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The Horror: Thoughts on My Visit to Yad Vashem

My wife April and I are making our first trip ever to Israel. While traveling, I'm writing reports to some friends and family who...

Friday News: U.S. Retaliates Against Russian Hacking; “America’s democracy has become...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Friday, December 30. Also, check out President Obama's tour of...

Thursday News: “Trump Could Be Israel’s Worst Nightmare”; “Paul Ryan’s idiotic...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, December 29. Also check out John Kerry's superb speech,...

Christmas/Hanukkah News: “Fake News” Leads to Nuclear Threat; “The Stolen Supreme...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Sunday, Christmas Day and "first day of Hanukkah" 2016. At...

Saturday News: Trump Flirts With Potentially Catastrophic Arms Race; Trump Co-Chair...

by Lowell Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Saturday, December 24. Also, here's what Robert Reich has to...

Sen. Mark Warner vs. J Street on UN Security Council Resolution

So, who do you agree with on this story ("The U.N. Security Council on Friday passed a resolution demanding Israel cease Jewish settlement activity on...

General Assembly, Utterly Incompetent at Dealing with Virginia’s Issues, Tries Its...

by Lowell You might recall that in 2014, the Virginia General Assembly - a body, I'd point out, that isn't even capable of doing the...

McDonnell’s Incompetence Saved Tarnish of Corruption

McDonnell's failed trade mission to China, an expensive effort at personal aggrandizement that netted two jobs (in Shanghai) may have had a blessing in disguise. After all is said and done, his bumbling attempt to conduct economic diplomacy saved him from an association with Bo Xilai's venal Chongquing administration.

With no trade success to report during last year's trip, much of the press coverage of McDonnell's boondoggle was filled with other issues like Virginia's own Republican Delegate Phil Hamilton scandal. The Governor never managed to meet with officials in the municipality that was to be the focus of his visit to promote Virginia tourism, wines, or anything he could claim as an accomplishment. Just as well, these fellows play for keeps, way out of the league of an international neophyte.

'You cross me - never come to China, you'll never get out of jail'. Gu Kailai, wife of Bo, warning a British businessman attempting to start up a tourism venture.

There were so many missteps, it is difficult to fix a cause for the failure. McDonnell's front man for commerce, Jim Cheng might have been one reason for the failed effort to engage. As a practical matter, Cheng's close ties to Taiwan aren't the bona fides the Chinese look at good naturedly. Whether it was that or McDonnell's inept planning, they dodged a bullet. An association with the disgraced Bo would not curry favor with the likes of Hu Jintao, China's leader himself, who is said to have been the subject of Bo's wiretapping. All of this could have been avoided by leveraging State Department resources in China. Or it easily could have been poor relations with staffers in China that set things headed downhill.  

Why So Timid With Syria?

The administration's limping foreign policy voice whimpered a bit yesterday. Weeks after the murders began in the tradition of Hama rules (and actually replaying in Hama), the world's beacon of freedom has dimmed. While we arrogantly jumped into the Libyan fray, we invited Syrian dissidents to coffee with our Ambassador.

Until yesterday, when the State Department concluded that one of two outcomes (Assad stopping the violence or Assad stepping down) could be worked to its credit, the United States hadn't taken much of any position. State did make the marvelously stupid move of having the Ambassador reach out to and meet with dissidents. Now we have not only managed to alienate all parties who matter in Damascus, we have been turned a paper tiger.

...the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja'afari, ... accused the United States of "instigating further violence in the country, and giving the wrong message to the armed terrorist armed groups that they are under American and Western protection so that they go ahead with their insurrection and destructive activities in the country." - New York Times

Whether In Israel or America, The Right Wing Messes Things Up

Before I begin, let me just make one thing clear: this article is not - repeat, NOT - about Israel, at least not specifically or uniquely. In fact, it's not about any particular country at all. Instead, what this article IS about is the universal truth that, wherever the right wing gains power or exercises significant sway (including the de facto veto power it wields in the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court), it f***s messes things up. Big time.

Case in point: Israel, right now, where hundreds of thousands of people, to a large degree young Israelis, are protesting against right-wing policies, economic and otherwise, and demanding social justice. To understand what's happening in Israel - and, more broadly, in any country where the right wingnuts hold significant power (like our own) - I strongly recommend this article, by writer and business professor Bernard Avishai. Here are highlights of Avishai's main conclusions, all of which are integral features of the U.S. Teapublican Party, and also descriptive of what's been happening here economically and politically under Reagan, Bush, Bush, DeLay, Boehner, Can'tor, etc.

1. CRONY CAPITALISM/THE RICH GET RICHER: Israel has a high degree of income inequality, in which, due largely to the Israeli right wing's "freewheeling approach to market regulation − so much like that of American Republicans...The wealthiest 16 families own 20 percent of the top 500 companies." Sound familiar? Well it should: here in the United States, "the top 1 percent control 40 percent [of the wealth]," and rakes in "nearly a quarter of the nation's income every year." That income inequality is growing, year by year, as (to paraphrase Jim Webb) the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class gets squeezed. In both America and Israel, guess who fosters the policies that lead to rapidly growing income inequality? You guessed it: conservatives, the right wing, whatever you want to call them. It's always the same people, engaging in what they perversely call "class warfare" (accusing Democrats of the very thing THEY do, on an enormous scale), but in a Reverse Robin Hood manner, robbing from the poor to give to the rich (who don't need it), using the power of government to reward favored industries - oil, coal, big ag, big pharma, etc. - in exchange for campaign contributions. It's called "crony capitalism," and it appears to be alive and well wherever the right wing wields significant power.