Israel-Palestine

The carnage on the border between Gaza and Israel is horrific. I get it that, after decades of conflict, no one in the Mideast has clean hands (including, or especially, the US), but the deaths in this conflict are completely lopsided:

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The US should be working to restrain Israel and seek a just peace. But we’re not. Why?

Because of American evangelicals.

I knew this is where US and Israeli right-wingers are coming from, but it’s still shocking that we’re even remotely expected to accept this as a serious argument:

Well first of all, I would take issue with beginning the history lesson in 1947. Go back another 3,500 years. Go back to the Bible.

Read the full quote in the article.

I accept that Israel’s existence as a sovereign nation state is a “fact on the ground” that just can’t be reversed at this point, but this argument is ludicrous. If the US is to accept it, then the time has come to give America back to Native Americans.

Unless, of course, what really matters isn’t history or reasons, but raw power. Lasting peace should require justice. Instead, in modern Israel, it means oppressing, displacing, and wiping out your opponents.

Trump’s foreign policy is built on doing what others haven’t done before, period – shake things up and make sure everyone stays tuned. He agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un, no strings attached, even though that was held out as the prize for cooperation by previous presidents.

With Israel/Palestine, he had two choices along this line: Seriously press Israel to stop the settlement expansions and start negotiating, or move the embassy to Jerusalem. He chose the embassy. Why? Because evangelicals were willing to flatter him:

“I told him that the moment that you do that, I believe that you will step into political immortality,” the news site quoted (Pastor John) Hagee as saying. “Because you are having the courage to do what other presidents did not have the courage to do.”

And of course, support him in huge percentages with their votes.

For what it’s worth, as a member of the non-religious community, let me say that I think religious people really have a hard time grasping how much their speech sounds like incoherent babbling to us. Bigoted, divisive, irrational incoherent babbling at that.

Don’t be too comfortable with every part of the Russia investigation

While I want the Mueller investigation to continue – and I sure want to know if the Trump campaign directly colluded with the Russian government to hack the DNC and Podesta – I’m not comfortable with every aspect of it.

First off, the recent subpoena against Sam Nunberg seemed awfully broad – both in terms of the time period covered and the number of people involved – especially for someone who left the campaign pretty early on.

Secondly, from this Washington Post article outlining the possible state of the investigation, there are a couple of facets from the possible legal case that should be unsettling. Apparently, there could be charges of “conspiracy to defraud the United States”. Which can be interpreted this way:

In the 1910 case Haas v. Henkel, the Supreme Court interpreted the provision broadly to include ‘any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government.’ Notably, there is no requirement that the government be cheated out of money or property.

Wow. Interpreted broadly, almost any form of direct protest against a federal agency becomes a crime.

Also, there’s the crime, which some Trump associates have already pleaded guilty to, of lying to federal officials. Perjury is a crime, of course. And that’s sensible. A duly constituted court of law can’t function without some incentive to make people tell the truth. But federal law enforcement officers are not the court. People might have all sort of reasons they don’t want their personal lives picked over by federal officials. It’s on the federal officials to find a way to build a case without being overly invasive.

Again, I’m no fan of Trump, and I want the investigation to continue. But we should be cautious about overly empowering federal law enforcement. You would think this would have been a lesson Democrats would have learned during the Clinton administration.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, there’s no evidence yet that anything Mueller comes up with will be persuasive politically to Republicans or Trump’s supporters. And that is key to this whole effort to understand what happened in 2016. If we can’t agree on a shared set of facts and a set of values for what’s acceptable in our republic, we have years of political poison ahead of us.