The Truth Machine

Issues, not "isms"

On Olbermann

21 comments

As I watch the media “spin” one of it’s own, Keith Olbermann, I find myself in a place that is rare for me. Unlike almost everyone on the left that I know, I agree with MSNBC’s decision to suspend Olbermann, whom I watch most every weeknight.

One of the things that makes MSNBC not just left of Fox but much more credible is that it actually has journalistic ethics. How can the left constantly call on Hannity to be punished for violating journalistic ethics if we allow Olbermann to do so? It would be hypocritical. Yes, one can debate the wisdom of MSNBC’s policy, but it is in place, written down, and they are following it. That is commendable.

This policy is a common one. Where I work (ABC) news department staff are not even allowed to express an opinion on an individual running for office or pending legislation/appointments to ANYONE, including their friends. Donating to a campaign would get Diane Sawyer fired. A suspension of Olbermann without pay is a clear message to MSNBC’s viewers (and Olbermann) that they take ethics seriously while at the same time not firing the man for being human.

There is a difference between punditry and advocacy. Punditry uses facts (at least it is supposed to) to support a political philosophy and/or point out the inherent flaws in another philosophy or set of actions. A perfect example is how Rachel Maddow has often taken Obama to task for behavior that contradicts his stated political philosophy. Advocacy is when you directly implore people to take action based on your support of a person or issue, not on information about the person or issue. No one would ever consider Maddow to be “in the bag” for Obama. Yet what if you found out that she actually was giving money to Obama? What if she started showing up at his campaign rallies? Would you be so sure?

Another argument I hear is that the action is hypocritical because GE donates huge amounts of money to political campaigns and causes in their interest, and GE owns NBC. Well, as an employee of a television network owned by Disney I can tell you how ridiculous a point that is. That is like saying that it is hypocritical of me to lean left because ABC News leans right. We work for the same people, but we are not the same people and we are not even in the same business. I believe strongly that corporate spending on political campaigns and advocacy advertising should be strictly limited, but I do not see how it applies at all to this issue. If GE policy was directly linked to MSNBC Policy, there wouldn’t be an MSNBC.

Finally, I am disturbed by those who find his behavior acceptable because as a pundit he should not be expected to be objective. This buys into a false concept, “objective” news.

Objective news is, and always has been, a myth. Was Edward Murrow objective when he took on McCarthy? Were Woodward and Bernstein objective when they took on Nixon? No. In both cases they had stories to tell, and those stories clearly gave away there beliefs as to what this country is or is not supposed to be. Hell, Hearst started the Spanish-American War! The concept of an “objective” media was really born out of the right after Watergate as a way of being able to negatively equate Journalism, which at the time was more left than right, with political favoritism. Eventually in the age of 24/7 news the right realized the power of taking that one step further. They decided to wear objective journalism as an outer layer of skin, and the “fair and balanced” FOX News was born.

The correct measurement of quality journalism is not “objective” Vs “subjective”. There are two correct measurements for journalism; “true” Vs. “false” and “complete” Vs. “incomplete.”

By those measures I believe that Rachel Maddow is the preeminent journalist of our time. Yes, she has a story to tell and she makes no bones about what that story is, just like Murrow. Her research and accuracy is also impeccable like Murrow’s and her completeness in her research is beyond reproach. She regularly has guests from all sides, and is very fair in her questioning. Her reporting from Afghanistan had more time spent in the field with American Soldiers and their Commanders, and more camera time with them speaking openly, then any other coverage I have seen anywhere. She spent two weeks, at different times, in the Gulf Region during the BP disaster, actually going out to the southernmost safety station in the Delta to discuss how you measure oil in a swamp and by boat out into the areas where BP claimed they had cleaning crews in place to show that they weren’t there.

I thus think it is very telling that while calling for the suspension to be lifted, Maddow also supported MSNBC’s decision to impose it. This is even more impressive since Olbermann has been her advocate, mentor & friend and is in many ways the reason she has a television show.

Again, the problem is not that Olbermann donated, it is that he did not seek permission from his producers beforehand. A person does not have to be objective to be fair, but they do have to be open and honest. How a reporter spends money on issues or people that he is reporting on is relevant to the reader/viewer’s ability to decide what weight to give to the story, just as in our legal system an appearance of conflict is enough to dictate if a Judge can hear a case. In the measurement of “complete” Vs. “incomplete” Olbermann comes up on the “incomplete” side. One of the three people he donated to he actually wrote a check for immediately following an appearance on Countdown.

A journalist’s subjectivity is supposed to be in the material that they choose to cover; what do they think it is important to know and how do they communicate it honestly and effectively? It is hard to be seen as honest or effective if you are giving money to people you talk about on the air and don’t tell the people who put you on the air about it. Subjectivity does not permit unethical behavior any more than objectivity assures ethical behavior. I think MSNBC has handled it perfectly, have sent a strong message, and should now let the man deliver a mea culpa and get back to work.

ZIONISM

The simple mention of the word stirs emotions in Jews, Muslims and Christians. Most argue that this is because people do not know what the word means.  I disagree. I believe the problem lies in the fact that the word no longer has any meaning at all.

I have felt this in the back of my mind for some time now, but it was not until I was faced directly with the question earlier today that I fully realized it.

A little background: Among the many things that has fascinated me about Facebook is the roundabout way I have developed friendships there. A perfect example is “Kate”. I got to know Kate after becoming Facebook friends with someone that I met on a discussion thread, “Bill”. I became Bill’s friend because I enjoyed debating with him. However I quickly learned that Bill was not as open-minded as he believed himself to be. He had bought into a lot that was hard for me to swallow. I neared my limit when in the name of “wanting to hear all views” Bill welcomed a White Supremacist into our conversations. Shortly after that, when Bill referred to the number of Holocaust victims as “perhaps overstated”, I “defriended” him.

However, through Bill I got to know Kate. Kate had clearly been exposed to much of the same dogma as Bill.  Kate, however, was very open to multiple view points. We often disagree, but I truly enjoy her thirst for knowledge. She is the first to admit that there is much she does not know about the Israeli Palestinian crisis, and she genuinely seeks knowledge from people of all different backgrounds and opinions as she works towards a fuller understanding.

Earlier today I got the following message from Kate:

Thank you for being my “cultural sensitivity sounding board”–I’m sure politicians have to have them too!

The word “Zionist”–to me it has always merely meant the desire of the Jewish people to have a homeland. However, many of my friends use the word to describe the policies of the Israeli government to essentially negate the residency/land/human/civil rights of the Palestinian people.

Daniel Oz and Yossi Ashkenazi describe themselves as Zionists but do not support the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Do you consider yourself a Zionist? Any comments on how that word is used as a negative “label”? [name withheld] banned the word from her wall as too inflammatory. I’m not using the word as it is too confusing for me. If I were to say I were a Zionist, many would think I support the repression of the Palestinians, which as you know, I don’t.

Anyway, thanks again for helping me see this from a culturally respectful perspective–

“Kate”

The more I contemplated Kate’s core questions the more I realized that the word Zionist means so many different things to so many people that it has become useless.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines Zionism as “A Jewish movement that arose in the late 19th century in response to growing anti-Semitism and sought to reestablish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Modern Zionism is concerned with the support and development of the state of Israel.”

Yet almost all Arab schoolchildren are taught about Zionism using The Protocols of The Elders Of Zion as their textbook.

The Protocols appeared in print in Russia as early as 1903. It appeared again in 1905 as a final chapter (Chapter XII) of a second edition of the book Velikoe v malom i antikhrist (The Great in the Small & Antichrist), and again in 1906 in pamphlet form.

These first three (and subsequently more) Russian language imprints were published and circulated in the Russian Empire during 1903–1906 period as a tool for scapegoating Jews, blamed by the monarchists for the defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and the 1905 Russian Revolution. Common to all three texts is the idea that Jews aim for world domination. The Protocols are presented as the retelling of a document stolen from a secret Jewish organization, with the alleged original stolen manuscript never presented. During the 1917  Revolution  fleeing white Russians carried this document along as they fled westward and it assumed a new purpose. Until the Bolshevik Revolution, The Protocols had remained obscure; but now it became an instrument for blaming Jews for the Russian Revolution – a political weapon used against the Bolshevikis who were depicted as overwhelmingly Jews, allegedly executing the “plan” embodied in The Protocols.

This resulted in essentially two “accepted” definitions of Zionist, the dictionary definition and the one presented in The Protocols.

This became even more confusing with the founding of Israel, which lead to a rift between actual Zionists. Zionists split into two camps, Religious Zionists (also referred to as Biblical Zionists) and Political Zionists. Political Zionists believe in an Israel based on the needs of the Jewish people to assure their safety and cultural survival through the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland around what was once Judea. Religious Zionists, on the other hand, believe in a strict biblical interpretation of a Jewish State. A Religious Zionist is incapable of considering the division of Jerusalem because the Old Testament declares that the Third Temple must be built on that location for the Messiah to come.

So far we have three definitions of Zionist, the false definition created by The Protocols as a tool of anti-Semitism, Political Zionists, and Religious Zionists. But guess what? We are not done yet.

Religious Zionism falls into three different categories. The Jewish Right-Wing Religious Zionists believe that God has mandated that they hold onto “Greater Israel”. The Jewish Left -Wing Religious Zionists believe that God gave them “Greater Israel” but without a mandate as to what to do with it. Finally, Evangelical Zionists are Evangelical Christians who believe that an Israel with a united Jerusalem is required for the second (to Jews the first) coming of Messiah at which time all those who have not accepted Christ as their savior will be left behind.

So to summarize:

Mythical Zionists: Zionists as defined in The Protocols

Political Zionists: Those, mostly Jewish, who believe in the absolute need for an Israeli Nation, but are open to the 1967 borders and in many cases a Palestinian East Jerusalem

Jewish Right-Wing Religious Zionists: Believe in a “Greater Israel”

Jewish Left-Wing Religious Zionists: Mostly accepting of a two state solution but somewhat divided over the fate of East Jerusalem and some other West Bank sites.

Evangelical Zionists: Believe in an Israel with a unified Jerusalem so that the Jews can build the temple and then get left behind.

In the end what all of this tells us is that when someone simply uses the word Zionist without qualification they either don’t know what they are talking about or they are intentionally trying to obscure the issue.  The standalone use of the word Zionist is often an attempt to define all Jews and Israelis as having a single world view and perhaps even a secret handshake.

So if you must use the word Zionist be very clear on what you mean and who your audience is. While Kate’s friend may have gone a little far in banning the word from her wall, I can understand why she would decide to do so. Unless everyone is willing to contextualize the word by stating what form of Zionism they are referring to, confusion will reign and tempers will flare. The odds of that contextualization being provided on, say for example, a Facebook wall or Huffington Post comment? About nil. Better to just say what you mean and not attach a word to it.

After all, the subtitle of this blog is Issues, not “isms.

No one could have guessed last Sunday that the big political topic of the week would be the winner of the Kentucky Republican Senate Primary. However, one badly botched Rachel Maddow Interview, flippant comment about BP and Patriotism, really unneeded endorsement from John Stossel, and cancellation on Meet The Press later, Rand Paul is all over the news.

Pop Quiz: Who are the only other two people to ever cancel on MTP in its 62 years on the air?
Answer: Saudi Prince Al-Faisel and Louis Farrakhan. Now there’s some company you want to be keeping.

Who is Rand Paul? Over the last few weeks he has referred to himself as a Libertarian and part of the Tea Party movement, and been referred to by some others as a racist and an idiot. He has also proudly stated that he holds “the same belief system” as his father, Congressman Ron Paul, but “expresses it differently.” Since this is a blog, and not a book, I will attempt to ‘take the measure of the man’ using some specific instances and family history. No doubt some will accuse me of taking things out of context. So be it. Feel free to do your own research if you are  open-minded to those points you may disagree with. I will do my best to provide context, or at the very least sourcing, where possible.

Since Rand says they share the same belief system, let us take a look at Rand’s dad, Congressman Ron Paul (R – 14th District, Lake Jackson, TX). Unlike Rand, a relative newcomer to the public spotlight, Ron has a long record that gives us insight into that belief system. Ron first served in the House in the late 70s and early 80s (his own house.gov page does not give exact dates), returned to his medical practice as an OB-GYN for most of the 80s and 90s, and then returned to Congress in 1997. He has portrayed himself as the gold standard for libertarianism and strict constitutional construction-ism, proudly boasting that he only votes “Yea” on legislation that is specifically enumerated as falling under congressional mandate in the constitution.

However a close look at the period between his congressional stints reveals a man whom, while out of the political spotlight, freely expressed some horrid beliefs and a very large mean streak. The following are all from newsletters published by Ron Paul during his period away from Congress*:

  • On the Rodney King riots: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”
  • On black males: “As children, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppression is responsible for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as possible.”
  • On carjacking: “[the] hip-hop thing to do among the urban youth who play unsuspecting whites like pianos.”
  • On race relations: “in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.”
  • On a reporter for a gay magazine: “[he] certainly had an axe to grind, and that’s not easy with a limp wrist.”
  • On ‘out’ homosexuals: “I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”
  • On San Franciscans and AIDS: “they enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick.”

All of these newsletters had Ron ‘s name in the masthead, yet he has claimed not to have written any of it and that he had no idea who did. These were published with his money and under his name in the first person without bylines over a thirteen-plus year period, making his attempts to disavow them disingenuous at best. His one attempt to defend himself to CNN was to claim that it was philosophically impossible that he wrote them, because “Libertarians are incapable of being a [sic] racist, because racism is a collectivist idea.”*

Again, these are the ideas expressed by his father, but consider Rand’s own statements about sharing his father’s beliefs and Ron teaching his family how to use a gun because “the animals are coming” when you consider the idea that Rand just might be racist.

Which brings us to the Rachel Maddow interview. The media and the blogosphere have both, for the most part, painted this interview as an epic example of “gotcha” journalism in which Maddow tried to get Rand to admit he held racist views and he desperately tried to hide such views. Who “won” depends on what you read, with by far the most inaccurate reporting coming from The New York Times and those who used it as a source. The Times, in transcribing the interview, turned what was obviously an exasperated “Yeah” confirming that he had heard the question for the umpteenth time into the word “Yes.” This makes it appear that he answered “Yes” to the question of allowing restaurants to refuse service to blacks, when in reality he just ducked the question again. To The Rachel Maddow Show’s credit, it was they who first took The Times to task for this incorrect interpretation the next day – leading to a “funny if it weren’t so tragic” 24 hour cycle in which the right wing blogs SLAMMED the show for putting out what it called a”false transcript” and then turned around and LAUDED the show for pointing out that The Times got it wrong.

This ‘gotcha on the racist thing’ analysis is completely wrong. If you really pay attention to the back and forth, Maddow tried to get Paul to admit that he is a Libertarian, not a racist. The difference is important. There are bigots on the left and the right, and if Maddow truly believed Rand was one of them she would have asked the question much more directly** If you watch her show with any regularity you would know that. However, if she could get him to admit that he believes who sits at the lunch counter is up to the owner of the lunch counter, a libertarian viewpoint based on property ownership rights and not race, she would have shown one of the fundamental flaws of Libertarianism; it opens the door to massive discrimination and segregation regardless of the beliefs of its proponents.

A Libertarian is defined as “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state. One who believes in free will.”*** Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who could argue with that? It is very easy to see how many of the hippies of the 60s, 70s and even 80s have been Libertarians since the 90s. However, like many great ideas it does not translate well into practice. Any time you substitute strict adherence to ideology for personal morality you cross the line from altruism to zealotry, and Libertarian zealotry is just as dangerous as most zealotry, and more so than some. A quick visit to the Libertarian Party website^ reveals a mostly reasonable platform. It is once you start digging through the “Issues” links and see how they would achieve their goals that one has reason to be concerned. I may someday decide to write about why I think the end result of a truly Libertarian society would resemble Lord Of The Flies, but that is for another time. The question here is not about the “right” or “wrong” of Libertarianism, but rather if Rand Paul is the Libertarian he claims to be.

In his primary victory speech Rand used the words “Tea Party” or “Tea Party movement” in describing his own beliefs 12 times. Rand says he is a Libertarian, then Rand says he is a Tea Partier, then Rand says he is both. Is one a subset of the other? Do their belief systems intersect more than they diverge?

No, and therein lies the problem. Basic tenets of both movements make them mutually exclusive. I have no doubt that there are those who believe themselves to be both, but they most likely also believe that Obama is a Kenyan sleeper agent and robots programmed by Dick Cheney attacked us on 9/11.

Returning to the end of the Maddow interview I mentioned earlier – except this time let us look at the deflection:

MADDOW: And should [the] Woolworth lunch counter … have been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no.

PAUL: What I think would happen — what I’m saying is …  is that I don’t believe in any discrimination. I don’t believe in [sic] any private property should discriminate either. And I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to. But what you have to answer when you answer this point of view, which is an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. But if you want to answer, you have to say then that you decide the rules for all restaurants and then you decide that you want to allow them to carry weapons into restaurants.^^

So, from a Libertarian viewpoint the decision whether to allow people to come onto property armed should belong to the property owner. However, from the Tea Party viewpoint the right to bear arms cannot be regulated. In other words, the decision whether or not to come onto property armed should belong to the individual entering the property.

In poll after poll those who strongly identify themselves as ‘part of the Tea Party movement” are overwhelmingly a) for overturning Roe V Wade, while the Libertarian Party actually supports a woman’s right to choose – her body being her property and b) support the Patriot Act, which Libertarians see as a huge intrusion into property rights.

All of which leads us back to the subject at hand: Who is Rand Paul; a Racist, a Libertarian, a Tea Partier, or just an idiot? Let’s take a look at Rand Paul’s official website and see what we can conclude. The main page of this website has the following statement on abortion:

“I am 100% pro life. I believe abortion is taking the life of an innocent human being. I believe life begins at conception and it is the duty of our government to protect this life.”

So much for Libertarian.

However, if you click through to Issues:Privacy & Liberty you get this:

‘Whether it’s passing the 315 page Patriot Act without a single member of Congress ever reading the bill, proposing a National ID Card, establishing FISA courts and utilizing warrantless searches, or betraying the medical privacy of ordinary citizens, the Federal Government has overstepped its limited powers as stipulated in the Constitution.’

So much for Tea Partier.

Is it a bad thing that he does not appear married to an ideology to the extent that his father is? No, of course not. The problem is that he claims two contradictory ideologies  and either does not see or is incapable of articulating the contradictions.  That is what was at the heart of the Maddow interview. The interview did not reveal him as a racist (I for one see no evidence that that he is), or a Libertarian (since the opening for him to argue for libertarianism was a race question, he ducked it, showing no courage for his convictions), or a Tea Partier (Maddow focused on getting him to acknowledge that Libertarianism opens the door to racial discrimination to the exclusion of all else).

But wait! The man still has a chance to redeem himself. The BP/TransOcean/Halliburton oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is perfect fodder for a discussion of government vs. corporate rights and responsibilities. The drilling spot is leased to BP by the government, but BP owns or leases all the items used to get at the oil. Okay Rand – you go on Good Morning America and wow us with your analysis as to what the proper rights and rolls are here:

“No, the thing is … is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the President’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.”

Ouch. That would be great except that the accident happened in U.S. waters, which is what gave the government the right to lease the spot in the first place, BP has been clear that it will meet it’s liability which is capped by law at $75,000,000 and far from the entire costs or even close to them, AND there is a criminal investigation open into the mining ‘accident’ as evidence mounts of a phenomenal history of safety violations, including 52 in the month leading up to the explosion.

Idiot.

* First 4 bullets and ‘collectivist’ quote: http://www.cnn.com/2008
Last 3 bullets:
http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/angry-white-man

** If you are a leftist and just thought to yourself “there is no such thing as a leftist bigot” I suggest you do some serious soul searching. Now.

*** libertarian. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved May 22, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/libertarian

^ http://www.lp.org/

^^ http://www.theliberaloc.com/2010/05/20/ Normally I do not use other blogs as sources, but this is the only place I was able to find the actual transcript.

` http://www.freedomworks.org/news/

http://www.randpaul2010.com/

UPDATE: A link to this article was posted on http://thebrothersofjudea.blogspot.com . The Brothers of Judea is a website dedicated to fighting Antisemitism in HuffPo Talkback. If you want to read even more on this subject and get some good ideas on how to fight back I highly recommend reading it.
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So, a funny thing happened to me the other day.

I started my day, as usual, by checking my email, Facebook and The Huffington Post. At HuffPo I was greeted by a pop-up window announcing a new feature – ‘badges’. You earn badges based on activity – # of comments made, # of comments or stories posted to a social network, etc. etc.

What surprised me was that I was already a Level 1 Huffington Post “Super User”. After all I only check the site once or twice a day and only comment when someone says something that is either factually incorrect or isn’t sourced. Well it turns out that those comments, as of this writing, come to a total of 229.

How the hell did that happen? I have only been commenting on the site for two months, maybe less. Yet there it was staring me in the face. 229 comments. I told myself it had to be a mistake, some kind of bug. But clicking on the Comments tab proved it was true. There they were, 229 comments made by me. Yet the biggest surprise was the comments themselves, 95% of them were in defense of Israel.

“Why is that a surprise?” you might be asking yourself. After all, I am a Jew and a strong believer in Israel.  However, if you spoke to just about anyone in AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself America’s Pro-Israel Lobby; more on that later) they would call me ‘self-hating’ or ‘not a real Jew’. Why? Because I and a great deal,probably a majority, of American and European Jews believe, hell as a great deal of Israeli Jews believe, in a two state solution that includes a withdrawal to the Pre-1967 War borders.

In other words, I am capable of differentiating between Israel and and a specific Israeli government, just as I can differentiate the United States from its government (it was the only way to survive the Bush years without tearing my own eyes out). I can love Israel and hate current Israeli government policy which, for the most part, I do.

So there I am, skipping merrily along my way on HuffPo, reading an article about Obama’s hopes for Middle East Peace Talks, when I decide to scroll down to the comments.

Here on a liberal blog, where I found myself in agreement with the comments 95% of the time (the rest being trolls), was diatribe after diatribe attacking… well, honestly, the writers didn’t even seem to know exactly what they were attacking. I had been catapulted into a world where the words “Jew”, “Zionist”, “Israeli”, “Occupiers”, “Settlers”,”so-called Jewish”, “dual citizens” and “neo-cons” were all used interchangeably, as were “Palestinian”, “Jordanian”, “terrorist”, “PLO”, “Fatah”, “Hamas” – sometimes in the same sentence. It was a world where people whom I had read on other threads and seemed perfectly rational to me were practically frothing at the mouth. Maybe 1% of this frothing was coming from supporters of Israel; the other 99% of it was not.

Most of the supporters of Israel on HuffPo appear to be like me, active supporters of J Street, a new Jewish Political Action Committee founded specifically to counter the “Israel’s government is right no matter what” voice that is AIPAC. J Street supports a just Two State Solution and believes that the US Government must do more to work towards that goal, including putting real pressure on the Israeli Government. We believe that as long as the Israeli Government can count on AIPAC to assure U.S. financial aid and a total lack of US condemnation of bad behavior they will have no incentive to make peace. We also believe that given the natural population growth in the area, combined with other realities on the ground, that Israel will eventually destroy itself if it does not make peace with the Palestinians via a two state solution.

Now, try convincing your average HuffPo reader that this is a common feeling among Jews. That we really want peace, want a Palestinian Nation with Arab East Jerusalem as part of it’s territory, want the settlements shut down. Try convincing them that every Jew is not every Zionist is not every Israeli is not every settler. Just try. You will be balder than I am before the sun goes down.

I have learned not to be surprised by the ignorance that comes from the right wing fanatics, the tea baggers, the religious zealots, the birthers, and the truthers. What I have just started to come to grips with is that there is just as much ignorance on the left, and just as much discrimination.

Somehow when a Jew does something that is seen as objectionable by someone on HuffPo, it is “the Jews” that have done it. Lieberman – “the Jews”, Dershowitz – “the Jews”, the Neocons – “the Jews”, the State Department – “the Jews” and on and on. Never mind that most Jews I know consider both Lieberman and Dershowitz to be scumbags, that the majority of US Jews are liberals, or even that Dershowitz speaking on behalf of AIPAC has attacked J Street as being “Anti-Israel”. To these people we are all the same. J-Street, which openly fights with AIPAC, is referred to as “AIPAC-Light”. Some of these people even go as far as to believe that The Protocols Of The Elders of Zion are real, and that while the Holocaust was real the numbers are “exaggerated”. Some go as far as to say that Jews are “doing to the Palestinians what the Germans did to them”, which is both shockingly wrong and shockingly ignorant of the fact that there were a lot more than Germans “doing it to us” for a lot longer than they can imagine.

As Rachel Maddow has said many times about many things “You are entitled to your own opinion. What you are not entitled to is your own set of facts.” Yet these same people whom have quoted Maddow on other threads argue from their own set of facts.

What I suspect, though of course can not know, is that I am getting a feeling for what it must be like for the Doves in Israel. After all, that is the real battle. It is not Jew Vs. Palestinian or even Right Vs. Left. It is Hawk Vs. Dove. Jewish doves we will always be ‘the Jews”  to the rest of the world and “self-hating Jews” or “Israel-bashers” to the Hawks among us .

How does a Jew advocate for real peace when non-Jews can’t tell us apart from those who do not, and Jews who do not advocate for real peace can not tell us apart from non-Jews? Will the Israeli Government and American Liberals, so desperately at odds with each other, allow us to save the Jewish State or will their hatred for each other crowd out the voices that most need to be heard – the Jew who is willing to compromise for peace? I also wonder, how much is the situation alike for Palestinian doves – whom AIPAC nd the current Israeli government would tell you do not exist and the HuffPo liberals will tell you are what all Palestinians are?  Yet another in a long list of things that your average Jew and your average Palestinian probably has in common. All I know for sure is that it is exhausting to try.

Of all the odd things I trip over on Facebook, and there are many, the oddest is my own past. These incidents fall into three essential categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

THE GOOD: Remember all the kids that you thought were too cool to notice you?  You don’t?  OK, maybe you weren’t the petrified wimp I was, but for me these people existed. Now, thanks to the miracle of Facebook, I am in on the conversation and treated as an equal. Some of them have even started to become good friends and confidants.

THE BAD: What the hell does that say about my childhood? Am I learning that I allowed a piss-poor self-image to keep me from enjoying the company of good people who would have enjoyed my company as well? Or is it just that we have all grown up and the walls are gone?  Did the walls ever exist? Does my therapist have time for me more than once a week?  Arrrghh.

In reality, I came to grips with my youthful self-esteem issues years ago and have greatly enjoyed getting to know these people better and finding we share a lot in common – including memories.

THE REAL BAD is when you get a friend request from someone you prayed had been eaten by wolves.  Well, not literally ….ok, yeah, literally. The odd part is not that they weren’t – that was a long shot. The odd part is trying to figure out why I got the invite.  I don’t want to send them a message asking because a) that allows them to see my profile and b) I was really hoping they had been eaten by wolves.

I am not talking mild dislike, but mutual hatred. The kind that would lead one to at least expect an accompanying note with the request. Much can be left in the past, but when you get into “nearly killed me with your bare hands” or “intentionally screwed me out of my livelihood” territory, a note would be nice.  In all fairness one guy did mention that he had missed seeing me at an art opening the night before, which I suppose makes up for beating his girlfriend.  At least now, from peaking at their profiles, I know where they live . Anyone know where I can hire some wolves?

THE UGLY: By “the ugly” I mean the inexplicable cold shoulder, the opposite of  THE REAL BAD. An old friend of mine  popped up as a friend suggestion. I sent a friend request and got the window asking that you suggest friends. We had been and remained close to many of the same people, so I suggested him to 32 mutual friends.  I got those little messages about how he and so-and-so were now friends as I had suggested. Within a week he had befriended them all, except me. Huh?  Oh shit, here come all of those self-esteem issues I thought I had dealt with.  I found myself wondering if I had done something hurtful to this person, or if they might be under some false impression. This was compounded as we started showing up on the same threads, commenting on the same things, often even responding to each other’s comments, but never addressing each other directly.

Finally it hit me; I was becoming completely neurotic about being snubbed by someone that I had made no attempt to contact on my own in years, someone whom it would still not occur to me to contact if not for Facebook. It is not that I don’t like this person – I do. I have very fond memories of our friendship. But we were never really very close, and it is odd that I would have expectations from this person who would not expect anything from me. Should I run into him one day it will be a very pleasant experience – just not one that makes Facebooking each other a requirement.

So in the end the good is good, the bad is just bizarre, and the ugly isn’t really ugly so much as just a bit peculiar. The real miracle is that people whom I did not know would again be part of my life or that I would ‘speak’ to now more than when we wandered the same halls are a presence in my world. With some it is just the occasional comment on the same thread, or a shared memory. With others it is a friendship renewed or finally born. However you look at it, Facebook has made each day one where my past and my present come together neatly; where my mother’s best friend speaks regularly with my friend from the local coffeeshop and my fellow high school political upstart chats with the author I recently befriended after having read some of his work. Facebook has married my past and my present in a way that was inconceivable not long ago, and for that I am grateful.  Besides, amongst all of these people I have reconnected with someone has to know where I can find some wolves. Anyone?

I have been wanting to write about Facebook for awhile, but have not been quite sure how to tackle it. Everyone has their own take on Facebook and no one denies what a huge impact it is having on our social discourse along with Twitter. What we don’t read about that much is the impact it has on each of us as individuals, so I have decided to explore that. Facebook has impacted how I deal with my past, how I live in my present, and how I face my future.

I will start with the present. In order to do so I need to share a little more about my past than I have before, and tell you about my friend David Nolan.

I first met David in the late 80’s – the third Saturday that Wetlands was opened to be precise, though I must admit to not remembering it directly. However, there was no way for us NOT to have met that night. The band I was managing, dreamspeak, was headlining. It was our first weekend NY headliner that included a real guarantee, and turned out to be the largest city club crowd we had played in front of to date. Afterward the entire staff, the band and I gathered at the bar and shared in some champagne to celebrate.  We may have even met earlier, as I discovered a few years ago that he had in fact seen dreamspeak before that show and even taped them at a live show I produced in Tompkins Square Park back when the park had a bandshell and A LOT of homeless people. In short, we were in each other’s lives but not of each other’s lives.

Flash forward a few years and I leave NYC for the Bay Area.  By the time I returned in 1999 the music business and I had separated for the last time. I settled into Jersey City and a new career as a Business Intelligence Professional (yes, an oxymoron three-way). I remained close to some people from my music days and before, but by that time had lost track of and touch with most of those I had known in the NY music scene, not to mention High School, College and various places of work.  I made new friends in Jersey City and moved on with life.

Flash forward one final time to late summer of 2008. My sister had been bugging me for months about how I needed to get on Facebook, how she had reconnected with so many people. I was very wary of ‘social networking’. What about those people by whom I did not want to be found? What reminders might I face of things better left forgotten? The mid-nineties had been a very painful time in my life, and I was truly frightened of having to relive them. Eventually though curiosity and my inner geek got the best of me and I set myself up on Facebook. I started by connecting with people I was still connected with in the real world, but through their friend lists and group lists I quickly found myself reconnecting with people from the late 80s – early 90s NY music scene. This in turn lead me to a group centered around a bar that was the epicenter of my music scene back then – Nightingales – and thus to an actual ‘real world’ reunion of people from the Nightingale’s music scene being planned by a small group of people that included David Nolan.

I saw several people that night I had not seen in decades, and others that I had not met but heard of from others. It was a wonderful time. I spent most of the night talking to two people, David Nolan and one other I had done some work with but not known all that well named Michael Weiss. I had “friended” both of them in the month leading up to the reunion and enjoyed catching up online, so it seemed pretty natural to spend a lot of time talking to them. Eventually we said good night and went our separate ways.

But then something happened that would probably never have happened if not for Facebook; we continued our conversations. Through Facebook I got to know about Michael’s family, his MS and his leadership in the MS community (more on that in Part 2), even his unbelievably mellow dog. I became friends with his wife online and started conversing with her as well.  At the same time I discovered that David Nolan and I had the same interest in current events and the minutiae of political process as well as very similar political and personal philosophies. We would each post stories of interest to us and then join the debates that would undoubtedly ensue as our Republican, Libertarian, and Neo-Con friends and acquaintances would join the fray. Unbeknown to them, we would often message each other privately to comment on some of the things being said or to make each other aware of a thread the other was not on when we needed ‘backup’. We introduced each other to people online, shared several laughs, and offered advice and support to each other when needed.  Even though we would not be in the same room together again, we became good friends.

My friend David Nolan died Thursday night. He had a heart attack at the age of 48 and he was gone. I found out about it on Facebook Friday afternoon. It was the third death of a past or present friend that I have learned of on Facebook – one years after it happened, the other two within 24 hours. This one, however, felt different. David Nolan was not just in my life as he had been in the 80s, he had become of my life.

Now I find myself grieving, mourning the absence of someone whom, from a purely technical outlook, had not been ‘present’ since October of 2008. Over the course of the 10 hours since I learned of his death I have asked myself several questions. Is this normal? Do I have the right to consider him a good friend? Does it make sense that I am this upset?

I have accepted, in fact I know and feel to the core of my being, that the answer to all of the above is “yes”. Social networking has changed the ways in which we can be present in each others lives. Some argue that it is distancing – allowing us to interact with each other at arm’s length. In some cases that may be true. Yet it has also allowed us to become close to people we may never have had the chance to, or even have met, if not for it’s existence.

The online debates I joined in with David got me writing regularly and thoughtfully for the first time in years. As I expanded my Facebook world and became friends with a professional writer who encouraged me with his kind words about my comments I became inspired to start this blog. This blog, in turn, has expanded my horizons in terms of how I communicate and who I communicate with. While I do not publish as often as I should, this blog is one of the great joys of my life – and I doubt it would have happened if not for David Nolan.

David Nolan, without even sitting in the same room with me once in over 18 months you have helped me become something I have always wanted to be – a writer. I will miss you terribly.  Rest In Peace.

Last week someone on Facebook called me a racist. In fact he said his new nickname for me was “racist dave”. I would probably be deeply offended by this if not for the fact that just a few posts earlier I had called him a racist. I re-read the entire thread and decided then and there that my next blog post would be about racism.

Why not?  Like almost everyone I have witnessed and/or been a victim of some sort of discrimination, be it racial or religious. I consider myself to be extremely open-minded and non-judgmental, so writing about racism should be easy, right?

Wrong.

I started by reading the original exchange out loud to my sister, who very quickly picked up on something I hadn’t. My statement was only non-racist because of my point. However, if you missed my point then the statement would in fact appear racist. The person to whom the comment was directed missed my point. It is entirely possible he missed my point because of the racial angle, however the angle was unavoidable to make my point.

The discussion, which can be found here, began with the breaking news of the shootings at Ft. Hood.  A friend of mine, whom in her previous work in mental health had interviewed Timothy McVeigh for the government in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, posted on Facebook looking to see what information anyone might have.  I replied with what little I had heard,and another person immediately replied that it looked like a sleeper cell to him.  I suggested not jumping to conclusions.

Then the name came in. Nidal Hassan, or as the other poster whom I will simply call PC put it “Nidal Hassan. hmm.” This lead to a back and forth on assumptions based on his name. At one point I tried to draw a parallel between PC’s assumptions and the treatment of Asian Americans during WW II. This is where things got ‘complicated’.

See, PC happens to be of Chinese descent, and has a Chinese last name. Since PC was failing to note that an Arabic name does not make one a Muslim, which in turn does not make one a jihadist I decided to drive the point home by pointing out that he may not have liked the way he would have been treated in America during WW II because of his last name.  My point, which I mistakenly assumed to be self-explanatory, was that to many he would have just been the hated “yellow man” so regularly portrayed in political cartoons and ostracized.  I already knew by his last name that he was not, in fact, Japanese.

His reaction was immediate and angry.  Clearly I was a racist, according to PC. My assumption that he was Japanese showed that I could not tell the difference between one Asian and another. In fact, I can. My whole point was that one could just as easily make a choice not to differentiate, as he had in the case of Hassan. I thought my point obvious. However, my sister made me see that while it was obvious to me it may not have been obvious to PC. She pointed out that when one has been a victim of discrimination, as she and I have both been for our Judaism, it is easy to assume that a comment that miscategorizes you is racist, even if the miscategorization is the point.

OK. Lesson learned. I decided that in writing about racism I would discuss the issue of multiple perspectives. I would look at how difficult it could be to differentiate between the appearance of racism and actual racism.  All I had to do was clearly define the various forms of racism.

Oh boy.

It turns out that we have come up with so many different ‘types’ of racism you need a scorecard to keep track of them all. In researching for my article I came across writings about innate racism, blatant racism, subtle racism, institutional racism, reverse racism, pathological racism, learned racism, and on and on. What’s more, every attempt to define one of these terms wound up borrowing from or being practically the same as another. I realized that if I tried to write about the different types of racism I would wind up with a dissertation, not a blog post.  I also realized it would be a lousy dissertation at best.

My next idea was to go back to the roots of my conversation with PC. I would write about racism from much the same perspective as the Supreme Court wrote about pornography, the “I know it when I see it” argument. Of course since I had just learned that how you see it depends on your own racial history I would need to include examples of perspective. All I would need to accomplish that was to put myself in the shoes of a black man, an Indian, a Pakistani, a Sunni, a Shiite, a Palestinian, a Tutsi, a Hutu, a….. oh, crap.

Did you know that technically speaking, there is no such thing as a Hutu or a Tutsi?  Seriously, these tribes were created by the colonists in order to foment internal discord and keep the Rwandans from turning on the occupiers. No one foresaw that these labels would stick to such a degree that eventually these two ‘tribes’ would become involved in one of the largest genocides of the modern age.

Then again, all racism is manufactured, regardless of the type. One person, or group of people, are somehow slighted by another group, or require some ‘other’ to blame for their circumstances, or need to distract the masses from a real enemy, or channel a fear born out of personal trauma, or justify a behavior – and thus racism is born. In the end any and all racism requires rationalization of the irrational, or at the very least the projection of the behavior of a select few onto all of those that share some characteristics with those few.

So now I realize that trying to write about actual racism is a lost cause for all but the best and brightest. Read President Obama’s books, or his speech on racism (most likely written by Jon Favreau) and you can begin the process.  In the end racism appears to me to be all about inequality, perceived or actual, and thus I can not really write about it.  To put myself into the shoes of anyone other than myself on the subject could be perceived to be – could actually be – racist. To write about it purely from my own perspective would be interesting to some, and perhaps open a few eyes to the antisemitism that is still prevalent in America, but it will not open any new doors to anyone who has not witnessed it.  I certainly wouldn’t try to convince anyone that the election of President Obama is in and of itself an end to a certain sort of racism. If racism is all about perception then individual events, no matter how large, can not mark a beginning or an end.

So what is left? I suppose that by avoiding denial of racism, pointing it out, convincing people to try to understand that existence itself is a subjective experience and we can not hope to fully understand what does or doesn’t motivate an individual let alone a group, I can hope to make a difference. By “knowing it when we see it” and not being afraid to say so – like pointing out that many who call Obama a socialist/communist/Nazi without knowing the meaning of those terms are on some level really just avoiding using the N word, we can make a difference. But try to write about what it is specifically and then define how as a group we solve a problem that is a result of seeing ourselves as groups?  Oy.

In the wake of news cycles that have variously centered on “Balloon Boy”, Meghan McCain’s tits, Obama Vs Fox, and the tragedy at Ft. Hood I have been giving even more thought than usual to the state of 24 hour news and what it should be. Here are my suggestions for making the 24 hour news cycle more palatable – or at least more likely to include a warning sticker that it is not palatable (“In the case of outrage lasting more than 4 hours, please call your doctor as this may be a sign of a much more serious condition called a moral center”). Take a look, then share your five.

1. GO AWAY

The whole reason for numbers 2 thru 5 is that this is a lost cause, but I honestly believe the world would be a better place without the 24 hour news cycle. I admit that as an information and politics wonk/addict I was besides myself with joy when CNN first came on the scene. I also admit that there are times when a story requires that level of coverage. I will even admit that there is 24 hours worth of news (see #2), but that is not what 24 hour news serves. Instead it chooses one to three stories and covers them to death. Since they all choose the same one to three stories they have to come up with more and more information to fill the time. The result is dozen of talking heads judging every aspect over and over again to the point that people just tune out. Also, stories are chosen more by how much time you can fill than they are by actual importance. If they only had an hour a day they would have to offer new information, compactly presented with the relevant facts, in order to compete with each other. As a result people would have more information and less bullshit. Yes, Pat Buchanan is entitled to his warped opinion that Sotomayor was an affirmative action appointment, but I don’t really need to hear it ten times on ten different programs. Plus, the 24 hour news leads to intellectual laziness. “Experts” feel remarkably comfortable getting facts wrong, since they will have a chance to either clarify or obfuscate what they said an hour from when they said it. Political spokesman are offered the opportunity to easily float “trial balloons”, adjusting their argument from one hour to the next depending on reaction to it rather than having to actually decide on a stance in advance knowing that, for at least a day, they will be held to it.

2. SINCE YOU WON’T GO AWAY, TRY COVERING MORE NEWS

Darfur, anyone? Palestinian self-policing successes in the West Bank? Massive increase in local protests in China? Transformation of Russia into a Kleptocracy? Contradiction in US Foreign Policy in treatment of Saudi government Vs refusal to speak with Taliban? Refugee situation in Western Pakistan? Women’s issues all over the world? Poverty in the United States? yadda yadda yadda. Seriously, is there so little news that MSNBC has to spend its weekend re-running Lockup a gazillion times? Which brings me to…

3. IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A POINT-OF-VIEW, DON’T YIELD TIME.

This is directed specifically at MSNBC. As a liberal/progressive/socialist/communist/America-hater (I am defining myself as FOX News would), I am glad to have a national news outlet that counters FOX. So why do you give them the floor for the entire weekend? I often work late and want to be entertained when I get home, so I and many like me are most likely to pay attention to the 24 hour news on the weekend. Unfortunately, all I get from MSNBC on the weekends is Lockup or To Catch A Predator. Are you really going to force me to turn on CNN or FOX to find out anything current and relevant? MSNBC, has it occurred to you that the reason you have lower ratings than the other news station is that people who first turn into you on the weekends might not know you are a news station?

4. END THE ECHO CHAMBER

Seriously, don’t any of these hosts know more than 5 people? Every show, every day, has the exact same experts commenting. Each host has found a cadre of people who think like them along with one person who thinks differently but is easy to beat up. These are the people you see on their shows day after day. Enough of the same talking head scientist day in and day out telling me what all of the other scientists agree on. If they all agree on it can’t you find someone else to say the same thing the next day? The worst offender is Keith Olbermann who literally has the exact same people on every day without exception. However, I find it more annoying on FOX, where the guests on each show are often the hosts of other shows on the same network. The morning show has Beck, Beck has O’Reilly, O’Reilly has Geraldo, and Geraldo has someone from the morning show. It is one giant self-affirming circle jerk. The one exception to this rule, and outstandingly so, is Rachel Maddow. Not only does she mix up her guest list from day to day, she actually has …wait for it…opposing viewpoints. Not only that, but those opposing viewpoints are often those of the very people she held to account on her previous broadcast. Her coverage of the “astroturfing” of grassroots protests by the right has included live discussions with the heads of the very organizations she has accused of being behind it. Furthermore, these discussions have been exactly that – discussions. No talking over people, no turning off their mics if they start to disagree vehemently with her. Actual, real journalism folks.

5. DECIDE WHAT YOU ARE AND OWN IT.

Quick Quiz. Match the 24 hour news network with its slogans

Networks:
CNN, MSNBC, FOX

Slogans:
“We Report. You Decide”, “We’re Talking Politics”, “Fair and Balanced”, “The Most Trusted Name In News”

Answers:

CNN: “The Most Trusted Name In News”. Seriously? According to who? It is hard to think of a network that jumps to conclusions without facts quicker. The motto should be “Because if we can’t be right, we can still be first.” These are the people who started the stampede to ruin Richard Jewell’s life over the Atlanta Olympics Bombing and who do more speculation reporting than anyone else. How many times do they have an “eye in the sky” image with three or four experts just guessing at what is going on? On top of all of this you have Lou Dobbs, who struggles so hard to hide his blatant fear of all things “other” behind economic worries, all to no avail. The man’s show is one solid hour of hate. Finally, who exactly is it we are supposed to trust? Half of their coverage these days consists of reading emails and tweets from viewers. “Let’ see what DemonHunterX of Nebraska is saying on twitter”. No, let’s not. If I want to get my reporting from twitter I have a way to do that. It’s called twitter. Seriously, this got so out of hand during the Iranian election street protests that people were calling into CNN begging them to take down the live twitter feed because it could be used by the Iranian police to identify and round up protesters. It took them 5 minutes to start showing them, but over 90 minutes of protests to stop. Also, I don’t trust anyone who thinks they can make a valuable informational point via a pie chart spinning in their palm or “beaming in” a holographic will.i.am.

MSNBC: “We’re Talking Politics”. Well, this is a breath of fresh air. By not claiming to be “trusted” or “balanced” or even “news” I find myself trusting them most. The reason is the lack of pretense. All three networks have wandered far from the reservation when it comes to straight news coverage. At least MSNBC admits it. The irony is that when FAIR and Media Matters both take the time to fact check the three news networks, MSNBC is consistently the most factually accurate. You may not agree with their conclusions, but at least they start from an honest premise. Again, I have to tip my hat to The Rachel Maddow Show. This is, as far as I can see, the only news show that takes the time after showing a claim by a politician, left or right, to discuss if the statement itself is true or not. If you want to know the page and paragraph in the health care bills where a politician’s statement is proven or dis-proven then watch Rachel. She will show it to you right after showing the politician’s statement. No one else is doing this. The rest are all so caught up in process (how will the other side react to the statement and then how will the first side counter-react) that they forget to tell you if there is a discernible truth to be had. Unfortunately, you can also find the opposite extreme on MSNBC with Ed Schulz. Now here is a man I agree with 90% of the time but still can’t stand to watch. Why? He doesn’t make the argument. He simply attacks the person who said something he disagrees with and points out every reason that they are not to be trusted. Often this is all true, but it does nothing to address the issue. He simply kills the messenger. Walking the line perfectly between the two of them is Keith Olbermann. He methodically debunks the ridiculousness of a statement, and then he needlessly kills the messenger – or sometimes vice versa. Now if he could just get over his obsession with shooting down reporting by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Honestly, does anyone watching Keith Olbermann believe a word that comes out of the mouths of Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh? Keith, make better use of the time then reminding us every day that they are dangerous demagogues who can not be trusted and are potentially dangerous. We already know that. Seriously. Plus, it can’t be doing anything good for your blood pressure.

FOX: “We Report. You Decide” and “Fair and Balanced”. That loud banging sound and mumbling you hear is George Orwell pounding on his casket door and screaming “Let me the fuck out of here so I can ring Roger Ailes’ pudgy neck!” I would like to think that what I have written so far makes it clear that I have problems with all of the news channels, and the concept of 24 hour news itself. I hope that I have earned enough trust as an open, honest broker that you will not see it as a partisan attack when I say that FOX news lies its ass off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They decide, then report. They decide what they want the audience to believe, then they report it as fact. I am talking about statements about how much health care will cost or what path it leads us down. I may disagree with their conclusions but the future is conjecture no matter who is predicting it. John Stewart pointed out the science behind Fox’s approach the other night, with examples, and it bears repeating here.

First, Fox’s few actual reporters cover an event in a straightforward manner, than wonder aloud how others will react to it. This is followed by 12 – 18 hours of Fox commentators reacting to it, which is followed in the next news cycle with those reactions being reported as news (“Many experts are saying….”). This leads to the followers of those commentators, and the politicians on the right who want to expand on the narrative, chiming in so that 24 hours later the news arm is reporting the wide spread reaction of various organizations to the initial event – again without noting that these organizations get their talking points from the very commentators they referred to the day before as “experts”. Even Fox itself practically admitted it last week. When asked about Obama’s charges that they were not news, Rupert Murdoch responded by differentiating between the news shows and commentary during the week. By his own count, there is 5 hours of news broadcast each day. The other 19 hours is commentary. Also, the 5 hours of news is during the least watched periods of television overall, not just for Fox but on TV.

If that is how you want to play it FOX, no problem. Just be honest about it. Drop the “fair and balanced/we report you decide” crap. But they can’t. They spend so much of their time on the air spreading outright lies (Death Panels? Seriously, you want us to believe that someone seeking re-election some day is supporting a panel that can choose to kill grandma?), that they can’t drop the slogans. Dropping the slogans would be honest. But they are Fox. They can’t be honest. So they can’t drop the slogans that say they are honest. OK, now I am making my own head hurt again.

I think I’ll lie down now and turn the TV on. Maybe there is something on C-SPAN.


As a supporter of Obama’s from day one, with a strong belief that he intends to do the right thing, I believe he should pay very close attention to this resignation letter. I think it is a spot on analysis of the situation. Even Charlie Wilson, the Republican ex-Congressman largely responsible for the Afghan success against the Soviets, is saying given a choice between fighting this war and personally fighting a chainsaw he’d choose the chainsaw.

If we wait for the “right time” or “right strategy” to leave, we will be there forever, or until our own system fails under the weight just as the Soviets did. In order to get to Al Qaeda we interjected ourselves into a decades old civil war. We need to extricate ourselves from it now. Any illusion that how many Afghanis die is changed by our presence is just that. The only thing changed by our presence is how many americans die, and how many Afghans look out beyond their own borders at America as the enemy, thus fueling Al Qaeda. We need to get out yesterday.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

OK – A little honesty up front. I am an adamant supporter of Obama’s domestic policies, and cautiously optimistic about his foreign policy. I am also as surprised as anyone that he won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning.

I am not even slightly surprised by the attacks against his winning it that have come from the right. In the words of Alan Grayson, “If the President has a BLT tomorrow, the Republicans will try to ban bacon.” What surprises me is the reactions from independents, the left, and even libertarians. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding among Americans as to what the Noble Peace Prize is.

According to Nobel’s will , the Peace Prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”†

By this definition, the only authoritative one, many of the prizes that we have hailed are more of an exception than a rule. The International Red Cross has won the prize three times. Are they a fantastic organization that saves lives and deserves our highest praises? Yes. Have they done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses? No. If anything, the Red Cross functions during wartime to prod nations into enforcing the agreed upon rules of war. They are the referees of the battlefields and the prisons. Is this a noble calling that saves lives and prevents a degredation of society during wartime? Absolutely. However, that is not the behavior that the Nobel Prize is meant to award.

In contrast, the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore was derided in many circles. One person on facebook said today that Al Gore didn’t deserve the award because climate change has nothing to do with violence.

There are two problems with that statement. First, ‘violence’ is not the correct antonym for ‘peace’ in this context, ‘war’ is. Second, the World Health Organization, a sea of climatologists, and a host of political scientists all agree on one thing – that long before climate change kills us we will kill each other over climate change. As large swaths of farm land become arid wastelands and seas start to swallow land we will be faced with mass starvation and mass migration. The very survival of nations could come to depend on seizing territory from their neighbors.

Is this sci-fi? Perhaps, if you believe that climate change risk is exagerated. Regardless, Gore’s actions defined within the parameters set by Alfred Nobel certainly qualify him for the prize.

Another argument I have heard is that since the Science Nobels require that someone produce something then the Peace prize should as well. Putting aside the definition of the prizes from Nobel’s will, the statement is incorrect.

Often the science prizes are awarded for a new discovery, theory, or explanation that might lead to a new way of treating cancer, or Alzheimers, or providing renewable energy. The practical applications are often years or even decades away, just as the results of peace overtures often are.

So is there a legitimate reason to object to Obama winning? Actually, yes, on technical grounds. The list of things that Obama has done to move us towards peace is impressive – he has N and S Korea talking again, gotten Iran to agree to ship out its nuclear fuel and ship in inspectors, is the first US President to call for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, and has spoken directly to the world’s Muslims in a way that could make a real difference. However, he started doing them after he was nominated. The nomination is supposed to occur after the things you are nominated for, don’t you think? Essentially he was nominated not for what he had done, or what he was seeking, but for what the nominators believed he would seek based on his campaign rhetoric. That is quite a stretch.

So, in a nutshell, I believe he certainly was qualified to win given that he was nominated, even if there are perhaps better choices out there. However, he shouldn’t have been nominated until next year at the soonest.

What do you think?

http://nobelprize.org/alfred_nobel/will/short_testamente.html

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