Trump’s First Offer was a Better Deal for Palestine — and Israel

In early 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump pronounced himself “neutral” in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He also expressed pessimism that a deal between the two sides was even possible: “I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.”

It didn’t take Trump long to reverse himself — when it was explained to him that $100 million in campaign assistance from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson depended on such a reversal, he re-booted as “the most pro-Israel presidential candidate in history,” which in Adelsonese means “the most pro-Likud/pro-Netanyahu/anti-Palestinian candidate in the election.”

Nearly four years later — after numerous sops to Likud and favors to save Netanyahu’s premiership amidst his indictment on corruption charges, including moving the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — Trump unveiled his “deal of the century.” 

The deal, in summary: The Israeli regime gets everything it wants; Palestine’s Arabs get to keep some, but not all, of what they already have while giving up quite a bit.

They supposedly get a “state,” but that’s neither Trump’s nor Israel’s to give: The State of Palestine already exists and is already recognized by most other countries.

They get a “capital” in a sliver of East Jerusalem, but Israel will  annex even more Palestinian land.

The new, fake, quasi-state of Palestine will be required to “demilitarize” and trust Israel to defend it, and Israel will exercise veto power over both its foreign policy and its internal security policy.

Trump’s offer is quite a shift from his former “neutrality.” As Lando Calrissian said in The Empire Strikes Back, “this deal is getting worse all the time.” Worse for the Palestinians, obviously, but worse for Israel as well.

US aid and military support have turned Israel into a spoiled child among states. It does what it wants and gets what it wants, not because it deserves to or because it’s able to itself, but because it has a generous and muscular big brother doling out money to it and threatening to beat up anyone who questions its entitlement.

At some point, that relationship will end as all relationships do. The longer that relationship continues, the weaker, more vulnerable, and more over-extended Israel becomes.

If Israel’s regime was interested in peace, or even in its country’s survival, it would unilaterally withdraw to its 1967 borders, begin negotiating administration of Palestinians’ “right of return” to their stolen land, and recognize the existing State of Palestine.

And if Trump was really “pro-Israel,” he’d return to his position of “neutrality” in the matter. Even if it meant refunding Sheldon Adelson’s bribe, eating a little crow, and explaining another change of heart to his confused evangelical supporters.

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State of the Union: No, Nick, Your Children Owe Nothing

Nicholas Sarwark is father to four pre-teen children. In his response to the State of the Union, delivered on behalf of the Libertarian Party (which he serves as national chair), he mentions that each of them are in debt to the tune of $70,633. “Not because we gave them credit cards to go buy cars,” he explains, but “because politicians in Washington have a credit card called the national debt.”

I don’t disagree with Nick — whom I’ve known for about 20 years — very often. On this subject, however, I do so vehemently.

No, Nick, your children don’t owe $70,633 each to the US government’s creditors. Nor do you or your wife Valerie. Nor do I. Nor does anyone reading this column who’s not a current or former president, vice-president, or member of Congress.

The only people who owe the $23 trillion “national debt” are the people who borrowed the money.

You didn’t borrow the money. They did.

You didn’t co-sign the loan. You didn’t negotiate the interest rates or other terms.

Yes, they offered your future income and your children’s future income as collateral, but that income wasn’t theirs to offer. You weren’t even consulted, except to the extent that 25% or so of you (on average) voted for one or more of the borrowers, most of whom lied to you about exercising “fiscal discipline” if elected.

And their creditors knew that, making them loan sharks by proxy. How else to describe someone who loans money on the borrowers’ promise to go beat it — principal plus interest — out of non-consenting third parties?

No one in his or her right mind believes the “national debt” will ever be paid off. It’s too big, it’s growing too fast, and it represents too large a chunk of American wealth and production.

Sooner or later, in one way or another, the US government will default. The politicians who borrow the money and the speculators who loan it to them are both engaged in a long-term game of musical chairs, hoping that the music won’t stop before they retire, die, or cash out at a profit.

When the music does stop, it’s going to get ugly for all of us. But the longer the music continues, the uglier that final note.

The good news is that after the default, the politicians’ credit card will be declined for some time to come, perhaps teaching them to live within their ample means.

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Neither Here Nor There

Nobody asked but …

We are desperate for labels and niches.  In an ever-changing world, we humans want consistency, certainty, warmth, guarantee, comfort, predictability, safety, and assurances.  We often partially calm the whirlwind by convincing ourselves that we are in a protected shelter, labelled “safe,” a niche we can call our own.  When we find a shelter, we can become very chauvinistic about it.

Some of the labels, niches we strive for are those of political identity.  Are we right, middle, or left?  Are we religious, agnostic, or atheistic?  Do we wear school colors, or those of a professional sports team?  How many of us wear tee shirts and hoodies with the names of exotic places, where we have vacationed?  Are our closets full of designer clothes with logos?  Are those closets in homes that make statements about social status.

I must admit that I am a product of a culture that lets its freak flag fly, yet that culture makes such a fetish of it as to create normal appearing gangs.  Almost any day, you may see me wearing the blue of the University of Kentucky or the green of Ireland or the black of the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team.  You may hear me claiming small-l libertarianism, or voluntaryism, non-partisanship, or even anarchism.  I will readily confess to being a philosopher, a farmer, a software engineer, an educator, a bookworm, a railfan, a lighthouse aficianado, and a polymath.  But I will reject being known as only one of any of these.

As you can see, no one person is captured by a single label or group.  But politicians, news media, and the least secure among us find it a lazy shortcut to group and label individuals into collectives.  This richly diverse country is now being riven by exploiters to destroy our heritage of individualism, to make us all toe the lines of various self-serving collectives.  The current wave is to get everyone to think of themselves as rightwingers or radical lefties.  If persons can be convinced of the urgency of this, over time we will become two armed camps, certain that there is no room for individuality.  Some would have us believe that there are only republicans and democrats.  All other distinctions are insubstantial and are only explained as gradations of democrats or republicans.  The old saying goes, “there are two types of people in the world; those who divide people into two groups, and those who do not.”

I challenge anyone to find any human who fits only into one or the alternative oversimplified, misrepresented category.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Being Forced to Help Not Helping

I want you to hunger for liberty; to crave the freedom to do everything you have a right to do, even if you choose to not do it all. I want you to want liberty as much as I want it.

I also want you to respect the liberty of others. To govern yourself and no one else — this is your primary obligation to others.

I realize some people are scared by the thought of liberty or freedom. I’ve even seen people complain that libertarians want to “force people to be free.” This has become something of an in-joke among libertarians; we want to take over and leave you alone.

No one can be forced to be free, and I wouldn’t if I could. This would defeat the purpose without accomplishing anything.

If liberty isn’t freely chosen, it’s worthless. It won’t be valued and it would be easy to give it up the first time some creepy politician says you need to give up some liberty so you can be safer.

You’ve got to want liberty bad enough to fight for it against those who want to violate it. You’ve got to want it bad enough to do whatever it takes once you discover that protesting and voting don’t work.

If you don’t value liberty this much, you won’t care enough to make an effort to protect it. You’ll never make liberty a priority.

I can’t change your priorities.

What I can do is remind you of everything you’re cheating yourself out of, hint at all you are missing, and tease you with the possibilities you may not have considered. I can also share with you my confidence that you don’t need to be governed or controlled. You can handle life.

To say I’m willing to leave you alone means I wouldn’t try to run your life. It doesn’t mean to leave you without social support. There’s no reason you can’t ask for help; nothing to prevent you from reaching out to help others without being forced to “help” them by legislative threat.

Being forced to help isn’t helping. Complying with a threat doesn’t make you a compassionate or moral person. It shows you can be manipulated and easily scared into doing what someone else thinks you should instead of acting on your own values.

I’m not willing to do this to you. I want liberty and I respect you too much to violate your liberty by forcing it on you.

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Government Organizations Shouldn’t Enjoy Trademark Protection

According to its web site, Shields of Strength “provides fashionable, functional, and durable Christian fitness jewelry and accessories.” Those items include military “dog tags” engraved with quotes from scripture and sometimes the logo of the armed forces branch the customer belongs to.

When the Military Religious Freedom Foundation complained, the Marine Corps Trademark Licensing Office ordered the company to stop combining scripture references and the Corps’ emblem.

Most commentary on the dispute centers around “religious freedom” versus “separation of church and state,” but those seem like side issues to me.

When I served in the Marine Corps, many of my comrades wore crosses, St. Christopher Medals, and other religious symbols on the same chains as their dog tags. As long as a Marine is paying to have his own custom dog tag made with such things incorporated in them rather than hanging separately, and as long as that tag includes the relevant identification information, I just don’t see the problem.

What IS the problem?

According to MCTLO, “[T]he USMC Trademark Licensing Program exists to regulate the usage of Marine Corps trademarks such as the Eagle, Globe and Anchor worldwide. ”

Even assuming the correctness of “intellectual property” claims like copyright, patent, and trademark, such claims don’t past muster when asserted by the US government or its subsidiary agencies such as the Marine Corps. This is especially true of trademarks.

While the justifications for copyright and patent law have their own clause in the US Constitution (“to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”) US trademark law is justified in terms of Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.

The Marine Corps isn’t a private commercial entity. Nor should its symbols — which date back to 1868 in current form, to 1775 in various forms, and ultimately to the British marines the US based its service’s composition and mission on — be treated as the Marine Corps’ commercial property.

Just as written works created by government employees pursuant to their jobs fall into the public domain under copyright law, official government symbols should fall into the public domain under trademark law.

The Marine Corps logo is a piece of evolving history. It doesn’t belong to the Marine Corps as an organization, or even to the individual Marines who make up that organization. It belongs to all of us.

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Bernie Sanders, Joe Rogan, the Human Rights Campaign, and Truth in Advertising

On January 20, comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan mentioned that he’ll “probably vote for Bernie” Sanders in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. Rogan cited Sanders’s decades of “consistency” as a “very powerful structure to operate from.”

More interesting than Rogan’s quasi-endorsement was the Human Rights Campaign’s negative response. The organization called on Sanders to “reconsider” his acceptance of Rogan’s support.

What’s the organization’s problem with Rogan?

“Bernie Sanders has run a campaign unabashedly supportive of the rights of LGBTQ people,” says HRC president Alphonso David. “Rogan, however, has attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized groups at every opportunity.”

But in 2016, HRC backed Hillary Clinton — who had clung to marriage as a “one man, one woman” proposition until about a minute before the Supreme Court ruled otherwise — over “unabashedly supportive” Bernie Sanders.

HRC’s official motto is “Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Equal Rights.”

If political advocacy was subject to “truth in advertising” laws,  that motto would be “Turning Contributions for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Equal Rights Into Support for Establishment Politicians.”

As for Rogan, he doesn’t seem to have truly “attacked” anyone. He “jokes” about EVERYONE, which is a comedian’s job. And he muses, and lets his guests muse, about pretty much EVERYTHING through hours of podcasting every week.

I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Joe Rogan’s podcast, and the one thing I’ve never heard come out of his mouth is hate for LGBTQ people or any other minority group.

What I did hear, in the same podcast in which he lauded Sanders, was this: “Treat each other as if they are loved family members. Treat people as if they’re you. And if you do treat them, and if they treat you like that … the world is a better place.”

Yes, Rogan has frequently expressed concerns about trans issues, especially in the world of sports. As a former professional fighter and commentator for professional fights, he’s interested in, and has talked extensively about, the difficulties of sorting athletes by gender in a gender-fluid age. But never, so far as I can tell, has he done so from a hateful viewpoint.

Yes, Rogan has made jokes at the expense of virtually every group on the planet. And he has a knack for turning those jokes into mirrors for himself and everyone else to see our shared humanity in.

I don’t always agree with Rogan, but he grapples honestly with tough issues instead of just pushing a  lucrative party line and denouncing all who dissent from that line. The Human Rights Campaign would better serve the community it claims to work for by adopting that approach instead of denouncing it.

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