Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tragedy in Mumbai

I don't have a lot to add to the myriad of comments that have been made on TV, in newspapers, and in the blogosphere, about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Clearly this is just awful, and the perpetrators are immoral nuts.

But I do want to add my two cents to the debate about how much this can be labeled an anti-Semitic event, and how much focus Jews - and non-Jews - should focus on the Jews and Israelis killed. As of this writing it appears that 9 Jews where killed in the attack, all at the Chabad house. Seven of them where Israeli citizens, and several of those held dual Israeli-American citizenship. It appears that about 35 foreigners where killed. The remainder of the 175 killed are either Indian nationals or the terrorists themselves.

So Jews made up about 25% of the foreign nationals killed and about 2% of all the people killed.

Clearly this is not primarily a Jewish tragedy, nor primarily an anti-Semitic event.

But this attack did have an anti-Israeli angle. The terrorists targeted four major groups, all of whom, in their minds, are guilty of crimes against their fellow Muslims, and deserving of revenge: Americans, British, Israelis, and of course Hindus. The fact that non-Israeli Jews where killed is, in the minds of the terrorists, collateral damage - deserved no doubt because they aid and abet the real bad guys. Is this antisemitism? Certainly not in the classical sense. Given the twisted logic that justifies revenge killings of innocent nationals of states you hate, it is no more wrong headed and evil to go after Jews while trying to get Israelis, than being willing to kill other Christians, or even a stray Indian Muslim, in your attempts to get at Americans or British. Some - Americans, Brits, Israelis, Hindus, - are directly guilty. Everyone else is suspect; and expendable in any case.

Still it is natural, though not necessarily good, that people focus on "their own" when reporting on tragedies. The CBC lead with news of Canadians killed and wounded in the attack; CNN with news of Americans. So it should be no surprise that the Israeli and Jewish media have concentrated on the deaths at the Chabad house. But it would do everyone some good to look at the big picture. Firstly this is an Indian tragedy. Second it may be an ominous sign that big bang Islamicist terror is poise to make a come back after a period of quiescence. They are seeking revenge for a myriad of sins, real and imagined: Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Western Movies, Commercialism, the growing income gap in the Muslim world, Secularism, ...

The whole thing is disgusting and evil, so its hard to make fine distinctions. But people in general, and Jews in particular, should keep the big picture in mind. In the end these people cannot be defeated directly. You can keep them off-balance by aggressive military moves combined with good intelligence. You can protect yourself - a bit - by massive domestic vigilance. But ultimately you can only defeat them by starving them of fuel - removing the legitimate grievances and improving the conditions of the Muslim masses, among whom they recruit and find support. This will take a long time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Israel's Injustice System

In the previous posting I pointed out how the Israeli legal system seems powerless in the face of right-wing nationalists

Here is a similar case, but in many ways much worse. While the current land grab and hooliganism in Hebron, has the state - the police and army - standing by passively while land theft and vandalism go on under their noses, the case of Migron shows the state actively colluding in land theft.

Migron is an illegal settlement - an "outpost" as they are colloquially called in Israel. It is just north of Jerusalem, but clearly in the West Bank. (See air-photo above.)

Not only is Migron illegal under international law (as are virtually all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories), it is illegal under Israel law. Migron was established in 2001, when settlers asked for permission to build a cellular antenna on a hill overlooking Highway 60, near the settlement of Kochav Ya'acov. The following year, settlers began moving mobile homes to the site without permission. Soon the military government provided them with guards, then water and electricity, and later an improved road leading to the site. (The photo at the right was taken in 2002.) By 2006, some 46 families were living there. Most of the mobile homes are sitting on private land, legally registered to Palestinians: their land has been effectively confiscated by the settlers.

The Arab land owners and the Israeli NGO, "Peace Now", jointly filed suit to have the settlement removed - on grounds both of land theft, and of lack of any planning approvals.

The case has been in the courts for 3 years. The state agreed with the petitioners that the outpost was illegal and must be removed. However, it repeatedly sought to postpone hearings, either on the grounds that a new defense minister (first Amir Peretz, then Ehud Barak) had taken office and had to become acquainted with the issue, or because the state wished to reach an agreement with the settlers regarding evacuation. (We wouldn't want to upset Jewish settlers unduly - would we? Never mind that upset caused to the Arab landowners whose property is being usurped.)

In January 2008, the state informed the court it would evacuate Migron in August if it could reach an agreement with the settlers by that time. In August, it informed the court that the settlers had agreed to move to one of three sites. It then asked for three more months to complete negotiations with settlement leaders.

Now - in November 2008 - the has state informed the High Court of Justice that it plans to move ( not remove!) the 46 families living in Migron, which it fully admits was illegally built on private Palestinian land, and with no planning approvals. But it also made clear that it would take years before the occupants of the outpost, were actually moved.

"It must be stressed," the state's representative, attorney Aner Hellman, wrote in a brief to the court, "that we are not talking about moving Migron in the near future, considering that we must first implement planning procedures and then carry out the actual building at the new site," the nearby "legal" settlement of Adam

Have they no shame! The law suit brought by the plaintiffs asks that Migron be removed inter alia because it has no planning approvals. But now, suddenly, the planning process is sacrosanct! And why is the state - or the legal Palestinian land owner - under any obligation to find the land thieves of Migron alternate housing at all ?!!

Of course anyone with half a brain can see that the state's arguments (note the Migron settlers are not called on to defend themselves, the state does that for them) are not designed to have logic or merit, but simply to buy time, and to avoid a conflict with the right wing nationalists . Is it cowardice, or is it collusion? Who cares - the result is the same!

Meanwhile the settlers of Migron are digging in, expanding their settlement, and laughing at the legal games being played. They understand that the legalisms do not matter.

Their spokesman, Gideon Rosenfeld, said he paid scant attention to Monday's court proceedings.

"They can debate it in court if they want to," he said.

But the families believe that the small hilltop on which the community is located belongs to them from both a biblical and legal perspective. According to Rosenfeld, the historical connection the Jews have to the Land of Israel pre-dates the High Court by thousands of years and is stronger than any ruling it can deliver.

"We have not consented to any agreement. There is nothing to even talk about," he added. The 46 families will simply refuse to move no matter what arrangements are made.

And so it goes: dunam after dunam, the Judaization of the West Bank, the redemption of the land, the collapse of justice in the Land of Israel.

Read the full sad story in the Jerusalem Post. Read more about Migron and the legal status of 100+ other "outposts" in this story from NPR.

Monday, November 24, 2008

No Law, No Morals, No Sense

The rule of law is once again being flouted in Israel

Two weeks ago now the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the state to evacuate Jewish squatters from a disputed building in the West Bank town of Hebron. The case has been winding its way through the courts since 2006. Jewish settlers claim they bought the land and the house from its Arab owner. The original Arab owner claims he did negotiate with the settlers, but never concluded a deal. He filed his complaint the day after the Jews forcibly occupied the property. The police have investigated, and have concluded that some of the documents of sale presented by the Jewish settlers are forgeries. Now the court has ordered that the state evacuate the squatters – as soon as possible.

But two weeks have passed, and neither the army nor the police have moved to act yet. The settlers, for their part, have promised to resist violently. Last weekend 20,000 right wing supporters descended on Hebron to express solidarity with the squatters. When asked how they could flout the ruling of the high court, one settler leader replied: “Sodom also had its judges.” At same time Jewish demonstrators (rioters is probably more apt) vandalized a local Muslim cemetery – see the photo above – and sprayed anti Muslim slogans on walls of local mosques including “Mohamed is a pig” in English and Hebrew. (You can see some of the "demonstrations" in the video here"

Still the police and army do nothing. Who are the Sodomites here?

* * *

In the meantime, polls show that the Likud – lead by Bibi Netanyahu – is poised to win the upcoming elections. Everyone knows that a vote for Bibi is a vote against compromise, against justice, and (if they thought about it) against peace. It is a vote to continue the status quo. The status quo seems to suit most Israelis fine. Violence is confined to the occupied territories, and in any case is mostly happening to the Palestinians. What Israelis want is not peace and justice, just peace and quiet. What they forget is that they cannot have it – for long – without giving up their oppressive policies in the West Bank and Gaza. At a time when the U.S. is moving forward to a period of hope, openness and multilateralism, Israelis are regressing to a hard, closed and unilateral posture.

God’s irony knows no bounds. Either that or he is just giving us enough rope to hang ourselves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Clinton, and Obama's Character Flaw

Barak Obama's serious consideration of Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State speaks volumes - all of it disappointing.

First, it points to Obama's excessive tendency to avoid conflict: to want to appear reasonable and nice, at almost any cost. That may be soothing to Americans tired of 16 years of highly polarized U.S. politics, but it is not a recipe for achieving the bold change that most Americans hoped for. Nor is it a recipe for pushing through the challenging policy initiatives that America (and the world) so desperately need. While it is certainly good to take advise from all sides, to be non-partisan, and to prefer practical solutions to ideological bromides, the temptation to smooth over conflict and appear a nice guy are not conducive to the hard work and tough choices ahead.

Why is appointing Hillary a sign of an “appeasement” mentality?

Because she is clearly not the best candidate. In fact she is barely qualified at all. Other than high profile star power, and 8 years of overhearing Whitehouse discussions on foreign policy, what qualifications does she bring to the job? Her expertise, if any, is in domestic policy and health care in particular – that and being a good politician, both with the “masses” and with fellow congresspersons. But none of these skills and experience will do her much good when negotiating with Putin’s Russia, or devising an effective approach to the Israel/Palestine problem, or suggesting an innovative approach to get China to cooperate in applying sanctions to Iran. And that’s what a Secretary of State – or a good one a least – will be required to do. She has zero administrative experience - a Secretary of State also has to mange an unruly department with thousands of employees, many very high-profile themselves. And she doesn’t even have good foreign policy instincts – she initially supported the war in Iraq, and was late to condemn it. She consistently takes the hawkish possible stance among Democrats. (The only Democrat more hawkish was Joe Lieberman and we see were that lead.)

There are a dozen excellent candidates with better qualifications than Hillary: Richard Holbrooke, senior state department staffer in both the Carter and Clinton administrations, American Ambassador to the U.N., and the man who almost single handily brought about the “Dayton Accords” that ended the civil war in Bosnia, is the real cream of the crop. Other names – all more qualified than Hillary include: New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell, respected academic Samantha Powers, and retired general Antony Zinni.

But of course none of these provide the political cover of appointing Hillary. And that’s what Obama thinks he is buying, by this appointment: co-opting a rival; buying-off her supporters; and getting her “tough” image- such as it is on his credit balance.

He may rue the day. Not only will she not bring him any brilliant policy advice, nor be particularly good at schmoozing up foreign leaders and executing policy, she is likely to be a powerful enough figure that she can – if she wished – strike out on initiatives at odds with the President’s – or at least not on his priority agenda. And what can he do about it. Firing Hillary would not be an easy option. Any move to cut her power, or remove her would be interpreted as vindictive and/or indicative of a major disagreement. As such it would be very expensive in terms of political capital.

Obama may be buying himself, a mediocre foreign policy legacy, and a lot of trouble down the road, all for the sake of wanting to build a coalition now.

He has a strong enough mandate that he doesn’t need to do this. But he wants to appear as Mr. Nice Guy. Lets hope that is not a fatal flaw.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why We Need To End the Occupation Now

Not much comment is needed, except to point out that this is only the tip of the iceberg. On has to assume that 99.9% of this stuff never gets videoed. One also has to assume that the vast majority of Israeli soldiers in the territories see stuff like this often. Many no doubt approve, but almost all have learned to accept this as acceptable, or at least not worthy of protest.

And that is why Jews need to demand and end to the occupation now. When this type of stuff becomes acceptable, the soul of Judaism is in danger of being lost.

Not to mention the hurt and humiliation done to the Palestinians. Is it a wonder they are so angry - some murderously so?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rahm Apologizes

I hadn't realized that Rahm Emanuel's father's "politically incorrect" remarks (see my previous posting on this) had gotten so much press. But apparently it was enough, that Emanuel felt compelled to issue a public apology to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

According to Haaretz (see full story here):

"Today, Rep. Emanuel called Mary Rose Oakar, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, apologized on behalf of his family and offered to meet with representatives of the Arab-American community at an appropriate time in the future," a statement from his office said.

The committee, in a statement on its website, said Emanuel told Oakar it was unacceptable to make such remarks against any ethnic or religious group.

"From the fullness of my heart, I personally apologize on behalf of my family and me. These are not the values upon which I was raised or those of my family," the group quoted him as saying.

Oakar welcomed the apology, saying: "We cannot allow Arabs and Muslims to be portrayed in these unacceptable terms."

Hilul Hashem - take 232

Hillul Hashem - desecration of God's name - is a serious sin in Jewish tradition. It happens when people who claim to be religious, do despicable things, and discredit religion and by association "the name of God."

The Rubashkin family, owners of the world's largest kosher slaughter house have been serial violators. (See previous postings on this blog.) First, cruelty to animals, then cruelty to workers, then imigration violations and now this, from JTA:

Rubashkin arrested again
By Ben Harris · November 14, 2008

Sholom Rubashkin has been arrested for the second time in three weeks.

Rubashkin, the former manager of the Agriprocessors packing plant in Postville, Iowa, and the son of the company owner Aaron Rubashkin, was arrested Friday at his Postville home on a federal bank-fraud charge.

According to the criminal complaint filed Friday in U.S. district court in Iowa, Rubashkin diverted millions of dollars in customer payments that were supposed to be used as collateral on a $35 million dollar bank loan. Rubashkin allegedly directed that the amounts not be posted to the company’s accounting system until a later date, which inflated the value of its accounts receivable and allowed Agriprocessors to borrow more money from the bank than it had collateral to cover.

The goverment further alleges that Rubashkin instructed an employee to delete evidence of the scheme from company computers on the day after he posted bond for his first arrest in late October.

If convicted, Rubashkin could face up to 30 years in jail. He was scheduled to appear at a hearing in Cedar Rapids at 11:00 a.m. Friday.

Rubashkin had been free on bail following his arrest last last month on charges related to his alleged role in helping procure false documentation for illegal immigrants employed at the plant. If convicted on those charges, he could face more than 20 years in jail.

Rubashkin’s legal troubles come as court proceedings get underway for Agriprocessors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, a move that has imperiled the American supply of kosher meat.

Prior to May 12, when federal agents arrested more than one-third of the company’s workforce in illegal immigration charges, Agriprocessors was the largest producer of kosher meat in the country.

I have long been boycotting Agriprocessor products. I urge you to do the same. They are not kosher by any real standard. Agriprocessors sells several brands of meat products including Aaron’s Best, Rubashkin’s, Shor Habor, Iowa’s Best Beef and Supreme Kosher. While their beef production is (temporarily?) close down due to their legal difficulties thay continue to supply chicken and turkey products.

A Problem in Epsitimology

How do we know what we know? And how do we know if its true? Is Martin Eisentsein really the McCain advisor who leaked the story about Palin not knowing Africa is a continent? MSNBC thinks so?

But it turns out much of what you read on the internet is fake.

Is this blog fake? Read more, then decide for yourself.

And after reading that story, you can read more background on my favourite blog - the Magnes Zionist

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Israeli Municipal Elections

Spray paint stencil for Tel Aviv mayoral candidate Dov Khenin

Two interesting notes regarding yesterday's municipal elections in Israel.

First, in Tel Aviv, Dov Khenin a member of the Knesset for the Israel Communist Party - Hadash - received 34% of the vote! This is almost unbelievable in a country that has been moving steadily to the right, and in which anti-Arab feelings have only increased in the past decade (Hadash prides itself on being a joint Jewish Arab party, and is, in fact, dominated by Arab members.) Khenin ran on a platform of maintaining affordable housing, limiting high rise development, improving city services, and better care of the envoronment. Khenin is a lawyer and a noted envoronmentalist. He is chair of the of the Knesset's Social & Environmental Lobby, and a member of the Knesset's Children's Rights, Interior and Envionmental committees.

While I think this is a very positive development, we should put this vote in perspective. More than showing that Israel is more left and liberal than we thought, I think this merely proves how bohemian and out-of synch Tel Aviv is with the rest of the country. Still it shows that some elements of Israeli society are willing to think outside the box, and break with politics as usual.

Second, in Jerusalem, Nir Barkat a secular centrist candidate, beat the ultra Orthodox candidate MK Meir Porush of Agudat Yisrael, for position of mayor. Jerusalem has had an ultra Orthodox mayor for the past four years, and most non Orthodox people have thought his term was a disaster. Jerusalem has been declining economically for years - it is Israel's poorest major city. Jewish Arab tensions are high, and development and service in the Arab sector is poor to non-existent. The city - outside of the major tourist attractions - looks (and is) run down. And there has been a mjaor emigration of young, talented - and mostly secular - people from the city to greener pastures. These trends pre-date the previous mayor, but were all accelerated during his term.

Most people expected Porush to win, given the large number of ultra-Orthodox in the city and their usually disciplined block voting. Apparently however, secular Jerusalemites had had enough, and got seriously organized to elect Barkat - or stop Porush. So much so, they where bussing in voters from other cities.

At 6 P.M. on Tuesday two buses stuffed with about 75 Jerusalem voters who now live in or near Tel Aviv left for the capital. "These elections are crucial," says real estate lawyer Yossi Basson, 27, explaining his reasons for being on the bus.

"After the last municipal elections I moved my life to Tel Aviv but I purposely didn't change the address in my identity card so I could affect the election. The results of the last election, in which an ultra-Orthodox mayor was chosen, were a disaster for the gay and lesbian community, to which I belong. Last year I went to the Gay Pride parade and felt like I was in detention, living in oppression. I know that everyone in the gay community is voting. I hope that Nir Barkat will bring freedom and progress back to the city and that he'll fight against the trampling of human rights. Everyone tells me, 'Let it go, you live in Tel Aviv,' but Jerusalem's the capital and I can't accept that a minority living there walks all over the majority and tramples their human rights," Basson said.

... Computer technician Yosef Orr, 24, nods ... "I left Jerusalem because of employment," he said. "In Jerusalem I found a job with starvation wages and in Tel Aviv I got an offer that was three times as much, within a year. Jerusalem became ultra-Orthodox. I'm coming to vote but I don't believe there will be a change. Barkat is the lesser evil. Porush will ruin the city, Barkat will prevent catastrophe. It's important to me to return because Jerusalem is in my soul," Orr said.
Read the full story here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rahm's Dad Should Keep His Views To Himself

As noted in a previous posting Obama's new Chief of Staff is the son of an Israeli immigrant to the U.S. And a talkative, right wing and bigoted one too at that it would seem.

The graphic above is a poster for the Irgun, the para-military (some would say terrorist) organization that the senior Mr. Emanuel belonged to in the 194o's. "But that was a long time ago" you say. And yes it was.

But in an interview last week with the Israeli Hebrew language daily Maariv Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, offered the following bon mots. (The translations is mine).

"It is clear [Rahm] will influence the President to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? Is he an Arab, hired to wash the floor tiles at the White House?" ...

"[Obama and Rahm] are good friends. You have nothing to worry about in Israel. We have a fantastic State. [Rahm and I] live in America, but we think about you all the time."

OK, the guys 82 years old, and his own brother was killed by Arabs in 1933, but it would better for all concerned if he just kept his opinions to himself.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Overt Racism is Alive in The U.S. But Contained.

Overt Racism is alive in the U.S. but contained.
How else to explain that in 22% of U.S counties less people voted for Obama than voted for Kerry four years earlier - despite 4 disastrous Republican years, a tanking economy, and a countrywide 5 point gain for Obama vs Kerry. And almost all those counties where in the South and the Ozarks. Why would Kerry voters refuse to vote for Obama? Hard to explain it in any other way.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So, Is Obama Secretly Anti-Israel?

So, Is Obama Secretly Anti-Israel? If he is he is hiding it well.

His first appointment as President Elect is Congessman Rahm Emanuel as his Chief Of Staff. That's Rahm - as in the Hebrew name spelled Resh-Mem. His siblings are Shoshana, Ezekiel and Ari. He went to high school at the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School on the north side of Chicago. His father, Benjamin Emanuel, was born in Jeruslam, and was a member of the Irgun (the right wing Jewish paramilitary) from 1945 to 1949 (when the Irgun was disbanded.) Rahm himself has visited Israel many times and volunteered their for an extended period during the 1991 Gulf War. He is well regraded by AIPAC.
By the way, Emanuel, who is famous for his blunt (some would say rude) pushy style, even with powerful superiors, is said to have told then President Clinton: "Bill you got this thing wrong. You messed around with a Jewish girl, and got yourself a goyish layer. A Jewish lawyer would have gotten you out of this mess, and a shikse wouldn't have gotten into this mess by blabbing to her friends."

Have Blacks Finally Made It? Not Compared to Jews

So now that Obama has been elected, have Africans Americans now made it into the American power structure? Is racism dead? Can we do away with affirmative action?

OK they won the Presidency, but how many African Americans are there in Congress?


There is 1 black senator out of 100. That's 1%. (Actually stating Jan 20, 2008 that Senator will be gone - he is Barack Obama - so that will be down to 0%)

There are 39 black Congressmen out of 435. That's 8.9%.

Blacks make up about 12% of the U.S. population.

How do thes numbers compare to a minority - once discriminated against but who all agree has now made it in the U.S.

There are 13 Jewish senators. That's 13%

There are 32 Jewish Congressmen. That's 7.5%

Jews make up about 2% of the U.S. population.

So have blacks made it? Not by a long shot.

It is interesting to note that Blacks are hugely under-represented in the Senate - where you have to run state-wide and receive a lot of non-black votes to win. They are less under-represented in the House, where you run in smaller districts, and presumably most black congressmen come from majority black districts. This means that, in the past at least, black politicians could not count on the support of non-black voters. Even Obama "lost" the white vote. He overcame that by racking up huge margins among blacks and latinos.

As to why Jews are so massively over-represented in the House, and especially the Senate, I have no good theories to offer, but I would be glad to hear of one.

FYI, here is a list of the incoming Jewish Senators.

Carl Levin Democrat Michigan
Frank Lautenberg Democrat New Jersey
Russ Feingold Democrat Wisconsin
Herb Kohl Democrat Wisconsin
Dianne Feinstein Democrat California
Barbara Boxer Democrat California
Ron Wyden Democrat Oregon
Charles Schumer Democrat New York
Ben Cardin Democrat Maryland
Joe Lieberman Connecticut
Arlen Specter Republican Pennsylvania
Bernie Sanders Independent (Democratic Socialist) Vermont

and either

Norm Coleman Republican Minnesota


Al Fenken Democrat Minnesota

who are going to a recount. Both are Jewish.
When two black candidates are locked in a close contest for Senator of a hugely non black State, then we can say blacks are truly accepted by white Americans, and have completely integrated into the U.S. power structure.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Their Moment


Before We Get Carried Away ...

Obama supported at Grant Park, Chicago

Before we all get carried away let's remember what Obama himself said last night:

"This victory alone is not the victory we seek, its is only the chance for us to make that change..."

Lets not forget that:
  • 47% of Americans still voted for McCain / Palin despite Bush, the economy, Obama's huge advantage in money, McCain's cranky eraticness, Palin's wacko stupidity, and a near technically perfect Obama campaign.
  • 4 States approved anti-gay propositions, including Californians who voted to undo the states existing right to same sex marriage.
  • 2 States voted to end affirmative action (and conservative bloggers are already calling for its repeal country wide. "Now that there is a black president, there clearly are no more race based barriers."
  • The Democrats did less well then expected in Congressional races.
  • Obama promises to increase the war in Afghanistan - a big mistake IMO.
  • America's economic woes are so huge that no president can fix them in 4 years.
  • Global warming is likely so far gone that the best we can hope for - even if Obama delivers everything he promised - will still be very disruptive.
I could go on.

I guess I am a glass half empty kinda guy.

The Unsung Hero

I don't want to take anything away from all the black civil rights leaders who paved the way for Obama's victory. And I wish I could find a picture of Jesse Jackson crying last night in Grant Park, waving and American flag - I saw it on CNN and spent way too much time today trying to find the image on YouTube and Google and Flicker (if anyone can point me to a copy I would appreciate it) - but I want to take a moment to acknowledge a man too often demonized - Lyndon Johnson. Yes he was wrong on Vietnam. But he was right on civil rights, and poverty, and so much more.

When Johnson signed the the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he is quoted as saying "I have lost the South to the Democratic Party for 40 year." He was a southern Democrat and he knew of what he spoke. But he signed it anyway. Not only that, he had been its chief author, and cheer leader, and help push it through Congress, against the wishes - and votes - of many of his fellow Southern Democrats lead by Senators Al Gore Sr. (D-TN), William Fulbright (D-AR), and Robert Byrd (D-WV).

President Kennedy had been reluctant to introduce civil right legislation, but Johnson argued continuously, and ultimately effectively, for it. He then fought effectively against attempts to water it down in the Senate.And of course when Kennedy was shot, it was President Johnson who signed the bill, and then sent federal agents to enforce it throughout the south. Johnson later introduced, and had passed, the even more influential voting rights act or 1965. This act can be said to be the true beginning of Obama's victory - based as it was on overwhelming support from African Americans, many of whom would have been disenfranchised without it.

As for Johnson's prediction that the Democrats would lose the south for 40 years. In 1964, 5 deep south states voted Republican for the first time since Reconstruction, after the Civil War. Four of them have not voted Democratic since them. In 1968, the Democrats lost all 12 southern states.

In this election Obama won Virginia and Florida, looks to be taking North Carolina, and made Georgia close. Maybe Johnson's predicted 40 years in the wilderness have ended.

We Can Change the World

As I watched the jubilant crowds in Chicago's Grant Park last night, I couldn't help think of the following lyrics.

Though your brother's bound and gagged
And they've chained him to a chair
Won't you please come to Chicago
Just to sing
In a land that's known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won't you plaese come to Chicago
For the help we can bring
We can change the world -
Re-arrange the world
It's dying - to get better
Politicians sit yourself down,
There's nothing for you here
Won't you please come to Chicago
For a ride
Don't ask Jack to help you
Cause he'll turn the other ear
Won't you please come to Chicago
Or else join the other side
We can change the world -
Re-arrange the world
It's dying - if you believe in justice
It's dying - and if you believe in freedom
It's dying - let a man live it's own life
It's dying - rules and regulations, who needs them
Open up the door
Somehow people must be free
I hope the day comes soon
Won't you please come to Chicago
Show your face
From the bottom to the ocean
To the mountains of the moon
Won't you please come to Chicago
No one else can take your place
We can change the world -
Re-arrange the world
It's dying - if you believe in justice
It's dying - and if you believe in freedom
It's dying - let a man live it's own life
It's dying - rules and regulations, who needs them
Open up the door
We can change the world
Times have indeed changed !

Of course the the main result of the protests of 1968 was to elect Nixon, and to effectively destroy the Democratic party for 40 years. Maybe that is over now.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Jews for Obama - The Older The More So

This is posting summarized from articles in the Forward and Haaretz.

Comedian Sarah Silverman has gotten a lot of mileage out of the notion that older Jewish voters, especially those in Florida, need to be persuaded to support Senator Barack Obama. Yet as it turns out, those bubbes and zaydes may be the ones prodding their grandchildren to support the Democratic nominee for president.

Contrary to the perception that young people are in the bag for Obama, polls indicate that younger Jewish voters are more likely than older Jews to support Republican Sen. John McCain for president - though most Jews, both young and old, are still supporting the Democrat.

A survey, compiled from the monthly averages of Gallup's daily tracking polls, including interviews with more than 500 Jewish registered voters each month, found that while a whopping 74% of Jews aged 55 and over were supporting Obama, "only" 67% of those under 35 said they'd vote for the Democratic nominee.

This finding does fit into other data showing that younger Jews are trending conservative politically. A study of the 2004 Jewish vote by the Solomon Project, an effort to record Jews? civic involvement, found younger voters were slightly more likely than older Jews to support Republican George W. Bush over Democrat John Kerry.

Much of the evidence pointing to Republican growth among younger Jews remains anecdotal but fits with the broader demographic trends. Orthodox Jews represent the fastest growing segment of the Jewish community. They have more children, tend to be younger and more conservative politically than less observant Jews. Moreover, the Russian Jewish community, which also trends on the young side, is also overwhelmingly more politically conservative.

These more conservative younger Jews are frequently more free-market oriented, less tied to the big government New Deal programs such as Social Security that older generations of Jews embrace, and more hawkish when it comes to national security and Israel in particular.

Within the younger demographic, however, is another interesting trend: a large gender gap.

Jewish women of all ages voted more heavily for Kerry in 2004 than did Jewish men, and that gap was even more pronounced among younger voters. A full 88% of young Jewish women chose the Democratic candidate, compared to only 60% of young Jewish men. How this fits in with theories that young Jews are more conservative because they are disproportionately more Orthodox or Russian is not clear.

But while younger Jews may favor McCain more than their older relatives, Jewish voters of all ages remain considerably more supportive of Obama compared to their non-Jewish peer groups. 67% of Jews ages 18 to 34 supported Obama compared to only 57.1% of their non-Jewish cohorts. Only 29% of younger Jews supported McCain, compared to 36.9% of non-Jews in that age group.

And with age, the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish voting patterns widens. The 10-point pro-Obama gap noted above, becomes a 30-point margin among older voters, with 74.2% of 55-plus Jews supporting Obama compared to only 44.5% of non-Jews.

Thus if only older Jews voted, this election would be a Democratic blow out never before matched in U.S. history. Those older Jews still have a lot on the ball it seems to me.