE to deal with the Native population.    I expect and demand that Israel not choose that option.  If it does, then it will have failed the test of history, and it will have failed itself and all of humanity.   I suppose it will have failed its god, but lets keep religion out of this.    

2.  He argues that 1967 borders are out of the question now that “facts have dramatically changed over the past 44 years.”

(A)  No kidding.  Facts have indeed CHANGED over time.  Israel has built settlements upon settlements during those 44 years, while the Palestinians living in the West Bank have been further and further contained in smaller and smaller areas.  Here’s an INTERACTIVE MAP that shows just how a high percentage of the West Bank Israel has built upon.   Click on the layers that show the RESIDENTIAL ZONES for PAlestinians, and then activate the ISraeli-occupied zones.  Well over 90% of the land is off limits to Palestinians to live upon, restricting them to just 10% of that land.  And about 75% of the land is built upon or occupied by Israel.  The remaining 15% is in the control of the PA, but it is not allowed for residential use (meaning the PA can patrol that land, but Palestinians cannot live or travel upon that land).    

(B)  Those “Facts on the Ground” are continuing to change, as the process stalls.   When one party has the ability to change those “Facts on the Ground” while the other party is completely powerless to do so, and then that party doing the “fact-changing” then trumpets that all future deals must  ACCEPT and be BOUND BY those “Facts on the Ground” then what you have is the classic American Manifest Destiny situation.  America changed the facts on the ground each year with respect to its westward expansion.  Then, one day, the Native peoples’ were shipped off to reservations and told to live there.  Facts on the Ground.   Northern Ireland is a case of “facts on the ground” being changed too.    In fact, Germany’s political landscape changed after WWII also.  Remember that?  West Germany and East Germany?  Facts on the ground.   And those facts lasted for a bit over 40 years too.  40 Years of DRAMATIC CHANGES IN FACTS ON THE GROUND!!!!  Why didn’t we just keep East Gemany and West Germany?  According to Netanyahu, if “Facts on the Ground” change, then oh well darn – we can’t do a darn single thing about it, right?   Right? 

No.  Facts on the ground are the expansion of settlements that should never have been built in the first place.  The Berlin Wall should never have been built.  The Native Americans should never have been ethnically cleansed and removed from their homes.  The West Bank should never have been so heavily colonized and built up by Israeli settlers.   If we want to get into who was where first, I think the Palestinians living in the West Bank in 1966 were living there before the Israeli settlers who built their towns in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s and 2010s.   

Lets follow the “facts on the ground” scenario to its logical conclusion — if the Palestinians don’t accept the current 15 discontinugous parcels of land that are separated by Israeli military roadblocks and settlements, then in 10 years, there will be only 10 discontinguous parcels of land.  And in 20 years, there will only be 5 parcels of land.  And then one day, the entire West Bank will be “SETTLED” and the only plot of land left for the Palestinian State to exist will be the City-State of Ramallah.  And that will be the extent of any Palestine.  A city-state.  Surrounded on all sides by Israeli Settlements.  And of course, Israel can’t withdraw to the 1967 borders then, because “FACTS ON THE GROUND” obviously changed!!!  And we wonder why some radical elements of Palestinian society decide to also change some “facts on the ground?”  I don’t condone violence.  But I also don’t condone ethnic cleansing, whether it occurs in one day or in one century. 

Okay, that is enough for now.  Whatever happens between the Palestinians and Israelis, lets not cloud the issue with myths and stupid arguments.   The Palestinians are as different from Jordanians as the Scots are from the Irish.  And the Israelis and Palestinians have as much in common, and as much difference, as the English and Scots.  If England and Scotland can co-exist ON THE SAME DAMN ISLAND, then I think the Palestinians and Israelis can learn to coexist too.   Difference and Similarities, warts and all.   This isn’t the 13th century.  This is the 21st century.   Israel cannot acheive security and peace for itself if it continues to treat the world as if its the 13th century.   I know American Conservatives like to think the Crusades are still a noble and valid cause, but I think humanity must move past that dead-end mindset.  Or the END may truly come when that guy in California keeps claiming it will come!!!