UNSC Res. 2334: Consequences for America

The Consequences for America of Resolution 2334

by

Howard Adelman

I have to finish this series on UNSC Resolution 2334. But I am torn. I want to write about so many other things – The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker’s 2016 take on Nat Turner and the rebellion he started in the slave south of the U.S. and why the movie in the end failed to connect but was a valiant effort; La La Land, another 2016 movie, but this time a romantic musical comedy by Damien Chazelle that connected brilliantly and had the feel of an extraordinary jazz concert like the one we saw before Christmas; a third 2016 movie, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea in which Casey Affleck offers one of the finest performances in film in this dark side of repetition and imitation; Jacob Bernstein’s 2015 HBO biopic of his mother, Nora Ephron, titled Everything Is Copy that explains the underpinnings of La La Land; Allan Zweig’s 2013 documentary, When Jews Were Funny that offered a very different and ironic take on reality, on comedy as the jazz art form of American and Canadian Jews, and, in terms of the arts, most of all, about the show currently on at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Mystical Landscapes.

The new year is overflowing with tasks. And there is so much more. Politics never leaves me alone. My life is haunted. In my daily existence, I cannot seem to escape its ever presence. I so want to write on one of the finest political speeches I have ever read, let alone heard, that of Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation on 10 January. And I want to throw a damper upon its sparkles and starlight, its analytic and epic skills, by really going into the life of Atticus Lee from To Kill a Mockingbird, and what it really means to empathetically re-enact the thoughts and feelings, the ideas and beliefs behind the actions of an Other. What does it mean when a guideline for art, a guideline for historiography, is used as a reference point for action in real life? What does it mean when we cross art and life?

It is not just about politics on a global scale. But about a noon hour talk on post-secondary education in Ontario that I heard last week and my own analysis of the terrible dilemmas we face in higher education. And I want to write about that crisis against the background of the brilliant French economist, Thomas Piketty, and his blog that he sent out on 9 January called, “On Productivity in France and Germany.” For the blog was about so much more – about, for example, the importance of equity and the critical role higher education plays in ensuring both equity and productivity. And all of this when I can no longer watch news.

Yesterday, I blew it. I broke my one New Year resolution to stop watching news. CNN had another lying, misleading Trump shill on. After all, CNN believes it must offer balance as the Trump mouthpiece rudely and continually interrupted his opponent without being stopped by the moderator, and we had yet another example of lying balancing an effort at truth, insult offsetting courtesy, and absolutely no regard for the Other or the truth. Where is חֶ֣סֶד וֶֽאֱמֶ֔ת: (chesed v’emet), usually translated as “loving kindness and truth,” (Genesis 49:29) where consideration for the Other is the precondition for expressing the truth?

I blew it. I had a hissy fit. I swore and my hands were so shaky I could not type when I retreated to my computer. And I felt so embarrassed, even though the broader public never witnessed my shame and humiliation that I felt when I finally allowed the very thin-skinned Donald Trump to get under my skin. Perhaps I should take my eldest daughter’s advice and only watch news through the eyes of Saturday Night Live and Alec Baldwin. What happened to my objectivity? What happened to my detachment so crucial to how I think and write? How will I survive the next four years? How will I survive a Trump presidency? Are the ruminations that he may be impeached in his first year just more delusion and false hope? Should I escape into practicalities – redoing my files at year end, clearing up my email lists, figuring out why my blog periodically gets blocked, arranging air travel for the family of my son and my granddaughter.

Maybe I will retreat into just keeping sane and even a bit healthy. After all, my dentist convinced me last week to swear off drinking Coke, especially Diet Coke which evidently is even worse than regular Coke in its acidic strength. She put it forth as the possible explanation, not simply for the staining of my teeth, but for the acid eating into the enamel and, even more, into the bone in my jaws that last year led to cavities under my crown and so many implants falling out. I had hit a tipping point and had to take radical action to reverse the processes, I was told. So I am left with a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, that is if I ever slip and drink one, I have to sip through a straw.

Is this a metaphor for politics at large? Am I addicted to Trump? Is he my Coca-Cola? Is he the final critical dose of acid that may rot the teeth of America? So much overstretch of an image! I have to return to facts and analysis or I will really go off the edge.

Recall the problems of Resolution 2344, a resolution ostensibly passed to maintain and even advance the two-State solution to the Jewish Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, I have argued, seems really intended to dynamite that prospect as it leaves entirely vague what it means by the many options of a two-State solution, as it allows the armistice of 1949 to provide the reference lines for a solution, as it designates the land on the other side of those armistice lines as Palestinian, pre-empting negotiations, as it opens the doors to international legal pressures and economic boycotts against Israeli institutions, individuals, products and services.

Jews are a stubborn people. Opposing the settlements in Jerusalem as well as the West Bank, the blatant unfairness with respect to other occupied territories, the chasm between supposedly ideal intentions and reality on the ground, the deliberate and very selective use of key diplomatic words, all of these will unite many, if not most Jews, in opposition to any negotiations never mind agreement. And there is so much left out. But I do not want to repeat what I wrote earlier. I want to focus on the dreadful impending consequences, first in America.

In the aftermath of the passage of the Resolution, the youngest member of the U.S. Senate, Tom Cotton, the thirty-seven-year old senator from Arkansas, declared that Israel building settlements in the West Bank was absolutely no problem. This is the same Tom Cotton who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Jews and the Jewish community, presumably in return or in acknowledgement of his strong and unwavering support for Israel. With friends like Cotton, Israel does not need enemies, as the cliché goes.

Cotton organized the letter on behalf of 47 of his fellow members of Senate that he sent to Iran, a country he considers to be equivalent to Nazi Germany. The missive was possibly in contravention of the Logan Act that forbids anyone but the President negotiating with other countries. The letter informed the government of Iran that the nuclear deal would be reversed as soon as Obama left office. Cotton is a hawk among hawks, wanting to expand rather than close Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). He has advocated clamping down on Mexican immigrants (who were, incidentally, according to Cotton, backed by Hezbollah) almost as loudly as Donald Trump, supports building a wall along the Mexican border, and believes in harassing and belittling journalists when they contravene what he espouses. He not only is one of Trump’s most stalwart supporters in the Senate, but sometimes out-trumps The Donald. Though that is hard. Some Trump tweets: “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the U.S.” and “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Cotton backed Kansas Senator Jerry Moran’s efforts to lead the charge in having the Senate denounce the Resolution, backs Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who is seeking to defund the UN because of the Resolution. At the same time as Resolution 2334 unites the Republicans in opposition, it is dividing the Democratic Party in its support for Israel. New York Senator Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer, a leading Democrat and incoming Senate minority leader, condemned Obama’s abstention and failure to veto the Resolution. He co-sponsored the Senate resolution condemning Res. 2334. As he argued, “While Secretary Kerry mentioned Gaza in his speech, he seems to have forgotten the history of the settlements in Gaza, where the Israeli government forced settlers to withdraw from all settlements and the Palestinians responded by sending rockets into Israel. This is something that people of all political stripes in Israel vividly remember.” In another tweet, “The UN has long shown its anti-Israel bias & the US govt has admirably kept the UN out in negotiations. That tradition should continue.”

His effort was backed by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). As was expected, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) both opposed the Senate resolution. The U.S. Senate Resolution, among other things, while it still voices support for a two-state solution, not only objects to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), but also:

• Calls for United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to be repealed or fundamentally altered so that it is no longer one-sided and allows all final status issues toward a two-state solution to be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties;
• Rejects efforts by outside bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, to impose solutions from the outside that set back the cause of peace;
• Demands that the United States ensure that no action is taken at the Paris Conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scheduled for January 15, 2017, that imposes an agreement or parameters on the parties;
• Notes that granting membership and statehood standing to the Palestinians at the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international institutions outside of the context of a bilateral peace agreement with Israel would cause severe harm to the peace process, and would likely trigger the implementation of penalties under sections 7036 and 7041(j) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (division K of Public Law 114–113);
• Rejects any efforts by the United Nations, United Nations agencies, United Nations member states, and other international organizations to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel through economic or other boycotts or any other measures, and urges the United States Government to take action where needed to counter any attempts to use United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 to further isolate Israel;
• Urges the current presidential administration and all future presidential administrations to uphold the practice of vetoing all United Nations Security Council resolutions that seek to insert the Council into the peace process, recognize unilateral Palestinian actions including declaration of a Palestinian state, or dictate terms and a timeline for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim and Black-American who is a leading light to become the Democratic National Committee Chair in the House, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), all opposed the resolution condemning the UN action, the House of Representatives voted 342-80 denouncing Resolution 2334. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the speaker of the House, criticized Kerry’s speech and tweeted: “After allowing this anti-Israel resolution to pass the UN, Secretary Kerry has no credibility to speak on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

The combination of Israeli expansion of home demolitions, expropriation of Palestinian privately-owned land, denial of construction permits to Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem that helped provoke the Obama abstention and Kerry’s speech are all now reinforced by a phalanx of right-wing Republicans determined to use the Resolution as a pivot against the UN and to advance the extreme Right agenda in Israel that opposes the coming-into-being of a Palestinian state altogether. Most supporters of Resolution 2334 admit that it will have no real effect on the ground or on Israeli policies. I disagree. It will accelerate those policies and sow more distrust between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. Resolution 2334 empowers and strengthens the resolve and gives direction to the right in America that now holds power. The Obama and Kerry decision to abstain on Resolution 2334 was at best quixotic and at worse a source of long-term division within the Democratic Party.

My own prediction is that Israel is now on the road to renouncing the two-State solution in practice and will do so with U.S. backing. Resolution 2334, thus, divides the West just when it most needs to be united against the opponents to democracy, creates a chasm between the UN and the U.S., divides the Democrats and unites Republican who now control the White House as well as both houses of Congress, boxes the left in Israel in a corner for they oppose both Resolution 2334 and the efforts of the Netanyahu government to undermine the possibility of a two-State solution. Quite aside from its contradictions, Resolution 2334 has been defended as a victory for the two-State solution, but it is nothing of the sort. It is a Pyrrhic victory reifying the impotence of the UN and the irrelevance of Europe while allowing the rejectionist right to gain a stronger and more focused rationale to expand what they were already doing. Facts on the ground defeat abstract moral sounding off every time.

Deplorables IIIb – Birtherism and Bruce LeVell

Deplorables IIIb – Birtherism and Bruce LeVell

by

Howard Adelman

In mid-August in the aftermath of the Democratic nomination that had been so devastating to his campaign, Donald Trump did a reset and appointed the media bomb-thrower, Stephen Bannon, executive chair of Breibert News, as his campaign CEO. In 2012, a year after Barack Obama released his long form birth certificate, Breibert promoted a book claiming that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya. Breibert News was dedicated to usurping and destroying the liberal narrative that Barack Obama had so clearly articulated at the Congressional Black Congress meeting. Breibert News was rooted in blogger journalism which offered an outlet for rage against government, politicians, journalists and Democrats.

These bloggers were not bounded by norms of truth, coherence, consistency or any other recognized norm for protecting the values of truth and integrity. They form the basis for Trump expressing birthism by stating, “Many believe…Instead, conspiracy theories abounded and Breibert News promoted rage rather than reason as a foundation for politics. These people of passion rather than reason constituted the solid core and base of the Trump campaign. This explains in part why Donald Trump kept his link with the birthers and lent his brand until his very recently to the belief that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and was an illegitimate president way after Barack Obama released his long form birth certificate on 27 April 2011. 23% of Republicans continued to express this view well after Obama tried to put to rest this effort at delegitimation.

How can a Trump surrogate defend such blatant untruths as those constituting the birthism movement? In Trump’s version: Hillary started the birther movement. I stopped it when I forced Obama to release his birth certificate. The people should be grateful. How can a pencil-mustached black apologist for Donald Trump, Bruce LeVell, an African-American Georgia businessman and Trump’s executive director of his National Diversity Coalition (NDC), deal with this flagrant violation of integrity and sensitivity? By engaging in flim flam. First the name of the organization.

The National Diversity Coalition (NDC) includes: The African American Economic Justice Organization (AAEJO), Asian Journal, The Chinese American Institute for Empowerment (CAIE), Cornerstone Church of San Diego (6,500), the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies at Laverne University, the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership at Vanguard University, The Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce, MAAC Project, The National Asian American Coalition, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. One only needs to read this list and wonder how such an organization that engages in advocacy on behalf of charitable service organizations and educational units in universities dealing with minority issues can have as its Executive Director a surrogate for Trump. The answer, to put it simply, as a representative of one of the above organizations in Daly City told me, is that Donald Trump stole their name.

The name of Bruce LeVell’s organization is really the National Diversity Coalition for Trump financed by the Trump campaign and consisting of a variety of individuals from different ethnic groups. It was organized in April. Bruce LeVell is the Executive Director of an organization that employs two other members of his family. While predominantly Black, the members include individual supporters for Trump from various minority communities and from all across the country: Michael Cohen, Eve Stieglitz and Michael Abramson, Jewish; Sonya Elizabeth, Arab; Narender Redy, Indian; Jo-Ann Chase, Puerto Rican; Kevin Do, Vietnamese; Rabia Kazan and Albert Sirazi, Turkish; Sajid Tarar, Muslim; Joe Perez, Cuban; Lovilla Santiago, Filipino; Dahlys Espriella, Hispanic; Chandhok Singh, Sikh; Carlos Limon, Chris Garcia, Debe Campos-Fleenor, Gloria De Mummey, Mexicans (apparently the largest number of individual members other than Blacks); Lisa Shin and Kun Kim, Korean; Quinn Nii and David Tian Wang, Chinese; Zoya Conover, Russian; Francisco Semiao, Portuguese; Christos Marafatsos, Greek; and Angel Boey, Bulgarian.

All, or almost all, are there in an individual capacity. Almost all were flown to Trump Tower in April to form the organization in Trump’s efforts to create a visual impression of wide, even if shallow, support among ethnic minorities in the US. Bruce LeVell is the individual face of an organization that is not a coalition of minority organizations. It is not a coalition in that sense at all. Its members are individuals, not groups. It is an organization conceived and created by Donald Trump this year by recruiting individuals from across the country who come from minority communities and support Donald Trump. As Trump has learned over the years as a crackerjack salesman, one does not need substance; one only needs the wrap and the correct brand.

LeVell told Hallie Jackson of MSNBC in an interview that the “Hillary campaign surrogates, whoever you call it, started this nasty whisper campaign. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton started this. And unfortunately it perpetuated into this.” When Jackson stopped him and pointed out that the statement was a blatant lie, instead of defending himself when proven to be a liar, he tried deflection and referred to Obama in his Senate campaign in 2004 questioning Alan Keyes right to run in Illinois because he had not been a resident in Illinois, but had just recently moved from Maryland to take up the candidacy of Jack Ryan over a scandal. But whatever the details of that issue, it had nothing to do with birtherism. As Jackson pointed out, birtherism is not a matter of vetting a candidate.

LeVell then shifted ground again and insisted that Trump’s raising the issue of Obama’s birthplace had nothing to do with Obama’s race. When Jackson asked why Trump did not raise the issue of the birthplace of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, LeVell went back to his starting position and insisted the colour issue came from the Clinton campaign. Finally, in that 16 September interview, LeVell committed the ultimate Trump sin, confessing ignorance and owning up to having made an error. LeVell collapsed intellectually and said that he didn’t know “what was going on when Trump was running or thought about running” for President.

Why are Trump surrogates so determined to lie and obfuscate when defending Trump against charges of racism that focus on the birther issue? The answer is that Trump Two-Two is in a very difficult corner. If he admits the birther issue was wrong, never mind even apologize for it, he would be crucified by a significant part of his core voter support. On the other hand, the birther issue is a front for racism just as the National Diversity Coalition for Trump is a false front for multiculturalism. Though 23% of Trump’s supporters may be hard core racists, 53% of Republicans are soft core racists who deny race is relevant, showing in that figure alone how relevant it is. 21% of Democrats say race is no longer relevant as well. That is the group which Trump must enlist in his campaign to marry hard core and soft core racists. Trump strategists have determined that it is better to lie and bully oneself out of the corner than have to do battle on the issue of racism. The birther issue had to be abandoned, not through admission and apology let alone compensation, but by declaring victory.

It does not seem to matter that the issue has provided steam, energy and motivation to the Clinton campaign. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might declare after Trump Two-Two’s statement that Obama was born in the US, period, that, “The birther issue is a done issue.” But you have to be suffering from mindblindness to fail to recognize that, without Trump accepting responsibility, without acknowledging his leadership role in perpetuating a lie, without apologizing, and without being sensitive to the feelings of the vast majority of Black voters, the issue will not go away. Why doesn’t Trump really care?

Clinton has never explicitly branded Trump a racist. Her supporters have.

Val Deming, former Orlando police chief running for Congress in Florida: “He’s a hater. He’s a bigot and he’s racist.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.): “We will not elect a chief bigot of the United States of America.”

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.): “Donald Trump is nothing more than a two-bit racial arsonist.”

As Bernie Sanders said in appealing to young voters, “You cannot elect a president of the United States whose campaign is based on bigotry. What they were trying to do, led by Donald Trump, was delegitimize the presidency of the first black president we’ve ever had.” Given this anger, even an apology, assuming that Trump was capable of offering one, would not suffice. Even if it were heartfelt. Even if there was some expression of a desire to make restitution. But that would give lie to his posing as the strong unapologetic leader who holds the fort at all costs.

And the reason, quite aside from Trump Two-Two’s personality and unapologetic bullying and lying, if you examine an important battleground state like Florida where Clinton is only leading Trump by 1% in one recent poll, Trump’s path to victory is not through increasing his support among minority voters. His gestures towards them are just to soften his image in the eyes of white voters. For Hillary has been bleeding white supporters with a college education to Trump so that she now only has the support of a minority of those male voters in Florida. And Trump needs to increase his support among such voters to win. A softer more presidential tone combined with his take-no-prisoners hard stance is the source of his appeal to those voters – not his policies and certainly not his integrity.

“Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 52% said the nation had made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights, while 39% said it had not. On this question, there were only modest differences in the views of white Republican college graduates (60% of whom said the nation has made needed changes) and white non-college Republicans (53%).”

Why? Because of race. Because there is some explicit and a great deal of latent racism among such voters. That group has become increasingly enlightened towards women. So Trump’s misogyny, now suppressed, used to turn them off. But the fact that he led a birther campaign riddled with racism does not turn away a majority of them. A majority of Republican male voters believe that the country has made enough gestures towards Blacks and wish to end that period of American history. Though the proportion of non-college voters on this issue is higher, the differences are not that significant; both groups get turned off the Democratic campaign when using birthism to charge Trump with racism.

That means that if Trump is to both hold and increase his vote among this group, a real prospect, he merely needs to become a clutch boxer in the racial corner, conceding little, offering few opportunities to strike back, while not coming across as a brutal hockey player on the issue of race. So while it appears that on this issue, Trump has been cornered, it really is the Hillary Clinton Democratic campaign. For Hillary needs the racial issue to mobilize Black voters. But in using the birther issue to do so, she turns off more and more white male voters, including 23% of Democrats who want to remove racism staring in their faces. She is the one in the no-win situation.

That is because this presidential race is at heart about race. Other than LeVell and a few others like Ben Carson, Trump’s minions are overwhelmingly whitebread, quite aside from the unrepresentative faces of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump. Though there are a number of white hosts who have taken on Trump or his surrogates, all the analysts and commentators that I have cited are Black. Further, it is they who occupy the high ground of morality and dogged adherence to truth and reason. The surrogates are defenders and users of irrationality. The old stereotypes have been inverted. Those driven by passion at the cost of reason have been overwhelmingly white. Those most upholding enlightenment values have been disproportionately Black.

So America now faces a choice, not simply in having a Black president, but in adopting liberal and enlightenment values and conceding that the leadership in this area is largely coming from the Black community. But Hillary already has them in her pocket. The Clinton campaign is stymied on how to counter-punch to win back more of these college-educated white males without alienating Black voters who she needs to mobilize to turn out and vote. That is why she, like the Republican contenders who ran against Donald Trump, have been put off their game. The Tea Party Conservatives succeeded in their purism in making the Republican Party ripe for a takeover as the party lost all disciplinary power. The Tea Party Conservatives thrived on protest and made room for the most protestant candidate of all protesting against the whole edifice of Washington built on order and institutions. The Tea Party constituted the shock troops that prepared the Republican Party for a takeover based on a strong self-interested individualist who used the defeat of the ruling whites to lead a campaign to take back the country in their name. Parochialism had to be his trump card rather than universalism. Hence the birther issue as the main initial highway to accomplishing his takeover first of the Republican Party and then of America.

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part I

Is Donald Trump a Fascist? Part I

by

Howard Adelman

Last evening at a dinner at a friend’s, I was asked whether I thought Donald Trump was a fascist? Evidently, I seemed to have implied that he was in some previous references to Hitler and Mussolini in my writings. So I want to answer that query in this blog, and perhaps allow it to be an introduction for one or two more blogs on Donald Trump by offering my answer in the negative. I. of course, have previously considered this question, but I have never articulated a clear reply. Formulating this short answer is helped by an essay of Umberto Eco in The New York Review of Books entitled “Ur-Fascism,” (22 June 1995), which allows me to examine, indirectly and by implication, whether Trump is what Eco called an Ur-Fascist.

Eco opened with a story of Mimo, the partisan leader in the area of Milan where he was living at the end of the WWII. Mimo made a victory speech from a balcony. “Citizens, friends. After so many painful sacrifices … here we are. Glory to those who have fallen for freedom.” And that was it. The lesson Umberto Eco took away: In contrast to the sections of Mussolini’s long mesmerizing speeches that he had been forced to memorize at school, he learned that, “freedom of speech means freedom from rhetoric.”

Rhetoric: short, rambling strings of tweets rather than soaring memorable lines, staccato segments that started and restarted, rhetoric built on “an impoverished vocabulary and elementary syntax in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning,” strangely reminded me of Casey Stengel, the famous American baseball coach memorable for his malapropisms. Donald Trump, in contrast to Mino, believed that there can never be one tweet too many. Trump stands in contrast to the diehard anti-war Bernie Sanders acolytes who were stuck on one phrase and not even a tweet. They yelled out, “No more war” when a contemporary warrior like Mino, the former head of the CIA and Secretary of Defense in Obama’s cabinet who had served seven previous presidents, Leon Panetta, spoke. The Bernie diehards – what a misnomer – booed again and re-shouted the same slogan when John Allen, a retired four-star Marine general and former commander of American forces in Afghanistan, spoke. He had previously been known as a non-partisan soldier who kept his distance from politics, but, backed up by a phalanx of veterans, he delivered a rousing endorsement of Hillary Clinton and a scathing excoriation of Donald Trump whom he claimed was completely unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.

Those true believers in Bernie, those who had sworn to die on the sword for him, Sarah Silverman, a former strong advocate in the Bernie movement, now labeled “ridiculous.” They had not learned another lesson that Umberto Eco had learned after WWII: “the moral and psychological meaning of the Resistance. For us it was a point of pride to know that we Europeans did not wait passively for liberation. And for the young Americans who were paying with their blood for our restored freedom it meant something to know that behind the firing lines there were Europeans paying their own debt in advance.”

Mussolini had been a fiery orator, in contrast to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, but, like Mussolini, Donald Trump’s campaign has been built on the need for a charismatic singular ruler upon whom the populace relied, on a renewed belief in making America (Italy) great again, on a nationalism that exacerbated divisions and singled out minorities for attack. Unlike Hitler or Stalin, Mussolini was not a totalitarian. But, like Donald Trump, “Mussolini did not have any philosophy: he had only rhetoric.” A ghost stalks the West – a “way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instinct and unfathomable drives” built on a politics of resentment.

Eco wrote that, “Linguistic habits are frequently important symptoms of underlying feelings.” Donald Trunk has been a Balaam, a soothsayer, a man of many words, a long-winded blowhard, but still only capable of stringing together a series of short expressions and expletives. He so clearly has an attention span of only a few minutes. Words count. Words strung together count even more. Those words and the patterns of how they are brought together both reveal his way of unthinking, his seemingly incapacity to feel compassion and empathy whether in shouting, “You’re fired” or advocating building walls or selection and exclusion mechanisms to manage migration.

That means that Donald Trump may not be worthy of being Commander-in-Chief, but, in spite of his attraction for dictators, it is unlikely also that he would be capable of establishing a liturgy and system of costuming that could unite the inchoate cluster of believers and anarchists, deeply hurt workers and fulminating angry Americans who have lost their place in the sun to a rising tide of rivals. The real worry is not that he is likely to become a dictator, but that he is uncontrolled and should not be allowed to have a finger, a pinky, let alone a hand on the nuclear trigger. For though not evidently a dictator, or one with a capacity to become one, he is erratic while delegating detailed planning to others. On the other hand, what makes him attractive to the few diehard Bernie supporters is that he has so few conservative bona fides and might even carry through on some area of social reform, such as more extensive parental leave for parents about to have children and an extensive child-care program, though how he would pay for it would be greatly in question since he also plans to cut even more taxes for the very rich.

When his very capable daughter, Ivanka, delivered this nanny state initiative that had never before been uttered in the Trump so-called platform, when his son, Donald Trump Jr., delivered his right-wing exhortation of anti-Government rhetoric and support for the NRA, it only indicated a fuzzy amalgam of left and extreme right-wing ideas, an inchoate collage rather than a coherent program, what Eco called a “beehive of contradictions,” that is, of buzzing confusion in the semblance of a highly ordered system. If Donald Trump were to become president, “believe me,’ his most disappointed acolytes would be the David Dukes of the world. So although he is bombastic and a blowhard, though he has no clue on how to check whether anything that emerges from his mouth is true, we can be grateful for small gifts. Although he seems to admire dictators of many stripes, he also seems singularly incapable of developing the discipline, the coherent mass organization of uniforms and songs, salutes and signals – “Lock her up is no substitute” – enabling him to become one.

In spite of the Donald’s rants against Mexican rapists and thieves, in spite of his tirades against Muslims as all terrorist suspects, there is no indication that he has a prejudicial bone in his body. Like Mussolini who had a Jewish mistress, Trump has a Jewish orthodox son-in-law, a daughter who converted to Judaism, Jewish grandchildren and a phalanx of Jewish executives. Further, he hires illegals of all ethnic and religious backgrounds and gives every evidence of being an equal opportunity exploiter.

So though he is a nationalist rather than a patriot, though he is a nativist but not a racist, what he clearly seems to celebrate and revel in is speed in decision-making rather than deliberation and does have an attraction to bullying and violence – “punch him out” – rather than to listening to complaints and grievances to enable him to diagnose their roots. And though he pledges to create jobs for those who suffered the most as globalization moved at high speed, he reveals himself in his speech and his actions to be a perilous risk-taker guaranteed to leave an even greater swath of victims in his wake. This was indicated by Trump University which was not used to develop an extension of any great thinker as Mussolini used his fascist youth clubs to develop and expand on the thinking of Giovanni Gentile. It was simply another exploitive development to add to the Donald’s repertoire.

Like Mussolini, Trump is bombastic. Like Mussolini, Trump is a bully. But he lacks any of the discipline and sense of coherent order to be Benito. Donald Trump is no Reagan, but he is also no Mussolini. He might abolish, or, at least, undermine trade unions, he might boycott and even try to punish an unfavourable journalist, but as long as the media attends to him, as long as the media never deviate from observing and commenting on his boorish behaviour, from paying attention to him, Donald Trump seems to lack the killer instinct of an Erdoğan as hyper-sensitive as the Donald is to criticism. He might use the power of the state to squelch dissenters, but, however, horrific, that is not the same as abolishing dissent. He might expand executive power at the expense of the legislature, appoint judges because he favoured them rather than for their capabilities, but there is no evidence he would appoint judges because they conformed to a rigid ideology.

In that sense, he is less dangerous than Ted Cruz would have been. Ted Cruz contributed to wrecking the Republican Party in the final stages of its decline. He certainly contributed enormously in preparing for its transformation from a political party to a movement when he set out to destroy its ability to compromise, destroy its ability to carry out what is the essence of political life, compromising with those with whom you disagree. Ted Cruz helped reduce the Republican Party to a remnant of its former self, a Commodore Hotel ripe for the arts of a takeover artist who can spot a bargain a few hundred miles away.

Ted Cruz has been lauded for standing on principle and refusing to endorse Donald Trump in his Republican Convention speech, but few seem to recognize that it was this same rigid adherence to principle and his affection for the wrecking ball mode of doing politics that had reduced the Republican Party to a wreck worthy only of being offered for sale in a bargain basement store. And the Donald showed that he had the eye, that he had the skills, to enable him to buy it for a bargain and add it to the trophies of the Trump organization.

In sum, whatever the characteristics of a braggart and a megalomaniac, whatever the traits of a psychopath with brutish charm, Donald Trump is not a proto-dictator let alone a fascist. He demonstrates no cult of tradition and has systematically destroyed whatever cult of tradition remained in the Republican Party to make the party his own. But where tradition is no threat to him, where it does not stand in the way for his appetite for takeovers, he can respect, even esteem the traditions of Orthodox Judaism. Donald Trump has no ambitions to take over the Jewish religion.

Though explicitly not committed, and, therefore, not a Burkean conservative, it is a puzzle to me why his support from evangelicals is increasing and coalescing. But Donald is also an opponent of modernism in its most demonstrable form – science. He explicitly and repeatedly says that he does not believe that humans have played a significant part in altering the world’s climate and suggests that is just an excuse for a very expensive tax to make some people a lot of money. (My eleven-year-old granddaughter following the campaign in Princeton now sports a Hillary button and explained yesterday why she doesn’t like Trump. “He doesn’t like science – and Mexico.”) Trump offered another explanation for the purported hoax: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” When and only well after that was met with widespread derision, did he insist that he was only joking.

So he is not an upholder of tradition. He is not a believer in the results of science. What does he believe in? Deeds! And himself. “I can get it done.” I can make a deal.” “I can kill all the members of ISIS.” “I can build a wall and get the Mexicans to pay for it.” He does not believe in deliberation to find what looks like the best solution, but does believe in his own instincts to spot an opportunity and act upon it. This is known as irrationalism. Anti-intellectualism is too weak a term to describe it. Other presidential candidates may have been irrational – William Jennings Bryan comes to mind – but they rarely boasted about it. Trump is a warrior of the twelfth and thirteenth century who revels in the joust and for whom reading and reflection are the purview of wonks and nerds. If you are rich enough, you can buy toadies to do that feminine kind of labour. He not only favours the use of extreme methods of torture – “torture works” – and explains that “eggheads came up with the international law to ban torture,” but he wears his brutality proudly as a badge of honour on his shoulder.

With the help of Alex Zisman

IX Combatting BDS: Domestic Politics

IX Combatting BDS: Domestic Politics

by

Howard Adelman

Domestic Politics in the U.S.

Every country has its weak points where political parties are susceptible to infiltration and the promotion of the BDS agenda. In the United States, it has been the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, in Britain, the left in the Labour Party and the Green Party, in Canada, weakest of all, the party most on the margins, its Green Party has been directly targeted by BDS. But the actual tactics are similar in various countries – promote candidates within the party sympathetic to the BDS cause, promote members on policy platforms and policies that advance the BDS position, and do so by playing down the BDS anti-Zionism and playing up the “illegal” settlements on the West Bank and Palestinian human rights. The counter-attack pushes in precisely the opposite direction.

Bernie Sanders had been given the right to name five of the fifteen members of the Democratic Party Platform Committee, though he still held out from endorsing Clinton. In May, Bernie chose Cornel West to be one of his five nominees on the National Democratic Committee to draft the Democratic political platform in the forthcoming election, in particular, the platform on Israel and Palestine. Cornel West, a philosopher and an eminent academic, has been a strong backer and campaigner both for Bernie Sanders and for BDS. However, on Friday 15 July, Cornel did not follow Bernie’s lead in endorsing Hillary Clinton, the presumptive presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

Cornel West announced that he would be backing Jill Stein, another Jew, who is the American presidential candidate for the Green Party; Jill Stein is a supporter of BDS. Like many leftist dissidents before him, in a close race, Cornel West was willing to split the left vote that would give an enormous boost to Donald Trump’s chances. “I have a deep love for my brother Bernie Sanders, but I disagree with him on Hillary Clinton. I don’t think she would be an ‘outstanding president’. Her militarism makes the world a less safe place.” I read no announcement that Cornel was resigning from the Policy Platform Committee of the Democratic Party, perhaps because the committee had already completed its work.

Bernie named a second strong BDS supporter, one who was part of the party establishment, James Zogby, the President of the Arab American Institute and a very strong backer of BDS as well. Bernie also appointed Keith Ellison, the Democratic House of Representatives member from Minnesota’s fifth district, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Keith did not have a reputation as a backer, strong or otherwise, of BDS, but had been an outspoken critic of Israel while maintaining close ties to the Jewish community. The two other nominees were environmental activist Bill McKibben and Native American activist Deborah Parker, neither known to have taken a stand on BDS or on Israel for that matter.

DNC’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, one of the most prominent Jewish leaders in the party, named four members of the committee. Three of them were very strong backers of Israel: Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee’s chairman had for years run a program in conjunction with the organized Jewish community to send a dozen Baltimore black high-schoolers to Israel each year; former Rep. Howard Berman, D-California, in 2010, had been responsible for shepherding the strong Iran sanctions as chair of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee; Bonnie Schaefer, a philanthropist, is involved with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The only member Schultz picked who was not a strong supporter of Israel was Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, who had joined Ellison, the Bernie appointee, in opposing the House resolution condemning the 2009 Goldstone Report which had been so flawed and which Goldstone himself subsequently renounced. However, she was not a known backer of BDS.

Hillary Clinton was given the right to name six of the members of the Platform Committee. Among the six Clinton backers was Wendy Sherman, the former deputy secretary of state who was a lead negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks over which she received a great deal of bric-à-bac from the Jewish establishment, but remained a strong supporter of Israel. Sherman has spoken warmly of her involvement in Jewish life in suburban Maryland. Neera Tanden, a long time Clinton confidante and president of the Center for American Progress, was a second nominee who identified strongly with Israel, even while sometimes critical of Israeli government policies.

In recent years, she took a lead role in trying to establish a dialogue between Israel’s government and the American progressive community. Her main credentials, however, were as a progressive domestic policy wonk. Others included Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois; Carol Browner, a former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and former head of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece; and Paul Booth of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. All were known to back Hillary Clinton’s strong pro-Israel stance.

The breakdown was as follows: Shultz Clinton Sanders Total
BDS Supporter 0 0 2 2
Israeli Critics but not BDS supporters 1 0 1 2
Neutral 0 0 2 2
Strong Israeli Supporters 3 6 0 9

Total 4 6 5 15

There was no chance of the BDS support or position being endorsed. 60% of the members were strong pro-Israel supporters, though on the progressive end of that support. There were only two strong supporters of BDS and, as stated, one in effect bolted the party. Three of the four Congress members were on record as strong supporters of Israel – Cummings, Lee and Gutiérrez. The only outspoken critic was Ellison who had never endorsed BDS and had strong Jewish support. All four had been endorsed by the political action committee affiliated with J Street, the Jewish liberal Middle East policy group.

Not only was BDS not supported, even efforts calling for Israel to end settlement activity and to label Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an occupation failed. But that could have been anticipated. The real play was to get a minority report. That required 25% support so the Israel-Palestine issue could be debated on the convention floor. Even that failed. It should be noted that Bernie Sanders himself, a strong critic of Israeli settlement policy, has never advocated that established settlements be dismantled – in contrast to Cornel West. He did support naming the Israeli military presence as an occupation, urged recognition of a Palestinian state. But he also refused to condemn Israel for its 2014 Gaza war, insisting it was fought in self-defence, while, at the same time, claiming that the military response was disproportionate. (http://forward.com/news/national/310087/is-bernie-sanders-a-lefty-except-for-israel/#ixzz4EcepUh5A)

So why did Sanders appoint two of his five appointees who were known as BDS supporters when he himself had an infamous debate with BDS supporters in a town hall meeting in Cabot, Vermont in August 2014 in which he told a critical member of the audience to “shut up.” Though he did not co-sponsor a resolution expressing support for Israel in the conflict with Hamas, when it was voted on 17 July of that year, he did not object to the motion which passed by unanimous consent. (For the Cabot confrontation, see http://forward.com/news/national/310087/is-bernie-sanders-a-lefty-except-for-israel/#ixzz4EcepUh5A.) I am not sure why. I can only think it was because he wanted to appease the large number of supporters who were far more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than even he was.

Britain

Larry Sanders is Bernie’s older brother (by seven years) whom he credits with inducing him to enter politics in the first place. Larry is an American-British academic, social worker, and health spokesperson for the Green Party of England; he ran as a candidate for the party in the Oxford West and Abingdon riding in the last British election. And lost. Badly! Larry, unlike Bernie, supports the BDS movement against Israel. In a tweet on 20 April 2015, he called for Israel to “end occupation of West Bank, siege of Gaza, [and grant] Palestinians in Israel equal rights.” “BDS yes,” he ended.

In Britain, the Green Party is an open supporter of BDS. Natalie Bennett, an Australian rather than an American immigrant to Britain and leader since 2012, endorsed the previous party platform supporting BDS which she depicts as a human rights and international law issue. “We need to get the message across to the Israeli state. It needs to comply with international law and human rights.” The party calls for suspending the EU-Israel Association Agreement worth more than nearly $1.5 billion per year. Bennett also supports a boycott on any sale of arms to Israel. One Green Party candidate, Tanya Williams, called Israel “a racist and apartheid state.” Sharer Ali, deputy leader of the party, is a harsh critic of Israel.

However, the battle in Britain is for the soul of the Labour Party. That battle appears to have been lost. The UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, openly supports BDS, though he personally would restrict the boycott only to products produced on the West Bank. He also calls for penalizing Israel, cancelling the EU-Israel trade agreement and even banishing Israeli politicians, though not academics, from entering Britain. He has called Israel’s treatment of the population of East Jerusalem illegal and an abomination. Though he has visited Gaza and called Israel’s politicians criminals, he has never replied to the invitation of the leader of his cousin party led by Isaac Herzog to visit Israel.

Corbyn has called Hezbollah a “friend” and has urged dialogue between Israel and Hamas and insisted that, “You don’t achieve progress by only talking to those who you agree with,” but seems only willing to talk to Palestinian and Arab extremists and not Israeli moderates. Though not an anti-Zionist, and certainly not an anti-Semite, nevertheless he clearly favours the Palestinian position by a wide margin. Further, he is not pro-Zionist for he called the Balfour Declaration “an extremely confused document which did not enjoy universal support in the cabinet of the time, and indeed was opposed by some of the Jewish members of the cabinet because of its confusion.”

It did not have to go this way. Corbyn was the long-shot candidate for the Labour Party leadership. Corbyn’s views were reasonably well-known and were explicitly articulated at an all-candidates meeting sponsored by the Jewish Chronicle, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement at the JW3 community centre in north London. All three of his opponents were strong backers of Israel and opponents of BDS – Andy Burnham, the Labour Party MP from Leigh who was widely expected to be elected leader, Yvette Cooper, a former shadow foreign secretary, and Liz Kendall, MP for Leicester West. British Jews had failed to unite behind one candidate and, in part, the establishment had followed the lead of the American Jews, but primarily Bibi Netanyahu, and put their energies into backing the one clearly pro-Israel party, the Conservatives.

Further, in combatting the move of the Labour Party to the more radical left and the supporters of the Palestinians versus Israel – Corbyn was elected leader with an overwhelming majority – the Jewish establishment in Britain tended to support smearing the Labour Party with the anti-Semitic brush instead of stressing the basic anti-Zionist character of BDS. Mind you, the Labour Party itself in good part invited such a tactic as the anti-Semites within the party came out of the woodwork. Vicky Kirby, a former Labour parliamentary candidate, referred to Jews having “big noses,” equated the “Zionist God” with Hitler and accused Jews of “slaughtering” the oppressed. She was forced to resign. But Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford, called for shipping the Jews in Israel to the U.S. and Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, defended Shah and, in that defence, claimed that in the thirties Hitler had conspired with the Zionists. The two were only suspended.

In a subsequent blog, I will explore the link between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and the propensity among many Jews to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Zionism, and then anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, possibly valid when anti-Zionism is an effort to deny the Jewish people a right of self-determination and to delegitimize Israel. I will also have to explore who really was the first to renege on the Oslo Accords and whether settlements are expressions of colonialist imperialism. In this blog, however, I want to stick to the machinations to get political parties to line up for or against Israel. I will not have the time or space to discuss what has happened in this battle in other European countries, such as the Dutch endorsement of BDS activism as a form of free speech and the Foreign Minister of Ireland, Charles Flanagan’s non-endorsement of BDS while defending its legitimacy and objecting to the demonization of BDS.

Canada

On 22 February 2016, Canada’s newly-elected Liberal Government supported a Conservative anti-BDS motion by a vote of 229-51. However, an Ontario Bill co-sponsored by Liberal MPP Mike Colle and Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak as a private members’ bill, was defeated. Hudak had labelled BDS “the insidious new face of anti-Semitism” and the bill failed to win support from the Liberals. Though Premier Kathleen Wynne openly opposed the BDS movement, she refused to follow the lead of American states because of her defence of free speech. “I support all rights to freely express their views, freely expressed without fear of discrimination or persecution, whether in Ontario or in the Middle East. Freedom of speech is something that all Canadians value and we must vigorously defend. But, it’s unacceptable for students, or parents, or children to feel unsafe or discriminated against.”

The real focus of attention currently is the Green Party. In Britain, the Green Party is represented by one lone member, Caroline Lucas, who is an ardent opponent of Israel and not only supporter of but active campaigner for BDS, labelling Israel an apartheid state and the Board of Deputies of British Jews the “Zionist lobby.” She even blamed Israel for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack perpetrated by Pakistani Muslim zealots that killed about 200, including the Chabad rabbi and his wife, and supports violent action against Israeli interests.

Elizabeth May, the leader of the Canadian Green Party and its sole MP here, is not a supporter of BDS, is a supporter of Israel, but has permitted two BDS resolutions to go to the floor of the Convention in August, one denying income tax deductible status to the Jewish National Fund and another endorsing the BDS movement. Further, outspoken anti-Semites have been candidates for the Green party of Canada. For example, Marika Schaefer produced a video denying the Holocaust and calling it “the biggest and most pernicious, persistent lie in all of history,” denied there were death camps and insisted that the showers were used to keep the inmates healthy. She has been denounced by the partly leadership and a process has been set up to expel her from the party.

We await the August Convention to examine the fallout.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Passage from British Columbia to Regina

Passage from British Columbia to Regina, Saskatchewan

by

Howard Adelman.

Last evening, we arrived in Regina in time to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who was in town for a meeting dealing with First Nations issues. Of course, we did not meet him. We did not have time. We had to rush to our motel room to turn on CNN and watch the results pour in on Super Tuesday in the U.S.

It was too late. All the results were in. Hillary Clinton had swept all but the smallest state, Rhode Island, and most by significant margins. Donald Trump swept all five of the Republican primaries and by even more significant margins over two rivals. They had finally presumably ganged up against him. But not really! They each agreed – or their campaign chairs did – not to campaign any further in certain states – remarkably in precisely those states where their rival and presumptive partner was pouring in all his efforts. However, neither would instruct their supporters to vote for their rival/partner in the other in the states in which they had agreed to cease campaigning.

Too little, too late! The commentators were generally correct. Donald Trump is virtually unstoppable, even though the Republican candidate would be chosen by the delegates at the convention. Even if it was a brokered convention and Trump fell a bit short of the requisite majority of delegates, even in the worst case scenario for him, Trump would have by far the largest plurality of delegates. It would be political suicide for the Republican Party to stop him. And the delegates selected know that.

For the first time in my life, I agreed with Donald Trump. He became the presumptive Republican candidate yesterday evening as he claimed. So Donald Trump was free to go back to being totally un-presidential. Hillary Clinton was a felon. In any case, she only appealed to women. And she appealed to fewer of them than he did. And he would do more for women than she would. He would make America great again. He would protect them from illegal migrants. He would protect them from a nuclear holocaust. He could do business with strong and respected leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China. (It was not clear that he knew the name of the latter or could pronounce it.) Hillary would be easier to beat than any of the thirteen rivals in the Republican Party that he had defeated over the last six months. She would only get 5% of the vote if she were a male.

The usual gross hyperbole! The usual insults spread generously about! The usual plethora of libelous depictions of others! The usual admiration for strength! The real question now is whether Bernie Sanders would urge his supporters to back
Hillary and whether he would settle for a Democratic Party platform that would have to veer in the direction of his campaign. By the time we get back to Toronto by the end of the week, we might have some idea. In any case, we will bring with us the warmth of Vancouver Island.

With us, but not ahead of us. For after we traveled along Highway 3, The Crowsnest Highway through Crowsnest Pass, the fields of southern Alberta for some distance were covered with snow. We had crossed the continental divide between British Columbia and Alberta. Yesterday, I quickly described our trip after we left the Fraser Valley along the beginning of the western end of the Crowsnest Highway from Osoyoos to Cranbrook through a series of ascents descents through the Anarchist Mountains into and through the Kooteneys beginning around Grand Forks on the U.S./Canada border then past the lake named after Nancy Greene and south again at Salmo before we passed through the Kooteney Pass. Though the Kooteney Pass was spectacular, it did not prepare us for the deep valleys and the phenomenal snow-capped mountains of the Rockies proper that rose out of the ground like great mammoths. The northern passage through Lake Louise, though also spectacular, was totally gentle in comparison. But this time, we were descending quickly eastward through Fernie and Sparwood to the Alberta foothills and then the western plain.

In those foothills, we passed a startling site that neither of us had heard of ever before. It was the Frank Slide between Pincher and Fort McLeod that must have been cataclysmic at the time. The whole side of a mountain had been sheared off; the rubble of huge boulders – and I mean huge, the size of small buildings – was strewn across both sides of the highway. We learned that in 1905, the side of Turtle Mountain was severed off and, in a little over a minute, buried the new coal mining town of Frank. 90 were killed. Frank disappeared only to be memorialized by the rubble of this spectacular event. It must have destroyed a whole section of the highway and the Canadian Pacific rail line at the time. If we had been prepared, we would have stopped to visit the museum or commemorative centre that would have told us much more about this tremendous slide and its history, but we simply drove past in awe.

Since the area is also an archeological wonder and, from reading Jack London and Pierre Berton, I knew a tiny bit about the area. But I wished we had driven a bit north of Salma to Kokanee Glacier National Park, the place that became famous when Justin Trudeau’s youngest brother, Michel, was swept by an avalanche into the lake and drowned in 1998. I did know much more about the geology of the Continental Divide that forms the boundary between British Columbia and Alberta and that runs from the mountain peaks of Alaska to Chile.

The region is of importance historically as well as geologically, of course, but the attraction is mostly the spectacular geography. Twenty years before he was assassinated by Serbian nationalists to trigger WWI, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand was a visitor to Arrow Lake just north of where we had driven. William Randolph Hearst, and his father thirty years earlier, had also visited the region. But there are serious disappointments as well as the inspiration from the spectacular scenery. As you descend through the mountains, Trail B.C. with its smokestack industries appears as an apparition and scar across the landscape. Trail has the largest non-ferrous smelters in the world. Industrialization had significant costs as well as benefits.
History, as I said, may be influenced by geology because of the natural beauty left behind. But the region attracts entertainers as well as important political figures.

In a memorable concert in 1988, Johnny Cash – whom we listened to on the radio yesterday – performed alongside Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Wanda Jackson. In 1991, the B.C. government tried to replicate that high note by sponsoring Joan Baez, Sarah McLachlan and even Bob Hope as performers in the region. But as famous as these performers were, they never rivaled the excitement of the 1988 concert.
Towns become famous for the strangest reasons. The day before, we passed through Fruitvale and Salmo, the region to which Japanese Canadians were forcefully and disgracefully relocated during WWII. David Suzuki grew up in the region. So did Nancy Greene mentioned above, our most famous female athlete of the twentieth century and Olympic champion skier who came from the region. Naming senators like her to follow in her footsteps in the Senate may be the way to save that institution.

Yesterday I wrote about tectonic plates. The Rockies and other ranges west were the result of the Pacific Plate rubbing against the North American plate as mountain ranges were thrust up in the process, perhaps as little as 75 million years ago. Much more recently, 10,000 to 15,000 year ago, the glaciers in the region started to retreat leaving behind the alluvial soil that formed the Okanagan Valley and the other valleys we traversed. But the juncture is still unstable and volcanic eruptions, tremendous rock slides and avalanches characterize the region. So, although the region is spectacularly beautiful, it is also very dangerous. Many of us remember 1980 when the State of Washington’s Mount St. Helen’s snow-capped dome blew off and altered the weather of the whole of our Earth for at least a year.

How tame it is then to descend to the western planes and traverse Alberta and Saskatchewan through Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw. Snow not only still covered many of the fields in southern Alberta, but small piles of dirty snow were scattered alongside the TransCanada Highway as we drove to Moose Jaw. Unlike our trip west through Canada in the Fall of 2014, the fields were mostly brown though plowing had begun, especially in the huge farms that align the highway. In parts, farm houses are few and far between. As one approaches Regina from the west, farm equipment dealer after dealer, with yards full of all types of new equipment, astride the highway on both sides.

My biggest disappointment was the sky. In September of 2014, the vast blue of the skies was truly breathtaking for a Toronto boy. But this time, the skies were totally overcast with rolls of clouds lined up in u-shaped row after row as if preparing for a tremendous military battle. However, when we passed Reed Lake and Chaplin Lake on the way to Moose Jaw, the most delightful scene was of birds, small ducklings already well past the infant stage, Canadian geese in ones and twos waltzed beside the highway, but looked forlorn as if they had lost contact with the V formations they used to fly north. Perhaps they had wintered in the West this past year and never flew south. There were herons, larger hawks than we had seen in British Columbia. I did not spot the white Cormorants that my driver did.

Shallow lakes form part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and there are signs alongside of the road indicating the importance of this region to the migratory patterns of the birds which fly, some from South America, to their breeding grounds in the north. We were disappointed not to see large flocks, but we probably were traveling through too early in the season.

I said that I would write about our visits to the wineries, but I will not do so today. We want to be on our way early this morning to try to reach Ontario.
But I will get to it.

Reasons 5&6: The Rule of Law and Israel

Ten Reasons Why I Will NOT vote for Bernie Sanders:

Part III Reasons 5 and 6 – The Rule of Law and Israel

by

Howard Adelman

Thus far I have pointed to Bernie’s ill targeted criticism of the major banks, his protectionist trade policies, his weak position on gun control and, most extensively, on his incoherent policies and performance on economic immigration, deportation, family reunification, the diversity visa lobby and, most importantly, his hesitancy and modesty in dealing with Syrian refugees. I could have spent much more time on the inadequacies and incoherence of his migration policies. For example, how could he:

  • Grant amnesty to illegal aliens but vote against bills to do just that only because they include no provisions against guest workers
  • Extend asylum to victims of domestic violence but not significantly increase the intake of Syrian refugee victims of state, rebel and terrorist violence
  • Expand the grounds for refugee claims by including victims of gang violence and include the credible fear standard for making an asylum claim while not recognizing victims of a different type of gang violence and credible fear when it comes to Syrian refugees
  • How can he enlarge the room for refugee claimants who can manage to get to the United States but keep resettlement of refugees at a minimal level so that the combination results in enhanced incentives for smuggling operations and illegal entry?
  • Oppose chain migration but support expanded family reunification
  • Supposedly support the high tech business sector but oppose their ability to import necessary skills and increase the pressure to relocate overseas while denouncing the out-migration of such firms
  • Oppose the visa lottery program but defend it in a speech in November 2015 “The Diversity Visa program is an enormous and inexpensive source of goodwill, affords potential immigrants with no family ties an opportunity to join our great nation, and is particularly important to African immigrants.”

I could go on, but I want to now focus on two additional reasons and complete the reasoning tomorrow, erring of necessity on the side of brevity because the New York primary is tomorrow.

Reason Five – The Rule of Law

Other than referencing Hillary Clinton’s legal problems with her use of emails when she was Secretary of State or Bernie Sanders’ legal challenge (successful) to enfranchise 17-year-old voters in the Ohio primary who will be 18 on election day, very little has been said about the rule of law, the system of laws and regulations that are the bedrock of a constitutional democracy and that apply universally to the wealthy and the poor, those in power and those who lack power, those in positions of formal authority and the vast majority who are not. As the saying goes, in a rule of law polity, the rules apply to the rulers as well as the ruled. This is true not only in the application of the law but in its creation. While Barack Obama was extremely cautious and modest in his use of executive powers to make law, what has become clear in Bernie Sanders’ campaign is that he would rely far more on the use of executive orders to override legislators.

This is a practice that was prevalent in both Venezuela and Brazil. The reality is that strong proponents of economic justice who blame rich economic elites for a country’s problems tend to see economic justice as trumping legal justice and procedures. Further, the more economic incentives and subsidies expand, whether on behalf of corporate interests or the needy, there is an increase in bureaucratic power. Though a strong and independent creative civil service is an essential component in a modern state, something the political right is blind to, it is also the case that  bureaucrats are susceptible to being corrupted by the economic inducements of the rich and powerful, to which Bernie is legitimately ultra-sensitive in the United States, but also to those who gain political power and envision enhanced control over different segments of the economic sector as the entry to greater economic and social justice, an entry point to undermining the rule of law and enhancing the power of individuals, including the President, and groups, a susceptibility to which Bernie seems insensitive.

Perhaps even more, but certainly as much, modern states need an honest, capable and efficient administrative apparatus, which attacks on government per se undermine. That civil service, and it is a service that must both remain civil and serve the universal interests of civil society, must retain a realm of initiative and independence to ensure the polity remains immune to both economic and crusading political predators. Unfortunately, there is a built-in tension between demands for the state to build the necessary infrastructure, provide the necessary services and incentivize both economic engines and individuals, as opposed to the temptation to turn these mechanisms into convoluted traps for inaction or, on the other hand, units for dispensing patronage and favouritism. Good government needs to walk that fine line between the Scylla of sclerosis and Charybdis of indulgences. From many of Bernie’s statements, one fears that he would remove the blindfold of justice and sail the ship of state into the rocks on either side of the straights as he attempts to maneuver the ship of state through the foaming waters of an unruly social environment.

  1. Israel

I could write on a number of political areas of foreign policy, such as Libya on which I have written a number of blogs, but I have chosen Israel because it is an arena I know well. Further, I have chosen to focus specifically on the degree to which Israel fights its wars in accordance with the norms of just war, an area on which I claim some expertise.  In the contemporary period, Israel generally and just war analysis more particularly has proven to be the Achilles’ heel of the Left. Bernie is the exemplification of the propensity of even the moderate Left, and Bernie is a card-carrying member of the moderate Left, to misunderstand and misrepresent Israel, a propensity exacerbated by a right in America which serves as a cheerleader of the Likud in Israel and is almost blind and deaf to the rights of Palestinians for self-determination.

In the corrected version of his original infamous editorial board interview, Bernie said, “I do believe that Israel…has every right to destroy terrorism. But in Gaza there were 10,000 wounded civilians and 1,500 killed. Was that a disproportionate attack? The answer is it was. As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel. In the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace… we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

In the reference to the cry about the numbers, he did originally say that, “my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza,” but soon corrected that to say 10,000 civilians had been wounded. So the outcry that there were only 1,400 or 1,600 killed according to even UN or Palestinian figures is beside the point. The real issue is that he referred to all the dead as “civilians.” Israel says there were only about 700 of the total of 2,130 killed. The UN and the Palestinians double the proportion of civilians killed. The reasons are clear. Youngsters under the age of sixteen are recruited by Hamas to serve in auxiliary positions as observers, runners, etc. When they die, they are counted as civilians. So are policemen who have a military role in Gaza. And since they do not wear uniforms, many militants can also be counted as civilians.

But the controversy over figures is both a distraction and an indicator. For the real issue is whether Israel’s response to the Hamas rocket attacks was disproportionate. Bernie on this point is dogmatic. “It was.” For him it is self-evident. Since there was wide-scale destruction, including destruction of apartment buildings and even hospitals, for Bernie it follows logically that the Israeli response, however much Bernie finds such a response in itself to be legitimate, is self-evidently disproportionate.

However, in the application of rules of just war and its conduct, a military action is disproportionate if excessive force is used to achieve a military goal. A military action is disproportionate if civilians and civilian facilities are attacked indiscriminately. The issue is not the quantity of destruction, but the procedures and mechanisms for minimizing civilian destruction.

In relation to the amount of force used to achieve a legitimate military objective, if the goal was forcing Hamas to sue for peace, as the United States did with Japan towards the end of WWII, then Israel would, at the very least, have to reoccupy Gaza. If the goal was deterrence, many would argue that insufficient force was used since the objective of deterring Hamas from targeting Israel with rockets has worked only for a limited time and then the practice has been resumed. If the goal was temporary deterrence and enhancing the protection of Israeli civilians and civil life without a significant cost in the lives of Israeli soldiers, then the proportion was probably about right, though I personally would have been very hesitant to use that much force. But then I am not a military officer or a politician charged with such a responsibility. And my wariness about the use of force probably ensures that I would be unfit for such a responsibility.

The issue is not treating the Palestinian leaders or the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. I think that Israel often falls far short of that standard in treating Palestinian civilians. The issue is whether Israel applies the standards of executing a just war sufficiently to protect the civilian populations in the territories where it is engaged in lethal and legitimate warfare both in general and in particular military encounters. By any measure that is objectively applied, Israel applies the rule of law in accordance with just war doctrine with greater attention to those rules than any other state, even the United States which also has high standards. Most countries, including the peaceable Kingdom of Canada, do not assign legal officers to military units to ensure that ethical considerations enter into targeting decisions. Israel does.

Of course the IDF suffers from the same tensions between the legal ethical officials and the commanders charged with winning a military battle as in any other army, but those ethical considerations are there and they are by and large effective. Bernie’s simplistic judgement that Israel practices indiscriminate warfare against the Palestinians is a calumny. That alone makes him unworthy to be the Democratic presidential candidate when Hillary Clinton is the alternative.

So when Bernie says that, “no one will fight for that principle (a right of self-defense) more strongly than I will,” and insists that Israel, “ has the right to live in freedom, independently and in security without having to be subjected to terrorist attacks,” he is not to be believed. For his credibility depends on delivery and execution, not just rhetorical adherence to a right. Further, when he boils the failures of the peace process down to the need to treat Palestinians with dignity and respect, he proves that he is not only self-delusional and  naïve, but is also ignorant of the machinations and positions of the various sides.

Opposing Netanyahu does not entail accusing those who have dealt with him as believing that Netanyahu is always right. Championing the cause of Palestinian self-determination does not require libeling Israel and its labours while assuring everyone that you cannot be engaged in libel since you believe in Zionism and support the Jewish right to self-determination. The reality is that the rights of self-determination of both Jews and Palestinians exist within a historical, political and ethical context and that does not easily boil down to simplistic sloganeering. It is not sufficient to oppose BDS, to condemn terrorism in general and Hamas in particular, to even criticize the bias of the Goldstone Report, but without really understanding its fundamental flaws. Bernie is certainly not an anti-Israeli zealot. He is a friend of Israel, but a weak friend with too simplistic a view of the dynamics of peace and war between Israelis and Palestinians.

Ten Reasons Why I Will NOT vote for Bernie Sanders – Part I

Ten Reasons Why I Will NOT vote for Bernie Sanders

Part I – The First Three Reasons

by

Howard Adelman

Why would I even consider voting for Bernie? After all, he was an excellent athlete – an excellent runner and basketball player – when he was in high school and at university, while I at 6”3” was a dud. On the other hand, Bernie’s father at 17 came from Slopnice in Poland in 1921; my father came with his mother from Minsk in 1919 at age six. Though I am three years older, we grew up with similar experiences of the greater world, opposing the Vietnam War, in support of the crusade for civil and political rights for Black Americans and as admirers of Sweden as the Middle Way. If discount Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, the strongest push I have we . If we discount Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, pushing me towards support of Bernie is that he is by far the strongest environmentalist running to be a candidate for the presidency of the United States, supporting renewable energy to replace the burning of fossil fuels and pushing a carbon tax. His older brother, Larry, was the Green Party candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon in the last parliamentary election. My two youngest children are very strong advocates for sound environmental policies and, more importantly, are strong advocates for Bernie Saunders in discussions with me of American politics.

In fact, that is my main motivation for writing this blog. I want to try to convince them both that they are mistaken. I might even have a tiny influence on my three oldest children who have become American citizens and enjoy the right to vote. Ari Kamen, the political director of the Working Families Party in New York City and one of the leaders in support of Bernie’s crucial campaign in the New York State primary, even managed to convince his father, a Philadelphia history teacher at a Jewish day school, to support Bernie. I want to try to reverse the process. As futile as it may seem to be in addressing idealistic millennials, almost as futile as Bernie’s campaign seemed to be at the beginning, my children need to support another candidate. The debate in Brooklyn last night makes this blog imperative.

So, here goes.

  1. Trade Policy

Bernie’s most important claim to fame is that he is anti-free trade. He has consistently opposed free trade agreements. He reminds me of the old NDP policy in Canada. When my eldest son returned from Oxford with a graduate degree in tow in economic history, before he went on to become a professor of history at Princeton, he was asked by the NDP to prepare a think-piece on free trade and, in particular, on the prospect of a North American Free Trade Agreement which Canada, Mexico and the United States were negotiating. He studied the prospect of free trade and wrote a paper concluding, as almost all studies do, that this type of trade agreement does cause job and business dislocations, but that the rules proposed governing both investment and trade generally are of net benefit to the partners in such agreements. The NDP just buried his study and went on in the 1993 election to campaign against the prospective free trade agreement.

In that election, the NDP was reduced to a rump with just nine seats, though not as devastating a rump as the Progressive Conservative Party that suffered an overwhelming defeat and emerged with only two seats. Jean Chretien emerged with a significant majority and passed the NAFTA agreement that, in virtually all studies, has proven so beneficial to Canada, even though it was a major cause for the devastation to our furniture and some other industries in which the jobs moved primarily to the southern United States. Tom  Mulcair, the current leader of the NDP, now supports free trade. However, that anti-free trade sentiment remains strong in the NDP and has been brought into the forefront of debate by Donald Trump (we signed a bad deal) and the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Bernie argued, “NAFTA may be a good deal for the people who own our corporations, but it is a bad deal for American workers, for our family farmers, and it is bad for the environment.” NAFTA has been bad for some workers. NAFTA has been bad for some businesses – largely ignored by Bernie because of his emphasis on the cause of workers in dislocated industries. In Canada, the free trade agreement may have benefited the multi-nationals, but the initiative was pressed forward by federal civil servants and supporting Conservative and Liberal governments. In the new economy, accelerated by, but not the result of, free trade, labour unions have suffered as have the protections for workers generally. Europe has shown that there is no need for free trade to be associated with the destruction of unions and the protection of workers, especially the diminution of health and safety protection.

Bernie’s most effective moment of last evening perhaps came over this issue near the beginning of the debate. The exchange with Wolf Blitzer went as follows:

BLITZER: Senator, you’ve slammed companies like General Electric and Verizon for moving jobs outside of the United States. Yesterday, the CEO of Verizon called your views contemptible and said in your home state of Vermont Verizon has invested more than $16 million and pays millions of dollars a year to local businesses. He says you are, quote, “uninformed on this issue” and disconnected from reality. Given your obvious contempt for large American corporations, how would you as president of the United States be able to effectively promote American businesses around the world?

SANDERS: Well, for a start, I would tell the gentleman who’s the CEO at Verizon to start negotiating with the Communication Workers of America. And this is — this is a perfect example, Wolf, of the kind of corporate greed which is destroying the middle class of this country. This gentleman makes $18 million a year in salary. That’s his — that’s his compensation. This gentleman is now negotiating to take away health care benefits of Verizon workers, outsource call center jobs to the Philippines, and — and trying to create a situation where workers will lose their jobs. He is not investing in the way he should in inner cities in America.

BLITZER: All right. Senator, but the question was, the question was, given your contempt for large American corporations, as president, how would you be able to promote American business around the world?

SANDERS: First of all, the word contempt is not right. There are some great businesses who treat their workers and the environment with respect. Verizon happens not to be one of them. And what we need to do is to tell this guy Immelt, who’s the head of General Electric, he doesn’t like me, well, that’s fine. He has outsourced hundreds of thousands of decent-paying jobs throughout the world… cut his workforce here substantially and in a given year, by the way, it turns out that both Verizon and General Electric, in a given year, pay nothing in federal income tax despite making billions in profits.

BLITZER: But Senator, experts say that no matter the means to bring back these jobs to the United States, prices of goods for consumers in the United States would go up, which would disproportionately impact the poor and middle class. So how do you bring back these jobs to the United States without affecting the cost of goods to America’s middle class and poor?

SANDERS: Well, for a start, we’re going to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. And number two, while it is true we may end up paying a few cents more for a hamburger in McDonald’s, at the end of the day, what this economy desperately needs is to rebuild our manufacturing sector with good-paying jobs.  We cannot continue to sustain the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs that we have seen over the last 20, 30 years, based on trade agreements of which Secretary Clinton has voted for almost every one of those. That has got to change.

Bernie is correct. Certain types of workers suffer as a result of free trade agreements. But so too do certain types of businesses, particularly small businesses, so why is this not a major consideration in Bernie’s platform if he is true to his word and does respect some businesses, including very large ones? Bernie is also correct that multinational corporations have benefited. But the partners to trade agreements also suffered job losses. The furniture manufacturing jobs moved from the Kitchener area and Quebec to Georgia. The problem is not the dislocation – which is inevitable in an agreement. The real issue is not only the net benefit, but whether economic assistance is available for protecting workers, for job retraining and for the small businesses negatively affected.

The issue should not be free trade, which helps raise the impoverished world to become wealthier, but how the dislocations are managed. Bernie Saunders is simply a Luddite when it comes to trade policy. He is not an internationalist, but an economic nationalist focused almost exclusively on the harm done to American workers. Bernie opposed NAFTA in 1993. He opposed the free trade agreement with China that resulted directly in literally hundreds of millions of Chinese workers rising out of poverty. Bernie is also dishonest about the studies. He will emphasize that the Congressional Research Service documents the loss of 700,000 jobs as a result of NAFTA while ignoring, or, at best, underplaying, how many jobs the U.S. gained. In a worst case scenario, the U.S. suffered only a tiny net loss while the three economies of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. all benefited from the rising tide of trade and investment.

Opposing free trade is an integral part of reactionary rather than progressive politics if your primary one trick pony show is to raise the minimum wage to $15, however laudable in itself, while opposing free trade agreements.

  1. Dismantling the Large Banks

Next to targeting free trade, dismantling the American mega-banks has been an integral and core part of the Bernie Sanders’ crusade.  For Bernie, unlike too many of his supporters, the banks, along with Wall Street, are not seen as under the control of the Jews. (In a campaign stop at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in New York, one of his supporters shouted out that the Jews ran Wall Street.)  But Bernie has held the big banks to blame for the 2008 economic collapse.

Bernie is correct that the top six American banks – JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley – do control 58% (approximately 9.7 trillion in assets) of America’s GDP (18.2 trillion). But there is no evidence that they were collectively the prime causes of the 2007-08 collapse. Hillary Clinton was accurate in arguing in the debate that, in the whole picture, the key culprits were AIG, a giant insurance company, the investment bank, Lehman Brothers, and mortgage companies like Countrywide.

In my own published studies of the bursting of that bubble in 2007, the big banks in Canada could not be held to be at fault because we did not have a bubble to burst and because the rules governing the banks and their liquidity requirements are much stricter. But it was Bernie, not Hillary, who supported the deregulation of swaps and derivatives that allowed the rogue operations of near-banks as well as a ream of boiler shops promoting the sale of mortgage assets using the new technology developed initially by a Canadian graduate of the University of Waterloo at the beginning of this century. Has anyone not seen the terrific 2015 movie, The Big Short, which offers bios of four different financial management firms which both profited from and warned against what was happening?

The progressive economist, Paul Krugman, who writes for The New York Times, is a far better source than I am. In an op-ed column a week ago entitled, “Sanders Over the Edge,” he joined the chorus of those who accused Sanders of going “for easy slogans over hard thinking.” “The easy slogan here is ‘Break up the big banks.’ It’s obvious why this slogan is appealing from a political point of view: Wall Street supplies an excellent cast of villains. But were big banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?”

What about Hillary giving speeches to big banks and Wall Street at $225,000 a shot? Was she compromising herself as a political candidate? Had she sold out to the banks as a result of speaking for money as Bernie charged? When Bernie was directly asked in the debate for one instance that showed Hillary had compromised in her political positions towards the banks, and, more seriously, connected that to the money she collected for speeches, Bernie was silent. All his accusations boiled down to suspicion and perception. There was no evidence produced that Hillary, when she was a Senator or when she was Secretary of State, either took money or was influenced by Wall Street. Or even that her policies had been influenced by the large banks since she has been a candidate for president even if $15 or $150 million of her campaign funds came from Wall Street. President Obama, who had a super PAC that took Wall Street donations, signed and passed Dodd-Frank, the significant effort (more could be done) to close the barn door after the rogues from Countrywide Financial and Lehman Brothers had escaped regulation, bringing enormous disaster to themselves, their shareholders and their clients.

As Paul Krugman wrote, “pounding the table about big banks misses the point. Yet going on about big banks is pretty much all Mr. Sanders has done. On the rare occasions on which he was asked for more detail, he didn’t seem to have anything more to offer. And this absence of substance beyond the slogans seems to be true of his positions across the board.”

  1. Guns

The issue of guns in America has occupied a significant part of President Obama’s presidency and of the campaign to become the next democratic candidate for president. In the U.S., “90 people on average a day are killed or commit suicide or die in accidents from guns, 33,000 people a year,” quite aside from the large number of mass killings of innocent civilians. Hillary Clinton in the debate last night said that, “Senator Sanders voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for the most important NRA priority, namely giving immunity from liability to gun-makers and dealers, something that is at the root of a lot of the problems that we are facing. Then he doubled down on that in the New York Daily News interview, when asked whether he would support the Sandy Hook parents suing to try to do something to rein in the advertising of the AR-15, which is advertised to young people as being a combat weapon, killing on the battlefield. He said they didn’t deserve their day in court.” In fact, his statements in the debate contradict that last interpretation.

What was and has repeatedly been Bernie’s answer? “Back in 1988, I ran for the United States Congress one seat in the state of Vermont. I probably lost that election, which I lost by three points, because I was the only candidate running who said, you know what? We should ban assault weapons, not seen them sold or distributed in the United States of America. I’ve got a D-minus voting record from the NRA. And, in fact, because I come from a state which has virtually no gun control, I believe that I am the best qualified candidate to bring back together that consensus that is desperately needed in this country.”

I cannot follow the latter reasoning at all. If you come from a state that makes it virtually impossible to get an abortion, are you the best person to mediate between the pro-life and the pro-choice camps? And when you lose an election opposing guns and subsequently compromise on that issue and win, does this mean your position should be respected? Or does that just mean you are a typical politician that sees the need to compromise to win elections? Did it mean he had to vote against the Brady Bill requiring a waiting period and comprehensive background checks?

However, I think that the central question was asked by Wolf Blitzer. The exchange went as follows:

BLITZER: You recently said you do not think crime victims should be able to sue gun makers for damages. The daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School who was killed back in the 2012 mass shooting, says you owe her and families an apology. Do you?

SANDERS: What we need to do is to do everything that we can to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of people who do not have them. [He must have misspoken while evading the question asked. Criminals that do have guns should be entitled to purchase more, but not aspiring criminals???] Now, I voted against this gun liability law because I was concerned that in rural areas all over this country, if a gun shop owner sells a weapon legally to somebody, and that person then goes out and kills somebody, I don’t believe it is appropriate that that gun shop owner who just sold a legal weapon to (sic!) be held accountable and be sued. But, what I do believe is when gun shop owners and others knowingly are selling weapons to people who should not have them — somebody walks in. They want thousands of rounds of ammunition, or they want a whole lot of guns, yes, that gun shop owner or that gun manufacturer should be held liable.

BLITZER: So, Senator, do you owe the Sandy Hook families an apology?

SANDERS: No, I don’t think I owe them an apology. They are in court today, and actually they won a preliminary decision today. They have the right to sue, and I support them and anyone else who wants the right to sue.

CLINTON: Well, I believe that the law that Senator Sanders voted for that I voted against, giving this special protection to gun manufacturers and to dealers, is an absolute abdication of responsibility on the part of those who voted for it.

Car manufactures can be sued for making cars that maim or kill when safety is compromised, but not manufacturers of lethal weapons, as long as they are sold to the “right people” and not in large quantities. Does that make sense to you? Manufacturers can make and sell lethal automatic machine guns without safety protection but, in Bernie’s policies, be generally immune from any suit as long as they are sold to the “right people” and not in large quantities. And what about the retailers? Granting the right to sue but not the grounds for a successful suit is no defence of the Sandy Hook mothers. There must be a law that at least makes it part of the responsibility of manufacturers and sellers to ensure that weapons that are produced are as safe as possible when used and, as much as feasible, are not available to those who would use weapons threatening human lives.

Part II: to be continued

 

With the help of Alex Zisman