The Truth Machine

Issues, not "isms"

Browsing Posts published by admin

Just a quick note to any who might care that as part of my attempt to fight the Trumpies that be I am reviving my dormant blog, The Truth Machine. In the next few weeks I will be tightening up the look and feel, publishing some new articles, and some new stuff.

“What new stuff?”, you might ask. Well for starters a calendar of events, marches, lectures etc. etc. that will help further the cause. Secondly though, I would like to invite people to submit content for inclusion, with credit. Pitch me an idea for an article, and let’s take it from there. I will pay you exactly what I make myself, which is currently nothing.

Shall we begin?

The following idea was born out of an appearance on All In with Chris Hayes by Ron Unz, self-described Libertarian and former publisher of American Conservative magazine, and refined on the Facebook page of a friend who fancies himself an armchair economist, based largely on having an MBA and taking a Microeconomics course in the process in which he excelled. My friend, who defies most political labels but probably would be most comfortable being called a Libertarian (in the traditional sense – not the Rand Paul sense), has posited that the best solution to the negative economic impact of inefficiencies in government social safety net programs is to simply give poor people the money directly and let them determine how best to spend it. He does not, however, support a minimum wage.  I in turn have responded that the minimum wage is not only a good ides, but arguably a good conservative idea.

I start with two “givens” based in the libertarian mindset and free market ideology of my friend.

Given 1: As stated previously, giving poor people direct financial assistance (money) is a more efficient and less economically damaging way to provide for their needs than current government safety net programs.

Given 2: It is more financially efficient to allow the free market to produce a direct transfer of funds from those who will underwrite this program to those who will receive the cash than it is to introduce government inefficiencies via taxes and redistribution of wealth

Now let us introduce some requirements for this program. These are what I believe would be required for this to meet the definition of a fair free market solution. They are for the purpose of this argument and do not necessarily reflect my own personal beliefs, though I believe they reflect conservative concerns,

Requirement 1: For this to be considered a free market solution, any cash taken from one group of individuals and given to another group of individuals to alleviate poverty must return to the giver some value in the form of goods or service.

Requirement 2 (really a codicil to requirement 1): In order to assure equability and limit overhead, this should be to the greatest extent possible a one-to-one transaction.

Since enforcing requirement two on the level of one-to-one is not really supportable in a large economy, our solution must try to emulate that as much as possible while accepting that, at least with the tools currently available and affordable to implement, it is not 100% achievable.

Accepting the givens and requirements stated, it appears that the most efficient way to reflect the costs for this program would be in the cost of the good or service being supplied to the individual. That way they are literally “paying for” the program when they pay for the program. For example, if I am hiring a maid it would be reflected in how much I pay the maid and thus go directly to her benefit in turn for my getting the maid service. I am no longer underwriting maids from whom I receive no services in order to assure that my maid can eat. If I am buying a hamburger it would be reflected in the price of the hamburger, thus assuring the money goes to the guy who made my hamburger and not everyone who makes a hamburger for anyone ever.

Now all I need to do is assure that the difference in the price of the hamburger is actually going directly to the poor person, minus the percentage in taxes that would be constant regardless of the price of the burger. So how do I best assure that any new increase in the price of my burger reflects my assuring that those who provide me with the burger are not themselves starving?

Well, if I agree in advance to set a floor for what that worker can be paid to assure they are getting the money they need to be above the poverty line, accepting that the seller of the burger will no doubt pass the cost on to me in the price of my burger, I do not have to calculate how much more I need to pay for my burger – the employer will have done that for me based on the agreed upon rate, presumably based on a calculation of a living wage in today’s economy.

In other words, a minimum wage.

On the Washington Post’s online discussion about Susan G. Komen Fight For the Cure deciding to stop funding Planned Parenthood’s breast screening program a theme has emerged from those who support the action; “Planned Parenthood has no reason to exist except for abortions.” This is my response.

Yes, I guess that would explain the whopping 3% of it’s services rendered in a year that are abortions. The other 97% is just a cover. They are saving and/or keeping healthy those millions of other lives because of a nefarious plan to end a few.

Planned Parenthood is the largest and most visible advocate for for the full range of women’s gender-specific health issues. That makes them the logical target of a right wing that does not believe that one of those services should be legal. They can’t just make it illegal because a vast majority of Americans support the right to choose, so they have to come at it other ways.

How do you stop something? You choose the biggest example of that thing and you beat the hell out of them to scare off others. It is why Planned Parenthood is targeted, and why Dr. George Tiller was murdered. It is, in simplest terms, political terrorism – which like physical terrorism is meant to scare people away from doing what they have chosen to do with their lives. It is deplorable, it is un-American, and no one left or right who believes in American principles should stand for it for one second.

There is nothing “right to life” about denying 170,000 poor women the resources they need to get breast cancer screening.


The info verse is all atwitter, and all afacebook, and all awhateveryouread, over one question; is Ron Paul a racist?

Let’s assume the answer is “no”, that the argument that he didn’t write any of the racist and homophobic articles, ads and letters released under his name is true. Let us assume that he honestly never read any of it until 10 years later and was horrified by what he saw because he cannot be a racist as it is a collectivist idea (his words – see note 1). A heartfelt Ron Paul supporter is left with one clear truism – he or she can no longer support Ron Paul.


Paul’s rhetoric and writings (his books, which he admits to) constantly refer to  “personal responsibility”. One could easily argue (as he has) that it is the cornerstone of both the Constitution and Libertarianism.Among the positions Ron Paul has taken:

  • SCHIP, Medicare, LIHEAP should all be drastically reduced and turned over to the states because people have become victims of a nanny state and no longer take personal responsibility.
  • Tort Reform? Absolutely – people should take personal responsibility for reading and understanding all of the legalese in their mortgages, credit card agreements and medical insurance. If that language is vague or abusive because of a lack of regulation well – tough. The market will point those out to you somehow and you can avoid those agreements.
  • If you cannot afford health care then have a bake sale or some other fundraiser for that expensive life-saving procedure you need. It is no one’s fault but your own that you cannot afford health insurance.
  • Should we just let you die if you lose your job and become gravely ill in between and your state offers no program to help you? Yes – whoever said you had a guaranteed right to care? (This last one he actually said – I believe it was in the 11th or 12th of the 14 televised primary debates).

Perhaps you find all of that to be reasonable.  Welcome to the Ron Paul Responsibility Paradox. You believe that personal responsibility is key. Hell, perhaps you believe it is everything – the very core of a society that is free and successful. Unfortunately, the candidate who has given voice to your ideals does not practice it, not even for one second. What’s more he does not even try to.

From the mid 70s to mid 90s Ron Paul was the publisher of up to four different newsletters at a time. Starting in 1988 those newsletters started to take on a darker and darker racist and homophobic tone, peaking rhetorically from 1992 – 1995. These newsletters included Dr. Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report, The Ron Paul Investment Newsletter and The Ron Paul Political Report. This is not contested by anyone, including Paul himself.

In a 1995 interview with C-SPAN he described the newsletters as one of the ways he remained politically active while out of office:

The following quotes from his newsletters are also uncontested:

  • On race and crime: “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
  • 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.”

And the following excerpt from a subscription offer letter signed by Ron Paul is also uncontested:

Subscription letter excerpt

Naturally Ron Paul is responsible for all of this, right? After all he is the publisher. That does not mean he wrote it. All he did was allow it to be published under his name and under his nose. All he need do is accept responsibility and respond appropriately. Taking responsibility for something is not the same as supporting it.

Yet Ron Paul refuses to take true responsibility for any of it.

He has said he “disavows” the newsletter content, yet he refuses to answer any specific questions about any of the actual articles. When asked if he believes that AIDS victims “enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick” he wont come out and say “no.”  Instead he says “I have already said that I had nothing to do with what was in those newsletters.” Ask him if he believes that black males are “trained to hate whites” and he will tell you that “this was all dealt with years ago.” Ask him if he believes that 95% of black males in DC “are semi-criminal or entirely criminal” and he takes off his mic and walks out of the interview.

He even goes so far as to slap down those who try to help him take responsibility. Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, said that Paul took responsibility for the content of the letter above, even though he likely didn’t agree with the views. A spokesman for Paul responded that Ivers doesn’t speak for the Congressman (see note 2).

The line about DC black males is most important in that it came up in mass media earlier than the rest, before Paul had a chance to hone his story. In 1996 The Dallas Morning News interviewed Ron Paul and asked him about that quote. He did not deny knowing about it, and he did not disavow it. Instead, he defended it as a “fair interpretation” of a study he had read (see note 3). How does he deal with this contradiction to his current claim that he had no idea what was in the newsletters at that time? He just refuses to discuss it, calling it “old news”. He wised up and chose to take his own advice as quoted in a 2000 interview with Houston Monthly, in which he lamented that he really wished he had just “told [the Dallas Morning News] that I never read it.”

A 2008 Article in Reason asserted that “a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists—including some still close to Paul” identified Lew Rockwell as the “chief ghostwriter.” Rockwell, a self described “anarcho-capitalist” (see note 4), denied responsibility for the disputed material and called the accusations “hysterical smears aimed at political enemies” (see note 5). On his own website he is quoted as saying “the state is unnecessary and destructive by its nature – that it cannot improve on, and indeed only destroys, the social and economic system that grows out of property rights, exchange, and natural social authority” (see note 6).

However, when Ron Paul is asked who wrote the pieces in question his only answer is “staff.” He either does not know or refuses to say who on staff. Furthermore Rockwell, who worked for Paul as Chief of Staff from 1978-1982, consultant to his 1988 Libertarian Presidential run, and vice chair of his 1992 Republican Presidential Exploratory Committee remains a close friend of Paul. Rockwell’s website includes a “Ron Paul file” with dozens of articles about and interviews with Paul, all pushing Ron Paul as the only man who can save the USA and claiming that anyone who doesn’t support Ron Paul is a liar, uninformed, a fascist, or a socialist (see note 7).

To recap and expand, which of the following responsible things has Ron Paul done?

  • Answered questions to a specific racist or homophobic excerpt from his newsletters with “no I do not believe that.”
  • Revealed who wrote such horrible things so they can be known for who and what they are.
  • Thanked the state chair who said that Paul does take responsibility.
  • Apologized to anyone who may have been directly or indirectly hurt by what was expressed under his name for so many years.
  • Addressed the Dallas Morning News interview head on.
  • Refused and returned money donated to his campaign by white supremacist groups that have publicly stated that they are donating to him because he shares their beliefs.

None of them. Not a one. The only one of these options he has even addressed is the last one, stating that he will not refuse money from anyone, and that it is not his problem if they mistakenly believe he supports their views.

So, if you believe in the bedrock Ron Paul principle that people must take more personal responsibility for their behavior, that the free market works best by rewarding responsible behavior and punishing irresponsible behavior, that people when left alone can be trusted to do the right thing and will be ostracized in the “marketplace of ideas” when they do not then you clearly have only one choice – to denounce Ron Paul. Your own belief system says you should not support those who cannot be trusted to take responsibility for their actions and refuses to discuss them in the “marketplace of ideas.” You cannot say we need someone new and different who trusts the American people and then support someone who will not come clean with the American people. Even if you accept all of his excuse making, how can you put national policy in the hands of someone who does not have the basic competency to control the content of his own newsletters? Clearly he does not know how to vet those he would hire, and does not hold them responsible when they fail. What kind of a cabinet would such a man have?

So there you have it – the only way to stay true to the philosophy envisioned by Ron Paul is to not vote for Ron Paul. Of course you could dismiss all of this as being unrelated to a Ron Paul presidency and vote for him anyway, after all it is a free country. But if you manage to get him elected, do not expect anyone to take his ideas for a system based on personal responsibility seriously. Therein lies the paradox.


  1. CNN Politics: Ron Paul Newsletters
  2. TPM: Ron Paul Denies Writing Letter On Coming Race War
  3. Dallas News: Paul Faces New Questions About Newsletters
  4. About Lew Rockwell (
  5. Reason: Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?
  6. Doherty, Brian. “Libertarianism and the Old Right.” 1999. Orig. published by 12 May 1999.
  7. Lew Rockwell: The Ron Paul File

The Blog Politicus USA, which bills itself as “Real Liberal Politics ~~ No Corporate Money, No Masters” just ran a piece by “Rmuse” entitled Obama Bashing: The Art Of The Self Defeating Intellectual Elite. The article uses the decision by Jane Hamsher, whose own blog Firedog Lake has been particularly hard on Obama from the left, to side with Lt. Dan Choi in attacking Obama for not making Gay Marriage legal by caveat as a jumping-off point to attack the so-called extreme left for bashing Obama for differentiating between the possible and the righteous yet impossible.

I have my own problems with Hamsher. I think that overall Firedog Lake is an excellent blog, but that she is in fact an extremist who sometimes expects miracles. I also think she serves a purpose in pulling the conversation towards one direction albeit from the extreme end of that direction. I have also read several great pieces on Politicus USA, and applaud them for their efforts to apply reason to some of the more volatile differences in policy today. Besides, the last thing I want is to get involved in a blog-to-blog catfight ( though THIS blog is so small that I am sure neither side will notice my swats). However, I cannot allow the Politicus USA piece to go by without commenting here in the same manner that I did on the site itself.

I can live with the things that Obama hasn’t done. I knew going in that he was a moderate, not a liberal, and that there would be a lot of compromise. I can live with health care not being all it could be. I can live with the stimulus not having been all it could be. I knew he would have to go slow, that he would never go as far as I would like, and it would take him at least into his second term to do the most important things which still wouldn’t be left enough for me. I get that – always did.

What I cannot understand is being called a crybaby, unreasonable, or “lefty extremist” for not supporting the decisions made not out of compromise or under duress, but of his own volition.

Geithner, Summers, and Bernanke – three of the architects of the great recession are in his cabinet. Why? Was it really too high an expectation that he would do nominally better than that?

Until Obama the Espionage Act had been used to charge Americans three times. Obama has used it five times – three for leaking information to the press and two for the press using it. Charges, maybe, but the Espionage act? Lawyers on both sides the country over are flummoxed. How is the treatment of Bradley Manning the result of what he inherited? How about over-ruling the Attorneys for the State Department, the Defense Department, and his own White House Counsel on the War Powers Act? What about the previous administration or a rebellious Congress forced that action?

I hear the Politicus USA supporters who praise the understanding the reality of politics, but after awhile that becomes a left version of Kissinger’s “Real Politik”. Throughout the history of this country the reality of politics has been what we have chosen it to be.  Often that choice has been accompanied by a lot of hard work, great resolve, and the occasional bashed skull. Still it is through these choices that we affect change.

It is not “extreme left” to refuse Obama a pass for behaving like the extreme right. Is the Health Care Act a leap forward in medical care for all? Yes, absolutely. Is ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell a great step for civil rights? Again yes, absolutely. That we will all be getting this health care and right to serve in a country that has become more secretive, more militaristic and more repressive under Obama, things I thought impossible, should be of concern to anyone who cares about this country. He renewed the Patriot Act (which would have failed a veto over-ride), awarded new warrantless surveillance powers to the FBI by executive order, and is using evidence gathered by the CIA on American soil (a violation of law) in one of the most egregious Espionage Act cases. The Irony is while the Tea Partiers are certainly the enemy when it comes to economic policy – the libertarian bent of many of the Republican freshmen makes it easier for him to end this behavior, yet instead he expands it.

I didn’t have blinders on when I voted for him. I’m sure as hell not going to put them on now to avoid being accused of “playing into the hands” of people who he is emulating.

What are you supposed to do when you try to hold the President accountable and he refuses to be held to account? Does knowing what Nixon wound up doing make the left retroactively wrong for going after LBJ for Vietnam? We need to stop thinking left or right, Democrat or Republican, “realism” or “idealism”, and start thinking Right and Wrong. It is the only way we have ever pulled this nation back from the abyss – as we have had to do more than once in our brief history.

Two things I have often been vocal about:

  • A person’s sex life is their own damn business, unless a crime against another has been committed.
  • Anthony Weiner, blind spot to AIPAC not withstanding, is one of the best and brightest I have ever seen.

So, I suspect the following will come as a surprise to a lot of people I know.

Weiner should resign.

I couldn’t care less what Weiner said in his texts, and who he said them to. It is no one’s business.

The reason I call for his resignation is an issue that is largely being missed, and if allowed to stand sets a chilling precedent. I understand why it is being missed, because the press would have to discuss their least favorite subject – themselves. Which is ironic, since in this case the mass media are the good guys, or at least they were until The Posta nd The News both started going with dick jokes as headlines.

I would call Andrew Breitbart a slug, but that would be insulting to slugs. That said, he was telling the truth. He used a media outlet to tell the truth. Weiner called him a liar and then went on to berate a CNN reporter (not the one who had Breitbart on) for not seeing it was a lie.  He did all of this while knowing that Breitbart was telling, and CNN was reporting, the truth.

Everyone keeps talking about how well Weiner does his job, and I myself have always been a supporter, but he did not do his job. His job is to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States. When a sitting member of Congress not only lies, but accuses the fourth estate itself of lying he is not protecting the constitution, he is undermining it.

I don’t care if you love him or hate him. The history of this country and how far our government will go is all about precedent – the so-called “slippery slope”. No one left or right, pro-A.W. or Anti-A.W., should be willing to tolerate a sitting elected official trying to get away with painting a news outlet providing accurate information as a shill for false information. The fourth estate must never be used as a tool of lies (Fox News) or be bludgeoned for telling the truth (CNN, Breitbart) by someone in political power. It threatens everything that we need to know our media can be.

This can be a teachable moment. All Weiner needs to do is apologize not to his wife or his constituents but to CNN & Breitbart, state that the people’s representatives have a sworn responsibility not to use or abuse the news organizations in order to deliberately spread false information or counter true information, and then resign. In doing so he would set a new bar, and perhaps be remembered for the size of his conscience and not his penis.

Today was election day in New Jersey, or as we call it here “every third Tuesday”. It seems we are always voting for something. This time it was State Assembly primaries as well as voting who you wanted from your party to take on leadership party positions in your ward. Two friends of mine, Pam Andes and Eric Fleming, won those two coveted spots in my Ward. In doing so they lessened the control of the behemoth-like Hudson County Democratic Organization on the party. Given the corruption that has swollen in the HCDO due to decades of nearly unchallenged power this is a very good thing that greatly increases the chances of our FINALLY electing a non-HCDO Democrat Mayor in 2013. This happened a few places city wide as the result of a concentrated effort by those supporting Steven Fulop for Mayor in 2013 to have party influence in the wards come election time. BTW – the one thing every one of the felons caught in the FBI sting last year had in common was they were members of the HCDO.

Why am I bringing this up? Last week the Democratic National Committee announced that it would eschew the “50 State Initiative” methodology used in the 2008 Presidential campaign in lieu of a more traditional campaign that will allow them to focus large amounts of money on “states in play”. Even in the days of Citizens United, this is a mistake – as you would have thought they learned just this last year.

For those who don’t know, the 50 State Initiative was the campaign spending strategy for the Presidency, Senate and House seats put in place in 2008 by Howard Dean, then DNC Chairman, in 2008 – over the loud objections of Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emmanuel (the chairs of the Democratic Senate and Congressional Campaign Committees respectively at the time). The idea was to disperse campaign funds and support everywhere, including traditionally Republican communities, rather than the traditional pouring of money only into areas where you were not a shoe-in but had a shot according to polls.

The 50 State strategy was essential to Obama’s victory, as was Obama’s own successful grass roots movement. There were places where Obama’s coattails brought other Democrats into the House and Senate, but there were also many places where Democrats have not traditionally been competitive that the 50 State initiative brought into the fold. In those states it was often the down-ticket candidates that gave Obama wings thanks to the renewed interest of the party. You also cannot underestimate how the 50 state initiative negatively impacted Republican spending. The Republicans used a traditional strategy. When Dean started spending DNC funds heavily in Michigan it caught the Republicans completely by surprise, without enough time to kill the Democratic momentum, and wound up giving up on a large state that they thought they had in the bag. Moves like that were devastating to the Republicans.

I believe that Obama has been an okay President under the circumstances, and has the potential to be a great president in a second term, but getting there is going to take a lot more than the Republicans having a lousy field. Without having carried so many independents in 08 Obama would have lost. Even more importantly, without the historically high turn out of the youth vote he would have lost handily. Ever since the voting age was lowered to 18 the 18-24 vote held steady at 6-7% of those eligible. In 2008, the work of Dean, Obama, Rock The Vote, Vote For Change, and many other organizations pushed that to to 20%. This was the only age demographic that was both predominantly white AND predominantly Obama. The math is simple. If you drop them back down to 6-7% eligible voting, then even at the same percentage of support Obama would have lost.

Why do I bring this up? Because the 18-24 vote dropped back to 6% of eligible in 2010. While it is true that once you become a voter you usually stay a voter, the new class will still be enough to make a difference. It is in the end all just math. In a country like ours that is still predominantly split down the middle with a growing independent streak, if you don’t win the independents and you don’t get the youth out to vote and you are Barack Obama – you lose. We can keep praying that the Republicans choose a wing nut because it helps the chances, but choosing a wing nut is not a guarantee of victory by any stretch of the imagination. As we have learned, there is a surprising number of wing nut voters out there. If they do NOT choose a wing nut and instead actually go with someone like Romney this could be VERY close.

You want to make sure progressives wins in 2012? Then you better be ready to work as hard, or harder, than you did in 2008.

This past Friday was the 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park Riot – The day that attendees of a concert in the park and the police clashed in what turned out to be a violent melee that would consume headlines, courtrooms and investigators for years and, according to the New York Times, marked the beginning of the end for “Alphabet City” and the birth of what is today called the East Village.  The NY Times City Room Blog “commemorating ” the anniversary,  A Turning Point for the East Village, 20 Years Later tells the story of a neighborhood on a slow boil finally erupting and paints the police as being caught up in something they lost control of. Unfortunately, the NY Times has it wrong. It was not the beginning of the end of Alphabet City, It was really the end of the beginning of the East Village.

Put aside that the NY Times (then, but apparently no longer) reached the conclusion that the escalation in violence was the fault of the police. The reality is still that the neighborhood did not explode one day. It was systematically and intentionally dismantled over the course of several years.

I lived at 9th St between 1st and A for nearly 2 years starting in the late fall of 1987 , and can say for certain that the Times is quick to dismiss what the neighborhood was then. It was much more than crack dealers and trust fund hippies, and the conditions were more the fault of the city and Reaganomics than anything else. Many who lived around the Park were artists pushed out of the West Village they had made livable by the increasing rents, just as they had been pushed out of Soho before that. Others were legitimate protesters squatting in buildings to bring attention to the city falsely condemning buildings and demolishing them so that developers could get cut-rate deals at a time of a massive low-cost housing shortage. Finally, the police of the 9th district back then were brutal.

In 1988 a filmmaker friend was staying in a squat on 6th Street between Avenues B & C shooting a documentary about the squatter movement. He would come by my place in order to shower. I learned from him that the squatters were an organized movement trying to get the city to require low-income set-asides from developers. They were NOT drug addicts and dysfunctional people. In fact, such behavior was not tolerated. One did not just “choose” to move into a squat. For all intents and purposes the process of getting a place in a squat was not unlike applying for a co-op. The city had condemned the building but the squatters got a court stay pending an independent assessment of the building’s condition.

A few months later, on a Friday, that assessment was released. It concluded that there was no reason to condemn the building; it just needed repairs. The next step was for the court to review the assessment and then hopefully negotiate with, or failing to do so order, the city to resolve the differences.

That Sunday the police, in full riot gear, sealed off 5th -10th Streets from Avenues B to D and brought in demolition equipment. I was unaware of this as I cut through the park to visit a friend who lived (legally) on 9th Street between Avenues B & C. At the eastern exit of the park I hit upon a line of riot police. I told one where I was going and why and was told in turn that unless I actually could show that I lived there I could not “enter the quarantined zone”. I asked under what authority had the neighborhood been “quarantined”. Obviously there was not a health or disaster issue as legal residents were being allowed into their homes and no one was in hazmat gear. The police officer just turned his back to me, along which the entire line five men up and down. I headed to the Southeast corner, where there was a command truck, to ask the same question.

A crowd of onlookers had grown, with a few people chanting slogans about taking back the neighborhood, but no one acting in a threatening manner. As I started to speak but was cut off before I could get past “Excuse me, could you tell..” with “Please step back sir”. It is worth noting that while a year earlier I would have instantly been branded a “hippie”, by this time I looked more like a recent NYU grad. I had short hair, was casually but well dressed and in my mid 20s. I was not close enough to the cop to touch him. I started again with ” I just want to know…” when he shoved his night stick in my ribs, knocking me back into the crowd behind me. The entire line then turned inward and a megaphone barked “The park is now closed, you must leave immediately” and before anyone had a chance to respond the cops crossed batons and systematically marched across the  park shoving everyone back to Avenue A and reestablishing the line. This put the squat out of view.

The next day I would learn that immediately after this the police went into the squat, forcefully removed the squatters, gathered all of the squatters’ belongings, and threw them off the roof of the six story building. Later that night I listened from my bedroom window as the building was knocked down. Similar events would play themselves out with an increasing regularity over the next 3 years under both Dinkins and Giuliani.

The press treatment of the “riot” of 1991 made what had been going on for so long seem like a sudden development. The story, as told then and recounted this Friday in the Times, is that of a neighborhood destroyed by those who resided within it. The reality, of a neighborhood under siege by the 9th precinct and the Mayor for years, with most residents much more frightened of the cops than the addicts and mental patients forced into the park by the closing of shelters and treatment programs, has been lost to history. The Times has apparently even forgotten its own coverage of the police behavior,now treating what they once called a “police riot” as a mistaken reading of the situation. But those of us who lived it remember  a neighborhood striving to turn itself from a drug den into an arts community only to be forced backwards by a combination of Reaganomics and developer greed. A neighborhood that was not slowly gentrified but rather destroyed by a “push them into the sea” policy for the homeless and mentally ill, and then forcefully seized by the same people who had made a fortune off of the results and didn’t want to have to wait as long for round two.

Today my old neighborhood is largely condos or apartments so expensive I could not imagine renting one.

Just this week I read yet another article about the complete failure of the plan to rescue the millions of hard working Americans who were not only encouraged but practically plead with by the Bush Administration to buy a home only to find themselves left underwater by the deregulation that started with Reagan and never really stopped.  As I look back on 1991 I do not see the birth of an improved neighborhood that the NY Times sees. Rather I see a bellwether for what this nation would become, a land where people are first pushed into a living situation and later forced out of it not because of their behavior, but because of the endless greed of those who already want for nothing.

Many of my friends have expressed a great degree of discomfort over the rejoicing and revelry following the death of Usama Bin Laden. I can understand that. As a pacifist I too believe that most often violence begets violent. However, I do not believe that violence ALWAYS begets violence. This may be related to my thoughts on the Holocaust (what if we had bombed the train lines, even though they were technically civilian infrastructure?). It may also be related to my nearly zealous belief that there is no such thing as “always”, except MAYBE in physics – and even then Stephen Hawking has made a career largely poking holes in Albert Einstein’s work.


One of the hardest things for me when I was younger was to trust my gut instincts. I do that much more often now, and they have so far steered me in the right direction; and something in my gut tells me this is right. As I walked to the Path Station at Ground Zero last night for my daily ride home I could palpably feel it in the air, as if it was all lighter somehow. The press cameras and large police presence were back on a level I had not seen since the station first re-opened, but the feeling of dread that has filled me with in the past was missing. I could feel it in the people around me too. Suddenly this was a train station under construction now, not a trek through the unthinkable. As corny as it sounds, it was as if the weight of all of the souls trapped in the rubble had been pressing against the walls of the station, but now they were gone.


So I will not rejoice, but I will certainly feel relief. For better or for  worse, the reality is that some people are dangerous as long as they are alive, and they are so because they made themselves that way. Bin Laden  chose a life (he was rich, educated, and privileged) in which he knew that he could almost certainly never be taken alive (though according to the NY Times he was apparently offered the opportunity). No “enemy” could risk giving him a pulpit while he was alive and on trial, risk  the scorn of isolating him if they did not, and allow him to continue to  ‘martyr’ thousands, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. No nation could bury his body and not risk creating a shrine. In the end, Bin Laden must have known this. In the end, this was  his choice.


So again no, I will not rejoice, but I will feel better knowing that he is no longer in this world, and I will even admit to feeling a certain satisfaction in knowing that the man who killed an ex-housemate of mine, a friend’s niece, and fourteen of an ex-girlfriend’s closest  friends, is no longer out there somewhere.


Does this make me less of a pacifist? I don’t think so. Violence almost always begets violence, but sometimes in the darkest moments it also serves to end it.

Mon., Feb 28 – 9:00 AM:

Plenary Session: The American Role in the Middle East

Speaker: Ambassador Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region

Moderator: Kate Seelye, VP of Programs and Communications, Middle East Institute

Panel: Bernard Avishai – Author and Adjunct Professor of Business at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Roger Cohen – NY Times Columnist, Daniel Levy – New America Foundation


Ross: What everyone thought speech would be about has obviously changed. Today a month in the Middle East seems like a lifetime. No one could have imagined a middle east without Mubarak and Ben Ali. Now is a time of uncertainty.

It became clear immediately on March 25th that things would change. An increasing dynamism from the youth was unseen – a fatal miscalculation by the Egyptian Government. Unable to open up, so they resorted to all they knew, oppression. The death of Alid Seid in June for blogging was the start, an FB page was formed with 130,000 members and later when the google exec who started it was arrested and released it was his impassioned plea that may have pushed it over the edge.

Not only us, but those who were moving towards reform from within believed it would have to be slow, that “most citizens would remain absent from political life.” The youth of the Jan 25th movement showed all Egyptians how to overcome their fear, abd they came together under unity of purpose.

The conversation between Obama an Mubarak started BEFORE Jan 25th as Obama pushed Mubarak to lift the emergency law. Now we are committed to helping in any way we can, working under the understanding that we support a government of institutions, not personalities.


9:15 PM:

The military now has responsibilities for which it has no training, the transition from military to civilian rule, and we are encouraged by its early communiques, including its intent to keep to the rules of the peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt leads in the region, but each country has its own differences. However the growing revolts prove that in the end suppression does not pay. Bahraini Royal Family now talking with all aspects of Bahraini society and Algeria has lifted its 19 year state of emergency, but these are just beginnings. Qaddafi has lost all legitimacy and has to leave NOW. Over the past six months the White House has had a working group on reforming the Middle East and American Policy to do so. That work has helped us to react and hopefully now guide and shape, what is occurring.

We have not lost sight through all of this on our other regional responsibilities, including our commitments to security, to an Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and containing Iran. Working on unilateral steps with the European Union to be taken in Libya. UN vote was first ever unanimous vote to refer a leader to the international criminal country.

Egypt traditionally has been a setter of behavior in the Middle East. It is important at this time to restate the Obama Administration’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. As someone who has served in five administration there has never been a time that the pact of security between Israel and United States has been stronger than it is today.

If there is one lesson to be learned here, it is that there is a danger to beicoming stuck in the status quo. The longer the Palestinian conflict goes on, the more difficult to end. Will not speak to what is specifically being done, but will talk about the tone.

Many clocks ticking. First is the demographic clock that ticks and works against the Zionist dream of a democratic Israel state. There is also a biological clock ticking. As the old guard leaves the new guard must know that peace is a possibility despite what they have seen. Third is a technology shift, rocket technology for example will make it easier for Hamas to disrupt wuth violence.

“The only path to peace is through negotiation. There is no other.” Just as Arab governments used Israel as an excuse to not deal with internal issues, they now must step away from that to deal with those internal issues. (Author’s note: Tone implies that At the same time Israel cannot use the dangers of Palestinians to supress conversation of its own domestic problems)

Iran has tried to claim responsibility for changes in Egypt, but Egypt and the world have rejected this and see the hypocrisy in how it treats its own people. Iran’s attempts to obfuscate and resist serious negotiations will only lea to more pressure. “We reamin determined to prevent Iran from gaining Nuclear weapons and we will not be deflected from that goal.”

Complex intertwined agenda in Midle East that administration is committed to pursuing with great vigor.

9:30 PM:

Discussion with Ross and Moderator

Moderator: Isn’t it time for a new peace initiative from US.?

Ross: 1 – We have to fin a careful balance. 2 – Sec Clinton said in a speech that we would be working with each side in patrallel over time so that the US can make bridging proposals over time. We have meetings with negotiators next week.

Mod: But isnt it time to make some of these bridging proposals public?

Ross; Repeates that the status quo is unsustainable and doing the things that move in the right direction (Author’s note – not an answer)

Mod: Admin’s thinking on Palestinian recent moves towards recognition

Ross: one thing that is clear is that unilateral moves do not lead to peace unless agreed on behind the scenes. They do not address the differeces between the parties that must be resolved for peace. There is no desire to have negotiations for their own sake. Peace becomes more important in these times not less.

Mod: Expand on what we expect from Egypt re Cold Peace, Gaza, etc.?

Ross: It is a time of uncertainty. There is cooperation between Egypt and Israel is ongoing. It is in Egypt’s interest that the peace become warmer not colder. Cold peace was the result of a government that sought legitimacy through a derived fashion, such as support of Palestinian statehood. If internal changes create greater legitimacy a warmer peace becomes possible and more sensible.

Mod: Do you see such changes in the P.A.?

Ross: Yes, the PA has taken concrete steps towards building institutions and that is helping to change how their own people look at them.

9:45 PM, Panel Discussion on Obama Aministration’s handling of the Peace Process and Ross’ speech:

Seelya (to Cohen): Have written that parties have come really close but were relying on bridging proposals. How do you feel about what Ross said in that context?

Cohen: Ross said negotiation is the only way. That is partially true. “We need a little more Dr. Kissinger and a little less Dr. Phil.” There is no way for the US gov’t to win over midle eastern youth without seeming to help the Palestinians, and if so are bilateral negotiations the best way to produce it? If you look at what has happened over 5 administrations it is “misguided” to believe that relying JUST on negotiations will produce a settlement. Ithink that the chances that they alone will produce are real are NIL. However, the results of ANY good negotiation is “No”. The elements of the deal are “no”, so the question is why is the administration not embracing the ideas that are rejected publically. The US needs to give a “political horizon” to the Arab and Israeli streets. Obamadoes not have to win a diplomatic victory by getting both sides to accept it’s proposals, but rather by getting world opinion to rally around those proposals.

Admin thinks it’s purpose is to get the parties to yes. That is not true. The US place is to organize an international position on the need for a palestinian state and Israeli support. Create an international pressure by forming international opinio – THAT is a diplomatic victory for the U.S. As long as we try to deal with direct negotiations we will continue to not propose things just because we know Netenyahu will reject them

Dan Levi: Let’s focus on the sentence “The status quo is unsustainable”. But you have to define WHAT about the status quo is unsustainable to build confidence 18 years after Oslo between an occupying people and an occupied people that we an simply say that is not real. We need to find a new language. Lieberman is the demon child of a language that looks at this issue purely in terms of demographics. What part of our relationship with Israel is showing them reality and how much is showing them that what they are doing is not supportable and sustainable. The Egyptian peace model was a cold peace between security apparatuses sustained by US $$$, not between two governments and peoples. You cannot be on the side of Arab Freedom if you are NOT on the side of Palestinian Freedom. We are not going to get a school of progressivism to burst forth overnight in Israel, but we have seen from the Knesset members here that we are seeing a school of realism bloom. Now the question is what signal do WE send – is it the wake up call or the suicidal continuation of the status quo.” Sometimes we DO have to make life harder by dealing with the facts?” I we want a two state model there are going to be some difficult things for Israel to rap it’s head around, but it has too. Examples: 1 – Land trades. It is easy to talk about %s in the West Bank, but without a defensibly designed border it is meaningless. 2 – Security – If we are going to have a real Palestinian state that does not include a continued desire for Israeli territory they MUST have real borders under their own control. Finally, the plan must not be a plan with just the PA even though he believes in strength of our partners it ony works if all of Fatah, the Palestinian people and yes, Gaza, are part of the process.

10:10 PM:

Moderator to Avishai: Your take?

Avishai: A new Middle East requires a new Israel. Ross talks about the need for change in the region, but not about how we have supported the old regimes. This is an opportunity for us to align our policies with our ideals by truly working with these new democracies. This is the first time in ages that people have a place to meet in private other than a mosque (note: speaker was in Tahir Square for the revolution). these people for the first time in their lives feel their lives have value and do NOT feel dependent on others. Al Qaeda notably sat all of this out. Fayyad’s moves to make a state are promising, and Israel’s knee jerk rejection of that process is a serous mistake. Israel must be ushered away from this seige mentality that cannot SEE the glimmer of possibility. The word “process'” makes him die a little inside. What do great leaders do? They seize a moment! That is what is happening. We have been told that this was an age of authoritarianism, but it has proven not to be. Ross said we are in a period of uncertainty, but in reality we are in a period of HOPE. Ben Simon asked him this morning why has the President not yet gone to Israel. Now, he thinks Obama is doing a good ob, but can do better, It is time for Obama to go to Jerusalem, put Israelis at ease about US support, but also usher them to see the possibilities of Peace. What could be more radicalizing and push us back again more than another war? It is in our interests in the whole region to make sure violence does not break out in the territories. There has to be a quid-pro-quo. Israel HAS to give something in response to Fayyad’s work to build institutions. Also, the UN Veto was odd in that we essentially vetoed what we have stated as our belief – we vetoed our own words.


10:25 PM:

Moderator to Avishai: With elections coming up in Palestine and these other deadlines, how do we move these things forward.

Avishai: How do we push past the 32% of Israeli “Judeans” that everyone living on the coast don’t want to confront over Jerusalem. This is why many Israelis need a US plan, because those who believe in GLOBAL Israel don’t want to confront those who believe in GREATER ISRAEL, and think they don’t have to because US has it’s back. If US presents a blueprint that makes it clear that it supports GLOBAL Israel and that the people who believe in that HAVE to act o put pressure on that happening or they will lose that US help, and that Tipni Livni is the conduit to that, then the change will happen.

Levy: We talk about consequences, but Israelis wake up every day to the status quo with no consequences. The removal of the fear of Israel’s own existence can only happen if they stop building walls and are no longer the occupiers. What does friendship mean? If Israel is to make hard decision then her friends have to make hard decisions.

Moderator to COhen: What about Iran’s gains out of all of this?

Cohen: This is an old, tired regime. There is not one in these new revolutions who are inspired by the Iranian regime, which is incompetent. The idea that Israel should not pursue piece with Palestinians because of an existential threat from Iran is absurd.


Now on to a iscussion about the 800 lb guerilla in the room; Hamas, more ina few!


10:50 AM:

Panel: What About Hamas?

Chair: Stephen McInerney – E.D., Project on Middle East Democracy

Moderator: Robert Malley, Director, Middle East and North Africa Program of International Crisis Group

Panel: Ron Pundak – Director General of Perse Center for Peace, H.E. Jean-Daniel Ruch – Special Rep for the middle East for the Swiss Confederation, Marwan Bishara – Sr. Political Analyst for Al Jazeera

McInerney: All assumptions now have to be questioned now, including assumptions about Hamas, some of which are wrong in the first place. First question to Bishara. How does Egypt impact Israel an Hamas?

Birshawa: General Strokes – If we continue on assumption that freedom is sweeping through the region, then Palestine will not be exempt, and if democracy is sweeping, the same is true. I cannot see Egypt under these circumstances maintaining the siege. The Muslim Brotherhood will have an official political arm in Egypt. This is a challenge for underground movements to have to present its programs and processes. Hamas will gain strength, Abbas will be weakened, and spotlight will be on Israel. Hamas said in 2007 that it would allow PLO to negotiate for them and will honor PLO agreements in place subject to new agreements being voted on.

Mod: Same question to Pudak.

Pudak: Disagrees, see NO connection between what is happening in the rest of the Middle East and Hamas. The PLO in the 80s was a NATIONAL movement who did not like but accepted the Fait accompli of Israel when it moved towards peace. Hamas, on the other hand, is a RELIGIOUS movement. The intifadah was not the beginning of a process of peace but a process by which by 2027 Israel will dissappear. THIS is the long term vision of Hamas. They are not interested in peace. You cannot ignore Hamas writings because they say so. When Hamas says it wil work with PLO it is a step towards taking over and dominate PLO and move it in another direction. HAMAS is very pragmatic organization, they moved INTO terrorism when it was popular and moved out of it when it lost popularity. They respond to their followers, they are much more sophisticated. We see the pragmatism in the Nekab agreement (2007), bending within the situation is not acceptanc, it is bending yourself to fit into a situation so you can change it. The change has to happen amongst Hamas SUPPORTERS, because that could trickle up. For now, HAMAS acceptance of a Palestinian State is NOT the same as aceptance of an Israeli state. Perhaps if between now and 2027 we have a Palestinian state we will have the time to do that and work them into a political process. Disagrees with Dennis Ross that integration is needed before agreement. He thinks agreement must come before reconciliation for Hamas to live side by side with Israel.

Mod: to Pundak for later – why would Hamas go along with an agreement before reconciliation, but first to RUch, what role do you see?

Ruch – We believe Hamas is an actor because we recognize the results of the 2006 elections. The question still remains how do you bring them into the process? Hamas has said it will cease violence as soon as the occupation ended, and will accept the 67 borders. But once ou start discussing security internally or East Jerusalem they still have no internal debate going on that they need because they are not part of the peace process. (Author’s note: That is a poor excuse). Hamas had a main driving force to try to be recognized by West until Israel – Lebanon and US-Iraq there was less of a line towards that, thus less of a need to moderate. Thus do not feel a need to make any moves. For this to happen west neds to make real moves – which means reognize democratic process incluing a unity government resulting from free and fair palestinian elections and have a reconciled gov’t because than peace can happen. Also, we need to discuss Syria, but what risk do we take by taking Hamas at its word? Do we take risk by letting themino the elections. The problem is that looking at their leadership in West Bank may not be in align with what their Palestinian peoples want. The Access Restrictions have provoked hardship without weakening Hamas, so the access restrictions must be waived to some degree and take initiative to have a controlled opening of borders with third party monitoring to keep out weapons and do not oppose the moves towards inter-palestinian relations within the palestinian camp.

Mod: to Pundak, idea that you need to negotiate peace with parties with broad support. How do you do that and who talks with whom?

Pundak: Rabin and Arafat exchanged letters recognizing each other an recognizing PLO as speaking for Palestinian people, so PLO is the “address” and whoever appears at that “address” is whom we have to talk with. We want to end the conflict with the Palestinians,but Abbas today is very much representative. We believe that if their was an election tonight for President, Abbas would win, we know it. If their are elections and Hamas boycotts they lose meaning, but Hamas is a one election party. They partook in the last elections to seize power – they are not interested in democracy. We also know that Hamas people in Gaza, in a way Israel still are occupiers in Gaza, go before the Arab League as it is becoming will be in support. Hamas does have to be a part of it, but cannot be allowed to be a spiler (Author’s note: It’s not my typing, his answer was all over the place).

Birshawa: You can quote Hamas Charter, Likud Charter, Shas charter. This linear debate has been going on for years and is boring. How do we frame this question? Everything lse falls from that. “Is this a question of Israeli existence or of Palestinian dispossession? Is this a question of Israeli Security or Palestinian Independence?” How you frame these questions. The first 20 years between 67 and 87, both Israelis and Palestinians lived better than they do today. This has not been a peace process, it has been a war process. It is this framework, is this a zero-sum game? Is this Israel at any cost? We condemn Hamas for being an Islamist movement when Israelis even the atheists see it as a Jewish state, democratic second. These people need to negotiate how they can live together in one state IF THEY CHOOSE. Thanks to Likud behavior, separating them in two states is becoming impossible. How do you get all of these people to move. That time is running out. The other choice is that Israel through occupation cannot maintain democracy and may also be swept away. i think Israel can have peace without more of the same peace process.

12:15 PM:

Sorry, was waiting on line to wait to ask a question, Namely about trust. How is trust built when both sides say things in contrary to what they do, when Hamas says they will stop violence when the occupation ends, putting a cease fire AFTER peace and Israel says settlements are on the table but keep spending on Settlements.

Pundak: Trust requires the leaders of both sides to make bold statements as to what they are committed to so they show they can manage those who will try to spoil it. We ned a bold statement from the leaders.

Ruch: I trust no side – I trust the system, and we need a real system for peace. As for a cease fire, Hamas has kept its word in the past on cease fires so I trust them on that (Author’s note: If it is not obvious to you by now that the “neutral” Swiss are very supportive of Hamas then I need to become a better writer.)

Q: How do you respond to Statements from Hamas that Israel will dissolve?

Q: Are the settlements violation of the Geneva Convention?

Q: (From a holocaust survivor) We tried to enter Gaza bringing toys for children, water cleaning machines, harmonicas, etc., and when we showed this to the (arab) navy an they through the harmonicas in the water. When do we learn the way that we make pecae is to make our enemies into friends?

Birshawa:On first point. I think Hamas an Fatah can reconcile. As one Palestinian would say, “If only Israelis unerstood how much we fear their fear”.

Pundak: Question of Settlements and Geneva is beside the point, Settlements have to end.

Q: Did Israel bite itself in the foot by not making peace with Syria?

Q: Palestinian friend says Abbas would not win. How do you negotiate with a Palestinian govt that is not legitimate?

Q: How do Palestinians trust Israelis when they can’t even by a house in a Jewish neighborhood.

Ruch: A – Yes, they made a mistake with Syria. B – Can’t hold fair electons now. C- Both shell firings and settlements violate international law an the solution must run aroud that.

Birshawa: When one looks at the balance sheet Israel did not miss a chance to miss a chance at Peace in the last 50 years. Maybe we could imagine that if the region does flourish to be more democratic than the arab initiative will be back on the table, and that once Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan come to the table with an Israeli partner capable of taking risks and dealing with the larger question not from fear or a cynical view but from seizing an opportunity that could be the key to real peace.

Pundak: Let us hope that the good will win, that those who want to see peace from both sides will prevail, and let us remember that it is the responsibility of all of us to make this happen.


As people are leaving the Holocaust Survivor is playing Shalom Aleichem on one of the harmonicas he spoke of. Very touching moment.

Now to a press conference with Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J- Street. I may not be able to blog from it. If I can’t I will report on it after.

12:30 PM:

At the press conference and recording it. Will post with notes right after.

1:00 PM:

I came into the Press Conference  partway through due to the location and the other session running long. After he played Shalom Aleichem the Holocaust Survivor (sorry, I did not get his name) played a Palestinian song. Again pretty special.

So I walked in on an answer that I did not record, but it is worth mentioning even without the question. Ben – Ami was stating that the one and only political litmus test for speaking here was that you believed in Israel’s right to exist.   I will be editing the sound file later, as it is too big to upload, and will post tonight as it’s own blog peace.

Next up is training for lobbying tomorrow, which I will NOT be blogging from. Next post should be around 3:00.



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