Monday, June 28, 2010

Obama Finds Cure For Cancer. Republicans Attack Him For Putting Oncologists Out of Work

The bitter partisan climate in Washington just got nastier and more irrational as Republicans attacked the Obama administration for discovering the long-awaited cure for cancer, the deadly disease that kills millions of people all over the world each year.

In what should be a celebration of this incredible medical and science breakthrough, it's business as usual on the Hill as the Party of No seeks to obstruct the administration's agenda and downplay its accomplishments.

"I said it earlier in the year and I meant it," said Arizona Sen. John McCain. "We will not support anything this president does, and that includes curing cancer. We'll find a way, as always, to point out how that's bad for America."

And it seems the GOP leadership has found its theme: jobs. "The country is already facing historic unemployment levels," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky). "This cure is going to put 200,000 oncologists, chemo labs and funeral homes out of business. It's just another slap of the Obama recession on the face of the American worker."

Jumping on the attack wagon was Sarah Palin, who accused Obama of another government takeover. "It's Socialized Life," she said, coining yet another brilliantly crafty soundbite. "It's Marxism. It's exactly what The Marx Brothers warned about in all their movies."

Mirroring the GOP's strategy during the 2008 presidential campaign, middle-American working stiffs are being used again as the face of the debate. "I'm just an average guy tryin' to make a living and this left wing cure's gonna ruin me," said Joe the Hospice Worker. "Obama is just so out of touch with the needs of the little guy....the healthy little guy."

As predicted, the response from the White House has been swift and aggressive. An incredulous vice president Joe Biden said, "Wait a second. This is fucking huge. We're talking about the cure for cancer, for Pete's sake. It was unconscionable for Republicans to defend BP against the interests of suffering Americans, but this? Are they fucking kidding?"

And in a brief call to Chris Matthews' Hardball, a visibly frustrated and exasperated Obama lamented, "Aww, what's the use. I can't win. I can't even get the right behind me after finding the cure for cancer. Republicans just won't get behind anything I do. Not even if I sucked up all the Gulf oil with my own lips; banned abortion; tossed every immigrant out of the country; or flew to Iran and personally kicked Ahmadinejad's ass."

On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We're a 501 c 3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my late wife's honor, and with a simple mission: supporting women filmmakers. Adrienne, who wrote, directed and starred in the hit film WAITRESS, was killed November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds, screenwriting fellowships and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; IFP; the Nantucket Film Festival; the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill! How the Left Can Win the PR War

Let's face it. Republicans are pretty masterful at creating catchy, effective soundbites to define the issues, frame the debate and sway public opinion. Case in point, "Taxpayer Bailout," "Death Panels" and "Drill, Baby, Drill." And while they're making things simple for voters, Democrats bore them to death with long-winded, over-intellectualized, nuanced explanations. If the left's ever gonna take back control of the message, they'll need to start dumbing-down their rhetoric so that it's clearly understood by the little guy. Because, unfortunately, the little guy doesn't want, need or understand all the details. It is possible for Democrats to start winning the public relations war. They just have to start thinking like Republicans.

For example, the ubiquitous Sarah Palin has become even more infamous in coining the Drill, Baby, Drill mantra. While it lacks substance and sneers at the inherent dangers of unregulated offshore drilling, it sticks. It's repeated incessantly like the best propaganda, and has become part of the current political lexicon. So why can't Democrats counter this gibberish with "Spill, Baby, Spill" to drill its own powerful message into the heads of voters? You'd think the catastrophic BP oil spill would provide the perfect setting for Dems to own this debate, right? Two months into one of the worst environmental disasters in American history, there's 60,000 barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico each day with no end in sight and months, if not years, of costly cleanup ahead. You'd think voters in the region and throughout the U.S. would be outraged to the point of being very sympathetic to a crafty little soundbite like Spill, Baby, Spill, especially as the disaster is ruining people financially, damaging marshes and killing wildlife.

We have a boneheaded New Orleans District Court judge this week overturning President Obama's 6-month moratorium on offshore drilling. And we have myriad Repubs in and around Washington like Palin, Rep. Joe Barton, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Rand Paul and Rush Limbaugh serving as apologists and defenders of BP at every turn. Clearly, no matter how horrific the damage and despair caused by BP's spill, Repubs continue fighting for more unregulated offshore drilling as if nothing's happened. They're still ramming their extremist right-wing pro-business ideology down the throats of Americans while the left appears impotent in the PR war. Why? Why can't Democrats turn this situation into political currency? Why aren't they ramming "Spill, Baby, Spill" down these same throats? And here's a few others I thought of in less than a minute: "Protecting Big Oil," "No More Apologies," "Taxpayer Shakedown" and "Fighting for Fisherman." Where's the left's propaganda like this? Sometimes, especially in politics, less is more. Sarah Palin's teaching us that right now. Democrats would be wise to follow suit. Two or three very powerful, debate-framing, issue-defining words repeated ad nauseam go an awful long way these days...

On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We're a 501 c 3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my late wife's honor, and with a simple mission: supporting women filmmakers. Adrienne, who wrote, directed and starred in the hit film WAITRESS, was killed November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds, screenwriting fellowships and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; IFP; the Nantucket Film Festival; the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Republican Campaign Slogan: "Screw You Voters, We Care More About BP"

Ever since President Obama convinced embattled oil giant BP last week to put $20-billion into an escrow account for claims arising from the company's catastrophic spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Republicans have become the company's apologists and defenders instead of fighting for the victims facing financial ruin as a result of the environmental disaster.

As boneheaded a political miscalculation as possible, Republicans have let their extremist pro-business ideology win out over common sense, political expediency and patriotism. Their mantra has become, screw Americans who've lost their jobs, their businesses, and their's BP we care about, not you.

This right wing foot-in-mouth-disease surfaced last month when Tea Party king Rand Paul, Kentucky's GOP primary winner, criticized Obama's tough talk: "What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business."

The reprehensible rhetoric ratcheted up last week during the Congressional hearing over the spill: "I’m ashamed at what happened in the White House yesterday," said Rep. Joe Barton (Tx), the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown...I apologize." That's right, he apologized to BP. Voters should know that, if Republicans recapture the House in November's midterms, Barton would become chairman of the committee that serves as the watchdog for the environment. The proverbial fox would be guarding the hen house.

Rep. Tom Price (Ga), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, echoed Barton's concerns in criticizing the administration's handling of the BP escrow fund. "BP’s reported willingness to go along with the White House’s new fund suggests that the Obama administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics."

Regurgitating more disingenuous talking points, Tea Party co-queen Rep. Michelle Bachmann(MN) called the $20-billion a "redistribution-of-wealth fund." She added that the fund is "yet one more gateway for more government control." She also said that BP "shouldn't have to be fleeced" for the fund. Bachmann's partner in Tea Party gaffery, Sarah "Drill Baby Drill" Palin, believes "We can't afford to demonize" BP. Ya gotta hand it to these two: it's getting harder and harder to tell who's dumber.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, host David Gregory asked Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, "What's worse, the moratorium (on offshore drilling) or the effects of this spill on the region? Incredibly, Barbour replied, "The moratorium....It's not only bad for the region but it's bad for America." It doesn't seem to phase Barbour that there's still no explanation for the Deepwater Horizon explosion which killed 11 workers and is spewing 60,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day with no end in sight, killing off wildlife, destroying marshes and wreaking financial havoc on oil riggers, fisherman and local businesses. Barbour, like his neighbor to the West, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, just wants to keep drilling. More drilling, with less regulation. Jindal, in fact, is part of a lawsuit to end Obama's moratorium.

The unconscionable Republican defense of BP continued Monday with media blowhard Rush Limbaugh charging that "This is just another bailout fund called something else, and we'll see who gets it....This is going to be used as a little miniature slush fund."

Democrats owe a big fat thank you to Limbaugh and his Republican Party. Because in what was shaping up to be a very challenging election year, the GOP's made the decision a whole lot easier for voters, especially residents of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida, whose lives have been upended by the spill. Voters will have a clear choice between the party of BP apologists and defenders or the party that's fought for them and secured $20-billion for claims. It's Big Oil vs. the little guy. And Republicans have clearly shown who they stand with.

As White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on ABC's This Week Sunday, "Elections are about choices...I think what Joe Barton did is remind the American people, in case they've forgotten, this is how the Republicans would govern."

On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We're a 501 c 3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my late wife's honor, and with a simple mission: supporting women filmmakers. Adrienne, who wrote, directed and starred in the hit film WAITRESS, was killed November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds, screenwriting fellowships and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; IFP; the Nantucket Film Festival; the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Nattering Naboblicans of Negativism

I have this friend out in LA. We'll call him Brad. Brad's a 100% narrow-minded, lock-steppin', self-serving, gated-community livin' Republican business owner (started by his dad) without an ounce of compassion for those less fortunate. All of which I can easily accept. I'm all for capitalism, political diversity and nepotism. I can even accept the wanton disregard for those in need. But what I can't accept about Brad is his shameful anti-Americanism. And there are plenty more Republicans just like Brad, lemmingly led by Rush "I want Obama to fail" Limbaugh.

Accusing someone of being anti-American is a serious charge, and I don't take it lightly, whether I am referring to Brad or whether the charge is hurled at politicians by the opposition simply over policy differences. So what makes Brad anti-American? It's simple. Brad is rooting for our president to fail. He is rooting for the economy to fail. He is rooting for the stock markets to fail. All because, to Brad, this failure translates to partisan victory in November. Brad, like so many Republicans, cheers with celebratory glee whenever there's bad news on Main Street or Wall Street. And there's nothing more unpatriotic than to want your government and financial system to fail, particularly for political reasons.

Brad's America-hating takes the form of gloating, sinister, "See! I told ya so!" emails every time there's a big drop in the Dow. Never mind that preceding this drop could've been a six-month rally where the Dow climbed 60%. He'll also email when the monthly jobs report comes out, but only if it's bad. Back in April, when 290,000 jobs were created, not a peep from Brad. Rather, he just sits and waits for the negative news, and then pounces. And quite happily, in some perverse, disingenuous manner. "Yay, the market tanked!....Yay, there are no jobs being created!.....Yay, things are bad and are getting worse!"

What I don't get though is that Brad owns a successful business, a beautiful home and has a fat retirement account and two great kids. But you'd never know this judging from his sheer delight at even the slightest prospect of economic weakness. It's as if he'd rather be destitute, so long as Republicans regain power in November. And that's un-American, let alone just plain moronic.

But Brad is merely a symbol. He personifies today's highly charged, vitriolic partisan landscape, where one's misguided political passions often dwarf his own self-interests and those of his family. Is it possible that we can just be American on some issues? We all have a vested interest in seeing the economy recover. We all want to protect American's interests, both here and abroad. We all need improved health care coverage. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. Does everything have to go through some convoluted partisan lens that turns bright, otherwise rational people into rhetoric-spewing automatons who root for failure?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Appearing on Fox's Strategy Room Today

I'll be joining the political roundtable today on Fox's Strategy Room at 3pm. We'll likely tackle the hot topics of the day, including the BP oil spill, the recent elections and the upcoming midterms, the economy and more. You can stream/watch live at

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bush's White House Ethics Lawyer Criticizes Obama Administration's Ethics. Are You F**king Kidding!?

In his NY Times op-ed piece Monday entitled "The Separation of Politics and State," Richard Painter shines a spotlight on what he suggests is the Obama administration's unethical conflating of partisan politics and policy. And he ought to know a thing or two about ethics, or a lack thereof, as he served from 2005-2007 as George W. Bush's chief White House ethics lawyer.

"It’s unfortunate," Painter writes, "that his (Obama's) White House staff remains so deeply immersed in partisan politics, as demonstrated by the administration’s offering a presidential appointment to try to dissuade Representative Joe Sestak from running in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Senator Arlen Specter. There were similar discussions with Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the Colorado House, who is challenging Senator Michael Bennet."

First, there is nothing illegal or politically ground-breaking in Obama's supposed job offers to Sestak and Romanoff. Presidents from John Quincy Adams to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan allegedly did the same (as I'm sure every other president has in one fashion or another), and so did the Bushies in 2004 in purportedly dangling the Secretary of Agriculture post to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson if he agreed not to run for re-election.

But more critical to point out are the many truly ethical transgressions, and perhaps illegal acts, committed by the Bushies between 2000-2008 (and I'm not even talking about the robbery of Al Gore's presidency). A few episodes below:

Back in 2006, Bush's Justice Department engaged in the unprecedented midterm dismissal of seven United States Attorneys. The firings prompted a Congressional investigation into whether the Bushies fired these lawyers in an effort to obstruct the investigations of Republican politicians, or, because they failed to initiate investigations that would damage Democrats.

Another example is Bush/Cheney/Scooter Libby's despicable, unpatriotic act of outing CIA agent Valerie Plame because her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote a NY Times op-ed piece refuting the Bush administration's claim that Saddam/Iraq was seeking to purchase yellowcake uranium in Niger. In his piece, "What I didn't find in Africa," Wilson concluded that the Bushies sought to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat." As punishment for his actions, his wife, Plame, was exposed as a covert operative. Her CIA career was therefore over, and her life put in danger, as well as the lives of her fellow operatives at "Brewster, Jennings & Associates", her front company.

And as "Bush's Brain" Karl Rove so cavalierly demonstrated for eight years, no administration in history blatantly used its political apparatus to influence policy more than the Bushies. This includes sending U.S. troops to die in an unjust war; illegal wiretappings and domestic spying; and obstruction of 9/11 commission investigations.

So it's a bit dubious and unsurprisingly hypocritical for Painter, who was in the thick of some of this political chicanery in Rove's West Wing, to attack Obama and use his administration as the poster-child for partisan opportunism. Funny what short memories the Bushies have.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ay Carly! Meeeoooowww!

What do California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and "Maude" star Bea Arthur have in common? The same goofy 70's hairstyle. But that didn't stop the sharp-tongued former Hewlett-Packard CEO from mocking her Democratic opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer: "God, what's with that hair? Sooooooo yesterday!" The gaffe was made Wednesday as Fiorina was prepping for a television interview in Los Angeles and thought the mic was off. Catty is as catty does...

Fiorina should know better than to attack someone's appearance. Her own short, choppy hair is the result of chemotherapy following a bout with breast cancer. If anyone should be sensitive to personal groomimg issues it's her. But Fiorina, whose snarky comment recalls her brash HP days, is guilty of the standard Republican hypocrisy. Yes, Republicans can even be hypocrites about their own hair. Politically, they're nasty, derisive and divisive. Their motto? "Do as I say, not as a I do." Which explains why Fiorina feels comfortable criticizing Boxer's hairstyle when, in my opinion, Babs' 'do looks a helluva lot nicer than her own. But Repubs are colossal hypocrites. That's what they do. Kinda like 90's Crusaders Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, Bob Livingston and Henry Hyde crucifying Bill Clinton over marital indiscretions as they're bangin' their own mistresses. They apparently never got the "Republicans in glass houses shouldn't thrown stones" memo.

Come November, voters in California will have a choice to make: a 5-term Congresswoman and high-ranking 3-term U.S. Senator, or, a catty former corporate CEO (of dubious performance) who seems more concerned about her opponent's hairstyle than two wars, the economy and the BP oil spill. Fiorina's comments about Boxer weren't just about hair, they were harebrained...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Thank You Sarah Palin!

Sarah Palin has that magic touch. Three of the four candidates she endorsed in Tuesday's Republican primary elections were victorious: California's Carly Fiorina, who'll be running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer; South Carolina's gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley; and Terry Branstad, who seeks Iowa's governor's mansion. But just as John McCain learned in 2008, these victors will discover in November that Palin's magic is like Cinderella's carriage: Just when the party's getting hot it's pumpkin time.

Somehow, somewhere, someone ordained Palin the new head of the GOP, with special Tea Bag honors, and have deluded themselves into believing that who and what she touches today will mystically turn into November 2nd gold. Truth is, it'll be just the opposite. She's gonna single-handedly bring down the party's chances of winning back power. Just ask ole Johnny Boy.

Case in point Nevada, where Tea Party darling Sharron Angle won the GOP's nomination and will take on the highly vulnerable Majority Leader Harry Reid. Angle, widely believed to be the weakest of the three Repubs who vied for the spot, just handed Reid a gift; his best chance yet to retain his Senate seat. Reid's campaign, in an email Wednesday, is already painting her as the radical Lipton Loon she is: She wants to repeal health care reform; is against financial reform; seeks to cut Social Security benefits; and scoffs at global warming. Thank you Sarah Palin.

Over in South Carolina, Palin is betting that voters want to trade in their outgoing philandering Gov. Mark Sanford with the allegedly twice philandering Haley. Again I say, Thank You Sarah Palin.

Sarah and The Tea Baggers can crow all they want, and the mainstream media can stir this hyperbolic pot and make her out to be the Great Annointer, but her arctic awesomeness will last only as long as the primaries will allow. This is exhibition baseball folks, not the regular season. Just ask ole Johnny Boy. He got a firsthand dose of reality in terms of what mainstream Republicans and independents want. wasn't Palin's brand of dim-witted, snarky, polarizing politics.

On the morning of November 3rd, Democrats across the country will be saying Thank You Sarah Palin. They might even toss in a heartfelt gracias as well to Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Newt, Bachmann and the inimitable tea-totin' team of Rand and Ron.

Oh, and here's a little vintage Palin to remind everyone just who we're talking about....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Helen Thomas's Sad New Legacy

Back in Journalism school in the early 80's I had many 4th Estate idols, chief among them Edward R. Murrow, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the venerable Helen Thomas, who was still with UPI at the time. I greatly admired and respected the feisty and fearless old gal who put many a president on the hotseat. The lady had balls.

But Thomas's much revered news career came to an abrupt halt this week. The iconic 89-year-old journalist, who's covered 10 U.S. administrations and whose career dates back to 1943, on May 27th was asked by a rabbi outside the White House during a Jewish heritage month celebration if she had any comments to make about Israel. She said "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine... Remember, these people are occupied, and it's their land; its not German, its not Poland's." Asked where they should go, she said "they should go home" to "Poland, Germany... America and everywhere else." Her remarks were shocking, and would've been the equivalent of hearing Larry King, Tom Brokaw or Barbara Walters telling blacks to go back to Africa.

Since then, Thomas has 'retired' from Hearst and was dropped from her speaking agency. So what happened? Why did Thomas so recklessly put a humiliating final chapter to such an illustrious career? Are we to assume that this Kentucky-born Christian of Lebanese descent is a life-long anti-Semite, especially given her often pro-Arab comments in the past? Are her controversial remarks the result of old age and the onset of dementia? Regardless, her remarks are reprehensible, and a sad reminder of how much racism and anti-Semitism still exists in America today, even among the intelligentsia and the media.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

James Cameron? Really? Seriously...Really?

An astonishing thing happened this week. The U.S. government brought in Messianic movie producer James Cameron to help figure out how to stop the oil from gushing from BP's catastrophic well a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. And why Cameron? Because he made a monster hit movie where he used some nifty equipment and technology to film the sunken Titanic. Apparently that makes him an expert in fixing the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. Within 24 hours of Cameron's 'investigation,' the megalomaniac self-proclaimed "king of the world" was already calling everyone "morons." Only in Hollywood, folks.

But this got me thinking. Why stop at Cameron? If his movie -making experience makes him infinitely qualified to tackle extraordinary environmental clusterfucks like the Gulf spill, there's certainly other entertainment icons with the oceanic expertise to perhaps find a solution as well.

How about Ouji-boarding Richard Basehart, star of the 1960's hit show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?" I'm sure 'Admiral Harriman Nelson' would know a thing or two about well-kills, no? Or "Waterworld's" Kevin Costner? He battled the evil forces that engulfed the Earth in water. Can't he plug up a little ole oil well with his various rusty junk and grimy debris? And then there's SpongeBob. Can't he just gather his entire species and simply soak up the oil? Or how how about the Little Mermaid's King Triton? For Pete's sake, he's the boss of the entire ocean. If he can't fix this mess no one can.

In the meantime we have the utterly inept BP, the impotent Obama administration, and Cameron. Somewhere Bush and Cheney are smiling.....

Friday, June 04, 2010

Here's Why Selig Should've Reversed Ump's Call

Ever since we're little we're told that baseball is our national pastime. As American as apple pie. So it's no great surprise that in upholding the integrity of this great institution Commissioner Bud Selig refused to reverse what is now known as "the worst call in baseball history," umpire Jim Joyce's unintentional robbery of Detroit Tiger Armondo Galarraga's perfect game Wednesday night, which would've been just the 21st such pitching phenomenon in the sport's 100+ year history. Videotape replay shows that Joyce's controversial "safe" call at first base was incorrect. Cleveland Indians runner Jason Donald was clearly out. Galarraga was about to celebrate his extraordinarily rare feat when he saw the ump's call, and just stood shell-shocked with a frustrated what the fuck smile. Since that moment, the guy has shown nothing but grace and class in accepting his historic fate. If I were Galarraga, the top of my skull would've shot off. We're talking a perfect game here, folks.

So why should Selig have overturned the call? Because it'd have been the right thing to do. Period. For Pete's sake, we let death row inmates out of prison when DNA or some other conclusive evidence proves their innocence. But we cannot overturn an umpire's call? Are baseball records, and the overall sanctity of the game, any more or less deserving of scrutiny and appeal than our criminal justice system? Isn't the point here to simply right a wrong? It's done in football and basketball, and other sports, all the time. Is our national pastime above reproach? Held to a higher standard? Everything in life should have exceptions to the rules. No one or no situation is perfect. But this game was, and this young pitcher deserves to not be a record-books asterisk for accomplishing something so incredible that only 20 before him in 100+ years have done so. Joyce was wrong. He admitted it. And despite what Tom Hanks shrieked in "A League of Their Own," there is crying in baseball, as a teary, post-game Joyce demonstrated. Selig should have shown the same humility and compassion.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

In Defense of Israel

I read with great dismay and frustration the NY Times op-ed Wednesday by Amos Oz, an Israeli writer, journalist and professor with a history of often switching parties and positions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his country's use of military force. The piece is a harsh critique of Israel's controversial raid on a Turkish flotilla Monday, in defending its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza in which nine "passengers" were killed. His position is misguided, to say the least.

Let's not be apologists for terrorists or call them anything but what they are. These passengers were not on some "humanitarian" mission, as Oz claims. They were there simply to provoke Israel and bring about conflict. As the Times states in its editorial Wednesday, "The Gaza Freedom March made its motives clear in a statement before Monday's deadly confrontation: A Violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade." And in preparation for that confrontation these militants were armed with metal pipes, sticks, bats and knives and other weapons. So when Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the ship's deck, the situation exploded into the desired violence.

Oz writes that "Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians." But it is a terrorist organization, and one that is hellbent on the destruction of Israel. When Oz writes of "Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip and Monday's violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid there..." it becomes quite clear that he's cherry picking his incidents to bolster his bias.

I don't profess to have the answers here, but I also take issue with those who in an over simplified manner believe they do. The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back at least 63 years to Israel's formation. Since then there have been several wars, violent outbreaks, and attempts at peace, must notably during 2000's Camp David summit when then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of Gaza, virtually all of the West Bank, and Palestinian control over Eastern Jerusalem, to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. This is essentially what Oz believes Israel should "quickly" offer up to the Palestinians yet again as a means of solving this complex political, military, religious and cultural conflict that's spanned more than six decades (or thousands of years, depending upon how you view it). There is no quick fix. And as demonstrated by the world's swift, harsh and uniform condemnation of Israel's actions Monday, Israel and it's people are once again alone in this not-very-Jew-friendly world. How come the condemnations aren't that swift when Jewish children are blown to smithereens by Palestinian terrorists?

For the record, I am not a 100% unconditional Israeli loyalist and defender. I believe there needs to be a Palestinian state, and I've often been critical of Israel's actions in working towards that end. And I am also critical of Palestinian leadership, which for decades has failed its people miserably. But the truth is, throughout history and all the horrific persecution that goes with it, no one defends Jews but Jews. Israel must decide for itself how best to combat enemies who wish to "wipe it off the face of the Earth"--including Hamas, Al Qaeda and Ahmadinejad's Iran--and accept the strategic, diplomatic and military consequences.

In his Times piece, Oz exhibits both a naivete and arrogance that recalls that of the German Jews seventy years ago as they stuck their collecvtive heads in the sand even as they were thrown into trains bound for the camps and their eventual deaths. Incredibly for someone raised in Israel and who's served in the IDF, Oz appears to misjudge this enemy and its intentions. What Arafat's ideological miscalculation showed in 2000 is that with any negotiation, it takes two equally motivated, logical, reasonable partners at the table. It's virtually impossible to negotiate with an enemy who's only intention is to destroy you. And that's the point Oz seems to miss.

For a more practical assessment of the conflict, Times readers can hop a couple of inches to the right and check out Tom Friedman who, as usual, provides analysis, common sense and an even hand regarding this very complicated part of the world. If only life, and a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, were as simple as Oz suggests.