A Rabbi and a Saudi Prince sit for a talk

On October 29th I visited the Middle East Security Forum at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, hosted by Rabbi David Wolpe and Israel Policy Forum.

At first I was wary of going, and my conservative friends found it too liberal to go to.  As I sat through the first parts of the forum I couldn’t help but feel they were right.  Every speaker seemed to have the same liberal talking points about how Israel must make concessions, Israel must both give Palestinians independence and be responsible for their welfare, etc.

Which alone is bad enough, but as I spoke to others in the audience I found we shared a conservative – I call it protective – attitude towards Israel that seemed totally at odds with the speakers.  So what was the point of all this?

Then I witnessed Rabbi Wolpe’s talk with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud.

Wolpe was well aware of the conservative bent of his audience.  And yet he was able to bring them to the table to patiently listen to a man who to many represented the enemy.  And while Prince Turki advanced Arab positions that seemed to make the audience want to hurl tomatoes at him, he still came.

This was no small feat.  Among other things, it represented the first time he set foot in a synagogue, publicly spoke to a Rabbi, or looked at at Torah scroll.  This is a reversal of at least a century of Arab policy, which refuses to recognize not just Israel, but the Jewish faith.

And he didn’t stop there.  He offered hints of diplomacy.  A gem I took home with me was “diplomacy is the art of saying yes when you mean maybe, and maybe when you mean no.”  Which had far reaching implications given the context.

It made me philosophical.  And I don’t say that word lightly.

We love to sneer at politicians as a bunch of liars.  But are they maintaining the very lie that sustains us?  Do we need to entertain the lie lest we devolve into an ideological bloodletting?  I had this inkling that this was the status of Middle East politics, and that the talking points of those that came before this talk are just the pretty words that hold up a lie – a lie that holds a tenuous peace.

And yet Wolpe’s talk with Prince Turki showed not only a self-consciousness to that lie, but a hope that we may soon be able to get past that lie and actually arrive at a sustainable diplomatic climate in the Middle East.  And by soon I mean in all our lifetimes.

Many people worry in these turbulent times, finding only uncertainty in them.  But if we look beneath the surface, we see tensions that have been boiling for decades that are finally coming to the surface to resolve themselves.  Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbors is one such tension.

This is why I’m confident that the future is bright for that entire region.  But only with the proper leadership, one that is no longer clinging to yesterday’s lies.

Gavin Newsom’s commercial is terrifying

After the Charlottesville protests the liberal establisment went all in to slander Trump and his supporters as racist Nazis. And Gavin Newsom, presumptive Democratic nominee for California governor, went all in on that message with this commercial:

Though this commercial is about Trump’s actions on DACA, we need to backup to Charlottesville to see just how committed the Democrats are to a lie. A mantra of mine is, pan in for propaganda, pan out for journalism. The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville was painted as some big scary march of Nazis emboldened by Trump. Some placed the number at 10,000. Which is a blatant lie. Here’s the propaganda shot:

Unite the Right, panned in

Big and scary, yes?  Well, here’s a more journalistic shot:

Unite the Right, panned out

When you notice that a lot of the marchers carried two torches, the number dwindles a lot further.  So at most, maybe 200 people, more like 100.  That number is far closer to the usual number of people at a right wing rally.

That doesn’t prevent the Democrats from smearing half the country as in bed with these people.  And they have help too.  Gavin Newsom mentions giving money to four different organizations.  First off, the ACLU has defended the right of Nazis to march, in their famous Skokie case.

And the very fact that now the left is denying the right of Nazis to march undisturbed should already terrify all of us.  But that’s beside the point.  The real point is groups like ADL and SPLC are sullying their names to paint everyone as a Nazi.

As you can see I’ve written about this before – you may as well replace the word “Nazi” with “witch”.  These are hardly standout cases.  Indeed 2017 is the year of the false narrative.   Black Lives Matter, the “Muslim Ban”, and now DACA.  All based on running with hyperbole into full out lies.  Remember this SNL skit about DACA?

People saw DACA for what it was when Obama passed it – flagrant executive overreach.  And now the Democrats are calling its revocation “cruelty”.  Implying that their president had the right to pass whatever he wanted and the rest of us have to honor it.

Here’s the thing.  I can understand when the media sensationalize things.  It gets them ratings.  But when politicians do it, they are pushing a dangerous agenda that is ruinous to democracy and debate.   They are not fit to hold office, and they need to be vigorously extricated from government.

This is what we mean when we say “drain the swamp”.

Today’s GOP – a Song of Ice and Fire

Winter has come to America. Not a winter as in the end of our hallowed republic, but a winter of trial and tribulation, before we can meet the dawn of a new spring. Of that, there is no denying, regardless of what family you side with in this conflict. We can’t trust our media, our politicians, religious leaders, seems anything and everything we’ve come to rely on has become weaponized and suspect.
In this era, both parties are going through major cataclysms. Yet while the Democrats still languish in ancient ways, the GOP has real promise to come out as a brand new party that leads us into the rest of the century. And heroes are already stepping forth. We do not know them as heroes yet, as the story is not finished being written. None can deliver us, and yet they all have their role to play.
The wake of the Trump election has brought forth a new passion and fury in his supporters – Trump’s victory has infused them with new passion, taking their issues to the streets, speaking them loud and clear. But their ideas are rough and unformed, prone to conspiracy and superstition, they do not understand the intricacies of American covenants and loyalties. And if they take over the Republican party they will immolate it into a heap of useless ash.
On the other side is the GOP establishment. Tried and trusted, they act with calculating intelligence. Theirs is the icy dance of loyalties and ritual. They deal in the expected calculus of donors, think tanks, pollsters. And yet theirs is a legacy of icy defeat, election season after election season. If they are to stay in charge and blot out the new militants, they will condemn the GOP to an eternal winter.
This makes the GOP a dance of two factions – of ice and of fire. There is a way to combine the two. How it plays out will be seen in the 2018 election. But I can offer some insights based on what I’ve seen so far.
First off, Trump’s election blew the whole political landscape wide open. So established campaign managers need to be able to think creatively about races. Don’t rely on established financing goals or established slogans. Learn to follow social media groups and join the conversation happening there. Ask questions. Prod people’s assumptions. Learn about redpilling and the art of trolling.
To those militants who are wild with theories of what’s happening in Washington and Trump: cool your jets a bit. Remember that by the time politics makes it to the newspaper front page, it’s all theater. Don’t fall for it. When established politicians speak, they have hidden meanings behind what they say. Those meanings refer to important policies and covenants. If you still want to throw any of those out the window, understand the repercussions.
Most of your internet provocateurs are just that – provocateurs. They have a role to play by pushing the envelope of discussion. But if you take what they say for reality then you’re not getting the full story.
And for heaven’s sake don’t think it’s all the fault of the Rothschilds or Soros or any human face. I think even the Night King is not going to be your typical villain we just destroy and everyone lives happily ever after. And in real life there are no villains.
In the end, the fate of Westeros won’t be revealed to us until 2019, not too long after the 2018 midterms. We can make predictions, we can bite our nails in anticipation, and in the latter case, some of us can rise to the occasion. But I get the feeling the fates of the two thrones will be intertwined.

What happened in Charlottesville

Charlottesville is a teaching moment in how liberal democracies should work.  And it’s also a distressing barometer of just how many have betrayed it.  What went so wrong?

The first thing to remember is white nationalists, white supremacists, and their rallies are nothing new.  My first thought was the Nazi rally in the Blues Brothers.   Take the analogy however far you want.  The fact is rallies of people you don’t like with repulsive agendas have always been around, and the right to hold them is still guaranteed under the first amendment.  This is no different under Trump as it was under his predecessors.

Here’s the basic timeline: a bunch of white supremacists and white nationalists organized a #UniteTheRight rally in Charlottesville, starting Friday night August 11th, to protest removing the statue of Robert E. Lee.  They got the necessary permits, it was a peaceful assembly.

Things went smoothly enough until the next day.  The New York Times gives a good timeline of events, but beyond that the details are sketchy and the passions are heated.  I’ve seen reports that people wanting to attend the rally were forced to walk through Antifa counterprotests which attacked them a number of ways.  But the big detail is the one the New York times pointed out – that police were forced to stand down right when passions got most heated and they were needed most:

Barricades encircling the park and separating the two sides began to come down, and the police temporarily retreated.  People were seen clubbing one another in the streets, and pepper spray filled the air… Declaring the gathering an unlawful assembly, the police had cleared the area before noon, and the Virginia National Guard arrived as officers began arresting some who remained.

Finally, things climaxed when a man ran his car through a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one and wounding 19.  Even the details about this are sketchy.  The driver is identified as James Fields, with a history of Nazi and White Nationalist sympathies.

The tires of his car were still smoking when everyone started pointing fingers and shaking fists.   Everyone tripped over themselves to call the white supremacists disgraceful, disgusting, as if that’s the only thing that matters.  The media tried to tie this to Trump, thinking they could force him to distance himself from people he never had anything to do with.

All of them are missing the point: this is not how a liberal democracy works.  People you don’t like get to have their rallies, and they get to be protected at those rallies from those who would do them harm.   If you act violently against someone who is not committing a crime, it is you who are now the criminal.

When you don’t protect people from exercising their right to speak and peaceably assemble, this is the escalation you encourage.  The white nationalists, all too familiar with previous rallies, start defending themselves with helmets, sticks, stones, and this time a car.  People get bloody, people get killed.  Because those charged with governing have abandoned their responsibilities.

This event is symbolic of everything that’s wrong with the country. Law-enforcement officials don’t enforce the law.  Politicians make political hay out of every atrocity imaginable.  And people revert to cavemen when they think their tribe is being threatened.

Indeed Jeff Sessions is already opening a Civil Rights investigation into what went wrong here.  It would be nice to pay attention to this investigation, and it would be nice to make our conclusions based on what we find out.

I suspect that high into this investigation is negligence on the part of the police or the mayor.   Why did they order the police to stand down, right when they were needed most?  Did the police so fear for their lives that they felt better off letting people go at each other’s throats?   That could be the case, as the VA state police spokeswoman puts it.

Another charge claims the mayor purposely told them to stand down while letting the unpermitted counter-protest run rampant, to somehow score political points with the left.  This would certainly be consistent with rallies throughout the country, where mayors feel they can thwart a rally they don’t like by withholding security.   This isn’t limited to white nationalists.  Milo’s speech in Berkeley was shut down with the same tactics.

I shouldn’t have to say I’m not a fan of Nazis.  The very idea that people need to say it gives me hives.  You know how you defeat these people in a free country?  Sargon of Akkad gives a great example in his interview with Baked Alaska, an outspoken white nationalist.  He lets him speak, he has a discussion, and Baked Alaska refutes himself quite nicely, as he both denies the Holocaust and gloats about memeing a Laura Loomer in a gas chamber.

And here’s the thing.  Your representatives need to have cooler heads about this.  Their job is to collect the facts and communicate them to their constituents.  Any of them who came out and made blanket judgments about people in this country yesterday, anyone who tried to score political points, these are demagogues who should not hold public office.




It’s time to break up Google

James Damore’s firing this week has uncovered a truth we need to face:  the internet giants have become monopoly utilities.  And it’s time we started treating them as such.  Their bias has had too much of an effect on our political process to ignore.

For those who are still catching up: Google employee James Damore issued a ten page memo titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”.  In it he contested Google orthodoxy that the proportional lack of women in the tech industry was a problem rooted in sexism and “toxic masculinity”.  More so, their commitment to this orthodoxy has created a terrifying culture where nobody’s allowed to dissent or argue.

For this, he was immediately fired.  This was a direct violation of California labor laws, which “prohibit employers from retaliating in any way (including through wrongful termination) against an employee for his/her political beliefs or activities.”

The ensuing internet firestorm was quick and devastating.  This wasn’t just about Damore being fired immediately after his memo.  Now other Google employees are coming out with how Google suppresses search results it doesn’t find politically correct.

For those who are obsessing about the Russia collusion story, if they were anything other than partisan hacks, this should be terrifying.  If Russia collusion had a distant star’s effect upon our election, Google’s effect is like the Sun itself.

Keep in mind Google doesn’t just decide what you see when you search.  They also own YouTube, which is already purging and demonetizing conservative voices from its platform.  To the point where even innocent apolitical Youtubers like Pewdiepie have been getting redpilled by the smears and repression they’ve encountered.

So what’s the solution to all this?  The pure laissez-faire solution is to just leave the platform.  People are already switching search providers to Bing.  But really, given Google’s reach, there’s only so much we can do privately.  They are a major provider of cloud services, identity management, search services, you name it.  Really, they’ve become a utility.  Leaving them is about as easy as leaving your cable provider or electricity provider – yes it’s technically possible but going off the grid isn’t very efficient economically.

I’ve talked before about what we can do with internet giants that have become politically damaging.  In light of recent events it’s worth expanding on it:

  1. Sites like Facebook and Google/Youtube have worked for years to become established online public spheres.  As such, they are liable to the same 1st amendment laws that malls are.  We need to extend current laws to the online sphere.
  2. We need an investigation into how these internet giants are swaying elections in their favor. If the alleged Russia collusion had a distant star’s effect on our 2016 election, Google’s effect is like the Sun itself.
  3. Loathe as we Republicans are to institute new regulations, we have to consider treating internet giants like a utility, and regulating them as such. If they monopolize the public sphere, they can’t be allowed to manipulate it in their favor.  This kind of manipulation makes 19th century political machines seem like child’s play.

I think these principles are a good start to bringing internet giants to heel and making them a contribution to our democracy and not a brake on it.  And may I add – it’s quite the irony that the Democrats and the left, the champions of government intervention, all of a sudden turn laissez-faire whenever a company does something they support – no matter how illegal or immoral.