Archive for March, 2011

Wisconsin: Famed home state of Joe McCarthy

March 11, 2011 Comments off

Look what’s happening in his home state. There is a right-wing revolution right here in the US and the Republicans have hood-winked middle America. The concentration of wealth in this country since George Bush took office is staggering.

And while there is no question that union pensions/wages/work rules need to be reigned in for municipal workers all over the country – to use it as an excuse to throw collective bargaining out the window is an egregious misuse of power in my mind. It is also a chicken-shit way to go. Instead of negotiating “like a man – (or a tough minded woman for that matter)”, Walker says – we’ll just change the rules to eliminate any power the competition might have.

Kind of like saying to the Packers – you are in the Super Bowl, but by the way, your players can’t get together to practice beforehand. Good luck!

If you are going to change the rules – why not just tell the unions “we must abrogate the contract or the state will go bankrupt and essentially we won’t have the money to pay you anyhow. Come to the table and let’s work out something that we can all live with.”

Categories: Israel

Knesset to hold hearings on J Street being “anti-Israel”. As Shakespeare might say: “I think the lady doth protest too much”

March 11, 2011 Comments off

Check this out in the Jerusalem Post This is really unbelievable. [It is even more outrageous than the Muslim hearings that took place today by Rep Peter King] – but ultimately it really shows 1) what a force J Street is becoming – but also 2) how scary internal Israeli politics is becoming. In a sense, the fact of this hearing taking place, only proves J Street’s point that Israel democracy is in jeopardy. It seems that J Street’s actions are creating fear in Israel’s right wing – they fear that if people really listen to J Street it will expose their policies for what they are.

Categories: Israel

Saad Ibrahim on the Egyptian Revolution at the CCGA: “Young People are Deciding the Fate of their Societies”

March 9, 2011 Comments off


Saad Eddin Ibrahim

Saad Eddin Ibrahim is the real deal when it comes to the Egyptian revolution.  Although his current title is the Wallerstein Distinguished Visiting Professor, Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, Drew University, what he has been through does a much better job of explaining who he is.  He was put on trial in Egypt for his anti-Mubarek activities (including founding the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies), convicted twice and sentenced to seven years of hard labor.  He served 15 months before being acquitted by Egypt’s highest court.   He walked with a cane to the podium at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA) and began to explain his take on the recent flood of revolutions in the Middle East.  As he completed his formal talk, he moved to sit down in a chair for the Q&A.  As he gingerly moved to seat himself, he quipped:  “I used to be a marathoner; look what prison does to you.”  I couldn’t tell whether it was a small joke juxtaposing his current portly appearance, or the straight truth.

In addition to talking broadly about the political history of the region, he made several interesting comments:

  • The difference in this revolution:  It was begun by youth, supported solely by non-violent civilians, and then the military stayed neutral and actually protected the demonstrators from the police
  • This was unbelievable:  He explained that the revolution really took off on Day 3 when the government shut off internet and cell phone service.  Why?  Up until then most of the demonstrators where under 30.  When cell phone access got shut off, their parents could not reach them, so the parents went down to Tahrir Square to try to find their kids to see if they were OK.  When they got there, the atmosphere was like a street fair – so they stayed!  That virtually tripled participation in one day (1 child + 2 parents = 3 people)
  • He commented (as have others) that he was not aware of any anti-American slogans being chanted.  This was about Egyptians taking responsibility for themselves; not placing blame on someone else
  • He strongly recommends that the West deal with the Muslim Brotherhood respectfully.  They should be allowed to participate as long as they accept the basic premise of the democracy.  If we do that, he says that it is likely that the system will develop similarly to many of the Central and Eastern European countries or Turkey.  While some may be skeptical of a Muslim religious democratic party, he said that the concept is comparable to the Christian Democratic parties in Europe.
  • He said that during the first few days of the demonstrations, he virtually “slept” at the White House – acting in an advisory capacity.  Although Obama was criticized (and continues to be criticized) for his “passivity”, it was Ibrahim’s comment that the Administration was very concerned not to “scare” the Saudis, by appearing to drop Mubarek too quickly.  The Saudis could easily interpret that as a sign of what could happen to them.

Ibrahim is in Chicago as part of a very special day of learning TOMORROW, March 9, at Northwestern:  The Shifting Sands of Hegemonic Powers in the Middle East.  Looks like a fabulous program – I’m sorry I won’t be able to go.

Word of the Day: “Unprecedented”

March 1, 2011 Comments off

The J Street Conference ended today.

There was a lot of good information – straight, no chaser..
There was a lot of insightful analysis.
There was a lot of nuance.
There was a lot of learning.
Most of all there was a lot of energy.

And, if there was one overwhelming theme that permeated the conference, the theme was that we have entered into a period of unprecedented change in the Middle East. Dennis Ross politely characterized as a “Period of Uncertainty”. The implication of this for almost all of the speakers was obvious: with events unravelling so quickly and with little predictability, it is imperative to move the Peace Process along swiftly and strongly.

And, although Ross went on to say that President Obama believes that the world is changing – and will continue to change because there is a new generation of youth rising in the Arab world. And he further believes that we “need to be ahead of the curve”. Further, Ross went on to say that we “can’t get stuck in the unsustainable status quo”. Then, remarkably, he followed that up by saying “Negotiations are the only way forward.” And proceeded to lay out a meager list of activities the Administration was taking that were clearly dwarfed by the gravity of the situation. Essentially, he presented the same concepts that have guided US policy for the past twenty or so years.

Thinking about this, I like to use common sense logic. Let’s examine this. Ross clearly indicated that we are in a period of uncertainty which requires us to stay ahead of the curve. Yet the policy recommendations are essentially the Same Old, Same Old.

Virtually every other speaker agreed about the conditions, but drew a very different conclusion. The conclusion is that time is extremely limited and we need to be pro-active and dynamic with our policies. If not, we shall almost certainly stay behind the curve – which means that eventually the heady perfume of democracy and freedom will waft across the borders into the West Bank and Gaza. As one J Street leader asked me – what will the Israelis do when faced with 100,000 non-violent protesters marching through the streets of Hebron? This no longer seems to be a simply theoretical question – because it is likely that if the Palestinians and Israelis continue with the same Mexican standoff that has been going on year after year, this will be the result. At that point, there will be few good options.

Again, the situation logically calls for a renewed urgency in making some real progress towards peace so that the Palestinian Street can have some hope. But what is the word from Israel? A congressman that just came back today from meetings there was told by the Israelis: “This is definitely not the time for action”. Frankly, I was dumbfounded. The only explanation that I could come up with for this attitude was that the Israeli government continues to feel they can ‘ride out the storm’ – despite the fact that virtually every observer can see that what is happening in the Arab world has taken on a power of its own. It appears that the strongest country in the Middle East – by almost every measure – is being paralyzed by fear. While there are clear risks of taking some bold actions towards solving the problems, given the events of the last 8 weeks, I believe that the risks of doing nothing are much, much larger.

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