Sunday, December 1, 2013

Human, a novel by Robert Berke

Just a coupla' updates on the writing and publishing venture:

  • Human has breached the top 100,000 paid on Amazon again. Though it has previously made it into the top 500 paid on several occasions since its 2011 release, what makes this placement remarkable is that (1) it got there with absolutely no marketing, advertising, or promotions; and (2) it has been in publication for two years already.
  • Robert G. Berke's second novel, tentatively entitled "Six Severed Hands: a love story," could be published as early as spring/summer 2014. Watch this space for updates. Unlike Human, the new novel is not science fiction. Rather, it is a character driven exploration of the crises of contemporary art set against the backdrop of a mystery.
  • MultiModoMedia Press is still seeking manuscript submissions. Trade Publications only. Novels (30,000 words minimum), Non-fiction (no minimum). No longer seeking poetry or short story collections.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Growing up Jewish in new York, a Jewish republican was akin to a space alien. Of course, as a young person, my understanding of economics was wanting, and I recognized the parties more for their social positioning than for anything. Ironically, in retrospect, the republican party of my youth was far more tolerant of minorities than the current party. Nonetheless, most social progress appeared to me to emanate from the democrats: housing for the poor, voting rights, desegregation, education, and even federal funding for the arts were all ideas which were pushed by the democrats. Also, these ideas of equality, helping the poor, creating societal safety nets, and giving our youth the world's best education all aligned perfectly with my Jewish upbringing and my understanding of Jewish values.

That is why it came as a shock to me when relatives of mine, including at least one survivor and one exceedingly religious relative, came out of the closet not just as republicans, but as VIRULENT republicans; having embraced republican doctrine whole-heartedly, including all of the racism, elitism, and trickle-downism that defines the modern party.

Now one of these relatives is wealthy; perhaps not a one-percenter, but in all probability, close enough for rock and roll. I get him. He would be affected by even the slightest rise in the tax rates, especially in the capital gains tax. But he does not justify his party affiliation by his greed. He justifies it in exactly the same way that my very religious relative does: by invoking Israel.

On the issue of Israel, the progressives and the lefties have gotten it all wrong. Though I am a progressive for lack of a better term, I am sickened by the propaganda that has been permeating progressive news and opinion sites. I try hard to remind my peers that the Palestinians displaced themselves voluntarily with the expectation that Israel would be over-run and the Jews pushed into the sea. They made a bad choice and have punished Israel with 50 years of terror because their evil plan didn't work. I can thus understand why a love of Israel would push Jews away from current left-leaning media.

In addition, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the most enlightened teacher of Torah of our times and a true Tzaddik being selfless in every respect, had a very close relationship with Ronald Reagan, the king of the modern republican party. This relationship too has caused Jews to associate republicans with unwavering support for Israel.

Admittedly, this was a concern for me too when I had to choose between McCain and Obama. McCain was a viable candidate for me until he started running in earnest. His alignment with the sickest, most abhorrent part of the republican party as embodied by his vice-presidential pick, made it impossible for me to cast a red vote. If Obama hadn't picked Biden as his running mate, I may have just sat the election out. But Joe Biden's track record on Israel was non-pariel and his support for Israel and his understanding of its historical place were beyond questioning. Campaigning, Obama said all the right things to convince me that his support for Israel as a Jewish state was also unwavering. Now, however, I am feeling like perhaps I was wrong. Biden and Obama seem to be straining our relations with Israel and also seem to be encouraging some form of Palestinian autonomy without safeguards that put not only every Israeli citizen, but every Jew in the world at risk.

And why? Because of John Boehner and the obstructionist republican House. Remember, there are three branches of government. In order to carry out a domestic agenda, Congress must be able to act. The Executive branch cannot unilaterally pass laws of strictly domestic interest. The Executive branch does, however, have independent power in foreign affairs. Thanks to the Republicans in the House, not only is it presently impossible to make domestic policy, but their smear machine has all but buried Obama's incredible success in getting a health care law passed. Unable to claim victory or advance any agenda on the domestic front as long as Congress sticks to its vow not to pass any legislation supported by the president, he has no choice but to seek to polish his legacy through involvement in foreign affairs. And what would be the greatest foreign affairs coup in the history of the modern world: the golden ring, the grand prize, the big one? Peace in the middle east.

The problem though is that the Palestinians cannot participate in the negotiations. They can pretend to negotiate in good faith, but events of today have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they absolutely, positively, cannot offer the ONLY thing that should cause Israeli's to even consider a compromise: a realistic promise that Palestinians will stop murdering Jews. Sure, they can pay lip service to that ideal, but that's all they can do. Here's why: Assume for the moment that the Palestinian authorities had adequate control over their people to cause them to stop. If they have that power, then why couldn't they stop the violence even during the peace talks? The answer is, they simply don't have the power. In other words, the only thing that the Palestinians can possibly bring to the table is something they cannot bring to the table. Accordingly, in order to eke a foreign policy win out of the middle east, the Obama administration has no choice but to get Israel to make unilateral concessions...SOMETHING IT HAS ALREADY DONE TIME AND TIME AGAIN. In fact, just two weeks ago, the Israelis released hundreds of convicted Palestinian terrorists in an act of good faith and were rewarded today with the unprovoked murder of an unarmed soldier in the Green Zone.

Yet, the Obama administration must continue to put pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions because, as aforementioned, the Palestinians literally have nothing to put on the table. And that pressure on Israel will continue unabated until or unless Congress permits for actual debate on pressing domestic issues such as immigration reform and jobs. To keep the focus on the middle east, the administration has no option but to try to embarrass Israel into making an overture against its own interest (something that it has traditionally been willing to do, for instance, with the establishment of the PA and the prisoner releases.)

The administration's current struggle to keep peace talks in the middle east going is a direct and obvious function of the failure of Congress to do its job. The reason Congress will not do its job is because the Republican House leadership (including Eric Cantor, an very corrupt soul) has promised its constituency that it will not pass any important legislation. In other words, the Republican party has taken its strong support of Israel and placed it in on the rear burner in favor of obfuscating the President's agenda. The only agenda item worth working on for which he needs no Congressional action is peace in the middle east. Peace in the middle east is only possible if Israel acts against its own interests. Accordingly, the administration has no choice but to encourage Israel to act against its own interests. On the other hand, if immigration reform was something that anyone reasonably believed could even get serious debate in the house, the administration could very easily move foreign policy to the back burner. Unfortunately, that would require Congress to reassess its priories. So where are you, you so called supporters of Israel in the republican party. Have you really chosen the Koch brothers over Israel?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The absurdity of America's expectations of Israel

Okay, I've absolutely had it. With my own co-progressives no less. America's growing rift with Israel is based on the grossest absurdities.

The following are the FACTS. Facts, people, VERIFIABLE FACTS.

(1) When it was formed Israel never prevented an indigenous Palestinian from becoming a citizen, participating in the democratic process, or even holding elected office. The Palestinians could have been a political majority and taken over Israel peacefully already, bearing children to VOTE instead of to MURDER. I doubt that they would have been as open-armed to the displaced Jews who settled there.

(2) Instead of embracing citizenship, MANY but NOT ALL indigenous Palestinians decided to abandon their lands, flee to other other countries, such as Jordan, which never offered them citizenship and forced them into refugee camps, some of which are still operating to this day. The worst massacre of Palestinians were killed in such a refugee camp in Jordan by Jordanians. The Palestinians who chose to accept citizenship in Israel did not lose their homes and land. Those that did, did so with the expectation that they would return as VICTORS after joining other Arab nations in seeking to overrun Israel in the war. Their gamble did not pay off. The never returned to their homes or claimed citizenship.

(3) There is no faction of Palestinian leadership that has EVER renounced their position that Israel lacks legitimate sovereignty or the PLO's stated position of driving the Israelis into the sea. There simply is NO possibility of peace for Israel no matter what olive branch it extends.

(4) Prior concessions by Israel, such as land for peace, has been met with a middle finger for the most part. Not a month has passed since those concessions that an Israeli citizen has not been killed by Palestinian terror, organized and otherwise. Missiles being launched into Israeli neighborhoods from Palestinian administered territories, suicide bombers, etc. should have undermined international confidence that the Palestinians will allow for peace regardless of the concessions made by Israel.

(5) The Palestinians are incapable of ensuring that any concession will result in Peace. Even if the leadership and the populace would be amenable to peace, the leadership is incapable of controlling those who, through a lifetime of indoctrination, would strap explosives onto their children to kill Jews. The outside funding for the continued indoctrination and weapons supply far overshadows any control asserted by democratic process.

(6) The United State's current position on the issue is nothing short of a death knell for the State of Israel. After Israel, it will be us. Anyone who thinks otherwise must have forgotten what happened on September 11, 2001. Though the VOLUNTARILY DISPLACED Palestinians have been used as a lightening rod to raise funds for terror, the destruction of the State of Israel is not the goal of those who fund them. Their goal is the destruction of western civilization and the imposition of Islamic rule. Israel is merely a buffer between the modern world and the Islamic world.

(7) Israel has had nuclear weapons for decades and has had the power to genocide the voluntarily displaced Palestinians for as long. They haven't used any weapons of mass destruction EVER (if you are going to object by mentioning white phosporous, look it up and congratulate yourself after realizing that you are a victim of false propaganda, white phosphorous is neither a chemical weapon nor a weapon of mass destruction.) On the other, there is no need to speculate what the Palestinians (or the Iranians for that matter) would do if they had the capacity to reach a high capacity weapon into a dense population area. They do it every chance they get with every weapon they have access to.

In conclusion, make sure you're on the right side before you open your mouth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Bone has been Thrown.

I was right again.
Sometimes I sicken myself with my powers of political prognostication.
My last post was, "Throw 'em a bone..." The Republicans are squarely defeated and need only to save a little face.
Over the weekend (because Congress always reads my posts) they came to the same conclusion.We can throw them a bone.
John McCain (no pal of mine) said it in almost the exact same words this morning:
"The Democrats, I think, by doing negotiations now, are doing the right thing," McCain said. "Because you really don't want to crow over a victory. They know they're going to win. They know that. But we need to try to get an agreement that gives some something for the Republicans."
My post suggested to delay the fines for the individual mandate briefly. Not the mandate itself, just the fines.
The actual plan proposed by the Senate (but probably doomed to failure in the House) is even more trifling a concession than what I proposed. To wit, the Senate negotiators proposed:

  • reopening the government through Jan. 15 (no winner); 
  • extending the debt limit until Feb. 15 (no winner);
  • appoint representatives for a budget conference (win/win); 
  • delay of a reinsurance tax to benefit unions (advantage Democrats);
  • income verification for Obamacare exchanges (advantage Republicans, sort of, since the income verification is already basically there, just not handled through the exchange. Quite literally a "for show" concession only.)
As I reflected in my last post, if the House rejects this "compromise" the Republicans therein will appear to be intransigent, irrational, and hell-bent on destroying the economy. If the House approves it, they will have a very difficult PR job to not appear to be pussies. 

My advice to the GOP would be that they don't even try to convince the God-Guns-Gays element of the party that compromise was the right thing to do since that would be a fool's errand. They should reinforce the traditional notion that the Republican party is about millionaires and billionaires and corporations, all of whom know that the acceptance of defeat was in their best interest and send a message to the Tea Party that they are little more than an annoying little fly on the party's shoulder.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Throw Boehner a Bone and say, "Fetch, bitch".

Throw them a bone:

Its time to throw them a bone. The last shovel of dirt on the grave of the GOP would be "pity concession." The "bigger man" theory would hold that it is now the prerogative of the Democratic Party to accept that fact that it is completely dominant--that it can end the impasse with a temporary concession with the confidence that both houses and the presidency will be in democratic control in 13 months. If we kill the opposition, we look evil and one-party governments are inherently evil. If we let them save a modicum of face and continue to exist as a minority party, everyone wins.

Fetch, bitch:

The offer of a "pity concession" is a win-win for democrats. If the Republicans reject it, they look like the intransigent ones. If they accept it, they look weak. The Democrats have nothing to lose and everything to win. The more offensively picayune the concession the better. How about something like putting off the fines for not having insurance under the ACA for six months instead of suspending the whole program? Let them chase their tails over that. A second benefit of the extending the implementation of the fines (which is already over a year away) is that, if there is any part of the Republican narrative to be believed, it is the sloppy roll-out of the exchanges. Accordingly, there is now a principled reason for the Democrats to delay the fines without looking like they have merely given into extortion.

Please remember the following:
(1) I love politics; and
(2) I'm (almost) always right.