Anti-Semitism and Peace Protests

I think I’ve been quiet on Israel and Gaza lately, as I usually am. Not this side effect. Germany must have a harder time dealing with pro-peace/anti-Israel sentiment and anti-Semitism than any other country. I’m not an absolutist on free speech, and I don’t envy the tricky task German leaders face here. 

I’m generally very critical of Israel and American media and political bias in their favor and the money and military aid we give them. I can’t stand Israel’s rightward shift and apparent implosion of the more reasonable, compromising, peace-desiring left (they haven’t had a center-left government since 1995 I think–CORRECTION: 2001). I also call myself an atheist who *needs* Israel to exist. If another Hitler came to power (and I don’t think we’re any more immune to the possibility than Germany–see Tea Party), I’d be considered Jewish and deserving of “extermination”. I was a temple member and even had a Bar Mitzvah. There are Jewish voices for peace, despite the unavoidable charge of anti-Semitism. But the #1 thing that holds me back from participating in pro-Gaza/pro-peace/anti-Israeli outrage activities is the fear–and experience–of them becoming anti-Semitic. Especially because I agree so strongly with the meat of their beliefs and desires. It’s just painful and hurtful, and it’s frustrating feeling forced to leave a march you so badly want to be in, and having one side calling you anti-Semitic while the other practices or promotes anti-Semitism, conflating it with support for Israel’s government or despicable human rights-violating actions. Instead of hoping to add unity by being a Jewish voice for peace, you feel unfree to acknowledge your heritage. It fuels the fire of pro-Israel extremists everywhere, like my grandparents who think NPR (NPR!) is anti-Semitic.

Israel’s aggressive, violent, illegal, disproportionate actions against Hamas must be protested vigorously. But those protests cannot allow any anti-Semitism. Not all Jews are Israeli, not all Israelis are Jewish, and many of both oppose what Netanyahu is doing.

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Completely New Motion! City Council Fiddles While Poor are Crucified

You know that scene in “Life of Brian” where Brian is being strung up on the cross, Judith rushes in to tell them and get help, and their response is to draft a totally new resolution? This is it in real life. The non-rich in Seattle, especially renters, are being strung up and suffering. They’re homeless, being forced out of the city, crowding in with more and more roommates to make ends meet, or having to put off other basic expenses because rents are skyrocketing and income isn’t keeping pace with them. But all our elected officials can do about it is pass a resolution that does nothing but make them feel good–no actual funding or policy changes. Kudos to you, Seattle City Council, for telling us you care about affordable housing without actually doing anything about it!

City Council considers a new resolution on affordable housing!

Lamenting the Loss of Enlightenment Logic

I only went to public school, but I was taught in 6th grade that if you make a claim, you have to defend it. Otherwise it’s void. You can’t just say “Vote for Me!” or “the moon landing was faked!” or “the Cubs play excellent baseball” or “my brain is home to a large Martian colony” without offering some kind of supporting facts, evidence, data, or at least slightly logical argument supporting your claim. I don’t know how, when, or why; but this seems to have become controversial. Asking someone to support a claim they’ve made is not remotely personal or biased, nor should anyone ever be expected to take seriously any random claim someone makes. If you tell people to vote a certain way but refuse to make a case for it, you shouldn’t expect anyone to listen or take you seriously. And if someone asks WHY they should vote as you want, you should understand it as a reasonable, valid, and necessary part of adult discourse–not a personal attack, and certainly not a provocation to answer with a personal attack (or censorship, accusations of conspiracy, etc.)

This seems to be happening all over the place, repeatedly. It’s not one person or group. People seem offended that you don’t just believe in full any random thing they say. It’s just becoming the norm that Americans reject logic. It’s absolutely maddening.

Basic Income: the REAL Social Safety Net

With a basic income, you can wipe out most of the inefficient, punitive bureaucracy of our social safety sieve (health care excluded). A basic income accounts for valuable unpaid work people do (especially caregiving work performed by women), slashes poverty, saves money, and trusts people in poverty to spend their own money as they think best. Instead of systematically harassing and dehumanizing us, it would give us dignity and agency. Unlike high minimum wages, it creates more jobs and supports small, local, and new businesses–without threatening the jobs or hours of existing workers. It gives workers a backstop against which they can rely to agitate more securely for unions and better compensation and working conditions. The basic income has support from progressives and libertarians–Milton Freidman even supported it! It’s time to scrap TANF, UI, LIHEAP, SNAP, ABD, HEN, and most of the other alphabet soup social safety sieve bureaucracy and replace it with a guaranteed basic income for all.

Why should we support the idea of an unconditional basic income?

“This suggests that if we create the option for people to be able to choose not to work, genuinely choosing to work may result in even greater commitment, because it is suddenly a matter of choice and not force. Choice is a powerful motivator.”

We Need a Guaranteed Basic Income for All!

Swiss consider basic income for all (PBS)

If you really want to end poverty and replace the bureaucratic, wasteful, dehumanizing, balkanized, ineffective social safety sieve with something better; enact a guaranteed basic income for all. It’s time for left politicians and activists to champion this. We don’t have enough work to keep everyone employed full-time, especially with advances in robotic technology. Let’s reduce work hours and increase leisure time instead. Give everyone a liveable wage without hurting small businesses or low-income workers (minimum wage is but a temporary, intellectually dishonest band-aid). Strengthen their ability to organize into unions. Account for the unpaid caregiving work of kids and seniors done mostly by women. Free people to do activism, art, volunteerism, and other worthy endeavors that don’t pay financially. Stop requiring everyone to work just to survive. We poor folks know how to spend money for ourselves better than mindless, absurd-rule-following bureaucrats. We want dignity–for a change.

Will a Guaranteed Income Ever Come to America? (PBS)

“Comparing the incomes of the top 20 percent to the bottom 20 percent, this ratio stands at 4.0 in Sweden, 4.3 in Germany and 5.6 in France. With a ratio of 8.4, the U.S. is in a different league, more similar to Kenya (8.2), Ghana (8.4), and Nicaragua (8.8). So why is there far more demand for redistribution in Western Europe?

Beliefs about the reasons for inequality turn out to be important. According to the World Values Survey, 60 percent of Americans believe that the poor could become rich if they just tried hard enough. In Europe, however, the number of individuals who hold similar beliefs is only half as large. In Brazil, a mere 19 percent believe that poverty stems from laziness rather than circumstances, connections and luck.”

How 6 Liberals Could Make the WA Legislature More Progressive

If we or our legislators want to create a progressive caucus in the state legislature, it’s easily feasible. All we need is for progressive legislators to use some math and–this is the hard one–some backbone. This works within the context of the two-party duopoly.

There are 55 Democrats and 43 Republicans in the WA House of Representatives. As we all know, some of those Democrats are pretty progressive, while others are corporate sellouts who could easily become Republicans tomorrow (e.g. Mark Miloscia). In a chamber of 98 members, a caucus needs 50 votes to elect a speaker. But Dems have a surplus of seats–5 more than they need to keep Frank Chopp in charge. All they need is for 6 or more House Democrats to get together as a progressive bloc and threaten to vote for someone other than Chopp for speaker unless the Democratic caucus meets their progressive demands.

What kind of demands? Maybe more funding for K-12 and higher education. Maybe full funding for DSHS so you don’t have to spend 80 minutes on hold just to keep your food stamps (the social safety sieve is designed only to help union bureaucrats, not people in need). Maybe more funding for affordable housing. Maybe progressive tax increases. Maybe repealing Tim Eyman’s I-695 and I-747, both of which were enacted by the legislature after courts struck them down. Public financing of state office campaigns. No more corporate welfare. Reinstate the class size and teacher pay initiatives. Enact real gun regulation. Vote on abolishing the death penalty. Replace “moderate” committee chairs with progressives. The progressive legislative bloc should decide what and how much to ask for.

But with just six progressives sticking together, they hold the balance of power in the entire 98-member House. And we have that many House progressives! We have ELEVEN districts that vote liberal and elect liberals. That’s 22 representatives! The 3rd LD in Spokane, the 22nd in Olympia, the 27th in Tacoma, the 40th in Bellingham, and LDs 11, 32, 34, 36, 37, 43, and 46 in Seattle. All we need is six of those 22 House Democrats to band together and make a progressive set of demands on which their votes for Speaker depend. Chopp and his Democratic caucus would have to negotiate with the progressive caucus to get their votes, or negotiate with Republicans/risk giving them control. For the first time, Democrats would have to appease the left–not just the right.

The right advances their agenda by holding their own elected officials’ feet to the fire and playing hardball–threatening to walk, and being willing to do it. If just six House progressives had the balls to do the same (Democrats with courage are oxymoronic, I know), we could advance our agenda in the legislature instead of playing defense and accepting the worst corporate, watered-down, right-of-center, lowest common denominator pablum that the worst DINO is willing to vote for.

A real Progressive Caucus is possible–if we and our legislators are willing to make it happen.