Aug 292014
 

The lobbying group AIPAC has consistently fought the Obama Administration on policy. Is it now losing influence?

For AIPAC, it is crucial to appeal across the political spectrum. But Israel has become an increasingly divisive issue with the public. Credit Illustration by Matt Dorfman

On July 23rd, officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—the powerful lobbying group known as AIPAC—gathered in a conference room at the Capitol for a closed meeting with a dozen Democratic senators. The agenda of the meeting, which was attended by other Jewish leaders as well, was the war in the Gaza Strip. In the century-long conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the previous two weeks had been particularly harrowing. In Israeli towns and cities, families heard sirens warning of incoming rockets and raced to shelters. In Gaza, there were scenes of utter devastation, with hundreds of Palestinian children dead from bombing and mortar fire. The Israeli government claimed that it had taken extraordinary measures to minimize civilian casualties, but the United Nations was launching an inquiry into possible war crimes. Even before the fighting escalated, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had made little secret of its frustration with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “How will it have peace if it is unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation, and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?” Philip Gordon, the White House coördinator for the Middle East, said in early July. “It cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability.” Although the Administration repeatedly reaffirmed its support for Israel, it was clearly uncomfortable with the scale of Israel’s aggression. AIPAC did not share this unease; it endorsed a Senate resolution in support of Israel’s “right to defend its citizens,” which had seventy-nine co-sponsors and passed without a word of dissent.

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Jun 042014
 

Pressuring Candidates Even Before They Are Nominated

The major organizations that comprise the Israel Lobby are well known: the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and Christians United For Israel (CUFI). All are well known, benefiting from large budgets and staffs. They are extremely effective, having excellent access to politicians and the media to promote their points of view, and are, as a group, regular visitors to the White House. AIPAC is without doubt the most powerful lobby in the United States that is focused on a foreign policy issue.

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May 072014
 

If we only voted for unbuyable candidates, money would become poison in politics rather than mother’s milk.

The solution to money in politics is simple: stop voting for politicos who accept millions of dollars in bribes, ahem, campaign contributions and who court lobbyists. It’s really that easy: stop rewarding those who collect millions and start punishing them by refusing to vote for any politician who accepts more than $100 from any entity in any one election cycle.

As with so many other issues, we have been well-trained to expect a centralized authority to save us from ourselves: in effect, we’re asking the Supreme Court, Congress, etc. to please stop us before we vote for a bought-and-paid-for politico again.

Nobody forces us to vote for the candidate who raises the most money and blows it on media buys to persuade us that they’re not bought-and-paid-for. But think about it: the very fact this craven toady can afford to spend millions of dollars on advertising proves he/she is well and truly bought-and-paid-for.

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Feb 262014
 

Fake Peace Process, Real War Process

We Americans have funny notions about foreign aid. Recent polls show that, on average, we believe 28% of the federal budget is eaten up by it, and that, in a time of austerity, this gigantic bite of the budget should be cut back to 10%. In actual fact, barely 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid of any kind.

In this case, however, truth is at least as strange as fiction. Consider that the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid over the past three decades isn’t some impoverished land filled with starving kids, but a wealthy nation with a per-head gross domestic product on par with the European Union average, and higher than that of Italy, Spain, or South Korea.

Consider also that this top recipient of such aid — nearly all of it military since 2008 — has been busily engaged in what looks like a nineteenth-century-style colonization project. In the late 1940s, our beneficiary expelled some 700,000 indigenous people from the land it was claiming.  In 1967, our client seized some contiguous pieces of real estate and ever since has been colonizing these territories with nearly 650,000 of its own people. It has divided the conquered lands with myriad checkpoints and roads accessible only to the colonizers and is building a 440-mile wall around (and cutting into) the conquered territory, creating a geography of control that violates international law.

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Feb 212014
 

The Devil pens a motivational letter to his minions in America.

Through means I am unable to disclose, I have obtained a copy of the Devil’s New Year’s missive to his minions in America. Though it appears He delivered his letter on January 1, it has taken me until after Lunar New Year to obtain a copy. The Devil’s gleeful anticipation of America’s ruination by 2015 should give us pause.

To my fallen angels Beelzebub, Lucifer and Leviathan, princes of Hell’s demons, and to my minions, lackeys, toadies and sycophants in America:

As you know, the new year usually finds me quite despondent, as the Prince of Peace’s influence waxes most atrociously around his birthday. But this year I am in fine spirits, nay, let me even declare myself absolutely giddy, for the destruction of the United States of America draws ever nearer.

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Sep 302013
 

“For greed all nature is too little.” ~ Seneca

Philosopher kings are as rare as unicorns. If they do exist… you certainly won’t find one in the 113th U.S. Congress.

Back in his time, Plato thought that philosopher kings would make ideal rulers. Someone who strove for knowledge and justice for justice’s sake. The philosopher king would despise worldly things, as he would seek only justice. It would be a reign free of whim, greed or bias.

Boom, thought Plato. Problem solved.

But besides maybe the biblical superstar Solomon, can you name a philosopher king in history?

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Sep 182013
 

“We prefer to stay out of the public eye. We don’t want AIPAC to become the issue.”

– ROBERT ASHER, Former president and chair of AIPAC board, Oct. 1, 1988, Jerusalem Post. Int. Ed.

“A lobby is like a night flower: it thrives in the dark and dies in the sun.”

– STEVEN ROSEN, former foreign policy director, AIPAC, The New Yorker, July 4, 2005; indicted August, 2005 for alleged violations of the Espionage Act but charges were later dropped.

By a curious coincidence, as Russian president Vladimir Putin was rescuing President Obama from public humiliation last week, leaving the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to take a rare public drubbing over its failure to reverse Congressional opposition to a US attack on Syria, the 22nd anniversary of AIPAC’s last defeat went unnoticed.

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May 032013
 

Is offshore outsourcing good or harmful for America? To convince Americans of outsourcing’s benefits, corporate outsourcers sponsor misleading one-sided “studies.”

Only a small handful of people have looked objectively at the issue. These few and the large number of Americans whose careers have been destroyed by outsourcing have a different view of outsourcing’s impact. But so far there has been no debate, just a shouting down of skeptics as “protectionists.”

Now comes an important new book, Outsourcing America, published by the American Management Association. The authors, two brothers, Ron and Anil Hira, are experts on the subject. One is a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the other is professor at Simon Fraser University.

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Feb 112013
 

Regardless of the need for reform, it isn’t going to happen for these structural reasons.

The list of public/private institutions that desperately need structural reform is long: the Pentagon, healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare), Social Security, the complex mish-mash of programs that make up the Welfare State, the 73,000 page tax code, public pensions and the financial sector, to name just the top few.

Every reasonably informed person knows that all these institutions need deep, systemic reforms, not another layer of bureaucratic oversight or a few policy tweaks. As evidence that the Status Quo is finally confessing to the obvious, please read Can America Be Fixed? The New Crisis of Democracy by Fareed Zakaria (Foreign Affairs).

The article lays out the unsustainability of current public/private institutions and policies in irrefutable detail.

Regardless of the need for reform, it isn’t going to happen for these structural reasons. In a nutshell, the public-relations America presented by the mainstream media and the State bears little resemblance to the actual machinery of finance and governance.

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May 252012
 

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Republican leader of the Senate, and in all likelihood, the next Senate Majority Leader, thinks corporations deserve the right to spend limitless amounts in American elections. He was the point person in Congress fighting campaign reforms in the late 90s, and now, he’s begging the Supreme Court not to reverse its Citizens United ruling. In fact, he just petitioned the court. His argument, that corporations deserve political rights akin to regular Americans because they rarely exercise that right, is laughable.

Here’s the context. Late last year, the Montana high court, citing the state’s long history of corporate money corrupting politics, essentially defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and continued enforcing the state’s 100-year old law banning corporate involvement in state elections. The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana court’s decision pending on its own determination as to whether to formally hear the case this fall. Allowing a full argument in matter could allow the Court to reconsider the merits of the Citizens United decision, which opened the doors to corporate and union involvement in elections.

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