News and Opinion Based on Facts

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween !!

The Raven
By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Is Occupy Wall Street Antisemitic?

Although it does appear, at times, particularly in Oakland, to be left or anarchic, there is room for all sane viewpoints in the #Occupy Wall Street movement. 
There is not room for antisemitism, and those types of people are not influential in this movement.
I have seen the reports of antisemitism, and my view, supported by most reporters, is that the episodes of antisemitism were rare, and not associated with #Occupy Wall Street.

That being said, there are otherwise decent people who are wrong about Israel.
Their opinion is based on emotions and incorrect facts.
And misinterpretation of facts.
I am afraid many of the people that I am aware of that oppose Israel's policies period, no matter what they are, without exception, are not antisemitic, in fact, the nastiest opponent of Israel that I have dialogued with was Jewish.
Secular, radical left, but Jewish, and rabidly anti Israel.
But she wasn't antisemitic.
It's a mistake to automatically label those who disagree with our view of the situation in Israel as antisemitic, even though they may do as much harm, maybe more, than actual antisemites.

I shared a passover Seder with a friend a few years back.
Just a sweet, lovable young woman, who, as you would expect, from someone who seemed very traditional in her Jewishness, was happy with her Jewish identity, went to Synagogue frequently, her mother was a founding member of Haganah....
She was teaching me Hebrew.
At one point we began talking about Israel, and to my shock, she was anti Israel in her views.
But certainly not antisemitic.
She loved her people.
She was confused about the policy issues.

Over time, over weeks, we discussed Israel.
I brought her over to our side Smile

My point is that people who are chanting in favor of Hamas, though certainly mistaken, are not necessarily antisemitic

Even so, if anti Israel actions or dialogue were a significant part of Occupy Wall Street, I would be done with it.

It is not.
I view their "tweets" off and on throughout the evening, and I haven't seen anything antisemitic OR anti Israel.

I'm not saying incidents haven't occurred, I am saying it is extremely insignificant and does not coincide with the goals of the movement.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

“Suicide Of A Superpower,”

What can you say about Pat Buchanan?
Stick him down in the basement with your crazy Aunt?
Pray no one brings him up?
You want to like him; when he’s not ranting he is downright avuncular.
His Irish pride is endearing, after all, the Irish are like the Jews, a small group of people that have spread all over the world and made incredible and valuable contributions to civilization and the liquor  industry.

I thought the following article, a review of Pat’s new book “Suicide Of A Superpower,”   was entertaining:

.JILLIAN RAYFIELD OCTOBER 24, 2011, 5:20 AM 42111 568
Pundit and MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan’s new book, “Suicide Of A Superpower,” is a veritable treasure trove of eye-popping assertions about the decline of America at the hand of increased diversity and multiculturalism.
TPM went through and picked out some highlights, so that you really don’t have to.
From the Preface:
When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, the people die. That is the progression. And as the faith that gave birth to the West is dying in the West, peoples of European descent from the steppes of Russia to the coast of California have begun to die out, as the Third World treks north to claim the estate. The last decade provided corroborating if not conclusive proof that we are in the Indian summer of our civilization.
From the chapter, “The Death Of Christian America”:
Obama’s White House thus enlisted in the long and successful campaign to expel Christianity from the public square, diminish its presence in our public life, and reduce its role to that of just another religion.
From the chapter, “The End Of White America”:
The white population will begin to shrink and, should present birth rates persist, slowly disappear. Hispanics already comprise 42 percent of New Mexico’s population, 37 percent of California’s, 38 percent of Texas’s, and over half the population of Arizona under the age of twenty. ……. Mexico is moving north. Ethnically, linguistically, and culturally, the verdict of 1848 is being overturned. Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution—to “insure domestic tranquility” and “make us a more perfect union”? Or has our passivity in the face of this invasion imperiled our union?
On the group UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. pushing for more diversity in journalism:
Half a century after Martin Luther King envisioned a day when his children would be judged ‘not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,’ journalists of color are demanding the hiring and promotion of journalists based on the color of their skin. Jim Crow is back. Only the color of the beneficiaries and the color of the victims have been reversed.
Also from the chapter, “The End Of White America”:
Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.
From the chapter, “Equality or Freedom?”:
Not until the 1960s did courts begin to use the Fourteenth Amendment to impose a concept of equality that the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address never believed in. Before the 1960s, equality meant every citizen enjoyed the same constitutional rights and the equal protection of existing laws. Nothing in the Constitution or federal law mandated social, racial, or gender equality.
From the chapter “The Diversity Cult”:
Americans who seek stricter immigration control have been charged with many social sins: racism, xenophobia, nativism. Yet none has sought to expel any fellow American based on color or creed. We have only sought to preserve the country we grew up in. Do not people everywhere do that, without being reviled? What motivates people who insist that America’s doors be held open wide until the European majority has disappeared?
What is their grudge against the old America that eats at their heart?
On crime:
If [conservative political commentator Heather] Mac Donald’s statistics are accurate, 49 of every 50 muggings and murders in New York are the work of minorities. That might explain why black folks have trouble getting a cab. Every New York cabby must know the odds, should he pick up a man of color at night.
From the chapter “‘The White Party’”:
What the above points to is a strategy from which Republicans will recoil, a strategy to increase the GOP share of the white Christian vote and increase the turnout of that vote by specific appeals to social, cultural, and moral issues, and for equal justice for the emerging white minority. If the GOP is not the party of New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci and Cambridge cop James Crowley, it has no future. And although Howard Dean disparages the Republicans as the “white party,” why should Republicans be ashamed to represent the progeny of the men who founded, built, and defended America since her birth as a nation?
From the chapter “The Last Chance”:
Our intellectual, cultural, and political elites are today engaged in one of the most audacious and ambitious experiments in history. They are trying to transform a Western Christian republic into an egalitarian democracy made up of all the tribes, races, creeds, and cultures of planet Earth. They have dethroned our God, purged our cradle faith from public life, and repudiated the Judeo-Christian moral code by which previous generations sought to live.
From the same chapter:
For the Left to concede that white anger is a legitimate response to racial injustices done to white people would be to concede that the Left is guilty of the very sin of which it accuses the right.
On the segregation era:
Perhaps some of us misremember the past. But the racial, religious, cultural, social, political, and economic divides today seem greater than they seemed even in the segregation cities some of us grew up in.
Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans.


The Shocking, Graphic Data That Shows Exactly What Motivates the Occupy Movement

The Shocking, Graphic Data That Shows Exactly What Motivates the Occupy Movement

The corporate media may obsess about what Occupy Wall Street is all about, but these images should make it clear.
What are the Occupy Wall Street protesters angry about? The same things we’re all angry about. The only difference is the protestors turned their anger into public action. Occupy Wall Street lit the embers and the sparks are flying. Whether it turns into a genuine populist prairie fire depends on all of us.  
Now is not the time for wonky policy solutions, as the media meatheads are calling for. Rather, it’s time to air our grievances as loudly as possible, which is precisely what Wall Street and its minions fear the most. Here’s a brief list of why we should be angry and the charts to back it up. 
1. The American Dream is imploding...  

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The productivity/wage chart says it all. From 1947 until the mid-1970s real wages and productivity (economic output per worker hour) danced together. Both climbed year after year as did our real standard of living. If you’re old enough, you will remember seeing your parents doing just a bit better each year, year after year.  Then, our nation embarked on a grand economic experiment. Taxes were cut especially on the super-rich. Finance was deregulated and unions were crushed. Lo and behold, the two lines broke apart. Productivity continued to climb, but wages stalled and declined. So where did all that productivity money go? To the rich and to the super-rich, especially to those in finance. 
2. Our wealth is gushing to the top 1 percent...

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Actually the top tenth of one percent. Because of financial deregulation and tax cuts for the rich, the income gap is soaring. Here’s one of my favorite indicators that we compiled for The Looting of America. In 1970 the top 100 CEOs earned $45 for every $1 earned by the average worker. By 2006, the ratio climbed to an obscene 1,723 to one. (Not a misprint!)
3. Family income is declining while the top earners flourish...

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As women entered the workforce, family income made up for some of the wage stagnation. But now even family incomes are in trouble. Meanwhile, the incomes of the richest families continue to rise.  
4. The super-rich are paying lower and lower tax rates...

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To add financial insult to injury, the richest of the rich pay less and less each year as a percentage of their monstrous incomes. The top 400 taxpayers during the 1950s faced a 90 percent federal tax rate. By 1995 their effective tax rate – what they really paid after all deductions as a percent of all their income – fell to 30 percent. Now it’s barely 16 percent.  
5. Too much money in the hands of the few combined with financial deregulation crashed our economy...

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When the rich become astronomically rich, they gamble with their excess money. And when Wall Street is deregulated, it creates financial casinos for the wealthy.  When those casinos inevitably crash, we pay to cover the losses. The 2008 financial crash caused eight million American workers to lose their jobs in a matter of months due to no fault of their own. The last time we had so much money in the hands of so few was 1929! 
6.  We’re turning into a billionaire bailout society...

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We bailed out the big Wall Street banks and protected the billionaires from ruin. Now we are being asked to make good on the debts they caused, while the super-rich get even richer, some making more than $2 million an HOUR! It would take over 47 years for the average family to make as much as the top 10 hedge fund managers make in one hour.  
7. The super-rich still control politics... 

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Both political parties are occupied by Wall Street. For nearly an entire generation they have competed with each other to gain campaign contributions in exchange for tax breaks and regulatory loopholes for the richest of the rich. Today’s so-called financial reforms are porous, while the money continues to flow to both parties.   
8. Unemployment is a catastrophe...

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The reckless gambling on Wall Street tore a hole in the economy sending millions to the unemployment lines. Wall Street caused the enormous spike in unemployment and no one else – not the government, not home buyers, not China. 
9. Our prospects for the future are growing dim...

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It’s bad enough that unemployment is sky-high. But it’s even worse when you can’t find a job for months, even years. Right now the number of unemployed for 26 weeks or more is at record levels. Many of the long-term unemployed will never work again. 
10. The big banks are getting even bigger...

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Too big to fail is alive and well. Our nation’s biggest banks are growing larger and larger with no end in sight. Despite what politicians say, the taxpayer will bail out the big banks again. And the big banks know it.
Stand up and be counted!
Americans are a patient people. Mass movements do not form very often. Most of us hoped that after the crash, the big banks would be broken up, the casinos would be shut down and the gamblers would be punished. At the very least, we expected that the elite financiers would pay for the damage they created – the jobs destroyed, the neighborhoods wrecked, the services cut. It didn’t happen. Finally something clicked. A small number of kids stood up and got noticed. And now it’s growing. We see an outlet for our frustration, our justifiable anger, our disappointment in leaders who sold out. 
We don’t know where it’s all going. But this is the time to stand up and be counted – literally. The currency of a populist revolt is numbers in the street. Let’s show our anger where it will be seen. And let us take heart from the words of Franklin Roosevelt who during his first inaugural address in 1933, led the first occupation of Wall Street:  
Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.
Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.
They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.
The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be values only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit, and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.
Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute in New York, and author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It(Chelsea Green, 2009).
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Exploiting Anti-Semitism To Destroy Occupy Wall Street

Exploiting Anti-Semitism To Destroy Occupy Wall Street

October 14, 2011 1:36 pm ET — MJ Rosenberg
An ugly old tradition is back: exploiting anti-Semitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest 1 percent of our population. It is being used to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has conservatives in a state of near panic.
I don't know the first time the tactic was used, although it dates back almost to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora.
Perhaps its most famous use was by the viciously anti-Semitic Czar Nicholas, whose supporters concocted the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" at the start of the 20th century to prevent Russians from joining socialist movements and other reform efforts that were fighting to get the czar to cede some power to an elected parliament.
The Protocols were a forged document purporting to show that a cabal of Jews met regularly to solidify their supposed control of the entire world. According to the Protocols, Jews were behind socialist and liberal movements but also ran the banks and Wall Street. (A modern version of this ridiculous themewas a staple on Glenn Beck's television program that ran on Fox News until being canceled this summer.)
The Protocols have had a long life, used by the czar, the Nazis, and even today by extremist and fringe Muslim groups opposed to the existence of Israel.
But they were primarily used not so much against the Jews as against reform and revolution. Linking a progressive movement to the Jews would destroy progressive movements and preserve the power of those in control.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a bizarre variant of this phenomenon is now being deployed against Occupy Wall Street.
Because utilizing anti-Semitism directly would not succeed in this country today, the reactionary defenders of the economic status quo are using the flip side of the coin: the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. They are accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, relying on the old myth that Wall Street is Jewish and hence that opposition to Wall Street's agenda is just opposition to Jews.
Not surprisingly, the first right-wing commentator to use this formulation in the Obama era was Rush Limbaugh. In 2010, Limbaugh told his radio audience that Jews might be having "buyer's remorse" about having voted for President Barack Obama because "[h]e's assaulting bankers. He's assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned those remarks, labeling them a "new low" for Limbaugh. ADL National Director Abe Foxman explained that Limbaugh's references to "Jews and money" were "offensive and inappropriate."
Foxman continued: "While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans."
And now the "age-old stereotype" is back, flipped on its head by right-wingers who seek to discredit Occupy Wall Street by accusing it of anti-Semitism, an accusation based on the idea, as Foxman said, "widely accepted by many Americans," that Wall Street is Jewish.
One of the first conservatives after Limbaugh to use this tactic was the usually quite proper Ivy League conservative, New York Times columnist David Brooks. In an October 10 column dismissing the Wall Street protests as "trivial sideshows," Brooks wrote:
Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, "Why Won't Anyone Say They Are Jewish?" — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.
Interesting. Brooks essentially is charging that a magazine few have heard of "sparked" the movement and, even worse, smearing the movement as anti-Semitic by bringing up an article that magazine published seven years ago about the Jewish "grip" on policy. Quite a reach.
And then yesterday the Emergency Committee For Israel, a far-right Republican group run by Bill Kristol, issued a video flat-out accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, with side swipes at leading Democrats (what a coincidence!) like President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have sympathized with the movement and are therefore, by implication, probably anti-Semitic themselves.
The Emergency Committee's evidence is presented in the video, which shows three anti-Semites and two anti-Semitic signs among the protesters. That's it, out of a crowd of thousands. (Far be it from me to guess at the number of anti-Semites who might be at a Tea Party event, but they don't define that movement either. Mass movements attract all kinds of people, some invariably unsavory.)
In any case, the Emergency Committee for Israel is not concerned about anti-Semitism or Israel. It is, rather, dedicated to defeating Democrats and promoting its billionaire donors' economic interests. During the 2010 congressional campaigns, it produced videos almost as deceitful as the Wall Street video that lied about Democratic candidates. It used Israel and Jews as devices to direct money and votes toward the Republicans. (See this profile.)
In attacking Occupy Wall Street, the Emergency Committee's goal is simply to smear Democrats. If, in the process, it reinforces the stereotype that Jews and Wall Street are interchangeable, so what? How different is that from its usual practice of suggesting strongly that American Jews should vote only based on Israel's supposed interests, not America's? To put it not-so-mildly, the Emergency Committee for Israel does not care about fueling anti-Semitism in America.
Because that last video of a couple of anti-Semites may have left a bad taste in your mouth, here's another one. It was shot at the Wall Street demonstration on Yom Kippur Eve and it features not a few anti-Semites but thousands of Jews celebrating the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day dedicated to the same ideals as Occupy Wall Street: repentance for putting our desires before the needs of the poor, the homeless, and the exploited.
In this video, Occupy Wall Street is repenting for greed. Wall Street itself is silent.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Protests Erupt in Over 1,500 Cities Worldwide

From Tahrir Square to Times Square: Protests Erupt in Over 1,500 Cities Worldwide

Posted Oct. 16, 2011, 1:08 a.m. EST by 
Tens of Thousands in Streets of Times Square, NY
Tens of Thousands Flood the Streets of Global Financial Centers, Capitol Cities and Small Towns to “Occupy Together” Against Wall Street Mid-Town Manhattan Jammed as Marches Converge in Times Square
New York, NY — After triumphing in a standoff with the city over the continued protest of Wall Street at Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district, the Occupy Wall Street movement has spread world wide today with demonstrations in over 1,500 cities globally and over 100 US cities from coast to coast. In New York, thousands marched in various protests by trade unions, students, environmentalists, and community groups. As occupiers flocked to Washington Square Park, two dozen participants were arrested at a nearby Citibank while attempting to withdraw their accounts from the global banking giant.
“I am occupying Wall Street because it is my future, my generations’ future, that is at stake,” said Linnea Palmer Paton, 23, a student at New York University. “Inspired by the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, tonight we are are coming together in Times Square to show the world that the power of the people is an unstoppable force of global change. Today, we are fighting back against the dictators of our country – the Wall Street banks – and we are winning.”
New Yorkers congregated in assemblies organized by borough, and then flooded the subway system en mass to join the movement in Manhattan. A group calling itself Todo Boricua Para Wall Street marched as a Puerto Rican contingent of several hundred playing traditional music and waving the Lares flag, a symbol of resistance to colonial Spain. “Puerto Ricans are the 99% and we will continue to join our brothers and sisters in occupying Wall Street,” said David Galarza Santa, a trade unionist from Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “We are here to stand with all Latinos, who are being scapegoated by the 1%, while it is the bankers who have caused this crisis and the banks who are breaking the law.”
While the spotlight is on New York, “occupy” actions are also happening all across the Midwestern and the Southern United States, from Ashland, Kentucky to Dallas, Texas to Ketchum, Idaho. Four hundred Iowans marched in Des Moines, Iowa Saturday as part of the day of action:
“People are suffering here in Iowa. Family farmers are struggling, students face mounting debt and fewer good jobs, and household incomes are plummeting,” said Judy Lonning a 69-year-old retired public school teacher. “We’re not willing to keep suffering for Wall Street’s sins. People here are waking up and realizing that we can’t just go to the ballot box. We’re building a movement to make our leaders listen.”
Protests filled streets of financial districts from Berlin, to Athens, Auckland to Mumbai, Tokyo to Seoul. In the UK over 3,000 people attempted to occupy the London Stock Exchange. “The financial system benefits a handful of banks at the expense of everyday people,” said Spyro Van Leemnen, a 27-year old public relations agent in London and a core member of the demonstrators. “The same people who are responsible for the recession are getting away with massive bonuses. This is fundamentally unfair and undemocratic.”
In South Africa, about 80 people gathered at the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, Talk Radio 702 reported. Protests continued despite police efforts to declare the gathering illegal. In Taiwan, organizers drew several hundred demonstrators, who mostly sat quietly outside the Taipei World Financial Center, known as Taipei 101.
600 people have begun an occupation of Confederation Park in Ottawa, Canada today to join the global day of action. “I am here today to stand with Indigenous Peoples around the world who are resisting this corrupt global banking system that puts profits before human rights,” said Ben Powless, Mohawk citizen and indigenous youth leader. “Native Peoples are the 99%, and we’ve been resisting the 1% since 1492. We’re marching today for self- determination and dignity against a system that has robbed our lands, poisoned our waters, and oppressed our people for generations. Today we join with those in New York and around the world to say, No More!”
In Australia, about 800 people gathered in Sydney’s central business district, carrying cardboard banners and chanting “Human need, not corporate greed.” Protesters will camp indefinitely “to organize, discuss and build a movement for a different world, not run by the super-rich 1%,” according to a statement on the Occupy Sydney website.
The movement’s success is due in part to the use of online technologies and international social networking. The rapid spread of the protests is a grassroots response to the overwhelming inequalities perpetuated by the global financial system and transnational banks. More actions are expected in the coming weeks, and the Occupation of Liberty Square in Manhattan will continue indefinitely.
Occupy Wall Street is a people powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Greece, Italy and the UK, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people who are writing the rules of the global economy are imposing an agenda of neoliberalism and economic inequality that is foreclosing our future.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Religion in American politics

The Mormon-bashing directed at Mitt Romney should concern everyone for what it reveals about the undue influence of religion in American elections.

As an atheist and a liberal, it’s been tempting for me to simply laugh at Republicans fighting each other over the issue of whether or not Mitt Romney, a Mormon, gets to consider himself a Christian. From the non-believer point of view, it’s like watching a bunch of grown adults work themselves into a frenzy over the differences between leprechauns and fairies. But watching the debate unfold, I’ve become concerned about what it means to make someone’s religious beliefs such a big campaign issue, because it’s indicative of a larger eroding of the separation of church and state, which concerns not just atheists but all people who understand the importance of maintaining a secular government.  
Robert Jeffress, an influential pastor who is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, went on "Focal Point" with Bryan Fischer and declared that one shouldn’t support Mitt Romney for president because Romney, a Mormon, isn’t a real Christian. This created a media dustup that was silly even by the usual standards of ever-sillier mainstream media campaign coverage. John King of CNN interviewed Jeffress, focusing strictly on the question of who Jeffress believes deserves to be called a Christian, and how firmly he believes that only people he calls Christians should hold public office. Candy Crowley of CNN dogged both Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann on the question of whether or not they believe Romney is a Christian, and then she got irate with the candidates when they refused to answer the question, claiming that it’s irrelevant.  
These interviews are remarkable for what the CNN anchors didn’t discuss, which was the most important question of all: the separation of church and state. Even though our nation has a tradition of pastors staying out of partisan politics -- in fact, it is illegal for ministers to endorse candidates from the pulpit -- it seemingly never occurred to King to challenge Jeffress for overstepping his bounds by telling people that God wants an evangelical Christian who is a Republican for president. By making the story about whether or not Mormons are Christians, CNN left the viewer with the impression that only Christians deserve to hold public office, and that the only thing left to debate is whether or not someone “counts” as a Christian, making him or her eligible for office.  
We’re a long way from the days when John Kennedy assured the public that he respected the separation of church and state and would keep his faith separate from his policy-making decisions. Now, even mainstream reporters take it as a given that politicians will let religion govern their actions, and the only thing left to debate on theology is how many angels any single politician believes dance on the head of a pin. Things that used to be considered beyond the pale in politics, such as religious intolerance or ministers blatantly claiming they know who God supports in an election, have become normalized to the point where someone like Mitt Romney, who is odious in most respects but has never really made much of a fuss over his faith, is seeing religious tests becoming a major issue in his campaign. 
The ramifications for this shift affect more than conservative Mormons trying to win as Republicans. By not challenging the assertion that only Christians should hold office, mainstream journalists encourage bigotry against all religious minorities, including atheists. Atheists already face discrimination when it comes to running for public office. A number of states ban atheists from holding public office, even though the U.S. Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for office. Of course, it’s difficult for an atheist to win enough votes to get office, so this conflict hasn’t been tested much, although one atheist city council
member found himself under fire by religious bigots who wanted to use North Carolina’s ban on atheists holding office to push him out for not swearing his oath of office on the Bible.  
There’s a reason the Founding Fathers wrote a national constitution that forbade religious tests for office and required the separation of church and state. It’s not just protection against the escalating religious bigotry we're seeing lately, but also because religion should have no place in politics in the first place. Neither atheists nor believers benefit when leaders are guided more by religious dogma than by rationality. Angels and demons might be a fine thing to worry about when you’re in church on Sunday, but when you’re trying to govern real people in the real world, it’s far better to rely on evidence and empirical facts, interpreted through reason and not through the guesswork of faith. This is why Kennedy defended himself against questions about his faith by saying, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”  
People like Robert Jeffress, when they propose religious tests for office--even ones held privately by voters--should face more challenges than reporters simply asking if they consider Mormons “real” Christians. They should be confronted with Kennedy’s words and asked directly why they disagree with our former president about the separation of church and state. They should be asked why they believe only a certain breed of Christians should hold office, and asked why they think it’s appropriate to demand that politicians put religious dogma before evidence-based and rational approaches to policy. Anything less than that is aiding the religious right in its mission to remake our secular democracy into a theocracy. It shouldn’t be tolerated.
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