The Ostroy Report

The Ostroy Report is a fresh, aggressive voice for Democrats and a watchdog of the GOP/Tea Party. We support President Obama and the Democratic agenda and seek to preserve the Senate majority while taking back the House. But we're also not afraid to criticize the left when necessary.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Happened to "Never Again?:" Thoughts From an American Jew



The current crisis between Israel and Gaza has certainly stirred up a tornado of emotion and strong opinion worldwide, and has become a polarizing force among American Jews. Caught between their cultural identity and the horrific images of dead civilians, including children, it's easy to understand how many have become sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.

To be sure, no one wants to see dead children. It's hard to support any military action that kills kids. But I think there's a critical perspective being lost in this war. And that is that it is war. War is horrific, brutal and ugly. Soldiers die. And war kills innocent people. Even children. Which is why governments typically go to war as an absolute last resort, when all other options have failed, because very, very bad things happen during war.

War is typically fought to the death. There are no gentlemanly courtesies afforded the enemy. They try to kill you, you strike back with deadly force as well. It's kill or be killed. It's not, "Hey...you're trying to kill me, but you're a lousy fighter with crappy weaponry so I'll just slap ya down a little and let ya live so you can keep on trying to kill me." Because one day, they might succeed. And then you're dead.

Which is precisely why I'm having a very hard time understanding how some of my fellow American Jews can be so supportive of Gaza and the militant group Hamas which governs it. How they can excuse the actions and atrocities caused by this genocidal Jihadi organization, whose charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and it's people?

Contrary to the rhetoric and radical Islamist propaganda surrounding the current conflict, the battle is not about Israel occupying Gaza (a more fact-base case can be made that it began in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers from the West Bank). Israel withdrew from its occupation of Gaza in 2005 amid intense and violent protest by, and forced removal of, the area's 8500 settlers. Every building, with the exception of synagogues and greenhouses, was demolished. This painful struggle, pitting Israeli against Israeli, civilian against soldier, including daily images of troops dragging screaming and sobbing settlers out of their homes, was played out on television screens all over the world that controversial Summer.

And what did Israel get in return for handing over the region to the Palestinian Authority? Two years later Gaza's citizens went to the polls and in a "democratic" election gave control of the territory to Hamas. And we're now witnessing its colossal failure as a governing body. Rather than build schools, hospitals and mosques, it's been using these locations as launch pads for the thousands of rockets that have been fired towards Israel since their victory.

Hamas has also diverted critical funding and resources--concrete, for example--to build terror tunnels into Israel through which its militants can abduct and murder both soldiers and civilians. And its main defensive strategy is to cowardly use its citizens as human shields, while subsequently crying foul when those citizens get killed in return fire.

Let's be clear: Hamas's rockets have a very specific purpose: to kill Israelis. Not just Israeli soldiers, but innocent men, women and yes, children. And they're being fired to also cause destruction to Israel's cities, its infrastructure and its nuclear facilities. These are not warning flares that Hamas militants are firing towards Israel. They are deadly weapons launched with an intense, venomous hatred, and with a desire to kill and maim Jews.  

Israel's critics charge that its aggressive response to the rocket attacks has been "disproportionate." They cite the death toll, which has almost 2000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza being killed, while just three Israeli civilians have died. But does the fact that most of these Hamas rockets have been shot out of the sky by Israeli's incredible Iron Dome air-defense system, before they do harm, mitigate their intent to blow innocent Israeli civilians into bloody pieces? Would the "score" not be much closer if Israel was less capable of defending itself?

Perhaps Israel's American Jewish critics could answer a few key questions: Should Israel be excoriated and condemned for having more sophisticated weapons, and for minimizing its civilian casualties as a result? Should Israel, because of its successful defense against these deadly rockets, not be firing back at the terrorists launching them because they're being launched from residential areas and schools? Should Israel be treating Hamas like a bunch of petulant teenagers incapable of causing real harm, or as the murderous terrorist organization it is, hellbent on its death and destruction? Must Jewish blood and body parts fill the streets of Israel's cities before its armchair critics in the U.S. and elsewhere can justify its aggressive response? Before American Jews can support such retaliation?

The pro-Gaza, hashtag-fueled cries from American Jews is misguided and, quite frankly, shameful. Whatever happened to "Never Again," the promise by Jews to never again let themselves fall victim to genocide? It's easy to sit in a Starbuck's on Manhattan's Upper West Side and spread social media gospel about how Israelis are "overreacting." I suppose 5600 miles gives one both a safe perch to preach from as well as a false sense of security. But just imagine how these same people would be acting if a bomb exploded on the #1 subway train. And another the next day, and then others in a mall, supermarket and cafe. I wonder if there'd be the same cries for restraint and "proportionate" retaliation.

American Jews seem to be forgetting the thousands of innocent Israelis that have been blown to pieces since 1948 in synagogues, restaurants, nightclubs, on buses, in schools and elsewhere by Palestinian suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism. They're forgetting the horrific images of dead Israeli children being dragged lifeless from the rubble, who died a horrible death simply because they were Jews. How can they forget? This conflict did not start last month.  

We must remind ourselves that without Jewish arrogance, naivete and complacency, the Nazis may not have been able to murder 6-million of our people seventy years ago. A failure to recognize the enemy's goal of ultimately exterminating their entire population helped lead Europe's Jews onto the trains and to the concentration camps without a fight. And, while the rest of the world did little to stop it either.

So against that historical backdrop of genocide, and with chilling acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and violence spreading across Europe once again, the message from Israel is clear: American Jews can think and say what they want, and be naive, complacent or pretend the enemy's sole reason for existence is not to brutally destroy theirs. But Israel vows...never again.

Monday, August 04, 2014

What Boehner's Lawsuit really Means




Thank you John Boehner. The nation truly appreciates you and your fellow House Republicans altruistically devoting your last moments in Congress, before a much-deserved 5 1/2 week vacation (hey, you try doing nothing for a whole year...it's exhausting!) to protecting healthcare. Despite obsessively voting fifty times and spending $70+ million of taxpayer money to repeal the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, you're on a mission to ensure that Americans receive every single benefit the insurance law intended. Bravo!    

That's right. Republicans have sued the President of the United States. That's a pretty serious action. Must've been over something so egregious...something so detrimental to America's health and welfare...something that, if unchecked, could literally bring down our great nation. Guess again. 

The lawsuit is over Obama's use of an executive order to delay for one-year the employer mandate provision of ACA, which requires business owners to provide health care for its employees. Forget Immigration, minimum wage or extended unemployment insurance. There's no time to waste on these pesky little issues when one aspect of Obamacare is at risk! Because no one wants to force businesses to provide health insurance to employees more than House Republicans, right?

Oh, those executive orders! Republicans hate them, especially when it's a Democrat who signs them. But for anyone keeping score, Obama's signed 183, far less than any president in modern history, especially Republicans. George W. Bush signed 291 of them. Bill Clinton 364. Ronald Reagan 381. And George H. W. Bush 166 (in four years). So why all the Republican concern about the Constitution all of a sudden? It's because there's only one thing Republicans hate more than a Democratic president's use of executive orders is this president himself. No president has been more disrespected, or been the object of more vengeful scheming, than Obama.

To be sure, for Republicans, the lawsuit is not only baseless but meaningless. It will have no material impact on Obama's presidency, and its cost to taxpayers will ultimately seem small compared to the cost to the party come election day. But the real gain is to be had by Democrats, whose base is more energized than ever heading into November's critical midterms, while being handed on a silver platter a delicious boon to fundraising. They've raised millions since the suit's been filed...at a rate of about $1-million per day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An Open Letter to John Boehner and House Republicans





Dear Mr. Speaker...
On behalf of Democrats everywhere, I would like to ask you to impeach President Obama. Please. I implore you. Nothing would make us happier. You know you want to. You know that merely suing him is not going to satisfy you and your rabid brethren. Impeachment is the only solution. So just go ahead and do it. You have our full and unyielding support!

And why are we so supportive? Because it'll be the nail in your political coffin. It will finally convince moderate Republican and independent voters that you're nothing but a worthless cabal of self-serving, tone-deaf, obsessed, manic, hateful, polarizing obstructionists. With your approval ratings swirling in the toilet, and your intransigence paralyzing Washington, impeachment would obliterate any shred of doubt that America's best interests are the last of your priorities. Not the economy, not jobs, minimum wage, immigration, education or the environment. Screw America. If only you guys worked half as hard at doing your job as you do at tearing down Obama...

He's Kenyan! He's an illegal alien! He's a socialist! He's a constitutional criminal! He must be stopped! You do realize how crazy you sound, right? And we love every convoluted, insane word of it.

We also support you in this mad quest because we know it will ultimately have no impact on Obama's presidency or the liberal agenda. To the contrary, it will empower him. Think of all the executive orders he'll use to push through his policies after he's impeached. He'll make you the laughingstock of Washington.

You might want to pay attention to history. What happened to the post-impeachment Bill Clinton? How did former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his merry band of revolutionaries, of which you were one, materially affect his presidency with their venomous lynching? Clinton emerged the victor from that shameful partisan witch hunt. He was acquitted by the Senate, became the most popular politician on the planet, and is still the guy who can charm the pants off folks on both sides of the aisle. And Newt? He was forced to step down as Speaker, left Congress shortly thereafter, and cost his party appreciable seats. And you lost your leadership post for the next decade. 

Mr. Speaker, if you relish being this decade's Gingrich, and want to feel what it's like to suffer humiliating defeat again over an out-of-control obsession with destroying a Democratic president, we will gleefully watch as you drive the GOP crazy-car straight off the cliff and into utter irrelevance and obsolescence.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mitt Romney: The GOP's Great White Hope




Bring up the subject of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and the conventional wisdom has either New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or political scion and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the likely nominees. Oh sure, there's a few people who, with a straight face, believe Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio are viable candidates, but they have as much of a chance of being nominated as I do. Which is why my money's on Mitt Romney 3.0.

A New Hampshire Granite Poll released last week showed Romney with an astonishing 39% lead over all other hopefuls including Christie, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Rob Portman and Ted Cruz, none of whom broke single digits. That's a pretty startling statistic. And one Romney is no doubt seriously mulling. When New Hampshire beckons, you listen.

Consider Romney the New Nixon. The dull, awkward loser who, despite all the odds, makes a stunning comeback, aided in part by timing and circumstance. Like Nixon, Romney likely won't stop running until he wins, regardless of his halfhearted statements to the contrary. Running for the most powerful and complicated job in the world requires a massive ego. Something Romney has in abundance. But he also has deep pockets and prominent pals with even deeper pockets. Lastly, he's an oasis of mainstream sanity in a sea of radical Tea Party lunacy. He's truly the GOP's Great White Hope.

There's a reason Romney's polled 31 points higher in New Hampshire than other GOP hopefuls. It's a pretty sorry pack. Christie, the former Hope, is damaged goods. He's a belligerent, bullying, scandal-plagued New Jersey back-room brawler. And he's obese. Seriously, people, let's move on. It ain't happening. Bush? He stands the best chance despite his potential deal-killing last name, family troubles, and unpopular views on taxes and immigration....but only if Romney's not in the race.

Let's face it: Romney looks pretty damn good in a suit. And he's quite accomplished politically and in business, is squeaky-clean, and heads a quintessential all-American white-bread family. And once you peel away his fringe-pandering "severely conservative" layers, he's an unapologetic moderate at heart. Would that play well with independents and conservative Democrats this time around?

If Romney wants to win he must address four critical areas: first, he must shed the flip-flopper costume and demonstrate integrity and conviction in his positions. In short, he's got to grow some mainstream balls, embrace his record (including and especially RomneyCare) and stop pandering to the party's lunatics. Trying to out-crazy Rick Perry is not a winning strategy.

Next, he needs to show voters passion and personality, two critical traits that were painfully absent in the 2012 election. He must stop appearing robotic and out of touch. He needs to be the charming, compassionate Romney that his pals supposedly know, not the stiff, tone-deaf automaton who ran against Obama.

He also needs to acknowledge his wealth and put a productive spin on it: "Hey, I'm rich, ok? But guess what...so is every other presidential candidate! My wealth, which I amassed on my own as a businessman, is precisely what affords me the time and ability to commit myself to public service. To be able to help those less fortunate."

Lastly, he needs to clean house. Assemble a whole new team and, more important, a whole new campaign strategy. Together with his advisers, he must figure out a way to bring normal Republican voters to the primaries. The campaign can't be the exclusive playground of the nutballs. He's got a huge opportunity to appeal to all those moderates who lament that "there just doesn't seem to be any place in the party for folks like me anymore." If the man who's put the "aw" in awkward  can enjoin them into the campaign early, and simultaneously come across as a real human being, 3.0 might just be his time in the sun.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin



Dear Ms. Palin:

I feel sorry for you. I truly do. It must be terribly frustrating to be so irrelevant. To have your rabble-rousing, race-baiting drivel limited to Fox's Sean Hannity Show in your desperate, pathetic, never-ending quest for attention. You are, put simply, one of the most ignorant, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate-filled racists to ever hit the national political stage (thank you John McCain).

Your new video, in which you call for President Obama's impeachment because of his "lawlessness," is an unconscionable, unpatriotic piece of garbage. The level of disrespect, condescension, sarcasm and reality-butchering is astounding. To say that your fake-cutesy, sing-songy, snarky delivery is vomitous would be a colossal understatement. You're also quite tone-deaf, comparing your suffering over his presidency to that of a "battered wife." There really are no groups you won't offend, are there?  

Impeach Obama? For what, doing his job amid relentless Republican obstructionism and intransigence? For trying to keep government operating efficiently? For growing the economy? For creating millions of new jobs? For caring about 8-year-olds crossing the Mexican border alone? For wanting to find a practical, compassion solution to the immigration issue? For providing everyone health care? For trying to narrow the income inequality gap? For protecting women's rights?  For allowing people who love each other to marry?

That you, like that other heartless conservative Dick Cheney, even have a perch from which to still spew your venomous hate-speak, is unfortunate. No one, not even the Fox faithful, should be subjected to your incendiary bile. You're a failed, disgraced politician who, despite becoming a humiliating punchline following the 2008 election, refuses to crawl back under your rock. Trust me: no one except Hannity, a few horny white Republican dudes and a smattering of their intellectually bankrupt women are interested in what you have to say.

Ssshhhh....hear that sound? It's the rock beckoning.... 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What Religion is My Company?



I own a marketing company. I'm Jewish. My partner is Italian and Christian. Of our almost fifty employees, our cultural and religious make-up is quite diverse. We are a company of people. The company itself is not a person. So what's our religion? Whose religious beliefs should trump those of all others? Mine? My partner's?

The United States Supreme Court issued a highly controversial decision this week involving Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, and Conestoga, a cabinet making company, ruling that "closely held" companies can, based on the strong religious beliefs of their owners, refuse to provide certain contraceptives at no cost to their employees. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: "Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga ... protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies." The court essentially gave legal precedent to Mitt Romney's preposterous 2011 assertion that companies are people too, and therefore have the same rights as individuals.

"The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield," wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her minority opinion of the 5-4 decision. "Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer's sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices?" she added.

Exactly. Just where is the new line drawn? How far can business owners twist this ruling to deny their employees health care? Can Christian Scientists refuse some basic medical coverage altogether? Can Jews refuse to cover medical procedures that occur on the Sabbath? What about those business owners whose personal religious beliefs are based on strict interpretation of the Bible? Can they therefore deny coverage to homosexuals? Adulterers? Atheists? (all of whom, by the way, should be killed according to various passages in the Bible).

So what is my company's religion? My company doesn't have one. My right, on any conceivable level, to force my personal religious beliefs on my employees disappeared the nanosecond I signed our Limited Liability Company (LLC) documents that would serve to insulate me as an individual from legal and financial claims against the company. Signing those documents created a distinct, legal firewall between my company and me personally, my religious beliefs and, more importantly, my ability to impose them on my staff. I gave up that "right" (assuming I ever had it, which is debatable), as soon as I sought the government's and the court's protection as an individual. I can't have it both ways. Nor can Hobby Lobby, Conestoga or any other "closely held" for-profit company. The Supreme Court's ruling is misguided and convoluted.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dick Cheney's Big Neo-Con Con



Former VP Dick Cheney wrote the following in his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week:

"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

And if you were to guess that he was referring to his former boss, George W. Bush, you'd be wrong.

The man with whom Bush committed the worst military debacle in U.S. history and, as many believe, with whom he's guilty of war crimes, was actually talking about President Barack Obama.

In in the wake of escalating sectarian violence in Iraq, neo-cons like Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer and others have crawled out from under their war-mongering rocks in a pathetic attempt to vindicate themselves while dumping the blame for this disastrous mess on Obama.

The level of audacity, duplicity, shamelessness and megalomania with Cheney in particular is astounding. The war began unjustly, was misguided and mismanaged, and soon proved Cheney 100% dead-wrong on everything he pitched to Americans. Let's revisit for a moment his greatest hits:

-Insisted Iraq had WMD
-Predicted the invasion/war would "last weeks, not months"
-Claimed we'd be "greeted as liberators"
-Bragged that extremists would have to "rethink their strategy of Jihad"
-Boasted that the insurgency "was in its last throes" back in 2005

In fact, the war lasted eight years, cost $1-trillion and 4500 U.S. soldiers' lives. It was a blood-thirsty conflation of Saddam Hussein with 9/11. It was battered with threats of "mushroom clouds" and domestic terrorism. It remains a vile twisting of reality, and an unconscionable exploitation of the nation's collective emotion and fear following the horrific New York City and DC attacks. And it was all perpetrated by Bush/Cheney & Co., not Obama, who merely inherited this mess.

To say that Cheney's op-ed piece is revisionist history would be a gross understatement. Rather, it's the most mind-numbing case of delusion in political history.

Like Vietnam, Iraq is falling following U.S. withdrawal...spiraling into bloody civil war because it lacks a strong enough democratic government and military to sustain itself without American help. And it's been racked by centuries of violent sectarian conflict. It's no surprise that the country now finds itself on the eve of destruction just three years after Obama brought home the troops.

To be sure, Dick Cheney is a very lucky man. That he's not spending his last days rotting in prison for the death and destruction he's caused is quite fortunate for him, as is his ability to continue spewing his unpatriotic, self-serving bile in the neo-con-friendly Wall Street Journal.

But if the unforgiving drubbing that Fox News' Megan Kelly gave Cheney on her program Wednesday night is any indication, history, even among Republicans and conservatives, is judging him quite justly.