Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jewish Power Grows in US Congress


While Barack Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago-born son of Israeli Jews, as the White House Chief of Staff has made news in the United States, the bigger news of the growing Jewish strength in US Congress has not received much attention.

Jews make up only about 2% of the US population. However their representation in the US executive, legislatures, the Supreme Court is at least five times at about 10 percent plus. The exclusive club of Nobel laureates is dominated by its Jewish members, a testament to Jewish culture of hard work, commitment and achievement. Their numbers and power in the world of business, finance, media and entertainment, Washington think tanks, academia and top professions of accounting, law and medicine are even greater.

Jerusalem Post reports that the next session of Congress will include 45 Jewish lawmakers, a new record, after Democrats Alan Grayson of Florida and John Adler of New Jersey took two House seats from the Republican column.

Jared Polis, also a Democrat, was widely expected to win his Colorado House seat to match the previous record, set in the 2006 elections.

The House will have 32 Jewish members. Only the class of 1990 had more Jewish members - 34 - but there were fewer Jewish senators at the time.

The next Senate will have 13 Jewish members, the same as the previous session, despite a toss-up race in Minnesota, where both Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and his Democratic challenger, comedian Al Franken, are Jewish.

I admire the Jewish people for their culture of hard work and achievement. We should all emulate that. I also make a distinction between Israel lobby that pushed for Iraq war and the Jewish citizens in America, most of whom opposed the Iraq war. Vast majority of Jewish Congressmen and Senators are elected with AIPAC money and support, making them beholden to the Israel lobby.

I see this excessive power of Israel lobby or any other pressure group whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, NRA or corporations as a threat to US democracy. The corrosive effect of money and influence peddling in politics is adversely affecting our executive, legislature, even judiciary. The powerful have gotten away with a lot lately, on both Wall Street and Main street. Iraq war was ignited by the neo-conservatives, most of whom were supported by the Likud-leaning Israel lobby, people such as Wolfowitz and other PNAC (Project for the New American Century) proponents. The Iraq war, described as the three-trillion dollar war by Nobel laureate economist Joe Stiglitz, has now radicalized the Muslim world, reduced US influence in the world, sunk the Republican party and almost bankrupted the US.

Obama's mandate to negotiate with Iran in the face of the Israeli opposition is likely to be the tested soon. Given the past experience of other US presidents' inability to stand up to the growing power of the Israeli supporters in the US, I am not too sanguine that Obama will succeed.

The recent election results, including Obama's historic win, will probably not change much as far the US Middle East policy is concerned. If anything, these results will likely make it extremely difficult for the US to act independently and play the role of an honest broker in any international issues involving Israeli interests. As the Iraq war has shown, the outcome of potentially aggressive and unilateral US foreign policy dictated by the Israel lobby will not be in the best interest of Israel, Arabs and the rest of the world. Those of us who care for Israel must understand this fact, if they share the goal of moving toward a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Here is a video clip of Obama addressing AIPAC, the powerful Israel lobby in US:



Related Links:

The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

The Rise of Jewish Power-Nothing Short of Astounding

Jewish Tribal review

Jewish Domination of Mass Media

20 comments:

libertarian said...

Riaz, you see the same data as I do. You react with trepidation. Mine is wonder. Don't know if the word "prejudice" is too strong here.

Why not focus on their culture of excellence and try and replicate that? Why not analyze how they do what they do and imitate? This obsession with Palestine in the Muslim world clouds clear-thinking. That the Arabs make noises of solidarity (and they are just noises) is one thing. But subcontinental hearts bleeding for Palestinians just boggle this mind. Besides that tenuous religious link, there is absolutely nothing in common. And we have no shortage of "internally displaced persons" of our own.

Riaz Haq said...

I admire the Jewish people for their culture of hard work and achievement. We should all emulate that. I also make a distinction between Israel lobby that pushed for Iraq war and the Jewish citizens in America, most of whom opposed the Iraq war.

I see this excessive power of Israel lobby or any other pressure group whether Muslim or Jewish or NRA or corporate as a threat to US democracy. The corrosive effect of money and influence peddling is adversely affecting our executive, legislature, even judiciary. The powerful have gotten away with a lot lately, on both Wall Street and Main street. Iraq war was ignited by the necons, most of whom were supported by Israel lobby, people such as Wolfowitz and other PNAC proponents. The Iraq war has now radicalized the Muslim world, sunk the Republican party and bankrupted the US.

Anonymous said...

"In an interview with Ma'ariv, Emanuel's father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son's appointment would be good for Israel. "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel," he was quoted as saying. "Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House." The Ma'ariv article also quoted Dr. Emanuel as saying that his son spends most summers visiting in Tel Aviv, and that he speaks Hebrew, but not fluently."
Libertarian - the above quote will help you distinguish between Jewish thinking and Zionist thinking.

indian said...

America is a immigration country, so its free for all with equal opportunity. Indians have been fascinated for long by scale achievements of Jewish people and their intelligence, they have a Midas touch in business and engineering genius. Hope we could emulate them in a small way at least. Anyway we cant beat their racial superiority.As for Arabs, they will kill each others unto death if there was no Jewish state in their midst. Palestinian suffering is artificial in the sense that Arab and Muslim states send millions of dollars to them for fighting Israel and but never address their infrastructural and basic problems lest they loose interest in jihad. The reported pathetic conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in neighboring states of Palestine is telling.

Riaz Haq said...

Jewish Blogging is reporting as follows:

Yes, Bernard L. Madoff is a Jew.

Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged today with allegedly running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, according to U.S. authorities.

According to Yeshiva University, "Bernard L. Madoff, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 1996, was elected chairman of the Board of Directors of Sy Syms School of Business in 2000. Mr. Madoff is chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, one of the nation’s largest third-market dealers in New York Stock Exchange and over-the-counter securities. A Benefactor of the University, Mr. Madoff recently made a major gift to the Sy Syms School."

Forbes reports this 'UNFORTUNATE SET OF EVENTS':

"Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry," his lawyer Dan Horwitz told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was charged. "We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events."

A shaken Madoff stared at the ground as reporters peppered him with questions. He was released after posting a $10 million bond secured by his Manhattan apartment.

The SEC filed separate civil charges.

"Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud -- both in terms of scope and duration," said Scott Friestad, the SEC's deputy enforcer. "We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors."

The SEC said it appeared that virtually all of the assets of his hedge fund business were missing.

Madoff had long kept the financial statements for his hedge fund business under "lock and key," according to prosecutors, and was "cryptic" about the firm.


http://www.jewishblogging.com/blog.php?bid=171027

Riaz Haq said...

From: Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

To understand reaction in the Jewish community to the growing scandal around investor Bernie Madoff, it helps to know a few words of Yiddish.

Yiddish was the language of Jews in Eastern Europe, with a rich history in literature, theater and music, until that community was decimated in the Holocaust. Today Yiddish is most common in communities of Orthodox Jews.

But for most American Jews it harkens back to previous generations and life in the old country, spoken more by “alta kockers,”
though “bubbie” (grandmother) and “zaide” (grandfather) probably don’t appreciate being referred to as geezers.

Madoff was a “macher” (a big shot, a mover-and-shaker) among machers.

Madoff also is - allegedly - a “gonif” (thief, embezzler). A few folks have used Yiddish words regarding parentage and body parts, but we’ll skip those.

The Jewish community is “farklemt” (depressed, distraught, grieving), but it goes beyond that.

The whole thing is a “shandah” (disgrace). For those concerned with image, it’s a shandah for the “goyim” (non-Jews, in front of whom Jewish community looks bad).

“Catastrophe” and “devastation” are English words being used.

“It’s an atomic bomb in the world of Jewish philanthropy,” Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, an organization that advises wealthy Jewish donors, told the Forward, a newspaper that reports on Jewish affairs. “There’s going to be fallout from this for years.”

In the United States, at least one charity has closed. “It’s devastating,” Arthur Epstein, a major supporter of local Jewish charities, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, referring to the loss of the Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation near Boston and the programs it supported.

An American university professor e-mailed me from Jerusalem that the Madoff case is all that’s being discussed in the philanthropic world in Israel, where there is fear that more than 50 organizations that Madoff supported or that invested in his firm may shut down before “Shabbat,” the Sabbath that begins at sunset Friday.

That fear in the Jewish community extends from the Los Angeles to Boca Raton and Palm Beach, from New York City to Washington, D.C., to Boston and points elsewhere around the globe.

With losses ranging from tens of thousands to tens of millions of dollars, the casualties include national Jewish organizations; local Jewish federations, which support programs throughout their communities; charities and foundations supporting a range of causes; hospitals and schools, from elementary through university. Published reports say that one school, Yeshiva Univ., may have lost as much as $100 million.

Untold numbers of children, students, teachers and researchers, the needy and the disabled, retirees of modest means and some of wealth will suffer anonymously.

Some victims of the alleged swindle have well-known names: Spielberg, Wiesel, Lautenberg, Zuckerman.

Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, which studies Jewish philanthropy, told the Forward, “The Jewish philanthropic world depends on personal relationships and personal solicitations. Many Jewish philanthropies are dependent on high-end donors in very close social and economic networks, and this guy is right in middle of them.”

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Bradley Burston recognized that at least one segment of society would find advantage in the situation.

“For the true anti-Semite, Christmas came early this year,” Burston wrote. “Rich beyond human comprehension, he handles fortunes for others, buying and selling in a trading empire that skirts investment banks and other possible sources of regulation. He redefines avarice, knowingly and personally bilking charities and retirees in the most classic of con games. Even better, for those obsessed with the idea that Jews control finance, entertainment and the media, is the idea that Madoff’s greed was uncontrollable enough that he targeted fellow Jews, even Holocaust survivors, some of them his own friends, as well as Israeli companies who insured Jews, including Holocaust survivors. The beauty part, for the anti-Semite: Madoff’s machinations, which could have been put to use for the sake of humanity, have directly harmed Jewish welfare and charity institutions.”

Now that is a shandah.


http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2008/12/17/deep-embarassment-over-madoff-and-pain-too/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Madoff scandal:

Some Jews fear Madoff case stokes anti-Semitism
Thursday December 25, 12:54 pm ET
By Jennifer Peltz, Associated Press Writer
Madoff scandal fits profile of `affinity fraud,' proves particularly wrenching for Jews

NEW YORK (AP) -- Of all the words that have been used to describe the Bernard L. Madoff scandal, the most emotionally charged may be "Jewish."

The disgraced investment guru is accused of orchestrating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that preyed heavily on fellow Jews and ultimately drained the fortunes of numerous Jewish charities and institutions.


There's nothing new about con artists targeting their own kind. There's even a word for it -- affinity fraud -- and it has struck numerous religious, ethnic and professional groups.

But the allegations against Madoff are particularly wrenching for some in the Jewish community, who fear that the sensational case is fanning vicious stereotypes about Jews that go back to the Middle Ages.

The Anti-Defamation League cites a spike in anti-Semitic comments online after Madoff's Dec. 11 arrest. A columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz lamented the case as "the answer to every Jew-hater's wish list."

And the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David A. Harris, wrote a letter to The New York Times criticizing what he saw as "a striking emphasis" on Madoff's faith in one of the paper's many stories about the scandal.

The case is "fodder for the bigots," Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director, said in an interview this week with The Associated Press. "It's both embarrassing and it's painful."

It's difficult to describe the case in any detail without mentioning Madoff's religion. The 70-year-old money manager and former Nasdaq stock market chairman donated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, much of it to Jewish causes. And many of the known victims of his business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, are big names in Jewish life.

Yeshiva University, one of the nation's foremost Jewish institutions of higher education, lost $110 million; Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, lost $90 million; director Steven Spielberg's Wunderkinder Foundation acknowledged unspecified losses; and a $15 million foundation established by Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel was wiped out. Jewish federations and hospitals have lost millions and some foundations have had to close.

Madoff is charged with securities fraud and is under house arrest in his Manhattan apartment with round-the-clock security. His lawyer has said he intends to fight the charge.

The damage to the Jewish community is psychological as well as financial, said Kenneth Bandler, a spokesman for the AJC. He said his organization declined to invest with Madoff earlier this year because it was unable to decipher how Madoff was producing his renowned returns.

At Jewish organizations and synagogues, Bandler said, people ask themselves: "How could someone who is held in such high esteem in the Jewish community knowingly rip off what were supposed to be his friends, the organizations he admired and supported?"

Members of churches, minority groups and various occupations have wondered the same thing after falling victim to similarly targeted frauds. Religious-based schemes alone swept up more than 80,000 people and nearly $2 billion nationwide from 1998 to 2001, according to the most recent figures available from the North American Securities Administrators Association, an investor-protection group.

The Baptist Foundation of Arizona told investors their money would build churches while paying returns. In fact, their savings were sucked into what authorities called a $550 million Ponzi scheme in the 1980s and 1990s. Several foundation officials were sentenced to prison in 2006 and 2007.

Chicago real estate investment firm Sunrise Equities Inc. had the blessing of Muslim clerics, who said its dividends conformed with Islamic laws against earning interest. Its owner disappeared this past August, leaving 200 of his fellow Muslim immigrants with losses that could total $50 million.

Whatever the circle, affinity frauds exploit trust. Victims are approached by one of their own and "therefore there's less suspicion, there's less concern," said Joseph P. Borg, the Alabama Securities Commission's director and a former NASAA president.

Adding to the sense of betrayal in the allegations against Madoff are worries about whether they feed into centuries-old, ugly caricatures of Jews.

Since Jews served as lenders in medieval Europe, where they were barred from many other occupations, they have sometimes been portrayed as miserly, greedy and obsessed with money. In just one example, Shakespeare's Shylock, the Jewish character who demands a pound of flesh in payment for a loan in "The Merchant of Venice," has become synonymous with usury.

In his letter to the Times about a Madoff article, the AJC's Harris wrote: "Yes, he is Jewish. We get it. But was this relevant to his being arrested for cheating investors, or so key to his evolution as a businessman that it needed to be hammered home again and again?"

(Comment inserted : Yes, some criminals are muslims too. Why are they referred to as "Islamic" militants/terrorists ? Why is this relevant ? The shoe hurths when it is on the other foot.)

The Rabbinical Council of America issued a statement Wednesday underscoring that "there is no reason to believe such terrible behavior is more common among Jews" than anyone else.

Still, anti-Semitic broadsides have peppered the Internet in the wake of Madoff's arrest, some in highly visible public-comment sections of popular news sites, Foxman noted.

Some get removed by the sites' administrators or draw replies noting there are bad apples of all creeds and in all walks of life. Victims also extend to all creeds and walks of life -- banks, insurers, pension funds and even the International Olympic Committee are among those who say they've been taken by Madoff.

Still, the scandal has reverberated throughout the Jewish community. This week, representatives of about three dozen Jewish foundations met in New York City to come up with a plan to help Jewish nonprofits that lost money with Madoff, said Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Solomon said the foundations agreed to contribute to a pool of money that will be distributed to hard-hit organizations.

"This is a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination but within the context of $300 billion worth of donations to American charities, we shouldn't lose sight of the larger picture -- both the generosity of Americans and the effectiveness of the nonprofit system," he said.

http://www.ajc.org/

http://www.hadassah.org/

http://www.acbp.net/

http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/

Riaz Haq said...

In a recent book titled "Capitalism and the Jews", author Muller argues that it was Chrisitians' distaste and dis like of usury that left wide open the business of lending and capitalism to Jews in Europe:

"The unique historical relationship between capitalism and the Jews is crucial to understanding modern European and Jewish history. But the subject has been addressed less often by mainstream historians than by anti-Semites or apologists. In this book Jerry Muller, a leading historian of capitalism, separates myth from reality to explain why the Jewish experience with capitalism has been so important and complex--and so ambivalent.

Drawing on economic, social, political, and intellectual history from medieval Europe through contemporary America and Israel, Capitalism and the Jews examines the ways in which thinking about capitalism and thinking about the Jews have gone hand in hand in European thought, and why anticapitalism and anti-Semitism have frequently been linked. The book explains why Jews have tended to be disproportionately successful in capitalist societies, but also why Jews have numbered among the fiercest anticapitalists and Communists. The book shows how the ancient idea that money was unproductive led from the stigmatization of usury and the Jews to the stigmatization of finance and, ultimately, in Marxism, the stigmatization of capitalism itself. Finally, the book traces how the traditional status of the Jews as a diasporic merchant minority both encouraged their economic success and made them particularly vulnerable to the ethnic nationalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Providing a fresh look at an important but frequently misunderstood subject, Capitalism and the Jews will interest anyone who wants to understand the Jewish role in the development of capitalism, the role of capitalism in the modern fate of the Jews, or the ways in which the story of capitalism and the Jews has affected the history of Europe and beyond, from the medieval period to our own."

Riaz Haq said...

President Obama has nominated Ms. Elena Kagan, a woman from New York, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the US Supreme Court. In addition to being a liberal, she shares her Jewish faith with two serving liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Briar.

She has never been a judge before.

But, with her Princeton undergrad and Harvard law school education and Supreme Court clerkship for Justice Thurgood Marshall, she appears to have strong legal qualifications and background to serve on the apex court.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a story in the Guardian about growing wealth gap between whites and blacks in America:

"A huge wealth gap has opened up between black and white people in the US over the past quarter of a century – a difference sufficient to put two children through university – because of racial discrimination and economic policies that favour the affluent.

A typical white family is now five times richer than its African-American counterpart of the same class, according to a report released today by Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

White families typically have assets worth $100,000 (£69,000), up from $22,000 in the mid-1980s. African-American families' assets stand at just $5,000, up from around $2,000.

A quarter of black families have no assets at all. The study monitored more than 2,000 families since 1984.

"We walk that through essentially a generation and what we see is that the racial wealth gap has galloped, it's escalated to $95,000," said Tom Shapiro, one of the authors of the report by the university's Institute on Assets and Social Policy.

"That's primarily because the whites in the sample were able to accumulate financial assets from their $22,000 all the way to $100,000 and the African-Americans' wealth essentially flatlined."

The survey does not include housing equity, because it is not readily accessible and is rarely realised as cash. But if property were included it would further widen the wealth divide.

Shapiro says the gap remains wide even between blacks and whites of similar classes and with similar jobs and incomes.

"How do we explain the wealth gap among equally-achieving African-American and white families? The same ratio holds up even among low income groups. Finding ways to accumulate financial resources for all low and moderate income families in the United States has been a huge challenge and that challenge keeps getting steeper and steeper.

"But there are greater opportunities and less challenges for low and moderate income families if they're white in comparison to if they're African-American or Hispanic," he said.

America has long lived with vast inequality, although 40 years ago the disparity was lower than in Britain.

Today, the richest 1% of the US population owns close to 40% of its wealth. The top 25% of US households own 87%.

The rest is divided up among middle and low income Americans. In that competition white people come out far ahead.

Only one in 10 African-Americans owns any shares. A third do not have a pension plan, and among those who do the value is on average a fifth of plans held by whites.

The report shows that a typical white middle income family, earning
about $30,000 a year, has accumulated $74,000 in assets, five times that of a black family in the same class which has only about $14,000
in wealth.

The gap is even wider when it comes to families with an income above $50,000 a year."

Riaz Haq said...

Is AIPAC a WikiLeaks Op? asks Prof Juan Cole on his blog:

In 2003 Larry Franklin, the ‘go-to man on Iran’ at the Pentagon under undersecretary of defense for planning Douglas Feith, carried a draft confidential finding on Iran out of the building and gave it to Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman of AIPAC’s Middle East Bureau. They not only were happy to receive the classified document, but they ran with it right over to the Israeli Embassy and delivered it to Naor Gilon, the embassy official with the Iran portfolio.

Rosen and Weissman, and probably AIPAC in general, were under FBI surveillance on suspicion of espionage, and that is how they were caught. The FBI field officers were astonished when Franklin came into the picture unexpectedly. Less astonished, I suspect, when Naor Gilon did.

Franklin confessed to wrongdoing, and spent some years in jail was sentenced to the 10 months he spent under house arrest; he may still work for the Pentagon! But Rosen and Weissman maintained they had done nothing illegal, since under US law for someone who is not a government employee to receive classified documents from a third party is not illegal, nor is sharing them with others once they have been received. AIPAC fired them, so they had to fight their own legal battles. The prosecution was ultimately dropped. The Neoconservatives say that the case should never have been brought, since it just criminalized the routine horse-trading in information typical of Washington.

Rosen has now launched a $20 million wrongful termination suit against AIPAC. He maintains that his action of delivering the classified document to the Israeli embassy was standard operating procedure in AIPAC, and that he did nothing out of the ordinary, and that he should not have been fired. He is also threatening to name details of this routine spying.

Rosen, ironically, was hired by Daniel Pipes’ so-called ‘Middle East Forum.’ Pipes runs Campus Watch, which is a neo-McCarthyite attempt to intimidate US college professors into toeing the Likud Party line whenever they talk about Israel and Palestine. So it is only natural that an indicted spy for Israel, Rosen, should be on staff and energetically using dirty tricks to smear the reputations of patriotic Americans.

What Steven Rosen is alleging is that AIPAC, which arranges for millions to go to the campaigns of American politicians, is in essence a Wikileaks operation, only instead of posting the ferreted-out classified material to the Web, they channel it to the Israeli government. (Of course, the Israeli government sometimes acts as a Wikileaks as well; Seymour Hersh was told by US intelligence officials that Israel shared with the Soviets some of the intel it got from spy Jonathan Pollard.)

Whether the allegations about AIPAC routine spying are true or not, Rosen and Weissman certainly did exactly the same thing Julian Assange did, and yet they are free men.

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), who wants Eric Holder to prosecute Julian Assange of Wikileaks, hasn’t objected to the cases against Rosen and Weissman being dropped, and hasn’t asked for an investigation of AIPAC. One of the problems congressmen like this will have in crafting anti-Wikileaks legislation is that they may well be driving a nail into AIPAC’s coffin, as well. King, who keeps accusing Americans of being terrorists, is also known as a long-time supporter of the Irish Republican Army.

You have to love hypocrisy when it is taken to this Himalyan scale. It has a kind of putrid beauty.

Riaz Haq said...

New congress will remain Israel ally, according to Jersusalem Post:

WASHINGTON – The Congress that will be installed Wednesday might be losing four of its Jewish members, but Republicans and several pro-Israel advocates insist it will remain as supportive as ever of the Jewish state.

“The members who are taking over will be at least as strong in their pro-Israel inclinations as the people they’re replacing,” maintained Noah Silverman of the Republic Jewish Coalition, adding that “the leadership is stalwart on Israel.”

Though the Democrats’ shellacking in the November election reduced the numbers of Jewish members from 43 to 39 – though a new Democrat Jewish representative and senator will be among them – Silverman pointed out that the sole Jewish Republican, incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor, will be the highest-ranking Jewish member ever.

Silverman predicted that the most visible change on Israel will be the extent to which Congress now challenges the Obama administration over its handling of the Middle East.

“The biggest difference we expect is how bold and how tough an approach we expect to see in Congressional oversight,” he said. The members are “going to be skeptical and ask questions and conduct vigorous oversight of government policies.”

The non-partisan American Israel Public Affairs Committee described the 112th Congress as “expected to be the most pro-Israel Congress ever” in its Near East Report on the incoming legislative class produced after the elections.

“Many of Israel’s strongest supporters were reelected,” according to the AIPAC report. “AIPAC lay leaders and staff have established relationships with every new senator” already and received position papers in which “the new members of Congress express their support for a strong US-Israel relationship.”

But others, particularly Democrats, are concerned about what the new Congress will bring on Israel, especially since many of the freshmen are Tea Party candidates without a long history of involvement in international issues and bent on cutting the budget.

“My greatest concern is two-fold: one is the unknown [members] and second is the ramifications of the deep fiscal conservatism and what that means for foreign aid and America’s involvement in the world,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Already, incoming Republicans are calling for $100 billion in budget cuts, and many have criticized foreign aid expenditures.

Silverman said, though, that Israel funding is an exception since Republicans are looking to cut foreign expenditures that haven’t been used properly and effectively.

“I’m sure that Israel’s [aid] will pass with flying colors,” he said, adding that in his conversations with new members – both Tea Party backers and others – he has heard resounding support for a strong US-Israel relationship.

“Anytime you’ve got new people, certain people don’t know the issues well,” noted Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who heads The Israel Project. “The people I’ve spoken with so far, their instincts, their hearts are in the right place, and they’re eager to learn.”

She referred to a long history of bi-partisan support for Israel that she expects to continue, and said that while key Jewish Democratic supports of Israel will no longer be in their leadership roles, she expects strong replacements, pointing to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen taking over from Howard Berman as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Silverman also said that the new Middle East subcommittee chairman Steve Chabot, who takes over from Gary Ackerman, would “hit the ground running” and that Kay Granger, who will replace Nita Lowey as chair of appropriations’ foreign operations subcommittee, was well-versed in Israel issues from several trips there.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from an Op Ed by Rabbi Michael Lerner on the shooting of "Jewish Congresswoman Gifford". It's titled "Shooting of Jewish Congresswoman Giffords Is Not Just a "Tragedy"":

When right-wingers create a climate of hate against liberal government, and then individuals act on that hate as they did in blowing up a Federal Building in Oklahoma City and now this premeditated murder of several people (we are still praying for the survival of Congresswoman Giffords) in hate-filled Arizona (where she had been attacked viciously but not physically for her support of health care reform), the state whose racism has made it famous around the world for profiling Mexican immigrants, there is no call to investigate and protect ourselves from these right-wing hate mongers. Similarly, when Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by right wing Jews, the right-wing ultra-nationalist community in Israel's West Bank settlers never faced any serious investigation of their role in creating the hateful climate that helped produce the murderer.

And don't underplay the anti-Semitic elements either. According to Ha'aretz newspaper, the killer's website had Hitler's hate book Mein Kampf listed as one of his favorite books! When Jews are targeted, it's rarely "by chance." Right-wing haters particularly hate Jews, since Jews were the most consistent non-African American constituency for the Democratic Party , in 2010 voting 70% for Democrats. If the rest of the country voted like Jews we'd have a liberal Democratic Congress. And this is not lost on the right-wingers. Just listen to the tapes of Nixon and you see how extreme the hatred of Jews is revealed to be by the "moderate" Nixon, and now we have the more extreme elements of the Right coming to power. Jews are, in the minds of these haters, the same as liberals or progressives--maybe even the worst of them. And then, the sexism of the right manifests dramatically in attempting to kill a woman--the perfect symbol of uppity feminists who dare to take power away from the male chauvinists who thought that "their" country was about white male Christian power. You won't hear the media dealing with these dimensions of the reality--but they are central.

http://www.truth-out.org/shooting-jewish-congresswoman-giffords-not-just-a-tragedy66685

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an Op Ed piece "The US as Israel's Enabler in the Middle East" by KATHLEEN CHRISTISON:

Before the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the United States never considered that Egypt was quite the strategic asset that it became when it surrendered its military capability in the interests of Israel. The same can be said about the United States’ relations with several other Arab states. Its involvement in Lebanon over the years -- including its effort to remove Syrian forces from Lebanon --
---
The recent Wikileaks releases of State Department cables and particularly al-Jazeera’s release of a raft of Palestinian documents dealing with negotiations over the last decade also demonstrate with striking clarity how hard the United States works, and has always worked, to help Israel in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiating process. U.S. support for Israel has never been a secret, becoming less and less so in recent years, but the leaked documents provide the most dramatic picture yet of the United States’ total disdain for all Palestinian negotiating demands and its complete helplessness in the face of Israeli refusal to make concessions. It is striking to note from these papers that the U.S. role as “Israel’s lawyer” -- a description coined by Aaron David Miller after his involvement in negotiations during the Clinton era -- is the same whether the administration is Bill Clinton’s or George W. Bush’s or Barack Obama’s. Israel’s interests and demands always prevail.

Beyond the Arab world, U.S. policy on Iran is dictated more or less totally by Israel. The pressure to attack Iran -- either a U.S. attack or U.S. support for an Israeli attack -- which has been brought to bear for most of the eight years since the start of the war on Iraq, ...
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It has been clear to most analysts for years, even decades, that the United States favors Israel, but this reality has never been revealed so explicitly until recent events laid the relationship bare, and laid bare the fact that Israel is at the center of virtually every move the United States makes in the region. There has long been a taboo on talking about these realities, a taboo that has tied the tongues of people like my interlocutor. People do not mention Israel because they might be called anti-Semitic, they might be attacked as “singling out” Israel for criticism; the media fail to discuss Israel and what it does around the Middle East and, most directly, to the Palestinians who live under its rule because this might provoke angry letters to the editor and cancelled subscriptions by Israel supporters. Congressmen will not endanger campaign funds by talking honestly about Israel. And so Israel is taken off everyone’s radar screen. Progressives may “mention Israel in passing,” as my friend told me, but they do no more. Ultimately, because no one talks about it, everyone stops even thinking about Israel as the prime mover behind so many U.S. policies and actions in the Middle East.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Vanity Fair article by Nobel Laureate Economist Joe Stiglitz about growing concentration of wealth and power in America. It's titled "Of the 1%, For the 1%, By the 1%":

Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.

It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a recent speech by veteran journalist Bill Moyers given in memory of historian Howard Zinn:

In polite circles, among our political and financial classes, this is known as "the free market at work." No, it's "wage repression," and it's been happening in our country since around 1980. I must invoke some statistics here, knowing that statistics can glaze the eyes; but if indeed it's the mark of a truly educated person to be deeply moved by statistics, as I once read, surely this truly educated audience will be moved by the recent analysis of tax data by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. They found that from 1950 through 1980, the share of all income in America going to everyone but the rich increased from 64 percent to 65 percent. Because the nation's economy was growing handsomely, the average income for 9 out of 10 Americans was growing, too - from $17,719 to $30,941. That's a 75 percent increase in income in constant 2008 dollars.

But then it stopped. Since 1980 the economy has also continued to grow handsomely, but only a fraction at the top have benefited. The line flattens for the bottom 90% of Americans. Average income went from that $30,941 in 1980 to $31,244 in 2008. Think about that: the average income of Americans increased just $303 dollars in 28 years.

That's wage repression.

Another story in the Times caught my eye a few weeks after the one about Connie Brasel and Natalie Ford. The headline read: "Industries Find Surging Profits in Deeper Cuts." Nelson Schwartz reported that despite falling motorcycle sales, Harley-Davidson profits are soaring - with a second quarter profit of $71 million, more than triple what it earned the previous year. Yet Harley-Davidson has announced plans to cut fourteen hundred to sixteen hundred more jobs by the end of next year; this on top of the 2000 jobs cut last year.

The story note: "This seeming contradiction - falling sales and rising profits - is one reason the mood on Wall Street is so much more buoyant than in households, where pessimism runs deep and unemployment shows few signs of easing." There you see the two Americas. A buoyant Wall Street; a doleful Main Street. The Connie Brasels and Natalie Fords - left to sink or swim on their own. There were no bailouts for them.

Meanwhile, Matt Krantz reports in USA TODAY that "Cash is gushing into company's coffers as they report what's shaping up to be a third-consecutive quarter of sharp earning increases. But instead of spending on the typical things, such as expanding and hiring people, companies are mostly pocketing the money or stuffing it under their mattresses." And what are their plans for this money? Again, the Washington Post:

... Sitting on these unprecedented levels of cash, U.S. companies are buying back their own stock in droves. So far this year, firms have announced they will purchase $273 billion of their own shares, more than five times as much compared with this time last year... But the rise in buybacks signals that many companies are still hesitant to spend their cash on the job-generating activities that could produce economic growth.

That's how financial capitalism works today: Conserving cash rather than bolstering hiring and production; investing in their own shares to prop up their share prices and make their stock more attractive to Wall Street. To hell with everyone else.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a piece by Michael Kinsley on Jewish investment bankers' role in US economic woes:

Goldman Sachs, the huge and hugely profitable investment bank, has become a symbol of the financial excesses that helped to bring on the current recession. Because Goldman is thought of as a "Jewish" firm, and because it dominates the financial industry, criticism of Goldman, or of bankers generally, is often accused of being anti-Semitic. Commentators including Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd have been so accused. When, if ever, are such accusations fair?

If you believe that Goldman has done nothing wrong, then any criticisms of Goldman or use of the firm as a symbol of the crisis are obviously unfair to Goldman. Furthermore, they would raise the legitimate question of "Why pick on Goldman?" and the possibility that anti-Semitism is part of the explanation. Similarly, if you believe that anything Goldman did wrong was done wrong by lots of others, the question of "Why pick on Goldman" arises, as does the same obvious answer.

Unfortunately for Goldman, it is not obviously blameless in the crisis. It was never so reckless that it risked going under. It borrowed only [sic] ten billion dollars from the Federal government, even that under duress, and paid it back as soon as possible, with interest. But the firm engaged in complex transactions that amounted to betting against its clients. Throughout the crisis, it enjoyed an implicit government guarantee on the grounds of being "too big to fail." The government bailed out one of Goldman's biggest borrowers--the insurance company AIG--saving Goldman billions in losses. And its profits and executive bonuses revealed, at the least, a lack of sensitivity at a time when millions are losing their jobs.

Even if Goldman did nothing in particular wrong, its status as one of only two remaining huge investment banks on Wall Street (the other is Morgan Stanley) might make it a legitimate focus, especially given its reputation, even before the crisis, for ruthlessness.
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Then there is this oft-quoted passage at the beginning of a lengthy rant against Goldman Sachs by Matt Taibbi last July in Rolling Stone: "The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." This sentence, many have charged, goes beyond stereotypes about Jews and money, touches other classic anti-Semitic themes about Jews as foreign or inhuman elements poisoning humanity and society, and--to some critics-- even seems to reference the notorious "blood libel" that Jews use the blood of Christian babies to make matzoh.

Taibbi claims to have been utterly blindsided by accusations that his article was anti-Semitic. He says he finds the idea "ludicrous." He denies any relation between his words and classic anti-Semitic stereotypes. His critics find this impossible to believe. Could such a sophisticated writer (the article skewers Goldman with great skill and style) actually not know about the stereotypes and ancient lies that this passage echoes, and could he actually be surprised that there would be people calling his article, fairly or otherwise, anti-semitic? It may be possible to call Goldman Sachs a bloodsucker without being an anti-Semite. But is it possible to call Goldman Sachs a bloodsucker and then be surprised when you're called an anti-Semite?


http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2010/01/how-to-think-about-jewish-bankers/25689/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-great-american-bubble-machine-20100405

Riaz Haq said...

A number of writers and analysts, including Michael Lewis author of Boomerang, believe that Goldman Sachs is responsible for the Greek crisis which could lead a collapse in the Euro Zone. Here's a NY Times story related to it:

Wall Street tactics akin to the ones that fostered subprime mortgages in America have worsened the financial crisis shaking Greece and undermining the euro by enabling European governments to hide their mounting debts.

As worries over Greece rattle world markets, records and interviews show that with Wall Street’s help, the nation engaged in a decade-long effort to skirt European debt limits. One deal created by Goldman Sachs helped obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels.

Even as the crisis was nearing the flashpoint, banks were searching for ways to help Greece forestall the day of reckoning. In early November — three months before Athens became the epicenter of global financial anxiety — a team from Goldman Sachs arrived in the ancient city with a very modern proposition for a government struggling to pay its bills, according to two people who were briefed on the meeting.

The bankers, led by Goldman’s president, Gary D. Cohn, held out a financing instrument that would have pushed debt from Greece’s health care system far into the future, much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards.

It had worked before. In 2001, just after Greece was admitted to Europe’s monetary union, Goldman helped the government quietly borrow billions, people familiar with the transaction said. That deal, hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan, helped Athens to meet Europe’s deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means.

Athens did not pursue the latest Goldman proposal, but with Greece groaning under the weight of its debts and with its richer neighbors vowing to come to its aid, the deals over the last decade are raising questions about Wall Street’s role in the world’s latest financial drama.

As in the American subprime crisis and the implosion of the American International Group, financial derivatives played a role in the run-up of Greek debt. Instruments developed by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and a wide range of other banks enabled politicians to mask additional borrowing in Greece, Italy and possibly elsewhere.

In dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come.

Critics say that such deals, because they are not recorded as loans, mislead investors and regulators about the depth of a country’s liabilities.

Some of the Greek deals were named after figures in Greek mythology. One of them, for instance, was called Aeolos, after the god of the winds.

The crisis in Greece poses the most significant challenge yet to Europe’s common currency, the euro, and the Continent’s goal of economic unity. The country is, in the argot of banking, too big to be allowed to fail. Greece owes the world $300 billion, and major banks are on the hook for much of that debt. A default would reverberate around the globe.

A spokeswoman for the Greek finance ministry said the government had met with many banks in recent months and had not committed to any bank’s offers. All debt financings “are conducted in an effort of transparency,” she said. Goldman and JPMorgan declined to comment.

While Wall Street’s handiwork in Europe has received little attention on this side of the Atlantic, it has been sharply criticized in Greece and in magazines like Der Spiegel in Germany.....


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/business/global/14debt.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Steve Sailor of VDare:

Lynn digs up 32 IQ studies of American Jews and seven of British Jews. He concludes that Ashkenazi Jews (ones with Yiddish-speaking ancestors) average about ten points higher than non-Hispanic white gentiles, or 110 on a scale where white Americans and Brits average 100. That would put the median Ashkenazi Jew at about the 75th percentile among whites.

IQ testing in Israel suggests that the other Jewish communities trail the Ashkenazi. Lynn estimates that Sephardim score about two points less than white gentiles, or 98. The Mizrahim (Jews from the Arab world) average around 91.

That ten-point gap between Ashkenazi and gentile whites is substantial, but not enormous. The proportion of individuals with IQs of 115 or above is about twice as great among Jews as among white gentiles. But the absolute number of gentiles is much larger.

Jews are, per capita, twice as common relative to American gentile whites over the 115 IQ level that Lynn sees as the bottom threshold for the professions, but are about 5 times more common per capita among doctors and lawyers. And in many other developed countries, these ratios are even higher.

Lynn significant (and subtle) conclusion: superior Jewish IQ isn't everything. He writes:

"This suggests that the success of the Ashkenazim is attributable to more than just their high IQs and that they also possess strong motivational and work-ethic qualities."

This profound subject has only just begun to be explored.


http://www.vdare.com/articles/lynn-on-the-jews-yes-it-s-intelligence-but-there-s-something-else-too

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Paul Krugman's Op Ed in NY Times on 10th anniversary of Iraq war:

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. “Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,” he wrote, “were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.”

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts — “in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war.”

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post’s Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.”

What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. ...


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/18/opinion/krugman-marches-of-folly.html?_r=0